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Comment Re:Liberty Minded (Score 4, Insightful) 388

Well, you certainly illustrate the point that there are thoughtful libertarians out there. An interesting point on libertarianism along the lines of what you're saying... I once volunteer-taught a class on American politics for some adult ESL students. When I introduced "libertarian versus statist" as a dimension that is distinct from liberal and conservative, it was pretty new to most of them. That is, while almost all societies grapple with the how much control the state should exercise over various kinds of activities, it's only in the US that we have a name for that (Liberty!) and a group that (nominally) wants to minimize state control over everything. The US has a long lefty-libertarian tradition that has fueled many important social advances (freedom to love and marry whoever you please being the most recent example), while our righty-libertarians have also served to keep the US out of some of the worst excess of statist economics (think price controls).

That said, it's pretty hard to line up with libertarianism in it's current form. The three axiomatic views that most turn me off are
1. The private sector does everything better than the government does or might do
2. Everyone can always have everything if they only try hard enough
3. Social well-being can only be maximized by increasing individual well-being

What drives me nuts is how often these are asserted as axioms in spite of numerous and obvious counterexamples. Skepticism that government intervention will solve a problem is necessary, healthy, and frequently true. But there are so many readily available counterexamples that these cannot be axioms.

# 3 might be a little different than the others, and I'd actually be interested in a thoughtful libertarian critique of it. It is what Pope Francis calls "subsidiarity", the idea that humans actually gain meaning and satisfaction from feeling that they are subsidiary to something bigger than themselves. I'm no Catholic, but I see this in a lot of things. An individual who is free of all external obligations is a lonely, disconnected person, and I have a hard time believe that there are many people who are happier this way. Clearly there is such as thing as too much obligation to society, but what about too little?

A potent example of #1 is the lunatic response to Obamacare. This was an idea from 1970s "conservative" think tanks that was a pragmatic compromise right up until someone tried to implement it. And all told the ACA has a pretty non-statist system architecture: the state does not mandate what insurance you get, it does not mandate which company you choose it from (in fact there are standards to ensure a minimum of choice), it does not say what doctor you can or cannot go to ...you are always free (like Liberty, not beer) to go to a doctor that is not in your plan, and Obamacare makes that EASIER not harder.

The mandate components of the law (health insurers have to take anyone who wants insurance ---> everyone has to buy insurance) that elicit all this yelling about "state force" and "FBI marshalls frog-marching me" are just system architectures to deal with real and fundamental problems.
The business of insurance is to collect as many premium dollars as possible, and it's very, very easy for insurers to cheat without some rules (oh, you got cancer in the rain on Sunday... if you look in Appendix R20421.13 subsection 7 of your plan, you'll see that this is not covered). Likewise it's really easy for covered people to cheat without some rules (oh, I rode motorcycle without a helmet for 10 years and now I crashed and am paralyzed from the neck down... pay for all my healthcare). This is what happens in the real world, and we as engineers/technologists are the ones who stick our heads out and find a set of tradeoffs that makes things a little better. And we are also the ones who deal with the sucky parts of the architecture we chose. So I can't understand when this type of thinker can't relate to what Obamacare is about.

Comment Re:FYI (Score 1) 474

One of the more interesting parts however of a solid basic income package, which hardly ever gets mentioned, is removal of minimum
wage. This frees up a whole pile of minor jobs which are simply not economic (looking after the neighbors kids after school, mowing lawns,
etc) and are often now done under the table.. minimum wage becomes much less needed, as there is less 'force' for people to have a job
at any cost.

This is a pretty interesting point, and I'd be curious to hear more of your thoughts on it. Thinking a bit about it now, it would address some of my biggest concerns about the "Uber economy", i.e. that the employer is pushing off all kinds of risk onto the employee. With a basic income, the relationship between working more and getting more would be much more straightfoward. It might conceivably create a world where people can mow lawns in an excellent way, because they're not as strapped to get on and mow someone else's lawn so they can pay the bills. In other words, people might more inclined to do minimum wage jobs for satisfaction and not just for money.

