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Comment: Re:I'm honestly confused... (Score 5, Interesting) 359

by Alaren (#38676126) Attached to: LG To Pay Licensing Fees To Microsoft For Using Android

Alright, here. I AM a lawyer (though not your lawyer, and nothing I post here should be construed as legal advice) and you might be interested to know that Microsoft is already backing off a bit in the suit with Barnes & Noble. So yes: "at least 6 multi-billion dollar corporations, some of which are much larger than Microsoft, have signed patent deals worth hundreds of millions over completely flimsy ridiculous patents that could easy be overturned by any court."

The nice way of saying it is that those companies have agreed to "play ball" and probably anticipate improved relations with Microsoft as a result. In the sense that it takes money to make money, these companies probably see the payoff as an investment in something else (even if that "something else" is just avoiding a protracted legal battle). Barnes & Noble is no stranger to the game of David & Goliath, though they are usually the Goliath! But they are refusing to be bullied while several of the companies who have capitulated are not treating it so much as being bullied as cutting deals.

If Microsoft hadn't insisted on an NDA ("you're violating our patents but we won't tell you which ones unless you sign an agreement with us") they might have some minimal leg to stand on. As it is, though, what they're doing looks an awful lot like bad-faith extortion. Especially if it was a natural person doing it; but of course, large companies these days get away with much worse.

Comment: It's the Size (Score 2) 274

by Alaren (#38001252) Attached to: Asus Unveils Quad-Core Transformer Prime Tablet

Ten inches is too big to be truly portable, too small to justify using as a replacement if you own an actual computer (especially if you own a laptop). I think for many non-tech types, tablets are replacing the PC--after all, they only bought a PC so they could surf the web and maybe play simple games.

But that's not me. I don't carry a cell phone (my wife uses her iPhone constantly) but I'm interested in the 7" tablets... may pick one up this Christmas, though now that the Tegra 3 is out I guess I'm waffling again. Combined with a bluetooth headset, I would definitely use a 7" tablet often.

Comment: You Never Forget Your First (Score 1) 169

by Alaren (#37008632) Attached to: World Wide Web Turns 20 Today

I tried out Mosaic via a NovaNET connection out in rural Arizona--in 1994, when I was 14. It was another year before I bothered with the web again (once we moved somewhere with local dial-up access), though by the time I graduated high school I was using it every day.

I left IT behind in 2006 and am an attorney now, but honestly the HTML (and Photoshop) I learned running an "underground" newspaper website on Geocities has been more useful to me than most anything else I learned in high school. As usual, Randall got it right.

Comment: Re:I get called upon about every year... (Score 1) 528

by Alaren (#36059832) Attached to: When it comes to jury service, I ...

I've had the same experience. I've been summoned four times in the last 12 years. Twice I was out of state at school, so obviously I couldn't go. Twice I was in-state and reported happily. The first time I was down the list a ways and they selected a complete jury before getting to me. The second time I had just graduated from law school so the attorneys on the case bounced me, which was disappointing. While sometimes it doesn't work that way, most of the time if you are a lawyer or even a paralegal, you will not be selected. Which disappoints me because it means I will probably never get to serve on a jury now.

Anyway, in the same time period, my wife has never been summoned at all. Just the nature of random (here on /. do I have to say "pseudo-random?") selection; clustering tends to occur.

Comment: Re:No Repeats? (Score 1) 361

by Alaren (#35581752) Attached to: Sludge In Flask Gives Clues To Origin of Life
I'm not sure this is a particularly valid point--unless you're advocating Intelligent Design, our planet does not resemble a "lab" at all. What took hundreds of millions of years to occur randomly should nevertheless be readily reproducible provided we have sufficiently good information about the conditions under which it happened. I've read a lot of theories regarding the origins of life, but those theories seem to be but rarely followed up with experimental science. Some comments below indicate that work is ongoing at least in some places, though; I will look further into what they've said about it.

Comment: No Repeats? (Score 3, Interesting) 361

by Alaren (#35579284) Attached to: Sludge In Flask Gives Clues To Origin of Life

I'm curious as to whether these results have been revisited--or replicated--since the 1950s. This article seems to indicate that people have been talking about the experiment without really revisiting the science for more than half a century.

Biology is not my area of expertise, but I have to wonder why we haven't managed to "create life" yet (or have we?). It seems like such an experiment could yield a lot of results that would be important for everything from medicine (understanding where we came from may give us better insight into where we are now) to space travel (isn't one of the variables in the Drake equation the likelihood of life appearing? Wouldn't we need to know what it takes for life to emerge in order to calculate that?).

