Monthly Archives: December 2011

You could see this one coming…

Verizon reverses 2$ bill-pay fee. Really? After the B of A 5$ fee to use a debit card debacle was there no one at Verizon that could see this was DOA? As Mike Ditka says “C’mon, man!!”

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Big game names shun new Stop Online Piracy Act changes

Top game companieshave removed their support of the SOPA legislation that is meandering its way through Congress. Despite an attempt to leverage existing governance via the International Trade Commission (see this previous post) tthe latest mods to the bill instead take the idea of monetary attack ON TOP of the already onerous censorship and delisting threats.

The scariest part of this bill is the fact that those supposedly crafting it admit they have no idea what they are doing…(see Wash Post)

If I had a dime for every time someone in the hearing markup used the phrase “I’m not a nerd” or “I’m no tech expert, but they tell me . . .,” I’d have a large number of dimes and still feel intensely worried about the future of the uncensored Internet. If this were surgery, the patient would have run out screaming a long time ago. But this is like a group of well-intentioned amateurs getting together to perform heart surgery on a patient incapable of moving. “We hear from the motion picture industry that heart surgery is what’s required,” they say cheerily. “We’re not going to cut the good valves, just the bad — neurons, or whatever you call those durn thingies.”

The Heritage Foundation has chimed in on this recently with a “beware of unintended consequences” warning that seems to be going unheeded. THis report points out the some of the provisions in previous versions that allowed intellectual property owners to file “takedown” notices directly to offending websites, without court involvement have been removed, but this may open the door to overzealous and lawyer-rich IP holders to use the threat of court action in private communication to cause much of the previously reported mayhem, without the ability to file counteraction. Deep pockets will be able to force expensive court action on the “little guys”.

THe question is, will this really have the chilling effect claimed by doomsayers? To some extent, but as we have seen with the record industry, attempts to sue random teenager’s families for 100s of thousands in piracy damages caused more backlash than it was worth and has mostly run its course as the record labels spent by 1 account $17 million to get less than 400K in settlement money. Even the deepest pockets can’t keep that up for long.

So where do we go from here? Piracy has always been a major problem, but one that has been blown WAY out of proportion by the IP holders. Having been an online software vendor, and one with threadbare pockets, we found that our bottom line suffered with onerous anti-piracy schemes and improved when we made customers feel like their satisfaction and ease of use was more important than trying to eliminate piracy. Did we lose more sales to piracy with the latter strategy than the former? Yes! Did every pirated copy represent a lost sale? NO! Most pirated games are never played more than once or twice if at all, and in many cases sit on a pirates “trophy shelf” as proof of his street cred. Same with music. If I had ever used a file sharing site to find a song, it would have been a one time deal, often to find and play a song while sitting around with friends that I actually owned, but could get quicker online than ruffling through my CD collection (3-400 accumulated over the years). The notion that every pirate event is a lost sale is preposterous, and Matrix Games demonstrated that you increase sales with good customer service and allowing paying customers to have a game they paid for on multiple computers they own (or maybe a friend or two own) than you do locking things down with things like STEAM and making customers feel like proto-criminals. Maximizing sales, not minimizing piracy should be the success metric. Legislation like this needs to recognize this and be structured to balance “fair use” against no kidding wholesale IP theft.

The bottom line is that trying to stop piracy with a legislative shotgun will end up doing more harm than good. The proof is in the pudding – if the IP owners are against it – the people you are trying to protect – then you can be pretty sure you have a BAD solution. Look at physical “piracy” the sale of knock-off goods with “designer labels”. You stop that through the ITC and by making it financially risky to deal in such goods. Losing the ability to process credit cards because of repeated abuse has been effective in addressing large-scale offenders. Street corner cash sales will always be there, like any black market, and in many cases become gateways were young women in particular who start buying knock offs, go to the real thing when they are successful enough to afford it. These streetcorner sales to those who can’t afford the real thing anyway can be looked at as “diluting the exclusivity” of the brand, or as a form of viral marketing that leads to young women developing brand loyalty in the knock-off market that translates to real brand loyalty when they mature. Much like Apple’s attempts to inculcate brand identity by donating computers to schools.

Effective legislation will focus on large-scale foreign offender’s in a way that does not leave the door open to abuses of the types the articles linked to warn against. The current legislation needs to be thrown out and redone by a task force composed of those intended to be protected, tech policy experts, and bi-partisan legislators, with an eye to empowering the ITC to do the job it already does regarding “real world” piracy of goods.

“Standard” Higgs Boson mass predicted via M-theory

This article in Nature talks about the surprise many particle physicists have regarding the 125GeV mass that seems likely for the Higgs boson. This “realistic” (as opposed to “relativistic” mass of the Higgs makes it a “standard” HIggs, rather than the “composite” (standard + relativistic) Higgs that many were expecting. The author offers the explanation that a 125 GeV “standard” Higgs can be predicted from a form of “compactified” M- theory, where the dimensions higher than 4 are left folded in on themselves (‘subspace’ Trekkies?). The best part is that for the first time, M-theory – which was thought to be an almost metaphysical concept, with no manifestation in the physical world – more “math trick” more than science – results in predictions of new particles that the LHC should be able to detect.

