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Comment: Re:Rule of thumb: $1/kW or forget it. (Score 1) 268

by DuckDodgers (#47992233) Attached to: IBM Solar Concentrator Can Produce12kW/day, Clean Water, and AC
As you said, higher utility costs change the break-even point. My in-laws in rural Virginia pay $0.04 per kwh for electricity. I'm closer to a city and pay $0.16 per kwh.

Government "economic stimulus" program effectiveness depends upon what the job does. The fundamental problem with jobs in the US is that every industry is more labor efficient than it has been in any other point in human history. That's driving the total market demand for labor down, while the supply is much higher. Since supply dramatically exceeds demand, prices are dropping. There is no free market solution, except maybe letting 30% of the population starve. And any government intervention to artificially constrain the supply of labor (restrictions on overtime, mandatory vacation, government-run make work programs like FDR's Public Works Administration) will be ruthlessly opposed by conservatives. So the 99% is on a slow slide to hell even while the GDP is growing nicely.

Comment: Re:It's not just speed (Score 1) 252

by DuckDodgers (#47992019) Attached to: Do Specs Matter Anymore For the Average Smartphone User?
I'd prefer if all of our manufacturing doesn't come from one location - that's an economic risk all by itself. But since most parts in most cell phones come from China anyway, I don't lose sleep over it.

The Huawei Ascend Mate 7, ZTE Grand S, and Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro are all within a stone's throw of the Galaxy S5, LG G3, and HTC One M8 for cutting edge features - cameras, displays, processors, etc... and I think all three are on Android 4.4. So it's just a question of getting consumer attention, they're already making competitive products.

Comment: Re:It's not just speed (Score 1) 252

by DuckDodgers (#47975109) Attached to: Do Specs Matter Anymore For the Average Smartphone User?
Thanks for responding! I will give CyanogenMod a spin. I hadn't heard anything good or bad about the camera support, I just assumed since their camera hardware is somewhat different from the other vendors it might not be well-supported.

I am worried that we're heading towards an Android monoculture, in which the only manufacturer left for Android devices is Samsung. So I'm determined to buy anything but Samsung for Android phones. The only problem with that is that because Samsung is so popular, their devices are the first ones to get support from Firefox OS, Replicant, and Ubuntu Touch. So by avoiding Samsung I make it harder to take those for a spin.

Comment: Re:It's not just speed (Score 1) 252

by DuckDodgers (#47975021) Attached to: Do Specs Matter Anymore For the Average Smartphone User?
That's not my experience. On my wife's Samsung phone and mine, if we don't manually kill background tasks or set a task manager to do it for me, there are many long pauses when we open an application or interact with the user interface. She has more problems than I do, since she runs the Facebook, Twitter, and Skype clients on her phone. I disabled those applications on mine (but I can't remove them, because fuck Verizon).

Comment: Re:No more cash in the bank? (Score 1) 109

by DuckDodgers (#47974915) Attached to: Microsoft Lays Off 2,100, Axes Silicon Valley Research
Linux isn't too complicated if you're taking someone that has never used a computer before and teaching them how to use it. Then it's more or less even with Windows. But across the US, 95% of the people with computer experience have used some form of Windows before, fewer than 5% of the people with computer experience have used Linux. So a company looks at paying Microsoft maybe $500 per employee per year in license fees versus the cost of retraining their employees on Linux, and decide it's cheaper to use Microsoft products.

I don't like it, but it's reality. Microsoft isn't easier, it's familiar. But the end result is the same - they continue to dominate business software use and the richest company in the world built on a fully open source software model, Red Hat, makes literally 1% of Microsoft's revenue.

Comment: Re:It's not just speed (Score 3, Interesting) 252

by DuckDodgers (#47972821) Attached to: Do Specs Matter Anymore For the Average Smartphone User?
There's also crapware to consider. The Nexus 5 is a good phone because you can mostly, or maybe only, get it from the Google Play store. If you buy a Samsung Galaxy S-whatever, an HTC One, a Motorola Droid, and so forth, chances are good that you're getting it from Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile and they've taken any chance it had of not sucking and blown it to hell by adding so much junk.

I have an HTC One Max. I love the phone. But with a quad core ARM processor and 2GB of RAM, I need a task manager in the background set to insane-frenzy-autokill for the thing to be useful. Otherwise I get twenty services running in the background and everything slows to a crawl. It works wonderfully, but only because of the task manager I installed. Out of the box it's shit. I'm thinking of taking CyanogenMod for a spin, but I'm concerned that the camera driver support won't be as good as HTC's. Even if it does work, 97% of smart phone owners aren't going to install a custom ROM on their phone any more than someone buying a PC from Dell or HP is going to install vanilla Windows (or Arch Linux or something) to avoid all of their prepackaged garbage.

