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We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).

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Comment: Re:Sad to hear (Score 2) 314

by Ford Prefect (#48823549) Attached to: Radio Shack Reported To Be Ready for Bankruptcy Filing

Probably useless for most people reading this, but my favourite-ever electronics store must be the utterly one-off R. F. Potts in Derby, UK. The shop is absolutely tiny, but chock-full of stuff both new and old - with incredibly helpful and knowledgeable staff. Weird, obscure component is buggered, and you need a new one? Hand it over, and they'll find a replacement from the wall of drawers behind the counter - then charge you something like 20p for it. They also have a wide range of old computer parts and random reclaimed mechanisms from things - one of their front windows is always filled with inspiration for stuff to build.

It's probably Derby's engineering heritage that allows it to keep going - with Rolls Royce aero engines and Bombardier trains based nearby, there must be plenty of engineers mucking around with stuff in their spare time...

I only wish they'd open a branch in Seattle, where I live now! A trip to a Radio Shack a few years ago for components was most disappointing.

Comment: Re:Do not want (Score 2) 141

by Ford Prefect (#48790989) Attached to: 3D Cameras Are About To Go Mainstream

Wouldn't that make an awesome app, building *real* 3d scenes, and making the models available for export in a variety of formats and with direct-links for popular functions (editing apps, export to popular 3d printing services, etc)?

Look into photogrammetry software like the cloud-based 123D Catch and the defiantly offline Agisoft PhotoScan - they'll turn loads of conventional photos into arbitrary 3D models. The former is probably closest to your request!

I've been playing around with the latter software recently - the required photography is pretty difficult to master, but it's a rather useful tool. Here's a geometry-only render of a statue I scanned as an example - there's a full texture map for the model as well, but this is showing off the frankly implausible levels of geometrical detail you can get from a physical object. (Excuse the noisy crevices - I was shooting hand-held at ~9am in the middle of winter on a cloudy day...) It's terrible at shiny objects (reflections confuse the hell out of it) and system requirements are pretty steep - it'll eat however many CPU and GPU cores you throw at it, and the more memory the better - but the results are well worth it.

Comment: Line printers (Score 3, Interesting) 790

by Phil Karn (#48785225) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Sounds We Don't Hear Any More?
Others have already mentioned the dot-matrix printer, but there was a big one before that: the high speed line printer. They were too expensive for individuals, but they certainly were a familiar sound to 1970s programming students like me.

There were two main types: the drum printer and the chain printer. The drum printer was cheaper and therefore much more common. The drum, which contained all the characters in a given font, rotated once for each row printed. An entire row was printed simultaneously; a separate solenoid-driven hammer in each column fired at the right instant to print the desired character in that column. You could easily tell from across the room whether your program had failed to compile or if execution ended with a core (!) dump. The burst pages between jobs had their own highly characteristic sound.

A related sound is that of ripping fanfold line printer paper to separate jobs. Who uses any kind of fanfold paper these days? Or even paper...?

Oh, and let's not forget the sound of the Hollerith (IBM punch card) reader...

Comment: Are they still down? (Score 4, Insightful) 360

by Phil Karn (#48657641) Attached to: North Korean Internet Is Down
Is NK still off the net? About a half hour ago I had no trouble reaching the sites www.kcna.kp - 175.45.177.74 / 175.45.176.71 naenara.com.kp - 175.45.176.67 / 175.45.177.77 According to https://www.northkoreatech.org..., both sites are physically hosted inside North Korea. I see that both are in the 175.45.176.0/22 block that whois says is assigned to North Korea, and traceroute shows an extra latency (satellite hop?) for that network past China. Is that their only net block? A /22 is 1024 addresses, which I keep hearing is the total number for the entire country.

Comment: Re:There's only one image organizing program (Score 1) 259

by Ford Prefect (#48597889) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Software For Image Organization?

Adobe for reasons only known to itself absolutely refuses to support case-sensitive file systems for Mac OS X.

I've heard of various other software breaking when used with case-sensitive filesystems on OS X - not making an excuse for that software, but what is the benefit of running with such a filesystem anyway? I'm genuinely interested.

(I've been running with the default case-preserving, case-insensitive filesystems for a decade or more, and not hit any problems.)

Comment: Re:How can you screw up a power cord? (Score 1) 71

by Phil Karn (#48580039) Attached to: Lenovo Recalls LS-15 Power Cords
It's a little hard to believe it's insulation degradation despite that .au recalls website entry. When insulation degrades, you tend to get short circuits that trip circuit breakers rather rapidly. It seems more likely to be an undersized or underprotected conductor, e.g., a multistrand conductor in which flexing from improper strain relief can break most of the strands, increasing the local series resistance and heat dissipation and possibly leading to a complete conductor failure with series arcing. Only an arc-fault protector would trip on a failure like this, and those breakers are still uncommon in the US even though they're required in much new construction. It would also seem that cord failures would be more likely in North America, Japan and other 100-120V countries because a universal switching supply producing a given amount of power will require twice the line current draw and produce 4x the heat dissipation (I^2 R) in a high resistance section of cord as it would in a country with a 230-240V supply voltage.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." -- The Wizard Of Oz

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