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Comment: Re:Pace of innovation (Score 1) 244

by sjbe (#48181107) Attached to: Apple's Next Hit Could Be a Microsoft Surface Pro Clone

Jobs used to do yearly hardware updates of iDevices with at least one big new feature. Retina displays, Siri, that sort of thing. Apple seems to have stopped doing that now, unless maybe you count the rather underwhelming fingerprint scanner.

Technology released since Steve Jobs died include but isn't limited to: ApplePay, Lighting cables, the iPad Mini, Touch ID (which is NOT underwhelming), larger screens, IOS7 and IOS8, Mavericks, Yosemite, AppleWatch, Healthkit, Homekit, Continuity, 2nd Gen Mac Pro, iCloud, 64 bit Aseries processors, iTunes Match, Family Sharing, and probably more I'm not thinking of off the top of my head. Plus of course various and numerous incremental improvements to their existing product lines.

Now some of these were in development while Steve was still alive but pretending that Apple hasn't done anything since he died is willfully ignoring the facts. Is it enough? Time will tell. But the notion that Apple stopped innovating the moment they threw the first shovel of dirt on Steve Jobs is absurd.

NFC and health apps are a good example of what they do now. Features that have been around for a few years, playing catch-up. I

And yet NFC is barely used and health apps remain poorly integrated with existing technology. I haven't yet seen a single person use a phone for NFC payments in person. I know some do here and there but it's hardly commonplace. Same with phone based health apps that aren't on iPhones. Some people use Fitbits etc but they don't integrate well and the ones that do integrate don't do so any better to Android than to iOS. Health monitoring devices and apps are in their infancy and NOBODY has really cracked that market - not Apple or anyone else.

In fact NFC is kind of a joke because you can only use it for payment, meaning a clunky Bluetooth interface is the only way to transfer small amounts of data between devices and you can't use NFC tags.

I have no idea what you are talking about here. NFC has nothing to do with Bluetooth and is used for different purposes. Saying NFC is only used for payments is hardly damning. That is a huge deal. The company that cracks contactless payments with smartphones is very likely to rake in a ton of money. Apple's new ApplePay service has as good a shot at it as anything I've seen. We'll see if it pans out in due time of course.

Comment: Standard parts and ammo (Score 1) 249

by sjbe (#48180885) Attached to: No More Lee-Enfield: Canada's Rangers To Get a Tech Upgrade

If you have "unfailing reliability" why change it? It's a weapon not a computer.

Several possible reasons come to mind. Using more standard ammunition is probably the most likely reason. Same with parts and repairs. Good as the 303 might be, it might be causing some significant logistical heartburn getting specialty ammo out to remote locations. They can be converted to a standard 7.62 NATO round but it's probably not worth the trouble.

Comment: Anecdotal evidence from cheap guns (Score 1) 249

by sjbe (#48180811) Attached to: No More Lee-Enfield: Canada's Rangers To Get a Tech Upgrade

composite (plastic) stocks do become very brittle in freezing weather (I know having had a Crosman Nightstalker disintegrate in my hands while out ratting just last February) Hardwoods are more stable in pretty much any environment as long as the grain is sealed, than any other material save titanium alloy, but I'm sure you wouldn't want to know what thatd cost.

You're using a very cheap ($100) air rifle as evidence that plastics break in cold weather? Do you seriously think the plastics in that were engineered with any sort of temperature extremes in mind? That thing was produced to be as cheap as possible and you can be sure that they didn't get carried away picking a plastic that can handle temperature extremes. There are plenty of synthetic materials that can handle cold just fine.

Not saying you are necessarily wrong but can you cite any evidence for this statement that is something other than anecdotal?

Comment: Not all plastics are the same (Score 1) 249

by sjbe (#48180751) Attached to: No More Lee-Enfield: Canada's Rangers To Get a Tech Upgrade

However I would be concerned about the opposite. synthetics don't do well in extreme cold either.

That depends very much on exactly which synthetic material(s) you are talking about. Some have chemistry that works great in cold. Others not so much. There is more than a bit of "you get what you pay for" here.

