* Posts by Eric Olson

369 posts • joined 22 Sep 2007


Advanced Money-making Devices: AMD inks multibillion stock deal for FPGA specialist Xilinx

Eric Olson

It's nice to be back to two functioning chip makers

Well... one functioning, one retrenching after it dominated the market for nearly two decades

Former antivirus baron John McAfee collared, faces extradition to America on tax evasion, securities allegations

Eric Olson

Re: You would have thought . . .

Sounds like the IRS would rather prosecute poor people for claiming too much Earned Income Tax Credit, rather than pursing any portion of the $200 billion estimated that will be owed each year by the top 1%.


Priorities, I guess

UK enters almost-lockdown: Brits urged to keep calm and carry on – as long as it doesn't involve leaving the house

Eric Olson

Re: Here in the UK... off topic

S. Korea and Singapore would like a word

Five years in the clink for super-crook who scammed Google, Facebook out of $120m with fake tech invoices

Eric Olson

Re: He should of just hit normal people

Imma gonna leave this right here


Explain yourself, mister: Fresh efforts at Google to understand why an AI system says yes or no

Eric Olson

Re: debuggability

Dude, do you even English?

Google: We caught a Russian state hacker crew uploading badness to the Play Store

Eric Olson


Can't bear to part with that well-worn copy of Windows 7? Microsoft might let you keep it updated an extra year

Eric Olson

Re: The cost of Win10 is far too high.

The cost of non-Win 10 will be far higher when the support ends and patches are no longer issued. This is the thing about buying software: at some point, the support ends and you're left picking up the pieces. For apps like Photoshop CS6, it just means you don't get the latest and greatest... for an OS, it means the underpinnings of your system are on shaky foundation.

By all means, stay with whatever you want. But if you want to stay in the Windows ecosystem, things have moved on, like it or not. If you can, go to a different OS to run your system and make your code work there. But other than your dollars, you don't have any say over what MS decides to do with their OS.

Don't be Russian to judgement but... Bloke accused of $1.5m+ tax filing biz hack, fraud

Eric Olson

Re: a refund to be paid into a prepaid debit card

There are a lot of free filing sites that will load your refund to a pre-paid Visa or something, precisely because the person in question paid taxes through payroll but doesn't have a bank account. Since employers are required to deduct taxes from each paycheck, it doesn't matter if the person won't make enough to pay taxes, or if they have other qualifying statues or circumstances that get them things like the EITC.

Eric Olson

Re: Something's wrong here

I bet dollars to donuts that the 27 years is just the DoJ summing up the maximum sentence for each charge and calling it a day. It makes for better theater and satisfies the Law and Order types (TV or otherwise) need for a pound of flesh and an eye for an eye.

In reality, it never works that way. Besides the sentencing guidelines that are always much less (takes things like prior criminal history into account), it's not uncommon for individual sentences for each guilty or plead charge to be served concurrently. And then there is the reality of no matter the actual jail sentence, the actual time served is less before release (assuming they don't screw up more).

IANAL, but after the Manafort stuff, Lawyer Twitter, and some other cases lately, this has come up enough that I feel internet confident about saying it. YMMV, and I definitely don't suggest you go citing this in your next legal brief or law blog.

Champagne corks undocked as SpaceX brings the Crew Dragon back to Earth

Eric Olson

Re: Here in the UK... off topic

Oh c'mon, it was first flow in 1949. That wasn't 70 years.... oh crap, it is.

Means my parents are closer to get 70 that 60 now, too. My damn frame of reference keeps shifting, and my math circuits can't keep up.

Wells Fargo? Well fscked at the moment: Data center up in smoke, bank website, app down

Eric Olson

This isn't the first time...

I think there was a nationwide ATM outage in Feb and Apr of 2011, also caused by a single point-of-failure. Speculation was a bad software rollout, but I haven't been able to find anything more than the bank saying it was an "internal system."

But hey... it's not like being able to query a bank account is important for customers, right?

Wow, fancy that. Web ad giant Google to block ad-blockers in Chrome. For safety, apparently

Eric Olson

Re: So predictable !

Actually, I believe they don't sell your personal data. In fact, I think it would be lunacy if they did. There's a simple reason, too: Profit.

Someone else mentioned this the other day, but that's probably the truth of it. If I'm OmniCorp A, and my product, the Widgetizer, is targeted towards Millennials with interests in underwater basketweaving, I don't know who that is in a given population. But Google does. And Google will charge a nominal fee to target that population rather than just Millennials. If Google starts to sell that dataset, even an anomonyzed one, companies won't need to go to them. They'll directly target the websites, search results, and other places such people frequent, and cut Google out from the middle. Selling the data would completely destroy Google's profit margin.

He who controls the data controls the internet.

What would Jesus sue? The FCC, it seems

Eric Olson

Re: Proxy Fight

ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS are all networks, not station owners. Local stations affiliate themselves with a network to get access to the content those networks offer, but that leaves plenty of hours during the day that the local station is transmitting their own content, or content they've licensed from someone else. They get a few local ad slots during network content, and in exchange those networks try to fill those times with shows that pull in eyeballs, which increases the value of those local ad slots.

Your entire argument is predicated on a complete misunderstanding of how the system works. Sinclair operates stations that are affiliates with all the major networks. Additionally, the companies that own the major networks don't have many stations of their own. Disney operates 7 TV stations in the US. Comcast operates 26. Time Warner has just 1. 21st Century Fox has 26. And National Amusements (the holding corp of Viacom and CBS), has 17.

Sinclair owns 173 and would go to 223 with the purchase of Tribune Media. That's a lot more than the 75 or so owned by the networks. And with their history of compelled content that is broadcast nationwide, regardless of local preferences, or in some cases affiliate agreements, Sinclair is a threat to one of the last places people can get local news from local people. The same concerns happened when Clear Channel (now iHeartRadio) started buying multiple radio stations in major cities. They aggressively pushed a one-size-fits-all format, playlist, and talking points. Radio isn't a huge mover anymore and most of the concerns were about taste-making, but the same problem remains: A single voice, pretending to be otherwise, pushing an agenda or point-of-view to millions of people in an attempt to sway them.

