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Why Amazon Fights State Sales Tax, But Supports It Nationally

harlows_monkeys Re:Why is sales tax based on the buyer's location? (165 comments)

Suppose I live in a state with a low sales tax and travel to one with a higher rate. I pay with a credit card, just as I would if I were at home making a payment to an online reseller. Do I get charged my home-state tax rate? NO.

It depends on the states. If you are a resident of Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, American Samoa, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, or the Yukon Territory and you are visiting Washington, you are not charged sales tax on tangible personal property, digital goods, and digital codes purchased in Washington if they are for use outside Washington. You show the merchant picture ID that shows your address, and they ring up the sale without sales tax.

about 6 months ago

Why Amazon Fights State Sales Tax, But Supports It Nationally

harlows_monkeys Re:Can't understand how they are still in business (165 comments)

I never bought anything from Amazon, simply because they want to charge me the additional 27% VAT of my own country, while on the Internet they should charge none and I'd pay it at the customs when it arrives. If I paid them, would they return the tax money to our government later? I don't think so.

Yes, they would turn the tax money over to your government.

about 6 months ago

Azerbaijan Election Results Released Before Voting Had Even Started

harlows_monkeys Re:Could be a honest mistake from IT-people... (266 comments)

I'm in IT myself, and I know how difficult it is to come up with good test-data for your testing...so what's better than production data?

I'm not saying it is so, but it could very well be that the testers have loaded into it this years candidates, made up some likely result, and run the software to see that it works...

And apparently it did! ;)

Yup. Generally people doing election-related software have to test with data that is as similar to what will be in the live election as possible, including names of candidates and parties. See this comment in the HN discussion of this, from a developer of election reporting software that has been used in the US and other countries, for details on why and how this sort of thing can happen.

In fact, this same thing happened in the US in the 2012 Illinois Republican primary. The reporting company providing the data to many news organizations accidentally marked the test feed as live for a couple hours the day before the election, and a couple of TV station websites, which were set up to automatically publish updates from the live feed, published this.

The problem in the present case is that it took place in Azerbaijan, which has a long history of widespread corruption and election fraud. It is quite believable that someone has in fact pre-generated the actual election results, and those accidentally got pushed early.

about 6 months ago

'Dangerously Naive' Aaron Swartz 'Destroyed Himself'

harlows_monkeys Re:Generation Y's unusual sense of "responsibility (362 comments)

What about the prosecutor that threatened Mr. Swartz with 30 years in jail for actions that most civilized people think should have been dealt with by the University administration, or maybe by the civil courts. Was it responsible to threaten a person with 30 years in jail for disregarding an EULA?

He wasn't facing anywhere near 30 years. The prosecutors told Swartz that they thought the judge might go as high as 7 years. That was if he went to trail, lost, and the prosecutor's largest damage number was accepted. If he pled guilty, the most he was facing was 6 months. See Orin Kerr's detailed analysis.

about 6 months ago

Will New Red-Text Warnings Kill Casual Use of Java?

harlows_monkeys Re:Probably not, but if it does, good (282 comments)

Technically a Linux based OS should be called GNU/Linux implying that it is a GNU OS running on top of a Linux kernel.

That's historically not accurate. Here's a cut/paste of a comment of mine from another forum on the matter of naming the system that is commonly called Linux:

Historically, naming rights for an OS go to whoever actually puts together and distributes the complete system. For instance, if a workstation company licensed Unix from AT&T and ported it to their workstation, they got to name that OS whatever they wanted. A couple examples of this were Uniplus+, which was UniSoft's Unix, and 386/ix, which was Interactive System Corporations Unix. Both were Unix systems--they used a Unix kernel and Unix utilities--but that wasn't their names. Half the fun working at a Unix workstation company in the early '80s was thinking of a neat name for your Unix port. :-)

For the complete systems distributed by Canonical, Red Hat, and the like, they are the ones who get to name the operating systems that they distribute. Ubuntu calls their OS the "Ubuntu operating system". Red Hat calls their OS "Red Hat Enterprise Linux".

Yes, they are also GNU systems, but if we want to be historically accurate, the most correct way to view this would be to view "GNU system" and "GNU/Linux" as specifications for a specific Unix-like userspace and for an OS that runs the GNU system on a Linux kernel, respectively. The Ubuntu operating system complies with the GNU system specification and is a GNU/Linux system, but it is named Ubuntu operating system.

about 7 months ago

Feynman Lectures on Physics Vol. 1 Released in HTML Format

harlows_monkeys Re:Conversion? (129 comments)

The person who did much of the conversion work has commented in the Hacker News discussion of this, and explains why tools like latex2html were not good enough.

about 7 months ago

Feynman Lectures on Physics Vol. 1 Released in HTML Format

harlows_monkeys Re:Conversion? (129 comments)

HTML works better in this case. PDF is better when you need the formatting to be the same on all the devices, but that is not the case here.

