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  1. American Politics

    Bit of a late response, but I thought this was worth addressing. Legally speaking, the idea that states overriding cities is equivalent to the feds overriding the states is incorrect. The states are constitutionally recognized and protected legal sovereigns. They exist independent of the federal government. Once created, the government cannot destroy or alter them without their permission. Certain segments of legal issues are theirs alone to manage and control. The overriding point is that they are legally separate entities, with corresponding powers and protections to match. Cities and municipal governments, however, are no such thing. They are not sovereign entities, they have virtually no true legal power or authority. In fact, in the eyes of federal law, they don't even really exist at all. They are "administrative divisions" of the state government that has authority over them. Legally, they are the state government in a different form. The US Supreme Court has even said as much. If a state wants to be a massive pain in the federal government's side, it can do that, and there is relatively little the federal government can do about it. If a city wants to try that with a state, the state can literally dissolve the city in a single bill. So if the federal government were to pass an law banning "no plastic bags" laws, it would be a classic example of the federal government extending its authority over the states (and possibly also of federal overreach if it doesn't have the authority to do that). By contrast, if a state were to pass a similar law, it would be impossible for the state to engage in the same overreach of the government, as legally, the state is just restricting its own authority.
  2. From the article, it's my understanding that he thinks he is doing the opposite. Basically, he thinks he's offering the FBI an alternative to building a back door, thus giving it a reason to avoid forcing the court showdown over whether Apple can be forced to make a back door.
  3. There is no such thing as "this is a one time thing" when you're dealing with the government. Doing it once establishes precedent for doing it again, and judges aren't likely going to be inclined to think there is a reasonable justification for why you can only do something once. Actually, it is not unreasonable to think that the NSA cannot break the phone. In the world of software, the limiting factor is often the quality of your people. Apple and the NSA compete for the same caliber of person (sometimes even the same people). It's not unreasonable to think that Apple holds the upper hand here. Cryptography heavily favors the person doing the encrypting. We don't know if it's possible to develop truly unbreakable encryption, but it is well established that we can create encryption that is unbreakable in a reasonable time frame. (Even the NSA admits this, which is part of why it funds its own quantum computing research.) To use a second example, the FBI has the legal authority to wiretap a cell phone. About a decade ago, the FBI had to ask Verizon for technical assistance with carrying out wiretaps on Verizon customers. The reason? The FBI could capture the data associated with the phones it wanted to wiretap, but because all data moving across Verizon's network is encrypted with a custom encryption scheme, the FBI found itself unable to decipher the data it was capturing. The growing encroachment of government authority on the rights and privacy of Americans. In the past 15 years, the government has taken an increasingly "I have the right to whatever I want" attitude towards modern technology, including everything from computers and cell phones, to the data generated by property the average American may not even realize is collecting data about them. (All new cars sold in the US contain a black box recorder for facilitating accident and recall investigations. Very few people realize that device is capable of recording data that can be used to work out private details of a person's life that ordinarily would be considered off limits to even the government.) More broadly, the federal government is trying to have its cake and eat it too. While the general concept is arguably anti-democratic, most reasonable people would agree that the federal government has information it has a genuine need to keep secret. To do that, it has to develop its own security systems (something it has proven woefully incapable of doing) or it has to partner with the same technology industry it is actively trying to undermine. Just as you can't support restricting someone's freedom of speech without threatening your own right to speak, the government can't ask for special keys and backdoors without undermining its own efforts to keep its secrets safe. This is one of those things where you have to pick a side that you're going to support. You can either support increased data security for everyone, which will improve your own data security, or you can try to undermine that security with special access systems, and watch those same technologies get exploited against you. That is what Apple has previously claimed. Theoretically, iPhone and Android smartphones now come with encryption enabled by default, and both Apple and Google both claim they don't have the ability to break the encryption. This is due to the Snowden scandal, which has put federal government in an unpleasant situation. The federal government is highly dependent on the US technology industry, as the tech industry supplies the federal government with a lot of things it doesn't have the ability to provide for itself. Thanks to the government's "I can do what I want" attitude, it has compromised the relationship the federal government once had with the industry, and has effectively convinced industry leadership that the federal government is the real threat. In response, Apple, Google, and other companies have started taking increased steps to protect their customers (and consequently, themselves) from intrusion by the federal government. As the government continues its ham-fisted approach to navigating this new relationship, it risks encouraging Apple, Google, etc. to adopt progressively stronger security measures until they eventually reach the "nuclear option": total encryption of all data moving through the company's network with no ability for the host company to decrypt any of it.
  4. American Politics

