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Netflix Gets What It Pays For: Comcast Streaming Speeds Skyrocket

Solandri Re:I Pay (316 comments)

It would, except Comcast's monopoly is government-granted. A municipal government has decided to make Comcast the sole cable provider in the area, and prohibited other cable companies from offering competing service. The solution isn't to bash Comcast for acting like a monopoly (as much as I'd like to). It's to prohibit municipal governments from granting cable and phone monopolies.

I think it should be handled the way electricity and gas are handled - the company that owns the infrastructure cannot sell what is transported through those pipes and lines. They can sell service to other companies which provide the content, but they themselves cannot sell content. e.g. The Gas Company owns the gas lines coming to my house, but I can buy my gas from hundreds of companies which sell gas.

Also note that if there had been competitive cable internet, it would actually be Comcast paying Netflix for better service. If Netflix sucked on Comcast, Comcast's customers would've threatened to jump ship to another cable Internet provider. So to retain customers, Comcast would've been willing to pay Netflix to host their media locally to improve service. The only reason Comcast was able to strongarm Netflix into paying is because they have a monopoly on their customers.


Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

Solandri Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (427 comments)

It is strictly a parental issue in believing in education and starting it at home, where it must start by example.

I have to believe part of it is cultural. Black culture was forcibly put through slavery, where literacy and formal education was prohibited. Consequently their new culture came to value spoken language rather than written. I think that's why a disproportionate number of successful musicians are black (not currently true, but was true in recent decades). It's similar for Latinos (people of Central American descent, as opposed to Hispanics who are of Spanish descent). For centuries they were second-class citizens in Spanish-controlled territories and thus weren't given the opportunity to incorporate standardized education into their culture.

This is probably a good argument for not respecting all aspects of someone's "culture." If part of your "cultural heritage" is handicapping your kids in school, the solution isn't to change educational standards so that it's no longer a handicap. It's to alter your culture. (I'm first gen Asian immigrant, and I actually think Asians go too far in the opposite direction with too much emphasis on academic achievement. I'm actually glad to see current gen Asian kids prioritizing social integration over academic achievement.)

2 days ago

Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

Solandri Re:u can rite any way u want (427 comments)

English is a whole different matter, the English phonetics changed drastically from their Germanic roots during/ due to 'The Great Vowel Shift'. Strange enough the spelling remained basically Germanic but the pronunciation is nothing like it used to be.
This vowel shift is even more pronounced in American, the (a?) reason they have great difficulty in comprehensively speaking European languages, including Church-Latin.

English is a mish-mash of other languages, which also gives it more words than other languages. Its spelling and pronunciation are non-standard because most of those borrowed words retain part or all of their spelling or pronunciation from their native language. You even get words which retain spelling from their original language, but whose pronunciation gets shifted to a phonetic reading using rules from another language (e.g. niche = nitch instead of neesh).

English spelling and pronunciation will become standardized when all the world's languages decide to conform their languages to a universal spelling and pronunciation standard.

2 days ago

Apple's Spotty Record of Giving Back To the Tech Industry

Solandri Re:They already "gave back" (266 comments)

and they've done their best at tax avoidance depriving each country where they trade of valuable tax revenue

If you really want to to tax Apple (or any company for that matter) in the country where the transaction is made, it's really simple. All you have to do is raise your sales tax rate.

The reason governments try to do it by taxing corporations is because they don't want their citizens to see how much they're being taxed. Charge a 20% sales tax, or charge a tax on corporations which they can only pay by raising their prices 20%. The end result is the same (the government gets 20% of the transaction amount), but in the first case the people (correctly) blame the government, in the second case the people (incorrectly) blame the corporations.

(Actually, raising the income tax rate is even better. You can implement progressive tax rates, and citizens cannot skirt the tax by purchasing in other states or countries. The drawback of course being that each citizen knows exactly how much of their income is going to taxes. The current systems where everything and anything under the sun is taxed is horribly inefficient.)