With HTML, the user can adjust the size and have the text reflow, and can separately scale all the math (see the MathJax context menu on any equation to access the math scaling settings).

For instance, the HTML edition is quite usable on even my iPhone, with my poor 50+ year old eyes. For a PDF to be usable on such a device, they would have had to format it in such a way that it would look ridiculous on a desktop system.

about 7 months ago

The College-Loan Scandal

harlows_monkeys Re:Stimulus This! (827 comments)

I have friends graduating with engineering degrees that have 30k in debt from a STATE SCHOOL. This isn't an Ivy League school, but a state university. How does that compute?

It "computes" BECAUSE they went to a state school. If they had gone to an Ivy League school, they would probably have much less debt, if any.

For most students, a good state school is more expensive than Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and so on. That's because the Ivy League schools (and non-Ivy top private schools like Stanford, Chicago, MIT, Caltech and such) have large endowments per student that generate lots of income that they use to provide generous need-based non-loan aid. At Stanford, for instance, if your family makes under $100k, tuition is waived. Under $60k, and Stanford also waives room and board.

State schools, on the other hand, do not have large endowments per student. If their state has budget problems, one of the first things to go is need-based non-loan aid.

This is probably the oddest thing about American higher education. It is actually possible for someone to legitimately say "I could not afford to send my kids to Cal State Fresno, so I sent them Harvard".

about 8 months ago

Have eBooks Peaked?

harlows_monkeys Re:Disappearance of E-Ink (323 comments)

No, the Paperwhite readers (and Kobo Glo) use frontlighting not backlighting. Much less eye-strain, and one research study suggests less disruptive to sleep when used in the evening.

My Kindle Paperwhite is much less disruptive to sleep than my iPad, but it has nothing to do with the lighting. It has to do with the weight. The iPad is heavy enough that falling asleep and dropping it on my face hurts enough to wake me up. The Kindle is light enough that I can take one to the face and keep sleeping.

about 8 months ago

Microsoft's Math-Challenged STEM Education Contest

harlows_monkeys That was a pretty silly rant (96 comments)

A leader board shows the TOP competitors. That's the point of a leader board. It is not "cherry picking" to only show the top.

The rounding is not dubious. They are rounding to 10% increments because that is the resolution of the progress bars.

The "percent-10", "percent-50", and so on that the "developer tool" is showing are the classes of the progress bars. There is a style correspond to each in main.css, and that determines the length of the progress bar. The style sheet provides "percent-0", "percent-10", ..., "percent-100".

about 9 months ago

Copyright Drama Reaches 3D Printing World

harlows_monkeys Output of a GPLed program (258 comments)

Precedent seems to imply that the resulting object cannot be controlled (e.g. the output of a GPLed program is not GPLed, so why should executing a program on a 3D printer be any different?)

What if the program is a quine?

about 9 months ago

The Man Who Convinced Us We Needed Vitamin Supplements

harlows_monkeys Re:Diet and laziness (707 comments)

Then how do you explain the decline in the amount of nutrients that has been observed in many US crops since 1950, according to the USDA? Citations for this are given in this comment.

about 9 months ago

The Man Who Convinced Us We Needed Vitamin Supplements

harlows_monkeys Re:Diet and laziness (707 comments)

Michael Pollan makes a similar claim in "In Defense of Food" on page 115:

Since the widespread adoption of chemical fertilizers in the 1950s, the nutritional quality of produce in America has declined substantially, according to figures gathered by the USDA, which has tracked the nutrient content of various crops since then. Some researchers blame this decline on the condition of the soil; others cite the tendency of modern plant breeding, which has consistently selected for industrial characteristics such as yield rather than nutritional quality.

More detail is given on page 118.

As mentioned earlier, USDA figures show a decline in the nutrient content of the forty-three crops it has tracked since the 1950s. In one recent analysis, vitamin C declined by 20 percent, iron by 15 percent, riboflavin by 38 percent, calcium by 16 percent. Government figures from England tell a similar story: declines since the fifties of 10 percent or more in levels of iron, zinc, calcium, and selenium across a range of food crops. To put this in more concrete terms, you now have to eat three apples to get the same amount of iron as you would have gotten from a single 1940 apple, and you’d have to eat several more slices of bread to get your recommended daily allowance of zinc than you would have a century ago.