    There was a time when the US had a thriving sulfur mining industry. Today, that industry is a mere fraction of the size that it used to be. What killed it? The oil & gas industry. As US gasoline consumption increased, so did the demand for petroleum. Petroleum contains sulfur, and that sulfur has to be removed as part of the refining process. This left refiners with literal piles of waste sulfur that they needed to dispose of in order to keep producing refined oil products. Enterprising individuals realized an opportunity existed; the oil & gas industry was sitting on a waste product that it would be thrilled to stop paying to dispose of, and sulfur users had a new source of high quality sulfur that could replace the sulfur they were buying from the sulfur mining industry. Thus the sulfur industry was reborn with the oil & gas industry as the only player that mattered, and the mining interests (and associated jobs) all but totally gone. If you're a coal company and you're familiar with mining industry history, you realize you're sitting exactly where the sulfur miners found themselves decades ago. The oil & gas industry has something known as petroleum coke. Like reclaimed sulfur, it is highly pure and it can be used in almost any application that the mined product can be used in. Like reclaimed sulfur, the oil & gas industry considers it a waste product that it would be happy to stop paying to be rid of, and it is sitting on literal piles of the stuff. All it would take is a carbon tax that hits coal but not petroleum coke, or national coal production limits, and it would be a repeat of the sulfur industry from years ago. It's not far-fetched to think that something like this is coming in the future as we are already discussing similar proposals today. 1) That is the way adoption of new technology often works. It is extremely common for new, sometimes superior, technology to fail to gain any traction simply because it isn't cost competitive with the established technology and it isn't cost competitive because it isn't established. It is a totally normal, everyday thing. The difference is that advocates have successfully lobbied governments around the world that wind and solar are special technologies that warrant government intervention to ensure they are adopted. This isn't circular logic. It's one of the basic realities of many engineering economics problems. The most prudent course of action is often to not act at all, especially if it means you don't bear the development costs associated with being an early adopter. 2) Both historically and in modern times, the US and Europe are testament against the "early adopter benefits" argument. Most people are familiar with the fact that the US and Europe operate on different mains voltages. This isn't because the Europeans decided they wanted to be ornery. Europe lagged the US in electrification by a long enough time frame that electric technology advanced to support a higher mains voltage. As such, decades later, Europeans enjoy a more cost efficient electric grid than Americans do, simply because Europe didn't win the race. Shifting gears, Japan has the fairly unique problem of being a densely populated country with a high electric demand and no land for the associated infrastructure. As such, Japan has become a world leader in gas insulated switchgear. Europe, facing similar pressures, has also adopted the technology. The US, by comparison, has just about totally ignored the technology until this century. As such, the US lags the rest of the world on GIS adoption, but the US leads the world in terms of reliability and cost efficiency of its GIS installations. (By ignoring the technology, the US effectively forced the Japanese and Europeans to bear the cost of development while the US gets to enjoy the benefits without paying for them.) Jumping forward into the future, Denmark's misadventures in renewables will likely force it to become a leader in islanding operations, while the continent begins the arduous process of constructing a new transmission backbone to prevent Denmark's issues from becoming the new European model of electric mismanagement. Meanwhile, thanks to spacial considerations and a comparatively relaxed deployment schedule, the US is free to further refine island operations technology beyond what Denmark expects to achieve. Should US and Japanese research to create a new generation dispatch solution prove successful, the US will be positioned to leapfrog generations ahead of the rest of the world. In short, "early adopter benefits" do not necessarily function like one might tend to believe they would. Just as one can get an advantage by being the first to adopt new technology, one can also find early adoption to be an albatross that hangs on your neck for more than a century into the future. By contrast, waiting to adopt technology can save you significant costs and headaches down the road. 3) I think a more probable reality is that the Obama administration is pursuing whatever agendas that will reflect well on Obama's legacy, while "ban coal" advocates are doing what single issue advocates tend to do, namely push for some desired action without regard for the larger ramifications of that action.
  5. American Politics

