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Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 727

The hippie solution doesn't work because even if you can convince 99.99% of people to be peaceful, that remaining 0.01% can still send the world into nuclear winter.

You need some sort of hybrid approach, where you convince easiest 99% of people to be peaceful, but retain enough military capability to dissuade the remaining stubborn 1% from doing anything nuts. Which is more or less what we're doing today. Except some of those pursuing the hippie part of this hybrid approach have deluded themselves into thinking their approach will work on the entirety of the remaining 1% just because it worked on the first 99%.

That's what hippies don't seem to understand. Even if you temporarily achieved 100% indoctrination into a peaceful, cooperative society and completely disarmed. It just takes one person to be born who thinks differently and builds his own devices and following in secret, and spreads chaos and ruin upon that idyllic and disarmed utopia. You must have some sort of defense against this in reserve. Always. I don't particularly blame hippies for making this mistake - people tend to think that others will act as they themselves do. So if it's beyond their conception as to why someone would want to kill and destroy in order to have power over (parts of) the world, then it will literally be inconceivable to them that someone would ever want to do this. But that doesn't change the fact that it's a bad assumption.

Comment Re:Laying cable (Score 1) 171

I'm running into the same problem trying to get cable modem service to my business. The building currently doesn't have cable service.. The nearest location the cable company can extend service from to wire up our building is only about 1000 ft away, but they're estimating it'll cost them $14.5k. Most of that cost is in drawing up the plans and submitting it to the city so they can get permits to dig up the street to lay down new cable. You don't incur these costs when maintaining existing lines. They estimate the cost of sending a crew out to actually dig up the road, lay down the cable, and patch up the road will only be a few thousand.

Comment Re:I own one... (Score 1) 109

Most everything you're complaining about is on the government, not VW. Basically the situation you're describing is like buying something from a store and paying sales tax, finding out it's defective, returning it for a refund, and the government refuses to reimburse you for sales tax initially paid, and then tries to tax you when use the refund to buy a replacement product.

They shouldn't be able to have it both ways - either tax the initial purchase or the replacement purchase, but not both. But logic goes out the window when it comes to government and taxes. I'm even reading that some states will try to charge income tax on the buyback amount. Basically making you pay income tax on a refund.

Comment Re:Companies keeping records... (Score 1) 152

The way it should work: Bob wants to buy something from Frank. To facilitate this, he gives Frank his personal cell phone number. Mary wants to contact Bob. She finds out Frank has his cell phone number, so asks Frank for it. Frank calls Bob, says Mary wants his cell phone number, and asks for his permission to give it to her.

The way it currently works: Bob wants to buy something from Frank. To facilitate this, he gives Frank his personal cell phone number. Mary wants to contact Bob. She finds out Frank has his cell phone number, so asks Frank for it. Frank says he'll give it to her for $x. Bob has no say in this.

We need something like patient confidentiality rules for business transactions. If you need personal info about me like my name, age, phone number, address, SS number, location, where I went to college, what I like to buy, whatever,. so that we can conduct business, that does not give you a blanket license to sell said information to someone else without my authorization.

Comment They weren't late, they just completely blew it (Score 1) 232

The failure of windows phone had nothing to do with 'developer engagement'. Simply put they were far too late to market to compete with the already established iphone & Android.

A lot of us had PDAs back in the 1990s. A lot of us also had cell phones. It didn't take a genius to figure out that having one device which worked as both a cell phone and PDA would be really nice, if for nothing but to reduce the amount of clanking going on in your pocket. So it was pretty obvious by the mid-1990s that cell phones and PDAs were going to converge. The only question was if PDAs would get phone capability added on, or if cell phones would get PDA (computing) capability added on.

The late 1990s is when this convergence began. Nokia (a phone manufacturer) was first out of the blocks, which cemented their dominance of the early smartphone market. Palm came out with the Kyocera 6035 and Treo in 2001/2002. The smartphone-ish Blackberry didn't show up until 2003.

Microsoft was right in the thick of this. Since 1996, They'd been competing with PalmOS with WinCE (which became Pocket PC which became Windows Mobile which became Windows Phone). They had enough foresight to add software hooks for phone support to Pocket PC 2000, but never put much effort into the hardware side. For some reason they never took this PDA-phone convergence seriously. Apparently they were too busy thinking up with new names for their mobile OS than to work on phone hardware integration. I remember when the Jornada 928 came to market just in time to compete with the Palm Treo in 2002, reviews panned it calling the phone functionality buggy and unreliable. For all the evils of the old Bell Telephone monopoly, one thing they got right was "It Just Works". Your electricity could be out after a storm, but your landline phone would still work. That's what people were used to and expected. An unreliable phone was dead before it even hit the market.