Are the experiments just not economically promising enough? More complicated than they sound? I'd be very interested to know more about this area of research from someone with actual background in the field.

Comment: Not a Chance (Score 2) 32

by Alaren (#35182898) Attached to: Ebooks Finally Included On the NYT BestSeller List

The vagaries inherent in selecting best-sellers do not really stem from problems of accuracy.

At present, there are only two entities that track overall sales of a book: the publisher, which tracks books shipped and/or returned, and Bookscan, which kind of sort of tracks books sold at the register.

The publisher's numbers are as accurate as reasonably possible for the very simple reason that they have to pay the author based on this number and are subject to audits at the author's request. However this does not track copies sold to readers--just to the indies, the chains, and other retailers. This number is occasionally made available to industry press (for example, Publisher's Weekly).

Bookscan numbers track copies sold to readers, however depending on the genre Bookscan may report 90% of sales or it may catch 50% of sales, because not all booksellers report to Bookscan. Bookscan subscriptions are not cheap to get (publishers and some agents are their primary customers) but Amazon recently made authors' personal numbers available via author accounts.

The best-seller lists rely on a combination of publisher input, Bookscan numbers, non-bookscan numbers, and their own statistical projections. My wife, a New York Times bestselling children's author, has spent some time examining the lists and the numbers with some of her author friends. Most of the time, Bookscan numbers line up more or less with the rankings on the list, particularly at the top. But (especially toward the bottom half of the list) there are recurring and sometimes wild variations. And some books are not "listed" because the publisher apparently does not submit them for consideration in a given week; Lois Lowry's "The Giver," for example, puts up strong enough numbers every single week that it would likely bounce on and off the Children's Hardcover list several times each year. Because the list is a powerful marketing tool, however, and "The Giver" presumably is in no need of marketing, this does not occur. Furthermore, the NYT has shown that it frowns on books clogging the list for too long (the Children's lists were made in direct response to Harry Potter's dominance, for example).

With specific regard to e-books, we're a little baffled as to why the NYT would create an eBook list and a "combined" list at once. I don't know if eBook sales previously counted at all toward a book's listing status; I do think they should! I can see why a separate eBook list might be of interest but I'm not sure THREE lists is warranted. As a general rule, expect to see the top slots of all three lists basically repeat themselves. But don't expect "improved accuracy." While accuracy is definitely among the lists' aspirations, the ability to track eBook sales only slightly improves the information already available to the Times.

Comment: Re:Please Show Me Evidence. Seriously. Please. (Score 1) 832

by Alaren (#35117964) Attached to: Bill Gates Says Anti-Vaccine Effort Kills Children

Reading comprehension fail.

I am not arguing against childhood vaccination! At all! I'm not interested in defending Wakefield.

What I'm asking is for some empirical evidence of the claim that Wakefield has killed thousands of children. Not anecdotal evidence that some people have suffered. Not scientific evidence that measles is bad. Not restatements of why that childhood vaccination is a good thing. All these things I accept. What I don't accept is using invented numbers in an attempt to strengthen the case against Wakefield because inventing numbers is what got us into this mess in the first place.

My original comment has now been modded flamebait and overrated (and one insightful) because I have asked for data (rather than anecdotes) on Gates' claims. The dogma has officially overrun my karma. Way to be scientific, slashdot community.

Comment: Re:Please Show Me Evidence. Seriously. Please. (Score 1) 832

by Alaren (#35116322) Attached to: Bill Gates Says Anti-Vaccine Effort Kills Children

Thanks for not going with the LMGTFY link. I am glad it amused you but I don't recommend it. It comes off as smug without actually contributing to the discussion.

Your link is pretty much the same as every other link on the subject. We have statistics. We have anecdotes. I am not arguing that lives have not been negatively impacted by failure to vaccinate. It is clear that people have indeed suffered.

What I'm pleading for is for people to stop spreading lies and off-the-cuff stats and just focus on the real data. Numbers like "1 in 500" are useful to have around. Numbers like "Wakefield killed thousands of children" or "Wakefield has caused hundreds of children unnecessary brain damage" are unverifiable at best--and likely flat-out false. Wakefield spun a handful of statistical outliers (mostly those with underlying mitochondrial disorders) into an international campaign of FUD. And all anyone seems interested in around here is lynching him for it--even if that means spreading some FUD of our own.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard

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