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Comment Reliable devices lag consumer devices (Score 2) 256

Devices prepped for the harsh environments will take longer to build than consumer devices, so the spec gets frozen sooner.

Plus, as long as it has enough horsepower, why mess with the design to upgrade it?

P.S. This is not really a new observation. Consider PhoneSat, the project to take an off-the-shelf Android phone and use it as the heart of a micro-satellite. Clearly the processing power is enough, plus they can use the camera, inertial sensors, and I guess even GPS. (I wonder if the GPS software can cope with orbital altitude?)

Comment Internet services are how I discover music (Score 2) 665

My main use for Rhapsody and Pandora, and even for streaming "radio" stations, is to discover music. When I find stuff I like, I try to buy it on CD (and then rip the CD to FLAC and never touch the disc again).

What I like best about Rhapsody is that it is a world-wide web for music, where I can listen to the entire track or entire album and decide if I like it. (Sometimes it takes me a few listens to decide whether I like something!)

For example, on Rhapsody I went to the "Electronic Music" section and looked at what was most popular, and found a band I had never heard of called "Zero 7". I bought a CD by them. (It's called Simple Things and I do recommend it; I like every song on that album.)

I go to the page for bands I like, and click on one of the "related" links, and find bands I had never heard of. And sometimes I buy CDs.

When I was in college I pretty much bought music by bands I already knew. Now, with the help of the Internet, I'm branching out and finding all kinds of new stuff.

Trust me, I have never heard of this avant garde celloist, but with an Internet service there is at least a chance I might. So, instead of looking at this as lost revenue, she might want to look at it as advertising that pays her (albeit not very much).

Comment Re:Demand More (Score 1) 665

Streaming services like Rdio, MOG and Rhapsody are poor analogs to broadcast radio, as the listener chooses exactly what they want to hear from a vast library of music.

In the case of Rhapsody, there is an option to listen to a "radio" channel based on an artist you choose.

For example, I just selected "Cal Tjader Radio" (listed in the sidebar under "Artist Channel") and it says:

Artists in rotation include
Poncho Sanchez, Mongo Santamaria, Lionel Hampton, Dave Samuels, Vince Gueraldi, Tito Puente, Stan Getz, Eddie Palmieri, Dave Brubeck, Milt Jackson, Paul Desmond, Gary Burton, Ray Barreto

I tried it for Cheap Trick and the rotation includes KISS, Todd Rundgren, Thin Lizzy, The Cars, Queen, and others.

It makes sense: Rhapsody has the ability to play the songs you choose, but there is no reason they can't randomly play related songs like Pandora does. They don't have the thumbs-up/thumbs-down UI like Pandora, though. (You can click on songs and assign a star rating, but I don't know if the "Radio" channels take your star ratings into account.)

Comment Re:Local advice for travelers... (Score 1) 43

this is the rains. A lot. An umbrella wouldn't be a bad idea. Really.

Meh. Most of us in the Northwest don't fuss with umbrellas, because most of the time it rains very gently. You can walk around quite a while without really getting wet. I wear a hat to keep rain off my glasses, and I wear a coat if I will be out for more than a couple of minutes, but you should be able to make it from the parking lot to the fest without melting.

In the Pacific Northwest, it sort of mists for days or weeks or months at a time, so the ground is usually damp, the sun is hidden behind grey clouds, and it's dreary and depressing. But it rarely pours down so hard you get really wet walking around in it. (I'm in the Seattle area but I think Bellingham is pretty similar.)

If you're staying in a local motel, AVOID THOSE LOCATED ON SOUTH SAMISH BLVD. The local cops keep all the crack-heads, tweakers and other various riff-raff confined to the daily/weekly/monthly motels along this street--no need for you to go looking for trouble, it will find you if you stay there for long.

Hmm. I have stayed many times at the Motel 6 at the south end of Samish Way, and I haven't seen any trouble. Of course, I was early to bed and early to rise; maybe if I had walked around at 2am I might have seen the riff-raff.