Telco forgot to renew its web domain, broke deaf folks' video calls – now gets a $3m paddlin'

Eric Olson

Re: Here in the UK... off topic


Even an idiot knows (well, many of them) that they should break up their haul into multiple locations. Here in the US, pawn shops (the typical item for cash location) are everywhere. In my part of the country, most pawn shows participate in a system where all transactions, including timestamp, customer info, and video are logged to a database for the law enforcement to search (it's run by the main city's police dept). Items are held for 30 days before they can be released for sale, allowing time for things to reported as stolen.

Amusingly enough, our PS4 was just pawned the other day, nearly 3 months after it was stolen. Not sure it was actually the person who stole it, or if it's been handed off a few times and finally someone decided they needed the cash more than the system. Sony dragged their feet for months on the search warrant served by our police department, only finally responding last week with the IP that related to the purchases made less than 24 hours after it was stolen. Of course, we now need to wait for the ISP to provide a physical location for the PD to serve a warrant against. Hopefully, a few people get snared and lose their shit over the idea of spending years in jail because they have an item associated to a felony that has a 20 year prison sentence, then roll on the actual criminal who broke into our house.

Unfortunately, the PS4 wasn't really the item we cared about; we want the two laptops back because they have years of professional data that my wife never backed up (a discussion for a different day).

Eric Olson

Re: Here in the UK... off topic

In the US don't police really investigate the site of burglary either. They file a report and with luck, stolen goods may pop up later and assuming your property includes unique identifiers, might even be returned. Maybe it's time for some online crime reporting.

I think it depends on the jurisdiction. Burglary is actually considered a pretty violent crime, at least when it happens in a residence.

We had a break-in where the perp used our (stupidly) unlocked car to gain entrance into our garage. They proceeded to learn that we don't keep the service door locked and came inside to steal a couple of laptops, a PS4, my wife's wallet, and the old, inactive cell phone we kept for the kids. Ignored the cash on the counter, though.

Reported the theft after they woke us up after setting off our other car's alarm, and we had four cops show up, plus the county crime lab to look for prints and DNA. Sadly, no luck yet, mostly because Sony continues to ignore the search warrant served (for almost two months now) after my wife got an email thanking her for her PS4 purchases of free games a couple of days after the theft.

The developers vs enterprise architects showdown: You shall know us by our trail of diagrams

Eric Olson

I can't count the number of times I go to their documentation to find they haven't even listed the traffic required, or gone to the vendors' site to confirm communication details that the developer hasn't even bothered to look up before requesting IP any any.

Funny, I get tasked with that all the time as the business analyst, under the guise of "gathering requirements."

Sure, there are some requirements there... but there is an element of RTFM that drives me a bit crazy when a dev swings by and bitches about how my requirements docs don't contain details on how to integrate with an external service. Never mind that I included the documents provided by said vendor as reference, rather than duplicate information in a way that won't be updated as the source is.

Japanese sat tech sinks Sea Shepherd anti-whaling activists' hopes

Eric Olson

Re: De gustibus non est disputandum

Beginning to think it's more of an issue to go after intelligent, even sentient species for food and/or sport. It's a grey area for sure, but cetaceans in general seem no-go.

And to be fair, the appetite for (some) seafood is driving other species to the brink of extinction, such a blue tuna. The tragedy of the commons and all that.

HP Inc, HPE both slapped with racism, ageism lawsuit

Eric Olson

Re: Unsure what to think

The reality is these guys may not have been skilled to play the corporate politics at HP and as the layoffs came they were not part of the "in" network.

Actually, that's exactly what the suit is alleging. Through a lack of corporate controls and standards on performance evaluation, promotion decisions, and termination process, subjective criteria were used for decision-making. These may have included considerations outside of the scope of the job, including protected classes of people that are based on age and race.

This is why HR in many companies insist on a structured hiring and firing process, with retention of notes, emails, etc. that are related to the decisions. Any indication that a decision was made using factors unrelated to the job in question could be used against the hiring manager or company later on. Discovery can be a very embarrassing process for a company, as internal documents, hand-scrawled notes, hallway conversations, etc. find their way into the courtroom. Even if cleared, HP now has a PR issue at hand that can escalate and make it harder to attract talent in the future.

Simply put, HR policies are a pain in the ass, but they are they to protect the company's reputation and keep it out of the courtroom. An ounce of prevention....

'My dream job at Oracle left me homeless!' – A techie's relocation horror tale

Eric Olson

To be fair...

I've never left the state for another job, let alone another country. But when I hear "relocation expenses", it's hard to square that with at least not covering deposits or other requirements of moving. Of those who've used them before in three very different sectors (pharma, surgeon, and... retail store manager), they all seemed to cover the expenses of moving from one place to another, including security deposits. Two of them (the pharma and store manager) were more of the "you keep what you don't use" variety, while the surgeon had to document everything in triplicate. Of course, that was the highest paying job by far, so maybe to be expected, especially given that it's almost guaranteed that a resident going into practice was going to be moving.

I can see not covering on-going rental costs... but the security deposit seems to be right up there with moving van, movers, and boxes. No place will rent without a down payment, regardless of your future income.

NASA tells Curiosity: Quit showing off, no 'wheelies' please

Eric Olson

Maybe we don't need too many humans in space yet...

In somewhat related news, the mention above of Opportunity sent me to Google to see what the little dood was up to. Not only is it in the 14th year of activity on Mars, the mission page had a link to this story: Why No One Under 20 Has Experienced a Day Without NASA at Mars.

In the 20 years since Pathfinder's touchdown, eight other NASA landers and orbiters have arrived successfully, and not a day has passed without the United States having at least one active robot on Mars or in orbit around Mars.