Comment: Cheap choice of plastic (Score 4, Insightful) 249

by sjbe (#48180707) Attached to: No More Lee-Enfield: Canada's Rangers To Get a Tech Upgrade

Wrong, stock will melt if left under vehicle curved window in summer. I speak from experience.

Then it was an inappropriate choice of material but that is not sufficient evidence to condemn (or recommend) synthetics in general. Most cars are loaded with plastics and they don't melt. If the stock you had melted from the fairly modest heat in a car, then it was a piece of junk to begin with. No plastic on a working tool should melt that easily unless that was the specific intent.

There are plenty of non-exotic plastics with melting points well in excess of 130C (266F), and some considerably higher. Nylon's melting point is 190C for example. I work with many of them routinely. If your car is getting that hot I think some plastic melting will be the least of your concern.

Comment: Irrelevant comparisons (Score 1) 249

by sjbe (#48180559) Attached to: No More Lee-Enfield: Canada's Rangers To Get a Tech Upgrade

If only the hardware that we use in computers could have such a track record.

It can if the use case would remain unchanged for 100 years and that technology improvements would be slow enough. The Voyager probes are around 40 years old and (mostly) still working in very harsh conditions so it clearly can be done. Of course you would be hard pressed to find two products more different than firearms and computers so I'm not sure why this hypothetical comparison was in the summary. The pace of technology improvements in small arms is positively glacial compared with that of computers and the use case is almost completely unchanged. Furthermore firearms are relatively simple devices with precisely one purpose. It's a LOT easier to design a reliable and simple single purpose device than to design a hugely complicated general purpose calculating machine.

Comment: Pace of innovation (Score 3, Insightful) 244

by sjbe (#48177851) Attached to: Apple's Next Hit Could Be a Microsoft Surface Pro Clone

Apple hasn't really innovated much since Steve left the scene.

I see this a lot and I'm not convinced, especially since the guy has only been in the ground for around 3 years. How much does Apple have to do for you to change you mind? Where is the boundary between what you consider innovative and not. What is your evidence that their pace of innovation has slowed? I'm not saying you are right or wrong but you stated it as if it is axiomatic and I don't think I agree. I don't see any other companies really innovating meaningfully faster when you are talking time scales of 5-15 years which is what matters here.

Apple has historically introduced one or two big products per decade. The original Apple Computers came out in the late 1970s. The Macintosh was created in 1984. The iPod in 2001. The iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010 which are really the same device in different form factors. Other products of note were the Apple LaserWriter (first desktop laser printer - Apple dropped the ball on that one) in 1985 and the Newton MessagePad in 1994. (The Apple Watch is too new to decide if it is noteworthy or not) Apple's most grim time financially was during the 1990s when their big bet (the MessagePad) was a flop and they mismanaged the Macintosh. I think people might be confused about their pace of innovation late in Steve Jobs life because they mistakenly consider the iPhone and iPad to be different devices when they really aren't. In fact the iPhone came out to the development for the iPad. They are the same device really.

Companies like Samsung and HTC and others are trying a lot of stuff and most of it is crap but some is good and works. Apple works really hard on a few things and doesn't release as much but their batting average is much better. Neither approach is right or wrong but you have to look at it on a time scale of more than 2-3 years to get a sense of pace of innovation. Realistically we should be having this discussion about 5-7 years in the future.

Product ideas that can move markets the way the Mac and the iDevices have are REALLY hard to come up with. I see some companies like Samsung throwing a lot of stuff out there but most of it is quite unremarkable. I think expectations that Apple would introduce some big market moving product the minute Steve Jobs died is pretty unrealistic. It may turn out that without Jobs the company will founder - they did once before. But we really should wait a few years to see if they really can or cannot come up with their next big success. I think their ApplePay service *might* turn out to be a really big deal but that remains to be seen. I think it is the most interesting new product they've done since the iPad and it certainly could be the most lucrative.

Comment: The cost of a stamp (Score 1) 232

by sjbe (#48160453) Attached to: Worcester Mass. City Council Votes To Keep Comcast From Entering the Area

They are constantly floating with bankruptcy yet offer commerial mail discounts so steep that postage to send a lettle or post card by a private citizen has almost trippled in my life time.

