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Customers Creating Fake Amazon Pages To Get Cheap Electronics At Walmart

xelah Re:wont last (284 comments)

Because the objective of price matching policies is to convert a competitors sale to your sale. If the competitor can't fulfill the order then you haven't lost a customer to them and don't need to price match.

Only partly. Traditionally, price matching was an anti-competitive measure to support prices. It says to your competitors 'don't both trying to compete on price because we'll just match you and we'll both lose'.

5 days ago
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UN Climate Change Panel: It's Happening, and It's Almost Entirely Man's Fault

xelah Re:Obviously. Dinsaurogenic Global Warming (695 comments)

An increase in extreme weather, on the other hand, makes gardening and farming a whole lot harder. A frost or drought at the wrong time can completely destroy your crop. You can adapt to changing conditions by growing different crops, but only if you know what the weather is likely to be like. Otherwise your frost tolerant plants get killed by drought one year and then your drought tolerant plants get killed by floods the next.

about three weeks ago
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Denmark Plans To Be Coal-Free In 10 Years

xelah Re:Breaking the stranglehold of other countries (332 comments)

If Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe then leaving more gas (or electricity) spare to export could be a very good move. Aside from supporting economies with which Denmark trades and making money from the sales, it'd surely give Denmark some diplomatic leverage, too.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Handling Patented IP In a Job Interview?

xelah Re:Are you patenting software? (224 comments)

Indeed. I suspect that he couldn't sue them, because if he'd used his IP whilst working for them he'd be implicitly giving them a licence, but that it could still cause them problems because he could withdraw the licence when he feels like it.

The situation surely shouldn't be that much different to someone who'd patented something for a previous employer, just that your employer in this case was effectively your own small business. You can't use it in your new job, and you shouldn't try to sell your old employer's stuff to them because you're supposed to be doing your job only in the interests of your new employer.

about a month ago
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Tesla Announces Dual Motors, 'Autopilot' For the Model S

xelah Re:Awesome (283 comments)

So, your living costs are something very approximating twice what the monthly car cost would be, and I presume you'd be paying it for something like 5 years. That gives you a choice between 1: accelerating very fast for a few tens of seconds per day, instead of rather slower and 2: having two and a half years off work (or retiring earlier) and doing something important to you instead.

There's nothing actually illogical about preferring the first. But I think it's reasonable to call it an extreme preference.

about a month and a half ago
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Scotland's Independence Vote Could Shake Up Industry

xelah Re:This isn't scaremongering. (494 comments)

The Royal Bank of Scotland is not Scottish? It is not clear who owns it, since it is publicly traded

Isn't RBS 64% owned by the UK government? I know it was 81% earlier this year, but I think UKFI sold some.

but I don't think they would close down their HQ in Edinburgh, just because Scotland is now an independent country.

They've said they will: http://www.heraldscotland.com/...

I honestly think the EU would be fully willing to integrate Scotland from day one.

I'm sure the EU will let Scotland in. I don't think that's really the question (I really wouldn't take those who say that Scotland will be blocked seriously) - it's more about what other countries will want in return, and whether other countries with secessionist movements will want it to do it the hard way or the easy way. Countries in international bodies don't tend to agree to anything without getting something they want, even if it's not related. So, Scotland may find it hard to get all the exemptions the UK has and the budget will be up for negotiation. In theory new states are supposed to join the Euro and Schengen (which I would like but would drive UKIPers and the UK Conservatives insane), but I'm sure they'll be able to avoid that if they give something else up and take longer over it. But I imagine that the worst part for Scotland will the uncertainty whilst it's negotiated. Businesses will hate that.

about 2 months ago
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Scotland's Independence Vote Could Shake Up Industry

xelah Re:at least the nuclear weapons will be gone (494 comments)

I would think that the UK government would not believe that an invader in Scotland would stop at the border. As such, it'd be far more likely to provoke a nuclear response to a conventional attack than, say, an invasion of Turkey (though, one would hope, NATO conventional forces would be a different matter).

about 2 months ago
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Patents That Kill

xelah Re:Economist Article is Exceedingly Precise (240 comments)

$89 billion is surely false precision, but it's not unreasonable to put a value on lives when you have an economic decision to make. None of them work all that well, but it's better than just flailing in the dark which is the alternative.

