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Comment USB is a support nightmare (Score 4, Interesting) 266

Unlike ethernet, which is pretty much standard from platform to platform and basically trivial to support, USB code is completely different between linux, OS X, and Windows, and is a mess, API-wise.

I write software defined radio stuff, and after one incredible nightmare getting a USB SDR to work on all three platforms using conditional compilation (I did succeed), I swore off. No more. If it doesn't have an ethernet interface, or a USB-to-ethernet server app compatible with the standard SDR protocols that makes it appear to me as an ethernet SDR, it's not happening.

Luckily, some of the best SDR manufacturers out there have done it right. Andrus, AFDRI, and RFSPACE. And there are some servers that have been built to hide the abortion of USB, but so far they are very much platform-specific, for the very reason I described above.

USB. Ugh.

Comment Re:Allow me to predict the comments (Score 1) 233

Part of it is simply a matter of dongle-count. Yes, ethernet is absolutely needed; yes, the connector should be right there, physically secure. No, USB dongles to provide ethernet won't ever be on my list of things I'm excited to do.

It would be better - a lot better - if there was actual, reliable ethernet hardware on there, and I'd be more than happy to pay a few bucks for it.

The ethernet on the other PI's is not particularly reliable, and that, in my case, is the downfall of the whole enterprise. I have four pis. They all drop their ethernet connections from time to time. It's beyond annoying.

Comment Educational toys (Score 1) 374

I think most kids of recent generations are being cheated.

I got to play with Lincoln logs, all right, but I also got to play with several different Gilbert chemistry sets, including their largest, and including an "inherited" Gilbert U238 atomic energy kit which my dad bought for my older sister in late 1950. I still have (what remains of) it. Nothing like that is available now, and has not been for some time.

I built the digi-comp mechanical computer (and later built my first one out of TTL, definitely due to the influence of that digi-comp. I can still remember a great deal about the 74181 ALU. :) We built quite a number of Heathkits. I still have some of them. My Heathkit transistor tester is still something I use -- it is quick, easy, and usually tells me what I need to know in one step; it often saves me from having to go through a full curve-tracing undertaking. He got all three of us microscopes, a decent (for the day) telescope, taught us how to build cameras, scoop ponds for paramecia and the like, and took us on multiple rock-hunting and nature trips. We went spelunking, picked mushrooms, learned how to identify some geological formations and quite a few plants. The games my sibs and I played with each other and with our parents were poker, go, chess, mahjong, and scrabble. When other kids were screwing around all summer, he enrolled me in an NRI electronics course so I was occupied with something fun that had a little more focus to it. I'd row out to the middle of the river (the Delaware), drop the anchor, and lay back and read for hours out there, taking the occasional jump in the water to cool off. He would quiz me in the evenings. We got music lessons, martial arts lessons, and dance lessons. We listened to, and discussed in depth, every musical genre they could think to present to us. Including comedy. I still worship at the altar of Tom Lehrer to this very day, one of the funniest and definitely one of the smartest comedians to ever play to an audience. Talented otherwise, too.

Most kids now seem to grow up sitting in front of the television, not exactly focused on educational programs, either. Later they graduate to game consoles and smartphones. They think comedy is encompassed by asshole "shock jocks" and the like. They don't even know how to make conversation with each other - in a restaurant, what I typically see is a table full of kids, all with their heads buried in their smartphones, rarely even speaking to one another. I guess they're happy, but I look at them and I see failure in progress.

IMHO, the best thing about recent years in this sense is the easy and inexpensive availability of computers of significant power. Including smartphones, though most don't seem to actually realize what they are holding in their hands. In my community, at least, there aren't very many parents seeing to it that the actual standalone small computers are in the hands of their kids. Deb and I bought full Raspberry Pi setups for all the grandkids for them to experiment with (and it's been loads of fun teaching them how to write assembly language and Python), but according to them, none of their friends are familiar with the pi at all.

But hey, football sure is popular around here... :/

Comment Circuits? (Score 3, Interesting) 39

Wires, according to TFS. Not much of a circuit, really...

But it's a start. Perhaps they'll also figure out resistors, capacitors and semiconductors. Along with a way for them to self-assemble in such a way as to be able to do something of an intentionally designed nature.

Interesting to see such research going on. I wonder what the eventual consequences might be if they can go further. Rare plants that report to "central" if you try to uproot or poison them? Vegetation that sends out an analysis of the digestive conditions of those that eat them? Weeds that are weather stations? Surveillance built into the trees on a nicely shaded street? Organic LED displays from the garden? Soft, programmable illumination from the tree over your picnic table?

Okay, perhaps I just need more coffee. Not supposed to be dreaming after I wake up. :)

Comment GED (Score 1) 393

I quit high school in tenth grade - in October - and passed the GED the next day. Easily. It was barely a test at all. This was in the 1970's though... no idea if the current GED is similar. But at least in "my day" (cough) the GED wasn't much of a barrier if you could rub two brain cells together to light an idea.

"Today's robots are very primitive, capable of understanding only a few simple instructions such as 'go left', 'go right', and 'build car'." --John Sladek