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Comment PayPal has more security than Amazon, that's why (Score 1) 98

PayPal is still suffering from the reputational problems that came with the inevitable mistakes accompanying its pioneering role in the payments space, but it seems to have stabilized as well as any of the other payment processors that you've never heard of used by huge numbers of eCommerce sites. I still wouldn't let them hold my money interest-free, and I don't like anyone storing my credit card numbers (including Amazon). But PayPal has a security feature that nobody other than hardcore financial institutions do, namely the use of out-of-band one-time security codes for payment confirmation.

Anyone who's been keeping up with security technology knows that passwords are stupid these days - they're easily harvested by fake websites and lost to criminal hackers regularly. Amazon needs to get rid of passwords, even if they impair the frictionless "don't think, buy now!" experience. Interfacing between websites and old-timey phone technology like SMS text messages is practically a black art anymore - most people can't imagine how complicated it is behind the scenes. Using PayPal might well get them there faster and quicker, and with years of experience driving out bugs and attack-proofing, than trying to create their own system from scratch.

Comment Re:Private investigators using false pretenses!?!? (Score 1) 57

It depends on who you're doing the pretexting to. If you're lying while digging up dirt on journalists, heaven help you!

Several CEOs and complete turnovers of HP's board of directors back, their Chairman hired PI's to investigate leaks of acquisition rumors to the press. Those PI's lied to the phone company to find out who was making the calls to journalists. One thing led to another and the Chairman lost her job, the CEO was hauled in front of a Congressional hearing, the company's bigshot Silicon Valley external legal counsel testified that "I'm not responsible, I just give advice", and the stock price tanked.

Uber, on the other hand, can do no wrong.

Comment Re:Headline Is Missing The Word "Highly" (Score 2) 89

Fundamental to general relativity is the principle of equivalence, which equates gravity in one reference frame to uniform acceleration in another one. It's why old-school space stations are big wheels -- they create gravity without using mass, by spinning. In the right coordinate system - one that rotates relative to the lab - the ultracentrifuge in a biochemistry lab creates a highly curved spacetime equivalent to 6 times the gravity at the surface of a white dwarf. (2 million g vs 350,000 g).

Curved optical spacetime analogs are not so special, after all, then. But they don't have the issues with angular momentum, nonuniformity that centrifugal gravity has, so they could make answering certain questions easier.

Comment Re:Gun nuts (Score 1) 1374

If you want to refer to the founders' intentions about militias, I refer you to Article II, Section 2: "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; " The Constitution does not refer to any intent to authorize its own overthrow by any means except elections and amendments, despite the ravings of Second Amendment crazies.

Comment Re:My electric is hydro/nuclear (Score 3, Interesting) 330

In Texas, where we have to take the wind turbines offline at night, but the wind is still blowing, and we have a "deregulated" electricity market, TXU energy will give you electricity for free. Mazda is going to have to buy a lifetime worth of carbon credits, and give me free gas as well, to beat that.

Comment Re:Don't forget privilege, even if not financial.. (Score 1) 190

Many people, including me, would argue that Carla Bley & Paul Haines' Escalator Over the Hill is a work of genius.

My definition of genius in a work is that it must contain aspects that can't be learned or explained. You're listening, watching, or reading along and thinking "yes, I understand how that follows now that it's been shown to me" -- this is merely brilliant levels of skill -- and then there comes a passage that sets you back thinking "woah, what just happened there?"

Claude Debussy's music is full of these moments, even when you understand its predecessors and influences like Chausson. Most of Hector Berlioz's compositions are tedious at best, but the 2/4 bars in his Roman Carnival Overture take a logical sequence of developing intensity beyond what can be sensibly explained by any textbook in a way that astonishes me every time I hear it.

Pablo Picasso is reported to have said "I never know when the spark of genius will strike me, but I make sure that I'm in front of an easel with a brush in my hand when it does."

All the practice in the world can't buy these kinds of moments, but it can give you the confidence to take them when they appear, and the skill to execute them with precision. You don't have to be a genius to produce genius works, but it helps.

Comment I'm not from California. What's in it for me? (Score 1) 489

Such a massively narcissistic idea. Does he think that the rest of CA, not to mention the rest of the US, is just going to hand him a state because he asks for it? Apparently so. I like the part of his petition where it requires the state to give him his own team of attorneys with unlimited state funds to spend opposing the will of the Attorney General and other state authorities.

