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Comment Re:The Verge is 100% wrong (Score 1) 27

History has also shown us that most new ideas fail. Even good ideas.

I agree that the idea of accessories per se, attractive as it is to me, isn't enough to make a product a success these days. However I should point out that back in the day of PDAs it was normal for mobile devices to have a CF or SD slot that could also be used to add features. This was in the day when mobile devices didn't have cell data connections, GPS or even wi-fi, and it was quite common for people to add memory cards, wi-fi, bluetooth, and GPS. I have a box full of accessory cards in my attic.

Handspring, a company that made Palm Pilot clones, initially did very well with their Springboard modules which allowed you to add any kind of functionality to the base system, just like what we're talking about here. Then a few years after introducing the Springboard module Handspring stopped making PDAs altogether in favor of what was then called a "converged device" -- aka a smartphone -- without the slot. It's all about timing; Handspring was perhaps a little ahead of the curve on convergence, but a lot of manufacturers were getting pushed that way because of falling hardware retail prices made it attractive to put more stuff in the base device to keep the price high.

The standard inclusion of GPS + Cloud + Camera + Bluetooth built-in means that there really isn't a need to physically connect a device to a mobile device. The only exception is battery; there is a real need for a more elegant and secure way to extend the operation of a smartphone than plugging it into a powerbank via USB.

But I may be wrong. Maybe there's a compelling use case for a modular architecture that I just haven't thought of yet. That's why I like to see vendors trying something different, although I usually expect them to fail. I've watched tech long enough to realize that success isn't just about an idea being right, it has to come at the right time.

Comment Re:Old stuff "discovered" by the ignorant (Score 1) 315

While I don't necessarily disagree with you, let me point out that orthodox economic models are also based on assumptions that are not entirely true. For example you don't necessarily assume that any one agent (e.g. the central planner) has all the information relevant to making decisions, but you do assume that all relevant information is available to parties making decisions about transactions they'll take part in. That's not true, but it's close enough to being true that the models have practical utility. Oh, and there's the bit about people being rational in their decision-making.

Comment Re:Question (Score 1) 315

Because believe it or not, while working sucks, not working also sucks. You don't know how much you get out of work until you don't have it anymore, and I mean stuff beside money: social interaction, purpose, challenge, someplace to go and someplace to look forward to take a vacation from.

In Sweden they're offering an intriguing compromise: work less, or more precisely work for fewer hours, which isn't precisely the same thing.

Comment Re: Hah! (Score 1) 429

The biggest improvement to safety from violence you can make is to move out of the USA. Not to buy a gun.

Actually, it's;

Don't be depressed. (#1 killer with guns)

Don't hang around criminals, or be one

Don't be male and black in the inner city, or hang around black males in the inner city

Avoiding either of those last two reduces the "risk of getting shot" by about 98%. Both, and it's closer to five nines percentages. There is still some latent risk, like from stray bullets, random robberies, negligent discharge, etc. I agree, if you have a tendency to be depressed, you shouldn't own a gun. (Goes for any other mental illness really.)

The FBI and CDC have stats that show this, go look them up. If you line up those rates with those of other countries, US beats most of europe as far is "no violence" most of the time especially if you count recent numbers after lots of immigration.

If you are a white, asian, or hispanic, not a dumbass and not a criminal, having a gun in the house makes no goddamn difference. And you can offset some of the "random robbery" risk to boot. (There are as many as 6 million "defend but no shoot" self defense actions every year. Guns work for that without firing a shot. Many of these are out and about though, so carry concealed or open. There arent many people counting these though, probably for political reasons. NRA has some stats somewhere if you want them.)

Lastly, if you move out of the USA all the positive aspects of a firearm go away, along with freedom of speech, freedom of religion and a bunch of other stuff.

So, basically, "don't be a dumbass" and all of a sudden your "risk of getting shot" drops precipitously.

Comment Re:What a mess (Score 1) 429

You know, taking the dichotomy you propose as accurate, I'd go with the sleazeball hands down. You might not like them but you can work with sleazy people if you know what they are. They are simply pursuing their self-interest and respond predictably according to realistic calculations of where that lies.

A narcissist on the other hand you can't work with on the basis of realism because he's not rooted in the real world. He operates in a fantasy world. A sleazeball won't act in a way that harms himself but a narcissist, while every bit as self-oriented and deceptive will, and then go looking for scapegoats, even when that does more damage. A sleazeball only scapegoats when it's to his advantage.

So would you rather deal with someone who is rational but selfish, or someone who is unpredictable, self-destructive and selfish?

