* Posts by Eric Olson

299 posts • joined 22 Sep 2007

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Should we teach our kids how to program humanity out of existence?

Eric Olson
Coffee/keyboard

To increase the realism, find a second person to provide a not quite similar set of requirements through a friend who'll act as a business analyst on the project. Then demand that the one robot satisfies both possible users with no trade-offs or compromises. This way, they both can learn the joys of being set up for failure and conflict by indifferent (or malicious) management.

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Score one for the patent trolls: US appeals court says it's OK to shop for patent-friendly judges

Eric Olson

The "losing" side at the appeal court can appeal to the Nine Seniles. The Nine Seniles can pick and chose the cases they take so its not automatic to get a hearing. They do not need an appellate court split to take a case but the case (normally) has to have an appellate decision.

You're right in that it's not needed. However, the Supreme Court does get 7,000 or so appeals each year, hearing arguments in about 80 and issuing rulings without hearings for about 50 more. 130 out of 7,000 means your case must have some serious issues that require attention if there is no split among the Appeals Courts. Since the Appeals Court with jurisdiction over Patent cases relied on their own interpretation of precedent and legislative acts, the only route to change is getting Congress to change the rules of jurisdiction.

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Eric Olson

One needs to remember that in the United States, the District Courts are under the precedence set by the Appeals Court they are part of. So if there is a certain way things are done, rulings that have not been overturned, or just a general sense of "expertise" based on a lawyer or firm's experience with a certain court, an entity will file a lawsuit in what they think is home turf.

The odd thing here is that unlike other types of litigation, patent lawsuits have their own Appeals Court, which is the Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit. They have established a set of ground rules for jurisdiction, and it seems to include a test that looks for both parties doing business in the jurisdiction. Heartland does not do direct sales, have offices, or even registered in Delaware, but apparently they have a couple of national contracts who ship the "accused products" into Delaware, which according to the court means that jurisdiction of the Delaware court is established. Seems like a bit of a stretch, but those are the rules.

Normally if two Appeals Courts come to different rulings for cases with similar facts (see the same-sex marriage and Obamacare cases), the Supreme Court will step in and adjudicate the matter, thereby setting nationwide precedence. But since there is no other Appeals Court with the jurisdiction to hear patent cases, I'm not sure how that would work. It seems like it would take some pretty strong evidence of misinterpretation or misrepresentation of Congressional intent to force the Supreme Court to step in. The only remedy here is specific legislation to override the precedence.

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Official: EU goes after Google, alleges it uses Android to kill competition

Eric Olson

Re: It's funny...

Darn that pesky old 1791 first amendment, only a couple of years younger than the All Writs Act, so clearly of dubious applicability now we are in the Internet Age and so much smarter than those of the late eighteenth century who wrote and passed it.

Not sure where the First Amendment comes in here, unless you are referring to the reinterpretation by the Roberts Court that money = speech. If that's the case, then I'm still not sure the applicability to my comments, so I assume it was to someone else.

But to build on this, this concept that the Founders and Framers (often overlapping, but not always the same) were infallible and prophetic does need to cool down a bit. If you read source documents from the time, you see a very quick schism appear as to what the Constitution represented or codified, and that fight resulted in the Bill of Rights being introduced just two years after the Constitution was ratified, and the Bill of Rights itself being ratified two years after introduction (after going through numerous drafts, revisions, edits, and by some accounts, sloppy version control and copying). The All Writs Act is another example of those Founders and Framers quickly trying to do an end-around of the Constitution they created; the Sedition Act is an even more abhorrent example. That the very same men who created this Godly document also turned around and created such things should really close the book on any discussion about their exceptional nature or intelligence.

It's a document, written 229 years ago, quickly ignored by its creators when it suited them, and began a simmering battle of the role of the state and the government that has boiled over once and had to be settled with blood. You don't need to get into revisionism based on current standards of morality to see that the document only works because we collectively ignore all the mechanisms available to keep it alive and instead rely on hacks, ancient case law, and legal landmines. It's honestly reached a point where, like the Cold War, mutually assured destruction is all that keeps the peace.

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Eric Olson

Re: It's funny...

It's too easy to just blame money. We had a public financing system (still do, technically), but it's been superseded because the amounts are not that great and there are limitations placed on the candidate in terms of what can be done with it.

Additionally, one needs to keep in mind that the parties, though that participate in the political sphere, are private entities. The GOP and Democrats are just really large special interest groups, albeit with a special interest in being political parties with platforms that cover more than just a single issue. The "year-long" process is actually the nomination fight, which replaced the proverbial smoke-filled room. In fact, states purposefully started sponsoring the nomination primaries in the late 19th century to reduce the influence (and corruption) inherent in the party machine. Tammany Hall in New York was notorious for trading favors and money for political capital and nominations.

The actual general election is only a few months long, starting with the conventions in July and culminating on Election Day in November.

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Eric Olson

It's funny...

We see this same tale spun over and over, with the only change in players the companies in the crosshairs. Being an American, I could decree this some kind of anti-American witch hunt by the EU, but I actually doubt that's the case. More likely, this is down to American companies not having the expertise and/or connections in other parts of the world to ensure they are complying with both the letter and spirit of the law.

Yes, Microsoft got busted in the US for anti-competitive behavior, but it was so egregious, they pretty much dared the Dept. of Justice to come after them. It didn't help MS that many of their competitors, partners, and customers complained loudly and frequently about the raw deal they were getting. Google has skated by for the most part, as Apple actually maintains a strong market position in the US, and the wireless carriers are the ones with targets painted on their backs. If the political capital is going to be spent, Verizon and AT&T are first on the firing line.

