* Posts by DougS

12862 posts • joined 12 Feb 2011

FOIA documents show the Kafkaesque state of US mass surveillance

DougS Silver badge

Re: Even if we could guess which company

The speaker of the house and majority leader of the senate have to call them to session. A single member can't just show up at 4am and pass whatever he likes on his single vote.

If that was the case, all you'd need is a single member of the house, member of the senate, and president to agree on something, and they could make a law. Trump would already have funding for his wall if he just needed to find two yes-men to go along with him.

DougS Silver badge

Even if we could guess which company

It would be illegal for them to confirm that they were the one who unsuccessfully challenged it. That alone shows the need for this law to not be renewed!

I'll bet congressional leaders of both parties cooperate on some sleazy procedural dodge to pass this on voice vote (so the traitors' names aren't on the record) in the dead of the night when people are distracted by the latest news of Trump's legal woes. Unfortunately there aren't enough true patriots like Wyden and Paul to stop them.

Worried about election hacking? There's a technology fix – Helios

DougS Silver badge

Re: No need for something needlessly complex like Helios

I don't understand the logic of compulsory voting. Why should you force people who don't care about an election to make a choice?

If I was forced to vote in a local school board election, which I don't give a damn about, I might just pick someone at random or vote for/against someone who has the same last name as someone I know (depending on whether I like them or not) or do some other stupid thing that adds unnecessary noise to the result. Let the people who care enough to show up make the choice, and don't waste the time of those who don't.

DougS Silver badge

No need for something needlessly complex like Helios

Just use paper ballots, or use electronic machines that print paper ballots that the voter can double check before turning in. You can scan the paper ballots or use the electronic records, doesn't matter. What is important is that you choose a few percent of precincts at random for a mandatory hand count, and if there is an error more than a very small acceptable threshold a full state recount is ordered.

Besides, having a way for a voter to prove they have voted means that parties, churches, bosses and other "interested" parties can pressure voters to prove that they voted. Imagine a local party organization publishing a list of 'naughty republicans' or 'naughty democrats' who failed to vote after a close election was lost? You think the naughty democrats wouldn't get a lot of crap from fellow democrats in one of the three states where Clinton lost by a small margin and cost her the election? Imagine the pressure fellow churchgoers would put on those evangelicals who failed to turn up at the polls to support the anti-abortion candidates? People should not be able to prove they've voted, because others will demand the proof, and no good can come of it. We have a right to vote for who we want to, but also need to keep the right to NOT vote if we so choose.

Texas says 'howdy' to completely driverless robo-cars on its roads

DougS Silver badge

Re: Great News For Texas

That's why you have someone riding 'shotgun', duh!

Teen girl who texted boyfriend to kill himself guilty of manslaughter

DougS Silver badge

Re: Unwise decision?

Its one thing if it was an isolated incident - like someone shouting "jump" to a stranger on a ledge above. She had been encouraging him to kill himself for months, berating him when he'd fail to do so, etc. I'd argue she'd be less guilty if she handed someone a loaded gun used to murder someone, even though that would be a more clear cut case legally.

DougS Silver badge

Re: Stupid but?

Maybe she's mentally ill to some degree, but one could make the argument that anyone who commits murder or child abuse has a mental illness. Should we go easy on murder and pedophilia because of that?

EU regulators gearing up to slap Google with €1bn fine – reports

DougS Silver badge

Re: Fines?

inetnum: -


descr: Tarassul Inetnet Service Provider

country: SY

That'll show Google Assad the EU means business!

Sorry to burst your bubble, but Microsoft's 'Ms Pac-Man beating AI' is more Automatic Idiot

DougS Silver badge

Re: This is a non sequitor

OK, I'm willing to let the AI read chess books and learn strategy from them. But not have it programmed in.

I will agree something is an AI if it can learn how to do something from reading a book, or watching others do it. Programming them how to do it, so it is simply applying scoring algorithms and being a "really fast idiot" searching massive solution spaces is NOT AI though. In such cases the intelligence came from the programmer, not the machine running the program.

DougS Silver badge

This is a non sequitor

If all you programmed a computer chess player with is the rules about which pieces can move where, and the rules about check/checkmate, it would never become any good. How is it going to figure out for itself how to look ahead multiple moves, let alone how to prune bad paths to keep the search space manageable when looking ahead more than 3-4 moves. All this stuff is programmed into a chess playing computer. If it was actually AI it would figure all that out for itself.

