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Comment: Overcollection (Score 2) 76

by Animats (#46791557) Attached to: How Nest and FitBit Might Spy On You For Cash

The trouble with these things is that they want to "phone home" too much. For energy conservation, Nest talks to a Nest, Inc. server and tells it too much. The info it needs (outside temp, power grid load status) is freely available from read-only web sites. (Given a ZIP code, the National Weather Service site will return info in XML.) But no, it has to talk to the "cloud" and give out personal information. That's totally unnecessary.

Comment: Teletype machines (Score 4, Interesting) 553

by Animats (#46789303) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

I have several Teletype machines from the 1926 to 1940 period. All are in good working order. They're completely repairable; it's possible to take one apart down to the individual parts and put it back together. But they're high-maintenance. There are several hundred oiling points on a Model 15 Teletype. There are things that have to be adjusted occasionally, and manuals and tools for doing that. Every few years, the entire machine has to be soaked in solvent to clean off excess oil, then relubricated and adjusted. This is the price of building a complex machine good for a century or more.

(The Model 33 of the minicomputer era is not one of the long-lived machines. This was by design. The Model 35 was the equivalent long-lived, high-maintenance product; the 33 required little mainenance but had a llimited life.)

Comment: Eliminating buffer overflows (Score 1) 221

by Animats (#46789181) Attached to: Bug Bounties Don't Help If Bugs Never Run Out

The problem is C. Programs in all the languages that understand array size, (Pascal, Modula, Ada, Go, Erlang, Eiffel, Haskell, and all the scripting languages) don't have buffer overflow problems.

It's not an overhead problem. That was solved decades ago; compilers can optimize out most subscript checks within inner loops.

I've proposed a way to retrofit array size info to C, but it's a big change to sell. There are many C programmers who think they're so good they don't need subscript checks. Experience demonstrates they are wrong.

Comment: Re:Cartels will be fine.... (Score 1) 240

by Copid (#46788779) Attached to: Criminals Using Drones To Find Cannabis Farms and Steal Crops
Let's say we go after the bastards, then. Make tobacco illegal and drive them underground. We could outsource the production and distribution of tobacco to Los Zetas and it would be a net win, right? At least that terror Philip Morris would be out of the picture.

To some extent, I measure how threatening they are by how dangerous they are to me as a bystander. I'd much rather see a major cigarette outlet near my house than an illegal marijuana distribution center. I can avoid most of the problems with a cigarette outlet by simply not going in. Not so much with the drug import hub.

We seem to have managed to neuter them pretty effectively by taxing cigarettes and making the public aware of just how bad they are for us. It looks like smoking is down about 60% in the US just due to minor regulation and social trends. Our approach with other drugs doesn't seem to be following the same trend.

Finally, measuring "evil" in absolute numbers is fraught with problems. If all we care about is number of dead rather than how they died and why, we'd be pounding on GM's door too. And of course, I don't think we Americans would be so unconcerned about the drug war if it was our country that they were turning into a failed state. Deaths notwithstanding, the total collapse of law and order in a democracy is something that should be talled on the "drug cartels are bad" side of the ledger, even if it's not our country they're doing it to. Duffel bags full of the heads of police officers and elected officials in some foreign country aren't a really big deal for us, so we tend to turn down the knob on "evil" when we assess it.

Comment: Re:at&t wasn't welcome anyway (Score 1) 91

If you honestly believe this, it makes me suspect everything else you said.

Well, tough, because it's true. Railroads were suffering from ever increasing property taxes, and the only way they could deal with them was by getting rid of as much property as possible, undermining their network effects. And like I said, it's in part one of the reasons, not the whole reason.

Interestingly most of the reasons you give are not real reasons - the Interstate system being a partial exception (though if that had been it I think the railroads would have survived), but the major ones are:

- Aforementioned tax burdens where taxes were in proportion to area and people served, not income.
- Stifling Federal bureaucracy, making it impossible to reorganize services as population shifts occurred and making cutting routes actually preferable to reorganizations.
- Aforementioned Federal bureaucracy preventing railroads from setting competitive prices. They were forced to sell many services at a loss, even when there was no reason to believe customers weren't perfectly prepared to pay proper commercial rates.
- Zoning reforms that made car ownership mandatory for anyone living in any area developed since the 1940s, plus the (deliberate, in my view) mal-administration of urban centers.

Add union intransigence to the mix, and the occasional mismanagement (Penn Central - if only they'd have let Al Perlman do his job), New Haven, etc) and it was a recipe for disaster.

Comment: Re:Cartels will be fine.... (Score 2) 240

by Copid (#46787889) Attached to: Criminals Using Drones To Find Cannabis Farms and Steal Crops
For all of the badness of Philip Morris, I think I'd still rather they be running the show than the guys who kidnap busloads of people, rape them or make them fight to the death, and then bury them in the desert.

