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Comment: Quantum mechanics is real, like it or not. (Score 3, Insightful) 102

by Animats (#47568933) Attached to: More Quantum Strangeness: Particles Separated From Their Properties

That's a nice result. It's in accord with theory. It doesn't match human intuition based on large-scale objects, but it's the way the universe really works. The theory in this area is well understood; Feynman's "QED" has a good overview.

Ever since the double-slit experiment, it's been clear that this stuff is real. Over the last few decades, more of the weirder predictions of quantum electrodynamic theory have been confirmed experimentally. This is another predicted event confirmed. Nice work.

Comment: Re:$1000, not $300 (Score 2) 43

by Animats (#47568555) Attached to: A Look At the Firepick Delta Circuit Board Assembler (Video)

I guess you're supposed to stencil the paste in first and the put it in a heat oven as if you had done the pick and placing by hand.

Their FAQ contains:

  • TBD - Solder paste dispensing
  • TBD - Selective Reflow via custom ATC head

That's what would make the machine useful for prototyping. Printing a solder paste stencil can be done on a laser cutter, but you need access to one, or you must send the job out. Laying down solder paste by hand with a little syringe on each pad (probably under a microscope) takes longer than manually placing parts and is Not Fun.

Printing solder paste with an ink-jet printer type head has been done. If they can make that work, that will be a big win.

Comment: The truth hurts, not my problem. (Score 1) 117

I was SAC, and that statement is laughable.

I was USN SSBN missile systems and have talked with many SAC (Minuteman) launch crews over the years, and it's the dead simple truth. Your systems are much simpler than ours (even without figuring that we had sixteen tubes that we operated individually while you mostly just watched lights) and you didn't (couldn't) operate them or intervene in their operations to the level we did.

The examples of the complexities that you didn't have to deal with are legion (off the top of my head and in no particular order):

  • You had no pressurization system. (And even if you did you didn't have to wait for the ship to come to launch depth.)
  • Your optical alignment system was set by the loading crew rather than operating in sequence as ours did.
  • You had no navigation system interface to deal with as your tubes were fixed in position. (And equally, you didn't have to coordinate your countdown with the ship coming to launch speed or wait for the ship to commence hovering.)
  • You did not test the missiles in sequence the way we did. (And unlike us, you couldn't do anything about faults even if you did, the weapons were miles away and maintained by a different crew).

Etc... etc...
 
So yeah, the jobs of the prairie dogs waiting in their holes (which is the subject of this discussion) were (are) pretty dammed simple. You punch buttons and swap drawers. If a tube goes down, and it's not at your end, you're screwed because there's f all you can do about it except to wait for a repair crew to be dispatched. (The liquid fuel guys? Yeah, I'll agree they were the real deal. But they're long gone.)

Comment: Re:Not sure how well this will stop cheating (Score 1) 117

The problem is that promotions were based on the grades. So, people were not cheating to pass but instead to be "perfect" in order to look better for promotion.

This is the key point that everyone seems to be missing in the discussions I've seen here and elsewhere on the 'net, so it bears emphasizing and repeating.
 
It's interesting that they've shifted to using simulator performance (which is virtually impossible to cheat in) for promotion eligibility... because their jobs are basically so damn simple it's going to be very hard to realistically rate one crew as being notably better than another. On reaction time maybe? Or "procedures theater" (I.E. making a great show of doing everything by the letter of the book)? Since, AIUI, they swap at the drawer level rather than the circuit card level it'll be hard to evaluate and their troubleshooting and corrective maintenance skills.
 
Disclaimer - BTDT on both sides of the instructors console and of the evaluators clipboard. In a former life I was a Fire Control Technician (Ballistic Missile), USN Submarine Service, USS Henry L. Stimson SSBN 655B and Trident Training Facility - Bangor.
 
In the graded half of Team Trainer, we were scored fairly simply: "Pass", "Pass with comments (I.E. needs specific improvements)*, and "Fail". (And basically the only ways to actually fail were to have a gross violation of procedures, violation of safety regulations, or the simple inability to launch birds.) You could fail individual countdowns, but so long as there wasn't a pattern of failure you could pass the week "with comments". Outright failures of a countdown were very uncommon, and outright failure of the week very rare.
 
I can see how they could assign grades to specific tasks or objectives to create a spectrum from the top of "Pass" to the bottom of "Pass with comments", but the problem there is it's all too easy for the instructor/evaluator to start shading towards being subjective in their evaluation.

