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Comment Re:Defective by Design (Score 1) 198

Also, what is this facetime equivalent you speak of, assuming you're not just talking about Skype?

Google Hangouts has let you make video calls for almost as long as Facetime. It's actually functionally superior to Facetime - it allows multiple people in the hangout (basically a conference call with just text, sound, or video, or any combo, also supposed to have a whiteboard feature though I never used it) across multiple platforms (phones, tablets, PCs; Android, iOS, Windows, OS X, Linux). Or at least it used to be. For some reason, Google is in the process of shuttering Hangouts and will be moving the video call feature to Google Duo, which is only available on Android phones and (as the name implies) only connects two devices - no more conference video calls.

Google's problem is they have a lot of great stuff that nobody knows about. They had a voice assistant before Siri, they just never thought of giving it a spiffy name and didn't market it so nobody knew it was on their phone. I only learned about it via the xda-developers forums. They moved Google Voice over to Hangouts a few years back essentially making every Android phone a VoIP phone, but they never said anything about it so nobody who wasn't using Google Voice before knew about it. Hangouts has been great because it combines multiple platforms - I can respond to short text messages on my phone, but more involved messages I can type up on my laptop since Hangouts shows up in my Gmail sidebar (which incidentally is also how you make video calls from PC). But they never even tried to publicize that capability, and are now in the process of dismantling it (Hangouts no longer combines SMS and hangouts conversations, and MMS has already disappeared from the PC, I expect SMS will go next).

Comment Re:Mobile Web (Score 5, Interesting) 79

The irony is that the way Tim Berners-Lee designed the web, the web server was to send you a minimally-structured set of information to display, and it would be up to the client to format it in the best way for the local display. This meant things like font sizes, page flow, in-line photos, etc. should adhere to settings on the browser.

The designers and page layout artists were horrified at this, and did everything in their power to subvert this model and return control of how the site would appear back with themselves. That's why flash websites were so popular in the early 2000s - it gave them complete control of how the site would appear, giving the user none. Gradually they've figured out ways to take away control from the user using regular html, which is why you now have websites where you can't zoom, can't resize fonts, everything is locked to three columns (menu, text, ads) which you can't move, resize, or rearrange, etc.

The way Tim Berners-Lee envisioned the web, there would be no need for a desktop site or a mobile site. You just create one site, and it's up to the visitor's browser to format it in a way which makes it most usable on the display device. The need for different desktop and mobile sites only arises if you design your site so that it will only operate at a certain resolution or screen size.

Comment Re:Just what I wanted.. (Score 2) 115

5 Mbps is what Netflix uses for its highest-quality 1080p streams. For a movie file analogy, 5 Mbps is equivalent to 2.25 GB for a 1 hour movie. The compression is there if you really look for it, but most people won't notice it. (Current video compression algorithms have a hard time with sharp high-contrast changes since those are relatively rare in natural video images, but are common in computer-generated images. So that's an area of video compression which could be improved in future algorithms.)

The input lag is there, but its detrimental impact is mostly the result of how the joysticks on the PS4 (and Xbox) controller works. The sticks only have a position resolution of -127 to +127. This isn't precise enough to aim on a 1920x1080 screen. So the kludge is to have the sticks control velocity instead of position (aim point). You tilt the joystick, and it changes the speed at which the aim point moves. This hack for controlling aim position is devastated by input lag. You let go of the stick when the aim point is just right, and the aim point keeps moving for 100ms.

The Steam controller fixes this. It uses a trackpad for the right (aiming) joystick. It has much higher resolution and works analogously to a trackball. You're no longer controlling the velocity at which the aim point moves, you're controlling its position directly like with a mouse. After enough practice, you learn how much to flick it to move the aim point exactly where you want. Just like you learn exactly how much you need to move the mouse to move the aim point to a certain location. Input lag becomes irrelevant except during the learning process.

Comment Android is FOSS (Score 1) 184

If Google designed Android so that they could push out forced updates to the OS, carriers and manufacturers who wanted it Their Own Way would simply take the FOSS version of Android and compile it Their Own Way, like Amazon does. That's the trade-off here. You can make it closed source giving you complete control over the OS and updates (what Apple and Microsoft do) and force carriers and manufacturers to bend to your will. Or you can make it FOSS, but attempts to wield control over updates risks carriers and manufacturers jumping ship and forking their own version. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Google Sheets, Docs, Photos, Plus, etc. are not FOSS. So the carriers and manufacturers (and users) don't have a choice - take it as-is or leave it.

This is the dangerous thing about all these anti-trust lawsuits against Android. Google already makes Android available as FOSS, so anyone can roll their own version of Android without paying Google a dime. If you hate Google but want Android, you can just grab the source and compile your own version. No other company making an OS with significant market share does this. I don't know how much more anti-trust you can get. Google only requires you to install their apps if you want access to the Play store. There are other Android stores out there (Amazon's probably being the biggest, Microsoft for all their complaining about Android is notable in not having one). The EU is playing with fire. If they succeed in their lawsuit, Google may just say "Screw it. We're giving the damn thing away as FOSS and they're still unhappy with it. If they're going to treat us as if we were charging money for it, we'll just make it closed-source and start charging money for it."

