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Comment: Re:I buy a crap ton of movies (Score 1) 194

by schnell (#46826933) Attached to: How Much Data Plan Bandwidth Is Wasted By DRM?

I would agree that Ultraviolet is execrable and worthless. But why iTunes? I find their "digital copy" element quite useful. I can download the HD version to a PC (better quality than I can get from ripping a DVD) and then sync it to an iDevice for watching on the go whenever I want. Alternatively, even if I don't download a local copy, I can also use iTunes to stream the video if I'm too lazy to go get my DVD or BluRay that I bought it with.

Plus, as another commenter suggested, you can sell that download code. Why on earth would you just pitch it?

Comment: Re:False dilemma (Score 1) 452

by schnell (#46810929) Attached to: Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power

It's not grow or die. It's grow or lose investors.

Precisely. I don't understand why people on Slashdot seem to think that "grow or die" is some kind of imperative. Growth is just much, much more attractive to investors.

Oversimplified explanation: imagine a company which never grows, turns over the same profit every quarter and pays the same dividend year after year after year (other than a tiny bit to compensate for inflation). The market will size that up, figure out what the appropriate worth of that stock is, and its stock price will never change by more than a few percent. If you want to reliably collect your dividend and have little risk, that's the stock for you! And there are definitely investors like that out there.

But you as an investor will never get rich that way. People want to buy into something like Google, Apple, Amazon, whatever (remember the Netscape IPO?) - that starts out at $30 a share and zooms to $300 a share. The only way that happens is if your company grows! So while never growing is fine, it only appeals to a limited set of investors. Most investors want to buy a stock that will go up in value over time. And most companies' CEOs - unless they are in a very old industry where there is little growth potential - will find that if they pursue the "steady state" policy that some of their investors will be pushing them to grow or they will try to oust that CEO and find someone who will grow. Oversimplified, but there it is in a nutshell.

Comment: Re:*sigh* (Score 3, Interesting) 351

by schnell (#46806685) Attached to: Google: Better To Be a 'B' CS Grad Than an 'A+' English Grad

I think there's a bit of a difference between having "good English skills" and spending four or more years of your life taking classes about it

I think there is (unsurprisingly) a lot of misunderstanding among the CS crowd about what an English major actually studies. I was not one myself (journalism and Russian language double-major), but from what I understood from my English major friends in college, it's not poring over obscure grammar rules for four years. It's actually more of a degree in writing and communications, learning how to structure and present information in essay form. It's also studying the various kinds of writing out there for different purposes - ranging from artistic to practical - and learning about how other writers have communicated in the past (literature) and what can be learned from them and applied to written communications today.

You can find an example of typical English 300-level courses here or 400-level courses here. English gets a bad name because there are many unfocused students who pick it as a major because they can't think of anything else to do, but for someone who's serious about it, it can be very intellectually engaging and useful.

Comment: Re:North Korea is not a communist state (Score 1) 234

by schnell (#46799073) Attached to: Russia Writes Off 90 Percent of North Korea Debt

If the proletariat is not in control of how the state is operated, then it is not communism, it is totalitarianism.

By that measure, there has never been a sustained communist state on the planet, and almost certainly never will be. So what's the point then? You can call properly something a duck even though it's not the Platonic ideal of a duck.

Comment: Re:North Korea is not a communist state (Score 1) 234

by schnell (#46798109) Attached to: Russia Writes Off 90 Percent of North Korea Debt

Indeed the present day US is vastly closer to being an ideal free-market state than North Korea is to being anything that can be approximated as being close to actual communism.

WTF Slashdot? Somehow this got to +5. Seriously?

That's a mighty big assertion. Care to provide, like, any support? North Korea's economy is built on Juche, yes, but it is also heavily built on Communism as well. While it varies from pure Marxist theory in that it has a hereditary dictatorship and not a (never yet achieved anywhere) proletarian rule, the absolute state control of the economy is certainly in line with Marxist theory. In fact, up until the 1980s the Chinese and North Korean systems were equally as Communist, until China adopted a system more akin to Facscism and North Korea stayed the course on Communism.

Whatever you degree you may think the US does or does not represent a "free market" economy has no bearing on whether or not North Korea is a Communist state, which it is.

