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Comment: Re:How many of you are still using Gnome? (Score 1) 76

by TheRaven64 (#47979879) Attached to: Debian Switching Back To GNOME As the Default Desktop
Listening to users isn't necessarily a good thing. Henry Ford said that if he'd asked his customers what they wanted, they'd have asked for a faster horse. This is especially true of UI design, because most people (even power users) really don't measure what they're spending time doing and get into unproductive patterns. The problem with GNOME was that they also didn't listen to usability experts. Or even vaguely competent people who had read an HCI book. They went down a path of doing things that an uninformed user and a usability expert could both agree were stupid. Apparently they've improved recently, but it cost them a lot of users.

Comment: Re:Every book we read in school (Score 1) 142

by tompaulco (#47978747) Attached to: It's Banned Books Week; I recommend ...

not everywhere. In some place they are,or have been, banned. Religious nutters strike again!

Given that I grew up in the Bible Belt, I don't the religious nutter comment applies.
Of course, they could have just been telling us they were banned to get us interested, but i specifically remember reading The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Beloved, and I remember other classmates of mine reading the Great Gatsby, of Mice and Men, and the Catcher in the Rye.
Looking at the banned book list, I have read about half of them. Not because they are on the list, just incidentally. I like Tolkien. I like Vonnegut. Those guys are both featured artists on the list.

Comment: Re:Please describe exactly (Score 1) 388

Right. So when any of the normal annual changes take place (the way they handle certain experimental drugs or therapies, the way they handle certain hospital scenarios, etc), the insurer can no longer provide the plan - the ACA shuts it down because it doesn't provide post-menopausal women maternity care, etc.

So I am a bit confused about why that is a problem. The cost to the insurer of offering maternity care to post-menopausal women should be about zero. Why not tack that onto an otherwise good plan if that's what the law requires? Wouldn't that make more sense than scrapping the plan for such a flimsy reason?

Comment: Re:More common, and possibly unconstitutional... (Score 4, Insightful) 116

by NormalVisual (#47969073) Attached to: Before Using StingRays, Police Must Sign NDA With FBI
Never happen. A previous poster alluded to parallel construction - what will happen is the suspect's calls will be listened to, then another agency will be given a time, location, and a car to look for. The suspect's car will get pulled over for failure to use a turn signal or some such, at which time a dog will be brought in, "alert" on the car, and the suspect will be arrested. These guys *know* that Stingray-gathered evidence won't hold up since the device itself can't be examined, and that operating them is contrary to FCC regulations to begin with. They can't allow any information gathered from them to be introduced into court, so parallel construction neatly solves all of their problems.

Comment: Re: Extortion? (Score 1) 238

by tompaulco (#47962657) Attached to: Small Restaurant Out-Maneuvers Yelp In Reviews War
Well, the judge doesn't know the law very well, but aside from that. Any review system which allows the reviewed item to pay for positive reviews or to hide negative reviews is not one from which any benefit can be gained by a searching party. Illegal or not, it needs to be shut down by everybody refusing to use it. I would hazard a guess that as fewer and fewer people use it, the even truer colors of yelp will come out as they cross the line into ever more illegal tactics.

Comment: 68 here (Score 1) 168

by tompaulco (#47962627) Attached to: My resting heart rate:
At first I couldn't find a good place to take a heartbeat. I didn't really feel anything on the wrist, so I tried the neck and found a place right under the chin where I could feel it. It was pretty uniform, too. At 15 seconds, I was at 17, at 30 seconds I was at 34.
Lately, I know I have been spending way too much time behind a desk and not enough time doing any kind of exercise. Heck, I haven't even had time to mow the lawn in 6 weeks. Unfortunately, when I get done working for the day, like right now, it is dark. The banks are closed, the post office is closed, the stores are all closed. And of course, I will be up again and working in about 5 hours, and there won't be time in between to mow the lawn because it won't be light out, and the stores will not yet be open, nor the bank, nor the post office. Sigh.
All this lack of activity from working behind a desk has made me get tired way too quickly when I do exercise, and if I eat even a medium (for me) amount of food, I feel like I have eaten too much. I sometimes don't feel like eating at all, because I feel like the food won't set right. I haven't lost a battle with my stomach yet, but it feels that way sometimes. I'm not horribly overweight. I'm 6'2 and about 220. That is obese by medical standards, but I am probably at about the 30th percentile for people my age from my observation.

Comment: Re:What's wrong with American drivers? (Score 1) 178

by NormalVisual (#47961185) Attached to: Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains
Yes, they are quite light. We have six-car trains with a capacity of 60 passengers per car, so the capacity is comparable, but they've got composite bodies over a steel subframe, which saves a lot of weight. They don't have to be really heavy since it's an elevated system with no chance of interaction with roadway traffic, and owing to their configuration, they deal with high winds quite well without needing the extra weight just to keep them on the track. Additionally, there are some grades on the system (around 9%) that would bring any traditional rail prime mover to a screeching halt, plus the trains have to be able to take those grades at speed (and sometimes accelerate) with only half the motors if needed. Top speed on our trains is electronically limited to 40mph, but to my knowledge they're physically capable of running well in excess of 60mph.

