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Comment: Re:The industry will NEVER allow you free energy.. (Score 1) 517

by dfm3 (#48008957) Attached to: Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

I too have off-the-grid dreams as a house-owner, but the power companies always find a way, same thing with the electrical car that could run on water. Lobbyist will manipulate (read: FORCE) politicians into their direction, so you'll be depending on them one way or the other.

Huh? I guess there are places where you are required by law to hook up your house to the power grid, but nobody can force you to USE electricity. What's to stop you from just keeping the main breaker switched off?

I've actually known more than one person who didn't have utility power to their house, and they made it just fine. One of them engineered a small hydroelectric turbine system using a small creek that flowed across their land (they had several hundred acres in the North Carolina mountains) which they used to power a small refrigerator and occasionally a computer. The other used a collection of lead-acid car batteries which they charged up using a solar panel, then could hook up to an inverter as they needed.

Comment: Skeuomorphism vs. flat (Score 4, Informative) 336

by dfm3 (#47593187) Attached to: Windows XP Falls Below 25% Market Share, Windows 8 Drops Slightly

Maybe it's also because I hate the new skeuomorphic design aesthetic. What's wrong with gloss, gradients, transparency, and attractive animations, or even a bevel or link here and there so we can actually tell something is clickable rather than playing mystery-meat navigation? I swear, everything is going flat-shaded, blocky, ugly, and indistinguishable, all because that's now the new "hip" look.

Skeumorphism - the use of design elements that mimic real life objects with similar functions, is actually the opposite phenomenon from the flat, light-on-pastel design trend. Though I fully agree with you - both of these UI philosophies have been severely overused.

A bit of googling will turn up plenty of articles analyzing the history of the skeuomorphism-versus-flat debate particularly at Apple, which I would argue has been one of the biggest influences in UI design over the last few years. Basically, the loss of skeuomorphism advocates such as Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall led to the pendulum swinging completely in the other direction, and many gimmicky and dated interface elements such as notes apps that look like real paper and a game center that looks like a cheap felt billiard table have been stripped away. But - what to replace it with? Well, everybody wants to stay on top of the latest design trend, and Microsoft and others seem to be migrating to flat designs, so flat it is.

Although you could argue over who copied who, essentially what you have is Microsoft and Apple in a race to see who can flatten their interfaces and strip out any traces of skeuomorphism the fastest. Sure, it looks trendy, but it's reached the point where we are sacrificing usability and accessibility in order to have the most "modern" design. Here's where I have a problem with the whole thing: computer interface elements have been pretty consistent over the last 20+ years or so. Everything behaved as expected and usually acted pretty consistent between operating systems. This is great for users, since they can focus on the task rather than the tools needed to accomplish them, and using the interface becomes second nature. To those who *design* computers rather than *use* them, this is a problem - you want the bling to be noticed. The old way of doing this was to show off your new hardware by making the UI flashy, bright, colorful, inviting - basically by ramping up the skeuomorphic elements to 11.

The problem is, the novelty of this wears off fast, and these interfaces quickly become dated. Now, flat is in, and anything that even remotely resembles skeuomorphism is stripped out. I have a number of problems with the current trend:

1) interface elements are hidden or played down, making them hard to find. Often it's hard to tell if I'm just not looking hard enough for that feature, or if it has been removed altogether.
2) It does away with conventions that have been standard for decades. This means that every time designers go wild designing a new interface, users have to spend time and effort learning a new way to accomplish a task.
3) It's less accessible. Razor thin text is hard for some people to see. Pastel on white and white on pastel text may look "hip" but can incredibly difficult to read. Interface elements that are marginalized can be hard to hunt down if the user doesn't know where to look.
4) It's inconsistent. Some programs hide buttons and scroll bars, some do not. Some use vastly different elements for simple actions such as "close window" so that the user is left guessing at the function of a UI element.

My prediction is that in a few years, "flat" will look as equally dated as skeuomorphism does now.

Comment: Re:e. coli and salmonella? (Score 5, Informative) 106

by dfm3 (#47280443) Attached to: Researchers Find "Achilles Heel" of Drug Resistant Bacteria
As a microbiologist, I agree that the Telegraph article is rife with errors. The original article is paywalled, but from the abstract it sounds as if the researchers described a mechanism by which lipopolysaccharide, a component of the gram-negative cell wall which provides some degree of antibiotic resistance, is exported from the cell. I understand Dong, et al to be suggesting that a compound which prevents proper transport of LPS could be used synergistically with another drug which would otherwise be blocked from entry into the cell by LPS.

Further, the use of the term "immunity" to describe antibiotic resistance is a pet peeve of mine, as these terms do not mean the same thing!

Comment: Re:And the question of the day is... (Score 1) 327

I can't decide if this should be rated funny, flamebait, or insightful. You have a point though... in an age of App Stores where users are faced with the noise of thousands of copycat apps, it seems that the key to success is how well you catch the attention of potential users, whether through pretty UI screenshots or a flashy looking icon. One of my (formerly) favorite weather apps was recently swept up into the modern "pencil thin white text on a light pastel background with flat UI" design craze, and removed about half the app's features while moving the rest to a single, long scrolling column. Half of the users decried the change for removing valuable functionality and destroying ease of navigation, while the other half offered praise along the lines of: "look at that pretty animated background!" and "ooooooh, shiney!"

