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Comment: Re:And so therefor it follows and I quote (Score 2) 239

by Solandri (#48229911) Attached to: Italian Supreme Court Bans the 'Microsoft Tax'
The analogy fails but still gives insight into what causes the current situation.

Using the original analogy, what's essentially happened is that only cheeseburgers are sold. There are no hamburgers for sale. It's cheaper/more efficient for the fast food joints to only pre-make and keep warm cheeseburgers, than to have separate lines for cheseburgers and hamburgers.

"But that's silly! Cheeseburgers have an extra component so are more expensive to make than hamburgers. Why would a restaurant only make cheeseburgers rather than only hamburgers?" Ah, now you've picked up on the insidious reversal of market forces which causes this pricing inversion. It costs money to put cheese on every hamburger. It costs virtually nothing to install Windows on every PC. So the fact that most people want cheeseburgers / Windows on their PC wins out.

That's right. Software costs almost nothing to duplicate. While it costs money to develop software, the cost to duplicate it is essentially zero. It's like if you had to feed a cow, milk it, and process the milk to make that first slice of cheese. But every slice of cheese thereafter could be replicated Star Trek-style for virtually zero cost.

So why are we paying $100+ for copies of something that costs Microsoft virtually nothing to duplicate. Because of an inherent flaw in Copyright law which basically eliminates market forces on prices. With manufactured products, prices decrease the more the product sells. You can amortize development costs over more sales, production lines become more efficient, raw materials costs decrease because you can contract to buy larger volumes. That's why the first DVD players cost nearly $200, but today you can pick up a cheap one for $20.

Current copyright law subverts this process. By giving the content creator absolute control over distribution over a unique product, there's no incentive for them to lower prices. What needs to happen is for copyright protection to somehow scale with volume. e.g. Your copyright lasts for life+70 years, or 50 million copies sold, whichever occurs first. Or a sliding scale for pricing. If you initially release a CD at $20 for the first million sales, the price must drop to $10 thereafter. After 10 million sales the price must drop to $5. $2 after 50 million. $1 after 100 million.

This would restore much of the original intent of Copyright which has been subverted by ridiculously long copyright terms - encouraging artists to create new works, rather than allowing them and their children (and their grandchildren) to live off the proceeds from a single highly successful work. In terms of software, it would encourage companies like Microsoft to constantly seek out new ways to improve their software rather than resting secure in the knowledge that people will "buy it anyway". And by keeping pricing more proportional to amortized development costs (sale price drops after development has been paid off), it'll discourage the ridiculous behavior where a company will use profit from one software title to sustain an unprofitable title for years in an attempt to gain a foothold in the market. That'll help new software companies break into the market (they won't be competing against a product that's being subsidized by unrelated software sales), and bring more diversity and dynamics to the marketplace.

I'm all for open source on widely-used software (e.g. the OS, TCP/IP stack, web server, etc). But going completely open source eliminates the market forces which allow users to tell developers what they want in the software. What you end up with is a tyranny by the developers which is very slow to respond to user likes/dislikes (VLC eventually let users change the mouse wheel function). Modifying copyright as I've suggested results in more of a middle ground, where market forces are preserved, but pricing control is not completely up to the content creator.

Comment: Re:Dear Canada.... (Score 1) 522

by ScentCone (#48218081) Attached to: Shooting At Canadian Parliament

Actually, we are sending several fighter jets to bomb ISIS, right now. Odds are that's what is precipitating these attacks.

No, nutballs who decide to kill soldiers on the street because they are part of an organization that is taking some modest steps to help stop other nutballs from killing more innocents as those nutballs attempt to institute a medieval Islamic thugocracy in as many places as possible ... that's what precipitated these attacks.

If the crazies weren't mad at the concept of having their Islamist wet dream torn down, then their followers in places like Canada wouldn't be getting the message to go out and kill soldiers in the street. None of that would happen without theocratic wackadoos deciding to kill those who are trying to stop their tactics. The attacks in Canada were precipitated by religion, not by Canada's involvement in trying to stop any army of tens of thousands of religious murders.

