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Comment Re:Oh really? (Score 1) 414

I think the placebo effects often come from getting to spend some real time and sit down with someone who will discuss your problem at length, come up with a 'solution' and tailor it just for you.

They then hand you your bottle of water, and off you go, happy that you've been given proper attention and care by a 'professional', compared to the 7 minute appointment where the over-worked and rushed GP had to try and figure out what was actually wrong, whether it was treatable, and what treatment or referral to give, without actually lying to the patient.

So it gives some people relief for symptoms because they've been given reassurance and time they don't get on the NHS. Rather than funding homeopathy, we should be funding more GPs. And change the rules to allow them to prescribe sugar pills if they want, instead of sending patients away with nothing...

Comment Re:Absolutely crucial (Score 3, Informative) 137

The reason behind it was to stop companies (e.g. amazon, apple and google) setting up shop in the lowest tax countries in the EU (luxembourg and ireland), and thus by only charging a low rate of VAT when exporting to the rest of the EU. This enables them to beat smaller domestic companies on final price, pay less tax overall, and funnels what little tax is collected into these tax havens. So the bigger EU countries were seeing a hefty fall in their direct VAT receipts, and loss of business from domestic companies to these giants that can relocate where they like, thus employment costs and indirect tax losses.

Fixing it by harmonizing VAT rates would require treaty changes and be politically hard to hand one of the big financial levers to the european central bank, especially given not all countries are in the eurozone - imagine the US forcing all state sales taxes to the same rate, set by the fed, and you get the idea.

Thus making companies pay VAT in the buyer's country, not the seller's. What they should have done though is put in a threshold, so companies/sole traders below a certain size were exempt, but that was opposed by some so it was dropped, and well, here we are where a mechanism intended to help small traders against the multinationals is a lot easier for the big boys to follow, particularly the requirements to keep id information about buyer location. Once they roll it out for physical goods too, it's going to be such a cluster f**k.

Hopefully though, the rise of MOSS compliant payment processors should make the system easier to follow - you just put a disclaimer up that final price will be based on the buyers VAT rate, and let the payment processor calculate the right rate and store the records.

Comment Re:EU rules? (Score 1) 392

I think it would increasingly create problems with EU legislation not to have USB port on telephone

Well, sort of. The goal was to get rid of the umpteen different standards for phone chargers, so you wouldn't end with all the obsolete ones going to landfill or polluting recyclers - the goal being able to change any mobile phone with any charger; and have that roll over onto other small devices via halo effect, though current requirements mean tablets et al aren't actually part of the standard per se.

They do have to provide microusb as an option for phone chargers, as the vast majority of devices currently use that. If the device the changer comes with has microusb, they can provide a hard-wired microusb charger. Alternatively, and this is what pretty much everyone does, they can provide a charger with a USB-A female socket, and a standard A -> microusb cable. Either is called a common External Power Supply.

If the device uses an alternative standard, i.e. lightning or type-c, then they still need to ship a common EPS, and make available an adapter for use with microUSB. The usual method of course, and the one apple follows, is to ship a power supply with a USB-A plug, and the USB-lightning adapter. Once phones turn up with type-c connectors (if they haven't already?) in the EU, they will likely do the same. As long as they ALSO make available (it doesn't have to be 'in box') an adapter for the device to use hard-wired microUSB adapters, then they're complying.

So now, any microUSB device can be charged from any mobile phone charger, including apple (though obviously not necessarily at max speed). Any non microUSB device can also be charged from other makers chargers, either by using a type A -> lightning/type C cable, or a microUSB adapter on the phone itself if the charger is the rare hard-wired type.

Long term, the regulations will no doubt be updated once microUSB devices go on the wane, and type-c provision will become the norm. But since almost all chargers use the USB A option, swapping out the cable is simple without needing to replace -and bin - the entire charger.

