* Posts by Nick Kew

459 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007

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OH HAPPY DAY! Lawyers replaced by AI

Nick Kew
Devil

I realise replacing all the lawyers isn't actually what the article is about, but ...

Since replacing washerwomen with robots we've started to indulge ourselves in clean shirts and underwear every day. The robots can do more, and we ordinary people can afford them (and the would-be-washerwomen themselves are freed up to do less-gruelling work).

Now, if lawyers could go the way of washerwomen, we could of course rejoice at the demise of the parasites. But maybe also be careful what we wish for, if the robotic law-machines turn us in to a society that does all our own ambulance-chasing!

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Sly peers attempt to thrust hated Snoopers' Charter into counter-terror and security bill

Nick Kew

Blair's Chief Henchman

It seems The Great Liar's chief henchman - also called Blair - has been elevated to Their Lordships and is now pursuing the Blair-Blair Police State agenda from there.

That they appear to have Cameron and May on board is all the more worrying. Let's hope an alliance of old-fashioned (individual freedoms and responsibilities) Conservatives and Libdems can hold out for what remains of our Enlightenment values.

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'It's NOT FAIR!' yell RICH KIDS ... and that's a GOOD THING

Nick Kew

Friends, not Strangers

What you're describing takes place *within* a social group, and is social interaction. I don't see anything in it that would indicate altruism towards the wider world.

Which is no doubt why many of the biggest and nastiest crooks can also be pillars of their communities.

And it puts me in mind of the Paradox of Selfishness. Whereas the act of procreating in an overcrowded world is the ultimate act of selfishness, the subsequent behaviour of (normal) parents towards their children is the ultimate altruism. Though it may involve extreme selfishness towards ones own community: the "in group" where altruism exists collapses right down.

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Demon Internet goes TITSUP: Outage borks ancient ISP

Nick Kew

Re: Have they sorted out their billing yet?

Wouldn't it have been a useless use of cat without the root access?

I'll get me c[o]at.

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Nick Kew
Black Helicopters

Have they sorted out their billing yet?

I was with Demon for a while. I think I must've signed up when I returned to Blighty in 1998 and they were kind-of known as the geeks ISP.

I remember I paid a year in advance, so I had no reason to expect them to feature in my bank statements. No doubt there'll be a few weeks notice and then another debit on the anniversary of my signing?

Nope, next thing I know it's a letter from debt collectors. WTF?

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Computers know you better than your friends

Nick Kew

Re: Sniff

Your facebook "likes" are harvested when some not-quite-pop-up (of the kind adblock doesn't prevent) covers most of a webpage while most is greyed out, and the way to dismiss it is a click which registers your "like" of the page.

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Tax Systems: The good, the bad and the completely toot toot ding-dong loopy

Nick Kew

Re: Tobin/Robin Hood Tax

How about making it so that shares had to be kept for a minimum of x months before being re-sold?

I would do that slightly differently. A progressive stamp duty to make short-term speculation more expensive and investment more attractive. Something along the lines of, stamp duty at 12%, reduced by 1% for each month the share is held until it reduces to zero after one year.

I'd expect that to affect derivative products (like spread bets) too, since your provider needs to trade shares to hedge your position. Whether that's sufficient to discourage them bubbling I know not.

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Nick Kew

Re: Tobin/Robin Hood Tax

Given sufficient capital it would be feasible to handle house sales by an agent taking your existing house in part-exchange.

Housebuilders do exactly that, and have done for many years. Furthermore, they offer above the market price for your old house, thus inflating the stamp duty paid. It's a way of pushing up prices: you sell a new house worth £200k for £250k, pay £25k above the true value for your buyer's house, and everyone thinks they've got a fantastic deal. But more importantly, that £250k sets a price point for your other new houses.

That at least was the same back in the days when it would've been a £20k new (4-bed detached) house for £25k.

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Nick Kew

Re: Land Value Tax

LVT has a profound effect on the use of land, if set at a level to discourage speculation, hoarding, and the trend to treat property as an investment equivalent to gold that never leaves the bank vault.

