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Comment: Re:Ageing can be seen as a treatable disease. (Score 1) 331

by tlambert (#47967325) Attached to: Bioethicist At National Institutes of Health: "Why I Hope To Die At 75"

Global warming was caused by a simple thing: too damned many people consuming energy on this rock, and it gets worse every year.

I thought the cause was our unwillingness to reengineer the orbit of Earth to be a teensy bit further out. IT's not like we aren't going to have to do that anyway, as soon as the solar expansion phase starts in a bit...

Comment: Re:Comparable? Not really. (Score 1) 111

by tlambert (#47961799) Attached to: Is Alibaba Comparable To a US Company?

Yeah, there's long term downside risk to the stock as a straight financial instrument (along with significant historical upside), but you know what? I don't really feel the need to destroy things just because that's they path to my highest ROI over time.

Which leads the question, how do we force management to stop aiming at short-term decisions that destroy companies/greater profits over the longer period?

My personal suggestion? Keep investors away from decisions impacting the day to day operations of the company. One good way of accomplishing this is having two classes of stock, voting and non-voting, and keeping the voting stock in the hands of people who care about the long term interests of the company. :)

Comment: The problem is the Windows 98 SP2 effect. (Score 2) 477

by tlambert (#47960487) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is iOS 8 a Pig?

Apple devices "degrade" with OS updates in the same way that Windows updates do on PCs, gradually. But even after an Apple starts no being upgradeable to the latest OS release, it stays useful for years to come. My mother is still using my hand-me-down 2002 desk-lamp iMac, which has the old PowerPC processor.

The problem is the Windows 98 SP2 effect.

The last service pack supporting Windows 98 turned it from a usable system into utter buggy crashing heap of crap, at coincidentally the same time they started trying to sell you Windows XP.

Note that generally I don't think this is an intention destruction of usability on the part of Microsoft (or Apple), I just think that all their testing takes place on newer hardware, better than what the user is actually using, and so the usability test engineers just never see how terrible it's going to be on (nominally) supported older devices.

Comment: Re:Comparable? Not really. (Score 1) 111

by tlambert (#47958755) Attached to: Is Alibaba Comparable To a US Company?

When someone buys a share in Apple, they actually get an ownership share in Apple.

Apple, yes. Google or Facebook, no. Google and Facebook have two classes of stock. The class with all the voting rights is in both cases controlled by the founders. The publicly traded shares cannot outvote them, even if someone bought all of them.

Until recently, multiple classes of stock were prohibited for NYSE-listed companies, which tended to discourage doing this. (The classic exception was Ford, which has two classes of stock, the voting shares controlled by the Ford family. This predates that NYSE rule.)

This matters when the insiders make a big mistake and the stock starts going down. There's no way to kick them out.

It also matters when someone has built something of value, and then becomes publicly traded, since it keeps the financial vampires from descending on the company and sucking the blood out of it, leaving a husk which dies in 6 months. That's what's currently going on with the OliveGarden proxy fight, where a funds group has acquired a large position in the company, and now wants to spin off the real estate holdings to a separate company (taking about $1B in the $2.5B value portfolio as a one time dividend, and putting in their own sock puppets on the board to short-term pump the stock by changing employee mix, etc.).

The problem with Google and Facebook maintaining one class of stock is ISOs/RSUs. Stock given as incentives to employees, after the vesting period, can be sold on the open market, and if that stock position becomes larger than the founders, then the people who made the decisions that created the large value in the first place are no longer in control, and Gordon Gecko (or Carl Icahn) can come in and do what's best short term for the shareholders, rather than what's best long term for the shareholders, company, employees, and customers.

Who do I trust more to make the best decisions not totally motivated by short term profit, Carl Icahn, or Larry, Sergey, and Eric?

Yeah, there's long term downside risk to the stock as a straight financial instrument (along with significant historical upside), but you know what? I don't really feel the need to destroy things just because that's they path to my highest ROI over time.

