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Comment They're not similar at all (Score 1) 75

Coal was a new energy source - a way to replace human and animal labor with machine labor. This resulted in huge productivity gains (measured in productivity per person - productivity per Joule expended actually went down because coal energy was so much cheaper than human labor meaning inefficient machines could still be cheaper). The MO was dirt simple - take anything that used to require people or animals to expend effort to do, make a machine to do it, and power the machine with coal.

Data is just data. Aside from a few data-processing tasks which have already been automated (OCR, statistical analysis), there is no dirt simple way to use data to reduce human labor. You can eek out a small productivity gain by using it to improve the efficiency of marketing (e.g. don't show bra ads to men), but that's pretty much it. The productivity gain is what's necessary to make it "better" than previous ways of doing things. Improvements in economic efficiency show up as productivity gains.

Popularity is one way (probably the best way) to leverage data. You can use it to determine what's popular and position the marketing of your products in that direction. But that's a zero-sum game. Any increased sales you gain because you marketed your products better directly reduces sales of other competing products. This is totally different from coal (and oil) which enabled new methods of production, and thus weren't zero-sum.

Comment Re:I'm just waiting for the endgame here (Score 1) 276

The endgame I see is:

1) The old-school content industry companies succeed at implementing draconian copyright laws, and place exorbitant prices on the content they control.
2) Newer content industry companies place sane prices on their content.
3) Old-school companies gradually go bankrupt as fewer and fewer people elect to pay their prices when much cheaper alternatives are available, and artists realize they can get pretty much the same distribution while keeping 70% of the revenue for themselves, instead of the 5%-10% the old-school companies give them. Prices can drop to about 1/5th the current prices and the artists will still come out ahead.

Sites like YouTube, Pandora, Spotify are the great equalizer here. The upstart indie band has as much access to them as the band which signed up with the old-school industry's publicity engine (e.g. contracts to play only their music on most of the radio stations in the U.S.). It's not like the old days where production and distribution was hard and expensive. The cost of those has dropped to near zero thanks to technology and the internet, leaving the old-school industry no leverage to maintain their original prices except copyright law.

That's why they fought tooth and nail to price Internet music streaming services out of business, and keep suing YouTube over and over. Once these music streaming sites allow you search for "similar" music based on algorithmic aural similarity and the preference of other users, that'll give exposure to indie artists who haven't paid the old-school companies for publicity. The "best" songs will then rise to the top organically, instead of because they paid their blood tax to the old-school companies who aggressively and exclusively marketed them on the radio stations and the Billboard top 100.

The closest analogy I can think of is generic pharmaceuticals. Once the patent on a drug expires, anyone can make and sell them at much lower prices than the name brand. The name brand version is still around, but doesn't sell anywhere near as much as it used to because generics take away most of their market share. The main difference is there's no expensive R&D stage needed to find new drugs and get FDA approval. Anyone can make a recording of their garage band playing an original song, upload it to YouTube, and immediately collect the ad revenue it generates from views.

The big problem will be licensing agencies like ASCAP and BMI. They sell licenses for blanket music playback rights to places like restaurants and department stores which play music in the background. But they don't use any public or systematic method to determine how much each song is played. They simply distribute the money they collect however they want, frequently short-changing little-known indie artists (because it's a PITA to measure their popularity and proportionately more expensive to cut them a check) and overpaying well-publicized artists. They even have the audacity to collect money for "licensing" artists who haven't even agreed to be represented by them.

Comment Damned if you do, damned if you don't (Score 3, Insightful) 417

If you hire in proportion to how many applicants of each race you get, you are sued for racial discrimination because the racial makeup of your employees doesn't match the general population.

If you hire in proportion to the racial makeup of the general population, you are sued for racial discrimination because you didn't hire in proportion to how many applicants of each race you got.

Step 1: Establish laws where people are guilty no matter what they do.
Step 2: Those in power decide which people/companies are undesirable.
Step 3: Sue them and only them for violating those laws.

Big Brother would be proud.

Comment Re:How do you know? (Score 3, Interesting) 275

I've been saying for over a decade now that at least one storage device on the computer should have a physical read-only switch. Some kind of jumper which needs to be moved, or a switch on the motherboard which needs to be physically flipped, before you can write to the device. The main OS could be stored there, while logs, configs, temp files, etc. stored on a different storage device. Security flaws like a buffer overflow would still allow access to some memory, but it'd be impossible to exploit it to modify the system to give you full root access upon reboot.

That's the way things were in the 1970s and early 1980s, when RAM was incredibly expensive so the programming for most embedded systems was stored in ROM, using RAM only for operational data. I've only seen one modern embedded system function this way - you stored the OS on a SD card with the write-protect switch flipped, and used a second SD card for data storage.

