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Comment: Re:Model M Keyboard FTW (Score 1) 498

by Miamicanes (#46792871) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

One caution... the mildly-rare model M13 with pointer stick (manufactured around 1995) has mouse buttons that are pretty fragile & become flaky after just a few years... and the printing on the black one with black keys rubbed off mine within a couple of years (a known issue with white printing on black keys, and the reason why the black ones are particularly rare). Also, the beige plastic insulation on the cable turned brittle and started disintegrating sometime around 2009 (purchased as new-old-stock sometime around 1999). For some reason, this didn't happen to the black keyboard's cable.

I know I could get the buttons fixed (I own two M13 keyboards... a beige one with white keys, and a black one with black keys), but the keyboards themselves DO seem to be having occasional issues now that they're approaching their 20th birthdays, and the original Trackpoint (I) is a little lacking in the resolution/sensitivity department... it was developed in an era where 1024x768 was a physically huge huge hi-res display, and it's kind of painful to depend upon as the only navigation device in a 3-monitor setup.

Comment: Re:Kill ISS (Score 2) 312

by Miamicanes (#46747905) Attached to: Russia Wants To Establish a Permanent Moon Base

Russia isn't pulling out of ISS. They're in it for the long haul, and they haven't been shy about making that unambiguously known. When NASA announced a tentative schedule to deorbit the ISS at the end of its planned service life, Russia IMMEDIATELY said it would regard any attempt to deorbit the ISS as an act of war. The Russian modules were built (at higher cost) to be serviced and refurbished indefinitely in space, and they fully intend to keep it up there until they literally don't have the ability to keep it in orbit.

Russia's new plan is to launch additional modules to make its half of the ISS capable of existing on its own, but leave it connected to the rest of the ISS as long as NASA's side remains in space. They might reserve the right to close interior doors, have alcohol on board (if they don't already), and tell their American neighbors that there are rooms they aren't allowed to go into, but they recognize that even if the US and Russian sides were functionally independent, having them docked together profoundly improves the likelihood of both crews surviving a disaster.

If NASA were to officially decide to deorbit its half of the ISS on a specific date, I'd be shocked if the Russians DIDN'T politely (but firmly) inform the Americans on board a few days before the separation that they were going to be going home ahead of schedule & would NOT be deorbiting NASA's half as officially planned. There's no way in HELL Russia will voluntarily allow the American half to be deorbited if it has any meaningful value to them in space, even as scrap.

Of course the US would scream, and Washington would claim it was an act of war/piracy, but as long as the American crew members got home safely & smiling, I'm sure the Russians would negotiate the American side's purchase as scrap, and lease-back agreement that would allow the US to continue using it as long as it remained habitable.

Comment: Re:First step (Score 1) 270

by Miamicanes (#46729153) Attached to: The New 'One Microsoft' Is Finally Poised For the Future

Then, the presentation layer in that display manager could be swapped out as needed based on the form factor involved.

It's still mostly experimental at this point, but there's ALREADY an active effort to port KDE to Windows as an outright replacement for Windows' native UI -- http://windows.kde.org/

Comment: Re:Trolling? (Score 1) 270

by Miamicanes (#46729061) Attached to: The New 'One Microsoft' Is Finally Poised For the Future

you're not creating a usable platform for any since you are constantly making compromises

Microsoft has a long, proud history of compromising the usability of their products for power users for the sake of accommodating casual users who've never read the manual and expect everything to work like Word... even when it turns an action you're going to do a LOT into 40 seconds of drilling down through menus and dialogs to do something a non-Microsoft application might be able to do with ctrl-shift-rightclick and a few keystrokes. More importantly, though, is that Microsoft has increasingly gotten into the habit of making the dumbed-down way of doing something the ONLY way to do it, instead of merely the default.

Microsoft SHOULD have taken MVC design to its next logical level, and built upon .net instead of throwing it all away in the blighted name of Metro... common model and controller code across all Windows platforms, with different views for desktop, tablet, and maybe mobile devices whose displays are too small to treat like a tablet. They could have compiled the code to CLR, then had the installer itself compile it to native code optimized for the local platform. But no... they just *had* to ruin a good thing, and try to ram touch down everybody's throats.

