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Comment Re: What Information? (Score 1) 256

As another user of this database, he's right, a lot of the size information for the farm dams appears to be estimates, gathered from state departments of environmental protection and such. Of course the data is better for the big hydropower and irrigation dams. You can create an account and get all that data yourself. The data that's not publically available, if I'm not mistaken, isn't blueprints of the dam facilities, just some quantifications of the dam's condition and maybe some short written details. Yes, it could help a terrorist select a target, but it's not as big of a deal as the article says. The database certainly doesn't have the passwords for SCADA systems or anything like that.

Comment As someone who just finished graduate school... (Score 1) 168

I hated this, and only encountered it once, in my Econ 102 class. We had to "buy" the online pass to view the online "textbook", which was really just a document wrapped in a flash applet, with "interactive" homeworks, that expired after 6 months. I asked the professor if he had another alternative, but he said I could always drop the class. Thankfully that was the only class I had to do that for.

Most other professors, especially within engineering were more than helpful with either giving out the ISBN so we didn't have to go through the bookstore, or in graduate school, had their own notes for the class, so a book wasn't even necessary. One class we were assigned two books that were available as PDFs from the authors, intentionally to be given away, which the professor pointed out. Thankfully in my engineering classes the professors have been helpful about allowing older editions of books or having a low cost alternative such as a compilation of notes. In my general education classes is where I've always encountered the incredibly expensive books that absolutely had to be the latest edition. I think it says something that the engineering books tended to hold up their value more than the books for those other classes, where a $130 english book ended up going back to the bookstore for $1.30. The engineering books were usually worth keeping too, once you got past the intro courses.

Oh, and the point I came here to make: Having a patent on an idea doesn't make it a good one.
Open Source

Comparing R, Octave, and Python for Data Analysis 61

Here is a breakdown of R, Octave and Python, and how analysts can rely on open-source software and online learning resources to bring data-mining capabilities into their companies. The article breaks down which of the three is easiest to use, which do well with visualizations, which handle big data the best, etc. The lack of a budget shouldn't prevent you from experiencing all the benefits of a top-shelf data analysis package, and each of these options brings its own set of strengths while being much cheaper to implement than the typical proprietary solutions.

Comment I don't see how NASA's name got attached to this. (Score 5, Informative) 90

It's based on their DEM (digital elevation model) dataset, specifically the Shuttle Radar Terrain Mapping project, but I doubt that they had anything to do with this. There's also an ad at the bottom for flood insurance. It also looks like the guy just went through and generated a blue overlay for land lower than the sea level rise you select, which wouldn't include any backwater effects from going up rivers. He's got a website about what he did here:

Comment Having tried to use OpenOffice... (Score 3, Informative) 480

I've tried OpenOffice* several times. I'm still running MS Office 2004 on my Mac, and I've used MS Office 2007 at work. While Outlook has some stability issues, and people really need to learn that Excel isn't a substitute for a well programmed GUI when it comes to FORTRAN frontends, Microsoft Office still beats the pants off of OpenOffice. Being cheap and trying to be legal, I decided to install Open Office rather than upgrade my copy at home. It's just not the same. Open Office feels clunky. I know they can't copy the look and feel of MS Office, but that's not an excuse for not making things intuitive. On top of that, the compatibility with MS Office documents is really bad if you try any sort of formatting. In a world where MS Office is still king, that's just not acceptable. On it's own OpenOffice is alright, but in an environment where people are switching between MS Office and OpenOffice or working with people who use MS Office, it's just not good enough. I've mostly switched to TeX for typed documents and but I still open Excel 2004 at home when I need a spread sheet program, not OpenOffice. Maybe this video mean's MS is scared of OpenOffice, but MS Office still has the momentum to keep the lead for a long time.

*I'm going to keep calling it that, as that's the name on the splash screen when I load it.

Comment Cell Phone Repeater (Score 4, Informative) 214

My dad lives in the shadow of a cell tower and gets no reception on his property, but does if he walks to the neighbors house (100 feet or so). I suggested he get a cell phone repeater. He now gets a bar or two, but not a good quality signal. This is the one he got (but not from Thinkgeek, I don't think). It should be noted, he also got a directional antenna that company sells to point at the nearest tower besides the one he lives under.

US Coast Guard Intends To Kill LORAN-C 316

adaviel writes "LORAN (Long Range Aids to Navigation) is an electronic navigation system using low-frequency radio, used by many boaters (including me) before GPS. It has an approximately 200m accuracy and is a functional replacement in case GPS fails or the US implements selective availability in time of war. The US Coast Guard, part of the Department of Homeland Security, intends to turn it off starting February 8." This is in spite of $160M spent on modernizing LORAN stations over the past 10 years.

Will Tabbed Windows Be the Next Big Thing? 528

kai_hiwatari writes "The recently released KDE SC 4.4 Beta 1 has introduced tabbed windows as a new feature. It is now possible to tab together windows from different applications. This looks like it will be a very good productivity tool. Like the tabbed browsers, this may well end up as a feature in all desktop environments in the years ahead."

Russia Develops Spaceship With Nuclear Engine 297

Matt_dk writes "The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos has developed a design for a piloted spacecraft powered by a nuclear engine, the head of the agency said on Wednesday. 'The project is aimed at implementing large-scale space exploration programs,' Anatoly Perminov said at a meeting of the commission on the modernization of the Russian economy. He added that the development of Megawatt-class nuclear space power systems (MCNSPS) for manned spacecraft was crucial for Russia if the country wanted to maintain a competitive edge in the space race, including the exploration of the Moon and Mars."

Comment While I disagree with the state requiring it... (Score 1, Interesting) 762

... I really would appreciate having this kind of glass in my car. If there is one thing I hate most about the summer, it's having my car being boiling hot inside when I return. I know this glass wouldn't be perfect at reducing the "greenhouse effect" in the car, but it's something I'd be willing to pay to put on my own car. Besides, I don't see what's so bad about not being able to use a cell phone in a car, or blocking GPS (people should learn to read maps more often).

"Of course power tools and alcohol don't mix. Everyone knows power tools aren't soluble in alcohol..." -- Crazy Nigel