Did Google sin? Perhaps. The US doesn't seem to have a problem with the kind of agreements that Google engaged in as long as there are other competitors or other avenues for relief. Anti-trust penalties are often a last resort, and as we saw with MS, they often amount to little more than painful handshake. The days of trust busting of AT&T, Standard Oil, etc. are long gone. Not because of crony capitalism (though I'm sure that doesn't help), but because it's too easy to point across the ocean and say that in order to compete worldwide, American companies are going against state-controlled or state-supported, entrenched entities (how true that is is a debate for another time).

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AMC sobers up, apologizes for silly cinema texting plan

Eric Olson

Re: That's a shame

Yes. Like the Free Market sorted out smoking in public places. Oh, it didn't. What happened is a significant minority were happy to share their smoking hobby with those around them, and everyone else had to suck it up (literally), or be seen as the fussy kill-joy who should have stayed at home. It took laws to sort that out.

Texting during performances is much the same. If not enforced, the thoughtless gits will be just fine with telling the rest of us to live with it, or sod off.

A terrible example. Comparing a bystander health-impacting habit to a health impact-free habit of texting is just silly. You don't like people using their phone in a theater. Fine. But if you sit next to someone with their phone out, does you suffer from respiratory issues or suffer a relapse into an unhealthy habit? If so, you may want to seek professional help...

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Four of the top 10 places in the world for internet are, er, in the US

Eric Olson

Re: I don't want to pile on...

You're ignoring the special case that this is Washington, DC, the nation's capital.

This is true... the concentration of the businesses (or government doing business as) would in of itself be enticing to a provider or twelve to set up shop. I guess I was more referring to steps taking by the government to treat DC citizens to better broadband access than their neighbors in other states, which I doubt happened. I'm saying there probably was no direct investment by the government for the city of DC or on behalf of the people of DC.

Many of those government employees, politicians, lobbyists, etc., reside outside of DC, usually in in VA or MD. The Beltway refers to the entire area surrounding DC. The cell towers are there because of the number of people who commute in; the same goes for the fiber. The residents of DC are just collateral winners, assuming they can afford it. DC proper actually has a higher poverty rate than every state except Mississippi, even with a per capital income that is higher than any state. Those would argue against a business investing in infrastructure if the city was, say, located in Alabama.

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Eric Olson
FAIL

I don't want to pile on...

But like the previous commentards, to focus on four states and DC is folly. Three of the states border DC and tend to be the suburbs for the politicians and employees of the government. All of those states range from above to well above average for percentage of the population that lives in an urban area (83% in Delaware to 92% in Mass., with the national average being 81%), so like was pointed out, would be like saying residents of the UK can't complain about bandwidth because it's so great in London. So if you do look at the country as a whole, the US is behind such places as the Czech Republic, tied with Belgium, and a just a fraction of a Mbps ahead of the UK.

I would like to point out to the commentard that inferred the DC ranking was due to investment by the federal government, that is likely not the case (but I won't completely discount it). While the federal government has created some enticements and grants to help with broadband expansion, they are mostly targeted at underserved or unserved parts of the nation, which these days is much of the nation's interior that isn't near a major city. Of course, that isn't to say that the city itself didn't use some of the budget they get from the government to build out the network or entice providers.

Rather than resorting to these kinds of articles, perhaps it would be more useful to explore the reasons why Americans and other readers routinely complain about their bandwidth options. Thumbing your nose at them because they live outside of those highly connected states isn't all that productive, unless the purpose is to just serve up ads regardless of content quality.

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Tablet computer zoom error saw plane fly 13 hours with 46cm hole

Eric Olson

Human arrogance leads to human error

This can either be seen as a strike against the use of technology or against allowing humanity to use technology.

I just see it as a strike against hubris... something that's taken trillions of strikes but refuses to step out of the batter's box. I'm sure this won't be the last time, either.

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Facebook kills Creative Labs, cuts support for mobile apps

Eric Olson

Re: Creative Labs have NOTHING

I remember my Hercules Fortissimo II. It was a damn fine sound card. Outdid the Sound Blasters in the same price range and then some. Lasted me two computer builds, I think.

I think it made its way to the box of computer parts that needed to be recycled that some guy offered a few bucks for at our last garage sale. Memories.

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Eric Olson

That was definitely the boat I was in. After learning otherwise, I wondered how Creative never sued Facebook, given both operate in the technology arena (yes, one was hardware and the other for social meanderings, but still).

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Doctor Who: Oh, look! There's a restaurant at the end of the universe in Hell Bent

Eric Olson

Could we do a poll...

Where in addition to rating Doctors (as before), we get some demographic about the age now, when they were introduced to Doctor Who, and what Doctor they started with?

I'm getting an impression that people have fond memories of the old series and nothing that Moffat or any past, current, or future Doctor could supplant them. There's nothing wrong with nostalgia and saying the new doesn't measure up to the old. That's fine. But clearly from a commercial standpoint, Doctor Who is doing fine with Moffat at the helm, which even for the BBC is a necessary consideration (and why the original series was "suspended" for 16 years).

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Work on world's largest star-gazing 'scope stopped after religious protests

Eric Olson

Re: Until I Read...