Comment Re:Why tax profits, why not income? (Score 1) 602

The problem with sales taxes - which we do have in the UK, VAT @20% - is that they're highly regressive. i.e. the people earning the least (pensioners, low wage workers) end up paying a much bigger share of their income than those at the top of the pile - the richest pay very little sales tax as a proportion of their income. As a result, the poor stay poor, and the rich get ever richer. And assuming we don't want the poorest to literally starve, we end up subsidising their costs with welfare benefits, social housing, etc etc - which have to be paid for somehow, and the middle classes don't have fancy tax accountants to move their money out of the reach of the taxman, as the wealthy and corporations do.

So you keep the poor poor, hollow out the middle classes, and the wealthy get ever more wealthy at a faster rate than anyone else. They then buy media companies, news companies et al to promote their views and systems, such as those that channel ever more amounts of money via companies into their own pockets via government subsidy (check out much money Walmart, and by extension the Walton family make from social assistance costs for their workers for just one example, or similarly amazon). They even end up becoming politicians and sponsoring politicians to sponsor laws that benefit them directly.

The correct answers are:
a) make companies pay a living wage, instead of making up the difference with subsidies
b) make companies and the wealthy pay their share of taxes instead of letting them continuously decrease it, because they benefit from a functional and well ordered society (educated and healthy workers, good transport, reliable infrastructure etc etc) more than anyone, they just don't want to pay for it
c) stop the vast amount of 'soft' money going into politics and media ownership as in any other circumstance it would be called bribery and corruption.

'Flat' sales taxes benefit the wealthiest the most. They are not the answer.

Comment Re:First taste of Mac OS X (Score 1) 305

I'm also a linux user that's ended up on OSX due to management.

Totalfinder is less essential than it used to be, but it's still damn useful for fixing most of the flaws in finder, not least because it adds a shortcut to toggle hidden files/folders, shift-cmd-.

Like you, I've got an acceleration fix to make it work linearly - just what I'm used to, and I use windows + linux at home, so it makes more sense to change OSX.

I've found having a magic trackpad pretty handy for the gesture support. It works fine as your sole pointer, but I find it a bit wearing on my fingertip, so still use a real mouse for that (I hate the apple mice). But the trackpad is next to my other hand, and the gestures for swiping sideways between fullscreen apps (including parallels), swipe up for mission control (all windows and Spaces) and swipe down (current app windows) are quite useful, and I don't have to take my hand off my mouse to do them.

While there are alternative shortcuts for end/start line, I just remap home and end to work that way, using Karabiner (free).
The case insensitive thing you just have to live with. It is possible to format and reinstall OSX on case-sensitive HFS+, but it will break some stuff in subtle ways.

App wise, apart from total finder, you definitely want iterm2, and sublime text. Best terminal and text editor, respectively - and sublime text works on linux and windows too, which is awesome.

I have got used to running OSX most of the time at the office. I haven't had to make that many changes, and it does make a really nice coding setup - much nicer than windows for managing/coding linux hosted webapps etc. Lets not kid ourselves, we always make tweaks and changes to any OS to get it the way we like - I know I don't leave kubuntu in stock settings for long, or windows! Would I pay the price premium for a mac at home? Hell no, I much prefer being able to rebuild my own hardware. But when someone else is paying the bill? I can live with them.

Comment Re:Read: tax deduction (Score 1) 93

Under Amazon's retail agreement, the publisher's set the book price that amazon paid. Amazon then set the price for customers - amazon had various prices for books, rather than a flat rate. Some were loss leaders - a common enough tactic in the retail world, big book chains do it all the time - but amazon's ebook division was profitable on its own merits - something a DOJ investigation confirmed. That's not dumping, and there were other competitors in the ebook space that were also profitable. If the publishers weren't happy with their margins - which were comparable to other retail models - they were fully entitled to go to amazon and negotiate new retail rates individually, just like they do with other book retailers.

Apple looked at that model, saw they weren't going to make their usual profit margin, and went to the big publishers. Apple said 'we'll let you set the final customer price, we'll take 30%, and an agreement that you won't let any other seller undercut us'. The publishers saw this is as a chance to raise prices and make more profit, and stitch up amazon at the same time. The publishers went to amazon all around the same time, and said, 'these are the new terms. Agree to them, or no more ebooks'. Given Amazon then was facing a choice between no ebooks at all, and the new terms, they rolled over.

