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Comment Re:Poor business (Score 1) 291

Uh, April 2010, "Back Then". Roger Ebert says "video games can never be art." Can never.

Let's make a new Plinkett/Bechtel type test right here. Describe artistic game expression without relying on irrelevant (to the medium) things like pretty backgrounds, models, or movie cut scenes.

Video games are mechanics affecting these things. Even Atari games move a few pixels. Those things have to be identifiable.

Xenosaga does this with cutscenes, voice acting, complex 3D graphics, orchestral music, and the like; Golden Sun did it with two-dimensional sprites and some transformations, along with text-based dialogue and some sound-effects, and music; and Adventure: Colossal Caves did it with only text. The first two have immensely complex stories and deeply-developed characters, like a Brandon Sanderson novel or a TV series such as Babylon 5; the last is largely an exploration of a descriptive and somewhat-fantastic world inside a mountain cave, with much less depth of plot and character.

The Metroid games does the same kind of thing, notably with Fusion, Other-M, and Prime; Super Metroid is said to have a strong story backing it, but doesn't express it directly via any kind of dialogue or cut-scenes, which draws some argument from people like me who say a game that doesn't demarcate plot and purpose isn't exactly conveying a story from the writer's mind to the player's. Nevertheless, even the original 8-bit game had complex level design and creative ideas of how a game is played, combining the "platformer" and "action-adventure" genres.

Video games are often a medium to tell a story (any genre), evoke an emotion (e.g. horror), or describe a place (the world in which the game occurs). Movies and books have to tell a story; static art (images) can only describe a situation at a moment (although, as with my argument about Super Metroid not demarcating plot elements, many people argue that a picture implies a timeline events leading into and out of the situation, and thus can tell a long and complex story on its own). A video game can just world-build, giving you a place to explore without explanation or purpose other than to see it; or it can create that place and then render it in a particular art style to show off the visual medium; or it can deliver a deep and immersive cinematic experience with the player in control, or at least the illusion of control. It has options.

Ebert's main argument was that video games aren't art because art is a thing you do and show others. Video games allow players to control the outcome--you can go left or right at this point--thus they have not expressed what the player will see and hear, and so aren't art. He essentially claims anything that doesn't play out exactly the same for everyone who observes it is not an artistic expression.

Comment Re:Poor business (Score 1) 291

The idea that he considered for even a moment trying to make an argument that music is not art is preposterous.

I said he probably didn't think he could get away with the argument; I didn't specify how long it took him to conclude that, or by what route. The game he conceded on is essentially performance of music.

Comment Re:Sounds nice! (Score 1) 99

Okay, well, with a cut-down population, you also lose the labor required to produce to support the population. Then labor becomes a short resource. Without a labor reserve, you can't take advantage of technical progress, and so the economy becomes unstable and poverty becomes more wide-spread, rather than the normal model of developing better access to food, clean water, and healthcare as technology improves.

It is true that population does expand to fit our current resources, but it is not true that = constant scarcity.

Population expands to fit our current resources because it hits a wall. Communist leaders have not spent the past 10,000 year of human history dictating how many children each family shall have to properly manage global resources; we've just expanded until maximum.

That means, yes, we expand until scarcity. We expand until the cost to acquire food starts increasing. We advance until the number of farmers needed grows proportionally-faster than the number of people being born. We expand until we can't build houses fast enough to house all these people, can't mine oil fast enough to provide all the industrial services they need, and so forth. Then we get more poor people and continued expansion necessarily will cause a rise in unemployment, a rise in poverty, and a visible and obvious economic recession, which slows population growth.

Comment Re:Sounds nice! (Score 1) 99

Look at the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, and Germany. Sure, there seems to be tons of food, employment, etc... except if you're in the bottom 5% of the country, since we have about 5% unemployment and about half of those are begging on the streets and getting their food from trash cans.

In African nations, they have a lower quality-of-life and a reduced standard-of-living. They outbreed the failures of their healthcare systems--we do, too, but we have great healthcare and so don't have to have 18 kids to ensure 2 survive polio and malaria--and have a population limited by availability of things like food.

In America and Europe, the population spiked around the 1920s. There was food scarcity, and so a lot of Nobel-Prize-winning work went into developing new agricultural tools and methods. In a world with 1.9 billion people and an add of around 100 million per year, we suddenly saw growth to 3.2 billion people in less than a decade as food became more-accessible.

So yes, historically, this is how it works. Not how it might work; not how it works with foxes and lemmings; this is how it works with people, throughout human history.

Also, people are rational agents; they simply don't always have 100% of all information available. They make a rational decision based on imperfect information.

