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Comment Re:Not a watch (Score 1) 97

What Apple can learn is to manage expectations. Pebble lost credibility because they promised a lot and then could not deliver.

I don't agree with this narrative and I never have.

When your Kickstarter goes viral and you score a 100x multiple on your modest proposal—a proposal which involves custom electronics hardware—you face a monumental problem: having to put a one year warranty on a beta++ prototype you shepherded into mass production with a virgin organization in building mode. You're not exactly a six-sigma shop that never gets a simple ignition switch wrong. The American government isn't going to step in to tide you over if an unexpected recall of 2.5 million vehicles tips your balance sheet into the red.

I bought two Pebbles, and presently one is dead and the other has an issue with garbling the display where I can't always read what it says, and sometimes when I can read what it says, the time isn't correct, because it hasn't successfully updated for 10 minutes.

The dead watch (which went from functioning perfectly to hardly functioning at all in the space of a day) is a more advanced case of the same problem. It still seems to function in many respects, but the screen just flashes garbage with here and there a surprise appearance of a proper image. At this point, the correct screens are so rare it's impossible to navigate any watch menu (unless I use my other watch as a guide dog for the blind).

On the one that still barely works, some of my watch faces are more garbled than others. I've done plenty of micro-electronics troubleshooting in my time, and this looks a lot like loss of signal integrity between the CPU and the display chip due to an insufficient voltage margin. It could be as simple as the battery not responding to current transients as quickly as it once did, so that you see a bounce brown-out that barely dips enough to induce a few corrupt bits on a data signal. You're oh so close. Close, but no cigar. It only takes one wrong bit per screen update to ruin everything, if it's the wrong wrong bit.

Back when People was slipping schedule, people complained bitterly that other companies manage to bring products to mass production a lot faster than Pebble. These people are idiots. If Pebble experiences a 20% failure rate in the field of their delivered product, and has to honour it's warranty on all these failed watches, what exactly is Plan B? Fold up their tent? As it turns out, they did raise some venture capital. VCs don't come along with a fistful of dollars to throw into an RMA pit.

Given their economic and technical parameters, I thought Pebble did just fine in delivering what they did deliver. After a certain point, though, I actively disliked their communication policy. They handled the issue of the colour additives messing with their plastics rather atrociously.

I made one attempt to get my failed Pebble replaced and the communication dried up on their end. By the time I figured out I wasn't going to get the next response, I had become too busy in my own life to pursue it, and I was beginning to notice my other watch glitching and becoming erratic. I figured I would wait until it was bad enough to declare it officially failed, and pursue replacement of both watches in tandem. Based on when I received my watches, I'm guessing I have about a month left on my warranty now.

If they honour their warranty (and the replacements prove more reliable than the first two) I'm still a big believer in the Pebble platform. I couldn't do what I wanted to do with these watches until the 2.0 SDK came out and that has only been out since my watches became unreliable. No point investing in the new API until I find out whether I'm going to have working watches or not.

No matter what Apple invents, it's simply not going to be as open as what I'm willing to invest my time into.

If Pebble turns this into a seventeen email exchange with a week-long delay after every volley, I'm just going to walk away from my Pebble investment, like any other investor who dabbles in a risk bearing portfolio.

Pebble's original delivery problem was inherent in how Kickstarter works. There is no such thing as an electronics production plan where 1x, 10x, and 100x production volumes share identical schedule lengths. Every order of magnitude is a different fish. Sometimes a volume bump permits you to leap over roadblocks. Sometimes the volume bump makes it harder to sleep at night, out of fear that the whole thing turns into a GM ignition switch.

Because Kickstarter feeds on momentum, no adult in the room ever shows up to point out that the subscription euphoria is putting the project onto a negative delivery ramp: that addition subscribers are having the net effect of delaying the product for everyone.

Pebble could have afforded to have a 30% return rate on a production run of 1000 units if a subsequent production run was already well subscribed and they had by then ramped up their production process to a much higher success rate.

They certainly couldn't afford a garish return rate on 80,000 units all delivered at once.

