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Comment: Smart Watches I've Owned (Score 3, Interesting) 325

by billstewart (#47441053) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Do You Want a Smart Watch?

I haven't owned any of the current generation of cellphone-accessory smartwatches. The ones I have owned:

-- Casio GPS watch - It was a gift from my wife, back before GPSs had taken over the world. It was big and clunky, got me all kinds of geek cred at work, didn't work very well as a GPS but the fact that it worked at all was amazing.
-- TI EZ430-Chronos watch - programmable, using their MSP430 microprocessor set, had a reasonably flexible display. It didn't have a lot of sensors, and I didn't end up hacking it very much, but it was a lot of fun. It had a low-power radio link that let it connect to a heartbeat monitor band, so you could use it for things like watching your heart rate while jogging.
-- Watches with various other functions built in, like moon phase, tides tables for surfing, that kind of thing. One of them had a screen saver for entirely no good reason, just because it could.

In practice, I find that almost all of the time I'm either in front of a computer screen with a clock display in the corner, or in an environment with clocks around, or carrying a cellphone with a clock display on the main screen, or in an environment that's not very friendly to watches, or in a social environment where I don't really care what time the clock says it is, so I've stopped wearing watches most of the time.

When smart-watches get smart enough to be the phone instead of being a peripheral display for the phone, maybe. But is a smart-watch phone that needs a Bluetooth headset and needs reading glasses to use more convenient than a cellphone with big text that can use a wired headset? For me, it's really not.

Comment: Board with a Display System or without? (Score 1) 182

One of the cool things about the Beaglebone Black and the Raspberry Pi is that they've got GPUs powerful enough to drive an HDMI display, and give you 1080p graphics if you make sure there's enough electric power and not too much interference (my RPi was a bit wonky on the last display I tried), so you can drive a decent monitor for programming or use it as a TV video player.

But if you don't need that, because you're doing X windows or just doing a bunch of ssh terminal sessions, you've got more potential choices, possibly lower power, possibly more memory. It depends a lot on what the target platform for your development is going to be, and on how much effort you plan to spend getting things set up, compared to just taking the BBB or RPi and calling it a day.

Comment: Who's the Spook? (Score 1) 215

You may or may not have noticed that the US press hasn't mentioned the name of the departing CIA Station Chief, but they haven't. Why not? Because it's A Secret! The Germans know who they're kicking out, but the US press goes along with the pretense that it's secret, and other people he might spy on in the future won't know he's a spy, and people who he's hung out with in the past might be exposed as having been spies too. In some cases it's illegal for US government officials to reveal the names of spies, but if they leak them for administration political purposes, like Scooter Libby outing Valerie Plame, they get pardoned, and if they get leaked by accident, like a White House Press Release "notice what name is missing" oops a few months back, the press politely pretends they didn't see anything.

If the Germans are really mad? Merkel can tell the German press the guy's name, and ask them to print it and put it online.

Comment: Latest LEDs are Too New To Fail Yet (Score 1) 228

by billstewart (#47422215) Attached to: My most recent energy-saving bulbs last ...

Duh, that should be obvious. The only reason they would have failed is if they were DOA or smoked when I plugged them in or something else was defective or the lamp fell over; bulbs that are supposed to last tens or hundreds of thousands of hours that I put in this year haven't had time to fail.

CFLs are different - they've been out a few years now, and I've had plenty of them fail, and worried about whether dead ones break before I get them out of the house and over to the recyclers.

My most recent not-really-energy-saving bulbs failed in 2-3 months. They were little red night-light bulbs from the dollar store post-Christmas discount, and one can argue that they're "energy-saving" because they're only a few watts (3 or 10 or something), but they were incandescents, not LEDs, so they're really not. I've replaced a couple of them with LEDs that haven't failed yet.