But if you check the LinuxFest NW hotels guide page you will note that none of the recommended hotels are on Samish Way. (And of course, LFNW is on the north end of town, so why not stay in a place on the north end.)

The one exception to this rule is the Shamrock Motel in North Bellingham--I hear more call-outs on the police-dispatch frequencies referencing this motel then any other address in Bellingham. Avoid it.

Ironically, I stayed at the Shamrock Motel last year before LinuxFest. I believe you about the police call-outs.

The Shamrock Motel is very inexpensive. It's also old... I'd estimate it was built in the early 50's or something like that. Rooms have electric baseboard heaters and no air conditioning (not that you need AC in April in Bellingham). The room was shabby but clean; the sheets smelled like bleach. There was a flat panel TV on the wall, the newest thing about the room. Their web site says they have free WiFi, but I couldn't get a decent signal from my room; I reckon they probably have a single consumer-grade WiFi access point set up in their office!

I don't think the folks who run the place are trying to make a den of iniquity... but I remember there was a sign up front saying something like "if you stay here you need to pay, don't ask us to let you owe us." I think the people staying at the Shamrock are likely to be poor.

I stayed there because I didn't plan far enough ahead and the places I wanted to go were already booked. I'm not in a hurry to stay at the Shamrock again. But as I said, the room was clean, and I wish no ill will upon the folks who run the place.

Most years I have just driven my car up from home, and not used a motel at all. Last year I decided to take Friday off from work and ride my bicycle to Bellingham, so I needed a place to sleep. I'm planning to do the same thing again this year, but this year I want to stay at the Hampton Inn because it is the one that will have a hacker room. I don't know what the hacker room will be like but I figure that is the place to stay.

Oh, and if you have a car and want to stay somewhere really nice, the LFNW hotels page has the Fairhaven Inn. I have never stayed there, but Fairhaven is an old neighborhood that has been transformed into an upscale place with shops and restaurants, so my guess is that the Fairhaven Inn is the nicest place on the LFNW hotels page.

Bring an UP TO DATE street map, especially if you're going to be driving anywhere besides the Technical College--Bellingham has the most ill-designed street layout of any city I've ever been to, including San Francisco. Not going to vouch for Google maps or TomTom like devices either...really, get a map.

Hmm. I have used both a TomTom and Google Maps on my phone when driving to LFNW, and both have worked perfectly. The LFNW guys have their act together, and they have big signs at major intersections showing which way to go; I think both the nearest exits from I-5 have good signs directing you to LFNW.

But last year on my bicycle, all I brought were turn-by-turn directions printed from Google Maps, and somewhere near south Samish Way the directions told me to turn on a street that didn't exist. I couldn't figure out where to go, and I bitterly wished I had brought some sort of map. I tried using Google Maps on my phone in GPS navigator mode, and it kept trying to make me merge onto I-5... not on a bicycle! Finally I just started riding north by northwest, playing it by ear, and then at a major intersection saw a sign directing toward the Fest and I worked it out. Anyway, in a car I think you are okay using GPS navigation. It never hurts to have a real map, but I will be content with just Google Maps on my phone. (I have a new phone with a better version of Android and the maps work better anyway.)

If you're driving in from the south, gas up at the Skagit Valley Casino--lowest gas prices in the area as it is on native lands (Upper Skagit Indian Tribe).

This is excellent advice. Gas stations on Indian land are able to undercut gas stations on non-Indian land because of WA state taxes on gas. And as far as I know, Bellingham sells a lot of gas to folks from Canada so they can get away with charging a bit more.

Comment I go every year (Score 3, Informative) 43

LinuxFest Northwest is a great event. I encourage you to go if you can.