    That's not quite what is happening. Various environmental advocacy groups have decided that it isn't sufficient to merely phase out coal for power production. Rather, coal must be phased out entirely. All coal currently in the ground must stay there for eternity, and existing coal technology (primarily for power plants) should be taxed into economic non-competitiveness. To a certain extent, what you're seeing isn't people pushing back against current trends. Rather, they are pushing back against an advocacy movement determined to completely end coal in the US forever. To a certain extent, they are also doing everyone a favor by fighting back. The second phase of the "ban coal" movement is banning natural gas. In short, once the US has retired its coal power plant fleet in favor of natural gas, the federal government simply declares it illegal to produce electricity via natural gas. The thought is that, once coal has been retired, it will be too expensive to try to go back. If that is true and natural gas is illegal to use, solar will become the new "cheap" power source, so all natural gas facilities will be phased out in favor of solar. Basically, the "ban coal" movement is a plan to address the serious concern in the solar power industry that solar power will not be cost competitive on a wide scale for most of this century. Rather than focusing on improving the solar tech to the point that it is on par with or superior to existing technology, the plan is to manipulate the markets by government fiat. The move to phase out coal is the first step in that plan.
  6. U.S.A. 2016 General Election

    I think a Trump presidency could be a lot of fun. Trump being elected would be a giant "we don't like you and will never elect you" to Hillary (who I think deserves that). It would be a demoralizing defeat to all of the "America is ready for socialism!" Sanders supporters. Then Trump could really shock the world by switching back to his old Democratic political beliefs, effectively heaping burning egg on the face of the entire country (especially the Democrats) and cementing his legacy as possibly one of the smartest people alive today. Who knows, with enough luck, we might all rally together to kick him out in 4 years and find a new camaraderie that allows us to finally move last the political deadlock, this effectively declaring that The Donald truly was America's greatest modern son who "made America great again." (If anyone hasn't gathered, I'm being extremely flippant about the whole thing.)
  7. Microsoft Stamps its Feet!

    All Microsoft is doing is slowly adopting the Apple model, which roughly is "stay current or fend for yourself."
  8. Proposed World Calendar Reform

    Same as theirs. Ignore the missing 365th day, plus the leap day and replace them both with a leap week instead. If you look at the numbers over a century, you find that such a system would operate on a 6-6-5-6-5 year cycle with a full reset every 28 years. You could even declare the leap week to be a national holiday week with financial incentives for companies to give their employees the week off.
  9. Proposed World Calendar Reform

    Easy. 364 days divides into four 91 day quarters. A quarter would be every 13 weeks.
  10. Another real possibility is that this is simply a means of moving the boy into child protective services. Alabama law will not permit the boy to be committed to child protective services if he is not charged with a crime. So if you have a child that appears to have committed a murder and you want that child placed in the custody of child protective services, your only option is to charge the kid, and murder is the appropriate charge for that. It is entirely possible that the district attorney has no actual desire to prosecute the kid and will drop the case as soon as the first practical opportunity to do so arises.
  11. It's worth noting that the decision for the layoff wasn't a part of the Fox buyout. It was actually National Geographic's doing, figuring it would get more favorable terms if it lowered the axe before Fox did. Also, only 4 of the layoffs are coming from the magazine group. Most are from shared resources, like legal teams, that Fox will provide.
  12. Blackberry tries again, this time with Android.

