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Chinese Government Probes Microsoft For Breaches of Monopoly Law

Anubis IV Re:I'm sorry to be the grammar Nazi... (45 comments)

Agreed. I suspect they thought they were being clever in using it to refer to them in this context, but it's only a clever turn of phrase until it gets in the way of understanding it easily.

1 hour ago
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Amazon's eBook Math

Anubis IV Re:Disengenous (165 comments)

Precisely. There's also the question of how a lower price affects the sales curve in the long-term, since they never provided a time period over which that 1.74 number held true. For a publisher or author looking to maximize profits in the short-term, sure, lower prices are great, no doubt. But if you're trying to develop a sustainable business or career, saturating the market with a flood of cheap copies may not be a good thing, since it may mean that sales drop off faster. Or it may be a good thing, because it attracts more attention or produces an initial sales spike that's big enough to make up for the difference. Unfortunately, Amazon's numbers don't tell us definitively either way, though they try to phrase things such that it appears to be a universal truth that everyone should accept without question as being obvious.

As a quick aside, Amazon is particularly masterful at finding exactly the right set of numbers and statistics to paint the picture they want and then phrasing them so that they sound like a categorical victory, rather than one that has an asterisk next to it. They do it significantly better than Google, Apple, Microsoft, or their other competitors, so whenever they make a press release or financial report, you have to parse what's being said very carefully.

8 hours ago
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OKCupid Experiments on Users Too

Anubis IV Re:A/B Testing (160 comments)

As am I. :P

Even so, you get what I mean, and I doubt most people would consider it ethical to have a blanket ToS that covered all use, including experimental uses. Rather, they'd expect to have to do a separate opt-in to a beta or experimental version of the product, I'd wager.

9 hours ago
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London Police Placing Anti-Piracy Warning Ads On Illegal Sites

Anubis IV Re:City of London Police =/= British Police (158 comments)

Do you have any information on arrestable offenses or crimes in The City of London that could not be made by the Metropolitan Police Force?

I do not. I have no firsthand info. I've heard some off-hand comments from Londoners and looked into the topic yesterday before I started posting here, so it's likely you have a broader knowledge than I do on the subject. Even so, I'll point out that the arrestable offenses in the City don't need to be different for a corporate influence to be at play.

Because they control the vote, they can dictate public policy, but, as you mentioned, they must do so within the bounds of the laws of the country. As such, while they may not be able to make up a slew of new crimes to arrest people for, they can still choose to selectively enforce the laws they have, or spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on preventing illegal activity that most other police forces wouldn't bother with. The latter is what's at play here, which is to say, they spend more time and energy focusing on crimes that harm the corporations than is common in police forces elsewhere. There's nothing illegal about that (nor would I necessarily assert that it is corrupt of them to do so), but it is out of alignment with what the general population wants and expects.

As for influencing vs. governing, I agree that they are different. I think it's apparent that the corporations have a strong influence, at the very least. Whether or not they are governing seems to me to be a question of whether or not you consider a voting bloc who always wins to be governing. If the voters are consistent in showing up to vote as a bloc and are putting their hand-picked people into power each time, they aren't governing directly, but their influence would be so strong at that point that the difference is really just semantic, not practical.

yesterday
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OKCupid Experiments on Users Too

Anubis IV Re:A/B Testing (160 comments)

There are ways to test the algorithm that don't involve flipping the results entirely. Suggesting, as you have, that this is the only means available to them to do so is a bit disingenuous. Moreover, if you are going to intentionally give people results that you believe to be incorrect, contrary to what you have promised them, you have an ethical responsibility to get their permission in advance via some form of opt-in release.

yesterday
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Lots Of People Really Want Slideout-Keyboard Phones: Where Are They?

Anubis IV Re:Just get a case (535 comments)

Quite right, I have failed to show anything substantive. And yes, I am too lazy to do the measurements on my own, since I have nothing vested in this topic and plenty of other ways to spend my time and money. It was simply my goal to point out an obvious set of factors which appear to have gone unaddressed in his methodology, and the ways in which they may (as I believe) have impacted his results and invalidated his conclusions.

