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Comment Re:Scheduled programming is doomed. Maybe ads too. (Score 1) 212

The future of television is on-demand and not scheduled programming with the option to pay subscription fees to kill all advertising. This means no cable TV as we currently see it. All TV programming will be sent over IP networks. Over the air local TV stations will start offering TV streaming to smart TV's, and will retire their transmitters. The spectrum will be freed up for other uses.

Well, that last one won't happen until cellular Internet becomes ubiquitous (so broadband speeds are available everywhere). But I agree, Cable TV is on the way out. I just got a Roku this weekend. The thing that struck me most was how much clearer the image was. See, when you have Cable or Satellite TV, they have to transmit all the channels to you all the time regardless of whether or not you're watching it. That takes a huge amount of bandwidth, so they have to do a lot of compression on all the channels. With streamed content, only the channel you want is transmitted to you. There's still compression - Internet speeds aren't yet realistic for streaming Blu-ray quality (48 Mbps). But from what I've seen so far it's typically a lot less than with Cable or Satellite.

(Note: Get a Roku only if you just want this stuff to work with minimal fuss. It intersperses its own video ads, which gets annoying real fast if you're trying to watch a bunch of short clips. And get a 2015 model Roku 2, not a 3. I went from a 3 to a 2 and got to play with both of them. As far as I can tell, the base units are the same, the only difference is the remotes. The Roku 3 remote would even pair with the Roku 2 base. The Roku 3 remote has some useful features over the 2, but the fly in the ointment is the new voice search button. They put it right next to the OK/select button. If you're navigating and reach down to hit OK, and accidentally hit Search, you drop back to the Home screen and have to start your navigation all over again. That cost me more time than I saved by using voice search. Unfortunately the Roku 2 remote is IR-only, so you have to point it at the Roku. The Roku 3 remote is RF so doesn't need line of sight. I just ended up getting a Logitech Harmony hub + RF remote, since I needed to consolidate my control of the TV, Roku, A/V receiver, and cable box anyway.)

My take on Advertising: Advertising is a scourge which causes weak minded people to go into debt wasting money purchasing things they don't need. Think of it as the 20th/21st century Jedi Mind Trick.

Like most things in life, advertising has good and bad sides. Yes the slick feel-good ads are designed to unnecessarily part you from your money. But ads are also informational, telling you about new products and services that are available. This became apparent when I lived without a TV for a year. I was hanging out with my friends and we decided to go see a movie. They began discussing which movie they wanted to see, and I was completely lost because I had no idea what all these movie titles were. The movie ads they'd seen on TV had been enough to give them a sense of the theme and plot of the movie. They tried quickly summarizing each movie, but there were just too many and a verbal description is much harder to remember than a slick video. After a couple minutes of wasting time that way, I just told them to pick what they wanted and I'd watch it as well.

Point being that while excessive advertising is bad, no advertising is bad as well. There's a balance point where a certain amount of ads is enough to inform you, without becoming annoying or irrationally skewing your behavior.

Comment Re:iFixit is NOT unbiased (Score 3, Insightful) 231

The declarations of someone who is complaining that others are making it harder for him to make a buck need to be taken with a large grain of salt. iFixit for all their merits sells spare parts & repair kits. It is thus clearly in their own interest for everyone else to make it profitable for them to sell their products. iFixit would be very profitable if all phone manufacturers did everything they could to make it easier for them to sell their repair kits & repair/upgrade instead of replacing.

I disagree. iFixit would be out of business if all phones and laptops were easy to take apart to repair. I don't have to visit iFixit to repair most Windows laptops because their disassembly is (reasonably) straightforward. I do have to visit iFixit to repair most Macbooks because Apple tries to make it as difficult as possible. Most of the spare parts and repair kit tools iFixit sells are only necessary because of the proprietary and weird things Apple has done to make their products difficult to open up and take apart.

So iFixit is actually advocating something which would effectively put them out of business. A true sign of people who value the craft more than the money they earn from it.

