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Comment: So? (Score 3, Interesting) 170

by fermion (#48013925) Attached to: When Everything Works Like Your Cell Phone
A good hammer, a good manual drill, a good screwdriver, will last a lifetime. Many people, however, invest in pneumatic hammers, electric drills, and bit sets even though they know it will break. There is myth of how we own records, but I am old enough to own LPs and CDs, and let me tell you that the lifetime was limited, and they were difficult for mobile devices. Transferring them to tape was a significant loss of quality.

Comparing a phone to a plunger is silly, and makes me question the cognitive abilities of the person making the analogy.

Everything is a trade off. My car is so complex I can't begin to figure out how to fix it, but I do have a diagnostic tool on my iPad that I could not possible afford 10 years ago. My watch, and iPod Mini, is obsolete but it still tells me the time. As long as that is all I want it do it is fine. I used my 3GS over the summer as a roaming phone. Slip a sim card in it and I was good to go. As long as I wanted it as a phone, I was good to go.

Yes, you can't take stuff apart. OTOH I was one of the few people I knew that actually soldered computers to repair them, rather than just plug and play with a new board. Yes, some phones are not upgradable to current software, but many consumers seen to happy to make that choice to have a cheaper phone or a phone with other features. I can even see the current situation where you pay per page for ink is an option that many people would prefer.

Certainly there is a loss when we do not have a choice, but I think in many cases we still have a choice, it is just that we do not want to pay the real or opportunity costs for that choice.

Comment: Re:The "old boys' club" (Score 1) 324

by fermion (#48011579) Attached to: State of Iowa Tells Tesla To Cancel Its Scheduled Test Drives
Tesla is part of the old boys club and they are playing it perfectly. First they create an exclusive product to sell to a privalidged few. Then they say they are going to create a product for anyone, any day now, and start crying how the states are oppressing them and keeping them for helping the impoverished masses. Then they play the old game of hustling states and end up with a deal that will result in the siphoning of 1.3 billion dollars of taxpayer money directly into Tesla's pocket, even if they never reach the targets of employment or sales. The only part of the old boys club they don't respect is that it fraud is a two way street. you can't take, you also have to give. Dealerships were one way for the car companies to spread the wealth back to the friendly politicians in the states. Tesla is saying it is all theirs, and they are not going to share.

Again, nothing against Tesla or electric cars, just saying they are not a knight in shining armor that is going to save us from the politicians and climate change. They are just another company trying to maximize profit and take whatever welfare they can get.

Comment: mostly the grid (Score 1) 466

by fermion (#48008471) Attached to: Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit
To be sure, like most legacy industry, there is likely no ability to innovate. Think of american cars in the 70's. Energy generation is still powered by coal, coal plants are still being built, and we are still fighting over emissions. I don't know if a report saying that the industry needs to innovate will do any good. Making coal fired plants too expensive to build by requiring them to be clean might have an effect, and force the industry to innovate.

In any case, the incumbents are clearly show massive inefficiencies. In locations where electricity is sold competitively, prices can vary by 25% or more. This indicates that there is quite a bit of wiggle room in pricing. However, what we are really talking about here is volume. Without volume the incumbents firms that sell power, not produce it, are going to get squeezed out. Producers will shut down plants, and that may have long term effects in energy security.

What is really an issue is the grid. There is at some point going to have to be a charge for hooking up to the grid. Already people on low cost plans that do not use enough electricity pay an extra fee for administrative and grid costs. This is where legislation will come in. Are we going to require a house that is self sufficient to be connected to the grid? Are we going to allow houses in more expensive locations, be it rural or more prone to damage, to be charged more to be connected to the grid?

Comment: Re:Black holes are real, we observe them all the t (Score 5, Insightful) 356

by fermion (#47984903) Attached to: Physicist Claims Black Holes Mathematically Don't Exist
Black holes are mathematical constructs that allow us to explain certain phenomena. We make certain observations the are consistent with the mathematical construct and say it is a black hole. This is not far removed than saying wood has fire in it because fire comes out of wood. For a certain cases, that is a reasonable explanation and a reasonable way to look at the situation. However there are issues if one is going to talk about more objective science. The same issue occurs with dark matter, which is a critical part of explaining the observable universe, but also has issues.

