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Comment: most people cannot get BRD-like bit rates online (Score 2) 116

by PhantomHarlock (#47217497) Attached to: Physical Media: Down, But Maybe Not Out

When streaming services can deliver 1080P at 25mbits/sec, sign me up. Most "HD" streaming services I have seen are fairly horrendous. Either they are streaming at reduced resolutions such as 720P or the data rate is poor enough that there are bad artifacts in high motion scenes and transitions. When you have a projector and a large screen, this is a major problem. You see it all. With Blu Ray, there are no artifacts it feels like you're in a theater.

Also, outside of big cities, most of us are on fairly slow 1.5 to 5mbit/sec connections. The local cable provider recently got a fiber backbone in town which greatly increased their offerings (pulling about 18mbits / sec at home right now) but I am moving and the new neighborhood is back to the slowboat offerings. The duopoly is slow to catch up, they need a concrete competitor before they will make any improvements to their infrastructure. It was only when the cable service started offering internet that the phone company (AT&T) finally started offering DSL in the area.

Comment: Quickbase. (Score 2) 281

Quickbase - it's a kind of expensive service but amazing.

All online, no software or machine maintenance. Access from anywhere.

The amount of flexibility it has is astonishing.

Get a free demo - they'll set it up for you exactly how you want it. They've rarely said 'no' to anything I've asked if it could do, and then they implemented it, within minutes. It also has an API so you can add on to it all you want. There are a number of affiliated vendors that have ready made add ons for it as well.

Quickbase can do very very quickly what would take hours or days to program into a custom SQL type app.

Comment: online streaming is still problematic... (Score 3, Interesting) 477

...for those of us with projection screens. When you're looking at a 150" screen projecting at 1920X1080, a blu-ray is gorgeous, just like being in the theater. At 25mbits / sec, artifacts are nonexistant. With the reduced bitrates and resolutions of even "HD" streaming, it all shows up. Streaming is not quite there yet due to last mile problems at least here in the states.

At this year's NAB conference in Vegas, 4K was starting to take over in a really big way. I was flabbergasted by the difference in adoption between last year and this year. Everyone had 4K gear. I don't know how long it will take that to filter down to the consumer market, but I don't think streaming services are going to be able to keep up at all for a while. A 4K disc format will hopefully be in the offing.

That being said, Blu Ray has been a pretty raw deal for small and independent video producers. If you want to make a video and publish it on Blu Ray officially, you have to pay the Blu Ray consortium a hefty royalty fee up front and you are obligated to use DRM even if you don't want it. They have come down hard from the beginning so that you can't go to any replication house and get replicated BRDs made without going through this process. You're limited to burning BD-R discs on your own if you don't want to deal with that. Fortunately BD-Rs are 100% compatible with all Blu Ray players, unlike DVD-Rs and DVD players, which were very problematic with compatibility. (that's a long story in and of itself)

I was initially happy that Blu Ray won over HD-DVD until I found out how bad it was to actually just get something replicated onto BRD. I don't know that HD-DVD would have been any better though.

Comment: Niche publications... (Score 2) 285

by PhantomHarlock (#46774175) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Good Print Media Is Left?

I write for and read a niche publication related to an obscure hobby of mine (related to model trains) and it actually sells very well and they still pay well for contributions. Mostly because the target audience is retirees who are of a generation that are used to and comfortable reading the printed page, and are happy to pay for it. Many of these people also supplement their subscription with online forum discussions, which has changed the nature of the magazine. The primary focus is on lengthy how-to articles that people would not normally compile for free and post online due to the time and effort involved, but are happy to put into print because they (and I) are being paid for it. Club announcements and updates and stuff are less needed thanks to online forums.

The one thing the magazine has not done is embraced a digital version and made their archives available digitally. One magazine that has done this to great effect is Model Railroader. Rather than collect stacks of back issues, you can now get the whole set online or on discs. One of the main issues depends on what the original contract with the writers looked like. If it did not have a 'and all future media' type clause, you would have to seek individual permission from each contributor to make the back issues available digitally. That has been one of the things holding back the particular magazine I write for. I myself am all in favor of making back issues available digitally. At the very least they could sell a digital edition beginning with new issues, with a new contract for the writers that includes it.

