Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Good (Score 5, Insightful) 92 92

This. This needs to be made illegal. Patent licensing fees should be returned (minus reasonable administrative fees) if the patent is overturned. Force the burden of proving the patent is indeed valid back upon the patent holder. Don't force the purported violator to prove the patent is invalid.

If the USPTO could control the patents it gives out so the rate they're overturned upon challenge is low, then it makes sense to force violators to prove the patent is invalid. But because they're seemingly willing to give out patents for anything and the rate they're overturned, it makes more sense to shift the burden onto the patent applicant to take reasonable steps to make sure his patent is ironclad and will not be overturned. If the patent applicant's confidence in his own patent is so low he isn't sure it won't be overturned upon a detailed review, then that's a pretty good indication the idea isn't really worthy of a patent in the first place.

This also has the effect of making pure IP companies a high-risk business. If all you do is license patents and one of your main patents gets overturned, it could bankrupt you. But if you're actually using the patent to make stuff, then you'll have an alternate revenue stream which will allow you to survive having to pay back the licensing fees.

There is a drawback in that companies may be more willing to license specious patents, in hopes that someone else will go through the expense of fighting it. If someone else fights it and wins, you get your money back, so why should you fight it? On the patent's holder's side, this creates a multi-year potential liability in the accounting books even if you have a valid patent. A sunset period of a few years after which you can't recover licensing fees (or a graduated return period, so after say 3 years you have to pay back 50%, after 5 years 25%, after 7 years you can keep it all) would address both problems.

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 147 147

You're making assumptions. Rather than run a desktop OS like Windows XP Professional, it's more likely running Windows XP Embedded, which is intended for this type of use.

It may be intended for this type of use, but is highly inappropriate. The reason companies use XP Embedded (arguably the only reason XP Embedded ever managed to gain any market share in embedded systems) is because you can write software for it using the Windows API. In other words, you can tap into the millions of software developers out there who know how to write Windows programs, instead of the few tens of thousands proficient in more robust embedded OSes like VxWorks. Larger supply = lower prices, so you can hire your programmers for cheaper.

The problem of course is that you're highly likely to hire a programmer who doesn't know squat about writing software for an embedded system. i.e. Something which will never get system updates or bug fixes. Their coding will be sloppier, they won't think about all the possible issues and corner cases like a skilled embedded software developer will, and the emphasis will be on getting the job done quickly and cheaply. So while it's not a desktop OS, its use allows (and in fact encourages) management to cut costs by hiring pimple-faced programmers whose only experience is in writing desktop software. Which appears to be the case here (the vulnerability is in the software running atop the OS).

Comment Re:Skylake is two weeks away (Score 1) 75 75

Skylake has same CPU performance, and slower GPU (no eDRAM). And version 1.0 motherboards. Your advice is sound, but mostly if you don't need/care about the GPU

Why would you care about the GPU on a desktop? If you don't want to bother with a graphics card and want to use integrated graphics, use a regular Broadwell or Skylake i7. If you need a GPU, add a graphics card.

Iris Pro sorta kinda makes sense on laptops - slightly better than integrated performance for slightly more power consumption, without having to jump up to the power draw of a discrete GPU and messing around with switchable graphics. But I haven't seen a use case for Iris Pro on the desktop.

Comment Re:Interesting (Score 1) 70 70

While cataract surgery isn't a big deal, it still is surgery, requiring cutting of the eye, replacing the lens, etc.

Part of the aging process of the eye also makes it stiffer, producing presbyopia (Far sightedness). I wonder if these drops will also affect that as well.

Part of the problem with cataract surgery is that a fixed lens is inserted in place of your natural, flexible lens. This means your focus is fixed after the surgery, usually on far objects, and you are totally dependent on glasses for near vision.

This isn't a big deal for elderly people who are already badly farsighted (who also get most cataracts). But drops which dissolve cataracts would be a substantial boon for younger people who still have flexible lenses but are afflicted with cataracts. (I've heard of newer replacement lenses which are affixed to the muscles in your iris and can focus just like your natural lenses can. But I've been unable to find any follow-up info on them.)

