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Comment Re:Ob frosty (Score 2) 263

Interestingly, digging a bit deeper and looking at the average sentences (in 2009, the most recent year available) for those given immediate custodial sentences (which is not all of those convicted), the statistics say 33.6 months was the average for robbery and 48.7 months for sexual offences (which are statistically the longest sentences on average). Of course the lengthiest of sentences for those offences will have been much longer but as a taxpayer the cost of jailing this guy Vickerman for 5 years for what was, after all, a non-violent crime doesn't sit well with me in context (although admittedly I know nothing about the details of the case). See here, page 40 for the stats.

This brings up an interesting division in how people think about crime. Some (many?) people would say that stealing a penny each from 5 million people is a crime for which a lesser punishment is justified than stealing £50,000 from one individual, despite the monetary amounts involved being the same (and the first scheme being more audacious). The debate over whether harsh penalties for infringement of IP laws are justified (leaving aside the issue of whether the existence or persistence of the IP in question is in itself just) is really another version of that debate. I wonder if perhaps a generational difference in attitudes about this aspect of morality (ie older legislators and executives appear to view infringement so much more seriously than younger people).

Comment Re:This model works better for software (Score 1) 437

I'm actually not so bothered by this as a business practice per se. When e.g. MS does the same thing with CALs etc, the issue is really about lack of competition in certain segments. Noone else has a product as slick as Outlook or Excel otherwise they would take MS's business in a shot. Economists might desscribe this as MS "adding value" (much as I'm personally loath to think of Outlook and Excel doing that...).

Back to the car market and in theory, a competitor with the same cost base may well be able to offer a product which is priced at, or slightly above (to account for marginally reduced total volumes) the weighted average price of the SKUs offered on this model while offering ALL the top-end features - so the market ought to ensure it disappears except for features which are truly unique to one or another manufacturer (which tend to be right at the top end anyway). Seat-heaters don't really qualify for this IMHO.

So the fact that this is happening indicates, to me, that there is an (at least slightly) disfunctional market operating in the car market in the US. That is certainly not down to this practice and is, I suspect, more down to things like import tariffs and regulations making it difficult for new competitors to enter the market.

Comment Re:Only for original purchaser? (Score 1) 437

Really? I've seen cars which pre-dated the Model T and are still road-legal (at least in the UK) at vintage/veteran car events.

It is expensive to maintain (and run, if you drive long distances - at least compared to modern cars which are vastly more fuel-efficient) older cars properly if you're used to something <3 years old - but compared to the cost of maintaining an average 1980s (ie 30-year old) car, there's not a huge amount of difference. The main difficulty with replacement parts is you need to find an engineering shop which will do one-offs for those more often than not. But there are a *lot* of people (not owners) who will do this as (at least in part) a labour of love, just for the pleasure of seeing these machines continue to run.

Fuel also isn't a real issue. Leaded petrol (and additives for unleaded) are still available, at least in the UK, from specialist suppliers. For older cars, it was never an issue anyway - as they were never built for leaded petrol anyway and the move back to unleaded petrol was actually a positive for those owners if they hadn't converted their cars. Have a look here for example.

Comment Re:NoScript (Score 4, Insightful) 731

If a human can view the content and work out where the ads are, so (ultimately) can a computer - the obvious fix for now is that Greasemonkey can be used to sort those out.

I'd also add though, this may well be heavily counter-productive for many sites. There is very little truly unique content out there in reality - and as a consequence it is worth far less to the marginal user than the site owners often think it is. Some of the sites which lose viewers because of this may simply say "good riddance" as those users are a net drain on resources - but that's a dangerous path to take as those people are, I would imagine, more likely to be either influential opinion-formers (who drive much more traffic to the site who won't block ads), or providing user-generated content which has value in itself.

Comment Re:Moving surveillance (Score 1) 278

Otherwise, chasing *alleged* "assassin" motorcyclist through town on market day is EXACTLY what this law will be used to get a free pass for.

Remember Tony Blair's chauffeur driving him down the M4 bus lane? I can easily see this being abused for "politician or important official is late for a meeting" type situations too (in fact those will be the more visible cases).

Comment Re:so now they can keep up with other traffic (Score 3, Interesting) 278

Actually I'd be quite happy if the police were banned from engaging in high-speed car chases. They just create more danger for everyone else on the road, encouraging those being chased to drive even more dangerously as well as the risk that the police cars themselves cause an accident. There are other ways of catching criminals which do not create such danger for the rest of us.

Comment Re:Now we're in trouble... (Score 4, Insightful) 278

Serving members of the security services carry a warrant card. If they are speeding the police may well pull them over. Displaying the warrant card and explaining they are on a live op *may* get them let off, but there is no requirement for the police to treat them any differently to the general public. This changes that, and about time.

Posting AC for obvious reasons.

Utter BS. It's just people who enjoy being "above the law" wanting to be *more* above the law and feel important. Noone should be above the law. They are not an emergency service and they are not police. The only justification for speeding should be to get *to* an emergency situation as a first responder, ie paramedic or fire crew.

Comment Re:WTF... (Score 1) 691

Similarly as the dedicated hardware gets more advanced, mining on GPUs and especially CPUs becomes completely useless, so even with thousands of nodes you will never make any worthwhile amount. The returns from using malware to mine bitcoins must be pretty tiny today, even with huge numbers of infected systems.

