Friday assorted links

1. North Korean snacks.

2. Why non-complacency is hard, Trump and Native Americans edition.

3. Ways in which computers are getting worse.

4. “You Can Rent a (Grounded) Private Jet Just to Take Instagram Photos In.

5. Helen Dale’s libertarian novel about Christ and Roman law.

6. “…there’s nothing more offshore than a yacht.”  And then: “Otherwise, the Paradise Papers seem to be “dull reading,” and they describe plans that are “mostly, if not totally, legal” — “Some are not even questionable from a legitimacy point of view.””


Everything is a snack if all you have is an empty stomach.

It taste better with Nutella spread on it. is that what you tell schoolkids, Sam Fulsome?

Not into jail bait like you Ray Low Net Worth.

#3 - great rant, I wholeheartedly agree. It's very disappointing that UI design seems to be going backwards despite the advances in computing. Google is a particular disappointment, as many of their apps seem to be getting worse, not better, over time.

Android Auto tells me "a new text has arrived from Nan, would you like me to read it?" I say "yes" and it does, etc.

How do you even compare that to a five minute boot and another five minutes for AOL to say "you've got mail!"

The subject of the twitter rant is ways in which computers are getting worse, not reasons the computing experience as a whole is worse now than it was then.

Did I anchor too much on the opening statement?

"almost everything on computers is perceptually slower than it was in 1983"

I would think what I said is what he meant but you may be right, in which case he is terribly wrong.

I think the key word is "perceptually."

If I remember a rule from 1980s human interface guidelines correctly, anything taking longer than a quarter second is "not interactive."

So, that is a steep bar.

We keep pushing the envelope on what we want to do with a mouse click, and we keep wanting to do more than a quarter second of work with the technology of the day.

And so we suffer, complain.

Well but the whole article is incredibly naïve. You cannot compare the complexity and scope of current Apps with their 1983 equivalent. Doing a search on a local file system is not comparable to doing a search on a highly available, geographically dispersed data center. It like comparing the fuel efficiency of a single prop to a fighter jet.

The first available internet search for home users was WIAS. As I recall it was pretty slow. Maybe 30 seconds for a simple keyword search?

Blasts from the past, Brewster Kahle and "Gopher Space."

Yes, but you're working with, what, a billion times more computing power than the 1983 equivalent? More, if you count the data center.

The Apple IIE had a clock cycle of a few thousand hertz. We kids would put our hands over our ears when it was booting up, because it was an audible shriek -- within the range of human hearing.

A few thousand hertz? 1,023 thousand, to be specific. More commonly known as 1.023 megahertz, well outside the range of human hearing.

Little kids go up to about a hundred kilohertz. Plus, there are harmonics of the fundamental frequency to deal with.

It might not have been the CPU, but there was an audible shriek when the thing was booting up. I've joked that this might be the most esoteric "you were born in the '80s if you remember..." reference ever -- if you were born a few years early, you couldn't hear it, if you were born a few years late, computers had gotten too fast.

By "audible," I mean the sound you get if you push a signal generator above the range where you can distinguish a tone.

Sure but the complaints here are all about user experience, which is hard to scale. To compare a "F3 and search" experience with cross referencing data in a map interface is a very misleading thing. A map interface has to account for a variety of inputs, mix and match of graphical and text data, access to a huge amount of different data sources, etc. I actually agree that many of our current experiences are not optimal, but you have to understand how complex these scenarios really are. Most users do not have enough insights to understand this difference.

The Twitter author was right, but he also probably has a older machine with fewer cores. If you have a modern (this year's version) of a quadcore with a 64 bit OS and lots of RAM, then surfing the net is "not so bad" but the Twitter author is right, it's gotten worse for most users.

The users understand that a task that took them half an hour now takes them 1.5 hours. That is the experience of the sales people at one of the vendors I deal with. There was an 'upgrade', and their jobs got more complicated and less productive. This seems to be almost universal. Instead of having some low paid clerks doing this stuff, the most expensive and valuable people are being used for busywork.

It isn't a technology problem per se, these things are written this way. All the computing power and access to enormous amounts of data seem to be consuming the available development resources, and the end result is the purpose for which it is written is on the bottom of the list.

The greatest irony is that he's ranting on twitter, and has to type his rant out over a hundred messages. How many times do we have to display his icon to get his message?

That's UI inefficiency.

Alan Kay is a good person to pay attention about these issues, a sample:

I think he's trying a bit too hard to prove his point by making it over a screed of twitter posts rather than publishing it in a readable format.

3. In the mid 80's at the local Credit Union. I was doing my banking with a teller, and behind was a woman using an IBM PC with 5 1/4 floppy disk updating records. She would type something in, hit enter, crank crank, then enter again, crank crank and the next would come up.