*You could also get "style" comments, but these didn't lead to a "Pass with comments". Operating an FBM weapons systems was a complex task and no two crews did it exactly the same. We didn't push standardization to the level that the USAF did, so "style" comments were a way for the instructors and evaluators to pass on what they'd seen work or not work with other crews or to highlight potential problem areas.

Comment: $1000, not $300 (Score 1) 43

by Animats (#47563223) Attached to: A Look At the Firepick Delta Circuit Board Assembler (Video)

Their presentation for investors quotes a sale price of $1000, not $300. At that price they might be able to do it. How well they'll do it remains to be seen.

Their presentation is all about their XY positioning mechanism. But that's not the problem. The hard problem is dispensing solder paste reliably and precisely, sticking the component down, and using hot air to solder it into place. As with low-end 3D printers, most of the problems are where the weld/soldering action takes place. They don't say much about how that's done.

The important thing is doing a consistently good soldering job. Nobody needs a machine that produces lots of reject boards.

Comment: Should I do an ad blocker? (Score 3, Interesting) 345

by Animats (#47561759) Attached to: Which Is Better, Adblock Or Adblock Plus?

I'm behind Ad Limiter, which limits Google search ads to one per page, picking the best one based on SiteTruth ratings. You can set it for zero search ads if you like. It also puts SiteTruth ratings on Google search results. It's a demo for SiteTruth search spam filtering.

This Mozilla/Chrome add on has a general ad-blocking mechanism inside. Unlike most ad blockers, it's not based on regular expressions looking for specific HTML. It finds URLs known to lead to ads, works outward through the DOM to find the ad boundary, then deletes the ad. So it's relatively insensitive to changes in ad code, and doesn't require much maintenance. The same code processes search results from Google, Bing, Yahoo, Bleeko, DuckDuckGo, and Infoseek. (Coming soon, Yandex support, and better handling of Google ads within ads, where an ad has multiple links.)

So, if I wanted to do a better ad blocker, I could do so easily. Should I? Is another one really needed? Are the headaches of running one worth it?

Comment: Re:Scala (Score 1) 306

by Samantha Wright (#47561147) Attached to: Programming Languages You'll Need Next Year (and Beyond)
Scala lacks the webby web-web street cred that this list is laden with. Haskell is mentioned briefly in the article, but not considered worthy of Knowing. Meanwhile, Erlang is popular in certain buzzword compliance requirements considered key to trends in web development as of a year or two ago.

Comment: Re:Where are the buggy whip dealers? (Score 1) 537

That's based on the premise that the model T was less expensive than a horse

No, it's based on the premise of the Model-T being the cheapest possible automobile.

It's not obvious that the automobile would take off, though the piles of horse feces in city streets should have been a hint. But it is obvious that the best chance anybody has, starting a new market, is to go for the least-expensive possible vehicle.

otherwise Ford wouldn't have been the only one in the USA doing it so cheaply/successfully for the better part of 10 years.

Ford found a way to do it very cheaply, that had escaped all others. There were plenty of other car makers out there, and once they adopted the assembly-line model, they started competing with Ford, too.

Comment: Cell and battery production in same plant (Score 5, Informative) 92

by Animats (#47559917) Attached to: Tesla and Panasonic Have Reached an Agreement On the Gigafactory

The Tesla/Panasonic plan gets cell and battery production back into the same plant. The battery industry has, for a while, had a model where cells were made in one country (usually Japan, Taiwan or S. Korea, or at least with machinery from there) and assembled into device-specific battery packs near where the end device was produced (usually China or the US.) For the Chevy Volt, the cells come frm LG Chem in Korea, and the battery packs are assembled at the Brownstown, MI Battery Assembly plant.

There's no good reason to do it that way now that the era of cheap labor in China is over. As a rule of thumb, labor has to be 4x cheaper to justify offshoring. The coastal provinces in China have reached that level with respect to US/Japan wages.

Done right, this isn't labor-intensive. Brownstown has only 100 workers in a 400,000 square foot plant, and they're doing battery assembly, which is the more labor-intensive part of the operation. Tesla claims to need 6,500 employees for their 10 million square foot plant, but they're probably counting construction-phase employees.

Comment: "Beginning of mainstream 3D printing" (Score 4, Informative) 61

by Animats (#47559309) Attached to: 3-D Printing Comes To Amazon

But this could be the beginning of mainstream 3D printing.

We heard that when Staples did it.

