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Comment Re:Semiconductor market shrinking (Score 2) 40

It's not really shrinking, it is maturing. Over the last few decades the semiconductor market has moved from a relatively large number of smaller disruptive companies to a relatively small number of larger streamlined companies. As an example, consider how many CPU architectures there were in the '80s and '90s. You had x86, 680x0, MIPS, Alpha, SPARC, PA-RISC, just to name a few. Now there is x86 (the modern version of it) and ARM.

You can also look at car companies in the first half of the 20th century. Lincoln, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Dodge, et. al. were independent car companies when cars were still new. They were acquired by what became the "Big Three" US automakers before the merger of Dialmer-Chrysler. Maybe electric vehicles will be enough of a disruptive market to foster more auto companies.

The large development costs and relatively stable products of mature markets favor large, streamlined companies that can benefit from economies of scale. The fast changing nature of new markets favor small agile companies that can be disruptive. We are in the later stages of the maturation of the semiconductor industry.

Comment Relax, it's going to be better than you think (Score 2) 536

I get the anxiety over a change like this. There will be some pain involved in the transition, particularly if you have an analog headset you like. However, as USB-C audio gains traction it will work well.

Standards will mature so that any headset will work with any phone, car, computer, etc. Power consumption will come down. DRM won't be enforced in the headset. Charge through connectors will become common. In other words, as the market grows, things that piss people off will get fixed.

At the same time, more features will be available. High end headsets will have high end DACs built in with PAs that are tuned to the speakers in the headset. In addition to basic headsets, advanced headsets will be available with DSPs for programmability.

Also, the analog 3.5mm jack is no picnic. It has been extended ad-hoc over the years and phones never know what could be plugged in.

So relax, it will be alright. Even if the analog jack disappears completely, it will take a while.

Comment A little self serving, but there is a point there (Score 1) 171

While the comment regarding coding miss the mark and is in line with the latest groupthink from non-techies thinking that computer science is just typing with curly braces, there is a valid point about the cultural shift away from science in the USA.

In the USA we seem to be giving up on science. Our pop culture glorifies lawyers, advertisers, financial middle men, and sales. The scientists and engineers are almost always portrayed as awkward, unhappy, and somehow flawed. This has always been the case to some extent, but it seems far more pervasive now. From what I have seen, the graduate programs in science and engineering are filled with foreign students because american students aren't interested anymore. We stopped making things long ago, now it seems like we have stopped doing things. Our science and engineering economy is still strong because people still move here.

I work as an electrical engineer and our group has people from all over the world. Somewhere between 5% - 10% are from the US, the rest typically did undergraduate work overseas and got a graduate degree in the US.* I have noticed that below a certain age, you see almost 0 American engineers. Most of the American engineers I see are old enough to have grown up in an era where the US valued science and engineering. IOW, when we still had a space program and computing was relatively new.

*This is not a visa abuse situation. Most people are on fast track to a green card, buy houses here, raise their families here, become US citizens, etc.

Comment Re:Isn't it fun to be part of an unsuccessful expe (Score 1) 168

I'll make a bet right now that killing the headphone jack will be a step too far and Apple will be forced to bring it back pretty quickly.

I sincerely doubt that. I think the real question is whether Apple sticks with lightning or switches to USB-C. USB-C audio will be standardized. There is a lot of anxiety over the 3.5mm jack now but I feel that is due to uncertainty.

I realize this is a little off-topic, but here goes anyway. My predictions:
1. Phones will transition to digital audio quickly as the product cycle is fast. Most people won't notice.
2. 3.5mm analog jacks will stick around as a secondary option for a while, but eventually disappear.
3. Computers will switch to USB-C too. The 3.5mm jack will stick around longer there because computers tend to be bigger, have more ports, and longer life cycles nowadays.
4. TVs, home stereo equipment, cars, etc. will pick up USB-C digital audio as well (following the now established standard). This transition will be slower than computers, but it will still happen.
5. When this is all over, people will think of USB-C similar to how they think the of the 3.5mm jack now. IOW, a ubiquitous standard that can do anything, why would you want to muck with it. By this time, USB-C will be the de-facto port for video, audio, peripherals, charging, docking stations, etc.
6. If Apple is still using lightning at this point, they are doing it solely to control users.

Now, this is speculative but I do feel that this will happen. It feels a lot like the first round of USB adoption. I remember being upset that firewire didn't take off and fumbling with the various PS/2 to USB adapters, cursing at bad drivers, etc. But USB did eventually replace a group of interfaces and most things work smoothly without hassle. USB-C is not one company's pet, it is being developed and promoted with wide participation from the industry. Lightning is, however, one company's pet and that is the potential monkey wrench in this situation.

Comment Re:Devil's Advocate (Score 1) 595

Just to chime in here, the 3.5mm connector in phones is a royal PITA.

1. Sure the 3.5mm jack is "standard" but it is a physical standard only and there is no uniformity. There are 2, 3, 4, and even 5-pole plugs. The phone needs to detect this and respond accordingly. Also, headsets with a microphone use 4-pole connectors but sometimes the mic and ground pins are swapped. The phone needs to detect this and respond accordingly. These circuits degrade analog performance.