Instead of racing to smaller and lower-res touch displays, Microsoft should be encouraging bigger multiple-unit displays and high-DPI/high-rate gaming mice. If Microsoft REALLY wanted to do something positive, they'd partner with someone like Samsung to define an official form factor for Portrait-Landscape-Portrait displays with matched pixel density and alignment (up to now, the holy grail we've never really had... as far as I know, nobody has ever made displays explicitly matched for P-L-P use). We could have laptops with a main 2560x1440 display flanked by a pair of 1280x1440 displays that fold inward like window shutters (glass facing glass), then latch down over the keyboard, or desktop with 27-32" 2560x1440 or higher display flanked by displays of identical vertical height and pixel density, specifically manufactured to be in portrait orientation.

The second-to-last piece of the puzzle (commercial unavailability of PLP-matched panel sets) was finally solved a couple of years ago by DisplayPort (a 3-monitor assembly could incorporate a DisplayPort hub that connects to all 3 displays internally & presents a single DisplayPort interface to the outside world).

Comment: Re:Am I getting old? (Score 2) 90

No, you've just gotten burned too many times by consumer goods that were value engineered to the absolute limits of low quality.

Give Arduino a try... specifically, the Arduino boards made by RuggedCircuits.com. They're way too expensive to use for final versions of things you're building, but they totally rock for building your development prototype. Genuine Arduino boards are generally high-quality too, but aren't quite as "idiot-proofed" as the Ruggeduino. I'd recommend against Arduino clones from China that cost less than what you'd have to pay USPS to mail it from New York to Miami -- at least, for your first few experiments -- just because THEIR quality really is no better than an average consumer electronics product from the same anonymous factories in China.

If you used to be into hardware, you'll feel right at home with Arduino. Imagine what it would have been like to develop software for a Commodore 64... if it ran at 8-20MHz, had 5v-tolerant 3.3v i/o, and modern development tools and Stackoverflow.com. That's basically Arduino. And when/if the Arduino environment ITSELF starts to feel limiting, you can graduate to AVR Studio.

Comment: Re:So far away (Score 1) 400

Well... actually... it wasn't "desktop publishing" that drove print shops out of business... it was cheap, fast photocopying by stores like Kinko's. If anything, desktop publishing GENERATED lots of business business for small print shops by enabling them to make high-quality (or more cost-effective) prints for customers who did the layout themselves with Pagemaker, and enabled small print shops to offer layout & design as a profitable service to customers instead of having to settle for lame generic signs or outsource it to a service bureau for actual typesetting.

I can't personally speak for small town America, but in South Florida, we still have a very strong local printing industry, if only because there's so much local demand for glossy real estate magazines, tourist magazines, and nightclub handouts. The barriers to entry are more formidable than they were 20 years ago (a 4-color high-res digital printing press is now non-negotiable), but the companies we have now are doing quite well.

Comment: Re:Wow, that was so full of stupid... (Score 1) 449

by Miamicanes (#46616361) Attached to: WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone — Forever

I forgot to add the "best" part about the circumstances under which the outages occurred -- the storm's worst part was Sunday afternoon, but Comcast & U-verse went down on Monday morning. Why? Because storm knocked out commercial power to their network centers on Sunday afternoon, and Monday morning is when they ran out of diesel for the generators. This seems to be the new normal with tropical storms. :-(

Comment: Re:Fine, get rid of POTS, give us Net Neutrality (Score 1) 449

by Miamicanes (#46616295) Attached to: WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone — Forever

So if we take the opposite approach, we run Internet service as slow and rickety DSL (which is highly dependent on distance from the telco switch) over the POTS copper. Which would you really prefer?

VDSL2 over POTS copper, leased to a CLEC at rates that are open, published, and available to all on equal terms (ie, if AT&T or Verizon charges themselves $19/month for a dry copper pair, they're required by law to lease it to any CLEC who wants to use it instead for the same $19/month).

With the best VDSL2 available today, 100mbps over two pairs (one for uplink, one for downlink) up to about 2,000 feet is quite do-able... and those are 100mbps that AT&T and Verizon can't fuck with, and are my inalienable right to use as intensively as I want to communicate with my ISP's VDSL2 backplane.

This isn't about un-burdening AT&T and Verizon with obsolete legacy infrastructure. This is about eliminating one of the few remaining back channels that motivated individuals can use to do an end run around them to avoid their metering & caps.

