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Comment: Nonsensical question (Score 0) 255

by charlie (#35773226) Attached to: What If America Had Beaten the Soviets Into Space?
For geopolitical reasons the Eisenhower administration wanted the USSR to be first to orbit a satellite -- because it would set a precedent for free orbital flight over any territory, thus allowing the USA to orbit the Corona spy satellites without the USSR being legally free to pop off ASAT weapons at them.
In practice, Von Braun was ordered to ballast Thor IRBM tests with concrete to prevent them "accidentally" making orbit prematurely.

Comment: Re:12 year old product compares to iPad, and couri (Score 1) 293

by charlie (#31852688) Attached to: The iPad vs. Microsoft's "Jupiter" Devices
The Sharp Mobilon was also sold as the Vadem Clio.

I owned one, back in the day.

I assure you, the claimed 10-16 hour battery life is a ludicrous exaggeration. In reality, it was good for 4.5-6 hours on a charge.

(Battery life claims are a lot more conservative these days; I remember the first-gen Apple Powerbooks, where the PB100's claimed life of "two and a half hours" was closer to 40 minutes -- and they were by no means the worst of the bunch!)

Also: the thing was near-as-dammit unusable due to crappy design decisions. For example, WinCE 2.11 had the window "close" button right next to the "Maximize" button -- and the pen digitizer was inaccurate enough that if you didn't calibrate the screen very carefully you'd end up hitting "close" instead of "maximize" about 50% of the time!

Comment: What SoftMaker is *really* for ... (Score 1) 110

by charlie (#31639634) Attached to: SoftMaker Office 2010 For Linux Nearing Release
I've used it on and off for about eight years now.

SoftMaker office isn't really a decent replacement for OO.o on Linux. But there is one place where it's indispensible -- if you have a WinCE or Windows Mobile PDA/smartphone, it's miles better than the Pocket version of Microsoft Office. It actually makes my old HP iPaq 214 useful for writing.

Comment: Re:Reading the disk will be tricky. (Score 4, Interesting) 325

by charlie (#31557150) Attached to: Need Help Salvaging Data From an Old Xenix System
... However, as I remember from back when I worked at SCO (years before the name and some assets were sold to the lunatics from Utah), Xenix filesystem and partition table support was rolled into SCO UNIX SVR3.2/386. And Open Desktop. And ODT came with a proper working TCP/IP stack. It's probably overkill, but once you've tried using uucp to get the files off the BBS, you might want to pull the ST506 drive (presumably an MFM-encoded one, not RLL-encoded) and stick it into a shiny new 386 with, say, 4Mb of RAM and a 40Mb disk with SCO UNIX installed. That should enable you to mount the filesystems and export them via NFS. It's a lot of work, though.

Comment: One fundamental point ... (Score 4, Informative) 350

by charlie (#29636327) Attached to: Will Books Be Napsterized?
One fundamental point that tends to get overlooked is that unlike CDs or cassette tapes before them, books traditionally came with built-in DRM, insofar as copying them (via scan/OCR/proofread) was a really tedious process. Whereas it's relatively easy to crack the DRM on, for example, MobiPocket or Microsoft Reader books (and probably ePub by now). So the DRM'd formats are easier to pirate than the previous "analog"-analog format. What this portends for the future remains to be seen, but wearing my full-time novelist hat, I'm a bit worried. The music industry has efficiently trained people to grab files without throwing money at the artists, by bringing the role of publishers into disrepute. Now we're all set to repeat the experience, and unlike a rock band, most authors don't perform well on stage.

Comment: Re:160 million copies!? (Score 3, Interesting) 203

by charlie (#28585925) Attached to: The Technology of <em>Neuromancer</em> After 25 Years
Note that any sales figure a major English language publishing house discloses will be inflated by between 50% and 300%. This is standard practice -- everybody does it, so if you don't do it, everybody will assume that you're exaggerating your sales anyway and discount the figure accordingly. Stupid, but that's the way the business works. Even if you assume the 6.5 million worldwide sales figures is exaggerated by a factor of three, that's hugely impressive -- an SF novel that sells 10,000 hardcover and 50,000 paperback in the US is doing really well (and you can triple that figure to get an estimate of the worldwide sales).

Comment: Re:Get it in both forms (Score 1) 715

by charlie (#25935011) Attached to: An Ethical Question Regarding Ebooks

The most obviously moral/practical solution in my opinion would be to order the text used from Amazon and then read the pirated electronic version.

Disagree. The author gets not a single bent penny from second-hand sales. (Neither does the publisher.)

The best move is to grab the pirated electronic copy, then buy a new copy of the author's latest book. That way, they get paid and their publisher receives a price signal that this author is popular.

To communicate is the beginning of understanding. -- AT&T