For example, you can look at how much it would cost to save those lives another way (eg, through spending on road or rail safety or other, known, healthcare spending). This might give you a figure of a few million. But you tend to find huge discrepancies between spending in different areas - eg, much more in air and rail safety or terrorism prevention than in road safety - depending on how the public responds to those things. Refusing to put a cost on lives this way kills - governments spend huge sums on rail (eg, after the UK Hatfield rail crash) and terrorism prevention when spending a lot of it on healthcare and road safety would save more lives. eg, according to this http://www.theguardian.com/uk/... the UK government was prepared to spend three times as much (~£3m) per life saved on rail compared to road, and more like £15m in an expensive system after the crash - in effect letting 15 people die to save each one.

You can also recognize that we're not talking about certain death, we're talking about risks to life - and people implicitly put a value on risks to life all the time. Car vs train, one car vs another, a dangerous job vs a safe one, driving further to buy something more cheaply or commute from somewhere different. You can come to estimates based on how much they're prepared to spend to avoid risk. But, of course, people are quite irrational about risk and you get widely varying numbers.

And, as another commenter has said, you can estimate from economic output lost, but that's not very satisfactory. In theory it produces a minimum value (assuming that the economy isn't overproducing, spending people's time on producing things less valuable than the time). But it confuses the purpose of an economy - to give people the best quality of life it can, not to produce as much stuff as it can.

about 3 months ago
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Patents That Kill

xelah Re:And this is the same for copyrights. (240 comments)

If someone has built a bridge, how does letting him collect tolls from that one thing for its entire life encourage them to continue to do more work? Well....the same way they were encourage to build the first one, because they'll get paid for it. You think people don't consider the possibility of ongoing income from something when deciding if it's worth doing (or worth handing an author an advance for, or investing in research for)?

about 3 months ago
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Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

xelah Re:Weakest Russia ever (582 comments)

Russia is in some danger of wrecking its own economy. Putin is a clever guy who employs a lot of other clever guys, and will certainly know the risks, the question is more about what he can and can't do to improve matters without compromising his own position. Russia has actually been moving up the ease of doing business index, which might surprise people who only ever look at the less boring media. But it has a lot of other problems as well.

Oil and gas is great for centralized states. It's easy for governments and oligarchs to control compare to, say, a well diversified manufacturing base full of new products. But Russia's oil output is compromised by a lack of investment, taxes are very very high on oil profits and you always face the danger of having your assets seized. There's going to be a big questions over whether the Russian government is going to divert money it'd like to spend on popularity in to its own oil investment, and/or whether it can attract foreign investment (and possibly expertise). This is the same sort of problem Venezuela had, except Hugo Chavez was far more stupid about it (he took so much money from the state oil company to buy popularity that its output fell through lack of investment, and he sacked a huge chunk of his oil expertise out of spite after a strike).

Meanwhile, a centrally controlled economy run by governments, oligarchs and local pet thugs who steal what they can is never going to be too good at innovating with new products and methods. The current war is making Putin very popular, and so presumably less dependent on other support and more able to do something about this....for now.

A strong oil industry can make life hard for other industries if you have an open economy - local manufacturers can find themselves producing products which can be obtained much more easily by digging up a little oil and swapping it internationally for foreign goods. Oil sanctions would certainly help other industries develop more quickly....but I suspect those industries wouldn't operate very well.

