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Comment: A tool needs a functional purpose (Score 3, Insightful) 103

by sjbe (#49743429) Attached to: Oldest Stone Tools Predate Previous Record Holder By 700,000 Years

They very fact that they were banged together by an intelligent agency makes them a tool.

No it doesn't. When I was a child (ostensibly an "intelligent agency") I was known to bang rocks together but it certainly didn't make them tools - not in any meaningful sense of the word. For something to be a tool it has to have a functional purpose.

In general you can tell by close examination whether a potential tool is simply the product of natural erosion or in fact was used as a tool.

Quite correct. However I've had the same doubts being discussed here regarding whether certain rocks really were used as tools or not. I'm not an expert so I don't pretend to know the answer but I've seen "tools" in museums which made me wonder if the people who collected them really knew what they were doing. Call it skepticism even though I don't really know what I'm talking about on the subject. I tend to be skeptical about things by default until I understand them.

Comment: NYC isn't like the rest of the US (Score 1) 817

by sjbe (#49737787) Attached to: Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax

The rich live close while the poor have to commute (NYC tried something similar).

NYC is not necessarily reflective of the rest of the country. Very little there resembles how things work east of the Hudson River. Where I live wealthier folks tend to commute farther on average. I am GM for a manufacturing company and I live the farthest away of anyone at the company because frankly the plant is not in the nicest part of town. The lower paid employees tend to live the closest to the factory.

Comment: Re:A computer monitor is too small (Score 1) 242

by sjbe (#49734455) Attached to: Why Apple Ditched Its Plan To Build a Television

I find that a 23", 1080p display is enough to watch Netflix.

From across a room? The monitor I'm using to type this on is 24" and you couldn't pay me to use it as a TV in my living room. I'm sitting about 12-15 feet away most of the time - sometimes further. My current TV is about 36" and it's barely usable at times. I have good eyesight but 23" would be impossible to enjoy.

Comment: A computer monitor is too small (Score 1) 242

by sjbe (#49728477) Attached to: Why Apple Ditched Its Plan To Build a Television

That's why I use a dumb, feature-less 23" widescreen computer monitor as my TV, connected to an external AppleTV box.

So you use a monitor with a substantially smaller screen size than even my old CRT TV. I am looking at 60"+ TVs and these are basically all "smart TVs". The main feature I want in a TV for my living room is a huge screen. Like you I don't give a crap about most of the extra features. I just want enough input ports to hook up to my gear and a big screen with a very good image quality. Don't need Netflix, 3D, or any of the other crap. If I want it I'll use an external box to get it.

Comment: Careful betting on future technology (Score 1) 298

by sjbe (#49728383) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Skills Do HS Students Need To Know Now?

I could see QERTY disappearing within two decades. Machines reading (a small simple portion of ) mind already a reality.

I don't. The brain "reading" machines we have are incredibly crude right now. Had you said 40 or more years I *might* agree that it's possible if unlikely and certainly not likely to eliminate qwerty keyboards. But I really don't see it happening any sooner than that. You also have to consider the creepiness factor. There are a LOT of people that are going to be seriously weirded out by the notion of having their brain "read" even if it is completely innocuous. Furthermore it's not clear at this time that humans can easily translate brain signals into text competently. Our brains aren't entirely under our control and I can easily see someone typing a sentence and halfway throu... "holy shit that chick is hot". And hilarity will ensure.

Comment: Typing will be with us for a long time (Score 1) 298

by sjbe (#49728189) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Skills Do HS Students Need To Know Now?

Until pushing mechanical buttons to transfer symbols from a human to a machine becomes obsolete.

Not going to happen in my lifetime I think. What will replace it? Dictation? That's a skill you have to train and most people can't do it without a lot of difficulty. Plus nobody wants to dictate everything they are doing out loud. Brain interface? Wake me when we're talking about technologies that aren't science fiction. That falls into the possible but unlikely and certainly a long way off category.

There may be some kids that will use typing skills until they die (i.e. not forever), but more importantly I doubt that the qwerty keyboard will still be around in 100 years.

I can almost guarantee that we'll still be using querty keyboards in 100 years. I'd actually be shocked if we weren't.

Surely by then we will be able to just think about what we want to type and have it appear on the (whatever replaces screens).

Screens aren't going away either. Certainly not in my lifetime.

Comment: Nothing really changes (Score 2) 599

by sjbe (#49727783) Attached to: The Demographic Future of America's Political Parties

Most people I know (I'm in my early 30's) have grown utterly disgusted with both Republicans and Democrats and are now more-or-less libertarians.

I'm guessing you don't know many people then. I think most of us know some people who have a libertarian philosophy (fair number here on slashdot) though frequently they seem to be republicans or tea party supporters. But they definitely are a minority. Usually I see them in the Ayn Rand worshiping or Tea Party strains though there are others. Most people regardless of age group think libertarianism is a bit of a fringe philosophy including most independents.

I think it's a trend that will grow as more and more people realize that both Republicans and Democrats have utter contempt for civil rights and personal choice.

Unlikely. There is no evidence I can see of a trend away from the current two parties. As long as we have first past the post voting and gerrymandering I don't really see that changing even though I think it should.

Comment: Rose colored glasses? (Score 1) 599

by sjbe (#49727665) Attached to: The Demographic Future of America's Political Parties

I'd have become a democrat if the democratic party were anything like it was during the JFK years.

Ummm, you are aware that the democratic party was filled with bigoted white southerners that left the party for the republicans after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 during JFK's administration, right? Methinks your glasses may be a bit rose colored.