Japan

How Japan Lost Track of 640kg of Plutonium 102

Posted by Soulskill
from the left-it-in-my-other-pants dept.
Lasrick sends this quote from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Most people would agree that keeping track of dangerous material is generally a good idea. So it may come as a surprise to some that the arrangements that are supposed to account for weapon-grade fissile materials—plutonium and highly enriched uranium—are sketchy at best. The most recent example involves several hundreds kilograms of plutonium that appear to have fallen through the cracks in various reporting arrangements. ... [A Japanese researcher discovered] that the public record of Japan’s plutonium holdings failed to account for about 640 kilograms of the material. The error made its way to the annual plutonium management report that Japan voluntarily submits to the International Atomic Energy Agency ... This episode may have been a simple clerical error, but it was yet another reminder of the troubling fact that we know very little about the amounts of fissile material that are circulating around the globe. The only reason the discrepancy was discovered in this case was the fact that Japan has been unusually transparent about its plutonium stocks. ... No other country does this.

Comment: Telecommuting tools (Score 2) 131

by billstewart (#47381513) Attached to: Employees Staying Away From Internal Corporate Social Networks

I work for a very big, bureaucratic company. Communication tool needs are really different for different scales of companies.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and have a lab across the bay with a couple of coworkers that I generally go to once or twice a week. My current supervisor is in Atlanta; I've never met him in person. I worked for my previous supervisor for a year before I met him. I've worked for my director for about 5 years (he's in Indianapolis, and I've never met him in person.) We work with a bunch of developers and operations folks around the US and some in Eurasia. We use all those tools, and they've got different purposes. For maintaining documentation that sticks around, sometimes it's useful to have wikis and similar web sites that users can edit; for shorter-term documentation, we use tools that are designed for faster communication, and haven't really figured out how to handle the problem of obsolete chunks of information, which is harder on less-aggressively-managed systems.

Social networks are another point in the communications spectrum. For dealing with bug reports or feature suggestions from users, they're less formal than ticket tracking systems, but sometimes that's useful. If some developer wants to steal my ideas or listen to my rants\\\\ insightful comments, that's just fine. We've been starting to do a lot more with social networks, and we'll see how well it handles the problems of disposing of conversations that don't need to be kept around or are no longer current, or keeping information accessible that is current.

Comment: Hey, we get badges! (Score 1) 131

by billstewart (#47381467) Attached to: Employees Staying Away From Internal Corporate Social Networks

At $DAYJOB, we've had a variety of work collaboration tools over the years similar to the then-current* social networking tools. The most useful ones are instant messaging and wikis (or wiki-equivalents), and internal Usenet groups back in the day. Apparently having little badges next to your name is something that some current social networks do, so ours has that also (I haven't used it; I suspect there's some sort of "VMware User - Achievement Unlocked!" sort of thing.)

And we do have games, like "Guess which Wiki pages are current or abandoned!" and "Guess which User Stories in Rally are current vs. long-irrelevant!" (If you win the latter one, you get to submit your own user stories under the ones the Scrum Master is going to reject for this sprint, instead of under the ones he's not even going to look at.)

I will post a less-cynical note elsewhere in this discussion :-)

* ok, actually similar to the then-slightly-out-of-date social networking fads, rather than the actually current ones...

Comment: CERN, not just Brits, and SGML,GIF,JPEG (Score 5, Informative) 340

by billstewart (#47381383) Attached to: On 4th of July:

Sir Tim is a Brit, but he was working at CERN, an international collaboration in Europe. Somebody once said that Sir Tim invented 80-90% of what the web needed, while Ted Nelson invented 120%, which is why we use HTTP/HTML instead of Xanadu.

URLs were really the big win - most previous hypertext systems were contained on single platforms, whether it was Apple Hypercard or whatever, while URLs let the hypertext connect pages by multiple authors and organizations. The other big win was including pictures in practical widespread formats.

HTML wasn't as big an invention - it was a derivative of SGML, and five years before the web I was a newbie on documentation standards committees that were using SGML and vector-based graphics standards (and even back then, there were people who got that the big win was content description, not format description, and many of the problems we have today are because too many people lost sight of that and wanted authors to control presentation instead of readers, forcing us to deal with flash and Javascript and lots of other brokenness.)

Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment. -- Robert Benchley

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