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Comment: Re:Been reading ebooks since the 90's (Score 2) 212

by N7DR (#43880073) Attached to: DRM: How Book Publishers Failed To Learn From the Music Industry

Now, as to what an actually reasonable price is for an ebook... that's an interesting question (and of course there's no one solid answer, because different types of book will command different prices). For your typical mass-market fiction novel of ~300-400 pages, the kind of thing that would be maybe $8 as a paperback at a bookstore, something around $3-$5

Yes, I price the e-book versions of my books between $3 and $4 for essentially that reason. I do feel guilty that the various e-book "standards" don't allow for anything remotely resembling decent typesetting, so people who read my books on electronic devices are having a definitely less-than-optimal experience. On the other hand, I go to great lengths to ensure that one doesn't see (as I have seen with e-books from big publishing houses) howlers such as the word "you" presented as "y-" "ou".

I believe that the way e-books *should* have been done is to compile TeX on the fly. That way gorgeous output could have been presented on all devices. Frankly, I wouldn't take e-books seriously at all were it not for the undeniable fact that these days the bulk of my sales occur in that medium. I think my view of e-books is decidedly colored by how poor they have turned out to be (as a reading experience) compared to what they could have been.

If anyone cares, I am: http://www.sff.net/people/N7DR.

Comment: Re:Getting the rates (Score 2) 434

by N7DR (#43237921) Attached to: Internet Sales Tax Vote This Week In US Senate

Yes, I find that more than half the time I am charged the tax rate for the city in which the post office that serves my address is located; which is about triple the tax rate that actually applies at my address. I put this down to the use of some database somewhere that uses 5-digit ZIP codes instead of 9-digit ones to determine the tax rate.

And the vast majority of the companies that overcharge me in this way simply ignore requests to fix the problem. I vote with my dollars, and tell them that I'm doing so, but none of these companies (i.e., the ones who don't immediately respond and correct the tax on the order) has ever cared enough to fix the problem even after my complaint.

I have to wonder if it's even legal for a company to charge me tax that I shouldn't be charged. What do they do with the money? One assumes they send it to the city in question, but in any case the whole system seems remarkably free of any checks or chances to correct errors.

 

Comment: Great Interviewer (Score 4, Informative) 130

by N7DR (#42239175) Attached to: Sir Patrick Moore Dies Aged 89

I had the honour to meet Sir Patrick (then merely Patrick) in August 1989, and to be interviewed by him for the edition of "The Sky at Night" dedicated to the Voyager 2 encounter with Neptune (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYMfPsqJke8; for anyone that cares, my interview is about 10 minutes into the video). He always insisted that he was merely an "amateur astronomer", but I was impressed by his abilities as a scientific TV journalist: he knew exactly the right questions to ask to make a rather abstruse subject (radio emissions from Neptune) interesting to a non-scientific audience.

I count myself amongst the many who devoured some of his semi-infinite number of books on astronomy as a child, and who then made a career of the subject. A great example of someone without formal training who nevertheless made a great contribution by making a sometimes-difficult subject accessible to the general public. Would that even a fraction of professional astronomers were half as enthusiastic as he was.

Comment: Re:Magic (Score 5, Informative) 155

by N7DR (#41273557) Attached to: Violation of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle

Bearing in mind that it's generally an error to try to summarise anything about quantum mechanics in a paragraph or two:

Actually, it's the equivalent of finding socks in the dark. If two photons are produced by an interaction of spin zero then the two photons will have spin up and spin down, although you can't know which is which without measuring one. .

I'm sorry,. but the way you write that makes it seem that they have spin up and spin down, and then you measure them to find out which is which. If that's indeed what you meant, I'm afraid that's fundamentally incorrect.

The whole point about the weirdness of quantum entanglement is that the quanta are NOT in a state where one is up and one is down prior to the measurement. Only when you make the measurement does this happen. Prior to the measurement, quantum mechanics says that they are both in a state that is BOTH up and down at the same time.

