The Spectre of Math

February 28, 2010

More on the UK law

Filed under: Politics — jlebl @ 5:51 pm

A few more comments on the UK nonsense about the new UK law.

Ignoring any moral arguments against these laws, did anyone actually do the analysis of the cost vs. benefits? I mean these laws have direct costs for 1) ISPs 2) small businesses/libraries/etc…3) the increased costs to the state for enforcing such laws. There will be indirect costs for 4) all internet users as the cost of connection is raised. Finally, this will mean loss of connectivity, either in certain contexts or simply due to rising costs hence there will be a cost 5) the economy as a whole.

Alright, what about benefits. Did someone do actual accounting how much the entertainment industry will gain from these rules (I am assuming they are the biggest beneficiary). Not how much they are saying they are losing. That’s a made up number. But in reality, did anyone analyze how higher the profits will be with these rules in place? What needs to be taken into account is that some people who download illegal content would not buy it legally, and further what needs to be taken into account is that such rules will only reduce the rate of piracy (presumably) and will definitely not eliminate it. People copied content before the internet and they will continue to do so. Perhaps less so, but it will continue to occur.

Finally, did anyone independent really analyze the benefit to society and economy from the increased profit of the entertainment industry? Is there a pressing need? Are there fewer artists that create content? Are movie studios not making new movies? Would really more content be generated with these rules in place? Do make sure to figure into any analysis that decreased connectivity will to some degree stifle content creation, and besides the negative effect on society that this may have, this will also have a negative effect on the very industry which they are trying to “protect.”

Another perhaps strange effect is that people ARE willing to pay for things even when it is possible to get them for free. Economists often forget to figure in this effect. If you look at statistics of album sales during the napster days, you will notice that sales were up when napster was around and there was plenty of illegal music sharing, and sales went down around the same time that napster got shut down. Without drawing a conclusion of causality, such correlations should be on better scientific footing that simply the “obvious” conclusion that the music industry could have made even more money if napster wasn’t around.

I have not seen any such analysis done anywhere. The only arguments for are the faux-common-sense arguments that espouse the obviousness of the benefits of such rules and therefore there is no need to actually figure out what the benefits are.

Of course I am assuming that internet access does contribute to value creation in an economy and it is not true that internet is used solely for viewing porn and downloading illegal music. If I am wrong in this assumption then of course these rules are a boon to the economy. It will be a double whammy, less illegal downloads AND people will probably do actual work out of boredom from not being able to access porn.

UK, bad economy, and Wi-Fi

Filed under: Politics — jlebl @ 4:01 pm

Apparently, the UK thinks that its economy will improve if they make sure no one uses public wifi. I am always surprised by UK law. Of all the democracies (technically UK is a democracy, even if they cling to pretending that they are a monarchy), UK seems to be the weirdest.

Internet providers are now on the same playing field as gun sellers. They must take steps to ensure that their customers don’t do crime. Obviously, downloading free music is on par with killing people. If you rob a bank and use the bus to get away with the loot, does the bus company lose their license? But robbing banks is not so bad apparently. Just don’t download that mp3.

It’s not even clear that it will protect anyone but the large entertainment industry. And it is not even clear it will do that. You know … people copied content before the internet …

Next time you go to UK, better not plan on reading your email in a coffee shop. Also better plan on getting coffee somewhere else than your favourite coffee shop since that will be closed.

February 27, 2010

another reason why I hate git

Filed under: Hacking,Linux,Technology — jlebl @ 11:04 pm

So with git, I have to commit before pulling latest changes. OK, why is this braindead: I generally just go to my source tree and start hacking. At some point I want to commit so I think “hey … maybe someone did something else” so I do git pull and git yells at me. I have to do a commit. Well, if I do a commit and the changelog has changed, then the next pull will automatically will have a conflict to resolve. This means SEVERAL extra unnecessary steps simply to commit something that doesn’t have any a-priory conflict with any other commits other people did.

I am sure git is great for people who want to spend their days playing with git. But it sucks if you simply want to code. Oh CVS, where are you?! CVS also has lots of braindamage, but the braindamage only makes you work hard in exceptional situations. Git does things “correctly” apparently, but to do so, it makes you work harder in every situation.

February 12, 2010

interview and spam

Filed under: Personal — jlebl @ 1:30 pm

Good thing I have gmail spam filter turned off on messages coming from my work address. Yesterday I got an interview request which gmail wanted to mark as spam. It was in fact telling me that it could have gotten rid of this spam for me if I only have removed that offending filter.

February 11, 2010

legitimizing terrorists

Filed under: Politics — jlebl @ 2:21 pm

The recent bruhaha about treating the christmas bomber as a criminal brings up some ironic memories. I remember when IRA was still trying to fight a war and they were so angry at the British government treating them as criminals. They would have loved to be part of a war. It would legitimize their struggle. What they would give to be tried by military tribunals.

America was founded on the “rule of law” and “equality of everyone.” Should we sacrifice any of those values for the mere possibility that someone might talk more than if we treat them according to the law? There is no guarantee that keeping someone without a lawyer and handing them to the military will make them give more or less intelligence than interrogating them lawfully.

February 10, 2010

diffyqs errata

Filed under: Mathematics,Teaching — jlebl @ 8:50 pm

Now that I am teaching Math 285 (shorter version of 286) I am using my differential equations notes again. Furthermore, a friend of mine is using them for a reading course for a student. Hence lots of typos and errors are being found. On the errata page I only list the serious errata, not simple grammar problems and such. For chapters 0 and 1 (the ones I covered so far), I have had 14 errata. That’s about 2.7 pages per one erratum. That’s not too bad I suppose. Especially given that there was no editorial process yet. I suppose one can expect a similar rate of errors later on, though some of the later chapters have had a lot more work put into them, so I hope they are more correct. For example, the PDE chapter and the eigenvalue chapter had large parts used twice already, so I assume I have caught more bugs there.

Anyway, I went through certain parts of the notes today and found 5 errata (chapters 2 and 6). My most common mistake (actual mistake that was not caused by a simple typo) is forgetting to apply chain rule somewhere. By reading ahead, I am trying to cheat my students out of extra credit (they get points for finding new mistakes in the notes) 🙂

Today they had a test and I noticed a rare phenomenon. A 3-chain of students trying to copy (I don’t believe they were very successful). One was trying to copy from another who was trying to copy from another. The last person in the chain was not even being very careful about it, but I suppose that if any information passed through the chain, then it ought to be garbled beyond recognition by the time it reached the end. I am sure that this is a very noisy channel.

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