That's pretty impressive, while also making me feel old. I remember hearing about the Mars missions in the mid-90s while in school and thinking how awesome it would be to see close-up pictures that weren't from before I was born. And now 20 years later, there are two rovers trundling around Mars, including one that has exceeded its primary mission almost 54 times over and another that shoots lasers, plus India has its own orbiter around Mars. And in general spaceflight over those 20 years: the ISS was launched, expanded, and still kicking; the shuttle program went through a rough retirement; and (evil?) genius Elon Musk has not only started resupply missions, but seems to have cracked the whole reusable rocket thing in a way that 20 years ago would have seemed impossible. SpaceX might even be on the verge of manned missions to ISS. Oh, and NASA is finally getting somewhere on their next-gen rockets and capsules, including the Orion test flight in 2014.

People talk about how we went to the moon with Apollo 11 in '69, and then started the shuttle launches in '81, but did nothing after that. And the '80s and mid-90's were kind of a lull... but it's becoming clear that the science wasn't standing still, even if it looked that way. With more resources, I'm sure there could have been less of a gap between the first shuttle launch and the next space era of the ISS, Mars exploration, and private spaceflight, but I'm still not sure we'd have humans on Mars yet, given how little we know about the radiation risk and the material sciences needed to shield people on the way and once they get there. Plus... there's been so much cool science with the space-based telescopes lately and Earth-based sensors, you start to realize just how little we know about anything.

What a tit! Uber CEO hijacks his staff breast-pump room to meditate

Eric Olson

Re: Seems to me that ...

Still rather young, so I have to rely on secondhand anecdotes... but if I took more risks than they already do, it's a miracle I made it to my teens.

Eric Olson

Re: Seems to me that ...

We should be ashamed of ourselves. Or perhaps extinct.

After observing my sons growing up, I'm surprised we've lasted this long. It's almost like surviving childhood is accidental.

Will the MOAB (Mother Of all AdBlockers) finally kill advertising?

Eric Olson

Too much conflation of ads with advertising...

Both the author and the commenters seem to focus a lot of energy on "ads", with only a nominal bone thrown to "native advertising" or what the actual purpose of advertising is: Influence consumer behavior.

On both the web and on TV, ads are despised. They break up the content in such a way that's jarring, either through commercial breaks or poorly designed and executed "inline" copy. You see less worry about ads in print media, or when it's integrated into the content in seamless ways. Think product placement or promoted reviews, articles, etc.

Today there's a flimsy wall separating the ad revenue teams from the content/editorial teams. When they mix, you end up with reviews, interviews, exclusives, and other things that look organic, but really are being done because an advertiser or company offered access to one or more places. In some cases it's outright cash, such as when an actor or producer is doing a publicity tour to promote a new or returning show.

Savvy marketers already know how to influence consumer behavior and do it all the time. Amazon Prime or other subscription programs, loyalty programs, UX, early/first access, etc. all can and are routinely used to guide a person to buy more stuff, recommend to friends/family, upgrade, or shift spending. When the pie only grows so fast and your company is required to increase sales at a higher clip, you have to find untapped consumers (rare) or route existing consumers to you.

The concern raised about ads being blocked is less about catastrophic disruption and more about antiquated ideas on how advertising and marketing actually works today. The reason they still exist on the web is they are cheap and easy to fling, with little attention or expertise being needed to conduct a campaign. Once those are exhausted or revealed to be the wealth transfers from dumb/lazy companies to savvy ones they really are, the web will be a better place for it.

Democrats draft laws in futile attempt to protect US internet privacy

Eric Olson

Re: So...

Not a lawyer, but based on the typical arguments...

Things get tough when crossing state lines are involved... however, there are ways around it.

Most often, businesses have local affiliates in a state they do business as. These are for numerous business related reasons, but often is required for a regulatory standpoint in the state. So if Comriz & T wants to be an ISP in Minnesota, they need to be mindful of state laws. Otherwise, they will be shut down by state regulators and prevented from operating in the state. That handles 1, 2, and probably 3 in your example.

#3 could also be handled by a state law in Minnesota that makes it illegal for companies in Minnesota to purchase aggregate or individual data from states that make collection illegal (essentially, illegal to use illegal goods). Maybe that one isn't so cut-and-dried.

The Commerce Clause of the US Constitution typically comes into play when state laws attempt to supersede or ignore federal laws that apply to interstate commerce. So when it comes to your 4th example, the state laws would have no impact.

#3 might also be tricky if Minnesota had a law on the books applying to MN companies and used a higher standard to determine what is "illegally collected" data, such as not even allowing opt-in data, or just a blanket prohibition on their use of such data. Those companies might be able to sue the state if they can show that they conduct interstate business or that the data was not illegal where it was collected.

As Trump signs away Americans' digital privacy, it's time to bring out the BS detector

Eric Olson

Re: Devils advocate (from the right side of the pond)

For the most part, ISPs are bit and cable TV pushers. The reality is that we don't have "clean" ISPs; almost all were born of and subverted a cable (Comcast) or telephone provider (AT&T and Verizon). They used subsidies and legal monopolies provided by the FCC and state laws to string a bunch of copper (and later fiber) across the land, then took the subscription fees and ad dollars to buy out many of the regional providers for a pittance.

OTT providers like Facebook, Google, Netflix, etc., are using that infrastructure to make money, but they also have to make major infrastructure outlays in order to keep up with demand. The barriers to entry are high and require a massive investment. No one in their garage is going to put together a couple of networked boxes and claim measurable market share from any of them.

I frankly don't care if ISPs can aggregate data and sell it... just get rid of the franchise laws that protect them from competition. If a small shop wants to link a neighborhood to a backbone and charge for the privilege, great. Living in a large metro area, I have two options for ISPs, and a single provider of TV. Of course, I could hang a large HD antenna on my roof and stream the rest, but I still have to deal with one of two ISPs, neither of which are known for customer service, or frankly, service.

