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Comment: Re:Irreversible? (Score 5, Insightful) 469

by Solandri (#47766253) Attached to: Climate Damage 'Irreversible' According Leaked Climate Report
I have a slightly different take on it. Using absolutes like "irreversible" or "unavoidable" is dangerous is because it decreases public support for what you're trying to accomplish. People will think, "well if we can't do anything about it, then I guess there's nothing left to do but live it up in the time we have left."

Comment: I don't have a problem with that (Score 1) 328

Customers must pay more if they exceed limits â" but it's not a cap,

That's fine with me, if they'll also give me a refund if I don't reach my limit. After all, fair's fair, right? They estimate how much data I'll use when I sign up, and if I exceed it they charge me extra, if I don't reach it they charge me less.

Comment: Re:Why hasn't it happened already? (Score 1) 233

by Solandri (#47758765) Attached to: California Passes Law Mandating Smartphone Kill Switch

iPhones have had the ability to be remote wiped for a long time. Yet I have not heard of a pandemic of hacker-led mass bricking of iPhones. Dirty hipsters and their iPhones have been at the center of a lot of protests yet we haven't heard of mass iPhone shutdowns by the police in response to demonstrations.

I believe Apple implemented their wipe The Right Way and only the phone's owner can initiate it. There's no way for the police or government to shut down iPhones without knowing the users' iCloud credentials. There have been spurious cases of hackers locking phones by getting those credentials.

I think this just finally cuts off the ability of the cell carriers to encourage and profit from theft by activating stolen phones.

Too many people try to project their personal viewpoint onto the carriers as "evidence" of malfeasance. Your phone got stolen and you have to buy a replacement. You have to spend more money, therefore the carrier must be making more money.

It's totally different from the carrier's perspective. Person A bought a phone. Person B somehow gets person A's phone (stolen or bought, does not matter). Person A buys a new phone from them, but person B does not buy a phone from them. The net result to them is that they have two customers, and have sold two phones. It's a zero-sum game - theft does not result in the carrier making extra sales. It may lead to them selling more high-end phones (i.e. Person B could not afford a current iPhone but steals one; person A buys another current iPhone). But smartphones depreciate so quickly I suspect they make far more money from people replacing their phones for newer models, than from upsells due to theft. i.e. If person B would've bought the old iPhone model anyway, and person A would've bought the new iPhone model anyway, then the carrier hasn't made any extra money from the theft.

The carriers have resisted tracking and disabling stolen phones because they are not a law enforcement organization. If Bob and his wife get into an argument about who owns the phone, the carriers don't want to get involved. Why risk getting sued by Bob's wife because they bricked her phone when Bob called them and told them it was stolen? They want to sell the phone, and be done with it.* Anything that happens to the phone after it's sold is between the buyer(s), their insurer, and law enforcement. (*Not that I particularly agree with this stance since the carriers were simultaneously trying to claim rights to keep your phone locked.)

Comment: Re:No different than emission standards (Score 2) 233

by Solandri (#47758453) Attached to: California Passes Law Mandating Smartphone Kill Switch
California has a GDP just shy of $2 trillion. If it were a country, that would put it at #10 in the world, just behind the UK, Russia, Brazil, and Italy; just ahead of India, Canada; bigger than Spain, Austrailia; nearly twice as big as South Korea, Mexico; and four times as big as Sweden, Norway.

That said, I seriously doubt this will have repercussions outside of California other than the capability being there if other legal jurisdictions should choose to require it. This isn't like a new formulation for gasoline, or an entirely new engine emissions system which needs to be designed from scratch. It's basically software, and it'd be trivial write to a PROM upon delivery or sale to permanently enable/disable the functionality. In this case, the cost of "manufacturing" two different devices for different markets is trivial.

Comment: Re:Dropbox use AWS (Score 4, Interesting) 272

by Solandri (#47745115) Attached to: Dropbox Caught Between Warring Giants Amazon and Google
I was going to post that too. But while googling to make sure Dropbox still used Amazon S3, I came across this article. Apparently the problem for Dropbox is the price volatility. Amazon can lower or raise its prices on a whim because they don't have much competition. Dropbox doesn't have that luxury.

Comment: Re:I see 2 problems (Score 1) 83

by Solandri (#47742409) Attached to: Sources Say Amazon Will Soon Be Targeting Ads, a la Google AdWords

So how about you get off your ass and change the laws governing how ridiculous your taxes are?

No, you don't ACTUALLY want that do you? My guess is that you're happy to take all the benefits those taxes provide, but somehow think its okay to not actually participate in paying them.

California has one of the highest tax burdens in the country. It's even worse if you factor in average income. Graduated income taxes means states with higher incomes naturally have a higher tax burden. The #1-3 tax burden states are all in the top 5 in income. But California at #4 in tax burden is 15th in income.

