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Comment: Re:Only Republicans are stupid enough... (Score 2) 312

by wvmarle (#49325221) Attached to: First Lawsuits Challenging FCC's New Net Neutrality Rules Arrive

A government's role should be: (pick one)

1. Break up monopolies, reduce barriers to market entry, and encourage competition, or
2. Regulate the behavior of monopolies.

Net Neutrality attempts to do #2.

3. All of the above.

Natural monopolies should be regulated. This includes utilities (power, water, telephone) that rely on physical infrastructure. The owner of the infrastructure (the cables, the pipes), should be strictly regulated - and where possible being forced to allow competitors on their infrastructure. Ideally, owners of infrastructure and service providers using that infrastructure are separate.

The most obvious and easy to understand example is roads. The government builds roads and bridges, and everyone can use those roads and bridges - either for free, or against a fixed cost which is the same for everyone. Every driver pays the same toll to cross a bridge, based only on things like size/weight/type of the vehicle and maybe the time of the day, regardless of which company he works for. It's the same for everyone, roads are neutral.

In Europe, this has gone so far as to decouple rail roads from rail transport providers, power lines from power suppliers, telephone lines from telephone/ADSL Internet suppliers, etc. I'll be the first to admit that it doesn't always go smooth and there are issues, but the idea is the correct one. It's just really hard to execute well. Net neutrality is also an issue there, though generally the governments are highly in favour of net neutrality, and in the end we'll have full separation between providers of physical infrastructure (the cables in the ground), network service providers (the ISPs providing connectivity), and content providers (the individual web sites).

That'd be the ideal situation.

Low barrier of entry to the content market (everyone can set up a web site and be sure that all their potential customers can actually reach that site on equal footing with all other sites) which of course enhances competition. Low barrier of entry to the service provider market, as everyone can rent the required connectivity for a fixed, known price.

Physical infrastructure is a natural monopoly, very high barrier of entry, and therefore has to be highly regulated. This is something that I consider a prime government task, be it done directly, through a SOE, by appointing a commercial entity to do it, or even by forcing a commercial entity to open up their existing networks to the competition.

Comment: A second language DOES change your world views (Score 2) 274

by wvmarle (#49280915) Attached to: Speaking a Second Language May Change How You See the World

If only because of the enhanced cultural exchanges, and expanded possibilities for travel!

It's just a pity that the world's de-facto common language (English) is so hard to learn well... still glad I managed to master it, if only as second language (out of four) for me.

Comment: Re:Most ambitious (Score 1) 132

by wvmarle (#49258137) Attached to: Self-Driving Car Will Make Trip From San Francisco To New York City

This handover from computer to human is what bugs me.

How to do this reliably?

Point in case: just yesterday I missed my bus stop on a routine commute, simply because I was too distracted by a stupid phone game. This is comparable to automated drives, as I do a stretch of city transport by hand (home to bus stop), there hop on the bus (human driven but from the passenger pov it could as well be a robot), take back control when I reach the exit point: press the button to get off and do the last bit of transit through city traffic by myself.

OK you can set an alarm - even for your bus stop there are phone apps that can do that - but what if the human doesn't react and the robot reaches the desired exit, or the end of the highway? No guarantee there is a place to stop (may be occupied by other soundly sleeping drivers).

Comment: To impress me, try cross-city drives instead. (Score 5, Insightful) 132

by wvmarle (#49256211) Attached to: Self-Driving Car Will Make Trip From San Francisco To New York City

More impressive would be for the car to drive from one end of New York to the other. During the day, avoiding highways, dealing with really chaotic traffic on narrow, poorly marked roads full of distractions and ambiguities.

Highways are simple. Traffic flows in one direction only, clearly marked and wide roads, no intersections, all roughly the same speed. No surprises. It's where by far the fewest accidents happen for human driven cars, even though it's boring and probably the part where human drivers pay least attention. Doing an hour of highways, ten hours of highways, 100 hours of highways - it's just more of the same. Now it's cross country, tomorrow it'll be cross country and back. And back again. As long as the fuel will last.

Comment: Re:Email lets you organize your thoughts (Score 1) 115

by wvmarle (#49212203) Attached to: Preferred way to communicate with co-workers?

You're really underestimating the social part of face-to-face meetings.

Those moments discussing other things, laughing about irrelevant jokes, etc are not lost time. These moments are valuable as well, they help people get along with one another which in turn helps the whole process. It helps defuse arguments, it helps people to be nice to one another and to cooperate. People are, by nature, social creatures. You may figure you're an exception, it may indeed be true that not everyone can exchange information in person, but I'm sure the other 99.999% or so of people in this world do so just fine, some arguably better than others but overall people can manage to do this just fine.

Face to face meetings, especially those late at night in the bar over a beer or two, are also the place that people feel free to launch the craziest ideas. Ideas that pop up, are on second thought totally stupid and impossible, but may just spark another idea that gets the group closer to the solution - or at the very least you can have a good laugh about, which again is good for the group as a whole. This are things that are rarely done on e-mail as everything there is on record, and definitely not everything that's being said in a meeting has to stay on record. Only the final conclusions with possibly some arguments on why that decision was made.

For the other extreme - groups trying to work together without any face-to-face meetings, be it formal or informal - just see what happens on Internet mailing lists. That often degrades into a flame war, people fighting with one another over the most irrelevant details. This may take even more time than the off-topic time in face-to-face meetings. The main reason it seems to work is that all participants are so driven to get the project done.

