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Comment No, the reason is laws. (Score 3, Insightful) 88

There is a reason that American teenagers aren't working in orchards... if growers paid enough to get teens to take the jobs, nobody would be able to afford fruit.

No. The reason is that the laws (child labor, working conditions) make it impossible for them to use teenagers any more.

Meanwhile the illegals can't complain about working conditions - and will work for less than minimum wage in (those occupations where it applies.)

US citizens needn't apply because they can't compete. (Even if they were willing to work for sub-legal prices and/or in sub-legal conditions, the employer can't risk that they might turn around and demand the missing money or compensation for the conditions.) The illegals, meanwhile, can afford to work that cheaply because social programs can pay for much of the support of them and their families - turning programs intended to help the poor into subsidies for their employers.

Meanwhile, the government's non-enforcement of the laws against the illegals working means that, in highly competitive markets (such as construction contracting), employers are left with a Hobson's choice: Use illegal labor and be competitive, or try to use legal labor and go out of business.

Comment Re:If he gets paid extra for overtime... (Score 1) 367

Yes, but the headline asks "should", and I answered based on the case of how things are now and as far as I'm concerned if a company doesn't at least do 'a' AND they do not pay their employee for all hours worked (none do in my experience), they have no leg to stand on and should be thrown out the door without any further comment. In other words, employee is innocent until proven guilty. In reality it won't go down that way, but often does.

My actual opinion is that my option 'a' should be illegal and unenforceable (i.e. the employer only owns what they pay me to do), and as a matter of law investors should be aware that employees are not fully invested (fwiw, we're not anyway). In every place I have ever worked, 'a' is how it is done. Of course, I have never known people to actually adhere to it, they just hide is plausibly well.

This leaves employers with the option of hiring the necessary labor and/or paying for the work they need done and having strictly defined hours during which they own that employees time. This is the best, cleanest option, and the one most in keeping with the concept of employment. It's expensive, and it may be inconvenient, in urban areas it creates significant problems, but some can be mitigated.

The other alternative is being left with a court battle to prove that employee moonlight project was created as a direct consequence of work he was paid to do and therefore not his work. This would require specifically stating what work the employee is being paid to do. Proving this is not totally straightforward in all cases. But, and this is the best part, it does leave both the employee and employer in a state where they cannot be certain of the outcome and should prepare for any possible consequences. Employers would need to decide whether it is worth pursuing, which is basically the probability of winning/settling profitably. Cracking down on open source type projects would be unprofitable, for example. Employees would have to decide if their idea really is competitive or too work-relevant, and weigh potential consequences if they intend to become super rich entrepreneurs from the effort.

I have often considered writing some open source tools to replace the highly expensive, bloated crap I get from certain EDA manufacturers. I have resisted it since it really is too close to home (although strictly speaking, my employers are not in the EDA business) and my employer also owns everything I do. However if I did so, it would be open source and would probably be destructive to these companies whose existence is largely through parasitic and harmful maintenance contracts. On the other hand, it would absolutely lower the investment barrier to entering the market I am in where burn rates are measured in the 10s to 100s of millions a year (about half of which is in tool licenses and maintenance contracts), and enable more competition and product variation. Given a) the EDA companies in question tend to be large shareholders of my employers and b) my employers never want more competition, option 'a' above enables a perfectly anti-competitive setup and is actively harmful, even if the employee has no particular interest in greed, he just wants tools that work and obey 20 year old standards, dammit. But, I have little doubt that if I did this I would be squished like a bug, even if I went out of my way to conceal it.

This is just one way corporate ownership of employees lives is objectively harmful, even if one rejects the notion that employees should not be bound to their employer by anything other than delivering what they are paid to deliver.

Comment Part of why Silicon Valley is in CA (Score 1) 367

Most employment agreements are such that the company owns it even if it is outside of normal hours. So inventions you come up with on your own time are not yours.

