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Comment: Re:Go Aereo! (Score 2) 132

Yeah, this could lead to the demise of the cable companies as we know them. For a long time I've said cable TV/Internet needs to be regulated as a utility. With a utility like gas or electricity, the utility company owns the pipes but is prohibited from selling the content that's carried over the pipes. They can set up a subsidiary to sell the content, but they must also allow other gas/electric suppliers to sell to customers at the same transport rates they charge their subsidiary. Those transport rates are set by a public utilities commission. Effectively, the utility company has a monopoly on the pipes (it makes no sense to install multiple gas or electric lines to each house), but due to the monopoly its transport pricing is subject to government approval and it must offer the same pricing to all sellers. Thus maintaining a free competitive market for gas and electricity.

In the U.S., cable TV/Internet has been the big exception. Because it doesn't make sense to install multiple cable lines, most municipalities only grant access to a single cable company. Yet that artificial monopoly is not regulated like a utility - the cable company completely controls the pipes and the content that's sent over those pipes. (This is a necessary step when an industry is first developing. Different companies have to be allowed to try different ways to lay down pipe and offer content over those pipes for the market to determine the most efficient way to distribute that content. But once the best method is determined, the industry is essentially a utility. At this point I think we all know TV/Internet delivery is headed towards fiber to the home.)

If Aereo can get themselves classified as a cable company, that does to cable TV what VoIP did to phone service. Right now the cable companies sell you TV, and oh by the way you can get Internet access too. With Aereo's model, you only need to get Internet from the cable company, and you can get your TV from Aereo. The cable company essentially becomes a utility giving you only Internet service. Companies like Aereo could then sell you TV service delivererd over the Internet.

Unfortunately, this means Aereo is going to have both the broadcasters and cable companies arguing against them to the FCC and the courts. While I hope they succeed like VoIP did, the influence of money in politics makes me think their chances are slim.

Comment: Re:Simplified summary (Score 3, Insightful) 132

Close, but what's happening here is similar to what happened with Pandora and online music broadcasters. They tried to get by by paying the same royalty rates as radio stations, which are negotiated between the RIAA and all radio broadcasters en masse. The RIAA smelled an opportunity and finangled the courts so Internet radio got defined as something new and different, and thus they could negotiate rates against a much smaller and less established entity. Consequently, Internet radio pays much higher royalties than broadcast radio.

I suspect the TV stations are trying for a similar play here. It's completely illogical (like saying you're not buying the movie, you're just buying a license to view it; but then saying you need to buy a new one at full price if you're upgrading from VHS to DVD to Blu-ray), but logic is secondary to them if there's an opportunity to extract more money from people. I think that's my biggest gripe with Copyright law - since it's a completely artificial monopoly I think the rules governing it must make logical sense in order for supply and demand to work as with natural property. But instead the copyright holders are twisting that artificiality to completely illogical means that break how markets naturally work.

Comment: Re: Failsafe? (Score 2) 464

Air Transat 236 also glided in to a safe landing. A fuel leak in one tank and crew misdiagnosis of the problem led them to pump all the fuel in the good tank into the leaking tank, resulting in fuel starvation at cruise altitude. The incident is not as well known because the pilots have refused to talk about it.

The altitude (10 km) and distance to the final airport (120 km) when the second engine flamed out also point to a 12:1 glide ratio. Slightly better in fact as the pilot had to execute a 360 and some S-turns to bleed off altitude just prior to landing. It was an A330, which is slightly larger than a 767. Both are widebody (twin aisle) aircraft, and both were saved by the RAT providing emergency power. So while it's certainly possible to power electronics even with total engine failure, it's not something a good engineer should be designing the plane to be reliant upon in an emergency.

Comment: Re:Incoming international flights (Score 4, Informative) 683

by Solandri (#47399565) Attached to: TSA Prohibits Taking Discharged Electronic Devices Onto Planes
The point of airport security isn't to stop terrorists. It's to calm and reassure the public. After every major airliner accident, there's a drop in airline travel. (Least there was back when we'd have 2-3 commercial airliner crashes a year. We're now to the point where it's so safe we go 2-5 years between accidents.) How do you think these people are traveling if they're too scared to fly? Some of them just stay home, but most of them travel by car. Where they are more likely to die in a car accident than from a terrorist attack.

