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Comment: Re:Just get a case (Score 1) 539

The voice reco right now uploads your voice sample to Google's server farm where they apply the very best processing they can to it. And it still sucks balls.

It's become clear that it's going to take some kind of revolutionary breakthrough to make voice recognition actually good.

I compose my thoughts better when usnig a keyboard than when speaking as well. I can pause for thought and and change things.

I like the swipe functionality that comes with the standard Google keyboard now, but even that isn't perfect.

Comment: Re:Dear Slashdot (Score 1) 170

I would really have liked a PalmOS cart for my Nintendo DS ; the form factor would have made it an awesome little organizer, it had a touch screen, etc, and the CPU power would probably have been good enough to run the original OS ROMs in an emu.

There were rumours of it happening (maybe I even started them by discussing it on BBs...) but alas, it never came to be.

One thing I really liked about the PalmOS stuff, which other software suites took ages to catch up with, was the way they all integrated. Some of the things that make me go "Oh, cool!" in Android apps now are the sort of things that PalmOS had 16 years ago.

Comment: Re:Scale? (Score 1) 167

by Dr_Barnowl (#47521481) Attached to: Ebola Outbreak Continues To Expand

Seems to be working just fine...

Syphilis does better, as a disease, than Ebola for the same reasons you win at Pandemic-type games - the slow progression, the low-profile.

Ebola doesn't spread nearly as much, because it's non-airborne and rapidly fatal to a large number of people who contract it. This is why it stays confined to the butt-end of civilization.

Syphilis does more harm overall because it has numbers in it's favour.

People tend to focus more on Ebola because of the high mortaility rate. It has a couple of pretty horrible "What if?"s - principally, what if it goes airborne? I'm not sure a virus with such a high mortaility rate that's been around so long would actually ever go airborne though - from an evolutionary perspective it's a terrible combination.

A virus with high mortaility and rapid spread will rapidly kill all susceptible individuals within it's catchment area, so it's likely that such things have never really gotten off the evolutionary drawing board. The last thing that came close was the Spanish Flu, which was a more fatal mutation of a fairly innocuous airborne pathogen, rather than a more mobile mutation of something unpleasantly fatal like Ebola.

Of course, the above is true of a pre-air-travel world, because rapid spread would kill off everything in the travel radius - because the travel radius was dictated by walking pace, or driving pace... or the speed of ocean liners. In this day and age, it would be much easier for such a thing to have a serious impact.

Comment: Re:Why ODF? (Score 1) 164

More like ODF is readable without having to buy software. Software that will read ODF is available for free - and without installation either, since you can upload files to a web renderer now.

The theory being that requiring people to purchase software from a particular vendor disenfranchises those that cannot afford it and those that choose not to do business with that vendor.

Comment: Re:Why ODF? (Score 1) 164

Yeah, this is because Office reuses so much of Windows, not just limited to basic API calls to get files and use control widgets and such, but rendering of fonts, etc.

LibreOffice has a much better chance of consistent document rendering on multiple platforms.

The Cabinet Office announcement does make a distinction between documents for collaboration and those for viewing ; PDF/A and HTML should at least have a reasonably consistent rendering (depending on how fancy you get with stylesheets in the case of HTML - IE, is of course, still a total arsebasket in terms of compatibility).

Comment: Re:Why ODF? (Score 5, Informative) 164

The main reason you might want a human readable format is for collaboration ;

So many of my customers have collaborative content editing requirements as follows

* All changes to be auditable
* Changes to be peer reviewed before going into the released content

Which basically screams out to be put in a version control system ; the problem is that merging sucks for binary blob formats.

You can close the gap either by creating better merge tools that understand your blobs, or moving the document structure to line-based text that merges well ; for a document of any complexity, you're going to need the improved merge tools, but line-based text makes sense for those who can read it without the GUI tools.

As programmers we fill the role of that improved merge tool for the content that we manage ; we forget that for most people, parsing and grokking even something as simple as nicely prettified HTML is akin to reading Sanskrit blindfolded from stone tablets wearing gloves.

I agree though, I want to move most of my technical authors to Markdown so that I can have an easy platform for converting their content to multiple formats for consumption.

Comment: Re:Why ODF? (Score 2) 164

OOXML wasn't designed as an exchange format at all ; every indication is that it's just an XML serialization of the internal data structures of Office. (The "Strict" version that nothing can write was produced after removing some of the more egregious kludges that have accumulated over time in Office).

The only thing it was designed to achieve was to provide some reasonable doubt that it might be an "open format", at a time when open formats were starting to become all the rage.

Because it gave that reasonable doubt, people were able to shy away from the difficult problem of how to migrate to a different office suite. Because Office allegedly "supports" ODF, that reasonable doubt is sadly still there.