So Microsoft wasn't late to the market. They were right there at the beginning of the smartphone market and had ample opportunity to dominate it. They just blew it. I suspect someone high up in their management chain, maybe even Gates himself, didn't believe this phone-PDA convergence was going to happen.

Comment Re:Role Reversal (Score 2) 39

Somewhere along the lines, these roles were reversed.

I think it happened right after the end of the Cold War. During the Cold War, we had a bogeyman - trumped up but still a bogeyman. We would point to things that happened in the Soviet Union like excessive government intrusion into people's private lives, and proudly proclaim that that sort of thing could never happen here. Anyone in our government who even breathed a suggestion of it would be branded a commie and instantly torpedo their career.

The Cold War ends, the poster child for an authoritative government run amok disappears, and suddenly everyone in our government who always those authoritarian powers but were too scared to try to ask for them come crawling out from the shadows.

Comment Re:That's a lot of water to generate in a day (Score 1) 156

2000 liters/day is a lot. About how much a U.S. family of 4 uses. You can make do with a lot less. India is around 130 liters/person-day. So I suspect this is more a one per 100-300 people concept, meant to provide potable water (drinking and cooking) so existing water sources can be used for things like bathing and laundry. That would help avoid things like the arsenic poisoning fiasco caused by relief agencies drilling fresh water wells in Bangladesh.

Comment Re:Please use 'bokeh' in a more useful way (Score 1) 50

The technical term is a point spread function. A lens with good bokeh will have a PSF which falls off smoothly the further you get from the center (like a bell curve). Bad bokeh is produced by a rapid falloff (or even increases) at the edges (looking sort of like Gibbs phenomenon).

Note however that due to geometry, the PSF in front of and behind the focal plane are conjugates. If the PSF concentrates rays towards the center behind the focal plane for a pleasing bell-curve like falloff, then those center-skewed rays must deviate further from the center when in front of the focal plane thus generating harsh edges. So good bokeh behind the subject means bad bokeh in front, and vice versa. I'm not a big fan of computer-generated bokeh, but this is one advantage it has over real-world lenses.

Comment Re:Strangest argument (Score 1) 112

There are actually three stances here, not the two you're implying.
  • Can't ban something because it generates a lot of money.
  • Ban something regardless of how much money it generates.
  • Some things that make a lot of money are worth banning, some things shouldn't be banned regardless of making a lot of money.

As for the money-making activities you've cited, those are banned because their productivity generation is a net negative. The money the sex trafficker or cocaine dealer or ransomware author makes is less than the cost paid by the other party (sex slave loses freedom, drug addict suffers degraded productivity, ransomware victim should never have had to pay ransom). One party is making money at the expense of the other.

Legitimate business activities like, say, drone manufacturing are a net positive. The revenue the drone manufacturer gets from selling the drone is more than their cost in parts and labor. And the money the drone purchaser makes from the utility or enjoyment of using the drone exceeds the purchase price. Both parties benefit from the transaction. Until some government floozy decides because some screwdrivers can be used to help pick locks, that all screwdrivers should be banned. Except for very rare cases, bans should be on activities, not on tools which can be misused.

Comment Re:Accessibility options (Score 4, Insightful) 321

A lot of sites break if you try to zoom in or change the default fonts. Word wraps don't align properly. Letters start to overlap pictures or sidebar menus.

The entire concept of the WWW as Berners-Lee conceived it was that the website would transmit information to the client, and the client's browser would display it in a format most suitable for the client display device. That way the exact same web page would work on a tiny cell phone screen or gargantuan 50" 4k TV used as a screen. Neither of those existed at the time, but he had enough foresight to predict a wide variation in client display sizes and requirements.

But the people who became web designers were formerly page layout designers. They revolted. They were used to printed paper, where they controlled everything the reader saw - fonts, font sizes, text wrap around photos, columns, etc. Their ego couldn't stand ceding some of that control to the reader, so they fought tooth and nail to bring that control back to themselves. The early flash-only websites were their first salvo. Everyone hated flash sites, but they loved them because it would display exactly and only as they designed it. If the 1024 pixel width they chose didn't fit in someone's 800x600 monitor? Well obviously it was the reader's fault and they needed to upgrade to a better GPU and monitor. Modern websites are so design-centered that they actually have to create two different sites for display on large computer monitors vs small phone and tablet screens. There's almost nothing left under the client's control that can be modified without breaking something about the site.

