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Comment Re:What happened to personal choice? (Score 1) 104

... there are certain laws that Uber is required to comply with if it wishes to hire workers, whether they be contractors or actual employees ... they should not be able to require private arbitration against drivers who are trying to force Uber to live up to their legal obligations as an employer ... I believe that binding arbitration clauses are decidedly unfair and biased in favor of the company demanding the contract at the expense of the person who is forced to accept that contract

I don't doubt that you believe that the arbitration clause is unfair and biased -- but what you (or I) believe is irrelevant here, since it is the drivers who signed the contract. They evidently didn't believe the clause was unfair or biased -- after all they signed a the contract. We should respect their judgement.

Comment What happened to personal choice? (Score 2) 104

As far as I know, drivers aren't forced (by operation of law or against the law) to drive for Uber. Anyone who drivers for Uber has freely signed the contract, judging that the benefits of driving for Uber outweighed the costs -- including all the obligations imposed by the contract such as the arbitration clause.

If the drivers didn't like the terms of the contract, they had a simple remedy: they could have found a different job. We should respect their choice.

More so if it is us (society at large and the legal system) who think that the drivers made a bad bargain, in that we believe giving up access to the courts isn't worth the money you get by driving for Uber. Then our solution is to speak out and convince the drivers to quit -- it's not to retroactively negate the free choice the drivers made.

Comment News reporting creates cognitive biases (Score 5, Insightful) 243

We have a fundamental problem: our brains tend to confuse the availability and prevalence of information about something with the prevalence of the underlying event.

Here, the news is reporting on every serious Tesla crash, creating the false impression that these are dangerous cars -- we aren't seeing a report on every Corolla crash, say.

I think the same bias plays into current panic over child abductions, which is distorting evaluation of common parenting strategies like letting kids play by themselves: it's not that abductions today are more common in the past, but that today's media is much better equipped to discover and wildly and rapidly disseminate information about them.

Comment Re:Your logic would seem to make sense but for... (Score 2) 238

The EULA that comes with Windows specifically allows customers to return it for a refund

NO. The EULA specifically refers customers to the OEM to get a refund based on the OEM's return/refund policy. That policy could be that they can get a separate refund for Windows but keep the device, but it doesn't have to be. Here Sony's refund policy is that you can return the whole device and get all of your money back.

Comment Bundling is perfectly normal (Score 5, Insightful) 238

Just because you may want the company to offer different products, doesn't mean they have to. My electric razor came with all kinds of useless attachments, but it would be silly to ask for a refund for those I don't use. The seller offers the product for sale, the buyer decides whether to buy it, they negotiate the price, and if both are satisfied the sale takes place.

Asking about "the price of each piece of preinstalled software" is even worse nonsense. We don't obliged sellers to disclose their costs of assembling their products (that's their private information!). And the retail price of the components is utterly irrelevant.

In the specific case of MS-Windows on laptops there is a question of abuse of monopoly power (the ruling does have an exception for when the bundling distorts the market) -- but as long as Sony's policy of not offering component refunds is due to Sony (rather than a contractual obligation between Sony and Microsoft) I don't see how that could be a cause for complaint either. I remember situations where MS insisted that to get an OEM license vendors had to promise to only sell machines with preinstalled OS -- but even then I don't think it had to be MS-Windows that was preinstalled, and this is not similar to what's in the complaint.

Comment This isn't about new hardware (Score 4, Insightful) 378

The problem is not newly-bought consumer electronics or legacy software. The problem is legacy hardware. I'm still using the Thinkpad I bought in 2006 (4:3 aspect ratio display). Luckily it's a 64-bit processor, but others have older 32-bit machines.

It's also not about the kernel -- Linux itself will support 32-bit architecture for a long while more, and most software will compile correctly on both 32-bit and 64-bit, though it will be less and less true as distributions stop their QA and you are left with only the upstream development team.

Of course, these old machines are pretty few, so it probably does make sense for Ubuntu to drop 32-bit packages. Other more enthusiast-targeted distributions will probably keep 32-bit support. In particular Gentoo compiles everything locally.

Comment "No surveillance or other purposes" -- really? (Score 5, Informative) 368

If the only goal was simply to provide low-power functionality, the coprocessor would be fully controlled by the operating system (ultimately, by the owner of the machine).

In fact, the main goal is to provide remote administration capabilities (what they call Intel Active Management Technology). In other words, the idea is to allow a remote administrator to take over the machine in a way that is independent of and invisible to the main operating system and processor. This serves a legitimate purpose in an "enterprise" environment (one person administers a large number of diverse machines) -- for example it allows taking back control of a cracked machine, or recovering critical data from memory after OS crashes. However, this feature is not useful for a privately administered single-user machine.

Finally, by definition a remote administration feature is a back door. This one is incredibly dangerous: a rootkit running on the coprocessor is entirely invisible to the operating system, has its own independent network access, and can monitor the disk, the memory and all other peripherals. In principle the remote management features must be activated via the System BIOS and you can set a password there, but really your only measure of safety against this back door is your trust that there are no bugs in Intel's code.

Why isn't Intel allowing you to replace the firmware? Because it's hard to ensure that the owner of the machine is the one initiating the firmware replacement. The real troubling point is that Intel isn't allowing you to disable this feature with a hardware switch. Hardware switches (jumpers on the motherboard) are a way of controlling the system available only to the physical owner of the machine. Having a hardware switch would satisfy both the enterprise and security-concious customers.

