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Comment Phablets! (Score 1) 277

I'd have gotten the Galaxy Mega except that it's considerably inferior (less RAM, slower processor) to the Galaxy Note 2 that I wound up getting. I have it in an Otterbox Defender case that at least doubles, if not triples, the thickness of the phone.

I have no difficulty holding and using it. I can do it 1-handed when I want for simple things like dialing, but I prefer 2-handed operation in general most of the time. A smaller phone would be very hard to use that way. Even the Note feels annoyingly cramped compare to my 10" tablet (HP Touchpad running CyanogenMod); the 15% bigger (linear) screen of the Mega would have been preferable. Dunno offhand whether there's an Otterbox-type case available for it; that's a dealbreaker.

Comment Re:burden of proof goes the other way (Score 2) 449

But the consequences to an airplane full of people, and people on the ground in the path of any hypothetical debris, are very different.

Most explosives that are stable enough to make it from a person's home to an airport are stable enough not to detonate without an appropriate detonating device. Once they're safely in that barrel, there's nothing to activate them. If they're in the air, in the possession of someone who wants to do something bad with them and has something to detonate them with (which might not be obvious), they can be activated.

Again, I'm not defending this particular rule, which looks to me to be a massively overbroad reaction to a one-time incident.

Comment The one has nothing to do with the other (Score 2) 449

The FAA's role is to be extremely cautious. Aviation's one of those things where minor mistakes can have disastrous consequences. Same kind of thing as with medical devices: they had better work, perfectly, every time. And since individual components can fail, the backup systems also need to just plain work. The more outside factors can interfere with the system, the harder it is to analyze down to some large number of 9's. So don't expect the FAA to move quickly when it comes to authorizing any changes, including RF that might or might not be generated from the cabin. Given the wide range of consumer electronics, they want to make sure that the worst case scenario won't come close to generating problems for the avionics, particularly during takeoff and landing. They'll get around to it, but only after doing lots of homework. I wouldn't want to fly on a plane whose owner is allowed to cut corners on safety; the airlines would do everything they could to save money.

The internet is a very different kind of system, and the role of government regulation is different. I *do* want government regulation of the form that protects us from "regulation" by private service providers -- things like upload/download limits, preferential treatment for certain kinds of content, functionality with all devices (I don't want to be told that I have to run Windows, for example). Net neutrality requires either effective government regulation or real competition, and for some strange reason, real competition in telecommunications doesn't seem to be a stable situation. Look at what's happened since ATT was broken up; the industry has reconsolidated around a couple of big companies that seem content to divide up the pie rather than seriously compete with one another.

Chattanooga, Tennessee is doing very nicely with public internet. Around here my only choice for fast internet seems to be Comcast, with its high prices and 250 GB monthly cap (I ran a script on my system, and found that it's not hard to hit half of that, on a much lower bandwidth DSL line). Verizon hasn't bothered to build out FIOS to my area, and while that may be fast compared to most of the US, it would be very slow in Chattanooga (or many other countries).

I just don't believe that that kind of situation is going to get fixed without government regulation. Google is in the process of building out Kansas City (?), but that kind of piecemeal approach isn't going to solve the broader problem.

Comment Re:burden of proof goes the other way (Score 2) 449

The consequences of having something go boom on the ground are very different from the consequences of same happening in the air.

That said, this particular rule is almost surely a massive overreaction to a one-time unsuccessful event. Obviously there are certain liquids we don't want on planes, but the same applies to certain solids (and I'm sure any self-respecting nerd can come up with plenty of them, including ones that are sensitive to water), and I don't see why the liquid vs. solid state has much to do with it.

Comment Dell M6500 (Score 1) 260

I have a used Dell M6500. It's a big machine, but (almost) everything works just fine under OpenSUSE 12.1 and 12.2. It's a 17" WUXGA display (much better than the 1920x1080 on the newer models), 4 DIMM slots with 32 GB capacity, 2 drive slots, Radeon HD5800 (works fine with recent Xorg, with full HW acceleration), and an mSATA slot which I'll eventually populate. It's a first generation i7-920 mobile, so newer processors might be faster, but it's still a fast, powerful machine.

