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Comment: English to English translation (Score 1) 441

by Narcogen (#47734435) Attached to: Tech Looks To Obama To Save Them From 'Just Sort of OK' US Workers

Living overseas for the past decade and a half, a lot of times I've described my job as "English to English translation". It's amazing how many times meetings are conducted in English because it's the only language both sides have in common-- but it is native to neither of them, and they both leave the room thinking they understood what was said, when in fact, neither did.

Comment: Premise (Score 1) 249

by Narcogen (#47675201) Attached to: Apple's App Store Needs a Radical Revamp; How Would You Go About It?

I'm not sure the premise has been established.

"Given the hundreds of thousands of apps currently on offer, it's hard for any one app (no matter how well designed) to stand out on Apple's App Store, much less stay atop the bestseller charts for very long."

Why should either of those things be easy-- especially the latter?

Comment: Anti Competitive Regulation (Score 2) 223

by Narcogen (#46682859) Attached to: Why There Are So Few ISP Start-Ups In the U.S.

US telco regulation does the opposite of what such regulation is supposed to do: promote competition, preserve consumer choice, reduce prices, and increase the quality of service. Monopolies granted by municipalities to cable operators, and the deregulation of the Baby Bells, do exactly the opposite-- they protect incumbents with entrenched positions and raise barriers to entry. It's a classic case of regulatory capture on multiple levels.

The idea of municipalities now wanting to run their own ISPs, because it's so clearly a job they should be and can be doing better than the private sector-- is now resulting in lobbying groups sponsoring legislation to make it illegal to do so in order to preserve the monopolies-- is surreal to the point of absurdity.

Comment: Re:Broken camera (Score 1) 264

by Narcogen (#46490567) Attached to: Cameras On Cops: Coming To a Town Near You

The valid statistic is not the percentage of felonious deaths that occur as a result of shootings arising from traffic stops, but rather the percentage of traffic stops that result in shootings.

The question is-- when performing a traffic stop, how quickly should you unholster your gun? That should be based on how likely it is that a gun will become necessary during a traffic stop, not how often shootings that arose from traffic stops turned lethal-- for the COP.

You're also missing a number-- how many wrongful deaths of people other than a law enforcement officer resulted from shootings that arose from traffic stops where the driver was not actually armed or not actually a threat? I'm going to guess it was higher than 8. If so, by your logic that would seem to indicate that drivers really need to have their guns ready when police pull them over for traffic violations, because 16% of the time, when they shoot at you, you'll end up dead.

Comment: Not in this case. (Score 2) 420

by Narcogen (#44776361) Attached to: Nokia Insider On Why It Failed and Why Apple Could Be Next


Nokia's market cap four years ago was $40B. Twelve years ago, it was $60B.

$7B is chump change in comparison. MS has written down entire acquisitions as worthless after spending almost as much.

Nokia was not some edgy web design garage startup trying to get acquired by one of the big boys. They WERE one of the big boys. There is no other way to describe this situation as a complete and utter failure of Nokia's management to cope with changing market conditions since 2007 and how they impacted the way Nokia did business: the migration of large portions of the revenue in the sector to smartphones, the death of Symbian, the rise of iOS and Android and their respective ecosystems.

This failure is not relative. It is absolute. What's hard to see is what MS actually gets out of this. The public rationale is nonsense. I thought it was for the patent portfolio, but that's excluded. The theory that it's to stave off impending bankruptcy, a switch to Android, or both makes a bit of sense. It might also be just so MS can exercise more control over how the market perceives WIndows Phone. They can conglomerate the financials for Nokia and Windows Phone into a larger group and cherry pick the numbers they like for release (the way they do with Skype, Xbox, and the Entertainment division.) This might stop reporting on poor Nokia device sales from reflecting badly on Windows Phone. Nokia's bankruptcy wouldn't have looked good for Windows Phone, either.

Comment: Analogy (Score 1) 397

by Narcogen (#43820191) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: When Is the User Experience Too Good?

That analogy is anything but apt, and it's really difficult to address your question in absentia of any specifics.

The flying car analogy is not an example of the deleterious effects of making a process too efficient, but of unintended consequences of the circumstances that achieving that creates.

What the flying car achieves is allowing people to travel faster than ground transportation by reducing friction and utilizing three dimensional space more efficiently.

Its deleterious effects derive from the greater complexity of navigating three dimensional space, insufficient familiarity with that task among the general public, and the greater risk to drivers, passengers, and bystanders resulting from air collisions as opposed to traffic accidents.

However, you don't address this problem by not making flying cars. You address it by providing proper training, by making flying cars smarter and more autonomous than regular cars with regard to following proper procedures and avoiding accidents, and by setting and enforcing standards for manufacture, operation, and maintenance of flying cars. Those things make the flying car better by making it safer and more, rather than less, efficient (although there may certainly be some tradeoffs).

It sounds like what you are talking about is enabling the most efficient execution of a task that by itself is deleterious, and wishing to curb this tendency by making the task itself harder to achieve. I don't think your analogy fits, and at the moment I can't think of one that does. Is this so super duper top secret that you just can't actually say, without reference to specific entities, what the task is?

Comment: Re:We Wish (Score 5, Interesting) 663

by Narcogen (#43599399) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What If We Don't Run Out of Oil?