Here are a couple of articles I wrote for Linux Journal about LFNW:

At LFNW I have attended some really outstanding lectures, sometimes by famous or important people. George Dyson lives in the area and he sometimes gives a talk; every time I have attended one of his talks it was great.

They have a raffle with some cool prizes every year. There are always O'Reilly books, and sometimes they have things like "one year of virtual server hosting".

The Bellingham Technical College is a great venue for the event. Lots of parking, lots of classrooms for talks, lots of space for the vendor hall, a snack bar that serves espresso drinks... they also serve up a lunch; usually on Saturday the lunch offers salmon grilled over a wood fire.

I hope to see you there.

Comment Great article (Score 1) 39

I really liked this article. It explains what they did, with discussion at each step for tricky points or ideas for future improvement. Then it provides an example of a simple way that the modified printer can be put to use.

At the end it compares the size of the ink nozzles with the size of various cells, and concludes that a purpose-built printer would probably be better. Especially because there seems to be an ink filter with a very small screen inside the cartridge!

One idea left unexplored: would an older inkjet printer work better? Nozzle sizes would be larger. Possibly old cartridges might not even have an ink filter?

Comment What about RFI? (Score 4, Interesting) 158

These boards don't seem to be worried about emitting radio frequency interference (RFI). That "paper" system case is slick but I don't think it effectively shields RFI.

Is RFI somehow not a problem with these? Is it because they are very low-power, or is it because they are somehow not regulated by the FCC for RFI, or what?

Would operating one of these make the amateur radio enthusiasts down the block from you curse you?

Comment Re:Inexpensive way to send up inert objects (Score 1) 131

As the vehicle bleeds off energy to atmospheric drag and gravitational forces as it coasts upward, it has to leave the muzzle of the gun at considerably more than orbital velocity... essentialy exposing the payload to re-entry conditions at launch.

The video discusses this point. He really did cover all the bases.

Nobody that I'm aware that's even remotely serious is proposing to do [an Apollo-style mission to Mars]

NASA seems to be at least remotely serious about this mission, an Apollo-style launch. It's not a manned launch (even though Wikipedia seems to report that it is). The plan seems to be that astronauts would rendezvous with the sample return package, but astronauts would not ride this thing to Mars and back. Still, the sample-return mission is indeed an Apollo-style mission: everything launches on a single heavy lift rocket.

I'm pretty sure I saw some newspaper article about a manned mission done with a single launch, but perhaps I was mistaken.

Comment Inexpensive way to send up inert objects (Score 3, Insightful) 131

This would be ideal for sending inert things like oxygen, water, rocket fuel, or some kinds of food. It would even work for structural parts or electronics if they could take the accelerations without damage.

For that matter, one of the problems of a Mars flight is having adequate shielding against the radiation the craft would encounter between Earth and Mars. With a system like this, the cost of getting the shielding up would be as cheap as possible. (I guess the mass of the shielding would affect the accelerations the craft could make and thus affect the length of the trip.)

One problem, as I understand it: a projectile launched from a big space gun would need to have its orbit adjusted or it will return to Earth. Either you need to catch it while in orbit (you get one chance) and add additional acceleration to put it in a stable orbit, or else the projectile needs to have rockets or something to adjust its speed. The video mentioned this issue briefly (the part about Newton figuring out that the projectile would return to the point of launch if no other forces acted upon it).

P.S. I saw proposals for an Apollo-style mission from Earth to Mars: a single giant rocket launches everything in one launch. Why is anyone even looking at doing it that way? Send the craft to space without fuel or consumables; send it up in parts even and assemble it in space. Then, as it is in orbit, fuel it up, load it with consumables, and then when it is ready send it on its way.

We don't really need giant space guns to make space access more affordable; we just need practical, reusable craft that can carry a small load to orbit, return, and do it again soon. It must not need man-decades of work to completely overhaul it, as the Space Shuttle needed. Single stage to orbit, two stage to orbit, whatever... but not single-use rockets. Rockets that fall into pieces as they ascend, where you never get a test flight because each flight uses up one rocket, will never give us cheap access to space.

