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Comment Nice analysis, but... (Score 1) 202

I don't think copyright is totally bad. For example, I recently published my first novel. Without copyright law, someone else could grab my novel and start printing/selling their own copies of it. I'd wind up competing with my own novel. Then there are issues of film studios being able to take anyone's work and make movies based off of it without compensating the author at all. I'd have to spend a lot of time and money filing lawsuits to make them stop and, without copyright law, I might not be successful.

The big problem with copyright law isn't its existence. It's the length. Copyright was originally 14 years plus a one-time 14 year extension. This isn't so bad. The novel I just published would have until 2044 (assuming I renewed the copyright) to make me money. Then, the book transfers to the public domain for others to build on it. Very few works still make money after 28 years - and I'd wager most of the ones that still do (like Star Wars) partly keep making money because of new material being added.

However, over the years, copyright terms lengthened until now it's 70 years after the author's death. If I die at age 90, my novel will be protected by copyright until 2135. At that point, my youngest son (now 9) would be 128 - and likely deceased. If my youngest son had a child at 30, his child would be 98 when my copyright ran out. I don't need copyrights on my works lasting until my great-great-great grandchildren are born. That's not giving me incentive to create new works. 14 years + 14 years would be plenty.

If copyright law was reset back to 14 years plus an optional one-time 14 year extension, a lot of the problems with copyright would go away.

Nice analysis, but...

Corporations are effectively immortal, and are being imbued with the legal rights once reserved for humans. Well, at least in the US anyway, thanks to recent court cases like Citizens United and Hobby Lobby. Not sure about the rest of the planet, but I'm certain the success of American corporations in getting legislation passed to favor their interests (or prevent legislation inimical to their interests, see below) is not lost upon the business communities in Europe and Asia.

As it stands, copyright law was written long before the rise of corporations and their political influence. It was created in an environment where people had a very finite window to create and profit from a work, as your cogent analysis makes clear. If a corporation is effectively immortal, though, then this underlying assumption about finite windows is no longer valid. Existing copyright law would need to change to reflect the fact that corporate copyright holders are not constrained by the same finite windows that humans are. Lo and behold, that is exactly what is happening, via laws enacted to extend the length of time the copyright can be invoked.

You make very valid points about the copyright period, but your solution doesn't take into account the needs of corporations, who have a vested interest diametrically opposed to your solution. Any attempt to roll back the current time limits on copyright would be resisted by corporate copyright holders who would stand to lose hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars of potential profit. Corporate copyright holders would act to preserve the status quo, and would prevent any such legislation from ever seeing the light of day. Again, I can't speak for Europe and Asia, but it is certainly clear that the interests of corporate copyright holders in America are already well-represented in Congress -- that kind of legislation wouldn't even get out of committee, let alone make it to the floor for a vote.

Submission + - SPAM: iRobot plans hunter-killer version of Roomba

rocket rancher writes: Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot, the developer of the Roomba domestic robot, announced late last month that his company will develop a hunter-killer drone for RISE (Robots in Service to the Environment) to combat the human-caused invasion of lionfish along the south-eastern US seaboard, which, according to the NOAA, pose a serious threat to reef environments.

The PBS article that I cited above caught my eye because I may have helped contribute to the start of this problem when I was stationed on Okinawa back in the mid-Eighties. I helped a friend and fellow diver with an import license collect these lethal little beauties for sale to tropical fish dealers in the US. We would hunt them at night by herding them, one at a time, into a mesh specimen bag and then transferring them to a larger holding bag, being extremely careful to avoid their neurotoxin-equipped spines. They are very exotic looking, thanks to their defensive spines and external gill clouds, so there was a steady demand for them by stateside aquariums and exotic fish collectors. We could make a hundred dollars capturing a couple dozen of them over the course of a few nights every couple of weeks, which nicely supplemented our paychecks.

Comment Re:Math is hard (Score 1) 145

yes, really, you poseur. Math *is not* hard, but it seems the basic arithmetic operation of approximation is very hard indeed for you. dividing by a 1000 produces about the same result as dividing by 1024, and rounding up is just more of the same dark magic, I assure you. By the way, what part of "about" is confusing you?

Comment CERN: only working elevator in a derelict building (Score 2) 205

Right now, CERN is the only working elevator in a nearly half-century old building that was built on shaky ground by architects who freely acknowledge the many failures of their design. Some of the current tenants think building a skywalk to connect the building to the even older, more dilapidated building next door will somehow fix both failing structures. Unfortunately for CERN, many tenants in the building are not reupping their lease at this point, and are looking for new digs elsewhere, though many acknowledge how much fun the elevator was. At some point the remaining tenants are going to realize that no matter how many stops this elevator makes, it will never leave the building, and it will never reveal anything other than empty corridors and closed doors.

