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Comment: Re:Dumping (Score 0) 23

by gstoddart (#49380077) Attached to: Microsoft Considered Giving Away Original Xbox

You know, when a multi-billion dollar company who spends more on R&D than pretty much everyone else hasn't the slightest idea of what they want to build a product for, and no clear picture for it ... that's pathetic

If one of the largest corporations is stumbling around like drunken monkeys and finding success through sheer accident, the the CEO is a grossly overpaid idiot who could be replaces with a bunch of drunken monkeys.

And yet I'm sure Ballmer or whoever it was got paid massive amounts of money to have no better track record than a drunken monkey.

Sorry, I'm not asking for prescience, I'm asking for some measure of competence.

This aint it.

Comment: Re:Dumping (Score 3, Funny) 23

by gstoddart (#49379855) Attached to: Microsoft Considered Giving Away Original Xbox

And, as usual, without having the slightest idea of what to do with the technology other than try to get market share.

So I'm forced to conclude most of the successes Microsoft has had in the last decade or more have largely been accidental instead of strategic, and that Microsoft just stumbles around in the dark until something works.

And then they spend years trying to understand why it worked in the first place and how to replicate it.

It's official, Microsoft is the Inspector Clouseau of the tech world.

That's pretty sad.

Comment: Re:Ummm ... (Score 1) 13

by gstoddart (#49379803) Attached to: Cetaceans Able To Focus Sound For Echolocation

Well, having seen the videos of dolphins herding fish into a swirling snack-bar using their sonar, and have seen the explanation of them changing their sonar output.

They have a huge chunk of their brain dedicated to doing this stuff, and I thought they could even stun fish with it.

I'm not saying I could do it, but I got the impression this is stuff we've already know they can do.

Comment: Ummm ... (Score 1) 13

by gstoddart (#49379403) Attached to: Cetaceans Able To Focus Sound For Echolocation

Hasn't this been known for some time?

I've seen footage of hunting dolphins and whales herding fish into "sonar corrals" and then eating them, and I though I'd heard that the dolphins et al can focus their sonar to fight off things like sharks.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I thought it had been established for a very long time that these things have really fine control over their sonar and can do all sorts of stuff with them.

Is this actually something new? Or am I just reading this wrong?

Surely if I know dolphins et al can focus their sonar it's common knowledge.

Comment: Re:This is terrible (Score 2) 104

Well,, Microsoft is talking about open sourcing aspects of .NET.

Apparently they can't decide what that actually means.

There's definitely something there.

It means, as usual, Microsoft is trying to get people to use their technology while holding a threat over them. If they're not open sourcing in any meaningful sense of the word, they should be honest about it.

Comment: Re:There's a lot of stuff (Score 1) 71

by mrchaotica (#49378837) Attached to: No Film At 11: the Case For the Less-Video-Is-More MOOC

This. The class I'm taking right now has videos that consist entirely (except for the intro) of the professor writing on the screen with a Wacom tablet. It's exactly like watching a lecture, except the whiteboard is a computer. By the way, I've previously taken an in-person class taught by the same guy [when I was an undergrad], so when I say it's the same I know what I'm talking about.

Comment: Re:I'm all for abolishing the IRS (Score 1) 301

by mrchaotica (#49378767) Attached to: Sign Up At Before Crooks Do It For You

And no, if you want to make a consumption tax regressive, you don't have to make it complicated. You can exempt the first $X of purchases, where $X is some "living wage" line according to some politician's favored theory. You now have a progressive tax.

That's not progressive; that's regressive with a discontinuity. For example, assume the sales tax rate were 25%. In that case, a middle-class person making and spending 2*$X pays 12.5% (25% * 50%), which is a higher tax rate than a rich person who makes 10*$X and spends 5*$X, who pays 10% (25% * 40%). And the really rich person making 100*$X but who ran out of things he wanted to buy at 10*$X has a tax rate that's even lower than that: 2.25% (25% * 9%).

By the way, I wrote that example using easy numbers to illustrate my point. The actual difference in saving rates between normal people, the rich, and the very rich is large, but not quite that large (see the second chart on this page). However, even at realistic savings rates (2.5% for the bottom 90%, 15% for the top 10 to 1%, and 35% for the top 1%) the principle is still valid.

And since everybody would be helping to carry the load of the government they ask for, the big winners in this system are the upper middle class, who are currently getting screwed from both ends of the income spectrum.

On the contrary! As you can see from my example above, the middle class person making significantly more than $X, but not enough to easily save a large fraction of his income, pays the highest tax rate of all. The peak tax rate would occur somewhere around the 50th income percentile, while if the goal were to be progressive it should occur at the 99th percentile.

Comment: Re:This one's for the general population (Score 2) 131

by gstoddart (#49378491) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Who's Going To Win the Malware Arms Race?

This arms race will go for the users. The reason being that there's too much money in play to allow the opposite.

I'm inclined to think the opposite.

All of the companies who want to sell us products care only about that. They don't give a damn about the security of those products.

Until consumers wise up and insist on security, or corporations carry some liability for failing to do that, then corporations will just push stuff out the door with half assed security.

It can't just be a war on hacker. It has to also be a war on products with utterly crap security which never gets fixed. Because this Internet of Stuff is shaping up to be some of the biggest security holes imaginable.

