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Comment: good will (Score -1, Offtopic) 190

by fermion (#48601151) Attached to: Why Didn't Sidecar's Flex Pricing Work?
There is also a surcharge of good will in economics. When one company buys another, there is good will. When people pya $1000 for a MS license instead of much less for Google docs, some of that is good will.

The taxi service in my area has had tracking of the cabs for a while and the ability to get a cab with an app for a very long while. The wait on the phone is not long at all. I am not in an area where cabs are used a lot, but sometimes a cab is better than a bus or driving.

I specifically use cabs because of lack of surge pricing. There have been times when I have had to get home at midnight, and it good that i can just take a cab and not get gouged. If one want to show appreciation, tip better.

In some ways I see these ride buying service as Walmart. Come in, chage less to drive out others, then raise the prices and the consumer is at the mercy of an unregulated monopoly.

Comment: Re:They have good reason to be nervous (Score 1) 280

by fermion (#48560937) Attached to: Utilities Face Billions In Losses From Distributed Renewables
it is an interesting theory, but misses a couple facts. First, the owners of the grid are protected. For instance, in disasters in the recent past the repair costs for the grid have been passed directly to rate payers even though the gird operators should have reserved cash to pay for those repairs. It is like the owner of corner grocery charging everyone a dollar extra because he was robbed the previous evening. Likewise, many people buy electricity through resellers. The producers mostly know just sell bulk, so they are not really interested in how much electricity is used, just that enough is sold to support the plants. And the solar panel is only going to allow them to reduce capacity, and increase profits. Here is how. There is such an overcapacity of overnight electricity that resellers give it away. The generators have to provide an excess during the day, and have to charge more to cover the costs. With a bunch of residential solar panels feeding electricity back into the grid during the day when people are not home, the providers can afford to supply electricity at night when they were giving it away for free before. In my a typical use case in my area, a family might spend $300 on electricity when there is a lot of sun, and $100 when there is little sun. With solar panels, such a family might see no money going to electric company, but maybe extra electricity feeding the grid at peak times when before there might have been brownouts. The only problem is this grid, which obviously is going to have to be funded separately, maybe $20 a month for a connection.

Comment: C is effectively portable assembly code (Score 1) 640

by fwc (#48554499) Attached to: How Relevant is C in 2014?
My opinion about why 'C' is still highly relevant is that there are still many needs for small, tight, code which runs very close to to the metal, and C is ideal for this.

When you look at the output code from a C compiler, it tends to be small and fast, and relatively light on resources. In many cases, with modern compiler optimizations, the resulting code can actually be smaller and faster than all but assembly code written by someone who really knows how to optimize for a specific machine. Almost all embedded development work is done in either C or assembly, and C tends to be faster to write, and portable - so you can move the code to the next project if necessary.

Using any 'modern' object oriented language immediately adds a level of bloat which is generally not acceptable in places where C still shines. These modern programming languages are written for environments where a few extra bytes or a few extra cycles isn't going to cause a problem. When working on a resource-limited platform (aka where you'd kill for a few hundred KB of code space, and more than a few thousand bytes of ram) you're just not going to be able to use a modern language because of the overhead of an object oriented language.

I'd actually predict C is going to grow in the near term, just because of the growth of internet-connected low-resource devices. I actually develop products on a platform which has a complete TCP/IP stack (including web server and SNMP) running in less than 128KB (yes K not M) of memory. These and other similar small platforms are going to be the basis of the 'things' half of the internet of things, all of which are going to have C code at their base.

Comment: Re:Nonsense (Score 1) 367

by fermion (#48542427) Attached to: Overly Familiar Sci-Fi
Absolutely. I really hope this was written by some adolescent who is fustrated because no publisher will accept the book, and not by someone anyone considers a real writer. First, the world has changed but no changed so much. For instance, my mother who was born a few years after the first war had little trouble assimilating late 20th and 21st century technology, or adapting that technology to her own uses. She owned a computer and a flat screen TV.

Second, most writers still use the novel format, which is around 400 years old in it's current format. This is different from older western forms, which tended to be more spoken word, such as Beowulf You can still buy 400 year old novels such Don Quixote. I would suspect that if one were doing something new, then moving from the novel format, or at least messing with it as Kurt Vonnegut did, would be the minimal requirement.

Third, the world has changed significantly in 500 years, but if one reads the old works we still identify the humans as humans and understand the motivation. Yes, most of us would die quickly because we did not bow down to the king, or because we helped a slave escape, or because we did not know to avoid the emptying of chamber pot, but I think the reason to read literature is to learn that we are not all that removed from our forebears.