Comment Unfortunately, that is how you learn (Score 1) 134

It's an unavoidable part of the learning process. When you build a machine that does something that's never been done before, there are always going to be unforeseen problems. That is how you learn that these problems exist and ways to overcome them. The scaredy-cats who would keep us mired in the stone age will rant about the risks and the dangers. But people with long-term vision will pull us along the path of technological advancement. The V-22 Osprey's safety record is actually better than the HH-52 Seaguard (most recognizable as the previous-gen Coast Guard rescue helicopter). Both were built in similar numbers (about 200 vs 175), and operated a similar number of years (about 25 vs 30).

The thing you have to keep in mind about the press is that most of them absolutely suck at math, science, and statistics. That's why they went into journalism instead of STEM. Analyses they make tend to be based more on emotion than on objective data. If they're faced with a choice between an enticing story vs boring numbers which contradict the story, they will run with the story and downplay the numbers.

Comment Re:Which programming language! (Score 1) 391

C: Which programming language is the most popular?
A: That's right.
C: What is?
A: No, Which is.
C: What?
A: What didn't make the top 10.
C: What didn't?
A: That's right.
C: ... Ok, so if I were going to program using the most common language, it would be which?
A: Right.
C: What's right?
A: No, What didn't make the top 10.
C: What didn't?
A: Right.
C: Which language didn't?
A: No, Which was the top language.
C: Which was?
A: Right.

Comment Clippy v2.0 (Score 1) 68

Guy1: "I heard they're going to make Portal 3"

Guy2: "Really? No way! I loved the Portal series. I need to find out more about this."
Guy2: Begins typing 'portal' into the Cortana search box

Clippy: "It looks like you're searching for porn. Here are some suggestions."

GF: "WTF are you doing on the computer?"

Comment Re:site still down? (Score 2) 141

Yeah, probably DNS propogation. It works for me.

The IP address was set to localhost for a while to get the attacks off of the net.

Shouldn't the IP address be set to one of the attacking IP addresses, so the person/ISP with the compromised device has to deal with all that traffic? Collect the attacking IP addresses, find which ISP is the source of biggest share of them, and redirect the entire attack back at them. When they clean their act up (e.g. implement BCP38), move on to next ISP with the most attackers. Rinse, repeat.

Comment Re:Rule of thumb (Score 2) 302

It depends on the local ordinances. Several jurisdictions (usually ones where lots of celebrities live) have made it illegal to deliberately peer over high fences or vegetation added for the purpose of privacy. These laws were made to thwart paparazzi who would get onto ladders or helicopters to shoot photos of people on private property. In that case, flying a drone over your own property could be considered illegal if it were for the purpose of peering over the privacy barrier.

Comment Re:Or You Could Just Not Be That Neighbour (Score 4, Insightful) 302

Yes we could try having a conversation about it. The drone owner could've asked the property owner for permission before overflying his property. He failed to initiate that conversation, believing that he could just fly wherever he wanted, everyone else's rights be damned. The property owner simply responded in kind. This tit for tat strategy turns out to be one of the most effective solutions to the Prisoner's Dilemma. At getting people to behave cooperatively.

I agree that just shooting the drone was a dick move. But it was the drone operator who made the first dick move. You shouldn't shoot first, ask questions later. But neither should you fly first, ask questions later.

Comment Re:This is stupid (Score 1) 327

You make yourself successful. Only you.

...and mostly no. You have to take advantage of opportunities, but you don't create opportunities by yourself.

From what I've seen, it's mostly yes. I've worked with multi-million dollar company owners, and people working minimum wage. In both cases there were plenty of people who had the same opportunities presented to them. The successful ones took advantage of those opportunities to better themselves (one of the millionaires used the exact idea I had thought of in 1994 when the web was new, except I decided it was too much effort and didn't bother trying). The handful of people I've seen claw out of family poverty and minimum wage jobs were the same way - they were eager for the chance and did everything they could to do a good job, and were quickly promoted. The others just wanted to clock to hurry up and hit 5pm so they could get out of there.

There is an element of luck involved so you're not entirely wrong, but self-drive makes a huge difference in my experience.

If you go to a school it's reasonable to expect (if not assume) that you're being provided useful education. It might not be moneymaking in itself, but if they promise that it will be, then it had damned well better be. If they are promising job placement, then they need to deliver. If they don't, they're committing fraud, and they rightfully should be held accountable.

That's pretty much my conclusion about this whole ITT thing too. Like the housing loan crisis, you have to expect that there will be unscrupulous people who will try to take advantage of others through fraudulent self-promotion. To counter these folks, you set up accrediting or appraising organizations. The average person only goes through each level of school once, and a sample size of one is not sufficient to properly appraise if a school is effective at providing an education. Same with mortgage-backed derivatives, which most people have never even heard of. In both cases you have to rely on "experts" who've studied the fields and have enough experience to properly appraise the school or the investment instrument. When these experts get lazy and just start rubber stamping schools or investments as OK because "nobody is gonna know the difference," chaos ensues.

