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Comment: Re:Adding Politics to Engineering Decisions (Score 1) 143

by westlake (#47734103) Attached to: Google Wants To Test Driverless Cars In a Simulation

Come on, Slashdot, you're a bunch of engineers, right?


If by engineer you mean a licensed professional who stands by his work, and can be called to account for his failures.

It's the height of hubris for outsiders (especially lawyers in the state legislature) to come in and dictate low-level engineering details.

It also the height of hubris for the geek to allow Google to be the sole judge of its own work.

Comment: Not my kind of person. (Score 4, Insightful) 407

by westlake (#47730483) Attached to: 33 Months In Prison For Recording a Movie In a Theater

Would you feel the same way if a financial advisor intentionally stole all the money your parents had for retirement?

The financial advisor isn't a geek ---

and the geek should never have to serve hard time.

That is the argument as it usually plays out on Slashdot.

Prison sends the message that the white guy with a six or seven figure income will be treated the same as the poor and the black.

It sends the message that intangible property is still property.

Something that the geek --- who spends his entire working life inside a digital universe defined by the value given to endless streams of ones and zeroes --- ought to be applauding,

Comment: Back when the world was mine. (Score 1) 540

by westlake (#47720675) Attached to: Study: Ad-Free Internet Would Cost Everyone $230-a-Year

My intuition is that I'd be just fine with the only content available being content that did not seek a revenue stream. I thought the internet was better back then anyway.

The geek always thinks that way

Because way back then the Internet was his personal playground. He was the both content provider and consumer. I haven't forgiven him yet for the multitude of user-unfriendly clients he devised for communication over the snail slow connections of the dial-up modem days.

Comment: Re:Bricking or Tracking? (Score 2) 297

The Government did not invent roads. Roads existed long before the Government made them, in fact most towns and cities had roads without a Government mandating and taxing people for using and building them.

Surveying a road, grading and maintaining it always comes with a pretty stiff price tag.

Local roads and bridges were traditionally paid for by taxes, tolls and contributions of labor and materials.

Long distance travel by car was damn near impossible before the US federal government became directly and deeply involved. [untitled photograph] [

Comment: Too subjective to be useful. (Score 1) 274

by westlake (#47716441) Attached to: Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars

Lots and lots of people cycle to where they need to go in the winter, and -28 is a pretty common winter temperature

I would like to see a real breakdown by age, sex, martial status, income, injuries and deaths in traffic, and reports of medical emergencies like hypothermia, heart attacks and so on,

Comment: Re:Infrastructure? (Score 1) 690

by westlake (#47716315) Attached to: Linus Torvalds: 'I Still Want the Desktop'

You pick any laptop with Windows pre-installed and buy another and let me install and configure Linux and put it in a box. You will then see how a Windows system when compared to a Linux system is inferior "out of the box."

How much say will I get in how you will configure the system?

You are a geek but I am not and we have a very different set of interests, values and expectations.

Comment: Big Whoop. (Score 1) 690

by westlake (#47715911) Attached to: Linus Torvalds: 'I Still Want the Desktop'

My desktop computer at home is running Linux for more than a decade now.

"Winning the desktop" has never been about winning over the geek.

It's always about winning over the full time office worker, the temp and the senior volunteer. The billion or so clerical workers in this world who keep things running behind the scenes.

Comment: By the numbers. (Score 1) 274

by westlake (#47714725) Attached to: Helsinki Aims To Obviate Private Cars

Finland has about 3 million passenger cars in use by a population of 5.46 million.

Finland, Vehicle stock grew in 2012

Helsinki has some 390 cars per 1000 inhabitants. This is less than in cities of similar density, such as Brussels' 483 per 1000, Stockholm's 401, and Oslo's 413.

Today, Helsinki is the only city in Finland to have trams and metro trains. There used to be two other cities in Finland with trams: Turku and Viipuri (Vyborg, now in Russia), but both have since abandoned trams. The Helsinki Metro, opened in 1982, is the only rapid transit system in Finland.


Comment: Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (Score 1) 96

by Jesus_666 (#47714613) Attached to: How Patent Trolls Destroy Innovation

You don't automatically deserve for your business to succeed regardless of other commercial factors, and you certainly don't deserve money just for having an idea. Ideas are cheap, it's R&D that costs money.

I never said that I deserve automatic business success. "Reward" and "getting paid" are two different things. I do agree, however, that I expressed myself poorly. Of course the mere idea is not enough to get a patent: At the very least I should supply enough information to make my valve. Still, I shouldn't need to actually produce valves in order to deserve patent protection; after all there are dedicated research entities like CSIRO who do expend significant effort to develop technologies even though they don't develop physical products based on those technologies.

And that is how the patent system is broken, because it directly rewards ideas and not development effort. The positive outcome of the system is just a side-effect of how the system works. The whole system needs refactoring so that it directly achieves the goals above within an ethical framework that acknowledges the value of straightforward hard work over simple ideas. This would mean that a patent troll with nothing more than an idea can't walk all over a company that had the same idea and then spend $10m developing it into a commercial product.

