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Comment: Love My Kindle DX (Score 1) 254

by glatiak (#37136746) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Ebook Reader for Scientific Papers?

I get a lot of documentation, magazines and so forth in PDF format. The Kindle DX has worked well for me. Usually I use it in portrait -- the much higher resolution of the ePaper display makes even the small type of Scientific American crisp. Sure, reading on my laptop is more colourful -- but the Kindle can be read in full sun, so reading on a deck chair is very pleasant. I tried a neighbors iPad under the same conditions and found it almost unreadable -- bright sun makes the Kindle even more legible. Most stuff that I download from the web just gets dragged across the usb -- when connected to a computer the Kindle storage appears as a USB disk drive. You will use categories to group the documents into sensible buckets -- but be aware that it is all artifice and the actual document store is just one big bucket. So name collisions could be inconvenient. If the pdf is a scanned document it sometimes helps to turn the Kindle sideways and read in landscape mode. Color would be nice but for 95% of what I read it is mostly irrelevant. The only problem I have had is that some of the two page high density graphics encountered in magazines (Sciam, for example) take a long time to render and if you get impatient something gets lost. Then the only way to recover is to do a hard power-down/reset. My first DX got the dreaded frozen bar disease -- happened quite abruptly for not apparent abuse on my part. I suspect that the ePaper assembly came delaminated somewhere and this broke electrical connectivity. I have the impression that this is an occasional problem of all ePaper displays. Amazon declined to comment but shipped a replacement out very quickly. And the battery life is very long -- makes it easy to forget that this is a little Linux box with a specialized interface. Ultimately it is an issue of taste -- and we all know that in matters of taste we are all quite mad. The Kindle DX works well for me.

Comment: Rural Ontario Broadband (Score 1) 381

by glatiak (#36761374) Attached to: The Cost Of Broadband In Every Rural Home

I don't know what drugs some of these 'experts' (an unknown drip under pressure to be sure) are taking. We live in rural Ontario, on an island no less. Our internet service is satellite and Wi-Fi from two different providers. The satellite was the first source and it has been reliable although the two second latency makes video Skype a bit surreal. Then we got Wi-Fi from another provider -- it is faster but curiously much less reliable. I would love to have fibre but the two mile wide channel that is quite deep makes it a bit of a challenge. Our problem is that while the Wi-Fi service is pretty decent the leased line that links our tower to the local fibre was a bit under-configured. When the kids come home from school the thruput falls off rapidly. And the ISP is a bit casual about system uptime, which makes it worse. One problem we do have is that streaming video or music is pretty much unusable - it comes in chunks with disruptive pauses. So we shudder when yet another media site blathers on about how happy they are to put in more streaming video. And Netflix or VOIP are completely unusable. And the odd part is that out here in the boonies those kinds of services are exactly what one might want. But I guess the level of paranoia about potentially redistributable media files trumps the extra business potential. Yeah, its a drag providing services for us rural folk. But solutions exist that work well -- although never to what an urban troll with local fibre would get.

Comment: A Good Idea if Cooperative (Score 1) 1173

by glatiak (#36659388) Attached to: Roundabout Revolution Sweeping US

We just got a roundabout in the area, replacing a 2-way stop. During periods of low to moderate traffic it definitely makes traffic flow better. But when the traffic gets heavy on the cross-road, getting through becomes quite challenging. Problem is that with signals or stop signs the flow becomes broken, giving opportunity for others to get through. With a traffic circle one is dependent upon the courtesy of other drivers to allow traffic to play through -- so the chance for a collision goes up. We sometimes sit a long time waiting for a break in the flow to get across. So, pretty much like anything else that depends upon mutual cooperation to work. A string of selfish drivers can really bugger it up. At least with a congestion interrupter (respected, of course) there is a chance for less aggressive drivers.

Comment: The US has to want to. (Score 3, Insightful) 365

by glatiak (#36651828) Attached to: Can the US Still Lead In Space Despite Shuttle's End?

