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Comment: Poor material choice (Score 2, Interesting) 140

by Solandri (#47710681) Attached to: Wheel Damage Adding Up Quickly For Mars Rover Curiosity
Aluminum does not have a fatigue limit. That is, no matter how beefy you make an aluminum part, after enough cyclic stresses it will suffer fatigue failure. This is why airframes are retired after about 100,000 pressurization cycles - to avoid the fate which befell the de Havilland Comet.

Other materials like steel or titanium can be designed so it can withstand an infinite number of stress cycles and not fatigue. Given the nature of the mission and power source (multi-year if not multi-decade operation on another planet with no hope of human intervention if something should go wrong), they really should have allocated sufficient weight budget for non-aluminum wheels. This is basic materials science that every undergrad mechanical engineer learns. I was very surprised when I heard they were going with thin aluminum wheels on this rover.

Comment: Re:NIMBYs? Crackpots? (Score 1) 390

by Solandri (#47710633) Attached to: Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead
Solar thermal is terrible if you try to use it to make electricity. The steam turbine you need for that conversion is typically only about 33% efficient.

However, if your desired form of energy is heat, solar thermal is one of the most cost-effective energy sources. Put a small, black water tank in your backyard (or in a greenhouse if it's cold outside) and use it to feed your hot water heater, and the savings in your water heating bill will usually pay for the tank in 2-3 years.

Comment: Re:Germany not responsible for call recordings (Score 4, Informative) 152

Not quite. If you RTFA, the BND made the recordings and dutifully transcribed the calls. They got passed along to higher-ups, who once they realized who was talking ordered the transcripts be destroyed. The person believed to be a double-agent for the U.S. was responsible for destroying the transcripts, and didn't. So no, he's not responsible for making the call recording - that falls squarely in the BND's lap. He just didn't follow through on the BND's good faith effort not to spy on the U.S. (or to cover up their spying on the U.S. depending on how you want to spin it).

It does raise questions about the allegations that he's a U.S. agent though. Why would he be so keen to keep a transcript of a call between Clinton and Kofi Anon to send back to the U.S., knowing full well that the U.S. would already know everything about that call? The only explanations I can think of are that he wasn't a double-agent as Germany is claiming (or at least not a double-agent for the U.S.), or that he was a U.S. double-agent and included that transcript to implicate Germany in case the story ever blew (which would've been remarkably far-sighted).

Comment: Re:Photographic law precedence (Score 1) 180

by Solandri (#47705029) Attached to: Phoenix Introduces Draft Ordinance To Criminalize Certain Drone Uses
Not to mention it would've given Barbra Streisand the legal ammo to defeat the Streisand effect. I expect Google and Bing will make sure this doesn't get out of hand, before they're forced to devote more resources to policing their satellite/aerial photo maps than they currently are abiding by the EU's right to be forgotten law.

Comment: I tried it (Score 2) 65

Here's what I got when I gave it every pic in my photo library.

But seriously, I've seen the same technique used to discredit a movie of a UFO shot on 8 mm film. If you just watch the movie, you see an elliptical blob flying. Someone scanned the blob from each frame, aligned them, and averaged them. The increased contrast (bit-depth and resolution basically) let you see that the elliptical blob was more a diagonal prism, and that there were dark features underneath it. Basically it was a Cessna with the sun reflecting off the top of the wing.

Comment: Re:I hate to inform you (Score 1) 369

by Solandri (#47689385) Attached to: Companies That Don't Understand Engineers Don't Respect Engineers
Hate to break it to you, but nearly everyone in any job doesn't respect anyone who doesn't do the same job. The problem isn't specific to any one profession. The problem is being hyper-aware of the challenges in the job you do, and ignorant of the challenges in the jobs you don't do. So you end up overestimating the difficulty of your job (relative to people who don't do your job), and underestimating the difficulty of other people's jobs.