I don't think we can just assume something is fact because it fits with what we know right now. Modern physics was built on quashing the assumptions that infinities and infinitesimals exist. We cannot go arbitrarily fast, and we cannot chop things up infinitesimally small, or measure to an arbitrary accuracy. These ideas were built in to classical mechanics as deeply as black holes.

To be clear I am not saying that black holes do not exist and what we observe and call black holes are not black holes. Just that when we are dealing with artifacts of mathematical models, time could identify them more as artifacts of the model rather than the most useful representation of the observable universe.

Comment: Re:Every book we read in school (Score 1) 394

by fermion (#47980589) Attached to: It's Banned Books Week; I recommend ...
All banned books means is that the someone was offended by the book. Not to be glib, but I agree this definition is way to broad. We should be looking at books that were really banned, not just subject to some letter writing campaign by wimpy jerks that don't make any real contributions to society.

For instance, in high school the parts of the Canterbury Tales that could be taught were in fact limited. I might consider this a banned book situation, but my teacher was free to suggest we read all of the tales, even if we could not discuss them in class. OTOH, Ulysses was banned at the US federal level. Now there is a banned book.

The week still serves a useful purpose by tricking kids into thinking they are going to read some naughty bits. The one book that this is valid, and also banned on the US federal level, is Lady Chatterly's Lover. "Some very useful tips; Oh, gardening tips. Mellors was a game keeper. Very good at hedge control; I thought the sex was jolly good fun as well!"

Comment: One real prediction in science fiction (Score 3, Insightful) 139

by fermion (#47978057) Attached to: Sci-fi Predictions, True and False (Video 1)
Heinlein is generally credited with providing a pretty good description of the modern waterbed. I was not that far of a prediction, but it was real. He probably provided the best prediction of the internet.

Then there is the rise of very small dwelling, basically just beds, which are becoming popular in some parts, as predicted by the cyberpunk novels.

The real problem with most prediction in science fiction is that is misses a critical development aspect of the technology, or more often the limitation of the applications of the technology. For instance, at this time everyone expected housecleaning to be done by robots, but astronavigation to still be done by hand.

Comment: Re: Trolls are bad people (Score 1) 240

by fermion (#47967573) Attached to: Friendly Reminder: Do Not Place Your iPhone In a Microwave
You do know that there is fair amount of evidence that Tylenol causes liver damage and has other side effects that makes it counter-indicated for many people. This has nothing to do with internet trolls because the company has been dressing up doctors with high airs of gravitas to give terrible medical advice and prevent the drug to become widely known as the health risk it is.

In fact I am sure that when people post such things about the danger of Tylenol on boards, those people are considered trolls and maybe even modded down or kicked off.This is the problem with complaining and trying to ban trolls. Trolls are often simply people you disagree with, or simply people who bring up facts you don't want to deal with.

Comment: Re:Trolls are bad people (Score 1) 240

by fermion (#47967515) Attached to: Friendly Reminder: Do Not Place Your iPhone In a Microwave
Not to defend trolls, but only to say this is not an internet problem, people should be able to make critical judgements of what they here. For instance, television is full of statements that make no sense. Infomercials, opinion shows masquerading as news, daytime talk shows. Dr. Oz makes false claims, has even been called in front of congress, almost every week. I don't see how rational people are going to believe that gold is long term investment strategy for the small investor. At least with commercials most people know they are being lied to.

Trolls may in fact make the discourse of the internet less enjoyable, but it also has a built in bullshit detector called everyone else. And each of us adults has a responsibility to think critically about statements that are made.

For instance, when I first heard this I immediately asked how could a software update effect the charging hardware. How could a software update effect the ability of the hardware to handle hard radiation. And by what mechanism could the battery be charged.

Of course some of these questions come from a hard science background, not something everyone has. But still isn't the problem that so many in the population just believe and repeat whatever they are told by authority figures. Is the problem really trolls, or that a certain subgroup of people just want to believe in the magical solutions promoted by their revered charlatans.

Comment: Re:"Smart" is a misnomer (Score 1) 96

by fermion (#47962045) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Alternate Software For Use On Smartboards?
Honestly, Smartboards in modern use case is a scam. It is essentially a big mousepad. The reason that most people buy it is because they do not understand basic computer/physics/electronic stuff. I am serious here, some don't understand that they can project on a normal whiteboard. Now one can use a smartphone as a remote mouse to control whatever you want to better than the board.

