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Comment Web app (Score 1) 69

My TV's Netflix app simply wraps a customized browser loading a local web app which uses ajax to talk with netflix. Then they used some sort of browser plug in or modification to get to whatever video library the device supported.

Why wouldn't netflix use a similar approach for all it's apps from toaster to xbox??

You can make a local web app that would fool almost anybody with a properly customized browser (using local OS library means it wouldn't take much ram since it's likely loaded anyhow.)

Less development and support related issues; every device has some working browser library and video decoder if hardware support is available.

Comment Re:The social effects are much worse. (Score 1) 374

In the past, before these subsidies that distorted the pricing so horrendously, most students had to study something that brought real value. While a few dicked around in an abstract, rather useless subject like philosophy, most students studied science, engineering, mathematics, law, and medicine. These are the sorts of subjects that allow the students to, in the future, provide real value to society.

That's arguable. In our "anything that can be outsourced should be" culture, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics degrees are no longer guarantees of adding economic value, either. And not everybody is good at those subjects. In my experience as a college educator, forcing students to dedicate four years of their lives to a a subject that they hate just because it theoretically pays better after graduation is self-defeating. You end up with students that don't really want to learn the material, struggle to pick it up, and drag down the rest of the class as you try to help them keep up.

Eventually, even medicine will be mostly automated. We'll still need nurses for a while, because robotic nursing is a genuinely hard problem, but doctors could basically be replaced by IBM's Watson and a glorified secretary today. Besides being an extremely expensive career to go into, the long-term prospects are bleak. So the question you have to ask yourself is this: Do we really want to live in a society of lawyers?

Also, as others have mentioned, education used to be much more highly subsidized than it is now, even taking into account the availability of college loans (which are largely a more-expensive-to-the-student replacement for the government subsidies that used to exist). Yet people continue to choose those degree programs. Could it be that you're wrong about the value to society? Folks with degrees in the performing arts are guaranteed a menial income for the rest of their lives, but they're also doing something that they enjoy. When faced with a society of people who are getting more and more unhappy, given that happiness is a strong predictor of longevity, arguably those degree programs benefit society a great deal even before you consider that their creative output improves society directly. And many art history majors learn (either as part of their degree or on the job) how to do fundraising, which contributes greatly to the arts, and thus to society as well. AFAIK, there aren't degree programs specific to arts development in most places, so art history and music degrees are often as close as you can get.

Now I'm not going to argue that I know the value of those other degrees you mentioned. I suspect that at least for now, they mainly qualify you to be a high school guidance counselor or maybe a politician, but that's just a guess. But in my experience, the job market creates interesting opportunities based on the availability of people with specific skills. If there are enough people with those currently low-value majors, somebody (maybe even somebody who majored in one of those fields) will come up with some interesting task that those students can uniquely perform after they graduate, and society benefits from the creation of those new areas of work and study.

Finally, I would add that the purpose of college is to educate students for the sake of learning—to open their eyes to the world's possibilities. Its purpose is not to be a trade school. We don't need more cookie-cutter STEM majors who got their degrees because they pay better out of school. We need a society of people who appreciate the world in which we live, who find ways to do what they love and love what they do, who understand how to learn, who understand how to think for themselves, who understand that they live in a diverse world of people with different backgrounds, different interests, different cultures, and different perspectives. And that is far more valuable to society than being able to check "yes" in the box that says "I have a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math", and I say that as someone with a Master's in CS, but with an undergrad degree that included a double major in CS and communications, with extensive music ensemble coursework on the side. There is great value to society in degrees outside of STEM. Not all value is financial in nature.

Comment Re:Yeah, the bubble will pop long before that (Score 1) 374

Isn't that exactly the type of wasteful behavior which attributes to higher costs? If for instance classrooms were at 50% utilization for two hours between 8-5, just because everyone is doing meetings at the same time, you could reduce the number of classrooms by 10% if you simply spread meetings throughout the day.