I've done a lot of different jobs over 3 decades (engineering, programming, technical writing, accounting, IT, property management, business management, and business owner). Every one of them had their share of trials, challenges, and complexities I didn't expect coming into them as an outsider (except engineering, since that's what I studied in college). It's easy to think the engineer's, designer's, IT's, salesman's, HR's, accountant's, management's, or CEO's job is oh so easy if you've never done it. But that's usually a conclusion based on ignorance rather than fact. I'd actually say a small business owner or a business manager in a medium-sized company is most likely to have the most neutral viewpoint of job difficulty, because they're constantly getting progress and problem reports from people doing all sorts of different things within the company.

Comment: Re:I thought they were evil for avoiding fiber upg (Score 4, Informative) 93

by Solandri (#47682395) Attached to: Groundwork Laid For Superfast Broadband Over Copper

I'm sure Verizon is evil of course, but are they evil for upgrading to fiber or for not upgrading to fiber?

Both. Their evil-ness doesn't stem from whether or not hey've upgraded to fiber. It stems from abusing their monopoly position to slow down upgrades (both fiber and copper) as a cost-cutting measure. If there were a competitor in the market offering DSL/FO/cable service and Verizon dragged their feet on upgrading to fiber or neglecting to maintain their copper, they would hemorrhage customers and lose a lot of money. But in most areas they have a (government-granted) monopoly. They can take their sweet time upgrading to fiber, and there's nothing their customers can do about it. They can let areas with older copper lines rot, and there's nothing their customers can do about it.

Case in point, the city I live in was one of the first which contracted for Verizon to provide FIOS. They rolled it out to half the city, then got into some sort of disagreement with the city and stopped. If there had been a competing cable/fiber service, they would've had a huge incentive to resolve the dispute as quickly as possible and get back to work. But they were the only game in town so they dragged it out. For six years, the houses two blocks down the street had FIOS and I didn't. Then after an election, the city council changed, Verizon got what they wanted, and resumed rolling out FIOS.

Meanwhile, the city I work in has Verizon DSL as the only provider of business Internet. Cable companies provide cable internet to residences, but apparently they're prohibited from providing it to business. So again, Verizon is the only game in town. They have absolutely refused to upgrade or maintain their copper lines. The fastest DSL speed we can get is 3 Mbps down / 768 kbps up. For this "privilege" we pay $100/mo. Most of the phone lines are of such poor quality they can't even get you that speed, and 1.5/512 or 1.5/256 is the best they can do ($50/mo). The service is such a poor value that most companies in the area just get the lowest-tier 1.0/128 service for $40/mo to minimize how much they have to pay for any Internet. Others have signed on to cellular companies' 4G data services and willingly pay per GB for overages - because it beats having to get reamed in the rear by Verizon.

Both are evil.

Comment: Re:Americans don't know what war really is... (Score 1) 417

by Solandri (#47680311) Attached to: Swedish Dad Takes Gamer Kids To Warzone

I've heard that a few times over the years. Americans don't know what war is like because we've never had to suffer it personally. Our soldiers always go somewhere else to fight.

About 13% of Americans are immigrants, many from war-ravaged countrires. They know exactly what war is. Probably better than you do.

When they're adults, these kids will be able to look back and use this experience to make an informed decision on whether or not to fight in whatever conflict their country gets into. Sweden's next generation of decision makers will be better equipped because of the presence of these kid's experience.

Not quite. You're making the fundamental mistake of attributing the suffering to war. War comes about from a refusal to settle disagreements amicably. That almost never happens except when what one side is arguing for is considered to be worse than war by the other side. The refugees fleeing ISIS aren't at war. But I'll bet every one of them wishes the world would go to war for their sake.

Comment: Re:Hesitant about Kickstarter and hardware (Score 4, Informative) 107

This is the problem I have with the current crowdfunding options like Kickstarter. All the risks of providing venture capital, none of the benefits. They're being pitched as if you're pre-buying a product the company will make once it receives enough funding. But really what you're doing is providing them venture capital. Normally when you provide venture capital, you get partial ownership of the company. (Not all kickstarters work this way - e.g. artists who agree to draw pictures for funding. But as you point out, the companies pitching hardware do.)