Comment Re:Anything incriminating? (Score 3, Interesting) 429

I was a Sanders supporter, and I'm neither surprised nor particularly upset. You have to be realistic. Hillary has been active and well-known in the party since 1974, when she rose to prominence as a whip-smart young staff attorney of the Children's Defense Fund. She's spent the last forty years, building contacts and networks in the Democratic party, including nationally as first lady for eight years and with nearly successful presidential run that took her across the entire country. She has a massive rolodex, war chest, and ground organization.

Bernie Sanders only joined the party in 2015. That the DNC was less than perfectly impartial towards the two won't come as news to an Bernie supporter, but to be frank the idea that long-time party insiders and activists would treat someone who joined the party last year the same as someone who's been a big deal in the party for decades is simply unrealistic.

Comment Re:What is the appeal of these things? (Score 1) 128

I think you think the text is too small because you haven't actually used one. I have, and I'm almost 60 years old and need bifocals. I generally can't read ingredients on food or vitamin packages without glasses, but I have no difficulty whatsoever with reading calendar notifications or caller ID on a smartwatch without glasses. Would I want to read a book or webpage on one? Nope. But for notifications the text size is plenty big for me, and I have weaker-than-average eyesight.

Likewise it's not particularly uncomfortable to wear a watch, or hard to remember to put one on. Some folks with ADHD might have problems, because they're always misplacing things and many of them have comfort issues with things like t-shirt tags which most people don't notice but they find distracting. But most people don't find watches uncomfortable or hard to keep track of.

This is just the usual problem with managing the tech adoption curve; the point where you've saturated the early adopter segment. There aren't new features coming in to entice thosee early adopters to upgrade and there aren't enough people on the penumbra of the early adopter community that they become hip. And there isn't really a killer app yet, unless it's fitness tracking which can be done on cheaper devices. That's the only reason I don't wear one anymore; there aren't any that are as good at fitness tracking as a fitbit, so I'd be paying more and getting less for my main use.

Submission + - Grover lets you rent electronics on the cheap (

An anonymous reader writes: Shopping online for electronics can be overwhelming. First you have the tech blog reviews, and then the forums, and then the product page itself. Finding the right product, at the right price, can be difficult. That's where Grover (formerly ByeBuy) comes in. For roughly 5 percent of the retail price, users can rent electronics for a month and try before they buy. Plus, users can extend Read More

Submission + - Spotify Is Now Selling Your Information To Advertisers (

An anonymous reader writes: Spotify is now opening its data to targeted advertising. "Everything from your age and gender, to the music genres you like to listen to will be available to various third-party companies," reports Engadget. "Spotify is calling it programmatic ad buying and has already enabled it." The nearly 70 million people that currently use Spotify's free, ad-supported streaming service across 59 countries will be affected. The ads will audio-based and stretch between 15-30 seconds in length. The advertisers who buy ad spots will be able to look for specific users by viewing their song picks to find the best matches for the products they're selling.

Comment Re:New Chrome looks terrible on OS X (Score 5, Insightful) 67

Why not use OS X's built-in widgets for tabs, arrows, etc.?

Is it more important for your browser to be consistent with the other apps on your desktop, or to be consistent with the browser across different kinds of platforms? The answer won't be the same for everyone, but what we're seeing now is the endpoint of process that Microsoft feared with Netscape back in the 90s: the marginalization of desktop operating systems as platforms.

Back in the 90s if your browser looked dramatically different from the way other Mac apps looked, users would have howled in protest. Now most people would agree that it's more important for a website or app to look consistent across different devices and operating systems. For many users it wouldn't matter very much whether they're using Windows, MacOS or Linux, were it not for the fact they're locked into MS Office.

So there's nothing "wrong" with OSX's built in widget set, except that it serves Google as a browser-centric company better to standardize the experience across host OSs.

Comment Re:What is the appeal of these things? (Score 1) 128

You missed the point. For most people's its not about adding functionality, it's about adding convenience. Doing the same things you could do with a phone, but with less bother. If you receive a lot of phone calls, most of which you ignore, or if (like me) you tend to put a lot of notifications in your calendar, a smartwatch adds a considerable level of convenience, although obviously you *could* haul your phone out of your pocket a dozen times a day, look at it then put it back. If you have to check the time frequently, or time things frequently, you obviously could use your phone, but a cheap digital watch is more convenient. If you don't need to do any of these things more than once or twice a day it's really difficult to add another device to the mix and increase convenience.

Since adding any device necessarily adds some inconvenience, we're in the complicated realm of user trade-offs. That's a tough problem, because to the mix of things like battery life, legibility, user interface you also have comfort and style. All the offerings on the market are marginal in at least one or two of these areas, so it's a tough sell outside the early adopter market. The trick for the long-term success of this product category is to keep offering early adopters enticing upgrades, long enough for someone to develop a really compelling device, the way that "converged devices" sputtered along for years until Apple introduced the iPhone. Can it be done? I don't know.

