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Comment Re:Windows is Bloated (Score 1) 133

As with a lot of annoying Microsoft things these days; the fact that you can't is more of a licensing issue than a technical one.

On the desktop, Windows 10 LTSB is the de-crapified version you actually want; but haha, volume-licensed enterprise SKUs only!

If you have the appropriate Windows Server version license; you can install "server core" or "nano server"; which have even more cut out; but while that can at least be purchased in single units; it's a fairly expensive way to declutter a workstation.

It took a while; but Microsoft did manage to disentangle a lot of the formerly mandatory bits and pieces; it's just that they seem loath to actually sell that to you unless they've exhausted all the alternatives.

Comment Re:Synonyms being used (Score 4, Insightful) 109

Any particular reason why we should just assume that only those nice, 'anonymized', 'statistics' were for sale; or that the 'anonymizing' done wasn't as pitifully weak as it often is?

Shockingly enough, people seem to be willing to pay more for data that are more or less cosmetically obfuscated, and trivial to correlate with information from other sources; and less for data that are actually anonymous enough to be impossible to reconstruct.

Comment Competition and survivor bias (Score 1) 97

Would have been interesting to look at whether improved customer satisfaction was correlated with increased local competition. I strongly suspect it is, not just because Comcast works harder to try to retain customers, but largely because the unhappiest customers leave as soon as they have an alternative. Even if actual customer service doesn't get any better, the people who remain are more satisfied on average.

Kind of like the famous demotivator says- "sometimes the best solution to workplace morale problems is just to fire all of the unhappy people."

When Google Fiber came to my area, Comcast sent door-to-door salespeople to try to get signups before people were committed to Google; Comcast was offering something like half its usual price. I knew it wasn't the salesperson's fault, but I couldn't help laughing in his face.

Comment 360 machine/assembly, FORTRAN, and PL/1 (Score 1) 629

Changed my major to CS in 1974; my first CS class (BYU), we started with a IBM 360 pseudo-machine code (on punched cards) and then moved on to actual 360 assembly (also on punched cards). Later in the semester, we had to buy a FORTRAN text (which I still have), teach ourselves FORTRAN, and pass a proficiency test. (My professor for that class was Dr Alan Ashton, who would end up being on of the co-authors of Word Perfect. Great teacher.)

At the same time, I started working part time for a computer-assisted translation research project on campus that was using PL/1; my first task was doing data entry of Spanish vocabulary, but I bought a text on PL/1 and started teaching myself.

I'd actually had some brief exposure to BASIC a few years earlier, but not enough to claim it was my first language.

Comment Re:I can't believe I'm defending Samsung... (Score 2) 119

Is there some sort of rule that vendor hostility becomes more acceptable as devices become smaller?

If the vendor specifically has to break the ability to remap a button; this fairly strongly implies that it was otherwise possible; and the only reason it is impossible now is because they don't want it to happen.

People tend not to feel the same way about fixed-function buttons in weaker devices because the limitations are more architectural than deliberate(and, if only thanks to a couple of decades of convergent evolution, there is often a reasonably sane quasi-default layout).

Comment Re:Remember kids... (Score 1) 22

Do you know what you pay 'royalties' on? Patents.

This case isn't about BB's patents(except in that access to some of them, in lieu of cash, might have been part of the royalties paid to Qualcomm); but you wouldn't have much of a royalties fight without some patents involved(in this industry; were these book publishers or authors, 'royalties' would imply copyrights; but aside from baseband code and drivers of very dubious quality, Qualcomm's IP reserves are largely patents).

Comment Re:So... (Score 3) 22

I don't disagree with those suspicions on BB's future revenue sources; but this particular spat involves BB trying to reduce they amount they were paying Qualcomm, so while the favorable judgement means they get a payment now, the net flow of money is from BB to Qualcomm, just with a dispute about how large it should be. It is conveivable that they could 'patent troll' while still paying the other guy(if, say, they used some combination of threats to get Qualcomm parts well below the usual price; but still had to pay something for them); but unless this royalty adjustment is astonishingly good, it seems more like an attempt to beat back Qualcomm's own...enthusiastic...deployment of IP claims.

Now, since BB barely sells actual products anymore; this big exciting payout is likely to be hard to repeat; and then they'll come out trolling; but this specific case against Qualcomm looks like part of the general industry backlash against the exciting business of cellular modem patents. Qualcomm has had some antitrust trouble in multiple venues, is in court with several customers, and generally seems to have made themselves unpopular of late.

