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Comment: Re:It only increases accountability (Score 2) 205

by hey! (#49779303) Attached to: Amtrak Installing Cameras To Watch Train Engineers

Well, speaking of Amtrak employee accountability, I have a story about that. A few years ago my family took a train ride across the country. When we changed trains in Chicago I noticed that the reading light in my sleeping compartment was stuck on, which of course was bad if I wanted to actually sleep. I found the friendly and helpful attendant and reported it, and her reaction was like watching a balloon deflate.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"If we report damage they take it out of our wages," she said.

"What! What do you mean take it out of your wages?" I asked.

"If a car is damaged under my watch I have to pay for it," she said.

"Well," I said, taking out my swiss army knife, "I guess there's nothing to see here."

I have to say that I've never encountered such a nice, enthusiastic, friendly group of people with such an abysmally low morale as the crew of a cross-country train. With passengers they're great, but all through the trip I'd see two or three congregated having low muttered conversations. It didn't take me long to figure out they were talking about management. And while the experience was wonderful, the equipment was in horrible shape. It was like traveling in a third world country.

With management that bad, more data doesn't equal more accountability and better performance. It means scapegoating.

Comment: It never was INTENDED to communicate or educate. (Score 2) 183

by dpbsmith (#49778709) Attached to: Why PowerPoint Should Be Banned

The name of the product says it all. It is not intended for communication, education, or the thoughtful display of information. It's not supposed to facilitate critical thinking by the audience.

It's intended to give the presenter the power to cloud men's minds... to convince... to project the presenter's views into the minds of the audience as forcefully as possible.

The once-competitive product from a once-competitor was named Aldus Persuasion. Not Aldus Display, not Aldus Presentation, not Aldus Foils--Aldus Persuasion.

Someone once called word processors (in the early days before everyone had them) "automatic weapons for inter-corporation turf wars." Much the same can be said of PowerPoint.

Comment: Re:Wouldn't be a problem if they gave right of way (Score 1) 142

by Obfuscant (#49778225) Attached to: Charter Strikes $56B Deal For Time Warner Cable

I'm not arguing whether or not some idiot wrote down something stupid on a piece of paper. I'm arguing that it was a stupid thing to put on the paper.

You think that it is stupid that a local government would define the requirements for a cable system operator to be able to obtain a franchise to use the public rights of way. Fine. That's your opinion. But most folks understand, and understood, that cable companies weren't going to do a lot of things unless they were forced to.

Some people had a view that a system that was intended to replace broadcast TV as an information source for the public should have a requirement to "serve the public interest", just like broadcast TV stations are supposed to. That when an emergency hits the city, there should be a place for cable customers to go to get critical local information since they won't be accessing broadcast media, and what broadcast media there was might be from thirty miles away. And that allowing the public a place to have a voice in general would be a good thing for the community -- which is why PEG channels are a typical requirement for cable systems.

Some people realized that a cable company would build out only what it needed and avoid investments in infrastructure. That's why some governments required cable franchisees to upgrade plant as technical standards and methods improved. For example, our city was smart enough to demand a fiber upgrade long before fiber upgrades were standard practice. We ALL benefited from that, just as we all benefit from having a specialist in the city government that we can call when the cable customer service does get really abusive and fraudulent. That specialist exists only because of the franchise you think is "stupid shit".

it is anti competitive, pro monopolist, anti consumer, it is the reason internet speeds are often shit throughout the country and it is the reason many areas have very poor coverage. You know that.

Please don't tell me what I know. It's arrogant and insulting. What I know is that the local government, who is elected by and responsible to, the local people, created the franchise ordinances to deal with issues they knew would be problems with any incoming cable company, and to include things they thought important for their community. That's local government in action. You don't care that they wrote the requirements, you think it's "stupid shit" to demand technical and customer service standards be met (whether the city then enforces that requirement is a different matter -- if it doesn't cost Comcast anything to meet the customer service standards because they don't, then it won't cost any newcomer.)

Why are you defending something that is objectively bad for pretty much everyone and serves no purpose

Because it isn't and wasn't "objectively bad for pretty much everyone" and did serve a purpose. Your opinion doesn't make it "objective". Your opinion is called "subjective".

besides letting well monied companies basically sit on their asses collecting monthly fees for shitty service?

"Shitty service" is a subjective evaluation. And if you can do so much better, or if anyone can, let them try. All they have to do is meet the same minimum standards that their competition has to meet. You seem to think that any newcomer shouldn't have to meet those standards, they should get to decide what service they'll provide and to whom. That's ridiculous.

