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Comment Cheap 1st/2nd year textbooks, expensive years 3+ (Score 3, Informative) 98

I think this is generally a fantastic idea. Nothing has really changed in subjects such as calculus, linear algebra, chemistry and biology in decades if not centuries for some subjects. Heck, I used my dad's control systems textbook from the 60s to learn. My fear is that publishers will start charging people on the back end of this for more specialized textbooks that are more typical in third and fourth year courses or specialized graduate courses. So, free textbooks for the two-year community college crowd, but $500 textbooks for process control of chemical reactors and digital signal processing.

The real underlying problem here is that student loans are the only type of debt that can't be discharged under bankruptcy, and that has created a moral hazard for post-secondary institutions to accelerate their costs. Tuition has also greatly and disproportionately increased in cost because students can get mortgage-like terms for their student debt, but institutions don't have any responsibility to make sure they graduate or make money. Meanwhile, endowments, perks and expensive buildings keep going up on campuses with little marginal benefit to students. The cherry on top is the IMO bizarre cultural support in this country for post-secondary institutions from alumni and through college sports.

If you really want to solve the textbook crisis, solve the debt crisis in education and allow discharge of student debt in bankruptcy at the same time as you investigate the publishers for any type of RICO or antitrust activity. The system will take a few years to clean out, but the issue will eventually be solved. The best part will be that tuitions will eventually come down to sane levels again, although that will be at the expense of the administrators and faculty who are more concerned about pretty buildings and social justice than they are about academic and human progress.

Comment Uber is the epitome of startups' IDGAF attitude (Score 2) 334

While I respect what companies like Uber are doing, it seems they could care less about the existing rules and why they're even there. And I'm not talking about the artificial scarcity of the medallion system or taxi company monopolies or the lack of flexibility in for-hire transportation, because that does need to be addressed.

What I'm talking about is a company that repeatedly flouts existing regulatory framework because it wants to "revolutionize" for-hire transportation. Drivers don't have to undergo local training (e.g. London drivers who have to memorize the road system in London prior to licensure). Driver vehicles are not required to undergo commercial-grade inspections for safety. Drivers are specifically disallowed by Uber from purchasing commercial insurance for their vehicles, as Uber claims that they will insure passengers up to $1M per passenger. Either the Uber driver is in violation of state insurance laws because they don't have the minimum required insurance, or Uber is in violation of those same laws by not being a licensed insurer with all of the regulatory and reporting burden of an insurer in that state. Want to guess where that leaves an Uber passenger in a crash?

Even if we ignore all of that, now we come to the self-driving vehicle which, even with GPS, lasers and camera AI, has to match years of a trained natural neural network of the most complex organism known on this planet with tremendous amounts more context to make not only technical but ethical decisions and keep not only the passengers safe, but also the car they're in, other people's cars and property, and most of all other lives that are on the road.

It's not an impossible problem to bound to a certain acceptable level, but not within the timeframe that Uber hopes. When considering its fundamental underpinning is compromised by its ethics and its arrogance that is being challenged by governmental and non-governmental entities, and is subsidized by free-flowing VC money, I can't say that the prediction of the demise of Uber is unlikely.

Comment Re:The land of "Last one in is a rotten egg" (Score 1) 386

This is not as straightforward as you would make it out. Lawsuits and other tactics to slow or stop development are a known problem in the state of California. Holding up a dedicated left turn signal for a year to a beach because of an environmental impact is lunacy, and that is how the authorities saw it.

When such actions create artificial distortions and impact others negatively, their right to impose such problems on others stops.

Comment The land of "Last one in is a rotten egg" (Score 2) 386

There are no realistic options for families in the Bay Area any more for housing. Salaries aren't rising fast enough for skilled people to accommodate the housing crunch, and employees are expected to take the brunt of this situation.