By hardcoding point values like -1000 for a ghost, and programming it to compute point values of moves and try to optimize, they've basically done all the "intelligent" parts for it, so it is just running a simple math formula to maximize point values. That's not intelligence in any way shape or form.

Component makers have their server chums by the short and curlies

DougS Silver badge

Re: No Sht Sherlock

Trade deficit figures are mostly useless these days. They worked fine in the industrial age, but not in the information age where more and more of the economy is intangible intellectual property. For example, Apple shows up in the US trade deficit as a negative, but makes tons of money. Their "value add" (software, design, brand, whatever you want to credit/blame for people paying hundreds more than they cost Apple) does not show up as an 'export' in trade deficit terms for phones sold outside the US. The same is true of banking, very little of the money The City or Wall Street makes shows up in the UK/US trade deficit figures.

Worrying about the budget deficit, on the other hand, makes sense. Japan shows us what happens when it gets too large relative to the size of the economy. If the US and UK don't get serious about straightening that out at some point, we're them in a few decades.

Just like knotted-up headphones: Entangled photons stay entwined over record distance

DougS Silver badge

May not be useful for communication

But 1 bps isn't a problem for guaranteed secure key distribution.

When we said don't link to the article, Google, we meant DON'T LINK TO THE ARTICLE!

DougS Silver badge

Re: Orwellian.

Why would Google want to become the clearinghouse for people to complain about a web site's content, just because Google links to it? The company should take it up with the web site if they believe its information is incorrect.

Labour says it will vote against DUP's proposed TV Licence reforms

DougS Silver badge


That's why we need term limits - if there was a maximum of two terms then half of the US House of Representatives would have no concern about how their decisions look to party leadership and the next election. You can see this from how differently members behave who are not running for re-election or are so popular there is no chance of being knocked off in a primary or general election.

There are a lot of republicans in the house caught between a rock and a hard place with health care because they promised they would repeal Obamacare, and know that if they voted against doing so they would be vulnerable to a primary challenge. However, except for those in very red districts, they know they are vulnerable to a democratic challenge for what they voted as a replacement. If half of them couldn't run again, they could act on what they believe, rather than fear of being "primaried" or having financial support pulled in 2018 for not following the party line.

DougS Silver badge

Re: Why can they pull the strings?

Those of us who live in the US can only dream of a government hamstrung by "each vote is taken on its merits". Instead positions on issues that should not be partisan are because party leadership tells them how to vote.

Makes no sense that no republican can ever vote for a tax increase[1], or no democrat can ever vote to cut social security[2], but certain things are party gospel where independent thinking is not permitted!

[1] where removal of any deduction including obvious loopholes is considered a "tax increase"

[2] where a change in the retirement age by even a single month a decade out is considered a "benefit cut"

DougS Silver badge

Why can they pull the strings?

I understand the conservatives need them to get to a majority, but is there really a concern that DUP would join with all the rest to form a Labour government? What happens if no one can form a majority, because no one wants to deal with the 10 DUP members?

IBM will soon become sole gatekeepers to the realm of tape – report

DougS Silver badge

Not sure where you got that 1-2% triple failure stat given that drives typically fail at a 1-2% annual rate, but higher order RAID with 3 or 4 parity drives is still a better/cheaper solution for cloud capacity for colder data than having more arrays to provide the necessary number of slots.

DougS Silver badge

More drives wastes slots in an array. You'd be better off doing dual parity like RAID6 14+2 so the rebuild time doesn't matter (unless you really think a triple failure is likely during the rebuild window)

DougS Silver badge

What would be the point in churning out cheap 1 TB drives versus more expensive bigger drives that have a lower cost per byte? There's no market for cheap 1 TB drives, other than for laptops/desktops selling at the bottom of the market. It wouldn't "screw" SSDs because that's a small percentage of the overall NAND market.

Hard drive OEMs could drop R&D and concentrate on getting the price down for really big 16TB or whatever the max is. That's what cloud providers want, and it will be years before 16TB SSDs can cost less than what they could sell a 16TB hard drive for - especially if the plant has been paid for, R&D have been laid off, etc. five years from now.