Scenario A: Somebody hands you the keys to a $10,000 econobox and asks you to back it out of a long, tight driveway. You're a little nervous, and exercise more caution than normal.

Scenario B: Somebody hands you the keys to a $100,000 Range Rover and asks you to back it out of a long, tight driveway. You're a little nervous, but you take it extremely carefully and all goes well.

Scenario C: Somebody hands you the keys to a $1,000,000 Ferrari and asks you to back it out of a long, tight driveway. You're more than a little nervous. The first time you tap the gas pedal, it jumps back six feet. You attempt to shift it into drive to pull forward and start again, and something makes a thunking sound. Is it supposed to sound like that, or did you just trash the tranny? You're not so familiar with this kind of car.

How long is it going to take you to back the Ferrari out of the drive way? Half as much time because the car is 10x more powerful?

Sorry, Kickstarter idiots, life doesn't work that way. Yet it seems to be what most unthinking subscribers presumed in rallying behind the myth that Pebble over-promised and under-delivered.

I just wish my two watches worked reliably enough to be worth rolling up my sleeves and custom programming them as I originally envisioned back when I first subscribed.

Comment Re:It's about time (Score 1) 455

And as stores aren't allowed to pass the fees along to the card holder every person gets stuck paying for the rich guy with the black card.

Amen, brother. Any right wing neoliberals out there should be as hopping mad about this as about raising taxes.

Paying for a service you don't receive has no place in a free market economy. If VISA is providing a service that people value, then people will choose to pay with their card, despite any additional fees incurred for the service provided.

No, but really what VISA is doing is taxing every consumer, whether we value the service they provide or not, then gifting it back to card holders in the form of a rewards program with a spendy redemption clause.

At some level this is against my personal financial interest, but I pay for everything with my debit card (universally accepted in Canada) at the same price as those paying with credit cards, through I receive no bonus rewards. But I do get a nice free market glow of refusing to accept the terms of the free market-abusing assholes who run the credit card oligopolies. I make up my loss by working harder at being an unconsumer.

Comment grrrr self-reply (Score 1) 262

I did write "break pedal" while still sucking down first coffee. At least I didn't type "break petal". I've done that, too.

Some people experience a brief paralysis on waking. This is caused by different parts of the brain waking up in different order. The brain ordinarily wakes up the steering wheel before the gas pedal, but there are sometimes exceptions.

Comment Re:energy from BRAKING - best for stop-and-go (Score 2) 262

If you are a careful driver and plan ahead to avoid quick braking, and also accelerate at a very modest rate your benefits would be small with this kind of system. It helps compensate for aggressive driving but it seems like it won't benefit drivers that already are trying to get good gas mileage.

I live in a modest coastal city where the traffic is relatively sedate. My main problem avoiding unnecessary use of the break pedal is that so many traffic lights appear suddenly as you crest a hill or exit a sweeping turn giving you no immediate indication of phase, and then BAM! just before the point of no return it goes yellow.

I pretty much make all my velocity decisions in phase space: how close in position/velocity to I wish to be with the traffic around me at which points in the terrain? I've read that gasoline engines are at the top of their conversion efficiency mound when producing about 2/3rds of maximum rated power, so I'm not shy about briefly laying it on to make a quick adjustment in phase space, but always with the goal of making the least possible use of my brake pedal later on.

Also, we've pretty much capped our top speed at 90 km/l since we're driving a small truck. We had a lovely Toyota Truck from way back that traded some paint at xmas. The smallest replacement truck we could find at a fair price is the ubiquitous Ford Ranger, which is a complete joke as representing a "small" truck.

The chicken tax: Why it's hard to find a small pickup truck

Fifty years ago, the United States slapped a 25 per cent tariff on imported brandy, dextrin, potato starch and small pickups. This was in retaliation to tariffs on imported American chicken imposed by countries like France and Germany.

To this day, the 25 per cent tariff on small pickups remains.

Sad news, ideologues. The entire electable spectrum has left the chicken tax alone, from Nixon to Bush to Clinton to Carter.