Comment: Re:Dear Canada.... (Score 4, Funny) 522

by ScentCone (#48208119) Attached to: Shooting At Canadian Parliament

About 6 billion of the world population are muslims, that's around 23% of the world population.

I'm going to bet that even some of the most jihad-obsessed radicals, fresh from what passes for school Taliban-land, are better at math than you are.

If there are 6 billion Muslims, and they make up 23% of the world population, that means the world as a population of over 26 billion people.

Do you know some secret place on the planet where we're hiding almost 20 billion extra, previously unknown people?


An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man 341

Posted by timothy
from the that-trick's-not-so-weird dept.
Any gathering of 65,000 people in the desert is going to require some major infrastructure to maintain health and sanity. At Burning Man, some of that infrastructure is devoted to a supply chain for ice. Writes Bennett Haselton, The lines for ice bags at Burning Man could be cut from an hour long at peak times, to about five minutes, by making one small... Well, read the description below of how they do things now, and see if the same suggested change occurs to you. I'm curious whether it's the kind of idea that is more obvious to students of computer science who think algorithmically, or if it's something that could occur to anyone. Read on for the rest; Bennett's idea for better triage may bring to mind a lot of other queuing situations and ways that time spent waiting in line could be more efficiently employed.

Comment: Re:I'm doing that right now (Score 1) 105

by Solandri (#48186759) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: LTE Hotspot As Sole Cellular Connection?

There's some obscure reason I don't recall at the moment for Sprint and Verizon's phones not being able to do voice calls and LTE simultaneously, even though they could do it in theory.

Found it. The reason I can't do voice + LTE simultaneously is a limitation of the Nexus 5 (and a handful of other phones).

Comment: I'm doing that right now (Score 2) 105

by Solandri (#48186563) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: LTE Hotspot As Sole Cellular Connection?
I just moved into a new house and haven't yet started Internet service because I have lots of construction going on and am not sure where the cable modem will eventually go (part of the construction is networking the house, and I haven't decided where the network cabinet will go). So in the meantime I'm using the hotspot feature on my Nexus 5 for LTE internet. I get about 5-10 Mbps down, 3-5 Mbps up at this location (500 feet further uphill at the sandwich shop it's 30/9 Mbps, sigh).

My service is with Sprint which typically has spotty LTE service, but fortunately my new home is well covered. Sprint also teamed up with Google so my Sprint number is also my Google Voice number. This means I can make Google Voice calls over LTE via the Hangouts app (Google moved Voice to Hangouts a couple months ago). The app still needs a lot of work (e.g. doesn't integrate with the contacts directory yet) but call quality has been stellar - nearly indistinguishable from when I'm on wifi. I'm actually surprised how well it works considering it's going over a cellular data connection. I mention all this because Sprint is the network most MVNOs use by a huge margin. Since their LTE network is certainly capable of VoIP, any problems you encounter with it are likely to be due to the MVNO blocking VoIP.

Latency has been pretty good too. reports my ping times between 40-45 ms. I occasionally play GW2 over this connection, and generally I haven't noticed any more lag than on a wired connection. Occasionally there's a hiccup like you'll sometimes get over wifi, but its infrequent enough that it hasn't degraded the gaming experience. Overall it's been pretty indistinguishable from FIOS (what I had before the move), and better than the cable internet (I had Time Warner before FIOS, with 150-250 ms ping times).

I'm on an unlimited data plan, so conceivably I could go on doing this forever. The main issue I'm running into (one you shouldn't encounter with a dedicated hotspot) is that my LTE disconnects when there's an incoming call. There's some obscure reason I don't recall at the moment for Sprint and Verizon's phones not being able to do voice calls and LTE simultaneously, even though they could do it in theory. Voice calls go over the CDMA radio while LTE goes over the LTE radio. Unfortunately since my phone is designed to be, well, a phone, I haven't figured out a way to disable CDMA so I can receive the incoming calls over Google Voice. The regular phone dialier and Hangouts both ring when I get an incoming call, but the regular phone dialer locks out the phone preventing me from switching to answer the call via Hangouts (I'm not even sure that would work since it seems to disconnect LTE the moment the phone rings).

