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Comment Re:People say RMS is nuts (Score 1) 193

The example that I gave assumed that copyright law does not exist. That is to say that everything is in the public domain. The GPL could not exist in that world since the GPL requires copyright law. If you don't have the GPL, you can't force people to distribute the modified source code.

Comment What about the alcohol ... (Score 1) 193

The organizer seems to be focussing on ticket sales as his source of revenue, but there is also mention of serving themed shots and drinks. Alcohol is expensive and surely he was not giving that away for free. It can also be a good revenue generator. I wonder how that fits into how much revenue he would have, and whether it would end up being profitable?

(Note: I'm not saying that this would be a hugely profitable event because of those drinks. I am suggesting that there are important details being left out, details which mean that this is more than a simple fandom party.)

Comment Re:People say RMS is nuts (Score 1) 193

Oddly enough, RMS depends upon the very same copyright laws in order to validate the GPL. Without those laws, so that everything would be in the public domain, people would be able to get anything and everything free for all eternity. On the other hand, they would lose some of the rights that the GPL grants. That includes access to the source code. That would be a world in which someone could publish a program with source code, then a third party could modify the source code and only ship binaries. In other words, the modified sources would more-or-less be treated as a trade secret.

Copyright can be used for good or for ill. Thankfully there are some people like RMS who do the former.

Comment Keep the craft alive ... (Score 1) 196

Does it make sense? Not really. As the HaD author pointed out: creating your own boards is more hazardous, offers fewer options for multilayer boards, and is less precise.

On the other hand, we are talking about HaD. If the point was to get a device that does what we want of it, we could buy almost anything off the shelf and sites like HaD would have very little rational for existence. More critically the environment of learning, creativity, independence, and (insert your motivation to make/hack/DIY) would have very little rationale.

Comment Re:no duh (Score 1) 65

You only have to live in various cities to see the impact of this. I've lived in cities where you could literally go to a neighbourhood store and have access to a decent supply of components. I have also lived in cities where you would have to go across town to get something as simple as a resistor. I'll let you guess which places had thriving environments for everything from amateur to professional hardware development, and which ones had a bunch of people talking out of their assess about what they were going to develop.

Of course China seems to take this a step further. The best Canadian cities that I've been in may provide the resources for product development or small scale production for industrial applications, but they won't get you much further.

Comment Re:Are you all idiots? (Score 1) 662


The wonderful thing about microcontroller project boards is the reduced barrier of entry to electronics. The downside is that everything is a programming and physical interfacing project. The end result is that very few people are equipped to think about the electronics behind digital logic and analog design. Indeed, the only reason why I (as a younger person) even have a clue about what you're talking about is because I took a very-much-outdated-by-the-time course on developing instrumentation in university. Even though I could recreate a clock without microcontrollers from basic principles and data sheets, it would be a far-from-optimal design simply because that level of design has limited application in the modern world. (Obviously people still need that level of knowledge to design microconollers and such, but that is a very limited segment of engineers and scientists -- nevermind the general population.)

Comment Plan B, business school ... (Score 1) 662

I honestly cannot see a downside to this hoax. Plan A, set yourself up for a future in engineering. Plan B, if the hoax is discovered, set yourself up for a future in business school.

More seriously though, a lot of people were sympathetic to the headlines because it mirrors our own fears. At least, that was the case for me. I'm the type of person who mails my neatly packed and disconnected electronic components ahead of me whenever I have to fly somewhere. Why? Because the risk of having some ill informed airport security agent misinterpreting my hobby is too risky. Heck, I've been questioned about not-so-common (but equally not-so-uncommon) consumer electronics, such as graphics tablets. Now I wouldn't go so far as being afraid about bringing my electronics projects to school, but: (a) I'm an adult who has had background checks to work within public schools, and (b) my skin is the perfect shade to be unsuspicious (i.e. not brown, nor pasty).

Comment Welcome to the club ... (Score 4, Insightful) 241

Ad blockers are pretty much a necessity on mobile networks.

Don't feel guilty about using them either. Ads cost real money on mobile networks because they eat into your quota. They also degrade your device's performance and track your behaviour. Don't dismiss that last point as the cost of free services. While the network is public, your device is private. You should have the right to control which network requests your device does and does not make, as well as control which code executes on it. All of this talk about ads funding websites and behaviour tracking being used to improve the relevance of ads is pure nonsense. If it was about funding websites with relevant ads, they would simply display ads based upon the content of the website.

