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Comment: Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (Score 1) 165

by butalearner (#47670319) Attached to: Why the Public Library Beats Amazon

But libraries already have floating e-book licenses you can check out for downloadable content (including off hours) in addition to everything else they offer.

My daughter volunteered at the local library this summer teaching younger kids to read. In theory some semblance of this "could" be done over the Internet, but I just don't see it actually happening, and it wouldn't be the same.

Just so. In fact, these days it seems like libraries are more about being community centers than a place to borrow books. Where I live now it's not quite as noticeable, but in my previous city there was always a line to get on the computers, but hardly anybody browsing the stacks.

My library hosts story time for kids, book/movie/anime clubs, beginner PC classes (typing, office software), board game nights, arts and crafts for kids, arts and crafts for adults...all free. During tax time, they have all the forms and information you might need, and they provide information sessions and classes on free e-filing. They also host paid events; recently they had a LEGO exhibit with competitions for kids and open build time, and a Tor editor and author Q&A session where they critiqued the first couple pages of attendees' stories. Granted these things could be hosted elsewhere, but being at the library makes it more likely that I'll hear about it and far more likely that I'll go.

Also, my library also gives me access to subscription sites, including ebook and audiobook sites. I can pay $100 per year to subscribe to, or I could go to my library. I can pay $260 to get lifetime access to a single language on RocketLanguages, or I could go to my library and get access to every course on every language they have for free. While the interface isn't as slick as Duolingo, there are more languages available and it just feels like a better way for me to learn.

And of course there are the books themselves. My city has a pretty solid collection of sci-fi/fantasy, though it's not quite as exhaustive as my previous city. One nice thing they do here is try to have plenty of copies of the first books in a series, something that was a big annoyance before. I can't remember how many times I saw an interesting book while browsing, only to find out it is a sequel and I'd have to request the first one. I could also check out e-readers themselves, something that is relatively new both here and my last city.

TL;DR: you might replace one single aspect of libraries with something like Kindle Unlimited (and poorly at that), but that's not all libraries provide. Not by a long shot.

Comment: Re:Long overdue... (Score 1) 126

by butalearner (#47665209) Attached to: Android Motorcycle Helmet/HUD Gains Funding

There are at least four things a driver might legitimately want to see on a HUD. Speedo, Tacho, Navigation (no map is necessary, but the distance to and direction of the next turn are nice) and radio controls. All of these are things you will regularly want to look at while driving. I'd skip the last one, I can tune my radio by ear since I don't actually listen to broadcast radio, but the other three are all things I'd very much like to have.

I'd like to see (and I think this is where things are going) displays that combine or simplify information from sensors.

My car should basically build a mini-map of vehicles around me, potential dangers, and so on. I don't need to see it on the HUD, but perhaps just arrows (color-coded and/or faded with distance) pointing to other cars in case I don't see them. Arrows toward nearby emergency vehicles would be helpful, too, since I can never tell what direction the siren comes from. It should estimate braking distance and monitor driving conditions, and warn me if I'm too close to the car in front or behind me, or if I'm getting too close to anything beside me. That's combining knowledge of the vehicle (weight and braking info), GPS, cameras/range sensors, and current weather information.

I would like performance displays as well. Checking the tach and speedometer is all well and good, but I like to keep an eye on efficiency gauges when the car I'm driving supports it. More to the point, I'd like my car to tell me how fuel efficiency might change if I sped up or slowed down, being mindful of course about the speed limit. I'm picturing a HUD showing a small slice of an estimated efficiency curve with a marker for the speed limit. Maybe a fancier version would take into account information about the terrain and surrounding vehicles to somehow suggest optimal speeds for efficiency and safety. I want my car to notice when efficiency doesn't meet expectations, too, and tell me if tire pressure is off nominal, the car weighs more than expected, and so on.

Lastly, I want to be able to bring up lots of information on startup that disappears when I'm moving or in gear. I want to know how approximately how many miles I have until empty, how my car's fluids are doing (including things like oil purity, not just level), how my car's my battery, tires, brake pads, air filter and so on are doing, safety information (everybody is buckled up, emergency break is off, lights are on if not automatic), and so on.

+ - Nasa approves 'impossible' space engine design that apparently violates the laws-> 4

Submitted by sirlark
sirlark (1676276) writes "In a quiet announcement that has sent shockwaves through the scientific world, Nasa has cautiously given its seal of approval to a new type of “impossible” engine that could revolutionize space travel.

