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Comment: Re:This is quite amusing.... (Score 1) 274

by schnell (#48937389) Attached to: Microsoft To Invest In Rogue Android Startup Cyanogen

...considering that Android -- at its core -- is a form of Linux. So is OS X and therefore so is iOS....


Mac OS X is largely derived from NeXTStep, which was built on top of 4.4BSD UNIX variants (mostly NetBSD with a lot of FreeBSD userland). Stock Android uses a Linux kernel, but the Android app SDK is completely different from a desktop Linux distort, just as the iOS SDK offers zero overlap with a BSD UNIX desktop experience.

Both Android and iOS have their roots in UNIX-derived operating systems (though neither are "classic" SVR4-based systems). But although they are both derived from POSIX and "UNIX-alike" systems, they share (essentially) no code and no development tree. Additionally, I personally would argue that from a OMG UNIX has conquered the world perspective that Android == Linux as little as Mac OS X == NetBSD since all the parts that people care about are derivative or proprietary.

If you're ready to get your UNIX nerd on, check out this UNIX family tree.

Comment: Re:Government Intervention (Score 1) 469

by schnell (#48934751) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: When and How Did Europe Leapfrog the US For Internet Access?

We subsidized something, it turns out it certainly wasn't broadband.

That's correct, it was never intended to be. The Universal Service Fund that you pay for each month with your phone bill in the US was created specifically to ensure that all Americans had some form of narrowband voice communications. It was designed as a tax on "the many" to ensure that "the few" who lived in remote or unpopulated areas would not be left out because it was simply economically infeasible to run a phone line 15 miles outside of town to serve a farmhouse with three people in it.

Most of that money goes to the major telcos to support broad rural areas, but a disproportionate amount of the spending goes to small ultra-rural telcos with tiny populations where telephone service would simply not exist were it not massively subsidized. It's a "cost plus" subsidy that nobody is going to get rich off of, but does provide prop up many of the smaller telcos in the US that otherwise wouldn't survive. Regardless of how you feel about this, just remember that USF was never supposed to do anything for broadband.

Comment: Re:grandmother reference (Score 1) 465

Entirely irrelevant. A healthy market will nevertheless push the sale cost towards the marginal cost of production. It will never reach it, but it will definitely approach it.

How does your math work?

  • Cost to produce the first copy of an A-list videogame: $60 million
  • Cost to distribute the second copy digitally: $.03

How do you see those two converging?

Comment: Re:JJ has a chance, maybe (Score 1) 420

by schnell (#48887755) Attached to: Disney Turned Down George Lucas's Star Wars Scripts

Maybe I'll give the Zahn novels another try. I mainly just remember finding the prose pretty stiff.

Nobody was going to nominate Timothy Zahn for the Nobel Prize in literature, you're right. But by and large his books (not just the Thrawn trilogy) made for entertaining stories that kept you turning pages and enjoying the experience. Even the Thrawn books had some lame plot elements (I personally believe that anytime you introduce clones into a novel or comic book you should go to Writer Jail for a mandatory 3 year sentence). But they were always fun to turn off your brain for a while and read. The same thing goes for most of the "Rogue Squadron" books.

Sadly, the rest of the Expanded Universe varied wildly from interesting and fun (Luke and his son's Force User Road Trip in "Fate of the Jedi") to dull (many of the earlier EU books) to depressing (most of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion which was just a way to induce PTSD in the next generation of Jedi) to full-on WTF (the Jedi council holding press conferences in "Fate of the Jedi" or the string of '90s book after book about zOMG somebody cloned the Emperor [again] or is rebuilding the Death Star [again].) There were some real gems in the EU but you have to pick through a lot of crap to get to them, and even then you won't get the full impact of some of the plot/character arc elements if you didn't wade through all the dreck that came before. So your time is probably best served avoiding all but a few of the most highly-reviewed ones.

Comment: Re:Completely believable! (Score 5, Funny) 98

by schnell (#48840705) Attached to: Silicon Valley Security Experts Give 'Blackhat' a Thumbs-Up; Do You?

a.k.a. "NEWS FLASH: Pasty Mountain Dew-Swilling Nerds Praise Film Where Handsome Badass Pretends To Do Their Job While Things Blow Up."