Comment Re:BBC / other state broadcasters? (Score 2) 132 132

The content is already produced. Limiting its distribution doesn't benefit the people who paid for it it any way.
Information is a strange beast in that way. Distributing it costs next to nothing. Limiting the distribution takes away a lot of value from a lot of people.
The argument for copyright is that content wouldn't be produced if it wasn't possible to capitalize on it, but here we have content being produced despite it not being capitalized on.

It's more nuanced than that. The state-funded model is that the content is pre-paid. The staff at the BBC is effectively being hired by the State to produce the content. They get paid for it ahead of time at a price they've agreed to (usually their salaries, and various equipment and travel costs at market prices). Once it's produced it's already been paid for, so there is nothing lost by freely distributing it.

The copyright model is that content is post-paid. The individual or independent studio puts up their own money (or borrows it from investors whom they can convince this is a worthwhile project) to produce the project. They are then relying on sales post-production to recoup the production costs and hopefully some profit.

The difference is (1) the decision of what should be produced, and (2) risk in case the production is a flop. In the State-run case, the State decides what gets produced, and the State absorbs the losses if the production is a flop. In the copyright model, the individual (person or organization) decides what gets produced, and they absorb the losses if the production is a flop. Now, I probably agree with most people here that copyright terms have gotten extended to outrageous durations. But that doesn't mean the idea is not in itself sound. If you take away the ability for people to get paid post-production (by eliminating copyright), then the amount of creative production will decrease unless some sort of insurance industry springs up which which absorbs the risk of a failure in exchange for decision power for what gets produced (i.e. they screen your proposed movie before deciding to insure your production). The only time there's a real problem is when (1) and (2) get allocated to different entities. Like what the RIAA does - they decide what gets produced, but their contracts place the financial burden of a failure almost entirely upon the artists. In fact most things that Go Wrong with the world can be traced back to people separating the risk associated with decisions from the power to make those decisions.

Note that this is not necessarily a State vs individual thing. Ever since scanners and photo printers pretty much destroyed the model of shooting the wedding for free and selling the prints, wedding photographers have pretty much shifted to a for-hire business model. You hire the photographer for a fixed amount to shoot the wedding, and they give you the pictures. It's pre-paid endeavor, but being done at the individual level rather than State level.

Comment Re:Meta data? (Score 1) 292 292

In other states annotations are published and sold by a third party, like WestLaw. The difference here is Georgia owns the annotations itself and sells them to lawyers. If it's no longer worthwhile to do so, what will happen is Georgia will stop commissioning LexisNexis to produce the annotated code, LexisNexis will do it itself and sell copies to both lawyers and the state of Georgia, which will purchase them for judges and prosecutors. Malamud will definitely not win publishing annotations copyrighted by LexisNexis, and now instead of the annotations being revenue neutral (or profitable), the profits will all go to LexisNexis. So, meh.

I believe the issue here is that some people (probably Malamud included) believe court cases are a matter of public record, and as such the annotations themselves should not be copyrightable (they should be public domain).* i.e. If the government is "owns the annotations itself", then as a public entity the annotations are public domain and not copyrightable, and thus freely redistributable. That this activity should be funded out of the State's general budget, and not used as a source of revenue (except perhaps to recoup publishing costs if lawyers order a big stack of papers).

Note that this approach also "solves" the problem of hiring a company to write the law. e.g. The building code in many jurisdictions is written by a civil engineering company expert in the trade. It is then copyrighted, and anyone who wishes to build something in compliance with the law then has to buy a copy of the building code from the engineering company - they can't get it for free even though it's the law. Leading to the perverse possibility of violating a law you could not know about because you couldn't afford to buy a copy. If as a matter of course, if States paid a lump sum to the engineering company to write that law (basically a work for hire), then they could release it into the public domain so citizens wouldn't have to buy a copy of the law to obey it.

* (I'm not even sure a list of links is copyrightable in the first place. It seems to fail the "collection of facts" threshold used in the U.S. for copyrightable lists.)