Make 'em compete. Make 'em fight. Hell, televise their executives beating each other over the head until they go down, alive or dead. Don't really care. Just make them actually have to work and spend money on service, rather than resting on laurels or crying poverty because some popular network is exacting a higher user fee in the next round of negotiation.

Samsung plans Galaxy Note 7 fire sale

Eric Olson

In all honesty...

I miss my Note 7.

No, not the idea of my pants catching fire while I was on a hyperbolic rant.

But as a phone, it was damn good. It was fast, the screen was great, and I could come home with more than 10% of a charge left. Obviously that last bit was the problem... so it wasn't perfect.

I have the LG V20 now. It's fine. I used my wife's S7. It's fine. The S7 Edge was fine. Everything available at the time was fine. But the Note 7 was good... even great. And some government-bribing idiot (or his underlings) had to try to fuck Fate in the ear by cramming something too big into the intended cavity.

I may never forgive Samsung for ruining a good product with an engineering gaffe that I'm sure will come out in the future as a "We told you not to..." Probably some moronic VP or executive demanded that this whiz-bang cell be put into the Note 7 because the dimensions were just a hair smaller than the battery hollow in the PDF of the technical drawings.

'Sorry, I've forgotten my decryption password' is contempt of court, pal – US appeal judges

Eric Olson

I guess that means it's time to add a time component to the encryption

No successful logins after X days means the key is destroyed and the data cannot be recovered. Probably defeatable, but it seems like a safe defense if the courts won't recognize it as a viable Fifth Amendment. You can't be held in contempt for something that cannot be resolved; just refuse to comply and wait the required number of days.

This week's top token gesture: Google Chrome chokes energy-hungry background tabs

Eric Olson

Re: re: this is about extending battery life

We have as much processing power/memory/functionality in our devices as we need. Heck, we have waaay more than we need.

I would challenge this statement on two grounds:

First, it's been shown frequently (see Anandtech's write-ups on various mobile SoCs) that when a task is completed quickly and the SoC allowed to get back to idle, the overall battery consumption is less than on a slower but higher perf/W SoC. I'm sure like everything else, there are diminishing returns, but for now it's still a viable way to reduce power usage in a mobile device.

Second, it's impossible to foresee the next big use case or form factor for mobile devices. Some will only be viable when devices are more potent. Maybe on-the-fly chemical analysis, or modeling of local weather. Crazy stuff, but could be very useful, especially remote or rural areas. Or not. But we don't know until we get there.

Apple to Europe: It's our job to design Ireland's tax system, not yours

Eric Olson

Re: Fascinating

There's a weirdness to how all countries do their tax structures, be it businesses or personal. The US system is a joke, but the EU system isn't great either, and has numerous loopholes that allow the Apples of the world a chance to avoid billions in taxation.

A better question is what purpose do we expect corporate taxation to serve? Is it a fairness thing? A way to reduce personal income taxes and therefore a political calculation?

This is a serious question, because if we arrive at why?, then we can at least put together a less insane system... maybe.

FAKE BREWS: America rocked by 'craft beer' scandal allegations

Eric Olson

Re: This story only got written...

Most craft brewers, if doing well enough to make a profit, end up being bought out.

Not sure where you are located, but I can't say this is true in my neck of the woods (the Frozen North, USA). Most of the local and regional craft breweries are both profitable and still locally owned, and the biggest ones have been that way for a decade or more. This is true, from what I gather, of many of the nationally distributed beers that aren't part of AB InBev, Carlsberg, MolsonCoors, etc stables. There are some notable breweries that still trade under a craft-like label but have been owned in whole or part for a number of years by large breweries (Goose Island and Redhook come to mind). But on the whole, craft breweries are still independent.

If you're in doubt, or just are they type of person who refuses to drink a beer produced or owned by the major brands, the Brewers Association can help out. Their 2015 volume list for craft brewers helpfully calls out the brands that won't be making the 2016 list (due in spring 2017) because they no longer meet the criteria for being a craft brewer. And I suppose it may not be perfectly up to date, but it only shows 4 exiting the list for 2016.

'Treat your developers like creative workers – or watch them leave'

Eric Olson

Re: Seconded

If a BA asked me "why?" too many times I'd consider that they might not have that good a handle on the B part of BA.

The funny thing about being a BA is that we don't often get to spend a lot of time in an area to become SMEs ourselves. One very large company I worked for actually redesigned their analysis and design process with the explicit goal of eliminating the need for BAs to have any kind of knowledge of the business or technology that ran it. They wanted BAs to be mobile and experts in elicitation rather than flow. They wanted BAs to ask why until people went crazy, and even provided training on how to do it.

I'm being a bit glib, but the reality is that in a technology department, an hour of BA time is less than an architect's, and even a quick code change often requires 2-3 hours of time after factoring in Dev, QA, UAT, and such. So if I spend two hours pestering the business and end up coming up with a non-technical solution, or a technical solution that can be implemented more quickly than the original "requirement," I'm doing my job.

Plus, I just don't like people.

Eric Olson


I tell people that as a BA, my job is to pester the hell out of the business by acting like a toddler; just ask "Why?" over and over.

Nothing bothers me more than being handed a "requirement" that says, "I want a new checkbox on this screen that someone has to tick in order to click submit." Besides possibly being bad UX something that isn't typically part of the UI, there is an underlying issue there that isn't being properly voiced. Did Legal come by and say this action requires a second confirmation before it can be completed? Is the Call Center fed up with people calling in to rescind an action they took? Perhaps Operations is tired of some orders being incomplete.

All of these are legitimate business problems and need to be resolved. But the problem more often than not is the person requesting is a SME in that particular flow or function, but doesn't know how it fits in the larger picture. So I sit down with them and figure out what's really going on, what really needs to be resolved, then I get with my developer(s) and we talk about proposed solutions.

