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Activists Seek Repeal of Ban On Incandescent Bulbs

lapsed if left alone (1049 comments)

Even if people made rational economic decisions, the market price of electricity doesn't reflect its cost to society. The difference between the social cost of consuming power and the price individuals pay for electricity is huge. Utilities are (for the most part) regulated monopolies. Governments can't raise electricity prices because such a move would be economically unpopular. Instead governments have to keep prices artificially low and then find different ways of reducing consumption. There's no real market for power. But people don't make rational economic decisions. They subordinate long-term rewards for short-term savings.

more than 3 years ago

MS Gives Free Licenses To Oppressed Nonprofits

lapsed Re:Not costing them anything. (151 comments)

Sometimes Microsoft does things that benefits both themselves and their customers. All businesses do this from time to time -- it's how capitalism works.

more than 3 years ago

US Says Plane Finder App Threatens Security

lapsed a bit late (524 comments)

Isn't this a bit like closing the barn doors after the horses have bolted? It sounds like the protocol was designed to be easily intercepted.

more than 3 years ago

Schneier's Revised Taxonomy of Social Data

lapsed Re:Unfortunately (28 comments)

I hadn't heard about it until now, but I'm just one data point. Later in the post, Schneier writes that "there are other ways to look at user data," so it's not clear that his proposed taxonomy is the only way of classifying social networking data. What's weird about it is how it assumes and implies ownership. A user owns the page to which other users post, and as a result, the data posted by those other users is of a different type than the data posted by the page's 'owner'.
Empirically, these types don't exist. In this sense, it's more of a typology than a taxonomy (in the social sciences, conceptually-derived classification systems are called typologies and empirical classification systems are taxonomies). Control over data -- particularly social networking data -- is, to a much greater degree, a function of the underlying protocols, API's, and SLA's.
I get that the post is normative -- that Schneier is proposing a means of classifying data that will result in a social networking infrastructure that returns the control over data to its creators. But as you say, that change has to take place without the active participation of Facebook's 5 million indifferent users.

more than 3 years ago

Chevy Volt Not Green Enough For California

lapsed Re:It seems unecessarily complex... (384 comments)

The Volt uses an internal combustion engine to recharge its batteries and the Leaf is strictly electric -- it's a straightforward difference. What's 'foreignness'?

more than 3 years ago

Apple Censors Ulysses App In Time For Bloomsday

lapsed Re:I do not think it means what you think it means (333 comments)

Woosh? I understand the concepts - maybe I could have been a bit more verbose. The point I was trying to make is that there are differences between licenses to read digital books and physical copies of them. The 1984 example so pissed everyone off not because it was inconvenient but because it points to how governments and corporations might use DRM and digital media distribution to rewrite history and suppress potentially subversive literature. The irony is that 1984 addresses and cautions against concentrating and enabling the power to rewrite history. You might be ticked off if your copy of 1984 was involuntarily refunded -- the rest of us would be alarmed. It's not the loss of money -- it's the loss of control.

more than 3 years ago

Publishing Company Puts Warning Label on Constitution

lapsed sound and fury, anyone? (676 comments)

The US constitution does say something about slaves being 3/5 people (correct me if I'm wrong -- I'm not an American). Having said that, it looks like a boilerplate warning that that the publisher would attach to reprinted historical documents that some people might find offensive and that might require a bit of historical context to fully understand. And who's linking to Fox for this story? Is anyone other than Fox and Conservapedia upset?

more than 3 years ago

Mark Zuckerberg, In It To Change the World?

lapsed see Craigslist (268 comments)

For an example of what happens when people forgo money.

more than 3 years ago

Is Apple's Attack On Flash Really About Video?

lapsed it's what it's always been (595 comments)

What makes the Internet so threatening to incumbent companies is the way in which it's layered and platform-independent. New protocols can be deployed on the existing network as long as they conform to its rules. Flash is different, in that it is not as open as the Internet's underlying layers, but the way in which it threatens Apple's vertically-integrated hold on everything from the user to the bandwidth provider operates in the same way. It's a mistake to focus on the killer app -- the real threat is a platform that enables the distribution of a range of applications, some of which have not yet been imagined.

more than 3 years ago

Is Programming a Lucrative Profession?

lapsed missing number (844 comments)

