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Comment Re:Gouge the middle class to make them poor (Score 0) 193

Of course, the nuclear family of the 1950s had:
a 1200 (not 2200) sqft house,
formica (not granite) counters, ...

But the house was owned - with a mortgage affordable on a single income and substantial equity in place.

The car was also either owned or being purchased on an auto loan (rather than leased), again with substantial equity from the down payment, and again paid for out of that single income - which was also feeding and clothing the 2.3 children and taking a nontrivial vacation once a year or so.

And I have no idea where you are getting those square footage numbers. Our family's houses (we moved a couple times once Dad got done with his degree and was buying rather than living in a student ghetto) were substantially larger than you describe, and were typical of the neighborhoods around them.

Yes, Formica: It was the big deal of the time. Granite is a recent vanity - and a REALLY STUPID idea if you actually USE the kitchen to prepare food on a regular basis. Drop a ceramic or glass utensil on a granite counter and it breaks. Drop it on Formica-over-plywood-or-hardwood and it usually bounces.

stainless steel appliances,
automatic dishwasher,
automatic dryer,
*might* have had a TV (not a 54" LCD),

Yeah we had all those boxes (though the appliances were be enamel rather than stainless). Also a console sound system - pre "Hi Fi" - AM, FM, and four-speed record changeer with diamond needle in the pickup.

The non-electronic appliances lasted for decades, too. (Even the electronics lasted a long time with occasional maintenance - which was required for vacuum tube based equipment - and was AVAILABLE.) Quite unlike the modern stuff. (My own family has been in our townhouse for about 17 years now and is on its third set of "stainless steel appliances", thanks to the rotten construction of post-outsourcing equipment by formerly high-end manufacturers. We're even on our third WATER HEATER: The brain of the new, governent mandated, eco-friendly, replacement flaked out after less than a year - and the manufacturer sent TWO MORE defective replacement brains and one defective gas sensor before lemon-replacing it.)

Comment Re:Gouge the middle class to make them poor (Score 4, Insightful) 193

It sounds more fair when you say charge less in poorer countries. However when you turn it around, it is gouge the people in less poor countries.

Especially given that GDP is not evenly distributed among the population. The bulk of the added revenue from technology driven productivity improvements (at least in the US) has gone to the denizens of the C suites and the government, not to the workers. GDP has soared while real-inflation adjusted after-tax income has stagnated or dropped for decades.

That's much of why a nuclear family in the '50s got along fine on a single income and a two-parent family now involves both parents working and the kids in child care, and the bulk of kids are in "non-traditional" family arrangements and/or on some form of public assistance.

So "gouge the developed world's middle class" is indeed what such a GDP-based scheme would accomplish.

Comment Re:i/o ports and support (Score 1) 109

The Pie has FreeBSD and other Linux distro support and lots of i/O to hook up other peripherals.

And I was running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS on a Beagle Bone Black in April of '04 (although its userland was running on a somewhat back-versioned kernel for a couple months until the guy doing the kernel ports got the proper one fully ported).

The Black is not the first Beagle Bone version, either, and it was running Debian Linux from the first time I encountered it. It has lots of I/O hookup opportunities - including onboard USB, Ethernet, video, and lots of GPIOs that can be configured to provide several serial ports and a number of buses, in addition to lots of wiggle wires. And you can stack peripheral boards on it, as well.

Plug in a wall wart, USB hub, keyboard, mouse, monitor, (and, if 4 or 8 Gigabytes of file systems feels too cramped, a USB drive or mount a filesystem from a fileserver). Bingo: a full-blown desktop system with about the power of a cellphone and smaller than a pack of cigarettes (excluding all the stuff you plugged into it, of course).

Which is not to say it's the best choice. it's just one I happen to be familiar with. There are a number of single-board machines out there. Cellphone processor technology is too powerful, cheap, and available to NOT be plowshared.