If you were established before the 2000 bubble, or happened to catch the housing dips in 2002 and 2009 (especially for rent controlled areas like SF), you are probably ok provided you don't have to commute too far from your residence or are lucky enough to live near BART or Caltrain. If you didn't get in, you are either a perpetual renter or taking huge risks between the influx of new rich money and foreign all-cash purchases of homes. This also presumes that you're in a good school district. Sure, everyone wants their kids going to a school like Mission San Jose in south Fremont, but many can only afford to live in Hayward where the schools are hit and miss. Waiting lists for child care are at least a year long virtually everywhere within 60 miles of SF/SJ/Oakland and are horrendously expensive. Prop 13 and the special FHA non-conforming mortgage limit of $729K ($300K above every other state in the country for some unknown reason) have held up the distortion of property values. Any attempt at high-density housing is often met with hostility from environmental NIMBYs and hostile existing property owners unwilling to give any room to these efforts by filing complaints and grievances. The intense culture surrounding perpetual property value increases is baffling in one sense considering the supposed social conscience that is supposed to exist in the Bay Area.

The perpetual renter scenario where schools don't count only really benefits non-family entities like singles and couples. For them and the folks who got in early, the Bay Area is indeed a great and livable place, with tons of great live music, museums, art, outdoor activities, and year-round great weather (except for SF in July...). Especially for younger folks trying to establish themselves professionally, there probably is no better place to work in that regard. For the rest who would get in this late in the game who have or want a family, enormous sacrifices in money, time and compromise of personal relationships are the only way to deal with this. After all, people paying $1000/month to live in a tent in someone's back yard is somehow acceptable and even funny when you got in early. For the low-income and disadvantaged, the burdens are extremely intense, and that's without the snowflakes complaining about the homeless in SF because they think they're entitled to perfection because they chose to live in the Mission for the cultural value.

These aren't realistic choices any more for many of us. These are only exaggerated for low-income individuals who have even fewer choices. There is an enormous elephant in the middle of the room, and the haves demure on this point without realizing that there will be a breaking point sooner or later. The Bay Area is truly the land of "Last one in is a rotten egg" and there's no end in sight.

Comment How about not auto-restarting my computer? (Score 5, Insightful) 254

Dear Chris,

This Christmas, would you please send me and all of us Windows 10 users the gift of NOT AUTOMATICALLY RESTARTING MY FUCKING COMPUTER WHEN YOU UPDATE BECAUSE I WALKED AWAY FROM IT FOR TWO MINUTES AFTER "WORKING HOURS"? I have lost my open browser tabs and other work so many times now that you are destroying the user experience of millions of people, including me. And no, work hours for people like myself who consult are completely random and I'm not about to change them manually every time I need to change my hours or they extend beyond a limit you assume is mine.

Best Regards,

Comment The no-rules no-ethics new dotcom boom (Score 5, Interesting) 156

Those of us who have been through dotcom 1.0's boom and bust know that there are patterns here - high stock valuations, no profitability, no real exit strategy, and hope of acquisition. What makes this time a bit different is that the ethics of the businesses are pretty challenged this time around.

With Uber, you get a company that knows it gets a free ride (no pun intended) on the people who sacrifice their personal vehicles' wear and tear that won't be fully covered by the money they receive, is schizophrenic when it comes to its disposition on whether its drivers are employees or contractors, fails to impose safety standards and inspections of both vehicles and people, actively encourages people breaking the law by not requiring their drivers to have commercial insurance policies on their vehicles and acting as a taxi company, and pretending to be an insurance company in violation of law by claiming they will self-insure for a million dollars of public liability without a certificate from the respective insurance commissions of the states they do business in.

Revenue growth isn't hard when you throw enough resources at something. A million average people will happily pick up something cheap or free and easy no matter whose expense its at. Profit growth is an entirely different animal. I believe when the legal chickens come home to roost, Uber will come out to be made out to be one of the biggest boondoggles in the latest dotcom boom. These days, there's a type of challenged ethics pervading the corporate culture of the new boom where people just go break the law and hope that things will sort themselves out. In the long run, it isn't the smartest business strategy in the world, and it isn't just Uber - and yes, I'm looking at you Theranos and Magic Leap. Even when the companies are legitimate, it seems the premiums people pay for them are ludicrous and defy the most basic business analysis of recovery of investment in a profitable way. I can't imagine this will all end well even if the magnitude of the failures are masked by inflation and currency devaluation.

