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Comment Out of context? (Score 3, Insightful) 80

Buried in the original article is a mention that these statements were made during a two-day event Netflix held together with Dolby Laboratories, centered around High Dynamic Range video (e.g., Dolby Vision).

Maybe these out-of-context statements really mean "If we're filming a show in Dolby Vision and it has a lot of really dark scenes, maybe we should make a mobile version that brightens up the shadows a bit so that it's not a murky mess on a glossy mobile-phone screen under who-knows-what lighting conditions?" The Dolby Vision spec can adjust the dynamic range to meet the capabilities of the viewing device... if the device has a Dolby-manufactured ASIC. It sounds like Netflix is considering how to offer mobile users the option of a server-side tweak to do something similar.

That would actually be a good thing, especially if the user had the option to select "normal" or "mobile optimized" versions.

I have a Dolby Vision-equipped TV. Netflix has several shows filmed in Dolby Vision. Many, like Daredevil, have very dark cinematography. It looks incredible on a Dolby Vision TV under controlled lighting... but you're definitely missing stuff on an iPhone under commercial lighting. Bumping the darks up a notch or two to compensate would not be a terrible thing.

Comment Re:macs are for people who aren't homophobes (Score 1) 268

You want Asus, Lenovo, or Toshiba, in no particular order.

No, you definitely don't want Toshiba. Toshiba is a dead company walking. It's been hurting for some time, first from market decline, then from an accounting scandal. Now it's bleeding from a bad nuclear-power deal. The company has lost US $6.8 billion in market value since mid-December.

And their laptops are pretty crappy. The last Toshiba laptop I bought, just over a year ago, ate its hard drive within three weeks. And it was a Toshiba hard drive.

Comment Re:Um, so? (Score 5, Informative) 267

You don't quite have it right.

The National Deficit is the difference between the money the government raises each year in taxes, and the money it spends each year. Reducing the deficit requires increasing income or reducing spending.

The National Debt is the money that the U.S. Government has borrowed to cover each year's Deficit.

And the U.S. Treasury Bond is a physical manifestation of the National Debt. It is an IOU. You give the government money now, and they give you a Bond that promises to pay you back with interest in the future.

But you're right that the story is hate-bait. Apple, having followed all applicable laws, has money overseas. It is legally using that money to help fund the country's national deficit. In exchange for offering that credit to the United States, Apple receives an interest payment, just like any other bond purchaser. Apple is not extorting $6 per taxpayer from the Government; Apple is loaning the government its money, money the U.S. Government is not legally entitled to have, and the government is willing to borrow enough from Apple that the interest payments come out to $6 per taxpayer.

Buried in the original Bloomberg article, you'll find that Apple has to send the money back overseas when they sell the bond; if they keep it in the U.S., it becomes taxable. And the interest they make on the bond is taxable. So by doing this, Apple is helping keep the government afloat by financing the Debt, and is paying income tax on the interest they earn. They could just invest it overseas, where it would do nothing for America.

Funny how the answer isn't to eliminate the deficit and pay down the Debt so it isn't necessary to sell billions of dollars of Treasury Bonds that Apple and others can buy with foreign capital—it's to tell companies that they should pay U.S. taxes on money that wasn't earned in the U.S., hasn't been brought to the U.S., and to date won't be spent in the U.S.

Comment Uphill battle (Score 3, Insightful) 29

Unfortunately, it will be an uphill battle getting the major cable companies to support this. The whole point of "TV Everywhere," from the cable companies' point of view, is to make it a massive pain in the ass. Every Apple TV that uses TV Everywhere to watch video is one less cable-box rental fee, and one more person who is a step closer to cutting the cord entirely. It's not in their interests to make it easier for you to use TV Everywhere.

Consider: You need to go through the annoying log-in process even to watch broadcast networks. Anyone can watch the show by using an antenna, but if you want to watch it online, you need a cable subscription. Theoretically, those networks are supported by ads. The live streams and replays in the app have at least as many ads as the terrestrial broadcast—sometimes more. But you still need to pay for a cable subscription to see them online. And that means the cable company has to pay the broadcaster retransmission fees for carriage.

This is why the "true" Apple TV never happened. The TV networks and cable companies have no interest in working with Apple: Apple wants to make it easy for people to watch TV, and the TV folks want to make it hard for people to watch TV without paying a lot of money and using cable-company equipment that can readily monetize their viewing habits.

