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Comment: Re:Google would be stupid not to (Score 1) 114

Being in the industry myself (technology that is, not politics), it is absolutely true that every one of the current tech companies learned a hard lesson from Microsoft. Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon...they all have lobbying efforts.

This is all probably inevitable given the central position that technology has taken in our society. For decades technology was below the radar, more or less unregulated, and us geeks could be blissfully uninvolved in national politics. Now tech is like every other successful industry: You have to be present in the national debate or random -- generally bad -- things are likely to happen to you.

Comment: Re:EU companies may break the law by using US ISPs (Score 2) 115

by Stuntmonkey (#46278837) Attached to: French, German Leaders: Keep European Email Off US Servers

It's a trust issue more than a legal issue. As it turns out American companies were for years under gag orders for certain kinds of government (FISA) data requests. They couldn't even discuss their existence. Under pressure from leaks, now the US government is relaxing and allowing them to reveal some aggregate data about these previously-secret requests.

The fact that all this "openness" has only come under duress makes one strongly suspect that the spying will only shift into some new program. The legality of FISA is almost beside the point when it comes to the question of who do you trust with your data.

Comment: Re:It's about time. (Score 1) 731

by Stuntmonkey (#46218685) Attached to: Death Hovers Politely For Americans' Swipe-and-Sign Credit Cards

This is one of the reasons why the US banking industry hasn't pushed for chip-and-pin: It makes it a little bit harder to get and set up a new card. It isn't uncommon for Americans to have 7 to 10 credit cards, and the banking industry likes it when people are in debt up to their eyeballs. If all 10 of those cards have different PINs that becomes hard to remember, and at some level they are concerned people will have fewer cards.

Comment: It's a Windows problem, not a PC problem (Score 4, Funny) 564

by Stuntmonkey (#45921835) Attached to: PC Shipments In 2013 See the Worst Yearly Decline In History

Unit sales for Apple computers are way up year over year. Likewise unit sales for smart phones, tablets, game consoles -- literally everything with a CPU that doesn't run Windows -- are up year over year.

This is a Windows problem. People don't get excited by clunky old Windows. They don't buy it because they love it, they buy it when they have to. And increasingly they don't.

Comment: Re:seems like a weird sanction (Score 1) 55

by Stuntmonkey (#45911909) Attached to: Google Fined By French Privacy Regulator

Inform users and then obtain their consent in particular before storing cookies in their terminal

Can someone please name for me a single site that obtains my consent before storing cookies in my terminal?

This is the worst kind of law: Written so that everyone is breaking it, and therefore can be selectively applied to anyone. The French regulators wanted to get some positive press at home by beating up on a big American company. Let's all wait patiently while they issue the thousands of fines to French companies violating this same law.

Comment: Re:HD (Score 2) 112

To get much better than Skybox a larger optic wouldn't help. They are achieving an angular resolution of about 0.35 arcseconds, and because of the blurring effects of the atmosphere, at visible wavelengths this is about as fine a resolution you can achieve regardless of optics used.

There may be some ways to use adaptive optics or lucky imaging. But they would be very difficult to apply given the rapid motion of the camera relative to the atmosphere. And they would apply only to a very limited spot on the ground, not to an extended area like what's being imaged here. For wide-area imaging I think Skybox has pretty well optimized it to get the best achievable resolution in the smallest possible box (diffraction implies an optic diameter of at least 15 inches or so).

Comment: Re:Thanks Big O! (Score 2) 104

by Stuntmonkey (#45910327) Attached to: International Space Station Mission Extended To 2024

Is what they are doing helping us to Mars or a asteroid?

My assessment is: Not really.

There is a very exciting goal in human spaceflight: Long-term habitation outside of Earth's biosphere. I think this is what everybody gets excited about when they think of humans in space. And there are good practical reasons to build off-world colonies, in terms of resource utilization and species risk.