Comment Re:How about where you can find electric outlets? (Score 1) 40 40

You used to be able to buy a spare battery if your usage dictated you frequently may be away from an outlet (recharge) for an indeterminate period of time. But then people who cared more about form over function dictated that such usage patterns were unimportant, and the swappable battery was sacrificed to make these devices one or two mm thinner.

Comment Re:He didn't prove any flaw (yet) (Score 1) 158 158

The range of the fast key for the trunk sensor is very short, not more than 2 or 3 feet centered in the back of the trunk.

The MO of the thieves unlocking the cars with keyless entry FOBs is that they're using some kind of transmitter/amplifier. It basically acts like a man in the middle, rebroadcasting signals from the car and FOB at higher power to greatly increase the range.

It all boils down to a foolish decision by automakers that there was always a 100% correlation between signal strength and distance. If the thief watches you walking away from your car and they've got a directional antenna mounted to this thing (and your car is parked in a location where the antenna wouldn't attract attention), then you could be hundreds of meters away and they can still get into your car.

Comment Re:Negotiating salaries is for the birds. (Score 1) 428 428

The problem is, something like 90% of people think they're above average. So you'd end up with 90% of the employees demanding that they be paid more than the average for their position.* Which would raise the average, which would lead a bunch of people who used to get paid more than average now getting paid less, which would lead to them demanding more pay, which would raise the average, etc. At some point the company would draw the line, leaving ~40% of their employees dissatisfied and convinced that they're being underpaid even if they are in fact being paid the correct amount for their abilities.

The market can't solve something like this because it relies on people making rational decisions. 90% of people believing they're above average is irrational. Rather than try to confront that irrationality, employers choose to side-step it by keeping employees ignorant of where their pay stands.

* (I truly hope I am wrong about this, since the taboo against discussing your salary always seemed weird to me. But watching the risks people take while driving because they think they're a better than average driver, I'm not optimistic.)

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 477 477

because they haven't yet paid for the eventual disposal of the waste

France reprocesses spent nuclear fuel. So unlike countries where the anti-nuclear lobby has made sure that spent fuel gets classified as "waste" with huge disposal costs to try to make nuclear unattractive and uneconomical, France just turns it into more fuel for its nuclear plants. Only about 3% of what other countries call "nuclear waste" gets turned into actual waste. The rest is converted back into more fuel.

Comment Re:A return to performance? (Score 4, Interesting) 405 405

I know that XP -> Vista and XP->7 felt like backward steps at times in terms of performance, and were accompanied by a similar ramp-up in terms of realistic minimum specs. It just seems that in 8 (which is as fast as 7, if not faster, as far as I can tell) and 10 are actually coming back to what they should always have been?

Do note that XP only needed 64 MB of RAM (128 MB recommended). The last XP system I supported was a couple years back, but the requirement had bloated to about 128 MB (256 MB recommended) because anti-virus software had gotten so much bigger (usually takes 30-50 MB of RAM).

For decades, software companies hadn't controlled bloat. They counted on performance gains in hardware to compensate for how much slower their software was getting due to bloat. This began to change after Prescott (around 2004), when the clock speed wars came to a screeching halt due to heat generated by power leakage at those higher frequencies, and for a time Intel lost the fastest CPU title crown to AMD. Intel and AMD began placing a greater emphasis on power efficiency rather than pure performance, and as a result the bloat in software began to outstrip increase in hardware speeds.

That's a large part of the reason Vista (2007) was such a dog. It was coded assuming the performance level of generally available hardware would be higher than it actually turned out to be. Consequently it felt like it ran a lot slower than XP (compared to when XP was new), and most users opted to stick with XP. Around 2010 we hit the point where all but the discount CPUs were "fast enough" for most people's needs, and advancements in CPU design since then have been directed mostly at reducing power consumption (a Core 2 Duo system at idle burns about 75 Watts, a Broadwell system burns about 20-30 Watts idle).