Comment Congress should fix it (Score 2) 63

Both the Patent law and Copyright law are in desperate need of fixing, and letting courts bumble their way around is not the way to go.

Current Patent law is drafted with the idea that you patent whole devices, at which point if you build something covered by patent without getting a license you should be liable for your "total profits". But today patents cover small bits in the device, and each device embodies thousands of patents. Courts (especially the Supreme Court) can say "Congress didn't think about that when it drafted the law, so we'll 'interpret' the language Congress actually wrote [total profits] to mean something that makes sense [the part of the profits which is attributable just to the infringed patent]. But this is a bad solution -- much better would be for Congress to change the law. At that time other urgent fixes (like the term of patents, the windfall rules for making out-of-patent and out-of-production rare drugs etc) can also be made.

Copyright law is similar: rather than hope courts will restrain themselves (lowering absurd damage verdicts like the Jammie Thomas case) or restrain Congress (how did Eldred v Aschroft do?) we need to get Congress to fix the copyright term at something reasonable (say 20 years, renewable with registration once).

Comment How can they correct this bias? (Score 4, Insightful) 304

And now that Google is aware of this, it should take some steps to correct this bias. As a significant source of information to the great masses, washed and unwashed, this will just perpetuate sterotypes and lies.

So you think that instead of reporting on the world as it is Google should, in their infinite wisdom, decide what the world should look like and then return search results with that in mind?

Moreover, how do you envision Google actually implementing your regime of censorship? Currently the lifetime risk of going to prison for a black US male is about 30%. By age 18, 30% of black men have been arrested. The typical white and black teenager do not have the same life experiences. So how are Google's algorithms supposed to decide when displaying the inequalities of our society is the right thing to do, and when doing so would be too upsetting to the user?

Comment Non-linearity at smaller scales (Score 3, Interesting) 146

I wish slashdot headlines weren't so definite. This is a single paper adding incrementally to our knowledge; it is not a survey article describing the joint understanding of all cosmologists.

For example, reading the paper, the galaxies hosting the supernovae in the sample had Cepheid--calibrated distances, in other words these are reasonably close objects (hence the reference to the local Hubble constant). While the paper discusses the possible effect of local motions of these 19 (!) galaxies, I don't think this discussion is sufficient. These proper motions are a more likely effect than issues with the CMB.

Comment Re:Contents of the 200TB proof (Score 5, Insightful) 143

Sorry, the system ate my "less than" signs. Here's a corrected version.
  1. Consider the integers between 1 and 7285. To each integer i assign a boolean variable P_i. These variables encode the partition of these integers into two classes (think of P_i as encoding the statement ""the integer i belongs to the first class").
  2. Now let $a,b,c$ be a Pythagorean triple (a^2+b^2=c^2 and each is between 1 and 7285). Construct the boolean expression Q_{a,b,c} = (P_a & P_b & !P_c) || (P_a & !P_b & P_c) .." (disjunction of 6 clauses each being a conjunction of three terms) describing the 6 ways in which a triple can be non-monochromatic). So Q_{a,b,c} encodes the assertion "the integers a,b,c are not in the same class" by writing out the 6 ways in which a,b,c can belong to two classes without all belonging to the same class).
  3. Finally, the claim "every triple is not monochromatic" is obtained by taking the conjuction of the Q_{a,b,c} over all triples (a,b,c) as above. It's a huge boolean expression and the goal is to show that it always evaluates to FALSE (in other words, that for any boolean assignment to all the P_i), the huge conjugation always takes the values.
  4. The proof works by manipulating this boolean expression: it has 200TB of instructions on how to manipulate this huge boolean expressions step-by-step in ways that obviously don't change its truth value, so that at the end one of the clauses in the conjunction simply reads "FALSE", making the whole expression indeed universally false. A computer program discovered this list of manipulations, and a separate (much simpler) program can easily verify that the manipulations are of the right kind (they don't change the truth value) and that at the end of the manipulation you get a clause saying FALSE.

Comment Contents of the 200TB proof (Score 2) 143

On topic, what is the content of this 200tb proof? Is that just a text file where each character is a bit? How many libraries of congress is this proof?

Consider the integers between 1 and 7285. To each integer i assign a boolean variable P_i. These variables encode the partition of these integers into two classes (think of P_i as encoding the statement ""the integer i belongs to the first class").

Now let $a,b,c$ be a Pythagorean triple (a^2+b^2=c^2 and 1

Finally, the claim "every triple is not monochromatic" is obtained by taking the conjuction of the Q_{a,b,c} over all triples (a,b,c) as above. It's a huge boolean expression and the goal is to show that it always evaluates to FALSE (in other words, that for any boolean assignment to all the P_i), the huge conjugation always takes the values.

The proof works by manipulating this boolean expression: it has 200TB of instructions on how to manipulate this huge boolean expressions step-by-step in ways that obviously don't change its truth value, so that at the end one of the clauses in the conjunction simply reads "FALSE", making the whole expression indeed universally false. A computer program discovered this list of manipulations, and a separate (much simpler) program can easily verify that the manipulations are of the right kind (they don't change the truth value) and that at the end of the manipulation you get a clause saying FALSE.

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