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Comment Panasonic, not Sony. (Score 2) 23

Arguably, one of the pioneers in the consumer sector for more "rugged" devices (or at the very least IP certification) has to be Sony. Back in 2012, they introduced the Xperia Z line of the devices.

OK, here's the counter-argument: Panasonic's Toughbook line was introduced in ... wait for it ... 1992.

And oh, how I wanted one back then.

Comment Re:Whisky != Whiskey (Score 3, Informative) 84

Having been in and around both audiophiles and whisky aficionados, I can most certainly say that the latter are far less ... ah, annoying ... than the former. Whisky lovers, after all, like to drink. That alone eliminates most of the peccadillos.

And, really, when it comes down to it, there are substantial differences between the various amber liquors. Just because something alcoholic is aged in wood does not mean it is like everything else that is.

Also, importantly, the differences that audiophiles talk about are often minute and difficult to discern. The differences that whisky aficionados talk about are readily perceived by the ordinary palette.

And while the audiophile realm is filled with snake oil salesmen who want nothing more than to separate you from your hard-earned wages, providing you with products of highly dubious value, whisky is largely --- and I do say this in the over-all sense, understanding that there are occasional exceptions --- value-based. The more you spend on a bottle, generally speaking, the better it will taste. By comparison, wire is largely wire no matter how expensive it is.

Comment Re:Black Box satellite Links (Score 2) 88

We know as much as we do about the flight path and probable whereabouts of the airframe because various parts of the plane were indeed communicating via satellite.

A secondary, and perhaps surprising (at least it was to me) issue is that satellite coverage isn't universal. There are large parts of the world, including the Indian Ocean, that have very poor coverage. It's not unlike cell phone towers which are only deployed where they are most needed.

Comment Argument for Publishers (Score 1) 84

The summary explains exactly the value that scientific publishers bring to their field. There have been many discussions on Slashdot about scientific publishers, with most views on the negative side. Given the obscene profits and lack of remuneration to reviewers, I am agreed that change is necessary in terms of cost structure. But, many times Open Access advocates miss the value that an established publisher brings to the process of getting a scientific paper published: quality filtering. If you see a paper in Nature, Science, etc., you are reasonably assured that it has gone through high-quality peer review, and has been properly vetted (yes, there are rare exceptions; they do not invalidate the fundamental observation ... see the words "reasonably assured"). When the publisher-cum-filter is eliminated, as happens with the so-called predatory publishers who put anything and everything out as long as the author is willing to cough up a few dollars, quality suffers greatly. How seriously are you going to take a paper that was published in International Open Review Biomolecular Recipes versus one in Cell?

The summary is making the same argument with respect to best-of lists. They "can only be trusted if they come from an established outlet with legitimacy." Which is to say, some entity has vouched for the value of the content by staking some small part of their valuable reputation on promoting it. And their valuable reputation has been built up only by many years of providing content that has bee judged by the public to be high quality. It's a positive feedback cycle.

But, eliminate the established outlet acting as a filter, and you get unmitigated drivel, whether it be best-of lists or scientific papers.

Comment Re:Not Small Parts (Score 2) 110

Yes, exactly. The difference between Google / Amazon / Yahoo (flat) search and McMaster (categorized) search is that when one is using the first kind, there are many different results any one of which will probably suffice --- "womens sneakers", "usb-c webcam", "organic toothpaste" --- but with categorized search, one wants not just a screw, but a stainless steel, panhead, philips drive, 8-32 machine screw that is 5/16 inch long. Almost no other screw will do if that's what you need, and matches from other thread sizes, other lengths, or other head styles aren't often useful. It's a far more precise style of search, and under those circumstances, tree-based, or drop-down-based selection is far, far faster. McMaster gets this incredibly right.