To go off of what you said, not only do I believe—without having the numbers to back me up—that people who have used slide-out keyboards will correlate heavily with those who preferentially chose them at some point, I also believe that that idea is self-evident to most people. And I also believe—again, without the numbers—that the class of user who has considered and rejected slide-out keyboards without ever having used them is significantly larger than the class of user who at some point has used them (i.e. the ones allowed in the survey). In failing to consider those factors, I also believe that Bennett inadvertently weighted the pool of surveyed users towards those most likely to favor slide-out keyboards.

All of which is to say, you're right that I have no factual basis for my assertions (and I'm glad that folks around here still take people to task for valid reasons such as yours), since I haven't done the surveys or pulled together my own results. Even so, that doesn't change that Bennet failed to consider two factors that have the potential to heavily skew his results, and that, as a result, he lacks a solid basis for concluding "that the near-extinction of slideout-keyboard phones in retail stores is probably not in proportion to what people actually want" (unless by "people" he means "people who used slide-out keyboards"). The only thing he can reasonably conclude, based on his methodology and results, is that among users who have used slide-out keyboards, more than half prefer them. That's it, nothing more, and that remains true whether or not my assertions are correct.

yesterday
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London Police Placing Anti-Piracy Warning Ads On Illegal Sites

Anubis IV Re:City of London Police =/= British Police (158 comments)

I figured you'd follow the links and actually take some time to learn about the topic, so I don't think it's disingenuous of me to have left things where I did. Had you taken the time to read through the links, it would be apparent that the everyday sort of corporate management arrangement you're painting it as is not at all representative of the reality here, and that the police force is run not just by the Corporation, but also by the corporations. To quote from near the top of the page that you'd have reached with my link:

Both businesses and residents of the City, or "Square Mile", are entitled to vote in elections

Well now, that sounds interesting, doesn't it? To provide more details from the link that the OP gave earlier:

The City has a unique electoral system. Most of its voters are representatives of businesses and other bodies that occupy premises in the City. Its ancient wards have very unequal numbers of voters. In elections, both the businesses based in the City and the residents of the City vote.

The principal justification for the non-resident vote is that about 330,000 non-residents constitute the day-time population and use most of its services, far outnumbering residents, who number around 7,000. Nevertheless, the system has long been controversial. The business vote was abolished in all other UK local council elections in 1969.

A private Act of Parliament in 2002 reformed the voting system for electing Members to the Corporation of London and received the Royal Assent on 7 November 2002. Under the new system, the number of non-resident voters has doubled from 16,000 to 32,000.

Which is to say that businesses control about 32,000 votes compared to the residents' 7,000, with the larger businesses getting more votes on account of their having more employees. Those elections dictate who gets elected to the Common Council, and the Common Council is the body that has authority over the police force.

So, in a very real sense, the entrenched corporations have direct control over the elections, allowing them to put the people they want in power. Suggesting otherwise is to deny the obvious.

yesterday
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OKCupid Experiments on Users Too

Anubis IV Re:A/B Testing (160 comments)

You're correct that the matches are not objective, though that really doesn't matter in the end. If I say, "I'll make my best guess," and then knowingly provide you with the choice that is as far away from my actual best guess as possible, there's nothing subjective about the fact that I've intentionally misled you. My guesses may be subjective, but you were expecting my best one, and instead got my worst one. That's a lie.

2 days ago
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OKCupid Experiments on Users Too

Anubis IV Re:A/B Testing (160 comments)

A/B testing, as a concept, is fine. The issue here is that A was "truth" and B was "deception", and that's something you shouldn't be A/B testing (at least not without getting ethics waivers signed). Facebook provided feeds that were not representative of what was actually going on and OKCupid flipped bad matches to good matches, both of which compromised their relevant services by misleading users or misrepresenting information. You can't do stuff like that in most (all?) ethical systems, and it may even open them up to legal trouble, since they're knowingly providing something other than the promised service.

At the very least, their doing so runs contrary to the categorical imperative, so for any deontological ethicists out there, it should seem pretty apparent that they were out of line. And if you subscribe to more consequentialist ethical thinking, such as utilitarianism (either the Act or Rule variety), it's trivial to point out that the users were going to obviously be worse off in several of these cases and that happiness was not maximized, nor would it be if everyone was misleading their users like this.

