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Comment $1 billion is actually pretty reasonable (Score 5, Informative) 165

The music industry set the bar at $22,500 per violation ($675,000 for 30 works) for an individual violating copyright without a profit motive. $1 billion for 18,000 works is only $55,555 per violation, which is relative to the Tenenbaum case is not unreasonable when you consider this is commercial copyright violation. Her lawyers are actually being nice by "only" asking for $1 billion. Copyright law allows her to sue for up to $150,000 per violation, which would be a cool $2.7 billion.

In other words, if she gets less than $22,500 * 18,000 = $405 million out of this, there's been a gross miscarriage of justice either in her case or the Tenenbaum cause. Unlike filesharing, what Getty Images did is precisely the sort of thing copyright law was made to prohibit - profiting off the work of others.

Comment Re:Location from Wifi? (Score 1) 107

It is very useful. The vast majority of wifi access points have fixed locations (homes, businesses). In my experience (I used my phone with GPS off in an older handset because it wasn't implemented properly and drained the battery), it's nearly as good as GPS - usually able to pinpoint you to about 20 meters.

Remember when Google got in trouble with the EU because their Google Street View cars were capturing too much wifi info? They were recording wifi info to build a global map of wifi hotspots specifically for wifi-based location services. Remember when Apple got in hot water for iPhones sending people's GPS location history back to Apple? They were doing that for the same reason - to build up a global map of wifi hotspots.

Comment Re:Another day in paradise... SNAFU (Score 1) 180

Bottled tap water - Aquafina (Pepsi), Dasani (Coca-Cola), as well as many store brands like Kirkland - is usually reverse osmosis filtered and shouldn't have these sorts of contaminants. RO is so effective you actually have to add minerals back to the water after filtering to improve the taste and prevent it from leeching minerals out of your teeth and body because it's so pure.

Bottled spring water is from a natural source, and will have things objective test equipment considers to be contaminants, including organics like algae. But people like to buy it because it's "natural."

Comment Re:I call BFD here (Score 5, Insightful) 589

Normally I'd agree. But 74 mph is too fast for any road which allows cross-traffic (truck was on opposite side and made a left turn through the Tesla's path). I'm actually surprised it was even marked as a 65 mph zone when it has an uncontrolled intersection (not even a stop sign in the left turn lane).

From an aircraft investigation standpoint (every accident has multiple contributing causes), I'd actually put most of the blame on the truck driver. If you look at the pic of the intersection, there is absolutely no way he didn't see the Tesla coming. He simply got impatient and made the turn, gambling that he could force the Tesla driver to slow down to avoid him (which didn't happen because the driver was inattentive with Autopilot on).

That's not to excuse the Tesla driver. A big part of road safety is that both drivers are trying to avoid an accident. When one driver abandons that philosophy, the chances of an accident instantly double. When both drivers abandon that philosophy, you pretty much guarantee there will be an accident. While the truck driver made a one-time mistake, a Tesla driver who relies too much on Autopilot is making a continuous mistake. There will be a high chance of an accident any time he (or rather the car) drives past another inattentive or reckless driver.

Comment Re:Free time (Score 2) 346

You're leaving out the core reason all of this works - someone else has to want what you're producing with your hobby for it to have a chance at becoming a new business. Big companies work because they've found something lots of people want, and have made themselves super-efficient at producing that something. To succeed at doing your own thing requires (1) you be good at doing it, and (2) it be something someone else wants (i.e. will pay) you to do. (2) is what allows something to transition from hobby to business. Even if you're the best person in the world at catching Pokemon, if nobody else is willing to pay you to do it, you can't turn it into a career.

Personally, I blame the parents of the millenials (i.e. my generation). We insulated them from failure as they grew up, teaching them that they could be whatever they wanted to be in life, ignoring how good or bad they were at it, and whether or not it was actually a job someone else would be willing to pay them to do. And when they moved out on their own and real life threw failure at them, they didn't know how to handle it because they'd never experienced it before while growing up.