You're all too skeptical of super-duper self-driving cars, apparently

DougS Silver badge

Don't ignore risk pools and increases in damage awards

Who is going to insist on doing their own driving? The best drivers? Unlikely. Also consider what happens in a world with 95% self driving cars to the 5% who insist on doing their own driving, and they have an accident that is their fault and they kill or seriously injure someone in a self driving car. Today 35,000 people die in auto accidents every year in the US - enough that while it is always a tragedy, people accept that while the risk can be minimized it can't be avoided.

In the world with 95% self driving cars with a much better accident record, juries will really stick it to those who choose to do their own driving and have a bad accident that a self driving car would not have. Instead of being sued for a million bucks like today, you'll be sued for 10 million. They'll say "this could have been avoided if this person had just let the car drive him like a normal person". Premiums will need to reflect much higher liability limits that will be required for those choosing to drive themselves.

Go price a policy with 10 million in liability if you think its cheap. I have an auto policy with $250K or something like that of liability, and a $2 million umbrella. I pay $250/yr for that umbrella - the difference between the $250K and $2 million in liability (it also covers me for my home, but it is pretty hard for someone to slip on the ice and sue for more than $250K) I expect it would be at least $1000 more if I wanted 10 million in liability.

DougS Silver badge

Re: I'm in charge of me

Sure, people control a car using two eyes facing forward. That's why we sometimes have accidents from cars in our blind spot, or around a curve at night, or in foggy conditions. It makes sense to use more than one method to "see", no need to emulate us limited humans and give a car a single pair of eyes on a rotating gymbal that has to decide which way to look.

DougS Silver badge

Re: I'm in charge of me

Luddites will get sorted by insurance costs for human driven cars going through the roof, once self driving cars have proven a superior safety record. You sound like one of the people who resisted antilock brakes, believing you could do a better job of braking than a computer.

I don't agree with a rush forward into self driving cars, and I don't think they'll come as fast as some people seem to think (talk about 2020 is ridiculous) However once testing can prove a lower fatality & accident rate than human driven cars, I would be fully in favor of the government using laws to encourage their rollout and discourage easily distracted meatbags behind the wheel.

As for cars with different systems interacting....yeah, I'm sure no one designing them has thought of that! :P

Facebook tried teaching bots art of negotiation – so the AI learned to lie

DougS Silver badge

Re: This is why I laugh at the hype around Echo, Alexa and Apple's new device

The assistant CAN be impartial, it just needs a written policy where it doesn't accept money from anyone to influence its decisions. You might not trust the review of a PC from a web site that takes advertisements from Dell, Microsoft and Intel, but you can probably trust the review of a PC from Consumer Reports, who accepts no advertising.

Given that Amazon makes its money from selling stuff, Google makes its money from selling you, and Apple makes its money selling you hardware, they're probably the most likely to adopt this stance - though it may still direct you to the Apple Store to buy a new iPhone even if you could save $10 getting it from Target.

But today the assistants are too stupid to do anything like what I want, so I can't say "I want an Galaxy S8, buy the cheapest one you can find". I could ask Alexa to buy it, but it would have to be from Amazon, and I doubt it would go through the third party affiliate stores. I doubt Google can do it at all - maybe there's a handful of stores it would support but I'd have to name it. Pretty sure Apple's couldn't buy a Samsung phone for you, though it might be fun to ask just to see if Siri tries to talk you out of it :)

DougS Silver badge

This is why I laugh at the hype around Echo, Alexa and Apple's new device

We can't make bots all that useful when you're typing into them. Add the additional difficulty of voice recognition, and it is no wonder they are so hit and miss outside a few categories of simple things they can do.

What I want from an assistant is to be able to outsource the job of, say, looking for new tires for my car. I'm going to get a new set this fall, and I know the size, want at least V rated (sometimes I wildly violate the speed limit in desolate areas of Nebraska) and want something with good reviews on tirerack's testing. This already takes an hour or more of looking around, but if I could outsource to an assistant it could check more sites than just tirerack.

