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Comment: Re:A basic land line (Score 1) 635

by jhecht (#47790715) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Old Technology Can't You Give Up?
The best feature of a landline is being able to understand the people you're speaking to. At least here in the US, mobile voice quality tends to be poor, thanks largely to speech compression, background noise, and the lousy acoustics of many models (smartphones have to do a lot of processing to make up for their tiny mikes and speakers). In the US, the basic landline rate usually covers unlimited calls within the US may be lower than the basic individual mobile rate (without a maximum number of minutes a month). If you talk a lot, landline to landline calls are a clear win in both call quality and price.

Comment: Re:Mixture of Bulbs (Score 1) 278

by jhecht (#47450087) Attached to: My most recent energy-saving bulbs last ...
I've been using compact fluorescent bulbs for the better part of a decade and many (maybe 5-10 in a large house) have failed. Most were cheap no-name models, but they didn't account for all the failures. Poorly made CFL bulbs are a known problem. I've been running half a dozen LEDs for 2-3 years, and only one of them failed, just a couple of weeks ago -- a no-name bulb I picked up on sale for $1.99 at Home Depot. Didn't realize quite how cheap that was until I got home and checked them out. I don't notice a major color issue. I do notice an annoying hum in one compact fluorescent, presumably a defective driver. The one place I am holding onto incandescents is in an old candelabra-bulb chandelier with dangling glass baubles. It's pretty with clear-glass incandescents. The CFL versions are out and out ugly, and the LEDs aren't much better.

Comment: Re:Need to be able to use without looking at it (Score 1) 148

Short glances are one thing, but the new displays require focusing and reading, which takes more time. An old-fashioned dial-meter takes only a glance to roughly estimate speed, fuel, and engine temperature. A large two-digit speed display works because it takes only an instant to read. But that was the only legible display on the 2014 Prius C I test-drove. The second digital display on the top displayed small characters that were hard to focus on, and switched through a series of four displays to boot. If you were looking for something beyond speed, you had to look away from the road for much too long, and I couldn't even focus on the thing. We bought a 2013 Honda Fit instead -- the displays are readable on a quick glance. That's what it's going to take for the auto makers to learn.

Comment: Re:Cell phone reliability (Score 1) 582

by jhecht (#45562785) Attached to: The Dismantling of POTS: Bold Move Or Grave Error?
FiOS may be a mistake from Verizon's short-term bottom line, but that big pipe is a boon to those of us who have it. And that's the big problem with the FCC, AT&T et al who want to pull the plug on POTS. All they are thinking about is short-term bottom line. The real solution is to tell Big Telecom that after they run fiber to the home, and keep it running for 5 years, then they can apply to pull the plug on POTS.

Comment: Separate trends for old and new books (Score 1) 128

by jhecht (#44197935) Attached to: How Copyright Makes Books and Music Disappear
The data show two separate trends. For in-copyright books, the publisher's initial printing sells out and when sales drop off (for paper editions) the publisher stops printing more copies. Readers buy used copies, easily available from Amazon, Alibris, etc., which have taken over the market for older books, so eventually no new copies are available. If lots of copies were printed, the volume of used books is large and copies are cheap. If few were printed and more people want them, used copies are hard to find or expensive. Readers may have a problem, but it's not as bad as it looks. Authors and publishers have more problems because it's harder to make money selling new reprints. The large volume of new copies of out-of-copyright books probably comes from the ease of print-on-demand publishing. A simple recipe for do-it-yourself publishing is to set up a book template, skim the texts of public-domain books from Project Gutenberg or a similar source, and put the books into the system, without investing a penny in paper or ink until someone buys a copy on-line. Look up a public classic, like The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper, and you'll get dozens of different new editions on Amazon. Go a little ways down the list and you'll start finding publishers you've never heard of. They (probably) are POD editions that can be cheaply produced. Because the investment is so low (compared to actually printing copies and distributing copies the old-fashioned way), there are many more editions of these old books available than newer ones -- but you'll never find most of them in a bricks and mortar bookstore.

Comment: Re:Article summary: "I am a Mac fanboi" (Score 5, Interesting) 704

by jhecht (#42710783) Attached to: What Early Software Was Influential Enough To Deserve Acclaim?
The Mac OS's successful commercialization of the GUI was a huge advance, and students really need to compare it to CP/M and the like to understand its importance. You don't need a detailed comparison, just test runs of the two side by side to show the difference in user experience. Late in 1983, I walked into a computer store fully intending to buy a CP/M machine, fiddled with the interface for about a half hour, and walked out without buying one. It simply was not worth it, even as a technology writer. I'm a fast typist, the three-finger command interface was too clumsy, and nobody wanted -- or even knew how to handle -- electronic submissions. The late Cary Lu introduced me to the Mac, in 1984, but what sold me was watching my six-year-old daughter play with one in the Boston Computer Museum. She picked up the interface in minutes for MacPaint. MacPaint and file management were similarly intuitive. I wanted a tool for writing, not to be a computer operator. I bought a Mac and got it up and running right out of the box.

Comment: Re:AMTRAK (Score 1) 382

by jhecht (#41055555) Attached to: When Flying Was a Thrill
Amtrak is doing fine from Boston to New York and New York to Washington, account for more trips on both those routes than the airlines according to a recent report Amtrak is not just more comfortable than flying. It's also about as fast, if you account for the overhead time in getting to the transportation and waiting for it, especially if you are going downtown to downtown.

Comment: Re:Livescribe (Score 1) 300

by jhecht (#39544901) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Note-Taking Device For Conferences?
It depends on your typing speed and the legibility of your handwriting. I can type very fast and my handwriting is awful, so my notetaker of choice is a MacBook Pro running a simple word processor like Nisus Writer express, but any laptop with a physical keyboard (to orient my fingers) would work. Type fast, clean up the spelling mistakes later. Not only can I read my notes, but I have then in digital form for later reference. I'm a reporter and do the same for telephone interviews. One down side is that you can't do graphics and formulas are tough, but I rarely need them. If I did, I would go for a smartphone or compact digital camera with enough zoom and sensitivity to get the needed details -- if the conference allowed photography. Many don't.

If Machiavelli were a hacker, he'd have worked for the CSSG. -- Phil Lapsley