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Comment: Re:Why can't taxpayers decide for themselves? (Score 4, Informative) 91

by Frobnicator (#47786399) Attached to: How Big Telecom Smothers Municipal Broadband

So you don't think the government should step in if the big guys are abusing their monopoly? You don't think the voters in a municipality should be allowed to decide for themselves if they want the government to establish broadband services for their own use? I know it's a popular meme to presume that governments are nothing but incompetent but the reality is that sometimes the government is the best way to get something done. If the existing ISPs find it not worthwhile to serve a population I see no credible argument why the local government couldn't fill that role if the taxpayers want them to. Might not be economically ideal but sometimes perfect is the enemy of good enough.

My region (the 2M people metro area) is going through municipal broadband fights. They started the fights back in 2002.

The group got an initial rollout in a few of the smaller cities, roughly 11,000 people got hooked up. Then the entrenched monopolies kicked in. Some highlights:

* Lawsuits from both the incumbent megacorps on cable-based and phone-based Internet on the claim that it was unlawful and anti-competitive for a state agency to compete with an established business. The lawsuits took several years and cost millions. The judges and the appeals court found that government is allowed to provide services, similar to how they provide municipal trash services and still businesses compete; nothing prevents the cable and phone companies from competing if they want.

* Every year state legislators keep introducing new bills prohibiting government agencies from competing with existing businesses, or requiring that governments cannot provide information services to the public without high fees and those fees should go to education, or that any group providing Internet services have so many billions in assets to mitigate risk of disaster, and other variations. Invariably a little research shows the legislators get money from the phone and cable companies, and the company lobbyists vocally support them. The municipal fiber groups have needed to spend several million dollars to fight these as well.

* In a few cities installation was unexpectedly stopped again when some of the smaller cities discovered their own contracts with the megacorps demanded that they couldn't build their own systems until after a multi-year vetting process with the megacorps plus giving them another multi-year opportunity for megacorps to adjust prices and to improve their infrastructure. Basically the smaller city and town governments signed deals for their own cheap Internet that block municipal fiber within their limits for a decade or more. Since then the FCC and other groups have urged cities to be more careful in the contracts they sign.

* Incumbents even got the federal government to drop contracts. In one case they had a contract with the federal government for a $66M under the RUS. After the municipal system had invested and contracted based on that contract it was unexpectedly cancelled. Investigation showed the federal contract was cancelled because the federal RUS system was threatened by the megacorps. A chain of 'smoking gun' emails were discovered where Comcast and CenturyLink demanded the RUS cancel the contract or the two megacorps would act against it; a lawsuit on tortious interference is ongoing, but the cost will be several more million before any ruling will follow, in the mean time the municipal system is out the $66M plus all the interest they need to pay on the emergency loan they had to take out to avoid defaulting on the expenses.

* Because the megacorps have forced the municipal fiber system to spend hundreds of millions on lawsuits and illegally-broken contracts, and because the redirected money has resulted in higher interest rates and longer-term loans costing over $500M to date, they are leveraging it and constantly sponsoring print ads, billboards, and TV ads (on their own cable networks) making nonspecific claims about how the municipal fiber has collected so many millions but only invested a limited amount and how so few people are currently hooked up. The city is covered with signs paid for by the megacorps with things like "$500,000,000 Wasted!", "Municipal Fiber Failed!", "Demand (city) Stops Internet Tax!" They all say things like "sponsored by Citizens for Fair Taxation and Representation", which in turn are run by and sponsored by the megacorps. They fail to mention that they're the ones who induced the huge expenses.

* The few people who are hooked up try to convince everyone just how good it is. Just $20/month for a hundred megabit (both ways) Internet connection on a fiber-to-the-home connection. Business pay a just little more and are seeing into the gigabit speeds. They are immediately drowned out by people making claims that is only cheap because the entire region is subsidizing only a few thousand connections and that nobody will ever see that when everything is hooked up and that we should all by Comcast because it is only $45 for the first year plus taxes and fees and installation. They are also accompanied with ads are along the lines of "Right now you are paying the city $20 every month for high speed Internet that you can't use. Get high speed Internet from Comcast starting at just $45 per month for the first year."

So while it is nice to think the governments could do that kind of transformation, know that the incumbents see this as a death threat. The cable and phone monopolies are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars fighting municipal broadband because they see it as a threat to their very existence. It is very much a case of adapt or die, but they fail to see the adapt part.