This describes exactly almost every application that does something today. Type something, crank crank, type something else, crank crank then go to the next task.

"Jesus went in armed (with a whip) and trashed the place, stampeding animals, destroying property and assaulting people. He also did it during or just before Passover, when the Temple precinct would have been packed to capacity with tourists, pilgrims, and religious officials."

Thinking better, it reflects rather poorly on Rome and the Jews. I mean, I doubt a lone protester armed with a whip would be able to cast out the moneychangers from the New York Stock Exchange. They would make a stand, and the NYPD would be on the case faster than one can say "partial return reverse swaps".

Read "Caeser and Christ" by Will Durant

3. I had been running Debian on SSD. Connected to a 50 mbps internet, it was certainly faster than anything in the world in 1984. I have lately noticed a bit of a regression, switched to SUSE for faster boots. (I just counted 40 seconds to login prompt.)

But dudes, in 1984 I was booting off floppies, and using my weight bench to fill the time.

If you are Windows on HD, at least boot a Chromebook as Best Buy, for comparison. SSD and a light OS is another world.

40 seconds is pretty long. I have windows on ssd and it's like 7 or 8 seconds.

Maybe I should debug.

Possibly - my openSuse laptop takes somewhere around a dozen seconds to boot. One thing to note is that SUSE likes to preload things which may not be relevant to how you use it.

Linux and Windows boot up differently. Linux doesn't give you a login prompt until everything is up and ready. Windows does most of the "up and ready" work after you login. Correct comparison times are from power-on to useable-system, not to login-prompt.

I can open a browser right away and load a the home page after the 8 seconds.

#2 Throw in Trump dropping that he's a billionaire, and that's how I imagine literally all of his meetings going.

"Trump interjected again: "Guys, I feel like you're not hearing me right now. We've just got to do it. I feel like we've got no choice; other countries are just doing it. China is not asking questions about all of this stuff. They're just doing it. And guys, we've just got to do it."

So is he going to be there when the BLM cops with AR-15s show up to arrest the cat skinners and truck drivers?

Yes, I was amazed that no one talked back to him. "We're going to get sued, and we're going to lose because 'the president told me to' isn't going to work in court."

Under federal law possession of marijuana is still illegal. Colorado legalizing it means nothing if the federals choose to enforce it. Obama didn't enforce half the laws. Trump will just be changing which ones it is he chooses to ignore.

2. "Non-complacency is hard" where "complacency" is rule of law?

I guess at first reading we are supposed to believe nothing happened, and no one went home to violate federal law at the president's request.

But at second reading .. is that the future you want, Tyler?

Yeah, I dunno if that's an example I'd want to use to illustrate my thesis.

I thought the point was the fear of everyone in the room except Trump. Which I think is totally understandable from the point of view of the Native Americans, you know, given American history. But to paraphrase Dick Cheney, sometimes you have to make your own reality. It worked for Uber (or at least it has worked for their founders).

How's that different than O's illegal orders? I guess at least Obama put them in writing to give whoever better cover.

Obama took defined positions on things, some of which were corrected by the courts. He took a lawyer's adversarial view of law.

That is certainly different that telling people to just go do whatever. And then what? A defense for whatever by his Justice Department? Pardons?

I don’t know about the rest but “people shouldn’t be upset because something is legal” is a super weak argument.

Why? When it comes to taxes, this seems to me an extremely powerful argument. There is no moral component to paying taxes. Just man-made laws to be complied with.

It’s super weak, if anything one would expect to be more upset that it’s legal and the laws have been structured to allow evasion by the kind of people buying yatchs.

Well, "evasion" is a loaded term. You buy the yacht this way, you pay the tax, you buy the yacht that way, you don't. That's the case with just about all tax laws - they influence behavior. Your fix would have the same result, I'm sure.
The question for policymakers is whether taxing it this way raises sufficient revenue (or too much revenue) or it the law should be tinkered with to raise more.

Its because yachts are mobile things.

Real estate is harder to evade.

Stick with real estate and stop worrying about yachts.

Its misleading to use the passive voices.
The laws aren't structured. Yacht owners write the laws which apply yacht owners.

Its more illuminating to think of a counter example.
How about we allow all the regulations of Section 8 housing or disability assistance, be written by Section 8 residents or disability recipients?

On the one hand legal tax avoidance is acting at the direction of the law. And so if you don't like the "direction" sent, change the law.

But I'm not sure you should say "no moral component." We all benefit from the common weal, and so it would be both self-interested and morally responsible for us to support it.

That's almost identical to the reasoning used by Jefferson Davis when lecturing his field hands after breakfast in the morning.

How droll. Citizenship as slavery.

What should be taxed (and therefore what should be legal) is absolutely a moral question. If the tax laws are structured such that legal arcana enable one to avoid the intent of the law then I should be (and am) upset at the laws/their enforcement.

