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Comment Re:The Verge is 100% wrong (Score 1) 56

History has also shown us that most new ideas fail. Even good ideas.

I agree that the idea of accessories per se, attractive as it is to me, isn't enough to make a product a success these days. However I should point out that back in the day of PDAs it was normal for mobile devices to have a CF or SD slot that could also be used to add features. This was in the day when mobile devices didn't have cell data connections, GPS or even wi-fi, and it was quite common for people to add memory cards, wi-fi, bluetooth, and GPS. I have a box full of accessory cards in my attic.

Handspring, a company that made Palm Pilot clones, initially did very well with their Springboard modules which allowed you to add any kind of functionality to the base system, just like what we're talking about here. Then a few years after introducing the Springboard module Handspring stopped making PDAs altogether in favor of what was then called a "converged device" -- aka a smartphone -- without the slot. It's all about timing; Handspring was perhaps a little ahead of the curve on convergence, but a lot of manufacturers were getting pushed that way because of falling hardware retail prices made it attractive to put more stuff in the base device to keep the price high.

The standard inclusion of GPS + Cloud + Camera + Bluetooth built-in means that there really isn't a need to physically connect a device to a mobile device. The only exception is battery; there is a real need for a more elegant and secure way to extend the operation of a smartphone than plugging it into a powerbank via USB.

But I may be wrong. Maybe there's a compelling use case for a modular architecture that I just haven't thought of yet. That's why I like to see vendors trying something different, although I usually expect them to fail. I've watched tech long enough to realize that success isn't just about an idea being right, it has to come at the right time.

Comment Re:Old stuff "discovered" by the ignorant (Score 1) 503

While I don't necessarily disagree with you, let me point out that orthodox economic models are also based on assumptions that are not entirely true. For example you don't necessarily assume that any one agent (e.g. the central planner) has all the information relevant to making decisions, but you do assume that all relevant information is available to parties making decisions about transactions they'll take part in. That's not true, but it's close enough to being true that the models have practical utility. Oh, and there's the bit about people being rational in their decision-making.

Comment Re:Question (Score 1) 503

Because believe it or not, while working sucks, not working also sucks. You don't know how much you get out of work until you don't have it anymore, and I mean stuff beside money: social interaction, purpose, challenge, someplace to go and someplace to look forward to take a vacation from.

In Sweden they're offering an intriguing compromise: work less, or more precisely work for fewer hours, which isn't precisely the same thing.

Comment Re:What a mess (Score 1) 455

You know, taking the dichotomy you propose as accurate, I'd go with the sleazeball hands down. You might not like them but you can work with sleazy people if you know what they are. They are simply pursuing their self-interest and respond predictably according to realistic calculations of where that lies.

A narcissist on the other hand you can't work with on the basis of realism because he's not rooted in the real world. He operates in a fantasy world. A sleazeball won't act in a way that harms himself but a narcissist, while every bit as self-oriented and deceptive will, and then go looking for scapegoats, even when that does more damage. A sleazeball only scapegoats when it's to his advantage.

So would you rather deal with someone who is rational but selfish, or someone who is unpredictable, self-destructive and selfish?

Comment Re:Anything incriminating? (Score 4, Interesting) 455

I was a Sanders supporter, and I'm neither surprised nor particularly upset. You have to be realistic. Hillary has been active and well-known in the party since 1974, when she rose to prominence as a whip-smart young staff attorney of the Children's Defense Fund. She's spent the last forty years, building contacts and networks in the Democratic party, including nationally as first lady for eight years and with nearly successful presidential run that took her across the entire country. She has a massive rolodex, war chest, and ground organization.

Bernie Sanders only joined the party in 2015. That the DNC was less than perfectly impartial towards the two won't come as news to an Bernie supporter, but to be frank the idea that long-time party insiders and activists would treat someone who joined the party last year the same as someone who's been a big deal in the party for decades is simply unrealistic.

