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Comment: Re:this is ridiculous (Score 3, Insightful) 440

by njnnja (#48610153) Attached to: Federal Court Nixes Weeks of Warrantless Video Surveillance

tl;dr: Many functions are non-linear

Once upon a time, I owned a VCR and could have time-shifted shows whenever I wanted. All I had to do was set up the timer once, then when it was time to record a show, make sure there was a tape in there, and push a couple of buttons to define the start time, end time, and channel. I could watch the show just by finding the right tape (which took all of 5 seconds to label properly), inserting, spending less than a minute or so to rewind to the proper place, and watch the show.

Now I have a DVR and I can still time-shift, although it is a bit easier. Instead of finding the correct time and station in the TV Guide magazine, I use the on-screen guide to find it, push the appropriate button, then (generally) click straight through the defaults and it will record the show. To watch, I press the "DVR" button, scroll around until I find the show, and press play. It's probably a total difference of 2 minutes to program the VCR vs 30 seconds to record on a DVR.

But when I had a VCR, I almost never time-shifted, but with a DVR, I almost never watch live tv. Sometimes what appears to be a slight change in the quantitative cost of something can lead to a large qualitative change in behavior. And the difference between surveillance by squad car and having cameras everywhere is like the difference between a 4000 lb VCR versus a DVR that records every station all the time.

Comment: Re:innovation thwarted (Score 1) 137

by njnnja (#48436191) Attached to: Aereo Files For Bankruptcy

But I disagree that what aereo did was rebroadcasting. If you think that crossing the street, and going into the cloud, is a rebroadcast, then you have a problem with every cloud service. If I upload a song to dropbox, then play it from the cloud, then by this definition it is a rebroadcast.

And I know the court tried to do a little "we know it when we see it" kind of thing in their opinion, I think that is the worst thing for innovation - they should have set a clear line about what part of aereo's technology is the "rebroadcast" so that they could have sold/leased the appropriate portions to end users (and kept the remainder to themselves). Instead they said that what aereo did "looked" like a rebroadcast so it wasn't ok, without clarifying why my own time shifting from any cloud provider (or even from one property that I own to another property that I own) over the internet is ok.

Comment: Re:innovation thwarted (Score 1) 137

by njnnja (#48435459) Attached to: Aereo Files For Bankruptcy

Here's what I don't like about the Aereo ruling. I like your setup, and I've got one much like it myself, so we both believe the total do-it-yourself approach is fine.

But what if I didn't already have it, and didn't even know how to do it. If you told me you could time shift without using Comcast, I would ask you how to do that. You could of course tell me how, right? What if you didn't want to tell me, except for a fee, is that OK? What if I just paid you a flat fee to buy the equipment, come to my house, and install the tivo and antenna - isn't that still ok?

Now what if 50 people asked you to install tivo and an antenna on their houses - that seems ok to me too. Now imagine you own a bunch of rental properties, so the people don't own their own houses, but you are willing (again for a fee) to install tivo and an antenna at the houses that you own and they rent. Still seems OK to me. What if they are all in one apartment complex, so it makes more sense to set up 50 antennas and 50 tivo's in a single maintenance room than at the individual apartments?

Now assume one of those people moves to a place across the street, but they really like not having to pay the cable company (or don't get cable where they now live), so he asks if you can run a wire from the antenna that you installed for him at your apartment all the way to their new place. Of course, you charge him something for the continued rental of the place in the maintenance room. He is relying on your expertise to set things up and maintain them (and rental of the space), but it's still *his* signal, just as it was when he actually lived in your building.

This final situation seems functionally equivalent to what aereo actually did, and I can't see very clearly where along that line of analogies the signals changed from the tv watcher's own signal to an aereo rebroadcast. I guess because I don't think it ever turned into an aereo rebroadcast. I am basing the technological solution on things that I have read, so if I have that wrong I welcome a correction.

Comment: Re:Amateur Mistake (Score 1) 246

by njnnja (#48411321) Attached to: Big Talk About Small Samples

This is a good rebuttal to Bennett's verbal diarrhea. But I would add the main problem is that the study was not well done even if there was a random sample.

Bennett could have tried to show that there was in fact no difference in reaction to the 2 photos, but given the clear evidence, the initial prior would have to have been pretty strong and therefore the sample size of his experiment was too small to budge that prior very much. Or he could have tried to ascertain the cause behind the difference in observed reaction, but that would have required an entirely different study design than the simple "appropriate/inappropriate" question.

tl;dr Real statisticians say that you can safely ignore Bennett's "study"

Comment: Re:It seems like squeegeeing is the wrong approach (Score 1) 203

by njnnja (#48387981) Attached to: Window Washing a Skyscraper Is Beyond a Robot's Reach

Still not thinking big enough. Who needs windows? Giant LCD screens on the inside, tiny pinhole cameras on the outside FTW!

I know, it uses a lot of energy to power those screens, so it's not very environmentally friendly. But they could place big solar cells on the sides of the building to power them. Unfortunately, eventually those solar cells would get dirty and lose efficiency. In theory you could lower someone down on a scaffolding who could clean the solar cells when they got dirty, but as a practical matter that is way too dangerous and you'd never find someone willing to do it.