2 days ago

Crowd Wisdom Better At Predictions Than Top CIA Analysts

Solandri Re:Seems fishy (136 comments)

That was my thought too. For example, if you grab n people off the street and ask them to make a total guess at 10 coin flips, just by pure chance alone 1.1% of them are going to get 8, 9, or all 10 correct (80% or better "correct" rate). A cumulative binomial distribution of 8 correct of 10 trials with 50% success rate is 98.9%. Likewise the bottom 1.1% will guess correctly 20% or worse. This is the the usual "cause" of some research investigating psychic phenomenon. If the researchers aren't very well versed in statistics, they end up thinking that a percentage of the population is psychic (guesses better than average), and a percentage is anti-psychic (guesses worse than average). When in reality it's just luck.

The deviation shrinks as you increase the number of coin flips (i.e. the "correct" rate of the luckiest 1% of the population gets closer to 50%). Unfortunately the article lacks any info to really judge if this is what's going on. I wasn't able to find in TFA how many events they've had their "crowd" predict. From the project's blog, they've been at it for 3 years so I have to think they've had more than 10 predictions. But you also need to know the long-term rate of correct guesses, as that will skew the correct rate up as well. (It's also unclear what's meant by "30% better" - does that mean the experts were correct 60% and their top 1% were correct 90%? Or does it mean the experts were correct 60% and their top 1% were correct 78%?)

4 days ago

'weev' Conviction Vacated

Solandri Re:Interesting (147 comments)

To break up a rape, you you need to conduct assault and battery on the rapist. Things that are normally considered criminal, but not in the context of self-defense or defense of another.

That's what's missing in the security front. If you're exposing the flaw in self-defense (your info is at risk) or defense of another (other people's info is at risk), you should be immunized against prosecution if you reveal the info in a reasonable manner. "Reasonable" can be defined in many ways, but probably something like notifying government regulators and the company fielding the security hole and giving them a month to do something about it, before going public with it.

5 days ago

Heartbleed Coder: Bug In OpenSSL Was an Honest Mistake

Solandri Re:Why is he even excusing himself ? (444 comments)

As an open-source dev myself, I often wonder why the fuck I do anything useful for others when they'll just turn on me the moment their toys don't work exactly as desired because -- gorsh -- I'm not perfect, though I work very hard to be.

Welcome to Engineering. Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) best summarized this disconnect between commendation and blame in the Engineers Explained chapter of his book:

Engineers hate risk. They try to eliminate it whenever they can. This is understandable, given that when an engineer makes one little mistake, the media will treat it like it's a big deal or something.

Examples of Bad Press for Engineers

  • Hindenberg.
  • Space Shuttle Challenger.
  • SPANet(tm)
  • Hubble space telescope.
  • Apollo 13.
  • Titanic.
  • Ford Pinto.
  • Corvair.

The risk/reward calculation for engineers looks something like this:

RISK: Public humiliation and the death of thousands of innocent people. REWARD: A certificate of appreciation in a handsome plastic frame.

5 days ago

Navy Debuts New Railgun That Launches Shells at Mach 7

Solandri Re:SWATH, not Catamaran (630 comments)

Hydrodynamically, they are completely different. A catamaran's hulls displace water at the surface (and below). Its drag consists of both friction and waves generated by that displacement. A SWATH gets buoyancy from completely submerged hulls and minimal distortion of the surface. In the ideal case (hulls are sufficiently submerged), its drag consists entirely of friction.

Normally a SWATH design is used on slow-moving ships where stability is paramount (having the buoyancy underwater means your ship does not rock in waves). At low speeds, it takes more power to move a SWATH than a same-size catamaran because it has greater friction drag - a semicircle can enclose the same area as a circle but using less circumference. But because of the near-elimination of wave drag, it should perform better at intermediate speeds. e.g. Submarines are not able to travel as fast on the surface as they can underwater due to wave drag. (At extremely high speed, wave drag tends to decrease because the frequency of your disturbance no longer matches the frequency of waves, so the hull becomes "less efficient" at generating waves.)

about a week ago

Navy Debuts New Railgun That Launches Shells at Mach 7

Solandri Re:Power? (630 comments)

Whoops, left out the 0.5 in the KE calcs. Divide the times by 2.

about a week ago

Navy Debuts New Railgun That Launches Shells at Mach 7

Solandri Re:Power? (630 comments)

23 lbs = 10.5 kg
Mach 7 = 5300 mph = 2382 m/s
KE = 0.5mv^2 = 59.6 MJ

The ship in question has four 9100 kW diesel engines (12,200 hp).

Assuming you have a big enough capacitor, the output from just one diesel engine should be enough to power a round every 6.5 seconds. There are conversion and efficiency losses, so probably every 15-20 seconds is more realistic.