Guilt by association, if there is even association, is not really a strong argument. It's entirely possible (or even likely) that this Operation Green Rights group is just piggy-backing on the sincerely felt beliefs of the native Hawaiians for some free publicity.

And... yup. Some crummy Anon group.

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Uber Australia is broke: 'We don't pay tax because we don't generate revenue'

Eric Olson

I think that's part of the question. Are they playing by the rules? Being hauled before a legislative body to discuss why you think your current behavior is okay is usually done for two reasons: You've done something wrong and they want to grandstand a bit, or you've violated the spirit of a rule but technically, you are right.

The former is generally done to score political points with the constituents back home, but the latter is typically a shot across the bow to either stop violating the spirit of the rules, or be prepared to face the consequences. My guess is that like their American counterparts, these senators are giving Uber, Airbnb, Chevron, etc., a warning that the should become good corporate citizens without legislative action, or the legislative action won't be nearly as friendly.

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Aircraft laser strikes hit new record with 20 incidents in one night

Eric Olson
Devil

I have an idea...

...and the FBI has offered a $10,000 bounty to anyone who lets them know when a dangerous idiot is on the loose with lasers.

A small part of me wants to find some idiots, plant a seed, water it with beer, then turn them into the cops. I mean, it's a public service to get idiots jailed, right? The fact that I could get paid to do it would merely be an incidental benefit.

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How to build a city fit for 50℃ heatwaves

Eric Olson

Re: May not be an issue

People have been predicting the coming population bust for generations. And each time a supposed inflection point is hit, the world keeps humming along.

The reality is that the world produces more than enough food for all the inhabitants. We're talking about about 1.5 times more than necessary, not taking into various religious, ethical, or medical restrictions that are in place. The amount of food wasted (or recycled into compost or animal feed) is astounding. Our issue is distribution and storage. The US is a net exporter of food, yet even it struggles to make sure that even kids get total food security (politics aside). The logistics are a nightmare.

Even when you consider the use of synthetic or mined nutrients and fertilizers to meet those needs, there are already many field studies that compare alternative growing methods and are finding that you can greatly reduce those needs without impacting the yields, just through intelligent application and modifications to existing practices. Some are ancient, such as the no-till, green manure approaches, and others are just using technology to monitor nutrient needs in real-time and applying a calibrated amount to limited areas. This has additional benefits in that it reduces growing costs over time and there is less runoff and other problems associated with over-application of fertilizer.

So no, your number is not only outlandishly low, but it's making assumptions that farmers are slack-jawed, inbred idiots who just drop tons of cow shit on the field each year and wonder why it works. Farming is extremely sophisticated, and given that it is a huge revenue source for some of the richest countries of the world, it will continue to have resources applied to make it more efficient, leaner, and able to support an ever growing world. The key will be figuring out how to get the food transported across the world to feed the places that can't grow enough.

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CHEAT! Volkswagen chief 'deeply sorry' over diesel emission test dodge

Eric Olson

Re: "carmakers skirt air pollutant rules by circumventing emissions testing"

Lead-acid batteries are recycled and remade into new batteries, as lead is very amenable to being reclaimed. The sulfuric acid used is easy to neutralize or recycle as well.

Both materials have other industrial uses outside of battery making. Worst-case, the recovery of lead from other ores during processing is no longer as economical, meaning that storage or disposal of lead-bearing tailings becomes a concern... though it probably still ranks low on the list of other issues like mountain-top removal, radioactive tailings, miner safety, water contamination, etc.

Needless to say, the retirement of lead-acid batteries from our car and truck fleet would be due to other reasons that have a net positive to human health and the environment. Not to mention that the transition period would be prolonged.

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BORN to HURL: Man's shoulders are head and shoulders above apes, gorillas, chimps etc

Eric Olson

Re: Gorillas?

Having seen some of the flinging abilities of beasts such as Mountain Gorillas, one cannot help but wonder how a test batsman would actually cope against a ball bowled by one. Given they seem to be both quite accurate, and in possession of roughly 10x the strength of the average human.

Well, it you believe the prior article by Roach et al., the structures of the human form are uniquely suited to the act of throwing a projectile with great force and accuracy. While it focused on chimps, the theory is that among primates, only our shoulders and the associated kinetic chain has the ability to generate and release the energy in a concentrated manner. This apparently was also noted by Darwin, without the luxury of motion-capture and high-speed photography.

However, I certainly would not want to try to out-hug a gorilla. I feel as though it would end quite quickly... and definitely not in my favor.

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Hacker chancer looking for $500,000 after offering Clinton emails for auction

Eric Olson

Re: Meanwhile in DC

Given the cast of misfits that have overrun the primary process for Republicans, the serious folks are being drowned out. For the sake of the nation, we can only hope that the idiots flame out and leave the handful for a legitimate primary to see who can actually win.

The problem for them is that the reality is that H. Clinton was never going to win many self-identified Republicans or conservatives, and those who claim to be independent tend to have a spotty voting history (they often stay home, making them hard to count on). Politics in the US has moved to the edges, where the primary is about mobilizing your slice of the ideological base and outlasting everyone else while raising gobs of cash, and the general election is less about appealing to the center and more about mobilizing the rest of your ideological base to turn out. Couple that with the Electoral College that leaves only a handful of states in the crosshairs of the candidates, and you end up with a situation where these kinds of events actually have little bearing.

