Experience with socialized medicine

One of the editors over at The Consumerist writes some about his experience with socialized medicine.  The article is in response to an article about California’s plan to institute socialized medicine.  In the end, he seems to prefer paying more for medicine in exchange for better care.  I have no experience with socialized medicine, but folks I know who have had socialized and privatized medicine have all preferred privatized.

I’m torn on this. Ireland has socialized medicine, and it sucks. When I first moved to Dublin, I took my Yamaha Superscooter out for a rush-hour drive and took a spill off it going around 55, breaking both my arms and one of my legs. Luckily, I was right around the corner from the hospital, so I got up from the mangled wreck of my bike, flagged down a taxi, and had him bring me here. When I got to the emergency ward, a scrolling sign chipperly announced that average waiting time was 8 hours. It was 9am on a Tuesday morning.

. . .

The bottom line is that money talks. Whether we’re talking about health care, cars or cellular phone coverage, you get better service the more money you pay. When no one’s paying any money, you as an individual become a statistic and receive the base minimum of care, competence and attention to maintain the aggregate. So making private health care out-and-out illegal seems like a disastrous move for the consumers of health care.

[tags]Socialized medicine[/tags]

Police intimidation in south Florida

(via boingboing)

This is an old story (early February), but interesting and a bit scary.  A police abuse watchdog group went to 38 police stations around south Florida to find out how to file a complaint against an officer.  Only 3 stations provided complaint forms.  Since complaint forms are not something police are required to provide, this isn’t a huge deal.  What is bad, and a bit scary, is the amount of intimidation the tester apparently encountered while trying to find out how to file a complaint.  In particular, one officer made a fairly open threat to shoot the tester.

Partial transcripts are provided on in the story, as well as a lengthy video showing the story that was on TV about the inquiries.  A few weeks after the original story ran, the officer shown on camera threatening the tester sued the television station, trying to block the station from airing the story and video.

[tags]Police intimidation[/tags]

Hella nice LCD TV

Some day, I’ll be able to get one of these.

ultimateTV.jpgTaiwanese Chi Mei Optoelectronics is a name you may not know, despite the company being the third largest LCD TV panel supplier in the world. At CEBIT in Hannover in mid-March, the company will display the world’s first 56-inch LCD TV panel. Perhaps more startling than the size of the mega-telly is the definition which is known as Quad Full High Definition (QFHD) with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels and an astonishing 8.29 million pixels.

[tags]LCD TV, QFHD[/tags]

The cost of a perfect shower

(via TechEBlog) Apparently, it’s about $1300.

Wake up, press a button, and you could have a nice hot shower waiting for you with Grohtherm’s new device. The Wireless Digital Shower lets you set water temperature and flow rate via a control panel. A remote control allows you to turn on/off the shower from anywhere in the house. That’s not all, Grohe’s TurboStat technology instantly reacts to any change in water pressure which prevents the shower from suddenly becoming too hot or icy cold. Cool technology like this doesn’t come cheap, expect to pay $1,306 for this system.

[tags]Shower, gadgets[/tags]

Network discrimination simplified

Here’s a simplified write-up by Ed Felton on the topic of network discrimination.  I think this helps non-techies see why there would be a problem with the two-tiered internet so many big companies (baby bells, cable internet providers) want and why it would be bad for consumers.

Focus now on a single router. It has several incoming links on which packets arrive, and several outgoing links on which it can send packets. When a packet shows up on an incoming link, the router will figure out (by methods I won’t describe here) on which outgoing link the packet should be forwarded. If that outgoing link is free, the packet can be sent out on it immediately. But if the outgoing link is busy transmitting another packet, the newly arrived packet will have to wait — it will be “buffered” in the router’s memory, waiting its turn until the outgoing link is free.

Buffering lets the router deal with temporary surges in traffic. But if packets keep showing up faster than they can be sent out on some outgoing link, the number of buffered packets will grow and grow, and eventually the router will run out of buffer memory.

At that point, if one more packet shows up, the router has no choice but to discard a packet. It can discard the newly arriving packet, or it can make room for the new packet by discarding something else. But something has to be discarded.

Read the full article for a description of how this works out when considering high-priority versus low-priority traffic.