In a paper published by the agency’s experimental Eagleworks Laboratories, Nasa engineers confirmed that they had produced tiny amounts of thrust from an engine without propellant – an apparent violation of the conservation of momentum; the law of physics that states that every action must have an equal and opposite reaction."

Link to Original Source

+ - City of Turin embraces Linux->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Yet another prestigiuos city is abandoning closed source solutions.spending review is the keyword in italian governance right now,so the city manager had to decide whether to upgrade all existing software and hardware(since 80% of its install base is XP) or migrate to an open source solution(it is not clearly stated in the article bit it appears to be replace by Ubuntu). Differently from Munich or Bolzen , the migration in Turin will encompass the whole IT infrastructure and will make the city save 6 million euros."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:So fix it (Score 1) 430

Or, for the less altruistic out there, write tutorials, put them on your own blog and youtube, link them from the project's wiki in a reasonable, completely non-spammy way (e.g. copy the content, attribute it to your blog with a clearly marked external link), and make a dollar or two from advertising.

Or, if you have the money to spend, offer a bounty.

Comment: Re:where's the money?! (Score 1) 213

by butalearner (#47573355) Attached to: Vint Cerf on Why Programmers Don't Join the ACM

I am a long time member of the ACM, and I've always thought the value for money was excellent. I'm not an academic and I don't go to conferences. The Safari and 24/7 Books Online subscriptions, plus the skillsoft training is where I see most of the value.

That's good to know for future reference, though every company I've worked for has offered those things to its employees and contractors.

Comment: Re:Damn I used to like southwest (Score 1) 928

I get the impression that you have about equal chances of getting a rude gate agent no matter what airlines you fly with. Which is to say they're almost all reasonable people, but sometimes have bad days, other times it depends more on how you ask. The guy here seems to have an entitlement. He's a frequent flyer, his kids aren't, he was asking if they could get on with him in the early boarding. He could have paid the early check-in fee for them and gotten on before most people anyway. I think it's $15 on southwest. Point is, he had other options. It's fine to ask for favors, but if you're fuming about someone NOT granting you a favor, you're probably the asshole in that situation.

I posted this above, but in my experience, when Southwest announces boarding procedures, they almost always include a special perk for families traveling together that they can board with the family member that has the lowest ticket. This might not be fair, but it is something they have always done in the past both in my experience and the guy in the article's experience. Now the guy was probably upset and embarrassed, so it's entirely possible he wasn't entirely honest about how rude the attendant really was, but I want to be sure the part about family boarding is clear.

Comment: Re:Damn I used to like southwest (Score 1) 928

Really? Here's a tip: next time you have an A ticket and your family has B tickets and you all want to sit together, why don't you slip back into the B group.

I don't quite follow your logic there. To sit together, families should...wait until more people get on the plane? Young children aren't allowed to sit alone, so if the aisles and windows filled up, someone would have to move so they can sit together. And that's not to mention a higher chance of small children getting angry and loud in the jetway because it takes a long time to board the plane, etc. I know Slashdot can be fairly hostile to people with kids, but giving families the ability to cut ahead of others is really in everybody's best interests. Give me generally annoyed Slashdot posts well after the fact over kids whining or crying in a stuffy aircraft cabin any day.

Regardless, it was a perk that Southwest offered to families that we and the guy in TFA expected to receive but, apparently, certain employees do not offer. I'm fairly certain they used to announce that families could board with the member who had the lowest ticket. In fact, it's been a year or so since it happened, but I'm pretty sure we asked the gate attendant on our return trip what the policy is, and they were surprised that we were told that we couldn't do so.

Comment: Re:Damn I used to like southwest (Score 1) 928

Southwest has gone downhill fast in recent years.

Agreed. I had the exact same experience as the guy in the article. I had a pretty low A group ticket - one of the first numbers you can get without paying extra - but my wife and kids had B group tickets. We'd flown Southwest four to six times a year for the past six years, and they always let us all board in A group when this happened (which was fairly often, since using points and free flights usually means making separate orders), except for the last time we flew with them. They tried to claim that it has always been against their policy, which was obviously BS even before I saw this story.

