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Comment: Re:I have worked at a few ISPs (Score 2) 246

by schnell (#47709665) Attached to: Comcast Training Materials Leaked

example would be bell labs.. then the business got greedy and killed innovation.

The Slashdot crowd can't have their cake and eat it too. "Classic" Bell Labs did a tremendous amount of innovative research that transformed the telecommunications and computer industries. But they did it precisely because they were a regulated monopoly that had no competitors and fat, government-regulated margins. In essence, the old AT&T spent lavishly on Bell Labs projects that in many cases they not only didn't make money on but were actually forbidden (like UNIX) to make money on because they had no need to be competitive.

But on the flip side, everyone here seems to agree that monopolies are bad and competition is good. Which, for consumers and shareholders, I agree is ideal. But if you're looking for someone to subsidize basic research with little or no investment return potential, don't look to a competitive company to do it. Even Google's "research" is almost always connected to a profit-making initiative, although whether they actually bring it to market is a much different question.

So long story short - the old Bell Labs only made sense as a luxury that could be afforded by a monopoly that had cash to burn. If you want competition, you don't get businesses that can throw cash into a burn pit for the benefit of science.

Comment: Re:McDonallds should sue ... (Score 5, Interesting) 246

by schnell (#47709609) Attached to: Comcast Training Materials Leaked

Ugh. Please don't make me sound like I'm defending Comcast, which I loathe.

But the fact is that every large consumer-oriented business has a part of their playbook that every employee who touches the customer should be a salesperson. Are you the McDonald's cashier? You're selling. Are you the rep in a Verizon store? You're selling. Those are easy. Do you work the fry machine? Then you don't talk to the customer, and you're not selling. That's the difference in your example.

But pretty much every consumer services megacorp has done the research and learned that every "touch" you have with a customer needs to be a selling opportunity, and you get very good sales results - which seems counterintuitive, but it's true - if you do so. When you call for support, that's a touch and up-sell opportunity even if you were angry when you called in; same when the DSL/cable installer shows up to your house, even if they are late showing up. You may be angry at first, but a shitload of real-world research shows that most consumers are simply unaware of any given company's latest/greatest/whatever, and you might be interested in it once you have vented your frustration with $MEGACORP.

Again, I have no love for Comcast (I am a Xfinity subscriber in Seattle for TV/Internet and for more than two years I have struggled to read my cable bill and figure it out in a line item fashion) but they are certainly no more evil than almost any other large company in this respect.

Comment: Re:Sitting on the floor? (Score 1, Interesting) 179

by schnell (#47697759) Attached to: Xiaomi's Next OS Looks Strikingly Similar To iOS

Does he also park in the handicap space?

I have no idea if it's true, but a story used to circulate among Apple employees that one engineer worked up the bravery to leave a note on His Steveness's windshield that suggested he "Park Different." There was reportedly an effort to track down the offending employee by Apple security but it never bore fruit.

Comment: Re:While Buying Back $1.5 Billion In Stock (Score 1) 206

when the poor stop getting earned income credits totaling in the several thousands every year

I get your drift, but the Earned Income Tax Credit program is a poor example of something to pick on. EITC is one of the very few financial aid programs out there that both Republicans and Democrats like because they agree it's effective. The short version is that the EITC rewards you for going out and getting a job, which is where the "earned income" in the name comes from. It was created to combat the paradox that getting a low-wage job can disqualify you from getting certain types of welfare, resulting in you making less money by working than if you just lived off government assistance. So EITC "grosses up" your working income to make sure you have an incentive to be gainfully employed and you aren't losing out on benefits because you're working.

You don't get the EITC by being jobless or living off public assistance; it in essence gives you an additional incentive to work. So while you may think that our welfare programs are busted in general, EITC is not the piece of that program to criticize.

Comment: Re:Where do I sign up? (Score 2) 327

What was the result of all of this government regulation of a natural monopoly? Prices for long-distance calls dropped rapidly. Services were upgraded in many areas that were previously "unprofitable". Technologies that made heavy use of previously existing infrastructure(ADSL) spurred technological advances.