Comment: Re:THROUGH North Korea?! (Score 2) 234

by schnell (#46797701) Attached to: Russia Writes Off 90 Percent of North Korea Debt

China has the US by the balls via debt

OM F***ing G. I know this is a popular theme on Slashdot, but please STOP. It is wrong, and stems from a serious misunderstanding about what it means to say that "the US owes China money."

Go to your local bank branch, or hop on E*Trade, and buy a $500 US Savings Bond. Congratulations, the US now owes you money! You just gave the US government $500, and they promise to pay you back that $500 in the future plus interest. US bonds and treasury bills are historically among the safest investments in the world, so they are purchased in huge quantities by individuals, banks, retirement funds, businesses, sovereign wealth funds (like China's) and many others. So technically the US government "owes" money to nearly every investor on the planet at some level. The US issues bond/bills like this - incurring debt - all day every day like clockwork, and it continues to be a high-grade investment choice (it pays out little but is very "safe") around the globe.

Slashdotters who don't understand these financial vehicles seem to think that the US was running short of cash one day and came to China like a pawnbroker, saying "Gosh, China, can you float me a few trillion renminbi until payday?" and that China is therefore exercising control over the US like some mobster holding it over a deadbeat debtor. Instead, China has just been buying sh*tloads of US debt over the counter, like everyone else on the planet.

And, really, what can China do to the US if they want to hurt us? Cash in all their debt at once? Fine, but they will not get their full investment back (remember, US T-bills/bonds only pay you back in full once they have reached their maturity date) and the US will just print more dollars to meet the payout need. We'd experience more inflation in the short term, but the US would actually win out in the long run because China cheated itself out of recouping the full amount of money they loaned us! They could start selling US T-bills at a discount, lowering the market for our debt ... but the rest of the world market would snap it all up - yes, even the huge amount that China has - and again they would end up losing money by selling their stake at a discount.

So, once and for all, China has zero political leverage in the US specifically because of its debt holdings. They have a LOT of political leverage because of the size of their market and the resulting pressure from US corporations that want to do business there ... but not specifically due to their debt holdings.

Comment: Re:Ivy League Schools (Score 2) 105

by schnell (#46795421) Attached to: Minerva CEO Details His High-Tech Plan To Disrupt Universities

Similarly, the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed with stronger Republican support in Congress (80%) than Dem (60-70%).

True, but that is an artifact of the unusual configuration of the Democratic Party from the 1880s to the 1980s, and is not reflective of the two parties' identities today. For many decades, the South was dominated politically by "Dixiecrats" - Democrats in name (because the Republican Party was so identified with the North) but much closer to modern Republican values in terms of social and fiscal conservatism, hawkish defense views, religious issues, etc. Dixiecrats were something of a historical anachronism, and they defected en masse to the Republican Party in the '80s as the Democrats moved too far to the Left and the Republicans under Reagan embraced the ex-Dixiecrats.

So basically the Democrats from the South who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act would be Republicans today, and that % number you cite above would be neatly flipped in the opposite direction.

Comment: Re:Demographics problem (Score 2) 336

by schnell (#46790591) Attached to: Detroit: America's Next Tech Boomtown

Detroit was the economic powerhouse of the United States for decades until its business leaders caught the 'MBA Disease' and managed their companies into the ground.

I'm not sure exactly what the "MBA disease" is but the rise of professional managers in the '50s and '60s, as exemplified by the rise of Robert McNamara and the "Whiz Kids" at Ford, was actually a very good time for the US auto industry. What killed the US auto industry was a combination of 1.) building crap cars with terrible quality; 2.) not foreseeing the Oil Crisis of the '70s and that customers might actually want small, non-gas guzzler cars; and most importantly 3.) a dysfunctional relationship between management and unions that resulted in an outrageous, unsustainable cost structure. Management didn't have the courage to make necessary big cost structure changes, and they kept kicking the can down the road by promising huge pension and benefit increases that wouldn't have to be paid for until they had the retired and the next sucker got stuck with it. Wash, rinse, repeat. There was ample evidence that cars could be built well and profitably in the US, as the NUMMI joint venture between Toyota and GM proved, but doing so required big changes from both management and unions and neither were willing to budge from the system that had kept them fat and happy for decades.

It all nearly fell apart in the '90s (the rise of SUVs was all that saved Detroit back then) and then finally in '08. But the system had been rotting for decades and all it took was the right push to send it collapsing into a heap. If you're interested in what went wrong with the US auto industry and why, I highly recommend Crash Course by Paul Ingrassia. The This American Life episode on NUMMI is also brilliant and well worth a listen.

