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Comment: Re:What is the net effect? (Score 1) 907

by aprentic (#47997741) Attached to: Miss a Payment? Your Car Stops Running

If subprime auto lending is really so profitable why aren't there more people doing it?
Given the small amounts of money that are involved any tiny bank or hedge fund could get into. At the prices you're talking about even a small investment club could make these loans.
I suggest it's because the risks are much higher than you assume they are.
Take your first example. How much do you think it costs to repossess a car? Of course there are legal fees and court fees. Then you have to pay a guy to go and get the car to some holding area (which you also have to pay for). Then you need to arrange to sell it and unless the bank is going to open it's own used car lot (which costs money) they need to pay someone to sell it for them (which costs money).
Finally how much do you think the bank can get for a car that's, in theory, worth $4000. I'm guessing it's less than $4000.

Also, if a bank repossess a car and somehow manages to sell it for more than the outstanding value of the loan plus expenses they don't get to keep the difference.

Comment: What is the net effect? (Score 4, Interesting) 907

by aprentic (#47994431) Attached to: Miss a Payment? Your Car Stops Running

It would be interesting to see what the net effect of these devices is.

Did it just move a bunch of people from the category of "You can have a car loan and if you don't pay we will go through a long process to repossess your car." to "You can have a car loan but we can shut it off as soon as you miss a payment."
Or did it move people from the category of "You don't get a car loan at all." to "You can have a car loan but we can shut it off as soon as you miss a payment."

I suspect it's both but it would be interesting to know what happens in aggregate.

Comment: What will you do for me? (Score 1) 479

by aprentic (#47978861) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

That's the question every employer is asking themselves about you.
They may not ask you directly but that's what they're trying to find out so you need to be able to answer it.
Keep in mind that the things that you are best at providing may not be the things that all or most companies need.

Start by figuring out what you can bring to the table and then look for companies that need that.
In my experience the thing that a PhD shows is that you can successfully complete a research project on your own. If you want to leverage that then you need to find a company that is trying to get research done. This doesn't need to be academic type research but it really only makes sense to hire research experts if you're doing something new.

While many programming jobs require you to be smart you don't necessarily need to be able to find new ways of doing things. In fact, finding a new way of doing something is usually pretty stupid since chances are pretty good that someone else already figured out a way to do whatever it is well enough that it's not worth wasting time finding a new way to do it.
But sometimes there isn't a good solution to a problem and if you find a company that is trying to solve a problem like that they'll be more likely to want to hire someone with a track record of being able to solve problems that they can't look up the answer to.

Comment: Could be worse (Score 3, Insightful) 118

by aprentic (#47482737) Attached to: Preparing For Satellite Defense

The US has military satellites for a reason.
Given that the US has a reputation for invading countries they don't like it only makes sense to defend against them and there are several potential strategies for doing so.
I feel much better about China going the defensive route (get ready to blow up the satellites) rather than the MAD route (start stockpiling nukes).

Comment: Filling Needs (Score 2) 31

by aprentic (#47069865) Attached to: CERN's Particle Smashers List Their Toughest Tech Challenges

I love seeing documents like this.
A lot of cool stuff gets built because someone has a need for it.
My current employer (cloudant.com) got started the same way. A couple of LHC researchers couldn't get the data storage throughput levels they needed with existing solutions so they built a new one.
I'm sure if you look around you can find tons of stuff that comes from papers like this.

Comment: Planning (Score 1) 892

by aprentic (#39114289) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Would Real Space Combat Look Like?

Space war would probably involve less bang and more planning.
If you had a problem with an other planet/colony/civilization you would start your attack well before the shooting starts.
Maybe you would introduce some sort of nanite or pathogen that activates on command. Then, when your negotiations go to hell you send the signal and, poof, the guys who would have pushed the buttons just fall over.

Comment: Re:I loathe this invitation 'nonsense' (Score 1) 62

by aprentic (#36095524) Attached to: Google Storage Is Now Available To All Developers

"Economist: To limit supply and create more demand for the product"
This might be why a marketing guy would do it but an economist would probably disagree.
A firm should not be able to affect demand by limiting supply. At best they can affect the price and quantity demanded, and that's only if it's a monopoly good.
Demand is a function of consumer choice. If you imagine the econ 101 supply-demand picture it's the convex, downward sloping curve.
If a single manufacturer of a commodity good reduces supply the marginal increase in price should incentivize other manufacturers to supply more. Now a monopoly supplier can reduce supply to maximize their profits but that's only because they move the price-supply point farther to the left (up) of the demand curve.
Caveat: This is the basic supply-demand model. It does not take into account things like luxury goods (which have demand curves with upward sloping portions) or more advanced models that start throwing in all kinds of other factors and interactions.

Comment: Re:I loathe this invitation 'nonsense' (Score 1) 62

by aprentic (#36095494) Attached to: Google Storage Is Now Available To All Developers

"Economist: To limit supply and create more demand for the product"
The might be why a marketing guy would do it but an economist would probably disagree.
A firm should not be able to affect demand by limiting supply. At best they can affect the price and quantity demanded, and that's only if it's a monopoly good.
Demand is a function of consumer choice. If you imagine the econ 101 supply-demand picture it's the convex, downward sloping curve.
If a single manufacturer of a commodity good reduces supply the marginal increase in price should incentivize other manufacturers to supply more. Now a monopoly supplier can reduce supply to maximize their profits but that's only because they move the price-supply point farther to the left (up) of the demand curve.
Caveat: This is the basic supply-demand model. It does not take into account things like luxury goods (which have demand curves with upward sloping portions) or more advanced models that start throwing in all kinds of other factors and interactions.

Comment: Re:Philosophical Question (Score 1) 1486

by aprentic (#35796280) Attached to: Is Science Just a Matter of Faith?

So you acknowledge that you have no proof to fight solipsism yet you insist that rejecting it is not an act of faith. You claim that the probability of existence of a Matrix scenario is negligible (and I agree) but can you provide scientific evidence of it? Can you even postulate a testable value for this probability?
You are angry at me for assaulting science but I have done no such thing. I practice a science in my day to day life because I have faith that my senses reflect reality. I just don't pretend my faith in science is anything other than faith.
Maybe it is a misunderstanding. What is the difference between Faith and taking some faith? As I see it either way I end up believing something that I can't prove.

Comment: Re:Philosophical Question (Score 1) 1486

by aprentic (#35793756) Attached to: Is Science Just a Matter of Faith?

That's what I'm trying to say. If there is an underlying reality we can't (or at least haven't) proven it. However we assume it exists in some form and that it influences our perceptions.
Take statistics for example. It is quite common to take some sample and test it for mean and standard deviation. However when most people test for these things they assume that the underlying distribution is normally distributed.

Comment: Re:Philosophical Question (Score 1) 1486

by aprentic (#35793586) Attached to: Is Science Just a Matter of Faith?

I see what you're saying but my point is that the faith element is actually fairly important. How many people would bother with the enormous effort involved in science if they didn't think it enlightened us about some underlying reality. Even if that reality is as vague as "If I see something happen many times under certain conditions, it will probably happen again."

Little known fact about Middle Earth: The Hobbits had a very sophisticated computer network! It was a Tolkien Ring...

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