I know, it isn't really a huge deal since we still got seats together, but it is embarrassing and frustrating to be called out and forced to switch lines like that, so I understand the guy's lashing out on Twitter. But of course, hardly anybody would have seen the tweet until the gate attendant went way overboard in response. Now, instead of one person looking bad to a few people, the whole company looks bad to the readership of major news sites. Way to go, Kimberly.

Comment: Re:So who did it first? MIT or Mythbusters? (Score 1) 138

by butalearner (#47530177) Attached to: Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples?

No. Dimpling and pebbling to improve laminar flow have been known for many years by people and many hundreds of thousands of years by dolphins.

Dimpling and pebbling is there to disrupt laminar flow; to introduce a small, turbulent boundary layer in order to reduce wake drag. If you compare the streamlines of a ping pong ball to a golf ball, the flow is laminar longer around the ping pong ball, but the flow separates sooner, creating a larger wake. Here is a more thorough explanation.

That also raises the question: do the dimples really help everywhere on a car? I'd love to see some wind tunnel testing and CFD analysis of the Mythbusters' dimpled car. An 11% improvement is pretty significant, but there are lots of uncertainties: weight differences, center of mass differences, how aerodynamic the car was in the first place... I strongly suspect that, in general, it would be more helpful to only introduce dimples at strategic locations: i.e. the bumpers, undercarriage, and other body panels where the flow eventually separates.

Also, aren't dolphins pretty darn smooth?

Comment: Re:Correction (Score 1) 97

by butalearner (#47507199) Attached to: UEA Research Shows Oceans Vital For Possibility of Alien Life

Pessimist. If we develop interstellar travel, even at small fractions of light speed, remain expansionistic, and avoid completely eradicating ourselves or transcending as a species we could colonize the whole friggin galaxy in only a few billion years.

Or maybe you meant "we" in a personal sense in which case yeah, barring the surprise development of feasible near-instantaneous (in ship-time of course) travel, we have absolutely no hope of visiting more than the planets in our own system and maybe those of one other star.

Pessimist. I plan to live forever as a brain in a small vat of artificial cerebrospinal fluid connected by electrodes to the controls of a tiny interstellar space ship.

Comment: Re:Um, here's a simpler way (Score 2) 52

by butalearner (#47499661) Attached to: Researchers Create Origami Wheels That Can Change Size

Nor did it work very well. My nephew had one many years ago. they were pretty crap. It's affinity with getting stuck was quite impressive.

I also had one as a kid, and I agree: it was next to impossible to get the things to go straight with those claws sticking out. However, I also had an RC truck in which the wheels were telescoping cylinders with relatively thick rubber-ish strips attached at both ends. Fully extended the strips were flat, but you could flip a switch (or something) and it would retract, making the strips bow outward, significantly increasing (maybe doubling) the effective diameter. Parentheticals because it was a long time ago.

So I agree with OP that we could already do something like this, but when we're talking about space exploration, it's always worth looking at alternatives that may have different power requirements, mechanical complexity, etc. than the current options.

Comment: Re:What difference now does it make? :) Sunk costs (Score 1) 364

by butalearner (#47425837) Attached to: The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

The F-35 is likely to be the last manned fighter ever produced.

Probably true, and quoted for emphasis, but that doesn't square with your observation that "that time is still decades off. That implies at least one more generation of manned fighters. Lockheed Martin and Boeing seem to be counting on that, though the Boeing article actually says they would propose a manned and unmanned variant (with an interesting concept image of them both). I saw that Russia expects the next generation to be unmanned.

Comment: Re:What's the business case? (Score 1) 143

Short answer; if you're asking on Slashdot for reasons to switch from product X to product Y, you probably have no real reason to switch.

The long answer was pretty good, but I disagree with the short one. Asking a (presumably) knowledgeable group of people questions like this is a good way to get a more complete picture of the problem space, and asking people from other companies might just score him a few stories about what worked for them and what didn't work.

Here's an anecdote from me: back when I was a fresh-faced, naive junior engineer I wanted to sell management on an open source alternative to an expensive commercial package by targeting some low-hanging fruit and arguing that we should use both. I surveyed my colleagues and found a number of small items here and there that could be automatically ported to the open source version, and demonstrated it to my manager. It wasn't good enough, because there were no hard numbers on what the company might save by doing this.

In other words, as you say, he needs clear financial benefits. Your Mileage May Vary, but these days I would not be surprised if, to his management, the financial justification is far more important than the technical justification.

Every successful person has had failures but repeated failure is no guarantee of eventual success.