Prior to the launch of Sputnik the US was still absorbed in licking its wounds from WW2 and Korea -- space exploration was the dream of a few. Then the Russians launched Sputnik and I came back from summer break to find that the wood shop had been transformed into a science lab. From then on it was just good old competition. I remember JFKs speach with particular fondness -- 'not because it was easy but because it was hard'. Our lives have been transformed by the things we have learned -- and yet our will to succeed has flagged. The US (and to a more limited extent Canada) prospered because of the challenge of new frontiers where one was constantly challenged and not continually fenced in by vested interests that made sure that 'the right people' made money and not just anybody. I doubt we could do the Manhatten project again or any other big project. We struggle to keep the water running and the bridges standing and argue vigorously in favor of the profits of the few. The largest frontier lies over our heads and is vast beyond comprehension. And it will be populated by some of us -- who understand the strategic value of owning the high ground. But as for the US and its leadership...we are legends in our own minds.

Comment: Streaming? Screaming! (Score 1) 367

by glatiak (#36249994) Attached to: Are Streaming Media Players a Passing Fad

I for one have been appalled at the spread of streaming media and how thoroughly it has displaced the prior downloadable media formats. When I lived in an urban area with a physical wire providing my internet access I really didn't care. But now that I am retired and living in a rural area contending with internet access over satellite (sluggish but reliable) and a local Wi-Fi provider (fast but unreliable and grossly underconfigured) streaming media effectively means no media at all. Even Internet radio is a sometimes thing and VOIP is just a dream. So I am happy that many are able to enjoy this but for us it means the great silence. If there were an effective way of caching it so we could trickle-feed and playback that would help, but the system seems designed to make that difficult and I am too lazy anymore to work through how to code it.

Comment: Waste (Score 2) 436

by glatiak (#36105866) Attached to: Alabama Nuclear Reactor Gets 'F' Grade

One of the often cited problems with nuclear plants is the waste -- unlike coal plants whose waste is simply piled up around the plant (we used to use cinders on roads... but now we mine gravel and throw the cinders away) or blown into the air. But the waste from nuclear reactors is different in that even small amounts are intrinsicly dangerous. But since we have neither the political will to make one big pile, or even move it across country or allow reprocessing of the waste we just pretend that it isn't there. Untill we are reminded that it won't go away on its own. Oh my....

There are a number of silly things about this non-approach: it has to be dealt with one way or another so tying the process up in red tape or hysteria (or both) fixes nothing. And we close our eyes to the possibility that this material may be a resource that we are just not bright enough to find a benefit from.

And there is the other minor detail that perhaps we might reconsider our bigger is better fixation? Not everything scales up gracefully and I suspect that the cost and complexity of a nuclear plant large enough to power the planet probably hides some brittleness that will come back to haunt us. Problem with big is that everything connected with it is expensive and difficult to change -- maybe this is another example?

Personally I don't think we need the power from nuclear anywhere near bad enough to face the problems that our ignorance of it brings. Still too many alternatives that we think we understand and seem less dangerous. Remember, gasoline was once considered too dangerous to be used as a fuel... but we learned.

Comment: Paper? What paper? (Score 1) 371

by glatiak (#35999268) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Do You File Paper Documents At Home?

I have been scanning and shredding paper documents since the 1990's, much of it using Paperport. The older versions used a pdf-type image format called 'max', the current version uses pdf. A small fujitsu scanner that does both sides at once and writes pdfs directly has been a great help - will take a stack of pages although feeding is sometimes tricky. This all goes into a structured directory tree that gets replicated across multiple hosts. Like paper records, finding things later and keeping the clutter under control is an ongoing maintenance issue. Indexing has been less useful that I might have thought -- the directory tree is the real workhorse. I have also tried sharepoint but its just different, not really better. The built-in indexing is supposed to be a benefit but I am too lazy to want to hack the code requried to make it work. Nice part is that it can all get burned to a dvd -- and the 2tb external drive I use for replicating my folders and backups is pretty portable. All I can say is that this approach works well for personal and small business files and is a lot more portable and accessible than file cabinets or boxes.

Comment: Re:Not always possible to install more ram (Score 1) 475

by glatiak (#35990278) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Small-Footprint Modern Browser?

Not quite. The real issue is the size of the address registers that step through the memory cells -- if the plumbing isnt there to step through all the cells it cannot be used. I have had a few machines over the years where the maximum memory was hardware defined -- and even though larger memory arrays became available later, they could not be used. Before spending the bucks it is helpful to check what the hardware is capable of using. After all, we all want the maximum usable memory -- anything past that is wasted.