You also seem to think it is fair to have a piecemeal playing field. It's ok to demand that the original company do a lot of things to get the right to use the rights of way while allowing newcomers to cherry pick the most profitable out from under the incumbent. How about if I gave you access to the entire city for your taxi company but only if you promised to use Mercedes Benz taxis and you had to demonstrate that you were providing service even to the poorest areas of town -- and then I let another company provide taxi service to the neighborhoods where the 1% lived and they only had to make sure their taxis were serviced properly? You're paying a bundle for taxis and maintenance, having to serve areas where most people can't afford a taxi to start with, and the newcomer gets to save on taxis and cherry pick the rich folks who can afford the service? Fair? Really?

That's why franchise ordinances have clauses that require new franchisees to agree to essentially the same conditions that every other franchisee does. I understand you really hate Comcast or TWC or whatever incumbent serves your house, but that's not justification for undercutting them by force of law.

Comment: Re:Very Serious (Score 1) 61

by mark-t (#49778177) Attached to: IRS: Personal Info of 100,000 Taxpayers Accessed Illegally
One would think that if one were liable to want to use such info for criminal purposes, that one would tend to be reasonably expeditious about it, since the more time elapses while you are trying to use that information, the greater the chance that you will be discovered. The reality is, however, that there's a whole heaping mountain of red tape that even someone who has genuinely lost their wallet will have to go through just to prove their identity in today's society, and if you lose your wallet within about one year or so of having moved, and nobody has your current address on record yet, you can wind up completely screwed for months. I can't imagine that in practice, it would generally be possible for someone else to do anything useful with such minimal info.

Comment: Re:Wouldn't be a problem if they gave right of way (Score 1) 142

by Obfuscant (#49778017) Attached to: Charter Strikes $56B Deal For Time Warner Cable

As to "Do a bunch of stupid shit we made up to lock small companies out of the conduits or we don't let you run cable in the conduits"... no. Those are often not reasonable.

Interesting use of quotation marks. But what you refer to as "stupid shit" is actually the concerns of the public towards what the cable providers are expected to provide in return for access to their right of way. "Stupid shit" things like customer service quality levels, service area coverage, technical standards for installed plant, PEG channels for public and government information paths, wiring for schools and libraries, money for equipment to do PEG, and other things that are in the public interest.

It's pretty clear you've never read a cable franchise ordinance or agreement.

this is sort of like saying you can't open a sandwich shop unless you agree to open ten locations across town.

No, it's like saying that you cannot use the public rights of way in this city unless you serve all the citizens of this city. That's a perfectly reasonable, and in fact responsible, requirement for a cable franchise. Can you imagine the whining if Comcast would hang all their plant and then serve only a three-square block area of a city? I've lost count of the people who complain that Comcast et. al. don't serve a large enough area where they live (service ends 500 feet from their house, etc.) and you think it's acceptable for them not to be required to serve the entire city.

You think the broadband access in the US is bad now, imagine what it would be like had cities allowed the cable companies to cherry pick only the highest density/richest neighborhoods out of a city, instead of being forced to wire the whole thing. And you call that "stupid shit".

As to local government, we don't let local governments screw with roads.

You have got to be kidding. City governments screw with city roads ALL THE TIME. Rip them up, put them back, and tax everyone for the privilege. You have no clue.

You think it is reasonable for local governments to be systematically bribed

I've said no such thing and I tire of your repeated attempts at putting words in my mouth.

Your schools save a hundred dollars a month on their internet bill and the entire town is locked down by the monopoly for fucking chump change.

If you think wiring a school for internet would be a "hundred dollars a month", you really have no clue. And you know what? If you want to start a company to compete with that "monopoly", do it. I'm sure you're smart enough to figure out a way to make money doing it. You can beat the economy, you just don't have to beat the government, because the government didn't grant a monopoly.

Comment: Re:The only way it would really be distracting.... (Score 1) 205

by mark-t (#49777579) Attached to: Amtrak Installing Cameras To Watch Train Engineers
It doesn't have to necessarily be hidden, employees and for that matter anyone who bothers to look directly at it may be able to know exactly where it is, but the camera can still be discreetly placed, so that in general you will only ever notice it if you bother to consciously think about it or its location in the first place. The ideal location for such purposes is typically in a corner, and mounted either on or else very near to the ceiling. In practice, it just becomes part of the background environment of where you work and you don't even generally notice it unless, as I said, you spend any time actively thinking about it.