Comment Re:What is the appeal of these things? (Score 1) 129

I think you think the text is too small because you haven't actually used one. I have, and I'm almost 60 years old and need bifocals. I generally can't read ingredients on food or vitamin packages without glasses, but I have no difficulty whatsoever with reading calendar notifications or caller ID on a smartwatch without glasses. Would I want to read a book or webpage on one? Nope. But for notifications the text size is plenty big for me, and I have weaker-than-average eyesight.

Likewise it's not particularly uncomfortable to wear a watch, or hard to remember to put one on. Some folks with ADHD might have problems, because they're always misplacing things and many of them have comfort issues with things like t-shirt tags which most people don't notice but they find distracting. But most people don't find watches uncomfortable or hard to keep track of.

This is just the usual problem with managing the tech adoption curve; the point where you've saturated the early adopter segment. There aren't new features coming in to entice thosee early adopters to upgrade and there aren't enough people on the penumbra of the early adopter community that they become hip. And there isn't really a killer app yet, unless it's fitness tracking which can be done on cheaper devices. That's the only reason I don't wear one anymore; there aren't any that are as good at fitness tracking as a fitbit, so I'd be paying more and getting less for my main use.

Comment Re:New Chrome looks terrible on OS X (Score 5, Insightful) 67

Why not use OS X's built-in widgets for tabs, arrows, etc.?

Is it more important for your browser to be consistent with the other apps on your desktop, or to be consistent with the browser across different kinds of platforms? The answer won't be the same for everyone, but what we're seeing now is the endpoint of process that Microsoft feared with Netscape back in the 90s: the marginalization of desktop operating systems as platforms.

Back in the 90s if your browser looked dramatically different from the way other Mac apps looked, users would have howled in protest. Now most people would agree that it's more important for a website or app to look consistent across different devices and operating systems. For many users it wouldn't matter very much whether they're using Windows, MacOS or Linux, were it not for the fact they're locked into MS Office.

So there's nothing "wrong" with OSX's built in widget set, except that it serves Google as a browser-centric company better to standardize the experience across host OSs.

Comment Re:What is the appeal of these things? (Score 1) 129

You missed the point. For most people's its not about adding functionality, it's about adding convenience. Doing the same things you could do with a phone, but with less bother. If you receive a lot of phone calls, most of which you ignore, or if (like me) you tend to put a lot of notifications in your calendar, a smartwatch adds a considerable level of convenience, although obviously you *could* haul your phone out of your pocket a dozen times a day, look at it then put it back. If you have to check the time frequently, or time things frequently, you obviously could use your phone, but a cheap digital watch is more convenient. If you don't need to do any of these things more than once or twice a day it's really difficult to add another device to the mix and increase convenience.

Since adding any device necessarily adds some inconvenience, we're in the complicated realm of user trade-offs. That's a tough problem, because to the mix of things like battery life, legibility, user interface you also have comfort and style. All the offerings on the market are marginal in at least one or two of these areas, so it's a tough sell outside the early adopter market. The trick for the long-term success of this product category is to keep offering early adopters enticing upgrades, long enough for someone to develop a really compelling device, the way that "converged devices" sputtered along for years until Apple introduced the iPhone. Can it be done? I don't know.

The one thing that smartwatches add these days that doesn't really work with smartphones alone is fitness tracking, but that's a niche market. Some people like me obsessively collect data and wear them 7x24 except for occasional recharges -- which I can do with a Fitbit surge because its battery lasts for multiple days. So for people like me you can't beat something like a Fitbit surge and going smartphone-only doesn't work at all, so where a solid reliable market for fitness trackers. The danger for the smart watch product category is that high-end activity trackers will evolve into smart watches, which is why recent smart watches all have multi-axis accelerometers and heart rate sensors. But they're also slightly more expensive, and certainly more complicated than the need to be for fitness tracking.

Comment Re:Amazon is awesome for knockoffs! (Score 5, Insightful) 342

Drop the tax rate and compete.

