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Comment: Re:the Balminator (Score 1) 342

by DowdyGoat (#33039878) Attached to: Will Ballmer Be Replaced As Microsoft CEO?

Balminator, on the other hand, he'll end up as a lonely old but relatively rich man and being moderatly successful in the furtniture durability testing-industry.

Yeah, but he's currently worth $13.5 billion--even without a good-bye bonus (which I'm sure would be tens of millions). Ballmer is currently the 33rd richest person on the planet. He's not "relatively" rich--he's in the very top crust. And with money like that, it doesn't disappear quickly.

Comment: Re:It's like watching a swordfighter (Score 1) 324

by DowdyGoat (#32878676) Attached to: Ballmer Says Microsoft Is 'Hardcore' About Tablets

The biggest problem I see here is an apparent lack of understanding about the market segment. Check this Ballmer quote (paraphrase?) from the article:

These slates will be available at a variety of price points and in a variety of form factors -- with keyboards, touch only, dockable, able to handle digital ink, etc.

Notice the focus on hardware. I couldn't find anywhere that he mentions software. Microsoft has had windows on tablets that reasonable match the hardware specs of the iPad for nearly a decade. What they've utterly failed at is the software side, the software that makes the tablet worth using. Apple clearly gets that, but Microsoft doesn't even seem to be aware of it at all. It seems to think the business link is going to be able to carry it, just like it carried the PC 25 years ago, and he might be right, but it hasn't worked for the last 10 years, so why should it now?

I have to agree. I read that quote and immediately my internal "FAIL!! FAIL!!" alarms started ringing. Microsoft was successful with, say, Windows 95, because they focused just on the software, and as yet there is almost no mention of the software these things will be running. Also, although some here will obviously disagree on legitimate grounds, the variety of form factors (some with keyboards, some touch only, some dockable, some able to handle digital ink--and some not?--etc.), with a variety of companies (Asus, Dell, Samsung, Sony, HP, etc.) makes it hard to focus on a Microsoft-centered "tablet".

Apple has the iPad. That's it. Easy to update. Easy to use App Store.

So, which Microsoft tablet would you like? The HPTab3456 with the 5 hour battery life, with the keyboard but with no digital ink? Or the DellPad 65 with 7 hours of battery life that is touch only but dockable and costs $200 more? Or the Asus-Slate One that can play your Zune music but needs to use a dock? Oh, that over there? That's Apple's iPad. Everybody seems to love it. It's not complicated at all, and everyone uses it pretty much the same as everyone else.

Sure, options are good and all, but without a unifying focus--the software in this case--a hundred variants of hardware and companies become very hard to sell.

Comment: Linear A Implications (Score 5, Interesting) 109

by DowdyGoat (#32753124) Attached to: Automated Language Deciphering By Computer AI

This is very cool for us undeciphered language fans.

In the article, the language author Andrew Robinson correctly points out that this computer program won't work for languages that don't have a known language that is close to them, say like for Linear A found on Crete, which is definitely not Greek like Linear B turned out to be. There is a lot of speculation that Linear A is a native Minoan (Cretan) script, largely unrelated to any other known script.

However, parallel with Linear A on Crete was a Cretan pictographic script, which may, or may not be related to Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Minoans had known trading ties to Egypt, which had written language long before them. If a relationship could be found (via this computer program) between the Minoan pictographic script and Egyptian hieroglyphs, then that might give insights into how the Linear A script was set up (which is a syllabary script).

The only difficulty is that there may not be enough of the pictographic script to work--I'd imagine you'd need a fair number of examples to really allow the computer to compare and contrast.

Comment: Re:1st step in something useful for deep explorati (Score 4, Interesting) 284

by DowdyGoat (#32530100) Attached to: Japan Successfully Deploys First Solar Sail In Space

NASA had a proposed "Interstellar Probe" mission that was to use a 200 meter diameter solar sail to travel 200 AU in 15 years (the heliosheath, or edge of the solar system, is about 100 AU from the Sun). It was thought they could keep contact until 400 AUs distance. Link (go to the Interstellar Probe Report link there):

http://interstellar.jpl.nasa.gov/

This mission, as well as a proposed follow up mission (I think called Interstellar Probe 2) that would have had a bigger sail, gone twice as fast, and reached around 1000 AU, were both shelved quite a while ago. (There was a single NASA page on that second mission a long time ago, but I cannot find it now.)

You could use probes like these to sort of act as galactic weather probes, testing the interstellar space that our solar system would encounter in coming decades/centuries and seeing how that "interstellar weather" affects the Sun the the Earth's environment as we pass through it.

A theoretical improvement on a solar sail would be a "light sail"--you could set up satellites with powerful laser systems orbiting the Sun and use that focused and powerful light to push sails much faster. Some folks have hypothesized reaching 10% to 30% the speed of light using techniques like this if the lasers were powerful enough and coordinated enough. Assuming success, you could possibly send an unmanned probe to Alpha Centauri in a matter of decades. In this instance, you could theoretically use a solar sail to use the solar wind/light of the Alpha Centauri system to slow down once you started nearing it (although that could potentially add more travel time).

Things like these could be a relatively fast, cheap, and safe (as compared to nuclear) way to explore our external solar system (Kuiper Belt) and nearby interstellar space (Oort Cloud), and get a good handle on how our surrounding interstellar space affects our solar system. Very interesting stuff. I hope more of it happens!

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