I'd really like to see a crowdfunding site which takes venture capital out of the realm of multi-millionaires, and puts it within reach of the common person. People complain that the rich just keep getting richer. Well, judiciously investing venture capital is one of the ways they do that. The nature of the business is that startup companies aren't gonna waste their time on you waving around your $20 investment, while someone with a $2 million bankroll will be wined and dined. Crowdfunding could really change this IMHO. Startups may not care about your $20 investment, but a hundred thousand people wanting to invest $20 each and they'll be interested. At least it'll be a helluva lot more productive than getting low- and middle-income people to play the lottery. (The low- to middle-income folks currently unable to provide venture capital are frequently the customers of the products it produces. So they should on average pick good product ideas, making it positive sum, whereas lotteries are zero or negative sum.)

Comment: Re:"Sophisticated" look (Score 1) 220

by Solandri (#47664179) Attached to: Samsung Announces Galaxy Alpha Featuring Metal Frame and Rounded Corners

I like how the "new design approach" and "sophisticated look" boil down to "making it look more like an iPhone 4."

And the leaked iPhone 6 pics look like the HTC One.

Can we get off the "Company X is copying company Y" fanboy bandwagon? There are only so many ways you can design a housing for a flat rectangular screen which needs to fit comfortably in your pocket. The "metal band around the edges" look for example originates not with Apple, but with the early Sony Clies (though it was a plastic band made to look like it was metal).

The problem isn't companies copying. The problem is fanboys trying to claim their favorite company "owns" simple design elements like rounded corners, metal bands, and lines. You don't see car racing enthusiasts trying to claim a certain manufacturer or driver owns the concept of racing stripes painted on a car.

Comment: Re:Legal pemission? THEY GIVE IT! (Score 3, Insightful) 364

by Solandri (#47655523) Attached to: Comcast Drops Spurious Fees When Customer Reveals Recording

Because in my state, the wording means their recording is legal but mine is not. So that makes me think people should not rely on logic for legal matters.

Are you sure? 12 states have laws requiring both (all) parties consent to a recording. This means party A agrees the conversation can be recorded, and party B agrees the conversation can be recorded. The requirement of mutual consent would seem to exclude your interpretation. i.e. Their notice is not just getting your consent to have the conversation recorded (just hang up if you don't approve), but also their announcement that they are consenting to have the conversation recorded.

The remaining states, recording is legal if one party consents. So you can record it if you want regardless of what the other party says.

(Your interpretation also violates reciprocity and consideration, making me think a recording under those terms would be thrown out in court.)

Comment: Re:Confusing the issue (Score 1) 337

by Solandri (#47648565) Attached to: Microsoft Surface Drowning?
Windows RT was simply Microsoft's hedge in the x86/ARM battle. If ARM had utterly dominated Intel in the low-power processor market and the world moved away from Wintel, then RT would've been Microsoft's safety net. If that had happened and Microsoft hadn't made RT, all the armchair quarterbacks currently criticizing Microsoft for making RT would've been criticizing them for not making RT and missing the ARM boat. RT didn't need to succeed. It just needed to be there.

Comment: Re:Standardized Testing Implications? (Score 1) 227

by Solandri (#47648453) Attached to: About Half of Kids' Learning Ability Is In Their DNA
The tests are designed to (or ideally should) measure how well you've learned material people in charge of education have decided is important for you to know to further your future career and contribution to society. Whether you learn the material through genetic predisposition or by using sheer willpower to study is irrelevant. All that matters is whether you know the material or not.

If you're arguing that the tests cover material not relevant to children's future success, then that's something you have to take up with the people making the tests. Or we as a society have to re-evaluate what should be incorporated into compulsory education. The tests in and of themselves are not the problem. They're just a way of collecting data on how the education system is performing (in fact you could theoretically replace them with random sampling, but I suspect that would just lead to scandals of teachers and administrators rigging their samples).

Why do we want intelligent terminals when there are so many stupid users?