Here are some sources cited for that chapter that sound like they might be relevant to those particular claims:

  • Davis, Donald R., et al. “Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 23.6 (2004): 669–82.
  • Mayer, Anne-Marie. “Historical Changes in the Mineral Content of Fruits and Vegetables.” British Food Journal. 99.6 (1997): 207–11.
  • U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAOSTAT Statistical Database: “Agriculture/Production/Core Production Data.” Accessed online at http://faostat.fao.org./ USDA Economic Research Service. “Major Trends in U.S. Food Supply, 1909–99.” FoodReview. 23.1 (2000).
  • White, P.J., and M. R. Broadley. “Historical Variation in the Mineral Composition of Edible Horticultural Products.” Journal of Horticultural Science & Biotechnology. 80.6 (2005): 660–67.

about 9 months ago

VLC For iOS Returns On July 19, Rewritten and Fully Open-Sourced

harlows_monkeys Re:3 2 1 Takedown (203 comments)

That permission is granted on submission by the Developer.

Only the copyright holder, or someone authorized by the copyright holder, can grant that permission. If someone else tries to do so, the grant is not effective.

about 9 months ago

VLC For iOS Returns On July 19, Rewritten and Fully Open-Sourced

harlows_monkeys Re:3 2 1 Takedown (203 comments)

Apple wasn't the "distributor" in this case, their AppStore was just being used as a Distribution Channel by the VLC Team. So VLC violated GPL by choosing an incompatible Distribution Channel, Apple had nothing to do with it. Stop spreading obvious lies.

That's not correct. When an end user installs an app via the App Store, software written by, deployed by, and under the control of Apple makes a copy and distributes that copy to the end user. Apple needs the permission of the copyright owner in order to do these things. 17 USC 106.

Apple is relying on the assurance of the developer of the app that he is either the copyright holder, or has the permission of the copyright owner to grant Apple permission to do those things. If the developer did not have permission, than the developer has violated his agreement with Apple, and if Apple were to get sued and have to pay damages to the copyright owner, they'd almost certainly be able to recover those damages from the developer. However, that's between Apple and the developer. The copyright owner is not required to delve into the relationship between Apple and its developers and ascertain the ultimate party that caused his copyright to be violated and try to get them to stop. He can go after anyone who is making and distributing unauthorized copies, and that includes Apple.

about 9 months ago

Microsoft Slashes Prices On Surface

harlows_monkeys They need to do this for Surface Pro (330 comments)

I wish they would do this for the Surface Pro. In a recent discussion over on /r/math on Reddit on taking digital notes, and there was a link to a math grad student's video review of Surface Pro with OneNote. It looked like it was an excellent tablet for doing serious mathematical note taking and writing.

Gabe at Penny Arcade reviewed it as a device for drawing, and was very pleased with it.

I would love a tablet that is good for those things, but not at $900.

about 9 months ago

Oracle Quietly Switches BerkeleyDB To AGPL

harlows_monkeys Re:lol (219 comments)

The FSF has a definition of the term "free software".

Software under AGPL is not not free software according to that definition. It violates freedom 0.

Yet the FSF approved AGPL! This was an ethical disaster.

A key difference between free software licenses and commercial software EULAs was that the latter was a two way bargain. The copyright owner, who the law gives the exclusive right to make copies (including, for computer software, making temporary copies in RAM to use the software) grants you via the EULA permission to do that, in exchange for you agreeing not to do some things that otherwise would be allowed under copyright law. For example, you might have to agree to not reverse engineer the software, or to sell it when you are done with it.

The free software licenses, on the other hand, only grant you permissions. They do not require you to give up anything.

Until AGPL. AGPL goes beyond just granting you permission to do things that copyright law says require permission. It places restrictions on what you do with the software on your own machine. It is a EULA.

about 9 months ago

Nook Failure, Lack of Foot Traffic Could Spell Doom For Barnes & Noble

harlows_monkeys Re:Are people reading fewer paper books? (330 comments)

They eyestrain worry is overstated.

