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Comment This is for civil small claims (Score 2) 103

This is for civil small claims cases, in which lawyers are rarely involved and which are largely set up to support people litigating in person.

They tend to be more about arbitration of unpaid invoices or failure to provide a service that's been paid for etc. I have a couple of friends who have used the small claims courts either against non-paying customers or companies that have stiffed them. In all cases they attended in person and were supported by the court staff rather than lawyers, and they all had good things to say about the staff and the system in principal.

These are very much not cases where high paid lawyers square up against each other and slog it out in a dramatic battle of rhetoric. In fact I've heard from a number of people that the judges who preside tend to take a dim view of trained lawyers trying to steamroller or confuse non-lawyers on the other side. These are not cases involving complex points of law. If the case gets more complex then it may be referred to a higher court.

This proposal makes a lot of sense to me for those sorts of cases. While the cost of using the small claims court can put people off using it, the time and disruption, especially if they are running a business, can be more of an impediment. The ability to handle much of the case without having to attend in person would make the whole system much better, and if it reduced the costs it would make the small claims court more accessible to many people to seek redress from companies. There's also lots of potential to design the online system in such a way as to provide lots of help and advice to non-legal people to they can make their case batter, which should also make the whole process more effective and fair.

Comment It's an interesting idea, but this line is bunk (Score 4, Insightful) 298

This is an intersting idea, and it would be fun to see it developed further, but this line really stuck out.

"Shall we continue to get killed because it is easier to produce aircraft with a design from 1950s?"

Bullshit. I'm not saying some improvement in air crash survivability isn't a good thing, but the idea that people are regularly dying because their aeroplane can't disassemble in midair and parachute them to the ground it frankly offensive to all the engineers who have worked over the years to make large scale commercial flying unbelievably safe.

Total number of air craft fatalities worldwide in commercial flight has been significantly less than 1000 per year for the last couple of decades. Something like 3.6 billion passenger journeys will be completed in 2016 (IATA estimate).

Safety is the single worst reason to throw away a tried and tested basic design that is fantastically safe and replace it with a much more complicated and new system.

Comment Re:Bad reporting. (Score 3, Informative) 323

The $13.25 is a calculation by Uber, not by the journalist. The journalists re-ran some of the calculations and got slightly lower figure.

"Internal Uber calculations, provided to BuzzFeed News by Uber, based on data spanning more than a million rides and covering thousands of drivers in three major U.S. markets — Denver, Detroit, and Houston — suggest that drivers in each of the three markets overall earned less than an average of $13.25 an hour after expenses."

Assuming Uber are not lying about the $13.25, that would still mean that if you worked 40 hours a week, every week of the year, you'd make $27,560 a year.

Whether this is a good or bad depends on how much ordinary taxi drivers make for a similar amount of work.

Uber has frequently talked about how much a driver's gross income will be as a way of encouraging people to join up, which is a nice bit of marketing, and standard practice for companies like Uber.

Comment Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" (Score 2) 388

This idea was part of the plot of Margaret Atwood's excellent The Handmaid's Tale.

The story is about a post war world in which fertility has plummeted due to the use of chemical weapons (I think), and the US is now run by an ultra-conservative christian authoritarian government (think a Christian version of Saudi Arabia), and the limited number of fertile women are essentially "breeders" (the Handmaids of the title), slaves who bare children for the ruling elite. It's a fantastic dystopian novel.

The authoritarian regime that controls the US in the story did away with cash. Then at a later point they simply suspended women's access to any kind of payment system. Without recourse to cash they were utterly powerless. I've always felt The Handmades Tale was a far scarier book than 1984 (which is also great), because it seemed much more plausible, especially as such societies essentially already exist.

Unlike some of her other books, The Handmaid's Tale is a short and quick read, well worth an evening or two.

Comment Re:Interview "Grilling" or "Testing" is Poppycock (Score 1) 227

Genuine question, because I occasionally have to interview people: how do you interview people, and what sort of questions do you ask to try and work out if they are the right kind of person?

Being a small firm we don't hire very often, so we don't get much practice, it's good to hear how other people do it.

We will ask people to talk us through how they would solve a problem, or work with a client, but we are far more interested in their approach and how they think through the problem, and they are not abstract "invert this binary tree" type puzzles but real-world issues we've encountered.

We do ask developers to do a couple of simple programming tasks just to make sure they can actually code fluently (in any language, using any tool they like, and on a laptop not a whiteboard). As a sanity check it seems to work quite well.

Comment I really hate reports like this (Score 3, Interesting) 622

1) Combine two things that are sort of similar but not really - e.g. EVs and hybrids or tablets and e-ink e-readers
2) Make a statistical claim about the combined group - 'People are leaving EVs and hybrids", "Tablets and E-readers bad for sleep/eyes"
3) Forget to mention one of the two in the headline - 'People dump EVs', 'E-readers bad for sleep/eyes"

By combining the two, this report doesn't really tell us anything useful. I'd love to know the different rates of people abandoning EV or hybrids, as I think they are two very different propositions.