But it's too progressive for any of our politicians, to tax the rich more and the poor less according to how much of our scarcest resource they monopolise. And of course it keeps house prices a lot lower, as seen in US states where tax levels are $5k/year on a $170k house.

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Nick Kew

Re: Tobin/Robin Hood Tax

We have one in the UK.

It's called Stamp Duty, and costs 0.5% on share purchases.

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Right to be forgotten? That’s not Google’s call – data MEP Albrecht

Nick Kew

Careful what you wish for. If he offers, that's our taxes paying.

Of course the law is nonsense in the absence of a taxpayer-funded agency to arbitrate. Which is kind-of what I suspect he's saying, on the basis of a least-nonsensical reading of the article.

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Nick Kew

The article is infuriatingly unclear on what exactly Albrecht was commenting on. EU law? Google practice? Media representation of either? But it looks as if he was probably talking reasonable sense.

Respect to him for rebelling against being gagged over TTIP.

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NORKS? Pffft. Infosec bods BLAME disgruntled insiders for savage Sony hack

Nick Kew
Flame

to massacre the language!

One might forgive a Korean (north or south) for the last sentence of the article. It's not their language!

Coming from a journo in an English-language publication it's just painful.

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Why has the Russian economy plunged SO SUDDENLY into the toilet?

Nick Kew

Take a look in the mirror.

This story is true up to a point.

But Russia has to print to back Rosneft? The west has been printing on a scale that dwarfs Operation Bernhard to back zombie companies - headed by the banks - since 2008. The differences in Russia seem to be the circumstances (sanctions, vs a huge bubble), and more crucially the fact that Russia has been running a surplus in the Good Times and therefore has resources to back action in a crisis. Whereas we were (and are again) running a huge instant-gratification deficit right through our bubble.

Who's right? You could look right back to the biblical story of Joseph and Pharoah's dream for inspiration. Osbrownomics abuses the name of Keynes by running a huge deficit right through a bubble! Not a good place to be, nor where Russia is. Furthermore, we now have a whole bunch of zombie companies kept alive only by special government measures[1]. Our government is picking winners and stifling innovation, particularly amongst its cronies in the (old, established) banks.

And you're comparing Russia to the US. A similar comparison to the UK would look a lot more alarming for us. Whereas Russia may be built on natural resources, the UK is ever more reliant on a zero-sum game of property speculation (is it any wonder that our rich list is topped not by the likes of Gates and Buffett, but by aristocrats with inherited wealth)? Our economy is frighteningly dominated by the unproductive, and our currency is propped up by safe-haven status for the global super-rich.

Given that choice, Russia looks a whole lot less scary than Blighty!

[1] Topically right now, this might be why the Moulton treatment failed to turn City Link around. In a zombie-dominated economy, the turnaround was trying to drag it through treacle.

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Buses? PAH. Begone with your filthy peasant-wagons

Nick Kew

I don't know about London buses, though London does get a lot more public money than the rest of us.

Around here there's a Great Divide between subsidised and un-subsidised routes. The subsidised ones tend to be the very rural routes where they serve a largely social purpose, while the unsubsidised are those with sufficient demand to make a profit.

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Blind justice: Google lawsuit silences elected state prosecutor

Nick Kew

The mote in your eye

If you're condemning Google for bringing a lawsuit when it has more billions than its opponent, then must you not by the same argument condemn every civil lawsuit? At least, every lawsuit in a country such as the US or UK with a prohibitively expensive adversarial legal system?

Actually I'm with you there: there is no fairness in these innocent until proven broke legal systems. But we're lumped with them, so either you use them or you foreswear the law altogether. The second option isn't really open to Google, because people bring lawsuits against them. The primary culprit is a hopelessly corrupt legal system that invites abuse.

Now, this particular case pits the resources of a bigco against those of a state. Neither party is devoid of resources. Neither party is foreign, which all-too-often influences US courts and is associated with some of the most monstrous injustices (think: NTP vs RIM, or the fate of BP vs that of Union Carbide). Insofar as a US lawsuit can ever be a fair fight, this looks fair.

I make no comment on the merits of the case itself. On that subject I remain ignorant: I don't think either this or the earlier article in El Reg gives me sufficient insight to pronounce a verdict.