Comment: Re:Patents cited in article (Score 1) 30

by Theaetetus (#47785907) Attached to: Judge Lucy Koh Rejects Apple's Quest For Anti-Samsung Injunction

The linked article cite the following patents : - Auto-correction/completion on keyboard entry... Il looks quite similar to the autocompletion that you find in some Japanese IME under Linux... which sometimes allow both conversion to kanjis and completion. Auto-correction is quite old on the wordprocessor scene - transformation of email & phone numbers to link AFAIK, most forums and webmails already convert email to link for a long long time. As for Phone number, the extension is quite trivial - slide to unlock it's mimicking a physical (door) lock... so nothing real new...

In hindsight, everything looks trivial. That's why you need to find actual prior art that invalidates the claims. And in particular, mimicking something in the real world may still be patentable, if the patent goes to the method of how it's mimicked. For example, we're trained from birth to recognize faces, but would you say that a facial recognition technology for a computer would never be patentable, because it just mimics that real-world ability? No - it depends on what's actually in the claims, and whether they go to how that simulation is implemented, rather than just the general idea of "recognizing faces" or "unlocking something".

Comment: Re:Slashdot comments indicative of the problem (Score 1) 1169

>be the games journalist who never wrote a review, or even a single word, about Depression Quest http://www.rockpapershotgun.co... Sorry to burst your bubble, but that's a myth borne out of people being unable to use a search engine properly. What's funny is that Grayson himself lied about having written anything about it: http://inagist.com/all/5004497...

That's what the controversy is over? "Here's a list of 50 games, and oh yeah, this is one of them"? Geez. Are you going to start demanding long form birth certificates from everyone now?

Sure, he didn't write a full-blown review, so he's not technically telling a lie, but he DID give her game preferential treatment in an article he wrote about Steam games being greenlit and there is ample evidence (pictures and video) that Grayson and Quinn were spending private time together prior to that article. I'll let the readers be the judge of whether or not Grayson's choice of her game as cover art was influenced by their relationship.

Well, when you're done clutching your pearls, we'll get you a glass of water so you can calm down. I mean, the way you were carrying on, I thought there was a review, not a "here's 50 new Greenlighted games".

Comment: Re:Slashdot comments indicative of the problem (Score 1) 1169

There's also the part where she's declaring harassment because people are trying to find out the truth about whether or not she unethically used an intimate relationship with a games journalist to promote Depression Quest. The fact that she had an intimate relationship with Nathan Grayson is a big deal, especially considering that they officially started dating less than a week after Grayson's article was published, and there is evidence that the relationship may have existed before that but was kept away from public view.

Ah, yes, would that be the games journalist who never wrote a review, or even a single word, about Depression Quest? The journalist who wrote an article about a reality show, months before Depression Quest was even created, and hasn't published anything since?

Comment: Re:What lessons are the video games teaching? (Score 2, Interesting) 1169

Mod this up please...

Not sure why. Most people on Slashdot should realize that screenshot of a web browser showing a page that says "12 seconds ago" doesn't necessarily mean that the corresponding message was created 12 seconds before the screenshot, but just that the page was refreshed 12 seconds after the message... and then the page could have sat, displayed from local RAM, for minutes or hours before a screenshot was taken.

Comment: Re:That's all? (Score 1) 34

by Theaetetus (#47775277) Attached to: Google Wins $1.3 Million From Patent Troll

Just $ 1.3 million for attorney's fees? And I've been telling clients they should have $ 3 million set aside for fees if they want to pursue a patent lawsuit.

But, I guess this is more breach of contract than a real patent suit, so maybe the "low" fees aren't too surprising.

That - this suit didn't really have anything to do with patents, there was no claim construction or Markman hearing, there weren't prior art searches, invalidity contentions, expert reports, etc. It was just a straightforward breach of contract.

Comment: Re:Take 'em to small claims court. (Score 1) 349

This is going to go no where unless he can get an independent expert to certify that his measuring technique is accurate.

We're talking small claims court here (where proceures are much more relaxed due to the small amount of the dispute) and civil procedure (where the standard of proof is "preponderance of evidence", not "beyond a reasonable doubt".

Also: A suitable expert shouldn't be THAT hard to find, and (with open source and things like the Raspbery Pi and Beagle Bone available for platforms), independently engineering a meter to check the first one should be quick work - and something a customer of another ISP might want to do, as well.

