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User Journal

Journal Journal: Why My Next Phone Will Be An iPhone

tl;dr: It's almost impossible to get an Android phone repaired without parting with the phone for an extended period of time. iPhone repair services are much better.

I've been a loyal Android fan, and I use a lot of Google products. My first Android phone was a Nexus S, which I still have. I gave a Galaxy Nexus to my mom whom gave it to my brother. I got a Moto-X (1st gen, 2013) which I unfortunately lost on a bus, and the thief never returned it despite my $100 offer for lost phone. I loved the Moto-X so much that I was willing to suffer the use of the Nexus S again for three more months before I bought the Moto-X (2nd gen, 2014). At that time I could have bought an iPhone 6.

I've been very happy with my Moto-X 2nd gen, until recently I dropped it to a hard tiled floor and cracked the screen. In order to have it repaired, I have to FedEx it back to Motorola repair center in El Paso, Texas. I was given two options: (1) pay $125 now, send my phone, and they send me a loaner phone; or (2) put $500 on hold on my credit card, and they send me a loaner phone right away while I ship mine to repair. I took option (1) because they offer prepaid overnight priority shipping, and two days without the phone isn't too bad.

It turned out I was wrong. I sent my phone Thursday evening. They received it Friday morning, but did not create a shipment until the following Monday. The phone wasn't actually picked up by FedEx until Tuesday, so I only got it on Wednesday, almost a week later. Meanwhile, there was no indication when they will actually fix my phone.

The good news is that the phone I got on Wednesday was my actual repaired phone. If they had shipped the loaner and not the actual phone (which is possible for certain types of damages), there would be another week-long dance of phone exchange. Motorola should arrange with FedEx to receive packages in the morning and pickup for delivery in the evening, so that a phone can be repaired and shipped back in the same day.

My coworker had much better luck with his daughter's iPhone. When his daughter cracked the screen of her iPhone, he simply brought the phone to an Apple retail store, and they repaired the screen right away.

I suspect that service problems is the achilles heel for all Android phones. Although Android phones collectively dominate the market, the landscape is so fragmented that there is no prominent phone manufacturer. Without a prominent manufacturer, you can't achieve economy of scale with good after-sales service. Basically, once you buy an Android phone, either hope it never breaks, put up with the horrible customer service, or throw it away as an e-Waste. The first option is unrealistic. The second option is masochistic. The third option is not appealing from an environmental point of view even if Android phones could be dirt cheap---but Moto-X ain't one of the cheap ones.

That's why my next phone will be an iPhone. I actually dislike iOS with a passion, but I finally realized it's really the only conscionable choice.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Retired Signature 1

Did I tell you it never helps your karma to go against the wise and just moderators? I used to have this signature, which I'm retiring now.

Overrated, Troll, and Flamebait mod points are not to be used towards posts you disagree with. That would be censorship.

I've got good karma, and I wonder why it hasn't gotten worse. Ever since I used this signature to protest those moderators who abuse the system, I noticed that it's harder to get modded up even when I write a post that deserves it. My post is apparently still visible because it receives a number of responses, and the users who responded to me got modded up. The signature offends prospective moderators, who would have modded up the post if the signature was not there. Furthermore, it actually encourages some moderators to use the "overrated" mod against my posts just for the added irony.

It looks like my education campaign, or moderation fairness campaign, achieves exactly the opposite of its intended purpose. Rather than helping more moderators become more aware of their responsibility, it actually encouraged and attracted more abuse. This signature is futile. I guess the removal of this signature means I'm receding to the moderator overlords.

Slashdot is a democratic forum where voices deserve to be heard? You've gotta be kidding. The same people who side with freedom of speech is doing the censorship themselves.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Copyright reform: electronic copying (draft)

This article is part of a series that describe some ideas for reforming current copyright law. The approach I'm taking is ad-hoc. A specific problem is listed, and a solution is proposed, followed by the rationale.

The act of copying in the digital age becomes ill-defined. When copyrighted work exists in electronic form, any transfer of such work entails: (1) the transmitter creates a transient copy in the electronic medium for transmission, (2) the receiver creates a record of the transmission once the copy is received. A transfer of electronic copy would mean that at least 2 permanent copies and 1 temporary copy can exist during the transfer. The chain of transfer ends when the digital copyrighted work is converted back to analog form for perception. Current DRM scheme seeks to control the whole chain of transfer to ensure that no unauthorized copies are retained.