Comment: The only way it would really be distracting.... (Score 1) 205

by mark-t (#49777419) Attached to: Amtrak Installing Cameras To Watch Train Engineers

... is if the camera is placed in an obtrusive location.

You can know you are being monitored, but still have to explicitly go out of your way to find the camera... and if that's what's really distracting them from doing their job, then that's a conscious choice on their part to stop doing their job in the first place, and look for the camera (and if they already know exactly where it is, then it's a still a deliberate choice to think about the camera's location instead of concentrating on their job). Either way, the camera or its location are not to blame for the distraction.

Lots of people work at jobs where they are continuously monitored via cctv, and in general being monitored by a camera that is out of the way of where one needs to work does not really interfere with one's productivity or effectiveness at all. The union's president is being a whiner.

Comment: Re:Wouldn't be a problem if they gave right of way (Score 1) 142

by Obfuscant (#49777265) Attached to: Charter Strikes $56B Deal For Time Warner Cable

And really, a better way of dealing with that conflict of interest is to have them sell the poles or conduits to a neutral third party with no conflict of interest.

Unfortunately, the companies that have poles in place in the public rights of way do so because they have franchise agreements that require them to provide specific services in return. The ordinances that cover those franchises don't say "selling space on a pole" is a service that deserves a franchise to access the rights of way. And no city in its right mind would give away control of the rights of way so someone could sell an unlimited number of wires to every comer. There's a liability issue just to start with.

Consider roads. What if only one company were allowed to put cars on the road and they would rent you a car to drive on their roads. But you could only drive on their roads if you bought one of their cars. That is basically what is going on with cable these days. That isn't capitalism.

What? So, a company has a fiber and you can't "drive your car" on their fiber unless you are a customer of that company. That seems pretty reasonable to me. That seems like a natural expression of capitalism. Someone provides a service and you pay them for that.

We have cable monopolies because of a dysfunction in the market.

We have cable monopolies because of a normal functioning of the market. The first player expended the money for infrastructure and has all the customers. Wanna-bees see that it will cost a lot of money to try to split a limited customer base and that their return on investment will be negative. You can't cut your fixed costs in half just by waving a magic wand, you have to cut the basis of that cost in half. Cheap hardware is a false economy. Cheap labor likewise. And everyone already complains about cheap customer support. None of the program providers are going to cut their fees in half so you can compete with the incumbent and survive -- it would be economic insanity for them.

What do you wind up with? A second company that can't really charge much less than the existing one, which means you split the available customers at best. You might get an initial burst of churn from unhappy customers, but most people will have inertia and avoid changing. The devil you know, e.g.. And those who are mobile enough that find your new service just as bad will change back. (I knew a guy who was so interested in saving money, especially on internet, that he took the introductory offers and always switched away when they ran out. He got the intro offer from the next company, and moved on when that ran out. So, you'd be building a business on a customer who will only buy from you if you give him 50% off!)

Where's the dysfunction? It's the assumption that pixie dust and unicorns can build a working, fabulous cable system and give service away for half what the existing company does. It's the idea that new players in a market should be given the same access the incumbent has so the new player can come cherry pick certain customers, while the incumbent is required by law to provide a larger number of services, and had to agree to that in order to get its access originally.

Comment: Re:Wouldn't be a problem if they gave right of way (Score 1) 142

by Obfuscant (#49777111) Attached to: Charter Strikes $56B Deal For Time Warner Cable

No it can't in most cases. Century Link and Google have both been complaining about cities that won't let them run cable.

The franchise ordinances spell out the requirements for any cable franchise agreement. If you try to avoid those requirements, then you aren't operating under that ordinance and have no reasonable expectation to getting access to the public rights of way based on it.

But what you're talking about is an issue of the local government -- people who are elected by and responsible to the local voters. In the vast majority of cases, that won't include you.

your argument is either that century link and google are lying or that they're not competent enough to file this paperwork.

You are putting words in my mouth in an attempt at winning your argument. Sorry, no, I said neither thing. If CL and G are trying to run cable for an ISP-only service then it is a given that they are trying to ignore a large part of the CABLE TELEVISION FRANCHISE ORDINANCE that puts specific performance requirements on any franchisee. The cable companies got their franchises based on a CABLE TELEVISION ordinance, not an ISP ordinance. There is no law stopping CL or Google from being an ISP.