2. FM and audio do not play well together. In many countries people like to listen to FM radio on their phones. Using the headphones as the antenna sounds nice until you realize that the FM antenna filters increase crosstalk and distortion in the audio. Digital TV signals are even worse.

3. Phones need to detect what is plugged into the jack. That means stere/mono, microphone, pinout, speaker impedance, etc. Can you tell the difference between an extension cable vs. a pair of headphones vs. a headset with microphone vs. a headset with buttons. Again, this adds complexity and usually you can hear clicks and buzzes while this is being done.

However, digital headsets are not all rainbows and unicorns either. There is the obvious lightning vs USB-C issue. Battery drain may increase. Cost will increase (at least initially). But all of the issues mentioned above with the 3.5mm jack get resolved.

I think the DRM issue is a red herring. Music is moving away from DRM now anyway.

Comment Re:It's the iMac and USB all over again. (Score 1) 595

The same thing happened in 1998. Geeks everywhere told Apple to screw themselves for coming out with a 'proprietary' connector USB that no one else used. Forcing everyone to buy new mice and keyboards and ... oh the humanity.

Not buying an Apple product? Why the hell do you care?

This. USB-C is coming and it will be everywhere. Don't underestimate that. I would be surprised if Apple sticks with lightning much longer. Of course, they would piss off everyone who just bought lightning adapters and if any company can swim upstream with a custom connector it would be Apple.

Comment Re:AES is Belgian (Score 2) 312

The name of the algorithm behind AES is Rijndael -- a combination of the names of the Belgian cryptographers who developed it.

Right. And after 10 seconds of searching, one finds the Wikipedia page on AES:

The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), also known as Rijndael[4][5] (its original name), is a specification for the encryption of electronic data established by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2001.[6]

AES is based on the Rijndael cipher[5] developed by two Belgian cryptographers, Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen

I don't know which possibility is more concerning: that the director has such myopic American exceptionalism or that he would expect the public to be so stupid.

Comment If the mobile site stays, fix the comment filter (Score 1) 166

The mobile site handles comment ratings in a weird way. IMO, either fix that or kill the site.

For example:
1) When filtering comments by rating, ALL the titles are shown so you have to scroll through every comment regardless of the applied filter. This is a PITA on a mobile screen.
1a) The comment titles are loaded 100 at a time. So, for articles with lots of comments you have to scroll through a bunch of comments that are below the current threshold and then reload more. And then repeat.
2) Even when reading comments with a filter, it is nice to be able to see the parent of a comment or a reply even if it is below the current threshold.

The regular site handles this well. Often I am more interested in the reader comments than the article. Technical headlines where the article is written as sensational pseudo-clickbait are a good example. It is not unusual for some Slashdot readers to be closely involved in the topic at hand and then post relevant comments. Sometimes I just have a few minutes to surf the web and I will skip the article and read the comments with a filter. The users make the site worth reading and the current mobile site gets in the way.

Comment Re:Again? (Score 1) 121

I think the idea is to use hydrogen as an energy storage alternative to batteries. The problem with batteries is that the basically suck. Sure, they suck a lot less than they used to but they are heavy, expensive, and take a long time to charge.

The (over-)simplified system with batteries is:
        power source -> electricity distribution network -> charge battery -> power motor

The charge battery step is the long one. Even though EVs with a few hundred miles of range will work very well for the vast majority of urban travelers, the long charge time prevents the use of EVs in any long distance use cases.

Using hydrogen changes the (again, over-)simplified system to:
        power source -> hydrogen generation -> fuel distribution network -> fill H2 tank -> fuel cell -> power motor

This system has its problems, to be sure. However, it replaces the "charge battery" step with "fill H2 tank" which can operate similarly to filling gasoline tanks today. It does require new infrastructure development, but then long distance travelers, transportation drivers, delivery drivers, etc. can go about their day and re-fill the H2 tanks when necessary.

Is it worth it? I don't know. But it is an other avenue to solving addressing the limitations with batteries.

Comment Wow, it seems like someone doesn't like engineers (Score 5, Insightful) 497

Many statements from the summary directly contradict my personal experience. The summary states:

"Survey data indicates engineering faculty at universities are far more likely to be conservative than people with other degrees, and far more likely to be religious."

Well, I'm an engineer and I work with engineers all day. I find the majority to be fairly liberal and not very religious. I always thought that it was a result of people being intelligent and familiar with the scientific method that made them less likely to swallow propaganda and dogma. Also, it is a largely foreign population and that is a factor since I meet the people who were educated enough to get jobs in different country from their own. I find that it is we Americans who are conservative and religious.

Also, the summary states:

"Gambetta and Hertog speculate that engineers combine these political predilections with a marked preference towards finding clearcut answers."

I speculate that Gamgetta and Hertog are fearful and jealous of engineers. I work in chip design and there are very few clearcut answers. Furthermore, your opinion on whether or not something is a good idea has no bearing on whether or not it actually is. I find that to be a major difference between engineering and the the more "normal" fields; you have to build things that work in the real world, your ability to persuade someone will not improve the quality of whatever it is you are building. If my chips don't work, I can't argue in front of a judge that they really do work. Nor can I publish a book speculating how good they really are. No, I fscked up and I have to deal with it.

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