* Posts by Eric Olson

268 posts • joined 22 Sep 2007

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

Eric Olson
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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
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@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
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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?

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

Eric Olson
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

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

Eric Olson
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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?

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The 'echo chamber' effect misleading people on climate change

Eric Olson
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Re: Political Bullshit

Does anyone else hear the echo?

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

Eric Olson
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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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Never trust a developer who says 'I can fix this in a few minutes'

Eric Olson
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Re: Project manager?

Which estimate are you talking about? The one which the senior-level leaders who haven't actually coded in years came up with? Or the one that the mid-level architects came up with when pressured to confirm that high-level estimate, despite knowing that the requirements had already changed enough to render it useless? Or perhaps the actual poor saps tasked with delivering the pig's breakfast. I find that it's the estimate that the last group comes up with is the most accurate, though the most ignored one of the lot.

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Polygraph.com owner pleads guilty to helping others beat lie detector

Eric Olson
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Re: interesting justice

The two positions in question were for the Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol. Both are law enforcement positions. Interfering with the police in any way, directly or indirectly, can be considered obstruction of justice. That's where the charge comes from, and the charge is in federal court since both are federal positions and because he crossed state lines to commit them.

I misspoke in that the first undercover story was an already hired airport inspector (not an LEO in any way, shape, or form) being investigated for letting a friend through with contraband. So that would be an actual crime, though again, it never actually happened meaning there was no actual investigation being obstructed. It sure could be used as evidence for a search warrant to get actual records or access to actual cases where he tried to help someone fool the machine.

The second one, however, is not because it's an LEO, but because the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has allowed the Border Patrol to flag some of their positions as being subject to deeper "suitability determinations" (their own description) that can include polygraph tests. The fact that it was an LEO made the position more likely to be subject to such checking, but there are other positions within the OPM's purview that can be subject to these requirements and have nothing to do with being an LEO or even working with them.

My point is that as no actual crime or application was being investigated so no actual crime by Mr. Williams was committed. Unlike a sting operation where a perp is caught handing over a brick of cocaine or illegal weapons, the possession of which is a crime, this is a man who is trying to help someone impede something that doesn't exist. This should be a basis for further investigation, including wire taps and account monitoring, while they either wait for an actual situation where he's trying to help someone evade criminal charges or mislead an investigation or they can go through his history and tie him to someone they already investigated and charged or let go.

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Eric Olson
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Re: interesting justice

It's an interesting concept, because if these undercover agents didn't actually commit the crimes they admitted to, how can the guy be charged with obstruction?

The official indictment indicates that there are two counts of mail fraud (pretty much any criminal use of the USPS is considered mail fraud... it's a nice two-for-one in many cases) and then three counts of witness tampering, which seem to be convincing the people who claimed to have committed crimes to try to convince the Federal Government they did not commit crimes.

Seems off. While I have no doubt that actively working to help someone fraudulently obtain employment, government or otherwise, is at least grounds for a civil case, if not criminal depending on the means, I get a little bothered that he's being charged with obstructing justice for imaginary crimes. Based on the wording in the indictment, the act of doing a background check and polygraph is considered an "investigation" of the candidate, meaning that trying to hinder law enforcement's ability to investigate is obstruction... but again... no actual crime was committed and this should have been enough to at least get a search warrant to find real people he helped.

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CSI GALAXY: Cause of death = STRANGULATION

Eric Olson
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Re: Not dead yet

And here I thought the closest star was visible whenever my part of the earth was facing it.. assuming there weren't any clouds in the way.

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You have the right to be forgotten 41.3 per cent of the time says Google

Eric Olson
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Re: Much as I dislike Google...

Frankly, I think Google should not only be free to ignore "right to forget" requests from politicians, but they should also then promote them up the rankings so that anytime someone searches for that politician, all that's seen are references to the shady and unethical behavior they've been accused of or prosecuted for.

Same goes for those running for office the first time, since each filing period will see a spike in wannabe politicians trying to memory hole all the homophobic, racist, radical, etc. things they did before they wanted to be on the government payroll.