Submission + - Vendor disables user's software for negative review, demands retraction

Comment Dolby Atmos = E-AC-3, MLP & AC-4 with objects (Score 1) 37

Atmos is not a codec. Atmos is an object-based authoring workflow for media where, instead of discretely-mixed channels, you have audio objects with positional information. It is the job of the decoder (Dolby Digital Plus, or E-AC-3, Dolby True HD, or Meridian Lossless Packing with metadata, and AC-4, a new format extending some of the tools of HE AAC v1 and v2 with some new goodies) to decode these objects with the correct loudness and compression characteristics per the metadata that accompanies them. A renderer that understand the actual speaker configuration present in the listening environment, rather than the CEA-861 standard baseline configurations for typical surround, then mixes these objects.

In Dolby Digital Plus, which is the most common way to do this today, these objects are stored as a different substream type that goes along with the channelized audio, so the audio renderer in an Atmos-enabled Dolby Digital Plus has the job of dealing with and mixing into the speakers - typically, this means a 5.1 + 4 or 7.1 + 4 configuration, where the +4 implies four ceiling-mounted speakers. In AC-4, it is possible to have an entirely object-based render with no channel information so that the renderer bears the entire burden of channelizing, whereas in Dolby Digital Plus it is normally accompanied by a fixed channelized mix of anything from mono center only to 7.1.

Here is where the Dolby narrative breaks down: it is wholly impractical to have ceiling speakers for the vast majority of installations. About 30% of homes have surround of any kind, and less than a sixth of those have 7.1. Even ceiling-fired speakers that Dolby touts are very limited in their efficacy. The most shocking thing of all here is that upmixed content (i.e. content that uses an interpretation of a channelized mix to fill ceiling speakers) sounds better to most listeners because it is inherently louder than the native mix! People want to hear more coming out of their surround and ceiling speakers even though the guys in Hollywood mixing their movies have a more nuanced approach to this, so they're better off with an A/V receiver that supports upmixing with ceiling speakers and sending a non-Atmos mix to the A/V receiver.

Even if you virtualize surround to headphones - a thing that has been done since the Aureal 3D days back in the '90s and very cheap technology fundamentally as Realtek and the rest of the cheap guys have shown - it is still of limited value to have an Atmos mix because you can still upmix and virtualize the content in the same way, and most people can't A/B test this. And, of course, any game or native PC content that has linear PCM out can be channelized and output to HDMI without touching an Atmos encoder or decoder.

Dolby has some big challenges ahead of it. Its patents on AC-3, its bread and butter, run out next year. While E-AC-3 has taken up some of that slack, it is not the entirety of it. Audio coding efficiency is no longer a problem as of HE AAC v2 for stereo and HE AAC v1 for multichannel, which is why AC-4 was really just an add-on to these. Many countries, such as Korea, are adopting the competing MPEG-H standard because Dolby has stuck it to their largest conglomerates for so many years in terms of the licensing money they have paid. Their other technologies such as Dolby Vision and Contrast are being put to the wayside in favor of HDR10 and other standards. All the parlor tricks and announcements about Atmos are not worth the time and effort for most of us, especially in the PC world, when there are very good alternatives. All this because the companies that Dolby sells to are fundamentally ignorant about audio technology.

In short, this is much ado about almost nothing.

Comment Responsibilities of a publicly traded company (Score 5, Insightful) 1058

It occurs to me that, while a company shouldn't necessarily advocate for open harassment of its users, it needs to apply the policy equally if it is to be taken seriously.

Take, for example, the radical feminist Clementine Ford. She has repeatedly engaged in blatant anti-male harassment and is known to then cry wolf when a man responds with anti-female harassment and had a man fired from his job for his comment. Yet, for some reason, Clementine Ford's account is still miraculously active. No matter what Trump said he did or didn't grab, this woman should be off Twitter permanently by that same policy.