Heh. Once it's done it could be published open-source, bringing the tool into the hands of the technically-literate masses. A couple thousand small claims cases a month might be more effective than a class action suit for getting their act cleaned up.

Comment: Re:That almost happened a while back. (Score 1) 140

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47774975) Attached to: Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

A pitty, thugh. By the time this was discovered I had done an outline for a five-volume fiction cycle, working through at least four genres, based on the sun going "putt" from time to time. B-b

The Arthur C. Clarke sci-fi novel "The Songs Of Distant Earth" (1986) used the Case Of The Missing Neutrinos as the opening premise [followed by "the sun is about to nova" and humanity having] a few hundred years to develop interstellar-travel technology before the Sun went nova. 'Twas a good story.

Indeed it was.

In mine, though, there was nothing wrong with the sun at all. It's just that the high neutrino flux makes other physical phenomena more apparent and (by book three) usable at a practical level. FTL interstellar travel IS developed by the fifth book (when things are fully sorted out), which is in hard science fiction space-opera form.

Of course, by that time "magic" is hard science (though its engineering is more like animal husbandry), religion has merged with psychology, and one of the crew members (or is he the FTL engine?) is (and must be) a literal god. (For the engineering crew chief think "Scotty in Druidic Robes"...) Using a god plus a nuclear reactor for the engine leads to complications (but not the ones you're probably thinking of right now).

No, not like Clarke's story at all. More like Keith Laumer collaborates with Larry Niven. B-)

Comment: Not really over patents (Score 5, Informative) 34

by Theaetetus (#47773629) Attached to: Google Wins $1.3 Million From Patent Troll
This was a breach of contract suit over a settlement between Google and Beneficial, under which Beneficial wasn't supposed to bring infringement suits against Google customers. They did, hence the breach. The settlement included a provision under which a prevailing party could get attorney's fees after a breach, and this was just the judge awarding those fees.

That's not to say that there aren't people winning money from patent trolls - there are, in other cases, and the lower standard for awarding fees to the defendant is a result of the Supreme Court's decision in Octane Fitness last April. But this isn't one of those - this is more like Google suing the guy who paints the fences at the Googleplex for doing a shitty job, and then getting attorney's fees under their existing contract.

Comment: Take 'em to small claims court. (Score 1) 349

Take them to small claims court.

Ask for the difference between the billing tier your meter says you should be in and the one they charged you for. Dump your data in a reasonably clear format and show and explain it to the judge. Be prepared to swear that it is correct.

If they overcharge you next month, do it again.

Keep it up until they fix the meter so the agreement is close enough for you to be happy with it (or until the judge gets tired of it and issues an order - either to you or them - to make the cases stop.) It's not barratry - no matter how vexing to the utility - if the suits are legitimate, with real grounds asking for restitution for real damages, nor if the the suits are repeated because there are new instances of the tort.

First time through, ask for all the months for which you have data that shows overcharging. (If you can demonstrate a rule for the systematic overcharging, ask for the overcharges back to the instalation of the system, but be prepared for the judge to reject that.) Up to the small claims price and time limits, of course.

Be polite to the judge. Assume he's smart enough to understand this if you explain it clearly. (Judges don't get to be judges without being smart and good at figuring these things out.)

Comment: Re:Provisionally, I'm OK with this: (Score 2) 256

by Tom (#47772679) Attached to: DoT Proposes Mandating Vehicle-To-Vehicle Communications

I don't trust software to take control away from the driver.

While I completely agree, subjectively, I also understand enough psychology and statistics to know that a) the feeling of control is mostly emotional, not rational. It's why your mother in the passenger seat is scared in situations where you as the driver are completely cool - you are in control, she is not. That she's more easily agitated only makes it more visible. It's a well-documented fact that experiencing the same situation once in control, or even just seemingly in control, and once not in control is experienced very differently.

Statistics, on the other hand, show that even at this early stage, autonomous vehicles have a better-than-average track record. So while you may feel less safe, the numbers say that you are actually more safe.

etc that won't be participating in this V2V conversation.

Which is why autonomous or semi-autonomous (assisted driving) vehicles do not rely on one input source alone. V2V is not intended to replace all the sensors and stuff, it's one more input source.

Great, but that doesn't mean you're now free to be inattentive! If anything, cars should be less safe and speed limits higher to force people to pay attention, or else.

Humans are really, really bad at paying attention to monotonous tasks for extended periods of time. The sooner our cars drive themselves completely, the better.