If Verizon wants to deploy ONLY wireless in Mantoloking, fine... let them. But apply the same regulatory standards that applied to POTS to them. Require 10 days of backup power, like the central office had a gigantic array of lead acid batteries to provide them with. Force them to sell unbundled raw IP transit to any CLEC, with the same guaranteed and unmetered throughput that could be achieved via VDSL2, for the same price as unbundled dry copper.

The second part alone would probably stop them dead in their tracks, because the only way they COULD provide guaranteed hundred-megabit throughput (maybe pooled among 2-4 households, max) within the constraints of their spectrum licenses via LTE would be to lay new fiber to all the neighborhoods ANYWAY, and stick a microcell every 4 houses. And prohibit them from charging higher or new fees, so they can't pass off the costs on customers anyway.

If the up-front capital costs of deploying 14,000 fiber-networked picocells across Mantoloking to serve ~40,000 customers didn't stop Verizon in its tracks, the long-term maintenance costs of replacing 14,000 sets of backup batteries capable of supplying power for a week, plus the nontrivial number of picocells that would die due to lightning or ruptured Chinese electrolytic capacitors, *would*. Verizon barely has enough spectrum to feed any one tower site with 50mbps. If they had to potentially supply that much guaranteed sustained throughput to every single customer at the costs they now charge for a dry copper pair, their only option would be to settle for making literally the "last hundred feet" wireless and deploying a brand new fiber-networked nightmare of picocells serving 3-4 customers apiece.

For LESS than what it would cost them to purchase, deploy, and maintain an ungodly huge network with 14,000 fiber-connected neighborhood picocells, they could just skip the picocells and run fiber the last hundred feet to everyone's house. Actual fiber is now cheaper per linear foot than UTP copper wires, and a bundle of direct-burial cable with 8-16 fibers now costs less per linear foot than direct-burial cat5e.In contrast, if Verizon could deploy a remote picocell with fiber termination and enough battery backup power to run for a week without commercial power for less than $20,000, they'd be lucky. If they had to shoulder the cost of deploying all those picocells themselves as the cost of eliminating copper, they'd NEVER go through with it.

What REALLY needs to be done is another forced breakup of AT&T and Verizon to make them divest their ROW, wire, and fiber to a new company that's required by law to deal with them at arm's length, on equal terms with other wireless carriers, CLECs, and service providers. If Verizon and AT&T don't want to own wires anymore, fine... but make them sell them to someone who DOES, instead of allowing them to create artificial scarcity by decommissioning them, then hoarding the public right of way so nobody else can use it either. Any natural monopoly granted over public right of way should ALWAYS be on "use it, or lose it" terms, subject to revocation and re-allocation if the franchise holder isn't willing to put it to its highest and most productive use.

Comment: Re:Wow, that was so full of stupid... (Score 4, Interesting) 449

by Miamicanes (#46616071) Attached to: WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone — Forever

The fundamental problem is that POTS sucks by any definition, but it rarely fails suddenly and catastrophically in areas where the phone lines are mostly underground (I don't know about the rest of the US, but in Florida, there are a LOT of places where the phone lines are buried, even though the power lines aren't). Most of what you describe is progressive deterioration over relatively long periods of time. Wireless networks, in contrast, tend to lose power suddenly, and stay down for at least the remainder of whatever catastrophe caused the failure in the first place.

Twenty years ago, it was almost UNHEARD of in Florida to actually lose phone service during anything short of an Andrew-like hurricane... and even in Andrew, few people actually lost phone service. When they did, it was almost always due to catastrophic destruction of their own home's demarc box. Two years ago, half of Dade & Broward county lost Comcast & U-verse for half the day during a GODDAMN TROPICAL STORM (Isaac) that didn't even hit us directly. In fact, it seems like the most disruptive storms are, in fact, "slow & sloppy" tropical storms that have enough gusts to knock out commercial power early in the storm, then leave the area in limbo for another day and a half as the storm slowly passes through the area.

Comment: Re:So far away (Score 1) 400

Just to add... frankly, I'm NOT happy with the current state of desktop publishing. PageMaker is gone, WordPerfect lobotomized itself, Word sucks, and MS Publisher sucks even more.

