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Comment Re:No, its still an expensive toy. (Score 0) 185

Let me explain why VisiCalc will never succeed:

PCs don't deliver novel features. They are the following: slightly less complicated to use for simple applications, and still a novelty. They are pretty much doomed in the middle term.

There isn't a "killer app" because they're basically more limited multipurpose computing devices. Every app a PC could run, a minicomputer could already run, and the good ones are already invented and quite refined for existing UI paradigms.

It's never been about "novel features"; it's about bringing computer technology to places it wasn't previously available, whether you're talking about mainframes, minicomputers, or mobile computing.

User Journal

Journal Journal: in which i am a noob all over again 17

I haven't posted a journal here in almost three years, because I couldn't find the button to start a new entry. ...yeah, it turns out that it's at the bottom of the page.

So... hi, Slashdot. I used to be really active here, but now I mostly lurk and read. I've missed you.

Comment App is to Application as Droid is to Android (Score 1) 356

"App" is to "Application" as "Droid" is to "Android" and "Sudafed" is to "Pseudoephedrine". All are made-up abbreviations that were invented exclusively for use as trademarks, and in all three cases, there are still unprotected generic terms available to describe the broader markets in which these products compete. There is compelling evidence that Apple was the first to use "App Store" to refer to their "Electronic Marketplace"; they were certainly the first to trademark it. The fact that there are other companies selling similar offerings does not make these "App Stores", just as the fact that someone's pizza stand is small and crude does not make it a "Pizza Hut".

Comment An urban legend in the making (Score 1) 824

There's one part of this "the 'Close Door' button is disconnected" legend that really bothers me: the purported behavior is so trivially easy to test, but we keep falling back on "Otis Elevator engineers confirmed the fact", even though this is precisely the type of appeal to authority that we are all so quick to condemn when we observe it elsewhere. Several commenters have pointed out that they don't see this behavior in the elevators they encounter - so isn't it about time that we all did some rigorous scientific analysis?

Here, I'll start.

My own experience suggests that the close button often works, so that's the hypothesis I'm going to test. The elevator in my building is a Kone (unfortunately, I have no other information about it - no serial number was listed, and the State of Georgia doesn't seem to post elevator inspection details online).

After the doors first opened and I walked in, I observed a roughly 5 second delay on my stopwatch before the doors attempted to close. The same delay-before-closing was present when I called an elevator but did not step on, and when I took the elevator to a different floor, whether or not I stepped off. The delay before closing was reduced to three seconds for subsequent closing attempts if I interrupted the first closing of the doors with my arm. These measurements served as my baseline for subsequent testing.

I began a fresh test by stepping out of the elevator, letting the door close, and then calling it again. Upon entering the elevator, I immediately pressing the "Door Close" button without first selecting a floor, and observed the door closing immediately after. The same behavior occurred when I selected a floor before pressing "door close", but no change from the baseline was observed when selecting a floor without pressing "door close".

Conclusion: For this particular elevator model, the "door close" button does indeed cause the doors to close sooner.

I don't have a way of quickly determining whether there are, in fact, elevators out there that have intentionally disabled close buttons, but I've got a working theory about where this legend is coming from.

First, every time I've heard the claim that the "Door Close" button doesn't work, it has come from an Otis Elevator representative. It's quite possible that this is a claim that is only true for Otis elevators, but is only reported because there's very little news in putting on a ThyssenKrupp representative saying, "Our 'Door Close' buttons actually work!"

Second, I have been in elevators where selecting a floor would automatically trigger a door close event. It's plain to see that with this design, a door close button is redundant - but it's also easy to imagine a customer refusing to buy an elevator without a "Door Close" button. Adding a nonfunctional button allows the sales team to get that extra checkmark on the feature list, and also makes for a great story about "dumb management decisions" for the engineers to pass around.

I'd encourage you all to experiment with this on your own to see if this also applies for other manufactures. If you e-mail me your observations (peter@stormlash.net), I'll tabulate the data and provide it to anyone who is interested. I recommend the following test rubric:
1) How long does the door take to close when no buttons are pressed?
2) Does the time for the door to close decrease when a previous close attempt has been interrupted?
3) Does "door close" cause this time to decrease when no floor is selected?
4) Does selecting a floor cause this time to decrease?
5) Does pressing "door close" with a floor selected change anything?


Quantum Physics For Everybody 145

fiziko writes in with a self-described "blatant self-promotion" of a worthwhile service for those wishing to go beyond Khan Academy physics: namely Bureau 42's Summer School. "As those who subscribe to the 'Sci-Fi News' slashbox may know, Bureau 42 has launched its first Summer School. This year we're doing a nine-part series (every Monday in July and August) taking readers from high school physics to graduate level physics, with no particular mathematical background required. Follow the link for part 1."