Comment The cops grokked it rightly (Score 2) 447

Only in the legal sense that they won't be tried for murder.

In every moral sense, they had an obligation to deescalate the situation. She was not a threat to anybody but the cops, and the video proves it. You don't win a moral argument by trolling morality.

Certainly, they had a moral obligation to act. But morals aren't absolute. They shift based on context. The minute she leveled that shotgun, the context changed.

The video proves that the cops grokked the situation rightly. You can't deescalate a situation that is already escalated. You did notice that part, right? Maybe in your ivory tower, you can, but here in reality, you don't negotiate with somebody who is saying they are going to kill you while simultaneously bringing a weapon to bear on you.

The new context obligated the cops to preserve their own lives and the lives of bystanders (you did notice the five-year-old bystander, right?)

She was a threat to the cops, to the bystander, and a case could be made to society at large (pulling a weapon on a cop with the stated intention to kill him is, by any definition you care to invoke, sociopathic behavior.) Leaving aside the threat to society (and the host of morals that would, according to you, obligate all sorts of action) the cops acted morally by acting to preserve their lives and the life of the bystander.

Since you opened this with a troll, I'm going to close it with an ad hom. What would you have done differently in that context? I strongly suspect you have neither the training nor the temperament to react rationally (let alone morally) when threatened with deadly force. I think you would have just crapped your pants and froze.

Comment PR stunt. ULA is getting spanked by SpaceX (Score 1) 79

Context, people. SpaceX wins the PR battle, even when their vehicles faceplant, because that is *how* you get your ass off the planet and into space, and every engineer, technician, scientist and anybody with even a smidgen of Captain Kirk's spiritual DNA knows it. Hey look, ULA can launch rockets, too! It's bigger than even a V2! Remember those, kiddies? What? Ixnay on the V-2? That's not a good thing? Well damnit, what should we do/say? And no, don't keep showing me youtube videos of spectacular SpaceX failures. Those are failures, right? Nobody wants to see failures like that. They want successes like the V-2! Why do you keep rolling your eyes when I say V-2?

Comment "common sense regulation?" Really? (Score 1) 170

To what end? It can't be enforced, and it could lead to serious legal problems if somebody did try to enforce it.

How would you compel an operator intent on criminal activity to comply with this regulation? One of the problems with well-meaning regulations like this is not their lack of common sense. It is, rather, their lack of enforceability.

By definition, an operator intent on criminal conduct is not going to be deterred by any regulation prohibiting or interfering with that conduct, right? He wouldn't be a criminal if he was.

And what happens to enforceability when some dolt weaponizes his legal quad copter with the firing mechanism from his legal AR-15? Interfering with the operation of that drone now becomes a 2nd Amendment issue, and that trumps any well-meaning "common sense" regulation. Just look at all the common sense pouring out of the gun lobby, if you are skeptical. The gun lobby successfully defeated common sense regulations (supported by a majority of gun owners in this country, btw) that would have prevented the sale of guns to people on the FBI's "no-fly" list by simply invoking the 2nd Amendment.

Comment Elon won't disable the Autopilot... (Score 1) 330

...because the goal is to be the first to produce an AI capable of replacing a human driver. Autonomous ground vehicles are a potentially lucrative space. The demand is already there; first to get a product into the space is going to clean up. Elon Musk knows this, and Eric Schmidt at Alphabet (Google's parent company) knows it as well.

The handoff problem is the number one challenge facing autonomous vehicle developers. Schmidt and Musk are trying to solve it, and it is only the approach to solving it that differentiates them.

Schmidt is lobbying hard to get the laws in the US changed to allow him to take the driver out of the loop, because the engineer running Schmidt's autonomous vehicle R&D, Chis Urmson, believes the handoff problem is unsolvable.

Musk, otoh, doesn't see any problem as unsolvable. He is willing to continue pushing for a solution, and that means continuing to use data from the real world use of the Tesla AI. Musk knows that this is a risky strategy.

Consumer Reports seems to agree with Schmidt's engineer. The last several paragraphs are a discussion of exactly why the handoff problem is, well, a problem. CR is advocating a very conservative approach to developing and marketing autonomous vehicles, because the handoff problem is too much for an AI to handle, and keeping humans safe is a big part of what CR is about.

Musk knows he's going to face litigation every time a Tesla is involved in a crash. He's prepared for that, because the payoff is enormous.

Comment Re:Latency (Score 1) 159

Thanks for the informative post. VR can't happen with current or foreseeable technology for precisely the reasons you mention. Sadly, VR has become just another religion that exists only to siphon money from the faithful. AR is a much more rational approach to an immersive experience. Why create a fake world, when the real world is already rendered for you, and has a perfect physics engine, as well? Just tag the parts you are interested in and use sprites if your tags need to move.