Comment: Re:Useful Idiot (Score 1) 395

US media is controlled primarily by 3 people

Who are these three people?

each work closely with the US government for what to show, when to show it, and how to frame stories

I'm pretty sure that is not true. Do you really think Fox News calls up the White House to ask them how President Obama would like their broadcast today to go? Do you think the Washington Post does?

Comment: Re:Government picking favorites (Score 2) 91

by schnell (#46776887) Attached to: Bidding At FCC TV Spectrum Auction May Be Restricted For Large Carriers

Well, to begin with, if the big players want that bandwidth they'll just buy whoever buys it. Problem solved.

What if Sprint or T-Mobile buy that spectrum? AT&T already tried to buy T-Mobile and was shot down by the DOJ, so it's silly to think that the big two could buy either T-Mo or Sprint in order to get that spectrum. With set-asides, T-Mobile and Sprint are in effect having their cost of doing business being subsidized by taxpayers, which - depending on your view of competition in cellular - may or may not be worth your taxpayer dollar.

Comment: Re:Sale or lease? (Score 4, Informative) 91

by schnell (#46776869) Attached to: Bidding At FCC TV Spectrum Auction May Be Restricted For Large Carriers

Why isnt it for lease? Why arent the carriers paying something per year for the use of the spectrum?

Technically, it is a more like a very long term lease rather than a perpetual sale. Ultimately, those frequencies are still under the discretion of the FCC to allocate or revoke subject to certain conditions.

To answer your question about why carriers don't "rent" it annually, it's because there is an ecosystem around those frequencies that require huge multi-year investments. Let's say that you're carrier X and you just bought the rights to the LTE "C Block" frequencies. You need to buy hundreds of millions of dollars worth of LTE equipment that runs is the C Block, site your towers to match the RF propagation characteristics of that particular frequency band, have all your smartphone vendors that you commit to buy XXX millions of units from have their devices support that spectrum block, etc. etc. Every radio band that you add to a piece of tower equipment costs money, and adding additional bands to phones takes up motherboard space and adds extra costs, so on both sides there is a monetary cost to supporting additional spectrum bands.

If you could lose that spectrum next year to another bidder - you have literally spent hundreds of millions of $$$ on equipment and devices that are worthless to you - or, worse - are only worthwhile to customers who will use the network of your competitor who just bought that spectrum. If carriers could not lock up spectrum blocks long term, the uncertainty would mean that they would pay far, far less for it, so the government would extract far less money from them for that spectrum. So "selling" the spectrum under long-term leases means more $$$ for the government vs. trying to "rent" it year-to-year.

Comment: Re:at&t wasn't welcome anyway (Score 1) 91

by schnell (#46776819) Attached to: Bidding At FCC TV Spectrum Auction May Be Restricted For Large Carriers

instead of wannabe monopolists that have spectrum to spare

Here's the problem: the more customers you have, the more spectrum you need. If you have lots of spectrum today and continue to grow, then you will need more tomorrow. If Verizon and AT&T had more and enough to spare, do you think they would be lining up to shell out $X billions of dollars for this instead of improving next quarter's profits? Given Slashdot's consensus that all corporations are obsessed with short term returns, why would the mega-carriers be shelling out huge sums of cash that could otherwise be pocketed by shareholders or executives if they didn't actually need it?

The true situation is that all carriers, big or small, can use more spectrum to increase their LTE spectral efficiencies and decrease cost per bit/customer and increase capacity. It's an interesting quandary for the FCC. AT&T and Verizon can and will pay more for the spectrum to be auctioned. That means US taxpayers get more money, which is what is supposed to happen when the government is selling public airwaves. If the government reserves some of that spectrum for smaller carriers, it fosters competition at the cost of getting paid less for that spectrum than (by market demands) it should have - in effect, subsidizing the operations of these smaller carriers at the expense of taxpayers. Do you as a taxpayer want to in effect provide free profits to Sprint or T-Mobile's shareholders - even if you don't use those carriers - because you think it's good that they are around to provide more competition? That's the fascinating question that makes this debate interesting since it has no objectively correct answer: where is the right balance between taxpayer duty and fostering competition?

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]