We used to joke that even if the donkey ran, my grandfather would vote for it. Well, the reality is that whoever wins the primary for each party is going to start off with 190+ electoral votes, and they only need to figure out the path to victory to get the remaining 79 electoral votes from about thirteen states. The rest of the country doesn't matter, and the candidate doesn't even really matter. It's so polarized, the only thing that keeps it going completely haywire is that there are requirements for the job (35 or older, natural born citizen, haven't already served 2 terms as president, and.... that might be it?)

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Eric Olson

Re: leaks..

So, the reality is that private email servers are okay for government business and at least initially was approved by the audit team to oversees the State Department. Sure, they might have been kowtowing to the new boss, but there is precedent for this from previous government agencies. They are still subject to Freedom of Information requests, though I guess reporters need to know it exists. The idea that this was "private" only meant it was housed outside of the government's infrastructure, not that it was unknown, hidden, or anything like that.

To this point, some of the reviewed emails that at the time were not secret or classified were later reclassified by whatever apparatus is in charge of that, so it's kind of an after-the-fact game of gotcha. And even then, the State Department is contesting some of the after-the-fact classifications. Telling was an exchange between Clinton and a staffer to get her an official transcript of a public speech, and the system the transcript was on had it labelled as confidential so he couldn't send it to her on her mobile device. Another email that was later classified as confidential and completely redacted on release seems to be a draft version of a speech she gave, which is just weird.

That's not to say that more discretion shouldn't have been used. And some of the things that came through came from officials overseas, meaning that she should have known that some day, something might be classified after-the-fact. But the reality is that a lot of this is hindsight classification, and the government does have groups that will classify the name of the security guard that the President said, "Hi," to in passing.

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The Raspberry Pi is succeeding in ways its makers almost imagined

Eric Olson

The human mind is amazing

Even when it still has that fresh-from-the-box look.

I Google everything. I'm in my early 30s and had the fortunate luck of going to an elementary school that was the first in the district that had a computer-based library catalog. I quickly learned the benefits of a keyword search, which now is almost detrimental in that you can get better results using natural language searches. When I meet a developer who's fresh from college or even as old as I am, I'm astounded by the number of times I get a, "I've never used X before, so I just pounded away until I got the result I wanted," response. And when asked if they bothered to look around online or use well-known sites to review similar scenarios, I get blank stares.

I hope more of these kids keep approaching things as problems waiting to be solved and are willing to not just lean on those who came before them, but then write up or share what they did so that another pre-teen (or developer I browbeat for wasting time) to stumble on to when faced with a similar issue.

All you can do is provide the tools and let the mind do its thing... and maybe get out of the way with all this bull about who should be doing what. If some kid who wants to be a dancer can also have the savvy to build out a small tool or trinket that solves a inconvenience or concern (like grandpa passing away and no one noticing), that's just something else they can lean on later in life when there are new tools or new minds that need inspiration.

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Security fears arise over body-worn plodcam footage

Eric Olson

It's funny...

Because the argument over here in the States is that body-cam footage is more than likely subject to various Freedom of Information Acts and would be released to reporters and other interested parties unless it was fell under some narrow exceptions in the law.

And the other concern is that dash-cams are much the same, but cops have "problems" with those videos getting lost, destroyed, or misfiled after a citizen, usually the one who was being videotaped, requests a copy because there is belief that it would refute the officer's account of the situation or even exonerate the person facing prosecution. It's funny how quickly and easily the department gets the Quicky Mart security video or the dash cam out to the news stations when they think it proves their case, but it gets misplaced when there's a chance that Office Meathead is shown pistol-whipping some person who is already on the ground and restrained.

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PALE, MALE AND STALE: Apple reveals it has just ONE black exec

Eric Olson

Why not be RACE BLIND and SEX BLIND and just hire "a person" to fill a position based on qualifications like experience, demonstrated past success, education level, and so forth?

Except those things aren't blind, either. Let's say you have a handful of resumes in front of you, all with name, age, gender, stripped from it, limited only to those items deemed pertinent to the job. Let's head to the education section:

Carleton

Drake

Oberlin

Wellesley

Barnard

Morehouse

Spelman

Here in the US, the first three are "traditional" colleges that are not Ivies but well-respected undergraduate institutions. The fourth and fifth ones are top women-only colleges, and the last two are well-respected but historical black colleges. Throw in Ivies or an engineering college, add in a major, and you can probably make a really good guess as to both the gender and ethnicity of the candidate.

In the UK, I've heard there are some characteristics you can associate to a person based on their university and it's not much different here.

But let's say it's a sheaf of public universities with majors that don't go in one direction or another. Next you can look at things like organizations they belong to, or where they interned, or what charitable or non-profit committees the sit on or organize. That will say a lot as well, especially since many women only or race-based organizations were set up specifically to combat the turn of the 20th century's white male only fraternities, professional organizations, etc.

And even stepping away from all of that, if it was perfectly vanilla or equal chance to be anyone... the people doing the hiring will go with what they know. They have colleges or universities they are familiar with or went to, organizations they worked with or are part of, or positive or negative experiences with people from those places. When presented with millions of combinations, the brain seizes and starts thrashing about looking for anything to grab on to... and that's often the familiar or comfortable.

Blind just means it's harder to figure out where things are going wrong. It's a societal issue that requires society-level changes. Apple's executive team is just a symptom of a larger problem.

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Eric Olson

Re: I don't like Apple...

There isn't really a lot of evidence that companies have the ability to differentiate between the best and the absolutely adequate. And such a tacit admission is through the use of networking and external firms with their own list of "known quantities" to fill senior and executive positions, or the promotion from within concept.