Hell, if they made a movie called "The Product Manager" and it was Chris Pine seducing inexplicably hot KPI project manager analysts, engaging in high-speed car chases with developers throwing ninja stars and screaming "put this in your requirements document!" and muttering catchphrases like "Oh, it will ship all right. But you can download it in HELL!" while he walks away from explosions, I'd say "yeah, that is exactly like my job."

Comment: Re:Civility shouldn't have borders (Score 5, Interesting) 361

by schnell (#48840665) Attached to: Linus On Diversity and Niceness In Open Source

The adage "Nice guys finish last" proves itself much more often than not. Being civil = far less results.

The quote you cite comes from a paraphrase of former baseball manager Leo Durocher, and is intended to be understood in a sports context. Sports is a zero-sum game: somebody wins and somebody loses, and there are no points for character. The rest of life is not necessarily like that.

While "nice guys finish last" is often extrapolated (dubiously) to areas like dating, or is sometimes put in the mouth of realpolitik advocates like Niccolo Machiavelli or Henry Kissinger, it was never meant to be a general descriptor of how to get along in life. Some bosses - like Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, or pre-mellowing Bill Gates were legendary assholes and still got great results out of their employees. There are other people who manage their employees with a gentler hand and play to their strengths, and get good results too. Your mileage may vary as to which is the best approach, but I certainly know which environment I would thrive in and which one would make me quit the first day.

Sometimes even if all you care about is the end result you may find that the end result would have been better if you had viewed the road getting there as being full of unique persons and not interchangeable tools. If you just aren't good at dealing with people, then fine, don't try to make yourself that type of leader/manager. But just remember that - to fight adage with adage - "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

Comment: Re:And? (Score 1) 448

by schnell (#48762195) Attached to: Unbundling Cable TV: Be Careful What You Wish For

If nobody wants the Knitting Channel, then KC will cut their prices to the cable company to ensure it's carried.

Umm, no, that's exactly the opposite of how it would work. The (hypothetical) Knitting Channel has a more or less fixed niche size of audience, and a more or less fixed set of costs to operate. TKC is de facto subsidized today by people paying for a more popular sibling network like The (hypothetical) Crocheting Channel.

If TKC weren't being subsidized by TCC, it would not get more subscribers by increasing its price - seriously, if you weren't going to pay $3/month for The Knitting Channel are you going to do it all the sudden because it's $1/month? What it would do without a subsidy is to raise its rates, hoping to meet its operating costs.

In this hypothetical version of today's model, people who like crocheting but not knitting are getting screwed by, in effect, paying for what they don't want. But the smaller group of people who like knitting are getting a channel that, without the subsidy, would probably cost 3x or 4x the subscription fee to survive. So in an unbundled world, expect the nichier things to get far more expensive or just go away. Broadly popular stuff (like TBS, USA, ESPN, whatever) would go down since it was no longer subsidizing the less popular stuff. In theory, anyway.

Comment: Re:Conform or be expelled (Score 5, Informative) 320

by schnell (#48761905) Attached to: HOA Orders TARDIS Removed From In Front of Parrish Home

Actually very few areas in the US have HOAs. It's just that they are the more rich, white areas, which are more desirable.

Not in my experience (for whatever that's worth). I was part of a HOA with the first home I ever bought, which was part of a very middle-class neighborhood of townhouses. The development was a mix of older middle class families and younger first-time home buyers or - increasingly - immigrants who were taking advantage of the mid-2000s real estate situation to buy homes. I received a number of asinine warnings from the HOA about stuff like "you need to repaint your gutters within 30 days or zOMG CONTRACTUAL HELL WILL RAIN DOWN," which was enough to make me hate HOAs forever. But the real ire of the HOA was reserved for the immigrant families.

And, at the risk of being very politically incorrect, what the HOAs were doing there was fighting behavior that had a potential impact on property values for the whole development. Townhouses with 5-8 cars parked outside around the clock, indicating huge over-occupancy; men hanging out all over the steps and front yard all day; loud parties late into the night, etc. Why? Potential racism aside, it was because the people in the neighborhood were not so well off that a decline in property values due to their neighbors' actions wouldn't have a big impact on them. Years later, when I moved into a much nicer/richer neighborhood, there was no HOA to be found - nor would the proudly wealthy and independent residents have stood for anyone telling them what to do with their property.