Comment: Re:What's wrong with American drivers? (Score 1) 178

by NormalVisual (#47958499) Attached to: Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains
Don't we have machine learning and adaptive control for that? These things should still be easier for a computer than for a human.

I'm not disagreeing with you. I didn't design the train control system. :-) There was so much on our trains that the drivers really shouldn't have had to deal with, and I found it kind of ironic that the Orlando International Airport terminal shuttles had more smarts than our trains. As of 2012, Disney had concrete plans in place to finally put automation on the trains, which I personally think is going to be a losing proposition on a fleet of 25 year old monorails with 1970's-era control systems (the vehicle on-board controller is run by a pair of Z-80s) and millions of miles on them, and at their age are already *very* maintenance intensive. They get tons of PM, but nowadays it's unusual for a day to go by without at least one train having to go back to the shop, and not a week goes by where one doesn't get towed.

Comment: Re:What's wrong with American drivers? (Score 1) 178

by NormalVisual (#47957453) Attached to: Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains
but often gets the calculation wrong because even though the system "knows" how much each car weighs, people sway back and forth as the vehicles slow down and we undershoot the platform.

That's good that it's conservative like that, but does it actually bring it to a complete stop short of the mark? There have been times when I've been driving a full train that it slowed a bit more aggressively than I would have expected, but it was easy to just modulate the brakes to hit the mark without stopping short. Then again, our trains were substantially lighter (about 50 tons empty, 80 tons crush load), so I'm sure it was easier for us to deal with the varying inertia.

Comment: Re: What's wrong with American drivers? (Score 2) 178

by NormalVisual (#47957271) Attached to: Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains
I would hope that any company developing systems to automate control of any vehicles, most of all those tasked with mass transit automation, are fully aware of the need for redundant feedback systems which provide inegrated positioning and acceleration sensors built into every smart phone today.

Our trains had a pair of tachometers that measured speed, along with fixed transponders every thousand feet or so along the beamway. Between the tachs and the transponders, the train could figure out where it was and how fast it was going to quite a good degree of accuracy. When the tachs disagreed with one another or if a transponder was missed we'd get an indication, even though the train still knew exactly where it was. I'm sure integrating the tach inputs over time to get an acceleration value would be relatively trivial.

Comment: Re:What's wrong with American drivers? (Score 3, Interesting) 178

by NormalVisual (#47956903) Attached to: Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains
Disney's trains were retrofitted in the mid/late 00's with a similar system. There are three optical switches that all have to be aligned with corresponding places at the station, otherwise the driver is unable to open the doors. It was fairly easy to only get one or two of the sensors in place, requiring the driver to move the train a couple of inches forward or back to get his doors open. It's gotten to be a real headache for today's drivers, since the new rules Disney instituted after the accident in 2009 require that *any* reverse motion of the train be set up by the central coordinator and visually cleared by an independent spotter beforehand, even if it's only to back up an inch.

Comment: Re:What's wrong with American drivers? (Score 5, Informative) 178

by NormalVisual (#47956323) Attached to: Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains
Hence, the acceleration and braking systems were optimized for automatic operation (as opposed to manual operation) and it is difficult for a human driver to control the train's movements precisely and smoothly.

I have a perspective on this that most probably don't, as I was a monorail driver at Disney World for a number of years. Contrary to what some might imagine, the current Bombardier Mark VI trains there are not attractions but are in fact full-up transit vehicles, and Bombardier continues to sell them as such (although with different bodies and newer electronics). If D.C.'s trains handle anything like ours did, I can understand why some of the drivers short-stop or otherwise have problems.

Our Mark VI trains were originally designed to accommodate automation as well, but I don't think this in itself really is a factor. More importantly, each train had its own "personality" and handled differently, and all of them would take between one and two seconds to respond after an input was commanded except for E-stops, which instantly opened the relay contactors and applied air to the friction brakes. One train might be ultra-responsive (relatively) to the throttle and have really tight brakes, which made it easy to drive and predict stopping distances with great accuracy. Others would act like your control inputs were more of a suggestion than a command, necessitating that you be looking a little ahead of where you actually wanted to be in order to stop where you were supposed to. We had some drivers that had difficulty dealing with that, and would often blow their stops by a couple of feet or so on a train with loose brakes, or would stop short if they were in a tighter train that didn't require so much anticipation of its behavior. I don't think I ever had a short stop, but did have trains "slide" on me a few times and missed the stop by just enough to have to back up a couple of inches to get lined up with the gates.

I would imagine transit trains everywhere exhibit similar unique peculiarities, and the only consistent way to deal with it is for the driver to be ultra-conservative, which can lead to the occasional short stop. It's not so much a problem for an automation system that can directly respond in milliseconds and isn't being moved between trains with wildly varying performance characteristics.

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