HTML, and the attitudes it encouraged (no, make that *demanded*) towards formatting, coupled with the dire state of publishing software today, have combined to give us ebooks that are ugly enough to make your eyes bleed, and printed books with sloppy typesetting that would have gotten people *fired* 20 years ago. 20 years ago, people would spend HOURS tweaking the layout of chapters until every page was *perfect* -- no widows, no orphans, no dangling paragraphs intruding into the visual space of a diagram or photo.

Years ago, I used to wonder how civilizations could fall and cause arts and technological advances to be lost. Now, I can say I've seen it happen firsthand with regard to desktop publishing. We reached the pinnacle sometime around the mid-90s, and we've been sliding downhill into ugly barbarism ever since.

Comment: Re:So far away (Score 1) 400

> There were plenty of arguments against doing your own desktop publishing in the C64/Apple II days.

And most of them were 100% right. C64 and Apple II DTP almost without exception looked like total shit. And I'm writing that as someone who personally used both the Print Shop and Newsroom on both platforms from the day they arrived until the day I got my first Amiga in '86, and suffered *horribly* with a Star Gemini 10X connected to a C64 through a Cardco CardPrint+G. For those who never had the pain of using that particular combo, it had a design flaw made a thousand times worse by rushed, buggy firmware that caused the printhead to scrub back and forth thousands of times per line, printing only a single column of dots with each swipe. It made it basically IMPOSSIBLE to print even a single-page sign, because it took HOURS to finish & beat up the printer.

At least the Print Shop's output looked halfway OK. The Newsroom was another matter entirely... my eyes started to bleed a few seconds ago just REMEMBERING how awful its print quality was.

Comment: Re:Beta Sucks (Score 1) 400

> We live in an economy of mass computing, because it is way, way cheaper to perform a calculation on a mainframe than a microcomputer on your desk.

I disagree. If that were true, nobody would build Bitcoin-mining rigs. They'd just lease server resources from EC3.

Look what happened to aGPS the moment phones blew past a gigahertz -- the round-trip time it took to query the remote server after taking a reading from a local radio exceeded the time to just calculate it locally, and the idea of offloading the math to a remote server just quit making sense.

If we all had gigabit fiber connections to the internet and you could get the latency down to under ~50ms, it *might* be viable to offload OpenGL rendering tasks to remote server farms and simply stream it back to a Chromebook as h.264 instead of spending $2,400 on an Alienware gaming laptop with high-end discrete graphics card. At least, for games not involving hair-trigger reflex actions. But by the time we get to that point, Android watches will probably have a 3GHz 16-core processor, and will probably be able to do realtime raytracing at any meaningful resolution, color depth, and framerate the display is capable of.

Comment: Re:So far away (Score 2) 400

Given the relatively low price of Lego blocks if you buy them in bulk (as opposed to buying the theme sets whose price is mostly licensing fees paid to Disney or someone like them), plus the amount of work you'll have to do to sand off the spurs and finish them off, is it *really* worth printing Lego blocks yourself? Especially if you're paying retail prices for the plastic filament in relatively small quantities, and making an effort to avoid plastic with dangerous (or unknown) amounts of lead?

Comment: Re:This is why I started using MATLAB (Score 1) 391

by Miamicanes (#46608265) Attached to: Toward Better Programming

> the HTML specification document neglected to mention which CSS should be used to get eg

From what I remember, there were quite a few things you could do with table/row/cell going all the way back to IE3, but COULDN'T do at all with CSS1, and couldn't reliably do with CSS2 in a way that was cross-browser compatible without implementing multiple variants that were more trouble than they were worth, and either serving different HTML based on the browser-sniffed user agent string, or using conditional comments and doctype to tell IE what your precise expectations were and hide whatever you did from Firefox & Opera -- and getting it to work with Firefox & Opera required major DOM-manipulation via Javascript in onLoad().

I distinctly remember that we didn't start seeing articles saying, "There's now nothing you could do with tables that you can't do with CSS" until CSS3 became commonplace. The CSS1-era articles all basically said, "Sorry, can't do it", and the CSS2-era articles basically said, "You can sort of do it if you're feeling incredibly masochistic, but it's almost pointless to bother").

When speculation has done its worst, two plus two still equals four. -- S. Johnson

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