It's certainly naive to write off the Russian economy, it's amazing how well problematic economies can product....but it's always going to be limited by its dysfunctional politics and state, which will never be tackled as long as Putin (or his heirs) is there.

about 4 months ago
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Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

xelah Re:I don't see the problem. (667 comments)

If you're competently operating an air defence system you don't just 'expect' civil aviation to avoid you as your only way of avoiding killing hundreds of civilians and pissing off a lot of governments. It isn't difficult to check, it isn't difficult to notice constant overflying traffic heading to or from Russian airspace on your radar and wonder what it is, it isn't difficult to listen in on air band radios, it probably wouldn't have been so hard to get a question to civilian air traffic controllers in Russia and it would hardly have been impossible to issue a warning.

The people involved were clearly too incompetent to have been given access to air defence missiles.

about 4 months ago
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European Commission Spokesman: Google Removing Link Was "not a Good Judgement"

xelah Re:Well, duh... (210 comments)

The directive is from nearly 20 years ago so I doubt there are many MEPs or commissioners who couldn't blame their predecessors if they wanted to, or point out that few people were really expecting Google and the Internet as it is now. Besides, it's been working OK for a long time (except for continuing poor enforcement). It was written to stop companies selling on your data as sales leads, credit reference agencies giving out inaccurate data you're not allowed to see or correct, employers keeping irrelevant or inaccurate records about you or keeping it far longer than they need it, organizations asking for your data for one reason and then using it for another, employers keeping (or 'obtaining') lists of union members/activists, and so on.

The difficult bit is keeping all of that whilst handling search engines appropriately.

about 5 months ago
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How Often Do Economists Commit Misconduct?

xelah Re:A sampling of hot button economic issues (305 comments)

But now you also have to decide what 'benificial' means. Does it mean more GDP? politicians and business types like to act as if it does. Does it mean higher economic welfare? You're more likely to get that answer from an economist, though many will still go on to consider only GDP because it's easier and it's what their employers care about.

You'll certainly find papers on the effect on GDP of things like infrastructure spending, top income tax rates and immigration. You're unlikely to find much beyond the abstract and theoretical about their effects on economic welfare.

So you can still argue that your policy will make people better off, even if the economic evidence on GDP is unambiguously against you.

Even if you couldn't, it still wouldn't matter. Economists don't run the economy, ordinary people are all too ready to dismiss them in favour of their prejudices and politicians are all to happy to sacrifice economic welfare for political reasons. And, of course, campaign funding and personal reasons.

(As an aside, for the US working hours and inequality should probably be at the top of the economic-welfare list....though infrastructure needs a serious kick up the arse there, too, AFAICT).

about 5 months ago
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Air Pollution Can Disrupt Pollinating Insects By Concealing the Scent of Flowers

xelah Re:Pity (67 comments)

There are quite a lot of well known and in some cases proven ways to reduce traffic pollution, some available sooner than others. Some examples: better car emission standards, more and better trains trains, electric cars, high fuel taxes (to affect vehicle choice and travel distance), encouraging shorter commuting times or telecommuting and urban tree planting.

about 4 months ago
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EU May Allow Members Home Rule On GMO Foods

xelah Re: Let's get rid of EU (272 comments)

With millions of EU citizens living across borders, large trade flows and shared environmental and political concerns, getting rid of the EU will mean a new treaty organisation to handle all this stuff. 28x27 bilateral agreements on product standards, fisheries, competition, access to benefits and healthcare, taxation and energy isn't going to work.

There will always be something in the place where the EU is now. At least this one HAS a parliament, unlike the WTO, NATO, etc. Better to make it work.

about 5 months ago
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Uber Demonstrations Snarl Traffic In London, Madrid, Berlin

xelah Re:Competition Sucks (507 comments)

Insurance may price some riskier drivers out of the market, or insurance companies may refuse to offer insurance at all. And they may impose conditions, and provide incentives (in the form of lower premiums) to use risk-lowering techniques (like minimum vehicle standards, driving courses, recording devices and the like) and make different choices (cheaper to insure cars).

about 5 months ago
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Google Has Received Over 41,000 Requests To "Forget" Personal Information

xelah Re:Do No Evil so why not delete the info? (138 comments)

I don't know about EU countries other than the UK, but the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act isn't quite /that/ wide. The time limit is different for different crimes (immediate for police cautions, never for prison sentences over 30 months - so you can certainly forget about having your conviction for mass murder spent). It doesn't require old records or publications to be destroyed. It doesn't require that no-one ever mention it, instead you can be sued for defamation if you do it maliciously (and, AIUI, you can't be sued for defaming a dead person so historians don't need to worry so much). And, employers are allowed to consider it anyway for some jobs (financial jobs, anything involving children, taxi driving, etc.). In fact, if you want to volunteer to work with children you might have much more than your spent convictions inspected, but pretty much any contact with the police at all.