As far as mainstream periodicals, I occasionally like to pick up a Wall Street Journal or a New York Times when at an Airport, but 99.9% of my current news intake happens online these days. Financial Times of London is a good one, but again can be had online.

what I do read exclusively in printed form is books. I just like them, and I like to keep the best ones for re-reading later. Mine will be among the last generation to prefer this most likely.

Comment: Re:Hype (Score 1) 251

by PhantomHarlock (#46571897) Attached to: 3D Printing: Have You Taken the Plunge Yet? Planning To?

The over-promising and hype has indeed hurt the reputation of the industry and it's painful every time I read some article that has the words '3D printing' and 'revolution' in the same sentence. In the mean time people who are familiar with a range of manufacturing options are getting good value out of what is there right now through services like Shapeways.

We also use RP extensively now in aerospace and it greatly increases workflow vs. having a CNC job run for a test article. Much less cost in shop hours to have a print house make a high quality plastic mockup for starters. In a few cases the RP part is the final part. (and more and more cases as time goes on.) RP is being used extensively in patternmaking for traditional casting as well.

Comment: Not at home, here's why. (Score 2) 251

by PhantomHarlock (#46571873) Attached to: 3D Printing: Have You Taken the Plunge Yet? Planning To?

All the inexpensive hobby printers still make parts that look like melted spaghetti. They are useful only as test fit items, and even then only marginally so. The finish requires too much touch up and filler. One day they will get better, but not there yet.

I use shapeways a lot. No one can even come close for the price vs. quality at the moment, and the materials list keeps growing.

I make a lot of parts for large scale models of trains. Things that originally would have been cast and have complex shapes, like brackets, granb handles, brakewheels, rachets, pawls, trussrod washers. Saves a lot of time in the machine shop, and since I am only making one offs or two offs it is far cheaper and easier than making a pattern and having them cast traditionally. I use the high strength flexible plastic (PA2200) where I can for cost, and stainless RP where needed for functional parts.

Some of these I will be offering on SW to other modelers for a few extra dollars a month in mad money. Another nice SW perk.

I hope in five years I'll come back and say "I got my new home printer and I don't have to wait for the Shapeways delivery any more!" but the quality I need is still too expensive to own on a hobby basis.

Comment: The shuttle was only reusable... (Score 1) 247

by PhantomHarlock (#46351787) Attached to: The Rescue Plan That Could Have Saved Space Shuttle <em>Columbia</em>

...if you encapsulate the word "reusable" in quotes. and this is a good illustration of that fact.

At $2bn per flight and a stack of signatures a mile high for each one, they required significant dissasembly and inspection in-between flights. The shuttle was never designed as a production vehicle - it was a test article hastily pressed into production. To keep a "hot standby" for rescue missions would thus be quite costly.

The future is ultimately with 100% reusable "gas and go" vehicles with automotive-like reliability, and not with the latest "SLS" - Senate Launch System. These vehicles require more R&D upfront but the payoff is staggering.

Comment: Initial check out (Score 1) 221

by PhantomHarlock (#46040187) Attached to: CmdrTaco Launches Trove, a Curated News Startup

So I created an account using an email address (which is very well hidden compared to the big twit and FB buttons).

It's interesting, but it has a ways to go.

I selected a few "troves" to follow but I still received things from troves I am not following in my home page feed. (with gray trove name instead of green) Could not figure out how to get rid of those, nothing in the preferences that I can find. You do need to manually refresh after you add or remove troves it seems, to update your home page.

Will keep an eye on it as things improve.

Comment: Trick questions and trivia questions are dishonest (Score 1) 692

by PhantomHarlock (#46010255) Attached to: Blowing Up a Pointless Job Interview

The only thing you learn about an interviewee by asking them things like the tennis ball or manhole cover questions is whether or not they are a good candidate for a game show.