If the non-company actually came up with a working prototype and wrote a patent that explains in detail how to copy it and demonstrably came up with the whole thing first then yes, the non-company deserves the patent. Of course this scenario is utterly unlikely. Still, patents shouldn't be about how much it cost to come up with something; they should be about whether this something advances the state of the art and is described in a precise manner that allows an average worker in the field to reproduce it. If your company spends $10m and mine spends $100k and we independently arrive at the same method of solving a particular problem then your company's claim isn't automatically more valid than mine.

If we could ensure that all granted patents are for things that advance the state of the art in a reproducible manner we'd be much closer to a reasonable system (although there'd still be work left to be done).

Comment: Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (Score 2) 96

by Jesus_666 (#47710849) Attached to: How Patent Trolls Destroy Innovation
Patents are not inherently evil. If I get the idea for a new valve design that uses some obscure property of gasoline to make direct injection engines five percent more efficient then I deserve to be rewarded for that. But do I deserve a reward for taking something we already do and adding "via electronic transmission" without even detailing how exactly that transmission would work? Do I deserve a reward for taking the concepts of HTTP redirects and credit card processing and coming up with a redirect to a credit card processing software?

We have a few problems right now that need fundamental changes to how patents work in order to be resolved:

Firstly, there is a flood of patents far too great to allow patent examiners to examine each patent in detail. We can't solve this by adding more examiners; there's no money for that. We can't solve this by allowing an arbitrary backlog; sooner or later we'd get to a point where you'd spend longer for your application to be processed than the patent would last once approved, which would hurt legitimately useful applications. The current solution, just doing less work per patent, just means that more junk patents come through.

Additionally, we don't have enough experts. A patent on "storing a word processor document in a single XML file" (real patent) might not sound obvious to a patent examiner who doesn't have a deep understanding of IT but to an IT professional it's blindingly obvious; after all XML is a universal format and we store all sorts of other documents in XML form already. Still, a patent has been granted for this "innovation", most likely because the patent office can't afford enough IT experts to properly evaluate every IT patent. (Admittedly, the patent is specific enough that one can, with effort, create a non-infringing XML text document format. But it's still obvious.)

Of course it doesn't help that some granted patents are overly generic. Many patents just declare dominion over an idea, sometimes even without providing technical information on how to make the idea actually work. This can be hard to see for the examiner because of the relative dearth of domain experts.

Compounding that is the fact that willful infringement nets harsher punishment. However, if I actually do the research to make sure I don't violate certain patents it becomes reasonable to assume that I know about all relevant patents in the field. If I overlooked some and end up infringing them it becomes difficult to prove that I didn't know about them, costing me more money. Thus, the safest course of action is to never read any patents at all so I can at least claim ignorance. This keeps me open to surprise litigation, of course, and it also perverts the entire point of the patent system: Patents are not there so that someone can control an idea, they are there so that someone provides his idea and technical work to everyone else in exchange for some royalties.

Fixing this mess won't be easy. We need far more experts, more time per patent and fewer patent applications. The former two aren't going to happen because nobody's willing to pay that much money and the latter isn't going to happen as long as obtaining patents is as lucrative as it is today. While I don't think that killing off the entire patent system is the way to go it's easy to see how people come up with the idea.

Comment: Re:A limit is a limit (Score 2) 473

by westlake (#47705877) Attached to: Google's Driverless Cars Capable of Exceeding Speed Limit

When it comes to breaking the speed limit or being run over by a semi, I'll break the speed limit every time.

To what advantage if the semi is also being driven far above the speed limit?

Realistically, what are your chances of actually keeping pace with the thing or out-running it without losing control of your own vehicle?

Comment: Re:All that money... (Score 1) 572

by westlake (#47701097) Attached to: Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft

Yep. And then all that money that would be used to pay salaries that would be used on expenses locally, making the local economy work, will be redirected to Bill Gate's pockets.

The Munich economy is working just fine.

Munich is considered a global city and holds the headquarters of Siemens AG (electronics), BMW (car), MAN AG (truck manufacturer, engineering), Linde (gases), Allianz (insurance), Munich Re (re-insurance), and Rohde & Schwarz (electronics). Among German cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants purchasing power is highest in Munich (26,648 euro per inhabitant) as of 2007. In 2006, Munich blue-collar workers enjoyed an average hourly wage of 18.62 euro (ca. $23).

The breakdown by cities proper (not metropolitan areas) of Global 500 cities listed Munich in 8th position in 2009. Munich is a centre for biotechnology, software and other service industries. Munich is the home of the headquarters of many other large companies such as the aircraft engine manufacturer MTU Aero Engines, the injection molding machine manufacturer Krauss-Maffei, the camera and lighting manufacturer Arri, the semiconductor firm Infineon Technologies (headquartered in the suburban town of Neubiberg), lighting giant Osram, as well as the German or European headquarters of many foreign companies such as McDonald's and Microsoft.


as to that new corporate headquarters in Munich that makes the geek so suspicious:

Microsoft Deutschland decided to relocate its [30 year old] headquarters [from a suburb about 17km north of the city] and establish new, modern headquarters in Parkstadt Schwabing. Commencement of the construction works is planned for 2014. As of summer 2016, approximately 1,800 employees will find a new working environment in the new headquarters in Munich-Schwabing." a>Microsoft Deutschland GmbH relocates its headquarters[Nov 2013]

Counting in binary is just like counting in decimal -- if you are all thumbs. -- Glaser and Way