    It really isn't. Apps are a huge part of what make a smartphone attractive over my other dumb phone. Without apps, my phone basically makes and takes phone calls, maintains a contact list, texts, and that's about it. With apps, my phone: Offers internet browsing, file management and transfer, scheduling and day planning, office productivity, maps and satellite imaging services, personal and work email, health and fitness monitoring, audio and video playback, shopping assistance, expense tracking, travel planning, educational and training programs, news, reality augmentation, and more. It can even manage itself so that based on various triggers and conditions, it knows to perform XYZ action. These are all things I can do with my smartphone that would be more or less impossible with a regular dumb phone. Some of them are merely personal convenience, while others are extremely valuable for getting more done in a day. Some are even critical to being able to perform my job. System security is important, but trumpeting it at the expense of everything else is misguided. No one is going to care about your product because it is an irrelevant offering.
  13. Is there an EV in your Future?

    The Prius does have a generator attached to the drive system. Remember how I said that a generator is basically just a motor running in reverse? If you're an electrical engineer, odds are good that you took an electric drives class in college and if that class was any good, you learned the basics of magnetic flux vectoring and its relation to motor operation. Odds are also good that you took a control systems class, and if you paid attention, you learned the basics of control loops and feedback systems. Combine these two disciplines, and your electrical engineers can easily design you an electric braking system that monitors the brake peddle for driver instructions to slow the vehicle, instructs the motor's vector flux management unit to compute a negative torque solution for the motor, and accepts a negative input from the vehicle's traction control system to prevent wheel spin. You are now operating the electric motor opposite to its intended operation and using the motor to pull the vehicle to a stop. As for the power demands, that is entirely dependent on the vehicle. A vehicle's power demands are defined by its kinetic energy, friction coefficients, transformation inefficiencies, etc. Nor do they need to remain charging when not in use. For practical purposes, there is no operational difference between an electric vehicle and a gasoline vehicle when they are sitting idle in a parking lot in a powered down state. As for the alternator, the reason it spins freely is because it is spinning unloaded. Under a sufficiently high enough load, the shaft wouldn't even turn. An explanation on this (since it normally confuses people): Most folks understand that the amount of gas a car engine needs to maintain a certain speed is a function of how heavily loaded the engine is. If you're traveling at 60mph and are about to climb a bridge, you typically have to supply extra gas to the engine to account for the extra load the engine is under. Electric loads experience a similar phenomenon. Hook a light bulb up to that alternator, and it's maximum rotational speed will reduce a little bit to account for the load of the light bulb filament. Add enough light bulbs and the shaft will stop rotating entirely. If this wasn't true, electric load braking wouldn't work, and regenerative braking wouldn't exist. While I'm glad you liked the artwork, I stole it from Google. The battery was never exhausted because the engine was sized to appropriately power the vehicle's own electric demands, along with the potential demands of the inverter too. If the vehicle ran out of gas, the inverter would have drained the battery quickly. Similarly, the ignition coil operates on power supplied to it from the battery. As for the lawn mower, if it is one of the typical pull cord start mowers, it likely contains an ignition magneto that supplies the initial spark to start the engine. Once started, it will keep running until it runs out of gas (as one that has had to fill the mower midway through can attest to). The problem is that for perpetual motion to be possible, thermodynamics would have to be false. To go back to the case of the electric car, this is the reason putting alternators on the non-drive wheels actually serves against the goal of extending the vehicle range. Assuming a vehicle at rest at t=0, then the battery charge represents the total sum of the energy stored in the system. Including the alternators adds additional weight and friction that increase power draw from the battery. To actually product electric power, the alternators have to be supplied power from a prime mover, which for the vehicle, will be the drive wheels. In the end, there is no way to win this. Regenerative braking is the best anyone currently knows how to do. It's not a conspiracy theory or anything like that. It's simply the capacity of human engineering bumping up against the limits of physics.
  14. Is there an EV in your Future?