For better or worse, I'd rather have the founders, not Wall Street, making the decisions that guide the future of the thing they built.

Comment: Re:Place of Business. (Score 4, Insightful) 111

by tlambert (#47957359) Attached to: Is Alibaba Comparable To a US Company?

If a US company listed in the US decided to screw its shareholders, it and the board can be held accountable in US courts.

LOL, when has that ever happened

It's happened many times; it's called "malfeasance" or "misconduct", and it's punishable as criminal fraud.

This is why corporate board members these days are all about "fiduciary responsibility", even if they have to club baby seals to death in the shallow waters where they are coated in oil from the Exxon Valdez.

Comment: This is why you outsource manufacturing. (Score 1) 387

by tlambert (#47955059) Attached to: Why You Can't Manufacture Like Apple

This is why you outsource manufacturing.

Outsource to a big company like Foxconn or Solectron that has already invested in all the expensive equipment and processes (in both cases, some of it actually paid for by Apple), and have them do your manufacturing for you.

The incremental cost ends up pretty tiny, relative to COGS, and you get a better finished product at only a fractionally higher cost than if you were stupid enough to do your own manufacturing. The argument in the article only holds up if you are stupidly building the widgets yourself.

Comment: "How do you explain..." (Score 1) 387

by tlambert (#47955035) Attached to: Why You Can't Manufacture Like Apple

"How do you explain..."

I don't really follow Microsoft acquisitions enough to speculate on their reasoning, but the Facebook reasoning was pretty obviously that the WhatsApp company cost (predominantly non-US) telephone companies $19B in per-SMS charged revenue over a period of 2 years, and it therefore gave Facebook some incredible leverage with those phone companies to make the purchase in such a way that a small group of phone companies couldn't drive WhatsApp out of business by increasing data costs to compensate (which would hurt Facebook.

Comment: Given the relative percentages... (Score 1) 456

by tlambert (#47947675) Attached to: Science Has a Sexual Assault Problem

Given the relative percentages... it's likely that the "harassment escalating to assault" numbers for the men is underreported by a factor of 2.5, which would be about on a par with the underreporting of men being raped in the general population. There's a real cultural stigma to reporting by men, who are, by stereotype and therefore societal norms, "supposed to be" on the other end of the power equation.

Comment: They've already screwed the pooch. (Score 2, Informative) 260

by tlambert (#47947609) Attached to: TrueCrypt Gets a New Life, New Name

They've already screwed the pooch.

They've published the source archive under the original TrueCrypt license. As a result, unless there's a legal entity (person or company) to which all contributors make an assignment of rights, or they keep the commit rights down to a "select group" that has agreed already to relicense the code, they will not be able to later release the code under an alternate license, since all contributions will be derivative works and subject to the TrueCrypt license (as the TrueCrypt license still in the source tree makes clear).

The way you do these things is: sanitize, relicense, THEN announce. Anyone who wants to contribute as a result of the announcement can't, without addressing the relicensing issue without having already picked a new license.

Comment: Re:This. (Score 1) 233

by tlambert (#47942943) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

Now add to this that most major contributions in any scientific field occur before someone hits their mid 20's...

Tell me, does this account for the fact that the majority of people working in a scientific field graduate with a PhD in their mid 20s, or is it simply a reflection of that?

I expect that it's a little bit of both. Look however at Kepler and Tycho Brahe. Brahe's observational contributions aided Kepler, but he started well before he was 30. Kepler had his theories before 30, and was aided by Brahe into his 30's proving them out. Counter examples include Newton, and so on. Most Large contributions that aren't ideas themselves are contributions based on the wealth of the contributor, e.g. The Allen Telescope Array.

Like the GP, I'm in my late 30s and have found that my current field is less than optimal. It is a) unfulfilling, b) extremely underpaid (if I do more than 13 hours a week, the CEO running the studio is just as likely to steal my hours from me as not), and c) unlikely to go anywhere.