And one of the key reasons Silicon Valley grew up in California is a law that, in effect, says:
  - As a matter of the state's compelling interest:
  - If you invent something
  - on your own time and not using company resources
  - and it's not in the company's current or expected immediate future business plan
  - you own it
  - regardless of what your employment contract says
  - and employment contracts have to include a notice of this.

Result: People who invent neat stuff their current company won't be productizing can get get together with a few friends, rent a garage across the street, and build a company to develop the new stuff. So companies bud off new companies, doing somewhat different stuff, like yeast. And the opportunity to get in on the ground floor attracts many other skilled people who might not be as inventive, but still wnt to be some of those "few friends" of the inventors.

Comment Re:Need this refined before I need a knee replacem (Score 1) 50

Sooner or later I will need a knee replacement. It would be nice to have a tissue one instead of metal and plastic.

I could use one now. I tore a meniscus in my knee a couple years ago, and it's healed as much as it will - which isn't enough. Surgery options only involve cutting it out (which leaves the bones rubbing each other) or replacing the whole joint (which is not only inferior but doesn't last as long a my current life expectancy).

Being able to drop in a replacement, grown from a printed scaffold of generic materials seeded with my own induced-pluripotent stem cells, would just fix it. (In fact it should fix it to be as good as it was decades ago, or maybe even better than it ever was.)

Comment Single target. (Score 1) 45

All [no standard] means is that websites will write their own version, some already have.


Also: In the race between weapons and armor, weapons always (eventually) win.

By creating a standard and getting the bulk of the "content providers" to adopt it, the WWWC creates a single big target that leads to breaking MOST of the DRM simultaneously. Meanwhile, content providers are left with the choice of getting behind the big target or being non-standard.

Which is fine: Like WEP, or a locked screen door, DRM won't protect things forever. But, like a "No Trespassing" sign, it DOES indicate INTENT forever. Intent of the content provider to limit access, and intent of the unauthorized content viewer to bypass that limit. That takes the "I didn't mean to do it." defence away, and gets any legal cases down to examining whether the poster of the No Trespassing sign had the right to limit the access and/or the crosser of the boundary had a right to obtain access.

Comment Re:You can't generalize. (Score 1) 367

It does *sound* a bit sociopathic, doesn't it? But sociopathy is a pathological disregard for the rights of others. While deception is often used to violate someone's rights, but it can *also* be used to protect someone's rights.

For example if I knew an employee was embezzling money, I don't have to tell him I know. I can deceive him into thinking I'm not on to him until I gather enough proof or discover who his accomplices are. This is deceptive, but not a violation of his rights.

Comment You can't generalize. (Score 2) 367

Anyone who works on unauthorized personal projects should certainly expect to be subject to firing. But as a supervisor I would make the decision to fire based on what is best for my employer. That depends on a lot of things.

I don't believe in automatic zero tolerance responses. The question for me is whether the company better off booting this guy or disciplining him. Note this intrinsically unfair. Alice is a whiz who gets all of her work done on time and to top quality standards. Bob is a mediocre performer who is easily replaced. So Alice gets a strong talking to and Bob gets the heave-ho, which is unfair to Bob because Alice did exactly the same thing.

But there's a kind of meta-fairness to it. Stray off the straight and narrow and you subject yourself to arbitrary, self-interested reactions.

Now as to Alice, I would (a) remind her that anything she creates on company time belongs to the company (even if we're doing open source -- we get to choose whether the thing is distributed) and (b) that any revenue she derives from it rightly belongs to the company. But again there's no general rule other than maximize the interests of the company. I'll probably insist she shut down the project immediately and turn everything over to the company, but not necessarily. I might choose to turn a blind eye. Or maybe even turn a blind eye until Alice delivers on her big project, then fire her and sue her for the side project revenues if I thought we didn't need her any longer. If loyalty is a two-way street, so is betrayal.

Sure, you may rationalize working on a side project as somehow justified by the fact your employer doesn't pay you what you're really worth, but the grown-up response to that is to find a better job; if you can't, by definition in a market economy you are getting paid at least what you're worth. If you decide to proceed by duplicity, you can't expect kindness or understanding unless you can compel it.