This doesn't necessarily invalidate your point, but your recap of the results of the Judge Greene decision and the divestiture of AT&T is a bit off. The original Department of Justice rationale - this suit being pursued under the conservative Reagan administration, which you would have thought wouldn't wanted to do it - for splitting up AT&T was that it was an un-natural combination of heavily regulated industries (local phone service) and largely unregulated industries (long distance). The ultra-conservative DoJ anti-trust bigwig who actually pursued the case did so on the doctrinal belief that you should either be in a regulated business (rates set by a local Public Utility Commission, as local phone services are/were), or in a competitive business (market pricing) but not both since it allowed the competitive business to be subsidized by the regulated business and distort competition.

What was going on was actually the reverse - AT&T made lots of money selling long distance but not much selling local phone service, and in effect it was subsidizing your local phone bill with what expensive long distance service cost. So, while opening up the LD market to lots of competition did in fact drive prices down for consumers, most people's local phone bills went up because the ILECs were no longer being subsidized. Local phone company "innovation" pretty much went into the toilet (remember, they toyed with making modem users buy separate additional phone lines, and their idea of "broadband" in the early '90s was still ISDN). It wasn't until the advent of ADSL as a way to compete with other emerging broadband technologies forced their hand in the late '90s (in concert with the 1996 telecom deregulation act) that there was much innovation or cost savings for customers in play.

So in some ways the Ma Bell breakup was an interesting exemplar of the "law of unintended consequences" and a demonstration of how heavily regulated services can sometimes drive higher prices and lower innovation than ones with a more open market. Competition will always make a company move faster than regulatory bureaucracy - so your "HEAVY regulation" mentioned above would need to not just be regulation per se but the type that also incentivized investment and competition.

By the way, if you're really interested in the Ma Bell divestiture and its consequences, be sure to pick up The Deal of the Century by the Washington Post reporter who covered the trial and its aftermath.

Comment: Re:Vote Selling? (Score 1) 190

Suppose a person is for example willing to spend $100,000 to obtain 10000 votes, in order to win an election

That's what happens today, except it is spent on TV ads, direct mail, paid media placements and talking heads. Paying people for their votes directly would probably be cheaper for everyone involved except the advertising and PR firms who reap a windfall each election cycle.

I don't actually like the idea of buying votes - I think accepting money for a vote is fundamentally prostituting your most basic civic rights. But that's a choice and I don't see why prostitution isn't legalized, either. I guess my point is just that "vote selling" is only one degree of separation away from the status quo today and might actually be a more efficient way of getting to the same place.

Comment: Re:As a T-mobile subscriber... (Score 3, Informative) 111

by schnell (#47579443) Attached to: French Provider Free Could Buy US Branch of T-Mobile

it won't matter which carrier you have, since eventually you'll be able to roam on any network.

Nope, sorry. For three reasons:

  1. 1.) VoLTE on one carrier is not necessarily compatible with VoLTE on another carrier. VoLTE is not plain VoIP - like Skype etc. - where it is a pure "over the top" Layer 7 application that any IP network should support. It is built at a much lower layer in the OSI stack, and each carrier's implementation will be optimized for their own network and may not be compatible with another carrier's.
  2. 2.) To roam on "any network" (at least in the US) requires your phone to be able to access all the different LTE bands licensed to different carriers. Most phones sold in the US don't because it costs extra money to support the frequency bands of multiple carriers which is pointless when 95% of customers will use the phone for its two-year lifetime on the carrier that they bought it from
  3. 3.) Also - to roam onto another network, by the way that GSM cellular technology works, your home carrier must have a roaming agreement with the "other" carrier. Generally speaking, the big US carriers have roaming agreements for international use and for remote rural use, but not in domestic areas where they have their own networks. The simple explanation is that if you lose your Verizon signal for a second and your phone tries to go roam onto T-Mobile, that costs VZ a lot of money.... whereas in that area it's more likely that you will get a VZ tower back within a few minutes and not cost them any roaming fees if you didn't attach to a roaming network. TL;DR - somebody will always pay more if you are using a network other than your "home" carrier, and that somebody will end up being you - at a rate that will make it economically unfeasible.