This is an enormously difficult goal, because humans are fragile and it's hard to support our needs in a completely self-contained way. If our Mars colony requires supply ships from Earth to maintain, we haven't done anything to mitigate species risk. And it will elevate the ongoing costs so much as to make it economically untenable. We need self-sustainability if we're to scale to the thousands, or millions, of off-world inhabitants we need to be a truly multi-planet species. Basic economics are important.

If self-contained colonies are the real goal -- and I believe they are -- then logically our R&D should go into solving the major blockers to that outcome. The first thing to realize is that spaceflight is NOT one of those blockers. Since Apollo we've had the engineering know-how to safely transport humans to the surface of Mars. We've lacked the political will to fund it, but that's a different matter. All the fundamental technologies are in hand.

The real engineering blocker is how do we survive long-term once we get there? How do we extract resources from Mars, how do we recycle our wastes, how do we grow food, how do we synthesize what we can't find? These are problems that don't have anything to do with spaceflight. Most, or all, of this is development can happen on the ground. NASA provides very little funding for this type of work. Perhaps they have looked at it and concluded the problems are too difficult to tackle in our present state of knowledge.

So post-Apollo we've been in this odd situation: People support manned spaceflight because they think it's getting us closer to off-world colonies. But NASA's activities are not actually oriented toward achieving that goal.

Comment: Re:I have a thought about where this all came from (Score 1) 287

by Stuntmonkey (#45586507) Attached to: RMS Calls For "Truly Anonymous" Payment Alternative To Bitcoin

We need a way to move money anonymously, and we need it right this minute

The problem with anonymous electronic cash is that it enables an entire class of crimes that would be very easy to commit. For example someone kidnaps a wealthy person's child, and threatens to kill them unless the recipient encrypts $5m in anonymous ecash with a particular public key, and publishes the resulting hex code as an advertisement in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. If the cash is truly anonymous it's the perfect unbeatable crime.

Truly anonymous ecash is a potentially very dangerous thing. All of the failure modes need to be carefully considered.

Comment: Viable business for decades (Score 1) 497

by Stuntmonkey (#43908333) Attached to: Can Microsoft Survive If Windows Doesn't Dominate?

There is a part of Microsoft's business that is all-but-guaranteed for decades: From companies heavily invested in their platform for internal operations (enterprise apps, corp databases). Anybody who's worked in corp IT knows how deep the lock-in runs for these things. Microsoft will make ongoing money from this, just as IBM makes ongoing money from mainframe computing and AS/400.

The longer-term question for Microsoft is will they be a part of any big future growth trends. I don't see it on the consumer side, with the possible exception of gaming (but gamers are fickle). On the business side they could build a great business on their cloud platform. CIOs hate to run their own infrastructure, and meanwhile the other big cloud providers (Amazon, Google) aren't focusing on the Fortune 500 use case.

Comment: Separation of publishing from reputation/filtering (Score 4, Interesting) 193

by Stuntmonkey (#43048953) Attached to: The Real Reason Journal Articles Should Be Free

Historically the act of publishing (making work available to readers) was tied to the quality control (QC) processes of academia. When you publish on paper this is a necessity, but where I see publishing headed is a separation of these two functions. In an online world there is really no reason to conflate the two. (My main reservation about open-access journals like PLoS One is that they are too much a replica of traditional journals.)

In my ideal world:

1. Everyone publishes their articles for free in an online repository (say Arxiv), starting as early as the preprint stage. If an author needs help with document preparation (typesetting, graphics, proofreading), they can contract with a freelancer through the repository. (I.e., you really don't need an editor at Nature to help you find typos.) An author can revise their paper at any time, but previous versions are kept. Additionally, data that is commonly not published today (code, complete datasets, analysis scripts) could be attached as reference, and publishing these supporting materials would be strongly encouraged.

2. Authors can submit their work to one or more editorial boards, for evaluation and (potential) selection. They pay for this service, likely several thousand dollars since the work is expensive. If an editorial board approves their work, it gets tagged in the repository in a very visible way, which can then be used for filtering/reading. Multiple tags could be attached to an article. Some editorial boards might for example only check a piece of work for accuracy (say in its statistical analysis, or simulation code). Others may focus on importance and potential impact. All of these tags together form one component of the article's "reputation" (see below).

