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Comment General misunderstanding of inflation (Score 1) 475

There seems to be a general misunderstanding by many folks on who inflation hurts the most... I guess because a lot of people want to blame inflation for all their troubles. But inflation is not the cause of your troubles, folks.

Inflation hurts people with more money the most, because inflation only affects people who actually hold money for long periods of time. People with very little money (for example, who live pay-check to pay-check or have only a few thousand or a few tens of thousands of dollars in the bank) simply do not carry the cash long enough for inflation to have any effect.

Even at modest levels of inflation a person working pay-check to pay-check is spending the cash almost immediately after receiving it. Most people... most of the population, spends the cash within a year (or sooner). Losses from inflation are minimal in those situations. But for anyone with real savings inflation is a problem that can only be solved by investing the cash and receiving a better return... outpacing the inflation.

How does inflation transfer more money to the government? People seem confused about this too. The answer is also simple: Through taxes on gains. If I own stock in company X and it is worth $100, and 25 years later through inflation the company is valued at $200 and I cash it out, I owe taxes on the $100 difference even though the intrinsic value of my stock has not changed. This also tends to have a lower effect on the less affluent because the less affluent tend to be in a lower tax bracket. Taxes due to inflation wind up being a huge component for the affluent, and near zero if you are poor.

Inflation is the bane of the rich, not of the poor, and always has been.

What people misunderstand the most is the relationship between wages and inflation, particularly when the average worker is losing ground due to wages not keeping up. Wages not keeping up is not really a function of inflation, but more a function of supply and demand. The supply of jobs and the number of people looking for jobs, in various categories. As inflation occurs and wages become insufficient, workers demand raises. This is why we see strikes here and there in different industries all the time.

It is true that inflation makes it easier for employers to allow worker wages to stagnate. It would be hard to argue against that, but employers can only stretch the mechanic so far. The bigger problem for the average worker is that the skill requirements for jobs change and older workers tend to not keep up with the changing environment, becoming marginalized. For example, working a metal cutting tool in the old days required significant labor but little education. In modern times it requires having factory programming skills and enough knowledge to ensure that you do not accidentally destroy a $50,000 piece of machinery or kill yourself.

All this talk about bitcoin somehow magically being a way to work around inflation is just hogwash. There are many things which work around inflation with FAR less volatility and risk than bitcoin... bonds, stocks, and so forth. None of these things are riskless, and many work on the similar principle of having a fairly limited supply (a blue-chip stock, for example), and thus for a stable business tends to be immune from inflation in the long-run (except for taxes later on when you sell, but bitcoin won't save you from taxes either).

The idea that one can simply conjure money out of thin air with no risk and no investment has NEVER worked in the past and won't work for bitcoin either, but I guess there's a siren's song involved here similar to the siren's song that attracts so many people to casino gambling (despite 'gambling' in the stock market being more lucrative than 'gambling' in a casino).

The lack of education prevalent in this age of boundless information just astounds me. People are literally blind to proven facts that they don't happen to agree with.

-Matt

Comment Re:Bitcoiners on reddit are completely delusional (Score 1) 475

Heh. Talk is cheap. I hear stories like that all the time on financial forums, but rarely is it actually true. Still, at least some of the stories are going to be true... the problem is that most of them are not, and the far larger numbers of people who got cleaned out on the other side of the trade instead don't boast about their losses so...

Hope you paid your taxes when you cashed them out!

-Matt

Comment Re:Question for financial gurus (Score 1) 475

Yes, but without the protections of a government regulated middleman, which is what normal exchanges have, the traders involved will be subject to extraordinary risks on those sorts of contracts (totally separate from the actual trading value of a bitcoin which itself carries extraordinary risks). Even the current Bitcoin exchanges are subject to severe carry risks (as people using one of the Chinese exchanges that pulled up stakes and disappeared along with all of their money found out recently).

I think there are a lot of people who don't really understand how the public stock or derivatives markets work and believe, falsely, that the mechanisms can be safely replicated by an unregulated entity. Frankly, it takes supreme stupidity to trust any amount of money to these businesses.

-Matt

Comment Re:Remember TEMPEST? (Score 2, Insightful) 264

The "audio" in question is most likely all below 24 kHz, that being the Nyquist limit for the 48 kHz sampling hardware, unless it happens that some phones can actually sample faster, and have microphones that can respond to higher frequencies.

