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Comment Re:Tough luck (Score 1) 505

A lot of this stuff really just comes around to mindsets. It's true of the businesses and true of the individuals who work at them.

One of the smartest pieces I ever read about the differences between how software shops approach business was a piece from the co-founder of The Omni Group that compared farming vs. mining. The Silicon Valley bubble has a strange obsession with "mining" schemes and exit strategies that leave rubble in their wake. That mindset permeates the culture, with many of them living as if they were oblivious to the fact that outside of their bubble most people lead happier, more fulfilled lives by going out of their way to avoid working and living in those sorts of conditions.

Speaking personally, I had a few offers on the table when I was a fresh out of grad school several years ago. One was for $50K/yr at a small software consulting company in a town most people have never heard of. One was for some interesting government work in D.C. at $75K/yr.. The last was for $75K/yr + stock options at a startup in Austin that was on course to have a big IPO soon.

I took the first one. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

The location has a low cost of living, delightful people, decent schools, and is populous enough to provide all of the benefits associated with the suburbs of a major city. The company is averse to overtime, small enough that we all know each other, big enough to attract a diverse set of clients, provides incredible benefits, and takes great pride in its work. I get to enjoy the satisfaction each night of a job well done without having to take my work home with me.

My income has increased modestly to $65K since accepting the job, which is easily enough for my wife and I to...
- Live off my income alone
- Enjoy a 7 minute traffic-free commute at 30mph
- Have an 1800 sqft. house on 1/3 acre
- Have a $580/mo. mortgage as our only debt
- Donate $10,000+/year to charity
- Enjoy big vacations on a regular basis
- Have time for family, friends, and ourselves
- Give my wife ample time for charitable service
- Retire early if we keep on as we have been

And all of that for a take-home pay that's roughly comparable to what the guy in the summary is paying in rent alone.

I mean, I get it. Prior to getting married, my wife was making $65K/yr in D.C., which was only enough to rent a small basement that was an hour commute from where she worked. When we were deciding whether to move there or here, it was pretty obvious which choice was the right one. Likewise, I've occasionally checked on that Austin startup over the last few years as a "what if". Turns out that after their last round of funding and claims they were going to hire 100 more people in advance of an IPO, the execs mostly all left to found a new startup and the company quietly announced layoffs.

It sounds like the guy in the summary has wants that outstrip his income. Hopefully he'll come to terms with the reality of his situation sooner rather than later, and maybe even wake up to the fact that there are viable alternatives that will provide not only a better quality of life, but may even provide more spending money.

Comment Re:Good (Score 1) 256

You're quite correct that it's not actually ownership and that I misspoke in saying it was. Thank you for that correction.

That said, the idea that it is a mere privilege instead of a right is demonstrably false, given that the Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution refers to this idea as an "exclusive right" secured to the author of the work. As you said, it only exists for a particular duration and there are other limitations placed on it, but it clearly is a right. You can quibble over whether we should call it "copyright" or not, but it's undeniable that the right exists, regardless of what we choose to call it.

Of course, the degree to which copyright succeeds at implementing that right is a subject for some debate. I agree that copyright laws (and other IP-related laws) have gotten out of control and are in desperate need of reform, but that's a separate topic over the oughtness of the situation, rather than its reality, and I honestly don't feel like hashing that topic out right now.

So, swinging back around to the quote you originally pulled from my previous comment, what I should have said was that you can't copy the DVD because doing so would infringe on their exclusive rights to the material they authored. Again, there's the question of whether or not things should be that way, but there's no denying that that's how things work today.

Comment Re:Too good to be true. (Score 1) 202

Cool solar cells.... by blocking the sunlight *facepalm*.

No. It seems you missed the part in the article where they said you'd first need to remove the mirror backing in order to use it with solar cells. I.e. It would let (nearly) all of the light through while still providing the heat dissipation properties.

Also I'm thinking how big a deal is the "not blocked by the atmosphere" really, I mean it's not like heat reflected of a little building significantly changes the ambient temperature.

I take it you're unaware of urban heat islands?

Controlling how light and heat get reflected from buildings is of growing importance to architects and engineers. Unfortunately, buildings melting cars is a thing that has happened, and urban heat islands are a contributing factor to global warming. Plus, if you can reduce the ambient temperature by pushing the energy out into space, you've effectively reduced your cooling needs, which is a double win.

Comment Re:Are our lawyers really this clueless? (Score 4, Insightful) 47

I'm willing to accept that it probably can't be copyrighted.

That doesn't mean you can't put a license on it. And there are plenty of licenses to choose from. One must be pretty close to suitable.

There's neither a need for a license, nor would a license have any meaning in this context. The whole purpose of a license is to disclaim or enumerate the rights being retained by the copyright holder. If the works belongs to the public domain, a license has no meaning and any attempt to attach a license would be an attempt to (fraudulently) assert rights that only belong to the owner of the material, of which there is none.

Setting those concerns aside, there are a few licenses that approximate to varying degrees the rights provided by public domain works (e.g. MIT or BSD), but attaching them to these documents to describe the rights of users would be like saying that the UN charter is the official document Americans should use to understand their right to free speech, rather than the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The laws regarding works in the public domain would still be the governing rules here, rather than whatever license they attached, so it makes no sense to attach a license in the first place.