The reason why not is obvious. Oil companies have their place in the markets, their sunk costs invested in equipment, technology, business processes, and distribution networks. Their interest is not in getting off oil as soon as it is possible, or practical. It is to stave off that transition as long as possible, to make sure that extracting and refining oil remains profitable right up until the last possible drop that can be produced and consumed is produced and consumed.

Presumably at some point, if they want to remain in the energy business, they will themselves convert to something else so that when there is no more oil that can be practically and profitably produced, they will remain in the market by diversifying.

So there's the time when environmentalists say we should transition (now) and the time when oil companies say we should transition (when oil is no longer profitable, when they say so) and what actually happens will fall somewhere in the middle, very likely much closer to the latter than the former, because when it comes to resolving conflicts of interest between the energy sector and interests of ordinary citizens, most Western governments have a pretty terrible track record.

Comment: Preaching to the choir (Score 1) 366

by Narcogen (#43376765) Attached to: The 'Linux Inside' Stigma

I'd describe it this way:

For those in the target market for whom "runs on Linux" is a positive trait, there is no need to mention that these products are based on Linux: they already know.

For those in the target market for whom "runs on Linux" means nothing, there is no value in mentioning that these products run Linux.

For those in the target market for whom "runs on Linux" is a negative trait, there is an incentive to not mention Linux.

Educating the public about what Linux is and does, and which products use it, is a goal that is largely orthogonal to the objectives of companies that want to make and sell products that use Linux. Users want to complete their tasks; if Linux can do this and the product performs well and is available at a decent price, it will succeed whether people know they are using Linux or not. If it can't, it won't, regardless of whether or not people know it uses Linux.

The value in knowing the identity of a platform comes when it becomes a broad ecosystem, the way "Windows" became shorthand for "runs all the applications you've already invested time and money in"-- those applications you bought and trained people to use in order to accomplish your assigned tasks. To some extent, iOS also has a similar identity, in that tablets running other mobile operating systems may do everything iOS devices do as well, or perhaps even better, but that means less to people who have ever-increasing stables of iOS apps they wish to continue using.

The Linux ecosystem is very deep, but is centered squarely around servers and software development, and less around general productivity, communication, or entertainment-- the things most people use computing devices for. People already use lots of devices that contain Linux all the time-- DSL routers and switches, for instance, but most of them don't know these devices run on Linux, and they don't need to.

Comment: Re:Overrated "Apple TV" (Score 1) 191

by Narcogen (#42776173) Attached to: Gabe Newell: Steam Box's Biggest Threat Isn't Consoles, It's Apple

Should you feel threatened? Do you design consoles or program console titles? If not, what exactly about the potential success of the ATV, for gaming or any other living room purpose, is supposed to threaten you?

That said, I do seem to remember a few years back when some executives at Motorola, Nokia and RIM mentioned that they didn't feel at all threatened by the idea of Apple making a phone, because it was unheard of for a company to walk into a new market and make a big impact right away, and it was obvious that big, established companies with a long history of designing telecommunications devices were going to have a big advantage in that segment for a long time to come.

Maybe people should in general have a slightly lower threshold for feeling threatened. Perhaps not as low as Newell's, but then again, this is a game he has a clear stake in.

What I find most interesting is that the threat is described mostly as an ideological one; that if Apple somehow succeeds in competing against the console makers, this is somehow bad in itself as well as bad for Steam and Valve. Does Newell just think the console makers are weaker competition, and he'd rather have them to deal with than Apple?

I'm also still at a loss to describe what this Apple and Steam-fueled overthrow of console gaming is supposed to look like. Keyboards and mice are not taking over from controllers in the living room anytime soon, for reasons that should be obvious. Maybe something new will, but if so, we haven't really seen it yet. PC games on Steam can be, and are, played with controllers, but there's a good deal of overlap between the AAA titles available for each platform, and I'd be willing to bet a good portion of the long tail that's available on Steam but not on a major console contains the higher proportion of games that aren't made for controllers and are intended for keyboard and mouse.

If backporting decent controller schemes onto Windows games was that trivial, something tells me MS would have made more sincere efforts to bring more Windows games to the Xbox; or perhaps they were just insistent on trying to make their console the primary development target-- which for a fair number of developers they did, whether 1st party or not.

I have Steam on my Mac, an Xbox 360, and a few iOS devices around. I'm not sure where the Steam box is really supposed to add value to the ecosystem. I can't think of a controller-optimized title I could play on a Steam box that I couldn't already get on a console, or a non-controller-optimized title I could play on Steam but would prefer to on a Steam box rather than a Mac or PC. Where there are overlaps, I don't see where the Steam box has an advantage over the other platforms. Where there is no overlap-- people who right now only have access to one platform-- I don't see why Steam would be the primary pick.

I suppose it's not impossible that the Steam box (Steamboxen?) might grow the Steam market, but right now it looks to me like it's a living room machine designed for people who are already on Steam and think consoles are for idiots. Those people are already on Steam, though. If Steam boxes are subsidized, Valve just ends up costing themselves money to retain their own clients, and if it isn't, I'm not sure how it competes with consoles on price and specifications. Why are people who own PlayStation 3s and Xbox 360s now supposed to buy a Steam box for their next living room gaming hardware instead of the next iterations of either of those platforms? If Valve is trying to grow the market, why would people who have so far avoided consoles buy a Steam box at all?

I can easily get why Valve wants to do these things; it just isn't clear to me how, right now.

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"