Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Landing vs splashdown (Score 4, Informative) 342

Close to where I live are large intertidal mudflats. Every other summer some tourist drives a brand new four by four out there and gets stuck. And then, of course, the tide comes in. When the vehicles are recovered two or three tides later, they are insurance write-offs - the electrics, interior, and engine are all beyond repair.

You do not want to immerse something complex and expensive in salt water unless you really, really have to.

Comment: Re:Landing vs splashdown (Score 2) 342

Remember: seawater ruins everything.

One of those occasions where I wish I had mod points but don't. Mod the parent post up!

Seawater is extremely corrosive. Engineering the rocket engine to survive sudden immersion in seawater when very hot would add a great deal to the complexity and cost (and probably weight). And that's before you add the cost of engineering the rest of the vehicle to resist corrosion.

Comment: Flexibility, rich literature, deep culture (Score 1) 626

The reason English is is widely spoken around the world is not just that England had a long period of aggressive expansionism. It's also because English is an extremely flexible and expressive language, with a rich literature - literally millions of texts, many tens of thousands of which are fine works of art. Of course, this is true of many other well-established natural languages, from Farsi to Mandarin. But it isn't, and cannot be, true of any new artificial language.

I'd guess it would take any artificial language at least a thousand years of hard use by millions of people before it could become a contender to supplant a natural language, and by that time it would have mutated into a natural language.

Comment: Re:Stack Overflow? (Score 1) 428

by Simon Brooke (#49427829) Attached to: Stack Overflow 2015 Developer Survey Reveals Coder Stats

I turn 60 this year. And your problem is?

Either you're good at your job (and if you've been doing it for twenty-five+ years you almost certainly are), or you're not. If you're good and experienced, you won't have any troubled getting an interesting job at a high salary. In my present employment, I was specifically recruited to mentor (and teach software engineering discipline to) a group of good but inexperienced junior developers.

When I was starting out in this game, thirty years ago, the person who fulfilled the role I now have in the team I was then working in was Chris Burton, who, as an apprentice, worked on the build of the Manchester Mark One, and who (after his retirement) led the rebuild of it. He was one of the best software people I've ever worked with, and he was already in his sixties when I met him.

Comment: Re:EA killed bioware years ago (Score 1) 61

by Simon Brooke (#49413071) Attached to: BioWare Announces Open-Source Orbit Project

Nothing breaks immersion so much as the player character being killed. Suddenly you're jerked out of your game world and you're just a sad individual sitting in front of a computer again. It is epic fail for anyone who's trying to build a world in which players are expected to become immersed to allow the player character to be killed.

This isn't to say I think there shouldn't be setbacks, and that they shouldn't be severe. Of course they should. You get beaten in a boss battle and you should expect to lose all your accumulated weapons, armour, loot. You should expect to be left for dead, and have to crawl until you can find herbs, salves, bandages or aid. It could even leave you with permanent scarring or disabilities which make future battles a bit harder to fight, or have an impact on what endgames are available to you. It should be an outcome which motivates you highly not to lose the next battle. If a non-player-character companion is killed in a battle, their death should be permanent, no matter how important they are to the plot. But you should not die.

If you die, it isn't you who have failed. It's the designer.

Comment: Re:And now why this can not be done in the USofA (Score 3, Insightful) 317

Five square metres of solar panel on every single domestic roof in the USA would produce a very significant energy change. 125 million houses * 5Kw is 625 gigawatts. Germany has 23 gigawatts of domestic solar panels, which, on a sunny day, is sufficient to power the whole country. Yes, obviously, it doesn't work twenty-four hours a day, or in bad weather. Yes, obviously, you need to find some way of storing energy, such as compressed air, hydrogen hydrolysis, pumped storage or whatever. None of this is rocket science.

Bottom line: the USA could power its whole economy, including road vehicles, on domestic solar panels alone.

Comment: Re:The moan of sour grapes (Score 1) 450

by Simon Brooke (#49229691) Attached to: Reactions to the New MacBook and Apple Watch

I don't have a Rolex. In fact, I actually had to look to discover that it's a Tissot. It's been on my wrist for getting on for thirty years, and I have no doubt at all that it will go on 'til the end of my life without any problems. If, when I die, one of my heirs decides they want it, it will go on 'til the end of their lives, too. It needs a new battery once every three years or so, and it needs the date reset at the end of every month with fewer than thirty-one days, and, err, that's it. It tells the time. It just works. And I don't have to think about it.

If I amortised it over the time years I've had it already, it's cost me about £15 a year; if I amortise it over the time it's likely to be useful, that drops to about £4 a year. By contrast, a 'smart' watch - any smart watch, I'm not making a dig at Apple - will be obsolete in three years, so that's about £100 for each year you own it, or £2 a week. And I'd have to take it off every night to charge it, or if I forgot it would run out of battery just when I needed it most.

A reasonable quality mechanical watch is a very long way from obsolete; and, despite their price, they are very, very inexpensive to own, because you're only ever going to need one.

Comment: Connector life? (Score 2) 392

My current laptop, an ASUS ZenBook, is dying because it has a damaged power input port - the motherboard is cracked, and it is becoming increasingly unreliable. In the past year, two tablets in my household have died because the micro-USB ports which serve as their power connectors had ceased to work - presumably due to wear. And now Apple are bringing out a new laptop with just one port which is technically similar to a USB connector. How durable is it? How will it stand up to knocks and accidental falls? If that port fails, the machine is dead - and replacement of the port inevitably means soldering the motherboard, which is skilled and consequently expensive work.

The nature of a laptop which is used on the move is that it has a hard life. The Apple MagSafe connector is a brilliant design because it is not susceptible to wear and relatively invulnerable to knocks, trips and falls. I had already made up my mind that my next laptop would be a MacBook, simply because of the MagSafe connector. So I'm aghast at the decision to abandon it. It seems perverse!

+ - How to prevent an idea from being patented? 6

Submitted by Simon Brooke
Simon Brooke writes: I have an idea for a simple medical device which would greatly help in the monitoring of a disease I have, and several other diseases as well. Sooner or later one of the medical device companies is going to come up with this idea, patent it, and make a monopoly profit from it. I would much rather it were in the public domain, so all device manufacturers could use it freely, and it would therefore be available to patients at lower cost. Is there any way I can publish it that puts it in the public record, and prevents patents? Or should I actually apply for a patent and then give it away royalty free?

"Well I don't see why I have to make one man miserable when I can make so many men happy." -- Ellyn Mustard, about marriage