Hybrids, at the end of the day, are simply a different way of building efficient petrol/diesel powered cars. From what I've heard that efficiency has been a lot less in real life, with milage claims for things like the Prius not really living up to the hype. With ever more efficient petrol engines on the market, and gas prices so low, the efficiency improvements have to be pretty significant to make a big difference and to offset the higher cost of buying many hybrids.

EVs on the other hand are a totally different beast, and the reasons people might give up on them are different. Are people buying EVs and then finding range is more of a problem than they thought? Did they have problems finding charing points? Was overnight, at-home charging not good enough for them? Etc, etc.

In addition, this report talks about the number of people who are trading in their EVs/Hybrids for something else. But that doesn't really tell us anything about how much people like EVs and Hybrids as it only includes people who are switching. It doesn't provide any analysis of how many people are keeping their EVs for longer.

What's most annoying is that there are genuinely interesting questions to be asking about the EV and hybrid market, but this data isn't really answering any of them well.

Comment Summary misses out the actual feature... (Score 4, Informative) 70

What a shock, a slashdot summary that misses the actual salient point of the linked article...

Here's the description of the new feature from the linked article:

If the same site was accessed in Chrome 43 -- which is beta now but should be stable in May -- the warning should vanish thanks to a browser Content Security Policy directive known as Upgrade Insecure Resources. The directive “causes Chrome to upgrade insecure resource requests to HTTPS before fetching them”, Google explained today.

Here's Google's own description of the feature from the Chromium Blog:

Upgrading legacy sites to HTTPS

Transitioning large collections of unmodifiable legacy web content to encrypted, authenticated HTTPS connections can be challenging as the content frequently includes links to insecure resources, triggering mixed content warnings. This release includes a new CSP directive, upgrade-insecure-resources, that causes Chrome to upgrade insecure resource requests to HTTPS before fetching them. This change allows developers to serve their hard-to-update legacy content via HTTPS more easily, improving security for their users.

So basically this means you don't have to worry if you accidentally miss an HTTP asset link on your site when upgrading to HTTPS, Chrome will automatically do that for you.

Hopefully the other browsers will follow suit soon, otherwise it's of limited use.

Comment Re:15 minutes buffer ? (Score 2) 447

That's pretty much what happens with the voice and data recorders anyway, although for longer periods. The voice recorder records two hours (at a minimum), which is going to pick the entire runup to pretty much any crash (MH370 possibly being the exception).

Recording video for the same 2 hours seems very sensible to me. It's very easy to misinterpret noises or things people say if you don't have the full context.

I honestly don't understand the objections to video recording when you already have voice recording. What aspect of the privacy of someone who has died in a crash is going to be more negatively affected by seeing them, than by hearing them?

Comment Re:I don't think that means what you think it mean (Score 4, Interesting) 83

I can kind of see what he means, although I think the comparison with the uncanny valley is a bit weak.

I've taken to using Google Now's voice commands to set timers while I'm cooking, so something like "Ok Google, set a timer for 20 minutes". I don't have to touch my phone and it works brilliantly even in the noisy environments of a kitchen.

I've gotten used to talking to it in a very naturalistic way, which is where the problems occasionally crop up, and when they do they can be quite jarring.

A good example was the last time I asked it to set a timer for "an hour and a half", which Now interpreted as 1:00:30s, i.e. an hour and a half *minute*.

The jarring effect is at this edge where we feel like the speech recognition system is understanding what we say, but really it's just trying to use lots of different rules and patterns that have been coded in. If you happen to just fall outside of one of those rules it fails completely, and it can seem very arbitrary.

Comment Re:Might be a fit for EVs (Score 1) 103

The other reason is that an ICE can't generate force when at rest (unlike an electric motor), so getting going from stationary is impossible without a clutch. That's why, if you drive a manual, the engine has to be revved and the clutch gradually engaged, bleeding power into the axels while allowing the engine to run without stalling. Engage the clutch too fast and the engine will simply stall.

I believe External CEs like steam engines can generate force when at rest, so they don't need gearing.

It's one of the reasons by diesel trains (and some very large vehicals) are diesel-electric. A rail engineer I used to work with told me the gearbox and clutch needed to gear down a diesel engine to the point it could start a train would be enormous, bigger than a train car. Diesel electric trains are basically diesel generators that power electric motors, which is why they are sometimes used for emergency power.

Comment Re:On the shoulders of giants (Score 5, Interesting) 81

I second this. A lot of attention gets paid (understandably) to those researchers who discover some new particle, material, species etc, but science is utterly dependent on the brilliant people who are prepared to work in the background on less "sexy" topics.

X-Ray crystallography is a brilliant example, without all the work being done by brilliant experimentors like Elspeh Garmen who have worked so hard to make other people's discoveries and inventions possible.

As the biologist Steve Jones once put it, "Science is the last refuge of the mediocre". People focus on the geniuses but it's really a massive collaborative effort by a lot of actually pretty ordinary people who just like to investigate the unknown.

The BBC Radio 4 programme The Life Scientific had a great interview with Garmen who was very humble about a career that has had a massive impact on so many areas of research - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programme...

It's a really fantastic series if you want to get an idea of what real scientists actually do, and how they got to where they are in their careers.

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