That's not what's happening with offshore stuff. Congress made a conscious and deliberate choice not to tax offshore earnings until repatriated. Keeping those earnings offshore is fully compliant with both the letter and the spirit.

2. The only reason the tribes were allowed to squat on the property was because the feds thought it was valueless. When it turns out to be of some worth the big shots in Washington want to tell them how it's all supposed to work. It's easier now than it was during King Phillip's War in 1675 because there aren't as many natives.

#2 reads like satire.

The whole Trump phenomenon reads like satire. Elect a clown, get a clown show.

Cry! Cry! Cry! Cry!

Laugh laugh laugh laugh at the Clown in Chief.

Guess what? He Won! Get over it.

I came back just this once to say this is an imposter, and also Trump is our God Emperor and the winner of The Most Important Election in History (TM) and you sorry liberals better get in line.

Lol! What would Trump think?

After the past decade, you'd think we'd be used to it.

The eight years, horrid Obama years was a clown show. And, what's not go like? Under Obama, Democrats suffered losses in state legislatures, state houses and congressional seats: 63 House seats, 10 Senate seats and 14 governorships. President Trump will fill at least 100 Federal judicial, and two or three more, SCOTUS vacancies.

It's going to be a difficult seven-plus years for deplorables. We won't have Hillary winning down-slate elections for the GOP.

OK , even I don't believe that last post.

5. Jeepers! The author knows very little about the New Testament, and what she knows she learned from Mel Gibson. Not to put to fine a point on it, but Ms. Dale is writing about Jesus in the way many libertarians approach the world, based on what she believes Jesus was rather than what He was according to the scholars who, you know, actually studied Jesus and His time and place. She chose an interesting subject (Jesus and Roman law), buy, unfortunately, she knows about as much about Jesus as I know about string theory. She is a fiction writer, and it would help if she acknowledged what she writes about Jesus is fiction.

"She is a fiction writer, and it would help if she acknowledged what she writes about Jesus is fiction."

Whooo thanks for clarifying that rayward. I thought the Romans really did have air travel and modern technology. If you hadn't told me it was fiction, I would have thought it was a documentary.

Jesus is the most obsessively studied figure in history, yet when it all comes down to it, we have nothing to go on but the world of the four Gospels -- and Helen Dale's interpretation of Jesus is good as most other peoples. There's nothing in what she says that is contradicted in any of the synoptic gospels. Studying Jesus in the light of even the most informed scholarship only gives you thin marginal gainsover what is right there in Matthew, Mark, Luke and sometimes John. There is no final word on the subject. No conclusion -- we're all still waiting.

#2 - You can read this as an indictment of Trump (or at least of his lack of abilities as a politician) OR you can read this as an insight of why he was elected and why he might even be good for the country after all. No, this is not the right way to do things and it might not even help these folks in this situation but at least you see an attitude that is diametrically opposed to "traditional" politicians in which there is a lot of talk and nothing gets done most of the times. Changing attitudes sometimes is important.

I could easily imagine Obama taking this approach and the glowing articles that would be written about it. And the conservatives would ridicule and condemn him for sidestepping the process and the progressives would applaud him for making government work.

Fair point. However, even conservatives need to recognize that sometimes "the system" is indeed broken.

"And the conservatives would ridicule and condemn him for sidestepping the process and the progressives would applaud him for making government work."

So it is working, like, right now? I mean, the Indians can just get the sweet, sweet Texas tea or whatever it is they want without further ado.

Yeah, fundamentally whether it's a good or bad thing depends on whether or not something is changing/being done. Of course, fundamentally it seems to be a legislative issue.

Question: Could presidential powers stretch to a 'What has been done, has been done in my Name and I Pardon and hold free of guilt the holder of this note of all crimes and fines pertaining to extraction of coal on such and such Indian reservation' note to give to the Indians?

Somehow I doubt it, but if it's true that would be something very novel to watch.

3. I think the peak of computers was Windows 98. Those were the days. I remember my PC had windows 98 and it run smooth. The people started using XP and then Vista and everything went to hell. Now Windows 10 is even worse so that I mainly use my tablet and phone now instead of the PC to do stuff.

Really? In my experience Windows 10 is the pinnacle. It just works, flawlessly, all the time. Couldn't say that about Win 98.

Back in 98 days I used to reinstall Windows periodically to make my PC run better. Win 2000 was an improvement on that and xp was when I stopped having to do that. Win7 was the best Windows I ever had. Once MS tried to tabletize their is with 8 things went back downhill

I find 10 to be the best so far, followed by 7.

I had a process one time run on a windows 98 box that had to run 24x7. Win 98 had a flaw where it froze after 49 days, the time register was not sized to go beyond that. I scheduled a monthly reboot and all was fine. It ran the process every 5 min for 12 years until it got upgraded.