    This is one of those "if it was that simple, it would have been done already" things. The short answer is that this doesn't work. The long answer requires some understanding of electrical engineering and the physics of how electric motors and generators operate. In general, electric motors operate on the premise that an external power source supplies power to a stator field, which is used to turn the rotor and power the load. If we analyze this in terms of an electric car, we can see the the car's battery is the power source, and the vehicle is the load that the motors are powering. Electric generators, by contrast, operate on the opposite of this principle. A prime mover supplies power to the rotor for the intent of generating an electric field on the stator. In layman terms, a generator can be thought of a motor operating backwards, and for the purposes of the general public, this is true. However, in the world of electrical engineering, this is not a true statement. Whereas a motor operates by way of a leading stator field, the generator operates through a leading rotor field. This is important because it means your stator field is actually a force acting against the motion of the vehicle. For the purposes of an electric vehicle, this means that an alternator attached to the non-drive wheels actually acts as an additional load for the driving wheels to push. This in turn increases power flow from the battery. In other words, the net effect of alternators on the non-drive wheels is to drain the battery faster than if the alternators had never been installed. Amusingly, this is also a wonderful proof of the theory of regenerative braking. The Prius actually contains two sets of brakes. There are the conventional brakes that everyone is familiar with, and there is the regenerative braking system. As testament to the resistance that the regenerative braking system can provide against the forward motion of the vehicle, it is entirely possible for the Prius to be brought to a total standstill just from the generators attached to its wheels.
  15. Youtube Red - good idea or bad?