Comment: Your plan to change first past the post? (Score 1) 599

by sjbe (#49727635) Attached to: The Demographic Future of America's Political Parties

It boggles my mind, the extent to which U.S. culture only sees two different possibilities

We can see more than two possibilities. The way to get it is to somehow convince the two ruling parties to allow some form of voting other than first past the post and to get rid of gerrymandering. Of course as long as those two things are in place a two party system is basically inevitable.

Comment: Nobody understands jobs they don't do (Score 2) 386

by sjbe (#49726153) Attached to: Microsoft To Teachers: Using Pens and Paper Not Fair To Students

I think this bias comes largely from IT workers who have to deal with rank and file marketing employees who are often clueless when it comes to a lot of technology.

And I assure you this bias works the other way around. Finance and accounting people think that IT workers are utterly clueless morons when it comes to money. Sales and marketing people thing IT people have no concept of what their customers actually care about and no idea how to talk to another human being. Everyone tends to think their job is the hardest and that no one else really gets what they do.

I'm sure I too am biased because of this, but it also seems like your low-level IT employee has more practical intelligence than a lot of low-level marketing employees who seem to trade on good looks and social skills versus any specific practical skill or insight with marketing, at least at the undergrad-only level of education.

Their error is generally that they think their abilities in IT actually mean they are smarter when in actual fact they are at best only smarter in certain ways. They also frequently mistake lack of interest with lack of aptitude. All the sales people for my company are degreed engineers and very competent ones at that. People go into sales and marketing because they find it interesting and challenging (and yes financially rewarding) and you know what? They are right. It is challenging and it can be interesting. Sales is an exceedingly hard job - much harder than most IT jobs in my opinion. I think this because at different points in my career I've done both and I'm roughly equally competent (read mediocre) at both. I'm both an engineer and an accountant by training and to be honest, the most difficult things in business are rarely the technical stuff. Not that the technical stuff is trivial - it isn't by any means. But the most difficult jobs involve managing and selling to people and those who can do those things well are hugely valuable.

Comment: ROI on marketing (Score 1) 386

by sjbe (#49726011) Attached to: Microsoft To Teachers: Using Pens and Paper Not Fair To Students

This is always a conundrum to me. If you spend no money at all on marketing, you get no customers and your business grinds to a halt. Yet, for every dollar you spend on marketing, the return is only pennies on the dollar.

That's not even remotely true. While it's certainly possible to squander marketing dollars doing something dumb, properly done marketing has a substantial ROI. Let me give you an example which is close to a lot of the people here. Take any software company. Microsoft, Oracle, etc, it doesn't matter which one. Look on their income statements. You'll see that engineering accounts for about 10%-20% of their total costs. The majority of the rest of the cost of these very profitable enterprises is sales, marketing and administration. Their net profit margins will be somewhere between 15%-30%. How is this possible if they were taking a loss on marketing and sales which accounts for close to half of all their expenses? This business model would make no sense at all if the return on marketing and sales was pennies on the dollar. In actual fact it is about a 2X or 3X multiple return on money invested in marketing. Sometimes more.

Companies don't dump lots of money into marketing because they are stupid. They do it because it brings a substantial return on the money invested in it. If it didn't work then there would be no reason to ever market anything.

Comment: Re:Arrogance about a job you don't understand (Score 1) 386

by sjbe (#49725369) Attached to: Microsoft To Teachers: Using Pens and Paper Not Fair To Students

But "not being the smartest" is not the same thing as "being the dumbest". No one said they were idiots.

Are you seriously going to argue that it wasn't at least implied that sales and marketing folks aren't very bright? On slashdot that's a fairly standard attitude and the OP didn't exactly go out of the way to say otherwise.

Comment: Sales people do (Score 1) 386

by sjbe (#49725363) Attached to: Microsoft To Teachers: Using Pens and Paper Not Fair To Students

In all fairness, the sales and marketing folks just have to be smarter than the general public/potential customers (typically a low bar), and aren't always entirely honest.

So you are saying they have to be smarter than average by definition. Curious argument you have there.

More importantly, their domain of expertise is not in how things actually work, but in how to sell something to someone, so paying them heed in regards to public policy is probably not wise.

I work with sales people on a daily basis. They know quite well how things actually work and more than a few of them are engineers by training. The sales reps for my company all have engineering degrees and are probably more competent with CAD and product design than 99% of the people reading this. The sales reps that sell equipment to my company know in exquisite detail how their products work and are quite capable of repairing it when the need arises. If you want to be good at selling something you have to understand what it is you are selling and how it will matter to the person you are selling it to. There certainly are sales people who aren't very bright but they tend not to do very well.

Comment: Re:Book value of assets (Score 1) 335

by sjbe (#49724849) Attached to: Stock Market Valuation Exceeds Its Components' Actual Value

But, it's silly to say that Coca-Cola paid nothing for their brand... in fact, some (foreign?) advertising budgets get accounted for as assets and depreciation over time.

It's not that they paid nothing for it, it's that you cannot get an accurate market value for it. They have never put their brand up for sale so what is it worth? It's like asking what a Picasso painting is worth. It's a unique asset worth what someone will pay for it but you'll never get that information unless you actually sell it. Any accountant will tell you (and I am one) that there is no book value for assets like that unless they get sold. Otherwise you could claim it is worth whatever you wanted for the value of the brand which isn't accurate or meaningful. It's an accounting convention for practical reasons.

There is some effort to move more towards mark to market accounting, particularly in IFRS accounting but that is hard to do with unique assets like a brand that have never been sold.

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