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Comment Onshoring (Score 1) 267

I think onshoring has been a trend for a while now.

What I've been noticing about Chinese goods made by Chinese companies versus Western-branded goods made in China is that while you can still get absolute junk for dirt cheap from the Chinese companies, medium- to higher-end goods from Chinese and Western companies is becoming on par in terms of quality and price. In some cases Chinese companies offer a thing that no Western company offers. That's right, actual innovation. For example, my wooden alarm clock/Bluetooth speaker with Qi and USB charging. No Western company offers anything like that. And it costs what you would expect to pay, closer to $100. The better stuff from China nowadays is not a copy of a Western product, and it commands a price premium. What I'm saying, in other words, is that China is making the same transition that Japan made. China will coexist with Japan and the West and focus on the higher end. What's concerning to me is that economic success seems to be making China more authoritarian, although the Chinese people are great at poking holes through to the West. Perhaps the political situation in China will take care of itself.

As such, as did the Japanese, I would expect the Chinese to bring factories online in the US. There is no substitute for the cheap junk, but as Japan learned there is not much profit in it either. The good stuff like automobiles, you manufacture in the United States, and you employ Americans. Trump gets credit, everybody is happy, but it was the best decision purely in terms of the numbers.

Comment Value of LinkedIn (Score 1) 232

Does anybody actually use LinkedIn for anything? It seems to be the most useless social media company going.

I've had a LinkedIn account since they started and although I'm always typing in my LInkedIn credentials to connect my LinkedIn account to third parties, I've probably spent a grand total of six actual hours using LinkedIn. I use Facebook more than six hours per day.

Rarely does one large tech company acquiring another large tech company (both in terms of valuation) ever work. I foresee Microsoft dumping LinkedIn for $1 billion in 3 years, losing $25 billion in the process.

Does anybody use LinkedIn for anything but a backup location to park their resumes?

Comment UK power, then and now (Score 1) 83

It wasn't long ago that England was the most powerful nation in the world.

What many people don't realize is that if England were a state, it would be 51st, below Mississippi, in terms of economic output. (England is 83.9% of the United Kingdom by population.) If you expanded your measurement to include Great Britain (the UK excluding Northern Ireland), Great Britain would be 50th, right above Mississippi.

What I expect, as the UK completes its separation from the EU, is for the kingdom's role in the world to fall to something more in line with the role of one US state. As such, I'd expect to see measures indicative of economic strength like this one to lag. I'd actually be quite delighted to welcome the United Kingdom to the United States. The only thing that the British people would lose in joining the United States as our 51st state would be titles of nobility.

Comment Good books, but (Score 1) 381

I own all of them, but to be honest I haven't cracked any book at work since at least 2009. I work on a web services-based POS, a fairly advanced but typical piece of technology for the working world. My comment shouldn't apply to programming in a research environment, but most people aren't doing that type of programming. I'm talking about your average piece of software.

Most programming "in the real world" is maintaining other people's code and making incremental improvements.

The first art of computer programming is figuring out other people's mistakes and correcting them. The second art of computer programming is communicating the work you've done to the next person. The third art is writing code that is so straightforward that an inexperienced programmer can understand what you did so that he can fix your bugs and make his own incremental improvements.

The information in textbooks and books such as TAOCP has been available online for a decade. On the rare occasion that you as a programmer have to do a computer science-y thing, a Google search followed by research is your best course of action. Using books is just outmoded nowadays.

I've been programming since the 1980's so take this with a grain of salt. If you still use your dead tree library then more power to you. There is a different style of programming for every programmer. We have three full-time programmers here and we all have radically different styles but we barely write down anything and there isn't a single programming book in our current office. We barely use paper anymore. I personally write down no more than about 50 words a week.

There is a philosophy I subscribe to that if you can't explain something to your mother, then you don't understand what you're doing well enough. TAOCP is dense stuff. The information is there, and it is conveyed correctly. But that's the science, not the art, of computer programming. Sorry, Knuth.

Comment A careful reading might be useful (Score 1) 46

The mainland Chinese speak and write in double entendres, similar to how dissidents communicated in the Soviet Union.

I'd be careful about judging Mr. Ma's statements on their face. He has no choice but to officially tow the party line, or else risk surrendering his entire fortune and spending time in prison.

Maybe Mr. Ma is a true believer, but I have my doubts. The last thing Ma would ever want to do would be to give President Xi a reason to purge him, as he has done with many of his competitors inside and outside of Beijing.

Comment Re:How is this supposed to be surprising? (Score 1) 207

Precisely the point I make below. I paid about $2,000 for my picture tube HDTV some time around 1999-2001, and I still love it. But most people don't want to pay thousands of dollars for a television, and they don't care about buying a television that will last them 20 years.

$500 is a very attractive price, whether there is content or not. Manufacturers have figured out how to make 4K equipment cheap, and so customers are buying it. Manufacturers could not figure out how to make a $500 HDTV for a decade or longer.

Comment Unsurprising (Score 1) 207

This doesn't surprise me. I purchased one of the first HDTVs, an RCA F38310 38-inch picture tube television within about a year of 2000. The MSRP was $3,500, which in today's dollars would be nearly $5,000. If I remember correctly, I paid right around $2,000, which would be expensive even in 2016 dollars. [After a capacitor repair ten years ago, the television works great and has a vivid picture to this day, only lacking 1080p and HDMI---easily worked around. I might keep this television forever, if only to play video games.]

Consumers today can get decent 4K televisions for around $500, and I've seen smaller sets for less. In 2000 you needed to spend over $1,000 in 2000 dollars for something decent. LCDs were really crappy back then. If you're old enough, you might recall that many people bought plasma sets, which were more like $5,000 each. None of this helped adoption of HDTV.