From an anti-trust perspective, about the only complaint I have with Android is that Google puts all non-Play stores into a catch-all "unknown sources" category. You can either allow them all, or block them all. They need to change it so you can authorize select stores, while still blocking all others (and side-loading). If there's any monopoly behavior, it's in the store, not the OS. Hell, even Apple could take the Android source code and produce their own version if they wanted.

Comment Re:Need to compare on an energy generated basis (Score 1) 309

Can you honestly put your hand on your heart and say the true decommissioning costs of these nuclear plants are built into the prices today?

Decommissioning costs are built into the price today. The NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) requires utilities operating a nuclear plant to put aside a portion of their revenue into a decommissioning trust fund to cover decommissioning costs for the plants.

Comment Need to compare on an energy generated basis (Score 4, Interesting) 309

The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.

Three Mile Island has been operating since 1974 generating on average 6645 GWh of electricity each year (yes it's still operating). At the U.S. average of 11.5 cents/kWh, that's $764.2 million/yr worth of electricity. Over it's 42 year history, that would be $32.1 billion worth of electricity generated by the plant.

So the $2 billion to clean up the partial meltdown of TMI reactor #2 amounted to an extra 11.5 * 2 / 32.1 = 0.72 cents per kWh.

Now consider that TMI was the only major commercial nuclear accident in U.S. history, and nuclear power in the U.S. has generated 24,196,167 GWh between 1971-2015. Then the $2 billion cost to clean up TMI works out to just 0.0083 cents per kWh.

Now consider that mdsolar's favored solar receives a subsidy of 96.8 cents per kWh. Or in other words, per unit of energy generated, the subsidy for solar is 11,711x more expensive than cleaning up TMI was.

Comment Re:Nope, no wealth inequality here (Score 1) 170

The real issue is that society has become so tilted in the favor of the rich

A big part of this (in the U.S.) is the capital gains tax. And no, not in the way you think.

Yeah the long-term capital gains tax is 15%, which is lower than many tax brackets. But those tax brackets are graduated, meaning you can be in the 25% or 28% tax bracket and still be paying less than 15% overall. In fact after accounting for average deductions and exemptions, the threshold at which the average American reaches a 15% tax rate is somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000/yr gross income (column T). When William Buffett said his secretary paid more than 15% income tax, that was because he pays his secretary really, really well.

The average effective income tax rate for someone making $100,000/yr (28% bracket) is less than 10%. The average effective income tax rate for someone making $40,000/yr (25% bracket) is less than 7%.

So the capital gains tax is too low for rich folks. But it's also too high (way too high) for low, middle, and lower-upper income folks. This means the tax discourages these people from investing, which is the best long-term way to make money as demonstrated over and over by wealthy people like Gates. Yes it should be increased for higher income brackets. But it'd be more helpful to lower or eliminate it entirely at lower income brackets and thereby encourage them to invest.

Comment Re:Turkey is due for some DEMOCRACY (Score 5, Informative) 96

Politically, the whole fustercluck dates back to the end of the first World War. The Ottoman Empire was on the losing side, and ceased to exist after WWI. The European victors carved its territory up along arbitrary lines, without regard for the cultural and even lingual boundaries. Those lines became the modern country borders we know today. Most of the modern Middle-eastern conflicts trace their roots back to this. Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Israel/Palestine, and Turkey.

Culturally, it would've made a lot more sense to divide the territory up into Turkey, Kurdistan, and Arabia plus maybe a few other small countries, instead of the patchwork it is today.

Comment It's their official policy (Score 5, Insightful) 160

They announced it last year.

Nexus devices will continue to receive major updates for at least two years and security patches for the longer of three years from initial availability or 18 months from last sale of the device via the Google Store.

  • The Nexus 5 went on sale Nov 2013, so updates to major Android versions ceased Nov 2015. (Marshmallow was released Oct 2015)
  • It was discontinued Mar 2015, so should continue to receive Marshmallow security patches until Sep 2017.

I have a Nexus 5, so I wasn't expecting it to get Nougat. It would've been nice if it did, but frankly I've been looking to upgrade anyway. It's a great phone (especially with Marshmallow), but it's limited by only being able to have one cellular radio active at a time. In theory I should be able to talk on the phone while simultaneously web browsing over LTE. But the hardware only supports a single active cellular radio. Wasn't a big deal when I first got the phone, but now I'm tethering more and I find I'm either unable to receive phone calls or text messages while tethered, or the call will interrupt LTE causing dropped Internet connections.

