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Comment Re:Beginning of shield technology? (Score 5, Funny) 137

Perhaps if we can emit VLF radiation at very high frequency

If we emit Very Low Frequency radiation at very high frequency it won't be very low frequency any more.

Hmmm... Ok. So we can't increase the frequency, but what if we just took this Very Low Frequency radiation and shortened the wavelength?

Comment Re:Really?! (Score 1) 176

To be honest, I don't think that's the big issue with patents. If you're patenting a specific method for doing something, then either that method works (in which case, it shouldn't matter whether you have a working prototype) or it doesn't (in which case, there's no real harm in patenting it because the implementation is useless).

Just to give a whacky example, if I come up with a design for a new kind of nuclear reactor that should theoretically work, I think it's fine that I can patent it even if I don't have the resources and nuclear material to build it. If the design works, I deserve the patent for coming up with it. If the design doesn't work, then it doesn't really matter if I have a patent, because nobody is going to be implementing that design.

Or even if you disagree with that, I would still argue that this kind of situation isn't what's causing problems.

It seems to me that the issue with patents that is causing real problems is that patents are granted for things that shouldn't be patentable. You should only be able to patent specific methods and implementations, and not general ideas. So for example, patenting an bezel-free display should not be possible. In order to patent something like that, it should have to be a very specific design of how the screen would function without a bezel, or a specific manufacturing method. That method or implementation should also be novel and non-obvious. So if the design is very much the same as a design that existed before, you shouldn't be able to patent it. If the design is basically the first thing an engineer would come up with when trying to create a bezel-free display, then you should not be able to patent it.

It seems to me that those rules are already on the books, but they're just not being enforced. I'm not sure if it's because the patent office is corrupt, or the people granting the patents don't understand technology well enough, or because they just don't have the resources to review patents well enough. It seems like a lot of silly patents are slipping through, though.

Comment Re:Really?! (Score 1) 176

Well there are two questions there:

1) Did Apple apply for the patent before their rivals started doing it?
2) Is the implementation they're patenting somehow different and novel, compared to what their rivals are doing?

The second question is something that people often forget about. Properly, a patent shouldn't be for an abstract idea like "make a phone screen without a bezel" or "have a fingerprint reader embedded in the screen of a phone". The patent should be for a specific and novel technical implementation of the idea. If Apple has come up with a new and useful way to have a bezel-free phone, then it's not unreasonable that they could patent that specific method.

Comment Re:Specs aren't the problem (Score 1) 80

Oh, I didn't know you could load Kodi on a Fire Stick. You mean you can replace the OS with Linux running Kodi? If the hardware is open enough to allow loading an alternate OS, that changes things quite a bit. Not that I'm a real tinkerer or would be likely to change the OS on a device like this, but having the option makes it much more likely that the device would continue to be useful in some way.

Comment Re:Specs aren't the problem (Score 1) 80

Sure, let's assume that they're going to give you Netflix. For now. What will happen in the next 6 months? 2 years? 5 years?

My general point is that it's not about exactly what they're offering now, or what specs their hardware is theoretically capable of supporting in 5 years. If you want to talk about future-proofing things, the question is, what will Amazon support in 5 years? What will Netflix support in 5 years? We don't know. Amazon could cut off Netflix support tomorrow, and the owners of this TV might have no control over that. That's the real issue in "future proofing". Whether the device has 2 GB, 4 GB, or 8GB of RAM is insignificant in comparison.

Comment Re:I totally disagree (Score 1) 234

Whatever. You're full of it. You can't say that a small screen would be useless when you don't know what would be on it or how it would work. But you're complaining that you never have your laptop closed while also complaining that your laptop is always closed. You haven't thought anything through.

Comment Re:I totally disagree (Score 1) 234

I don't see it, my laptop when closed is in a case or backpack pretty much instantly.

Huh? You *just said*:

My only complaint about the Touchbar is that I often use the laptop shut attached to an external monitor...

so I've gotta call bullshit here. Like I said, most functions that would be useful in an external display on a laptop would probably be better managed on a smart phone, but don't shoot down my admittedly flawed idea because "my laptop is never shut" when you just complained, "my laptop is always shut".

Comment Specs aren't the problem (Score 1) 80

I think talking about "beefed up specs" kind of misses the real problem of a device like this. The problem with future proofing a device like this isn't about specs, it's about open source and open standards.

What I mean is, you buy a TV for Amazon's streaming, and then in a couple years, Amazon decides to kill their streaming service. Or their streaming service starts dropping in quality. Or they change the video format. Or they redesign their DRM. Or they just discontinue support for that product. Or whatever.

