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EU About To Vote On Copyright Extension

ahodgkinson Lopsided interests -- I don't have much hope (143 comments)

  1. It is highly unlikely that consumers will make a big effort to lobby for the public's interest, and
  2. It is highly likely that the parties representing the copyright holders will expend enormous efforts and money to try and strengthen/extend/etc. copyrights.

The public is large, poorly organized and difficult to motivate to make a stand on copyrights. Essentially the problem is that changing copyrights don't fundamentally change the lives of most people. For the general public this is a problem somewhat similar to the Tragedy of the Commons, in that the common man doesn't really benefit much from his own efforts, but rather from the collective efforts of all common men, which is only marginally reduced by him being lazy and not doing anything. Unfortunately, this is true of all common men and the result is a tendency to be apathetic.

For the copyright holders, the situation is reversed. There is a relatively small set of major copyright holders, they are well organized and well funded. With the clock ticking on their valuable assets, they are highly motivated to attempt to squeeze more out of the system, and their own efforts are likely to change their own bottom line. They stand to gain (or better said, not lose) vast amounts of money when copyright terms are extended, and are therefore willing to spend lots on lobbying, public relations and other activities to influence politicians.

In the middle we have the copyright extension opponents only hope: the various public and private organizations. They, unfortunately, tend to be underfunded compared to the copyright holders. Their task is to motivate the public, to donate money or lobby their politicians. Most of the public, as previously stated, are not really bothered by copyrights.

The more likely scenario, in my opinion, is that industry lobbying will ultimately be successful (perhaps after numerous attempts) and copyright term will become, for practical purposes, unlimited. Draconian laws will probably be implemented for copyright infringers. However, most of the public won't really care and will continue to illegally share films, music and other copyright content. The legal system will not make (in fact, will not be able to make) a sufficient effort to combat the problem, as the politicians probably don't think they will have to keep their promises to the industry in the long-term. There may also be a backlash from the judicial system and the public about the appropriateness of the effort and money spent on copyright infringers vs. other priorities.

The result will be, more or less, the mess we currently have.

There is an extremely small chance that there will be a small number of content providers who get it and realize that a new business model is required that is not based on trying to to maintain a legal lock on content. If they get enough of a foothold in the market, which will require overpowering the powerful Hollywood cartels (e.g. TV, movie and music distribution), this could a massive shift in the way content is marketed. This is more likely to happen in the book industry, as there less of a lock on the distribution channels, and we are seeming a gradual increase in self-publishing.

about 3 years ago
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10,000 Shipping Containers Lost At Sea Each Year

ahodgkinson It's not just containers that get lost (163 comments)

I've seen a statistic somewhere, I think it was from Lloyds, which states that, on average, one ship gets lost per day somewhere in the world (I believe it included hijacking and piracy) . These are mostly small ships, but given that an occasional container ship goes missing, I wonder how many of the containers are lost due to entire ships sinking.

I also wonder how much theft and smuggling contributes to the number of 'lost' containers

about 3 years ago
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German Foreign Office Going Back To Windows

ahodgkinson Linux costs went up or MS costs when down? (901 comments)

As the article states, until we see numbers it is difficult to see what is going on.

The is a lot at stake here for Microsoft. If the project were successful, then it would open the floodgates for lots of similar efforts, and could even break Microsoft's monopoly on the desktop. Thus, Microsoft is obviously hoping that this project fails. Conspiracies aside, one way to help the transition back to Windows is to lower prices, offer special deals, free services, etc. I wouldn't surprise if this happened.

It could also be that the required device compatibility imposed a big programming cost, and it really did cost more than expected. I'm curious to learn if that cost could be amortized over larger/more government departments.

Let's get the full facts first before we judge.

more than 3 years ago
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What is your favorite Cloud Platform?

ahodgkinson I'm not giving them my data! (396 comments)

Cloud? I'll keep my cloud in the local data center, meaning that I'd rather make the extra effort to serve/manage/backup my data myself.

The occasional outages and stories of lost mail archives of some very large providers make me worry. Frankly, I don't trust the Cloud providers to be stable enough over the long-term. Companies merge, get bought, go bust, etc., and any of these events could cause a temporary or permanent service disruption, terms of usage policy change, security problem, total loss of data, etc. If you move your data to the cloud, then you must accept that you are giving up a great deal of control. You must consider how mission critical the data is, how you are going to make/keep backups, the cost of losing access temporarily/permanently, etc.