Actually net US corporate taxation is lower than most of our competitors. Yes, we have higher rates but those are offset by many more exemptions and exclusions. People who point to other countries want to adopt their rates but not their rules; adopting both would result in higher tax revenues and more incentive to shelter income.

We are getting one upped by others because they know how to compete - we don't.

It's not know-how. Primarily it's low wages. China has a per-capita GDP of $15,000, vs. $57,000 for the US. China's median private sector salary is $4,755 per year, vs $42,233 for the US. It's even lower What's more income inequality is greater in China than it is in the US. There are 21.6x fewer people in the top decile by income in China than there are in the bottom decile; that figure is 15.9 for the US. This basically means your work force is poor, and legally prevented from unionizing. On top of that regulations are spottily enforced in China if at all. All the complexity of environmental, worker and consumer protections go away if you're willing to grease a few palms. In business this is we call a no-brainer deal.

The irony is that culturally speaking the Chinese people hate the idea of corrupt officials. But they live in a system we're they're not only not allowed to vote, they're not allowed to know or publicize unflattering news. So going by the example of the country we have the greatest trade deficit with, the way to compete is to suppress wages and unions, provide a system of graft as a way to get around environmental and safety rules, take away individual voting rights and freedom of information, and basically run the place so that business owners (for a price) have their interests set above everyone else's.

OK, copying our #1 trade deficit partner turns out not to be so attractive. Well, who's #2 on the list? It's the European Union, where wages are high, regulation is high, bureaucracy is high, worker and consumer rights are high, and income inequality is low.

Hmm. Interesting choice.

Comment Re:Old Article & Three-Mile, Fukushima, or Che (Score 1) 140

One of the features of "black swan" events is that after the fact they're rationalized to appear more predictable than they actually were. So attributing Chernobyl to "human stupidity" is an explanation that only seems to explain. The problem is it gives you exactly zero insight; bad decisions are a factor in every disaster that's ever occurred, and was present but for some reason inoperative in every situation where a disaster was averted. Saying a catastrophe was "caused by stupid human error" is like saying "inertia caused the car accident." That's trivially true, but not very useful. You have to study the specifics of how inertia operated in a particular accident if you want to understand it. Same goes for stupidity in tech disasters.

In both Fukushima and Chernobyl bureaucratic decision-making played a key role in the disaster. TEPCO was warned some years earlier that their planning figures for tsunamis were inaccurate. They initiated a response which generated a few (obviously) ineffectual changes. In other words they fulfilled the imperative of being seen to respond to the information, without taking the threat implied by the information seriously.

One of the remarkable features of the Fukushima accident was how little the engineers understood about the state of the reactor as the event was unfolding. This raises a fundamental epistemological limitation: experience only prepares you for things you have experienced. In situations where you're thrust into the unknown, practical knowledge is of limited value. They may even be a hindrance. In TEPCO's experience monster tsuamis, while a theoretical possibility, didn't actually happen. They trusted their personal experience more than they trusted science.

The Chernnobyl operators found themselves in that same situation, operating a poisoned reactor with nearly all of its control rods removed. Stupid, yes, but the real story is how they got to the point. One key element is a piece of information unknown to operators: a design flaw in the reactor's SCRAM system which could cause a transient spike during an emergency shutdown. The disaster occurred during a safety test; night operator Alexander Akimov objected to running the tests on the poisoned reactor but was threatened with firing if the test did not proceed. He proceeded, ready to SCRAM the unstable reactor the instant it showed signs of exiting its poisoned state. He was unaware that when that happened it would already be too late to SCRAM the reactor.

So the particular forms of human stupidity involved in these events were: (1) not wanting to look bad (Dyaltov), (2) being satisfied with not looking bad (TEPCO), (3) being willing to take chances in order not to lose your job (Akimov), (4) trusting your experience to see you through the unexpected (everyone). If you could eliminate these behaviors the world would become a much better place, but you can't.