Comment: How can I relate this to a car analogy... (Score 1) 146

by dfm3 (#46848719) Attached to: Texas Family Awarded $2.9 Million In Fracking Lawsuit

We are not anti-fracking or anti-drilling. My goodness, we live in Texas.

Yeah, we love fracking! Now give us the 2.9 million dollars...

I love cars. However, if you drove a car into my house and caused serious injury to my family, I would expect monetary compensation from you to cover the damages and medical bills.

Comment: Re:If you know it so well, that's the point (Score 1) 64

by dfm3 (#46730003) Attached to: Future Airline Safety Instructions Will Be Given By Game Apps
Here's one better: give everybody a safety orientation quiz before boarding, and those with the best scores get their choice of an aisle or window seat, choice of exit row or no exit row, and guaranteed space in an overhead bin. Oh, and the ability to select a non-sweaty seatmate. Put everybody else in the back and separate them by a soundproof door along with anybody flying with an infant-in-arms. Do that, and I won't even need the drink...

Comment: If you know it so well, that's the point (Score 2) 64

by dfm3 (#46723897) Attached to: Future Airline Safety Instructions Will Be Given By Game Apps
If you're so familiar with the safety briefing that you could give it yourself, then the briefings are working *exactly* as they are intended to!
Emergency preparedness is intended to drill these practices into you so that when the time comes, you don't have to think about what to do, you know what to do. Believe me, in a panic situation most ill prepared people don't calmly assess their surroundings and take the time to look for the instructions, but their first reaction is to get themselves out of harm's way as soon as possible. How do I find that emergency exit now that the cabin is filled with smoke? I looked for it when I boarded and I know that it is two rows behind me. Someone who has never been told to look for this exit may not even realize that it is there, nor will they think to look for the patterns in the lights on the floor that indicate you are at an exit row.

I am a very frequent flier, and could give the safety briefing myself, but I still make an effort to put down what I'm doing and pay attention. Why? Because I want to set an example for those who *should* be listening, since I don't want something that they do in a panic later to cause me harm.

Comment: Arcade games are still skill based (Score 2) 181

by dfm3 (#46709979) Attached to: Do Free-To-Play Games Get a Fair Shake?
In my mind, the difference is that there is some level of skill involved in arcade gameplay which is missing in current f2p games. Having grown up in the era when arcades were still the place to spend a Saturday afternoon, I can remember the excitement of nailing that perfect play which seemed to go on and on as the difficulty became increasingly harder... or, the frustration of realizing that you just wasted your money as you crash and burn right off the bat.

Really good arcade players could go what seemed like forever on a single coin, sometimes drawing a sizable audience, while the not-so-good players had a financial (and social!) incentive to improve their gameplay. This is missing from f2p games, which aren't designed to test the player's skill, but their patience. "Trolls are destroying your crops! To double your yield, build a watchtower that will only cost 99 cents!" would be akin to an arcade game prompting you, "Want to complete this level with half of the enemies? Insert a second token now!"

Comment: Yes (Score 2, Informative) 114

by dfm3 (#45058707) Attached to: Meet the Voice Behind Siri
The sentences are computer generated, but where did you think the actual syllables came from?

Hour after hour, she read nonsensical phrases and sentences so that the "ubergeeks" -- as she affectionately calls them; they leave her awestruck -- could work their magic by pulling out vowels, consonants, syllables and diphthongs, and playing with her pitch and speed.

Comment: Re:"Financial Sense" (Score 1) 668

by dfm3 (#45053315) Attached to: Are Shuttered Gov't Sites Actually Saving Money?

if there are many of them, then you should be able to give a few examples.

I live near one of the entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We have several facilities in the park (stables, nature centers, bookstores) which are run by private groups and nonprofits with permission from the NPS. When the shutdown took effect, all of them were required to close up shop and leave the park. What's even better, we have areas which are typically seldom if ever patrolled (such as backcountry and wilderness areas) which are being monitored with as many federal law enforcement personnel as possible in order to keep out visitors. At one particular park entrance, which normally patrolled by a single park ranger, TWO rangers with vehicles were stationed just to turn people away at the boundary.

Source: I know many people who work (er... worked) in the park, I have worked within the park myself, and I do volunteer work there. Interestingly, during the shutdown volunteers are *specifically* prohibited from performing any work that a paid employee would normally do.

Comment: That's exactly the way it should work (Score 1) 344

by dfm3 (#44246171) Attached to: Police, Copyright Industry Raid Movie Subtitle Fansite
If I've built up excellent karma through a series of insightful, informative, on-topic posts, I shouldn't have all of that negated by a single post that happens not to please the mods that day. It is designed that way to prevent abuses of the system... for example, so that someone's karma doesn't get obliterated by a few abusive mods who happen to disagree with my opinion on one single post. Yeah, I know that meta-moderation is supposed to reduce this possibility, but really, I know better than that...

Now, if I choose to continuously spout off with a series of flamebait or off topic posts, I deserve the karma hit that will inevitably result.

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