Comment Re:3G? (Score 1) 292

My guess is: They had purchased a 3G cell-site simulator, which is not a cheap piece of kit, so they had one. 4G LTE cell-site simulators are considerably more pricey. Even government-run "stingray" cell-site simulators often force phones to drop back to 3G to make life easier for the device.

What are the chances that the cell-site simulator the group used doesn't support power-saving features that the real cell towers provide? I suspect the chances are pretty good. In the name of "being fair," I think the magazine wound up producing results that bear no relation to the real world, unless you're under constant surveillance by an underfunded government agency that can't afford the latest and greatest toys from Harris RF.

If Which? has a simulator that accurately reproduces the behavior of each cell company's own towers and software, I'd love to see them document that. Until then, I'm going to assume it emulates a generic network, or possibly even a "good enough" network that doesn't optimize power the way a real network does—which we know is true of many "stingray" devices, which command the phones to go to full power regardless of conditions in order to make them easier to locate.

Otherwise, it's like saying "to test the battery life of these laptops, we loaded Jimbo's BIOS and our own operating system on them." The results would not reflect real-world usage where you'd be using a BIOS tailored to the hardware and an OS that supports the hardware's power-saving features. It might give you a certain relative ranking of battery capacity, but it doesn't tell you how the laptop you actually buy and use will perform.

Comment Slap in the face to the fans (Score 1) 88

By holding the next Zelda up as a launch title for the NX instead of releasing it for the Wii U sometime in the past two years, Nintendo has completed the slap in the face that was the entire Wii U experience. It's why I don't see myself buying a NX, even though I've owned most of the previous Nintendo consoles.

The Wii U was a disaster, and I say that as a Nintendo partisan.

  • The base model doesn't have enough storage for even one AAA game download, and the deluxe model is barely any better.
  • The only way to add a hard drive is via USB 2.0... and the USB 2.0 ports don't supply enough power to drive 95% of the USB hard drives on the market.
  • Wonky built-in Wi-Fi and dodgy USB Ethernet adapter support make it difficult to get a reliable network connection. By the time Wii U came out, everyone else on the market had built-in wired Ethernet for some time.
  • Nintendo's download servers are way underpowered; I've never seen as much as 50Mbps out of a download, never mind the 200Mbps I pay for. When games weigh in at multiple gigabytes, that's a problem.
  • Online store purchases are virtually always list price. Physical copies are always substantially cheaper. And there's no way to load those physical copies into flash or the hard drive to improve load time or for mere convenience.
  • The Gamepad. Short battery life. Glitchy resistive touchscreen. Heavy. Awkward to hold. Glossy slick surface, except for the very sharp case join around the circumference that digs into your hand, making a weight-adding case a necessity.
  • First-party games that rely on the gamepad screen even when it makes absolutely no sense and interferes with gameplay. Starfox Zero, I'm looking at you.
  • System software updates that don't apply themselves in the background.
  • Blinking-light look-at-me push advertisements on the gamepad when the system is off.

And that's not even including Nintendo's inability to attract and retain third-party developers, or the general lack of power in the console itself. After all that, I don't trust Nintendo not to screw up the NX. Given Nintendo's corporate culture, I just don't see how they are going to compete with Microsoft and Sony on the console side, and with iOS/Android for casual gamers.

Comment Re: Sunds pretty fishy (Score 2) 184

What, you mean the USB HID standard that defines two axes of movement (X and Y) and three buttons? Or the Microsoft convention that certain buttons, on certain mice, should be mapped to forward and back—there being no actual standard for which USB HID button numbers should be mapped to those functions?

Comment Re: Sunds pretty fishy (Score 1) 184

Macs have natively supported two- and three-button mice since Mac OS 8 in 1997. Mice with additional buttons work fine provided you have an appropriate driver for them, just like on Windows. If the manufacturer doesn't supply a driver for their extra buttons, there's third-party drivers that work with any USB HID compliant mouse. Logitech gaming mice, with all their buttons, work just fine on Mac OS X. Your troll is out of date...

Comment Twitter. (Score 1) 479

It's been my experience that, at least for the major U.S. cable companies, the best support experience for the experienced IT professional is Twitter. The ISPs seem to staff their Twitter desks with people who have deep knowledge and a willingness to give a technically-adept customer the benefit of the doubt.