Collusion to raise prices is illegal, for very good reason - it defeats the purpose of free markets, that of delivering the best product for the lowest price. And that was what they did. Higher prices across the board, more profit for apple and the big publishers, with no improvement to the product, through collusion. If the publishers wanted higher prices, they could have charged them to amazon individually; or set up their own book store with higher prices. And that would have been competition. But they chose not to compete in the marketplace, but arrange a back-room stitchup deal to raise prices for customers. And all the publishers have now settled with the DoJ for doing so.

Apple could have competed with Amazon; there was nothing stopping them setting their own prices, and making it so easy to use that people would use them instead even if they were more expensive for some books. Or offer other value-added services. Or shock, actually compete on price, it's not like apple was some startup tight on cash! They chose not to do any of that. And now they have to pay for the harm they did - which was artificially higher prices for books. They didn't increase competition; they made a deal with the publishers to lock in a higher profit margin for themselves and nobble their competitors at the same time. That's the exact opposite of competition.

Comment Re:ya (Score 5, Interesting) 282

Netflix is paying level 3, a tier 1 provider for access. All the tier 1's interconnect with each other for free (by definition) - they're basically the backbone of the internet for global transit.

Customers pay a consumer ISP, like comcast, for access to the internet, i.e. access to the tier 1 network. So both ends are paying for their connection, all they need is for both networks to be connected in a datacentre somewhere - both ISPs pay for their own equipment, and when that link gets congested, they add more/faster interconnect ports, paid for by the customers that are paying for their side of the link. And that's how it works basically everywhere except the US now.

Because Comcast, along with the other big US consumer ISPs are saying to netflix - a customer of another ISP altogether - 'nice traffic, shame if something happened to it.' And charging extra for a 'fast' path to their network. They've deliberately let the interconnect to level 3 become congested, and are refusing to upgrade it, affecting netflix and all other services that comcast customers request from level 3's network. Netflix offers to host their CDN cache servers inside comcast's network, so it does't have to all go via the level 3 interconnect, comcast refuse.

So basically comcast are singling out netflix, as a competitor to their own video services, and demanding money with menaces. Successfully.

Comcast's argument that more traffic comes in from level 3 than goes out - well duh, they're a retail ISP, and they provide much faster download connections than upload, and put restrictions on what services customers can put on that upload. Of course they're largely going to be seeing more traffic come in than go out. Netflix said they could change their client so as much traffic went up as came down, and comcast said that wouldn't make a difference, thus blowing that argument out of the water.

Given the natural and legally provisioned regional monopolies the cable companies in the US have got themselves, they've got their own customers over a barrel. They can let the interconnects go to shit, and the customers are stuck with it.

5 of the 6 permanently congested links to level 3's network are in the US. It's absolutely obvious that with the FCC unwilling to exert its existing regulatory authority, and congress' refusal to step in as it would be 'government regulating the internet', you have a textbook example of oligopoly abuse. Free markets cannot exist when monopolists abuse their market controlling power, and netflix is just the start. Enforcing regulation against monopolists abusing their position is the only practical, effective answer, and it's high time the FCC used its power to do just that.

Apply common carrier status to regional monopoly cable companies, and the sooner the better.

Comment Re:Recycling Personalities (Score 1) 448

At the same time, you should understand that you can't "inherit" a deficit. The idea is poppycock.

Of course you can. If you inherit an economy in recession, your tax receipts are low, and your spending on entitlements - that spending which people are legally entitled to have - neither of which can be corrected by presidential or congressional fiat. Then you add a couple of wars to that, necessitating paying those troops and for their equipment etc, another substantial expense it will take time to correct even if you start on ending the war on day 1. You have numerous other spending that is politically untouchable, as the various lobbies will end the career of any politician that touches it, so congress won't touch it with a barge pole.

Only a relatively small portion of the budget is called 'discretionary spending' for a reason. And then you have a congress that is majority controlled by a party that wants to cut taxes (on the rich, mainly) at every opportunity no matter the situation, and is prepared to shut down the government entirely if it doesn't get its way.

