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Comment: Whole house surge protector (Score 1) 153

by opentunings (#48436633) Attached to: What is your computer most often plugged into?
I don't have one yet but an electrician recently quoted me under $300 (USD) for a whole-house surge protector with a ginormous coverage guarantee (maybe $20K?), installed in the circuit breaker box. No it doesn't provide protection for the internet line. But over my lifetime I've probably spent close to $300 for surge protector strips, and my TV and heat pump and refrigerator are still at risk. So this makes some sense now.

Comment: Margaret Atwood / The Tent (Score 2) 410

by opentunings (#47974057) Attached to: It's Banned Books Week; I recommend ...
I bought "The Tent" on a whim. It's a small book of really short stories - 3 or 4 pages. None are related to one another, and every one will stretch both your mind an your horizons. It's a fantastic example of sparse writing: major concepts coming across in very few words. I think my mind would explode (in the nicest way) if Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. LeGuin ever collaborated on a story.

Comment: Only profitable option for the coffee companies (Score 1) 228

by opentunings (#47853245) Attached to: DNA sequencing of coffee's best use:
Genetically-engineering decaf coffee beans is the only profitable option for the coffee companies. Natural decaf reduces their costs by eliminating the decaffeination step. Adding more caffeine wouldn't be significantly more profitable: the current user base simply drinks another cup, so they're paying for extra caf already. The flavor options just redirect sales from one part of the coffee market to another; they neither increase profits nor decrease costs.

Comment: Daniel J. Boorstin's "The Discoverers" (Score 1) 293

Daniel Boorstin, Librarian of Congress (1975 - 1987) wrote The Discoverers. It's a book about the people and events surrounding some very early, essential discoveries. Some of the discoveries include

Time (remember, prior to clocks each day had hours of differing duration. The 12 daylight hours were longer in the summer, and shorter in the winter.)

Maps and map coordinates (such as the idea that they should be drawn to scale, or that coordinates were not evil)

the Compass


It's history, not the future view you're discussing, but it does give lots of great insights into the discovery of things that fundamentally changed the world.

Comment: Logitech, probably M570 (Score 1) 361

by opentunings (#45717853) Attached to: How long do your computer mice last?

Mine's a Logitech, probably an M570 but the print's wearing off 'cuz I use it so much. I started with one of the centered-marble trackballs. It forces my middle finger into a somewhat unnatural position, as it has to be over the trackball for me to reach the buttons with my other fingers. Now that I'm on the M570, my carpal tunnel issues have stopped almost completely.

So yes, for some of us the thumb-operated marble is the way to go.

Comment: Re:Bring on the wearable interfaces. (Score 2) 453

But really for most meetings, the individual doesn't need to be fully mentally involved

Dyslexia may explain why you don't need to be fully involved. It's my understanding that a lot of things work differently in the dyslexic mind vs. the non-dyslexic mind. Some are good, some are bad. Ask Richard Branson, Scott Adams or Steven Spielberg.

However, most of the population isn't dyslexic, and for them to contribute to or benefit from the meeting, they do indeed need to be fully mentally involved. What works for you doesn't necessarily work for your coworkers, or neighbors, or...

If you really feel that you don't need to be attentive, I'd suggest that you show some respect for your coworkers and simply dial in to the meeting. You'd be showing respect to them by not behaving in a way that annoys the crap out of them, while you're right in front of them.

Comment: Re:Female programmers (Score 1) 608

by opentunings (#44679663) Attached to: Could a Grace Hopper Get Hired In Today's Silicon Valley?

See the May 1993 issue of Communications of the ACM, which was all about K-12 education. We here in Western culture have a history of telling girls and young women "don't even try doing {math | science | technology}, you can't do it, women are no good at that." And they hear it from both peers and adults. And they hear it from both women and men. When you hear something enough times, you start to believe it no matter how farfetched it is. Modern politics is based on that concept.

Comment: Re:Maybe the developers weren't clever...COBOL did (Score 1) 276

by opentunings (#44123107) Attached to: Join COBOL's Next Generation

Features like stream I/O support were in COBOL in the 80's / 90's. As was linking compiled COBOL to compiled non-COBOL. It was one of the very first portable languages (per Wikipedia). Substringing and multidimentional arrays were easy. And when I took my years of COBOL to C++ class, the instructor told me I was "too structured" - the COBOL I'd been writing was more structured than the C++ he was used to seeing. While a lot of people only needed simple COBOL, it actually had a lot of advanced features available back in the late 80's.

Back in 1961, if you were trying to create a billing system for a big company, your options included COBOL, Fortran, assembly language and not much else. Programmers in the 60's were grateful for the ease of COBOL when used in a business setting, which (back then) consisted mostly of reading punch cards and creating pretty reports for pointy-haired bosses. COBOL made their lives much easier at that time.

Easy to write, easy to structure, very versatile, capable of doing menial tasks to tons of data quickly. Doesn't sound too bad to me.

Most computer languages are horrible if you choose to make them horrible. My point is that you don't have to make COBOL horrible, and most COBOL programmers don't.

It's more typing than most languages...but it's not horrible unless an inexperienced programmer chooses to make it horrible. Or unless you haven't spent much time with it in a business environment.

Comment: Maybe the developers weren't clever...COBOL did OK (Score 1) 276

by opentunings (#44104299) Attached to: Join COBOL's Next Generation

In the '90's I was working for BigTelCo on an ordering system.

Unix / C system "A" would enquire about account details based on any of various inputs (account number, main phone number, etc.). They sent a transaction to a central system "B" app server for which I wrote about 1/3 of the code. Well over 90% of system B was COBOL. Typically we were running about 0.7 sec response times. During that 0.7 sec, our system would:

ID the type of access inputs, look it up in an IMS database, figure out which datacenter (Georgia / Florida / Kansas / Colorado / Massachusetts) had the account, send the transaction there.

Pull the transaction, call a dynamic table to see what data were required (could be changed w/o recompiling or bouncing system), pull the data, create stream-style (not block I/O as the mainframe was used to) data, send it back to Unix for parsing.

Did I mention that part of the routing, and all the dynamic tables, were provided from software written in PL/1? So our COBOL modules were linked with PL/1 to create the final executables.

That's not the most clever or the least wanky system I've ever been on, but the old COBOL girl did pretty good. The Unix / C folks got intelligible data as soon as they figured out how to tweak HP's EBCDIC-to-ASCII tool so the non-alpha, non-numeric characters would be handled. And at that point the data stream looked just like what they'd been passing one another, from C to C.

And yes, the last time I heard, people were still creating wrappers around the mainframe system's feeds so that other C / C++ systems could use the data.

Pound for pound, the amoeba is the most vicious animal on earth.