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Comment: Re:The state is easy to see. (Score 1) 178

by quantaman (#49143915) Attached to: The State of Linux Gaming In the SteamOS Era

Have you actually talked to an average user? Have you ever tried to get people to use Firefox over Internet Explorer? Do you remember what an uphill battle that was? Now step back and understand that you're now trying to change their operating system.

How well do you think that will go over if it was virtually impossible to get them to stop using the worst browser in the world?

The problem with arguments like yours is they're made on the basis of rationality. However the people you're talking about aren't rational most of the time.

It's not about changing their operating system. It's about choosing a different operating system when they get a new computer.

Linux is now a viable default.

Comment: In related news (Score 1) 319

by quantaman (#49142437) Attached to: The Programmers Who Want To Get Rid of Software Estimates

The city announced work on a new interchange involving the major arterial road running through the city, significant delays are expected while construction is underway.

When asked for a timeline on when the construction would be completed the lead engineer answered "Who knows? We generally underestimate these things by months or years so I might as well not bother."

Work is expected to commence sometime after they finish their current set of maintenance roadwork.

Good night, this was your 11 o'clock news at 11:23 because we needed a little more time to finish writing our stories.

Comment: Re:The state is easy to see. (Score 1) 178

by quantaman (#49142131) Attached to: The State of Linux Gaming In the SteamOS Era

It's not great. It's only good for staunch advocates who refuse to run any other operating system. Linux still isn't good enough for joe sixpack to run it as a daily driver. Until they get joe sixpack on board, it'll forever be a niche product without enough inroads to support a gaming ecosystem.

Developers have had decades to get Linux right on the desktop, and they've failed at every turn. Even distros which did a lot more right than the others still aren't as polished and usable as the alternatives. It's time to get your head out of the sand on this, and start examining the reality. OS X has more of a chance at becoming a capable gaming OS than Linux does, and that's really saying something.

What does the typical joe sixpack need?

Web browsing? That works aside from some newer niche Flash stuff

Word processing? That works for a big majority of cases

Email? Works.

Playing Music? No iTunes, but otherwise works.

Games? .... well this is the big one.

For every common usecase there's a fairly generic app you can use to get things done regardless of the OS. Sure there's sometimes warts on Linux, but you get warts on Windows and Mac OS as well. My mother has had trouble with her Mac that take me just as much esoteric googling to figure out as anything on Linux.

But games, well that's been the problem. If you want Joe Sixpack to use your system he needs to be able to run almost every game, since Linux has never had that capability of course it's not going to become big on the desktop.

Now that's changed. Linux can do a lot of games and the major obstacle to Joe Sixpack is gone.

It's still not great (gaming is still a problem outside of Steam), and Linux still lacks the marketing power. But I could really see a lot more casual users coming on board, or even some OEMs coming on board with well configured pre-installed Linux machines, either low-end machines made cheaper by not having the Windows tax and having some crappy OEM apps added, or higher-end machines targeted towards power-users who just want a laptop with an Ubuntu or RHEL system where all the esoteric hardware works.

Comment: Re:Companies ask for it (Score 1) 185

by quantaman (#49129281) Attached to: Jury Tells Apple To Pay $532.9 Million In Patent Suit

I am an independent inventor (and Uni. scientist by day). I have tried to sell a basket of CMOS-related patents for 10 years. All I ever hear is "not invented here."

Now, the big Corps. are suddenly "discovering" what I already patented 10 years ago. I have no choice but to sue, sue, sue.

They bring this on themselves.

This is a legit question, did you actually contribute anything when you made your patents? The 10 year lag suggests they weren't ripping off your original patent or sale proposal, though maybe they're using your academic publications the patents are based on, more likely these were simply problems they weren't interested in yet.

Not knowing anything about your patents in particular I suspect that most patents are fairly obvious once you start addressing the problem in question. But the idea that you can address a future problem with a bunch of patents, but not actually build anything to go along with it, I just don't see the value to society. It seems like a perversion of the system, like someone taking the cab to the finish line of a race without doing any actual running, the true value isn't in the finish, it's what's created along the way.

Patents are supposed to promote innovation, by your own admission your patents were ignored and didn't seem to do anything to push the technology forward, why should you be rewarded with a pile of money?

Comment: Re:Artists paid 16 times as much for Spotify than (Score 1) 303

by quantaman (#49115293) Attached to: Pandora Pays Artists $0.001 Per Stream, Thinks This Is "Very Fair"

They need a new model. Streaming on its own for $10/month is clearly not enough money to go around. Spotify has infrastructure costs and has been bleeding money (I think they had a break-even or profitable quarter just recently?). Meanwhile, they also need to distribute the remainder of the already paltry $10 between a zillion artists. It makes no sense.

This strikes me as highly non-obvious, do you think the average person spends more than $10/month purchasing music?

Annual US music sales are about $7bn

With the US population at 320 million that's only ~$22/year per capita, not counting Spotify's cut (and whatever portion of that already comes from streaming) that's means if no-one bought music any more only 22% of the US population would have to stream to make up the difference.

I doubt there are many people spending $120/year purchasing music long term. $10/month strikes me as a wildly lucrative prospect for the music industry.