It's not about being unwilling to pay taxes for services. It's about the state being inefficient at providing those services. Any shortfall is viewed not as a spending problem, but a revenue one; meaning the inefficiencies are allowed to remain while taxation goes up relative to other states. Most of what I've seen in my two decades here has been creative phantom budget cuts which really only push the costs to future years, and hiding new taxes in places the public won't notice. If the government spent half as much creative effort trying to actually streamline spending, things wouldn't be so bad.

Unfortunately, voting doesn't make much difference because the districts have been gerrymandered (that tends to happen when one party controls a state for a long time). The breakdown of likely voters in California favors Democrats by only about 60% to 40%. But in the legislature Democrats hold 69% of the Assembly and 68% of the Senate (down from 78% after the latest election). The last time the state had anything close to proportional representation was in the late 1990s after governor Pete Wilson (R) vetoed the districts drawn by the legislature. The State Supreme Court ended up redrawing the districts, and the breakdown of elected legislators was much closer to the will of the voters (who were about 55%/45% in favor of Democrats back then).

Comment: Re:Okay... and? (Score 0) 316

by Solandri (#47740869) Attached to: For Microsoft, $93B Abroad Means Avoiding $30B Tax Hit

-Microsoft develops product in U.S, generating tax credit for R&D.
-Microsoft shifts ownership, or "Profit Rights" of product off-shore, to say....The Bahamas.
-Microsoft Bahamas subsidiary sells U.S developed product to Americans.
-Microsoft Bahamas claims all profit. Microsoft America gets all Tax Credits.

And that's how they avoid paying taxes. It's legal. It might not be "right," but it's legal, and won't change until our nation's useless politicians do something about it.

Let me propose an alternative to playing whack-a-mole with corporations shifting expenses and revenue across borders.

Every sale is also a purchase. Instead of splitting the taxes so both the purchaser and manufacturer have to send some of the money from the same transaction to the government, put it all on the purchaser. Drop the corporate tax, increase the sales tax to compensate. The retail store or branch making the sale can't shift their location offshore, so the tax revenue will stay in the country where the sale was made.

  • The government collects the exact same amount of money, it's just the retail store which collects it and sends it to the government, instead of both them and the product manufacturer.
  • The buyer (eventually) pays the same amount for the product, because with the manufacturer no longer needing to pay tax, they lower the price to where old_price + old_tax = new_price + new_tax.
  • With the lower tax burden on companies, the tax credits become politically untenable and are reduced or disappear.

Taxes just shift private sector money to the government. Where you collect it doesn't really change the big picture. Money is just a representation of productivity, and people are the only source of productivity. So ultimately, all taxes are paid for by people. If you crank up corporate taxes, they raise prices to pay for it, and the people buying the products are the ones who ultimately pay the tax, not the corporation.

So with all that in mind, we should be striving for the simplest tax system with as few tax extraction points as possible to keep down collection and bookkeeping costs. Having a bajillion different taxes just drives up collection costs and decreases money available for the government to spend on other things, as well as increases the amount of tax code which can have bugs or loopholes in it.

Comment: Re:Everything old is new again. (Score 1) 193

by Solandri (#47740829) Attached to: Facebook Experimenting With Blu-ray As a Storage Medium
On a volumetric basis, a 4 TB HDD contains as much info as a 80 BDs at 50 GB per disc. So a HDD is a more compact storage form factor.

Blu-ray, like other WORM (write-once read-many) storage devices, fills a particular niche - long-term archival and storage of static data. It doesn't really fit Facebook's particular use case (dynamic data), unless they're planning to use it as an excuse not to have to delete user data upon request.

Comment: Re:Binoculars (Score 1) 185

by Solandri (#47740789) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

Binoculars won't cut it if you want to see Jupiter's moons or Saturn's rings.

The problem with this argument is that you've just listed the only things he will be missing with a budget purchase. Ideal viewing times for these come rarely, and at the magnifications required he would also need a very expensive tracking mount in order to really enjoy them.

The four Galilean moons around Jupiter are easily visible with binoculars. Heck if you have good eyesight and dark skies, you can sometimes barely make out Ganymede or Callisto at maximum separation with the naked eye. Max separation is about 10 arc-minutes, while 20/20 vision is the ability to distinguish a 1 arc-minute separation. The 4.5-5.5 magnitude is the bigger problem. I'd say tracking the movement of Jupiter's moons from night to night is probably the best fun "project" for a kid just getting into astronomy. It really drives home the point that these things move.