McMaster (and, formerly Small Parts) also get another thing right that Amazon utterly fails at: quality. When I buy something from McMaster, there's often a premium price involved, but I have near absolute certainty that what I will be purchasing will do the job, and do it well. They also often offer a highly limited selection. Want a set of wire cutters? Other than different sizes, or different cutting angles, you essentially have one choice. With Amazon, they expand along the price/quality axis which appears to work well for them, but is frustrating for former customers of Small Parts and current customers of McMaster. I don't need to see two dozen different options for 13-piece drill bit sets, I just need to have one, maybe two, and know that they are both good. I don't need to see twenty different rebadged versions of the identical crappy oriental product; just a couple better versions that will work well.

Nevertheless, sometimes you don't want to spend $30 on a high-quality American-made tool when the $10 Chinese knockoff is good enough for your 5-minute use-it-once application. If there were a slider where one could trade off price against, say, customer rating, and get the best matching option for one's desired price-point, well, that could be useful.

Comment Not Small Parts (Score 5, Informative) 110

... Small Parts for spare parts ...

I can't speak to the other brands, but Small Parts was an independent vendor of small hardware (think tiny screws, nuts, tubing, tools, etc.) that was legion within the scientific and engineering community. Small Parts and McMaster (and maybe MSC from time to time), and that's all you needed to build stuff from tiny to massive. SP had a small in-house engineering staff do to things like cut tubing to length, if you wanted it, too, and they always did a superlative job, even for super-ultra tiny stuff like 32 ga cannulae (substantially smaller than the smallest hypotermic needle that most people would have ever encountered).

Then, Amazon bought Small Parts and it went to hell in a handbasket. I haven't bothered trying to buy anything from SP for a long while because what was once a highly functional web site became a gawd-awful mess. You used to search for, say, "stainless tubing" and get a nice array of selections that allowed you to use drop-down menus to set the different aspects and quickly get a price for exactly what you wanted. Or, you'd search for "spring wire" and get the same highly structured, easy-to-navigate page. Now, you get thousands of individual results and no way to navigate through them to the particular one you want. Bloody mess.

So, this is one instance where the suggested house brand is in fact NOT a house brand, but an absorbed B-to-B vendor. And one that got ruined by being expanded into the vastness of Amazon.

Comment Re:Good enough for practical situations (Score 1) 501

Oh please -- 32 thousand percent?

Let's make a fair comparison: what is the percentage of interactions where one person is pointing a gun at another person that results in a death? That's a far more reasonable comparison when talking about medical mistakes which require active interaction between (at least) two people, one of which has the ability to do mortal harm on the other. While I don't have the statistic for such gun interactions, but I'm pretty sure the pendulum would swing the other way.

Comment Re:Good enough for practical situations (Score 1) 501

yet there aren't any politicians trying to ban hospitals or regulate doctors

Ban hospitals, well, not in a blanket sense, but politicians do very often block hospitals from expanding, or acquiring / merging with other hospitals. And getting the zoning to build a hospital is a non-trivial and highly politicized task. Ban specific hospitals? Yes, that happens. Take political action against things like pharmacies (OK, not precisely a hospital, but bear with me)? Remember the New England Compounding Center that caused many dozens of deaths across the US about five years ago? No longer exists because of aggressive prosecution the strength of which was politically motivated (they used the RICO act, fer chrissakes). Moreover, we now have significant additional regulation (Drug Quality and Security Act of 2013) as a result.

And, holy cow, if there is a profession that is more highly regulated than being a doctor, please show it to me. Physicians have to register with the government (in the US at least) starting in medical school, when they only want to become healthcare professionals, and from there it only gets worse. The level of regulation is staggering.

Comment Re:Oh, the humanity! (Score 1) 123

You're here bitching about it, which means you've not exactly living a monk-like life devoted to self improvement.

Actually, I have. I've worked bloody hard to make the world a better place in my professional life, and have achieved a modicum of success while doing it. And in my personal life, rather than spending two years playing a video game in a hobbled way, in my spare time I've taught my children to speak and read a foreign language, I've raised tomatoes so they know what real tomatoes taste like, I've taken them on trips to three different countries, and I've taught myself how to cook almost as well as my mother did, so my kids can know what our ethnic food tastes like.

But your point is well taken: reading slashdot is a waste of time. It's no longer worth my while.