The one thing that smartwatches add these days that doesn't really work with smartphones alone is fitness tracking, but that's a niche market. Some people like me obsessively collect data and wear them 7x24 except for occasional recharges -- which I can do with a Fitbit surge because its battery lasts for multiple days. So for people like me you can't beat something like a Fitbit surge and going smartphone-only doesn't work at all, so where a solid reliable market for fitness trackers. The danger for the smart watch product category is that high-end activity trackers will evolve into smart watches, which is why recent smart watches all have multi-axis accelerometers and heart rate sensors. But they're also slightly more expensive, and certainly more complicated than the need to be for fitness tracking.

Comment Re:Amazon is awesome for knockoffs! (Score 5, Insightful) 334

Drop the tax rate and compete.

Actually net US corporate taxation is lower than most of our competitors. Yes, we have higher rates but those are offset by many more exemptions and exclusions. People who point to other countries want to adopt their rates but not their rules; adopting both would result in higher tax revenues and more incentive to shelter income.

We are getting one upped by others because they know how to compete - we don't.

It's not know-how. Primarily it's low wages. China has a per-capita GDP of $15,000, vs. $57,000 for the US. China's median private sector salary is $4,755 per year, vs $42,233 for the US. It's even lower What's more income inequality is greater in China than it is in the US. There are 21.6x fewer people in the top decile by income in China than there are in the bottom decile; that figure is 15.9 for the US. This basically means your work force is poor, and legally prevented from unionizing. On top of that regulations are spottily enforced in China if at all. All the complexity of environmental, worker and consumer protections go away if you're willing to grease a few palms. In business this is we call a no-brainer deal.

The irony is that culturally speaking the Chinese people hate the idea of corrupt officials. But they live in a system we're they're not only not allowed to vote, they're not allowed to know or publicize unflattering news. So going by the example of the country we have the greatest trade deficit with, the way to compete is to suppress wages and unions, provide a system of graft as a way to get around environmental and safety rules, take away individual voting rights and freedom of information, and basically run the place so that business owners (for a price) have their interests set above everyone else's.

OK, copying our #1 trade deficit partner turns out not to be so attractive. Well, who's #2 on the list? It's the European Union, where wages are high, regulation is high, bureaucracy is high, worker and consumer rights are high, and income inequality is low.

Hmm. Interesting choice.

Comment Re:Old Article & Three-Mile, Fukushima, or Che (Score 1) 140

One of the features of "black swan" events is that after the fact they're rationalized to appear more predictable than they actually were. So attributing Chernobyl to "human stupidity" is an explanation that only seems to explain. The problem is it gives you exactly zero insight; bad decisions are a factor in every disaster that's ever occurred, and was present but for some reason inoperative in every situation where a disaster was averted. Saying a catastrophe was "caused by stupid human error" is like saying "inertia caused the car accident." That's trivially true, but not very useful. You have to study the specifics of how inertia operated in a particular accident if you want to understand it. Same goes for stupidity in tech disasters.

In both Fukushima and Chernobyl bureaucratic decision-making played a key role in the disaster. TEPCO was warned some years earlier that their planning figures for tsunamis were inaccurate. They initiated a response which generated a few (obviously) ineffectual changes. In other words they fulfilled the imperative of being seen to respond to the information, without taking the threat implied by the information seriously.

One of the remarkable features of the Fukushima accident was how little the engineers understood about the state of the reactor as the event was unfolding. This raises a fundamental epistemological limitation: experience only prepares you for things you have experienced. In situations where you're thrust into the unknown, practical knowledge is of limited value. They may even be a hindrance. In TEPCO's experience monster tsuamis, while a theoretical possibility, didn't actually happen. They trusted their personal experience more than they trusted science.

The Chernnobyl operators found themselves in that same situation, operating a poisoned reactor with nearly all of its control rods removed. Stupid, yes, but the real story is how they got to the point. One key element is a piece of information unknown to operators: a design flaw in the reactor's SCRAM system which could cause a transient spike during an emergency shutdown. The disaster occurred during a safety test; night operator Alexander Akimov objected to running the tests on the poisoned reactor but was threatened with firing if the test did not proceed. He proceeded, ready to SCRAM the unstable reactor the instant it showed signs of exiting its poisoned state. He was unaware that when that happened it would already be too late to SCRAM the reactor.

So the particular forms of human stupidity involved in these events were: (1) not wanting to look bad (Dyaltov), (2) being satisfied with not looking bad (TEPCO), (3) being willing to take chances in order not to lose your job (Akimov), (4) trusting your experience to see you through the unexpected (everyone). If you could eliminate these behaviors the world would become a much better place, but you can't.

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