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Comment Re:Spare me the hyperbole (Score 1) 369

Perhaps it's escaped your attention, but typically the kind of people who are in charge of security at these places have far greater powers than simply asking you a few questions. Depending on how serious they think the threat is, you are potentially going to be held at gunpoint, strip-searched, and allowed to watch as they pull apart any of your luggage they think contains anything they don't like, as well as being arbitrarily delayed, potentially reported in the media, etc. And the best part is, they usually have little accountability for their actions, while you are typically not entitled to any compensation even if they cause your entire holiday to fall apart or cause expensive damage to your property. It's basically subject to their professional (or otherwise) judgement. Now, do you think installing a warning system liable to significant numbers of false positives is going to make this situation better or worse? And if you think any of the specific possibilities I have mentioned here is only hypothetical, please be very clear about which of those powers you do not think the security people have at most Western transport hubs, and I'm sure someone here can enlighten you.

Comment Re:Stopping muslims is a good thing (Score 1) 369

Your post is full of it.

Indeed it was, in the parts you criticised. That was the point! By replying to debunk my obviously unreasonable claims, you reinforce my point rather well: of course we shouldn't use selective evidence and sweeping generalisations to make sound-bite judgements about large sections of the human race and then take draconian steps as a result. Unfortunately, the post to which I originally replied seemed to think that sort of plan was a good idea.

Comment Re:I feel safer already (Score 1) 369

So... nobody could ever be unaware they're carrying a "disruptive device" (is that like a crackberry?) through a checkpoint?

The one time I've flown in Europe recently, I was approached by security staff flying home from Italy. They asked me whether I had left any prohibited containers in my backpack, as something had apparently triggered their scanner. I thought for a second, and then realised that I had left a small bottle of sunscreen tucked in one of the back pockets, along with various other things you'd want to have with you while out for the day.

I apologised, and in the next few moments I went from embarassment to fear of what they were going to do because I'd inadvertently tried to take something banned onto the plane. But then they said they'd have to remove it because of the liquids ban, and just through it into a huge container (full of mostly unopened bottles: many more suntan containers, drinks, and other harmless things) and let me go through without another look.

Comment Re:Stopping muslims is a good thing (Score 4, Insightful) 369

It looks like we need to update Pastor Niemoeller's famous poem. First they came from the Muslims...

Here are a few other conclusions from a non-PC but apparently somewhat more objective observer.

Probably the most violent recent religion looking over its history is Christianity. Should we detain all Christians? I bet that'll go down well in the US.

Actually, speaking of the US, they are the only nation ever to have actually used a weapon of mass destruction at a cost of numerous civilian lives, and they have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to go to war other than to protect themselves from an immediate physical threat. Maybe the rest of the world should just nuke the whole US and be done with them?

Then again, the administration of any country that had WMDs could lose the plot and use them based on such dubious arguments, and any administration that has been in power for more than a short time and retains the option apparently has a willingness to consider using WMDs. Maybe it would be better for all of us if they just turned on each other to remove the threat against everyone else?

I'll stop there, because I've pretty much killed the entire world in only three steps by applying the kind of tragic, fear-driven thinking exhibited by the parent post. But I truly hope that 2009 offers us more than a binary choice between PC security theatre and the kind of indiscriminate fear-mongering we see here.

Comment Re:Are they joking, or just accepting reality? (Score 1) 172

and we've seen what they charge for text messages. i don't trust that.

Text messages are an odd case in several ways. Their pricing is on the high side, but then their pricing for calls is on the low side, and in neither case do they really make that much money out of their customers: it's the high-end, premium services like mobile Internet browsing and picture messaging where they make the big money these days.

In any case, this isn't really the same idea as what I was suggesting. Distinguishing by service like this would be more akin to letting people browse web sites cheaply, but charging a premium for sending e-mails and a very high rate for streaming media, regardless of the volume of data actually transferred. I don't think anyone is currently proposing distinguishing pricing by the protocol in use.

and referring to bandwidth as a commodity seems a little like fallacious thinking.

On the contrary, it is the very essence of a commodity in the economic sense of the term: one ISPs bandwidth is as good as another (at least for now) but there is only so much available.

Comment Are they joking, or just accepting reality? (Score 3, Insightful) 172

Is it just being realistic? Here in the UK, ISPs have been selling flat-rate "up to 8MB" broadband for some time now, but glossing over the very high contention ratios they've been using (and getting away with so far, because the average user doesn't currently want anything like 8MB/s of data transfer).

With the rise of streaming, real-time media — and the BBC's iPlayer has been a great success story over here — the assumption that a large group of users only ever sends a few e-mails and shops at Amazon is becoming less valid. While quite a few people have visited YouTube and the like and watched a five minute clip of something, that's a long way from a service that offers full-length, full-quality downloads of major programs and advertises this fact prominently on several major TV stations.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the ISPs don't have the bandwidth they've sold if everyone wants to use it, any more than the banks had the money they were selling. Some sort of change in pricing is inevitable. One way or another, those who have been doing very well out of the current flat-rate deals are going to be the ones who lose out, because they are getting things disproportionately cheap right now.

Personally, I don't like the filtering by source/destination idea. It sounds like something that will attack the openness that has made the Internet such a success. I'd rather go back to some sort of metred use policy, perhaps with tiered flat rate bundles for a bit of predictability for low/average users (so that up to x MB/month is a standard rate, up to y MB/month is another standard rate, and after that it's metred or something). This model seems to work fairly well for the mobile phone industry, and the pricing is transparent and sustainable.