Comment Re:Condescending Attitude (Score 1) 241

Given how much modern society depends upon computers, it would be a good thing if there was more exposure. To use your example of managing finances, a little knowledge of programming can enable people to use spreadsheets more effectively. Likewise, a little knowledge of computer architecture can help people make their electronics purchasing decisions more effectively.

Then again, programmer appreciation day isn't about encouraging people to write professional level code (or even amateurish code). It is about recognizing the contributions of programmers. Programmers contribute a lot. It ranges from the games and media software that entertains us, to the applications that contribute to business and science, to the embedded software that is essential to communications and infrastructure and industry. In other words, programmers make our lives better at both a personal level and societal level.

Do I think that we need a day to appreciate programmers? No. But I do think that we should appreciate the people who contribute to society, rather than highlighting their faults (which is what we tend to do when we complain about things that don't work as we think they should).

Comment Consumers made this decision ... (Score 5, Interesting) 345

Consumers helped to make this decision a long time ago when they decided that it was better to replace than to repair. Yes, there were external factors. This includes things like the cost of getting someone to make repairs and the faster turn around of buying a replacement. On the other hand, their inability to conduct the most basic repairs on their own (e.g. fixing a frayed cable or swapping a replaceable component) went a long way in convincing manufacturers that planned obsolescence can be a viable business model. The prioritization of compact and more integrated devices over serviceability is also a huge factor. Computers are an excellent example of that. Contrast an early 80's computer, where nearly everything was in a socket or soldered through-hole, to a modern phone where there is barely enough space for a plug and socket for the battery.

We also can't claim that consumers didn't see this coming. Again to the computer example: there was a shift from the early 80's computers to modular desktops of the late 80's and early 90's (where the modules were more or less standardized), to the laptops of the late 90's and early 2000's (where the modules were less standard), to the present day. Ah, the present day: a time when a replaceable battery or an SD card for memory expansion (not so much to repair as to extend the service life of a product) is considered an anti-feature by some.

Manufacturers may have implemented these decisions, but it was the consumer who made the decision.

Comment Re:stave jobs sucks (Score 1) 440

Revisionist history here? NeXT had nothing to do with the Macintosh system software until the company was bought out by Apple. It is an entirely different design that is intended for an entirely different customer base. Getting NeXT to run on Macs and to provide compatibility for existing Mac software was a non-trivial process that took place internally then across many years of public releases. Indeed, there was very little consensus about which version of OS X was ready to be the true successor to the classic system software. (Tthe debate seemed to settle down around 10.3 or 10.4.)

As for Mac OS 9 being "shit", it had one thing that early versions of OS X didn't: application support. Commercial developers were not keen on OS X in the early days simply because OS X users were a subset of the users on a platform that offered a tiny market share. (Existing users may have wanted the improvements of OS X as well, but application software is king.) While developers would appreciate the technical improvements to OS X, the early API was incomplete. All of that was resolved with time, but it took years to resolve.

Comment Re:stave jobs sucks (Score 4, Insightful) 440

Apple would have collapsed even if Jobs stuck around. It was a company that grew too big, too fast. It was a feeding ground for people with grand ideas and even more grandiose egos. Like many of it's contemporaries, it was doomed to fall.

Jobs' return was a different story, but a lot can still be attributed to luck. To Jobs credit, he was a more mature businessman and he reentered at a time when Apple realized that it had to be more humble. He probably would have saved the company regardless of what happened. Yet there was a lot of luck. Things like the iPod were initially directed at Apple's existing customers. The growth that it triggered and the products that it enabled were far from a bygone conclusion.

Comment Re:You get what you pay for (Score 1) 209

On the other hand, why pay for stuff you don't need?

Low end phones are fine for making and receiving phone calls, playing audio and video, reading in a variety of formats (both local and online), taking photos to document something, alarm clock and scheduling, a simple notepad, serving as a flashlight or a level, as well as a heck of a lot more. Sure, it is possible to do a bit more on higher end phones, but there are definitely diminishing returns.

Comment Fame is the real problem ... (Score 3, Insightful) 842

Money is money. It can't treat a person well and it can't treat a person poorly. People on the other hand is another issue, especially people who you don't know yet who know you (or think they know you).

Money can be buried in investments, or dispersed if you want to go to the trouble too. Bury a person though, that will get you in trouble with the law. Disperse people, and they will think you're antisocial.

I can't honestly say what I would do if I had that much money. I would like to think that I'd bury it in investments, skimming just enough off the top to behave like a typical person. Yet I would do my best to avoid the fame bit. Relationships are awkward enough when you know them and they know you. Having the imbalance where people know you, but not the other way around, is something to be avoided.

Luck, that's when preparation and opportunity meet. -- P.E. Trudeau