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Comment A careful reading might be useful (Score 1) 46

The mainland Chinese speak and write in double entendres, similar to how dissidents communicated in the Soviet Union.

I'd be careful about judging Mr. Ma's statements on their face. He has no choice but to officially tow the party line, or else risk surrendering his entire fortune and spending time in prison.

Maybe Mr. Ma is a true believer, but I have my doubts. The last thing Ma would ever want to do would be to give President Xi a reason to purge him, as he has done with many of his competitors inside and outside of Beijing.

Comment Re:How is this supposed to be surprising? (Score 1) 207

Precisely the point I make below. I paid about $2,000 for my picture tube HDTV some time around 1999-2001, and I still love it. But most people don't want to pay thousands of dollars for a television, and they don't care about buying a television that will last them 20 years.

$500 is a very attractive price, whether there is content or not. Manufacturers have figured out how to make 4K equipment cheap, and so customers are buying it. Manufacturers could not figure out how to make a $500 HDTV for a decade or longer.

Comment Unsurprising (Score 1) 207

This doesn't surprise me. I purchased one of the first HDTVs, an RCA F38310 38-inch picture tube television within about a year of 2000. The MSRP was $3,500, which in today's dollars would be nearly $5,000. If I remember correctly, I paid right around $2,000, which would be expensive even in 2016 dollars. [After a capacitor repair ten years ago, the television works great and has a vivid picture to this day, only lacking 1080p and HDMI---easily worked around. I might keep this television forever, if only to play video games.]

Consumers today can get decent 4K televisions for around $500, and I've seen smaller sets for less. In 2000 you needed to spend over $1,000 in 2000 dollars for something decent. LCDs were really crappy back then. If you're old enough, you might recall that many people bought plasma sets, which were more like $5,000 each. None of this helped adoption of HDTV.

Retrospectively I'm saying that a lack of content was not the major factor in the slow consumer demand for HDTV equipment. It was simply that the equipment that was any good cost way too much, into the thousands of dollars. Manufacturers have figured out how to sell 4K equipment cheaply, and so consumers are buying it, lack of content be damned.

Comment I wouldn't be so quick to mock the general (Score 1) 265

A few years ago I decided to begin producing a serial, including eventually posts to Facebook Notes and to my timeline regarding a partly machine encephalovirus, and what life would be like to exist with one. There is no level of insanity involved in my posts. It's a useful exercise, and it gets my creative juices flowing. Being a programmer can be a stressful life, and it helps to do different stuff.

What we really have to worry about when it comes to machine weapons systems are the ones that we can't see, weapons systems that can infect us like a virus. Particularly troubling would be an encephalovirus, a virus that infects our nervous system and eventually acquires the ability to change our behavior and our thought processes. The idea of nanotech has been explored in depth in science fiction, but most of the writers refer to nanotech as if it's some kind of utopia for humanity. My take is that it could be partly utopian and partly dystopian.

It would be possible for nanotech to become weaponized, and to even take over all human life, possibly without us knowing it. The wrinkle or twist in my writing is that I entertain the possibility of an alien race that may no longer exist that produced and possibly weaponized nanotech. This nanotech floated to Earth some time over the past few million years of mammal evolution, far before we had any technlogy more modern than the campfire, and it infected us, giving it plenty of time to become as stealth as possible.

Knowing that the modern human as it exists today is a machine hybrid is the topic that I explore. As human nanotech advances, once we detect our infection how do we go about getting rid of it, and what does it do to defend itself? Does it mean our destruction, can we learn to live in peace with it, or some other possibility?

Substitute an alien race for humanity a few generations from now, and you have roughly the same story, but I wanted to work with something that could be possible today without using with a presumed future human society. Roughly the same concerns as the general would apply.

Comment Yes (Score 2) 385

I just got done burning nearly 100 CD-Rs for a relative who requested a bunch of music. If you don't own a car made in the last 5 years you may not even have an AUX port, let alone Bluetooth. My 17-year-old car has neither, although I did install an aftermarket Bluetooth FM transmitter so I can use my smartphone in that application.

For myself I burn DVDs of live music, with an archival backup residing on an external hard drive just in case the media fails horribly. Minor failures of the media are no problem, as players will skip it and the viewing experience is not really degraded. Do I like to permanently archive data on optical media as my only backup? Not really.

Comment Re:Driving yes, but charging? (Score 1) 990

The US home ownership rate is below 64% and has been declining since 2005. Every article I read here on Slashdot about electric vehicles seems to make the assumption that 100% of Americans reside in a house they own with an attached garage. From what I have read, the only way to realistically charge most electric vehicles is overnight in your garage, but that the newest electric cars can charge the batteries to 80% in about 30 minutes.