Comment Re:Wait, they shipped the private key? (Score 1) 65

I've actually seen this before with OpenVPN setups. The standard setup procedure has you generate the keys and certificates on the server, but doesn't make clear which files are the private keys and which are public. One of the guides now carefully points out which files you're supposed to keep secret. But I've seen several OpenVPN setups where someone didn't know better and just installed the client, then copied all the config files (all the certificates and keys) from the server to the client.

Explaining it in the documentation isn't enough. The code which generates the keys should explicitly put the private and public keys in different directories whose names say whether they need to be kept on the server, put on the client, or copied to a USB flash drive and locked in a safe. Right now everything is just dumped into the current directory under the assumption that the person generating the keys knows which key is for what. You shouldn't assume everyone who will use the software will know how the software works.

Comment Re:I have an idea (Score 1) 578

The U.S. bases in Japan are there because the peace treaty ending WWII says Japan cannot have an external military, and instead the U.S. will provide for its national defense. Frankly I think it's time to revise those treaties and have Japan pay for its own defense (which would drive China nuts), but until that's done the U.S. bases in Japan have to stay.

The U.S. bases in Germany are there because both are NATO countries. The original objective of NATO was to repel a Soviet invasion, so having U.S. troops on the ground in place was necessary. This is probably due for revision as well, given the unlikelihood of a foreign invasion of Western Europe.

The U.S. bases in South Korea are there because there was no peace treaty ending that war, only a cease fire. Technically we're still at war with North Korea. Anyhow, the U.S. forces aren't there as an occupying force nor to provide stability. If you ask any of the troops there, they know exactly why they are there. They call themselves speed bumps. Their job in a North Korean attack is to die, so the U.S. has a reason to join the hostilities on South Korea's side. Their purpose is deterrence.

All three countries are more than stable enough to not need a U.S. military presence anymore, and have been stable enough for at least two decades (South Korea being the most recent to transition from a military to a civilian government). Unfortunately, we abandoned Iraq before it was self-sustainably stable.

Comment Re:I have an idea (Score 4, Interesting) 578

What's the line then? There are millions of conflicts around the world that we can 'get involved with'. Saudi Arabia likes to behead and crucify people, should we 'get involved' with them? What is the number of wars and death it takes to make everyone do exactly what we want them to do?

The conflict in Iraq is special because the U.S. precipitated it. I was against invading Iraq, but once we did it I was absolutely committed to staying there until it was stable. While Saddam Hussein was a monster, like most monsters his grip on power provided a good deal of stability. Removing him also removed that stability, so we had a moral duty to stay there until a comparable level of stability was restored. Unfortunately, a majority of the U.S. just wanted out quickly regardless of stability and the consequences, and elected a President who promised just that and delivered. What we're seeing now with ISIS is the consequence of shirking our responsibility to fix what we broke, and not withdrawing from Iraq until it could provide its own stability.

Did you know ISIS was born of intervention policies from the U.S. government? The reason why they are even around is because we are involved.

Did you know U.S. inteventionist policies were born from Muslim acts against the U.S.? You've probably heard the opening line of the Marine Corps anthem:

From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli...

The Montezuma part makes sense. The U.S. fought several wars with Mexico, so of course the Marines would be involved. But Tripoli? That's way over in Libya (that's Africa for those weak in geography). What the hell were U.S. Marines doing there?

Funny you should ask. Way back in 1800 when the U.S. was a freshly minted nation, it ran into a problem. Prior to the revolution, the U.S. was a British colony, and thus fell under British protection. When the U.S. gained independence, it lost that protection. The Muslim Barbary States decided to take advantage of the situation and began capturing U.S. merchant ships and holding the crews for ransom. Their thinking was that since these people weren't Muslim, it was ok to kidnap them and extort a ransom.

