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Comment OOooOOOooh! They got CAUGHT! (Score 5, Insightful) 117

THOSE DIRTY BASTARDS!!! They had the temerity to violate a minor rule in an unenforceable voluntary standard to fix an actual operator safety issue! What gall.

Really though, nobody should care one bit about this. The violation is that the icon is green under normal conditions. Turning red when unsafe is standards-compliant, but the green normal state isn't. The problem is that a white normal state provides no confirmation to the user that the battery status has been checked at all. Turning green confirms that the check has been performed and the result was acceptable. Could they have used some other method of indicating this? Sure, but it would have been more intrusive and less clear to the user. This is simple and elegant, and addresses a problem that the standards writers certainly never anticipated. It's a great solution, really. Why would anyone object?

Comment What's the lesson here? (Score 1) 320

So the amount of radioactive material is comparable to amounts commonly *lost* due to carelessness in the early 20th century (see "Radium Lost and Found" by Burbidge Taft), and we've freaked out and spent $2 billion on it even though the contaminated area was inherently limited. Isn't the lesson here that government is grossly inefficient and irrational reactions need to be kept in check?

Comment Don't try to defend a lawsuit yourself. (Score 4, Insightful) 571

Anybody can sue anybody for anything. That's how the system works. To counterbalance the potential for abuse in such a system, filers of frivolous suits are often subject to awards of attorney's fees plus sanctions for dragging blameless defendants into court. What you cannot do is bungle your defense on the assumption that a judge will eventually see you're being screwed and throw the case out. How is a judge supposed to adjudicate a dispute between two unrepresented parties who don't know or follow the rules, and both claim they're right? This guy got himself into a huge procedural mess by failing to respond properly in his first response to the lawsuit. If you get sued, especially by a litigious moron, hire an attorney immediately. These things NEVER get easier to handle later on, and it is NEVER better to try it yourself first. The best defenses to ridiculous lawsuits MUST be raised immediately, correctly, and aggressively. You want the system to work differently? Talk to your legislators. Until then, lawyer up.

Comment "Thief" or "Robber"? (Score 4, Insightful) 194

The summary says he was a "chicken wing thief", but the story says he "robbed" the employee. Theft and robbery are different, for good reason. Stealing property is nonviolent. Robbing someone of property (i.e. taking it from a person by force or threat of force) is a violent crime. When someone sticks gun in your face and demands that you hand over the goods, it doesn't make much difference if the goods are chicken wings or jewelry, does it? Without more information about what this guy actually did to forcibly acquire those chicken wings, it's not very reasonable to conclude that this should have been a low priority case and the cops went overboard. Was he armed? Did he really threaten force? Did he assault the guy? TFA does not answer the real questions.

Comment Re:He's completely right, of course (Score 2) 219

The idea of handling back the controls to the driver whenever the car encounters a situation it can't handle any more is patently absurd.

That's how every autopilot system works. It's the only failure mode that aircraft engineers have deemed appropriate in decades of development. What better solution is there?

Comment Re:Well... (Score 1) 92

I think I'm wasting a post due to the April 1 chaos today, but everyone seems to be missing the point here. This is real, and it's not just an open network. And it's not vulnerable to range boosters - it's fundamentally undefeatable range-based authentication. The system uses time-of-flight of the signal to measure the distance from access point to user much like radar. Some wifi hardware already does this, but doesn't use that information for authentication purposes. For example, Ubiquiti's AirOS devices provide an actual range measurement but with much lower resolution since they are intended for long-range links. This is just an improvement in accuracy combined with the use of measured range data for authentication. It's very clever.

Comment Not a new document (Score 5, Informative) 143

My understanding from reading several articles on this case is that the phone call alibi was investigated at the time and those records were part of the original case file. The change is in the testimony and credibility of witnesses who had previously undermined that alibi. They did not just now uncover records of a phone call from 1957. This does not answer the question of what records are retained by who and for how long.

Comment Wink Wink (Score 4, Insightful) 36

"As a result of these necessary changes, users are not able to flash the current generation of open-source, third-party firmware. We are excited to see the creative ways members of the open-source community update the new firmware to meet their needs." That's a pretty obvious wink and nod there. "We are required to make it look like we're actually trying to stop you from doing this. We look forward to seeing all the new ways you figure out how to do it anyway."

Comment Re:Code is Speech. Code is Math. (Score 1) 252

I suspect that you got "patents" and "copyrights" mixed up here. Your sentence is the classic way of explaining what a "copyright" is: "Copyright doesn't cover an idea -- it only covers the expression of an idea." Patents very much cover the whole idea. For example, nobody can use the idea of one-click-purchasing on a web site without infringing Amazon's patent. Even if you write all the code yourself, you're still in violation of the patent by using just the basic IDEA...