So the point of airport security is literally security theater. Show the public, "Hey we're doing something to stop those terrorists, so it's safe to fly!" When the real goal is to stop people from getting themselves killed while driving because they're too scared of terrorists to fly.

Unfortunately, the people running the TSA never got the memo and are taking their jobs way too seriously.

That said, every time I've had a phone or laptop die from a drained battery, I've been able to turn it on, and it'll power up for at least 5-30 seconds before sensing the low battery and automatically powering off again. This is due to an intentional safety feature of Li-ion batteries - if you drain them too much, they can explode when charged. So devices are designed to shut off long before the battery reaches this point, and consequently there's always enough juice left to briefly turn the device back on again. The only way you can get to a state where the device literally will not power on is if you drain the battery, then let the device sit there for weeks or months so that it self-discharges below the voltage where the device will refuse to use the battery at all. So the guy whose phone dies while traveling shouldn't be affected by this policy change at all (unless the TSA decides to be assholes and require you to demonstrate something more than the phone booting, while not providing a standard microUSB charger).

Comment: Re:Maintain DMCA safe harbor? (Score 4, Insightful) 92

by Solandri (#47390535) Attached to: Rightscorp Pushing ISPs To Disconnect Repeat Infringers

Oh, yes, there are MANY problems with this whole scheme. And a lot of it could be solved TOMORROW by the FCC choosing to regulate ISPs as Title II Common Carriers.

Actually, all this is probably exactly why the FCC is choosing not to regulate ISPs as common carriers. If they do that, then the copyright holders and the government have to do the legwork of tracking down and prosecuting copyright violators. The way it's set up now, they can just threaten the ISP and make the ISP do the busywork for them.

Comment: Too many secrets (Score 1) 74

A member of Germany's foreign intelligence agency has been detained for possibly spying for the U.S. The 31-year-old is suspected of giving a U.S. spy agency information about a parliamentary inquiry of NSA activities.

So the investigation into the NSA's secret spying activities, is itself being conducted in secret under penalty of espionage charges should any German violate that secrecy?

We seem to be forgetting why people object to the NSA's activities. Something about governments being open and transparent in their operation so the public can be assured their actions are trustworthy. Any investigation into the NSA's activities should be done publicly and openly, to demonstrate a contrast with how the NSA operated.

Unless that is the German government has something it wants to keep secret from its own people. But in that case they become the pot calling the kettle black.

Comment: Re:Well, duh... (Score 1) 210

Ideally we'd like a "right to be forgotten" that means when I ask Facebook to delete my account, then by delete I mean "not a single bit of my accounts data remains".

Even that is problematic. Presumably Facebook keeps backups. And for a backup to be a true backup, it has to be offline and off-site. So when you submit an account deletion request, they can't just scrub your data from their servers. They have to bring those backups back on-site and online, and scrub your data from them as well.

A better solution is to mandate a maximum period to private data retention policies, e.g. 1 year. Then you can submit your deletion request, Facebook scrubs your data from their servers immediately. But by law they're allowed to keep the offline backup for up to a year, at which point they're required to scrub it. When it's a year old, it's not any good as a backup anymore, so they can just delete the whole thing instead of having to find your specific data within it.

Yeah you probably want all the backups scrubbed immediately. But the whole point of living in society is that everyone makes compromises to arrive at a solution which works better for everyone overall. You don't get your data entirely scrubbed immediately. Facebook doesn't get to keep that data forever.

Comment: Re: Well, duh... (Score 1) 210

That's why Google shouldn't be wasting time trying to do this. It's not their job, and the task is damned if they do, damned if they don't.