To be fair, I've worked with a few Devs who just want to be told what to do. They can't stomach JADs or other solution sessions, don't want to spend time in a meeting with a few other people tossing around ideas, etc. But I've found that even the most adamant "just tell me what to do" Devs like to have input at some point, even if only to say that they think the checkbox should be a radio button, and give a reason or two why.

What's the difference between you and a sea slug? When it comes to IT security, nothing

Eric Olson

Re: "engineers need to worry less about attacks, and more that the neurobiology"

you are telling me people in corporate marketing departments are biological?

If Futurama taught me anything about robots, I'd say advertising is entirely devoid of human life; the sector is run of alcohol.

Speaking of which, I need to grab some wholesome nutritious alcohol before I head into the office...

Eric Olson

Ooo errr

Unless you've got some kinky users who love a good kicking after they behave appropriately, you probably want the white coats to justify positive punishment as a legitimate user management strategy.


President Donald Trump taken on by unlikely foe: Badass park rangers

Eric Olson

Re: Less than a week in the position...

... if one discounts California, Trump won the popular vote by approximately 1.7 million votes.

And if one discounts the states in which Clinton lost by a similar margin (Trump at 61% or more), it swings back to a +300,000 margin for Clinton. What's your point?

The Electoral College doesn't give bonus points for winning a state by more than a single vote. So the notion that illegal voting would be best served in states that a candidate would already win handily is idiotic. If you want to cast around for phantom anomalous voting, look in the states with razor thin margins where the polling prior to the election indicated a different result... which are the states that Trump won.

But the reality is that there wasn't a conspiracy, there wasn't illegal voting that swung an election, there was none of it. It's a canard clung to by a segment of the population that can't accept that someone might disagree with them. Is it hard to understand that a city with a large number of non-whites, naturalized citizens, and Hollywood types might lean away from Trump or the Republican party? Is there a reason you don't point out that in DC, only 4% of the voters chose Trump?

Let me ask you this question: Do you believe that every citizen that is legally allowed to vote should be able to? Do you believe that every citizen that is legally allowed to vote who wants to vote should be able to? Do you believe that every citizen that is legally allowed to vote who wants to vote should be provided every opportunity to vote?

If so, then you should stop bitching about dead people who aren't cleared from voter rolls (not the same as voting) and start bitching about how states are working hard to ensure that citizens who are legally allowed to vote are being turned away due to the government losing documentation (e.g. birth certificates), making it hard to register to vote, disenfranchising people for life well after they served the rest of their sentence for a crime, and overall trying to make voting more time consuming and expensive to cast a vote. It's the 21st century... why do we insist that each voter only has a single location in which they cast a ballot? This isn't a fucking stone being dropped in a clay jar.

And if you don't think the government has a place ensuring that all citizens legally allowed to vote are able to vote when they can vote, you don't actually give a fuck about vote integrity and fair elections; you only want to wield it as a weapon in an attempt to cling to power. And that behavior is why the US has tried to monitor elections overseas on not locally... it wasn't a problem in the US until someone thought voter restrictions could be used to win elections.

Eric Olson

Re: Less than a week in the position...

These are also most of the same yahoos that tolerated Bush / Cheney for eight years.

They tolerated him because he was them. His policies would be meek and mild compared to the median Republican Representative today (that's actually quantifiable, assuming you trust that public statements and voting record are viable inputs into the model). Bush was a conservative in a time when conservatives were trying to overcome the "hypocritical adulterer" label that stuck so well to their leadership after the debacle that was the impeachment trial for Clinton and the subsequent outing of skeletons. Bush was also a reliable Republican and hewed to the party platform while communicating in a bumbling style that made it seem like the other end of those planks weren't dangling off a ship in the shark-infested waters near the Cape of Good Hope.

Trump is... not reliable. He's not conservative. He doesn't have a track record. And his public statements range from white nationalist to far-left socialist... just in the last 5 days. Statements from Ryan and McConnell indicate they are policy focused and assuming that Trump will just scrawl a signature on whatever bill comes his way. There is already public dissent in the ranks for Trump's use of Executive Orders in the first 5 days, especially knowing that there is a pliable Congress just itching to tear down anything that might have been constructed during President Obama's term... for reasons that range from legitimate policy disagreements to... well... less kind things.

That Trump is backstopped by a VP that is closer to the median Republican official and has a track record of doing so means that Trump is expendable... assuming that a year of Trump signing those bills doesn't make the GOP think they have control over him.

Eric Olson

Re: US Constitution 25th Amendment - to remove a President

In which case there is a quicker way to remove him without impeachment - the 25th Amendment

Sounds nice and easy, but even in the 60s (or because it was the 60s) it was assumed a power struggle could ensue. So naturally, Section 4 has a bit more to it:

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

Essentially, if the VP and the Cabinet all decide that Trump is unfit and rat him out to the President pro tempore of the Senate (currently Orrin Hatch of Utah), Trump can fire off a quick note (maybe a tweet?) that he is very fit, maybe more than fit, to continue as President, and he will immediately resume office. If the VP persists, it goes before Congress for a two-thirds vote in both chambers. That would actually be harder than impeachment and a subsequent finding of guilty on one or more charges; the House only needs a majority vote on one charge to forward it on to the Senate for trial, which would still need 2/3rds majority.

The House, being much more unruly and with a wing of Republicans who like to stick it to the party leadership any chance they can, would be unlikely to support removal of Trump. Plus House Democrats might calculate that a President Trump would be more damaging to the Republicans if he remained in office, and that Republicans in disarray would be unable or unwilling to support President Trump's more... unorthodox... policy decisions.

We are stuck with Trump until he's no longer useful for advancing the Republican agenda, or that even in helping with that, his other activities, EO's, public comments, etc., start to erode the public's confidence in the Republican party and their ability to do anything for the public... or Trump starts some kind of war (military, economic, etc.) with his idiotic rants. The danger here is that Republicans still believe they can co-opt office to pass their legislation and policy prescriptions, when the reality is that Trump already did that to them.