The instruction rate of the CPUs in question is many times that frequency.

It doesn't sound likely.

Comment Remember TEMPEST? (Score 5, Interesting) 264

TEMPEST was a details-secret government requirement meant to defeat means of eavesdropping on classified computer data from its electromagnetic emissions. I guess they need to include audio too.

My impression is that the noise comes from the power supply, not the CPU. I can certainly hear it with some computers, and it is related to work on the video card in my experience. I'm astonished that you can actually pull data from that, and in fact I'd like to see independent confirmation before I believe it.

Comment Mental health and SROs are the answer (Score 1) 894

I work with mentally ill patients, and I was an active SWAT officer when Columbine happened. It changed how we did everything.

After Columbine, we got our floor-plans on ALL of our local schools, and spent hours and hours during the nights assaulting those locations, and gaming-out active shooter scenarios. We had other officers play the OPFOR, and hunted them through the hallways. What we discovered was that as fast as we were, we weren't fast enough. By the time a police response arrives at a school, the gunman can have already killed several dozen (as happened at Virginia Tech).

The answer to a "man with a gun" is another man with a gun, and the School Resource Officer is critical against a homicidal maniac. The faster you can get that man on-scene and putting rounds on-target, the better.

And our mental health system is badly broken. Look into the eyes of Lanza, Holmes, Loughner... it doesn't take a board-certified psychiatrist to tell you they've lost touch with reality. Unfortunately, there are very few resources out there to address people like that. Until that changes, people like that (though they throw up red flags to every person who knows them) are going to continue to fall through the cracks.

Comment Re:My rule for SSD (Score 1) 183

Depends how much you value your 'movie and music' collection. Once you take into account the fact that your HDDs have to be replaced every few years no matter what (even if powered off and sitting on a shelf), whereas your SSDs are as good as their write-wear limit.

Since movie and music collections are essentially archival data, the SSD is actually a pretty good medium for storing them long-term. You just rewrite the SSD once every few years to keep all the flash cells fresh (on top of adding new videos and music) and it will last many times longer than a HDD.

This narrows the cost factor by a lot. Take (just for comparison) a 1TB HDD for around $90 and a 1TB SSD for around $530. To be conservative lets say that's about a 6:1 cost ratio (SSD:HDD). But when you factor-in the SSDs far longer life span, even being conservative you are still talking 3 HDD replacements per SSD replacement (and more realistically it will be 6+ HDD life cycles but I'll ignore that for now).

The cost difference for your long-term archival storage is now 2:1. The SSD is still double the price, but look at what you get for that: Always on (eats very little power so you can keep it plugged in), NO wear when not writing, NO replacement hassle every few years. Throw in the need for multiple live backups and/or RAID and it becomes a no-brainer.

I'm sold. That makes it worth it.

-Matt

Comment Re:Don't expect too much from Intel... (Score 1) 183

The write profile of the filesystem, not the write profile of the program. Programs doing small writes, including standard log-writing, will not generally wind up causing small writes to actually go to the media. The filesystem cache will collect them all together and the SSD will actually get fairly optimal writes (or be able to write-combine less optimal writes). Most modern filesystems are going to do a pretty good job of this already.

There are always exceptions, usually niche situations. For example, database updates can often wind up modifying just a few hundred bytes in a large 16KB block of data, fsync(), then randomly seek and do it somewhere else... that can create some serious problems for SSDs if the database is constantly doing random piecemeal writes (verses the simple file appends that log-file writing does), if not managed properly. Databases will have knobs that allow one to tune flushes and that should solve most of the issues people bring up... but not all.

Another common situation is improperly using a SSD to stage gigabytes of temporary data (coming in regularly) that you intend to process and then wipe / start-over. SSDs are great for archiving data that doesn't change much, and can handle a certain number of write/re-write cycles, but you don't want to fill one up then rm -rf then fill it up again continuously. That WILL wear it out.

These sorts of exceptions are not in the majority though. Nearly all consumer use (or even power-user use or unix programmer / personal-home-network use, including modest SWAP use) simply don't generate sufficient write activity to even have to worry about the SSD wear limit. Server use cases will also mostly be SSD-friendly, but there will be situations where they aren't.

It doesn't take a whole lot of brains for a good sysad to deal with it. It's virtually a non-issue in my book. We can't fix stupid sysads or IT managers, and we shouldn't try.

-Matt

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