Shouldn't there be a scales-of-justice smiley? Damn!

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Google's first stab at control-free ROBOT car rolls off the line

Nick Kew

Re: As today's Glasgow tragedy has shown

Not to mention those who are permanently incapacitated, for example by insufficient eyesight to drive, problems with hands and/or legs, or conditions such as epilepsy.

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STAY AWAY: Popular Tor exit relays look raided

Nick Kew
Trollface

If you've nothing to hide ...

... then perhaps you should be using Tor at times when it's suspected something might be compromised. Give the spooks a run for their money chasing ElReg Commentards. Provide the haystack for the needles who really need it to hide in.

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Scrooges rejoice! Beancounters find formula for perfect Xmas party

Nick Kew

Can you libel a fictional character?

The suggestion that the esteemed Mr Scrooge should be concerning himself with such ghastly humbuggery as those crackers is surely a foul libel.

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Beware of merging, telcos. CHEAPER SPECTRUM follows

Nick Kew

I'm pretty sure BT Cellnet was a UK headquartered outfit at the time of the 3G auctions.

Not really relevant. It ceased to be Cellnet in 2002, before the tax situation as seen at Vodafone hit the radar of the Chattering Classes.

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Nick Kew

So you're saying that if we had simply given them the spectrum, we would have reaped the same revenue in taxes as we received from the auction? Somehow I doubt it.

The first difference would've been cheaper prices to consumers, as the telcos would've had lower costs to cover.

Then there'd've been no big losses to offset tax against, so the carriers would have (other things being equal) lots more profit to pay tax on. Other things not being equal might be investment in better technology and infrastructure, and lower prices to consumers. The kind of thing that (at best) might reap rich rewards for everyone: a better experience for consumers, and more users leading to profits for the telcos and more tax for HMRC.

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Nick Kew

Really? The telcos borrowed to buy. The telcos then took the interest charges off their profits, and the tax revenues dropped afterwards.

True. But the more important element of that is that the telcos made big losses paying for spectrum, which they could then offset against profits in later years to avoid tax.

All Brown did was bring forward taxation, spent it, and then because he thought the good times would continue, carried on spending creating the deficit.

Worst of all (real) worlds. For the taxpayer, it was as you've already summed up. For Vodafone (being the only UK-headquartered mobile telco) it gave them an undeserved reputation as tax dodger. For everyone in the business it raised awareness of creative financial engineering and encouraged them to engage in it. And finally, it raised the barrier to entry for prospective new competitors.

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Hold the front page: Spain's anti-Google lobbyists lobby for Google News return

Nick Kew

Re: Ha

Hmm, don't think I posted in that thread.

But you are putting up a strawman. If Google were to allow its search in general to become corrupted, they wouldn't hold their top position. But this is much more limited: an action concerning specific contents in one country, and provoked by specific legislation. Is the market for spanish news big enough for a rival to step in? They won't make enough to rival Google's R&D efforts, even without paying royalties on those links.

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NGINX scores $20 MEELLLION to remind people it sells stuff

Nick Kew

It's a difficult business model

Just because Redhat can make a successful business of commercial Linux doesn't make it a business model that works for all.

In the webserver space, Covalent used to offer Apache with a similar business model. It works better as a small component of a wider portfolio (which is really what Redhat offers). It may be that nginx.com will go the way of Covalent and get bought by someone bigger.

nginx is a good product (and tengine - the chinese version - improves it). But some of the evangelism that compares it extremely favourably to apache (generally in configurations no apache person would recommend, such as mod_php) won't stand up to the scrutiny of going mainstream.

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Uber? Worth $40 BEEELLION? Hey, actually, hold on ...

Nick Kew

billion?

Easy to confuse those "b" and "m" keys on a qwerty!

The valuation looks a bit like a worldwide monopoly figure. For something at the optimistic end of how big "dial-a-vehicle" might eventually grow. How much will a day of Ellison's superyacht eventually cost through uber?

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Furious GTA V gamers seek similar ban on violent, misogynistic title: the Holy Bible

Nick Kew

You could argue that question on the head of a pin. But if you narrow it from The Bible to just Events for which the Church of Rome were the moral and intellectual foundation, you have a long list topped by huge-scale events like the Crusades, Inquisition, and (within living memory) Holocaust.