For some types of data, this may not be a problem. But, for me, the Cloud is just too flaky for the type of data I'd like to store in it. Would you be comfortable if your Cloud data got given to Wikileaks, or, worse, to some criminal organization. Your provider might not even tell (or even know) you if this occurs, especially since they are not legally required to in may countries. Call me paranoid, but disgruntled employees of large corporations can do bad things; and you have no control over how those employees are vetted or treated. Your provider might be fine now, but what happens when the provider is bought by say, Walmart, and costs get cut to the bone.

I realize my date center won't scale as nicely as, say, Amazon's, but I'm not (yet) prepared to let someone else be responsible for the safety and security of MY data.

more than 3 years ago
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45 Years Later, Does Moore's Law Still Hold True?

ahodgkinson Moore's law is not a law (214 comments)

Moore made an observation that processing power on microprocessor chips would double every 18 months, and later adjusted the observation to be a doubling every two years. There was no explanation of causality.

At best it is a self-fulfilling prophesy, as the 'law' is now used as a standard for judging the industry, which strives to keep up with the predictions.

more than 3 years ago
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Is Twitter Censoring Wikileaks Trends?

ahodgkinson Re:Who gives a shit? (191 comments)

P.S. Someone should invent a social media symbolic language. I bet you could cover the majority of posts with very few symbols.

The have. It's called emoticon. And you're right, 95% of all forum conversations can be expressed in emoticon with just two words :) and :(

more than 3 years ago
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My Camera ...

ahodgkinson My (pinhole) camera is a shipping container (342 comments)

Well, not my camera, but that of Andrea Good in Switzerland, who has been using a 40-foot shipping containers as a pinhole cameras. The basic concept is to make a hole in the side of the container and paper the inside wall opposite the hole with photo paper. Then you wait a few days or weeks to expose the film.

The Chinese artist Shi Guorui has also does this, using not only shipping containers, but also large rooms.

Here's a link for more information: http://www.slowlight.net/blog/?p=79

more than 3 years ago
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The Misleading World of Atari 2600 Box Art

ahodgkinson Re:Remember -- yep I do.. (267 comments)

Yep, you hit the nail on the head. Production schedules required the 'conceptual' artwork to be done weeks in advance of the completion of the software.

I don't know what it was like at Parker Borthers, but Atari (we supplied game software and hardware design to them) got marketing people heavily involved. They were typically fresh out of some MBA mill and no understanding of the their target audience (apart from being given 'focus group' results) and little interest in video games beyond concerns about them being hits. I'm sure this helped widen the gap between the artwork and the way the game actually looked. It certainly helped drive Atari into the ground, as the titles got stupider and stupider, leading to the infamous Atari land fill.

more than 3 years ago
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The Misleading World of Atari 2600 Box Art

ahodgkinson People's expectations were realistic (267 comments)

Given that the Atari 2600 hardware only had 128 BYTES of RAM and that the entire game had to fit into a 2048 BYTE cartridge (later there were bank-switching cartridges with 4KB), it's amazing that the 2600 games had recognizable graphics at all.

As to the box artwork: I remember programmers commenting on the nice box artwork, but there was never any mention about how it didn't match the game. Like someone else said, it was like looking at a cover of a science fiction book, knowing that the contents were probably very different.

To put things into perspective: Back in those days pinball machines were still popular and people expectations of computer games were pretty realistic, e.g. rather low. The IBM AT and XT had just come out, and were targeted at businesses and considered too expensive for the normal household. Graphical user interfaces only existed in research labs and universities. Coin operated video games had much better (and much more expensive) hardware, as compared to the home versions. The home systems had to be less sophisticated, otherwise they would have been too expensive for their target market.

I used to program these things and remember late night sessions pouring over hex dumps trying to recover a byte or two. The initial programming was done in 6502 assembler (to keep the cost down the CPU packed in a 28-pin DIP, which allowed for all sorts of tricks for saving bytes by addressing memory in unconventional ways). The last few weeks of the programming was typically done in hex, looking for opcode sequences that could be used as data. E.g. we spent our time hand optimizing the hex code. Sometimes we found enough space to put in a new feature or two.

Now nearly 30 years later I can still remember some of the hex code a few of the 6502 instructions. 4C is JMP, A9 is LDA, etc.

