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Comment: Re:Disengenous (Score 1) 246

by Sycraft-fu (#47573039) Attached to: Amazon's eBook Math

Yep, when it gets cheap enough people say "I wants," and that is all the more thought it takes. They may never get around to playing it, doesn't matter, they wanted to have it and now they do and they got a "good deal" on it so they are happy.

I do that ALL the time. I have more games than I can play. Not only that, I'm one of those who's very happy to replay old favourites. I really should buy new games pretty sparingly. However, when they are cheap, I buy them just to have them. As such a have a big list of games kicking around, particularly indy titles that tend to be cheaper.

Comment: Re:Disengenous (Score 2) 246

by swillden (#47572125) Attached to: Amazon's eBook Math

in the long term, the book stores go out of business now its harder to find interesting books.

Nonsense.

Look at Baen's model... the first few chapters of all of their books are available for free, all on-line, all trivially easy for you to browse and sample, at no risk, wherever and whenever it's convenient to you. For that matter, they offer full novels from their top authors for free. So you can read the first book of a 15-novel series at no cost, hooking you for the other 14.

How can book stores, with their limited shelf space and immobility, compete with that?

Of course, that's Baen, not Amazon. Because Baen is a publisher, they have the freedom to do things like offer the first ~50 pages free, while Amazon has to obey the publishers' rules. But in a world where browsing bookshelves is gone, Baen's approach, or something like it, will be necessary to generate sales, so it will be done.

Just because you're accustomed to one way of finding good reading material doesn't mean it's the only one, or even the best one.

Comment: But seriously... (Score 1) 149

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47571239) Attached to: The Problems With Drug Testing

What does this story have to do with Linux?

I assume you were going for "funny".

But on the off chance you (or some reader) is asking this seriously...

Slashdot is about things that are of interest to nerds. The approval process for new drugs (which might save, enhance, damage, or end their lives) is one of those subjects.

Comment: Maybe the author needs to get out more (Score 5, Insightful) 246

by Sycraft-fu (#47570537) Attached to: Amazon's eBook Math

No dude, your books are not so incredible that people will buy them no matter what the price. There may be a few people who are like that, but most aren't. Price matters in entertainment. Turns out, when you make something cheap enough so that people don't need to think about spending the money and even more so they feel like they are getting a "Great deal" they'll spend very freely.

Steam has figured this out with videogames and siphons tons of money out of people's pockets, and has people thank them for doing it. People get drawn in by the "savings" of the sales and spend tons. I should know, I'm one of them. Not only do I have games I haven't played, I have games I haven't installed. I see something that I'm interested in that is a good price and I say "Oh man, I should get that," and I do. If they are more expensive, I think about it more, I wait until I really want a new game, I go and replay something I already enjoy.

Cheaper books will lead to bibliophiles just collecting the things. I know my mom would. You get them cheap enough and she'll drop hundreds a month on stuff she'll never read, just because she wants to have it.

Authors/publishers/developers/etc need to get over this idea of their digital goods being "worth" a certain amount. No, you need to figure out what you need to do to maximize your profits since there is zero per unit cost. Usually, that is going to mean selling cheap, but selling lots.

Comment: Strange? (Score 3, Interesting) 119

by jandersen (#47568973) Attached to: More Quantum Strangeness: Particles Separated From Their Properties

I'm getting a little bit tired of the never ending fascination with QM 'weirdness', because it seems to me that it tries to see everything as 'weird' simply because it is 'quantum', with the danger that that it makes people blind to what might be explainable by more intuitive means.

In this case I think we see an illustration of the fact that the notion of a particle as a mathematical point in space - something with zero dimensions - is an abstraction; an approximation that works well enough because we can't in that much detail any way, and it makes the equations so much easier. We have always known, somewhere, that this is not true - things like the mysterious wavefunction that mysteriously collapses as soon as we measure it is a big hint, I would say. As explanations go, that one has always sounded a bit strained - hopefully we will be able to handle the maths of a better model in the not too remote future.

A more likely scenario, in my view, is that what we call particles is something more distributed in space, and that somewhere in that 'distributed particle' we can explain how a particle can travel through several paths at once. I mean, it isn't even an altogether new observation - the famous electron diffraction experiment shows something similar.