If confirmed, this will open a new chapter in the evolution of particle physics, and open the book on M-theory, not as a cool theoretical construct, but as a tool to drill deeper into our understanding of the universe.

Quantum “assisted” solar cells achieve 114% efficiency

This Science paper abstract describes an easily manufactured “quantum dot” – tiny semiconductor cystals – technology that can achieve an electron output greater than the number of photons input.

More on this at Here at physorg also here at thinkprogress and CNET

Remote Minehunting System reaches reliability milestone

Senior Chief Mineman Robert Olson and Chief Aerographer’s Mate Charles Doss, conduct maintenance on the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle.

hat tip to Jeff Steelman via George Pollitt’s mine bubba list…

As experience with this semi-submersible diesel vehicle is racked up, air-breathing unmanned undersea vehicles could offer the endurence that battery energy denisty just can’t get too without nucleotide assist.

From Naval Sea Systems Command Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) — The remote minehunting system (RMS), a critical component of the mine countermeasures mission package for the littoral combat ship class, completed the first phase of reliability testing Nov. 22, at the Lockheed Martin facilities off the coast of Palm Beach, Fla.

The RMS, which will provide an off-board mine reconnaissance capability, successfully completed more than 500 hours of offshore, in-water testing, including line-of-sight and over-the-horizon communications checks and full exercise of vehicle control, mobility, maneuvering, and sonar towing capability. Completed six-weeks early, the tests validated reliability and maintainability improvements made to the baseline vehicle.

“Initial analysis of the data indicates that we have met or surpassed all testing and program objectives and we obtained the required data needed to proceed to the next phase,” said Steve Lose, program manager for the Remote Minehunting System program.

The RMS is designed to conduct rapid reconnaissance of bottom and moored mines from the deep-water region to the very shallow water region. The RMS will aid in the determination of the presence of mines and help identify safe routes or operating areas around potential minefields.

The RMS is a combination of the remote multi-mission vehicle (RMMV), coupled with the towed AN/AQS-20A mine-hunting sonar system. The RMMV is an unmanned, autonomous, semi-submersible, high endurance, low-visibility system that will be operated and maintained from the LCS. The vehicle has self-contained control, propulsion, power, and navigation. The AN/AQS-20A sonar system is designed to detect, classify, and localize mine-like contacts and identify bottom mines.

The program will now begin preparing for the next phase of reliability testing, scheduled to commence in third-quarter of fiscal year 2012. RMS will also be an integral part of ongoing LCS mine countermeasures mission package developmental testing scheduled for first-quarter of fiscal year 2012.

PEO LCS, an affiliated Program Executive Office of Naval Sea Systems Command, provides a single Program Executive responsible for acquiring and sustaining mission capabilities of the littoral combat ship class, beginning with procurement, and ending with fleet employment and sustainment. The combined capability of LCS and LCS mission systems is designed to dominate the littoral battle space and provide U.S. forces with assured access to coastal areas.

More on Terra Power and China

This Blog entryhas an interesting discussion of the technology and politics.

5 Disruptive Technologies “Happening NOW”

This MIT Tech Review article opines that the e-book reader, the 3d printer, digital closed circuit TV, the new generation of gene sequencing machines (In two hours for $1000, and interactive computer technology (IBM’s Watson on the high and and Apples Siri on the low) are examples of technology that are disrupting if not outright destroying large market players.

This Blog Is a great place for info on disruptive technology.

Trillion frame-per-second camera??

This MIT News story talks about a “trillion frame per second” camera. This Wired.com blog post tries a little too hard to debunk it, but takes things to literally.

Yes, the camera doesn’t actually collect 1 trillion complete images a second, but it does use statistical techniques to collect information about a multitude of photon pathways to create a “model” of photon behavior when interacting with an object that, if done directly, would take a camera capable of 1 trillion fps.

This is one of those cases when physicists try to use “common language analogy” to get an idea across to a lay audience, which is then parsed literally by a critic looking for a ‘gotcha moment’ or is irked by a flaw in siad analogy. This would be like a traditional radar expert criticizing inverse synthetic aperture radar as “not being an actual, really big array.” OK, it uses some ‘science tricks” to behave in special circumstances like a really big aperture, just as this camera uses “science tricks” to behave as though it can “see” event of short temporal extent, by repeating them over and over and cataloging the scattered photons.

The MIT guys should have been more careful in their language, but popular writers about science, who should know better, need to educate the audience about the concept the scientist may have used poorly chosen analogy to describe, not use it as a “gee look how dumb those MIT guys are, snicker, snicker” moment.

NDU Press book on Chinese Naval Power

This NDU Press paper compilation from the 2007 conference in Taipei cosponsored by the Chinese Council on Advanced Policy Studies, the Rand Corporation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Institute for National Strategic Studies, and the U. S. National Defense University. While getting to be 5 years old now, the essays still contain much of relevance. Must reading for those wanting to understand strategy in the Asia-Pacific theater.

‘Managing Complexity’ Site

Ran across this group ontonix from Linked-in’s group on ‘Effective Decision Making in the Midst of Complexity’.

Haven’t had a chance to critically look at their blog, but the titles sounded interesting. Some smacked of snakeoil salesmanship, others drew me in at first glance. I’ll take a closer look this weekend.