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Two countries, two vastly different phone bills

Tuesday 26th of August 2014 09:47:39 AM
If your monthly cellphone bill seems high, that may be because American cellphone service is among the most costly in the world. A comparison of two similar plans, one in the United States and one in Britain, reveals a marked difference. Both plans include a new iPhone 5S with 16 gigabytes of memory. Both require a two-year commitment and allow unlimited voice minutes and unlimited texting. The plan offered by the British provider, Three UK, offers unlimited data and requires no upfront payment. With Britain's 20 percent tax included, the plan costs 41 pounds a month, or $67.97 at current exchange rates. The plan provided by the American carrier, Verizon Wireless, has an upfront cost of $99.99 and then $90 a month, not including taxes. Spreading the upfront cost over 24 months and adding 17 percent tax - typical for the United States - comes to $109.47 a month. But while the British plan includes unlimited data, the American plan does not. It includes two gigabytes a month, with an additional gigabyte free during an introductory period. This should not surprise anyone. Companies like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, et al., are state-owned monopolies in all but name. They are not state-owned, but the way the US government - both local and federal - protects them essentially makes them the equivalent of being state-owned. They have no competition, and they know it. There is no incentive for them to lower prices, improve service, or expand coverage to less important areas. Meanwhile, here in The Netherlands (I can't speak for other countries), our government mandated that the owners of the physical cables provide access to other players, ensuring competition across the board, which has benefited all of us. Don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure something like 95%-99% of Dutch households can get broadband internet via several different media and through several different ISPs. All because our government was smart enough to realise that it would take government intervention to ensure competition. Of course, it's unfair to compare one of the smallest and most densely populated western countries to the United States, which is crazy large and has large stretches of impoverished areas that probably do not have access to the financial means to create a proper network infrastructure. Still, the US is supposed to be the richest country on earth, and if it really wanted to, it could definitely provide good broadband access to every American citizen at low prices. It's just that the monopoly companies don't want to.

Amazon acquires Twitch.tv

Monday 25th of August 2014 09:13:48 PM
Everybody thought it would be Google, but it's actually Amazon. Today, I'm pleased to announce we've been acquired by Amazon. We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster. We're keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon's support we'll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch. Most of the times some hot startup gets acquired it's some vague nonsense I don't care about, but Twitch - Twitch I care about. I use it almost every day, and seeing it in the hands of a company with zero presence in my home country and no history with video, streaming (like I said, Amazon has no presence here), or gaming makes me uneasy. Twitch is one of the very rare cases where I would have actually preferred Google - or better put, YouTube - buy it. Google+ is by no universally accepted as a mistake, Google is backtracking from it, so that most likely would not have been an issue. The combination Twitch+YouTube looked great on paper - much better than Amazon+Twitch. This acquisition has me worried for the future of Twitch.

Huawei boss says Tizen has 'no chance' of success

Monday 25th of August 2014 07:43:57 PM
Fans of mobile operating systems not called "Android" or 'iOS" might be sad to hear what Huawei's head honcho just told the Wall Street Journal. In an interview, Richard Yu spoke about the company's plans regarding Tizen, Windows Phone and a long-rumored homegrown OS, and basically said they were all doomed. He's not wrong.

Haiku debates kernel switch (but it's not happening)

Sunday 24th of August 2014 08:29:52 PM
A very interesting discussion is taking place in the Haiku mailing list right now. A developer has created a working prototype implementation of the BeOS API layer on top of the Linux kernel, and he is wondering if the project is worth pursuing. He's got the App, Interface and Networking Kits in good shape within a few months' work. While there are some minor downsides to having the kits on top of Linux (or one of the BSDs), the upsides include all the drivers in the world (well, the gpu driver situation could be a tad better), a rock solid kernel that works on all kinds of devices (who says BeOS can't run on a phone, mine can), and a working BeOS clone with comparatively little effort (as a musical engineer, my biggest worry was sound system latencies, but it turns out many Linux schedulers can easily be tuned to handle the loads I expect in a BeOS system.) I think the Haiku project made a monumental mistake in not using an existing kernel - it's simply no longer practical for a small project to keep up with the hardware evolution, handling security requirements and so on. Sad but true, and it was sad but true back in 2001. A very interesting and in-depth discussion follows. Both 'sides' make a lot of compelling arguments, and it gives a lot of insight into decisions that went into the Haiku project, both past and present. For once, I have no clear opinion on this matter; both sides have merit, and it in the end comes down to what the actual developers want to work on (hint: it's not Linux). Still, the developer in question will be putting up a repository of his Linux work, so we'll get to see what it's like.

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