The real problem with an iPad for books, compared to a Kindle or to a paperback novel, is that the iPad hurts a lot more when you doze off reading in bed and drop it on face.

about 10 months ago

PlayStation 4 Will Be Running Modified FreeBSD

harlows_monkeys Re:A great win for FreeBSD (457 comments)

BTW, I'm really tired of seeing, as it was in this article, the BSD license described as being "more liberal" than the GPL. The *ONLY* "freedom" you get with the BSD license that you don't get with the GPL is the freedom to restrict the freedom of others. Claiming that that makes it "more liberal" is akin to saying that we had more freedom before the abolition of slavery because we hadn't had our freedom to own other people (and to treat our property in whatever manner we liked) restricted

I receive some software under GPL. Let G be the set of all things the license allows me to do with/to the software.

I receive some software under BSD. Let B be the set of all things the license allows me to do with/to the software.

G is a strict subset of B.

Hence, B has a more liberal license than G.

about 10 months ago

How I Got Fired From the Job I Invented

harlows_monkeys Re: Adecco will not win. IP law protects Barr (252 comments)

Adecco registered the phrase "Around the world in 80 jobs" with the uspto, and a trademark was granted on April 13th.

Nope. Adecco filed an application on April 13th. The application then has to be examined, which typically takes several months. If it gets through that and the examiner decides to allow the mark, that will be published, and then there is a 30 day period where the public is invited to submit reasons the mark should not be granted.

about 10 months ago



WA download tax will not cover file sharing

harlows_monkeys harlows_monkeys writes  |  more than 4 years ago

harlows_monkeys (106428) writes "Techdirt completely botched their story, carried on Slashdot yesterday, on the Washington State upcoming tax on digital goods and services. Section 606 says: "The provisions of this chapter do not apply in respect to the use of digital products or digital codes obtained by the end user free of charge". This takes almost all file sharing, both authorized and unauthorized, out of the scope of the bill. It also covers pretty much all of the other doomsday scenarios people speculated on in the Slashdot comments."

Kaminsky's slides from Black Hat

harlows_monkeys harlows_monkeys writes  |  more than 5 years ago

harlows_monkeys (106428) writes "Dan Kaminsky has released his slides from his presentation at Black Hat. The presentation goes beyond the details of the attack (which were guessed and leaked earlier) and goes into the things you can do with it, alone and in combination with other flaws. The scope is breathtaking, and goes way beyond just sending browsers to the wrong site."

Study of ODF and OOXML implementations

harlows_monkeys harlows_monkeys writes  |  more than 5 years ago

harlows_monkeys (106428) writes "Two researchers from the University of Illinois took a look at interopability for ODF apps and OOXML apps.

For the ODF apps, with OpenOffice as a reference (100), Word using either Sun's ODF plug-in (96) or the CleaverAge/MS ODF plug-in (94) comes in just behind StarOffice (97), well ahead of KOffice (79) and Google Docs (76). (The numbers in parenthesis are the weighted percents given in the paper, with 100 being the reference)

For the OOXML apps, using Office 2007 (100) as a reference, OpenOffice (96) and Pages (95) did well, slightly behind Office 2008 for Mac (99) and Office 2003 (100).

Note that OpenOffice does a better job of implementing OOXML than KOffice does of implementing ODF, and that Microsoft does a better job of implementing ODF than KOffice does!? The lesson here seems to be that whatever document format you are going to use, pick an implementation by one of the major office application developers (OpenOffice/Sun or Microsoft)."

Comparison of IBM, Sun, Microsoft patent covenants

harlows_monkeys harlows_monkeys writes  |  more than 6 years ago

harlows_monkeys (106428) writes "Here is a side-by-side listing of Microsoft's patent covenant for their XML document formats, Sun's patent covenant for ODF, IBM's patent covenant for ODF, and Microsoft's Open Specification Promise. The corresponding sections from each are colored the same, to make comparison of exactly what each grants and does not grant easier. There's been a lot of talk about some of these licenses recently, and whether they are safe or not. Hopefully, this side-by-side comparison will make it easier for people to figure out for themselves what the licenses mean and whether or not they are safe."
Link to Original Source

Workaround for widespread iPhone sync problem

harlows_monkeys harlows_monkeys writes  |  more than 6 years ago

harlows_monkeys (106428) writes "There have been a lot of reports the last couple of days of iPhones hanging when a sync is attempted, from both Macs and Windows. Here's one of several threads on this in Apple's discussion groups.

The problem seems to be that iphonesubmissions.apple.com is not responding on port 443. iTunes tries to connect to that first thing during syncing.

Kludge to avoid this: disconnect your network before syncing. Apparently, it doesn't actually NEED to do whatever it is it wants to do with iphonesubmissions.apple.com."


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