Software companies have had to come to grips with this performance stagnation, and are finally beginning to get bloat under control. Since they can no longer count on their newer software "feeling" faster because of hardware upgrades, they're forced to go through and optimize their software to make it actually run faster. Which is resulting in this curious inversion, where newer software actually runs better old systems than the previous versions of that software.

The industry is in for a major shake-up because of this in the next decade (arguably it's already been experiencing it the past 5 years). As the need to upgrade your computer every 2-3 years decreases, computers will be used for longer times. That means on an annual basis, hardware companies will have reduced sales (if people go from replacing their computer every 3 years to every 6 years, that means half the annual sales even though the same number of people are still using computers). And software companies will be expected to support their products for longer.

Mobile (phones) is the one area this hasn't really taken hold because the sector has been developing so quickly you feel obligated to upgrade your smartphone every 1-2 years. But eventually it too will plateau. Long-term, we're probably looking at computers having to last 7-10 years before being replaced. Which interestingly enough is about the timescale for console systems (6-7 years between refreshes).

Comment Re:Gee, I'm really torn... (Score 4, Interesting) 129 129

While you may disagree with the price exacted by advertisers, they are still providing you with something in exchange. They help pay for the website you are visiting. Without their ads, the site likely wouldn't exist, or would exist in a considerably less useful form.

Ad fraud steals money from advertisers, period. They are taking money from the advertisers without providing a good or service in exchange. This is theft.

Comment Re:Does indeed happen. (Score 1) 634 634

When I managed a small business, I took the annual increase of the CPI for my area, and that would be the increase in payroll for the year (adjusted for growth in number of employees). Depending on if an employee was good or bad, they might get a bigger or smaller raise than the CPI. But the average per employee increase company-wide was always very close to CPI.

The reason is pretty simple. CPI actually tracks pretty closely with wages. If you really wanted, I suppose you could try to force your wages to the absolute minimum where you still get enough applicants to fill all your positions. But if your wages don't keep up with CPI, you're going to lose your good employees to better-paying companies, while a disproportionate share of your applicants will be bad employees who quit or were fired from their former job (because the better ones take one look at your wages and shop elsewhere). That management philosophy may work at low-end jobs where the quality of the employee doesn't really matter. But any employer whose company does anything more than menial labor knows that the employees are the company, and will try to get good employees.

You have a very distorted view of how to run a business if you think lowering costs (wages) is the only or even primary motivation of an employer. I suggest you try starting a company of your own, and learn from the school of hard knocks. You'll find out pretty quickly that low wages = low performing employees, and will leave you stuck with low-end clients and low-end jobs. The trick isn't just to flat-out minimize cost. It's to minimize costs in ways that have the least impact on productivity - i.e. make the company more efficient to operate, not just cheaper to operate.

Comment Re:Is this really something new? (Score 1) 368 368

The problem with the broken car window analogy is that it's pretty obvious when a car is parked illegally in front of a fire hydrant. It's not at all obvious when there's a tiny drone in the way of firefighting aircraft. So the analogy would be more like the fire truck driving up to park in front of a fire hydrant, and suddenly an unseen mine someone has planted blows up, engulfing the fire truck and killing everyone on board.

Telling the fire department that they have permission to destroy any mines (drones) they see doesn't really solve the problem. The problem is not just that these things are in the way, but that these things are in the way and you can't really see them. That's why all the ideas to shoot them down, as satisfying as that would be, won't work. If you could be assured you knew where each drone was, then it's not really a problem because you can just fly around them. It's the unseen drone which will make for a very bad day.

Comment Re:PICASA will NOT be shut down, needed for Hangou (Score 1) 152 152

It's worth noting that Picasaweb pre-dates Google+. In fact when they made the photos section of G+, they just copied Picasaweb's front-end, and dumbed it down to a Facebook level. The back-end was still the same so you could post albums on Google+, and still edit/modify them on Picasaweb (with a lot more options than the G+ interface). So in that respect, absolutely nothing has changed.

The moon is made of green cheese. -- John Heywood