If he wants to found his own Monaco with himself in the role of Prince, he can buy any country that's for sale. Europe and the Americas are taken, but I hear that Somalia is available. He can hire Academi (formerly Blackwater) to provide land-based security. It's even got its own navy of pirates with speedboats, Arr!

If he wants to stay in the US, he's got to get support from outside of California. I would go for a coalition with the Colorado secessionists, and the unionists in D.C. and Puerto Rico, who have already voted for statehood. Splitting Texas might be an additional option, but they need a draft map. I think three states would suffice. South Texas would have its capital in San Antonio, North Texas would center around Dallas-Fort Worth. The big question would be whether Austin would agree to combine with Houston, or would demand to have its own state in order to prevent its wierdness from being diluted.

Comment Re:Good for the economy. (Score 2) 451

I'm waiting for the National Rifle Association and gun control advocates to realize that there's no need to explicitly track gun sales any more. Anyone who's made a cellphone call from a gun show or shooting range, or used a credit card to buy ammunition, is almost certainly a gun owner, and anyone who's exchanged email with anyone who has done these things, or has even responded to an email solicitation from the NRA itself, not to mention the Facebook meeting info for your local ill-regulated militia, can be tracked and correlated for "associating with potential terrorists." Your favorite tyrannical government already knows who you are and is making plans to suppress your insurrection already.

Or is the NRA itself so corrupted by its sponsors that it only cares about issues where the answer is "buy more guns"?

Comment style cannot overcome bad substance (Score 1) 533

It's not because the style of the glasses themselves is bad; it's actually quite clean when viewed as a product of the same industrial designers that gain huge amounts of respect for such products as the iPad or the iMac. Even allowing for the fact that they were created by industrial designers rather than fashion designers, there are classic styles of glasses that would be perfect for this technology, such as the much-copied Prada sunglasses worn by Marcello Mastroianni in the film 8 1/2 in 1963, which are still stylish when worn by James Hetfield 50 years later.

But putting Google Glass technology into these frames and giving Hetfield a copy to wear onstage would not make them polite to wear on the street. They're a walking admission that whoever you're interfacing with in person is less important than some electronic stuff that you're too socially inept to share.

Comment Re:Nothing to explain (Score 3, Informative) 117

Well, that too, but it's a lot more complicated. There are several things going on:
  • Meg Whitman is doing something that competent CEO's do routinely, and HP hasn't done in decades, which is cleaning up the books and writing down the value of non-performing assets, like brand names that will never be used again, such as "Compaq", "EDS", "Palm" and now "Autonomy". There's still "3Com" left to go...
  • Whitman is also playing the CEO spin game, which is that when you have bad news about profitability, you pair the announcement with some other announcement to act as distracting red meat to all the short-attention-span tech journalists who can't follow more than one story at a time. If you're Apple, you just need to mumble about some innovative new interaction modality and everyone goes crazy, if your're HP's CEO, you can actually demo a slick new product and everyone ignores you. Unfortunately HP's heritage of selling sushi as "cold, dead fish" has not been purged from their DNA.
  • The actual Autonomy core software is an undeniably superior technology for doing multimedia search and unstructured text search, but it was never actually productized. Apparently every sale was a bespoke one-off, never to be reused or broken apart and recycled the way most complex software is handled. This means that the combinatorial growth of value to expanding customer bases that potentially existed in the software base turned out to be extremely difficult to realize. HP didn't discover this until the deal was closed and HP engineers had spent some time with the code.
  • Nevertheless, during the sales negotiations with HP, the future cash flow of Autonomy was apparently computed as if the future growth of revenue was assured to be as exponential as the combinatorial math of modular software recombination would predict. Autonomy founder Mike Lynch is brilliant enough to make such a prediction in just those terms, and it surely would have gone right over the heads of then-CEO Leo Apotheker and most of the HP board, maybe including Shane Robison, chief strategy officer at the time. Now, is a statement about the finances of a software company based on whether that company's code is an impenetrable rat's nest, or not, a legally actionable, material misrepresentation? Is it something that would be expected to be uncovered by the legions of high-priced accountants deployed by the big name accounting firms during the "due diligence" phase of negotiations? I'm not a forensic accountant or a securities regulator, so I wouldn't venture to guess.
  • There were numerous other red flags around Autonomy that led HP's CFO Cathie Lesjak to vote against her boss and all the rest of the board on the purchase, but she was overruled.
  • Finally, HP claims that while there were accounting irregularities having to do with the way future revenue streams for software support were booked all at once, right now. Lynch claims that this is allowed under European rules even if it may be illegal under US GAAP rules. How would that change when Autonomy becomes owned by a US company? Should those high-priced accountants have caught that? Even so, HP claims to have testimony from a former Autonomy executive that those numbers were not merely tweaked, but were completely wack. HP is saying "nyah, nyah, we're not giving out details, and we're not saying who it is" and Lynch must be furious that he doesn't have enough information to try the case in the press and prejudice any legal outcome. HP wants to get Lynch under oath, so a jury can decide who's lying and who's not.