Comment New Media 101. I RTFA, you don't have to. (Score 1) 729

Well, I RTFA (memes aside, you really should before posting about it) and it is pretty obvious the article was not directed at anybody in the PC gaming community. It just wasn't meant for anybody who routinely (or even sporadically) builds a gaming system. It looked like something being polished up for a homework exercise on FUD in a New Media class at some community college. The author complained about getting a cut on his finger, created a false equivalence between Macs and PCs, and heavily implied that he needed the assistance of an editor at PC Gamer to finish the build. In fact, the closing paragraph nails the real intended audience -- console gamers -- and the message sponsors are the XBox and PS4 vendors whose ads litter the site (disengage your ad filters at your own risk.)

Sadly, most players will never make the switch because they rightly assume that it's too much of a headache. I can tell you with some authority, it is.

FWIW, the article was also accompanied by teases for articles with titles like "Do you really need a dedicated graphics card to play your favorite games?" and "Watch malware turn this PC into a digital hellscape."

So, in a bucket, consoles are better than hard to acquire, dangerous to build (ow, my bloody finger!), pricey PCs.

Comment Re:old wisdom (Score 1) 387

General relativity is very different than particle physics. That's why Einstein chose to ignore it.

OK, you are a troll or just ignorant. Einstein is one of the great contributors to quantum mechanics and received a Nobel prize for it.

I vote troll. I object in principle to feeding trolls, but I'm going to pile on here. Einstein had issues with certain implications of quantum theory, as did nearly all of his colleagues. "Spooky action at a distance" sums up Einstein's objections to the non-locality of the physical reality of quantum physics quite nicely, and Erwin Schrodinger's thought experiment involving a certain famous cat sums up everybody elses' philosophical objections to the kind of reality quantum theory implies.

It took a generation or two for mathematicians, philosophers, and physicists to overcome these early objections. Bell's theorem (as confirmed by Alain Aspect in the early Eighties) shows that we can have locality, or we can have GR, but we can't have both, though its reliance on no-hidden-variables is a weakness that has been exposed recently by the repudiation of von Neuman's no-hidden-variables proof, and by the resurgence of David Bohm's guiding wave theory (see: Wholeness and the Implicate Order by Bohm and check into DeBroglie-Bohm theory.) Everett's many worlds hypothesis solves all the philosophical problems that Bohr's empirically adequate but philosophically-challenged Cophenhagen interpretation introduced. (NB: Einstein objected to the Copenhagen interpretation because he felt it was incomplete, not philosophically wrong.)

Einstein was convinced that the tychistic reality implied by the probabilistic nature of quantum interactions in nature was somehow wrong ("God does not play dice with the Universe," as Einstein himself put it at one point) and that the phenomenon of quantum entanglement was absurd, which led to him proposing the famous reductio ad absurdum argument he and his collegues Podalsky and Rosen made against it. He fought (unsuccessfully) against these two specific aspects of quantum theory all his life, which is probably what our troll was alluding to. Our troll doesn't seem to understand that just because a scientist is famous and well respected, it doesn't mean that he can't be wrong.

Comment Re:Immediate market share (Score 1) 221

What possible incentive is there for them to make it backwards compatible.

Selling cards to the owners of the millions of devices that already exist. Providing an upgrade path will keep people using your standard. By not making it backwards compatible there is a strong risk it will fail to be adopted.

true enough. But what if people *aren't using* the storage they already have, which I would argue is exactly the case with the vast majority of people with cell phones. Your argument loses most of its strength. phones are for entertainment, and entertainment devices don't need hundreds of gigabytes of fast local storage. I suspect the average user not only doesn't know the storage capacity of their phone, they don't care, as long as they can continue to do what they are doing, which is stream music and movies, and play Angry Birds. My friend just bought his daughter a refurbished 2013 Motorola that streams all her music and movies and only cost him $15. Why does she need a storage upgrade path? What does fast local storage give her that cloud storage doesn't?

They want to sell and obsolete as many devices as fast possible, one way to do that is with constantly changing and evolving the standards ensuring enough improvements to make a replacement desirable

If they want to sell more cards and hardware, keeping it compatible is the fastest way to do that. Even if I want this technology it is going to be years most likely before I have a device that can use it. So they are pushing any possible sale to me out by a long time. On the other hand if the card is compatible with what I have already, even with reduced performance, there is some chance I buy one immediately.

they don't want to sell more hardware, they want to keep selling hardware. a subtle but important distinction that I think you are losing track of. and by selling, I mean renting. Much better (read: more profitable) to sell the same hardware over and over and over again, than trying to convince a consumer to buy something new. Look how Cisco had to take extreme measures to remain competitive with their own damn products because people saw no need to upgrade to Cisco's latest and greatest. You couldn't buy a new Cisco router 15 years ago unless you agreed to destroy your current one. being on the cutting edge of technology is a fun, wild ride, but it is not a good business strategy for either the technology companies or their customers. you and I may be motivated to have cutting edge tech (you should see my gaming rig!) but most people are not going to buy a product just for bragging rights.