I wonder how many years away we are from an assistant that can do this? I'd guess at least 15, probably more. Being able to tell it to play a song, or switch channels on the TV, or buy more toilet paper from Amazon is not going to remove enough hassle from my life to be worth the hassle of occasionally having it mishear me and playing country music or order me an actual toilet instead of toilet paper (or just worrying it might even if it never actually does)

Europe-wide BitTorrent indexer blockade looms after Pirate Bay blow

DougS Silver badge

Microsoft/Facebook/Google categorizing other people's files

They may not be "aware" of the legal or illegal status of those files, but since everything I write, every picture I take, etc. is copyright by me under US law (and that's probably true in most places) they can't claim not to know that most files or pictures they link to (and cache in many cases) are copyright material.

It is a slippery slope from criminalizing the Pirate Bay to deciding that Google and Bing are guilty as well. What's the difference between linking to someone's blog and Disney's latest film? The fact that Disney may lose a lot of revenue from piracy, while the person with the blog was never going to make any money from posting her thoughts about Kim K's outfit?

Disney mulls Mickey Mouse magic material to thwart pirates' 3D scans

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And if they don't use only one method to scan?

What about sonar? What about different frequencies of light?

Soldiers bust massive click-farm that used 500k SIM cards, 100s of mobes to big up web tat

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This makes no sense

Why would you need SIM cards for a clickfarm? Just use wifi!

Even if you did need them, why would you need almost 1000 SIM cards per phone? Who had the shitty job of "full time SIM swapper" at this outfit?

I think there's more to this story, maybe something was lost in translation...

Internet hygiene still stinks despite botnet and ransomware flood

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10 million nodes respond to telnet?

I wonder what they are...are there consumer NAT devices that accept telnet from the outside by default? Surely there aren't corporate firewalls that still let telnet in??

Toshiba bowls out small but nippy enterprise spinner

DougS Silver badge

What built in obsolescence? The write lifetime of SSDs affects almost no one, and anyone who is pushing enough data that they will wear it out in less than 3-5 years is probably going to benefit more than most from an SSD...

DougS Silver badge

The Seagate 900GB 15K rpm drives look to be $355 for SAS, no idea for FC. You can buy 1 TB SATA SSDs for less, but enterprise versions are still more expensive.

The real reason these still exist is for FC arrays as replacements/upgrades. I don't see anyone using this for a brand new deployment, but as capacity expansion or replacement of failed drives, if you have slots in your array for fibre channel drives, a SATA SSD is not going to fill it.

There are also servers with mirrored 15K SAS boot drives, if one fails it is cheaper to replace it than to replace both with SATA SSDs (which would entail more time to do and additional testing)

It came from space! Two-headed flatworm stuns scientists

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Re: Hm

Flatworms have no anus, they expel waste from their mouth.

DougS Silver badge

In another article I read they've tested radiation on Earth, and not seen this before.

Ever wonder why those Apple iPhone updates take so damn long?

DougS Silver badge

Re: Whatever the reason given - it's bollocks

After you test in house, if you want to be really sure you got things right, you test everywhere. People are acting as though this could have actually lost data for them. Since when has altering blocks in free space ever corrupted a filesystem?

DougS Silver badge

Re: plug your [i]phone in and forget about it for 30 minutes.

No one is forcing you to do any upgrades. I don't see what the problem is with the 10.1/10.2 that added a non-destructive test (i.e. didn't touch a single bit of the actual HFS+ filesystem, only messed with free space to set up alternate metadata) to the process. If it requires more data and you have limited cellular data, do the upgrade over wifi.

DougS Silver badge


What "testing" on users did they actually do? They didn't alter the existing filesystem, they just added metadata to free space to verify the conversion process worked. That doesn't require changing a single bit of your existing filesystem, so there's no risk from it. The worst thing about it was that it made the updates larger and take longer to apply.

The fact "some people had issues" does not mean those issues had anything whatsoever to do with the filesystem. There are people who have issues on every update, either the phantom claims of "my battery life is worse" that happen with every single update or real claims of something they got wrong - sometimes needing a .1 update to be rushed out to address. There's zero evidence of anyone having problems with 10.1 or 10.2 due to filesystems, and if they did it wouldn't make any sense because there was no reason for any changes to your HFS+ filesystem to be made. It was left untouched, and only free space was altered for the upgrade testing.