I don't know why you'd think ideal viewing times are rare. They're the same as for anything else in the sky other than the sun. Say you define "ideal" viewing as a 150 degree swath of sky (anything more than 15 degrees above the horizon). Figure the kid can view from an hour after sunset til midnight, so an average 5 hours (less in the summer, more in winter). The sky rotates 15 degrees per hour, so that's an additional 75 degrees of visibility. So on any given evening, 225 degrees of the sky will fall under "ideal" viewing conditions for part of the night. i.e. On average Jupiter and Saturn can be seen 62.5% of evenings. (The fact that they move doesn't change the percentage of time they're in any given part of the sky. It just means their visibility does not map to the same months every year.)

You don't need a tracking mount to see bands on Jupiter or the rings of Saturn. I saw those things just fine with a non-tracking 60mm refractor from K-mart. It's only a problem showing kids these things because the planet will cross outside the field of view within 20-30 seconds.* That's not much time to locate the planet, then get the kid in position to look through the eyepiece to see. The tracking mount makes it a lot easier, but is not necessary. (*The sky rotates at 15 deg/hr, or 15 arc-seconds per second. Jupiter is about 30-50 arc-seconds across, so it'll move a full diameter every 2-3 seconds. At a decent magnifcation, Jupiter will span about 10% of your field of view, so it'll move from edge to edge in 20-30 sec.)

Astronomy binoculars have many benefits in the budget arena. They are rugged, low maintenance, both eyes is nice, and most importantly portable.

The other reply had mentioned that a downside is that they are hard to hold steady. Thats what a tripod is for.

I agree with the recommendation for binoculars. But realistically, you're going to use binoculars handheld most of the time, with the kid locating objects in the sky on his/her own. Using them with a tripod is more difficult and complicated than using a scope with a tripod.

You have to look straight through binoculars, so you have to view them with your head pointed up (sometimes even straight up). That means the tripod needs to hold them higher than your head. Even if you're seated, that's a really tall tripod. It also complicates switching off viewing to your kid. You take a seat in front of the tripod and adjust the binoculars. Then the kid gets in the seat and... the binoculars are too high. So you lower them, and get back in the seat to reposition them and... now it's too low for you.

Most telescopes come with a 90 degree inverting mirror/prism, which vastly simplifies viewing by allowing you to iew through the scope with your head pointed down. You just position the scope low enough for the child to view through it, then you just stoop lower so you can look through it to position it. Because you're viewing down instead of up, stooping lower doesn't require you to angle you head further (or impossibly) back.

Comment: Re:Too much good content is deleted at Wikipedia. (Score 2) 239

by Solandri (#47727021) Attached to: Latest Wikipedia Uproar Over 'Superprotection'
The only thing wrong with it is that the self-anointed control-freak editors who consider Wikipedia their personal property can't possibly know or research information to that level of detail. They will have to (gasp!) rely on others to provide it. And they'll have to make objective editorial decisions to determine which articles are likely fake or likely true, instead of just flying by the seat of their pants and editing/deleting based on their personal opinion.

I'm shopping for a house right now. If Wikipedia had basic information about individual homeowners associations, townhouse developments, and condo complexes - like when it was built, who provides Internet service and what speeds you should expect, what type of and how many community facilities it has (pool, tennis courts, etc), nearby supermarkets and other resources - that would be incredibly useful information. I'm finding this sort of stuff is rarely mentioned in the housing listings, most developments and complexes don't have a website which states these things, and realtors aren't too fond of digging up this info for you if you're still in the stage of eliminating houses that don't fit your needs.

But as I said, that would require the control-freaks on Wikipedia to let the people who live there write the wiki article, and they just won't stand for giving up control like that. That's the slippery slope they're afraid of.

Comment: Re:Get ready to submit an itemized cell phone bill (Score 3, Insightful) 160

by Solandri (#47722537) Attached to: Calif. Court Rules Businesses Must Reimburse Cell Phone Bills

It is the same way with travel. Rather than give you a per diem of $100, they want itemized receipts, which you have to collect, enter into the system, submit, your manager has to review and approve, and then Travel has to audit and approve. All because they don't want you to go eat Ramen and pocket the other $97. They spend thousands of dollars of company time to save a few hundred dollars on travel expenses.

Companies would love to give you a $100 per diem for meals. As you point out, in addition to being easier for the employee, it saves them money.

The reason they require you to itemize receipts is because if they're ever audited by the IRS, they need to be able to produce the receipts to prove those were real incurred business expenses. Not imaginary numbers made up to pad the expenses and scam the IRS out of tax revenue.

We also tried it the laid back way - we'll give you a $100 per diem, you don't have to itemize, just collect all your receipts and hand them in after your trip. The accountant who was going to double-check your numbers anyway will just do the itemizing. Net result was that employees forgot to save their receipts or "lost" them. They'd already been paid $100 for the meals, so there was no incentive for them to be careful with the receipts. So back we went to having the employee itemize if they wanted reimbursement.

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