It doesn't work that way. The reality is that students are used to being in school from about 8 to 3. They tend to resist taking classes much past that time, and by college, they tend to resist taking classes before 10 as well. Realistically, you get about five good hours during which you can teach classes, and the more classes you schedule outside those core hours, the more students will cram into the classes within those hours, so you just end up with very imbalanced sections that make it harder to teach.

And it isn't just momentum, either. Lots of students commute to their university, which means early and late classes don't work. Parents (both college students and faculty) have to pick their kids up from school. Students have part-time jobs to pay the bills. And so on.

Finally, it isn't practical to just say, "We're going to spread classes evenly throughout the day", because students need time to actually work on their homework. And that time needs to be during the day so that they can use campus facilities such as computer labs, tutoring centers, etc. It simply isn't practical for the entire day to be used for instruction, because it costs money to operate those other facilities, too, and you'd end up having to cover the cost of extending their hours dramatically if you extend the core hours for classes, which means significantly increased staffing, which ends up costing more over the long run than adding one or two extra rooms to a building.

Comment Re:Failure is always an option (Score 1) 200

Although true, I would argue that what's really needed are standard, third-party cab hailing apps that know about all the cab companies in an area and find you a cab, rather than having to have an app for each cab company in each locality where you might need a cab. It isn't really reasonable to expect each cab company to solve the problem themselves, and it can be tricky for competitors to work together.

Comment Re:Failure is always an option (Score 4, Insightful) 200

I worked as I traveling consultant for 10 years, 80 to 100 flight segments per year, in major cities across the US, with the accompanying cab/uber rides to go with them, and I can unequivocally say that taxi/limo service before Uber was terrible. It was caused by cities artificially limiting supply/bullshit regulation/catering to special interests, all of which Uber/Lyft/etc need to continue to kill, for the good of all.

Taxi services are terrible because it is hopelessly expensive to drive a vehicle point-to-point and the amount of money that the government allows them to charge is not enough to actually pay for repairs and improvements to the vehicles. Uber only "works" because:

  • They've externalized the vehicle costs by forcing the drivers to pay them without allowing the drivers to actually charge fees high enough to cover those costs.
  • There are plenty of people who haven't figured out how much money they're going to end up spending on vehicle maintenance as a result of all that extra driving.
  • They're taking advantage of huge subsidies and burning through their cash reserves to dump their services on the market even further below cost.

The unionization threats are happening because a large enough percentage of the drivers are recognizing Uber for the complete scam that it is. By many estimates, the minimum price at which Uber will be profitable while providing the current level of service is about 4x their current prices. That makes taxis look downright cheap. Increased competition can't ever reduce the cost below a floor set by certain unavoidable costs for things like gasoline, brakes, etc. Well, I guess technically you could have a taxi service with no brakes, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Comment PAYOUT SIMPLY GOES DOWN (Score 1) 648

The public and the press failing to defend against lawyer politicians exploiting and creating loopholes may never be able to protect it 100%. As far as T bonds... the only more stable thing I can think of is gold... and they USED to be almost as good as gold before Nixon. What else can they do with excess funds they need to save? We have an inflation based system, they can't just dump dollars into a vault! Using it to help support the monetary system arguably makes it more secure in helping prop up a system that if it failed would make things extremely difficult for S.S.A. I can see the argument.

The fact remains that it is not liability, it is not part of the normal budget. Most the money is paid out not saved and as the Social Security Admin letters you get from time to time in the mail point out in simple terms--- the payout will go down if there are not enough funds coming in. So mismanagement results in people getting 70% or whatever lower amount in X years. A decrease in population would ALSO result in similar situations.