Comment: Chemistry Sets (Score 1) 296

by glatiak (#35981584) Attached to: The Chemical-Free Chemistry Kit

One of the happiest moments of my ill-spent childhood was when my cousin gave me her very lightly used chemistry set. She was a tad older than me and this one was produced in the mid-1940's, well before safe and sane (obviously oxymoronic) became the watchword of the day. I had a lot of fun with it and was cheerfully able to do fun experiments that were already unavailable in the late 1950's (at least for kids). Still have all fingers, toes and other functioning body parts, except for numerous little scars from woodworking (as an adult). Life is not safe, and nobody gets out alive -- a small detail which is much more on my mind in retirement that it was as a kid. But here we are in a forming nanny state -- chemical free chemistry sets, dated child seats for cars so we dont use an old seat... seizure of child lunches to suppress unfashionable food choices, and so forth...ad nausea. Heck, when I wanted to blow something up I could -- and being still here means that I survived the Darwinian test. If we prevent those of us who really should not survive from removing themselves from the gene pool are we really better off? Idiots...

Comment: IQ tests measure success at doing IQ Tests (Score 1) 488

by glatiak (#35936546) Attached to: What Does IQ Really Measure?

In my 40 odd years in and out of Mensa I have taken a few IQ tests and met a lot of smart, capable people -- some of them in Mensa. Problem is that some of the brightest would never have passed a test because their intelligence was expressed in other ways than the things IQ tests measure. IQ tests demonstrate ability to solve certain types of problems -- this is a tiny subset of the skills needed to function effectively and creatively in the world. These tests are not a Krell brain power measure, although they are often represented as though they were. And of course, it makes perfect sense that if you are too bummed out about life, responding thoughtfully to the questions in an IQ test could be just too much -- and I am sure the converse is true as well. So this new revelation seems pretty obvious. But some incredible musicians and artists might not do too well, because their minds go elsewhere. And weird cases like Buckminster Fuller (who I met when he was chairman of international Mensa) might like Einstein be classified as failures before they found what interested them. And there are certainly lots of folks in these high IQ societies who are similarly dubious.

Comment: It is always impossible (Score 1) 542

by glatiak (#35781040) Attached to: Forget Space Travel, It's Just a Dream

Let us not forget that in the 19th century there was some discussion about closing the Patent office because everything possible had already been invented. This is really nothing different. Later on there was powered flight, radio, computers, etc -- all quite impossible from the perspective of the mid-19th century. The part that I remember best about JFKs speach about going to the Moon was 'not because it is easy but because it is hard'. One might modestly suggest that it is only by trying to tackle the impossible problems that we learn anything. Setting the bar low and then not trying because, of course, it is impossible will always apeal to some people. Happily, the rest of us will leave them behind some day. But if we stop trying... then what they said will become true.

Comment: Re:Considering ..... (Score 1) 769

by glatiak (#35477926) Attached to: Japan Battles Partial Nuclear Meltdown

Nuclear waste... this stuff will be hot for centuries. What could it be used for? If we start looking at it as an opportunity rather than something to get rid of, we might surprise ourselves. Small scale power generation like the Soviets were using? I don't know. But I sense there is a huge opportunity here.

Comment: Re:Luddites are dangerous (Score 1) 752

by glatiak (#35465104) Attached to: Nuclear Emergency Declared At 2 Plants In Japan

Yep. People forget how many died as engineers learned how to manage high pressure steam. And the various disasters caused by wrought iron and structural steel. My personal favorite is the Comet -- first commercial jet liner, untill they started blowing up at altitude -- seems there was this little problem called metal fatigue... Personally, even with the design flaws the nuclear industry has been incredibly safe with a great track record compared to, for example, the oil industry. And the Japanese experience with this earthquake show just how tough the technology is. I am half expecting the nuclear NYMBYs to start dancing around and pointing to the explosion in the turbine building with -- 'see, see... I told you they weren't safe'. (Like the tombstone inscription for a hypochondriac 'see, I told you I was sick'.) I would much rather have a nuclear plant next door so I can have my lights on when I want instead of a bunch of wind turbines to keep me up at night and let me flip the lights on only when its blowing. The old line about that which does not kill you makes you stronger is true of civilizations as well.

Everyone has a purpose in life. Perhaps yours is watching television. - David Letterman

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