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Comment: Re:awwww, poor sports, no game ball for YOU (Score 1) 304

by swb (#49564151) Attached to: ESPN Sues Verizon To Stop New Sports-Free TV Bundles

I think the biggest problem with usage billing would be "I fell asleep watching ... and now I have to pay for what I didn't see."

It wouldn't surprise me to see a mix of base fee for regular content and then an on-demand fee for "premium" content. Heck. HBO could do that now and sell HBO Now for non-current seasons for some price less than what they would sell it for past seasons and the current new programs.

Comment: Hooray for Verizon, kind of (Score 3, Insightful) 304

by swb (#49563689) Attached to: ESPN Sues Verizon To Stop New Sports-Free TV Bundles

Hooray for Verizon for trying to challenge the fucked up cable system. Maybe, just maybe, they see end of "cable" as a thing when anything can be streamed instead and want to stave this off by making at least kind of sane channel choices available.

Well, kind of. I think they made a lot of this mess for themselves. I think the TV channel sources saw the cable companies successfully ratchet up the prices continuously and figured they needed to be in on that money bandwagon. Enter in all the must-carry bundles and tier requirements and all the bullshit that got us to 800 channels of nothing for $150/month (and not even HBO, damnit).

And the cable companies didn't care because they could just pass off the costs to their customers through ever higher prices and announce "Wow! We've added even more high value content, ESPN Classic 4 -- all those great historic bocce tournaments from the 1950s".

And both the channel providers and the cable companies got fat and sassy.

And now everyone hates cable, hates paying $150/month for a bunch of channels they never watch and is dropping it as fast as they can.

Comment: Re:With the best will in the world... (Score 1) 447

by swb (#49561743) Attached to: Audi Creates "Fuel of the Future" Using Just Carbon Dioxide and Water

Making synthetic fuel when you have energy to spare could be a pretty smart storage mechanism.

Wonder what the efficiency is like though.

Since you're using "spare" energy which you can generate "for free" does the specific efficiency even matter? The efficiency of not using the energy is zero.

The only efficiency that seems to matter is the money cost of the equipment relative to the value of the produced synthetic fuel.

If you have 10 wind turbines and on a windy day you can only use the power from 5 of them, you would probably brake the other 5. The only cost to turning them for synthetic fuel usage is the wear associated with having them turn. I don't know how significant this is -- maybe they aren't designed for a 25 year lifespan of continuous rotation, maybe all those wind surveys and grid analysis they do get plugged into the engineering so that they can say the finished product has a 25 year lifespan because they know they will be idle/braked for 15 of those years.

Thus the free power is a lot less free because it will wear your turbines out much faster because you're spinning them more than for grid power.

Comment: What's the biochemistry of this? (Score 1) 590

by swb (#49561537) Attached to: Pepsi To Stop Using Aspartame

What's the biochemistry associated with aspartame or sucralose and an insulin response?

AFAIK, artificial sweeteners trick the tongue into tasting sweet but don't contain the chemistry (namely sugar) to induce an insulin response.

Now, that doesn't mean it couldn't happen (insert complex biochemistry here) and I wonder if there is possibly some kind of adaptive learned response associated with the taste of something sweet triggering it, sort of like a Pavlovian response. Or maybe there is some indirect connection with our taste buds and our insulin response -- it's not hard to see where taste and an instantaneous biological response would be beneficial, either in helping us reject poisons or in making some foods more quickly absorbed.

It also makes me wonder if could be un-learned -- if a person never ate anything sweet tasting that had sugars, would the body stop associating the taste of something sweet with an insulin response if there wasn't a corresponding increase in blood sugar?

Comment: "Need" definable for social integration? (Score 5, Insightful) 267

It's easy to talk about material goods as being "unnecessary" especially if they do not contribute to one's physical safety or health, like shelter, food and water.

For better or for worse, though, we are a consumer society and some things almost start to seem to become needs not because they contribute to our physical safety or health but because they contribute to our ability to integrate socially.

You may not "need" the latest smartphone but at the same time, especially among younger people, you could almost say you need to have a smartphone capable of accessing social networks in a reasonable manner because it's extremely difficult to integrate with many peer groups without one. You will not be able to participate in group dynamics or posses the same social information as other people.

The same thing could be said (more tentatively, because there are other outlets) about Netflix. If you're not able to engage with people socially because you are unaware of the types of programs they consume and cannot participate in discussions about them you are also hindered in group dynamics.

Outside the electronics/media sphere, you can make similar judgements about clothes. You don't "need" clothes that fit a specific fashion or brand paradigm -- you can buy used clothes or dollar store clothes and meet the minimal functional needs for clothing. But style and manner of dress is very important for engaging in peer groups, and like it or not people are in/excluded or find it easier or harder to engage in social activities if their mode of dress is compatible with their peer groups.

Now it's easy to make a lot of value judgements -- especially about social networking (the companies, phenomenon, etc) -- but their existence, usage and impact on social life is a reality and at some point I think some of these things become needs for reasonable social integration. Excluding them because they don't meet some minimalist description of "need" starts to sound myopic and mean spirited because I don't know anyone who just lives based on minimal need.

Comment: How about none of the above? (Score 4, Interesting) 56

by swb (#49554385) Attached to: Declassified Report From 2009 Questions Effectiveness of NSA Spying

The summary seems to indicate that the value of "Stellarwind" wasn't clear because it was one of many sources and few had access to it, not that all NSA spying was seen as ineffective.

The NSA does so much spying that it seems like it would be hard to ever calculate the marginal value of each additional unit of spying. Probably more so because of the fragmentary and unreliable nature of clandestine information and the need to develop multiple sources to achieve any kind of confidence about a particular conclusion or piece of information.

The latter bit is probably what leads to never-ending development of new data sources and methods, especially as each new spying method becomes less and less specific and requires more and more analysis to tease out information. Call metadata doesn't tell you what was discussed or necessarily who was called. You need parallel data from some other source to tell you who is associated with those numbers, where they were, etc.

Comment: Information overload (Score 4, Insightful) 56

There is simply no way human beings can sort through that much data. That means relying on gadgets and software to do the sorting for the humans. Anyone who manages big data can tell you how corrupt most data sets really are. Names spelled different ways, bits of information incorrectly transcribed, copy errors, format errors, import errors are all low probability events but, when you're dealing with billions of records, there are a lot of them. Just in general, gadget security doesn't work.

In nearly every terrorist event that's happened in the U.S., the FBI had tips from alert citizens. That was true for 9/11 and almost all of them in between. The FBI even interviewed the Boston Marathon bombers. HUMINT works.

Funny that the FBI screw ups don't get more media attention. In nearly every case they didn't effectively use the information they had, so how is more information going to make things better?

"Ada is PL/I trying to be Smalltalk. -- Codoso diBlini