Comment It's not the amount-it's tax incidence, incentives (Score 1) 903

Most European countries rely heavily on sales taxes/ VAT. Such a tax does very little to distort people's incentives or discourage productive behavior. The result is that they have significant revenue (and, unless they're profligate, less deficit spending) with less deadweight loss to the economy.

In the US, we rely primarily on taxing productive behavior (payroll, savings, income, corporate taxes).

We also fill the tax code with enough loopholes and targeted cuts that it resembles a sieve. The targeted cuts are effectively government spending/subsidies; they may seem well intentioned in isolation but on the whole they're doing more harm than good. (Bush Sr.'s advisers had the motto "broaden the base, lower the rate," which is part of why some of the Clinton years ran a surplus. I imagine the loopholes were back in force by midway through Bush Jr's presidency.)

Even if we have lower taxes on the whole, in many cases our taxes are doing more harm to businesses and workers. We can change this.

Consumption taxes have seemed to be a third rail- an untouchable topic - in US politics, largely because by themselves they are regressive. But there are plenty of ways to implement an overall progressive tax system using them, like the "Bradford X tax."

We should also shift some of the burden of "productivity taxes" to Pigouvian taxes, which tax things that cause costs to society. A good example was the revenue-neutral carbon tax proposed by Republicans in Washington state (and shot down by Democrats because it didn't give them more money to advance their social agenda).

Again, it's not that there aren't solutions - solutions which reasonable people on both sides of the aisle should find acceptable. It's that we can't scrounge up the political will and get elected representatives to act reasonably.

Comment Obvious (Score 1) 575

It's obvious why airlines overbook- it's a worthwhile gamble, given how frequently people can't make their flight.

But it's also obvious that if no one is taking them up on their compensation offers when the flight is overbooked, they aren't paying the social costs of their gamble, and so they're getting away with defrauding people.

The solution is obvious. Especially if people have already rightfully boarded the plane, they should only be removed voluntarily. Everyone on board turned down $800 compensation for missing the flight, but I'm sure somebody would have accepted $2,000 or less. If once in ten thousand flights nobody accepts an offer less than $20,000, the airline will just have to take that risk into account when they decide how much to overbook.

It doesn't take a great economist to come to this obvious conclusion; it was my immediate reaction and many others'. But I'll mention that a great economist has posted the same thing.

In this case, where it wasn't really overbooked but the airline needed to transport employees, already at $800 it's odd that they didn't just find another way to get one of their employees there (even by taxi).

Comment Re:Shocked I am. (Score 1) 29

Could also be a budget/marketing style thing.

I'd be fairly shocked if the Americans and the British are 'more ethical'(Gamma Group LTD. certainly comes up in some unpleasant news); but if you sell product through established channels to deep-pocketed American military customers, say, your goods may well end up assisting some fairly awful people(our 'basically anyone who says they hate terrorists more than they hate us is a freedom pal!' policy has led to some ugly friendships); but you probably have less incentive to slum around with whatever cover-story the Al Jazeera journalists cooked up.

If you are hungrier for customers, either because your military isn't buying, or because you are seen as a second-stringer, odds are much better that you'll be aggressively looking for work in ways that make it considerably easier to run this sort of sting. Much the same as conventional weapons: it's not as though good, honest, American killing gear doesn't show up in all sorts of nasty places; but you are going to have a harder time attracting a high end defense contractor to your skeezy meeting in a downmarket hotel than you are a hungrier independent dealer who doesn't have wealthy, largely dependable, clients to spend time cultivating.

Comment Re:And the funny thing is (Score 1) 138

Arguably, it's the 'equivalent infrastructure' bit that is particularly unrealistic. Duplicating a set of software components well enough to allow for drop-in replacement is hard enough; but it's at least theoretically doable if the target isn't moving too fast; and it has been done with varying levels of success.

"Infrastructure", though, is something that can't exactly be copied at zero marginal cost; and requires substantially more(both in terms of money;and in terms of things like mapping data) than mere API interoperability.

"API compatible with Google Play Services 10.2" is to "Equivalent infrastructure" roughly what "Eucalyptus" is to "AWS". The one is a piece of software. The other is a great deal bigger.

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