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That DRM support in Firefox you never asked for? It's here

Eric Olson
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Re: DRM - Wont be getting my cash. @Stuart Longland

One last thing, because I think it gets lost when people talk about "ownership" of something. If you buy a book, you don't own the content. You own an authorized copy of an author's work, nothing more. If the author republishes the book in a different format, with better pictures, prettier font, sloppy prose tightened, you don't get it for free. You have to trundle out to your local bookstore or point your FOSS-compliant browser to a purveyor of choice and pay for the new version. The author, being the actual owner of that content, can change, modify, delete, add, or just completely re-write it whenever they want, and if you would like to have that new version, you will pay for it. (See Lucas, George)

I would like to point out that while you're welcome today to do your second-hand shopping for something, don't pretend for a moment it benefits the author or content creator in any tangible way. There are no resale royalties, and while it might drive a sale to a new copy if you run your local second-hand shop out of copies and someone really wants to get the author's new book, the more likely result is that said person will wander over to another second-hand shop, check out a library sale, or go online to the many second-hand stores. None of this actually benefits a content creator, so at no point can you actually say you are supporting them.

Maybe instead of whining about how you are being forced to fork over cash for something you can't transfer ownership for, maybe you should be asking how you can make sure content continues to be created for you to enjoy. DRM might not be the best way to do it (again, it's just a mechanism to enforce the EULA or Ts&Cs), but then you need to think long and hard about how you satisfy these two requirements from a creator's standpoint:

1) Ensure fair compensation

2) Ensure work is not stolen and reproduced without permission or license, especially if it reduces or prevents point 1

Failure to do that, and your creators will become real amateurs or hobbyists who only have the passion but not the time to create high-quality work. Or it will mean that such pursuits would again revert back to the modern landed gentry who can afford to be idle while pursing some sort of project with little to no financial gain.

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Eric Olson
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Re: Barriers to purchase @ Eric Olson

Nielsen's method is a combination of boxes, surveys, and reports from content providers. They also can figure out how many people are watching in a time-shifted manner. Is it perfect? No.

But the numbers aren't what matters, it's the behavior of the consumer. Those watching TV will have a certain engagement and conversion rate, modeled over decades and actually compared to consumer habits. The internet provides very little of that, for a number of reasons.

For one, the population of those who stream television through a service tend to be younger, more tech savvy individuals. They also are ad-adverse and will likely leave the room to grab something for that 30 second spot. Or YouTube often offers a "skip" button 5-10 seconds in. In general, your count of eyeballs online is likely to be over-inflated and have a much lower conversion rate. What's the point of having perfect numbers when you can't actually see how many people are watching the ad.

TV is usually more communal, and even now is a center of a home where 2 or more people will gather. Short of a handful of HTPCs that are setup by tech geeks, most internet content is streamed to a device that is watched by one person. So even if you can exactly say that 2.5 million views of that show were done online, you have to assume it's only 2.5 million (or less) viewers. For tradition delivery, 2.5 million households (views) on a Tuesday night could be 5 million or even 7.5 million people, and you can survey that information easily. More importantly, a much larger number of them are used to being swayed by ads and accept it, increasing engagement and conversion rates.

Finally, if you are seeing ads that are not applicable to you, it's probably because you are watching something outside your demographic. If you are in the US and watch CBS during primetime, you will see a lot of things that skew old and "comfortable". That's CBS's core demographic, the silver-haired Boomers who like shows that are procedural acronyms. Watch Mad Men on AMC, and you'll see a lot of luxury car ads and upscale beverages, because the demo that watches are younger, affluent, and more likely to drink alcohol that looks expensive, but not be learned enough to know what good alcohol is (that last bit is editorializing on my part, but I digress).

The point is that the internet, specifically streamed TV and movie content, is a very new ballgame. The models are incomplete, the numbers are suspect, and the viewers are less likely to engage with the ads in the first place. So not only can free-to-air TV do things that internet-streamed TV cannot do, it's cheaper, more targeted, and more likely to have a better return on investment. This could change in the next 10 years, but I think (hope) there are more profound content delivery changes on the horizon that will make this conversation moot.

