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Comment Re:One word: Analog (Score 1) 215

Agreed. Digital devices talking to digital devices, that's hardly the real world. To observe and interact with the real world you need sensors and motors and actuators, and more, and this requires analog and power electronics. This is where the rubber meets the road. Understanding this scene requires a good oscilloscope to see what's really happening. It's in effect our eyes, otherwise we are blind. Even for completely digital devices there are analog issues. You wanna know what's really going on with your 5-volt USB power source? Is it current limiting, rapidly on and off? What's the start-up transient, does it sag and drop out just as the processor is trying to run its program? What's the safety margin for proper operation?

Comment Casio fx-300MS (Score 1) 328

I'm a big fan of the Casio fx-300 series. These days I'm using the fx-300MS, purchased at Staples, etc., for $10. http://www.staples.com/Casio-FX-300MS-Plus-Scientific-Calculator/product_403857 It's fine for scientific and engineering calculations, and although I'd prefer a programmable calculator, those aren't allowed for exams, and therefore aren't widely sold in stores. I have enough of the fx-300s around so there's always one at hand wherever I am, at home, at work, or at the bench. They must also be good enough for my scientific friends as well, because often when I'm in someone else's lab I see one lying around, and think I forgot and left my own there, only to discover, no, it's not mine.

Comment how to get new related skills (Score 1) 347

Your father would like to stay in his industry, which means learning the new scene of cable modems, routers and access points, and etc., that the ISPs are providing now. But he might have trouble quickly getting a similar job working for one of these companies, because they'll suspect his outdated skill set. So he may have trouble learning customer service for these new technologies on the job. I suggest he sign up for one or more of these services at home, and start by delving into the innards of the equipment supplied. For example, Verizon FiOS creates a cable signal from their big wall-mounted interface box, and sends that to a cable modem. In my case they provided a third-party box from ActionTec; a combination cable-modem, router and wi-fi access point. This product has a detailed manual available on the web, and they provide all the information, so you can manage it yourself and change settings, etc. (In fact, their software is GPL open source!) So he can learn by experimenting, and update the experience and knowledge parts of his resume accordingly. Hah, he might be able to get consulting jobs helping companies change over to the new approach.

Comment Laser cutter suggested (Score 1) 49

A 3D printer requires making 3D models, which can require considerable take time and skill to create. The printers are also very slow and good for only very small objects in a reasonable time frame. As an alternate, I suggest you consider a laser cutter. These act as "printers" for 2D vector files, which are easy to create in drawing programs like Corel. The user's complex shapes cut from plastic by the machine can be glued together to make many interesting and fascinating art projects. The laser cutter is fast enough so many people can use it what seems to be nearly the same time. You can get a good one for $10 to $15k. An Epilog Legend Mini 24 ( http://www.epiloglaser.com/legend_mini24.htm ) would be a good choice. We bought one two years ago at the Institute and it became an instant hit, busy all the time, with everyone using it.

Mom Arrested After Son Makes Dry Ice "Bombs" 571

formfeed writes "Police were called to a house in Omaha where a 14-year-old made some 'dry ice bombs' (dry ice in soda bottles). Since his mom knew about it, she is now facing felony charges for child endangment and possession of a destructive device. From the article: 'Assistant Douglas County Attorney Eric Wells said the boy admitted to making the bomb and that his mother knew he was doing so. The boy was set to appear Tuesday afternoon in juvenile court, accused of possessing a destructive device.'" She's lucky they didn't find the baking soda volcano in the basement.

Comment Re:How a planetary-based IVT system works in gener (Score 2, Interesting) 609

Although they may not officially encourage this kind of use, the Toyota Prius smoothly goes from forward to zero and reverse drive: Just throw the car into REVERSE while powering it forward. I've tried this up to about 10pmh or so,and it runs its planetary-gear setup through the motions like silk. I haven't had the nerve to do this at higher speeds. BTW, going into PARK while moving at highway speed just causes a motor-controlled slow down followed by neutral. This may be the easiest way to get around the "stuck-accelerator" problem (which I have experienced, very scary indeed).

Comment Re:falsely blaming the user (Score 2, Interesting) 345

Professor Richard Schmidt says user reports are often unreliable: 'When the driver says they have their foot on the brake, they are just plain wrong." My '08 Prious has had three "surge" events. I was able to stop all three times. In the most serious case there was a group of people standing about 20 feet in front of me, and my car stated surging towards them. I jammed my foot on the brake but was not winning the battle. Normally the Prius brakes are very sensitive and do not have to be pressed hard, so I was using my normal braking force. Quickly becoming alarmed, I pushed harder on the brake, with some effect, but still fighting the electric motor and the gas engine trying to power the car forward. I had to push harder than I ever recall doing to stop the car. At that point engine activity ceased. The people, now about 10-feet away, looked at me like I was an idiot, gunning my car toward them! I was just glad to be stopped. I challenge professor Richard Schmidt: If my foot was on the accelerator, how did I in fact stop? The Toyota people have told me they'll be reflashing the processors of all the Prius cars in a few months so any brake signal will shut down the engine. Why wasn't that done from the beginning? But anyway, I'm looking forward to the modification. In the meantime, I'm practicing quickly hitting the Neutral gear lever.

"Sometimes insanity is the only alternative" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.