If you plan to do this with a hotspot, make sure you can cancel the contract if there's poor service at your house. A tenant at the building I manage opted for LTE Internet (because Verizon DSL there sucks). The building is within their LTE coverage area, and I get a good LTE signal from the roof. But at ground level his hotspot defaults back to 3G and he gets terrible Internet speeds. Unfortunately he got excited and ordered this a month before he moved in, so was outside the cancellation period by the time he moved in and discovered this problem. But I would check first to see if you can use your phone as a hotspot and just beef up the data on your plan.

Comment: Re:'Regardless of... income and education level' ? (Score -1, Offtopic) 422

by ScentCone (#48182021) Attached to: Soda Pop Damages Your Cells' Telomeres

My bullshit meter always starts kicking into life when the hyperbole starts flowing, like the reading comprehension or random amount of payment received having a causative effect on the function of an organic process.

For me, it's my Political Correctness Meter. You know how it works.

Headline: "Huge Comet To Smash Into Earth, Instantly Ending All Life On The Planet! Activists Say Women and Minorites Unfairly Impacted."

Comment: Helvetica pre-dates the space program (Score 5, Informative) 369

by Solandri (#48180351) Attached to: Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday
Both Apple and Microsoft have been using ripoffs of Helvetica for decades as their default font. That was what all the cool kids did back in the 1980s - if you didn't want to pay for a font, you paid some graphics artist to design one which looked a lot like it but was slightly different. Adobe bought licenses for the real fonts, and if you were in the printing industry and needed the real Helvetica you could buy Adobe Type Manager (originally for Mac, later for WIndows).

All this announcement means is that Apple has finally decided to pay whomever has the copyright on Helvetica for the rights to use it as their default system font. The bit about "tomorrow" is just marketing spin to make it sound like some awesome new thing, when the font itself was made in 1957.

And yes Apple abandons old tech and adopts new tech sooner than the rest of the industry meaning they're often at the forefront of tech which later becomes commonplace among PCs. You can cherry pick some of their successes (e.g. 3.5" floppy, abandoning optical drives) to make them seem brilliant. Or you could list some of their failures (e.g. firewire, lightning thus far, SCSI on the desktop, PowerPC which they abandoned for Intel) to make them seem like bumbling idiots. Apple isn't a prognosticator. They're making guesses about the future just like everyone else. For some reason people are less likely to remember their failures than with other companies.

Comment: Re:The Actual Issue (Score 1) 323

by Solandri (#48168895) Attached to: Court Rules Parents May Be Liable For What Their Kids Post On Facebook
These types of cases put Facebook between a rock and a hard place. You have to consider other possible scenarios under which such deletion requests might occur, not just the scenario in this case. What if the girl really had a Facebook page, and the culprits submitted a fake deletion request to Facebook? If FB took it down, then they'd be liable for wrongly disabling/deleting a legitimate account.

"But Facebook could do this only after receiving some sort of official notice!" What if the culprits were friends with an adult in the school administration or stole paper with the school's letterhead, and drafted an official-sounding letter requesting the deletion?

"But the court could have ordered Facebook to take it down!" Well, the court didn't.

Remember, if you create a method to delete/disable accounts, said method can and will be abused to send fake delete/disable requests. FB's policy probably just tries to keep things as simple as possible. Only the account creator can delete/disable it, unless they get a court order to do so. The only fault I can see on FB's part is that they need to make clear exactly what legal hoops you need to jump through to compel them to take down an account. I'm not sure the parents of the girl even knew that requesting the court to order FB to delete the account was even an option.

Comment: Re:Just tell me (Score 1) 463

by Solandri (#48156945) Attached to: Positive Ebola Test In Second Texas Health Worker

In case anyone doubts this: ratio of "normal" patients vs. infected healthworkers
third world: ~ 10:1
Texas: 1:2

These things are evolutionary. The initial rate of patients to infected healthcare workers is much higher. The current 10:1 ratio in Africa is after all the healthcare workers using poor infectious disease protocols have been killed off by ebola. It's purely survival of the fittest.