Comment: Re:What's the matter with Canada? (Score 2) 116

by quantaman (#49090165) Attached to: The Disastrous Privacy Consequences of Canada's Anti-Terrorism Bill

I used to think Canadians - even those out in the forsaken, endless prairies - were far more wise and progressive than us USians, but no. How long has GOP-backed and advised Harper been in power now? What happened? Was it tar sand greed? Pure apathy? The assumption they were all as 'funny' as Laughable Bublefuck Rob Ford?

Quite sad; I thought the Canadians were better than, well, just about everybody, but now no different than the rest of the Right-Wing Police State, Might Makes Right, Western world. [le sigh]

It's a combination of three things.

1) Harper isn't nearly as bad as the US right. There are certainly elements of that in his party, but he would still be a better fit as a Democrat than Republican in the US.

2) First past the post exaggerates strong minorities into big majorities. He should be PM but he shouldn't have a majority.

3) Even being a decent PM, he's still too far right for Canadians. The reason he's stuck around is he is good at winning elections, and the Liberal candidates not nearly as much. That might change, since Justin Trudeau took over he has actually out polled Harper fairly regularly, but whether Trudeau holds up through an election campaign is a big question.

Comment: Re:Patent trolls are useful arbitragers (Score 4, Interesting) 126

by quantaman (#49081265) Attached to: Patent Troll Wins $15.7M From Samsung By Claiming To Own Bluetooth

First, yes some patent trolls are evil. But some are very good.

The key service a Non-producing Patent holder provides is that they purchase patents from inventors. This allows the inventing company to convert their Ideas into cash. When companines die they may cease producing but their IP is still valuable. And it can be sold. It's that value that the shareholders of the company were investing in. So they were entitled to sell it. Patent "trolls" create this marketplace for Ideas and the money they pay goes on to be re-invested in other good things.

I think I understand your argument. But I think there's an important distinction: Is dead company A selling the technology to new company B, or just the right to use the technology?

If they're selling the technology, ie "company A knew how to do X, lets buy their IP so we can do X" then they're contributing something and new company B benefits from the exchange.

But if the situation is more like "we want to do X, but it turns out company A has patents on X, therefore we need so pay off those patents" then I'm a lot more skeptical. Sure company A's innovative investors make some money off of B, but that money came from B's innovative investors so I'm not sure you're actually promoting investment in innovation. Not only that but the patents added a lot of overhead, cash that would have been better used innovating by both parties.

It's sometimes hard to tell these apart because sometimes a cherished technology we all love really does have a legitimate patent holder not an ogre behind it. The Eolas patent on all web browser plug ins seems like a reasonable case. If they can really show that the basic concept of the web browser plug in was not obvious and had no prior art and that they legitmately patented it with sufficient breadth of description then it really doesn't matter that this catches everyone by surprise. It's worth a fortune obviously but that too is not a reason to say it's wrong. It would be wrong if they got lucky an patented as trivial idea and then tried to extort people with it.

As to my point I'm very skeptical Eolas actually did anything to further the development of browser plugins. Why are they entitled to a fortune when they never actually contributed anything of value?

Comment: Re:Obvious prior art (Score 4, Insightful) 126

by quantaman (#49081025) Attached to: Patent Troll Wins $15.7M From Samsung By Claiming To Own Bluetooth

I've come to a more nuanced view on patent trolls. They aren't themselves so evil, they are basically hackers, but of the law instead of tech. The real evil is the patent system itself, not the hackers who take advantage of it. If by their actions they persuade giants like Samsung that patent law needs major reform, then that's good. It's not their fault that patent law is such a mess, it's the fault of giant corporate backers. They're dancing delicately, trying to have it both ways, that is, little people have to ask them for their patents, but they don't have to ask little people for theirs. The bigs are the reason the scope of patent law has been expanded beyond all sense. Possibly the biggest expansion was that originally a patent was supposed to cover a working implementation. A machine that achieves the same thing through a different method was not in violation. Now patents can cover a vague concept. That kind of patent may be shot down in court, but that it was granted at all is one of the problems.

Hating a small patent troll is like shooting the messenger.

The evil is the term of the patent.

Change the term of software patents from 20 years to somewhere between 2 and 5 years (maybe hardware gets to be 10).

Small companies and independent inventors can still develop something new and have a healthy head start in either selling it or developing it into a product.

But 2-5 years isn't long enough to build an ecosystem, so you don't get a ridiculous situation where someone suddenly owns a piece of a fundamental technology like Bluetooth or MP3.

Moreover it fixes the incentives regarding patents. The current 20 year term means you can patent and forget, hoping someone else doesn't the work of developing the idea and you can then swoop in for license fees, that's where the patent trolls come in.

But a short term doesn't give you that option, the only way your patent is going to have value before it expires is if you make a push to build something with it, which is the kind of the point.

Comment: Re:That is close! (Score 1) 116

by quantaman (#49076287) Attached to: Another Star Passed Through Our Oort Cloud 70,000 Years Ago

I wonder how many comets it kicked out of the cloud and have cause some ruckus here on Terra.