The only other headache I have is that Android applications don't handle switching wifi sources well. If I move between two wireless access points, all of my applications give "network connection lost" errors until I manually kill the application and restart it.

Comment: Re:No more cash in the bank? (Score 2) 109

by DuckDodgers (#47945279) Attached to: Microsoft Lays Off 2,100, Axes Silicon Valley Research
Excellent point. Except of course that Microsoft is currently wildly profitable, 22 billion in net income this past year. If the total cost of each employee in the layoff is a quarter of a million dollars, the layoff boosts Microsoft profitability less than 3% when profits are already tremendously high.

Now, I'm an open source software fan that is becoming more and more aligned with the GNU FSF fanatics as I get older. So part of me is inclined to think a move by Microsoft to sacrifice their chance to be relevant in 2030 in order to boost profitability 3% today is wonderful.

But I think the reduction of pure researchers is a sad event for the industry as a whole, and the world as a whole. By definition, most pure research divisions don't come out with anything useful to a company. But every once in a while they do, and that's the point - you accept the 500 projects that give you nothing of value in return for the few that make the difference between staying ahead of other innovators and being left behind.

Among other things, Microsoft Research pays Simon Peyton Jones, one of the lead developers on the Haskell language specification and the most popular implementation, the open source Glasgow Haskell Compiler. Haskell may never become a popular language, but it strongly influenced the design of languages like F# and Scala and had a lesser but significant impact on many others. Now that research occurs in Microsoft's Cambridge Research center, so maybe Peyton Jones did not or will not get the axe too. But there are hundreds of other publications and projects in a number of fields to come out of Microsoft research, and whether we like it or not many open source projects have been positively changed by the influence of those ideas.

Seriously, I consider keeping Microsoft Research one of the few things that Steve Ballmer clearly got right, and the first thing that Satya Nadella unequivocally got wrong.

Comment: Re:It's not apple this time! (Score 1) 134

If Apple insisted that no lower prices be advertised elsewhere and then took a notably smaller than usual percentage of sales, I would agree with your point. Since their percentage of sales is, as far as I know, even with Amazon or Microsoft I think they do want profit from their applications and media delivered through applications on their app stores.

Comment: Re:Spoon (Score 1) 134

by DuckDodgers (#47863701) Attached to: Under the Apple Hype Machine, Amazon Drops Fire Phone Price To 99 Cents
The philosophical problem I have with Windows RT is the Microsoft walled garden. But the reason sales flopped is that it had inadequate specifications and too few interesting features at that price point, and it was further hampered by the fact that the only Microsoft hardware brand name with some consumer enthusiasm - Xbox - wasn't on it.

"Microsoft came out with something that's a tablet-laptop hybrid. If you get the cool keyboard it adds $100 to the cost, so $450 for the base model." "Oh yeah? How does it compare?" "Well, a $500 iPad has far more applications and better performance, plus a display resolution that's twice as good. A $500 laptop has shorter battery life but can run far more software, has a bigger screen, and runs the same software as the Surface RT - Office, Internet Explorer - much faster." "Oh, then who do they expect to buy it?" "I haven't figured that out yet. I don't think they have, either."

If Microsoft was going to launch a Surface RT, they should have launched it later this year with a 64-bit ARM CPU, 4+GB of RAM, 2048x1536 or better display resolution, the features of Windows 8.1, and the lineup of RT applications that their Windows store has now. Lucky for us open source fans, they launched way too early with something uncompetitive.

Comment: Re:It's not apple this time! (Score 2) 134

by DuckDodgers (#47863583) Attached to: Under the Apple Hype Machine, Amazon Drops Fire Phone Price To 99 Cents
Apple still cares about a cut of the app sales and so forth, that's why they won't let companies that sell through their app store offer products more cheaply elsewhere.

So I would amend your comment to stay that Apple cares about content but cares about hardware sales more. Amazon just cares about content sales.

I'm happy the Amazon Fire flopped. I don't want Microsoft to be the undisputed king of desktop PC operating systems, I don't want Apple or Samsung to be the undisputed king of smart phones, I don't want Google to be the undisputed king of search engines, and I don't want Amazon to be the undisputed king of internet stores.

Comment: Re:MMO Crap (Score 1) 203

by DuckDodgers (#47815663) Attached to: Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released
Wow, you've probably read as many RPGs as I have. I'm familiar with FATE too.

10% chance of critical hits, and the associated damage bonus are a very big deal at lower levels. They're just not significant next to spellcaster power at higher levels.