Suddenly, even if the TV isn't completely useless, a large percentage of the features stop working. It's not like you can just switch it to use Netflix or iTunes instead (unless Amazon builds it in). It's not like you can wipe the drive and install iOS or the Roku OS. You may not even be able to swap out the remote for a different model. Your stuck with whatever features and peripherals Amazon decides to support.

That's why, frankly, Smart TVs make no sense to me. The built-in features are always going to be poorly executed, and outdated after a year or two. I have a Sony SmartTV, and a lot of the built-in widgets and whatnot just don't work because Sony doesn't really update things. I don't care that much because I bought it more for the screen quality than the SmartTV features, and I basically use it as a dumb monitor for other devices. If we can't have openness in SmartTVs, then I think it's much better to get a dumb monitor, and then hook up whichever set-top device gives you the "smart" features you're looking for. That way, when that set-top device gets discontinued or it starts sucking, you can just get a new set-top device, instead of replacing your TV because the features are outdated.

And on a side note, why is 4GB of RAM and 16GB of storage considered "beefed up"? For the size and price of a a TV, you should be able to squeeze in more than that.

That said, I'm not necessarily bashing this product. Maybe it's a good TV for the price. I just wouldn't bet on the SmartTV features being particularly "future proof".

Comment Re:I have thousands of songs (Score 1) 415

there's no point converting mp3 to anything other than a smaller lossy format that retains the same quality.

Yes, if you can convert from MP3 to a format that retains all the quality at a smaller file size, that might be worthwhile. However, even if there's a more efficient audio codec that creates equivalent quality at a smaller file size, it's probably not a great idea to convert.

If that sounds confusing, I'm mostly pointing out that there's a difference between "a file format that can produce equivalent quality to an MP3 at a smaller file size" and "a file format that MP3s can be converted to without losing quality, resulting in a smaller file size". Basically, any lossy format saves space by throwing away some information somehow. If the MP3 format throws away one set of information, and FileFormatX is a superior file format that throws away different information, then the result of transcoding from MP3 to FileFormatX may produce something of poor quality.

If that doesn't make sense, try this experiment: Find a high quality image. Convert it into a highly compressed JPEG (let's say 10% image quality). Take the same image and convert it into a 8-color GIF. Look at how bad it looks in each case. Now, convert the JPEG into an 8-color GIF and convert the 8-color GIF into a highly compressed JPEG. Going Original -> GIF -> JPEG is going to look far worse than the original or the GIF. Going Original -> JPEG -> GIF is going to look worse than either the original or the JPEG. It's not about whether GIF is better than JPEG or vice versa. The issue is that the two formats compress the data differently.

And that's often the case for lossy formats. Transcoding from one lossy format to another is to be avoided whenever possible.

Comment Re: nix the Touch Bar (Score 1) 234

you can set your Touch Bar to always display brightness and volume keys, exactly as you had on your older MacBook Pro. Or to always show F-keys. Or to show either when your press the Fn key.

I could still see a complaint that, being touch sensitive, those controls are a little too easy to trigger accidentally. Also, if you use function keys frequently, having a touch screen doesn't let you feel the separation between keys, which hinders touch-typists.

Comment Re:I totally disagree (Score 4, Interesting) 234

See, I'm actually a bit surprised that Apple did a touchbar at the top of the keyboard. I think a couple other options might have been smarter:

1) A small screen on the outside of the laptop so that notifications can be seen while closed. New Macs have a feature called "Power Nap" which allows the Mac to do limited things while asleep (e.g. check email). It might be handy to be able to see if you've received PowerNap enabled controls and notifications without opening your laptop. On the other hand, I'm not sure there are many uses for this that wouldn't be better handled on a smartphone.

2) Turn the trackpad into a touchscreen. It's basically already a fairly large glass touchscreen that you're used to performing gestures on. All they'd have to do is put a display behind the glass. Then you could enable apps to assign functions to specific gestures to specific areas of the touchscreen.

To replace some of the keyboard buttons with a touchscreen, however, doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Power users are generally going to be accustomed to touch typing, so forcing them to look at the keyboard for some of those keyboard functions seems counter-productive.

Comment Re:Excluding the unfortunate exceptions (Score 1) 507

Sure, but then... you really should have maintenance with the vendor, and the vendor should be keeping the software product up to date so that it works with the latest Windows patches.