Countdown traffic lights may cause accidents, study says

Guess what? The carbon emissions also have a definite consequence. If not climate, then conflict. What's really going on here is escaping the horror of first order terms; it's an actuarial NIMBY effect. One death is a statistic. A billion deaths are somebody else's problem, if the coefficient can be construed as the least bit vague.

The real problem with countdown lights is that they require driver judgement. What you really want are a kind of runway light which indicates whether, from where you are—maintaining your current speed—you're going to make it through or not. The number the driver needs is dependent on individual conditions.

One way to do this would be to pot amber indicators in the pavement calibrated to the speed limit (it really should be called the "speed notice" or the "speed weed"—expect to be noticed/plucked if you drive faster than this). If you're driving at the speed limit, and the nearest such indicator in your forward path is illuminated amber, then you will arrive at the intersection in the amber condition.

If you gun it from 150 meters out from some low initial speed, you'll probably notice that you're losing the race with the amber rabbit in time to rethink your testosterone surge. If not, count on losing the long war of technological measures designed to strip you of your driving privilege. Driving stupidity/dead pedestrians breeds cameras. What part of this simple equation can't these people figure out?

This helps to explain the mysterious Flynn effect, where IQ is purportedly rising in the general population, but it's hard to see in real life. Nobody takes an IQ test sitting behind a steering wheel after rushing out of the house 15 minutes after waking from a dead sleep to a shrieking clock, still fumbling with your phone to check that there's nothing vital you need to know before arriving at the last minute to an important meeting, first thing. That would cancel out the Flynn effect faster than McD's can serve up an egg McMuffin.

IQ is like the mass of the electron uncorrected by the Feynman diagram. Most people spend much of their day swathed in moron/anti-moron particle pairs with a half-life of about 200 ms. Plenty of time to bend metal.

Flywheels do a good job of capturing moronium heat loss from these interacting causes: poor public design, and brain-dead driving public. However, with less moronium in the first place, we could have better design and better decisions. A flywheel weighs about as much as one passenger and you carry it all the time. Cluons are like neutrinos. The extra mass is almost imperceptible.

Guess which is coming down the pike.

Comment on closer look, she's sorta okay (Score 1) 242

I just watched [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMu_md_5PQ4 Olivia Fox Cabane: Build Your Personal Charisma] after reading TFA.

TFA drive me nuts with the smooth smooth smooth smooth smooth "I'm going to say something eventually" writing style. About 25% of the way in, I was going "just fucking spit it out, if you've got something to say".

Olivia's video presentation is stiff for the first half, but warms up when she gets to warmth, and she does a reasonable job of the question session afterward. This is less a cult than simple consciousness raising. We so rarely think about how charisma is manufactured. We treat it like juicy sausage. Either you've got it or you don't.

What it really boils down to is that as emotional beings, many of us live life hanging our dirty laundry in the front yard, and letting the paper cups from our recycling bin catch in the wind and blow up and down the street. No, the charismatic house is the one with the nicely tended garden—even if there's a giant compost bin in the back yard behind the fence.

She also mentions the power of the placebo effect. I think by this she means that powerful people have to pay powerful fees in order to feel powerful medicine.

The rest of us can buy generics and do just fine.

Comment decision tree avoidance behaviour (Score 1) 323

Local DVD rental store: 10,000 titles in the back catalog. $7 for three rentals, one week. $10 for five rentals, one week.

Netflix can blow themselves blue.

True, I have to wait two years for hit titles to slide off the best renter shelf. This sometimes diverts me to the Criterion shelf. Actually, it's more of an entire wall display than a mere shelf, with as many titles as my local Blockbuster used to have in their entire single-copy foreign movie Independence Day refusnik kiosk (hidden behind the Snack and Grab), the top shelf of which barely came up to my belly button. When I wanted Gong Li, I had to show some butt crack.

I was always determined to stoop.

Comment EFF bites Orwell (Score 1) 405

If the EFF really wants to take a bite of Orwellian ass, they should campaign relentlessly to have the phrase "identity theft" replaced by the phrase "credential theft".

