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Comment: Re:Surprised me as hell the first time (Score 1) 267

by Gim Tom (#47637535) Attached to: My degree of colorblindness:
I have been doing electronics since I was about 10 years old ( I am now 67 ) I don't think my eyes have changed as much as the colors used on some of the imported components. I have some old new stock AB resistors that are just as sharp and clear as to which color is which since the day they were made. For some recent purchases of bulk resistors I have had to use a good lens and a halogen light to even read some of the colors and often would resort to a ohm meter to be sure. Only exception to this was when I was about 15 and read the third band of a two watt composition resistor as brown. Well, it had been a bit toasted and was really violet. The replacement didn't last but a few milliseconds when I applied power.

Comment: Re:Ebola Cross with Rabies (Score 1) 409

Just for fun, the folks at the CDC should combine Ebola with the rabies virus. This zombie apocalypse isn't going to start itself!

That's not the worry. One day someone will cross Kudzu with Poison Ivy and THAT would make a Zombie Apocalypse look like a cake walk.

Comment: Computer Room "Ground" was +50 Volts AC (Score 1) 124

Not too surprising. I worked in a building in Atlanta where the UPS's in the computer room kept tripping for no apparent reason and kept reporting wiring faults. We had half a dozen electrical inspectors and electricians in to try to find out why and none could. I brought in a volt meter from home and checked the outlets. The "ground" from the sub-panel in the room was at +50 volts relative to the return neutral side of the line. The sub-panel had been connected to a transformer in the main electrical room on the floor that was not wired correctly. We had to shut down the computer room for two or three days while they replaced the transformer -- and then they wanted to charge us for it!

Comment: Re:The REAL value of the transit system (Score 1) 170

But are not roads and highways also subsidized with taxes. In fact there is talk now of increasing the tax on gasoline since it is not enough to keep the highway trust fund solvent. I don't know about current subsidies, but when the first railroads were built they were subsidized with large land grants to the companies building them. The notion that "the market" is always right and should decide whether anything is done and what the price for it should be is only true for those areas in which it is applicable. There are many things that can not support a market, that are still desirable for society as a whole. In order for things like roads and highways to exist there must be some form of subsidies. Whether they are direct or in the form of "membership cooperatives" (e.g. Electric Membership Corporations) they would never exist if left to private enterprise alone.

Comment: Re:Actually it's both. (Score 1) 360

I actually had a problem like this on a final exam in Fluid Mechanics back in the late 1960's. The required answer was the flow rate through the siphon for which there is an equation that uses parameters such as the pipe diameter and the difference in elevation between the inlet and outlet and some other things. However, the problem was given in such a way that it was not at all obvious that the siphon (which was a water siphon on Earth) at one point exceeded more than 33 feet above the inlet point. If you READ the entire problem carefully and CHECKED for this NECESSARY condition you had the answer (zero flow rate) with NO calculations needed -- a real time saver on the slide rule!

Comment: It worked for me -- still don't believe it (Score 2) 92

by Gim Tom (#46845945) Attached to: Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work
I was fortunate to be given a speed reading class that took several weeks as a high school graduation present back in the dark ages (1965). I took the course and practiced as I was told, but I never did believe it was doing any good and it was definitely not a fun way to read anything for pleasure. Fast forward to the next year and I am a freshman in engineering, but having to take an "elective" political science course in which I had no interest at all. Since the purpose of the freshman year in engineering is to cull the masses I concentrated on what, to me, were the far more important classes I had. A few days before the final exam I realized that I was not going to pass that polysci class unless I could pull off a near perfect score on the final. The professor was kind enough to confirm my calculations on that point. For two days before the final I read the entire text book through cover to cover TWICE. I scored in the high 90's on the final and passed the course with a C+. When I was taking the exam, I really was just sort of zoned out. Much of the test was essay questions and I would just write whatever came into my head on the subject, not really knowing what I was saying or where it came from.

Now, I would have put this down as a fluke except that I was able to do very similar things for the rest of my career in engineering. Although trained in systems engineering I started out working with computer systems when computers were big iron and I worked on both IBM, Univac, and DEC systems. Then I successfully made the transition to PC's and networks and retired as a Network Engineer and Security Officer. Often I would have to learn enough to get started in a new area about which I knew almost nothing with little time to do so. I would get 5 or 6 books on the subject and absorb them over a weekend and could then get up to speed pretty quickly after that.

I still don't understand how it works, and I am still not sure I really believe it works, but for over 40 years the speed reading class I took in 1965 saved my bacon many times.

Comment: Tax Act vs Turbo Tax (Score 3, Informative) 386

by Gim Tom (#46756685) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?
I have used Tax Act since changing from Turbo Tax when they tried to push a DRM version on us. This was a long time ago. I probably would not have changed except for that, but since then I have not looked back. With Tax Act I always buy the Deluxe Download for both my State and Federal taxes and that gives me a free e-file and unlimited paper filings. Over the years it has served me and my late wife well through the passing of both her parents and preparing their final returns and also my Father's passing and the issues with inheritance and estates. My tax preparation over the years has ranged from very simple to far more complex than I would ever have imagined and I have had to contact the Tax Act support via email on both technical issues of HOW to do something also Tax issues of WHAT I needed to do. I have always gotten very helpful and prompt responses and this year was no exception. Although I am moving more and more to Linux I am GOING to keep at least one Windows machine around just to run Tax Act if nothing else!

Comment: Trust -- but verify (Score 5, Insightful) 80

by Gim Tom (#46756577) Attached to: Humans Are Taking Jobs From Robots In Japan
There are many things that can not be learned except by doing them and to become proficient at them requires doing them A LOT. I am an engineer, and if you look at the record there were a number of unusual engineering "disasters" back in the late 1960's and through most of the 1970's. That's when side rules and hands on experience began to be replaced by simulation, modeling and things like Computer Aided Drawing and Design (CADD). Many of these failures were the result of inexperienced engineers and designers depending too much on their calculations and not being able to understand when the "ghost in the machine" was not telling them the truth. Although I would not advocate a return to the slide rule the one thing that you had to be able to do to use one was to be able to keep track of the order of magnitude you were working with.

Engineering failures of that era were not usually due to errors in the CADD modeling or computer calculations, but due to a lack of understanding by the people using them. They were often used with invalid assumptions or in inappropriate situations . Prior to the use of computers to do the massive iterative calculations needed, Space Frame structures were mostly used only where the lightest and strongest structures were absolutely necessary. Dirigibles come to mind. After the computer revolution in computer aided design, they began to appear everywhere and a number of the early ones failed catastrophically.

My career moved more and more directly into working with computers over the years and I have written code in half a dozen languages, and I can't think of any of them where it wasn't critical to understand whether the output and results you got were REASONABLE.

If you don't understand how to do what you are automating then it is impossible to automate it well.

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. -- Bill Vaughn

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