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Eric Olson
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Re: DRM - Wont be getting my cash. @Stuart Longland

Again you are proving my point. The concept of copying an item is illegal in most parts of the world. The US Supreme Court indicated that a person could record a program from the TV onto a VHS and review it for personal use only. A later act made analog audio recording to audio media legal, but clearly stated that digital recordings could only be made with specific, authorized technology. This is not MP3s or hard drives or other any other place we consider housing recordings of digital audio, which is why the RIAA and MPAA was able to do what they did.

If your issue is that you are not allowed to legally copy your media or items to a backup, that is something you take up with your representative or government. Until then, you can not only expect more DRM with limiting licenses, but it will continue to be a profitable venture for companies, especially the one that doesn't screw up implementation and makes it seamless or painless to an end customer.

You should also realize that you and many of the other anti-DRM folks here are outliers: Your general consumer will happily buy a song, album, or movie off of iTunes. The impact of those who choose not to use media that has DRM attached to it is small and shrinking. The days of Securom hosing an entire system of the Sony rootkit are long past and most implementations are invisible.

I get that you don't like it. But as a content creator, hanging around other content creators, and doing content creation for revenue, the last thing I want is my work being passed around like some illicit copy of Juggs at the schoolyard because some kind stole it from Dad's stash. I believe that my work deserves compensation, and if that means it needs to be locked down so that only those who would have never purchased it in the first place are the ones who steal it, fine. But if I just throw out a copy of my work with no security, then it's on me when it gets stolen. It's no different from leaving for work each day with the garage wide open and the doors unlocked. It might take a while for people to take my lawn mower, but one day, someone is going to and my neighbors will yell at me for having long grass.

If it was just a hobby and not something that I derived much revenue from, or I supported myself through eyeballs and other forms of ad revenue, then I might not care so much. But that's not the case. And nor is it for my wife who composes. Our work is our product, and we will protect it as we see fit in a way that doesn't alienate our customers. Since the reality is that those who oppose DRM are often the same folks who go to great lengths to take things apart so they can do it their way, they aren't so much a target demographic as a demographic of no consequence. The impact to my bottom line is minimal and I can make sure that my customers actually are getting a product they enjoy rather than kowtowing to the radicals who demand everything for free, right now, and more to come tomorrow for the same price.

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Eric Olson
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Re: Barriers to purchase

Whats the difference to shoehorning 30 second ads into the streamed show? Why can free to air tv do it but online can't?

In reality online can do more and do it better. You can build up viewer profiles and targeted advertising and select the ads on a per instance version. No more ads that don't apply to you.

Youtube does it now.

It's about conversion rate. An ad on a network is target to a demographic that has grown up with television and are used to learning about, hearing about, and making decisions because of the ads one sees in between scenes or acts in a show. Additionally in the US, a 30 minute block typically has 20-24 minutes of content, the rest being held over for ads and some network stuff. So the math is easy: Buy a 30 second spot during the commercial break, where the risks are known and you have decades old models that tell you what to expect, or bid fiercely for on 2 or 3 30 second spots on a 20 minute show streamed over the internet to a generation that is already bucking the traditional model and has grown used to time-shifted viewing and other tricks to cut down on time wasted watching ads. Oh, and your models don't have any kind of handle on what the conversion rate is, how it will drive sales, and what your return might be.

If you want ad-free viewing, you pay for it. Otherwise, how does a show like Mad Men or Walking Dead make money? A tip jar? A hat? Creators, even if distributors and publishers are removed, need to sell their creation to make money. No one does it for free and if you expect otherwise, you have more than a few screws that need tightening.

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Eric Olson
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Re: DRM - Wont be getting my cash.

Four points:

- I've lived in the same house for over 30 years, if it hasn't burned down yet, it's unlikely to without some help.

The fact you haven't lost anything to a fire yet should be considered good luck, not proof that it will never happen. But as I pointed out, it's not just fire. Animals, water, children, or just plain wear and tear will render the book useless, just like other forms of physical media.

- If my media is irretrievably lost, then in all probability I can buy replacement copies from the second-hand stores, which is where much of it came from in the first place.

You could do that, but more salient to my point, it's not free. You have to pay for the replacement of the item, not just go and download a new copy using your existing license.