In other words, quanta are not like socks. We can be reasonably sure that socks' measurable properties are fixed before we actually look at them. Not so with quanta.

You can think of this in this way: when you make a measurement on one of the quanta, it flips a coin that tells it whether to be up or down. Its twin quantum is then bound to give the opposite result. But prior to the coin toss, neither quantum knows how it will respond to a measurement. The most that can be said is that whatever the result of measuring one, the other will give the opposite result.

Comment: In some areas, its design seems wrong-headed (Score 3, Informative) 818

by N7DR (#40284259) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Aren't You Running KDE?

the desktop today is fully-functional and polished

I'm sorry, but I cannot regard as "fully-functional and polished" any desktop environment in which menus disappear just as I am about to click on them just because the desktop has received a notification. When KDE4 receives a notification it doesn't simply display the notification message, it also causes certain classes of other windows to be removed... and this includes the "K" menu. Several times a week that menu disappears as I am about to select an item, and I end up clicking on whatever was underneath the item just because I can't react quickly enough to the sudden removal of the menu.

I have other gripes with KDE4, but they pale into insignificance compared to what is, to me, the bizarre notion that it's ever acceptable for menus simply to disappear. Obviously, the developers must disagree with me, but I honestly can't imagine why they think this is reasonable behaviour.

Mostly my other gripes are along the lines of "feature X that was in KDE3 is either absent or poorly implemented in KDE4". Many things in KDE4 are better than they were in KDE3 (which I admit I often tend to forget), but the fact remains that when I switch back to the machine on which I keep KDE3, I always find myself somehow feeling more relaxed and in control.

Comment: Re:Compromise time boys! (Score 1) 255

by N7DR (#40092103) Attached to: ITC Judge Calls For US Xbox Import Ban

Pretty much this. Let's be honest. No one involved in this patent-war-on-twelve-fronts gives a flying fuck at a rolling donut about "the public interest."

When rendering an opinion, an admninstrative law judge at the ITC is required to consider the public interest. Most likely, bith sides in the instant investigation will have briefed the judge with the aim of convincing him that their particular position is in the public interest. In many cases (I don't know if this was one, although it seems likely given the scope of the investigation) there an internal ITC lawyer is appointed specifically to argue "the public interest" case before the judge.

Comment: Re:What happened to innocent ? (Score 3, Informative) 205

by N7DR (#39936811) Attached to: The Patent Mafia and What You Can Do To Break It Up

Another problem that nobody seem to notice is that the patent system is the wrong way arround. In normal criminal cases it is up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant perpetrated a crime. Inocent until proven guilty.

The patent system works the other way around it is up to the defendant to prove that they have not violated a patent. Guilty until proven innocent.

That is simply incorrect. The plaintiff has to convince the jury that every limitation in the claim(s) in question is infringed by the defendant. In a typical claim this means that perhaps half a dozen requirements must be shown to be met, and the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that every one of those limitations is met. The standard by which the jury decides the case is the "preponderance of the evidence".

And each individual limitation will typically have several debatable words in it, so the plaintiff also has to convince the judge and/or the jury that those words mean what they say they mean (usually, but not always, that is decided by a judge).

If the plaintiff fails to make a convincing case at any point in this sequence, then the patent is not infringed.

(Invalidity is another matter entirely. It's a different standard -- clear and convincing evidence -- and so it's less common for a patent is judged invalid, although it certainly does happen.)

Comment: Re:Amarok 1.4.6 For life (Score 1) 152

by N7DR (#38448634) Attached to: Music Player Amarok 2.5 Released

I stuck with it, but recently (and for the second time) an update completely blew away my database. Last time this happened I figured out a way to recover it, but now that amarok uses mysqle I don't know how to recover from the loss and so far no one has been able to provide me with a method that actually works. Goodbye, amarok; life is too short to deal with stuff like this.