The best hosts are the ones who think they are benefiting from the parasite's continued presence.

Eric Olson

Re: Less than a week in the position...

If you're catching flak, it means you're over the target. If there are not "minor acts of resistance" from the establishment bureaucrats and others, he's not doing what he was elected to do.

Flawed reasoning, and needlessly violent to use a war metaphor. It's even more out-of-place when he wasn't really voted to do anything. He ran on a vague platform and lost, if not for three states where his margin of victory was 80,000 out of nearly 14 million cast. Of course that's the system and therefore he won, but to call it a mandate is a joke (he couldn't even win with a majority in those three states; 48% was the best he could do)

Of course, he was only able to do this against a candidate that had another nation actively working against her and a politically inept FBI Chief who thought it was important to tell Congress a few weeks before the election that they might have a few more emails to review. And then less than two weeks before the end, he meekly sends out a press release saying that nothing new was found, putting the whole thing back in the news again. At the same time, FISA warrants were sought by the very same FBI to investigate member's of Trump's campaign for communications with Russia, but the FBI Chief felt no need to tell Congress or anyone else that. I don't think it was a conspiracy, just a man seeing that it was likely to be a 2017 where he would have both a hostile Congress and hostile White House, and he would lose his job. Instead, Trump "shocked the world" and was elected... in no small part due to the Comey letter that everyone except him knew would be leaked within seconds of it landing on the desk of a Republican.

We're stuck with Trump until he's no longer is useful to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, or he goes so off the deep end that they have no choice but to start impeachment proceedings. They have an ace-in-the-hole in Pence, who's a groomed, established conservative that hits all the right notes without the alt-right connections. Trump is scary right now because Republicans have been trying for eight years to defeat President Obama and failed; Trump won their nomination (though given the other candidates, many would probably have beaten Clinton even more given the revelations) and is the nominal leader of the party. He's trying to make it populist, but much of the party money comes from businesses that thrive on open borders, free trade, and the movement of labor across geopolitical lines. Something will have to give...

I've got a brand new combine harvester and I'll give you the API key

Eric Olson

@ Dwarf and others

Not sure IoT is a good analogy for tractors, given that most farms I know have no Internet connectivity due to the fact that they are by definition rural places.

I think this comment is a shining example of what people get wrong about farming and the people who farm. It's not malicious, or even an attempt at humor at the expense of others. It's that most people forget two things about agriculture: It's vitally important to more than the city or county it's located in, and it underpins a sprawling, globe-spanning supply chain that literally feeds the world (or damn near all of it). And I suppose there is third thing: much of the world's breadbaskets are located in advanced economies that have resources to throw at enhancing yield.

You want to see the US at it's most protectionist, look at agriculture. And that was before Trump. The country exports entire cargo ships of food each day across the world and can feed itself a dozen times over... yet things like corn, wheat, sugar, and poultry are deeply subsidized or supported by import tariffs. It's kind of crazy politically here each time the omnibus Farm Bill comes up for renewal every few years, and it's one of the few issues that party allegiance takes a backseat to the constituents back home.

So yeah, it doesn't surprise me that John Deere (and probably others) have been sticking tech on tractors and implements well before it was cool or even an infrastructure to do much with it. I had two developers and a QA guy leave my last employer to join a small ag tech company that does SaaS for farm management, and it was quickly growing. I'm sure they aren't the only one.

UK.gov departments are each clinging on to 100 terabytes of legacy data

Eric Olson

Re: funny

You're assuming that it's in some kind of high-availability storage built for concurrency or I/O, rather than chucked onto old department shares slapped together in the early 2000s, or maybe numerous Outlook archives of departed employees that people can't bring themselves to delete... most of which is likely on tape or, as I alluded to, off-the-shelf HDDs, maybe even in ESD bags after being pulled from the ancient desktop they once were part of. Perhaps even a fancy SMB NAS was thrown into the mix a few years ago. And much of it is probably backups ort is replicated/superseded elsewhere, but no one has the time to figure it out.

That's the thing about the 100 TB figure... it doesn't take a lot of desktops and laptops that were turned in during because of departure, termination, or upgrade to reach it. But with various regulations about data retention, requirements to scrub other types of data before disposal, and just the inertia of government (just like in business), the better assumption is that this is spread across a hundred or more separate storage media, devices, and systems... and the consulting firm probably did the same, grunted out a number, then used a boilerplate conclusion with the subjects changed to match the industry.

You show me a company of more than 20 people that's been around for more than a decade dealing with data, even just emails and a website, and I'll show you where to find the TBs of non-operational or archived data that someone(s) can't let go.

Of course, it is possible that some of these departments do have it on modern storage solutions... but if that was the case, it's likely they aren't suffering from the same issues that the consultant identified in their summary. It's probably reasonably searchable, has sufficient redundancy, and may even have coherent archiving and deletion policies. Then again, I've yet to work for any company that can do this across all levels.

Eric Olson

Does this feel like a big number to scare people?

Cause it feels like a big number to scare people. 100 TB is all the space! Like... uh... 50 hard drives from Amazon. Bought for $69 a piece. But I swear it's a lot!

C'mon. I know people are programmed from birth to distrust the government (who haven't helped themselves much, regardless of citizenship) and assume the worst... but if they knew what IT policies looked like at "well-run multinationals", they would see things differently. Hell, the small company I'm at has 1TB tables in a MS SQL DB for moderate sized clients. It sure sounds large when you remember ads used to boast about 1GB hard drives, but things have changed since Pentiums ruled the world.

Sure, I'm sure that this legacy data could mostly be jettisoned, but if it's anything like the US, there are retention policies, rules, or laws that dictate what can be done with it or how accessible it should be. The finance world routinely keeps a five to seven year retention policy for audits and the like, not counting the numerous hard drives and email accounts under legal hold due to pending regulatory, civil, or criminal actions being taken.