I am not condoning targeting any group for HOA persecution, and again I was very put off by my experience with a HOA. But I am saying that HOAs are not generally needed in neighborhoods that are so rich that anyone who would degrade the property value couldn't move in there anyway. HOAs will tend to be most prevalent in those areas which are "kinda white" and/or "kinda rich" where there is some worry that people who could move in there might disrupt the community or lower property values. In truly rich/white places, there is simply no need for that.

+ - Unbundling cable TV: be careful what you wish for

Submitted by schnell
schnell (163007) writes "Consumers have long complained about the practice of "bundling" cable services and forcing customers to pay for channels they don't want — and an increasing number of "cord cutters" are voting with their wallets. But an article in the New York Times suggests that if cable companies are finally forced to unbundle their services it may actually result in higher prices and worse service. From the article: "there’s another, more subjective dimension in which the rise of unbundled cable service may make us worse off. It’s possible for a market to become more economically efficient while becoming less pleasant for consumers. For a prime example, head to your nearest airport.""

Comment: Re:What's the new hole? (Score 1) 463

by schnell (#48734415) Attached to: Writer: How My Mom Got Hacked

I have a thriving little business upgrading people who are still on XP over to either XUbuntu or Mint.

Genuinely not trolling, but very curious: what do you say when small businesses say "where is my MS Office," "where is my QuickBooks," or "where is my Adobe [whatever]?"

Or is this business charging home users to convert their personal systems? Do any of them play commercial games and what do you advise them?

Comment: Re:Dupe (Score 4, Insightful) 840

It's just that when your washing machine's motor fails after a year, or you need to replace your convection oven's fan seven times before it stops making a buzzing sound, you realize that it's about as much about cost-cutting as it is about efficiency and actual, material gains.

I don't see it that way - I think that Dr. George is missing out on the real difference in generations. It's not that there's a new generation that is mechanically unable or prevented by evil industrial designers from repairing old products. It's that there has been a fundamental shift in the equation of time and money for many younger (educated, employed) people in the first world.

One of the things I never considered when I was in high school/college but appreciated dearly as I got older was that absolutely every decision in one's leisure time (at any age) was a function of money vs. time. At all ages of life, you have by definition more than one of the other. When I was in high school and working at Burger King, I was more than happy to spend a whole Saturday afternoon disassembling and reassembling my third-hand SLR camera to get the advance lever working again rather than taking it to a camera shop. In my post-collegiate bachelor days I unquestioningly built new PCs from scratch rather than spending the $100 (or whatever it was) markup to buy an equivalent one from a white-box computer shop.

Today? I'm 40-ish with a well-paying but time consuming job, a wife (who also works at a well-paid full time job) and two young children to take care of. I own a lawnmower but would rather pay a neighbor kid to do it so I can use that equivalent precious time with my kids, or even (a rare treat) taking a nap. I could save a reasonable amount by changing my own oil and filters (screw you BMW and your requirement for ludicrously expensive synthetic oils) but I take it to an auto shop because I don't enjoy the process and I'd rather have that time back to do something else. Time is important to me these days, not so much money, and that informs all my decisions.

Long story short - leaving money aside, many people from older generations don't "get" the modern emphasis on - MBA joke coming here - "the money value of time." Someone who says "why on Earth do you need to read your e-mail after hours?" is probably going to have no understanding of why you wouldn't want to buy something new instead of taking the time to repair it. If you don't have the money to pay someone else, or even better actually like repairing things then regardless of generation you will take the time to do so, I'm sure. But if - for generational, money or whatever reason - you are accustomed to time being more important to you than money, why not pay a professional to repair something or buy a new one?

+ - US CTO tries to wean the White House off floppy disks 2

Submitted by schnell
schnell (163007) writes "MIT grad and former Google exec Megan J. Smith is the third Chief Technical Officer of the United States and its first woman in the position created five years ago by President Obama. But, as a New York Times profile points out, while she fights to wean the White House off BlackBerries and floppy disks, and has introduced the President to key technical voices like Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf to weigh in on policy issues, her position is deliberately nebulous and lacking in real authority. The President's United States Digital Service initiative to improve technology government-wide is run by the Office of Management and Budget, and each cabinet department has its own CIO who mandates agency technical standards. So can a position with a direct line of access to the President but no real decision-making authority make a difference?"