In an ironic political twist this "center leftie" does share a lot of concerns that a universal income would promote idleness and sloth. I say this based on my own personality traits: when I've been unemployed for substantial periods of time a deep torpor settles in and I get less and less motivated to do anything. That is not a life well lived, and while it's not for me to judge whose life is well lived and whose is not, I find it hard to fit that in with the principle that social programs help humans fulfill their moral responsibility to take care of one another. For example, wouldn't it be especially easy for people with substance abuse problems to fall into absolute squalor where they just collect their UBI and spend it all on feeding the beast? I realize the libertarian answer might be that they are freely choosing that life and society has no right to judge or force them to live differently (which I don't entirely disagree with), but with addiction problems the free will part gets complicated fast.

Comment Re:I'm an OK violinist (Score 5, Informative) 469

"Few multiples" of $10K won't buy you much in the range of around half the orchestral instruments. You'd be flat out trying to pay $30K for a pair of Clarinets or a trumpet, but the less popular instruments can get very, very pricey. As a bassoonist, many of our top of the line instruments are rather expensive. A good Fox or Heckel will be around $30K - 50K USD before custom keywork is factored in (can add up to $10K to the base price). My Fox Contra was, 10 years ago USD $30K so it would be significantly more than that to replace it now. If I was to purchase the same instruments here in Oz about triple that price in AUD.

Double basses and 'cellos also are upwards of $50K in the USA for good ones. Harpsichords also up over $30K for a reasonable one that wasn't assembled from a kit (lots in kit form for $15-20K). Harps also waaay up there in price. That's just from instruments I'm personally familiar with that I either play or someone in my family plays.

Comment Re:good riddance (Score 1) 146

Don't blame the FDA...
Due to the structure of the 1938 Food Drug and Cosmetic act which established the FDA, it is not permitted to regulate homeopathic drugs in the same way as "normal" drugs. This is a registry of homeopathic drugs and if a drug is on there but is not a "normal" drug, the FDA can only regulate that it is manufactured safely, similar to food, not whether it is effective at treating disease. That is why you see this kind of labeling on such products:

A product's compliance with requirements of the HPUS, USP, or NF does not establish that it has been shown by appropriate means to be safe, effective, and not misbranded for its intended use.

All the FDA can do is go after companies that market non-homeopathic drugs (i.e. "normal" drugs) as homeopathic, like HCG.

Comment Re:offensive arrogance (Score 1) 146

No, of course I'm not worried, I think it would be great....

I am truly stunned by this. A self-interpreted home-made CT scan is an unalloyed good? Notwithstanding the radiation to get there, without serious testing, you have no idea how accurate the thing is (back to the FDA's repeated requests to 23andMe).

Allowing the heroic assumption that the Garage-scan-o-matic things actually give accurate results, are you also saying you think the majority of people have the education and knowledge to make heads or tails of what might a slightly larger appearance of the brachiocephalic artery might mean for them? Or that they have any idea what to do about it?

Are you going to try to pass laws against skin, testicle, and breast self-exams because people might be confused by the lumps and spots they might discover?

That's not what I propose nor what the FDA is doing. If someone tries to sell an automated system to tell people what those lumps and spots mean (particularly if they use the term "risk") you'd better believe I would demand enforcement of the existing laws that say that the seller must prove that their system works in order to sell it.

Some doctors do, others are dumber as dirt.

Sure, doctors are people and there are all kinds of them. But at the very least they have had a rigorous education, and following that a series of experiences in trying to understand the confusing mishmash of information about people's health conditions and make judgments about a course of action to follow.

Since this post is entitled "offensive arrogance", let me just ask if you really think that education and experience means nothing. And if so, does it mean nothing when an engineer used his or experience to say a piece of software is poorly architected, or that car can be hacked, or there is inadequate review of security? After all, I can read Slashdot to get the answers I need or check something out from github to fix the problem...