It also helps if you think hard about how you can describe your problem completely in one or two 140-character tweets. Generally, this requires knowing the lingo. A tweet that speaks the tech's own language gets more benefit of the doubt. Saying you're an experienced tech does little; way too many people think they know what they're talking about. Speaking intelligently about the technology used in the ISP's own systems identifies you as someone who Knows Their Stuff and cuts back on the scripted BS.

If your local cable company tends to send out trucks that say "contractor," you may want to get in the habit of asking them to send a genuine employee when you schedule a service call. The contractors are usually paid a flat rate per job, and so they are in a hurry to wrap it up and get to the next house instead of making sure the work is done right. I've found this to be a particular issue with Cox: if a contractor comes out, I will have to call back and get a supervisor out to do the work correctly, sooner or later.

Most companies have "executive office customer relations" teams nowadays, because people have figured out that calling the CEO's office when all else fails can be effective. Contacting the CEO's office, or the executive customer support team, is usually effective. I find it's best to sound a little upset, but not angry, when you make the call. The right attitude is "I'm really unhappy, and ready to jump ship, but I know you'd like to help me and I want to give you one last chance to make it right; can we work together on that?"

Sometimes, an executive-office contact will wind up giving you the direct number of a local tech supervisor or manager. That's pure gold, but you have to be careful not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Save the contact, but don't use it again unless (a) you're specifically told to call under certain circumstances or (b) you've already tried the normal support process and it hasn't worked. Yes, it's powerful to have the local head tech's phone number. It's even more powerful if he learns that you only call him when there's a real problem or serious communications breakdown in his organization.

Comment Re:No home router can handle 1Gb/s (Score 1) 279

I was curious, and last night I priced out a basic "stick pfSense on me" box with reasonable quality components. With the exception of Realtek NICs instead of Intel—which might be a problem as you go past 150Mbps, Realtek NICs don't have a terribly glorious reputation—you can assemble a Mini-ITX based system with mirrored drives for $360. Intel used to make some dual-NIC "corporate workstation" boards that worked really well, especially if you ponied up for a better CPU that supported vPro, so you could do remote IPMI console. Unfortunately, Intel got out of the motherboard business.

I haven't tried any of this equipment, so it may actually suck, but here's the bill of materials I came up with for "so you want to build your own router with commodity parts". Obviously, you could go with server-grade parts or with a ready-built box of various flavors too...

  • BIOSTAR Hi-Fi B85N Mini-ITX motherboard
  • 2x4GB DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) DIMMs
  • Cooler Master Elite 110 RC-110-KKN2 case
  • COOLMAX CX-400B ATX power supply (but I'd spend a little extra on an Antec VP450 myself)
  • Intel Celeron G1840 CPU (dual core 2.8GHz Haswell)
  • Two Western Digital Blue WD2500AAKX 250GB disks

Something like that should be able to handle any reasonable real-world home network needs. RAM is pretty cheap; you could probably do fine with 4GB. SSDs are all the rage, but spinning rust is cheaper and disk speed isn't really a big factor for a router.

However, as a matter of common-sense security, I'd recommend keeping any such box limited to being a router/firewall. Sure, run DHCP and DNS services on it... perhaps OpenVPN... but resist the temptation to load it up with other services. You'll just bog down the performance and increase the potential attack surface, especially if you accidentally misconfigure the firewall.

Comment Re:No home router can handle 1Gb/s (Score 1) 279

Indeed. I only have 150Mbps service, and yet the cable guys are constantly amazed that I can achieve that throughput (or more, they don't hard cap it) consistently. The reason is that my router is a home-built UNIX PC with two Intel NICs and the cheapest Intel Celeron processor you can buy—which is massive overkill for a home router.

Comment Re:Combine the 2 (Score 1) 279

Also, a tool that is your best friend when installing new wall jacks that you're wiring down to the basement: There is a special drill bit that has a long (4+ foot) flexible shaft and an auger tip with a hole in it. It comes with a handhold that lets you insert it into the hole you made in the wall, twist it down, and have it bite into the base of the wall. It drills through into the basement, where you then attach the small wire basket that comes with it to the hole. Push the wire into the basket and tug to tighten it. Then, go upstairs and pull the drill back out, engaging reverse drive if needed (the basket has a swivel on it for this purpose). The wire comes with it. No additional fish tape needed. It's in the electrical-tools section of any big-box hardware store.

