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

No they wont and in reality they dont. you have been able to buy GSM watch phones for over 5 years now all over ebay and other places from china makers. They just do not sell because they sound like shit and have battery times measured in minutes. I had one, the latest china iteration of one and it's battery life sucked, it's OS sucked, it's audio quality and call quality sucked. oh and you cant change the band as the antennas are in that.

smartwatch+phone+bt headset is my killer mix and it works fantastically. glance at watch, press answer, talk to person on my headset. Best of all worlds.

That's 3 separate things you need to charge. Two of them daily. Technology serves me, not the other way around.

Comment Re:Commingling Inventory (Score 1) 336

The biggest problem raised in the article is the commingling of inventory. Many sellers of products provide the products to Amazon, and they are shipped out of Amazon warehouses. When multiple companies are selling the exact same product, Amazon commingles the inventory, as they consider the products to be fungible. In theory, that's fine. However, if some of the companies are selling knock-offs, you have a problem. People ordering from the knock-off seller have a good chance of getting the real thing and writing a great review. People ordering from legitimate sellers get knock-offs and write terrible reviews.

I've seen a number of products myself where the reviews clearly indicate that people are receiving different products, and there's no way to tell which one you might actually receive.

If Amazon were to fix this one problem, they would be in a much better position to manage counterfeit products.

I'm not sure they can fix this. Amazon wants to be both a vendor/logistics company and a marketplace. For the vendor/logistics company side to work, they need to have as few listings for the same product as possible. So a Pink 5L Kitchenaid Mixer from 1 vendor is the same listing as a Pink 5L Kitchenaid Mixer from another vendor.

Aliexpress takes a different approach. They are not a vendor/logistics company, just a marketplace. So each vendor is responsible for their own listings. That results in multiple listings for the same product, and multiple similar listings for similar products. Each listing has a rating and each vendor has a rating. Finding the differences between listings is sometimes a struggle, but if you get a 1-star product on a 5-star listing, there is a clear entity at fault (the seller) and no smoke and mirrors for them to hide behind.

As long as Amazon is a vendor and logistics company, they will probably have this problem. I don't think their model would work if every seller had their own product pages for each product. Amazon's logistics side of the business relies too much on the one product= one ASIN (SKU) listing for this to work.

Comment Re:Summary leaves out a key part of the quote (Score 3, Interesting) 336

Summary quotes the Birkenstock CEO as saying "The Amazon marketplace, which operates as an "open market,” creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business practices which we believe jeopardize our brand." It leaves out a later sentence in the same paragraph, which it probably at least as much of an issue as the counterfeiting problem: "It also includes a constant stream of unidentifiable unauthorized sellers who show a blatant disregard for our pricing policies."

Birkenstock wants all dealers to sell at full list - stores were selling on Amazon at a discount, and undercutting other dealers, who were complaining to Birkenstock.

I used to be 100% against such policies until I realized the advantage. With MSRP policies, vendors have to compete on service and customer satisfaction. Without minimum pricing policies, the main competitive advantage comes down to price. Minimum sales price policies protect small vendors against large ones, to some extent. The big companies might be getting a volume discount from the manufacturer, but at least the small businesses have a chance at competition on their merits (service / reputation / customer satisfaction), rather than on price.

Another point is that the manufacturer dodges the potential legal problems of preferring one reseller to another. They can point to their MSRP policy as proof that they don't play favorites (they don't illegally play favorites, anyway) with their resellers.

I'm not saying MSRP policies are good, but they aren't 100% bad either.

Comment Re:Amazon is awesome for knockoffs! (Score 1) 336

Knockoff doesn't have to mean low quality. Often times the quality is almost as good as the premium name item. Just saying.

True, but you should: 1. Be clearly informed that what you're getting is a knockoff, not the real thing 2. Be supported by Amazon when attempting to return substandard goods 3. Expect that Amazon would insist on the above

That's not happening. My increasing reluctance to deal with non-"Prime" vendors is due solely to Amazon's lackadaisical attitude towards what is being sold. As long as they get their cut, they appear not to care. And the product descriptions on some of this stuff are misleading and so brief as not to provide any significant information about what is being sold. I'm talking about lack of dimensions, poor product photos, that sort of thing.

Amazon's on track to become as sketchy as Ebay.

Fixing the review system would fix a lot of the problem. Currently, it is far too easy for a vendor to list some sketchy goods, pay for a few 5-star reviews, and go off to the races. When they get bad reviews they relist the product and repeat. Vendor ratings are not as prominently displayed as they could be. Actually, on most products they aren't even listed on the product page, you have to click on the vendor name to go check them out.

An even larger problem is that Amazon has a 1-product listing-->Many Vendor system. So even if the product is 5 stars, another vendor can sell under that listing and sell counterfeit or substandard goods. There is little way to know. Compare this to the Aliexpress system, which is organized Vendor--> Product. On Aliexpress, each seller is responsible for creating their product listing. You can't go to the page for XYZ product and click the "I have one to sell" button. Vendors can still pull a bait-and-switch but at least they aren't using the good ratings of other vendors to do it. The feedback score for both the specific product AND the vendor is listed right on the product page, no digging required. Both ratings are even visible right on the search page. Amazon is doing a big disservice to customers by hiding the vendor ratings behind a click.

There are definitely problems with the Aliexpress's Vendor--> Product system, such as 20 vendors listing 100 products all the same but slightly different. That is a big issue, but vendor and product rating shenanigans are much less of a problem compared to Amazon's 1-product listing-->Many Vendor system.

Comment Re:Sickening (Score 1) 159

It reminds me of the Hobbit movies, in particular of the battle on the river. I was taken out of the movie by the splashes. They looked fake, but I knew that this was more because the movie was shot at 48FPS and so captured the motion better.

So does it look fake because it is fake, or does it look fake because it's different from what we expect to see?

Hobbit looked bad because the CGI was bad. The piles of gold in the Smaug scenes were especially bad, and the other CGI wasn't very good.

Comment Re:It's your turn, Mr Assange (Score 1) 289

Nazis most certainly were populists, or at least posed as populists. Hitler didn't win power by proclaiming he was going to kill all the Jews or invading the rest of Europe, he got in because he promised to make Germany great again, to go after all the elements of German society that made it weak, and make everyone who he viewed as Germany's enemies pay for what they had done. While Mein Kampf had some pretty strong hints as to what he was thinking in the long-term, it wasn't until he had successfully remilitarized the Rhineland that he felt Germany could take on Europe, and it wasn't until he had abandoned all other means of getting rid of the Jews that the Final Solution was floated.

So yes, Trump is a lot like Hitler, in some respects at least. The populism, the finding of easy targets to scapegoat for all the ills, the rhetoric about how he will make his nation great and restore its glory. He's walked a few steps down the road of Hitler, the only real difference being that whatever else Hitler was, Hitler was capable of actual long-term thinking, planning, and political acumen. Trump appears to possess no such capabilities. What he does have in common with Hitler is the ability to say the unsayable and convince his followers that the unsayable is only unsayable because the enemies of the people don't want it said.

This election is about a lot of things but I don't think scapegoating minorities is even in the top 3. It comes down to one simple idea for me- The insider Hillary will oil the machine, and the outsider Trump will throw a wrench into it. The problem for me, and maybe a lot of people, is that obviously the system isn't working, so oiling it is just more of the same corporate rub-and-tug baloney. On the other hand, maybe throwing a wrench into the machine little too much- the system could probably be fixed if the legislative branch wasn't so dysfunctional. The real tragedy is that the Executive Branch race is causing such a stir when most of the big problems with our government are in the heavily-gerrymandered, highly-corrupt legislative branch.

Comment Re:It's your turn, Mr Assange (Score 2) 289

Is there any level of stupidity that will finally convince the man is a simpering retard?

Trump's use of language is pretty amazing. He manages to come across as so sloppy in his selection of wrong words that his supporters can think, "He didn't really mean that, literally." It gives them license to imagine that Trump "really" meant whatever is in that supporter's own head. So, when Trump detractors see him make racist, economically irrational, or politically naive statements, his fans get to hear exactly what they want to hear.

I have no idea if he's doing this intentionally or if it's an accident of his 6th-grade vocabulary, but it's fascinating. If the PR people can figure out how he does it, I have no doubt that we'll see a new wave of politicians replacing the old-style non-statement with Trump-style reverse-projection.

Politicians are basically salespeople who sell themselves. They sell themselves to lobbyists, they sell themselves to their peers, and lastly (and least importantly) they sell themselves to voters. They sell themselves in a certain way because they are politicians and politicians have a certain way of doing that.

Trump has successfully sold himself to municipal planners and leaders to get his projects built. He has sold himself to investment groups, individuals, and banks. And he sells himself to average people who buy or rent his properties. Trump is one of the world's most successful time share salesman and arguably a branding "expert". The way he sells himself is completely different than most politicians.

The problem with these sales tactics is that they are a bit like magic- once you understand the trick, it doesn't work anymore. By using a completely different rulebook, Trump is forcing people to pay attention to the tricks that he uses, and compare them to the tricks that other politicians use. Many/most of the tricks that Trump and all politicians use are straight out of a business Negotiation 101 course.

Comment Re:Where is the proof-of-concept? (Score 1) 175

Am I the only one who thinks that the Hyperloop PR is getting a bit ahead of their actual potential?

Is it too much to ask to see a short section of Hyperloop actually built before talking about building a long section underground or the ocean?

As a child, I thought that those pneumatic tubes in the supermarket were the most awesome thing ever. (I still think that they are really cool!) And I think the hyperloop is a fantastic idea, but I would like to see concerns credibly addressed: (1) how will shifts in the tube alignment due to ground motion be addressed, (2) how will you pull a vacuum over a 1000-mile length of tubing, (3) what will it really feel like to be confined in a small windowless tube?, (4) instabilities are a big problem with aerodynamics - how much will the passenger be shaken around? (5) If there is a problem during transportation and the passenger-section of the tube gets stuck and loses pressure, the passengers will die in a vacuum right? (I know this is similar to an airplane failing, but dying underground, strapped into a dark tube seems even more unpleasant!)

My opinion is that the Hyperloop people are really doing their concept a disservice by not verifying that this concept will actually yield something usable for people at a small scale (either a short full-scale length or a sub-scale model) before proposing a huge investor-driven concept. It makes it seem like more of a boondoggle than an actual engineering concept.

I agree it is a boondoggle, but they need to talk about long-distance travel from the beginning because that is the only use case that makes any economic sense. The time spent stopping at stations, even for just 1 or 2 minutes, really kills the average speed.

Having spent considerable time in Japan, where high-speed rail is very common, hyperloop is a solution to a problem that has already been solved. High speed rail in Japan competes directly with domestic air travel. Pricing is very similar and total transit times are roughly the same. It almost comes down to personal preference or whatever direction the last-minute pricing has trended. Building a completely different system, that will almost certainly be more expensive than high speed rail is one of those engineering tangents that is technically impressive but functionally overcomplicated and not economically justified.

We need more high speed rail in this country, but finding the right routes will be key. I don't believe there is any serious consideration of this- it is usually "which congressperson is most powerful or negotiates the biggest favor". Another huge problem is that driving in the USA is too cheap. Driving from Tokyo to Osaka leaving at 2PM costs roughly $180 in tolls, and gasoline costs roughly $4.50 a gallon. An adult high speed rail ticket Tokyo-Osaka costs about $145 and takes 1/3 to 1/2 the time, depending on traffic. A flight is roughly comparable to the train for price, time, and schedule availability. Unless you have a carload of people or just love driving, driving that route doesn't make sense. Until driving is considerably more expensive in the US, we will never have good mass transit.

Comment Re:I guess this is great (Score 1) 205

But I am not sure what system or software can take advantage of it. Personally I want to see progress being made on quantum computing for consumer lever stuff.

If you have an application where you can calculate many possible solutions independant of each other, and then choose the best one, this kind of processor might be useful. Quantum computers are very strong for that kind of application, so I see it being a stepping stone to quantum computing.

Comment Re:We've been over this (Score 1) 55

And meanwhile, in the real world, electric planes are a real thing, actually rather popular in the light aircraft world, and a market that's growing by leaps and bounds every year. And actually have excellent performance vs. price figures compared to their ICE equivalents. Ranges are usually similar to those of electric cars, 150-400km.

Can we ditch with the old battery-energy-density-versus-fuel-energy-density canard, as if a gallon of petrol is an entire vehicle? Even the long-range versions of the Model S, the batteries are only a third of the vehicle weight. There are other parts to a vehicle. An electric motor the size of a roomba has the power output of an entire typical gasoline engine in a typical passenger car. And you can ditch the transmission and a lot of other hardware as well. And it's only logical that this size difference would be the case. Electric motors have vastly less heat to dissipate - heat dissipation means mass. Electric motors have vastly fewer parts; complexity equals mass. Electric motors create force directly applied as torque on a driveshaft linkage (or even directly on the wheel), while ICEs produce it as pressurized gas, change that to linear momentum, then change that to rotational. Obviously the latter is going to cost you signfiicantly in terms of mass.

This headline makes it sound like electric airplanes are new. They're not. They're not even in the one-off-prototype stage, there are a number of serial producers out there. The market is expected to be over 22 billion a year three years from now. I'm not sure I believe it's going to scale up that fast, but it most definitely is growing. It's not even just small manufacturers, even Airbus is currently tooling up to market their E-Fan.

I'm sure we will have electric planes but they will almost certainly remain the domain of small aircraft. The car analogy works well. Electric cars make sense but electric 18-wheelers don't and probably never will. A radical and fundamental shift in how we move cargo and people is more likely to me than an electric A330.

Comment Re:Selling renwable power (Score 1) 107

I kind of get the solar/wind power buyers who pay more. There are a smattering of people for whom paying extra for "renewable" power has some religious meaning even though the actual power they use may be from non-renewable sources. Fine. We salute your noble personal sacrifice for the cause of sustaining renewable energy.

What I completely don't get is why someone would be an *Apple" renewable power buyer. I see renewable as the basic "brand" here and don't understand why anyone would specify Apple power. Even device fandom doesn't explain it to me.

This looks mostly like a set of corporate constructs to lessen the regulatory burden and increase Apple's flexibility to both sell its excess power and maximize whatever financial advantages it has in terms of tax structure.

It seems to me like one of the weird side effects of massive profitability and lack of investment in product diversity or expansion is that some companies seem to be drifting into almost financial company status, where the business imperative shifts to structural tactics to expand profitability versus expanding the existing core business.

GE kind of did this a decade or so ago, where its finance unit became so important to the business that some people thought the company should be evaluated as a financial company not a manufacturer.

That's exactly what it is. Deregulation of the electricity market sent us on this path in many states. Deregulation created new job titles like "Energy Trader" and "Energy Market Analyst". Such people get paid very handsomely to play the energy market exactly as if it were a stock market.

Setting up a "power company" doesn't even require physical infrastructure of any kind anymore. You can set up the appropriate legal entities, purchase electricity in bulk wholesale, market your "service" to the public, and sell to individual consumers all from the comfort of your home office. The Texas electricity supplier market is full of such "paper" utilities. Every state is a little different, but that appears to be the mechanism by which Apple is doing this.

As far as I know, it is very unusual for a company to sell their excess power like this. A more common arrangement is to have a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which is basically a contract to buy X MW-h at Y price for a term of Z years (10-20 years generally). Then, if the company has excess electricity, it sells to the grid at the wholesale price. There is often ample opportunity for making huge profits using this method since the PPA price can, and often is, much lower than market rate. This allows entities such as large hospitals to run on PPA power most of the time, use their emergency generators for emergencies, but also fire up their generators on days when the market electricity price is very high for extra cash. This type of structure is good for the market since it gives critical electricity users reliable and redundant power options, and also gives the grid excess emergency capacity.

As someone in the industry, this development of a company selling electricity directly to consumers is somewhat troubling. These "paper" utilities cause enough problems- many of them use confusing and predatory marketing and pricing plans. I truly believe we need to sort out those deregulation issues before we allow even more non-utility companies to enter the fray. Electricity used to be a trusted market, where people may have paid too much, but the pricing was honest and everyone generally got the same deal. All the nontraditional players entering the market are turning it into something more like the life insurance market where the sleaziest sales teams are the biggest winners.