I don't agree with this strategy but it makes good business sense. Hell they don't even provide OS upgrades for most smartphones.

I don't think it is good business at all. It think it is a very short sighted strategy that has been tried before and usually fails.

And the lack of OS upgrades is one of the big reasons why I tend to shy away from most Android devices (with some notable exceptions). While there is a lot I like about Android better than iPhones, Apple at least continues to support their products after you buy them which matters to me at least. (Given what Apple charges they damn well should support them too...)

The holy grail for hardware companies is hardware lock-in, which is the hardware analog for the subscription model that software companies have managed to force onto the software market. As long as consumers can say they own the hardware, technology companies are going to have to compete with each other to get their hardware into consumers' hands. And they don't want to have to compete -- that cuts into profits. Better to carve up the market with an agreement (tacit or otherwise) among all the players. It took Microsoft thirty years to finally adopt the closed garden approach that Jobs (marketing guy) advocated for from the beginning and which drove Gates and Wozniak (tech guys) to go their own way. The phone hardware business is almost there, with Samsung leading the push, ably assisted by Android's explicit rejection of the GPL (see also: Tivoization) It is not a coincidence that profitability in their phone division went up when they locked down their boot loader.

Comment Blizz using the law to fix poor design choice (Score 1) 250

Whatever overwatch tyrant is doing, it is merely exploiting design weaknesses in the published interface for third party devs. It is not an MMO Gider; Blizz can't leverage the DCMA, but Blizz could and did claim tortious interference against MDY (the company the created and sold MMO Glider to hundreds of thousands of WoW players.) Blizz extracted $6M in damages after its claims of tortious interference against MDY were upheld, and I won't be surprised if Blizz makes the same claim against the makers of overwatch tyrant.

And that is why Blizz is on the wrong side of this. Knowing where enemies and friends are in a game where combat is a significant part of the experience would be a decided advantage, so Blizz probably should have considered that and shut down (read: made private) that part of the published interface that exposed location information. If you are going to open up the interface to encourage third party devs (yay Blizz!) don't complain when the more unscrupulous segments of the dev community decide to try to exploit your generosity for their own gain.

Overwatch tyrant is not doing anything that Blizz's game developers didn't let it do, and now that it is commercially successful, Blizz wants a piece of it and is trying to get by law what it couldn't get through good design.

Comment Was this a handoff problem? (Score 1) 485

Musk may have a problem here. I wonder in all this analysis if anybody considered the possibility that the driver saw the truck and assumed the car's autopilot would deal with it, and went back to watching his DVD? Even if the Tesla's autopilot recognized that the situation was beyond its scope, would giving control back to the driver have averted the fatality? The answer is quite probably no.

In any wrongful death suit that the driver's family brings against Tesla Motors, what is going to be on trial is not the autopilot technology, but whether or not its capabilities were accurately represented to the public. The fact that a DVD player with content actively queued up was found in the wreckage would support the idea that the driver -- at a minimum -- believed that the autopilot could handle whatever came along. Even if they successfully argue that Tesla Motors created no such expectation with their marketing materials, Musk's lawyers are still going to have to show that the autopilot could successfully transition control back to the driver in time to prevent the fatality. That is where I think Elon is in big trouble, because that particular problem, called the handoff problem, has not been solved, and probably can't be solved, according to anybody involved with autonomous vehicles (just google "driverless car handoff problem.")

If I were on Musk's defense team, I'd be pushing for an out-of-court settlement at this point. The handoff problem is exactly why Google will not go into the business of autonomous vehicles until federal regulations are rewritten so that Google can deploy vehicles on public roads with no human in the loop, period.

Comment Re: Unsurprising (Score 1) 441

> ...because of human pilots' need to see with their own eyes)

You'd be hard-pressed to reliably make the sorts of shots that that crew was making without optics and HUDs. I expect that the sensors and displays have gotten significantly better in the intervening decades.

So an aerial dog fight is like ground combat as long as one of the units is airborne? Where the relative velocities in one encounter are measured in Mach numbers, but are a couple dozen meters per second in the other? Something is definitely hard-pressed here, but it isn't the target acquisition ability of an air-to-air missile.

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