Same reason Cuba weathers hurricanes better than Louisiana did after Katrina. Cuba gets hit by several hurricanes every year, so any buildings which would been blown away, dams which would have failed, etc. have already done so long ago. The ones still standing remain because they are strong enough to survive a hurricane. Any government officials who were incompetent at post-hurricane recovery have long been filtered out. OTOH the previous major hurricane to hit Louisiana before Katrina was some 30 years ago. A lot of bad structures and incompetent officials can build up over 30 years.

Comment: Re:Awesome quote (Score 5, Insightful) 232

by Solandri (#48156811) Attached to: Worcester Mass. City Council Votes To Keep Comcast From Entering the Area

No, it is not. They aren't keeping anyone else from competing, they've just made a reasonable business decision that it would not be profitable for one of them to compete with the other in an already built area, or to try building out at the same time.

There's no "business decision" involved in this. In most of the U.S., it's the municipal government (usually city, sometimes county) which awards exclusive cable TV service rights to a single company. Usually it was in exchange for a guarantee that lower income areas would get service (i.e. we'll give you a monopoly, but in exchange you have to provide service to 99.5% of the residences, including lower income areas). But in the last city I lived in it was a straight payola deal. The city let the cable companies bid on how much they'd pay the city per residence hooked up, and the highest bidder got the monopoly.

In the few areas with two or more cable companies, the second cable company usually had to butter up the local politicians ("donate" to their campaigns, aka pay bribes) or even file lawsuits to get rights to provide service. Some courts have ruled that the monopoly contracts the city entered are binding. Others have ruled that the city had no business granting a monopoly, and allowed other cable companies to provide service (that happened in the city I lived in prior to the one getting payola - the existing cable company dropped their prices $10/mo across the board the moment the second cable company announced they would begin providing service).

See, that's the dark side of Net Neutrality, and why free market types (conservatives, liberterians) generally oppose it. It's more government regulation to fix a problem caused by government regulation in the first place. If you're going to award monopolies to cable companies, then you need Net Neutrality. But if like most of the rest of the world you just let multiple cable companies compete freely with each other, you don't need Net Neutrality. Any ISP deliberately slowing down Netflix to try to get Netflix to pay them is shooting themselves in the foot - their customers will flee to other ISPs who don't slow down Netflix.

On a meta level, you initially want competition for cable service. Yes it's wasteful to have multiple hookups, but when the technology first rolls out, nobody is really which which implementation is the best (both in terms of cost and bandwidth). This is the sort of problem markets solve really well. So you want lots of cable companies competing to provide service, so that the ones with the best technology filter up to the top. Once the technology matures though, you want to treat it like a utility. One company is awarded a monopoly for rolling out the cables. But they're prohibited from providing service themselves - instead they must sell at a fixed rate to companies which provide the service.

This is pretty much how it was done with electricity. At first nobody was sure if AC or DC transmission would win out. So private companies implemented both types of systems (Edison backing DC, Westinghouse/Tesla backing AC). Eventually it became clear that AC was better for transmitting over long distances. Most municipalities grant the local power company a monopoly over providing and maintaining the electrical wires, but you can usually buy the electricity transmitted over those wires to your house from dozens of different energy providers. Gas and long distance telephone service works the same way. By this point I think it's pretty clear cable TV/internet is going to all end up with fiber to the home, and we need to transition it over to a utility model.

Comment: Re:their own fault (Score 1) 463

by Solandri (#48151009) Attached to: Positive Ebola Test In Second Texas Health Worker

These workers came into contact with the patient's bodily fluids.

While that's literally true, what's far more likely to have happened is that the patient's bodily fluids came in contact with something that you normally wouldn't associate with bodily fluids, and these nurses came in contact with that (or with something else which came in contact with that). So until we learn exactly what the "breach of protocol" was, I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that it was the nurses' own fault. For all we know some staffer may have accidentally used saline solution instead of bleach to fill a spray bottle used for disinfecting.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray