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Comment Re:Sad end to a great operating system (Score 1) 110

Focusing on the Alpha was also a mistake. People learned UNIX by running it on cheap machines. Even during the heyday of proprietary UNIX systems, people were learning BSD on the Amiga and then going to work on SunOS, AIX, or whatever. In the i386, Intel added the 4-ring protection model to x86 because DEC said that they needed it for VMS. Instead of porting from VAX to i386, they ported to Alpha (which only had two rings). If they'd made a cheaper uniprocessor VMS (maybe missing some of the clustering features), they'd have had an entry-level system for people to learn about the system. Instead, you had 100 people who knew UNIX for every one who knew VMS and this made it a no brainer to use UNIX.

Comment Re:Sad end to a great operating system (Score 1) 110

No, but more importantly it was never ported to the PDP-11. The Multics process and library model required a lot more from the memory management unit than most modern commodity hardware provides, whereas UNIX ran on systems with no MMU at all. You could run UNIX on a toy computer, even if you couldn't afford something that could run Multics. That's a key lesson for tech companies: watch out for competitors eating the low end of your market because economies of scale matter.

Comment Re:HBO needs to get its head back in the game (Score 1) 145

I found that once I stopped having a TV, I also stopped being bombarded with adverts for TV shows and movies, and I stopped caring about whether I was watching something new or something 5-10 years after release. I wonder how much this will become the norm as more people switch from broadcast TV to other media.

Comment Re:HBO needs to get its head back in the game (Score 1) 145

The HBO subscription is only worth it if you have a peer group that also has an HBO subscription and so it's important to watch things at the same time as them. I stopped buying DVDs about 10 years ago when renting became a lot cheaper than buying, but I've recently started again with boxed sets. Even if I only watch each episode once, it's cheaper than any of the streaming options, plus they're practically DRM free (as in, the DRM is so broken that it may as well not exist) and I can copy them to a mobile device for watching on long trips. Oh, and I get to wait until there are multiple years of something before I watch it.

I do wonder a bit what would happen to the economics of TV series production if most people did this. You'd expect a TV show to make a loss for the first few years, but then be profitable over a longer time, which is a very different model from the current mode of any profits after the first year are a nice bonus, but not factored into the accounting calculations.

Comment Re:Saving the world with a Tax. (Score 5, Insightful) 269

The idea of a tax isn't as silly as you make it sound. The problem with most forms of pollution (from a purely economic standpoint) is that one person or company gains the benefits from polluting, but everyone pays the costs. This is known as an externality. Taxing pollution fixes this and means that the polluting technology becomes more expensive to operate and makes the barrier to entry for non-polluting technologies higher. If something is producing a lot of carbon dioxide but costs $5/widget, and you add a tax that amounts to $2.50/widget, then a replacement technology that doesn't emit any CO_2 but costs $7/widget is now cheaper to use. This means that you can bring it to market before you've got the economies of scale to push the price down below $5/widget.

Comment Re:solar/wind talk is spin - France vs China (Score 1) 269

Size doesn't really matter, because most renewable schemes scale with area. Population density does. France has 116/km^2, China has 145/km^2, so almost a 25% higher overall population density. That translates to a little bit less space for wind, solar, hydro and so on per capita, but not by enough to make it infeasible. Add in nuclear power, and the scaling is quite easy - building a nuclear power plant is hard, but doubling the generating capacity doesn't come close to doubling the land area, as long as you have a supply of uranium (China has uranium mines, France doesn't).

Comment Re:White Power Rangers...ASSEMBLE! (Score 1) 307

A big part of the problem is that race and wealth correlate strongly in the USA and the rhetoric from the Democrats has been about race and not poverty, even though the latter is the real problem. This leaves people who are both poor and white feeling that the party only cares about poverty when it happens to black people and, worse, that it feels middle class black people deserve more help than poor white ones. This is made even worse by the fact that there's a black President: clearly being black isn't a complete barrier to success, but being born poor often is.

Comment Re:How's that feel Texas? (Score 2) 119

The key word in the summary is 'hundreds'. It brings the total that Tesla is planning on hiring to 7,000. Nevada is giving Tesla $1.3bn over 20 years, so that works out at $65m/year, or $10K/worker. It's a pretty big gamble that the state will take $10K/year more in tax revenues per worker than if the factory were not there. They're betting that the existence of the Tesla factory will spur other job-creating manufacturing industry.

Comment Re:so old! (Score 1) 60

1. Do you have to go out of your way and invest significant time and effort to avoid the use of these Oracle-owned libraries when you want to develop software in Java?

I'm quite happy to go out of my way to not add an extra 'use expensive commercial features' flag when I invoke the JVM.

2. Are you able to write good software without the Oracle-owned libraries? (good = robust, efficient, secure, ...)

I'd first like to see an existence proof that robust, efficient, and secure software exists, but assuming that axiom, any Java program that works with OpenJDK (i.e. the reference Java implementation) will work without any Oracle-specific things.

Comment Re:Mac OS based espionage malware (Score 3, Informative) 60

It's also probably difficult to get a user to accidentally install it. Java used to be installed by default on MacOS X, then there was a thing where, on first use, it would prompt the user and ask them if they wanted it. Now there's a thing saying 'you need Java to do this, go to this web page and download and install it, then try again'. Most casual users will say 'that looks hard, I can't be bothered'.

Comment Re:That doesn't change anything (Score 1) 118

Making money here means net profit. For a growing business, this should be negative. If you can borrow money at a 5% interest rate and use it to grow the business at a rate of 10%, then you report a loss but your company value increases. Amazon's strategy has been along these lines for most of its existence: all gross profits are reinvested in the business, so they always show a loss and their increase in value gives them the access to more capital through loans or by issuing more stock.

Comment Re:Can it beat the doctors (Score 4, Informative) 153

This is a common problem with most AI announcements. Is 80% accurate better than a simple statistical model? Often not. Does it scale up from a small sample size? Remember the recent face recognition thing that managed with only a hundred or so pixels? Sounded impressive, until you realise that the training set and the testing set were the same and that they only included around 1,000 faces, so simple information theory tells you that you only need 10 bits of information to identify each one and 800 bits doesn't sound quite so impressive.

Comment Re:Don't realize who the robber barons are, do you (Score 2) 118

And yet, in the UK where it is illegal to make union membership compulsory, unions seem to work better. If people see the unions working on their behalf, then they're generally happy to pay the dues (sure, you get a few freeloaders, but not enough to break the system). If a union is not representing the interests of the majority of its members, then it will quickly see its funding dry up. Importantly, voluntarily paying union dues is a big signal to the employer that the union actually does have negotiating power: it implies that the the union is trusted by the majority of the employees to bargain on their behalf. In many places, you have two or more competing unions (though the law says that any deal reached by one union must be offered to all employees, irrespective of whether they are members of that union) and so not only does a union have to represent its members' interests to retain its income, it has to represent those interests better than the competition.

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