As far as the location data that was being stored on the phone at one time, when they were made aware they fixed it. You see some conspiracy where they were tracking people and uploading that info (despite no proof it ever left the phone) because you have an obvious bias against Apple. I choose to take them at their word that they weren't uploading it, but even if they were they removed it when it was made known so at worst you can say they stop when caught. With Google you KNOW they're tracking you and you KNOW they will never stop. I guess you prefer to hate the one that MIGHT be surreptitiously tracking you and lying about it more than the one you KNOW is tracking you to an ever-increasing degree and profiting off it? Your choice.

DougS Silver badge

Re: no no no no no no no, Apple

Again, the 10.1 and 10.2 'upgrades' didn't touch any data or metadata in your filesystem. It is as if I upgraded your NTFS filesystem to ext4 by using free space to create inodes that pointed to the existing data blocks from your NTFS filesystem. Your NTFS filesystem would be intact, but I could do some various tests to see how well the ext4 upgrade went. Once I'm done I wouldn't have anything to do - the blocks containing those ext4 inodes would still be listed as free space in your NTFS filesystem. There's no "rollback" required for this because it doesn't do anything that needs to be reversed.

Now obviously when 10.3 came around it was the equivalent of starting to use the ext4 filesystem, and dumping the NTFS metadata (making it free space) But by this point they had fully tested the migration so they knew it worked, and the filesystem itself had been used on Macs for a while so they knew it worked. Hence the complete lack of disaster from the 10.3 upgrade/migration.

As for keeping old hardware on hand, there's a difference from having an iPhone 5 laying around you can experiment on, which they obviously have, and having an iPhone 5 that has been in daily use since launch. As anyone who has every deployed anything knows, end users are really good at having scenarios that developer/administrator testing doesn't find. Maybe the upgrade testing was unnecessary, as no problems were found. But better to find it out during such testing, which is has no possible ill effect because the actual filesystem isn't being altered, than to find out there's a corner case or two they didn't account for or know to test for.

DougS Silver badge

Re: I wonder

Sorry, this is Apple we're talking about not Google. They actually respect user's privacy.

DougS Silver badge

Re: no no no no no no no, Apple

The point of testing was to do the consistency test, to see if there are any filesystems 'in the wild' that have factors the conversion software failed to account for. There are probably a few phones in the wild that have clocked 5+ years of consecutive use. The Apple employees get new ones every year, so they can't count on seeing everything that the other billion iPhones have.

As for why it was rolled back if successful, they might not have been ready to enable the filesystem permanently. I would guess the conversion WAS permanent for some Apple employees, so they could test the new filesystem before they rolled it out everywhere.

The 10.1.1 update thing was pure speculation on the part of El Reg. It isn't rare to see a release have problems, like 10.1 did with losing health data for some people. That doesn't equate to "oh noes, evil Apple experimented on us and it went wrong, that's why 10.1.1 was released!" Not sure why everyone is claiming this upgrade testing is an issue. When have a billion filesystems ever been upgraded without any issues before? That's a pretty impressive achievement, so I wouldn't be so quick to question the methods Apple used. They worked.

DougS Silver badge

Re: no no no no no no no, Apple

I think you're unclear on what they did. They upgraded, checked and rolled back. The check was to see if the migration succeeded, but the upgrade didn't mess with the existing filesystem it at all - it created new metadata, and left the existing metadata and file data in place.

There was no risk with what they did, other than it taking a lot time and running down your battery if you upgraded while on battery (and presumably had a bad battery, since it won't upgrade on battery if you have <50% battery remaining)

Fear the dentist? Strap on some nerd goggles

DougS Silver badge

Why show a VR scene?

Why not just show a movie or TV show, or at least a real nature scene instead of crappy pixellated landscape?

Farewell, slumping 40Gbps Ethernet, we hardly knew ye

DougS Silver badge

Re: Moore's Law on Acid

Can you translate 3T8 to English for those of us who aren't WAN jocks?

DougS Silver badge

@AC - latency

Yeah, the 1.2 microseconds that a full sized 1500 byte packet is on the wire on 10 GbE really hurts your reaction time, I can see why you want to upgrade to something faster.

DougS Silver badge

Re: Moore's Law on Acid

Nope, they're on to 400 Gbps ethernet next, though I'm sure there's some room somewhere that has people drawing up specs for 1 Tbps ethernet sometime next decade.