All are absolutely essential to ensuring that a company is able to fill such positions with the least amount of turnover or expensive flame-out, but the problem is that the first two are heavily tilted towards incumbent or established groups, while the last one is going to be a reflection of the last 10 to 30 years of hiring practices, whitewashed or not.

Let's look at it from a the lens of international business and the oft-stated claim that companies hire the best of the best. If that were the case, boardrooms would be filled with people from all parts of the developed and developing world, assuming they can speak the appropriate language and are willing to relocate or commute. So in Japan, you should see numerous American, European, and Pacific faces. The same is true in the United States, Britain, Germany, France, etc. The reality is that all those firms practice the same cultural bias and hire people from their own nation. The US is more problematic as those networks are an old boys club that farm from the same small set of universities.

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Exploding Power Bars: EE couldn't even get the CE safety mark right

Eric Olson

If I recall correctly, the UL marking is actually trademarked or protected, and you not only have to get permission to use it, but there might even by special hardware or software for the marking that ensures that only the appropriate number or model is marked (e.g. taking the UL certification and applying it to a related but uncertified product.).

I could be wrong about the last part, but I seem to recall a time in my life where this was told to me when I worked in a factory. It also would speak to UL's warnings about counterfeited UL marking from China and other markets and the efforts they are taking to ensure that fraudulent markings are easily spotted.

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W is for WTF: Google CEO quits, new biz Alphabet takes over

Eric Olson

Re: Return

I just heard this a few days ago, and I apologize to the person or program I'm going to paraphrase without credit, but here goes.

Back when I was a kid, the media and movies promised me hoverboards, flying cars, and video calls. Instead what I got 30 years later were mini-computers in my pocket that can make video calls, but are really much better at email, chat, and other things I enjoy. Rather than hoverboards and flying cars, we are very close to self-driving cars, have mostly self-flying planes, and the vast majority of human knowledge is a few searches away on that computer in my pocket. And medical technology is to a point where things that killed most people in the 80s are now survivable and even recoverable.

I think I rather like what actually happened instead of what futurists thought might happen. The only way that we got here was through the liberal and sometimes absolutely insane applications of time and money to problems we either didn't know we had or problems that once were thought insurmountable. The latter alone could take trillions of dollars and billions of hours.

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Eric Olson

Berkshire Hathaway comes to mind...

Mostly because I'm not even close to the first to think or publish something about it. The FT's take (and other places) seems to be that they are taking a page out of Warren Buffett's playbook (which is taken from and copied by many others) to create a giant holding company that is the nominal owner, but let the the wholly owned subsidiaries run their own business.

Now, whether they run it the same way Berkshire Hathaway does things or more like the General Electrics of the world remains to be seen. The announcement sounds like Buffett... but that's a man who really could not care less about the day-to-day operations of a company unless he's looking to buy them in the first place. And he's a man who has a nearly 70 year track record of doing just that.

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Stop forcing benefits down my throat and give me hard cash, dammit

Eric Olson

I generally agree with the cash benefit system

It's easier to administer, it defangs the morality police, and it gives more agency to those who receive it. And if we extend it to be a universal minimum income, it does allow employees and employers greater latitude in how they structure an employment agreement, including pay and the ability to trade some non-cash benefits for a lower paycheck.

However, this is still making a rather generous assumption that humans are somewhat decent at return maximizing and do have the ability to choose from a large menu of options and pick out even moderately optimized solution. The reality borne out in studies is that humans are poor at the former and are paralyzed by the latter. Is that education or a wiring fault? The body of evidence points to the latter, as interventions don't seem to make too much difference, outside of reducing choice.

And there is one other slight issue: culture. I don't mean a national culture or regional culture, I don't mean the ethnicity that one was raised in, or anything like that. I mean the culture of the workplace. Over here in the states, there are a few employers who have gone as far as abolishing the concept of a time off bank or leave and instead instituted a "take what you want" policy. I'm sure the early adopters didn't intend to see this outcome, but what happened is that the amount of time taken was less than when people had a fixed amount of leave. There is speculation as to why this is (including selection bias), but anecdotal evidence suggested that even with the approval and endorsement of the C-suite, there was a fear of job loss, demotion, or other repercussions for being absent or taking more than a colleague. And I'm sure we've all had a boss or two who was such a vindictive bastard that we assumed they would dock our pay for wasting a staple or paperclip.

Since then, I've read other reports that some companies have seen this and want to institute it to reduce the amount of time people are on leave and to do away with the liability of paying out accrued vacation benefits when someone leaves the company (varies by state, but some, including California, consider vacation time a cash-equivalent benefit that must be refunded to the employee if they leave on their own or are dismissed without cause). Of course, the employee would be free to leave, but this is only really a choice in a low or moderate unemployment economy. As cash is in fact the lifeblood of our existence, most people will tough it out in an unfavorable situation just so they can continue to feed themselves, not sleep in the rain, etc.

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Attention dunderheads: Taxpayers are NOT giving businesses £93bn

Eric Olson

Re: When I read the article

Yeah, even the raging left-wing loon I am understood how that part of the article fell down and Tim was right to point out the absurdity of it.