The whole OS update scene is a mess right now. Android drops support for old devices quickly. Windows 10 forces you to receive updates whether you want them or not. Apple supports their devices for a long time, but if you update a device and find it makes the device dog slow, you can't uninstall the update like you can with Android and Windows. Nobody seems to be able to get this right. Something like: support for 5 years, forced updates (so carriers can't screw you over), but you can uninstall updates which give you problems.

Comment Re:I somehow doubt this is accurate (Score 1) 161

Mobile phones are still a developing market. Companies will want to grab a share of that market even at zero profit or even a slight loss. Remember, profit = revenue - expenses. If you're in it for the long haul, the expenses part of the equation include R&D costs. So even if you're not making any monetary profit, you're still getting R&D done essentially for free (revenue is enough to offset it). The hope is that in the future when the market matures and the pace of development slows, you can decrease your R&D costs. But because your name is well-known your revenue will stay up there. Leading to profits then. If you decided to stay out of the "unprofitable" market until then, that means you (1) start with zero market share and zero brand recognition, and (2) you have to pay out of pocket for all those years of R&D you missed out on.

Also, Apple is an outlier. Most of the computer and electronics industry operates on between 3%-7% profit margins, and has thrived for decades on that. Mobile phones are only slightly below that after you remove Apple (who is usually between 20%-25% profit margin). And for the Apple customers who inexplicably think this is a good thing, no it's not (unless you're a shareholder). It means you're just forking over more money for less materials and less R&D (Apple's R&D budget as a % was near the bottom of the industry until last year). You're essentially paying extra to make a fashion statement. And the extra money you're paying isn't going into better materials or new research, it's going straight into shareholders' pockets.

Comment Re:What is it that you say? (Score 3, Interesting) 442

That's really the problem with Uber's business model (and by extension taxi companies' business model). They are providing a service to the driver - locating people wanting rides and disseminating that information to the nearest available driver. But instead of acting like a service and charging the driver a nominal fee, they insist on acting as the gatekeeper. They take in all the revenue, and disburse a portion of it back to the driver.

Uber isn't the end-game here. Some ride-sharing app which simply lets drivers and people looking for a ride link up for a nominal fee (like 25 cents) is going to be the end-game. It's like music. In the past, manufacturing and distribution were a huge part of their expenses. Today with digital media and the Internet, those expenses are almost zero. Likewise, in the past a lot of the expense and complexity for a taxi system was in matching up ride requests with drivers. Radios in the cabs were the first big breakthrough. Then GPS so the dispatcher didn't have to manually keep track of where the cabs were. Now cell phones (with GPS) and cellular Internet service have pretty much made the dispatcher obsolete. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if a craigslist-like service ends up winning, providing the service essentially for free just because it can be done so cheaply.

Comment Seems they've normalized it with actual theft (Score 2) 95

I was gonna post a snarky reply agreeing with you. But upon researching it, they've just normalized the penalty to be the same as if you stole an actual DVD. Their penalty for theft is a fine and up to three years jail time. Unlike the U.S. where you have to steal a certain amount of property value before you can face jail time, India seems to have no such threshold.

Comment Re:The targets aren't fixed points. (Score 3, Insightful) 191

I don't entirely disagree with your position on drugs (it has philosophical incompatibilities between it and the concept of democracy because of the loss of free will due to addiction, which need to be resolved). But having briefly done business in Chicago, the city has a massive government corruption problem. Various inspectors expected bribes to "overlook" minor faults which really shouldn't have resulted in citations (e.g. dead light bulb in unused warehouse space). Various permitting officials wanted bribes to "expedite" our applications so they wouldn't sit on the back burner for weeks or months.

Corruption drains money from legitimate economic activity, which ultimately depresses wages, reduces job opportunities, and increases prices. The poor are the most impacted by these consequences, and it helps keep them poor and in ghettos. I'm not saying this is the root cause of all their problems, but neither is the War on Drugs. The vast majority of problems have multiple causes. Afghanistan doesn't have an opium production problem simply because the price of heroin is high, but also because its economy is so shot it's nearly impossible to make a living any other way.

Comment Re:700 million metric tons of CO2 Equivalent (Score 1) 189

The only solution is to cut back on meat consumption

You're making the common mistake of comparing against a nonexistent zero base state. If people stopped eating meat, we'd still need to raise cattle. They provide lots of useful byproducts like lubricants, waxes, insulin, gelatin, glue, leather, etc. If we got rid of all cattle, we'd have to find other means of producing these things, which would incur other energy and material costs, perhaps higher than the costs we pay with cattle.

Even if you were able to find a zero net-cost substitute for all these materials, eliminating cattle would not necessarily decrease methane production. You have to consider the entire ecosystem, not just the cows. Without cattle, grasses would grow longer, die, and decompose naturally. Some of the byproducts of that decomposition are (drumroll...) methane and CO2. Remember, this is a closed-loop system. Just because that final step of breaking down the cellulose to extract the stored solar energy happens in a compost heap instead of inside a ruminant's digestive tract doesn't necessarily mean you've improved things.

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