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How To Prevent the Next Heartbleed

ThosLives Re:Priorities? (231 comments)

Rigorous testing is helpful, but I think it's the wrong approach. The problem here was lack of requirements and/or rigorous design. In the physical engineering disciplines, much effort is done to think about failure modes of designs before they are implemented. In software, for some reason, the lack of pre-implementation design and analysis is endemic. This leads to things like Heartbleed - not language choice, not tools, not lack of static testing.

I would also go as far as saying if you're relying on testing to see if your code is correct (rather than verify your expectations), you're already SOL because testing itself is meaningless if you don't know the things you have to test - which means up-front design and analysis.

That said, tools and such can help mitigate issues associated with lack of design, but the problem is more fundamental than a "coding error."

about 6 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

ThosLives Re:Clock Radio! (702 comments)

Mine is similar - I have a GE AM/FM alarm clock radio with red LED segmented display, but mine is a bit newer - I got I think in 1993. 21 years is pretty good - 100% fully functional (go go pre-ROHS analog radio!) and still keeps accurate time. Only thing wrong with it is the tab on the 9V backup battery compartment broke, so the door falls off if you lift the thing off the nightstand. I refuse to keep my phone by my bedside, so I still use the alarm function.

Contrast to a new one - it was either Emerson or Panasonic, can't remember which - I bought while on an extended work trip where I was put up in an apartment. This was in 2008, and the clock was so inaccurate it would gain 15 minutes a month.

about 6 months ago

Gates Warns of Software Replacing People; Greenspan Says H-1Bs Fix Inequity

ThosLives Re:Living in 1925 kinda sucked (516 comments)

I'd rather choose "Make it easier for people to make their own widgets or form companies to make widgets."

IP laws, some zoning laws, licensing laws, tax laws, accounting laws, and the like all make both making your own stuff or forming companies difficult; limited availability of low-cost machine tools and education makes it difficult to do stuff yourself. These are the things I would reform, not minimum wage or windfall profits tax.

about 7 months ago

Gates Warns of Software Replacing People; Greenspan Says H-1Bs Fix Inequity

ThosLives Re:Living in 1925 kinda sucked (516 comments)

I was trying to avoid being specific about which "things" needed to "cost less" - because any specific list tends to have more problems than a blanket statement like "things"...

about 7 months ago

Gates Warns of Software Replacing People; Greenspan Says H-1Bs Fix Inequity

ThosLives Re:Living in 1925 kinda sucked (516 comments)

I suppose I could have been a bit more precise: when I said we don't need higher incomes but things to cost less, what I should have said was "things to cost less relative to income, regardless of level of income." That said, my original assertion still stands: raising minimum wage will not reduce costs of items relative to wage in the long run (in the immediate short term it does, granted; but prices for most goods change much faster than wages so catch up quickly.)

Incidentally, removal of barriers to market entry is exactly the method to "rein in" corporate profits: profits are a sign of an inefficient market. Huge profits can only exist when it is too hard for competitors to enter a market - no invisible hand necessary. (Note: "too hard" to enter a market doesn't always mean something like a regulatory barrier; if a company out-innovates others, that is also a type of barrier.)

about 7 months ago

Gates Warns of Software Replacing People; Greenspan Says H-1Bs Fix Inequity

ThosLives Re:Living in 1925 kinda sucked (516 comments)

Price floors have never worked in all of history; I don't know why people think a wage price floor is a good idea. At best, with minimum wage, the long term effect is "nothing".

We don't need people to have higher incomes; we need things to cost less.

Somewhere along the way, society went from improving standard of living by creating new efficiencies to improving standard of living by taking as much profit from others as possible. The former is a sustainable non-zero-sum game, where the latter is zero sum and results in massive wealth concentration.

Raising minimum wage won't reduce the cost of rent, won't reduce the price of a new car, won't reduce the price of a gallon of milk, won't reduce the cost of health care. The only thing that will reduce prices is removing barriers to entry for things that don't need barriers - not adding more barriers.

(I wish, for instance, one of the provisions of the ACA was a new medical school in every state for instance and/or reduced requirements for general medical practice - bumps and bruises kind of stuff. That would reduce costs, not simple spreading costs among more people.)

about 7 months ago

Gates Warns of Software Replacing People; Greenspan Says H-1Bs Fix Inequity

ThosLives Re:An overview, IMHO: (516 comments)

Give it another 10 years and the gap will be getting near the,"let's form an angry mob and kill the rich guy, we can feed the whole city off of what is in his house.