Social Security was designed to keep the elderly and unemployable out of poverty - that is the civilized and moral thing to do. You can fight over how much above that or how to define that all you want. Which is done--- the upper middle class and wealthy do not want to pay their fair share so we spend all our debates fighting over everything else. A lot of people think it is supposed to support their lifestyle. We also never set things pegged on inflation in the law... or cost of living... which would kill most issues off-- everything would be automatic and some minor variations could just be ignored without "fixing" but then perfection is often the enemy of good... politicians would constantly be trying to ruin a good thing under the excuse it's not perfect.

Comment Re:Yes, "line rental" is for POTS (Score 1) 82

My basic land line at home, with caller ID as the only service, costs... I think $50 per month. Prepaid cellular plans without data start at $3 per month. I could get a separate cellular phone on a separate prepaid plan in every room in the house that currently has a land-line phone, and it would still cost less than a third of what my land line costs.

At this point, just about the only people that have them are businesses and the elderly—the former because it's easier to manage assets that don't move around, and the latter because picking up a phone is natural enough that people with degenerative diseases are likely to remember how to do it, whereas hitting an answer button isn't.

Comment Re:clearly the truckers are right (Score 1) 331

My reading of those instructions are that you shouldn't use an Oxford comma in Maine law (fine) but if you find yourself in a situation where the meaning is ambiguous then you should rewrite the sentence to be clear. Which would leave the interpretation of the law as written in the favour of the truckers.

Comment Insightful? Bullshit! (Score 4, Insightful) 648

Social Security is NOT a liability it is self funded. It is separate and NOT hidden and not budgeted. You risk harm to it by misleading people to think it is a budget item. Medicare and Medicad are knock off programs which are not as well designed or protected but still are not normal budget items.

Separate taxes fund those programs and they go up or down based upon what the public puts into them. Not borrowed money. Social Security can never go bankrupt by design, it simply has less money to work with and goes down. If morons like the parent poster believe the lies they'll let crazy schemes to borrow against such programs or schemes to STEAL from them. Medicare and Medicad have suffered instead of improved to be more like social security and they should never be allowed to be morphed into anything like the failed spending process the rest of the government uses.

The whole monetary system we have as a big ponzi scheme; the debt isn't that big of a deal when the whole world system is huuuge a mess. Limiting factors on endless growth are beginning to impact our systems and fundamental changes will have to be made to any kind of system to adapt.

If you want to help medicad and medicare, you'd be addressing problems OUTSIDE of those programs because they are not the cause of the problems. Problems which impact our EXPENSIVE private health insurance too.

Comment Re:Do not want (Score 1) 80

I mentioned to her "You do realize that pan & scan hides about half the scene from your view, right?" She didn't want to hear it.

Of course, that's not necessarily true. Some P&S movies were originally shot on a larger frame, but with physical mattes on the eyepiece so the camera operator could see what would actually show up on a widescreen setup. In those cases, sometimes you got more content in the P&S version of some scenes, because they went back to the original negatives. And in other cases, they shot two different versions of certain shots, one for P&S and one for widescreen, such as doing a two shot on widescreen, alternating between two over-the-shoulder shots for narrowscreen. Usually P&S was just a cropped version of the full movie, but in some cases, it was an entirely different visual experience. And that's what they're talking about doing here, I think.

Comment Frontotemporal dementia. (Score 4, Informative) 28

Unless I'm missing something, the summary omits some pretty important details and in so doing, kind of misses the point.

The protein in question is believed to be one cause of frontotemporal dementia (and possibly ALS). If I understand the UniProtKB page (skimming), the gene codes for a protein that is supposed to degrade over time, but in some people, it doesn't, and as a result, it builds up in brain cells. This, coupled with other genes that don't suppress production sufficiently, is believed to speed the deterioration of spindle neurons in the frontal and/or temporal lobes.

More to the point, this is almost certainly unrelated to Alzheimer's, as spindle neurons are typically unaffected by that disease except perhaps in the final stages of the disease. I have no idea why that disease was mentioned in the summary, except that it is a common brain disorder that everybody would like to see cured.

On the other hand, other forms of dementia are often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's disease, so there's that....

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