The post office has a variety of problems. Commercial mail discounts are not the most significant among them and in fact an increasing amount of their business comes from junk mail overall. On an operational basis the USPS is profitable. The biggest problem they face is that mail volume has fallen by 20% in the last 10 years and is showing little sign of stopping. People simply don't send as many letters as they once did thanks to email and other new technologies. The USPS is a shrinking business but since they in actuality are a government agency they aren't truly given the freedom to behave like one. They are forced to serve unprofitable locations, they cannot close unnecessary post offices, they are limited in their ability to reduce their workforce, etc.

Regarding your comment on postage rates:
The increase in postage costs in the last 25 years is roughly the rate average rate of inflation (~3%) over that time. It's taken since 1991 when the price of a stamp was $0.25 until today ($0.49) for the price of a first class stamp to double which is pretty much exactly what you might expect. With a 3% inflation rate prices double roughly every 25 years. That means in inflation adjusted terms a stamp costs almost exactly the same as it did 25 years ago.

Yes government can be part of the answer. But government owning the ISP is not.

It's not that government "can be part of the answer". Government HAS to be part of the answer. I agree that except on very small scales, government owned ISPs are probably not the best idea. But large ISPs without any government oversight is probably an even worse idea. There are certain industries (postal services, utilities, infrastructure, communications services) that simply will not work effectively on a large scale without a significant amount of government involvement and oversight.

That said if the citizens of my local town wanted to have municipal gigabit ethernet controlled by the local government and collectively voted to indicate they were fine with the cost of doing this, I cannot think of a logical reason to prohibit it either. If the local telecom/cable monopolies aren't providing what people want they should be able to utilize their government to make it happen.

Comment: Fixed versus variable costs (Score 1) 232

by sjbe (#48158353) Attached to: Worcester Mass. City Council Votes To Keep Comcast From Entering the Area

Disclosure: I'm a certified accountant.

There are some numbers floating around saying they have a 97% profit margin. This number is wrong as it lacks all kinds of costs, but the remaining 3% is the fixed cost.

No company or any meaningful size has a 97% profit margin, net or gross. Comcast's fixed costs are considerably higher than 3%. In actual fact the vast majority of their costs could reasonably be classified as fixed. They don't sell products on a unit cost basis which is what defines variable costs. It is only a variable cost if it fluctuates directly based on the amount of product produced in the short run. Otherwise it is a fixed cost.

If their fixed costs would double, they'd still have plenty of profit margin to allow them to compete.

I think you misunderstand what fixed costs are. Fixed costs are costs they will have to pay (in the short run) regardless of how much product they sell. They have to pay for utilities, salaries, maintenance, rent, contractual payments for content, etc. The vast majority of the cost to a big company like AT&T or Comcast will be fixed costs. Unless the cost directly fluctuates due to production/sales, then it is generally classified as a fixed cost.

If their fixed costs doubled they would be losing money and lots of it. Building and maintaining the amount of infrastructure any telecom or cable company has involves enormous fixed costs.

Comment: Government's job is to be an advocate (Score 1) 232

by sjbe (#48158271) Attached to: Worcester Mass. City Council Votes To Keep Comcast From Entering the Area

I'm not saying comcast is the answer, but government replacing them is not really the cure.

Why not? I know it's all fashionable to claim that governments cannot do anything efficiently or competently. (Even though that is demonstrably not true) But you are taking that as an axiom when you shouldn't. Yes governments sometimes make bad choices. Guess what? So do corporations and corporations are ultimately less accountable to the electorate. Corporations do NOT have the best interests of consumers in mind. We only end up with that result either through competition or (gasp) government regulation. We use government for a lot of critical functions, particularly when there is a market failure and there is a market failure in telecom delivery because it is not a competitive market in most places.

The government doesn't actually have to physically do the work - governments usually contract that sort of stuff out anyway and that is fine. Your local government doesn't build the roads - they just contract with the companies that do. But they could and should take a more active role in being an advocate for their constituents. Some governments (like the one in Worcester) seem to grok this.

Comment: Plenty of fat to be cut (Score 1) 232

by sjbe (#48157959) Attached to: Worcester Mass. City Council Votes To Keep Comcast From Entering the Area

They aren't keeping anyone else from competing, they've just made a reasonable business decision that it would not be profitable for one of them to compete with the other in an already built area, or to try building out at the same time.