This is interesting because it relates to one of the problems I have wondered about with Bitcoin for a while. Largely, trust in Bitcoin (at least for me) depends on the idea that "anyone" can (and will) verify a block and hence it is difficult to cheat. But as mining becomes uneconomic for anyone who doesn't have specialised rigs, the number of people who can realistically and economically verify blocks starts to shrink, potentially quite rapidly.

This effect is irrespective of the USD/whatever value of a Bitcoin and of the absolute number of Bitcoins earned in a mining transaction - it's simply about economies of scale in the marginal cost for mining which leads to marginal revenue being below the marginal cost for most people using the currency - ie the gradual appearance of a barrier to entry in mining for smaller players. This in turn magnifies the risk of collusion. Thus as Bitcoin becomes more popular, it also becomes less trustworthy, which is not a property you would ideally want it to have.

In reality I doubt this is likely to be a big problem as most people are willing to trust central banks already, compared to which Bitcoin is always likely to be a least a little bit "better"; but it is an interesting philosophical question.

Comment Re:Bitcoin is headed for irrelevance (Score 1) 691

This is precisely why I refuse to use Bitcoin. Its requirement to perform energy-wasting computation is a serious design flaw.

Of course some mining work is necessary -- we need 3rd-party validation of signatures and transactions, and we need a financial incentive to perform those calculations. Unfortunately, Bitcoin also requires the mining process to perform useless calculations, which take the vast majority of the mining time.

This makes Bitcoin highly susceptible to irrelevance, once new digital currencies are developed that have a more elegant and efficient design.

Actually, those calculations are not entirely useless. Yes there needs to be a verification of signatures and transactions BUT this process also needs to be "hard" to achieve so that I can't just invite six of my friends to immediately verify both double-spend transactions I have just posted. In turn, the fact that these need to be "hard" transactions is why there is an economic incentive to perform them. What's more, you also need the "hard" work to be dependent on the specific ordering of the blockchain so that you can't solve a bunch of it in advance but not share the results until you are ready to send your double-spending transactions to the blockchain. Think of it as similar to (though not the same as) the idea that you want a password hashing function to be slow (have a high number of rounds/good salts/etc) to make brute-force attacks harder.

There are potential alternative scheme which mean the hard work is less "useless" (e.g. protein folding) but I think it's highly likely that these only really work if you have a system with more centralised tracking of the "work" (to produce the path-dependency); at that point, you could simply ask "why not just trust a central authority to verify the transactions in the first place"...

Comment Re:OMFG (Score 1) 691

It's not a currency, you fucking retard. It is a commodity. The fact that it can lose--what are we at now--66% of it's value overnight pretty much makes it clear it isn't money, but rather a security. And a very volatile one at that.

Utter rubbish. Whatever you think about Bitcoin, stability of exchange rate has nothing to do with whether something is a "currency" or not. The Mexican Peso dropped by nearly 50% in less than a week in 1994. The Russian Rouble dropped by 70% in less than 6 months in 1998. Argentina's peso devalued by around 75% in a similarly short space of time in 2002 (including at least a 30% drop overnight). There are lots and lots of examples of rapid currency devaluations throughout history.

Comment Re:News from EU that've been thru:There's no long (Score 1) 1146

I'm also in Europe and in my experience the lifetime of CFLs has been approximately equal to the incandescents they replaced, but the failure pattern is different. Incandescents used to see a bunch failing when we got the first onset of colder weather each winter, with a bunch of bulbs going at roughly the same time; CFLs fail more evenly throughout the year but nonetheless they do fail at about the same average age, I'd guess c.12 months. The failure modes I've seen are that they simply don't start any more, start flickering like mad or just get very dark. No fires or the like.

The other issues with CFLs also all still hold - slow to start, bad colour temperature, and most significantly mislabeling ("100W" equivalent bulbs are reallty more like 50-60W, and the "true" 100W equivalents are much more expensive and difficult to find).

Overall though the impact on our lives has been pretty minimal because we basically avoided using them in areas where we spend long amounts of time. Firstly, we already had halogen bulbs/fittings in some of these areas (using a dimmer halogen still gives a nice quality of light) and secondly where we didn't we now use candles a lot more than we used to. Actually candlelight is nicer even than incandescents used to be so in a weird way it's sort of been a positive.

Comment Re:A trademark claim might not be the best (Score 1) 188

BUT - governments are special; essentially you can't sue them unless they agree to allow it.

In the UK, unlike in the US, there is no longer automatic sovereign immunity for the government from suits for contract or tort. However the legislation which governs the intelligence services is so very broadly drawn that I suspect that anything and everything they do is always legal (or, at least, can be authorised ex post facto by a minister without the involvement of parliament or a court and thus made legal). That leaves, perhaps, seeking a judicial review of the authorising minister's decision but I'm not sure how successful you might be there. This is what GCHQ was boasting about in some of the "marketing" slides which were published by the Guardian.

Comment Re:Sue them... (Score 2) 188

Erm - the guy that jumped the ticket barrier <snip> ...

He didn't jump any ticket barrier. The "jumped the ticket barrier" comment was attributed at the time to an eyewitness but it has been alleged that it was in fact one of the police officers involved (and if that's true then it appears consistent with the idea of the Met realising their mistake and trying to smear him through this and other 'off the record' briefings to the press with the aim of making themselves look less incompetent).

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