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Comment: Re:always come back to MS Word (Score 1) 168

by joe_frisch (#46779647) Attached to: Apache OpenOffice Reaches 100 Million Downloads. Now What?

Same here. I want to move away from MS but (in my case) LibreOffice doesn't quite make it. It does 90% of what I need, but I also need the remaining 10%. Also too many other people use MS products and the 95% compatibility just isn't enough.

The one exception is LibreOffice draw which I use as my primary quick sketch / drawing package.

Comment: Re:E = (T2-T1) / T1 (Score 2) 150

by joe_frisch (#46774349) Attached to: 'Thermoelectrics' Could One Day Power Cars

In mobile systems (cars, planes, etc), the extra hardware to extract energy from the waste heat adds weight and can reduce the overall efficiency of the vehicle. In fixed power-plant type applications they already extract energy down to pretty low discharge temperatures.

This idea has been around for a LONG time - I remember in the early 70s reading an article in popular science on a system to extract waste heat from car engines. It "worked" but the added weight and expense made it not worth the effort.

An interesting tidbit is that modern aircraft jet engines are LESS efficient than piston aircraft engines in terms of mechanical energy delivered for the fuel used. Almost all modern transport aircraft use jets because the power to weight is so much higher than for piston engines that the overall efficiency of the aircraft is better than with piston engines.

Comment: Re:Need laws on effects, not technologies (Score 1) 108

by joe_frisch (#46762613) Attached to: 52 Million Photos In FBI's Face Recognition Database By Next Year

The law should limit what they can collect as well as what they can do with data they have. I don't see any alternative to laws to prevent the government from having access to data. They have the resources to get pretty much any data they want, certainly a non-expert will not be able to secure their data against the NSA.

Comment: Need laws on effects, not technologies (Score 1) 108

by joe_frisch (#46762295) Attached to: 52 Million Photos In FBI's Face Recognition Database By Next Year

We need clear laws on what law enforcement and government agencies are allow to know about us, not how they gain that data. Do we want the government to be able to track everyone's motions. If not, then it shouldn't matter if they use cell phone data, face recognition, satellite photos, tracking implants, or invisible flying monkeys that follow people around, it shouldn't be legal.

If we do want to allow the government to track out motions, then we should let them us the least expensive, most efficient technology available. Simply making it difficult but not impossible is crazy , WE (the tax payers of the country in question) are the ones paying for the service, we are just making it more expensive for ourselves.

People clearly disagree on how much tracking is OK, but that it true for a wide variety of societal decisions, we should go through the normal legislative process.

Comment: A pony with sparkles (Score 2) 157

by joe_frisch (#46751355) Attached to: Will This Flying Car Get Crowdfunded?

5 year old girls want a pony with sparkles - or maybe a unicorn, but they can't have one. Commuters want a flying car but they can't have one either.

Aircraft fly by moving a lot of air downward in order to counteract gravity. If they move less air quickly the total power the need goes up (force goes as mass/second * velocity, power goes as mass/second * velocity SQUARED). So, in order to be efficient they need to have very big wings, or very big helicopter rotors, or very big low density volumes.

Look at all conventional aircraft, they have BIG wings. Those wings will not fit on roads. So if you want a flying car you are left with a clunky folding wing contraption that is a terrible car AND a terrible airplane. No matter how pretty the CGI or fiberglass mock-up design it just isn't going to work.

Comment: Re:The President doesn't micro-manage this stuff (Score 1) 134

If a military organization discovers a weakness in an enemy country's defenses, it is perfectly reasonable for them to keep this weakness secret and use it in future conflicts. Cyber security is different. Since we are all using roughly the same technology, by discovering a weakness in the defenses of another country, they have discovered a weakness in OUR defenses.

At the moment the US has a strong advantage in conventional warfare, but not so much in cyber warfare. In looking at overall national defense, patching holes in everyone's cyber defenses reduces the effectiveness of cyber war (where we are not clearly dominant), and moves the focus to conventional war where we are dominant.

Comment: Re:Stupid to use Windows in the first place (Score 1) 322

by joe_frisch (#46736337) Attached to: IRS Misses XP Deadline, Pays Microsoft Millions For Patches

Even if in a particular application the total cost of using the proprietary software is lower because it makes workers more productive? Remember that the cost of the person using a computer is far higher than the cost of the computer and software installed on it. A full time person costs ~$100K. A 10% efficiency change dwarfs most software costs.

Comment: Re:We have those in South Carolina too (Score 1) 324

by joe_frisch (#46731569) Attached to: Can You Buy a License To Speed In California?

I believe you are honest, I believe a lot of police are, but it seems like these plates create the potential for favoritism. No bribery, but the natural tendency for people to want to support people who support them. In a similar fashion an anti-police bumper sticker might well encourage a police officer to treat someone more harshly.

Police have a lot of leeway in traffic stops - which is fine, but it also makes it very easy for them to be influenced by a variety of subtle biases.

Comment: Out of easy experiments? (Score 4, Insightful) 290

by joe_frisch (#46720589) Attached to: Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover

We are not out of physics - still lots of big mysteries: Dark matter, dark energy, unification, quantum gravity etc. It is possible though that we are running out of small scale experiments and future ones will on average become more expensive and take longer. Bigger accelerators. Bigger telescopes etc.

I hope this isn't true and that people can become more clever, but it might be.

Comment: Re:Viva La XP! (Score 4, Insightful) 641

by joe_frisch (#46694747) Attached to: Meet the Diehards Who Refuse To Move On From Windows XP

I have a XP based oscilloscope - 20Gs/s, 3.5GHz, deep memory. The vendor won't upgrade it. A replacement is probably >$20K. One of its features is that it can run on the network, but that requires security. Our lab has other expensive XP based hardware as well.

I don't think Microsoft should be *required* to keep supporting XP, but there are a lot of people who are using it because it is the most practical choice for their application.

For normal desktop computing I upgrade hardware and software on a reasonable schedule. Laboratory equipment tends to have a much longer useful life than desktops and is much more expensive. Most of the computers I use are modern, but most of the $$ value of computers are expensive specialized lab equipment.

Comment: Re:The value of a Stradivarius (Score 1) 469

Quality of sound is inherently subjective. The sounds were not identical, just the double blind preference did not favor the Strad. If someone believes that a Strad (or tube amp, of vinyl, or whatever) sounds better, then does it make any sense to argue? This is 100% about entertainment, so the Strad may be better IF you are allowed to tell the audience that is what you are playing.

Personally I wouldn't buy a $1M violin (if I still played and could afford it), .and I also don't have a tube amp and got rid of my vinyl records many years ago. However if someone receives more enjoyment from those things than without them, its their $$$ to spend as they like.

Comment: Re:My opinion as a pilot (Score 3, Interesting) 269

Private flying is dangerous.
NTSB statistics (2012 is what I have).

General avaiation (small planes and some business flights): 6.8 accidents, 1.24 fatalities / 100,000 hours
Commercial aviation. 0.155 accidents, 0 fatalities/ 100,000 hours.
There really is no comparison in the safety record.

For cars I see 1.1 deaths / 100M passenger miles. If we assume a 30mph average speed, that is something like .03 fatalities / 100,000 hours.

You can play with the statistics all sorts of (perfectly valid) ways, but by almost any reasonable analysis, general aviation is substantially more dangerous that either commercial or driving.

These and other safety statistics at NTSB.

Money is the root of all wealth.