And by the way, we considered C a high level language back then.

more than 3 years ago
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Ray Kurzweil Does Not Understand the Brain

ahodgkinson Kurzweil is AI.. and somewhat buggy (830 comments)

Ray Kurzweil has been making claims for AI for years. For example that we will have an AI singularity event and that
society will be completely replaced my machines. Well, decades later it still hasn't happened and the only things in the
field of computer science that seems to have a life of its own are spam and computer viruses. I'd like call them a
life form.

Will we reverse engineer the brain any time soon? I doubt it. Part of the reason is practical. This would be an
extremely expensive and time consuming undertaking. I'm not sure its even worth it, especially when this is
compared to other branches of science which have made rapid advances. For one example, take a look at
the field neuro-science and its use of fMRI scanning.

Reversing engineering the brain, probably is possible, but it's probably not worth it right now. Well have
to wait another decade.. again.

more than 3 years ago
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Church Turns To Facebook To Find Priests

ahodgkinson Evolution and the Church (286 comments)

I realize that this is slightly off-topic, but here's some food for thought concerning evolution in the Catholic and Jewish religions:

Consider what would happen (centuries or millennia ago) if you were a poor but very intelligent male child in Europe:

Depending on the religion of your family, you would probably come to attention of the local priest or rabbi.

If your family was Catholic you might be allowed to enter the priesthood, learn to read and write, and given initiative and some luck, you could rise through the ranks of the church hierarchy. Given you stay in the church it is unlikely that you would produce children.

If your family was Jewish, you might be tutored by the local rabbi, learn to read and write, and given initiative and some luck, you would likely marry someone from an educated and perhaps well to do family. It is likely that your children would get a head start in life, as compared to yourself.

Now consider what this difference means over thousands of years of evolution. The Catholics are removing intelligent people from the gene pool and the Jews are giving them a breeding advantage.

The Catholic religion has existed for over 2000 years, and the Jewish religion for much longer. This is may be enough time to produce measurable results. Think about the studies of the of the Ashkenazi Jewish community, which show a greater than 100 average IQ.

more than 3 years ago
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Killer Apartment Vs. Persistent Microwave Exposure?

ahodgkinson Radiation, yes indeed! (791 comments)

It's definitely safe. This problem was put to bed back in the 80s:

"Radiation, yes indeed! You hear the most outrageous lies about it. Half-baked, goggle-boxed do-gooders telling everybody it's bad for you. Pernicious nonsense! Everybody could stand 100 chest x-rays a year. They ought to have 'em too."
- J. Frank Parnell in "Repo Man"

There, now that that's solved...

more than 4 years ago
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How Hardware Makers Come to Violate Free Software Licenses

ahodgkinson Have the tables finally turned? (186 comments)

So does this mean that WE finally have THEM by the balls?

It would be nice for the OS community to serve back what it's been receiving. I'm thinking
of the patent trolls, copyright oppression, DCMA takedown notices and the like.

more than 4 years ago
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U.S. Government Sets Up Online 'App Store'

ahodgkinson Giovernment App Store? Cool! (138 comments)

Fantastic. An App Store puts democracy back into the hands of the ordinary citizen.

In fact, I think open an account right now, and buy myself a congressman.

more than 4 years ago
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The State of Munich's Ongoing Linux Migration

ahodgkinson Re:Both sides of the story (203 comments)

To answer your reasonable question about unfairly squashing dissent:

From reading both, I tend to gravitate towards the failure side. It's 2009 and only 10% migration? Wasn't this suppose to save money? It's a frigging embarrassment! How are you suppose to point to Munich as an example of free and open-source software working on a city scale when they can't even implement it in a reasonable time-frame?

I think you got got labeled flamebait, not that I agree, because your conclusions appear unreasonable, namely that you are measuring the project on criteria which do not match the project's own stated goals.

First of all: Munich was said that the their goal is not to save money in the short-term, but to gain 'autonomy' from a single supplier. The savings, if any, are to be realized in the long term.

Second: Schedule and cost overruns are (unfortunately) normal for projects this size and complexity. What is your idea of a reasonable time scale anyways? With some searching I can probably identify other similar sized projects which eventually succeeded, in spite of serious schedule overruns. BTW: The sound byte that only 10% of the workstations have been migrated in X years doesn't scale to mean that it will take 9 * X more years to complete to rest of them. I know you didn't state this, but the LimuxWatch blog implies this in many of their schedule slip lists.