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Nick Kew

How is the Bible still legal in Blighty

... since Blair banned the glorification of terrorism?

This is a book that portrays the suicide bomber Samson as a hero in the act of his martyrdom.

And far worse, the Holy Man Elijah, who brings death and destruction to a godless people and then flees into the wilderness when the Powers That Be come after him. A role model for "9/11" on a much bigger scale, as well as for genocide of the followers of The (wrong) Lord.

Come to think of it, you don't even need a good blood&gore story to promote genocide when you have casual exhortations like "Blessed is he that taketh the Children of the Heathen, and casts them upon the stone".

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MEPs want 'unbiased search', whatever that is – they're not sure either

Nick Kew

Re: surely search by its very nature must discriminate

If Google were to "discriminate based on a business plan" it would become useless to you and me, and we'd have to find an alternative.

Google got where it is by doing a better job than others of giving users the most useful search results. That is, useful to the user! If they were to throw that away they'd lose their users and become just another has-been.

Google's central business plan MUST be to continue to work for its users. Meaning it makes enemies out of spammers and ignorant politicians.

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Eat FATTY FOODS to stay THIN. They might even help your heart

Nick Kew

The New Fashion

We seem to have a new consensus displacing the old consensus. Switch from carbs to fats. And the biggest demon switches from fat to sugar.

Am I allowed a healthy (or even unhealthy) scepticism about both old and new consensus? Since my career involves neither marketing nutrition nor publishing papers on the subject, I shall just continue on the general principle that moderation in all things is healthier than excess, and a little of what you fancy makes life worth living.

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Under the Iron Sea: YES, tech and science could SAVE the planet

Nick Kew
Flame

Enough of the cheap jibes

"The frustration comes from the fact that those who insist that we've got to have some non-carbon-emitting energy system are exactly the people ..."

No we're not! There may be some overlap, and lazy journalists may like labels, but we're not at all the same.

As far back as the 1980s I tried to get involved in (for want of a better word) "green" activism. I was thwarted by the fact that back then I was unable to find an activist group that didn't engage in anti-nuclear nonsense, to which I was never prepared to subscribe. But things have changed since then: even in the early '90s I was able to argue Nuclear is Good for the environment, and whilst it was still a minority view it was at least not treated as ... hmmm ... Holocaust Denial.

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Nick Kew

No dumping required!

When I first heard of seeding the oceans, the proposals didn't involve any dumping. Rather the deployment of big tubes, that would (powered by the waves) draw up sufficient nutrients from the ocean depths to seed algal bloom, which would then grow on sunlight. For example, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/09/070926-warming-solution.html.

This plan, like any other, has a downside: algal blooms are hugely damaging to existing marine ecosystems. It could also precipitate large-scale climate events of its own if, for example, ocean currents are affected. But it appears nevertheless likely to be of net benefit on balance.

Of course, if it were to happen, it will only be a matter of time before someone proposes harvesting the algae for biomass energy. And then it gets burned ....

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MI6 oversight report on Lee Rigby murder: US web giants offer 'safe haven for TERRORISM'

Nick Kew

Re: Was it terrorism?

Agreed.

Also, killing a soldier fits uneasily with the word "murder": that way leads to branding all those very old men who defeated Hitler as murderers. Surely "treason" would have been the appropriate name for the crime, if the trial had had anything to do with "justice".

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Nick Kew

Newspeak too

Not only does this look (as everyone has pointed out) like a big red flag for Orwellian surveillence.

But this use of the word "terrorism" is also pushing us one step further into Orwellian Newspeak. Back in the days of the IRA, the word "terrorism" implied a threat to innocent civilians. Yet now they're using it to describe an attack on a military target, where the perpetrators went to considerable lengths to make it clear that they were no threat to any civilians.

Oh dear. Time to get downvoted here.

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Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU

Nick Kew

Find me a lawyer!

If leaning forward over electronic devices is the cause of the pains that mean I no longer dare take an office-based job with my posture constrained by a regular desk and chair, I have a bunch of former employers to sue!