The fledgling U.S. had its own domestic problems and didn't want to meddle with things going on in other countries. But it didn't have a navy which could deal with the situation, and attempts to negotiate a treaty with France to protect U.S. vessels fell through. So for the first few years, the U.S. just paid the ransom. Of course paying criminals just encourages them, and it became open season on U.S. flagged vessels. Eventually the payments became exorbitant, and the U.S. recommissioned a navy. President Thomas Jefferson (y'know, the guy who wrote famous things like, "We hold these truths to be self evident - that all men are created equal") launched a military operation to Africa to end the kidnappings and free the hostages.

That is how the U.S. Marines ended up in Tripoli. That is how U.S. meddling with foreign nations began. Because a bunch of Muslims decided to take advantage of a fledgling non-Muslim nation by kidnapping its citizens and demanding ransom for their freedom. So if you want to play the blame game, the first incident, the precipitating act which began over two centuries of animosity, was actually committed by Muslims against the U.S.

Comment Lose the obsession with thinness (Score 5, Interesting) 491

I'd rather have a thicker laptop which could work off battery from when I wake up to when I go to sleep (~16 hours - both work and evening relaxation use), and charge overnight. A thicker phone which only needs to be charged every 2-3 days, instead of every night. A thicker tablet that can last a week or two on a charge instead of a few days.

My phone (Nexus 5) was so thin compared to my previous (Galaxy S with a slide-out keyboard) that I dropped it more times in my first week owning it than I had dropped the old phone in 3 years. I ended up getting a case for it, not to protect it but to make it thicker so I wouldn't drop it so much. I don't need nor want it to be any thinner. Do something useful with that extra space - like pack in a bigger battery. (I'm happy to report though that with the Marshmallow update, the phone easily lasts 36-48 hours on a charge. Many days it still has over 70% charge left by the time I go to sleep. Maybe we'll manage to get back to the days when you only had to charge your phone every 3-4 days.)

Comment Re:Worse than clickbait ! (Score 2) 386

I don't know what's scarier, ISIS itself, or the fact that international intelligence agencies are so clearly inept that they're actually incapable of stopping any sort of terror attacks. If they actually DID manage to stop terror attacks, they would be trumpeting their victories loudly and on the front page of every newspaper and every news website this side of the GMT line. The fact that they haven't is pretty much proof positive that in fact they haven't managed to do a damn thing.

Actually, no. The very nature of their job is that if they're successful, absolutely nothing happens. Consequently, the only evidence they have that an attack was thwarted are some written plans, drawings scrawled on a napkin, or chemicals that could be used to make a bomb. They can't even be sure that they really did stop a terror attack, or if they just caught some raving lunatic with delusions of executing a terror attack. And they can't crow about it until many years later, because doing so could tip off related terrorist cells that they're close to being captured.

In 1995, Philippine police stumbled upon a terrorist plot to assassinate the pope, bomb airliners, and fly one into CIA headquarters. The plot was discovered when the terrorists accidentally set fire to their apartment while preparing bombs. It hit the world news briefly, with most of the news services describing it as a plot to blow up airliners and fly them into buildings. My friends and I discussed it briefly. We concluded it was the Philippine police/intelligence exaggerating to try to make it look like they stopped something huge from happening. (1) If it was a real terrorist plot, why were they bragging to the international press about having thwarted it? Shouldn't they be keeping quiet while they used the intelligence they'd gathered to catch co-conspirators before they even realized their plot had been foiled? (2) While we knew there were wackos out there who had no qualms about bombing an airliner and killing everyone aboard it, the part about flying them into buildings was just too far-fetched. We had a psychologically barrier preventing us from conceiving of someone going beyond merely killing those people, to actually using them as part of a weapon to kill more people. Nobody could be so callous and disrespectful of human life, right? (3) It would require the perpetrator(s) to die aboard the plane as well. The whole point of using a bomb was that you didn't have to be aboard the plane when it went off. So that seemed unlikely as well.

Then 6 years later, 9/11 happened.