It was a failure of the accrediting organizations which precipitated both messes. They were being paid for a professional opinion, and they collected the money but didn't put in the effort to provide a professional opinion. In ITT's case, ACICS lost their Education Department recognition. In the housing collapse's case, unfortunately nothing has happened to the rating services which told investors that securities backed by mortgages in danger of default were in fact solid investments.

Comment Black swan events (Score 5, Insightful) 240

Three Mile Island was the only major commercial nuclear accident in U.S. history. Nuclear power in the U.S. has generated 24,196,167 GWh between 1971-2015. At an average price of 12 cents/kWh, that's $2.90354 trillion. So the approx $3.4 billion in cleanup and lossses from TMI is 0.117% of that. Or in other words, at a retail price of 12 cents/kWh, the historical cost of cleaning up nuclear accidents in the U.S. is 0.014 cents per kWh.

In contrast, subsidies for different energy sources are 23.1 cents/kWh for solar, 3.5 cents/kWh for wind, and 0.2 cents/kWh for nuclear. (Tables ES4 and ES4. Solar received $4.393 billion in subsidies while generating 19,000 GWh. Wind received $5.936 billion while generating 5,936 GWh, and nuclear received $1.66 billion while generating 789,000 GWh.) That's right. The subsidy for solar is 1650x more expensive than cleaning up nuclear accidents. The subsidy for wind is 250x more expensive.

Nuclear decommissioning costs are already paid for by the NRC's Financial Assurance fund. A portion of the revenue from electricity sales are placed into this fund.

The problem with insuring nuclear plants is just a quirk of statistics. The more times you roll the dice, the narrower the bell curve becomes and the more predictable the average outcome. e.g. A 1d100 has an equal chance to produce any result between 1 and 100 - the probability distribution function is a straight line. 2d50 produces a triangular PDF, with the values in the middle tending to be more likely. 10d10 produces an even more compact PDF - a narrow normal curve with results in the middle much more likely than the extremes. And 100d0.5 will always produce 50 - its PDF is just a single peak in the middle.

This is a problem for insuring nuclear plants - because they produce so much energy you don't need very many of them. Whereas there are thousands of coal plants, and (potentially) millions of solar installations, there are only operating 100 nuclear plants in the U.S. So insuring a nuclear plant represents a greater risk for the insurer. Even though the mean outcome will be that there is 1 accident every 30 years, the chance of a 2nd or 3rd accident is still significant and the amount the insurer has to pay out may easily surpass how much they've collected in premiums if they assume the statistically most likely outcome of a single accident.

The insurance company's response is to increase the premium to also cover that 2nd or 3rd event even though they're unlikely. In contrast, with thousands of coal plants they can be much more confident that there will be (say) only 10 accidents every 30 years, and 20 or 30 accidents is extraordinarily unlikely. So the premiums can be lower, even if the average risk (mean) is exactly the same. If there were some way to build thousands of small-scale nuclear plants instead of 100 large ones, private insurance wouldn't be a problem. You get around this problem by creating the largest insurance pool possible, which in this case would be nationalized insurance covering all 100 nuclear power plants.

Statistically, per unit of energy generated, nuclear power is the safest power source man has invented.

Comment Seems to me this is a design flaw of the web (Score 1) 206

The web is asymmetric. A single host (or hosts in the case of a CDN like Akamai) sends files to thousands or millions of clients (web browsers).

This seems like something a distributed symmetric system like bittorrent could fix. Each browser already caches files for the web sites it's visited. If they could also be made to serve those cached pages to other web browsers (with a checksum to allow the new recipient to detect and discard corrupted caches), that would solve server overloading. The more popular a site/page is, the more computers it's cached on, and the more "load" it can take - it's self-scaling.

Making it SSL-only would prevent manipulation of the content (cache the page pre-decryption) since you'd need the original site's private key to alter the content in any meaningful way. A bad actor could still turn their cache into gibberish, but you should be able to counter that with automated blacklists of computers with corrupted caches, and using multiple parity copies for redundancy - sort of a distributed RAID. Basically the same problems bittorrent has to deal with.

Comment Re:Confusing summary from CNET article (Score 1) 49

Why are they using the mean? Isn't something like this precisely when you're supposed to use the median? Ok, that means they have to store a lot more data (time spent per each individual view, instead of just aggregate time viewed and aggregate number of viewers). But presumably they're already keeping track of every video every FB member has viewed, so this wouldn't be that much more data.

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