IMHO, my parents generation taught us right - hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Try to achieve our dream career, but to have a "safe" backup plan in case that didn't pan out. Yeah you can try to become a rock star or pro athlete, but you really should make sure you first complete that employable college degree (i.e. not art or English lit unless you're really, really good at it). Y'know, just in case your dreams of music or professional sports superstardom don't pan out like it doesn't for 99.999% of people who try it.

Comment Re:22 Days? (Score 1) 44

Unless they were covering up the solar panels while on the ground, and only using them to charge batteries while in the air, there is no point.

Technically all energy sources except geothermal are solar. Fossil fuels are solar energy collected by plants millions of years ago. Wood is solar energy collected by plants in the last few decades. Nuclear is energy from stars which went supernova to create the elements heavier than iron that we use for fission. Wind is the air's movement in reaction to differences in localized warming by the sun. Hydro is water which was evaporated by the sun, and traveled to a higher potential energy state.

So if you're charging your batteries with solar panels while the plane is sitting on the ground, then it's really no different from using any of the above energy sources. It's all just collecting solar energy in one time period, and using it to fly a plane around the world in a different time period. They're just doing it with solar panels (collector) and batteries (storage), instead of with plants (collector) and oil (storage).

The only way this would be a technology demonstrator is if they're only using the solar panels to charge the batteries while in the air. That would be demonstrating that a plane can carry enough solar panels to sustain itself in continuous flight through both day and night. I've been following this project on and off since it first began with their first plane, and I still haven't figured out if this is what they're actually doing. It's like they want to do it because Solar! Not because it would indicate we've crossed a fundamental engineering threshold with PV technology (generating capacity / weight has exceeded a certain point which makes continuous flight possible).

Comment All of this has happened before (Score 2) 206

All of it will happen again. Before Yahoo (before the Web actually), there was a Veronica which did a fairly reasonable job of cataloging the big gopher sites. And before that, there was an ftp site (can't recall the name) which tried to mirror most of the content hosted on other popular ftp sites (and was eventually displaced by Archie).

Yahoo foundered because their core web search was built on people hand-picking what should be the best results for a search term. I remember trying to find a decent car mechanic in Boston, and being able to drill down their indexing tree for businesses, Massachusetts, Boston, car mechanics. And there was a list of repair shops who'd either registered themselves with Yahoo, or someone else had taken the time to add an entry for them. AltaVista gave that tedious indexing job to a computer, with mixed results since computers don't understand context or what people find valuable. Google succeeded because they realized the very structure of the web itself (i.e. number of links to a site) gave them that context - what sites other people found valuable.

Comment Re:Mall shooting in Germany (Score 1) 190

Way to ignore suicides, accidents, children accessing guns in the home and all the other bad things that happen that wouldn't happen if people didn't have guns laying around

I would've thought the events of the last few months would've put to rest this flawed line of logic. The folks saying "guns don't kill people, people kill people" were right. If you take away access to guns, people don't magically become non-violent and pacifist subjects. They figure out other ways to accomplish their goal of killing people. Like build bombs, or drive a truck into a crowd. These things still happen.

The number of people killed in the U.S. in 2013 from accidental discharge of firearms was 505. By contrast, the number of people killed by drowning (mostly in pools) was 3,391. 2,780 people were killed by fires. The number of people killed by going to the hospital was 2,768. Heck, the number of women killed due to complications from pregnancy was 1,138. All of these are a much bigger danger than gun accidents. You just have a warped view of the relative size of these risks because the media disproportionately over-reports gun accidents (probably because most of the people who work in it would like to see the 2nd Amendment repealed). If their reporting reflected the actual statistics, every single news story about a child accidentally killing someone with a gun would be accompanied by 7 stories of a child drowning in a pool, 5 stories of children dying in a fire, 5 stories of children dying due to a botched surgery or mistaken treatment at a hospital, and 2 mothers dying while giving birth.