And am I right in thinking £500M/year isn't actually that much? It sounds like a lot, but here in the US, converted to USD, that would be... 0.03% of the annual budget for the entire government, including Social Security (income for old people) and Medicare (health care for old people).

Weaky-leaks: Furious fans roast Assange in web interview from hell

Eric Olson

@ AndyS

Here's the thing about " Leaking it to hold the rich & powerful [accountable]"; they don't care. Really, just look at Trump. Even ignoring the salacious rumors in the latest leak, during the election campaign it surfaced he once bragged about his ability to get away with sexual assault, and his response what "locker room talk." He had tax returns leaked that showed he claimed a nearly $1 billion loss in a single year, using accounting tricks that screwed his investors (they took the loss) so that he could use it as a tax dodge for 17 years. In general, he used his money and power to say, "Who the fuck cares what I did?" and the people bought it.

Leaks like Assange publish hurt those very people he claims to be helping. The average person gets run over by the bus each time these leaks happen, because they were on the periphery of the bad behavior, but they don't have the resources to make it go away or continue on, or they lose advocates who help them. Can you really name a rich and powerful person actually harmed by Assange or Snowden's leaks? Forcing them from the public sphere is not harm; those jobs were never about the money, it's the access. And when you go back to a private life, those contacts are still there, able to help you out, or your friends. And even if you lost a lucrative job, you still have all the wealth accumulated over the years.

Clinton wasn't harmed; she lost an election but her public profile is not really any worse... she still received more votes than Trump... 48% to 46%, in fact. But she lost razor thin margins in a few states that tipped the election because of the system in place here. And because of that, we now have a situation where a lot of common people will be hurt by a Trump administration, ironically many of his voters. I mean... it's becoming clear that a sizable number of Republican voters think the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is different from the Obamacare they wanted repealed for the last 6 years.... and get really upset when it's pointed out they are the same thing... or persist in saying they are different.

Routine jobs vanishing and it's all technology's fault? Hold it there, sport

Eric Olson

Re: Automation has been happening for decades...

Address the skills gap and that group of available workers will shrink quickly.

That will help some people... but the reality also is that across the advanced economies, they've had 30 years to deal with the opening of China, India, and Russia and its former republics. Opening didn't just mean new markets for N. America and European goods, it meant a new workforce. And while supply chain management is a rising star in the "new careers" section in the high school guidance counselor's office, the reality is that much of those supply chains take raw materials from those same nations, ships them to similar nations that have better infrastructure for production, and then ships them locally.

Sure, a lot of it comes back to the US and Europe as cheap electronics (or fancy ones like smartphones), but the reality is that our consuming class is getting smaller due to slowing population growth and waning interest in the latest and greatest. Over in India and China, the new middle class dwarfs what remains in the NA and Europe, even after adjusting for purchasing power.

So it's not just that we have skills gaps, in that we have reduced consumption, less of an income advantage than we once had, and infrastructure that is woefully under maintained and stuck in a 1950s mentality (maybe not so bad in Europe, but it's terrible in the US). If you are looking to start a business today and you want to serve global consumers, maybe it's better to set up shop in Guangzhou or Chennai.

NA and Europe can only continue to compete because of automation, which just makes it harder for the consuming class to shake the funk. And like I said earlier, policy makers had no coherent strategy or vision for handling the displacement of globalization, and still don't. Safety nets might be the only way, if only because most of the big companies that created these globe-spanning supply chains and distant production centers are still based in NA or Europe. I don't have a good answer to how that concentrated wealth is shifted without causing those companies to flee, but something has to be accomplished or there will be some dark times in countries that rely on the people to make choices about their government.

Eric Olson

Re: Agree completely

Actually, the plumber is probably fine for a while. Same with the welder, the electrician, the carpenter, etc. Those jobs require two things: geographic proximity and non-routine work. Sure, it's easy to produce flat pack for Ikea in a Chinese factory... but to join two complex metal pieces, plan and wire a house, or install cabinets, you need people on-site who can do the work.

The person put out buy automation is the woman who loaded paper for a printing press, or the foundry worker that used to descale the ingots of steel that rolled off the line. Automation can do both of those things today, and the people out of a job likely learned their trade on-the-job rather than through an apprenticeship program or post-secondary education.

Eric Olson

Automation has been happening for decades...

Watson is just a new version of what has been going on across finance, health care, and other labor-intensive, highly repeatable processes. Even Watson is being deployed to do something that health care in the US mostly automated years ago: claims processing. There is a reason why if you walk into a highly sophisticated insurance company, you will see a handful of people doing claims processing via green screens... they are exception processing the 0.5% or fewer claims that dropped out of automated processing. There is no reason to make a fancy GUI with whiz-bang features when it's used for a fraction of a percent of the daily load.

In 40 years, the US steel industry cut 75% of its workforce, yet didn't reduce output. Hand-fed printing presses were replaced by machine fed ones (which are themselves being cut back due to a reduction in physical newspaper circulation). This is automation; it's not Watson, or apps, or anything like that. It will continue to go on, just now with more complex jobs being offered up to the altar of increased productivity.

What scares me is that the advanced economies never really figured out how to mitigate the impact of free trade and globalization on people who were highly-trained in specific tasks in a factory or production line. Even now we have demagogues pandering to those folks with false, bordering on malicious promises to bring back jobs that will never come back unless those same folks were put into chains and slept in a ditch. The labor costs are too high for products that have too thin of a margin. Even China is too expensive for things like textiles. And while still unable to handle to realities of global trade and cheap labor overseas, politicians are going to successfully address the impacts of continued automation?

US Supreme Court to hear case that may ruin Lone Star patent trolls

Eric Olson

Re: So if this goes through, everyone has to be sued in their state of incorporation

...nonphysical patents are probably the most trolled patents in litigation today.