Amazon's 3D printed product offerings are rather lame. They're not offering any of the more advanced 3D printing processes; for that you have to go to Shapeways. All you can get from Amazon is plastic junk.

Comment: Re:When going into business with Friends (Score 4, Informative) 181

by DerekLyons (#47558715) Attached to: How Gygax Lost Control of TSR and D&D

IIRC Williams went on to sink as much of TSR's money as possible into buying up the rights for the Buck Rogers RPG ... which flopped and sunk without a trace, crippling TSR's finances.

TSR's finances were in perpetual disarray from about '83 forward... when the D&D bubble popped.* TSR had built itself around the assumption that growth would occur at the same rate as it had during the bubble, and was screwed when it didn't. It never fully recovered. Even though Williams' mismanagement didn't help, by the mid 80's significant percentage of gamers had moved onto computer gaming and their purchases of hardcopy games dropped precipitously. They stumbled on long enough to be around when WOTC came into bucketloads of cash, but they were anything but a healthy company.

Not to mention the Buck Rodgers RPG is far from only "flopped and sunk without a trace", whether from TSR or elsewhere in the industry. (Even games that were huge successes (by the standards of the day) are by-and-large completely forgotten today.) At the height of the bubble ('82-'83) it seemed a new RPG was coming out every week, and the premises of the games were increasingly specialized and/or outlandish. By 1983, the market for tulip bulbs was beyond saturated**. By 1984 it was busted. By 1993, when the Buck Rodgers RPG was released, it would have taken a miracle for any RPG to be a breakout hit.

*The largest problems that hardcopy gaming (board, pen-and-paper, etc...) companies face are the replayability factor and the scaling factor. For the first, you can buy a set of rulebooks and literally play for years without further purchase. For the second, one guy can purchase a set and then ten or more others can play using that set for years. Once a significant proportion of your userbase has a set of your products, you're screwed. There's a reason why every gaming company of the era got into supplements and expansions and ancillary products and media as fast and deep as possible - it's the only way to survive. WOTC didn't create the idea of endless supplements and expansions (as many seem to think), they merely perfected the implementation by convincing players they were vital to continued gameplay rather than being optional.

** I remember a meeting of our gaming group in 1983 where we were deciding which GM/game would be added to our rotation to replace one that was moving away... we literally had twenty or thirty different RPG's in hardcopy physically sitting on the table. When I attended Dracon I (or was it Hexacon I, can't remember as there were so many start-up gaming cons back in the day) in 1984 I took something like ten different games from my personal collection to the con. (Met Tracy Hickman there, out stumping the then newly released Dragonlance.)

Comment: No new tools. Low-budget operation (Score 3, Informative) 61

All they're offering are some existing tools, ones you can get for free. The main ones are the Clang static analyzer and Cppcheck. They're not offering free access to some of the better, and expensive, commercial tools.

Cppcheck is basically a list of common errors, expressed as rules with regular expressions. Clang is a little more advanced, but it's still looking for a short list of local bugs. Neither will detect all, or even most, buffer overflows. They'll detect the use of "strcpy", but not a wrong size to "strncpy".

Comment: Back then... (Score 2) 138

From TFS: "[Man in a High Castle is] one of his most successful works"

Back in 1962 (when it was published) maybe... but by the time of my generation of SF readers (coming of age in the late 70's, early 80's) it was largely passed over in favor of Electric Sheep. With WWII much further in the past than when it was published, and the Red Menace having been replaced by MAD... it's foriegn dictatorship wasn't as relevant as the overcrowded overpolluted post apoplyptic dystopia of Sheep was to a generation that was influenced by the social chaos of the late 60's and had lived through the shocks of the early 70's. Stories involving the Nazi's (High Castle, Rocket Ship Galileo, even the (then) more recent Iron Dream) were seen largely as quaint anachronisms not classics. Which, in a large way, is also why Cyberpunk emerges in the same era...

Comment: Your lack of a clue is not my problem. (Score 1) 165

by DerekLyons (#47557851) Attached to: US States Edge Toward Cryptocoin Regulation

No, I'm not the sole authority of facts relating to economics. I'm just not impressed by "actual numbers" when they're irrelevant to the discussion at hand and accompanied by smoke and mirrors.

And if you actually had a clue rather than parroting BS in the fashion of a cargo cultist, you'd note I never debated the validity of your facts - only their relevance. When confronted with this, you fall back on the typical defense of the terminally clueless... you raise the white flag and declare victory by indulging in personal attacks.

Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced. - John Keats

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