Comment Re:If he gets paid extra for overtime... (Score 1) 367

If you have signed something in writing to that affect. If no such contract exists, and it is found that the employee is spending significant uncompensated after-hours time working for the employer, then the courts should tell everyone involved to get lost.

I think this will drive the best possible behaviors: either
a) employers will formalize all arrangements and employees can take it or leave it (or as is usually done, conceal it well), or
b) investors can be warned that employees are not fully harnessed and are contributing their time in exchange for money, and unpaid time is not owned by them (this should be the law, as far as I'm concerned), or
c) employers hire sufficient labor and/or pay sufficient overtime to ensure that employees are being compensated for every hour the work, or there is someone to cover outside work hours, such that the employee never has an excuse to be off task on company time.

Most of the issue I think is around "b". In most cases I've been made aware of, the investors don't actually care about the side project interfering with the employer of the person in question and their investment in that employer, it's that the side project is disruptive or "destroys value" in some unrelated area where they have investments and they want to kill the competition, or the side project becomes valuable and the investor wants to believe he should own the new cheeseburger product when his investment was in a company that makes lugnuts. Personally I think the law should always side with the employee in that case, and tell the investor to go fuck himself. Unfortunately in technology it's not always that clear cut, particularly if your degree is in law.

Comment If he gets paid extra for overtime... (Score 5, Interesting) 367

Different people have different arrangements, I'm sure a lot of people here are strictly 8-5. But in my world I'm expected to be available and on call around the clock based on the specific function I perform (it's a lot of hurry up and wait). So I may be working at 11PM, but at 2PM I may be free. I do not get paid any extra for overtime. So who is to say that I'm on company time?

While the simple answer might be that I should always be on task during work hours, I strongly doubt my bosses would like me to just abdicate when a job finishes at 11PM and needs my attention but doesn't get it until the next morning, nor do they want to pay for another person to do it (even if that were remotely possible, which it isn't). So if I'm dicking around in the middle of the day, and I'm at the office just to maintain office hours, it should be assumed that I'm simply not on company time right now.

Comment Re:60Ghz (Score 1) 136

I agree it sounds impractical. So I looked at the patent -- which not being a radio engineer it's perfectly safe for me to do (n.b. -- it's always dangerous to look at what might be bullshit patents in your field because you open yourself up to increased damages for using common sense). But I was a ham radio operator when I was a kid so I do know the lingo.

There are a number of problems with broadcasting power, starting with the fact that it's inefficient to saturate ambient space with enough radiation to be usefully harvested. But that's not what they're proposing. 802.11 ad operates in the extreme microwave range -- about 5cm wavelength aka the "V" band. This band is also unregulated so you can try weird things in it. What they propose is to use an array of antennas to create a steerable beam -- like a phased array radar. This would confine the power to a specific plane so that you wouldn't have to saturate all of ambient space with power. The beam steering would be done "dynamically", which I take to mean it would figure out how to maximize signal strength with some kind of stochastic algorithm. So it might not work if you are unicycling around the room.

And because the wavelength is so short an antenna array would be relatively compact.

Even so, it doesn't sound that practical. It's bound to be limited to line of sight, for example: the V band does not penetrate walls or the human body at all, in contrast with the S band that conventional wifi operates on. I can certainly imagine applications for it, but making it practical for charging your phone is apt to be very expensive. You'd have surround yourself with V band antenna arrays.

By the way, reading this patent reminds me of why I hate reading patents. They're infuriatingly vague in order to make the claims as broad as possible, and yet are cluttered with inanely obvious details ("the radio receiver can include active and passive components") and irrelevancies (the device may include a touch screen). I think the purpose may be that someone trying to figure out whether the vague language applies to a cell phone will think, "I don't know WTF this is claiming, but look this phone *does* have a touch screen." It just shows how broken our patent system is.

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