6. Of course, the reason offshore bank accounts and such work is because one political party, the Republican Party, supports tax avoidance schemes (some might say they support tax evasion schemes), once greeting the worst evaders as heroes when they appeared before Congress. What they ignore, what Republican voters ignore, is that somebody has to pay the taxes that are avoided by these schemes; and that somebody is you and me and that fellow behind the tree.

So the rule here is everything rayward says 'of course' everything that follow is complete bs?

Actually the rule is much simpler. All the words following the handle 'rayward' are complete bs.

Hey! rayward and I are two of the few commenters older that 27 years.

Show some respect.

It would be helpful if you pointed to and addressed whatever errors detected. For example, tax avoidance is legal in that it utilizes (accountants and lawyers) the IRC (passed by Congress - not only GOP members) to legally minimize tax liabilities. Tax evasion is a crime.

And I used the term "avoidance" (rather than "evasion") for the reason you state. As I have commented before, I studied international tax under one of the best known experts. I considered international tax, but the entire subject seemed fraught with ethical challenges. Using subpart F to move income to a CFC and avoid U.S. tax seemed a temptation too great, so I didn't go in that direction. That was 40 years ago. Today, I am amazed and appalled that companies and their tax planners get away with what would have been considered tax "evasion" back then. They can for the reason indicated in my first comment.

"Using subpart F to move income to a CFC and avoid U.S. tax"

Subpart F is how offshore income is subject to tax in the US. You don't "use subpart f to avoid tax"; you avoid US tax by steering clear of subpart f.

I am older than 27. Much older, indeed.

Speaking of computers getting worse, this discussion: of keyboard latency is interesting.

Relevant text from the linked post:

I had this feeling that some old computers feel much more responsive than modern machines. For example, an iMac G4 running macOS 9 or an Apple 2 both feel quicker than my 4.2 GHz Kaby Lake system. I never trust feelings like this because there’s decades of research showing that users often have feelings that are the literal opposite of reality, so got a high-speed camera and started measuring actual keypress-to-screen-update latency as well as mouse-move-to-screen-update latency. It turns out the machines that feel quick are actually quick, much quicker than my modern computer – computers from the 70s and 80s commonly have keypress-to-screen-update latencies in the 30ms to 50ms range out of the box, whereas modern computers are often in the 100ms to 200ms range when you press a key in a terminal. It’s possible to get down to the 50ms range in well optimized games with a fancy gaming setup, and there’s one extraordinary consumer device that can easily get below 50ms, but the default experience is much slower. Modern computers have much better throughput, but their latency isn’t so great.

3. The ranter unintentionally identifies the greatest flaw in the computer: it's intended to be all things to all people, in the ranter's case, someone who relies on his computer to find his refrigerator. I suspect that most users use, maybe, 10% of a computer's capacity, no, 5%, no, 1%. I've never used a computer (smart phone) to pick a restaurant for me, but many do. Why don't they make computers for those people. I've never used a computer to pick the place I will go on vacation, but many do. Why don't they make computers for those people. I've never used a computer to go on social media, but many do. Why don't they make computers for those people. I've never used a computer to develop algorithms that will discern market anomalies so I can generate millions in trading stocks and other assets before anyone else discerns the anomalies. Why don't they make computers for those people. And so on.

#3 Christ, is this what the Internet is turning into? A series of 27 tweets makes for a shitty read when it could be a single, well formatted article instead.

A good example of the medium being the message. I like it.

3. It's the web browser. The more tasks that move to the browser, the more it feels like we've regressed. That's true for programmers as well as users. Programming for the web seems like it should be better by now.

Agreed and it imo is really the impact of designing simultaneously for mobile and desktop.

3 Years ago, in a class on operating systems generally, I wrote a last minute term paper on the failure of Moore's law to materialize as improved user experience because of the concurrent exponential growth of software bloat. The whole paper was an exercise in avoiding real technicality while tangentially relating to the course. Now I feel slightly better.

#1 Macau snack: sawdust pudding

“Otherwise, the Paradise Papers seem to be “dull reading,” and they describe plans that are “mostly, if not totally, legal” — “Some are not even questionable from a legitimacy point of view.””

Another phrase for "mostly, if not totally, legal" is "illegal." The Paradise Papers have revealed enough information about the activities of Lewis Hamilton to perhaps trigger an investigation.

One of the enduring problems with taxation when people have accounts and interests of various sorts in multiple countries is the lack of data sharing between countries (see Gabriel Zucman's work, for instance). U.S. citizens are supposed to do things like declare all income and capital gains earned on overseas investments or business activities and declare any foreign trusts for which they are the beneficiary. Are they and people of other countries with similar obligations actually doing all of these things? Nobody knows because of the lack of data sharing. Leaks are actually the only time it is possible to check on whether people are complying with the law or not.

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