I don't know many rich people that have a food warehouse in their residence. People tend to forget that most of the wealth of rich people is "paper" wealth - it still has to be converted to real goods and services at some point in time.

In the extreme situation you proposed - how are you going to ensure that farmers are still going to be producing food, and food delivery people are still going to be delivering food, so that taking the stuff in a rich person's house can still "feed the whole city"?

If there is a situation as you describe - all that "paper" wealth of the rich vanishes immediately... so are they really wealthy? The wealth of the rich really does depend heavily on the willingness of the masses to participate...

about 7 months ago

Could an Erasable Internet Kill Google?

ThosLives Re:A tax on advertising, though... (210 comments)

I'd rather go the other way, get the government out of picking winners/losers here and institute across the board apt tax while wiping out income/capital gains/inheritance taxes (keeping ss and gas taxes because they correspond with payout).

Depending on what your goals for a taxation system are, that's downright terrible. I agree with wiping out income tax, but not all capital gains tax. (I would eliminate capital gains tax on investments that produce new wealth - like profit made off buying new machines to build new products, but keep the tax for all "buy low sell high" gains) Inheritance tax I'd change along with property tax in general, which I'd change to be percentile based; that is, your tax rate is higher if you are in a higher percentile bracket of total wealth.

Consumption taxes are bad, because you are taxed if you have to consume (or the system must have complicated exemptions for "minimum allowed consumption"), but if you have extra to spend, you will (on average) consume less (in nominal terms) if consumption is taxed and you have the option of not consuming. Unless the taxing entity (government) adequately creates evenly-distributed demand with its tax revenue, consumption taxes will be a drag on the economy.

about 10 months ago

Sparkfun's Entire Open Hardware Catalog Made Available On Upverter

ThosLives Re:Huh? (38 comments)

Unless you care about EMC or heat dissipation or something else that depends on the interactions between the components, yes, you can think of electronic circuits that way.

I suppose for logic-only devices this works, but as soon as you start wanting to do something that requires power, you can't just drop circuits together like that.

about a year ago

Are We At the Limit of Screen Resolution Improvements?

ThosLives Re:Yes. (414 comments)

Personally I really *hate* watching blue ray movies in full resolution. Usually the material just looks cheesy to me, where you can see the boundaries of the CGI sequences, makeup smudges on the actors, obvious short cuts on the set construction and all kinds of things that just are not right. It actually makes it more difficult for me to suspend reality long enough to enjoy the movie.

Change the settings on your TV and/or BD player. Usually it's some kind of strange over-scan or post-processing mode with a name like "cinema view" or something unequally helpful. But I agree that "feature" makes movies look like they are stage plays - and it is crap, because SFX are made assuming you can't see it in that much clarity.

about a year ago

"Smart Plates" Could Betray California Drivers' Privacy

ThosLives Advertisements? (262 comments)

Forget about the privacy stuff - what about the advertisement crap!?

If "they" are going to use my car to display ads to someone else, then I better not have to pay anything for my registration. That should be paid by the people who want their ads displayed using my property.

about a year ago

Hurricane Sandy a 1-in-700-Year Event Says NASA Study

ThosLives Re:Once in a Hundred-Year storm... (148 comments)

The fact that the storm was larger in area and impacted regions with higher population density and correspondingly greater economic devastation was what made it newsworthy.

Indeed - I wish that, instead of just saying "most expensive storm ever!" they would normalize it somehow - perhaps to something like cost relative to annual mean salary per unit population density. This way you'd weed out all the effects of inflation and higher concentrations of development.

Perhaps mean salary isn't the correct metric - perhaps it's mean property value or something, but essentially something that would indicate indicate the relative damage of the storms rather than the relative amount of stuff we put in places that get hit by storms.

about a year ago

Patents Vs Innovation - the Tabarrok Curve

ThosLives Re:Kicking in an open door (210 comments)

Why would the initial customers need to be charged? Presumably the folks would get enough funding from the Kickstarter (for example) that would include enough profit for them to be happy. This way, some other company "swooping in" won't have any impact on the ability to recoup R&D.