But whether it's done by bandwidth, web sites visited, protocols used, or what postcode you live in, anyone who has been happily streaming tens of gigabytes per month of downloads on their flat rate plan and thinks an extra 10 pounds a month is excessive is just deluding themselves. The bandwidth simply isn't there to support everyone doing that, and when commodities are scarce, prices go up.

Comment Re:Windows 7 (Score 1) 605

For one thing, MS certainly isn't giving the developer tools away - yes, you have the "Express" editions, but those have pretty heavy limitations which really only make them useful for a student and low-profile hobbyist writing simple freeware or shareware stuff. For any serious development, you're going to need VS Pro, and that still costs quite a bit.

Well, you say that, but I can't think of a single thing I've ever done at any of the places I've worked professionally that the Express editions don't cover. Maybe if you're working on really huge projects or using the latest MS tools for something like architecture or source control the Pro version is useful, but again everywhere I've worked had found other approaches to those problems long before Microsoft's latest round of tools started incorporating them, so there was no particular reason to switch. As you say, though, pretty much everywhere just gets an MSDN subscription anyway, so this is something of a moot point.

So most Windows shops go for it, and I'd imagine it's also a pretty steady revenue stream for MS - at least last I heard about this, Microsoft DevDiv (Developer Division) is fully self-sufficient.

Well, not being loss-making is always a plus of course, but I don't think Microsoft's interest in DevDiv has anything to do with how much money it makes. In itself, its revenue is line noise, but as a strategic asset, it's invaluable.

Comment Re:Windows 7 (Score 2, Insightful) 605

The justification? [...] To require all MCSE's to re certify. Oh and to get the millions of employees using windows out there to take new training courses in windows.

The thing is, that doesn't make sense. Microsoft make almost all of their money on exactly two product lines: Windows and Office. Everything else is just window dressing (no pun intended) to try to boost sales of Windows and Office. For example, Microsoft's developer tools are quite decent, but did you notice that they've started giving them away in recent years? That's because they don't make any serious money on them, but if they can get people using their tools then those people are going to target their platform, and the more applications are available on their platform, preferably exclusively, the more attractive that platform is for people who might buy it. Ditto for all the back office stuff. I haven't checked the figures for the gaming and Internet stuff recently, but they were lucky not to make a substantial loss lass time I looked, so I very much doubt they are more than a drop in the ocean either.

In this context, forcing people to retrain and recertify doesn't help Microsoft, because it makes their key products less attractive. It just doesn't fit into their business plan. When they've reached the unique position of having near 100% market penetration in their two primary markets, the only thing they can do to keep the serious money coming in is provide upgrades that people are willing to pay for, and Vista was so far off-target that substantial chunks of the market actively chose to go for Windows XP instead. If Windows 7 is another cock-up on that scale, then we could realistically be looking at the beginning of the end for Microsoft.

Comment Re:UAW (Score 1) 715

Sure, but an employer who is willing to make such a decision (ignoring the collective will of its staff, even if it costs them the business and the staff's position was tenable) will presumably also be foolish enough to ignore the will of a union that represents most/all of its staff at the same cost. The business in that situation is doomed anyway, and the staff are all going to need new jobs anyway, so having a union there doesn't really help anyone.

Comment Re:UAW (Score 1) 715

Collective bargaining by employees works against an aggressive employer, but this doesn't necessarily imply the presence of a union. I was involved in some contractual changes following a takeover, and all it took for the new employer's HR people to get the message was the first few employees actively and publicly objecting to the revised terms. Then others joined in, and critical mass was reached.

Comment Re:What is happening with the world? (Score 1) 268

I think if the 60 million want to enjoy the copyrighted works they have to pay for them, in the same way that if I want to enjoy my local farmers apples, I have to buy them, despite the fact that the evil corporate scumbag planted those apple trees YEARS AGO.

I often agree with you on these sorts of issues, Cliff, but on this one I do side with the IP-is-not-physical-property crowd. There are only so many apples produced by your local farmer, and someone has to look after the trees every year to keep that going. There is ongoing work involved and it produces finite goods. If you think the asking price for the apple is disproportionate to the amount of work required, you are free to grow an apple tree in your own garden and eat as much of its fruit as you like. The situation just isn't the same for pure information, which can be duplicated and distributed at negligible cost and almost instantaneously.

Now, I don't have a problem with the principle of copyright, but it's a two-way thing: the artists get a temporary monopoly so they can exploit their work in ways that would otherwise be unrealistic, but they get that benefit in return for sharing that work with the public who get to benefit from it afterwards. If there is no benefit to the general public in having a law, then why should there be any law restricting people's ability to copy information freely at all?

It clearly isn't necessary to increase the duration of copyright retrospectively in order to get artists to produce the works covered, because they already produced and distributed them, knowing what the deal was at the time. Making such a change now is just breaking one side of the deal, screwing the general public for the benefit of... well, actually, it's not even the artists in most cases, it's the record labels and a few already-richer-than-you-or-I-will-ever-be big names. Society's debt to these people has been paid, and it's time for them to live up to their side of the bargain. If they weren't prepared to do that, no-one forced them to share their work: they could have gone out and got a day job that pays the bills like everyone else, and they could still be living in obscurity and doing that job today like everyone else too.

Comment Re:This is because of copyrigth term (Score 1) 268

It's not quite as simple as that, because the duration of copyright protection varies by both the kind of work (e.g., software vs. music) and by the role played (e.g., performer vs. composer). So while it may strictly speaking be true that some synchronisation would occur if this went through, arguments about consistency aren't very convincing.

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