Lastly, if you thought that VoLTE was going to mean that you could just use any given carrier at your convenience, I'm sorry but that's just not how cellular works. In the mobile (GSM and its successor technologies like LTE) world, you have a "home" carrier (who gave you your SIM and sends you your monthly bill) and you will always use your home carrier whenever possible because it's less expensive for them. To use another carrier - even if they have better coverage in a certain area, and your device has the other carrier's frequencies enabled - means that your home carrier will absorb roaming charges and they will pass those along to you. With a markup. So it makes no economic sense for you or your carrier to just let you use the network that has the strongest signal in any given area... or if they do, be prepared to pay out the frickin' wazoo for every time you surf the web on a carrier that isn't your home provider.

Comment: Re:Developers, developers, developers! (Score 1) 258

by schnell (#47575527) Attached to: Is the App Store Broken?

The iPhone was an incremental, evolutionary development from the smartphones of 2006

Did you actually use any smartphones in 2006?

The typical smartphone of 2006 - think BlackBerry Curve or Motorola Q - was a keyboard-driven (it may or may not have had a touchscreen, and if it did it probably had a stylus) and optimized to do e-mail and calendaring passably well. The experience of browsing the web on BB OS or Windows Mobile (or, God help you, Windows CE) was so painful as to be something you did in a pinch because you had to, not because you wanted to. Built-in apps were generally carrier-loaded crapware. Don't even get me started on how difficult it was to do things like, you know, make phone calls.

So the smartphone of 2006 was basically a decent mobile e-mail device, and that's it. The all-touchscreen, web-friendly user experience of the iPhone - remember, back then stuff like "pinch to zoom" was a big deal that nobody had seen before - was radically different. It may have been evolutionary, but it certainly wasn't incremental.

Comment: Re:Put it another way... (Score 3, Interesting) 160

by schnell (#47541461) Attached to: Soccer Superstar Plays With Very Low Brain Activity

News flash: basement-bound nerds think being a world champion-caliber athlete is easy. Film at 11.

Let go of your hatred of the dumb-ass jocks who got laid in high school but could never compete on a professional level, and consider that it might not be so brainless to be a world-class athlete. All this study says is that the very best athletes have learned to do it on autopilot, but for everyone else a lot of thinking is involved.

Geeks can actually simulate the experience to a certain degree, given that some modern video games have evolved to a high degree of realism. Play "Madden NFL" on an expert difficulty level, and you'll see just how hard it can be for a NFL quarterback to try to read the movements of 11 defensive players simultaneously and pick the best route to throw the ball... even when you don't actually have to have the arm strength to throw it. Play "MLB the Show" on an expert level and you'll see how hard it can be to react in a tiny fraction of a second whether you're swinging at a 100 mph straight-ahead fastball, an 85 mph changeup that looks just like a fastball, a 90 mph slider that stars out straight but breaks away from the pitcher's arm, or a 70 mph knuckleball that just floats all over the fucking place.

TL;DR - (some) video games these days are good enough to replicate just how hard professional level athletics are, even without the actual physical exertion. Please don't dismiss athletics as brainless if you don't know what the fuck you're talking about.

Comment: Re:These are the guys you voted for ... (Score 1) 225

by schnell (#47520259) Attached to: VP Biden Briefs US Governors On H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding

Why, because the Republicans - so notoriously unfriendly to business - would have cracked down and decreased H1Bs? Not bloody likely. At best, knowing today's Republican party, they would have upped H1B quotas but stipulated "no Mexicans" to assuage the Arizona contingent.