It's a very different model, yes - but it's one where instead of risking a small amount of your own (or VCs) money for a massive payout by winning the IP lottery, you have a (probably lower) guaranteed return with zero risk, assuming you actually met the initial funding threshold.

The way I see it - if you want the IP lottery, you can't complain about patent law

about a year ago

Patents Vs Innovation - the Tabarrok Curve

ThosLives Re:Kicking in an open door (210 comments)

What about getting your potential customers to pay for the innovation itself, rather than some third-party VC group that generally only wants to pay for the right to earn profits off the innovation?

I think Kickstarter and the publicly-commissioned model could make the old funding models of VCs and banks and the like obsolete (for a large swath of products, at least). This reduces the middle-man effect, and ensures that the primary beneficiaries of innovation are the innovators and the consumers of the innovative products and services themselves, rather than the providers of liquidity.

about a year ago

Dell Signs Agreement To Cap Icahn's Share Ownership

ThosLives Re:Board malfeasance (70 comments)

I still think there's a difference between the following philosophies:

  • "I have a company whose purpose is to provide good or service X, and want to make enough money to be able to do X well and for a long time."
  • "I have a company and want to make money, so I'll provide good or service X so I can make good money for a long time."

about a year and a half ago

Dell Signs Agreement To Cap Icahn's Share Ownership

ThosLives Re:Board malfeasance (70 comments)

Who is the "they" here? The employees of the company? Shareholders?

In either case I don't think it's relevant; my comment was more an observation of the fact that some people believe the only purpose of companies is to make money for the owners.

I might, though, go so far as to argue that most shareholders "do it" for almost nothing: they risk only financial loss, but have no responsibility for the activities of their company. Have shareholders ever been held responsible for the actions of the company they "own"?

about a year and a half ago

Dell Signs Agreement To Cap Icahn's Share Ownership

ThosLives Re:Board malfeasance (70 comments)

It's a shame that people tend to view the purpose of (public) companies is to make money for their owners, rather than provide a product or service which can only be provided by pooling the resources of a group of people acting corporately.

about a year and a half ago

Should the US Really Limit Chinese-Government Influenced IT Systems?

ThosLives Re:Take it further (220 comments)

And any economist will tell you trade creates wealth, by the simple fact that as long as both parties are willing, they're both getting something they want.

Not any economist I know!

Wealth is exactly constant during a trade. Now, value may increase (if it's a good trade), but wealth is constant. Wealth is only created by manufacturing and agriculture. Wealth is destroyed by consumption and decay (or active destructive activity like demolition, or disaters).

More trade may encourage the creation of new wealth, but it most definitely does not create it directly.

about a year and a half ago

Why Earth Hour Is a Waste of Time and Energy

ThosLives Re:The problem with most environmentalist ideas (466 comments)

The trouble with most schemes to "better account for the cost of the externality" is that they don't actually better account for the cost of the externality. They just come up with some arbitrary pricing scheme (even a cap and trade market ends up being arbitrary) because the imposed cost is not linked in any way to the benefit of reducing the perceived unwanted external effect.

If, on the other hand, people had a market where (for example) you could trade health care discounts for increases in energy cost - then you would see a better representation of the cost of the externality. Or perhaps trading tax reductions for higher energy prices. I've never seen a proposal to do this, though. Instead people are asked to "pay more for energy now, so it will maybe reduce the chance you get sick in the future, and so maybe reduce the amount of health care cost increase in the future."

about a year and a half ago

Schmidt On Why Tax Avoidance is Good, Robot Workers, and Google Fiber

ThosLives Re:Corporate Taxes == Political Favoritism (780 comments)

Ugh. I think the fair tax is perhaps the worst type of tax there is (consumption tax).

I've been reading and thinking a lot about taxes, and the perceived problems with taxes. Fundamentally, I believe that you should never tax consumption or production - what you should tax instead is "idle wealth" because you want resources to be used, not sitting idle. I therefore believe all taxes should be based on net wealth, but with a slight caveat:

The tax will still be an income tax only, but the tax rate is based on total net worth. This would help reduce the amount to which the "rich get richer and the poor get poorer" because poor people hold little wealth, so they will get to keep much of their income. The wealthy, however, since they are wealthy, would only be able to grow their wealth more and more slowly.

This is actually simpler than the Fair tax; you don't have to worry about taxing transactions or giving some kind of "credit" based on some average (and therefore incorrect) assumed "minimum standard of living" for food and clothing purchases or whatever.

