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Comment: Re:TNG only had a half-dozen good episodes (Score 1) 476

by Narrowband (#48910905) Attached to: Best 1990s Sci-fi show?
The best episodes weren't familiar at all, they were just good science fiction. There was one episode I remember with some kind of smart tools that were being used at a mining facility, which the miners didn't realize had hit the point of sentient AI. It was thoughtful, and a good performance by Brent Spiner who played a key role, and had nothing to do with most of the more familiar themes of the series (Borg, Q, etc.) "Inner light" was good in part because it was kind of a thoughtful riff on what a civilization might do to preserve some record of itself if it realized it couldn't survive.

But then you get goofy episodes like the one where people de-evolved, which seemed like the producers were just looking for an excuse to put dinosaurs on the Enterprise, or the one the person above mentioned with Geordi and Ro. Every version of ST hit those low points at times, but TNG hit the high points more than most of them in the same era. You can argue TOS and I won't press it either way, but Voyager (ick) etc.

I think that on average B5 was better, and voted that way, but if the question was "which series had the single best individual episode" I might answer differently. But I favor continuity from episode to episode, and ST tosses that out on everything from what their tech actually *does* to who they worry about as a threat to the Federation.

Comment: Re:Uninterested people aren't worth it (Score 1) 480

by Narrowband (#48799937) Attached to: How Bitcoin Could Be Key To Online Voting
With less people voting it takes fewer for anomalous results to happen. Whether that's good or bad depends on your point of view.

Example 1: In Maryland there was an election held one year in which a particular (fairly low level) elected position was being eliminated mid-year, so nobody ran for it. Some guy noticed and wrote himself in, and was elected. Bingo, salary for half a year, with no particular duties, since there was no expectation of someone actually holding the office.

Example 2: International Planetary Society annual conference. Several of the scientists who favored a gravitationally-based definition of a planet (gravitationally cleared its orbital path) rather than a mass-based definition (massive enough to form a spherical shape) waited until the end of the convention, when most of their opponents had left, to hold a vote on redefining planets. Bingo, got what they want, Pluto is no longer a planet.

Comment: Re:Luggable? (Score 1) 325

by Narrowband (#48767829) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: High-Performance Laptop That Doesn't Overheat?
A couple of options here, depending on what the boss is into, and wants to shell out for.

One, try an iMac plus a laptop with a mini-displayport output (or a Macbook pro). You can offload some processing to the iMac when you need, plus you can start it up in "target display mode" and use it as a second big monitor with your laptop.

Or, less expensive but still in the "looks portable to the boss" category, get a laptop plus a cube PC to offload some processing to. Remote desktop to the cube just like it's a server. And possibly the Macbook pros will run in target-display mode too, I haven't looked--in which case it could double for the monitor for the cube, keeping your desk more open if that's a priority. Or just get a big monitor anyway (lots of screen real-estate) that can switch inputs between the cube and the laptop. And you always still have the laptop for real portability.

Comment: Re:I'm sure it will suck (Score 1) 242

by Narrowband (#48365513) Attached to: HBO Developing Asimov's Foundation Series As TV Show
This is partly because Foundation was kind of an experimental attempt to write a story where the story line was carried in the dialog and the action took place off camera. That might make it a bit challenging to make into a script, since key action scenes don't actually occur and would have to be created from whole cloth.

Comment: Re:Mimicking a theory, not a phenomenon (Score 1) 66

by Narrowband (#48134969) Attached to: Hawking Radiation Mimicked In the Lab

...it doesn't prove a single thing about how black holes behave - because he did not create one.

Um, good?

The research value may be lower, but discouraging physicists from creating actual black holes on the surface of the earth (or really anywhere near the solar system) seems like a sound idea.

Comment: Re:Still being made... (Score 1) 304

by Narrowband (#48097937) Attached to: The Greatest Keyboard Ever Made
Corsairs are good too, but they have a shorter than average key throw that doesn't sit quite as well with my typing habits; my fingers always want to keep pressing even when the key is already all the way down. (I learned on the old Model M's we had in my high school AP Comp Sci class, back in the 80s when the IBM PS/2s were a new thing). Otherwise I agree it's a solid product, and we have one attached to an old iMac our son uses.

I didn't know about the Razer driver issue; the last Razer mouse and keyboard I had didn't need a driver installed at all; they seemed to work out fine of the box.

Das Keyboard is another option, with a good typing feel, and I use one of these at work, but I tend to rate it just a step down from the Decks, because the keycaps are printed on instead of two-color molded plastic.

Comment: Re:Small Orion reflector (Score 1) 187

by Narrowband (#47739939) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?
From personal experience, our son was able to learn and use a Starblast 4.5" pretty easily in 4th grade. My wife and I are both members of our local astronomy club, and have been into astronomy a long time, so we were able to give him help when needed, but also we took him to some of the public events for the club, and let him go to it. He enjoyed one project in particular where he tracked the galilean moons of Jupiter over several nights, sketching out their positions in a notebook, and he still likes using it to show planets to other kids at these sorts of events a couple of years later.

Binoculars are a good starting place for adults, but harder to work with kids with, in my opinion, because you can't point them at something and then show it to the child, nor can they really get your help interpreting what they're seeing.

Comment: Time and progress more than gullibility (Score 1) 469

I remember this discussion when I was playing violin in high school and college (quite a while back), but it seemed like professors and violin teachers talked about surpassing Strads as a goal that might be reached someday, and that people were working toward. It never seemed to me like something the music community thought could never be achieved, like there was something mystical about it. So I'd chalk it up to time, not gullibility.

Since at least the 80s, modern instrument makers have been trying to duplicate and reverse engineer the Strads and try and make a modern instrument that's equally good. And there were tests like this, but when they were performed, the Strads would win out consistently. But now it looks like they finally succeeded. And we're entering the age where even outside blind tests, performers are starting to recognize this, like Yo Yo Ma and his professed affinity for carbon fiber cellos (I think he appeared on "How it's Made" a couple of years ago when they were demonstrating their construction).

I think you're right that it's not amazing that we'd get here eventually. In any theoretically achievable goal, where you're not trying to break fundamental physical laws, time, effort, and innovation win out. It's just like building better computers and programming them to beat chessmasters. At first, the technology and the programming just wasn't there, and computers lost. Now it is, and they win.

What this test doesn't say, however, is that the best of the modern violins are cheap. They aren't. They may not be the historical artifacts that Strads are, but they aren't something your average highly ranked college student performer could afford to perform on. I remember how prices ran, even for decently good modern instruments. This may bring the cost down from the tens of millions to the tens or hundreds of thousands, but the instruments they're comparing with are still astronomically priced, from most people's perspectives. They're the product of decades of research and mastery of the craft by modern luthiers, where the work is one part art and one part science. Good progress, and a big milestone, but they're still probably decades from making the same kind of qualities common and affordable.

One has to look out for engineers -- they begin with sewing machines and end up with the atomic bomb. -- Marcel Pagnol

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