21,175 people committed suicide by gun. But 19.974 people figured out some other way to kill themselves. So it's pretty safe to say banning guns wouldn't affect the suicide rate in the slightest.

The 11,208 murders by gun are the only area where the argument holds some ground. 4 people were only wounded in the Wurzburg train attack because the perpetrator only had a knife and axe. 1 person was killed and 5 wounded in the Reutlingen attack because the perpetrator only had a machete. If they'd had guns, the toll probably would've been higher. But it's foolish to think the number would've been zero (4,913 people were murdered without a gun). And 29,001 people were killed due to alcohol, 30,208 people were killed due to falls, 35,369 from car accidents (some overlap with the alcohol stats), 38,851 from overdoses and poisonings, 41,149 from suicide. If your goal is saving lives, all of these are much more important issues we should tackle first, before gun violence.

Fundamentally, violence, terrorism, and suicides (which account for 97% of gun deaths) are social problems. Eliminating the tool via which people are acting out on those problems doesn't make the problem go away. These things will still happen. Just not with a gun. This is a common logical error made by people with bleeding hearts (I won't say liberals because many conservatives make the same mistake too). They don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by blaming people for having faults, so they instead shift the blame onto other inanimate things that have no feelings. Like rap music, or playing too many video games, or porn, or frat parties, ... or guns.

To address these problems, you have to tackle the root social cause. Which is hard, scary, will hurt lots of people's feelings, and there's little consensus on what's the best way to tackle them. So nobody wants to do it that way, when you can take the easy way out and convince yourself that some inanimate object is the root cause, and that eliminating that object will cause all those other problems magically go away.

Comment Re:Not just at the border... (Score 2) 318

We have the same in San Diego - a border check on 5 fwy 40 miles from the border. It's the only direct way to get to Orange County from SD & I drive through it every day. I am baffled as to why we cannot keep the border checks at the border.

Because there are lots of other places along the border where foreigners can slip in illegally than at border checkpoints. The 5 freeway is the major thoroughfare from San Diego to Los Angeles, and unlike at the Mexican border you cannot drive willy-nilly around it through the desert (Camp Pendleton Marine Corp base blocks you). So pretty much anyone entering the country illegally who wants to go head straight to Los Angeles is funneled into I-5. (The alternate route is I-15.)

I think Trump's border wall with Mexico is a stupid idea, but that's exactly what you need if you want to eliminate these sorts of checkpoints away from the border. (Unless you're willing to just throw your hands up and give up control of immigration.)

Comment Re:Simple Reforms Needed (Score 2) 248

in one particularly egregious instance, a McD's franchisee was also acting as the landlord for his TFWs in a house he owned and would "helpfully" pre-deduct rent and utilities from their paycheques.

There's actually a legit reason for doing this. When a company provides living quarters, that technically counts as additional income (at least to the IRS - I assume the same is true for CRA). You're supposed to pay taxes on it. Sometimes the employee doesn't report that income on their taxes. When the company reports it to the government, the employee ends up being audited and having to pay "additional" taxes they didn't know they owed.

Having the company deduct it from the employee's paycheck makes the numbers balance in the company's books, the government's books, and the employee's books. This is particularly important if the company is giving the employee the room at below-market rates. Without the company backing up the employee on how much they're charging, the IRS can get finicky and declare that the value of the room is the market rate for rent in the area, and force the employee to pay taxes on that higher amount. That's why I know about this. When I worked at a hotel, we would always get a few high school grads working for us temporarily as part of their "go out and travel the world" phase (so they had no place to live). We'd let them shack up in some of the more worn out rooms (renovation scheduled in a year or two) and charge them a token amount like $100/mo, pre-deducted from their paycheck just to keep the IRS happy.

Not saying this was what was going on in the case you cite, but just pointing out that the act of pre-deducting rent is not in itself evidence of malfeasance, and may in fact be evidence that the company is trying to do the employee a favor. We didn't require these employees to live there, they just did because it was cheaper (and more convenient) than anything else they could find nearby.