Again, A/B testing is a great tool, but it needs to be used ethically.

2 days ago
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Lots Of People Really Want Slideout-Keyboard Phones: Where Are They?

Anubis IV Re:Just get a case (535 comments)

Indeed. When the market doesn't suit your niche, get a peripheral that does the trick. And I say "niche", because Bennett failed to take note of some rather obvious selection bias that, when taken into account, seems to cause his results to actually suggest the opposite of what he's claiming.

Namely, slide-out keyboards have never been ubiquitous across a class of phone in the way that touchscreen keyboards are nearly ubiquitous across smartphones today. So while nearly everyone using a smartphone today has been forced to use a touchscreen at some point, users who have used slide-out keyboards did so because they specifically chose that style of keyboard, given that there were plenty of comparable alternatives available back when slide-out keyboards were more common.

Which is to say, rather than being a random sampling, the respondents to this survey were likely all people who had a strong preference for slide-out style keyboards at some point in time. That only a hair more than half of the people who preferentially chose them in the past still prefer them just a few years later is actually rather damning evidence against slide-out keyboards.

More or less, Bennett has failed to take into account people who considered slide-out keyboards and chose not to buy them for any one of a number of valid reasons that do not require having used them (e.g. makes the phone thicker, can't switch between alphabets/character sets, don't want to add more mechanical points of failure, etc.). I don't think he did it intentionally, but the outcome is that he's loaded the deck in his favor, yet still only barely managed to get the results he wanted.

2 days ago
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Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples?

Anubis IV Re:This seems unnecessarily complicated. (136 comments)

Based on this AC comment, it sounds like it would actually hurt at either high or low speeds, hence the morphing aspect to it. The dimples would only be present at the speeds at which they'd actually help.

So, stamping them in for typical cars may be counter-productive, and racing teams are unlikely to benefit from it.

5 days ago
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Chromebooks Are Outselling iPads In Schools

Anubis IV Re:What do I think? (223 comments)

A few months back, I sprained and fractured the thumb on my writing hand. It was almost a week before by thumb was strong enough to even allow me to grip an empty soda can without dropping it, so you can imagine it took awhile before I could write again (nearly two months before I could write more than a few lines, in fact). I also work at a software development shop where a key part of our culture is our use of notebooks. To say the least, I was a bit concerned, since writing seemed like an essential skill.

Because writing by hand was out for me, I turned to taking notes on my iPhone, simply out of necessity. I write by hand at around 30 wpm, I'd guess, which I was able to get on par with almost immediately, without any of the annoying hand cramping that happens after awhile when writing on paper. Plus, the notes are much more legible (even with the occasional auto-correct mishap), have the ability to be searched more easily later, can be synced to other locations, and are "written" using an object I'm keeping with me all of the time anyway. I'm actually seriously considering ditching notebooks altogether at this point, now that my thumb is mostly healed, since I can type just as fast, and if someone throws up a picture on a whiteboard, I can snap a photo more easily than I can copy it to paper anyway.

Which is to say, I'm not convinced that writing by hand remains an essential skill, or else that it will be one for much longer. Useful in numerous situations? Absolutely. Something I'd teach my kids? Without a doubt. But essential? Other than legal and old-world business forms that haven't moved online yet, I can't remember the last time that I had to write by hand, and those are both a dying breed.

Personal note: Just to put it out there, I'm not someone with years of experience as a prolific typist on phones. I'm averse to text messaging and get frustrated when trying to type out e-mails since I'm still, of course, much faster on a full keyboard.

about a week ago
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Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

Anubis IV How to explain my reasons... (543 comments)

Somewhere around 10-15 years back, I was in the Robonaut lab at Johnson Space Center (a friend of mine was being promoted to full colonel, and because she helped oversee the Robonaut lab, they were having Robonaut pin her insignia on her; side note: having to pin it was absolutely terrifying the operator, since Robonaut had no sense of touch, and he was petrified that he'd stab his boss with her own insignia pin). From what I could see, Robonaut's head at the time was a seamless, translucent, amber-colored, resin material that was visibly hollow on the inside. I asked one of the engineers how they managed to do that, since I wasn't aware of any manufacturing techniques to make a solid object that was both seamless and hollow. As I recall it, he basically explained something along the lines of a liquid resin bath with multiple lasers shining into it, and where they intersected, the resin hardened. Basically, a form of 3D printing using lasers.

