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Comment I fried a bot (Score 1) 155

About ten years ago I decided to dust off my tele-operated car and take it for a spin. I started by plugging the red wire into the battery's negative terminal and the black wire into the positive, and watched as all the magic smoke escaped. I just stood there for 5 minutes staring down at a thousand dollar's worth of ruined electronics. Now I always use an actual black wire instead of adding a little black electrical tape to the end of a red one.

I eventually built another one a few years later. some pics.

Comment Re:humanmade? (Score 2) 63

They should commercialize the thing. You could make it into the ultimate water park.

It's already been tried! In a little piece of heaven called Action Park Selected quotes from the Wikipedia:

Nevertheless, the director of the emergency room at a nearby hospital said they treated from five to ten victims of park accidents on some of the busiest days, and the park eventually bought the township of Vernon extra ambulances to keep up with the volume.
Water-based attractions made up half of the park's rides and accounted for the greatest share of its casualty count.
The Tidal Wave Pool: The first patron death occurred here in 1982; another visitor drowned in this common water-park attraction five years later. It was, however, the number of people the lifeguards saved from a similar fate that made this the only Waterworld attraction to gain its own nickname, "The Grave Pool".[4] It was 100 feet (30 m) wide by 250 feet (76 m) long and could hold 500 to 1,000 people. Waves were generated for 20 minutes at a time with 10-minute intervals between them, and could reach as much as 40 inches (102 cm) in height.[4] It was not always obvious that pool depth increased as one got closer to the far end, and there were patrons who only remembered or realized that they could not swim when they were in over their heads and the waves were going full blast. Even those who could swim well did not realize that the waves, as fresh water, were not as buoyant as their ocean counterparts, and they sometimes exhausted themselves doing more swimming than they were ready for, causing patrons to crowd the side ladders as the waves began, leading to many accidents.[4] Twelve lifeguards were on duty at all times, and on high-traffic weekends they were known to rescue as many as 30 people, compared to the one or two the average lifeguard might make in a typical season at a pool or lake.

Comment Re:Sad, really (Score 1) 262

A programmer should never "know" what their code is going to look like. It needs to evolve from the initial design, correct oversights and misunderstandings, and organically become what it needs to be instead of what you first thought it would be.

I agree, more or less. I've completely moderately-sized projects that pretty closely followed my initial design, but other times I realize the design needs to be modified or scrapped completely when I'm halfway through. Dijkstra is just saying that your code should never reach a point where you can no longer fully understand what your're doing when you modify it. It's hard to argue with that.

Comment Re:Sad, really (Score 4, Insightful) 262

In short, I suggest that the programmer should continue to understand what he is doing, that his growing product remains firmly within his intellectual grip. It is my sad experience that this suggestion is repulsive to the average experienced programmer, who clearly derives a major part of his professional excitement from not quite understanding what he is doing. In this streamlined age, one of our most undernourished psychological needs is the craving for Black Magic and apparently the automatic computer can satisfy this need for the professional software engineer, who is secretly enthralled by the gigantic risks he takes in his daring irresponsibility. For his frustrations I have no remedy......

-- Edsger W. Dijkstra

I love this quote, and I say that as a C++ programmer. It falls in with my own philosophy, which is that the more complicated something is, the less likely people will get it right. And C++ is extremely complicated. It's not the OO design that necessarily trips people up, it's the sheer amount of minutiae you need to remember and the care you must take not to do something stupid.

Comment Re: Can't wait for conspiracy theorists (Score 3, Interesting) 43

I've often wanted something that could produce an image from EM emissions, in the same way that our eyes create an image from light. It would make finding EM interference and shielding problems a breeze. But when I Google it all I can find is ghost detection equipment and cameras that are supposed to take a picture of your aura and other nonsense. So there's at least two kinds of crazy at play here.

Comment Flow Batteries (Score 4, Informative) 130

Had to look this one up! From the wikipedia:

A flow battery, or redox flow battery (after reduction–oxidation), is a type of rechargeable battery where rechargeability is provided by two chemical components dissolved in liquids contained within the system and separated by a membrane.[1] Ion exchange (providing flow of electric current) occurs through the membrane while both liquids circulate in their own respective space.

... While it has technical advantages such as potentially separable liquid tanks and near unlimited longevity over most conventional rechargeables, current implementations are comparatively less powerful and require more sophisticated electronics.

On the negative side, flow batteries are rather complicated in comparison with standard batteries as they may require pumps, sensors, control units and secondary containment vessels. The energy densities vary considerably but are, in general, rather low compared to portable batteries, such as the Li-ion.

Comment LARP? (Score 2) 16

This might be the technology we need to bring LARPing out of the realm of 'extremely geeky'. Also, I bet the US military is going to want to get its hands on this one for training purposes. Or murder mystery theater when you're a participant in the actual spooky mansion? Or a Star Trek bridge simulator!

I'll be pretty excited when one of these comes to my city... just as long as the RealDoll people have to use a different room than everyone else.

Comment Re:Your phone as a lifestyle: NO. (Score 1) 137

But now instead of standing around awkwardly and occasionally trying to look like I care about the conversation, I can read Slashdot.

I can even hold up one finger in the middle of a long boring story, point at my phone and leave and no-one will think it's impolite. Even if it hasn't rung, and the battery is dead. Now THAT's progress.

You will lose an important tape file.