Comment Re:Cannonical is just trolling us (Score 2, Insightful) 984

Within computing, "kilobyte" has always been an ambiguous term - not only was the meaning of "kilo" ambiguous, but "byte" could refer to anywhere between six and nine bits. This wasn't cause for concern as long as systems were internally consistent, so engineers continued to use the term due to the utility it offered. This consistency is no longer possible since computers are now key components in communication systems which have always interpreted "kilo" as a SI unit.

There's a strong parallel here to the "nautical mile", which was developed because of its tremendous utility in navigation, but which is confusing to those who don't realize that "mile" means something different on a boat. If you transfer your GPS unit from your car to your boat, which type of "mile" should the device use? If you copy a 10 GB file over a 8 Mb/s data link, how long is the transfer going to take?

Computer specialists can be expected to understand the special meaning of "kilo" in certain contexts, but what of those who work outside the field of computer engineering? The modern computing experience is built on tiers of abstractions that allow the "experience" of using a computer to differ greatly from how the computer is actually designed (e.g, file sizes are already given as "quantity of information stored" instead of "disk capacity consumed"), so it's reasonable to use the word "kilo" the way 95% of the population already understands it.

Comment Re:Wash your hands! (Score 1) 374

This is good advice, and gives me an opportunity to speak to the community at large: some of us who go to cons and are in a position to shake tons of hands politely decline. It's not because we're being dicks, it's because we know it's a good way to substantially decrease our chances of catching and spreading any germs.

Comment Oh, cruel irony (Score 2, Interesting) 374

I played the PAX Pandemic game, where the Enforcers handed out stickers to attendees that read [Carrier] [Infected] or [Immune] (There was also a [Patient Zero].

I got the [Immune] sticker, and by the time I got home on Monday, it was clear that I had the flu. I've had a fever between 100 and 104 all week that finally broke last night, but I'm going to the doctor today because I think whatever I had settled into my lungs. I'll tell him about the H1N1 outbreak and get tested if he wants to run the test, but at this point I think it's safe to assume that I was [Immune] to the Pig Plague, but definitely [Infected] with the damn PAX pox.

Even though it's been a week of misery, it was entirely worth it, and I don't regret going to PAX for a single second.

Comment John Scalzi on why it won't work (Score 1) 370

John Scalzi wrote a hilarious exchange on his blog the sums up perfectly why this idea is made of fail:

Sony BMG spokesperson: We're pleased to announce we are the final major music corporation to release electronic tracks without that pesky DRM! All you have to do is leave your house, go to a selected retail outlet, buy a special card there, go back to your house, scratch off the back of the card to find a code, go to our special MusicPass Web site, enter said code, and download one the 37 titles we have available, from Celine Dion to the Backstreet Boys!

Kid #1: Or, in the time it takes me to jump through all those hoops, I could just download all 37 of those albums off of Pirate Bay.

Kid #2: Or, I could just scratch off the back at the store, record the pin number, go home and download the album through a Tor connection, so you can't trace my IP number.

Kid #1: Also, what's with this first slate of artists? Celine Dion? Backstreet Boys? Kenny Chesney? Barry Manilow? Are you high?
There's much more, but I didn't want to jack his entire post.

Submission + - The Google Phone is a Reality.

MrCrassic writes: "It appears that Google is initiating talks with well-known PDA/smartphone manufacturer HTC to make the Google phone a reality. With impressive tech specs and an already impressive concept underway , could Google be the next company to make a mark in the wireless device industry? From the main article:

However, a recent report by CrunchGear states that its own sources at mobile handset provider HTC have tipped the site off to multiple gPhone handsets being prepped for launch in the first quarter of 2008 and that the handsets will be coming out of Taiwan. There will supposedly be over 20 different handsets to choose from — some with GPS — and they will carry special versions of Google Maps, Google Calendar, Gmail, and VoIP-enabled Google Talk. Speaking of software, Google is rumored to be developing its own operating system for the gPhone. According to reports by Engadget, the OS has been in development since 2005 after Google's acquisition of a mobile software company called Android. The Android team has since developed a Linux-based mobile OS while at Google — a detail that is corroborated by the CrunchGear report — which of course comes with tight Google integration. Both sites appear to agree that their sources indicate Google isn't currently looking to develop the hardware... for now.

Simon Pegg to Play Scotty 233

In response to yesterday's casting news about Chris Pine possibly taking the captain's chair for the new Star Trek movie, apparently Simon Pegg will be playing the role of Scotty. Simon Pegg is known for his role as Shaun in Shaun of the Dead and more recently for his leading role in Hot Fuzz. "Pegg joins Zoe Saldana as Uhura, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, John Cho as Sulu and Zachary Quinto as Spock in the film which reportedly, and logically, 'chronicles the early days of the Enterprise crew.' Leonard Nimoy will also put in an appearance, while Eric Bana signed up this week as the movie's villain, Nero."

The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made. -- Jean Giraudoux