Comment Re:He's missing the point. (Score 4, Insightful) 139

It would be nice if people could learn to think in terms of threats that fell somewhere between "safe to ignore" and "extinction level event". Or could distinguish between "extreme and expensive" responses and "effective" ones.

9/11 could have been prevented by simple, conservative and inexpensive countermeasures. After 9/11 politicians droned on about how "9/11 changed everything," but the cold sober fact was that it in fact changed nothing. It just showed that some of the things sensible people had already been telling us to do (like reinforcing cockpit doors or getting agencies to work together despite institutional rivalries) really did need to be done. Instead "9/11 changed everything" became the rallying cry for every pet scheme that had heretofore been correctly dismissed as too expensive, hare-brained, or just plain dumb.

Which doesn't change the fact that something needed to be done. Here's the lesson I think we should take into this infrastructure debate: we should take sensible and conservative steps to secure infrastructure against terrorism now, before events put foolish ones on the table.

Comment Re:Good but... (Score 1) 116

Or... what if anytime anyone called a residential number, a nickel was transferred from the caller's account to the callee's account.

That wouldn't stop anyone from making a call where an actual person is likely to be involved; the labor costs for a three minute conversation would swamp that. But it would discourage people from robocalling a hundred thousand people in order to turn up a handful of suckers.

And the public wouldn't have to pay a regulator to try to track down these boiler room operations.

Comment Re:Agrument in favor of modularity (Score 1) 86

I don't have to do anything. Even stored under ideal circumstances li-ion batteries lose capacity.

What matter is capacity relative to demand. In a phone like the Droid Maxx from a few years ago with plenty of surplus battery the phone will still be usable four years later. But something like a Samsung Galaxy S6 barely has enough battery to make it through the day when brand new and is pretty much unusable two years later even under ideal conditions.

Comment Re:There's a lot more iron much closer... (Score 4, Informative) 293

And there's some twenty million tons of gold dissolved in the Earth's oceans. Jules Verne made it the source of Captain Nemo's incredible wealth.

To put twenty million tons of gold in perspective, all the gold that has ever been mined by humans totals up to about 180 thousand tons. To put in another perspective: sure, it's gold, but at a concentration of thirteen billionths of a gram per liter of seawater it's worthless unless you have unlimited time and energy to extract it.

That's the problem with asteroid mining in general. Until the cost of changing an object's momentum goes down drastically it's not worth doing. If Pysche were a 1000 kg block of pure, refined platinum (market price: $34 million) you'd be hard-pressed to retrieve it and return it to Earth at a profit. Which is not to say asteroid mining is a bad idea; but first things first: you've got to reduce the price of interplanetary propulsion by a couple orders of magnitudes. One thing that never happens in a sci-fi asteroid mining scenario is the hero worrying about running out of gas. Propulsion in stories is always practically limitless and free of charge. Real propulsion will never be that good, but it could get good enough.

Comment Re:Agrument in favor of modularity (Score 5, Interesting) 86

How much thickness do you think the extra outer layer of plastic adds to the phone? If it has to be more than a millimeter I would be surprised.

Personally, I think it has more to do with the fact the lithium ion batteries have a finite shelf-life than it does with thickness. That means in two years you need a new phone even if you never added any software to it and managed the battery recharging perfectly. Even if the phone had been sitting in a box all that time it'd have significantly less battery life.

Comment From TFA: (Score 1) 166

The patterns were a mishmash of unrelated structures that were as misleading as they were illuminating.

This pretty much describes the state of every branch of science after a major influx of new data. Just look at the maps of the world produced after Europe became aware of North America. Early maps sometimes show California as an island; and it's not because the cartographer is stupid; he just put the data at his disposal together into what was at the time a plausible conjecture. And in fact the problem might not even have been that he was ignorant. He may have misinterpreted some of the (at that stage) imprecise data he had to work with.

New information confounds. The detection and resolution of conflicts in data is arguably what science is.

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