The proposed reform is to consider the whole chain of electronic transfer as "performance" of the copyright work rather than duplication. We differentiate "performing private use work in public" and "performing copyrighted work without a use license" as two separate types of infringement.

When the chain involves the Internet, the chain could be indefinitely long, so it is impossible to estimate the number of unauthorized performances of the whole chain. We only count "making available" to each entity as one performance. In addition, we penalize the entity who obtains copyrighted "private use" work over the Internet without a private use license.

This proposal is to be refined...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Copyright reform: statutory damage

This article is part of a series that describe some ideas for reforming current copyright law. The approach I'm taking is ad-hoc. A specific problem is listed, and a solution is proposed, followed by the rationale.

When a copyright infringement case is brought to court, if the case holds, then the plaintiff may be awarded statutory damage, which serves as a punitive deterrent for infringement. The amount is not based on actual damage. Because of this, the RIAA aggressively engages in lawsuit with people who appear to distribute copyrighted work over peer-to-peer network even when the case may be without merit. Individual defendants lacking the legal resource are forced to settle, and to settle based on the amount of statutory damages which is disproportional to the actual damage caused by the individual.

The proposed reform is to reduce or eliminate statutory damage. The plaintiff is still able to claim actual damage, but it could be contested by the defendant in court.

With statutory damage, the plaintiff does not have to prove the actual damage, so statutory damage makes it more likely to either (1) bring every copyright infringement case to court, no matter how minimal the actual damage is, or (2) increase the amount of out-of-court settlement. By reducing statutory damage, it also reduces incentive for legal powerhouse like RIAA to go after individuals.

However, copyright owners are still protected against organized, large scale copyright infringement, in which case the actual damage is easier to prove.

The current statutory damage of $30,000 (upto $150,000 in the case of willful infringement) should be reduced to less than $3,000 (upto $15,000), i.e. reducing at least by a factor of ten. The rationale is that the statutory damage should be the threshold to distinguish cases that warrant further discovery of damages.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Copyright reform: out of print work

This article is part of a series that describe some ideas for reforming current copyright law. The approach I'm taking is ad-hoc. A specific problem is listed, and a solution is proposed, followed by the rationale.

If a copyrighted work is out of print, its copyright has not expired, and it has not been licensed for distribution, then it ceases to be accessible to the public.

We proposed the following reform for a work that was in print and subsequently went out of print: a compulsory license is automatically granted to any entity who can demonstrate that (1) the work is no longer available for purchase by the distributors authorized by the publisher, and (2) the original publisher lacks incentive to reprint the work. This compulsory license is revoked as soon as the publisher starts reprinting the work.

Here the key phrase is "out of print," where the act of printing is defined based on the quantity of replication. An allowance of 100 copies is given to any work without it being considered "in print."

The rationale is that printing is considered a mechanical process that can only reach economy of scale in mass quantity and can continue indefinitely, subjecting only to available natural resources. On the other hand, replication that requires significant manual effort, such as a sculpture, should not be considered printing. Using economy of scale as the principle, we use the number of copies to threshold the amount of manual effort required for replication.

If a work was never in print, then it might be the case that the copyright owner never intended to distribute the work to the public, so we must respect that intention.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Why Music Piracy May Have No Cure

Every once in a while, you see studies showing that P2P piracy hurts music sales, has no effect on music sales, or stimulates music sales, depending on who funded the research, and what interest they have to show in the result. But no matter what your point of view is, it looks like file-sharing piracy of music isn't going away.

One of the observations brought by Seth Godin in “All Marketers are Liars” is that people get their money's worth the moment they spend it. The woman who buys $20 collectible Christmas ornaments at Hallmark in July already gets her money's worth when she thinks about how nice it would look on her Christmas tree in December, how she could talk about it with her Christmas guests, how it can be passed down to her children, etc. Then she puts the ornaments in the attic for the rest of the year. Her money's worth comes not in the utility of Christmas ornaments, but in the gratification of these thoughts.

Furthermore, at Christmas, she tells her friends about the ornaments, and how they will be in store again next July (with new design). Then they could check it out together next July. This free advertisement for a product that is “remarkable” (can be remarked or talked about) completes the “fashion cycle.”

If you want to encourage people to buy music, you need to think about how the purchasing itself brings gratification. The first gratification comes at the moment you listen to music. How do you know there is a song you like that you want to buy? You already listened to it! The first gratification is had before the purchase.