Both have their place, and I think the face-to-face meeting should come first (mainly for the social part), e-mail second. The meeting is great for discussing what's to be done, e-mail/IM is great to follow up on specific details - either one to one or in small groups.

Comment: Re:If I can make it here I can make it anywhere... (Score 1) 734

by wvmarle (#49193939) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Let My Kids Become American Citizens?

US jobs have to be the best paying in the world, as the cost of living there is also among the highest in the world, and the tax system there is probably one of the worst - if only because you have at least county level, state level, federal level taxes, and maybe a few sublevels and other kinds of taxes that have to be paid for and all have their different rules on what constitutes taxable income and what not. There is more to income and salary than just amounts of money.

After growing up and studying in a place, most people will stay there. A while back I heard that most people in this world (to the tune of >90%) get born, live their life, and die within a 20-30 km radius. Sure you always hear about ex-pats, people moving far away from home (I'm one of them), but overall most people stay close to home. That's the place they know, the place where their friends are, their families - for most people there is no good reason to leave home. Belgium is a fine place to live, I'm sure.

There are many Chinese that want to get to the US, but don't forget there are 1.3 billion Chinese out there. If just 0.1% of the mainland Chinese population wants to make this move, that's 1.3 million people queueing up - potentially adding 0.4% to the US population, and most of those end up in the university population, making the influx very visible.

In contrast, if 0.1% of the Americans is looking for a job in China (and really - I know quite some that moved this way out of their own free will, plus many that were asked by their company to do so), that'd be a mere 0.32 million, adding just .025% of the Chinese population. Barely noticeable.

Comment: Re:If "yes," then it's not self-driving (Score 1) 362

by wvmarle (#49187497) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?

How many accidents are due to pilot error (and would not have happened without pilots), and how many accidents did pilots actively prevent from happening? Only if the first is greater than the second, there may be an argument for doing away with human pilots on airliners.

Comment: Re:If "yes," then it's not self-driving (Score 1) 362

by wvmarle (#49186963) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?

The operational limits of a robot car are arguably much wider than those of a human.

No fatigue; radar that can see through fog and in the dark; no map reading errors and usually more up-to-date maps (I recall driving using 10 year old paper maps to get around); never taking calls while driving..

Comment: Re:If "yes," then it's not self-driving (Score 4, Insightful) 362

by wvmarle (#49186953) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?

Given that operator handoff is most likely to happen either under relatively hairy conditions, or when some system failure has left the automated systems unable to cope,

Euhm... let me get this right... you expect cars to drive automatically, except when it gets difficult or something else unexpected happens it suddenly gives back control to the driver. That's what you mean, right?

Bad idea. Very bad idea. The driver is probably reading the paper, or is dozing off, or otherwise simply not paying attention to the road, as the car is doing the driving and he has nothing to do. He's not supposed to do anything about driving, as the car is in full automatic driving mode. Suddenly asking for attention, then expecting the driver to handle a difficult situation instantly, is asking for accidents. Many more than when the driver was in control already, and possibly sees the situation coming, so anyway has much more time to react.

To allow the driver to fully hand off control to the car, the car should be able to handle it all. The driver assist functions we have available on certain cars nowadays are a great start in working towards full control by the car: now the car will intervene in certain emergency situations, when that's all settled, we can think about giving off control of the rest of the ride as well. For fully automatic drive, the car should not rely on human intervention, ever.

Comment: Re:If "yes," then it's not self-driving (Score 4, Insightful) 362

by wvmarle (#49186919) Attached to: Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car?

Even if you can account for such things, how will your autonomous vehicle handle malfunctioning sensors? Aerospace has been working at this for decades and still hasn't figured it all out.

Detecting a malfunction in a sensor is hard, really hard. You'll need more than one sensor, preferably different types, to realise there's an error, and then you have to decide which of the contradictory sensor results is the correct one. As naturally sensors will always return slightly different results, you'll have to account for that as well.

So let's say we solved this. Then you know there's a problem. For an autonomous car it's simple: it could decide to continue (minor problem), or stop (e.g. tyre blow-out or other major problem that makes it unable to continue, or simply "I don't know how to handle this situation, so I pull over to the side of the road and stop to have my human overlords sort it out"). In the second scenario an automated call to the repair service could be included, so the human(s) in the car can continue to sleep while it's being fixed and after that be sent on their way again.

An airplane doesn't have this fail safe stop option, and needs to have human overlords present at all times to take control if something happens the programmers didn't foresee.

Comment: Re:You keep using that word.... (Score 1) 445

by wvmarle (#49184687) Attached to: Microsoft Convinced That Windows 10 Will Be Its Smartphone Breakthrough

For both those numbers to be true Apple must be making about 40 times more profit per sale than Android.

And that wouldn't surprise me at all.

Samsung is massively profitable - but almost certainly their margins are lower than Apple's - if only because they develop about ten models for every one Apple model. After all, Apple just has iPhone in two, three incarnations, while Samsung has a whole lineup of phones.

Secondly, there are many, many companies in the Android phone market, many of whom must be loss making. It's just impossible with all that competition for all to be really profitable. That "compensates" for the high profits of Samsung, and pushes the whole Android segment down.

People will buy anything that's one to a customer.