Probably the most difficult aspects of what I've been thinking will be to figure out how to scale the tax rate appropriately to the wealth; it should probably be done somehow based on relative wealth (rather than an absolute number; e.g., perhaps your income tax rate should be the square of the wealth percentile in which you fall. If you're in the 1%-tile for wealth, your income tax rate is 0.01%; if you're in the 99%-tile for wealth, your income tax rate would be 98%). Note that this is not a marginal rate - this is the actual tax rate.

The other trick will be to figure out how to assign property, so people don't simply hide all their wealth in a holding company. Probably have to base it on shares held or something like that... but it's a proposal that is much more likely to help reduce income inequality, avoid punishing people for being productive, and prevent wealth from aggregating in the hands of a few.

about 2 years ago



ThosLives ThosLives writes  |  more than 7 years ago

ThosLives (686517) writes "Considering the recent elections, and quite a few other elections over the past several years, it may be possible to make the following observation: Given that certain major elections are won by a very small percentage majority (take the 2000 and 2004 US presidential elections as examples) but drastically change the political landscape, is it conceivable that there could be a system where political system could change to be proportional to votes rather than nominally bi-polar as it is today?

I know there are those who would argue that the balance of house and senate seats is to provide this, but usually the way the system works here is that whichever party(ies) control Congress and the Presidency have sway (of course, we now have the Executive and Legislative branches under opposite parties, which generally makes for a moderate period), swinging things either conservative or liberal, where it appears from the popular vote that a much more moderate approach is desired — that is, it is in only a very few cases where "major" elections are lopsided (I personally don't consider even 60%-40% lopsided — 40% is a significant amount of people), but that small push in either direction is more like a knife-blade than a scale.

If this is the case, are there any chaos-theory works to describe politics. After all, a very small changes in input — the popular vote — seems to cause large swings in the social environment? What about when the inputs fluctuate back and forth across party lines? And, since I've not been able to find any, are there any systems which can more adequately implement a more broad continuum of political interests than the present system?"

ThosLives ThosLives writes  |  more than 8 years ago

ThosLives (686517) writes "An interesting article from CNN on a stealth company (if it's being reported, is it stealth any more?) called EEStor sounds like it is working on an ultracapacitor for vehicle use. The interesting technical bit is "500 miles for $9 of electricity" which I work out to 100 kW-hr ($.09/kW-hr); that seems a bit too good to be true even though electrics have higher point-of-use efficiency. (For comparison, my vehicle goes 400 miles on 12 gallons of gasoline — about 380 kW-hr; to go 500 miles on 100 kW-hr starts to touch the edge of "too good to be true" although still within the realm of reality).

However, this seems to have potential with backing from VCs and a potential OEM (although it seems a small niche company rather than a major manufacturer) as well. Hopefully we'll be able to have long-range, fast-charging, affordable electrics (the article says $5200 for the entire powertrain — not too large a premium over current engines) soon."



Intellectual Property Observations

ThosLives ThosLives writes  |  more than 7 years ago

In the recent Slashdot article regarding the upcoming Monsoon lawsuit involving the GPL, I was confronted because of some hypothetical questions regarding the GPL. I'm fairly agreeable with the general concept of copyright as well as the general concept of patents, although in a somewhat confusing stance I have not been sure that there is such a thing as intellectual property, common law and sentiments notwithstanding.

Where I stand is that while ideas in and of themselves aren't really of intrinsic value, the two things that do have value are the people that come up with ideas and what can be done with those ideas. Perhaps the latter is too fine a distinction, but the blueprints to a machine aren't very useful unless you actually build the machine. So, what I think needs to be protected are attribution rights, not the product itself: that is, when a person is the one who came up with the idea, that person should be rewarded as one with the ability to come up with ideas. However, I don't think that means that person should be rewarded for implementing those ideas unless that person actually does implement those ideas.

However, that's sort of background information for the main idea I have here. The interesting issue with "intellectual property" versus real property is that intellectual property is both the thing people are after *and* the instructions to create an exact duplicate of that thing. Take software for example: you want the software to perform some task, but just the aspect of having that software means that you can create an infinite number of 'copies' of that software. Contrast that again to a blueprint: if I have a blueprint, what I want is the thing the blueprint represents. The implementation of the blueprint is what has real value. Well, I take that back - the blueprint does have some value, but it's not nearly the same as the thing that is created. Notably because one can fairly easily create a blueprint from an object.