This is one of those contexts where the standard deviation would be helpful, or even a graph showing the distribution of salaries.

more than 4 years ago

The Cell Phone Has Changed — New Etiquette Needed

lapsed Re:first rule (585 comments)

That's an easy one. People talking on cell phones are always the loudest people on the bus/streetcar/subway. If you've been told not to talk on your cell phone, it's because you're being annoying.

more than 4 years ago

Another Crumbling Reactor Springs a Tritium Leak

lapsed Re:Carbon taxes (466 comments)

You can relax. Nothing gives him the right to decide anything that affects you -- I think it's just an opinion. It's probably based on the knowledge that burning coal leads to smog and greenhouse gas emissions. If the economic cost of these pollutants aren't reflected in the cost of their consumption, then we're using too much of them. It's an externality. It's not based on the relative purity of one or another way of generating power. It's based on the absolute cost of an economic activity.
It's not immediately clear that nuclear power doesn't have its own externalities or that the externalities can be approximated for either alternative, but that doesn't really make what he's saying any more or less of an opinion.

more than 4 years ago

FCC May Pry Open the Cable Set-Top Box

lapsed Re:One idea (222 comments)

You'd still have a monopoly -- there would be only one cable infrastructure provider.

more than 4 years ago

Iranian Crackdown Goes Global

lapsed Re:A Little Off (313 comments)

But liberty requires the freedom to choose (among other things) your government. If the form of government is determined, there is no opportunity to exercise free will.
It's not a question of staying power -- it's a question of whether Iraq was liberated.

more than 4 years ago

Iranian Crackdown Goes Global

lapsed Re:Naked Dictatorship (313 comments)

By 'earn it' do you mean 'achieve it through struggle'? If yes, does that mean that every country that achieved democracy peacefully has no pride in their liberty? Also, does 'pride in liberty' affect some property of a democracy, like its stability? I'm asking because there are lots of examples of countries which did not have to struggle for liberty (Canada, for example), or whose people suffered during history but not because of a struggle for liberty (like Japan) and now enjoy stable, inclusive democracies. These countries have pride in their liberty (depending on how you define it). I don't think bloody revolution is the only path to democracy.

more than 4 years ago

Online "Guilds" Mirror Real Life Gangs

lapsed Read the areticle more carefully (160 comments)

The authors are interested in the underlying social mechanism that drives group formation.
They compare two competing theories -- homophily or that like attracts like, and a theory that group formation is driven by a search for compliments -- and conclude that the latter drives group formation in *both* gangs and guilds.
From the article:

Specifically, we used detailed empirical data sets to show that the observed dynamics in two very distinct forms of human activity—one offline activity which is widely considered as a public threat and one online activity which is by contrast considered as relatively harmless—can be reproduced using the same, simple model of individuals seeking groups with complementary attributes; i.e., they want to form a team as opposed to seeking groups with similar attributes homophilic kinship. Just as different ethnicities may have different types of gangs in the same city in terms of their number, size, and stability, the same holds for the different computer servers on which online players play a given game.

more than 4 years ago

Microsoft's Top Devs Don't Seem To Like Own Tools

lapsed and this is a good thing (496 comments)

I use Visual Studio because I couldn't program my way out of a wet paper bag. I'd be a bit concerned if the people writing the application were similarly impaired.
VB.NET and Microsoft's other tools make programing possible. People on slashdot will argue that this leads to bad applications, but the choice is between bad applications and no applications, not bad applications and good applications. Granted, sometimes bad applications are dangerous, but that's not a sufficient rationale to withhold these types of tools.

more than 4 years ago

Attack of the PowerPoint-Wielding Professors

lapsed Re:different for ESL students (467 comments)

Why would an English-language institution lower its educational standards for lectures in order to cater to non-English-speaking students?

Because (at least in Canada) it's desirable to welcome foreign students into the classroom. Foreign students pay more tuition, subsidizing domestic students. They tend to work harder, enrich the learning environment, and bring a different perspective to an otherwise homogeneous group of people.

more than 4 years ago

Attack of the PowerPoint-Wielding Professors

lapsed Re:Actually (467 comments)

I posted a comment about this below, but I think the point is important enough for me to make it here too. ESL students find it easier to read than to listen. The more written material there is on the slide, the more they understand.

more than 4 years ago


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