Anyhow, this is a big part of the problem with intelligence (and safety engineering for that matter). If you succeed, nothing happens and nobody hears about what you did. If you fail, you get blamed and it gets replayed on the news over and over. In light of a success being when nothing happens, how do you determine how effective your anti-terrorist ops are? What is an appropriate, measured response to the threat? Those in the intelligence and security community like to interpret nothing happening as an indicator of the great job they're doing, and why their (illegal) monitoring needs to be allowed to continue. Those opposed like to interpret nothing happening as an indicator that nothing would've happened if all those intelligence and security measures hadn't existed. Because the primary evidence is the lack of evidence, it can be interpreted to support both viewpoints.

Comment Re: And people on slashdot give a shit, why? (Score 4, Interesting) 162

I hardly consider Zuckerberg a positive role model. But he's been a heckuva lot better than other people who've been in his position (Rockefeller, Morgan, Gates, etc).
  • - Once he had his billions, he had the opportunity to select any gold-digging trophy wife. Instead, he married his pre-fortune girlfriend.
  • - He wasn't arrogant, and understood when he was in over his head, and hired outside experts to advise him or do the job for him.
  • - Facebook has more or less actually been competing with challengers, not playing shenanigans with standards or formats to create an unlevel playing field. That hasn't been true for their instant messaging, but their core service has pretty succeeded because it provided what people wanted and reached critical mass first, not because they crippled up and coming competitors.
  • - He's been changing himself to follow the market (learning Chinese), not trying to change the market to follow his desires (biggest gripe I had with Jobs).
  • - Those billions of people he screwed over agreed to allow him to sell their personal information to the highest bidder. If you dislike that FB does this, then you need to convince those people to stop agreeing to stuff like this. If you don't do that, even if Zuckerberg and FB vanished overnight, it would just mean a different company and different CEO would rise up to provide a social media service which did the exact same thing. This is not like Standard Oil or Windows, where you had to use their products if you wanted to survive in the modern world, so you were forced to pay their price. FB's market penetration is only a bit over 50% in the U.S., nothing like the 90+% those monopolies held/hold.
  • - More than likely, you also probably look down on all those people who willingly give up their personal information as plebs.

Comment Re:Must be nice to be at a wealthy company (Score 1) 162

that *every* company, small and large, can somehow afford to "hand out".

It's a competition thing. If nobody is required to do it, then one company that cuts paid maternity/paternity leave gains a competitive advantage and can price its products lower. Other companies then have to follow suit to remain economically competitive. Eventually nobody has paid maternity/paternity leave anymore. The ones which refused to give it up were eliminated from the marketplace due to being unable to compete.

If you require all companies to provide it, then yes the companies can afford to "hand it out". But the cost is built into the system and you pay for it in other ways (higher prices, fewer job opportunities which means higher unemployment, slower technological advancement). I happen to think it's a worthwhile tradeoff in this case - family should come first, work second; not the other way around. But don't fool yourself into thinking it comes without cost just because everyone is required to provide it.

Comment Re:What the fuck is with the snark (Score 1) 118

More to the point, the budget (and economy) is mostly in the hands of Congress. The President only suggests a budget, Congress hashes out the details (they can completely ignore his suggestion if they want). The President can then approve the entire thing or veto it. He has no power to influence a single particular budget item, it's all or nothing.

The Executive branch's powers focus mostly on law enforcement (illegal immigration, NSA monitoring, etc) and foreign relations (including responses to terrorism). So yeah, those "mundane" issues are in fact the ones which are relevant when talking about the Presidency, not budget stuff like space policy. Attempting to make a big deal of space policy is just trying to vet the candidate as someone who will cave into the demands of Senators and Congressmen from states which stand to gain from a bigger NASA budget.