Comment Re:Combine the 2 (Score 2) 279

I would add:

  • Do NOT buy your jacks at Home Depot, unless your local HD is still stocking Leviton parts. The Home Depot house brand "Commercial Electric/CETech" networking components are total crap. I have never had a jack I've punched down fail to work... until I bought the CETech parts and had all of them fail to work, or break in the process of assembling them. Leviton parts are good but expensive. I've had good luck with Shaxon parts from Amazon, but they're not quite cross-compatible with Leviton parts/faceplates.
  • Invest in a decent punchdown tool. You CAN use the little plastic tool that comes with the parts you order at Home Depot. A good punchdown tool will work much better, and lets you use bulk bags of parts that are cheaper.
  • Invest in a data cable stripper. This is a little tool that you squeeze open, slip over the Cat5 cable, and twist to cut the outer layer of insulation without nicking the wires. You CAN do this by hand with a pocketknife, but if you're wiring up a whole house, you will save so much time and aggravation that the slight cost of this tool is absolutely worth it.
  • If you find you're going to be running more than one or two wires along a particular beam, buy some commercial-style "J hooks" for data cable. You can special-order them at Home Depot. Cable staples work, but they're unwieldy for running many wires in parallel. J-hooks make expansion easy.
  • Buy plenty of Velcro. When making data cables neat, Velcro is your friend. Remember, the fuzzy side goes toward the cables; the hook side is more abrasive.
  • Label your cables. You can use a regular label maker. If you have access to a cable label maker—one that makes labels that wrap around the wire—that's even better, but they're usually really expensive. Remember that eventually someone else will own your house, use labels they'll understand: "front bedroom", not "Jane's room".
  • If you're crimping 8P8C Modular ("RJ-45") ends on your cables, invest in the little rubber strain relief boots that slide over the cable BEFORE you crimp on the end. They make for a better looking job and they protect the cable. You can get a lifetime supply bag of 'em on Amazon in your choice of colors pretty cheap.
  • Don't forget that national and local electrical codes apply to data cable wiring. Check your local codes. They usually specify things for a reason. In particular, obey what they say about running data wiring near power wiring, and about sealing up any holes you drill that go between floors with an appropriate fire retardant caulk or foam.

Comment Re:Are you kidding me! (Score 4, Insightful) 2219

Ah, but with the new reality of ownership, we are not the client. We are the product. The advertisers are the clients.

One wonders if the clients will still buy a product that ceases to be profitable once the product delivery system is broken in the name of progress.

I don't really see how the new design truly benefits the advertisers, other than giving DICE's ad execs newer, bigger, louder ad spaces to tout. The fact that it reduces the audience for those ads doesn't seem to enter into the equation.

Comment Re:Just be honest - it's not for *US* (Score 1) 2219

The first thing you should ask the design team:

Do you understand that—while most of your readers don't really care about the design—those who do care are the sort of people who take one look at a site that mixes multiple sans-serif fonts in its interface and immediately have a visceral, intensively negative reaction that strips you of all design credibility and makes them look away just as surely as if they'd seen goatse?

The excessive whitespace and awkward layout compounds the problem. There is a "right" amount of line spacing; it's a very well understood thing in the publishing industry. Any nerd understands that nerds tend to favor information density over "right" line-spacing. Therefore, incorporating excessive line spacing on a News For Nerds website simply shouts "incompetence" to the world.

Seriously, the visual aspect of the redesign is as if your web designers saw the style and popularity of Apple's Jonathan Ives' school of design (but not the typical Slashdot readers' reaction to such), and then hired the sort of people whose work is featured on Cake Wrecks to implement their own version.

Someone needs to be put in charge of this effort who has the understanding and the authority to say "our 'audience' does not want a custom, trendy font; they know that webfonts have to be loaded and will slow things down. They want whatever they've chosen as the body font in their browser's options."

Me, I'd start with the idea that Slashdot has to be minimally usable even if no CSS or JavaScript is loaded. It needs to have well-structured HTML that is content-based, not design-based. Then you can start layering design on top of that, in ways that allow for customization. If your guys want to have a CSS option that looks like a marketing MBA's WordPress wet dream (Beta), that's fine, as long as it's not the only choice—or, indeed, the default choice—and doesn't drive the bones of the site.

Scrap the Beta. It's a dead end. Start over after you draw up realistic specifications that include honest user research, not just advertising optimization hacks.

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