- If my media is lost, then in all probability, so is the computer that has the DRM key authorising my use of cloud-stored media. So this DRM thing is no better than the situation I have now.

That's merely a technical problem, and one that's been generally solved by associating DRM with an account as opposed to a single machine. So unless you lose access to all of your accounts, the probability of losing access to the content is slim to nil.

- If the media does outlive me, it can be passed on to someone else. Try doing that with your iTunes collection.

Well, as someone else pointed out, handing Stuart Longland Jr. your VHS, vinyl, or DOS-formatted floppy collection is probably less than useful. Either the format is such that they can no longer play it, or it's been superseded by a newer version. That old comedy album from 1965 might not have been reprinted in CD form because, well, no one liked it, so barring sentimental value, it's unlikely to have much value to whoever you passed it on to.

Additionally, your are incorrectly blaming DRM for what is really a licensing issue, something that is wholly separate though often conflated. If the EULA allows unlimited copying for personal use, or is amended to allow you to transfer ownership to another person, then it's no different than your collection of the 1970s greatest hits on vinyl. But that is something you, as a purchaser of the items, need to consider when laying out your cash.

Overall, my point is that physical media, and any goods for that matter are rights-managed. Whether through existing law, the complications in copying, a finite lifespan, etc. nothing you buy has any guarantee of lasting more than its warranty period and there is no license allowing you to get a replacement if its lost or damaged. Sure, that old wardrobe you have in the corner of the master bedroom might be 200 years old, but the moment it's gone, it's not like you can immediately get a new one for no cost. You'll either need to scour antique stores for it, or pay through the nose from an auction house or collector.

The sooner we stop assuming that DRM is some new invention designed to screw customers out of money and realize it's just a new application of existing limitations, the better we can manage our expectation and push for change or dumping of ineffective or poorly-executed DRM, and maybe start on the real issue, the EULA.

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Eric Olson
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Re: DRM - Wont be getting my cash.

What happens when your house burns down and some of your books are out-of-print? If your CDs get scratched or mangled beyond playable? Or if the media is just fragile and eventually wears out (a la vinyl and magnetic tape)?

The tangible world isn't infinite, so I don't understand why we think the digital world should be. Perhaps it's that idealized world where knowledge is never lost and always available, regardless of the age, format, content, etc. But that's not how the world works. The Great Library was burned down and lost to time, thousands of books and manuscripts that we know to have existed, the knowledge of which is only known because they were referenced in surviving works. There are numerous musical recordings we don't have, either because they existed only in an oral tradition or because they predated recording. And even recorded works have been lost due to degradation of the media.

I'm still not a fan of DRM, but its more for where it can go wrong as opposed to some philosophical opposition. DRM can fail or malfunction, locking out a customer who has purchased access to content. But at least there, in theory, there is recourse and you can get access restored. A CD was its own DRM (and just as illegal to circumvent through copying, whether people cared or not), and if it failed, your only recourse was to buy a new copy. Same with a book. You can't legally copy a book (though many have tried), and if it was destroyed, lost, damaged, eaten by a dog, covered in blood, etc., you couldn't bring the remains back to a bookstore and ask for a new copy for free. You could get a new copy, but for the price of the original, or you could look around for a used copy.

So some of your points are valid: It can fail, it can be a hassle, it can be poorly implemented, and if the unlock is remote, then a server failure, local internet failure, or the folding of the shop can render content unplayable. But those are technical failures with technical solutions; they can be overcome. The other sins you lay at the feet of DRM are not a DRM problem; they are a commerce problem. And will continue to be, even if creators sell direct to customers.

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Why OH WHY is economics so bleedin' awful, then?

Eric Olson
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Re: Sitting Ducks @Dan Paul

Did they personally tell you this, or was that rumor? Did you actually verify they received such a benefit? Last I checked in the US, there is no such thing as free housing. You can sign up for a waiting list, assuming you can actually find one that's open, to get Section 8 housing, but that still requires that you pay a portion of the rent. And many people have been on Section 8 housing assistance waiting lists for over a year. And the "free cash" has always been a small amount, such that a single parent with one child with a low income receives around $400 a month. And there are work or retraining requirements to continue the benefits. And if they are minors themselves, they generally have to continue living with their parents, or a legal guardian, and still remain in school to get the benefit, and the benefit goes to their parents or caretaker.