Comment: Re:MicroSD card? (Score 4, Interesting) 325

by schnell (#48714937) Attached to: Apple Faces Class Action Lawsuit For Shrinking Storage Space In iOS 8

I suspect the original question was rhetorical, but there are two simple answers to why Apple doesn't include SD card slots in their phones:

  • User experience: I don't know if they have changed this recently, but the last time I used an Android device with a SD card used for storage, it was a PITA. IIRC the SD card could only be used for documents or media, while the partition space usable by apps and the OS was still fixed to onboard. That was fairly useless, since most of what I wanted to use up space with was various huge (500 MB+, thanks Disney) apps to keep my kids entertained when I wasn't using the phone. Also I had to select a storage partition whenever downloading something, and the phone gave me no clue about what I could/should allocate where. All in all, the SD card seemed like a much cooler idea than it was in practice.
  • Teh moneys: Apple doesn't charge anyone for their software updates, either on iOS or (these days) OS X. They make their money on selling their hardware on which their proprietary software has been thoroughly tested and certified. Yes you pay a premium for the hardware, but the fact is that you aren't paying for the hardware (or at least you shouldn't be), you are paying for the software that runs on it and the fact that Apple has (in theory) rigorously QA'ed the whole thing. Either way, understand that Apple is going to gouge you on hardware a bit in exchange for the user experience, because that's what they do.

I should also note that the GGP said he/she "gave up on Apple in 1988." That's absolutely their right, but I don't think it gives them much credibility (which should be based on detailed time spent with the different options) for a comparative analysis of the value of Apple products in 2015. If I said "Lunix is the suxor because I tried Yggdrasil and XFCE couldn't make my sound card work," I don't think you would give me much credibility in the present day.

Comment: Re:Google's acquisition of Android Inc. Q.E.D. (Score 1) 88

by schnell (#48668279) Attached to: Comcast-TWC Merger Review On Hold

Partly right, partly wrong.

AT&T has publicly announced that it would like to abandon the old copper POTS network by 2020. And, yes, that means not upgrading something that they are trying to get rid of. The company's stated goal is to have fiber in the vast majority of areas by then to replace the copper, although I think at least in most cases the copper will still be the actual physical connection at your home or building's NID.

But the reason is almost certainly not to push cellular broadband on a wide scale. Cellular uses up a finite resource of very expensive wireless spectrum. It's much better to transport fixed phone and data over fiber, and save that spectrum and capacity for mobile users. The main reason to get rid of the all-copper (TDM) infrastructure I believe, is that if you are limited to DS-3 backhaul into an area, at best it only lets you sell phone or DSL service, whereas a fiber-driven infrastructure (all the way to the curb, or at least fiber to the neighborhood and copper for the very last leg of the trip) lets you sell cable TV services, high-speed Internet, etc. That's what FiOS and Uverse are.

From what I understand, the idea is only to push cellular broadband as a replacement for USF obligations where it is cost prohibitive to run fiber (think rural areas). That at least would make much more sense than trying to get everyone to go wireless when you have a perfectly good wireline connection to use.

Comment: Re:Story is BS. Make it Right cards aren't that bi (Score 1) 131

by schnell (#48662311) Attached to: Comcast's Lobbyists Hand Out VIP Cards To Skip the Customer Service Wait

Or, more to the point, why doesn't everyone get this level of service?

Not to defend Comcast here, because they do have shitty customer service generally. But the state of customer service is what it is because people generally aren't willing to pay for more. Better service = hiring more reps and/or building better customer service tools = more costs which will be passed on to the customer. Sure, they could be Good Guys and decide to spend more on customer care and not increase your bill to do it - but honestly what consumer services company out there ever does that?

You can get better customer service... you just have to pay for it. Try signing up for a business class service, and you'll see a world of difference. But, again, you have to be willing to pay for it. It's just like with airlines - everyone complains about the crappy seats and paying for soda. But you can get nice seats and free booze on the plane... but you have to pay for a first class ticket. The vast majority of us (myself included) say we want better service but we refuse to put our money where our mouths are and pay for it.

The best things in life are for a fee.