In other words the newest cars are fine for people who own homes with attached garages and want to go on long trips. They simply need to wait a half hour or so at charging stations. This solves nothing for people who live in apartments who would have no way of charging their vehicles at home, unless they can charge their vehicles somehow while at work. The average person doesn't have an employer like that.

Because of these problems, electric cars will continue to be only for wealthy individuals, even if the purchase price is within reach for the average person.

Comment The simple answer is college (Score 3, Interesting) 643

In the 1960's it was possible for most Middle Class people to have a child in their early 20's and go on to live a successful life. Today it's almost mandatory for Middle Class people to attend college to have any hope for good paying jobs with the ability to be promoted, and good luck being able to raise a kid at the same time when you're paying today's ridiculously high tuition rates. The easiest way to avoid this little complication is to wait until you're done with school to even have sex at all. Sad but unfortunately true for people with average means.

Ironically, for people who have no way to attend a good college today, they might as well have children because there is little or no hope for any kind of economic advancement anyway.

Comment In praise of USB (Score 1) 536

As traditional as I tend to be regarding technology, I'm going to spend a few minutes singing USB's praises.

Wherever I go, I can find several different ways to charge my phone. I can buy a device to charge my phone at any gas station. I can piggy back on a random person's power bank. Most people own at least one nowadays. I can go into any restaurant and if I ask politely, I can probably get access to a free USB port. Many restaurants just have them for customers. Even basic motels costing $40/night offer USB charging. All computers have USB ports, with few exceptions. Nearly all cars made today have them. Every power strip at my employer has at least two USB ports. USB has fulfilled its promise of being universal. I remember quite clearly when charging your phone was an ordeal. That wasn't very long ago.

All external hard drives are now interchangeable. If you have a hard drive with data on it, you can share it with anybody, or you can plug it into most routers. Does anybody remember the bad old days before there was a standard for external hard drives? I do.

What I've seen recently is a further development in USB. Most small-to-medium sized electronics devices are beginning to either be powered by USB or offer USB charging, or both. The devices with USB are often cheaper than their counterparts, because the manufacturer can use cheaper, off-the-shelf components. Even my solar-chargeable camping lantern has a USB charging port, though I can't imagine ever needing it.

The idea here is that it is possible that in addition to all of the above uses of USB, we could eventually add all new headphones to the mix. They're going to be more expensive at first, but it won't be too long before Chinese manufacturers figure out how to make them for a couple of dollars. I do realize that the Type C connector has a different shape, but we're already accustomed to transitioning USB equipment. There is still a small amount of mini-USB equipment but the transition is nearly done. We'll have to do another one, and hopefully it will work out for the best.

I'll be waiting for equipment to start adopting Type C more commonly. I have no desire to be an early adopter, but I feel like this new style of headphones could work.

Comment Linus is right (Score 5, Insightful) 523

Linus is right. I've been using the Linux kernel coding style as much as possible in all of my programming, regardless of the language, since around 1994. I get nothing but compliments.

When it comes to the kernel, the most important thing is writing code that other people can read and modify. Anybody can write new code. It takes an artist to write code that other people can easily understand.

Comment Hahaha! (Score 2) 120

It's funny to hear about how dependable AI will be coming from Microsoft, a company whose software has hundreds of megabytes of patches per month, whose software is responsible for millions and probably billions of dollars worth of financial losses to businesses and consumers every year.

Once Microsoft unleashes its AI upon the world, it will no doubt cause the entire planet to be reduced to green goo.

Comment The height of arrogance (Score 1) 209

It is the height of arrogance to think that a malfunctioning intelligent agent could not defeat its owned programmed curbs. We all know how buggy software is. All software is by definition buggy, unless all components have been mathematically proven to be correct. Good luck doing that with physical hardware connected to a power grid. Intelligent agents are likely to be composed of billions of lines of code, if you include all code down to the digital logic gates. We've never been able to program a bug-free sandbox. Java is vastly simpler than an intelligent agent would be, and I've lost count of the number of bugs that could be used to breach the sandbox. Certainly well over 100 have been discovered.

Once we have the best programmers in the world and the worst programmers in the world writing intelligent agents, the probability of an intelligent agent escaping its curbs approaches 100%.

Thus it is inevitable that a malfunctioning intelligent agent will defeat its curbs and gain a truly awesome amount of power over us. You can't program morality into a machine. Morality is a flaw in all living things that causes us to make non-optimal decisions.

If you want to read a mixture of fact, fiction, cyberpunk, and speculation covering intelligence programming look for my name on Facebook Pages. Everything I've written there is public. I've been a computer programmer since the mid 1980's but I don't personally work on robotics or intelligence algorithms. I keep a skeptical distance, but I do follow the basic happenings.

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