The wheels of the law grind exceedingly slow, so this will take years to play out. Meanwhile, HP has some decent software to play with, and they are already doing innovative things, like building search into the printers themselves I'm not sure that this makes sense, but it's the kind of innovation that everyone expects from HP, and that we haven't seen from them in ages.

Comment Re:HP deathmarch.... (Score 2) 128

You don't understand the roles of Apple vs HP. Apple is Henry Ford's Ford, a singular vision where you could get a Model T in any color you wanted, as long as it was black. HP is General Motors, where you could get any color you wanted from 7 or more brands ranging from low-end Chevrolet to high-end Cadillacs, not to mention GMC trucks and tractor-trailers. The press and financial analyst community views HP as a PC and printer company because that's all they ever put their hands on, but HP makes as much or more money off the infrastructure business that makes up enterprise computing, creating more private clouds than anyone else, for example. Enterprise computing is a total blind spot to most PC bloggers.

There's actually a mobility strategy that can be discerned hidden in all the noise, secrecy and speculation, based on a close reading of published press releases and other announcements and interviews.

Gram was likely spun off so that it can make deals with third parties for the fundamental smartphone patents that came with Palm, without the direct conflicts of interest of dealing with a HP as both a hardware competitor and a licensor who could turn on its customers at any time. And as a side project, Gram will be the prime sponsor of OpenWebOS and Enyo.

HP will make a commercial tablet based on Windows 8 that hopefully has all the enterprise security and managability features that have been in Windows forever, and that Apple has never been able to come close to. If Microsoft doesn't shoot itself in the foot, this will take over the void created by the demise of RIM, and squeeze Apple out of the my-company-pays-for-it iPhone and iPad markets. HP and all the Microsoft tablet OEMs are betting that enterprises are already setup with Windows apps that can port to tablets without the massive effort of recoding from C# and VB to Objective-C. They may not be cool, but the get the job done.

HP will also make a consumer tablet based on Windows 8's consumer editions, and if they're smart, will incorporate a BIOS that will boot Win8 securely but also allow competing OS's such as WebOS and even Android to be installed without the shennanigans that other vendors will make them go thru. HP could even license its own smartphone patents back from Gram (at a very nominal fee) and get back into the phone business, if the Win8 phone turns out to be anything more than the failure that the Win7 phone was.

But, knowing HP's history, they'll figure out some way to screw it up and lose money at every stage.

Comment Re:What a waste (Score 1) 219

Actually, Allen's name is the first one on the billionaires' "Giving Pledge" page (in alphabetical order) at . His letter includes the comment "I’ve planned for many years now that the majority of my estate will be left to philanthropy to continue the work of the Foundation and to fund non-profit scientific research, like the ground breaking work being done at the Allen Institute for Brain Science." So some of the ill-gotten parts of his gains will be compensated by good results coming from the philanthropies.

One of the big things that his Brain Science Institute does is coordinating maps of protein expression ( ) -- a kind of Google Earth for an interior landscape. They've only catalogged a few hundred of the 10,000 genes that are expressed in the brain, and their visualization leaves a lot to be desired, but it's an important start for an enormous project that will take more billions than even Allen has to complete.

Comment you're not important (Score 1) 143

From the article: "Insiders familiar with the Hearst device say it has been designed with the needs of publishers in mind." Reminding us again that to a publisher, readers are not the customer, readers are the product. Their actual customers are the ad agencies.

I am not a product, I am a free man!

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