I'll admit it's not that easy. Sometimes you're stuck with some weird application that nobody supports anymore, but you need to keep it going. However, there's a part of me that wants to point out that, to some extent, it's the fault of whoever purchased that application. What I mean is, I've seen companies that are still running on some product that was purchased 20 years ago, and they just haven't updated. I've seen companies that rely completely on some application that a company built in-house before firing their development staff, leaving nobody who knows how the code works. To some extent, if you base your business around some random janky application that nobody is supporting, it's kind of your own fault. Businesses should anticipate that, for any business-critical application, they should have a support contract with developers capable of patching/fixing/updating that application. If you can't find someone to do that, then find a different application. If you can't do that (or can't afford it), then your business just isn't sustainable. Sorry.

Comment Wrong approach (Score 1) 360

Personally, I think it's the wrong approach to try to compel Microsoft to support old operating systems. It's a substantial burden for them, and makes it harder for them to move forward and innovate.

Instead, I think we should try to compel Microsoft to open the source of Windows XP. If there's a large enough number of people who want continued support, they would then be able to fund it somehow. Plus, it would push Microsoft to innovate, since they would have to make sure that Windows 10 did useful things that Windows XP doesn't do (that people actually want).

I may be a bit radical here, but I personally think that, in order to attain copyright protection, software developers should be required to provide their source code to the Library of Congress (or some other governmental organization). Then, when the software is no longer being sold or supported, the source code should be made public domain.

Comment They were done poorly (Score 1) 82

According to Steve Jones, a distinguished professor of communications at University of Illinois at Chicago, the absence of digital booklets can be attributed to two things. First, given all of the different platforms on which people consume digital music, juggling the different template standards for each can be cumbersome. Second, people aren’t looking at digital booklets because we aren’t listening to albums like we used to. “You don’t bring it home in a container and listen to it and look at the sleeve, read the liner notes, et cetera,” said Jones. “You buy your music or stream it instantaneously, usually while you’re doing something else. The space in which one would have looked at the visuals has gone by the wayside.”

I think these are good points, but there are a couple of other things we can point to. For one, the any creative effort or marketing money that would have gone into making booklets has most likely moved to crafting a social networking presence. Social networking is probably a more obvious method for connecting with fans and sharing information.

However, I would guess that part of the problem is that early attempts at digital booklets were so poorly executed that it has poisoned the well. I remember a time shortly before MP3s really took off, and they had started putting this kind of information on a data section of the music CD. That is, if you bought a music CD and put it into a computer, it would show up as a data CD with a terrible Flash application that would auto-play. The apps were poorly thought-out, annoying, and often didn't even include the information that would be in the liner notes (e.g. lyrics). It often seemed like the booklets were only put in there so that the disc would be recognized as a data disc, making it harder to rip the disc and convert them to MP3s. (This was when the record industry was trying to prevent MP3s from becoming mainstream, arguing that it was illegal to rip CDs.)

Over the years, I've only seen one attempt at this sort of thing that didn't seem horribly designed and stupid. A few years back, there was an iOS app for Bob Dylan that was meant to accompany a recently released anthology. It came with some free information, and then for each Bob Dylan album it detected on your device, it would unlock information about that album (or something like that). I don't think it's even available anymore, but I found a video of it.

It wasn't perfect. The interface was still a little wonky in places, and it wasn't in some kind of universal format that you could view on any device. However, it was clear that someone had put in the effort to collect a bunch of photos and information, including various interviews and new content created for the app. They'd at least made an attempt to make an interesting design, and have it somehow connect with the music (e.g. you could listen to the music and it would show you the lyrics currently being played). At the very least, it was interesting enough, and had good enough content, that a fan might find it worthwhile enough to spend some time exploring. I haven't seen anything before or since that seemed like the people who made it had any interest in making it good.

Comment Re:Wouldn't be a problem -if-... (Score 1) 452

This wouldn't be a problem if the media were still fulfilling their role of informing people of the facts, instead of also taking up the role of interpreter of those facts.

If you're looking for objectivity, I think you're misunderstanding what's possible. The media cannot be simply a source of facts. Even if they provided nothing but facts, they're necessarily interpreting things by choosing which facts to present, and in what order. In order to group facts together into a story and decide which facts are relevant to that story, you have to interpret them.

However, the interpretation isn't really the problem. Sensationalism is. News has become increasingly like the tabloids, reporting on what will catch the attention of the lowest common denominator. But honestly phrasing the problem that way is misleading, and doesn't indicate the real culprit. There is informative, relatively unbiased, not-very-sensationalistic news available. People don't read/watch it. It's not entirely the fault of the media, insofar as a lot of the news organizations are simply responding to what people are demanding.

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