In short, your anecdote doesn't pass the smell test from a US standpoint. You have an incorrect memory of the events, were mislead about what exactly happened to them, or are misrepresenting what actually happened. I applaud your attempt to lend plausibility to the story by making it seem like you were actually there, but it's not any less asinine than Reagan's oft-repeated claims about those strapping young bucks. That, or you are referring to a time many years ago when it was hard to verify identify and fraud could happen with only a few aliases. But that's called criminal behavior and is prosecuted as such, and happens as much as other sensational crimes that cause plenty of tittering at media outlets of ill-repute. There are plenty more cases of elder abuse and identity theft to defraud Medicare and Medicaid, perpetrated by white collar crooks looks to make a quick buck, or the hucksters selling snake oil because the law of the land allows anyone to sell a pill as a "supplement" and sell it through Dr. Oz and his ilk. The volume and cost to the country dwarf any of the costs we could recover by going after mythical welfare queens.

But hey, don't let that dissuade you from your crusade.

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Eric Olson
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Re: Sitting Ducks @Dan Paul

You'll find that your "welfare queen" is a political straw(wo)man that is used to rile folks like you up. Congratulations, you've fallen for the ruse, hook, line, and sinker.

And as a sworn officer of the morality cops, I'm sure this next piece of information won't sway you a bit, as it contradicts your carefully constructed view of the world.

Families that receive cash benefits instead of vouchers or other restricted-use benefits have better outcomes for their children (http://www.nber.org/papers/w21101)

From the paper's abstract:

Our findings suggest that additional income may improve outcomes through both mechanisms: some benefit income is spent on direct education and health inputs, while some is spent on everyday items likely to improve the general conditions children face. Additionally, some families reduce spending on risky behavior items

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Eric Olson
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Re: Sitting Ducks

* Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84 per cent)

What recipients? Not those who spend it on fags-and-booze, nor their children. And that's precisely where the worst social problems lie.

It starts with people whining about sin spending, and then you have presidential candidates talking about "strapping young bucks [minority men]" using welfare to buy T-Bone steaks (Reagan, 1976). If there ever was a slippery slope that existed in the real world, it's the insidious myth of welfare cheats/queens. These people rarely exist.

Yet because of this pernicious talking point, we have states passing restrictions on how cash-like benefits can be used, like no seafood (sounds good when it's lobster, not so good when it also prevents buying a tin of tuna), no spices or herbs (favor is only for those who earn it), or nuts (because good health is also something you have to earn). And even if we applied rules that restricted it to healthy items, that definition 15 years ago would have excluded butter, eggs, dairy with fat, and many vegetable oils while providing "healthful" alternatives like partially hydrogenated oils (margarine), fruit juices, and "fortified" cereals like Frosted Mini Wheats. Never mind that today, those "healthy" items all have a growing list of ills associated to them while the demonized items of the 90s are turning out to be a lot healthier than originally thought.

As someone who seems to be concerned with the removal of the free market from things, by advocating the picking of winners and losers in the food world by the government, or more specifically, the morality police, you screw the rest of us who aren't getting benefits. There are enough welfare dollars there to sway manufacturers and producers in a direction that may be proven wrong in another 15 years. Worst of all, the benefit of being able to pivot with the market is removed because laws take forever to change and the morality police are not exactly known for being receptive to ideas that challenge or refute their world-views.

As Mr. Worstall talked about a few weeks back, scrap welfare and this hand-wringing over the morality of certain items and just give a minimum basic income to everyone. That way, I can tell you and all those morality cops to stop policing the lives of others because you think they are deficient or incapable of living without someone over their shoulder telling them how they are failing. The fact that you have a job does not give you some kind of superiority or moral high ground; it just means you have a job (which many people on welfare have, it just doesn't provide enough)

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Eric Olson
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Sensible words from Mr. Worstall

I'm curious to see if we'll see less Left/Right BS and more "If this is the stated goal, here's what the research says we should do."