Comment The stupid thing is (Score 4, Insightful) 67

All they need is a simple settings option which lets you change how you want the app to appear. Material design, Windows 8 Tiles, Windows 7 Aero, bubbly Windows XP, rounded corners Mac OS, do you want drop shadows or not, whatever. There is absolutely nothing preventing Microsoft / Google / Apple / etc. from letting the user pick how they want their computer desktop to look. The computer doesn't know the difference. To it, it's just a window with graphical elements overlaid on top of it.

It's like the designers at these companies are on a power trip, deriving satisfaction from knowing they can force everyone to bend to their will.

Comment This is the deal you originally signed up for (Score 1) 421

Verizon agreed to give you unlimited data for 2 or 3 years, and you agreed to continue to use (and pay for) that service for 2 or 3 years. After that term, the agreement became month-to-month. Either side can choose to cancel it at the end of any month for any reason (actually I believe both sides have the right to cancel service at any time in the month, the company just prefers to do it at the end of the month to keep their bookkeeping cleaner).

Verizon did not agree to give you unlimited data for $x/mo until the day you died. And even if they did, I suspect you wouldn't have signed up for it since it would've required you to pay Verizon $x/mo until the day you died.

Comment Re:So basically... (Score 5, Insightful) 421

No. If you have an unlimited plan and use 100+ GB in a month, Verizon will give it to you that month as their contract terms say they will deliver unlimited data. It's just that next month Verizon will opt not to renew your month-to-month plan.

People have got this really distorted view of how contracts work - where companies should not be allowed to screw you, but you're allowed to screw companies in perpetuity. When you signed up for the unlimited plan, Verizon agreed to it and you agreed to it for a x year contract (usually 2 years). When the contract was up, the plan continued as month-to-month. As the years passed, Verizon felt the plan was disadvantageous to them, but as a courtesy allowed you to keep it. They didn't have to, but in the interest of good customer relations they let you keep it. Now they've decided the drawbacks of that courtesy outweigh the benefits for them, and are adding a condition that if you use what they consider an excessive amount of data, they will not renew your outdated plan on a month-to-month basis.

Think of if the situation were reversed. Say you got a cell phone in the early days when service was $100/mo for just voice, and calls were $1/min. After your 2 year contract was up, you should be allowed to change to a better plan if you want, right? Well so can the other party in the contract. Both sides have the right to terminate a month-to-month contract at the end of the month for any reason they see fit. If you want the security of knowing the other side will not terminate your contract at the end of the month, you need to sign a year or multi-year contract with them which locks in your contract terms for that period of time. But the other party is under no obligation to give you the same contract terms (same plan) they gave you 5 years ago.

Comment Re:EPA MPG != CAGE MPG (Score 1) 136

Neither are supposed to measure real-world mileage. The EPA MPG figures are closer since they're meant for car buyers to use to comparison-shop. But every sticker includes the disclaimer, "Actual results will vary for many reasons including driving conditions and how you drive and maintain your vehicle." And every now and then the EPA revamps their tests to reflect changes in how people drive (resulting in all old MPG ratings needing an * next to them). The last update increased top highway speed from 55 mph to 60 mph, among other things.

CAFE on the other hand serves a single purpose - to provide a consistent baseline for comparing fuel efficiency across multiple years. Tweaking it over time defeats its purpose for existing.

Comment Re:VCR didn't compete against DVD (Score 1) 131

DVRs don't entirely replace VCRs. The tapes used to record shows on a VCR are portable between VCRs. You can record a show at your home, then lend the tape to one of your co-workers. You can't really do that with a DVR because they're a lot more expensive than a tape, you don't have your DVR while it's on loan (whereas you can just stick a new tape into a VCR), and Hollywood has been trying its damnedest to prevent you from sharing shows in this manner by mandating encryption in DVRs and broadcast standards to stop you from simply sharing the file of the recording.

This last aspect of VCRs has been replaced by pirated filesharing - both online and via thumb drives.

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