And to the point of tax breaks, it is hard to discuss them in a forum such as this. I would define a tax break as a subsidy in a like-to-like scenario: If Widget Producer A and Widget Producer B were headquartered in the same tax jurisdiction and the same sector manufacturing the same widgets and they both had comparable financials, but one had a reduced tax bill, that is a subsidy. A real-world (though United States-based) is when looking how a state or even city works to lure a company to expand or relocate. This is often done by providing a refund for or an exemption from state taxes on profits, the same to property taxes, or special credits for certain types of purchases, wage levels, or things like that. Things that a competitor would not be able to get, even if they were located next door because they didn't bother to pit various states or cities against each other for an expansion.

In some situations, like the enticements to a company to invest in a distressed area, might in fact be more beneficial to the economy, a tax jurisdiction's general fund, or both. But others, like the sales, property, or profit taxes, are often done with little consideration to what it will look like it 10, 15, or 20 years when that exemption or agreement runs out.

In the US at least, those can be very expensive and have arguable benefits (a company will expand when there is demand for it, regardless of enticements by the government; it just might have picked a different jurisdiction). Texas is notorious for this and in 2012 alone refunded or exempted $14.9 billion in state taxes. That's just madness, as in most cases, the companies reaping those rewards still would have done what businesses do.

5
1

Canuck chump cuffed over helium balloon flying chair stunt

Eric Olson

Re: They should throw the book at him

As if to further this point, an F-16 broadsided a Cessna over South Carolina today. While the fighter pilot safely ejected, there is no word on the occupants of the civilian aircraft and it's assumed that all aboard perished.

While further investigation is necessary, one of the two planes was where it shouldn't have been and it resulted in the death of one or more people as well as destruction of two aircraft. Risking your own life and limb is a decision you have to live (or die) with, but when you are making quips about seeing commercial aircraft below you, there is more at stake than your own skin. An example should be made of this man, especially given his callous disregard for the safety of anyone else in the airspace and his disturbing lack of remorse.

5
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Will rising CO2 damage the world's oceans? NOT SO MUCH – new boffinry

Eric Olson

Re: 9/11 was an inside job, as well @Jack of Shadows

Would you know what to do with the raw data? Do you even know what "raw" means when it comes to data? It's not just unadjusted, but bereft of any attempts to remove anomalous readings that are clearly incorrect.

For example, my computer records the current air temp every 5 minutes from a sensor I have on the north side of my house. It even has a ventilation shroud over it to ensure it's measured as a shade temperature and it's 6' off the ground. However, for about 3 months every year, the early morning sun is able to reach the sensor and cause a rather substantial increase in temperature for about 30 to 40 minutes, at which time it can jump 10 to 15 degrees before falling back to the actual air temperature. Should I take that to mean that from May to August, my location experiences an unusual phenomenon that causes the local temperature to spike a hour of so after sunrise, or that I have bad sensor placement and need to throw those readings out until I've corrected the situation?

That's what raw data is. And if you think that it tells you anything besides you have a period of bad measurements, you're just fooling yourself. Science includes applying your brain; without that, we'd still be talking about that amazing experiment that demonstrated how neutrinos can travel through the Earth at a speed faster than light.

Weather stations move, they are subject to maintenance issues, human error, and other problems that can make for bad data. And even without all of that, weather stations are stationary, but the world around them is not. What once was a bucolic glen at the edge of town is now the middle of an airstrip, surrounded by tarmac, planes, and buildings. I think you'd be surprised how much worse global warming would look if each weather station was left unadjusted and tracked through the 100+ years as an urban heat island developed around it.

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Eric Olson

@Ivan 4

My understanding is that most of the adjustments reduced the rise in temperatures, as they were taken in locals that 100 years ago were quiet village greens or city-outskirt farms, while today those same locales are in the middle of the urban jungle and/or in the middle of an airfield surrounded by tarmac.

The heat bubble is a very real thing and routinely elevates nighttime lows, to the point that some all-time record winter lows are considered near untouchable, not because of climate change or any such thing, but because it would take a once in a 150 year Arctic blast to get the thermometer in the urban core to bottom out, even if 20 miles away, they are actually seeing the mercury freeze. And that's not to even account for historical weather stations that moved numerous times over 100+ years where elevation, protection from the elements, and other things can provide anomalous data or render comparisons to even the same city meaningless.

But sure, keep waiting for that single wisp of smoke to turn into a raging firestorm just to prove that right, while ignoring all the other things like acidification of the ocean.

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Eric Olson

So one piece will be fine...

But we're already seeing the effects of ocean acidification and warmer temperatures on coral reefs, areas that contain high biodiversity as well some of the more amazing oceanic environs that humans can witness without too much effort.

Also, I have a slight concern with the scientific accuracy of one line in the article:

... while absorbing solar energy (and thus removing heat from the sea).

They don't remove heat so much as store it chemically. The plankton are then consumed by larger animals that will break those chemical bonds to access the sweet, sweet energy for their own uses. This includes keeping their bodies functioning in cooler environs (which is where most plankton are found), like the polar and temperate oceans, meaning that some of that energy gets released as heat energy. Mammals and seabirds come to mind.

So great, the plankton will survive the acidification of the oceans (no word on the warming since that wasn't in the experimental design). But with extremely short lifespans (as demonstrated by being able to whip through 400 generations of the buggers in the experiment), the populations at large can quickly adapt. Not so much the fish that live a half dozen years at a time or the filter-feeding whales that live as long as us house apes. Will there be anything left to eat the plankton by 2100?

28
10

'This ruling does nothing to change the facts' thunders Apple in latest price-fix appeal blow

Eric Olson

Re: You didn't publish the best part of the decision...

Must have been El Reg's own Leap Secondocalypse.