Also note that 59.6 MJ is about equivalent to 14 kilos of TNT. So the energy yield of this will be on the order of a high explosive round from a 5 inch shell (which weighs about 30 kg), assuming the projectile doesn't pass entirely through the target.

about a week ago

LA Police Officers Suspected of Tampering With Their Monitoring Systems

Solandri Re:The simple solution is make them document it (322 comments)

It is possible people are vandalizing the cars

Sure, but... "new rules were put in place requiring officers to document that both antennas were in place at the beginning and end of each shift. To guard against officers removing the antennas during their shifts, Tingirides said he requires patrol supervisors to make unannounced checks on cars."

"Since the new protocols went into place, only one antenna has been found missing,"

As soon as it became likely that the vandalism be caught, the vandalism suddenly dropped to almost zero despite the fact that only the officers knew of the change.

I wouldn't read too much into that. The article doesn't mention specific timeframes. Only that:

  • - The cars have been equipped with the cameras and antennas since 2010.
  • - Some time after July 2013, a check revealed 72 of 160 antennas had been removed.
  • - Only one antenna has been removed since new protocols were put into place.

If you figure they first installed the antennas in mid-2010, then they were disappearing at a rate of 24 per year, or about two per month.

So whether the new protocols really improved the situation depends on when they were implemented. If they were implemented in (say) September and only one antenna has gone missing in 6 months, then yes it's improved. If they were implemented last month, then one antenna going missing in a month is not statistically different from 2 per month. Given the information in the article, it's impossible to say which is correct.

(It's a bit more complicated than this because the rate at which the antennas were being removed, whether by officers or vandals, would be proportional to the number of antennas in place. More antennas = more opportunity to remove them. So this favors the interpretation that the new policies are really helping out the situation, since presumably they replaced all the missing antennas. But without a specific timeframe it's hard to draw any conclusions about their efficacy.)

about a week ago

Land Rover Demos "Transparent Hood"

Solandri Maybe not (172 comments)

While working in the shop in undergrad (all engineering majors were required to take a metalworking shop course so we wouldn't come up with stupid designs which were impossible to manufacture), the professor told us to be especially careful with the lathe. Because it's spinning and parts of it appear semi-transparent, it apparently doesn't register in some people's brains as really being there. I thought that was silly, then discovered that I was one of those people and nearly stuck my hand into the spinning lathe clamp. I've taken note of this deficiency in my visual system and am especially careful around things like fan blades and aircraft propellers (I have accidentally stuck my fingers into rotating CPU fans, which fortunately don't have enough mass to do much damage).

I suspect if you made a semi-transparent virtual view through the hood, people like me might "forget" there's a hood there in the first place thereby increasing the danger rather than reducing it. A view of only critical areas like directly in front of the tires would probably be safer, rather than making the entire hood semi-transparent for the gee whiz factor.

about a week ago

LA Police Officers Suspected of Tampering With Their Monitoring Systems

Solandri Re:The Law (322 comments)

Politicians. Just about every law passed by Congress has a clause at the end stating that Congress is exempt from it. That's always struck me as a perverse loophole which could be horribly exploited. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Speaking of which, if there's one group of public employees who should be video recorded in all their daily activities and meetings, it's politicians. If all their meetings with lobbyists were required by law to be recorded and streamed to the public, things might actually start improving.

about a week ago

Rover Curiosity Discovers Australia-Shaped Rock On Mars

Solandri Re:Aha! (99 comments)

it becomes clear that Australian Christians

Don't be silly. As everyone knows, Australia is entirely peopled with criminals.

about a week ago

Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

Solandri Re:Moo (469 comments)

Yes I read TFA. Do you play an instrument? Being blindfolded or in the dark does nothing to your sense of touch, and ability to relate the sounds the violin makes to the mechanical inputs you feed into it. In fact a lot of times I'll deliberately close my eyes while playing to eliminate my vision because it's unnecessary and distracting.

If this had been a test of people listening to a violin, then you'd be correct. But this was a test of people playing a violin, and your remarks are completely off-base. The violinists could tell the violins apart just fine. It's just that they ended up preferring a modern violin instead of a Stradivarius.

about a week ago

Apple: Dumb As a Patent Trolling Fox On iPhone Prior Art?