Comment Re:Why does the ESA have a worse record of landing (Score 2) 104

NASA picked up a lot of experience putting landers on the moon. The Soviets also sent a lot of moon landers, but never really ironed out the bugs (had a lot of failures). Those problems followed them to Mars where they went 0 for 6 (well, 1 for 6 but the single success ceased communicating after 14.5 seconds with no useful data received).

Comment Re:Oh Boy (Score 1) 169

Current Li-ion batteries only have about twice the energy density of NiCds. The reputation NiCds got for having lousy energy capacity was due to a memory effect. If you kept recharging the battery before it had been fully discharged, it "learned" the low charge state as its new zero state, and you lost that bottom portion of its capacity (due to crystalline growth).

Rechargeable batteries have increased about 2x in energy density in the last half century, and about 3.5x in the last century (from lead-acid to li-ion). So claims of a 10x increase in the near future are going to be met with a lot of skepticism.

Comment No, they handle 1.2% of all retail sales (Score 2) 70

TFA says they handle 15% of all online retail sales, maybe 20%-30% if you include third party sales handled through Amazon. Online sales comprise only 8.1% of all retail sales. So Amazon's (very small) slice of the whole pie is just 1.2%, possibly 1.6%-2.4% if you include their third party affiliates.

Amazon barely cracked the top-10 stores in retail sales for 2015. There's a tendency for people who like to be online to over-exaggerate the effect of the Internet. Retail sales are still very much a brick and mortar business.

Comment Re:For all the night shift Tesla owners (Score 4, Informative) 81

Localization of the power source doesn't matter. Everything is interconnected by the grid anyway, so only total generation and total consumption matter. Say everything except your Tesla uses x kWh.
  • Original case: x kWh generated, x kWh consumed.

Now add the Tesla and solar panels on your house:

  • Work night shift, Solar panels generate y kWh, Tesla consumes y kWh to charge (set them both to y to simplifiy):
    x + y kWh generated, x + y kWh consumed
  • Work day shift, Solar panels generate y kWh which is sent to the grid, Telsa consumes y kWh from the grid to charge:
    x + y kWh generated, x + y kWh consumed. Same as above.

Basically, if you work the day shift, the addition of your solar panels at your house reduces the amount of power the coal plant needs to generate by y kWh. When you plug the Tesla into a charger at work, it increases the amount of power the coal plant needs to generate by y kWh. And the whole thing is a wash. Exactly the same as if you charged the Tesla at home using (only) power from your home solar panels.

A lot of people don't seem to get this. The marginal increase power use doesn't have to be directly connected to the marginal increase in power generation to have the same effect. This is also why you should conserve electricity even if you're in the Pacific Northwest which is powered mostly by hydroelectric. Any reduction in your consumption means a little bit of hydro power is left over and can be transmitted to the rest of the country, and a coal plant elsewhere needs to burn a little less coal. Exactly the same as if someone living next to the coal plant conserved electricity.

For the same reason, EVs are predominantly powered by electricity from coal and natural gas, not by renewables. Those are the two power generation sources which are flexible enough to ramp up with increases in demand. EVs are only powered by electricity from renewables if you wouldn't have built the renewable plant if you hadn't bought the EV. If you would've built the renewable plant anyway, then it results in a marginal decrease in the generation from coal and gas, while the addition of an EV results in a marginal increase in the generation from coal and gas. So the EV's power is coming from coal and gas. This is the case even if the electricity from your solar panels are going straight to your EV. If in the absence of your EV the electricity from your solar panels would've instead gone onto the grid, then by putting it into your EV you are depriving the grid of those kWh, and a coal/gas plant elsewhere needs to generate those kWh.

Tesla understands this, which is why they're trying to link home solar installation with EV car purchases. If you can link the two, then the purchase of the EV results in the installation of PV solar generation which would not have existed without the EV. And then you can truthfully say the EV is being powered by electricity from solar.

Comment Re:Thankfully NASA took the pictures (Score 1) 112

NASA was much the same before the Challenger accident. The PR people had way too much power - enough to force a launch to proceed when the engineers were saying it wasn't safe.

I'm willing to cut the ESA a little slack here. Nobody was really hurt by trying to de-emphasize the lander's failure, and the bulk of the instruments are in the orbiter (which will also serve as a communications relay station for future missions). So while the mass media obviously was focused on the lander's failure, from a scientific standpoint the orbiter's success was the bigger story.

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