Before this, I often read pieces from Mr. Worstall that started the other way, "Here's the right thing to do; the goals are inconsequential," which is where you start to get into trouble and have 200+ comment sections arguing about subjective concepts like fairness or talk about the silliness of emotional debates. A society may not actually be interested in maximizing output or economic growth if it means degradation of the environment, extreme income inequality, etc. A decision to trade some economic growth for social security, universal health care, or other expensive government service that requires a higher level of taxation is perfectly acceptable.

I applaud the recognition that of all the social sciences, economics is the least scientific or social. It's a lot of cultural or cognitive biases that get rolled into a single model or paper that outlines exactly why one person thinks the best way to explain an economy is to examine the entrails of a recently slaughtered pig.

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US Congress promises death to patent trolls in bipartisan law scribbling

Eric Olson
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Re: USPTO revamping

These days, most patent applications come from business and researching institutions (generally universities and labs). The cost of filing for a patent for those bigger companies are small.

AIA did create the "micro entity" to reduce fees by upwards of 75%. I didn't go into it in my original post, but it's a person (almost always) who is named on fewer than four applications and does not have a gross income in excess of 3 times the median household income (so that would be $155,000 or less right now). This is for the true (some say mythical?) garage or shed inventor and to get those InventHelp like companies out of the business because the fee reverts to normal if the inventor is required to transfer the patent to another entity that does not meet those criteria.

There already existed a "small entity" that covered individuals and small institutions where fees were reduced by up to 50%, so AIA just created an even cheaper tier.

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Eric Olson
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Re: Does nothing...

Every time the country encounters an upheaval due to technological innovation, bad patents get awarded. It takes time for examiners to understand the new technology, courts to sift through the competing patents, and for the process to play out.

Case in point: The sewing machine.

Many different models using patented technologies, or broadly-worded patents that could apply to any number of implementations. Hell, there were even a prominent "rights holders" at the time who did not and had no interest in making sewing machines, just profiting off lawsuits against companies, retailers, and consumers who purchased sewing machines that contained technology that might have been covered by a patent in their portfolio. Take a look at Elias Howe Jr. if you want to see Patent Troll Prime, though at least he did invent something at one point. Back then, the proper epithet was "patent shark".

At roughly the same time, the 1850s saw an anti-patent movement that almost got the whole patent system dismantled in Britain and Prussia, while the Netherlands and Switzerland actually stopped issuing patents for decades.. They did not get much traction in the USA, however.

My point is that none of this is new and is in fact what happens when a new field of R&D emerges and the race to file begins. Here is an interesting academic look at the 19th century patent wars.

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Eric Olson
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Re: USPTO revamping

Guess who's responsible for the USPTO's budget...

The people filing the patents are responsible. All fees collected are used by the USPTO to pay for administrative costs and a reserve fund. They do not rely on Congress for funding, nor do they have to divert their funding to the general fund to see it come back (thought they do have to ask permission to use it...). It is a self-funded governmental office.

Of course, being self-funding is not the same as self-organizing or autonomy. For many years, the USPTO was limited in how much it could increase fees or how it could tier them. With the America Invents Act, they were provided authority to adjust fees as necessary to reflect the aggregate costs associated with their mission, with the added authority to adjust the fee schedule based on the size of the patent submitter. With those changes, the USPTO has been able to hire more examiners and reduce backlog.

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This is Sparta? No - it's Microsoft Edge, Son of Internet Explorer

Eric Olson
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Re: Close, but still no cigar

From the Windows standpoint, it's easy: Yet another carrot to get you to move to Windows 10. They're already offering it free to folks who have Win 7 - 8.1 for a year after release (or so they are claiming on their website). Why keep developing for two generations of the OS when you know it will be deprecated soon enough? I mean, aside from business who took years to migrate off of WinXP, and Win2000 before that. Even free licenese aren't going to be enough, though I'm sure that's part of the carrot as well.