The only things that don't work:

1) USB 3.0 ports cause all sorts of problems with my USB 3.0 card reader. Could be the reader, could be the kernel driver.

2) If I enable OpenGL compositing under KDE 4.x, I get some display glitches with emacs and xterm. Switching to the other option (which is still hardware accelerated) gets rid of those.

Comment Re: First interesting sports story? (Score 1) 97

I was amazed when I heard about that (I knew it before this). I'm a bit of an old timer, but the start of that streak predated my college years.

Caltech's basketball program has been improving some in recent years. Their head coach, Oliver Eslinger, was previously associate head coach at MIT under Larry Anderson. Last year they were 5-20, which isn't very good, but was still their best record in years. They beat two D3 teams, Macalester (which was a very weak team) and Babson (which wasn't). Babson finished with a 14-13 record, 6-6 conference (NEWMAC, which has some strong teams, MIT, WPI, and Springfield in particular, but nobody in NEWMAC is really weak).

But if we're going to talk nerd/basketball stories, MIT being in the D3 Final Four last year and currently ranked #1 is the big one.

Comment Re:Not statistics, just poor sportsmanship (Score 1) 97

Apparently, it's not normally the case that they give one player the chance to do this. Usually no one goes more than 20 minutes, and everyone's in on the platoon system, so everyone gets minutes and shooting opportunities. They make an exception when they want to set an individual scoring record. I suspect some of the players like the notoriety, but otherwise he gives them all an opportunity at some time or other to have a big game.

From the comments on d3boards, it sounded like it was a mutual decision to give this particular player the shot at the record. I wouldn't be entirely surprised if the other team knew in advance what was going on (one of their players had 70 points himself, so I wonder if there was an agreement, formal or otherwise, to allow this).

Regardless, an idiotic game. I might just be willing to pay admission, though, to watch UW-Whitewater (say) demolish them.

There's nothing wrong per se with a run-and-press game, within reason -- but remember how in the 1980's and 1990's nobody wanted to draw Princeton in the first round of the D1 tourney (Princeton played exactly the opposite kind of game, and they almost upset Georgetown among others).

Comment Re:This game was a farce (Score 2) 97

Looking at their record on, they won a lot of games, but most years (at least since the mid-2000's) their final game was a loss to a conference team -- which I assumed was a conference playoff. However, at least from what I've read, they've never won a game in the NCAA (Division III) tournament.

Looking at past standings (, it looks like the last time they actually won their conference (defined as winning the conference tournament, not the regular season record) was 2000-2001. Last year, the 10 teams of the Midwest Conference had an overall 32-26 record against non-conference opponents (not necessarily all NCAA D3). By way of comparison, MIT's conference (NEWMAC) had a 69-31 record out of conference (7 teams), and every team had a better record overall than in conference (and a lot of teams play a lot of their non-conference games against NESCAC and other very strong programs).

Based on that, I stand by my statement: Grinnell has won a lot of games, but not against strong opponents (either the best teams in their conference when it most matters, or good D3 teams in the NCAA tournament). It would be interesting to see how they stack up against really good teams from the region, like Illinois Wesleyan or Wisconsin-Whitewater (which are good year after year). Whitewater was able to shut down our best outside shooter (6'4" Jamie Karraker), despite all but one of our starting lineup averaging in double figures (the one who didn't averaged 9.9 ppg), and I don't think Grinnell would pose any challenge to them.

Comment This game was a farce (Score 5, Informative) 97

Faith Baptist Bible isn't even a Division III team. Everything I've read, from people in the know ( -- starting around page 814) indicates that Grinnell specifically intended to have Jack Taylor set this record. He literally wasn't playing defense -- he was standing around at halfcourt to receive an outlet pass so he could jack up yet another 3.