Hrm. Now that I think about it, maybe a better way is to think about things in terms of wealth rather than value: a blueprint has value, but little wealth; it is only instructional. The thing created by following a blueprint has much more wealth, and so likely also has significant value.

Things like music are a bit more esoteric, as the thing "created" by music instructions is transient: it is a sound wave. However, in the realm of computers, what I want is the sound file, and the sound file is an instruction to create another identical sound file. Software is even more obvious: the source code (or even binaries) are the "tool" but also explicit instructions on how to create a duplicate tool - it's kind of a quine thing. Unlike a drawing for a hammer, which cannot be used effectively as a hammer - it can only be used to make new drawings or make hammers - software is both the instruction and the tool, which is a unique situation - especially since the effort to create instructions is so low.

So...that's an observation about the nature of "intellectual property" but I don't yet know what all the implications of that may be. More on that later...


Measuring Stored Energy

ThosLives ThosLives writes  |  more than 7 years ago

The recent article on compressed-gas (as in state of matter, not fuel) powered vehicles got me to thinking about "how do you measure how much energy is stored in a compressed tank of gas?"

Incidentally, it's not possible to have a single answer to this, because the answer depends on how you extract the stored energy!

For illustration I looked at a piston that would compress from a volume of 1 cubic meter to 0.1 cubic meters, or expand, and some various situations. I'll save the details and just put in the summary.

If the "starting" pressure is 101325 kPa and temperature is 288.15 K (standard conditions), there are two basic ways to compress.

Adiabatic compression will require 383 kJ of pressure work, and the pressure will rise 25.119 times and the temperature will rise 2.512 times.

Isothermal compression, however, will require only 233 kJ, with a pressure rise of 10.000 times and temperature stays the same (ratio = 1.000). If we let the adiabatically-compressed gas equalize thermally, it will also be at 10.000 pressure ratio and 1.000 temperature ratio. So how much energy is stored in the chamber? If you look at either internal energy or enthalpy, the final states have the same value for both; however, those final states are the same as for the initial condition: internal energy is simply mass*cv*T and enthalpy is internal energy + pressure*volume; so in either case the initial and final conditions have the same internal energy and internal enthalpy (because P*V is constant if temperature is constant). (The disturbing thing is I cannot remember, for the life of me, what state variable captures the stored energy in the compressed cylinder. In both cases, though, the entropy of the compressed gas is lower, so this is likely the state variable which captures the change)

So, how much energy is stored? That's measured by extracting it: Adiabatic expansion will result in 152 kJ of pressure work, while isothermal will result in the same 233 kJ.

Regardless of how we got to the compressed state (10x pressure, same temperature), there are two amounts of work that can be obtained from the cylinder - so which has stored more energy?

Note though that the isothermal case requires heat transfer to and from the environment; in compression there is heat transfer to the environment while in expansion there is transfer from the environment; this means that some of the work done in compression is lost to the environment, so not all of it is "stored" in the compressed gas. When it expands isothermally, some energy is pulled from the environment to increase the available work; essentially the isothermal case "stores" some of the energy in the environment as well as the working cylinder.

Now, the adiabatic case is different; all the energy is stored and is available; the only catch is when the system is allowed to reach thermal equilibrium (for instance, stored for a long time). (Note that if the compression is adiabatic, without any heat transfer, the work available from expansion will also be 383 kJ).

That said, the entire process appears to be 100% efficient storage with a pure isothermal process and about 40% efficient with adiabatic compression, thermal equilibrium, and adiabatic expansion. Real processes will always be somewhere between these bounds, and slightly lower, because of friction and because all compression and expansion processes are neither truly isothermal nor adiabatic.

Interesting to think about either way, though.


On Taxing Real and Virtual Goods

ThosLives ThosLives writes  |  more than 7 years ago

There's another article on taxation of virtual goods that caught my eye, this time from cnn.

I have been thinking about this for a while, and I think I finally have a more coherent view of my thoughts on the concept of transaction taxes.

In my mind, the fundamental purpose of a tax should be to provide some public service related to the thing which is taxed. For instance, a gasoline tax to support roads makes sense because gasoline is typically used to drive on a road.

