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Comment: Re:Skateboard comparison = fail (Score 1) 98

by TeknoHog (#46767241) Attached to: Google Looked Into Space Elevator, Hoverboards, and Teleportation

In space, 'just use rockets' is not the answer people want to hear, because mass is precious. In an atmosphere, though, all you need is a little extra battery power to shove air in whatever direction you prefer, which works just fine for modifying your path. It wouldn't be much like skateboarding; but I suspect that if you threw some accelerometers, clever math, and a mixture of control surfaces and glorified model airplane thrusters at the problem you could have a system that can be 'steered' by shifting your body weight, as people are accustomed to, with the actual work being handled by the aerodynamic components, since you don't have solid objects to push off of. Doesn't solve the 'make hoverboard hover' problem; but if you ignore that...

True, so it would basically take fans/propellers. Ideally, though, the hover mechanism itself would automatically enable some level of steering via weight shifting. Imagine a regular hovercraft modified for extra ground clearance. If you tilt it, it's pushing more air to one side than the other. It should also work this way in the plasma levitation systems envisioned in the paper I linked above. But in practice you'd probably want some additional control.

Comment: Skateboard comparison = fail (Score 1) 98

by TeknoHog (#46765383) Attached to: Google Looked Into Space Elevator, Hoverboards, and Teleportation

How would you steer this imaginary hoverboard? A skateboard will continue rolling in one direction only, as long as you do nothing. The various ways of controlling a skateboard rely on high friction in other directions. Turn it sideways quickly and you can stop it, if you know what you're doing. A hoverboard would simply continue hovering sideways, and you'd have no way to turn it without a wall or something. Similarly, there would be much less room for tricks that rely on hitting the deck against something solid, as the hover mechanism would repel any direct contact. You'd need spacewalk-style thrusters to get where you want to.

(Disclaimer: a little something from my days of physics studies

Comment: Re:That drawing was a joke, but (Score 1) 275

We genuinely are bad at predicting the future of tech, but it's usually not because we're too fanciful. It's usually the opposite. Tech predictions usually fail because we're way too conservative. That's partly the reason behind this joke drawing in 1981. Now predictions about almost everything else - society, politics, and social adoption of tech - are usually way too optimistic. But tech predictions are way too pessimistic.

More precisely, futurists like Osmo A. Wiio have stated that people don't understand exponential growth -- they overestimate short-term progress, but underestimate long-term. There are lots of almost unnoticeable advances that make people cry "where's my flying car" and yet over time those advances add up, amplifying each other, and we suddenly find ourselves beyond the need to fly.

Technology advances because techies remember the past and build on it, learning from past mistakes -- politics, on the other hand...


Leben = life; lieben = to love :P I think I'll start using that term in place of "get a room".

Comment: Re:8 out of 10 for cool. 1 out of 10 for interesti (Score 1) 165

by TeknoHog (#46756077) Attached to: Reviving a Commodore 64 Computer Using a Raspberry Pi

Like Bash?

They say if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day... in the beginning, Linux was like teaching him to fish. Self-reliance and knowledge and skill are good things, but if you're just hungry and don't enjoy fishing, you just want the fish. Most people who use computers these days don't want to program - they just want to be given a fish.

I'm afraid you forgot the link:

Comment: Re:8 out of 10 for cool. 1 out of 10 for interesti (Score 1, Interesting) 165

by TeknoHog (#46751251) Attached to: Reviving a Commodore 64 Computer Using a Raspberry Pi

Boot into a system which allows you immediate programming

Like Bash? For me, Linux is what made computing interesting and fun again. It has easy access to programming tools, and none of this forced separation of users and developers.

(preferably with a modern OO syntax) and access to video, sound and peripherals. If there's anything that has suffered over the past three decades, it's easy access to I/O.

I admit it gets a little complex here, but for example Python (a key element in my "fun computing" experience) has nice libraries for these. For example, some of my electronics/FPGA work owe a lot to Python's serial port module. Not because the serial port is hard to program otherwise, but for making it easy to write all kinds of code around it.

