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  • Mar 20th, 2013 @ 2:11pm

    Google to blame for spam?

    It sounds like he has decided that Google is to blame for the spam in his mailbox. So every time the lawyer tried to tell him that Google doesn't sell its customers email address, it was INPUT ERROR DOES NOT COMPUTE.

    Probably what Google's lawyer should have told him (not that I blame the lawyer for failing to figure out on the spot how to break through such impenetrable stupidity) was, "Look! If we sold advertisers our customers' email addresses, then the advertisers wouldn't need us any more--they could just cut out the middleman and send their ads directly to our customers without paying us. So we'd be cutting our own throats if we did what you think we're doing."

  • Dec 19th, 2012 @ 12:56pm

    (untitled comment)

    Sorry, but this doesn't make much sense. How, specifically, were the TSA agents expected to know whether the child actually had brittle bone disease without relying on possibly false assertions by the child's parents? Try to break a bone and see if it snaps? From the point of view of statistics, random screenings make a lot of sense. If there is any category of person that terrorists could be sure would never be screened, chances are they would figure out how to sneak a terrorist on board in that guise. Moreover, having some fraction of individuals screened randomly produces statistical "noise" that disguises the criteria used for targeted screening, making it harder for terrorists to figure out what those criteria might be in order to evade them.

  • Oct 26th, 2012 @ 2:22pm

    Wasn't apology, wasn't supposed to be

    The judge did not order Apple to post an apology, just a notification that Samsung had been found not to infringing. I doubt if he was surprised that Apple's lawyers expressed it in a way that was favorable as possible to Apple's interest.

  • Oct 22nd, 2012 @ 11:33am

    Forcing people to buy

    Neither my cable company nor the humble bundle forces me to buy anything. It is my decision. But there is a difference. The cable company offers a bundle of channels for a fixed price, take it or leave it. If the channels that I like are not valuable enough to me to justify the price of the whole bundle, then I have to leave it. But with the Humble Bundle, if I only want a few of the books (and in fact, I already have one of them), I can reduce the price I pay accordingly. I don't lose anything by getting books I don't want, because I'm not paying anything extra for them, and I can simply delete the files, no harm done. The only exception is the bonus books--clearly, if the non-bonus books are worth less to me than the difference between the average price and the price that I would otherwise pay, then I won't get them.

  • Oct 8th, 2012 @ 8:11am

    Patents and innovation

    We've had strong patent protection throughout the period when the US achieved preeminence in technology, so we mess with that successful formula at our peril. On the time scale of technological development, the lifetime of a patent is fairly modest; indeed, most people have forgotten the fact that development of such things as telephony, electric power, automotive and aviation technology were accompanied by pitched patent battles. So there is a period of a couple of decades after a new patented innovation whens there is a strong economic incentive for development of alternate methods to achieve the same thing, which helps to prevent a single approach from being so widely copied that it becomes prematurely "locked in" before other, possibly superior, strategies are fully explored--and then it passes into the public domain for all to use.

    Regardless, inventors at Cornell's campus have to work within the current legal framework, not an imaginary utopia of communal rights over all inventions. Failing to patent your own invention promptly exposes you to the risk that somebody else will patent it, and cut you out of the rights that are essential to attract capital investment to bring that idea to practical fruition.

  • May 4th, 2012 @ 1:10pm

    (untitled comment)

    I like physical books, but in practice, e-books are worth more to me. I'm willing to pay less for a hardback than a paperback, and less for a paperback than an e-book. With a physical book, I have to find space on my shelf, I have to keep my bookshelves organized, and (since I mostly read on the go) I must carry its weight around with me. On more than one occasion, I've bought e-book copies of books I already own, because I wanted to re-read the book, and I didn't want to carry it around. Yes, there are disadvantages: they are not as loanable (although I have a "loaner" e-reader), they cannot be resold, and the e-dealer might abruptly go out of business and take my library (or at least the part that I don't have backed up) with it (but then, physical books can burn). But on balance, e-books have greater value to me.

  • May 2nd, 2012 @ 6:59pm

    but means nothing to users

    This seems to be one of those things that enrages some geeks, but means zilch to the typical user. After all, how often do you buy additional Dropbox space? It's easy enough to navigate to Dropbox yourself on Safari and buy more space, and Apple is perfectly OK with that. And if you really need to go to Dropbox a lot, you can click the button to add a link to your home screen. So a direct link from an app is at most a very minor convenience to the user.

  • Apr 25th, 2011 @ 11:09am

    (untitled comment)

    So one's propensity to support the proposition that video game induced violence is a serious problem is correlated with one's number of publications in the area--which probably also correlates with the amount of one's funding predicated on the proposition that violence in video games is a serious problem justifying continued investment in such research. That doesn't prove that they are wrong, but it sure doesn't prove that they are right.

    The real problem, of course, is that video game sales have increased, particularly to the young male demographic that is statistically most associated with violent behavior, and as video games have become more realistically violent, the incidence of violent crime has steadily decreased. That does not, of course, disprove the notion that there is a "pro-violence" influence of video games. What it does prove is that any such effect (if it exists at all) must be so small as to be swamped by other social and demographic factors influencing violent behavior.

  • Oct 13th, 2010 @ 8:50am

    Another victory for the pimp lobby!

    One can't help wondering if the pimps are paying off politicians to support these bills. Can't have the girls going into business for themselves. They might decide to save their money, get an education, and go into a better line of work.

  • Oct 13th, 2010 @ 8:46am

    speed limit and enforcement

    The speed limit advises the driver of a safe speed. The enforcement threshold is normally set a bit above this, which allows for errors in speedometers and radar guns, the fact that drivers cannot and should not stare constantly at the speedometer, etc., such that drivers who are honestly attempting to observe the speed limit will not be penalized. So yes, you can get away with driving a bit faster than the speed limit, but you are reducing your margin for error, and increasing your risk of getting ticketed. Is this really news to anybody.

  • Aug 18th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

    (untitled comment)

    It has been hard to monetize app-like programs in the past because the lack of a good distribution and payment system led people to ask outrageous prices. An app doesn't have to do very much to be worth a buck or two to me. That's about the value of the time it would take me to search something out on the web if I didn't have the convenience of one-stop shopping via the App Store. And when I'm only paying a buck or two, I don't really much care about whether I could run the same app on a phone that I don't have.