I don't think that's just personal squeamishness talking. It may very well be that the sociopaths who did bad stuff for the cigarette companies are just as evil as the sociopaths who run the cartels. But they do seem to control themselves a little better when they can make tons of money by staying in the law's good graces.

Comment: Re:Simple problem, simple solution (Score 1) 356

by Copid (#46784503) Attached to: San Francisco's Housing Crisis Explained
You're describing the "nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded" problem, though. Major urban areas are hard to get into becuse they're super crowded, and super crowded means a huge number of potential employees and amenities. Plenty of people can get into San Francisco every day. Evidence: San Francisco is chock full of people every day.

Sure, it would be easy for people who live in the exurbs to commute to a Google office in their particular exurb, but there just aren't enough potential Google employees to run a Google office living in a single exurb.

Comment: Re:Simple problem, simple solution (Score 1) 356

by Copid (#46784479) Attached to: San Francisco's Housing Crisis Explained
It's not 100% of the problem, but rent control is a major issue. Given a choice between selling or occupying your property and renting it out, rent control gives the owner a very strong disincentive to rent. So even with the same number of units, the split between "owner occupied" and "rental" shifts strongly in favor of owner occupied dwellings.

Comment: Re:Mercedes, BMW engineers are dimwits. (Score 2) 334

by Animats (#46783889) Attached to: Mercedes Pooh-Poohs Tesla, Says It Has "Limited Potential"

They saw diesel electric locomotives replace steam engines in just one decade in 1950s.

The reason was different. Diesels cost about 3x as much as steam locomotives pre-WWII. But by the 1950s, diesel engine manufacturing was a production line process and the price had come down.

The real advantage of diesel over steam was that steam locomotives are incredible maintenance-intensive. Here's daily maintenance. That's what had to be done every day, by a whole crew. That's just daily. Here's 120,000 mile maintenance, done about once a year for a road locomotive. This isn't an oil change; this is a full teardown, boiler replacement, and rebuild.

Electric cars don't have that big an edge over IC engines at this point.

Comment: Re:@AC - Re:*Yawn* I'll Wait for the Mint Edition (Score 4, Informative) 172

by squiggleslash (#46783191) Attached to: Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS Trusty Tahr Released

I think the point is neither of these are attacks on the open source community. They're arguably attacks - albeit mere criticisms of - on "GNOME/Linux", but that's not the same thing.

A company contributing bodies and work to a community is helping it, not harming it. It's up to us to decide if we want Mir and Unity. We're not harmed by their existence. And FWIW, anyone arguing that Mir is terrible because it undermines Wayland isn't thinking this through, both because there's a much greater case for saying Wayland is damaging to the future of GNU/Linux, and because Mir has changed the politics whereby Wayland was once an obscure thing nobody was taking any notice of, but Mir basically turned the entire argument from "Should we replace X11 with Wayland?" (Hell no) to "OK, should we use Mir or Wayland [abandonment of X11 is implied to be a settled issue.]"

Comment: Re:Without reading TFA, but living in the area... (Score 1) 356

by Copid (#46782419) Attached to: San Francisco's Housing Crisis Explained
So when you say this:

In summary: Having some profit is acceptable. Horever, to want 900% profit as in the example is simply stupid, blind greed.

We're to understand that you mean that 900% doesn't actually happen, but if it did it would be bad. And while some profit is good, too much profit is bad. But for unspecified values of "some" and "too much." So realistically speaking, are we in a state where "too much" profit is being made? If so, how do we know that? And what amount would be appropriate?

We're talking about a very practical problem here, so some concrete answers would be useful. As far as I can tell, the profit in the home building business is not abnormal, so are we saying that businesses in general are making too much profit? If so, what would be a more appropriate profit margin and how do you decide what that is?

Comment: Should we say hello? (Score 1) 217

by Animats (#46782353) Attached to: Kepler-186f: Most 'Earth-Like' Alien World Discovered

We could send radio signals that far, with the big dish at Arecibo. If they have intelligence, and radio, we can communicate with a 1000-year round trip time. Maybe we should transmit some of the proposed canned messages to other civilizations every month or so.

If there is other intelligent life out there, it looks like they're a very long way away. Too far to talk to round trip, even at light speed. None of the known extra-solar planets within a few light years look promising.

Comment: Re:Without reading TFA, but living in the area... (Score 1) 356

by Copid (#46782195) Attached to: San Francisco's Housing Crisis Explained
If you're going to complain about "unreasonable" profits and then back off when people actually ask whether the profits are really that unreasonable, you might want to consider the possibility that the profits aren't all that unreasonable and that your basic complaint is nonsense.

And it's not like building houses is a new high-tech endeavor that only a few companies have figured out how to do. There are *a lot* of people and companies in the home buidling business. They know what it costs and they know what the return is. If the return was far higher than the return on other investments, they'd be borrowing shittons of money and then using it to build houses like crazy. The fact that they're not doing so indicates that the return on that invested capital isn't all that much higher than the return on other investments.

You're complaining about a problem that doesn't exist.

When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder. -- James H. Boren