Comment Re:Lost in Space? (Score 1) 166

If you watch the first few episodes, Dr. Smith started out as an intelligent villain working secretly to sabotage the mission, who actually contributed to the story. Somewhere along, the writers morphed him into a 2-dimensional whiny, bratty troublemaker you wanted to push out the airlock. I guess they got tired of having to write an intelligent antagonist.

Comment Re:I'll post what I posted on another site (Score 1) 460

These principles, based on experimental science as well as common sense, opened up the power of computing to several generations

Of course much of the science was based on a mouse and keyboard interaction on a computer, not touch on mobile.

Contrary to popular belief, Apple did not invent the touch interface. In fact they had absolutely nothing to do with its early development. IBM did most of the pioneering work, showcasing it with touchscreen kiosks at the U.S. Open in the 1990s (which led to the discovery of gorilla arm syndrome). Apple blatantly lifted most of that multitouch R&D and implemented it in the iPhone (then tried to sue others for "copying" them). They didn't even make the first touchscreen "smart" phone - IBM did in 1993.

Point being, touchscreens are not some newfangled 21st century development. The old GUI operating principles were based on touchscreens as well as mouse and keyboard. Many aspects like dialog boxes, radio buttons, scrolling, etc. carry over to both types of interfaces.

This is why those interfaces work. Let's take a scrolling view for example. The traditional approach is to put a scrollbar in, and that's what most everyone was doing before the iPhone came along. The scrollbar is discoverable and it provides visual feedback. Sounds good right? Well it turns out using a scrollbar on a mobile device is a miserable experience. Swipe to scroll turned out to be the vastly superior method, and as soon as you learn to swipe (my 1 year old figured it out watching me) it is trivially easy to operate without any additional visual clutter.

Actually the scrollbar became outdated with the advent of the mouse wheel. What is not outdated however is the presence of the scrollbar - not so you can use it to scroll the page, but as a visual indicator of how far along the page you've scrolled. This makes it easy to see where in a webpage or document you are, so if you can more easily navigate back to it in the future. Like you know the recipe you want in a cookbook is about 1/3rd of the way in. Unfortunately the newest design fad seems to be eliminating this visual indicator scrollbar, or designing web pages which continuously grow longer when you reach the bottom making the scroll indicator useless. Those designers should be forced to live in an apartment building where the elevator buttons are replaced by an infinitely rotatable wheel with no markings, and they have to guess how far to spin it to get to their floor.

Same with other gestures in the iPhone.
Deleting a row in a table. You can put a button on every row to make that discoverable at the cost of high risk of accidental deletion and visual noise, or you can make rows swipe left to expose the delete function. The swipe once learned in 5 seconds is vastly superior for the rest of your lifetime using it.

I can't believe you just wrote up something about scrolling, but you missed the conflict in functionality between swipe to delete and swipe to scroll. Not to mention what happens when you're trying to tap and your finger slips making it a swipe.

That's the fundamental problem with touch interfaces. The tapping vs moving motions are not orthogonal like with a mouse (where they're registered by two separate devices entirely - button and optical sensor). Actions with severe consequences have to be redesigned to compensate for this lack of orthogonality. Every swipe may in fact have meant to have been a tap, so you need extra safeguards in place of an operation like delete, not just blithely assign it to a swipe. (Google's Android apps accomplish this by immediately bringing up the undo option if you swipe to delete.)

The standard, simple way of correcting for these occasional mis-touches is to have a Back control: Android phones have Back built into the phone as a universal control that is always available. Apple does not. Why? We donâ(TM)t know.

This is debatable. Back is not consistent in Android. You press back to get out of a menu and then press it again by accident? Whoops there goes your app. A back swipe contained within the app is both faster to access and more logical (you can't back out of an app).

Hitting back to exit an app in Android has little consequences because Android has supported multi-tasking from the get-go. You just tap the app again or bring up the app list and tap it again, and you're right back where you were a moment ago (except for the few apps which are poorly designed and reload everything from scratch when moving from the background to the foreground). I know you iOS users are a bit unfamiliar with the concept since you only recently got real multitasking, but the problem you cite of accidentally exiting an app having severe consequences is more or less unique to older versions of iOS. Android never truly exits an app unless it runs out of memory or the user explicitly exits it. Even if you reboot the device, a lot of apps save their state so when you open them you're right where you were before.