Most consumer products do terrible stuff like transmitting passwords in the clear. Chasing down hackers who exploit incompetently/lazily written products can never overcome that.

Comment: Government and inept companies ... (Score 1) 131

by gstoddart (#49378405) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Who's Going To Win the Malware Arms Race?

Our biggest challenges with security are asshole governments who want to undermine security so they can spy on us, and incompetent companies who sell us insecure products because they just want to push some bauble out the door.

As long as we have these two problems, the malware folks will always win, because we will not have the tools required to keep them out.

If spying governments and inept corporations are the weak links, we're pretty much screwed.

So the next time some asshole in a spy agency says we shouldn't have encryption so they can spy on us, that person should be told in no uncertain terms to piss up a rope.

Comment: Re:software dev vs programmer (Score 4, Informative) 129

by mrchaotica (#49376759) Attached to: IT Jobs With the Best (and Worst) ROI

First of all, quit being obtuse.

Second, train engineers are not the "original" engineers. The original engineers were people who designed siege engines (hence the name) for warfare -- ballistas, trebuchets, battering rams, etc. -- as well as fortifications. Military engineers predate trains by several thousand years.

Third, the second-oldest type of engineering is "civil engineering," and is named such because "civil" is the opposite of "military." Civil engineering is also several thousand years older than trains.

Oh, and by the way: the word "engine" didn't originally have anything to do with internal or external combustion; the Latin root word translates roughly as "a produced thing," or an object created by ingenuity. So in the truest sense, an engineer is anyone who uses his ingenuity to build something.

The only reason railroad engineers are called such is because presumably the earliest ones built the damn locomotive as well as operated it. Besides, the US and Canada are the only places that call people who drive trains "engineers" anyway -- everywhere else calls them "drivers," "operators" or "pilots."

Comment: Re:I'm all for abolishing the IRS (Score 3, Insightful) 301

by mrchaotica (#49375645) Attached to: Sign Up At Before Crooks Do It For You

Have you seen our tax code? When I took Federal Income Taxation in law school, I had to get a copy of the tax code, and it was about six inches thick. (I don't remember, or care, if or how much it was annotated.) That's a mighty long list of exceptions to consumption tax.

First of all, income tax is production tax, not consumption tax, so you've got your thinking backwards to begin with.

Second, just because the current implementation of the income tax is riddled with loopholes and power-grubbing statist bullshit, doesn't mean it has to be. A progressive income tax could be as simple as setting tax rate = f(income) where f(income) is a sigmoid curve such that f($0) = 0% and the limit as income approaches infinity is 100%. Politicians would fight over the parameters, of course, and most people would need a slightly fancier calculator to compute it, but the end result would fit on a page.

In contrast, to make a sales tax progressive it must be complicated, because somebody has to decide which goods people at each income level should be "allowed" to afford. In contrast, a simple sales tax where all goods are taxed at the same rate would be inherently regressive because low-income people spend 100% of their income buying stuff while high-income people don't.

Comment: Re:I'm all for abolishing the IRS (Score 2) 301

by mrchaotica (#49373653) Attached to: Sign Up At Before Crooks Do It For You

Georgia makes such a distinction. If you go to a supermarket and buy the ingredients to make a sandwich they'll be taxed at something like 2%, but if you have the people at the supermarket's deli counter make you a sandwich it'll get taxed at something like 7%. If you buy both, your receipt will show the 2% tax applied to the subtotal of the sandwich ingredients and 7% tax applied to the subtotal of the prepared food. (In GA, taxes rates are also set on a city and county basis, so the actual numbers may vary.)

IMO, the categorization does get kind of arbitrary and capricious. For example, what about a pre-made sandwich in the deli's refrigerated case? What about a sandwich made in a factory instead of the deli? What about a doughnut made by the bakery vs. a boxed doughnut from the junk food aisle?

You could say "all the food bought at the grocery store gets taxed at the lower rate," but then the grocery store's deli has an unfair advantage over the likes of Subway. Or you could say "everything that's a processed dish (rather than a raw ingredient) gets taxed at the higher rate," but lots of things (e.g. cheese) can be either depending on how the customer intends to use them.

I dislike the IRS as much as anyone, but I think taxing income is a lot simpler to make progressive than trying to categorize all the different kinds of products available would be.

Comment: Re:I'm all for abolishing the IRS (Score 1) 301

by operagost (#49373531) Attached to: Sign Up At Before Crooks Do It For You

It should be quite obvious to you what happens when we tax people on what they own. We already have this: it's called property (or school) tax. It's what causes people to sell their homes and move, because they can't afford to live there anymore. These are usually people in or near retirement. If you think it's OK to kick old people out of their homes-- because we all know, they're such drags on society-- then you can have your draconian property tax.

You still won't eat the rich, which is what you obviously really want.

Comment: Re:I'm all for abolishing the IRS (Score 3, Insightful) 301

by operagost (#49373463) Attached to: Sign Up At Before Crooks Do It For You
I'm starting to think that having private citizens pay any tax directly to the federal government is a problem. It completely overrides their right to govern themselves at the state and local level. Because the federal government is entitled to so much of the people's wealth, it is given de facto power over everything. Disagree? Then ask why every state's drinking age is 21.

Good day to avoid cops. Crawl to work.