Taking that concept, I would think that a sales (or transaction) tax should be used solely for the purpose of facilitating transactions, or perhaps dealing with instances when transactions have gone bad (for instance, shoplifting, or contract enforcement). That means that if there is no required enforcement, then there should be no need for a tax.

In real life, however, I don't honestly know the purpose of sales tax in my state - I know it accounts for a sizable portion of the state income, but it's not used for facilitation of sales. Incidentally, a sales tax is actually strange because it taxes the transaction only. Technically, if there were two people in my state and they kept selling the same pencil to each other, every sale would be taxed. This is effectively economic disincentive to conduct a transaction, which is actually probably not what people want when it comes to economics.

Now let's take virtual goods. I can somewhat understand taxing "cashing out" of a virtual system, but unless the taxing agency is going to provide some services related to transactions in the virtual marketplace, purely virtual transactions should be beyond the consideration of a taxing entity.

I think the solution here is to really be more active in our local and state governments - use the representation which we fought for to show that "hey, if you don't show us the benefit of having this tax, why should we have it?"

It seems that the point of most governments is "to increase government revenue" rather than improve the standard of living of constituents. While having more social programs may accomplish this, I think it's addressing the wrong issue. Take, for instance, health care costs. Rather than addressing the issues that cause costs to escalate, governments typically just set up a mandatory insurance program where the population at large funds the increasing costs. The best solution would be to address the laws which allow for things like excessive barriers to competition and lawsuits. (Indeed, if the health care market were truly a free market, costs could not be so high because the number of competitors would rise dramatically).

Anyway, that was a bit of a diversion, but I think that involvement in local and state policy will go a long way toward improving things and reducing the unnecessary tax burdens we face. (I say unnecessary because, personally, I don't mind funding basic infrastructure and education through taxes.)


Strange Gasoline Economics

ThosLives ThosLives writes  |  more than 9 years ago With the recent spate of crude oil and gasoline hitting new record highs, I've been trying to do some investigating into the economics of gasoline. I visited the Energy Information Administration to check out the current report. The public media seems to keep indicating that the demand for gasoline keeps climbing despite high prices and that's why the price keeps rising. Looking at the EIA's numbers, though, I'm not sure what's going on:

In three of the past four weeks (15 July through 5 August), gasoline production and imports have exceeded supplied product, but in all those weeks the overall stocks of gasoline are reported to have fallen. Granted, the report only breaks down exports into 'crude oil' and 'other products', but unless half the exports are gasoline, the numbers don't add up.

I find this extremely disturbing, because is shows that either the metrics people use are wrong, people ignore the metrics, or both. The other interesting thing is that, despite all the "refinery problems" in the past weeks, actual gasoline production has increased by about 200k bbl/day since the middle of July. Gasoline consumed has only gone up a net 70k bbl/day, and for the week of 5 August, imports plus production averaged about 450k bbl/day higher than consumption! How can stocks decrease when intake exceeds output?

Very disturbing to say the least, and I'll definitely be keeping my eye on the weekly reports to watch the trends of these numbers.


Employment Statistics and other musings

ThosLives ThosLives writes  |  more than 9 years ago I've just read this small article about the employment situation (December 2004 payrolls supposedly increased 157,000, but some 360000 or so folks filed for first-time unemployment. Funny money all the way). There was a linked article about how the "average wage" for small business is declining. The number they cited was employment was up 4.4% (in terms of number of people working) but average paycheck was down 4.8% and they article gives you the idea "ah! people make less than they used to!"

I'm not sure I agree with that statement simply because if you have 10 people working and all making $100, then you hire 5 more at $50, you have employment up 50%, but average wage down 17% (down to $83.33). However, total payroll increased 25% (from $1000 to $1250). I would agree that the average standard of living for all people working is less than it used to be, but the average standard of living for all people, in this example, goes up. Here's why: if you include those 5 extra workers in the picture before they have a job, the average per-capita income for those 15 people is only $66.67. That's 20% lower than the $83.33 if they were hired at a lower wage.

The only way that hiring folks at a lower wage is "bad" is when one considers if they were hired at that lower wage after a period of unemployment from a job that paid much more. If the person getting hired is a "new hire" altogether, than it's a benefit. That's a key piece of missing information from the employment statistics that I have seen. It's also hard to say even on what time scale wage changes matter. For instance, going from any job to no job is horrendous, because it's a 100% decrease in wage. However, once you're at the zero-point, do you compare your new job to the zero point or the point you were at before zero?