It's totally different from delete, where something disappears and you're left wondering "how the heck do I get that to come back?" As much as I'd like to say Android's back button helps in this case, it doesn't. The back button is typically used to undo a context-changing action. So if you began composing an email and changed your mind, you could hit back and it'd leave the compose interface to drop you back to the Inbox interface (and if you're in the app's main interface, back will drop you back to the Android home screen). It's more like a web browser's back button, which takes you back a "page". The back button is not typically used to undo actions performed on data like delete.

What used to work was Android's menu button. You accidentally delete something, you tap the menu button, and undo would be one of the options. Simple, effective, and always there. But Google did some usage testing and found the menu button was rarely used, so they got rid of it. Never mind that in the few cases where you did have to use it, it was really, really helpful. Simplicity trumps all apparently.

This is where the article gets really funny. "Please don't prove us wrong with real world examples". Guess what, my parents have no end of trouble with their computer (with all of it's discoverable features) but they spend 90% of the time on the iPad and picked it up very quickly. One of the first things my mom did was the five finger grab gesture to close an app. I was concerned with the switch to iOS7, but it turns out I shouldn't have worried as despite the visual overhaul there wasn't much radically different so it didn't cause them any significant issues.

Actually that is one of the problems the article points out. With the old menu-based interfaces, hotkey shortcuts were highlighted by underlining the hotkey letter in the menu. So you could use the interface via the menu, but if you found yourself using the same menu function over and over, you could easily learn the hotkey and use that instead. There is no similar assisted learning model for touch interfaces. Everything you learn, you learn from being taught, seeing other people doing it, or by doing it by accident. There's no assistance which suggests a faster way to do something that you're doing often. (Cue Clippy...)

Your parents are probably just having an easier time with the iPad because it implements a much more limited set of features than a full-blown computer app. Not because it's somehow magically easier to learn than assisted discovery tools. Try programming a spreadsheet with its myriad of different functions. It's a helluva lot easier on a computer than a tablet or phone, because the latter devices have much more limited input options.

Comment Re: Introduction (Score 4, Insightful) 207

As much as I'd like to believe that (I'm an engineer), I think what we're really seeing is the difference between a company which sells $90,000 cars vs companies which sell $25,000 cars. A recall which costs only 0.11% of your gross revenue is a lot easier to order than one which costs 0.4% of your gross revenue. Excluding R&D costs, the difference in profit margin exaggerates the difference even more. The recall cost is probably on the order of 0.5% of the profit margin for Tesla, but would be 10% of the profit margin for a typical (non-luxury) automaker. Heck, BMW covers all your maintenance costs for 4 years - you can do stuff like that if all you sell are luxury cars.

Comment Re:GM producers are shooting themselves in the foo (Score 1) 514

Disclosure, by its very definition, is not something that the producer wants at all. The consumer, on the other hand...

That's actually the key here. If you truly believe GMOs are harmless, then the only reason to bring them to market is because they are better than natural organisms. Maybe they're more sustainable because they grow faster, maybe they're fatter which makes them tastier, maybe they're better for the environment, etc.

So if you truly support GMOs in the market, you must believe they are superior. If that's true, then the GMO label should be a badge of honor. Something you want on your food - because it indicates superiority over natural foods.

Not wanting your GMOs to be disclosed to the consumer indicates either:
- You actually believe your products are inferior, and you don't want customers to know about it.
- You've done a stunningly bad job of PR. And what's needed to turn your fortunes around is to educate the public, not government regulations allowing you to trick people into eating something something that's not what they think it is.

"For the love of phlegm...a stupid wall of death rays. How tacky can ya get?" - Post Brothers comics