Why do I bring that up? I bring it up to illustrate the fact that what we're doing with lasers is advancing all the time. Likewise, the hardware, software, and techniques for laser eye surgery are constantly getting better. Yet despite that, they have yet to address the fundamental source of most complications: the creation of the flap so that the laser has a surface onto which to do its work.

But Robonaut's resin head tells me that the technology should be possible to not need that flap at all. I figure it's just a matter of a few more years before we have better imaging of the cornea or new techniques for using the lasers, meaning we can make the necessary adjustments to skip the flap. And if we did that, it'd mean that the halos from shallow flaps, dry eyes from cut nerves, or flaps getting detached years later after traumatic impact will all be things of the past. Moreover, it also means that if in a few more years something even better comes around, I won't have a giant incision that never fully heals that might exclude me from being a candidate for that procedure.

If I was confident that the current state of LASIK was as good as it'd ever get, I'd go for it immediately, since it's already "good enough"...the rate of serious complications is remarkably low with modern techniques. But with better stuff almost certainly around the corner (just look at where laser eye surgery was in the '90s compared to today and the trajectory will be apparent), why risk missing out on it by permanently damaging my eye now?

about a week ago
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Researchers Successfully Cut HIV DNA Out of Human Cells

Anubis IV Re:soddering (64 comments)

I take it you're new to the Internet then. Well, let me welcome you to Slashdot, land of pedants and others of that sort.

about a week ago
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Researchers Successfully Cut HIV DNA Out of Human Cells

Anubis IV Re:soddering (64 comments)

While I too pronounce them as you describe, I specifically chose all of those words after confirming their pronunciation using multiple references online. As I said in my post, others, including myself, may pronounce them in non-standard ways, but the accepted pronunciations for all of those words involve silent Ls.

about a week ago
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Researchers Successfully Cut HIV DNA Out of Human Cells

Anubis IV Re:soddering (64 comments)

(aka sodder for the US people)

I'm from the US. I'm fluent in English. "Sodder" ain't real English.

Trying to capture the phonetics of a local dialect when writing dialog is one thing, but it's an insult to others when you provide a dumbed down misspelling of a word and suggest that it's for their benefit. Besides which, the silent L is well-establish in both of our dialects (e.g. could, would, alms, calm, half, and folk all have silent Ls in accepted usage of either British or American English, though obviously there are non-standard pronunciations out there). The way the L softens the vowel sound in those cases is no different than what happens in American English with "solder". Besides which, regardless of which side of the Atlantic (or Pacific!) you prefer, the English dictionary is rife with spellings that in no way resemble the actual pronunciation.

TL;DR: People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

about a week ago
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Russia Prepares For Internet War Over Malaysian Jet

Anubis IV Re:US wars with Congressional approval since 1945: (503 comments)

You don't need a formal declaration of war (i.e. to put the nation itself in a "state of war") to be engaged in a war, but I do agree that there is not a one-to-one correlation between military engagements and war. Saying we've been engaged in 13 wars with Congressional approval since 1945 is bit of an overstatement on halivar's part, since many of those were minor encounters in the grand scheme of things, but your seeming suggestion that none of those military engagements were also wars is a misstatement on your part. We may not have made a formal declaration of war against Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, or Afghanistan, but we were still engaged in the Vietnam War, Korean War, Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan, all of which were done with Congressional approval.