Comment: Re:Great! (Score 5, Interesting) 279

by N7DR (#38370274) Attached to: Fracking Disclosure Rules Approved In CO

Apparently the greatest concentration of fracking sites in the US (possibly the world) is in south-western Weld County in Colorado. Which is where I live. From my house I can see perhaps a dozen of these drilling sites. It's always seemed bizarre to me that it's even legal to push chemicals into the ground under and around my house -- but apparently it is, because around here very few people own the mineral rights associated with the ground on which their house stands.

But then, it's also illegal for me to capture rainwater, which seems at least equally strange.

Comment: Re:WHY (Score 1) 130

by N7DR (#38315048) Attached to: Amazon Is Recruiting Authors For Its eBook Library

Heh heh I love the irony! I have to agree, I tried some of the $3 books on Amazon and probably won't try any more. The books were sorely in need of not only basic error correction but some professional editing. Contradictory plot elements, repetitive characters, and other nightmares were common. I wouldn't look forward to self-published world, unless 'edited by xxxx' became a valuable marketing tool where people shopped editors as well as authors. Meanwhile, I don't begrudge a few extra dollars for the added service of a professional editor.

Blatant self-vertisement. Try mine: http://www.sff.net/people/N7DR or http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001HD36FU. You will not find the kind of errors you mention. I work very, very hard on the content of my books and the formating for the hard-copy versions (I use plain TeX). The weak point is formatting for the e-book versions. I hate the lack of control. It's still better than most of the others I've seen, but it's far from the perfection I seek in other aspects of my creations.

The huge problem is how to distinguish oneself from the dross that, as you say, fills the self-published universe. I haven't got that figured out at all.

Comment: Re:Interpolated missing data is still just a ficti (Score 4, Interesting) 251

by N7DR (#37680266) Attached to: Adobe Demos Photo Unblurring At MAX 2011

It's cool, but not magic.

Right. I did exactly this with at least one ring image from Voyager 1's encounter with Saturn, and that was in 1980 (although I think I didn't get around to writing the code and actually de-blurring the image for two or three years after it was taken). I believe we used a VAX 11/730 to perform the computations.

FYI, Voyager pictures were 800x800 pixels, taken in monochrome with a filter applied in front of the camera. I don't recall whether this particular picture was a single image or a colour image taken with three filters. If the latter then there would have been an interesting twist: the three images would have been taken 48 seconds apart, so the spacecraft would have moved detectably from one colour to the next, so some semi-clever stuff would have been necessary to deblur three individual images and then merge them. But I honestly don't remember after all this time whether we had to do that.

Comment: Re:I agree, but not with Ulysses... (Score 1) 121

by N7DR (#36212360) Attached to: Linux Desktop Summit Program Announced

Simple: switch to KDE (4.6) instead

I beg to disagree with that advice. It seems to me that any "desktop" that causes the menu on which you are about to click to disappear because some notification has suddenly appeared elsewhere on the screen is fundamentally broken. Ditto any desktop where a single blocked desktop-eye-candy-thingy can cause the entire desktop to grind to halt.

There are certainly some pieces of KDE that are quite nice. But I really wonder about such fundamental and obvious design flaws that have persisted through to version 4.6. Or maybe I'm the only person who gets annoyed when I click on a menu that suddenly isn't there, or I have to wait for a widget thingy to time out before responsiveness returns to the entire desktop.

Comment: Re:Plot holes (Score 1) 179

by N7DR (#34490048) Attached to: Dr. Who's Sonic Screwdriver Exists

Yep. The sonic screwdriver was initially introduced because it was deemed silly to have the Doctor confounded by simple locks. Essentially its job was to allow the real plot to proceed when the Doctor was confined to a locked room or was in some similar mundane situation.

As such, it was not unreasonable.

Now, though, it has evolved into an extremely annoying gadget that seems to short-circuit the plot rather than further it. Is there nothing that the current incarnation of this device can't do? Frankly, I wish he'd just lose it somewhere.

Of course, now we also have magical mobile phones. Those should all be destroyed by the sonic screwdriver before the Doctor loses it.

Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.

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