And fourth, in this brave new world no one can make an author throw away 50 pages of work. If one thinks they through away 50 good pages, then that is a matter of one's own integrity, nothing else. Write the book you want to write, publish it, slip it into bookstore, no one is stopping you. If one is willing to give up one's artistic integrity for greed and actually sell books, then that is something different.

Science fiction helps us explore our relationship with the technology that allows us to amplify our creative abilities. It is different from fantasy that allows us to imagine a world where the rules are different. Imagining a different culture is not that useful because the world that is going to interact with the technology is our present culture. We do not live in a world that everyone, all of the sudden, is going to accept that their way of life is obsolete and immediately embrace new ideas.

Comment: Re:Circular logic (Score 1) 66

by fermion (#48540931) Attached to: A Case Against Further Government Spectrum Auctions
I would say a lease, say 10 years, that would long enough for infrastructure investment, but closed ended so if that others can have a regular opportunity to bid.

I would also suggest that the spectrum has to be used and sold to the public as a competitive product. If not the lease has to be forfeited and the firm or it subsidiaries cannot big on it again for one cycle.

Given the way the Aero case went, where the public was not allowed to access the public airwaves through leased equipment, I would like to see the TV stations be subject to the same rules. Pay for the spectrum they use. If they are going to claim that the public cannot access the public spectrum without payment, then let the broadcast stations pay as well. Honestly, they no longer serve a public interest.

Comment: Re:Who cares... (Score 4, Interesting) 345

It matters as this is seen as some upstart with no experience taking control away from experienced men who cannot by themselves move into the 21st century. This interpretation is right and wrong

For the past 40 years TNR has apparently been owned by a incredibly bigoted person who used the liberal credibility of the magazine to push his white supremacists ideas. Certainly these ideals are accepted in some circles, but not the target audience of the TNR. As a new generation who was not raised on overt bigotry came into being, a generation that pretty uniformly saw the assassination of MLK through history books, not newscasts, and were not raised on magazine subscriptions, the new century saw the circulation of the new republic cut in half. The white supremacy could no longer be covered with the inertia of the respect of the magazine.

In this way we see the problems of TNR firmly rooted in old ideas and the destruction of the brand by the previous owner. If the brand is to be rehabilitated it is going to require the jettison of the previous ideas that are not consistent with far left ideology, and those who think that white supremacy is consistent with anything real in the US were free to leave with the editors.

TNR is only going to be saved by re branding as an online source of liberal news and analysis. While the editors did not promote any kind of white supremacy, they were complicit in the past, and that may have been a problem in the present.

Comment: Re:Better Teachers... (Score 1) 229

by fermion (#48512851) Attached to: FBI Seizes Los Angeles Schools' iPad Documents
The counterpoint here is that when someone has no choice, then one ends up with a lot of unqualified people because they are it involuntarily. The reason we don't have good teachers because teaching is a trade with skills that are only acquired with experience. For instance, if you are going to be a master plumber, there is education and then two years experience. Programs like Teach For America, on the other hand, put teachers in schools but the vast majority leave the classroom before they have the experience to become a good teacher. The financial incentives also limit the retention of good teachers. Keeping a teacher more than 10 years becomes very expensive, so there is financial pressure to let teachers go in the 5-10 years frame, just when they are becoming master teachers.

Comment: Re:Raining on the parade (Score 1) 172

by fermion (#48510479) Attached to: Study: HIV Becoming Less Deadly, Less Infectious
Also, infection rates are going up, particularly young teens and early adults,particularly men. HIV may now be a less virulent disease that is chronic instead of fatal, but is still a huge short term problem. I don't know if kids think there is less risk, or parent's are more conservative and not teaching safe sex, but something is going to have to change short term if the epidemic is not going to grow.

Comment: Re:"Should we go back to paper ballots?" (Score 2) 127

by fwc (#48472555) Attached to: Voting Machines Malfunction: 5,000 Votes Not Counted In Kansas County
In my area we use a paper, marked, optical-scan ballot. I've seen a couple different variations over the years, but they all have some characteristics in common: They're simple, can be audited by a human, and read by a machine. Our ballots are not counted at the precinct but at the county level due to the population of most of our precincts (we only have a million or so people in our entire very large state).

To handle people with disabilities, we have machines which mark an identical ballot using a special voting-machine like device. This allows those who can't mark a paper ballot to vote, yet still results in an auditable, paper, ballot.

Personally, I think we need to abolish electronic voting in any form which doesn't result in an auditable, verifyable, paper, ballot for each voter.

I've got all the money I'll ever need if I die by 4 o'clock. -- Henny Youngman

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