Comment: Re:Why isn't the U.S. doing things like this? (Score 1) 156

by Dr_Barnowl (#47495827) Attached to: Japan To Offer $20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

Well, efficiency informs us on cost. Let's couple those costs with efficiency and use the same fuel source.

Natural gas power stations vs hydrogen (from reformed natural gas)

Gas power station = 60% efficient [1]

So a battery vehicle powered by electricity generated from natural gas :

Gas turbine efficiency * transmission line efficiency * battery cycle efficiency

0.6 * 0.94 * 0.95 = 53%

Fuel cell vehicle powered by hydrogen reformed from natural gas

Natural gas is primarily methane. Methane releases 810kJ per mole [2] on burning, and contains 4 moles of hydrogen atoms which would form 2 moles of hydrogen gas. Assuming we remove the carbon from a mole of methane, we get 2 moles of hydrogen molecules. Energy of combusion of hydrogen gas is 286kJ/mol [3], so that's 572kJ/mol per mole of methane or just over 70% of the energy. I'm going to be very generous and assume that steam reformation costs no energy and that no hydrogen is lost in the process.

Methane reformation to hydrogen efficiency * fuel cell efficiency

0.7 * 0.5 = 35%

Therefore starting with the same fuel as an energy source, storage tank to wheels, the fuel cell car requires at least 50% more fuel. Therefore it costs more per mile, and that's before any of the other engineering considerations.

Please don't try to tell me that the cost of electricity produced from natural gas is completely decoupled from the cost of hydrogen produced from natural gas.

[1] Gas turbine plants
[2] https://www.wou.edu/las/physci...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H...

Comment: Re:Why isn't the U.S. doing things like this? (Score 1) 156

by Dr_Barnowl (#47495501) Attached to: Japan To Offer $20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars

The horse is still high enough. Twice as high as the pony that fuel cells rode in on, at the least.

Making electricity from a power plant with a traditional thermal conversion cycle (40% efficiency, at best) and making hydrogen by electrolysis (50% efficiency) and using it to power your fuel cell car (again, about 50%) yields

0.4 * 0.5 * 0.5 = 0.1 or 10% efficiency for the fuel that went in. That's half the efficiency of a traditional internal combustion engine.

Efficiency of an ICE averages about 20%. And I'm being generous with that because that does not take into account the losses from refining raw fuels (like coal, which can be burned unrefined).

Not sure what the efficiency of making hydrogen with steam reformation is, but logically you're throwing away a lot of the chemical energy in the original compound, because in a combustion cycle you'd be burning the carbon as well as the oxygen, and if you want the "green" benefits you also have to spend resources sequestering the carbon byproducts so produced. If it's above 80% efficient (which would seem on inspection to be impossible because of the lost carbon), then you have a vehicle that is clean at the tailpipe but just barely more full-cycle efficient than an ICE based vehicle, all other things being equal. Which they aren't because of the expensive platinum catalyst, heavy cryogenic high pressure tanks, etc, etc, etc.

Battery cycle is about 95% efficient. So even if you burn fossil fuels (40% efficiency) and suffer transmission losses (in the US, 94% efficiency), you still get a car that is more efficient than both ICEs and fuel cells.

0.4 * 0.94 * 0.95 = 35% efficiency

So at less than twice the efficiency of ICEs, electric cars are not the magical panacea that they are painted to be, but they are much better than ICEs and fuel cells. The major play available is in the first stage - the electricity generation. When you start replacing those coal fired power stations with other sources of electricity, they start to get much much greener. And they don't demand the construction of an entirely new fuel distribution infrastructure with difficult engineering challenges.

I remain certain in my position that hydrogen energy is primarily an investment of the fossil fuel industry, designed to help prolong the market for "vintage biomass" as long as possible, either by actually putting hydrogen cars on the road, or diverting investment away from battery technology.

Comment: Re:Comparisons (Score 1) 272

The parts of our brain structure that are most associated with our cognitive abilities evolved from the parts that processed smell. Whales clearly communicate using their song, so what's to say that the parts of their brains that process sound (which would be the bulk of their sensory needs) aren't undergoing the same transition?

Comment: Re:Decoy (Score 4, Informative) 211

by Dr_Barnowl (#47495249) Attached to: Apollo 11 Moon Landing Turns 45

And the retroreflecting prism arrays sent to the moon, that anyone with a big enough laser can bounce a beam off and determine what the distance of the moon is at the moment, were presumably put up there by Elvis on his way home. Hell, it's just a few pairs of his rhinestone trousers that fell out of his trunk.

"Hello again, Peabody here..." -- Mister Peabody

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