It might be today, but patent trolling has been around almost as long as patents. Read up on the Sewing Machine Wars of the 1850s for a good look into the troll that begot all trolls, at least in the patent space. Elias Howe, Jr. kicked off the very first war by patenting existing, but undocumented, technology used in almost every sewing machine produced, then went about suing each and every manufacturer, tying up courts, confounding juries, and leading to the formation of the first patent pool to protect those manufactured from him. Howe didn't even produce sewing machines, or have any intent. He just wanted licensing fees and settlements.

And while here you might only find non-physical patent trolls, they exist in hardware as well as non-computer spaces. Where ever there is a collection of technologies that people assume were patented years ago and are now common knowledge, you'll find some jerk with deep pockets (or a benefactor with deep pockets) willing to find new ways to extort money. It's not limited to the computer industry. And they don't even have to be good patents, just vague enough to put settlement at the forethought of the lawyers or owner who got just got served.

As for defining "long enough", your very definition seems variable and open to modification over time. If a company is sinking $6 billion a year into R&D, they need to be able to tell the shareholders (who might prefer that cash be used for other activities that increase the share price or dividends) the output will provide protection for a finite number of years. As soon as that conversation becomes, "Well, this year it's 7 years, but the USPTO has determined that this sector is up for review next year, so patents might have more or less protection in the coming calendar years," you will have both a revolt and a very definite reexamination of priorities.

Eric Olson

Re: So if this goes through, everyone has to be sued in their state of incorporation

But software and other nonphysical patents live in a world running at breakneck speed, and this length is now inappropriate.

You could then argue the same for medical patents, mechanical patents, and everything else. The computing era has accelerated everything, not just the software that runs it. By using the "breakneck speed" at which computing changes as a benchmark, how does one measure photolithography? It requires constant evolution to drive down process nodes and is purely mechanical in nature. But it's absolutely vital to the reducing in IC size and pack more into the same sized die to make those nonphysical patents important and useful (another patent requirement kicked to the curb just three years after the original Patent Act). Does that mean it should follow the nonphysical rules as well?

I'm not just pointing out edge cases. Autonomous vehicles are another example. The deep learning portion is nonphysical, but the basis of those various implementations might live on for decades in cars, drones, etc. Should it be granted only transient protection, even if the product line it first appears in will last for 15+ years? What motivation does Google, MIT, Uber, or others have to patent those algorithms and designs if they know protection might only last a short time.

Keep in mind a patent is not exclusivity in that you are the only one who can use it. A patent makes a work both easier to license without secrets being stolen while also making it available for others to examine and improve upon, without having to exhaust resources coming to a similar end. Licensing is cheaper than R&D, or allows R&D to focus on something truly novel instead rehashing the same thing. And while this is less of an issue going forward in a first-to-file system, the old way still incentivized trade secrets that could be kept in a war chest and used against a competitor who had the audacity to patent their work. Then you could claim prior art, have the patent invalidated or transferred to you (still not sure how that actually works), and hamstring them.

Eric Olson

Re: So if this goes through, everyone has to be sued in their state of incorporation @bombastic bob

A good example (as I understand it) would be something that happened to Harley Davidson back in the early days. They were sued over a clutch design that they never patented. So someone else patented it (Indian motorcycles?), then sued them for infringement, nearly wrecking the company.

That doesn't really make sense, given that until 2013, the US was a first-to-invent regime (one of the last, if not the last). That means that if you had evidence that you had invented the same thing earlier, you could have the patent invalidate (or maybe transferred to you?). Even today, the majority of patents that are still active were filed under the first-to-invent model. The change only impacted patents filed 2013 or later.

The point of a patent is twofold: add knowledge to the public body and allow the inventor a chance to profit or recoup investment for a period of time. As pointed out above, knowledge dies when it's kept hidden for fear of being copied and put out of business. Trade secrets or "special sauce" thinking has kept a lot of discoveries behind closed doors. Many may be similar to other secrets, or the same secret repeated dozens of times. If that is the case, a lot of time, money, and materials were wasted to reinvent the wheel over and over. That also means those brains could have spent the time modifying something else, or even creating a novel way of doing something.

A first-to-file (plus the reduced fees for small and micro inventors) incentivizes people to file for a patent rather than sit on it as insurance or try to hide it while fruitlessly shopping it around. Plus it defuses a number of potential landmines, where you do your homework, find no patent for something, file it, then have ConstructoSoft sue you to invalidate your patent based on "prior art" they found in a dusty technical drawing that was only used once, but might show a similar design.

Eric Olson

Re: So if this goes through, everyone has to be sued in their state of incorporation

It's worth noting that the original period of copyright and patents were actually reasonable ones.

Patents are limited to 20 years; the original Patent Act limited them to 14 years.

You have a point with copyright, though that was still up to 28 years from the start, and Europe went to lifetime of the creator + 50 years in the mid-1800s. Right now, it's creator's life + 70 years, if we are talking only about single creators.

Eric Olson

Re: So if this goes through, everyone has to be sued in their state of incorporation

The USPTO appears to have forgotten that patents are supposed to be novel - too often it's a small and obvious incremental improvement.

Actually, novel inventions are quite rare. Even the the first patents issued were improvements upon existing processes. The original Patent Act of 1790 explicitly names "improvement thereon not before known or used". That Act was scrapped in three years because it was found to be too hard to obtain a patent. The new Act went out of its way to remove any notion that the invention or improvement had to be important, just that it was not known to the people granting patents.

The obviousness test wasn't introduced until 1952... many years and hundreds of thousands of patents later. And even then, what does obvious mean? If you are in front of a jury, a small tweak to a manufacturing process might seem novel, but to a process engineer it might have been so sensible that it could be found in dozens or hundreds of other products. How do you evaluate that? (answer: you're screwed now that the US has moved to first-to-file, though maybe you can find some evidence that it was known in the field well before the patent was submitted and get it invalidated)

TL;DR: Stop fetishizing the patent as if it was some holy writ handed down from on high using stone tablets; it's law made by humans that has undergone significant revisions. A patent allows knowledge that would otherwise be locked away a chance to see the light and be used, while enriching the creator or company that has the patent.



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