Comment Re:Sounds nice! (Score 4, Insightful) 99

Resource problems are a myth, in a sense. Population always expands until scarcity: at a point, you can't scale production of some products without investing more labor, which means the basic cost of those products increases, the economization of means decreases, the poor get poorer, and more people become poor. At that point, population expansion slows until technical progress raises the scarcity cap.

Take food. Without GMO, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, tractors, and other modern intensive techniques, you need more land to grow the same food. That doesn't just mean more labor per yield of food; it also means you run out of good-climate, good-soil, accessible-irrigation land with a lower total food-per-year yield. Bump that and you can have more population.

The resource scarcity issue is constant, and has always been constant. When we find more, we expand.

Comment Re:Google should just block Australia (Score 5, Interesting) 24

The fun part comes when Google starts obeying all the little wishlist things and so rightsholders's stuff stops getting as much visibility, thus sales.

Copyright is valid. Making a car requires an enormous capital investment for equipment, plus a ton of labor per-vehicle; the engineering expense to design that car is millions of dollars, and the production of that car is enormous. The Chevrolet Volt sold 21,000 units in 2012 and 25,000 in 2013, at MSRPs around $40,000; that's $840 million and $1,000 million. At below 20% gross profit margins, that's over $672 million and $800 million of production costs. By contrast, making music requires large amounts of labor to compose, perform, record, and master; making copies of music requires pennies per thousand copies and a capital start-up cost of a $400 PC you probably already own.

Given the above, copyright obviously requires protection. The impact of partial copyright compromise is non-obvious even to many marketing executives: illegal things like playing your radio loud enough for others to hear in public cause people to buy your song, even though these things also compromise your ability to charge money for performance in that context. Focusing too hard on protection of rights will lead to loss of the benefits conferred by those rights, just as if you protected the right to remain silent by prosecuting anyone who speaks without first raising his hand.

(By "rights" I of course mean "protections provided by laws which may be changed to expand, diminish, or extinguish their scope after appropriate legal process".)

Comment Re:OK, cool... (Score 1) 124

Panels of the same form factor with higher-efficiency cells install in exactly the same way. 255W panels install the same way as 180W panels and 355W panels (all of the same size). They rack up onto the same hardware.

Oddly enough, the cost of micro-inverters for panels above 255W increases; and modern power-optimizing inverters actually cost the same, but fail less-often and provide more-efficient power regulation. The installation for string inverters, micro-inverters, and power-optimizing inverters is roughly the same: connect each cell to the next, then run a home-run wire to each end of the array. String inverters plug a wire into each end; micro-inverters and power-optimizers plug in the same wire connector, but with a little box dangling off.

The three options have some rough differences.

String Inverters are cheap. You might pay $500 for a 5kW array. The array feeds each solar panel into the next, and so an underperforming module drags the entire array down and strains other panels: shade on one cell can cut your entire array's efficiency by 50%.

Micro-inverters are more-expensive. You might pay $1,200 for a 5kW array. The array plugs each solar module into the next through a micro-inverter, which really converts the panel's 600VDC into 3-wire 240VAC. This gives you a 3-wire service feed. Micro-inverters have a relatively-high failure rate.

Power optimizers cost about what micro-inverters cost. You might pay $1,300 for a 5kW array. They wire in the same way as micro-inverters, but pass 600VDC down to what amounts to a string inverter. The power optimizers themselves function similar to a modern lithium cell battery management system, drawing more power from higher-output panels and less from lower-output panels without letting the panels interact and stress each other. Power optimizers are simpler than micro-inverters, dissipate less heat, and thus have less loss and a lower failure rate.

So the physical aspect of installing any solar array is the same. If you use high-efficiency cells, nothing changes. If you use high-output panels--larger panels or similarly-sized panels with high-efficiency cells--you have to use either a cheap string inverter or a power optimizer. Micro-inverters are probably the worst choice in any installation: for a single-panel or small area, you should use a string inverter; for multi-panel, use power optimizers.

Comment Re:OK, cool... (Score 1) 124

Shipping the cells requires more energy because they're larger and heavier. It requires more shipping hardware and energy infrastructure maintenance. It requires more handling to install them, wire them, and keep them free of the energy-robbing layer of dust. Manufacturing costs increase for an array with the same output, so decay from oxidization, delamination, imbalanced arrays and overvoltage, or plain old damage costs more--as does the shipping and handling, again.

If I could get a single 2 meter by 1 meter panel that output 6kW, I could have that slapped up on my roof for $500, and have a cheap $450 string inverter installed for $1,000. As it stands, I can get a 6kW array with a $1,800 power-optimizing inverter (required only for multiple-panel installations) for $5,800; I can also pay about $5,000 for the full installation labor, plus a good $400-$600 to ship the material in the first place.

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