As for the non-Windows OSes.... well, I would guess it's because the truth is that even with the steps forward taken by both OS X and the various Linux distros, they are still a small minority of computers in use today. Looking around, there aren't many good estimates of OS usage, but for March 2015, Wikimedia's requests show 79% of non-mobile OSes are some variant of Windows. In fact, WinXP was only slightly less common than all OS X 10.X versions (8.67% vs.10.8%). Even with an generous assumption of error, you can't really say that in the non-mobile arena there is much value to Microsoft to port their browser to Linux or Mac.

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Why recruiters are looking beyond IT's traditional talent pool

Eric Olson
Bronze badge

I am quite lazy... and hate to consider myself clever, though I've fooled enough people to get where I am today. The lazy is mostly because I don't want to do anything more than necessary to get the job done and happily delegate to others who can do it more quickly than I.

Kidding aside, I was a friggin' psychology major who liked statistics and figuring out how groups interacted and collided (none of that abnormal psych, please). Little did I know that when married with my DIY attitude towards my computer and a possibly unhealthy compulsion to learn a little bit about everything, I would be someone who could BS my way through a room while I frantically used my down time to actually learn the stuff I pretended I knew something about.

I hate being in the dark about something, and that was recently reinforced when I moved to a new company in a new field to continue on as a BA, and I knew nothing about how anything worked, either operationally or technologically. Drove me absolutely mad. But I was able to flub my way though and my deep-seated obsession with learning new things brings me to a point 6 months later where I no longer pretend I know things, I actually do. My PM might not like the way I do things (not enough documented milestones and project plans), but it seems my developers, Product Owner, stakeholders, and SQA folks take the time to point out how much better things are with me around. I love it and hate it, all at the same time... mostly because in addition to my inability to not want to learn, it's hard for me to fathom why others don't take the time to understand things.

So yeah, I'm tooting my own horn... but at the same time, I expect others to do the same and am constantly disappointed when they don't.

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Eric Olson
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Devil

Re: Respect

No-one ever seems to tell them when its appropriate to switch off the BCS borg programming and talk to a stakeholder like a human being.

And this, folks, is why I and other BAs have jobs. Too many business folks got tired of dealing with developers and software architects who talked way above and then down to the managers, directors, and executives.

I'm a closet techie myself, but I got a liberal arts degree in the early part of this century, worked in retail, customer service, helpdesk, and finally, analyst. My skill-set is wide but not deep, and a newly minted CS major could probably put together a small database with stored procedures and automated reporting in the time it takes me to get Visual Studio up and running. But I can relate to, understand, and if necessary, cajole and forcibly extract from, the business folks who make the money that pays for the IT department's salary. After that, I can understand what the needs are yet have enough knowledge about the underlying infrastructure to know how to translate, represent, and direct.

I envision a day where my role disappears in a cloud of smoke as either business users have to become savvy enough to at least communicate effectively to developers or there are developers who've ascended to levels in a business where they have to learn how to speak to others without falling back on system diagrams or flowcharts representing behind-the-scenes processes, ETLs, algorithms, etc.

But until that day comes, I'll continue to rake in the sweet, sweet cash.

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Eric Olson
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Coat

@mad physicist Fiona

All because the IT whizzes had decided that the notices literally every ten feet along the wall (Fire wall - do not penetrate) didn't apply to them.

Maybe they thought it would be a good pen test?

Thankyouandgoodnight!

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Eric Olson
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@Ivan 4

A Business Analyst might be necessary in developing financial services software but is useless for industrial control software.

Hey! We BAs can also do health care, testing services, and retail software, as well. Give us some credit.

Having worked in my college summers in manufacturing and a brother who is a EE/Comp.Eng and works on control panels for a variety of applications, I have no desire to ever step into a role that requires me to do that kind of work for industrial machines. Something about hearing my brother recount a project he was handed where he was asked to maintain and enhance thousands or millions of lines of undocumented spaghetti code in machine language gives me nightmares.

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Facebook fiddles with News Feed algo. Brace yourself for CONTENTGEDDON

Eric Olson
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Most Recent still exists on the mobile app (Android, at least). You just need to tap the hamburger icon, to the right of the globe icon, the scroll down to find Most Recent. It's not perfect mind you.