The second gratification that could happen at the purchase is the thought how you can share it with your friends, and if they like the music, they may think you're a cooler person (I think we all agree that music taste defines a person). But the second gratification is “no purchase necessary”—file-sharing can achieve this too. This is fatal to music sales because, after the purchase, the sharing with friends will happen without sales. Your friends will listen to your songs and have the first gratification.

Since music (or any digital media in general) is an intangible good, the “fashion cycle” can and does happen while the distributor—record labels, or even if you're an artist—is completely cut off. This explains why, when Radiohead gave their songs away for free, it was still pirated more than purchased.

So people will continue to share their music illegally, and music piracy will go on, unless the record labels do something clever about it to get involved in the fashion cycle.

The Internet

Journal Journal: Bloggers found violating alcohol law in Taiwan 1

A blogger on sina.com.tw reports (in Chinese, or try AltaVista [coral cached] translation) that municiple government of Taipei and Taichung sent warning letters to blog owners who write about alcohol beverages in their blogs, and that these bloggers may be fined a minimum of NT$100,000 (approx. US$3,000) due to violation of Tobacco and Alcohol Regulation Law in Taiwan. According to the law, writing about alcohol drinks in your blog is considered an advertisement, which is subject to a visible warning message "overconsumption of alcohol is detrimental to health." The overly broad definition of advertisement seems to be the culprit. (Note: blogs are literally called "tribe corners" or simply "tribes" in Taiwan, which in Chinese is assonant to the English word "blog".)

Journal Journal: Moderation Guideline (you should read this before you mod)

I propose a style of modding that I personally follow, but it's not like I can force this down your throat. This is more of a documentation how I mod. I also mean to write this because apparently some users with mod points have no clue how to use them. If you like to mod by instinct, I'm talking about you.

Moderation Guideline

Posts fall mostly under these categories: opinions, facts, flames, or jokes.

  • Opinions are usually modded as redundant, unless the author has shown some care in structuring his/her argument, in which case the post is modded insightful. However, this is to take into account that I read insightful posts -2.

    The reason I'm being so critical on opinions is that many people rush to get their opinions heard, and so many people are doing this. Unfortunately, those 2 cents don't add up to $1.

    I also mod a post overrated if I don't find a post insightful, yet it already has a high insightful score.

  • Mentioning of true facts are modded informative; mentioning of false facts are modded overrated even though there has been no rating on the post. Mentioning of personal anecdotes (facts that cannot be checked) are usually modded interesting. If the topic is Ask Slashdot, then personal anecdotes are modded informative.

    Facts are not statements to be agreed or disagreed on; facts are undisputable. Spreading of false facts deserves a negative rating. Also see troll below.

  • Flames are not as bad as people think, because the sheer number of Slashdot posts is so galactic that flame posts do not usually gather the momentum to become flame wars. However, some posters are interested in personal attacks directed towards either another poster or at a known person. However, see jokes below before jumping to the conclusion that a post is flame.

    If a poster invokes his/her personal opinion for flaming, the post is modded flame; if he/she uses false facts to back the attack, the post is modded troll. That said, the difference of flame and troll in Slashdot's moderation system is not obvious.

  • Jokes are oftentimes confused with flame. Some jokes are meant to be offensive, but not all offenses are jokes. One should not mod a post flame or troll on the ground that it may offend someone. Flame and troll are for posts that obviously offends an identifiable person in that post.

    If not sure whether a post is funny, leave it unmodded. I also read funny posts -1 because I don't like all the jokes that someone finds funny.

    I sometimes mod a post underrated if someone mistakenly modded it flame or troll.

Meta-moderation Guideline

In meta-mederation, I take the inverse of moderation guideline to look for mod label first and see if the post fits the criteria.

  • Informative. The mod is fair if the post provides generally checkable facts and the facts are true. I occasionally give a bit leeway in posts that are personal anecdotes.
  • Interesting. The mod is fair if the poster is telling a personal story.
  • Funny. The mod is unfair if I don't find the joke funny. I leave it un-metamodded if I think the joke may be funny to somebody.
  • Flame and troll. The mod is unfair if I cannot identify the party in which the poster means to offend. Furthermore, the mod is unfair if I find the post funny.
  • Underrated and overrated. These depend on circumstances.

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