FFS, no-one can steal my gosh-darned identity until they can call up any of my nearest and dearest family members and convince them that it is really me over the course of an hour-long phone conversation.

I'd count that as actual identity theft.

All we get for this careless throwing around of the phrase "identity theft" is taking the spotlight off how poorly designed and implemented many of these credential mechanisms really are. The big institutions ought to wear their own failures, rather than making their customers take the heat, in particular, the insane persistence of black marks even after one has conclusively demonstrated that the black mark was a bungle to begin with.

How this isn't covered under "slander" is scandalous.

Comment supercilious bastress (Score 5, Interesting) 40

The man deserves it. He rocks. I've loved the precision of his engagement with fundamental assumptions since my first encounter with the Baker's algorithm.

My Writings is a good time killer. One of my favorite passages is this one:

Writing the proofs turned out to be much more difficult than I had expected. I worked very hard to make them as short and easy to understand as I could. So, I was rather annoyed when a referee said that the proofs seemed to have been written quickly and could be simplified with a little effort. In my replies to the reviews, I referred to that referee as a "supercilious bastard". Some time later, Nancy Lynch confessed to being that referee. She had by then written her own proofs of clock synchronization and realized how hard they were.

They did a fair amount of work together, judging by all the other places her name appears.

Comment I welcome the centenarian SAT (Score 1) 334

I welcome the centenarian SAT, wherein the desiccated (if not decrepit) demonstrate that they retain the mental flexibility to allow necessary social change to redefine the terms of continued living.

The movement loses most of its gloss when retirement age gets bumped to 165. Under present conditions, the extremely gifted can amass enough wealth by the present retirement age to coast on equity for a long time.

This of course all changes once life extension begins to rock the boat. Living forever will, however, always remain highly appealing for the 1% of the 1% of the 1%.

Comment decomposing correctly (Score 0) 167

Nice. What's different or unfamiliar is incorrect.

'cause on the first day God wrote a specification document, on the third day he coded madly, on the sixth day God ticked off the last box on the acceptance test plan, and then he sat back and cracked open a can of Galactic Suds.

It comes in galaxies? You bet.

Comment untenable nanoseconds (Score 1) 193

That view is no longer tenable

I've attentively followed every stray tidbit to cross my radar about the shadow sector since the publication of The Puzzle Palace, about the peripheral ghosts of which my algebra professor had direct experience.

The gold box agencies can do traffic analysis at scale. They can model metadata at scale. They can't break every damn cipher at scale—neither can they employ the rubber hose password-getter at large scale (the Soviets managed to cover about 10% of their population with blue welts over a thirty year period, but ultimately this did no favours to their economy).

The best approach to scaling crackers is to leak key bits in the purportedly pseudo-random number nonce stream. This is the hardest tampering to identify from the outside of a black box. Even when the black box is reverse engineered and one discovers that random is far from uniformly random (with no stray key-space correlates), some idiot applies Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

How about we agree to make a small exception for the industrial-scale tainting of purportedly random numbers, where discerning the difference between malice and stupidity achieves an elite level of algebraic epsilon? Oh, look, one digit in the source code for the random number generator has a wrong digit. Must have been a careless mistake—as if careless mistakes are a dime a dozen in the land where a poor man's nonce is a persistent agency's key-space collapsing back-channel.

The NSA does not randomly shoot holes in the protection of the American public. Worse than having no back door is having a back-door that somehow becomes shared with the wrong people. What they want is to inject a weakness that only they can exploit, even when their adversaries discover their handiwork.

Just off the top of my head, one way to achieve this is to require that exploiting the leak requires having the intercept history of the channel in hand since day one. The unfortunate flip side is that the specificity of these methods of single-party Achilles-heal exploitation becomes a smoking gun to the presence of a far-from-blind watch master. No ruse is totally perfect.

But you can always keep 90% of the population busy debating whether metadata has any value, such that any debate that makes any progress at all contains only those people who were already sophisticated cranks (recruitment/rubber-hose scale, to mention the carrot and stick). It all works out.

If scale matters, assigning a scant value to metadata can not be so much as trivially entertained by a thinking person. Pity we have so few.

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