Note that I say this as someone who is a GOP apostate but nonetheless is technically one of the approximately four registered Republicans in the greater Seattle area. Today's GOP sadly fails to understand that, given the rest of their pro-business policies, they would have Silicon Valley in their pocket if they just learned to stop yammering on about eeeevilution, gay marriage and "Obamacare gave me leprosy!" A lot of the tech world would flock to their cause if they stopped clinging to idiotic social conservative policies that alienate everyone in America who isn't white, Christian and over 50 years old.

Long story short to the OP - don't use this as a tool to bash Biden/Obama, because the Republican ticket would have jacked up H1B quotas, not reduced them. If you're anti-H1B, you may not like the current administration policies but they are no worse than the alternative.

Comment: Re:Pft (Score 1) 962

by schnell (#47512607) Attached to: The Daily Harassment of Women In the Game Industry

"I hope someone rapes him in the ass." "I'm going to cut off your balls and rape your throat with them." And several other comments from women in various work places.

Are you saying that women have said this to you or about you in an actual business workplace setting? If so, where do you work? If not, what do you mean?

Comment: Re:Yeah, students will use bandwidth (Score 1) 285

by schnell (#47505281) Attached to: How One School District Handled Rolling Out 20,000 iPads

Even your post suggests that teachers are to blame for poor educational outcomes

Teachers are a part of the equation of educational outcomes. Parents and economics, I agree, have far more to do with results. But barring extreme circumstances, you can't do anything about a child's parents. You can far more easily do something about their school and their teacher. And I had teachers growing up who ranged from those fostering my love of learning and enriching my young life... to those making every day a litany of scorn and drudgery.

My partner works in a primary school across town, and sees every day what leads to poor educational outcomes.

I'm sure your partner is a very good teacher, and deserves great praise for it. But sure she/he would admit that there are good teachers and bad teachers, just like there are people who are good and bad at any job.

Wouldn't she/he want to get paid more for being good at teaching vis-a-vis someone else who didn't put in as much effort or have the same skills? I'm not saying it's a panacea, but I cannot help but believe that paying better teachers more would make the profession more attractive and more rewarding. What's wrong with that and why won't teachers' unions even countenance the idea?

Comment: Re:Expensive? (Score 1) 285

by schnell (#47504657) Attached to: How One School District Handled Rolling Out 20,000 iPads

you can get Shakespeare's works *FREE*

Is it the edition of Shakespeare's works that comes with tests & answers, definitions of archaic words, historical background and age-appropriate commentary and explanations? I always forget if that is the First or Second Quarto.

As an adult, I enjoy reading Shakespeare's works and have copies, both printed and electronic. But to teach Shakespeare you need textbooks, not just the source texts. Textbooks do actually add value in many cases, and it requires someone knowledgeable (e.g. not Wikipedia) to write, edit & proof them and get paid for it.

Comment: Re:Yeah, students will use bandwidth (Score 4, Insightful) 285

by schnell (#47504363) Attached to: How One School District Handled Rolling Out 20,000 iPads

yet the most important people in society -- teachers barely make a decent salary??

I went to public school and had some great teachers who were worth their weight in gold. I also had other teachers who weren't worth a nickel and did a great amount of harm to their students.

If teachers' unions ever agree to let teachers be paid based on how good they are - rather than just by seniority - you might actually see more attractive salaries for good teachers. You might also see more bright people interested in taking up the profession if they knew they could make a better living doing so.

With that being said, my only experience in this is with US public schools and their teachers' unions. I'm curious if anyone else knows of examples where teachers are paid purely on merit and the effect (or lack thereof) it has had on educational outcomes.

Comment: Re:Do you have any hands-on experience ? (Score 3, Insightful) 667

by schnell (#47498291) Attached to: Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

When you perform a terrorist act you tell that YOU did it in order to intimidate.

Al Qaida never formally accepted responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. Some things you do as a ragbag organization with grandiloquent revolutionary blather, but then realize, "Oh shit, that actually happened. Yay us and all, but I really don't want to deal with the ensuing sh*tstorm of admitting it was us."

Some people have a great ambition: to build something that will last, at least until they've finished building it.