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Eric Olson

Re: You didn't publish the best part of the decision...

Oh, and have an upvote from me, because I probably would have done to same thing if I ran across it.

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Eric Olson

Re: You didn't publish the best part of the decision...

Nope, it wasn't intentional. When I published the first time, a weird error on my side happened. I waited a few minutes, didn't see anything posted, so I went into a different browser and reposted. When another 5 or so minutes passed and nothing appeared even in the My Posts section, I shut down both browsers and re-logged in, tried one more time in the first browser, then I saw something in My Posts... which was the first attempt.

I monitored things for another 10 minutes to see if there would be duplicates in My Posts so I could delete them... but nothing showed up so I figured it was just a very weird situation and I went to bed. Guess I should have waited a bit longer. Sorry about all that.

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Eric Olson

You didn't publish the best part of the decision...

The dissent.

The dissenting judge's reasoning was that Apple shouldn't be held liable for price fixing and collusion with publishers because it had the intent of breaking into a market that was controlled by a single player.

From the Associated Press article:

Judge Dennis Jacobs defended as 'eminently reasonable' the actions Apple took as it fought to raise the price of e-books when Seattle-based Amazon controlled 90 percent of the market while selling the most popular books online for $9.99. Afterward, its share of the market dropped to about 60 percent.

[...]

'Apple took steps to compete with a monopolist and open the market to more entrants, generating only minor competitive restraints in the process,' Jacobs wrote.

In short, two wrongs, or at least one monopoly followed by illegal business tactics to horn in on said monopolist's territory, make a right. Astounding. Colorfully, the majority opinion does address this peculiar line of reasoning:

In the majority opinion, though, [Judge Debra Ann] Livingston said it was 'startling' that Jacobs would agree Apple intentionally organized a conspiracy among publishers to raise e-book prices and then say the company was entitled to do so because the conspiracy helped it become an e-book retailer

Joining the majority, Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr. agreed with much of what Livingston wrote, though he noted that the publishers may be more culpable than Apple after using the company as 'powerful leverage against Amazon and to keep each other in collusive check.'

[...]

'But more corporate bullying is not an appropriate antidote to corporate bullying,' he wrote.

I feel like Judge Jacobs would be better served working as a politician, where the ends do justify the means.

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Bring on the Music, Apple: Spotify ups the ante - and money pot

Eric Olson

It should be noted...

That Apple Music and record labels are being investigated for evidence of price fixing or collusion to shut out freemium streaming services like Spotify. It's being led by the same two Attorney Generals who went after, found, and prosecuted Apple and publishers for price fixing in the eBook sphere.

This is important to Spotify because there have been rumblings that some high-profile artists and their labels don't like these services because they don't provide enough in revenue for the most popular acts, while the smaller labels and artists seem to love Spotify.

Source: www.nytimes.com/reuters/2015/06/10/business/10reuters-apple-music-investigation.html

3
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Oh, shoppin’ HELL: I’m in the supermarket of the DAMNED

Eric Olson

Re: Some Dutch shops..

They are called Asset Protection and they wander around the stores in plainclothes or in a uniform that's designed to look vaguely LEOish, complete with shiny badge with the shop's logo (at least that's how Target does it).

As far as the automated tills, part of the fun is that each item needs to have a weight added to the database so that it can verify that an item being placed in the bagging area (just a very large scale pan) is what it should be. Of course, it was clever to some degree to try to defeat it by posing it as a bag of carrots in the exact same weight, but it probably would have been a little more clever to do some kind of bulk item like rice or oats and bury it in the middle... not that I would ever do that.

Then again, here in the States those high-value, small-parcel items are typically wrapped with an anti-theft alarm that can only be removed with a special tool or are on lock racks that require an employee to retrieve and check out from a specific location. Then you need someone on the inside to help you out... which might be why shrink on a per-incident basis is much higher when it involves an employee.

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Eric Olson

Re: Online buying is sometimes not much better... @Shady

I believe the issue is that prior to even placing an order, you have to create an account with a ton of information just to even do a browse. The fact that a CC# is required to even register is a massive red flag, as that should never be required when there has not yet been a transaction *and* it should not be stored with the account information or associated with the login details (I realize it might be shunted off elsewhere in the database, but that's just as bad because it has to be keyed to my specific account with all the details necessary to charge orders against it).

A credit card or payment method should be requested only at the time I have decided to purchase goods or services, and only saved as necessary for processing the transaction.

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Elon Musk's $4.9 BEELLLION taxpayer windfall revealed

Eric Olson

Re: Seems legit @DougS

While I'm typically one who is called a leftist radical because I believe in a progressive tax system, the reality is that even when one takes into account things like carried interest for hedge fund managers or long-term capital gains, those top 1% do pay a much larger percentage of their income to taxes.

Though the Tax Foundation is often seen as a right-leaning think-tank, it is frequently used by both sides to bolster their arguments. Using the link provided by Justin S., one can easily see that for Adjusted Gross Income, the 1% have 21.9% of the reported income and pay 38.1% of individual income taxes collected. In other words, they are covering a lot of the income taxes not paid by the rest of the households. If you want to get even sillier, the top 5% have 36.8% of the AGI and pay 58.9% of all individual income taxes collected. That means that the households in the highest 5% of income in 2012 paid almost 60% of all the income taxes collected. That's 6.8 million returns out of 136 million filed. The next 5% (5% to 10%) pay "only" 11.2% of all of the income tax collected, while covering 11% of the AGI reported to the IRS.