Solandri Re:Five points (408 comments)

(3) Apple can ask whatever price they want for licenses to non-FRAND patents (unlike Samsung with its FRAND patents)

This is probably the most dangerous precedent Apple is trying to set. The only reason FRAND patents are priced lower than regular patents is that by being adopted as a standard, more products will license the patent. Hence the patent holder makes up in volume what they lose by charging less per device.

If Apple gets their way and (1) gets Samsung's FRAND patents effectively deemed worthless (already happened when Obama vetoed the ITC judgment against Apple), and (2) forces Android makers to license their non-FRAND patents for anything close to the ridiculous $40 per device figure, then that's it. Game over. You can kiss electronics standards goodbye. Nobody is going to license their patent under FRAND for pennies per device, when they can keep it proprietary and charge dollars or tens of dollars per device.

Apple will have ushered in a new age where nothing is compatible except by chance, and prices are ridiculously high as patent holders are able to charge 10x or 100x more by not submitting their patent to a standard. All the patents on LTE currently make up about 10%-20% the cost of your phone. Work out the math and your next phone (yes, even your iPhone) will cost as much as a used car if patent holders were to charge 10x or 100x more like Apple is asking.

See, the lawyers can play all the games they want in court, and make up all sorts of BS claims about how much the non-FRAND patents are worth (and how much FRAND patents aren't worth). But the market economics of this is very simple: If a patent holder can make more money by not submitting their patent to FRAND, then they're not going to submit it to FRAND. If you let the BS prevail, you can destroy FRAND and along with it a vast segment of the economy. So no, Apple cannot ask "whatever price they want". The amount they can ask for is intrinsically tied to how much a FRAND patent is worth. If they want to ask for more than this intrinsic ratio, then that is an admission that Samsung's FRAND patents were worth more than they were willing to pay.

about a week ago

Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

Solandri Re:Moo (469 comments)

But the question is, given that any musician's ultimate target is to eventually have an audience, shouldn't how an instrument sounds to them be the quintessential point of evaluating the quality of an instrument?

How the instrument sounds is only half of the equation. What the musician has to do to generate those sounds is the other half. The better instruments will allow you to produce the desired sounds more easily and consistently. When you play a good instrument, it feels like you just think it and the instrument responds in kind. You're not fighting the instrument to try to make it produce the sound you want, rather than the sound it wants to produce.

I've played on pianos where the middle three octaves were harsher than the rest (probably hadn't been serviced by a technician in decades, and those octaves had the most wear). It makes it difficult because you have to play those three octaves differently than you play the rest in order to produce the same sound across the entire range. You have to devote brainpower to remembering to adjust for that inconsistency, instead of being able to devote everything to what you're playing.

about a week ago

Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

Solandri Re:Moo (469 comments)

Your analogies are wrong. If you read TFA, this isn't a case of people being unable to distinguish between the instruments in a blind test. It's pretty clear the violinists playing the instruments (blindfolded) could tell the instruments apart. It's just that when they tallied up which violins they most preferred playing, a modern one got the most votes.

I'd say this is more a testament to how much modern violin building has improved. It's no longer a black art like it had been for centuries. With modern measuring instruments like accelerometers and oscilloscopes and computer analysis, it's become possible to deconstruct what made the violins crafted by the old masters so great. Then replicate many of those features into modern violins. This in no way diminishes the reputation that Stradivarius violins have built up with centuries of use. It just means modern building techniques have finally caught up to and surpassed what Antonio Stradivarius was able to do in his shop 3 centuries ago.

And I've played on many Steinway pianos. I probably cannot tell from the sound if the music is coming from a Steinway, but I sure as hell can tell if the piano I'm playing on is a Steinway. There are subtle nuances from the weighting of the keys, to the dynamic range between soft and loud, to the consistency of the weighting and tone of the notes as you play them in sequence which are characteristic of Steinway. As a friend of mine said, it's like playing on butter - so soft and responsive. (I'd add easy, except Steinway tends to weight their keys rather heavily, making them not so easy to play for younger/smaller people. The German Steinways are more guilty of this than the NY Steinways; some of the heavier ones will give your fingers quite a workout.) The cheapest piano I've played on where it was obvious the builder paid attention to little details like this was $22k, and that one still had flaws in its tone and feel. Most of the pianos I'd consider comparable to a good Steinway for playing on are in the $50k+ range - the same as a Steinway.

about a week ago

Brendan Eich Steps Down As Mozilla CEO

Solandri Re:I think this is bullshit (1744 comments)

And as long as they're not directly being a dick to you, you're supposed to exhibit some degree of tolerance, especially in the workplace.