Retrospectively I'm saying that a lack of content was not the major factor in the slow consumer demand for HDTV equipment. It was simply that the equipment that was any good cost way too much, into the thousands of dollars. Manufacturers have figured out how to sell 4K equipment cheaply, and so consumers are buying it, lack of content be damned.

Comment I wouldn't be so quick to mock the general (Score 1) 265

A few years ago I decided to begin producing a serial, including eventually posts to Facebook Notes and to my timeline regarding a partly machine encephalovirus, and what life would be like to exist with one. There is no level of insanity involved in my posts. It's a useful exercise, and it gets my creative juices flowing. Being a programmer can be a stressful life, and it helps to do different stuff.

What we really have to worry about when it comes to machine weapons systems are the ones that we can't see, weapons systems that can infect us like a virus. Particularly troubling would be an encephalovirus, a virus that infects our nervous system and eventually acquires the ability to change our behavior and our thought processes. The idea of nanotech has been explored in depth in science fiction, but most of the writers refer to nanotech as if it's some kind of utopia for humanity. My take is that it could be partly utopian and partly dystopian.

It would be possible for nanotech to become weaponized, and to even take over all human life, possibly without us knowing it. The wrinkle or twist in my writing is that I entertain the possibility of an alien race that may no longer exist that produced and possibly weaponized nanotech. This nanotech floated to Earth some time over the past few million years of mammal evolution, far before we had any technlogy more modern than the campfire, and it infected us, giving it plenty of time to become as stealth as possible.

Knowing that the modern human as it exists today is a machine hybrid is the topic that I explore. As human nanotech advances, once we detect our infection how do we go about getting rid of it, and what does it do to defend itself? Does it mean our destruction, can we learn to live in peace with it, or some other possibility?

Substitute an alien race for humanity a few generations from now, and you have roughly the same story, but I wanted to work with something that could be possible today without using with a presumed future human society. Roughly the same concerns as the general would apply.

Comment Yes (Score 2) 385

I just got done burning nearly 100 CD-Rs for a relative who requested a bunch of music. If you don't own a car made in the last 5 years you may not even have an AUX port, let alone Bluetooth. My 17-year-old car has neither, although I did install an aftermarket Bluetooth FM transmitter so I can use my smartphone in that application.

For myself I burn DVDs of live music, with an archival backup residing on an external hard drive just in case the media fails horribly. Minor failures of the media are no problem, as players will skip it and the viewing experience is not really degraded. Do I like to permanently archive data on optical media as my only backup? Not really.

Comment Re:Driving yes, but charging? (Score 1) 990

The US home ownership rate is below 64% and has been declining since 2005. Every article I read here on Slashdot about electric vehicles seems to make the assumption that 100% of Americans reside in a house they own with an attached garage. From what I have read, the only way to realistically charge most electric vehicles is overnight in your garage, but that the newest electric cars can charge the batteries to 80% in about 30 minutes.

In other words the newest cars are fine for people who own homes with attached garages and want to go on long trips. They simply need to wait a half hour or so at charging stations. This solves nothing for people who live in apartments who would have no way of charging their vehicles at home, unless they can charge their vehicles somehow while at work. The average person doesn't have an employer like that.

Because of these problems, electric cars will continue to be only for wealthy individuals, even if the purchase price is within reach for the average person.

Comment The simple answer is college (Score 3, Interesting) 643

In the 1960's it was possible for most Middle Class people to have a child in their early 20's and go on to live a successful life. Today it's almost mandatory for Middle Class people to attend college to have any hope for good paying jobs with the ability to be promoted, and good luck being able to raise a kid at the same time when you're paying today's ridiculously high tuition rates. The easiest way to avoid this little complication is to wait until you're done with school to even have sex at all. Sad but unfortunately true for people with average means.

Ironically, for people who have no way to attend a good college today, they might as well have children because there is little or no hope for any kind of economic advancement anyway.

Comment In praise of USB (Score 1) 536

As traditional as I tend to be regarding technology, I'm going to spend a few minutes singing USB's praises.

Wherever I go, I can find several different ways to charge my phone. I can buy a device to charge my phone at any gas station. I can piggy back on a random person's power bank. Most people own at least one nowadays. I can go into any restaurant and if I ask politely, I can probably get access to a free USB port. Many restaurants just have them for customers. Even basic motels costing $40/night offer USB charging. All computers have USB ports, with few exceptions. Nearly all cars made today have them. Every power strip at my employer has at least two USB ports. USB has fulfilled its promise of being universal. I remember quite clearly when charging your phone was an ordeal. That wasn't very long ago.

All external hard drives are now interchangeable. If you have a hard drive with data on it, you can share it with anybody, or you can plug it into most routers. Does anybody remember the bad old days before there was a standard for external hard drives? I do.

What I've seen recently is a further development in USB. Most small-to-medium sized electronics devices are beginning to either be powered by USB or offer USB charging, or both. The devices with USB are often cheaper than their counterparts, because the manufacturer can use cheaper, off-the-shelf components. Even my solar-chargeable camping lantern has a USB charging port, though I can't imagine ever needing it.

The idea here is that it is possible that in addition to all of the above uses of USB, we could eventually add all new headphones to the mix. They're going to be more expensive at first, but it won't be too long before Chinese manufacturers figure out how to make them for a couple of dollars. I do realize that the Type C connector has a different shape, but we're already accustomed to transitioning USB equipment. There is still a small amount of mini-USB equipment but the transition is nearly done. We'll have to do another one, and hopefully it will work out for the best.

I'll be waiting for equipment to start adopting Type C more commonly. I have no desire to be an early adopter, but I feel like this new style of headphones could work.

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