This is a pattern that repeats over and over. As it is obvious that Twitter is engaging in selective enforcement, they are not only slowly alienating a substantial portion of their user base for the minority of vocal SJWs, they are threatening their own safe harbor provisions for anything else that goes on Twitter such as terrorist communication or other criminal activity. That translates to fewer users and significant financial risk for operating as they currently do.

The real question is: why are the shareholders not demanding Dorsey's resignation for these policies? Mentioning Trump is a complete non-sequitur and clickbait for Salon's liberal slant. More importantly, it indicates that they are defocused from the real goal of shareholder returns and preserving shareholder value. The tail can't wag the dog any more, and it has to belong to the same animal in any case. Either Twitter curates content consistently or they get out of that business and respond only to complaints of criminal and terrorist activity; otherwise, this half-way house will fall on itself.

Comment Please get rid of e-voting machines now (Score 4, Insightful) 1321

Even if we had a fully open and verifiable hardware and software architecture, it doesn't prevent someone from finding weaknesses. The only solution to this potential subversion of the people's will is to get rid of e-voting entirely and go back to paper ballots.

Comment The new standard for the OS: pushing crap & sp (Score 5, Insightful) 123

It seems that those peddling your average mainstream OS these days are hellbent on pushing their views of the world on what is largely an unsuspecting and technically ignorant user base. Use Android? We'll spy on you wherever you go and push a bunch of ads for something you already bought yesterday. Use Windows? We'll create self-doubt in your choice of software to push you into our domain where we can collect information on you, and push ads on your start screen unless you jump through dozens of technical hoops. Use MacOS? We'll collect anything you do in Spotlight so we can "make our product better" for you.

Just like Farcebook and any other SaaS platform, the OS guys are trying real hard to squeeze a few extra dollars out of us users at the expense of users by making the user the product rather than the OS. That this happened with Edge in this case is merely another symptom of this greater problem. The /. crowd and people of similar technical capability can filter out this BS, but the average user will continually fall victim to this nonsense with no idea of the real consequences, both individually and for the overall browser market.

Comment The USA is a constitutional democratic republic (Score 1) 412

We do not have direct democracy because that has been shown time and again to be a form of mob rule that we cannot afford.

Also interesting how you frame your comment as "they are" rather than "we are" because that is the actual problem with this country. So many divisions have been sown along the lines of identity politics, political parties and other artifically defined divided groups such that these groups feel compelled to amplify their rhetoric to attempt to wrest power from the others. These distortions have been promoted by three primary forces: political parties (Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens and others), the media (MSM and social), and non-state actors (e.g. Koch Brothers, George Soros).

There are three branches of the federal government as well as fifty states and a number of territories. The founding fathers laid out the structure of government brilliantly as well as the means and justification to change it. If you want to solve the problems that you are asserting, then do what the founding fathers did when this country was under British rule. Employ the four boxes of liberty - soap, ballot, jury, (and as a true last resort) ammo. Start saying "we" rather than "they" and you might actually get the other "sides" to listen to you as you should listen to them. Work to change the prevailing culture while respecting the rule of law and you change the country without passing a single new law.

For the record, all four of the major presidential candidates are fatally flawed. Clinton and Trump are populist statists through and through, while Johnson and Stein are unrealistic idealists. None of these traits is suitable for the executive, legislative or judicial branches of government. The rest have fringe ideas that will never catch on. There were no winners this year no matter who prevailed in this election, least of all the American people.

Comment What does Linux have to do with Apple hardware? (Score 1) 535

If all you wanted was to run someone's flavor of Linux, there are plenty of non-Apple hardware options better and/or cheaper right down to a Chromebook, or you just get a pre-2014 vintage Macbook. I don't think if you really needed to run Linux and only a Linux that a nearly $2.5k Macbook Pro was the first consideration, especially if you can't swap the memory/storage/battery in it.

The conclusions of this article make no sense outside of the context of an advertorial.

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