I have no experience in modern graphics programming. However, I have the feeling that the bar for awesome graphics is a tad higher today than it was in "the year 64". Today's awesome is rather nontrivial at the direct low level we associate with C64 programming, so even professionals use higher level tools. (I think my background in physics and math helps appreciate 3D graphics, for example coordinate transformations using matrices are a basic (pun inteded) skill but I imagine there are lots of programmers with no need to do it.)

Nevertheless, I understand the point about recreating an environment in the '64 spirit. There are several projects around, the two I can think of at the moment being and .

Comment: Re:Am I getting old? (Score 1) 90

by TeknoHog (#46708929) Attached to: Raspberry Pi's Eben Upton: How We're Turning Everyone Into DIY Hackers

As with everything, it depends on (1) what you want to do now, and (2) your past experience.

IMHO, you need to separate the need for a media box from a tinkerable gadget. When you sit down after a hard day and grab a drink, the last thing you want to worry about is JTAG chains or something. I like having a few x86-64 boxes to just get something done, even though the idea of little-endian 4004 descendants isn't exactly elegant.

I still love tinkering with stuff programming-wise, but I've completely lost my ambition to tinker with hardware.

If you love programming, what's the problem? You're lucky to have something that excites you. However, it's nice to take hacking into new directions every now and then. Try to find an avenue from your software skills into hardware, or whateve else that might be remotely interesting. (As a teacher, I just have to mention

For example, in early 2011 I got into FPGAs, which for me was the perfect union of software and hardware tinkering, having a smattering of experience in both electronics and programming. It was life-changing in some ways, but eventually it's just one of the tools to hack with. For example, designing circuitry to run genuinely in parallel has given me great insight in the software world as well.

The Raspi always seemed kind of meh, both because FPGAs were already established in the embedded field, and because you'd be programming a chip someone else designed, instead of designing your own ;) Also, having first learned to program on the 1980s BASIC machines, I imagine something like Python (another life-changer of mine) on a regular computer would be much closer to the experience than something that appears to involve hardware hacking.

Comment: Re:Why not? (Score 1) 147

by TeknoHog (#46699507) Attached to: Seagate Releases 6TB Hard Drive Sans Helium

No. drives are *not* sealed. Making a sealed drive that won't implode if you, say, take it on an aircraft in your laptop, or to ship it to the client (for example) is non trivial.

By "ship", do you mean a submarine? Because otherwise my head in plode (considering a roughly sea-level internal pressure vs. the mile-high club)

Comment: Re:Hm. (Score 1) 179

by TeknoHog (#46681621) Attached to: "Nearly Unbreakable" Encryption Scheme Inspired By Human Biology

You virtually always hit the noise limit before you get to the point where you have to worry about the fundamental discreteness of matter and energy. The majority of quantum experiments involve a lot of cooling and isolating of systems with very good reason!

However, due to the statistics, you can actually detect the effect of discrete electrons, without going to the level of single-electron measurements. But broadly speaking you're correct.

Comment: Re:50 percent of the time (Score 1) 167

by TeknoHog (#46672695) Attached to: A Rock Paper Scissors Brainteaser

Good point, the important specification would be "50% of what time?"

I've always had this problem about the whole idea of probability. If the odds of you dying in a car accident are 1/1000000, and you still die tomorrow, what good is the low number of one millionth? You either die or you don't. Probability is only a measure or a larger population, i.e. the fraction that gets the rock, death or whatever. The idea of a probability for a unique event is meaningless.

This is why I like the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. It gives real meaning to probability as the fraction of universes with the favourable outcome, even if the event is unique from our perspective (though with a total of infinite universes, the definition of a fraction can be tricky). On the other hand, changing the reality to suit a math concept is not necessarily the wisest thing.

Comment: Re:"Open source computer"???? (Score 4, Informative) 97

There's basically NO open source hardware out there. And if there were nobody would be in a position to do much with it, because it would take a fab to make any change.

  • 1. There is the good old solder-it-yourself scene, ham radio style, hardware with a hard H.
  • 2. There is a lively FPGA scene, with the complication of mostly closed-source synthesis tools (like compilers). I don't regard this as a huge problem, as long as I can make hardware do what I want. If you're new to the scene, I recommend fpga4fun.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.