I know it's tempting to say "I'm not as well off as I was! argh!" but why can't we turn it around and think "but I'm not as bad off as I could be..."

It's definitely interesting, and to be sure I'm quite thankful for what I have right now.


On Media Copyrights (and other IP)

ThosLives ThosLives writes  |  more than 9 years ago I just read this article and suddenly realized something. The RIAA is all concerned about "not getting compensated" due to media piracy. And artists are rightly concerned about not getting paid enough to be able to make music. I think, though, they are forgetting the basic Golden Rule of Capitalism.

Here's what I see: the RIAA and the "labels" are all upset because they are losing power. That means the people that run it are losing money (or, better stated, they aren't getting as much money as they want). They think that if music is pirated too much, then they won't be able to survive because nobody will pay for music. What they are forgetting is this:

If "nobody" pays for music, then people will stop making music. Before this happens, though, what will happen is that music producers (that is, the actual songwriters and performers) will have to charge more for their service of producing new stuff. The general public will never stop wanting new music, so there will always be a way for some musician to get people to pay for their work. There will be a supply-demand balance that happens.

Sure, things may look very different than they do now, or maybe they won't, but there will still be people able to get enough money to make a living writing and performing songs. Think about it this way - if there was no such thing as copyright, what would happen is that all the publishers would be hard pressed to stay in business (probably go extinct with the presence of the Internet). However, the artists would not go extinct, because people still want their goods. It would be like a comic strip that was in danger of having to go off-line because the author was running out of money. He has a big enough following that in 1 week of his fund raiser he got enough to stay solvent for three years. This wasn't so that people could see the old stuff Mr. Abrams wrote, but so that they would be able to see the stuff he'll write in the future. This is where the value of creative works comes in.

The publishers are somewhat successfully using the legal system to prolong their demise when market forces have destroyed the necessity for their chosen occupation. It's a shift, just like manufacturing is shifting, just like agriculture shifted, etc. etc.

The point is this: music will always exist, because people will always be willing to pay musicians (be it for concerts or just in the form of "I'm gonna give you money so I can hear the songs you'll be able to write in the future because you won't have to work 80 hours/week at Wal-Mart to get by". Publishers, however, don't need to exist any longer. This is why the RIAA is all up in arms. Notice that it's the Recording Industry that's up in arms, not the artists. I think the artists know that, at the very least, they'll be able to book enough gigs to make ~$50k per member per year, which is plenty on which to live.

My prediction is this: if market forces are allowed to prevail (i.e., no intervention through the artificial construct of legislation - including copyright law) the labels will belly-up for the most part, or more likely be relegated to server or CD publisher clearing houses. Archivers, if you will.

Instead of copyright, we should have something like "performance right" where you can freely distribute a recording of a performance as much as you want, but you have to pay the artist some licensing fee or whatever to perform the work. I would actually propose this as a better alternative to copyright, because copyright doesn't seem much to apply. As for copyright for things like literature, I think it should morph to something like "if you get paid for the distribution of this product, $X has to go back to the author". This would be the best solution to the issue I think, and I think it covers the intent and purpose of the original law. Actually, you could switch the performance arts to the same thing: if you charge money for the distribution of this, then $x goes back to the original author.

Granted, I'm biased, but this could even apply to software. It would let people know who the author is, and give people reason to only charge when necessary. Coupled with the "performance rights" I think this would be the best way to go. I'll have to do some more thinking about how "performance rights" might apply to software, since it doesn't really match that analogy.

Anyway, just like everything else, the people who are clamoring for "compensation" in the RIAA are just clamoring for protectionism. They are asking for someone to build them a wall so they don't have to change, and what will happen is they are just building themselves a mausoleum.

Let's think about IP reform, and present something that the politicians can buy. I'm not too concerned about the people in the distribution industry who aren't willing to change with the times, becuase people not willing to change should have to suffer the appropriate consequences for that decision.

Ah, I could prattle on for quite a while longer on this, but I think I'm going to work on writing some of it down in a more formal manner. I might even begin to try and put together some sort of movement. Scary.