There is a role for experts and there are some things that are dangerous enough that an expert's opinion should be required, whether that's a doctor, an engineer, or policeman.

Comment Re:offensive arrogance (Score 1) 146

Fortunately, this kind of FDA stupidity is not going to work long term: people are simply going to get their entire genomes sequenced, and there will be a huge number of free tools and web sites for searching for disease associations, ancestry, and relatives.

Let me recast this just a bit to illustrate the problem:

Fortunately, in the long term, 3D printing will allow people to create their own CT scanners, and there will be a huge number of free tools and websites for searching for tumors, heart defects, and bone density.

Are you at all worried about what people will do with their homemade CT scanners?
Perhaps doctors know a little bit about reacting to that kind of data (and the uncertainties in it) and making good decisions about it?

Comment Re:good riddance (Score 2) 146

The FDA made them stop because doctors dislike being cut out of the loop, and insurance companies like being cut out of the loop even less than the doctors, and they would prefer to have you get the data through a disclosure mechanism which gives your insurance company better actuarial information.

This sounds like one of those ads at the bottom of blogs "New service that doctors hate!!1". Seriously though, do you have any evidence for these claims?

The FDA asked a 23andMe a simple question - show us the evidence that when you say that a person has an elevated risk of say, death, that that claim is true. Then they talked 23andMe 14 times over a couple years, then waited 11 months with no reply. Then they made them stop making those claims. So where is that the ravening hordes of doctors and insurers fit in there?

Now imagine that 23andMe said the person was at low risk of death (like from heart disease) and that turned out to be ahem... mildly inaccurate. Was that the part the doctors hate?

Notes that if 23andMe sticks to providing raw data, they are not making medical claims. Ravening hordes begone!

Comment Re:Don't they have an fiber to the node cable netw (Score 1) 229

Friend of mine just moved into a new house that has NBN on it in NW Sydney. Fibre goes all the way to a termination box inside the garage and then he has standard cat6 ethernet ports connected to the fibre modem. No ability to have a fibre switch in there according to him.

Comment Re:Supply and Demand (Score 1) 417

Interesting point. Both companies are known to employ armies of MBAs, so they are surely doing a lot of sophisticated analysis on their pricing and margins.

Microsoft is reputedly a profoundly different place than it was in the nineties, and the tell is that is a way, way harder place to work in. Some of that is doubtless from the usual process cruft you hear about in big organizations - territoriality, old habits that nobody changes, too many queen bees for the drones in a hive, etc.

But I also wouldn't forget about the consent degree - that makes the cautious thing to do to never have the appearance of exploiting one dominance in one market to move into another.

I'd be surprised if any 'softies with knowledge of this are either not on /. or are not able to say anything, but I'd sure be curious to have been a fly on the wall in those meetings...

Comment Re:Downgrade rights (Score 1) 671

Major problem there is the same as the mobile market - you have to write very fundamentally different code for a mobile and desktop. Some fascinating figures came out of this year's Siggraph. On the desktop you typically have up to 300W of power dedicated to graphics hardware. On a mobile device you have at most 1W (phone) or 5W (tablet). Those numbers will _never_ go up because anything more than that starts to fry your pocket or hand. So, the optimisation techniques that one uses to write a desktop app or game are extremely different to those written for a mobile device. There's just no getting around that at all.

One of the other interesting factors is that from a developer and graphics perspective now, except for the desktop gaming market, D3D is all but gone. I saw one mention of D3D at Siggraph this year, and that was because the chair of the panel was from MS. All those tablet/phone game writers were way over in the OpenGL ES camp. MS is trying to force the issue again like it's 1999 and now allowing OpenGL drivers on Win8, so you'll see how quickly the game studios will react to that - Even Valve were demoing OpenGL games this year that had better performance on Linux than on Windows on the same hardware according to their statements at one talk. Apart from business desktops, I don't see much more future market for the Microsoft and PCs. The games of interest are now appearing on mobiles and those developers are definitely not in the MS camp.