I like games in which experience for overcoming obstacles is awarded the same regardless of whether combat is involved. Bribe the Duke to stop attacking with his army? Trick the Dragon into taking on a Lich and getting itself killed? Talk the Orc Chief into a peace treaty instead of war? Outrun the pirates that are trying to capture your ship? Pose as a messenger from the Hill Giants ordering a group of Ogres to move in the wrong direction?Same XP as killing them outright. But I just don't see it done that often in practice. Maybe I gamed with the wrong groups and read the wrong gaming fiction.

Again, I loved Earthdawn as a concept but want a simplification of the rules.

I think we'll have to agree to disagree with respect to Dungeons and Dragons. From what I've seen, most of the DnD fans fall on your side of the fence.

Comment: Re:Sigh. (Score 0) 98

by DuckDodgers (#47807331) Attached to: AMD Releases New Tonga GPU, Lowers 8-core CPU To $229
In the Athlon64 era Intel started negotiating with PC makers under terms like "we'll charge you 50% less per CPU if you sell zero AMD processors, 40% less per CPU if you sell less than 10% of your total sales volume as AMD processors, 30% less per CPU if you sell less than 20% of your total sales volume as AMD processors, and full price otherwise." AMD hemorrhaged cash, and could no longer afford the research investment they needed to make the Steamroller/Bulldozer chip family competitive with Intel's i-line of CPUs.

Hopefully things are turning around.

Comment: Re:Time to cut prices (Score 1) 98

by DuckDodgers (#47807133) Attached to: AMD Releases New Tonga GPU, Lowers 8-core CPU To $229
For AMD, these are top end processors. Their very best desktop CPU is now $230. That's pretty good.

To my knowledge, the best current ARM tablets have maybe 4GB of RAM. So if you want something that offers superior performance, an x86_64 bit dual core processor matches or beats any current 8 core ARM chip (correct me if I'm wrong, anyway) plus a minimum motherboard plus 4GB of RAM plus a 32GB USB flash drive plus a cheap case and power supply, not including monitor, keyboard, and mouse will probably run you... $300? That's for much faster computing power than any $300 tablet. It's still competitive in many respects, if not power consumption and portability. (Of course, all of this assumes you install Linux yourself. If you add in a Microsoft OS license, the price comparison gets less favorable.)

Comment: Re:MMO Crap (Score 1) 203

by DuckDodgers (#47806865) Attached to: Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released
That was an articulate post, thanks for taking the time to write it. I understand your mental disconnect with diegenetic and non-diegenetic (interesting word choice, by the way). But I think it's a valid thing to do in the course of making the game fun. I think if you want more realism, if you'll pardon the abuse of the word realism, in the game it makes more sense to switch to a more skill-based set of rules anyway - GURPS, Hero, White Wolf, JAGS, etc... Because levels are a similar kind of arbitrary framework that don't make sense inside the game but make things easier at a meta-game level.

The particular problem with using critical hits in Dungeons and Dragons instead of some sort of meta-currency is that the critical hit system that has existed in every edition before 5 isn't that potent. I haven't read about the critical hit rules for version 5, maybe it's improved. Critical hits in earlier editions are not useless by any stretch, but even if your DnD3 fighter uses a lance and has Weapon Specialization, and is against an opponent that is not immune to critical hits, he's got at best a 15% chance to do triple damage. (Maybe 10% or 20%, I don't remember.) It's better than nothing, but in a climactic battle scene it can't hold a candle to the effects of a cleverly targeted Charm Monster spell or Fireball or Improved Invisibility. Not even counting Dungeons and Dragons 3/3.5, even in earlier editions with spellcasters that were weaker than their 3e counterparts, at high levels they still handily outdid Fighters for combat utility.

So if you wanted to replace meta-currency with critical hits or something else equivalent, critical hits need to be improved. Or possibly a Fighter's base attacks and damage need to be improved, so he doesn't need better critical hits to be awesome.

I grant that in theory in Dungeons and Dragons and in practice in many other roleplaying games, all characters do not need to shine in combat. As long as every character has a fairly common chance to shine at something, the game should be fun. However, Dungeons and Dragons has had a very strong combat focus since the earliest editions. So even if we remove the magic-sounding encounter and daily powers from 4e from the newer editions, it's likely that 50+% of gaming sessions is a battle. The person playing the cleric that only heals well and especially the one playing the thief that only steals well are going to spend a lot of time twiddling their thumbs waiting for lucky dice rolls in order to feel useful, while the fighter and barbarian (and especially the wizard) are going to be highly effective.

And of course, it's worth mentioning that Earthdawn turns this problem on its ear by making every PC class explicitly magical. So the Fighter can have magic-sounding cool powers because he's actually using magic. I loved the game concept, though Earthdawn seemed a little too complicated to me. I never actually played, though, maybe it works better in practice than it appeared on paper. I keep hoping Earthdawn will get ported to another gaming ruleset, but no such luck.

Work continues in this area. -- DEC's SPR-Answering-Automaton