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06/07/28

Dude, Your Dell Blew Up!

Filed under: Computers — Jared @ 3:13 pm

That is actually how everyone is putting it online; can’t claim to be that witty.

Read about it everywhere: Gizmodo, Consumerist, Engadget, Tom’s Hardware’s forums.

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Yaay for Big Brother!

Filed under: Politics, Security, Terrorism — Jared @ 10:38 am

Wonderful.

Why do we need to waste buckets of tax money on spying on ourselves?

06/07/27

w.bloggar

Filed under: Blogging — Jared @ 2:53 pm

Trying out a new blogging tool called w.blogger. One of the issues I’ve had with posting blog entries is that WordPress’ text editing interface sucks. Also, I just hate having to log in; I’m just too lazy for that. This tool is supposed to let me write entries easily, and without using the web interface. We shall see if it is actually easier as the days go by.

06/07/25

Research, Economics, Walmart

Filed under: Economics, Politics, Science — Jared @ 1:58 pm

Ars Technica put up a very good article by Hannibal talking about old-school vs new-school R&D. It reminds me of a discussion I had with Matt a few weeks ago, and why I don’t trust the free market to figure out everything on its own. The problem with allowing economics to get entangled in science is that much of the science worth doing isn’t profitable in the near term, if ever. Hannibal describes the old research style (and this jives with my understanding of history):

The great labs of this era—Bell Labs, Xerox PARC, and IBM’s labs—were places with massive budgets, where the world’s top scientists were invited to pursue “blue sky” research into areas with no immediately apparent commercial applications. The facilities were state-of-the-art, and there was no pressure from management or shareholders to do anything but science for science’s sake. To be able to fund such a lab was a mark of corporate prestige, and the labs themselves, along with their public counterparts like NASA, were major sources of national pride. For a company like Xerox or AT&T, what it meant to have a blue sky research lab was very much like what it means for a city to host a winning sports team; it was a source of pride and an anchor of collective identity. So much like the science that they produced, these labs were ends in themselves.

Emphasis mine. He goes on to explain that the information revolution we currently enjoy has cashed in on much of this research, and that the fast paced economy of today makes “blue sky research” way more difficult to fund; shareholders want profit today, not a possible benefit to society twenty years from now.

Before I get comments or e-mails, let me explain something: I’m not against a pretty free market. Matt put up a post about Walmart that I agree with. I happen to dislike Walmart for a number of reasons (their treatment of employees is legendary at this point), but I wouldn’t suggest we dismantle them because they destroy little businesses. Business is rough, wear a helmet. On the same token, I wouldn’t suggest that we try to prevent the short-minded thinking that goes along with today’s economy. I don’t have any idea if our economy is sustainable (I leave that to the economists out there), but I know that it does drive things cheaper. And with the Internet and sites like Consumerist.com, it is getting easier every day to hold companies responsible to their customers.

That aside, I think there is huge value in science for science’s sake. I’m not unbiased; I am a scientist after all, and if I could make a decent living in academic science (which you pretty much can’t at the moment), I would be there. But I think it is worth doing all of that research just so that we can learn more about ourselves and the universe we live in. Forget all of the capitalization potential in such research; who really doesn’t want to understand the world we live in better? The problem with such research is that it’s expensive, and someone needs to foot the bill. Private money for such ventures is not in oversupply, so where to get the funds? The only place I can think of is public money, but if we can’t agree to fund Embryonic Stem Cell research (which could, some day, relieve countless people of varying suffering), I have doubt as to our ability to do that at this point. Hopefully an oversupply of private money will appear at some point, with the realization that the research done with those dollars will likely yield results in the decades after they are spent.

And if a few companies can take that research and actually cure cancer with it? All the better.

06/07/24

Edmunds.com’s Confessions of a Car Salesman

Filed under: Consumer Activism — Jared @ 9:15 am

Edmunds.com sent a reporter under cover as a car salesman, and he tells all. The article is a very well written, and is a must read for anyone even considering braving the sales lots. The basic points are ones I already knew, but it’s nice to hear them from an insider: the salesmen might be assholes (although I know not all are), but the real culprits are the managers that push them and treat them like dirt. All the more reason to outlaw those kinds of buisness tactics, free-market be damned.

No, I’m not serious about outlawing commission-based car sales, but I think the world would be a better nicer place if we did.

The real lesson in the article is one that my roommate told me already: deal with the internet managers. Let a bunch of dealers compete for your business at near-invoice prices. Edumunds.com even has an engine that’ll help you out. Don’t let yourself get ripped off at a dealer.

Most importantly, educate yourself before you make a multi-thousand dollar purchase. That one should be a no-brainer.

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