Spatial Inflation

ThosLives ThosLives writes  |  more than 10 years ago I just read another article about the "offshoring" of some job skill set. This one was on programming (true to the /. crowd) but I see lots of this regarding manufacturing since I work in the automotive industry. I have for some time been attempting to formulate a stance on this whole issue, and really understand it, so that I might be able to make educated decisions about the policies that people come up with regarding the issue. Or, perhaps, I might be really off-the-wall and even try and promote my ideas somehow...

What I see as the true problem with "offshoring" is simply spatial inflation. This is the same thing that happens domestically (why the heck does it cost twice as much to live in CA as in SC?). Inflation is just "more monetary units required for the same product / service". Most people associate inflation with "over time" but I think it also applies "over space". Inflation always gives advantage to one group over another; temporally you have the advantage in the past. Spatially you have advantage if you're in a place where fewer monetary units buy what you want/need.

There's more to this, and I'm going to jot down my ideas...

What puzzles me is how inflation happens. Basically the only reason we have money is to buy stuff we want and need. I need sustenance and what I'll call "security" in which I will lump residence (protection from the elements), health care and some infrastructure like water systems / sewer (protection from disease), and such social systems as disaster protection (i.e., firefighters) and violence control (i.e., police, as well as people who keep "nasty animals" from wreaking havoc).

So, let's say that here in the good old US of A, these necessities cost $20,000. Let's say that in (ficticious) Spazland these things cost @20,000. Now, we have this weird thing called an international money market. Somehow the value of $ relative to @ is not based on what those units can buy, but on somethine else. So, let's say that the exchange rate is $1 = @2. So that means that a guy in Spazland only needs $10,000 to get the @20,000 to buy the same amount of sustenance & security as in the US. So if I'm a company in the US, I'd be an idiot not to use my $20,000 to pay for the services of two guys in Spazland instead of the services of one guy in the US.

This is simple math, folks, and I can't say I blame the US companies for doing this. After all, the name of the game (capitalism) is to line my pockets, not those of everyone else. So what's a solution?

Well, if our government was smart, they'd say, "Hey, look at that. Why the heck are we paying Spazland $1 for every @2 when $1 buys the same amount of stuff as @1? We should only be paying them $1 for @1!!!" I don't know how to make this happen, though - given the current world banking system. (Especially since it's not set up to gravitate toward equality - it is set up to move the money to where things are most wanted at a given time).

Another possible alternative is that the government imposes tariffs (or whatever you want to call them) based on exchange rate and buying power ratios rather than some arbitrary percentage. This would apply to all money flow across some border, regardless of product or service. This would make things on-par with each other, then only quality of product at given price would drive selection of source (i.e., US vs Spazland) rather than artificial price difference advantages. For instance: The Spazland company charges some US company $10,000 for services to cover the @20,000 it needs to pay some worker. The Government could step in and go "hey, US company, you have to pay us @/$ * ($STD/@STD) * $pricetag to do business with them. We'll pocket the difference to run our infrastructure services." Thus, the government would charge (@2/$1)*($20000/@20000)*($10000) = $20,000 to the US company, buy @20,000 (to pay the Spazland company) with $10,000 and pocket the other $10,000.

Now, this is always good for domestic groups. Imports will now always cost like they would cost if they were domestic, aside from inherent quality / process efficiency means. However, exporters would dislike it because they would actually have to provide better product/service to compete with domestic suppliers. Right now they can give same quality at much lower price, so people will take it. But this price difference is artificial because it's not based on buying power but on the market, which doesn't make any logical sense.

But what if the US company wants to sell to Spazland? Well, a US worker costs $20,000. A Spazland person would need @40,000 to buy $20,000 to pay for it. What should happen here is that the US govt *could* take the extra $10,000 they pocketed when the US bought from Spazland to pay the US company. The Spazland company would pay the US "one worker" amount of monetary units. In this case it would be @20,000 - enough to buy $10,000. Otherwise, the foreign country would never buy the US product because it would cost twice as much!

The burden of this lies with the governments though. For instance, Spazland couldn't do anything to help because their units are worth less than US units. They would not be able to charge a Spazland company extra money to import and hold it - they would actually have to loan out money for an import. Of course, they could then charge their Companies to export.

Ah, well, I must be off to other things for now, but I need to formulate my thoughts some more. Do some math, that sort of thing. Any comments are apprciated! I plan on continuing this topic later.

Other topics will also be my ideas on Intellecual Property - another common "hot topic" here on /.!

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