They should simply invert the process - remove every search result older than x years from the countries affected by this court decision. Pre-comply with all possible cases before people submit privacy takedown requests. Then provide the court with a list of all removed content and say they will add each removed link back if and when the court approves it. Make the people who want old stuff to reappear submit their request to the government - the institution who thinks this policy is a good or even workable idea.

Comment: Re:The point is lacking (Score 1) 133

Meanwhile even at current energy consumption levels US per-capita energy consumption is 308 million BTU per year, or 247 kWh per day. At 5kWh per square meter of solar panel per day (a conservative number achievable almost anywhere with low-to-mid-range solar panels) that's only 49.5 meters of panels per person, or 532 square feet. A little high, but not unachievable.

That's the panel's peak output - what it produces when it's oriented normal to incident sunlight on a cloudless day at noon. e.g. An average 16% efficient panel is rated at about 125 W/m^2 peak. Multiply that by 24 hours and you get 3 kWh/day for a square meter of panels. Unfortunately the sun doesn't stay directly overhead 24 hours/day.

To get average panel output, you need to multiply by PV solar's capacity factor. That takes into account night, movement of the sun, weather, etc. For the continental U.S., PV solar's capacity factor is about 0.145 (for northern Europe it's closer to 0.10). So averaged over a year, your 16% efficient panel is only going to generate 0.435 kWh/day.

Assuming your other energy figures are correct, this equates to 568 square meters of panels per person.

Comment: Re:Non-story. (Score 1) 346

by Solandri (#47379307) Attached to: Goldman Sachs Demands Google Unsend One of Its E-mails
This is something that's bugged me about people (ab)using email. This sort of stuff doesn't even need to be "sent". Presumably anyone with a GS brokerage account has a login to some place on the GS website. The email should just be a notice that some new important information is available, and they need to login to their account and read it. (If they don't and they lose money because they didn't, then the fault is theirs.)

People seem to have long forgotten that email isn't secure. As we used to say in the 1980s, sending someone an email isn't like sending a letter in a sealed envelope. It's like sending a postcard - anyone along the route the email takes to the final recipient can read it.

In this particular case, if you've got the same information which needs to be read by multiple recipients, email is a stupid way to do it. Why make x copies and send it to the corners of the world via the Internet, when you can put just one copy on your company's website and only authorized people can view it after logging in? Multiple recipients for an identical large or important file should immediately equate to "not for email" in your mind.

Comment: Re:Good. (Score 1) 138

by Solandri (#47336983) Attached to: Google Starts Removing Search Results After EU Ruling

In the case that started all this a man had been bankrupt. That's a fact, but one which credit rating agencies are not allowed to report after a certain period of time has passed. If any bank could see the newspaper reports about the bankruptcy simply by searching Google that would have been undermined - society decided that after time bankruptcy would be "forgotten" so people could move on with their lives.

So what does Google have to do with it? What's to stop a bank from using a different search engine to find past bankruptcies older than 7 years. Or running their searches on a VM hosted in a non-EU country.

The fundamental error in this ruling is the assumption that Google = History. All Google is is an algorithmic survey of which "historical facts" (things mentioned on websites) are more densely cross-linked. In programming terms, Google is a pointer, not the data itself. You delete the pointer, the data remains. You delete the data, the pointer is useless. If the EU were really serious about a right to be forgotten, they'd be encouraging Google to retain this stuff, and using Google to go after the sites which list the outdated information. For crying out loud, Google is doing a fantastic job telling you which sites with the most cross-links are hosting the outdated data. Way to shoot the messenger!

Going after Google reeks of a luddite misunderstanding of the difference between pointers and objects, thinking that eliminating the pointers will be a cheap and easy (for them) solution to the problem. Kinda like someone thinking that deleting all the shortcuts on his Windows desktop will free up disk space. Yeah it'll make you desktop look prettier, but it does nothing to solve the fundamental problem.

Comment: Re:One disturbing bit: (Score 4, Insightful) 484

by Solandri (#47316171) Attached to: Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo Streaming Service
I haven't read through the ruling, but I suspect they just applied the "quacks like a duck" rule. Regardless of the technical nuances, Aereo operates like a rebroadcaster (takes services subscriptions, forwards broadcast transmissions to them). Therefore it must be a rebroadcaster.