So you can't legally cut much of the spending, and you're under constant pressure to cut taxes, not raise them. Your predecessor left you a huge recession, a massive red ink bank bailout, huge military and entitlement spending, and a completely intransigent congress. He's a president, not the magician he would have needed to be to pull out a balanced budget on day 1. There simply wasn't the legal leeway to massively cut spending or massively raise taxes to do so.

Don't just take my word for it - have a look at this graph of obama's time of spending vs bush for some additional background.

Then you factor in that relief and stimulus spending during a recession is considered the correct economic policy to reverse the recession and end it quicker. Once the recession is over, then you can implement austerity to reduce the deficit. Doing austerity too early just worsens the recession, and we end up back in the 1930s. Borrowing money early to get through a crisis is generally considered the right thing to do from prior experience. So a balanced budget on day 1 would have been a really bad idea anyway even if it had been possible.

Comment Re:Hardware requirements (Score 1) 641

Sounds like that proprietary system that only runs on windows XP and still needs to connect to the internet, and now that's one 0-day rootkit from being f***** is working out for you much better...

FOSS doesn't mean cost free. If you wanted a non-proprietary system, you could always have paid someone to write it for you, given that 95% of the platform is already out there actually for free.

If the *cabling* to the locks is proprietary and needs you dig up the concrete to replace, then frankly, you guys didn't do your due diligence. The cabling on our new building lock system is bog standard cat5e, because it's a standard ethernet system on a physically separated network, with appropriate security to the locks in the event of physical cable compromise. Yes, it's a proprietary controller, but the management interface is standards compliant html5 so we're not tied to a given OS for management, and the controller is designed to be accessed separately from the locks network (it's currently behind a firewall and on a separate vlan). To replace it if the company goes under we swap out the standard-hole-sized locks, and controller, and pay someone to set it up. Hell, if it comes to it, we just turn it off and get some more physical keys cut.

Comment Re:Why the embedded "player" doesn't work (Score 1) 66

You can't resize the source image, but you can resize the iframe and it will scale to fit. Scaling above the source image size will obviously lead to reduced quality/blurriness, but you can shrink it. If you want to have it be responsive design (and scale width/height due to browser size) it's fairly straightforward to chuck a little jquery at it, as is pretty common when dealing with making iframes responsive. I imagine a jquery plugin akin to fitvids.js will be along shortly to make it easier.

For chucking in stock header image in a blog post and not having to screw about trying to find a CC image that suits (or risking a nastygram by ripping something off google images), it's not completely useless. Though the limited sizes of the source images I looked at mean it's not going to be useful for much more than that, and I think the DRM overhead is pretty annoying.

It's not like most of us can afford to pay stock photo rates for our personal blogs though...

Comment Re:Vive le Galt! (Score 1) 695

I've an idea. Let's look at the countries who have the happiest populations, and do what they do.

So who’s the happiest? As has been the case the past five years, that distinction goes to countries that enjoy peace, freedom, good healthcare, quality education, a functioning political system and plenty of opportunity: Norway, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand.

So capitalism, tempered with socialism. The strength of capitalism is that customers flock to the best products, and others have incentives to create them. Its biggest weakness is that a small advantage can be leveraged to a strong market position, making them successful not because they're good, but because they have too much power to dictate the market. Similarly unchecked capitalism means the wealthy use that power and money to make themselves wealthier still at everyone else's expense by rewriting the rules that benefit themselves at the direct cost of the rest.

Socialism - i.e. good public healthcare, good schools, a fair and accessible political system that works for all, not the few, a social safety net, economic regulation etc etc paid for by redistributive taxation ameliorates the rawer edge of a capitalist system, and means many have the opportunity to be happy, not just the people who lucked into being at the very top. Taken too far it can impede or even punish innovation, and there's always the risk that the people dictating who gets what become the ones who get the most.

So a hybrid system it is.

But no matter the system label, if it allows a small group to exercise all the power (religious-run states, the leaders of the only allowed political party, military dictatorships, a country run by the most wealthy) then it will be a bad system where the vast majority suffer, to serve those at the top.

The gent who wakes up and finds himself a success hasn't been asleep.