Third: There is more at stake than producing Linux-based work stations and a support infrastructure for Munich. This is a first of it's type project, meaning a major public-sector open source deployment on the desktop. If this succeeds, then the lessons learned will form the basis for other similar projects. In other words, don't be surprised if LimuxWatch blog has a hidden agenda.

more than 4 years ago
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The State of Munich's Ongoing Linux Migration

ahodgkinson Doing OK, in spite of bumps in the road (203 comments)

Considering what's at stake for Microsoft, it's amazing that Munich's Limux project continues.

Over the years I've read a great deal about various efforts to belittle and undermine it. The Munich Limux Watch blog seems like an attempt to systematically discredit the entire project. I'd love to find out who's behind it. I doubt it's directly supported Microsoft, but I'd wouldn't be surprised if there is some business interest, perhaps a disgruntled IT supplier or even a public sector employee who doesn't want their desktop system changed, behind it. Perhaps some clever Slashdot reader can find out more.

Don't be surprised that there are unexpected costs on a project of this size and complexity. Think about similar projects in the (semi-)public sector, some of which had factor 10 cost overruns and were abandoned (for example: Denver airport luggage processing system). In the end, the ability to actually complete the project, even if years late, and the long-term cost savings will determine its real success. [See my signature below]

We shouldn't expect Limux to have an instant pay back. Even though the operating system is free, the installation scripting, customization, roll-out, training and support have real costs, which will take years to amortize. The gain will only be in the long-term when the infrastructure to support Limux is in place and saves from not having license costs associated with forced upgrades are realized.

Further, you must bear in mind that Munich is a pioneer in even attempting to replace a major Microsoft based infrastructure with open source software. They are having to to do everything from scratch, which I'm sure increases the cost.

Munich's Limux project is a battleground for Microsoft. It it succeeds then it will become the model for similar initiatives. This could make non-Microsoft desktop systems a real alternative for large institutions. This is Microsoft's disaster scenario, and could ruin their monopoly hold on the marker. They might even have to, gasp, compete.

more than 4 years ago
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The Formula That Killed Wall Street

ahodgkinson Picking up pennies in front of bulldozers (561 comments)

Engineers are taught: Your model is only a model, and does not necessarily capture the complete behavior of the thing being modeled. You must understand the limitations of the model.

That Gaussian curves are a poor model for unlikely events has been known for quite some time. This is best explained by Nassim Taleb in the following books:

  • Fooled by Randomness
  • The Black Swan

His main thesis is that the markets are essentially random and are basically impossible to predict in any meaningful way. Further there are unlikely unknown unknowns can cannot be predicted until the they occur, usually with disastrous consequences.

more than 5 years ago
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Michael Crichton Dead At 66

ahodgkinson The human element in technology (388 comments)

Michael Crichton actually dropped out of medical to become a full time writer. He had a solid understanding of basic science and this is reflected in his books. That said, he wrote science fiction, which means that the science only needed to be good enough to support the story, and not be provably correct.

A common theme in Crichton's books is the human element in technology. The villains in his books are often those who unerringly believe in the application of advanced technology to 'fix everything', without considering the unintended side effects that could occur.

A typical Crichton book starts with some genius who invents an advanced technology, and then all goes to hell as the unintended side affects cascade into near disaster. The conflict is often between the technology itself and normal people who have real trouble dealing with the dangers it causes.

His earlier books are very much better than the later ones. I suspect that Crichton got co-opted by Hollywood once got the contacts to get contracts to write screens plays for big name directors (e.g. Spielberg). You can see the transition, as the later books, like Jurassic Park, are actually written like screen plays.

Crichton wasn't afraid to promote his politics in his books. The Rising Sun has a strong political statement, nearing on the 'Japan Bashing' that was prevalent in the press at the time. It's saving grace was a good plot and some interesting characters. Had he not been so insistent on blowing on his political horn, it would have been a better book.

My biggest disappointment with Crichton was State of Fear. The book was essentially a anti-global warming manifesto. The huge list of bibliographic entries reinforces my opinion that his primary goal was trying to debunk global warming rather than write a fictional work.

more than 5 years ago

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ahodgkinson ahodgkinson writes  |  about 11 years ago Some people belive that the world is filled with selfish people who conspire to corrupt our rights and steal what they can before the apoclypse comes and our society gets replaced with an even more brutal system.

Others argue that this has already happened.

I'm not so sure. I hope that what we blame as conspiracy is actually caused by stupidity and hope that if everybody reads Slashdot then the whole problem will go away.

- Alan.

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