* Posts by Eric Olson

290 posts • joined 22 Sep 2007

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

Eric Olson
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

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Canuck chump cuffed over helium balloon flying chair stunt

Eric Olson
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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.

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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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Coat

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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