Reason (a) is motivation to do something that could be big, if the new reason is passion.
Reason (b) is a piss poor reason to do something big; there's no passion involved.
Reason (c) is ennui.

If you get into something solely to satisfy (a), you have a chance at greatness; if you do it for the other two reasons, even in part, you are unlikely to have the fire to spark the necessary effort. For example, the OP's willingness to dedicate 10 hours a week from a 24x7 = 168 total hours in a week really speaks to the idea of someone acting out a dilettante reason, rather than a reason of passion. Excluding sleeping, you could probably argue for 86 hours a week for a passion, and that's less than 11% of the "every moment of every day" you'd expect with a passion.

Comment: This. (Score 1) 233

by tlambert (#47940771) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?

I can only spend maybe 10 hours a week on this

Since you already have a full life, something would have to give. The amount of time you estimate to be available would get to hobby level: the same as the other thousands of amateur astronomers in the country. But it's not enough to do any serious studying, get qualified or do research to a publishable quality.

This.

I read through the comments to find this comment so that I didn't just post a duplicate if someone else had covered the ground.

Let me be really blunt about the amount of time you are intending to invest in this project. If you were taking a college course, you should expect to spend 2 hours out of class for each hour you spend in class, and given that you only have 10 hours to dedicate to the idea, that's effectively 3 credit hours for every interval. So if you picked a community college, and they offered all the classes you needed, you should expect to have your Bachelor's of Science in any given degree field in about 23 years. That gets you to the necessary 210 credit hours for an Astronomy degree.

Let's say, though that you are a super genius, and can do 1:1 instead of 1:2 for in/out of class. That only cuts your time by 1/3, which means that you get that degree in 15 years instead.

Now add to this that most major contributions in any scientific field occur before someone hits their mid 20's; there are exceptions, but let's say again that you are exceptional. What contributions do you expect to be able to make after age 61 / 53, with your shiny new Bachelor's, since you're unlikely to find someone to hire you at that age, and you're unlikely to be able to afford instrument time on the necessary equipment on your own?

Comment: Re:What's your suggestion for intelligence work? (Score 1) 503

by daveschroeder (#47938235) Attached to: Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

An oversimplification. The US, UK, and allies variously broke many cipher systems throughout WWII. Still the US benefitted from this.

What if the Germans were using, say, Windows, Android phones, SSL, Gmail, Yahoo, and Skype, instead of Enigma machines?

Comment: What's your suggestion for intelligence work? (Score 1) 503

by daveschroeder (#47938053) Attached to: Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

I presume you wouldn't say it was "wrong" of the United States to crack the German and Japanese codes in WWII...

...so when US adversaries (and lets just caveat this by saying people YOU, personally, agree are legitimate US adversaries) don't use their own "codes", but instead share the same systems, networks, services, devices, cloud providers, operating systems, encryption schemes, and so on, that Americans and much of the rest of the world uses, would you suggest that they should be off limits?

This isn't so much a law enforcement question as a question of how to do SIGINT in the modern digital world, but given the above, and given that intelligence requires secrecy in order to be effective, how would you suggest the United States go after legitimate targets? Or should we not be able to, because that power "might" be able to be abused -- as can any/all government powers, by definition?

This simplistic view that the only purpose of the government in a free and democratic society must be to somehow subjugate, spy on, and violate the rights of its citizens is insane, while actual totalitarian and non-free states, to say nothing of myriad terrorist and other groups, press their advantage. And why wouldn't they? The US and its ever-imperfect system of law is not the great villain in the world.

Take a step back and get some perspective. And this is not a rhetorical question: if someone can tell me their solution for how we should be able to target technologies that are fundamentally shared with innocent Americans and foreigners everywhere while still keeping such sources, methods, capabilities, and techniques secret, I'm all ears. And if you believe the second a technology is shared it should become magically off-limits because power might be abused, you are insane -- or, more to the point, you believe you have some moral high ground which, ironically, would actually result in severe disadvantages for the system of free society you would claim to support.

All life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities. -- Dawkins

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