Comment: What I've got against Israel ... (Score 1) 829

by jandersen (#47566565) Attached to: Gaza's Only Power Plant Knocked Offline

Now, why do I put such a subject header on my comment, when I know it will have me branded as 'anti-Semit' before I even start? Well, because it doesn't actually make much difference - as soon as anybody voices any concern over what Israel does to the Palestinians, they are stamped that way, no matter how carefully and well-intended their put their words. But maybe, just maybe, if I start out being provocative, I can get at least somebody in the automatically responding, pro-Israel faction to at least think and try to see the issue in a more nuanced way.

I am not against Israel's right to exist as a nation; I am pragmatic about it. The state that calls itself Israel is no doubt founded on a historically dubious justification, but it is a current reality and that is what we have to consider. But on the other hand, I don't think what Israel is doing is right, not by many miles. It is not right to annex palestinian territory - if it wasn't right of the European nations to establish colonies all over the world in the 18th and 19th centuries, then it isn't right for Israel to do this now.

And how can it be right for Israel to smash up Gaza's infrastructure, hospitals and schools, killing 10 - 100 Palestinians for every Israeli? The answer is of course, that it isn't. And the outcome in the long run is inevitably that Israel will erode the support it has in the rest of the world. The West has been far too permissive with Israel, because of a long, bad conscience for the Holocaust; but the power of Europe and America is on the wane, and the new powers don't have that historical background. At some point you guys will lose all your allies - what will you do then?

Most of us criticise Israel because we care, and because we expect that you can do so much better - if only you would try. But arguing with you is like arguing with Scientology or Jehovah's Witnesses; there is no honest dialogue taking place. All you do is look for ways to mishear or misinterpret any criticism, and find ways to twist it around as a weapon. Sometimes I don't think you guys want friends in the world; sometimes I think you are addicted to this never ending conflict, because if it ends, you have to look at yourselves and see what miserable creatures you have become; caricatures of the evil bullies that broke you during the Holocaust.

Comment: Re:um yea... (Score 2) 546

by Sycraft-fu (#47563353) Attached to: 35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

Also with regards to the 3% charge rate, that is something that likely wouldn't go away, even if everyone went cash. Thing is, cash takes a lot of work to manage. You have to count it (*and account for it) secure it, get it to the bank, etc. If you look at a cash heavy place like a Las Vegas casino you can see the large amount of infrastructure they have in dealing with that. It isn't free. Turns out 3% isn't such a bad charge for not having to deal with that.

My parents ran a small business and they really didn't care for cash transactions. They took it, of course, and it was maybe 10% of their business. However despite not having 3% (or I think like 2.7% with their processor) shaved off the top, they prefered less cash because of the extra work. If they had a cash heavy day it meant having to cycle money out of the register in to the safe, potentially having to go to the bank to get more smaller bills/coins, and having to make bank runs more often per week. All the time spent doing that was time not spent doing something else for the business.

Cash costs money too, which is why most places don't really mind the credit surcharge. Cash might not have a direct surcharge, but there's a cost to dealing with it and the more you deal with it, the more it costs, just like the credit surcharge.

Also, in the rare occasion you do find a business that'll give you a discount for cash (contractors are often like this) you always have the option of using it. It isn't like Visa pays for goons to follow you around and force you to use your card.

Comment: No they don't (Score 1) 546

by Sycraft-fu (#47563321) Attached to: 35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

You have no idea how it works, do you?

Debt collectors are nearly always separate companies. So what happens is you get way behind on a payment, the company you owe tries and tries to get money, but they fail. Finally, they just write it off. They then sell your debt to a debt collector. These debt collectors buy it cheap, usually 10% or less of the original amount. The company takes the loss and goes on with it. The collector then tries to get money so that they make a profit on the debt, and not a loss.

Companies do not want to sell a debt because there's no way they can sell it for what it is worth. They'd much rather have the money.

Student loans are a little different, since Sallie Mae does both loans AND collections, and student loans they offer are usually government insured (so they get their money no matter what) and you can't discharge student loan debt. Also they are a complete cluster fuck of stupidity since they are basically the worst combination of private enterprise and government agency (they were originally government, now private, but have something of a special status). They are currently under investigation regarding their practices.

Normal consumer debt though, they don't want you to default on. What they would like is that you run up a lot of debt and they pay it off slowly, paying a lot of interest, but pay it on time and completely. They would not like you to default.

