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Comment Re:How is this worse? (Score 1) 176

Mentioned in some other stories is the fact that a lot of this program was tried first at the Waterstone's chain in the UK. In those stores, they sell Kindle devices, and customers can also bring in any Kindle (bought there or not) and read just about any book on Amazon for free for an hour while connected to the store's wi-fi.

The "selling Kindle devices" part made it to the US, so it seems reasonable that the other bit isn't far behind.

Comment Re:Sure, to lower paying jobs (Score 1) 674

This is likely true, and it's inevitable. It's also necessary, and a Very Good Thing(tm).

Education is one of the last jobs where the productivity of an individual worker hasn't improved in the last 300 years. A class size of 20-25 was the optimal load in the 1800s, and it's still the optimal load today. It takes a fair bit of specialized training to do well, roughly equivalent to the training that would go into an engineering or design education, but workers in an engineering or design field have their output multiplied by a factor of hundreds (at least) due to mass production, digital distribution, etc.

In a nutshell, the economy has moved past the teaching profession. Teachers want to be compensated for the effort they put in to their training (and rightly so) but their personal output is shrinking every year in comparison to the output from other jobs with similar levels of training. The only way to reverse this is to build a system which will distribute their work to much larger numbers of students.

Once digital teaching systems and peer help tools like those being pioneered by Khan Academy become pervasive, teachers may be able to handle classrooms of closer to a hundred without dropping in quality. Instead of every teacher in every classroom spending hundreds of hours a week on their own customized curriculum, a small group of experts can provide the entire country with a curated curriculum that's been polished and refined, and A/B tested to prove that it works.

The alternative is that education keeps getting more expensive, dropping in quality, and consuming more and more resources as a total percent of the economy. It's not sustainable the way it's going right now.

Comment Re:Start your own provider? (Score 1) 353

That's insane.

One potentially mitigating factor, I've heard that often residential plan speeds are quoted as "up to" while business plans are "guaranteed average", so when the links get saturated during busy hours the business plan should be less affected. Although even if that was the case with your provider it sounds like it's probably not worth it.

Comment Re:Start your own provider? (Score 1) 353

The key is "for the prices that the average consumer is willing to pay". With ~$15/mo plans I understand why capping has become necessary. But most providers will also have a business plan which is completely uncapped, and usually has much better customer service levels as well. For example, I use Comcast Business, and pay $60/mo for 20/3. I regularly get faster speeds than I'm promised, have no cap, and I've had tech support out on Sunday afternoon with 2 hours notice to replace a busted router. It costs more, but as you pointed out it probably SHOULD.

Comment Re:More? (Score 1) 294

I was recently in the market for something very similar, so I can at least tell you why I didn't buy a Surface.

First, the specs were too inflexible. I wanted a machine that can handle some serious coding, and for me that means running Eclipse, on Linux, inside a VM. For that to work well, I need to be able to give the VM 4 gigs on its own, so the host needed 8. The Surface tops out at 4.

Similarly with hard drive space, I want to be able to keep a couple of VMs around, install several large games, and take music and movies on trips. Now, the Surface has an SD slot, but the internal drive tops out at 128GB, and Windows takes something insane like 50GB for itself. So while music and movies could go on a card, that increases the price and adds hassle.

Also the CPU and Graphics chip are both last-generation. Not only does this mean lower performance, but also worse battery life.

The second big point was the keyboard. The basic keyboard is goddamn unusable for touch typing, and even the pro keyboard is terrible. The travel and response of the keys is not good, the layout has several weird choices in it (just look at the arrow keys), and the touchpad is small. I was looking at this as a serious laptop replacement, and having a janky keyboard just wasn't going to fly.

At the same time, the keyboard is just loosely clipped onto the body. So you can't actually hold the thing on your lap AND use the keyboard well. You HAVE to put it on a table or something, and you can't adjust the angle of the screen so god help you if there's any glare, or your chair is the wrong height.

What I ended up getting was this and I'm very happy with it. 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, newer generation chips so better battery and performance. The keyboard is much nicer in every way, and since the screen has a real hinge it's a laptop that actually works on your lap. The only tradeoff is it's slightly thicker in tablet mode, but since at least half my time will be spent using the keyboard it's well worth it.

Honestly I was sad that the Surface wasn't better. It seems like Microsoft has an incentive to sell better hardware for cheap to grab some market share, but there were just too many compromises on specs and design for it to be attractive.

Comment Re:impossible (Score 3, Insightful) 297

which is why infrastructure projects should all be privately funded, then their economic viability, success or failure are on the backs of the owners and not tax payers.

Let's explore that thought a bit.

Say the local islanders dislike Mr. Ellison's policies. Say, for example, that someone wants to start a local airline which competes with the ones that already serve the island. Well, the ones that serve the island are owned by Ellison, and any competition is going to eat into profits. Fortunately (for him) he also owns the airport, so he can just refuse to allow the 3rd party airline to fly there.

Of course this competing airline could start their own airport, but that's likely prohibitively expensive. And even if they had they money, Larry owns all the land on the island, so he can just refuse to lease them land on which to run an airport.

The inhabitants of this island are, for all intents and purposes, indentured peasants to Larry Ellison. He has an effective monopoly on their food, housing, and transport off the island, and they have only as much say in how he runs things as he feels like letting them have. If you honestly think that's a good way to live, then I'll be happy to purchase your house and vehicle from you and let you pay me rent (at a rate that I choose, of course).

Of course Lanai is an extreme example, but similar problems occur when you try to run certain types of infrastructure projects with private companies on the mainland. For certain classes of things like roads, water/sewer lines, and probably electric, the amount of space and planning required makes it prohibitive to build multiple competing services. You can't have a city based on TWO separate street grids. And trying to run more than one water system or electric grid through the same town would get intrusive and immensely confusing in all but the most sparsely populated areas.

So what you end up with out of necessity is either a government monopoly or a private one. You no longer have the ability to "take your money elsewhere" so the private company has zero incentive to listen to you. With the government monopoly, though, you get two major benefits: one, you're guaranteed a vote, and in a local government that means a lot more than at the federal level; and two, the government's goal is to serve the needs of the citizens, NOT to make a profit off them.

In short, you've grossly oversimplified the problem. Of course private corporations COULD own and run infrastructure projects. Nobody's disputing that. But it's highly unlikely that they would run it WELL in cases where competition isn't feasible.

Comment Re:Rogue employees (Score 1) 457

No. Just no. SAYING that data protection trumps all concerns is common. So is wanting to hit your yearly goals by shipping your project, and agreeing with the objectives your VP sets. Sure, some people really want to do the right thing, and sometimes they even have enough time to figure out what that is, and enough backbone to stand up for it. But that combination exists in way less of middle management than you seem to think it does.

Comment Re:doesn't work (Score 1) 597

The problem with Agile is that it gives too much freedom to the customer to change their mind late in the project and make the developers do it all over again.

Call me crazy, but I always thought Agile was developed in response to customers doing exactly that, but under methodologies where it was much more expensive to do so.

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