Summed up, it's a failed strategy and will do more to make people move away from MS than towards it.

Comment Re:I trust my life to Boeing every time I fly (Score 4, Informative) 334

In the 90s, the FDA realized that even if it could see the could, there was no way it could realistically audit code for all the devices it is required to review annually. So they switch from attempting to verify devices directly to insisting that devices be design and developed under a very high quality engineering paradigm.

So instead of looking at code trying to find problems, what they do is demand artifacts of a very disciplined design development and test process, reasoning that if people are in fact actually writing out test cases, doing internal code reviews with documented changes arising from them, maintaining requirements traceability matrices linking each line of code to a user requirement and then a lower level system requirement, then that process will result in better code than the FDA could accomplish by their own audit or that of a 3rd party. So the woman should be asking to see the details of the company's FDA submission, presumably under NDA from the company.

Now, whether the FDA is employing Design Control in a strict enough way is definitely a fair question - in particular the 510k (predicate device) submission process has left a lot of loopholes (due to its risk class, a pacemaker does not go through 510k, it goes through the more demanding PMA process). But to suggest that she or someone she hires will just be able to wade through the code to decide if she thinks it's high quality seems to me more like grandstanding than anything else.

Comment Re:And the other reason is... (Score 1) 397

They did, however, manage to tie the stuff down and limited them in ways unprecedented. In that way, Apple definitely did something new, but that's not something people actually WANT.

IllDefinedTermException.
Stack trace: Your input statement raised a parsing exception at "people". You != people at large.

People (at large) did in fact want stuff "tied down and limited", because without that, they had to figure out how to wander through 100000 ways of doing one simple thing they wanted to do. How I get out of this app? How do I get to my email? If you don't know anything about OSes or apps or even really up from down, you can figure out how to press the center button on the iPhone enough times to get back to an icon you recognize.

Second, by reducing complexity, Apple made it manageable to have the OS drive the phone experience, rather than the hardware driving the experience, which had been the case up to that point (though BlackBerries might strain my theory a bit). This plus sandboxing the hell out of everything in turn made it possible to put software on the phone and have a reasonable expectation that it will work, and voile you can now sell software downloads. I bought an iPhone after having a WinCE device, and despite having been a Linux admin, a quasi-DBA, etc, I couldn't get apps to install on that damn WinCE crap. I could on the iPhone. So that's what the iPhone delivered. Do other OSes do that now, absolutely yes. Are there drawbacks to Apple's design choices in iOS? Also yes, and these are particularly glaring with the iPad (the level of sandboxing really reduces utility of the iPad, IMHO).

But like it or not, Apple the first to figure out how to make a OS/user experience-centric phone for the average Joe or Jane. I suspect that it will be very hard to dislodge them from their perch, just as ostensibly better OSes couldn't get rid of Windows on the desktop.

Comment Re:What exactly is Mozilla spending $100M on? (Score 1) 644

Interesting, from the CFO's LinkedIn profile

MOZILLA - 2005 - present
--CFO
--Called in to create the financial structure for Mozilla Corporation (

Business Week's profile of them:

Mozilla Corporation provides Internet solutions. It offers Firefox, a Web browser; Thunderbird 2, an email application; Raindrop, a prototype messaging tool, which enables users to manage a stream of messages coming from sources, such as Twitter and Facebook into their email; and Rainbow, a developer prototype that brings video and audio recording to Firefox 4. The company also provides Bugzilla, a bug tracking system that helps users to manage software development; Camino, a Web browser; and SeaMonkey, an application containing a Web browser, HTML editor, and Web development tools, as well as solutions for mobile phones. In addition, it operates an online store that provides apparel. The company is based in Mountain View, California. Mozilla Corporation operates as a subsidiary of Mozilla Foundation.

Dunno, I guess they're keeping those 500 people busy, but like a lot of things in this space, I just don't quite get it. Maybe I just don't do the things they're trying to address...

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