Discredit a journo? Easy, that'll be $55k. Fix an election? Oh, I can do that for just $400k

DougS Silver badge

Re: This is why you get those bogus 'friend' requests on Facebook

I'm talking about initially creating an account. If you feel the need to always use a VPN to hide your location, then I don't think Facebook should have any qualms about refusing to let you create an account.

DougS Silver badge

This is why you get those bogus 'friend' requests on Facebook

Some attractive girl that lives in the area sends a friend request. If the guy accepts, they generally have access to his friends list and can friend request people he knows. The more friends in common the girl has the more likely everyone else is to accept it figuring "I must know her from somewhere and just don't remember".

I saw one of those pop up last year with one or two mutual friends. I just left it in my request queue because she was from my home town and thought maybe I don't remember her. Over time she went up to a dozen mutual friends, but I still couldn't remember her name or face. Last summer her posts started popping up in my feed now and then because one of my friends had 'liked' them - links to sites like Sputnik News, with stories saying that Hillary is on the verge of death, or about to be indicted on "damaging new information".

Pretty sure this is how they spread the fake news on Facebook. Are guys suddenly going to stop accepting friend requests from random cute girls? Fat chance! Maybe Facebook needs to add some detection to limit the number of outgoing friend requests you can make, or limit the ability of someone to create an account saying they're from Chicago when the incoming IP is halfway around the world. Not sure if they employ the poor to do this or use bots, but if the latter maybe Facebook can figure out a way to detect bots...

Waymo waves off original Google Firefly driverless car

DougS Silver badge

Re: Self driving delivery vans?

If you want to rob a delivery van, just follow on a street where most of the houses have alleyways behind them so he can't pull in a driveway, and wait for him to carry a package up to the front door of a house without closing the rear of the truck. I see them leave the back open all the time around here when they have deliveries in more than one location so he'll bring the package up to one house, return to the truck for the other and deliver that.

Just help yourself to whatever looks valuable and take off. If you time it right he won't even see you do it. I'd guess the trucks have cameras in the rear so you might want to cover your face and license plate of your getaway car.

How are robot delivery cars going to make this easier? You wouldn't need a "bop a driver over the head" unless it is an armored car. You think a Fedex driver is going to try to stop someone who wants to cut open the back of his van and steal packages? I'll bet they are trained not to try to confront anyone, but rather get to safety and call the cops, in that order. The robot delivery car would do the same, except there's no "get to safety" so it would call the cops quicker.

Congressman drafts COVFEFE Act to preserve Trump's Twitter tantrums

DougS Silver badge

@Natalie Gritpants

The huge bomb near the German embassy in Afghanistan happened the same day as covfefe. Maybe he hates Merkel more than he lets on!

DougS Silver badge

Re: Quigley is as bad as Trump

By law the President's communications are logged and archived. Not his personal Twitter account, which Trump is using in preference to the 'official' @POTUS Twitter handle.

Still, it doesn't matter, because even if he deletes tweets from his personal Twitter, there are bots following it that see and archive everything - plus have archived all his past tweets so he hasn't been able to get away with deleting tweets from a few years ago that contradict more recent statements.

From landslide to buried alive: Why 2017 election forecasts weren't wrong

DougS Silver badge

Re: The phrase "lies, damned lies, and statistics" ...

Better yet, sum up the article thusly: "All politics is local".

The national polling in the US turned out to be almost exactly on the mark - but we don't elect a president by national popular vote. In the UK that's taken as given, but if you apply a uniform formula everywhere equally you won't account for localized phenomena like the DUP or Labour's results in Wales.

The problem is that it is a lot harder to poll per state in the US or per seat in the UK - the number of contacts you need to make is far higher, and you won't get enough to get the error margin down as low as in your national polls. When you have states with a 4%+ margin of error and a 2% lead for one candidate, that state is basically a tossup but journalists who don't understand statistics won't write it that way.

Sharp claims Hisense reverse-ferreted its US telly licence deal

DougS Silver badge

Same thing happened to RCA

Was a very respected brand name in the US for TVs and other CE gear. They were bought out and liquidated 30 years ago but still were at least somewhat respected through the time Thomson decided to divest it a decade ago, and now their TVs are considered Hisense level crap.

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