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Comment: Latest LEDs are Too New To Fail Yet (Score 1) 157

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) 331

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.)

Comment: Random Illegal Fireworks All Week (Score 1) 331

by billstewart (#47381275) Attached to: On 4th of July:

There was an event at a nearby university last weekend that had fireworks I could hear. My local community will have a concert and fireworks in the park on July 4th, as will several communities up and down the freeway from here. (I won't be going; traffic is a horrendous fail :-) There have been a few random illegal fireworks every night all week, and I suspect there'll be more tonight, lots more tomorrow, some Saturday, a few Sunday.

Some years ago there was a nearby highway construction project that had a 20-foot-high pile of dirt around for a couple of years. Folks from my neighborhood would bring our lawn chairs up their for July 4th evening, and we had a decent view of the nearest couple of sets of official fireworks and random illegal ones as well.

Comment: CPU-Mining The Non-ASIC Coin Types. Much Wow! (Score 1) 281

by billstewart (#47343229) Attached to: Bitcoin Security Endangered By Powerful Mining Pool

There are crypto-currencies designed to be resistant to ASIC mining (though some are starting to get hit with GPU mining), by using algorithms that take enough memory or other complexities that are easy to do in CPU but hard to do on non-general platforms. Litecoin's one example.

Some of them might have enough market depth that a stolen-CPU botnet mining farm could actually make money on them. There was a recent hack where somebody mined a lot of DogeCoins, and supposedly got about $200K worth - it's just appalling, because while DogeCoin is supposed to be ASIC-resistant, it's also supposed to be worth so little that it's purely for fun and nobody could actually make real money mining it.

Comment: Re:Banjo/drummer/viola/accordion jokes (Score 1) 101

Most of them can be recycled easily between genres; the drummer jokes (or bass player jokes) are more likely to be about the players, while the others are more likely to be about the instruments themselves, but either way.

I did see somebody the other day with a t-shirt captioned "First violinist problems", showing a musical staff and a note about 10 lines above the staff.

Comment: Sitars (Score 4, Informative) 101

The sitar has several things going on with it

  • -- The body has a chamber made from a big gourd, and a wooden neck with adjustable frets.
  • -- There's a layer of strings that you pick, optionally pressing on the string over a fret to change the pitch.
  • -- There's another layer of strings underneath that resonate when you play the note they're tuned to on the main strings, which provides some amplification and a lot of sustain; that's one of the things that gives the sitar its characteristic sound.
  • -- In addition to fretting a string when you pick it, you can also bend it to the side, changing the pitch dynamically, which is another characteristic sitar sound. Guitar and bass players also use this technique, but sitar strings are long enough that it's easier to do.
  • -- Generally there are two or three strings that you'll play the melody notes on, and several more strings that you pick without fretting, letting them drone like a mountain dulcimer; that's another characteristic sitar sound.
  • That's most of the technology parts; the rest is about the music itself.

Indian classical music theory is complex, at least as much as European classical music theory or jazz. There's a lot of stuff about "ragas", which are a combination of a scale or scales, melodies, fixed parts and improvised parts, with a lot of rules about which ones are appropriate for which situations.

One of the most overlooked advantages to computers is... If they do foul up, there's no law against whacking them around a little. -- Joe Martin

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