    That isn't "the old model." Until recently, that has been the only model advertisers have had access to, and they continue to use it, because in many cases, it is still the only thing they have access to. They don't like it any more than you do, but they will continue to use it because they don't have anything better to replace it with. This is one of those "be careful what you wish for..." moments. Advertisers have a lot more tools at their disposal than they used to, and many of them are quite a bit more powerful than before. For example, a friend of mine is about to move and was looking for help. So we're talking on Skype and googling stuff, and I visit the website of a local electric utility because I happen to know something about his personal preferences, and I know that he would be really interested in this particular company if it was offering a suitable product. Literally minutes after my google search, Skype began displaying ads for the exact same energy company and rate schedule I was looking at. I don't know the specifics of how that happened, but if I had to wager money, I'd bet that Microsoft and Google have a reciprocity agreement whereby they can buy access to each other's ad networks for the purpose of providing targeted ads on their respective services for the sake of "improving your experience." In other words, advertisers already have their new model: use the products and services that you depend on for your daily lifestyle to tell them everything they need to know about who you are as a person and what you'll buy from them. Even better, it is totally non-intrusive (it happens as you type and click "Submit") and it is virtually impossible to escape. The only sticking point is understanding how you monetize it, and after years of effort, we're starting to see the fruits of that labor. The truly disturbing part of it comes once you understand just how much information this advertising model knows about you. As an example, in the mid to late 90s, there was a fantastic academic study done on digital fingerprinting. Of particular note was AOL Customer XXXXXXXXX. (I don't remember the number they assigned her.) From just 3 internet searches, researchers had successfully identified her legal name, pulled many of her government and financial records, identified that she was married and her husband was probably a diabetic that suffered from foot problems, and she had a cat. Now imagine what Facebook's ad network knows about you. So, again, they already have their new model. They don't have all of the pieces yet, and they don't fully understand all of the pieces that they do have, but there are a lot of very bright people who are being paid a lot of money to help fill in these gaps. A lot of people falsely believe that the purpose of advertising is to get you to buy a product. Notably, advertisers generally don't agree with this idea. Rather, they generally take the attitude that the purpose of advertising is to sell ideas and influence perception. A couple examples: If you know something about American marketing, you may know that there are restrictions on marketing of tobacco products around minors. There are some individuals who think that the marketing of alcohol, particularly beer, should be bound to similar restrictions. Some of these people consider beer advertising to be immoral, and they have literally asked how the executives can justify marketing something so immoral as alcohol. One industry executive summed up the response by saying, "We don't sell beer. We sell a good time and suggest that our beer goes with that." If you watch American beer ads, particularly Bud Light's "sure sign of a good time" themed ads, you will quickly see what that executive was talking about. To use another example, consider men's grooming products. For decades, possibly longer than anyone on this board has been alive, industry executives have known that "sex sells" is the key to selling men's grooming products. While it has been taboo for them to directly come out and say that they are selling sex, they have always hinted at it to some degree or another. That all changed when Unilever green lit the modern day Axe commercials, and ushered in a degree of directness and honesty that the industry had never used. To the untrained observer, Unilever was selling Axe through a new series of hard-charging commercials that played up the sex appeal angle. To Unilever, they were only selling what they had always sold, namely, the idea that guys who wore Axe tended to have sex. Now, let's jump to Ohio. Executives for consumer products giant Proctor & Gamble were looking at their failing Old Spice brand and wondering how to respond. They didn't want to leave the male grooming market to Unilever, so they either had to figure out how to revitalize Old Spice or launch a new brand. Launching a new brand is difficult, expensive, and prone to failure, so executives didn't want to do that. Plus Old Spice had a lot of positive perception from decades past, and the executives figured this would help them, so they decided it was time to relaunch the brand with a new modern image. After extensive market research, two key things were discovered. First, men and women loved the brand and they identified it with a certain amount of personal sophistication. Second, woman loved the classic smell of Old Spice products, but they associated that smell with their fathers and it would cause them to reject a male suitor as a partner because he reminded her of her father and that was not an association she wanted to make. Proctor & Gamble had its plan. Old Spice would be relaunched as a sophisticated alternative to the horny teenagers and 20-somethings image Axe was selling. Additionally, ads would play a twist on the sex sells approach meant to break the idea that Old Spice = your dad. Wieden + Kennedy won the contract with an ad campaign that focused on three things. First, it would maintain the sense of class and sophistication that the American public loved about Old Spice so that the new product instantly felt comfortable and familiar. Second, it would showcase a man's man doing manly things so the men had something to aspire to. Finally, the male model would be someone that women could find attractive so women got used to the idea that this was something their partners would wear. Thus, the modern Old Spice marketing campaign was born, and it has been successful beyond anything Proctor & Gamble envisioned. Wieden + Kennedy's work on relaunching the Old Spice brand has become one of the modern case studies on effective marketing, and one of the defining features is how little has ever been said about the actual product itself. So let's recap. American beer commercials don't sell beer. They sell the idea of a good time and having fun. The Coca-Cola and McDonald's happiness campaigns sold the feeling of happiness and human goodness in a world with a lot of dark things in it. The Nike "My Body" ads sold the idea of empowerment and success. The Old Spice commercials sold women the idea that they wanted their man to be an Old Spice man. The goal isn't to sell you something. The goal is to place a positive idea in your head and let your brain do their work for them. For many advertising campaigns, the degree to which it succeeds or fails can be measured in the sales it brings in. However, there are also advertising campaigns that irreversibly alter the fabric of society, and for those campaigns, no reasonable price is too high. EDIT: I guess I should add this in because in retrospect, I failed to clearly address a key idea relevant to the entire premise of the thread. It is my general opinion that YouTube Red isn't really a good thing. (Not that it is necessarily a bad thing either.) Advertisers know that it is increasingly difficult to truly capture public attention and use it in a meaningful way. With things like Adblock, media fragmentation, Do Not Track features, and more, reaching your audience continues to cost more money for less reward. However, the advertising world is growing increasingly conscious of the idea of the advertising as the content itself. For example, movie trailers used to be for advertising the movie. Now movie trailers are actually promoted as sort of mini-prereleases, and there are actually "trailer parties" that are hosted just to get folks together to watch the trailer and discuss it. If you have Netflix and are a fantasy football person, there is a reasonable chance you've heard of "The League." Regular viewers might notice that the only beer ever consumed on that show is Bud Light. That's not an accident. If you're into the competitive e-sports scene, you may well have heard of League of Legends and possibly watched some of its trailers or listened to the soundtrack that Riot Games gave away for free. Not only is that content that individuals are deliberately searching and looking for, it is free advertising for the game also. Also, you will probably know that there are professional League streamers on Twitch, and ads are an integrated part of the stream itself (and thus impossible to block). Companies regularly post on social media--Facebook in particular-- and their advertising gets delivered directly to your feed as regular content. The Old Spice ad campaign even takes the concept further, and deliberately makes miniature ad series as special events that people will deliberately search for, laugh at, and then share with their friends, providing Wieden + Kennedy marketing reach and power it could have never achieved on its own. In short, advertising companies are increasingly realizing that they are content creators as much as any TV show or YouTube sensation. I strongly suspect that we will see more of this in the coming years, and no amount of $9.99/month services are going to stop that.