You can start including payroll taxes and other things and present a tax incidence study of some variety... which the Tax Policy Center has done (my preferred source for tax-related info) and it too shows that as one walks up the income ladder, a larger share of income is sent to Uncle Sam. In 2013, the bottom 20% earned 4.2% of all cash income in the US, and paid 0.3% of all taxes collected, while the top 1% pulled in 17.4% of cash income and paid 29.3% of all federal taxes. Link: http://taxpolicycenter.org/numbers/displayatab.cfm?DocID=3806

Methodologies differ and some things are excluded, but the general message is that for all the whining, the super rich (or at least those with the most annual income) also pay a larger percentage in taxes, both as a function of income as well as a percentage of the total taxes due to the US Treasury. Could they pay more without too much of a haircut? Quite likely, at least the top 1 to 5% households. Does that further what we want to do as a country? That's a deeper question that can't be answered here... if such a thing exists.

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Eric Olson

Re: A little perspective..

*sigh* I dropped the "l" at the end of the URL.

Here's the working link: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/12/01/us/government-incentives.html

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Eric Olson

Re: How well are those companies going to keep doing after the subsidy flood dries up?

No, they won't "cotton on." This is SOP and some of these subsidies, credits, or incentives have been around for decades. It's not just the solar industry. Grimy, unsexy factories frequently get this treatment, as they provide jobs, and that's manna from the gods for politicians who are at a loss as to how to actually do anything besides campaign for their next term.

Texas alone gives away or forgoes around $20 billion in taxes each year, mostly through exempting a company from sales and property taxes, or refunding any sales taxes paid in a year. So while the EV credit might disappear after a while, assuming the 200K vehicle limit isn't increased, the Gigafactory tax exemption is slated to continue for a decade or more, by which point Tesla could be building more factories in other states, getting bigger and better exemptions.

This is just the way the country is run.

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Eric Olson

A little perspective..

Back in 2012, in the wake of the corporate bailouts, the companies pitting one city or state against another, etc., the New York Times put together a database and series of reports on such tax breaks, credits, and incentives. While $4.9 billion sounds like a lot, it's over the lifetime of the various companies, which according to the LA Times article, dates back to at least 2006 in SolarCity's case.

What the NY Times found was that in 2012, around $80 billion in such subsidies were happening each year. Texas alone accounted for $19.1 billion, and states like California, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania were all around the $4 billion per year mark. The database is here (full link: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/12/01/us/government-incentives.htm)

Of course, one could take issue with some of the assumptions in the LA Times article, such as including around $1 billion in the total for subsidies that were paid to customers who had a solar installation from SolarCity, rather than just the $500 million that SolarCity directly received for their own solar panel installations. But you could also argue that without such a subsidy, SolarCity would have never made the sales. Since we don't have a clone of the Earth with just that one difference, it's hard to say for certain.

Sad to say but receiving around $600 million a year in various subsidies, tax breaks, credits, and the like is not only par for the course, but a guiding principle of our so-called small government political party. Corporate welfare, as it's derisively described, is much more politically palatable to Republicans as they rename it job creation and talk about how great private enterprise is. I'm not a big fan only in that it represents a race-to-the-bottom as states try to one-up the next by enticing companies to expand or relocate through the use of property tax exemptions, sales tax exemptions, or other things that will last a decade or more, might get extended if the company makes noise about leaving or shutting down, and generally greatly underestimates the impact to a state's tax base and overstates the benefits of having that HQ or new factory.

Nothing to see here. Just move along.

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Forget black helicopters, FBI flying surveillance Cessnas over US cities. Warrant? What's that?

Eric Olson

Re: hmm

They have the capability... they've just been told by the SEC that doing so would destabilize the economy and create chaos across the world.

Now, I'm not saying that a bunch of bank executives and subsidiaries losing the ability to do business because of felony charges wouldn't destabilize things and possibly even create a recession... but it can't be much worse then the one those behaviors created in the first place. And the Mexican cartels, Triads, ISIS/L, and FIFA would all find themselves without open accounts. How many times has HSBC been fined for actively participating in money laundering?

5
2

The 'echo chamber' effect misleading people on climate change

Eric Olson

Re: Political Bullshit

Does anyone else hear the echo?

3
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Amazon cloud to BEND TIME, exist in own time zone for 24 hours

Eric Olson

Re: What is so sacred about 9,192,631,770?

The idea is to stop using physical items that can chance shape, size, density, etc. and have to be adjusted for the ambient conditions at the time of measurement. Seconds used to be defined as a 1/86,400th of a mean solar day. But of course, the Earth is very much a physical item that changes based on ambient. Notice the use of "mean" in the old definition of second. More importantly, with a slowing rotation, anything that uses second as a unit will change over time. That means that you would have to constantly update measurements of fundamental phenomena, like the speed of light. Today it might be 299,792,458 meters/second, but using an Earth-derived second means it might be 299,792,458.5 meters/second in a couple years. Defining seconds by the number of vibrations of a Cesium atom means it's tied to a fundamental property of nature, though one that can be still influenced by external forces, like local gravity.

Even today the margin of error for an atomic clock is enough to add uncertainty to the true speed of light, and we have other. Adding a leap second for the sake of coordinating time is purely for those of us Earth-bound souls. And since most of us only measure time down to the second (with some people going to ms), that resolution is good enough. But perhaps we need to stop thinking about time from an earth-derived value.

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