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Eric Olson
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WTF?

Call me crazy...

But the article read like it was written by my formerly tech-savvy uncle, who declared that BBS was good enough for him so it should be good enough for everyone. I realize the intent was humor with a side of snark, but it just came across as jaded, bitter, and fearful of change.

We know what Facebook is about. No new ground is being broken (journalistic or otherwise) by reiterating that it they track how what their users are doing. It also is disingenuous as all commercial (and many non-commercial) websites conduct user interaction tracking to some degree and leverage it for redesign or content presentation, including The Register.

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Trading Standards pokes Amazon over 'libellous' review

Eric Olson
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Re: Perhaps

Having been at a company that used auto dialers, the act of answering the phone was enough to drop the call to an agent. This service would do the same thing. Unless they are using a VoIP system that provides no way for an agent to access a number pad, my guess is that either the message about *5 is being cut off and not heard, or you've got some pretty honest salespeople over there. Those services were offered here in the States years ago, and they mostly died an ignoble death as they were not all that effective.

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Eric Olson
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Re: Perhaps

If emergency services is calling using an unknown number, they will be prompted to press *5 to get through. That extra step could be serious, especially if a time ever comes where robocalls for a general alert are ever required for safety and security. But even without it, the extra step is a possible failure point that could prevent the number holder from being reached.

And even if it was a cold call, the extra step of pressing *5 only assures that a human is on the line who won't be stymied by it. The service being provided is pretty gimmicky and relies on honest humans, a quality you won't often find in telephonic sales.

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Comcast, Time Warner Cable in crunch talks with FCC, DoJ over $42bn mega-merger

Eric Olson
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Re: And 2x bad == ?

I'm sure the robotic help would be better and more expensive than the poor folks they hire to be abused in the Philippines or Malaysia. The flowcharts they hand out have every termination point except "Resolved to Customer Satisfaction."

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Eric Olson
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Re: More sourceless rumors

A week ago the rumor was that approval was imminent.

I can't say I've heard that one before. If there was a rumor approval was imminent, it would have rocked the internet, as many technology companies, media outlets, and other players with a stake have been against it from the start.

However, if you can provide a reputable outlet that published an article that substantiates your claim, I'm willing to accept that at least one person seemed to think this was going to happen at one point.

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Streaming tears of laughter as Jay-Z (Tidal) waves goodbye to $56m

Eric Olson
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Sales Tax vs. VAT

While it is true that there is a wide variety of sales taxes throughout the States, more often than not services are excluded from being taxed. Again, this varies by jurisdiction but it's pretty common to go to the mechanic, for example, and get an invoice that lists the parts and services, with the parts section containing a tax line while seeing none in the services section. So here in the States, I would expect to see a monthly charge on my credit card of $19.99... assuming I ever suffered some kind of traumatic brain injury to left me legally fit to handle my own affairs while being completely bereft of sense.

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You want disruption? Try this: Uber office raided again, staff cuffed

Eric Olson
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Re: Benefit of the Guilds

You'll find that taxis are strictly licensed mainly for safety and honesty - there are still plenty of fake taxi companies at work in London that will rip off tourists. If you take a ride in an unlicensed and uninsured taxi you will receive very little compensation for injury. Uber et al are trying to jump on their bandwagon not a legal one.

You can set standards without unduly constraining market participants who follow the rules. What's happening here in the US is that a lot of places have established taxi operators who bid on a limited number of medallions, badges, licenses, etc, with the entire "fee" going into the city's coffers.

Rather than let the established market participants play in a walled garden, free from competition, it seems easier to require that anyone operating as a car-for-hire must carry commercial insurance of a certain amount and leave it to the insurance carriers to require a certain level of proof before they extend a policy. If you want to operate a car-for-hire service where you provide the cars (as many cab companies do today, though often on lease or for a fee), then the carrier should insure the business owner and require them to check, certify, maintain, and validate the drivers. If Uber or any other peer-to-peer service wants to play, they should make the Ts & Cs clear for both sides that insurance is required and that the transaction is between the driver and the passenger.

In some cases, there is something to be said for giving market participants enough rope to hang themselves with...

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