Obscure trivia is obscure trivia. It is meaningless.

Attempting to provoke an emotional response via trick questions or questions designed to insult or get the interviewee to take the bait and say something offensive is also dishonest, unless you are administering a voigt-kompf test.

Fortunately I have only ever had to interview for a job during one time in my life, and it was an employee's market so it was easy.

The one oddball question I had was actually a cool one. "Which Star Wars film is the best one" This was before the new ones came out. Any die hard old school star wars fan will typically agree that Empire Strikes Back is the best one, and I answered correctly. I was given a job offer but turned it down and took a job with another company that I really wanted to work for.

The Star Wars question was actually job related, it was a visual effects company and they wanted people that were also fans and had an appreciation of prior art.

Most of my work has come from networking, or running my own businesses. I can't imagine anything more soul sucking than having to submit hundreds of resumes and sit through dozens of interviews.

Comment: Re:Z-Wave (Score 1) 336

by PhantomHarlock (#45948603) Attached to: New Home Automation?

My experience with Insteon is that it does very badly if you have unreliable power. I live in a rural area and brownouts or voltage variations will kill Insteon devices in no time. I installed insteon switches in nearly the entire house, and nearly all of them died after a few years. I gave up and put the regular light switches back in (which I had saved just in case) and decided that home automation was a hobby that I did not have the time or money to deal with properly. Some of the other posters farther down have the right idea...if it's not wired it's a toy, and if you're building a 4,000 sq ft house, you might be able to consider the higher end stuff. When you turn a light switch on you want it to just work.

Comment: Works pretty well (Score 4, Informative) 157

by PhantomHarlock (#45673063) Attached to: Google Brings AmigaOS to Chrome Via Native Client Emulation

As a former long time Amiga user, this seems to work pretty well on the outset, and gives an authentic experience in regards to the clock timing and boot time. (though it thankfully may be a little faster :) ) It looks like they are using the emulation code from Cloanto (Amiga Forever) which has been around for quite a long time now.

This OS and demos may look very simple to younger folks, but it was quite groundbreaking at the time. the H.A.M. (Hold and Modify) demo showing 4096 colors was pretty impressive at a time when most PCs were stuck with 256 colors. There are a lot of really nice demos for the Amiga from the demoscene that took all of that a step further even, hopefully someone thought to save and compile them.

The only issue I ran into so far is on the juggler demo, the ESC key is needed to exit the demo, while on the emulator the ESC key is what switches you away from the emulator mouse to your native mouse, so it does not trigger an ESC on the Amiga. (you need to reset the emulator) Juggler doesn't let you pull down the screen to reveal the workbench. There may have been a keyboard shortcut that I have forgotten about to toggle screens. I haven't touched an Amiga in 20 years.

Hats off to the coders, brought back a lot of memories.

Comment: Re:Megahertz myth and the 6502 (Score 3) 179

by PhantomHarlock (#45643455) Attached to: The Real Story of Hacking Together the Commodore C128

And as a descendent to that is was amazing what the Amiga did with the 68000 and its custom graphics and sound chips, as you mention at the very end. you never saw smooth scrolling and sprite movement on a PC. The Amiga and the C=64 both had arcade quality graphics locked to a 60hz interlaced or 1/2 vertical res (single field) refresh rate of a standard NTSC television signal. Since the whole thing was timed to that frequency, you never got tearing. The only downside was interlace flicker without a frame doubler, but not a lot of applications used interlaced mode.

Comment: It was worth having the 128... (Score 2) 179

by PhantomHarlock (#45643275) Attached to: The Real Story of Hacking Together the Commodore C128 play Ultima V in dual SID mode.

After several C=64s and the 128, I moved to the Amiga, which got me into the VFX business thanks to the Video Toaster and Lightwave.

Looking forward to reading this article. If it's good I'll stash a copy next to my "Rise and Fall of Commodore" book.

Ernest asks Frank how long he has been working for the company. "Ever since they threatened to fire me."