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Comment: If maintenance is the excuse, then wrong units (Score 1) 827

by EmagGeek (#49736959) Attached to: Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax

If they really want to make road taxes usage based, then they need to charge by the ton-mile or something like that. Wear and tear on roads goes by the weight of the vehicle, and if I remember correctly it is a non-linear relationship (square or cube, I can't remember).

It's pretty trivial for a vehicle to compute its own weight, so it is similarly trivial for a vehicle to compute its own road tax as well. Many cars are now coming equipped with GSM modems as well, so your car could simply upload your road impact once/month and you can be billed for your use tax.

Piece of cake.

Comment: Re:Language, Density, and Whitespace (Score 1) 244

by EmagGeek (#49719165) Attached to: RTFM? How To Write a Manual Worth Reading

Oversimplified language creates more ambiguity, not less. It may *seem* less ambiguous to people who don't understand the subject matter. But, to people who do, failing to be both precise and descriptive in your language creates more questions than are answered by your text, or worse, sends an inaccurate message.

Comment: Re:Typical government response... (Score 2) 393

I think you're right except for a couple of glaring, incorrect assumptions on your part. First, PTC is not new technology. It has been around for a very long time. Second, it is not under "rush" deployment because it has been under deployment for a very long time. In fact, George W. Bush signed into Law a mandate to deploy this technology where appropriate by this year. Finally, the curve in question does not require PTC because the speed limit leading up to the curve is below the maximum safe speed for it. Under normal operating conditions a slow-down is not required beforehand.

The only thing that I find super-shocking about this whole event is that Bush has not yet been blamed for it. After all, he could have sent the Law back to Congress asking for a faster deployment, not that it would have made a difference in this case since it is not a requirement for this curve.

Education

Schools That Ban Mobile Phones See Better Academic Results 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-that-thing-down dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Jamie Doward reports at The Guardian that according to a recent study in the UK, the effect of banning mobile phones from school premises adds up to the equivalent of an extra week's schooling over a pupil's academic year with the test scores of students aged 16 improved by 6.4% after schools banned mobile phones, "We found that not only did student achievement improve, but also that low-achieving and low-income students gained the most. We found the impact of banning phones for these students was equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days." In the UK, more than 90% of teenagers own a mobile phone; in the US, just under three quarters have one. In a survey conducted in 2001, no school banned mobiles. By 2007, this had risen to 50%, and by 2012 some 98% of schools either did not allow phones on school premises or required them to be handed in at the beginning of the day. But some schools are starting to allow limited use of the devices. New York mayor Bill de Blasio has lifted a 10-year ban on phones on school premises, with the city's chancellor of schools stating that it would reduce inequality.

The research was carried out at Birmingham, London, Leicester and Manchester schools before and after bans were introduced (PDF). It factored in characteristics such as gender, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs status and prior educational attainment. "Technological advancements are commonly viewed as increasing productivity," write Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy. "Modern technology is used in the classroom to engage students and improve performance. There are, however, potential drawbacks as well, as they could lead to distractions."

Comment: Language, Density, and Whitespace (Score 3, Funny) 244

by EmagGeek (#49689489) Attached to: RTFM? How To Write a Manual Worth Reading

What I've learned from decades of reading professionally-written manuals can be summed up in two steps:

The first step in writing a good manual is to have a very weak grasp of the language used by your target audience. It is important to use many grammatical and spelling errors, just to make sure the reader stays on their toes and pays attention. Research has also shown that users do not like to read manuals that use advanced vocabulary or complex grammatical structures.

The second step is to manage the density of information on the pages properly. A piece of paper is pretty large, and so are most screens, so a lot of information can be included on a single pane of view. It is important to make the most of this space and convey as much information as possible, as densely as possible. The more information a user can see without having to turn pages, the better. Use of separating devices, indications, and other correlative marks should be avoided, as it takes away from space that can be used for more information. They also can cause there to be more whitespace on a page, which should be avoided at all costs.

The Military

US Successfully Tests Self-Steering Bullets 216

Posted by Soulskill
from the bad-news-for-Neo dept.
mpicpp sends this report from The Independent: The United States Department of Defense has carried out what it says is its most successful test yet of a bullet that can steer itself towards moving targets. Experienced testers have used the technology to hit targets that were actively evading the shot, and even novices that were using the system for the first time were able to hit moving targets. The project, which is known as Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance weapon, or Exacto, is being made for the American government's military research agency, DARPA. It is thought to use small fins that shoot out of the bullet and re-direct its path, but the U.S. has not disclosed how it works. Technology in the bullet allows it to compensate for weather and wind, as well as the movement of people it is being fired at, and curve itself in the air as it heads towards its target.

Comment: Re:Band-Aids Won't Work (Score 1) 334

by EmagGeek (#49568151) Attached to: Why Our Antiquated Power Grid Needs Battery Storage

There will never be anything other than a politically-motivated, secret back-room solution to any problem. Solutions will be chosen based upon who benefits, not upon whether they are actual solutions.

This is the world we live in where the incompetent shitbags float to the top and ends up in Washington while the competent people remain trying to do competent things in the face of an endless stream of policy waste from those same shitbags.

Comment: Our local generator has three huge batteries (Score 2) 334

by EmagGeek (#49568101) Attached to: Why Our Antiquated Power Grid Needs Battery Storage

Our local nuclear station has three enormous batteries that hold GWh of electricity for peak times. They are called Lakes Jocassee, Keowee, and Bad Creek.

During the night when the nuclear station generates excess power, water is pumped uphill through the succession of lakes. During the day, when peak demand hits, water flows downhill to generate extra power. It's efficient and relatively cheap to maintain over time.

The surfaces of Bad Creek (at the top) and Jocassee (in the middle) can fall tens of feet over the course of a few hours. Keowee (at the bottom) is maintained level as it is also the source of cooling water for the reactors.

It's a pretty cool system, and having the manmade lakes has generated billions in economic activity for the area in real estate, recreation, and tourism.

Comment: Answer: You don't. (Score 1) 634

by EmagGeek (#49568025) Attached to: How To Increase the Number of Female Engineers

The reason there are fewer women than men in engineering is not because of some grand societal mechanism of oppression. It is because men and women are not the same. This goes back millennia. Our predisposed gender roles are baked into our DNA.

I have a much better idea. Why don't we stop obsessing over making everyone on the planet exactly the same, and let people do for a living that which they like and enjoy doing? Women who want to become engineers will become engineers.

"It is better to have tried and failed than to have failed to try, but the result's the same." - Mike Dennison

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