Suggesting otherwise is just playing semantics and missing the point, since the OP's implication was that the President hasn't received Congressional approval since 1945 for these sorts of things, which is patently false.

about two weeks ago
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Verizon's Accidental Mea Culpa

Anubis IV Re:I disagree (390 comments)

Verizon to level3: "Our traffic from netflix moved over to Level3 last night... very strange, anyways we need to increase our capacity..."
Level3 to Verizon: "Ok, that will be $X"
Verizon to level3: "um... That's 300% higher than any other provider out there..."
Level3 to Verizon: "suck it... your monies are belong to us"

Except that this fictional exchange you've created, in which Level 3 is extorting Verizon for more, is easily refuted by using either blog post. For instance, from Verizon:

Netflix did not make arrangements to deliver this massive amount of traffic through connections that can handle it.

[...] Netflix is responsible for either using connections that can carry the volume of traffic it is sending, or working out arrangements with its suppliers so they can handle the volumes. As we’ve made clear before, we regularly negotiate reasonable commercial arrangements with transit providers or content providers to ensure a level of capacity that accommodates their volume of traffic.

Which is a nice way of saying, "Level 3 is refusing to negotiate rates for more capacity with us, so we've refused to give them more." Level 3's blog post also affirms that the issue is Verizon's refusal to act:

Verizon has confirmed that everything between that router in their network and their subscribers is uncongested – in fact has plenty of capacity sitting there waiting to be used. Above, I confirmed exactly the same thing for the Level 3 network. So in fact, we could fix this congestion in about five minutes simply by connecting up more 10Gbps ports on those routers. Simple. Something we’ve been asking Verizon to do for many, many months, and something other providers regularly do in similar circumstances. But Verizon has refused.

Even without the blog posts, it should be obvious your notion makes little business sense. Level 3 is in no business position to play hardball like you've suggested. If they sacrificed on performance as a ploy to double-dip (i.e. get both Netflix and a lower-tier ISP* like Verizon to pay), Netflix would simply take its traffic to a different Tier 1 ISP that doesn't play those sorts of games, since the double-dipping would be hurting their bottom line. Or, at the very least, they'd be calling out their own ISP, rather than calling out the customer's ISP.

On the other hand, as a lower-tier ISP, Verizon has a monopoly on its own end users: if you want to reach them, you MUST go through them. If Verizon tries to double-dip by getting money out of both the higher-tier ISP and its end users, the end users won't understand what's going on, and in many cases they lack any viable alternatives anyway. Meanwhile, the higher-tier ISP can't switch out for a different peer, since Verizon is the only way to get to those end users.

Besides which, it's not like Netflix's switch from Akamai to Level 3 took Verizon by surprise, as you suggest, since it happened way back in 2010 and has been working fine for most of that time. If there was a problem resulting from the switch, it would have come up before now. Which is to say, this isn't a "Wow! Level 3's traffic is suddenly skyrocketing and we can't keep up!" situation. Rather, it's almost certainly a, "Hey, that Comcast company had a good idea to try getting money out of both sides...let's see if we can do it too!" situation, given the timing of it all.

* A quick aside: I'm well aware that Verizon also maintains a Tier 1 network, but Tier 1 networks rarely connect directly to end users. That's what lower-tier networks do. Moreover, the defining characteristic of a Tier 1 network is that it enjoys free peering with other Tier 1 networks. As such, the Verizon network being discussed here is clearly not their Tier 1 network, but rather a lower-tier one they control (e.g. a Tier 2 or 3 network) that has direct access to their end customers.

about two weeks ago
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Apple Agrees To $450 Million Ebook Antitrust Settlement

Anubis IV Re:LMAO (91 comments)

By no means was I suggesting Amazon's actions absolve Apple of anything.

That said, you're only considering the one side of the market (i.e. whether they are abusing their near-monopoly), whereas I was addressing the other side of the market (i.e. whether they are abusing their near-monopsony). Just as it's illegal for a company to abuse their dominant position to force prices up since people lack alternative choices to purchase, so too is it illegal for a company to abuse their dominant position to force down the prices they're paying when their suppliers lack alternative choice to sell to. Negotiating is fine, but when you're essentially the only company buying, you have a legal responsibility to not abuse your position in those negotiations. The danger there is that they can keep forcing prices down to levels that are unsustainable for their suppliers.

Amazon does not seem to be abusing their near-monopoly, but they are almost certainly abusing their near-monopsony.

about two weeks ago

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