What it does mean is that you can't be charged higher insurance premiums because you got caught speeding a few times ten years ago, can't be sacked from a shop when your employer discovers you shoplifter many years ago, etc. Personally I think it's of benefit to society as a whole because it provides an eventual route to a normal life for people who stop offending. In particular I'm thinking of lazy service providers who find it easier to say no than think about it, and recruiters who may think that someone poses no extra risk but worry that if it goes wrong they as individuals will get the blame.

about 6 months ago
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Study: Royalty Charges Almost On Par With Component Costs For Smartphones

xelah Re:so apple and samsung should just research it al (131 comments)

I'm having trouble linking royalty costs to "stifling innovation" though. Getting paid via royalty payments is a pretty good reason to innovate: invent something, get paid. Increases in the amount people are paying in royalties just increases the incentive to invent something and get paid. In fact, it is doing exactly that. Companies invent stuff, or buy inventions, just to use those inventions as collateral to get access to other inventions. That $120-$150 estimate they put on there is not cash payments, it is $120-$150 of something... such as their own inventions.

Innovation and improved technology isn't just about invention. An improvement in technology is an improvement in the techniques people use to do stuff. A marvellous new thing used by hardly anyone is only a very small innovation. So, if a law limits access to new inventions then the improvement in technology is also limited.

I don't particularly recall that many "Cant afford royalty payments so our product is cancelled" stories.

I suspect that 'new product not developed because its expensive' doesn't attract readers well enough. Besides, just think of how many more people would be using better technology if they could buy a better phone with the same money. Abolish all patents today and there'd be a jump in the technology people use - in the short term.

It all comes back to the core dilemma of intellectual property: the cost of reduced adoption of a new invention vs the cost of it not being financially worthwhile to invent.

about 6 months ago
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Study: Royalty Charges Almost On Par With Component Costs For Smartphones

xelah Re:so apple and samsung should just research it al (131 comments)

Along with the actual definition of "rent-seeking [wikipedia.org]". Rent-seeking is when one spends wealth on lobbying to increase their share of some limited resource, without creating anything of value in return.

That's a terrible definition.....even later in the same Wikipedia article it's redefined as 'an attempt to obtain economic rent', linking to the entry on economic rent itself, which has a section on monopoly rent which specifically mentions patents.

Economic rent is pretty much everywhere in some degree, because monopoly power is everywhere to some degree (nothing is perfectly competitive). And I think it would be wrong to just assume that it always causes a welfare loss just because it's become a (justifiable) mainstream-ish term of abuse, a correctly designed patent and copyright system being an obvious counterexample. Maybe in a perfect first-theorem-of-welfare-economics economy, but not in a real one.

about 6 months ago
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Google Unveils Self-Driving Car With No Steering Wheel

xelah Re:No steering wheel? No deal. (583 comments)

And if you think your judgement and perception is better than this computer system, you are full of hubris and a menace to other road users. It works both ways.

Whatever. My driving skills (or lack thereof) are a known quantity to me. I have some grasp of what I can and cannot do in a vehicle.

I think that's unlikely, at least for most drivers. How many times have you experienced an emergency stop from 70mph? Or practiced regaining control from a skid? Or when sliding on ice, or aquaplaning? Most drivers will have no idea how their car behaves in those situations and have no idea how good their skills are because they've never been tested in those circumstances, or have only tested them once or twice. One would expect that a self-driving car's abilities will have been tested much more.

about 6 months ago

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