Comment: Bullshit (Score 2) 546

by Sycraft-fu (#47563289) Attached to: 35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

Now I should note everything I'm going to say here applies to FICO credit score. Banks are certainly welcome to delve deeper and look at individual account performance and make a determination that way. So maybe, and there's no way to know this, the bank would evaluate that pattern more favourably when looking at the account and considering an upgrade to an unsecured account.

However for credit score what matters is (in order of importance):

--Payment history. Paying as agreed (meaning not more than 30 days late) is the biggest thing. Having no delinquencies, collections, defaults, etc is the prime thing. A long history of "pays as agreed" is what matters most.

--Debt burden, meaning how much you owe. For revolving accounts that is the amount of credit available vs the amount used. So having a number of high limit unused credit cards helps your score. For installment/mortgage accounts it is more about how much has been payed off.

--Length of credit history. The longer you've had a credit history, the better it can be. Also the longer you have specific accounts, the more they help.

--Types of credit. The more kinds of credit you've had, the better. This means revolving (like credit cards), installment (like a car loan), and mortgage. If you've multiple categories, that helps more than just having one.

--Credit inquiries. Each time you seek credit, it hurts your score a little for a short while. It isn't much and it doesn't last long, but is has an effect.

That's it. That's how it is calculated. Of those, payment history and debt burden are by FAR the biggest part. So if you have accounts that show you always pay as agreed, and you don't owe much, you'll have good credit.

As an example: I have a mortgage on my primary house, also a paid off mortgage on file since I refinanced (which is technically a new loan so the old one shows as paid off). I have a bunch of credit cards, probably $40,000 in credit, most of which don't get used, I got them because they offered a bribe and then never made use of them again. I have a primary card that I use for pretty much all purchases, and pay off in full each month. My credit score was 820, last time I checked.

The reasons are I have a perfect, lengthy, payment record, two kinds of credit, and I owe very little in relation to my available borrowing power. Hence, good score.

Also when I did a secured card, which admittedly was like 2 decades ago, I paid it off in full every month, and after the prescribed period, 6 months I think, they gave me an unsecured card no issue.

Comment: Re:Such a Waste (Score 1) 149

by jfengel (#47563027) Attached to: The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies Trailer Released

That is stuff Tolkien actually talked about at more length in the LotR appendices and in material published after his death. It seems reasonable to include it, since this is really intended as an LotR prequel rather than just The Hobbit on its own. I'm not entirely crazy about the way they wrote it, but it's not something they invented out of whole cloth.

I'd have liked to have seen more of Saruman, in fact, but that was limited by Christopher Lee's health. It ties in to the continuation of the Gandalf plot line from the second film.

Comment: Re:Appalling (Score 5, Informative) 127

by swillden (#47562755) Attached to: Old Apache Code At Root of Android FakeID Mess

I don't know the fine details of this bug, but am I the only one appalled at how obvious this bug sounds? It doesn't even properly check the certificate? I mean buffer overflows and such are one thing, but not properly testing your certificate code seems unforgivable.

No, it's not that it doesn't check certificates generally, it's that if there's an additional, extra certificate of a particular form in the list that forms an app's certificate chain (but isn't actually in the chain) then that extra certificate gets included in the list of signatures associated with an app... making other apps that query the signature list believe that the app is signed by a certificate it's not. This doesn't, for example, fool the Play store into believing an app is from developer A when it's really from developer B. But it can fool other apps. There are some apps that load others as plugins, and make decisions about which plugins to load based on whether they're signed by a particular key. This flaw allows malicious apps to subvert that, convincing the plugin-loading apps to execute them, thereby giving the malicious app the same permissions as the plugin-loading app.

It's a serious security flaw, no doubt. But it's a little more subtle and less obvious than the summary makes it appear. Also, it appears that no app in the Play store, nor any of the other apps that Google has scanned, attempt to exploit the flaw. It's very easy to identify them by scanning the certificates in the package.

I've implemented tests for certificate chain validation code several times (not in Android), and it never once occurred to me to test for this particular odd construction, nor, I think, would anyone else think to test for it without some specific reason. This sort of bug requires inspection of the code.

(Disclaimer: I'm a member of the Android security team, but I'm not speaking in an official capacity, just summarizing what I've read of the vulnerability -- which isn't a great deal. Others on my team are well-informed, but I haven't followed this issue closely.)

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