I would say that if you are Gay and would like to receive the government benefits associated with a marriage then giving $1,000 to stopping you would fall into the category of "Being a dick to you".

I've actually proposed a solution that addresses that. Overhaul the government laws so that all "marriage" benefits are now tied to civil unions, leaving the term "marriage" reserved for purely ceremonial (religious) use. This neatly eliminates the conflict between religious definitions of marriage and government benefits tied to marriage (or lack thereof for gay couples). The benefits would be tied to civil unions instead.

Every pro-gay marriage friend I suggested this to rejected it. The only acceptable solution to them was to strip the concept of marriage entirely from any religious influence, and hand complete control of it over it to those with modern secular viewpoints. I protested that this could create a conflict wherein a church could be sued for refusing to allow a gay couple to use the church for a wedding. They had no problem with this. i.e. Their stance is based on attributing no value to any religious viewpoint - they do not believe in freedom of religion.

Second, it's not like the man is a skin-head.

Skinheads think blacks are inferior and bad for society.
Homophobes think gays are inferior and bad for society.

So yes it is like he's a skin-head.

Conservatives think liberals are inferior and bad for society.
Liberals think conservatives are inferior and bad for society.
Religio-phobes think religious people are inferior and bad for society.
People like you think skin-heads are inferior and bad for society.

So by your reasoning, pretty much everyone is like a skin-head; including yourself.

Skin-heads aren't bad because they think Jews and blacks are inferior and bad for society. They're bad because they think this justifies eliminating Jews and blacks from society - removing their influence from the socio-political fabric which makes up our society. Kinda like how Eich was eliminated. The supporters of Prop 8 at least had the decency to push their viewpoint through legislative channels, giving the electorate a chance to vote on the issue, and allowing the courts to weigh in on the outcome (eventually overturning the vote). What happened to Eich was a lynch mob-like naming and shaming. The whole reason we came up with formal government systems was because at some point we decided gossip and hearsay were a poor means to run society. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of the Internet is that it gives more power to gossip and hearsay.

Tolerance doesn't mean tolerating only those who tolerate you. Tolerance means also tolerating those who don't tolerate you. If you live by the former, then you believe the Black Panthers were right, and Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. were wrong. The former leads to all-out war. The latter leads to coexistence. When Prop 8 passed, I didn't rub it in the faces of my gay friends. I encouraged them to not lose hope and to continue fighting for what they believed in, because that is the way our system is set up to work. Everyone gets their (thorough) say before society as a whole decides what to do, and the losers (usually the minority, though in Prop 8's case it was the majority) agree to live with the outcome without resorting to violence, while the winners do not resort to outbursts of Schadenfreude.

about two weeks ago

Fukushima Photo Essay: a Drone's Eye View

Solandri Re:Just to be clear (66 comments)

It seems to me that the root of the Fukushima disaster was the decision to build a nuclear power plant in a place where there was even the remotest chance of Tsunami damage.

Actually, the nuclear plant survived the earthquake and tsunami with relatively little damage. The root of the disaster was failure to design the backup power sources for the cooling systems to also survive such events. They put the generators and fuel source for backup power in a location where they could all be wiped out by a single event (a tsunami). If the reactor had had a way to shunt power it was generating back to the pumps driving its cooling system, there would have been no disaster. The reactor probably would have had to be written off anyway because it sounds like some of the concrete containment was cracked by the quake. But they would have scrammed the reactor followed by a controlled shutdown, defueling, and decommissioning. There would have been no meltdown and no leakage of radionuclides.

about two weeks ago



Students figure out how to unlock school-issued iPads

Solandri Solandri writes  |  about 7 months ago

Solandri (704621) writes "The Los Angeles Times reports that the LA Unified School District's plans to assign an iPad to every student in the district are on hold after students figured out how to unlock the iPads. Once unlocked, the iPads can be used for decidedly non-academic activities such as surfing the web and accessing social media sites. According to students, unlocking the devices is simple — just delete your personal profile info."


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