Comment Oh, the humanity! (Score 0) 123

Let me get this right ... this fellow spent two years of his spare time in focused effort trying to accomplish an otherwise meaningless goal when he could have been using the same amount of focused effort to, oh, learn a new spoken language, get a 2-year degree, acquire the skills to get a better job, earn money through consulting, start and run a mail-order business, egad, who KNOWS what.

And instead of improving himself on any of these off-the-top-of-my-head suggestions, he doubled down on what amounts to wanking with a hand tied behind his back and standing on one foot.

There is no hope for mankind.

Comment Re:Is there any actual benefit to that schedule? (Score 1) 162

You're forgetting that if you sleep in the middle of the day, you don't need to sleep as much at night. It isn't that the workday is taking up more of your time; it takes up just as much as it would otherwise.

And if you're NOT sleeping in the middle of the day, but instead using the long lunch period to do stuff, then you're enjoying the day instead of sitting in an office.

Comment Greece, too (Score 1) 162

What remained is a highly distinctive national timetable not found in any other European country

Greece has an equivalent schedule (or did it get kicked out of Europe already?). Actually, it has an even more maddening schedule where SOME days stores and offices have long lunches and re-open late, and SOME days they don't. Fortunately, it's a weekly schedule that doesn't vary from one week to the next, except for holidays when everything closes. Almost everything is closed on Sundays, too.

Having lived in Athens as an ex-pat more than once, I can tell you it's really quite nice to have a midday nap after the largest meal of the day when it's hot out. And it's fantastic to have dinner late. Many times I've made rendez-vous with friends to start dinner at midnight. Yes, you have to have a snack earlier (typically when you wake up from siesta at about 5 PM and take a coffee and something), but it feels just far more civilized than the American tradition of the largest meal at 6 PM. It feels healthier.

And with almost everything closed on Sundays, it means you have to get your errands and such all taken care of on Saturdays, leaving Sunday for rest, indeed. And not rest meaning, "I'll take care of that one bit of work or that one errand on Sunday," but real rest. It is remarkably refreshing.

Comment Re:One way they might do it (Score 1) 90

... you could implement a MITM approach and send all their communications through a central party I'll call a "watcher" who sees the communication in real time and has the ability to pass on the communication untouched and also has the ability to edit out objectionable content before passing it on. Maybe the spied on person only uses WeChat for, say, 30 minutes, so the watcher moves on at the end of that to another user. You could just restrict the watchers to say 100 or maybe 1000 such people and if you make sure they watch the people who consistently post the most objectionable content ...

A Scanner Darkly!

Comment Missing the point (Score 2) 507

Many of these analyses are missing a basic, fundamental point and variations on that point: You don't have to do the full monty to get improvements.

1. Even if you only have solar farms and no batteries, that reduces the dependency on fossil fuel. For certain parts of the country, the times of maximum insolation correspond really quite well with maximum usage due to cooling and business / manufacturing needs, so no batteries needed, and the existing generating capacity can be scaled back to cover nights and days with less sun.

2. Battery capacity can be phased in (a corollary to point 1) and the system will still be useful.

3. Just because you can't do it all immediately and POOF have a sudden switchover to full solar doesn't mean it isn't a laudable goal to work in that direction. Moreover, because it will disrupt a fair chunk of the economy to switch over to solar, doing it gradually (on the scale of decades) makes sense.

4. Even if the goal is only to achieve 10% replacement of existing fuel-based generating capacity with solar, it's a good thing to do.

5. Our existing nuclear power plants have a finite lifetime and replacement capacity will need to come from somewhere.

6. Just because solar power doesn't make as much sense in certain parts of the country (primarily the more northern lattitudes) doesn't mean there is no value to deploying it where it does make sense.

7. Tesla is a battery manufacturer (among other things); chemical batteries aren't the only way to go for storage. Lithium batteries in particular might not even be a good way to go, given their limited lifetime and potential to catch fire as a failure mechanism.

8. Batteries alone (or some storage technology) without any solar power might be a good idea to allow scaling-back of peak generating capacity.

So, a national effort to improve the power infrastructure just might be a good idea, even if it isn't quite the pipe dream from the summary.

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