[tags]Network discrimination[/tags]

Malware defense – run applications as a limited user

Mark at Sysinternals has an article up on how to run applications as a limited user.  This can come in handy for applications especially susceptible to security problems (I’m looking at all you web browsers, particularly internet explorer).  Most malware depends on getting access to the system through an administrator account.  If you aren’t running your applications as an administrator, you are far less likely to get infected.  Of course, if enough people start doing this, the malware authors will start including privilege escalation code in their malware.  But that’s an extra layer of complexity, and as Bruce Schneier often points out, complexity leads to errors.  For malware protectors, this will increase the signature of malware, making these things easier to detect.

As this eWeek study shows, one of the most effective ways to keep a system free from malware and to avoid reinstalls even if malware happens to sneak by, is to run as a limited user (a member of the Windows Users group). The vast majority of Windows users run as members of the Administrators group simply because so many operations, such as installing software and printers, changing power settings, and changing the time zone require administrator rights. Further, many applications fail when run in a limited-user account because they’re poorly written and expect to have write access to directories such as \Program Files and \Windows or registry keys under HKLM\Software.

An alternative to running as limited user is to instead run only specific Internet-facing applications as a limited user that are at greater risk of compromise, such as IE and Outlook. Microsoft promises this capability in Windows Vista with Protected-Mode IE and User Account Control (UAC), but you can achieve a form of this today on Windows 2000 and higher with the new limited user execution features of Process Explorer and PsExec.

[tags]Malware, security, limited privileges[/tags]

Futurama pinball machine

(via TechEBlog)

I really need to give up gaming so I have more time to do stuff like this:


future_pinball1.jpgIt all started when I bought a weathered Superman Pinball Machine for the parts. When I gained access to the head I found the boards to be in good shape. I pulled the PCBs to see which ones worked and after a little fiddling and small repairs, they all fired up and the displays worked fine.

So, I had a fully functioning board set with a ravagedfuture_pinball5.jpg cabinet and playfield. I decided to use the boards to make a design station to experiment with possible playfield toys and devices. The playfield is made of 3/4″ Birch Plywood. This meant the height critical components had to be counter-sunk, but I thought the additional rigidity would be a bonus. At this point I had a full length blank playfield with working flippers and slings to play with. I started sorting through the wire harness and decided, in an effort to avoid trouble, an 8-letter title would be in order. By chance one of my favorite shows “Futurama” had just that. I started buying posters, calendars, toys and anything else I thought might integrate well into a pinball machine.

Of course, I realize the irony in the fact that to have time to build cool gaming stuff like this, I’d really have to give up gaming. But I think I’m starting to have more fun maintaining a couple of web sites and writing about gaming that I have actually gaming most days. So I may finally be nearing the point in my life where I’ll do something like stop gaming to start building things.  More and better pics at the builders site.

[tags]Futurama, pinball, mods[/tags]

Bad buckyball! Baaaaad!

It turns out buckyballs might be toxic.  That’s might be toxic, in the same way that oxygen might be necessary to live.

Scientists already realized buckyballs could be toxic. Studies at Duke University in 2004 showed that when buckyballs were introduced to laboratory aquariums they damaged the brains of largemouth bass and may also have prevented certain water-borne bacteria from reproducing.

Until then scientists had theorized that the strong attraction that buckyballs have for each other would cause the molecules to clump together and safely sink to the bottom of any body of water, be it a test aquarium or a lake.

. . .

The buckyballs break apart vital hydrogen bonds within the DNA molecule’s double helix and they can stick to grooves on DNA’s surface, causing the molecule to bend. Not only do the buckyballs damage the DNA, Cummings says, they cripple its ability to heal.

“The buckyballs insert themselves in a way that prevents the DNA from self-repairing,” Cummings told LiveScience. The buckyball actually forces a piece of nucleotide from one of the DNA’s double helixes and takes its place, preventing the strands from reuniting.

Ouch.  That sounds bad.  And I’m sure someone will bring up Michael Crichton’s novel Prey, but this isn’t quite the same thing. That book was about nano-particle entities that were bad as a cooperating system, while this article is about a specific nano-particle that happens to be very bad all on it’s own.

[tags]Buckyballs, nano-particles[/tags]