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Comment: Binoculars (Score 5, Interesting) 187

by dlleigh (#47739175) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?

Don't buy a telescope. Instead, get a good pair of 10x50 binoculars and an intro astronomy book with pictures.

A telescope will always take some setup and you'll be less likely to go to the effort as time goes on. With binoculars, you just grab them and go. That's a much better way to keep beginners interested.

+ - U.S. Rejects Demands For ACTA Transparency->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. Trade Representative issued a release just prior to the launch of the New Zealand round of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations that has left no doubt that the U.S. is the biggest barrier to official release of the ACTA text. Unlike most other ACTA countries that have called for transparency without condition, the U.S. has set conditions that effectively seeks to trade its willingness to release the text for gains on the substance of the text."
Link to Original Source
Apple

+ - The iPad vs. Microsoft's "Jupiter" Devices->

Submitted by harrymcc
harrymcc (1641347) writes "A dozen years ago, Microsoft convinced major manufacturers to put Windows CE inside devices that looked like undersized touchscreen personal computers. The platform was code-named "Jupiter" and shipped as Handheld PC Pro, and it flopped--it turned out that people wanted full-strength notebooks. But in retrospect, it was a clear antecedent of what Apple is doing--much more successfully--with the iPad."
Link to Original Source

+ - Proposed Ban For Electronic Cigarettes-> 13

Submitted by Anarki2004
Anarki2004 (1652007) writes "There is yet another ban that nobody asked for being proposed in several states currently. From the article: There is debate about whether or not the FDA has jurisdiction over e-cigarettes. There's a bill currently in Congress that would further complicate that debate. The Family Smoking Prevention And Tobacco Control Act was passed by the House on April 2nd, and is now in the Senate. One of its provisions would allow the FDA "to review and consider the evidence for additional indications for nicotine replacement products." That could be interpreted to allow e-cigarettes to fall under the FDA's jurisdiction.

As a former smoker and an extremely satisfied user of electronic personal vaporizers, this ban would force me and thousands of others to either switch back to analog cigarettes, or give up nicotine all together (which as any smoker/former smoker knows is not an easy task). The only people who will benefit from this law are pharmaceutical companies peddling smoking cessation products, and the tobacco industry. This proposed ban does absolutely nothing to benefit the citizens."

Link to Original Source
Input Devices

Why Are Digital Hearing Aids So Expensive? 727

Posted by timothy
from the what-the-market-will-hear dept.
sglines writes "Over the last couple of years I've been slowly getting deaf. Too much loud rock and roll I suppose. After flubbing a couple of job interviews because I couldn't understand my inquisitors, I had a hearing test which confirmed what I already knew: I'm deaf. So I tried on a set of behind-the-ear hearing aids. Wow, my keyboard makes clacks as I type and my wife doesn't mumble to herself. Then I asked how much: $3,700 for the pair. Hey, I'm unemployed. The cheapest digital hearing aids they had were $1,200 each. If you look at the specs they are not very impressive. A digital hearing aid has a low-power A-to-D converter. Output consists of D-to-A conversion with volume passing through an equalizer that inversely matches your hearing loss. Most hearing loss, mine included, is frequency dependent, so an equalizer does wonders. The 'cheap' hearing aids had only four channels while the high-end one had twelve. My 1970 amplifier had more than that. I suppose they have some kind of noise reduction circuitry, too, but that's pretty much it. So my question is this: when I can get a very good netbook computer for under $400 why do I need to pay $1,200 per ear for a hearing aid? Alternatives would be welcome."
Security

A "Never Reboot" Service For Linux 321

Posted by kdawson
from the bits-don't-rot dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ksplice, the company based on the MIT Ksplice project, is now offering its 'never reboot' service for Red Hat, Debian, and other Linux distros. You subscribe and get real-time kernel security updates that apply in-memory instead of rebooting. Last summer we discussed the free service for Ubuntu. Cool tech, but will people really pay $4 a month for this?"
Space

Using Light's Handedness To Find Alien Life 210

Posted by timothy
from the let's-skip-some-steps-in-the-middle dept.
Rational Egoist writes "Scientists working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have come up with a novel, easy way to detect life on other planets. Rather than try to measure the composition of atmospheres, they want to look at the chirality of light coming from the planet. From the article: '"If the [planet's] surface had just a collection of random chiral molecules, half would go left, half right," Germer says. "But life's self-assembly means they all would go one way. It's hard to imagine a planet's surface exhibiting handedness without the presence of self assembly, which is an essential component of life."' And they have already built a working model: 'Because chiral molecules reflect light in a way that indicates their handedness, the research team built a device to shine light on plant leaves and bacteria, and then detect the polarized reflections from the organisms' chlorophyll from a short distance away. The device detected chirality from both sources.' The article abstract is available online."