Comment Re:Cash Grab (Score 4, Informative) 123

But now we are getting into the "obligitory" cash grab, none of these law suites will result in resources to address "climate change" or give VW owners more than a cupon for a Big Mac.

Well, if you'd been following this story you'd know that owners' claims have already been dealt with as part of a fifteen billion (or put another way 6% of the company's annual revenues) settlement. So VW owners' interests are no longer at issue. The same settlement included 2 dollars for clean car research -- although technically that's not a fine, since the products of that research would belong to VW. It also included 2.7 million dollars to the EPA for violating US Federal law. That does NOT settle claims by US States for violating their laws.

Before I continue, let's put these numbers in context: 10.2 in owner compensation + 2.7 in Federal fines. The context is this: Volkwagen Group has annual revenues of 234 billion dollars and normally keeps over twenty billion dollars in cash on hand. It's enough money to hurt, but it's still pocket change.

Now in the US states are separate legal entities who can make and enforce their own laws. And this wasn't just a case of the company acting sloppily, or an individual rogue actor, or some weird arcane rule that could be easily overlooked. It was clearly a deliberate company strategy to commit consumer and regulatory fraud in order to gain a market advantage over its law-abiding competitors. It got caught, so now the company has to run the gantlet and take it's wrist slaps from every jurisdiction it broke the law in. If it dies of acute wrist trauma, well it's not as if the company didn't know what it was doing. It took the risk that it could get away with it and it lost. End of story. If they go out of business it's hardly an excessive result given their baldly criminal intentions.

Comment He was the kind of pres people THINK they want. (Score 4, Interesting) 237

Reagan scared the crap out of a lot of the rest of the world.

Which only a fool thinks is a good thing. But there are a lot of fools who fantasize about other people being submissive toward them because they're scared. The problem is that scared people don't necessarily act submissively. They often respond aggressively as well.

Put in a Cold War context, the Soviets and the US were in a Mexican standoff, with both sides having their hammers cocked and fingers on the nuclear trigger. In that situation you don't want to alarm anyone, but that is exactly what the senile fool did.

That summed up the election right there, Americans didn't want another 4 more years of someone who could be attacked by a rabbit.

I voted in that election, and I remember it well. You capture the way people were thinking accurately, but not critically. Anyone can be attacked by a (possibly rabid) animal; it wasn't a real issue. There were three actual substantive things people were reacting to in the election: (1) stagflation, (2) the Iran hostage crisis, (3) the energy crisis. While Carter's leadership style might leave a lot to be desired, it's hard to criticize his actions in any of these situations.

(1) Stagflation was the result of his and Paul Volker's successful attempt to ward off imminent hyperinflation by a combination of austerity (reducing the federal debt-to-gdp ratio of 3.3%) and sky high Federal Funds rates. Economic growth resumed pretty much in sync with the reductions in Fed interest rates, in fact under the last Carter budget (Presidents in their first year govern under their predecessor's last budget). Arguably milder steps might have done the job without causing the recession, but the fact that inflation continued even as the Federal Funds rate hit 20% suggest that weaker measures wouldn't have worked.

(2) Carter's handling of the Iran crisis is probably what brought his presidency down, but it came down to this: the military was still dealing with the aftermath of the Vietnam war and couldn't execute the rescue mission successfully. Contrary to popular myth Carter actually raised military spending, from 282 billion under the last Ford budget to 303 billion under the last Carter budget. Yes, some big programs were eliminated or trimmed, but ironically operations and maintenance was a major area of increased spending in Carter's budgets.

(3) The second oil crisis was caused by the Iran Iraq War. In response Carter deregulated oil prices, which caused domestic production to rise and imports to fall.

In short, Carter was the kind of president people think they want: honest, prudent, and responsible willing to do unpopular things because they were right. Had two of the eight helicopters in Operation Eagle Claw failed instead of three, he'd be remembered very differently.

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