I suspect the ruling may have been different if Aereo had required customers to buy their own antennas, and only charged an installation fee to host the antenna and monthly hardware insurance fee to replace broken ones. To draw from the analogy someone posted below, that'd be like you buying your own antenna and asking to place it on your neighbor's property because he sits on top of the hill blocking your house. Dynamically assigning a micro-antenna to a subscriber on-demand just blurs the line. (The fact that all this is technically stupid when you could just use a single antenna is simply a consequence of Copyright law creating artificial scarcity and giving content producers a monopoly on distribution.)

Comment: What is a gigawatt per hour? (Score 5, Interesting) 461

by Solandri (#47315901) Attached to: Half of Germany's Power Supplied By Solar, Briefly
The units on gigawatts/hr works out to energy/time^2. I'm not even sure what that means. Rate of acceleration of energy use?

Assuming the Reuters reporter never took physics and the actual figure is 22 gigawatts, while it's an impressive amount, it's peak production. Solar has just about the worst capacity factor (ratio of average production to max peak production) of any energy source. If you look at Germany's solar statistics, they produced 31400 GWh in 2013. The average of their 2012 and 2013 installed (peak) generating capacity was (32.643+35.948) / 2 = 34.296 GW (averaged to take into account new plants coming online through the year).

34.3 GW * 8766 hours (1 year) = 1.08 * 10^18 joules
= 300673.8 GWh of potential solar production - i.e. how much the plants could have produced if they were operating at max capacity the entire year.

So their solar capacity factor is just 31400 / 300674 = 0.1044.

Compare to U.S. average capacity factors of
0.9 for nuclear
0.7 for geothermal
0.64 for coal
0.4 for hydro
0.35 for offshore wind
0.22 for onshre wind
0.145 for PV solar in the U.S. (not on chart)

So if Germany's peak solar production was equivalent to 20 nuclear plants, that means their entire installed base of solar plants has only eliminated the need for two nuclear plants. (There's some wriggle room here because they're comparing a peak load power source to a base load power source, but I'm just rolling with the comparison they made.) This is why you don't compare power production technologies based on peak production. It's like comparing the fuel efficiency of different cars only when they're going downhill - it unreasonably favors cars with low drag coefficients even if they may have inefficient engines. You should be comparing average production through the year (equivalent to peak production * capacity factor). Just like you should be comparing the average fuel efficiency of cars across all use cases.

Comment: Re:Why I don't buy the misogyny argument (Score 1) 548

by Solandri (#47283161) Attached to: Girls Take All In $50 Million Google Learn-to-Code Initiative
It's pretty simple to me. Women tend to prefer careers where they interact with people. Men tend to prefer careers where they interact with things. When I worked at a hotel, the vast majority of applicants we got for front desk clerk or event planner were women. The vast majority of applicants for maintenance were men. CS just happens to be an extreme form of interacting with things. (The earlier comment about beta males fits too - part of being an alpha male is being able to interact well with other people.)

You'll see this disappear in low-income jobs (e.g. assembly line workers), where finances make the job a necessity. But by the time you get to mid- and high-paying jobs, the person has the luxury of choosing what he/she does, and this gender-based self-bias exerts itself.

Comment: Re:Before you start complaining... (Score 1) 548

by Solandri (#47282965) Attached to: Girls Take All In $50 Million Google Learn-to-Code Initiative

Most women don't strive to immerse themselves in a culture that is predominated by socially awkward beta males. I don't understand why nobody accepts this obvious explanation for the lack of women.

Let me throw that right back at you: Why do you think the culture is predominated by socially awkward beta males?

You admit that non-misogynistic factors cause the field to disproportionately attract one type of person (socially awkward beta males). Yet when considering a different type of person (women) you immediately shift the blame to misogyny rather than assuming those same non-misogynistic factors are what are deterring women. This self-contradiction is why it's not an "obvious" explanation.

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