About the only reason that the smartboard is useful is because administrators like teachers to stand in front of the class and pretend to teach. Although writing on a slate or ipad and having it show up on the board can be better, the teacher standing in front of the room is still seen as the old fashion as the better solution.

If I am honest, though the smartboard software is bloated, there are some things it does very well, although it is still better to not use the smartboard. There was a time when the board itself was interesting to kids, but now they all have smartphones.

So to answer the question, if there is not something in the software that you absolutely have to use, like the math symbols, then don't use it. Download mobile mouse or something like it to control the computer. There are many drawing apps that will allow you, or any student, to write. I have a slate.

Comment: Re:No issues here (Score 2) 504

by fermion (#47959803) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Is iOS 8 a Pig?
I find it to be a bit slow on my 5. It is very slow on my old iPad. This, I think is normal, and it has gotten faster since I upgraded.

As far as the updates, most applications seem to update when a new iOS comes out. I have not seen an inordinate number of updates. As the Apps have to not only deal with a new OS but also new screen sizes, Apps that are not written to run on many screen sizes will obviously have to be updated.

My problem is that Apple is reintroducing the cloud disk service, a la iDisk, but it is not going to available on mac until the next MacOS, which is not going to be available for at least a month. Those who upgrade when they upgrade their phone will lose access to data on the Mac. There does seem to be some feature bloat at the expense of efficiency.

Comment: Re:Me too. (Score 1) 408

by fermion (#47954869) Attached to: Why You Can't Manufacture Like Apple
you would be more expensive because you would not be manufacturing at the same scale. If you are making 10,000 widgets, and it costs $100K to set up and $10 to make, that is $20 a widget just to make. If you are manufacturing a million, that is $10.10, and probably much less due to other discounts.

We see this in other industries. The F150 is now aluminum, which required not only the entire production line to be redone, but also supplied of aluminum to be created. This is only profitable because Ford sells about 10,000 of these trucks a week, and that is a number that has been falling since a high in about 10 years ago, though in recent years the sales have increased.

Comment: real use case (Score 1) 261

by fermion (#47953755) Attached to: Why the iPhone 6 Has the Same Base Memory As the iPhone 5
To upgrade my phone to IOS 8 I had to free some space. This basically involved deleted some Apps that I never use that were taking a great deal of space. I don't buy apple movies because they can be only played on apple devices, so the majority of data is music, most of which is stored on the cloud, and photos. I know people have almost no music on their devices, but stream everything. To be honest, streaming has meant that many people do not have to deal with the hassle of local storage. Though we can get into a philosophical argument, the fact is that I do not store as much on my mobile devices as I once did. Even my laptop now has less stuff on it. As to why there is still a 16GB model, that is obvious. Apple needs an entry level device and is not willing to enter the cut rate phone market. Amazon has done this with a 99 cent 32GB model and at $99 64GB model. Obviously they are hoping customers buy the 64GB model even though what is essentially $100 for a 32GB upgrade is essentially highway robbery. Some will do it even though the pricing structure provides little value. Most cell phone companies do this. Apple, being a premium device, is just a little more aggressive.

Comment: Re:Why is Alibaba selling IPO in USA? (Score 4, Interesting) 191

by fermion (#47952067) Attached to: Why a Chinese Company Is the Biggest IPO Ever In the US
The story is the owners want to maintain control, even if they do not maintain a controlling interest. They set up a shell company in the cayman islands which is nominally linked to the profits of the actual company, and as far as I can tell are in fact selling shares in that shell company. So the company that is being purchased in not in china, and the business model will probably be international.

As far as why this is allowed, it is a lot of money. The banks and firms who are managing the IPO are US and will make a lot of money. The persons and firms who are allowed to buy or are given the stocks will make a lot of money when they resell the stock, either immediately, or in a few months when principles are allowed to resell stock.

It seems that the sale is on shaky ground, given that the Chinese government can likely do any number of things to make the shell company worthless. I think what some may be hoping is that the Alibaba can quickly expand out of china and preserve value as a worldwide conglomerate type thing. At a basic level this is further indication that there is a lot of capital out there, and for some reason the people who have it think it is better to risk it on the occasional potential high return scheme than use it to build long term infrastructure. I guess no matter how much money one have, one always is susceptible to a get rich quick scheme,

He's dead, Jim.