What you are describing is called a natural monopoly. They tend to exist in markets like wired telecom or power delivery to homes. That said, your comment that "they aren't keeping anyone else from competing" is complete nonsense. If that were the case then there would not be agreements with local governments across the nation granting them monopoly rights to deliver cable TV and other services. In a lot of places a company could not deliver the same services even if they had the financial backing and desire to do so. The only reason AT&T and Verizon can get around this is that they already have a wire to your home.

Your desire to be able to choose would mean that everyone would pay more for the same service, not less.

That's very likely not true because you are presuming they are selling their product for a minimal markup. You only have to look at the Income Statement from Comcast to know that they will probably make about $10 BILLION in profit this year. (insert Dr. Evil pinky quote here) They can do this because in a lot of markets they can charge monopolistic pricing. There is plenty of fat in Comcast to be cut before we should expect consumers to bear any cost increase from competition.

Comment: Time Warner Owns HBO (Score 1) 139

by sjbe (#48155407) Attached to: HBO To Offer Online Streaming Without TV Subscription

Who is actually profiting here ? The cable TV company

HBO is owned by Time Warner. Time Warner sells cable and makes a lot of money from people buying cable just to get HBO. Hence Time Warner has actively resisted HBO selling their content a la carte. Time Warner will make money either way - they've just been denying the sound of inevitability because the folks at the top fear change.

Comment: Why tablets aren't yet a solution (Score 2) 174

by sjbe (#48151651) Attached to: Apple Releases CUPS 2.0

I will admit there are two things still missing.

There is quite a bit more than two things missing though I agree with the deficiencies you identify among others.

Job instructions can be kept in text files that can be pushed to tablets. Guaranteeing that every person has updated instructions.

You REALLY do not want tablets on most manufacturing floors. The products we work with would trash a tablet in about a week if not sooner and we don't even do anything especially messy. Furthermore that would require buying an expensive computer for every worker on our shop floor, many of which would, ummm... disappear. What we do is keep the Controlled master copy online and then print a reference copy at the beginning of each job. The reference copy then circulates back to engineering or other parties that need it and the master controlled copies get updated for the next job. Works quite well actually.

Tablets have a variety of problems for document management:

1) The problem you mentioned that you cannot effectively annotate documents. In manufacturing, work instructions frequently need to be updated, annotated, etc. People are working on the problem but there is no universally practical solution imminent that I'm aware of.
2) Tablets break and get stolen. My wife works in a doctor's office and they use ipads for documenting patient data (good use of them) and they've had several of them stolen and one dropped and broken. You can drop paper all day long and it won't break.
3) If the software on the tablet you are working with doesn't fit your need it's a much bigger problem to fix than just modifying some paper forms.
4) Tablets are hugely impractical in a dirty production environment. Greasy/dirty fingers and tablets don't mix well.
5) Tablets require either buying or developing software to accommodate most work flows. This can be a very expensive proposition.
6) Tablets are a capital expense that has to be depreciated.
7) Most tablets are designed with consumer markets in mind rather than business needs. They are hard to lock down tightly if needed.

I can keep going. I think tablets are going to make huge inroads over time but anyone that thinks they will eliminate paper from offices is delusional.

Comment: What real people do in an office (Score 1) 174

by sjbe (#48150097) Attached to: Apple Releases CUPS 2.0

What exactly do you use a printer in an office nowadays?

Invoices, bills, work instructions, checks, deposit slips, customer statements, engineering drawings, purchase orders, material safety data sheets, 1099 forms, W2 forms, I9 forms, pick lists, work orders, quality travelers, shipping labels, packing lists and lots more. I personally print about 1000-2000 pages per month. My (tiny) company probably prints around 3000 pages per month on average. This is very normal for even a very small business.

I have worked a LOT of places and I've never seen a functional office that didn't have a lot of printing going on. You may not need much for your particular job but I am fairly certain that your business does a huge amount of printing unless you are doing something quite unusual. HP, Brother, Canon and the rest don't sell all those printers because they look nice.

"The only way for a reporter to look at a politician is down." -- H.L. Mencken