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Comment: Re:Good (Score 5, Interesting) 306

Funny, as it actually turned out, energy efficiency research for both electricity and transportation has worked very well, as have wind turbines and solar power. And quite a bit of that comes from DOE research.

Fusion reactor? Well, that's still 30 years away.

Of course the vast majority of DOE money is devoted to the nuclear weapons infrastructure and environmental cleanup from decades of nuclear weapon infrastructure.

For instance, take the FY 2012 budget of Los Alamos National lab.

What fraction would you say is on basic science? I expected 30%. More like 4%.

57% NNSA weapons
9% NNSA nonproliferation
7% NNSA 'safeguards and security'
7% work for national security (most likely intelligence agencies)
8% environmental cleanup
4% undefined 'work for others'
4% DOE Energy and Other Programs
4% DOE Office Of Science

Comment: Re:Meh, why should we spend money on that? (Score 4, Insightful) 161

by mbkennel (#47479089) Attached to: Microsoft's Missed Opportunities: Memo From 1997
| I have every expectation that the guys who invented the transistor met with business people who told them: "That's real nice, but I already have a triode or a pentode for that. Give me something I don't already have.

No. That's what happens now. That didn't happen in the 1950's at Bell Labs or in any successful organization in the era of significant American technical/industrial competence (1920-1980).

Comment: Re:Maybe MSFT was trying to learn from Xerox (Score 5, Insightful) 161

by mbkennel (#47479083) Attached to: Microsoft's Missed Opportunities: Memo From 1997
| Kodak was a film company, not a camera company.

What Kodak didn't realize, and its competitor, Fuji did realize, was that Kodak was actually a materials, coatings & chemical processing company, but it thought it was a photography company. As you recognize, the expertise wasn't in how film works, it's how film factories work, and the people who knew semiconductor factories made better sensors.

If they did realize this, they'd be around today making graphene or medical instruments.

And for a number of decades Kodak, along with Perkin-Elmer (also in upstate New York) made the most impressive photography system in the world, i.e. the film-based NRO surveillance satellites, and could never talk about it. That big stream of revenue also died.

Comment: Can we extend corporate rights to individuals? (Score 4, Interesting) 52

by mbkennel (#47462289) Attached to: Telcos Move Net Neutrality Fight To Congress
| Imagine the consequences if we DIDN'T extend individual rights to corporations.The government could just read all the data on Google's servers after taking them.

As opposed to now? They read all the data on Google's servers without taking them.

The problem is that powerful corporations appear to have even more rights than individual people.

People managing powerful corporations do illegal acts, and other people (the shareholders who had no knowledge or control) are punished.

Personally, I'd love to re-incorporate my soul in a zero-tax offshore jurisdiction and subcontract out my physical body to earn income another country but not have to pay tax.

Since a corporation is not a natural person, but a particular structure created by legislative activity, there is no legal or moral reason that rights of such constructed entities cannot be legally constrained in ways impermissible for natural humans.

Comment: A diplomatic euphemism (Score 3, Insightful) 219

by mbkennel (#47427081) Attached to: After NSA Spying Flap, Germany Asks CIA Station Chief to Depart

| The Obama administration and that of George W. Bush both resisted such entreaties, in part because many U.S. intelligence officials believe that there are too many areas where German and U.S. security interests diverge."

This is a euphemism for saying "we believe that the German intelligence department is significantly penetrated by the Russian FSB".

Of course the German intelligence apparatus also spies on US, and France and UK, as they all do to one another.

Comment: The right competitor to SAS is Statistica (Score 1) 143

R isn't a replacement for SAS---in practical use it requires much more command line programming ability and although it has an enormous number of packages, many of them are 'academic quality' (meaning good enough to make papers) and fewer are highly validated production quality with all the edge cases & stability tested.

Some SAS capabilities can run 'out of core' (unlike R) so you can process data sets which would not fit into RAM.

Statistica (StatSoft) is the closest direct competitor (Windows only unfortunately) to SAS, and from all the reviews I've read, it's significantly better.

If your institution already has a SAS base, then it will stay that way. However, there are probably many "data management" and "data processing" tasks whose nature is somewhere between computation and file/database management---but often they get implemented suboptimally in whatever package the authors found at hand. So you may be doing lots of things in SAS that you shouldn't be---and the best replacement here is python, not R. The business case to your management could be improving workflow, clarity and lowering the number of SAS licenses needed.

Keep the SAS core tasks for which SAS is good as it is, and evaluate Statistica for these as a competitor, if only to get a break on licenses from SAS if your company does a bake-off competition & bid.

Comment: Tim Draper is engaging in powertalk, not fact talk (Score 1) 115

by mbkennel (#47370791) Attached to: Investor Tim Draper Announces He Won Silk Road Bitcoin Auction
People at that level talk with purpose, and the purpose is not always conveying well-justified facts or opinions.

Draper is far from stupid. He is already starting to talk his book by giving increased legitimacy to *bitcoin technology startups*, which is his actual investment.

The profits are in the fees in the payment systems.

From which he will cash out profits in cold dollars and euros, and a few bitcoins as a lark.

Bitcoin can't possibly be any kind of stable or useful general currency until there's a bond market in bitcoin. People imagine that transacting for bubblegum or downloads makes for good currency---but that's meaningless trivia. It's the existence and strength of *debt markets*, whether direct (loans) or capital markets (bonds) which truly signal strength, because these instruments are arbitrage through time. The dollar and euro aren't going anywhere because there are trillion $ bond and FX markets behind them.

Draper knows this, too.

When you start to get a bitcoin bond market with enforcable contracts, then it's time to take it seriously.

Comment: the most important one is missed out (Score 1) 273

| taxi licenses are limited to ensure that taxi drivers can still make a decent living

But in practice it doesn't work that way, taxi drivers still make a crap living working for owning companies who actually own the licenses, who make a great living.

And that's where the noise is coming from. Why else are the licenses/medallions, bought and sold on the free market, so expensive? Because they're profitable.

Uber drivers keep substantially more of their fare.

What's special about taxis that doesn't apply to grocery stores? Why aren't there a limited number of Grocery Store Medallions to be auctioned? People need to eat even more than they need a taxi.

Comment: Re:Good? (Score 1) 273

| If/when uber and other private entities take business away from public services,

How does that work?

I see additional taxi-limo-driver-like services. If prices for transportation go down, does that

a) help
b) hurt


Is the problem that Uber et al might get so convenient and inexpensive that people will use it instead of the public buses? Is that really going to be a problem?

Comment: Is it any different with anybody else? (Score 1, Insightful) 206

by mbkennel (#47328503) Attached to: Germany Scores First: Ends Verizon Contract Over NSA Concerns
There's an illusion that the USA is unique in this. It isn't, it's just that there aren't any other whistleblowers.

If you contract with Deutsche Telecom, you'll be subjected to German intelligence interception certainly.

Realistically---you'll be subjected to German, British, Chinese, French, Russian, American and Israeli intelligence interception to some degree or another.

Comment: go ahead and blame (Score 1) 283

by mbkennel (#47302343) Attached to: Perl Is Undead
"I don't think we should blame the language for being powerful enough that an evil programmer can be unfathomably evil, if it also enables a just programmer to be eminently understandable"

Why not?

Other language designs restrict an evil programmer to be only ordinary orc-level evil, and not unfathomably balrog evil.

Overload -- core meltdown sequence initiated.