Comment: Re:Official Vehicles (Score 1) 256

by Tom (#47772649) Attached to: DoT Proposes Mandating Vehicle-To-Vehicle Communications

If the speed at which most drivers are comfortable on a road is too high for safety

...it could be that drivers systematically overestimate their abilities and underestimate the dangers. Given that we've evolved to live at walking and running speed, moving only our own bodies, it's not a big surprise that our brains don't give us the correct clues at 180 km/h or even 50 km/h when driving a one ton metal thing.

Subjective driver comfort is not something I would use as a measurement for safety.

Comment: privacy (Score 1) 256

by Tom (#47772639) Attached to: DoT Proposes Mandating Vehicle-To-Vehicle Communications

The submitter notes that this V2V communication would include transmission of a vehicle's location, which comes with privacy concerns.

Yeah, because V2V has about 300 m range. Posting my location to people within view range is really a massive "privacy concern".

We complain about patent trolls getting trivial patents for non-inventions by taking something totally normal and adding "with a computer" to it, but sometimes we do the same. Licence-plate reading cameras are a privacy concern because they can enter your location into a global database in near real-time. Telling people electronically what they could see with their own eyes? Hardly a privacy problem. If we were talking about a system to intercept these signals and update some global database, yes - but that is just the license-plate-reading-camera problem with a different technology. The problem in either case is not having a license plate or having V2V, but the people turning local information into global information.

And other than license plates, it's easy to solve it. Your car could automatically generate a new random ID for itself every time it stops for more than a minute, for example. Pseudonymity is quite cute when you understand it.

Comment: That almost happened a while back. (Score 2) 140

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47772063) Attached to: Underground Experiment Confirms Fusion Powers the Sun

The other interesting result would be if the expected neutrino type was not detected by this experiment, invalidating the hypothesis. This would raise further questions such as: is there some other mechanism powering the Sun? Is there something deficient in our understanding of neutrinos that prevented us from detecting them despite them being there?

That almost happened, in the early days of neutrino dectection - before things like old mines full of purified water and 3-D arrays of photodetectors running for months at a time, and you could count the number of detected neutrinos on two hands (in bi-quinary so you could go a bit higher than ten). This was when the detectors could only detect the type of neutrino directly generated by fusion reactions, and before the discovery of neutrino oscillation, when it wasn't yet clear whether neutrinos had no, or very very little, rest mass.

Early numbers, and their error bounds, made it clear that there weren't enough neutrinos being detected. (This was known for years as the "missing neutrino problem".) But the earliest ones WERE about right for a situation where all the stars EXCEPT the sun were running by fusion and the sun was out.

That may sound odd. But there was a very cute explanation that made it plausible:

The gradual gravitatonal collapse of the sun, as heat is radiated away, could power it for millenia. It's nowhere near enough to power it long enough to explain the fossil record, but it IS enough to have kept it running for historic time. Meanwhile, if a fusion reaction were to start up near the center of such a ball of collapsing gas, it would also take many years for the heat to make it to the surface. Neutrinos (which go through the sun like marbles through a light mist) are about the only signature of what's going on in there NOW.

But suppose, instead of fusing continuously, stars were reciprocating engines. They might run without fusion for centuries, or millenia, until they were compressed enough to "light up" at the center. Then the fusion heat and reaction products might make the reaction ramp up. They'd burn for a little while (which would heat them up and expand them mabye a few inches), until the decreased density and/or reduction in fuel and/or accumulation of reaction products "put the fire out" again. Repeat for the life of the star.

In this scenario, if our sun happened to be between "putts (and the very nearest stars didn't happen to have an unusual distribution of where they were in their cycles), you'd see the same neutrio flux from the rest of the sky as if all the rest of the stars were running continuous fusion. That's because it's the average of stars that are "on" and "off", and comes out to the same amount of total fusion and neutrinos.

Of course later data, both larger samples and detectors that could "see" the other neutrino types, put the kibosh on that model. A big part of it was the discovery of neutrino oscillations, allowing a stream of neutrinos that started out as one type in the sun to arrive as a mix of the three types. (This means that neutrinos have a non-zero rest mass, fly slightly slower than light, and thus experience time and are ABLE to change from one type to another.)

A pitty, thugh. By the time this was discovered I had done an outline for a five-volume fiction cycle, working through at least four genres, based on the sun going "putt" from time to time. B-b

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