This has been discussed on this site repeatedly. It is basically common knowledge at this point.

The "basic common knowledge" that the incumbent cable company has been granted a government monopoly is like much "common knowledge" -- wrong.

Why will you now feel entitled to be snippy with me when you've been putting me through that?

Why would I be "snippy" with you for trying to misstate my argument (or put words in my mouth)? And you blame me for forcing you to do it? I haven't been "snippy", so you lose all around.

In any case, since your information is horribly off

I'll assume then that you have no examples of exclusive franchise agreements for cable and are unhappy that your "common knowledge" didn't turn out to be right.

Comment: Re:What next? (Score 3, Insightful) 93

by Samantha Wright (#49776657) Attached to: Hot Topic To Buy ThinkGeek Parent Company Geeknet
Yep, you've hit it on the head: the fashion world heavily depends on hyperspecific brands. A parent company may own an immense number of outlet identities that aim to cater to a specific submarket. Hot Topic is a good parent company for ThinkGeek because their model is already built around faddish, meme-driven trends (as you said), but the two target audiences have little enough overlap that this will be a substantial diversification to their marketing reach.

Comment: Re:Stupidly in charge of user interfaces too (Score 1) 136

by IamTheRealMike (#49776347) Attached to: Apple Design Guru Jony Ive Named Chief Design Officer

Yeah, I agree with the growing sentiment that whilst Ive is a talented hardware designer, he is also seriously overhyped (by Apple, not himself).

Case in point: how long did it take for Apple to make a larger iPhone? A long time. I read a story about Ive in a magazine. It described the process of them deciding to make a bigger screened iPhone. The design team milled dummies of a bazillion different sizes and carried them around to try and figure out the perfect larger size. They spent ages on it. They tried literally every size. Eventually they produced something ..... just like their competitors. You know what? Apple ignored the trend for years. Then they procrastinated because their holy design team can't do anything fast. They could just have looked at what was selling well - it's not always a good idea but it's not always a bad idea either. But they made a mountain out of it.

Why do Apple's products have almost no customisability? Why did it take YEARS for them to even support setting a wallpaper image in iOS? Well, probably because:

Ive’s decision to offer choice was a challenge to Apple’s recurring theme of design inevitability. In one of our conversations, Ive was scathing about a rival’s product, after asking me not to name it: “Their value proposition was ‘Make it whatever you want. You can choose whatever color you want.’ And I believe that’s abdicating your responsibility as a designer.”

He was probably talking about a Motorola phone. But I guess that's why everything Apple makes is white. You wouldn't want to "abdicate your responsibility" by letting people choose colours! Well, unless it's a watch, of course.

If you read the whole New Yorker article you'll get an overwhelming sense that the design team there live in a bubble where they feel it's OK to spend months on a trivial detail and then produce something almost exactly the same as what their competitors did in a week. Apple has been consistently behind the Android market for years now when it comes to features and even new design ideas, and reading the article will reveal why.

+ - How to know if Iran breaks its word: Financial monitoring->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick writes: This is a fascinating read from Aaron Arnold of the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard's Kennedy School. Arnold points out that the Iran Nuclear Framework Agreement specifies not only that international inspectors will have access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, but will also gain access to Iran’s nuclear supply chain, in order to verify that components and materials are not diverted to a covert facility. 'To insure additional transparency, the preliminary framework calls for a dedicated procurement channel to approve the supply, sale, and transfer of certain nuclear-related and dual-use parts, technologies, and materials on a case-by-case basis.' Arnold points out that this is a tricky area, because Iran has shown extraordinary skill at getting around financial sanctions, and it's unclear what international body will monitor Iran's financial transactions. The article then details steps that could be taken to ensure that Iran's financial transactions are transparent and cannot be used to obtain dual-use materials, including the requirement that Iran join the international Financial Action Task Force. Great read..
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Well there's the problem... (Score 1) 180

by IamTheRealMike (#49776207) Attached to: Court Orders UberPop Use To Be Banned In All of Italy

Nope. The taxi drivers would compete for too few passengers by trying to undercut each other, skimming on costs thus reducing the safety for passengers etc.

Except that taxi prices are controlled, either by the state (yellow cabs) or by Uber. Taxi drivers don't dynamically adjust prices on an hourly basis by themselves.

Recent research has tended to show that the Abominable No-Man is being replaced by the Prohibitive Procrastinator. -- C.N. Parkinson