Comment: Re:So, does water cost more? (Score 1) 377

by njnnja (#48385005) Attached to: How 4H Is Helping Big Ag Take Over Africa

I understand completely that you assert that for your local conditions, you are capable of creating your own technologies that are better than COTS technologies. No one is arguing that *you* should buy seeds from the 4H program. As I said, that is your choice, and you live with the consequences of your choices so I will certainly not judge.

But when you look at a typical emerging market that has 30-40% employed in agriculture, while there are countries like the US that are net exporters of agricultural products despite having only 2% of the workforce employed in agriculture, I am confident in asserting that there is a lot of room for improvement. And since the farmers themselves say that they want the new seeds, I tend to believe that the big seed corporations are able to produce a better product than the kind of local knowledge that you endorse allows Ghanaian farmers to produce. It's a pretty strong prior so unless you can provide stronger evidence about the local knowledge of Ghanaian farmers that contradicts this I'm afraid I'm going to continue to believe it.

I understand that you strongly believe in the superiority of your local knowledge, but a subsistence farmer in a 3rd world country is in a very different situation than you are. I think it is entirely consistent with the point that you are making that what works for you will not necessarily work for someone else far away.

Comment: Re:So, does water cost more? (Score 1) 377

by njnnja (#48379577) Attached to: How 4H Is Helping Big Ag Take Over Africa

I agree that it is really just a question of how much vertical integration does the farmer want to take on. My point is that it is a matter of degree, not a boolean, so while you may build many of the machines that you use, you probably let cummins build the engine, and you probably didn't refine the petroleum that powers it, nor smelt the steel used in fabrication. I certainly understand that these questions get answered based on the economics of the situation, and a professional farmer like parent poster knows a lot more about what those choices should be than us armchair quarterbacks.

But it seems that the article is very negative about the fact that new seed technology is going to put small farmers out of business. New technology and higher productivity puts some people out of business. Should we ban the use of tractors on African farms, since that puts some people out of a job, and poor small farmers can't afford those either? I'm trying to understand why more productive seed technology is somehow worse than more productive other types of technology, or whether the article was just written by some anti-technology Luddite who thinks countries like Ghana would be better off keeping 40% of the population doing back breaking labor in agriculture than using modern technology for any reason other than *OMG change is scary!!!*

Comment: Re:So, does water cost more? (Score 1) 377

by njnnja (#48378175) Attached to: How 4H Is Helping Big Ag Take Over Africa

In the real world we save our best seed and livestock year to year using that to grow the next generation.

Who is the "we" in this statement? Why is the farmer responsible for saving the best seed to improve the next generation instead of a big corporation? There is nothing magical about seeds; they are just another input to the process. We don't expect farmers to build their own tractors - they pay a company that specializes in building tractors to do provide them. Maybe John Deere could really screw over it's customers by charging an exorbitant amount to replacement parts (they probably do) but farmers still buy them because they can do what they do best (farming the land) better by using that externally provided equipment than they could with whatever machines the farmer could build themselves. Maybe we have this romantic ideal of the pre-industrial age farmer who makes his own axe while his wife sews all their own clothes but that world went away and was replaced by a world with specialization and people have longer, healthier lives with more leisure time as a result. Nobody is entirely self-sufficient; we all draw the line about where we do for ourselves versus pay others to do for us somewhere.

Why shouldn't farmers buy the best seeds possible, even if somebody else made them? I don't understand why buying seeds evokes such a strong emotional reaction, but buying all of the other things that a farmer needs (machines for farming, lumber and metal for buildings, hired hands for manual labor, etc.) doesn't.

Comment: Re:Comcast tried to steal $50 from me (Score 2) 223

by njnnja (#48377647) Attached to: Overbilled Customer Sues Time Warner Cable For False Advertising

Although it could be a combination of both malice and stupidity. Higher ups could maliciously staff up the card offer department with the most incompetent, logistically-challenged employees (who for whatever reason they can't/won't let go - yet) figuring that if the cards don't all get sent out it's no big deal.

So there are 2 reasons why you don't get the gift card you were promised - you didn't get the card because the guy in charge of distributing them only has a job because his brother in law is one of Comcast's best corporate salesmen, and couldn't query a customer database if his life depended on it, but you also didn't get the card because some VP figured that if the guy in charge of sending them out is an idiot then they might save a few bucks because he will never figure out who should get them, and will probably never get around to actually sending them out even when he does.

Comment: Re:Ethics (Score 1) 321

I know you are joking, but the line was plagiarized/borrowed. The original line was "life, liberty, and the pursuit of property". But It wasn't simply about the right to accumulate a bunch of luxuries; in context, it was referring to the pursuit of things that are somehow relevant to a satisfying and productive life. So it would be the right to pursue home ownership for your family, maybe fields for farming, and for many ./ers, it would be the right to accumulate gadgets, for the musically inclined, the right to procure instruments, etc. It doesn't take much of a stretch to go from this sort of enlightened satisfaction, to calling it merely "happiness" for simplicity.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.