Comment: A hardware solution for click abatement (Score 1) 519

by dlleigh (#27350609) Attached to: Old-School Keyboard Makes Comeback of Sorts

Tactile feedback is very nice, but I hate audible clicks.

A couple of decades ago I worked for Wang Laboratories and extensively used their "workstations" (basically smart terminals with a proprietary interface). Wang was the king of word processing when the professional world was just switching over from their Selectric typewriters.

To make these users feel more at home, the workstations included a mechanical solenoid that would trigger on every keystroke. This not only produced a loud, typewriter-like click, but also yielded a a tactile, typewriter-like thud.

I'm sure some engineer worked very hard on that solenoid to make the workstation sound and feel just like a Selectric, but I hated the noise and implemented a hardware solution: I clipped a solenoid wire with a pair of cutters and regained blessed silence. Many of my co-workers asked me to perform this simple service for them as well.

Later workstation models would mimic the key click by playing a sound through the speaker, but I could turn that off with an option.

Programming

Programming Language Specialization Dilemma 569

Posted by Soulskill
from the choosing-a-path dept.
aremstar writes "I'm a final-year Computer Science student from the UK. During my studies, we covered 3 programming languages: C, C++ and Java. The issue is that we didn't cover any of these languages in sufficient depth for me to claim that I have commercial-ready experience. It's one thing being able to write simple programs for class assignments, but those are quite different from writing something as complex as the Linux kernel or a multi-threaded banking app. I'm thinking of spending a few weeks/months studying in order to specialize in one of those languages. Fortran also entered my consideration, as it is great for numerical computing and used by many financial institutions, banks, etc. In terms of skill requirements in job ads, my (brief) experience suggests that most programming jobs require C++, with Java a close second. C — unfortunately — doesn't appear as much. My question is: if you were in my shoes, which language would win your time investment? My heart suggests C, with a little bit of Fortran to complement it, but I'm a bit worried that there might not be enough demand in the job market."
HP

HP Seeks to Block Competitor From Revealing Its Pricing 144

Posted by timothy
from the whaddya-mean-the-price-tag's-showing? dept.
Matt Asay writes "On October 13, 2008, Hewlett-Packard sent a complaint to an open-source competitor, GroundWork, asking GroundWork to stop revealing HP's 'confidential' pricing. CNET has posted the letter, which indicates that HP doesn't want its pricing revealed, but which doesn't question the veracity of the pricing (which, not surprisingly, is 82 percent higher than the open-source vendor's). Does HP think its pricing is really a secret? It's publicly available at GSA Advantage. Guess what? HP software costs a lot of money, but presumably feels that it can justify the high prices. Why try to hide the pricing information?"
Robotics

Packs of Robots Will Hunt Down Uncooperative Humans 395

Posted by Soulskill
from the you've-been-warned dept.
Ostracus writes "The latest request from the Pentagon jars the senses. At least, it did mine. They are looking for contractors to 'develop a software/hardware suite that would enable a multi-robot team, together with a human operator, to search for and detect a non-cooperative human subject. The main research task will involve determining the movements of the robot team through the environment to maximize the opportunity to find the subject ... Typical robots for this type of activity are expected to weigh less than 100 Kg and the team would have three to five robots.'" To be fair, they plan to use the Multi-Robot Pursuit System for less nefarious-sounding purposes as well. They note that the robots would "have potential commercialization within search and rescue, fire fighting, reconnaissance, and automated biological, chemical and radiation sensing with mobile platforms."
Transportation

Feds Target "Mongols" Biker Club's Intellectual Property 393

Posted by kdawson
from the shirt-off-your-back dept.
couchslug writes in with a Reuters account of a Federal raid on a California-based motorcycle club, the Mongols, on charges "ranging from murder and robbery to extortion, money laundering, gun trafficking and drug dealing." The interesting twist is that the authorities are asking the courts to seize the IP of the biker club — specifically, their trademarked name "Mongols." "Federal agents and police in seven states arrested more than 60 members of the Mongols motorcycle gang on Tuesday in a sweep that also targeted for the first time an outlaw group's 'intellectual property,' prosecutors said. The arrests cap a three-year undercover investigation in which US agents posed as gang members and their girlfriends to infiltrate the group, even submitting to polygraph tests administered by the bikers ... [T]he name 'Mongols,' which appears on the gang's arm patch insignia, was trademarked by the group. The indictment seeks a court order outlawing further use of the name, which would allow any police officer 'who sees a Mongol wearing this patch ... to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back' ..."

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