Comment Re:The problem is not Waze (Score 1) 767

The problem is that Waze has a reason to exist. The problem is cities, counties and states that allow two day road repairs to take six months. If they'd make the construction crews do their job correctly, Waze would cease to exist within a few months, because the main thruways wouldn't be clogged up all the time and nobody would care.

It costs more money to do road repairs on a short schedule. All vendors involved need to commit to specific dates/times to make that happen. That tends to increase bids since vendors can't schedule their portion around other work. Someone needs to coordinate and manage the job more closely and actively compared with a "slow" repair. If vendors are to be held to deadlines, someone needs to coordinate between the vendors and keep track of delays. Delays often lead to disputes so lawyers and higher management often needs to get more involved. Those things cost money.

Some places see the value in spending that money. Other places don't. Every project much bigger than a pothole fill should have a traffic analysis and the disruption to the public measured in man-hours wasted. If the (man-hours wasted * $5/hour) is greater than the cost of doing the project "fast", then the project should be done fast. That's the right way to determine this. I get the impression that this is rarely done.

Comment Re:We paid enough taxes (Score 1) 767

for the road to handle a certain amount of traffic. In theory if more traffic was expected more money would be spent.

Actually, if this continues, I imagine what will happen is what happened in my old neighborhood.

I used to live in a large city that had a lot of residential neighborhoods, and traffic was terrible so people would be tempted to cut through them rather than taking major routes.

What happened was -- the city adopted a series of rules to actively tie up traffic on residential streets, in an escalating chain of snarling effects.

I forget what all the stages were, but it was something like:

- put in more crosswalks, add warning signs, make lanes narrower - put in speed zones, create turning restrictions and commercial vehicle restrictions - create more one-way streets, have one-way streets terminate in consecutive blocks forcing traffic to wind around in a serpentine fashion - if there's still too much traffic, then the badness really started: deliberate choking points, raised intersections, speed humps, etc. - and finally the ultimate measures: turn streets into random cul-de-sacs by closing off ends of blocks, or in worst case scenarios institute mid-block street closures

I know a number of municipalities do this sort of stuff deliberately already to keep traffic out of residential neighborhoods, but it tends mostly to be large cities. If Waze continues to route traffic this way, believe me -- more and more municipalities will catch on and start doing this stuff.

And having lived in a neighborhood like this for several years, I can say it's a pain in the neck. I'd be required to drive a circuitous serpentine 7-block route just to get home within my neighborhood in an area where I would only have had to go about 2 blocks by walking.

But it was still much better than having rush-hour traffic going by my front door every morning and evening. The money won't be spent to improve these streets -- it will be to set up barriers to make these streets so awful that people will rather sit in traffic on the highway.

We need to find a balance here. I've lived in both Milwaukee and Houston. The bulk of Milwaukee is a relatively old city (developed before 1950) and is dominated by the grid system. I had about 8 different commute routes available to me when I lived there, despite living only 4 miles away from work. Zoning was mostly a good thing and commercial properties were often located near or in residential areas.

Houston outside of 610 is dominated by post-1970s city planning. Residential areas have a lot more disjointed roads, dead ends, cul-de-sacs, and entry on a limited number of sides of the area. I have about 4 different commutes available on my 15 mile commute, and they substantially overlap. I have no choice but to use certain highways or face enormous detours. Zoning seems completely out of control and developers seem to be able to do whatever they want, including building properties in the suburbs with completely inadequate parking, flood, traffic, or noise considerations.

The big problem I see is that the Houston road transit system is not very linear from large to small, and the post-1970s planning style is far too car-dominant. We need big highways, small residential surface streets, and everything in between. Houston doesn't plan for that. It is problematic to design efficient junctions or access between big roads/highways and small residential streets. There should be a middle-size road between them so that the big road doesn't have a high-traffic driveway every 100ft. A somewhat linear progression from small->large roads is needed, but this is not considered in many parts of the US. Medium-size roads are too big for developers to be responsible, but too small for matching federal funds to be allocated, which seems to be the main consideration when building or improving roads these days. Maybe we should do the responsible thing and raise gas taxes while oil prices are still very low.

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