3. All references to works submitted after the introduction of the system, are links to those articles in the repository. So the repository can easily track the number of citations a given article has, and from articles of what reputation. The number and reputation of citing articles forms a second component of the article's "reputation".

Initially the editorial boards would evolve out of the current journal hierarchy, so for example in physics there would be a "Physical Review Letters" editorial board. (Which may continue printing a hardcopy of the PRL journal, at their discretion, if they can make the economics work.) New editorial boards could come into being, for example on specific functions like fact- or accuracy-checking. The reputations of these editorial boards would likely be relatively persistent over time, like the perceived reputations of print journals today.

I would submit this would also be imminently practical for the academic community to move into. It builds on the publishing and QC mechanisms that currently exist.

Comment: Re:Same as it ever was (Score 1) 103

by Stuntmonkey (#43048205) Attached to: Are Gaming Studios the Most Innovative Tech Companies Out There?

I'm not saying that gaming led to the ideas behind the GUI; these came from the Alto and elsewhere.

I'm saying that gaming was what drove graphics price/performance to a point where GUI-quality graphics hardware could be present in most PCs. Some market force had to be present to drive the industry toward a $100 graphics card that was GUI-capable. That market force was gaming.

You mention the graphics workstation companies (Apollo, Sun, SGI, NeXT, etc.), but they were not a factor. Yes they had a lot of R&D and high-performance hardware, but they were targeting niche applications (CAD/CAM, imaging, research) where cost was not a factor. Perhaps some of their ideas filtered down, but we would never have seen a $100 graphics card come from these companies; the market forces were not present.

Comment: Same as it ever was (Score 1) 103

by Stuntmonkey (#43047409) Attached to: Are Gaming Studios the Most Innovative Tech Companies Out There?

For as long as I've been involved with computing (early 1980s), two things have always held true:

1. Gaming has driven the performance envelope in many areas, which then filters down to other applications. For example, GUIs in the late 80s/90s would not have been possible if gaming hadn't pushed graphics technology 5-10 years earlier. More recently, GPUs led the way toward general multi-core processing, and game UIs led to the "tactile" interfaces that are now common on smartphones and tablets. Expect to see more recent gaming innovations like motion controllers and VR technology migrate into non-gaming applications over time.

2. People look down on gaming, and "gaming" machines. The C64 and Amiga were dismissed as "toys" by many, just as today a lot of people dismiss an Xbox 360 or PS3 in the same way. This I think is gradually changing, as people (and companies like Intel and AMD) realize that gaming is where the demand for higher performance is coming from. People only need their spreadsheet to go so fast, but gaming can always make use of more resources (for now at least).

Comment: Re:Fixed (Score 1) 1106

by Stuntmonkey (#43009011) Attached to: The U.S. minimum wage should be

Minimum wage does have the net effect of pricing certain jobs out of the market. The manufacturing jobs relocate overseas, and the service jobs just vanish (you mentioned ushering).

We do know that unemployment in the US is fairly low, so the people who would have had those jobs aren't just sitting around idle, by and large. The minimum wage forces lower-skilled workers to acquire skills. Everybody is required to provide at least $7.50/hr worth of value *somehow*. For this reason I think it's a positive thing. Speaking for myself, I don't need an usher or a full-time bathroom attendant; I'd rather see people investing to grow their skills.

Comment: Re:Consoles are limited (Score 1) 403

by Stuntmonkey (#43008725) Attached to: Is the Wii U Already Dead?

The manufacturers must be going banannas trying to create a game for four different platforms.

In the next generation the Xbox and PS will each have standard x86-based PC architectures, with pretty mainstream GPUs. This will make it relatively easy for developers to target PC, Xbox, and PS (no more funky graphics pipelines, Cell processors, etc.). You could really just think of the Xbox 720 and PS4 as locked-down gaming PCs, packaged to be easy to buy and plug in.

Life's the same, except for the shoes. - The Cars