Somebody watching the video noticed that Faith was cheering this on, and the Grinnell crowd was cheering scoring by both teams ( I have a suspicion that they were in on this joke. Given that their opponent was not an NCAA team, I don't think this record should count.

It's interesting that for all this, they've never won an NCAA tourney game (Division III, that is). I don't think they've even won their conference (see and look at the other years -- usually their last game is against a conference team, and they've always lost). That kind of run and gun and press may be fun to play and watch, but it doesn't work against good teams.

And there's plenty of very good basketball being played in Division III. Yes, it's very rare for Division III teams to beat Division I, but a couple of weeks ago MIT lost to Harvard 69-54, and the game was not a blowout -- Harvard had to work hard for its W (Harvard shortly thereafter beat Manhattan College, which is also Division I, 79-45). If you watch the real power teams in Division III -- schools like MIT (yes, MIT is ranked #1 in Division III right now, and they have some damn good players, including a point guard, Mitchell Kates, who was abusing the Harvard back court all game), Amherst, Williams, Franklin and Marshall, Cabrini, UW-Whitewater (which beat MIT last year in the semifinal, and went on to win the title), it's very high quality basketball, just not the kind of athleticism you'll find in Division I. Teams like these, that play real defense and are in control on offense, would make short work of Grinnell.

And one of our (MIT) alumni, Jimmy Bartolotta '09, was Division III national Player of the Year, and is now playing professional basketball in Iceland.

(Yes, I'm an Ancient and Honorable Nerd of the Infinite Corridor -- VI-3 '87. I'm unofficially one of the team photographers. See

Comment Yes (Score 1) 660

If I were to get a smartphone, I'd prefer a high resolution display of at least 5". And I wouldn't worry about how thin it was, either, if that meant better battery life. This would be comparable in size (but probably a bit heavier, with lots of battery) to my wife's GPS, which with a good belt holster I don't believe would be any trouble to carry around.

Then again, I'm 6'5" and don't mind looking nerdly (which I am, after all).

Comment Dell Precision M6500 (Score 1) 300

This is the 17" beast (or actually, the previous generation -- the M6600 is current). I don't particularly like the keyboard (my old Inspiron 9400 had a better one), but it's better than most laptops and it does have a keypad. It also has oodles of expansion capability -- fingerprint reader, smartcard reader, 32 GB RAM, 2 2.5" disks, mSATA (so you can have 3 disks!), USB 3. I bought mine on eBay (had it about 6 months so far), but you can probably still get refurbs from Dell.

The M6600 has faster processor options (Sandy Bridge vs. Nehalem), but just like everything else, an inferior screen. Since I do a lot of photo work on it, it's a substantial difference. Thus far I only have 8GB and 2 rotating disks, but at some point I'm going to add another 8 or 16 GB (it has 4 slots) and probably an mSATA for root/home/swap.

The Precisions are really mobile workstations. The M6500 is a big, heavy machine, about 8 lb. But it's actually dimensionally a bit smaller than my old 9400, and it easily fits a standard 17" laptop bag. The Alienware M17x has similar specs, but the appearance is very different (the Alienware looks like a gaming machine; the Precision has a very basic unadorned appearance, with just a small Dell logo on the lid).

Comment Shiva Ayyadurai (Score 5, Interesting) 249

As it happens, I actually knew Shiva in high school (I was one year behind him in Livingston -- class of 1982; he was class of 1981). We lived about 1/4 mile apart, and took the same bus to and from school. We were both science/math geeks.

I do remember (not the details) the project he's talking about. We discussed it on the bus. He did indeed submit it to the Westinghouse Talent Search, and as I recall he got past the first round. It certainly was an interesting project for the time, and my recollection is that he designed it very well and he well deserved to advance. I don't know one way or the other whether he came up with it independently, but he most certainly didn't invent email.

It has been well over a decade since I last saw him.

As of next Thursday, UNIX will be flushed in favor of TOPS-10. Please update your programs.