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'Cleantech' a dirty word for VCs? RUBBISH!

Nick Kew

Re: Hmmm....

I say this on the basis of all those other "green" ideas that have gone wrong in the past in one way or another (biofuel, wind farms, high speed rail, ...)

Those are fundamentally different: cases of politicians "picking winners". That's always for reasons that, if not immediately corrupt, inevitably open the way to corruption. A carbon tax is the exact opposite: a neutral incentive to the market to go ahead and come up with new ideas.

See for example Wind power (and how not to do it).

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Nick Kew

Re: Regressive taxation

Intuitively, carbon tax seems like a very regressive tax.

Not true.

People who use lots of energy are people with more money than sense. Ranging from the ultra-rich to those of more modest means but very little sense.

The poor don't have cars (let alone superyachts), nor wander around in shirtsleeves when nature's temperatures drop below what's comfortable.

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Nick Kew

VCs have lost money in greentech

Speaking as an investor with quite a lot of my net worth in VC, including some in VC funds devoted solely to greentech ....

Some VC funds have gone big on greentech, and have lost lots of money for investors. Others have made modest investments so their losses in greentech are absorbed by gains elsewhere.

Others are making good returns on green tech itself. But these are funds specifically targeting government subsidies such as FITs and ROCs. Arguably not in the spirit of VCs, and the government have been tightening the rules to deny these subsidies to new VC investments in wind or solar power.

VC is supposed to be risk capital, but it certainly doesn't help when government is forever changing the goalposts. Investors are much more tolerant of legitimate business risk typical of VC (e.g. "the technology is unproven", "the market is untested") than of being robbed of a promise on a politician's whim.

Neither does it help when governments "pick winners" directly. Thus when solar panel manufacturers were clobbered by global oversupply, Obama bailing out his pick with taxpayer funds just damages the rest of the industry. Likewise when China and the EU squabble while industry (in both places) would much prefer just to be left to get on with the job.

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Disturbance in the force lets phones detect gestures with Wi-Fi

Nick Kew
Facepalm

Re: Specifically, as the human moves her arm

It must be only the female whose arms are anatomically close to big wobbly bits whose movements are what it really detects.

I'll get me coat.

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Crypto protocols held back by legacy, says ENISA

Nick Kew
Big Brother

Oh my ...

[am I allowed to post here without being a Trevor?]

Methinks those herrings in EU waters look rather reddish. Execution times? Power consumption? Isn't that pure background noise on an operational server? Or perfectly unmeasurable in an ATM machine?

Suppose you could indeed infer key size. You still face the original number of bits in the headline security level. But ... oh, hang on, key size wasn't secret in the first place. Whoops!

On the other hand, maybe your entropy generator itself might have a footprint. And maybe a modern-day Turing might have developed a database that could draw information from such a beastie ...

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Bang! You're dead. Who gets your email, iTunes and Facebook?

Nick Kew

FWIW, a startup recently ran a crowdfunding campaign to address precisely the problem of the "digital legacy" of an individual. I forget the name, and I don't even recollect whether they were successful, but someone out there is working on it.

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I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm

Nick Kew
Pint

Re: Sad, y'know?

I guess the only way forward is to so flood the internet with stupid shirt pictures that the fools overload and burn out.

Good point.

Anyone know where I can get a shirt like that? El Reg, earn your journalists stripes and tell us!

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Nick Kew

Re: I Could rant all day

Galileo recanted his science and avoided getting burned at the stake. History remembers him as a great scientist, but in his own time he was in trouble.

Malala Yousefzai took a stand against bigots who attacked her. Now a huge celebrity and looks set for a life at the top. But nothing (yet) to go down as much more than a footnote in history. More a Rosa Parks moment than a Martin Luther King dream.

Looks like this scientist has gone for the Galileo option. For history, not his own lifetime. A natural reaction from a rabbit caught in the headlights of a wave of bigotry that had never even crossed his mind.

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Nick Kew
Big Brother

Burn the Witch!

This is a scientist, not a TV personality. He's on camera because he's involved with a newsworthy event.