No, I did not mix them up. You're missing the entire distinction at issue here: Copyrights cover expression, patents cover implementation. All of your examples of patents describe prohibitions on the *use* of ideas, not on the communication of the ideas themselves. In fact, the whole purpose of the patent system is to encourage free public dissemination of the ideas underlying the patent - in exchange for a monopoly on the actual use of those ideas in the real world. Amazon does not own the *idea* of one-click purchasing. You can talk about it all you want, theorize about it, come up with improvements to it; whatever. What you can't do is actually put it into use. You can patent a method of producing a molecule, or a specific use for a molecule, but you can't patent the idea of the molecule itself. Everyone else can still draw it, talk about it, analyze it, make it using other methods or use it for other purposes, and do anything else they want with it - as long as they don't do the specific thing your patent covers. They can talk about your patented thing; they just can't actually DO your patented thing. Software, by itself, is merely an idea. An expression (in all senses of the word). That's not the stuff of patents. A patent may keep you from using software to do something, but should not prevent you from writing the software in the first place.

Comment Re:Code is Speech. Code is Math. (Score 4, Informative) 252

Look. I see EFF lawyers saying code is speech and is protected. And I see EFF lawyers saying code is math and is not eligible for patent protection and sometimes not even eligible for copyright protection. I want an EFF lawyer to explain their stand on how these three mechanisms apply to code before this story gets posted AGAIN and it had better be consistent.

It's not the EFF that's inconsistent, it's the law. Things that are patentable (functional devices or systems) are not copyrightable (creative works of expression), and vice versa. The two systems are inherently designed not to overlap. That's why the EFF and others are upset about the apparent overlap in practice with respect to software. The EFF's perspective is that treating software as a functional device is wrong. It's speech, math, creative expression, a literal set of instructions, but not a "thing" which "does" something itself. Therefore, it is inappropriate to handle software through the patent system. To put a finer point on it, patents cover implementations of ideas, not the ideas themselves. You can't patent the idea of a new invention - you can only patent an actual implementation of it. The EFF's position is that software is strictly an idea, a communication of instructions. The instructions themselves are not functional or even tangible and therefore should not be patentable. Just like any other written information, it should be copyrightable if and when it constitutes a creative work. That's the EFF's argument, and it's a good one. And it is entirely consistent with their position in this amicus brief.

Comment That's NOT the real question. (Score 5, Insightful) 298

The "real question" is not whether net metering is good or bad. Of course it's good, and it will continue to become more common as solar (and even wind) micro-generation technology improves. It will get an even bigger boost if EV technology with bidirectional charging and large storage batteries become more popular, as Tesla would like them to. The dispute here isn't over net metering itself. The issue is all about the MONEY of net metering. Who pays what, and how? Before net metering, utility rates were set based on a fixed connection fee to pay for certain fixed infrastructure costs, plus an energy charge per kWh to gover generation costs. For large commercial users, the fixed fee was set as a "demand charge" based on peak consumption (since that determines how hefty the grid needs to be to serve the customer). For residential users, the demand charge is usually just a flat fee per month for the connection. In practice the demand/connection fee is not enough to actually cover the fixed costs of the system, and a lot of that expense is rolled into the energy rates. That doesn't matter in a world without net metering - it makes no difference to the utility whether they get their money per kWh or per month, as long as they get the money. Net metering screws this all up. A net-metered user may have zero net consumption in a month, while still requiring the same infrastructure as a user without net metering. As a result, the demand or connection charge needs to be greatly increased to make up for the lost kWh revenue.

The problem is that the adjustment of rates to accommodate net metering has been a hugely political process with every party trying to screw everyone else to the max. Solar companies want their customers to see huge financial benefits to justify their prices, so they lobby for net metering rates that strongly favor their customers: low monthly charges (ideally the same as for non-net-metered customers), with reimbursement for net metered power at the full retail rate (i.e. 1kWh sold back to the power company nets you the same money you would pay to buy the 1kWh from the power company). This makes solar look like a great investment. The problem is that is really does screw the power company. Since utilities are typically government-controlled monopolies, that means it actually screws the non-solar customers who will all be forced to pay for the net-meter-users' share of infrastructure. Not quite fair. On the other hand, though, we have utility companies trying to get the solar power as cheaply as possible while still collecting full reimbursement for infrastructure costs. They want to treat net-metered customers like power plants: charge them for all the infrastructure costs, and only buy their power at "wholesale" rates that are far less than what the consumer pays for power going the other direction on the same wires. This is also not fair, and screws the people who want to invest in solar by artificially depressing the value of their power. The solution must lie somewhere in-between. Utility rates and their basic method of allocating them will need to change, and it will take honest politicians not bought off by solar companies or utilities to reach a compromise that is fair for everyone. Fat chance of that happening any time soon.

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