Comment Re:Good (Score 1) 256

So the same thing goes for a DVD, since you own it, after you purchased it?

It does, hence the First-sale doctrine, which is the foundation on which things like the video rental industry are built. Now, your rights do have limits, of course, among them being that you can't infringe on their right of ownership by copying the DVDs as much as you want and selling the copies for a profit, given that they still own the rights to the content on that DVD, but you own the DVD itself, so you can do with it as you please.

Comment Re:Good (Score 2) 256

It's not, or this wouldn't be a story.

You've got that backwards: it is, which is why there is a story. Lawmakers regularly pass new laws to make it explicitly clear that rights do, in fact, extend to particular areas. Our rights already exist there, but our ability to exercise them has been obstructed, and lawmakers are pushing back.

Manufacturers have gone to great lengths to prevent people from exercising their rights (e.g. licensing instead of selling, adding terms of usage that limit rights, etc., most of which have yet to be challenged heavily in court since the manufacturers are trying to avoid setting a precedent they don't like), and states are starting to push back, saying that those rights cannot be given up as a condition of sale or use.

Comment Re:pointless (Score 4, Insightful) 176

Yeah, I'm waiting for this fad to pass. Anyone who doesn't live by themselves is better served by a flat display. And those that do live alone get a marginal benefit, at best. Certainly not worth the aesthetic annoyance of how it sits against the wall, nor the fact that it's subpar if you ever do get someone to watch things with you.

Comment Re:First amendment ? WTH ? (Score 1) 116

If I choose to purchase a device that, by design, records everything I say, then I've voluntarily sacrificed my right to privacy in exchange for the benefits afforded by the device.

That's an assertion on your part, not a fact.

Mea culpa, I overstated things, so you're quite right in calling me out. What I intended to convey was that when you permit a third-party to record anything you say in your home, you've compromised the protections provided by your right to privacy, which should be a factual statement we can agree on. You still have the right, of course, but it's impossible to exercise it to its full extent while permitting an intrusion of any sort.

The police certainly are within their rights to seek a warrant to obtain information so long as is it relative to the case. They may not however use warrants to conduct fishing expeditions on the off-chance that information might be found that might be relevant to the case.

What you seem to be suggesting (that they may not search when something only might be found) sounds like it'd require them to have a crystal ball to know the contents of the recordings before they could ask for them. Instead, the police require probable cause to get a search warrant, and they have it here, given that the device was in the home where the victim's body was found and that the recordings are from the time leading up to its discovery, which would've been when the crime was committed. That's sufficient reason for a prudent person to believe that a search of the recordings will turn up evidence of the crime.

Comment Howdy! (Score 1) 114

I've never actually talked to him, nor am I a customer, but I want to see him succeed since it's clear that he's providing a useful service to a number of people. Plus, if he gets big enough to expand just a tiny bit further into town, he may actually reach my house, which would let me ditch the big-name ISP I'm incredibly dissatisfied with.

Comment Re:Mom & Pop internet providers? (Score 4, Interesting) 114

I'd take it to mean ISPs like Brazos WiFi, a small ISP that operates in the rural areas close to where I live. It was started about a decade back by a lone tech guy who was frustrated that none of the major ISPs were serving the town he lived in. At this point, it's his full-time job and he's putting up a handful of new towers every year to expand his region, improve his service, and lower his prices. I'd imagine he has customers in the low thousands at this point, since he's serving several rural towns and has even started getting into the outskirts of the main cities in the area.

I'd consider that a mom and pop ISP.

Comment Re:First amendment ? WTH ? (Score 5, Interesting) 116

The summary does a poor job of explaining Amazon's point (which isn't to say it's a good point anyway). Amazon doesn't seem to be saying that Alexa has rights, so much as it's saying that you or I or anyone else who owns an Echo has rights, and that those rights would be trampled if this warrant was served.

Their line of argumentation seems to be the following:
1) People have a First Amendment right to say and express anything they want in the privacy of their home (which is true)

2) If people aren't secure in their privacy, we've stripped them of their right to express themselves freely (also true)

3) If the police could hear anything anyone has said, it would have a "chilling effect" because people wouldn't be secure in their privacy (yup)

4) The police are asking for days' worth of audio without any direct evidence it has anything to do with the crime (true, I guess)

5) Thus, if they granted the police access to those recordings, they would be compromising the rights of Alexa users everywhere (wait...what?)

The problem with their logic is, of course, that the police aren't forcing anyone to buy an Alexa device. If I choose to purchase a device that, by design, records everything I say, then I've voluntarily sacrificed my right to privacy in exchange for the benefits afforded by the device. It's not the police's fault that I've done so, and they're entirely within their rights to seek a warrant for the information that I've served up on a platter.

This isn't blanket police surveillance, like Amazon appears to be asserting. This is a blanket devaluation of and disregard for the importance of privacy. Amazon is trying to protect us from the consequences of our poor choices, not because they're interested in protecting our interests, but rather because their business depends on having no consequences for using their products. If people actually understood just how creepy Alexa and similar products are, they'd stop inviting them into their homes. Amazon is worried that a case like this will shine light on Alexa's privacy-destroying behavior.

Sacrificing one's privacy should never be treated lightly.

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