There was a human population collapse right around that time. The population may have fallen to less than 10,000, and we nearly went extinct. This has been blamed on the eruption of Toba, an Indonesian volcano, but that may not have been the only cause.

Currently, Scholz's star is a small, dim red dwarf in the constellation of Monoceros, about 20 light years away. However, at the closest point in its flyby of the solar system, Scholz's star would have been a 10th magnitude star - about 50 times fainter than can normally be seen with the naked eye at night.

Unless it's gravitational effect was way larger I'm not sure it would be large and close enough to have an affect.

Comment: Re:Sigh... Yet another scam (Score 1) 233

by quantaman (#49068353) Attached to: Mars One: Final 100 Candidates Selected

I know the idea of going to Mars is pretty awesome but this just reeks of scam. They are claiming they will launch the first people by 2024, a mere 9 years from now. You will note that except for a Donate link there is no mention of funding. They even say "No new technology developments are required to establish a human settlement on Mars", which is demonstrably false.

Why is slashdot giving scammers like this the time of day? This is not a real mission to Mars. This is not even a credible attempt at one. There is no funding, no realistic plan, no details, no technology development, and nothing else that should even give the slightest hint that this is anything more than a scam.

It doesn't strike me as a scam as much as a sincere attempt by a group of moderately accomplished yet fairly typical geeks to take their best shot and go as far as they can.

I look at their plan and my thought is that it's more-or-less what I would do if I really wanted to launch a mission to mars. The big asterix is cost and technical expertise. They say they need 6 billion which might be feasible, big Hollywood blockbusters can run $200 million and Olympic broadcast/sponsorship would be enough to cover the budget, so if they get something credible (or at least entertaining) going then the networks might get interested. More likely might be some eccentric billionaire willing to dump a large percentage of their net worth into a vanity project.

For me the big thing is the technical and organizational expertise, I suspect they're massively underestimating the difficulty of the technical challenges and it will be a very long time before they've built up the organizational expertise to even address them. And because they're underestimating the technical difficulty I also suspect the budget is massively underestimated.

I suspect the best case for the project is a moderately successful media venture that either sets up the organization for a proper attempt in 20+ years, or spurns a government to action.

Comment: Re:First Post (Score 3, Insightful) 267

by quantaman (#49060829) Attached to: What Your Online Comments Say About You

John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory:

Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad

Face it, it explains everything.

I think it explains half, mostly the trolling half.

The other half is the fact that people speak up when they're passionate about something, and there's nothing that makes you as passionate as thinking you know the truth when everyone else is wrong.

Personally I think the solution is to speak up even when you don't care that much. You can't convince the fringe players that they're wrong, but you can demonstrate to them (and others) that the fringe viewpoint is a minority one.

Comment: Re:Not quite comparable (Score 1) 215

by quantaman (#49060529) Attached to: Japan Now Has More Car Charging Points Than Gas Stations

Assuming they can find a way to avoid people scamming them off widescale all they have to do is bake the price of the new battery into the car.

Car rental companies have built a business around lending people a very significant asset, I don't see why electric car manufacturers couldn't do the same with batteries.

Comment: Re:Tim Cook, Just buy Telsa (Score 1) 138

by quantaman (#49058387) Attached to: Apple Hiring Automotive Experts

Apple has roughly 175 billion in cash and Tesla's current market cap is around 35B. If Apple wants to get into the car business might as well jump in feet first. Not to mention you get one of the greatest CEO visionaries Elon Musk, since Steve Jobs. The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that Apple is building its one electric vehicle that resembles a minivan.

Why buy Tesla when you can hire them for a lot less:

Musk also said Apple has been trying to poach Tesla employees, offering $250,000 signing bonuses and 60 percent salary increases.

“Apple tries very hard to recruit from Tesla,” he said. “But so far they’ve actually recruited very few people.”

So is Apple making those offers because they think those employees are that valuable to Apple, or to Tesla?

Comment: Re:Not quite comparable (Score 2) 215

by quantaman (#49057115) Attached to: Japan Now Has More Car Charging Points Than Gas Stations

The battery idea has some problems. Batteries are not interchangeable - age and quality matters. You might drive up to the station with a shiny new battery, get it replaced - and your new battery is two years old and only has half the effective capacity. Or worse, you might get given a battery which was previously damaged in an accident and is now prone to catch fire, or which a previous owner hacked to disable the under-voltage protection circuit and squeeze a bit more capacity from while ruining the cells, or which was manufactured by the cheapest factory in China with a counterfeir controller chip - all things that expose the station operator to liability. The only way it would work would be to inspect every battery as it came in and before sending it out again, which means every station needs a skilled attendant and frequently needs to buy new batteries. Expensive.

You own the car but the auto-maker owns the battery and automatically replaces bad batteries free of charge.

You go up to the charging station swap out the spent for the new, the spent goes to a charging station that runs a diagnostic during charging, if the battery fails the diagnostic the attendant sets it aside, then once a week they call the automaker who sends someone around to pick up the duds and drop off replacements.

Since owners don't need to buy replacement batteries there's less of a market for counterfeits, and if you can make the verification works the only extra labour is the weekly exchange.

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.