What does it say about our Thought Police that they can be watching him ... not to marvel at a feat of engineering ... not to be gripped by a "will it work" cliffhanger ... not to learn something of the science it supports ... not to draw lessons[1] from the experience ... but to stone the heretic? Have they lynched the creators of Lara Croft yet? Better not tell them about Italy and Renaissance Art, where the ladies are often not merely central to the pictures, but naked!

[1] Lesson: when sending a scientific vehicle into space and where it *might* fall long-term in deep shadow, the marginal extra cost of equipping it with on-board nuclear power is probably worth it.

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Words to put dread in a sysadmin's heart: 'We are moving our cloud from Windows to Linux'

Nick Kew

Preaching to the choir

Are you sure you're in the right publication? Aren't reg readers far more likely to be the people cleaning up the mess than the ones making this kind of startup mistakes?

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Boffin imagines Wi-Fi-defined no-shoot zones for wireless weapons

Nick Kew
Coat

Albatross

How will this affect my crossbow?

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If only 0.006% care about BLOOD-SOAKED METAL ... why are we spending all this cash?

Nick Kew

fairwhat?

How many of us ever heard of "fairphone", before El Reg mentioned them to tell us noone buys them? Not I.

If a mainstream manufacturer - a Samsung or HTC - were to start talking up ethical values as a principal selling point, that might tell us a lot more about whether anyone cares. Especially if noone else joined them.

BTW, three Ts? I live near a current Tungsten mine, and lots of old Tin mines.

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'You have no right to see me NAKED!' Suddenly, everyone wakes up at the Google-EU face-off

Nick Kew
Coat

Re: Meh...

Think it was a Dave Allen joke. The catholic girl and protestant boy see each other naked: I didn't know we were that different, you protestants and us catholics ...

Or vice versa.

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Rich techbro CEOs told to SLEEP ROUGH before slamming the poor

Nick Kew

You mean the SF Bay area is getting so overcrowded as to suffer some of our UK-style problems? Like when they cleared out those not fortunate enough to be Rachman's tenants from under London's Embankment.

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Disney wins Mickey Mouse patent for torrent-excluding search engine

Nick Kew
Devil

Business Strategy

This is an interesting one.

Noone can compete with google on merit: giving us the users genuinely useful search results. So wannabes attack them through the courts and sometimes through the meeja instead.

Now next time there's a fuss about something in google results[1], all they need to do is run a big publicity campaign saying the Goog isn't doing enough, and look, here's something they can and should (nay, must) do ... it's all there published ... criminally negligent that they're not doing it already. Kerching!

[1] Jihadi John threatens feminist troll with copyrighted video of under-age kiddie involved in Bad Things ... hmm, Lord of the Flies, or Wozzeck, or ... well, you get my drift.

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Piketty-Poketty-Poo: Some people are JUST ITCHING to up tax to capital ...

Nick Kew

Capital vs Capital

I don't know if Picketty tries to make this distinction. The rest of the world fails badly, and indeed sometimes turns it upside down.

We should distinguish between Good Capital and Bad Capital.

Good Capital is the classic entrepreneur and his/her investors, putting their resources (money, time, effort, etc) into things which are in some way a net benefit. Note that that includes those who work in a productive field[1] and derive an income for their efforts, as well as those who invest their money.

Bad capital is the monopolisation or consumption of the commons: finite and indeed scarce resources. If you own property you can derive huge advantages from it, yet it's a zero-sum game: what I own, you are denied. Furthermore you expect the long-suffering taxpayer to support your monopoly, so If I and my very big mates decide to move in to your house, you'll turn to the police to restore your rights. In other words, people much poorer than you are required to pay to uphold your monopoly.

OK, having a house to live in is not a bad thing, but it's still less deserving of reward than Good Capital (the house being its own reward). But what about the property empire? That weekend home that stands empty most of the time, and could otherwise house some hard-pressed local family? Or to take another case, the destruction of the commons by burning of fossil fuels? These are Bad Capital, in that ownership of them confers no benefits but imposes actual costs on society.

Good capital should be encouraged. Bad capital should be taxed. All too often, our society does the exact opposite.

[1] Maybe even a more dubious field like writing provocative articles for some dodgy online publication.

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