According to Jerry Pournelle, the fuel cost of putting something into orbit is similar to the cost of flying it most of the way around the world on an aircraft. Because the aircraft isn't consumed by the flight, we can do this for much less than the cost of sending something into orbit. Practical, reusable transportation would be a total game-changer.

Comment Could be useful (Score 4, Interesting) 123

I know the consensus on /. is going to be that this idea is totally silly.

But, I can think of a few features I wouldn't mind having on a smart oven:

* It joins my home network, and I can put a widget on my desktop showing current oven temperature and the value of any countdown timers running.

* It has optional temperature probes, so if you want to do your meat right, instead of cooking by time you cook until the meat hits the correct temperature. And the current temperature appears on the desktop widget I mentioned above, and an alert fires when the temperature hits a certain value.

I have a meat temperature probe that came complete with a remote display/alarm. (The worst thing about it: if you take it out of range, it never goes off. It really should have a "watchdog" feature where it says "hey, I haven't received a heartbeat in a while, I must be out of range or something" and the alarm goes off.) I would love having the oven on my home network, using open protocols; let's face it, if I'm waiting for a pie to cook or something I'm going to be at my computer.

I can think of sillier ideas.

* Lots of fancy cook cycles. I looked at TFA and it seems they already have this one covered.

* QR codes on foods you cook in the oven, and you wave them past a cheap camera on the oven and it sets up the cook cycle!

* Multiple, convenient, named timers. The "Pie0" timer is almost done, but the "Pie1" timer has another ten minutes on it. I wouldn't buy one just for this, but I'd use it if I had it.

* Voice input for things like setting timer names?

This isn't the hottest idea I've ever heard, but it's not completely half-baked.

Comment Re:too expensive (Score 4, Insightful) 308

This is a way to have a movie theater in their town without driving an hour. You need to factor that into your estimations.

If I lived an hour away from any other movie theater, I would pay $20/month to keep my local theater alive. Sometimes it's fun to see a movie on the big screen, with your friends.

If that experience isn't something you care about, there's Netflix.

Comment Cree and me (Score 5, Informative) 421

A year ago, I had no idea who "Cree" might be.

Then I bought one of these:

It's the best pocket flashlight I have ever owned. Bright and useful on "low" power (32 Lumens) and very bright on high (105 Lumens). 500 minutes of light (over 8 hours) from a single AA cell on low, or 110 minutes on high. (I'm trusting the manufacturer's numbers here, but I can verify that it actually is bright and lasts a long time.) Anyway, that's a Cree LED, and it doesn't have the horrible bluish tint of older LEDs I have bought in the past.

More recently I bought an Ecosmart light bulb at Home Depot. "Ecosmart" is a Home Depot house brand, and uses Cree LED chips. For $10 I got a light bulb that claims to give equivalent light to a 40 Watt incandescent bulb, but seems brighter than that (I think because it's much more directional; it's in a downward-facing fixture so that's fine).

And just two days ago I got a fixture that retrofits a 6" can fixture with an LED light. I bought one with the 2700K color temperature, because I like that better than the "colder" lights (bluer, which actually have higher color temperatures). I walked into the store planning to just buy a bulb for my can light fixture, and now I'm very glad I bought the whole Ecosmart fixture. I found an LED light geek web site, and the guy bought one of these just to do a teardown; he found 5 Cree LED chips inside it. Where I live, the power company is subsidizing these lights, so I only had to pay $20 for this light. This dissipates only 9.5 Watts, yet it's very bright. I love the design: it includes three spring fingers to hold it into place, but if you rotate it the fingers collapse and stop holding it. So two decades from now when the LED stops working, it will be easy to remove.

So now I want to see Cree make some sort of flush-mount ceiling fixture. I have only found a few flush-mount LED fixtures, and they are all super expensive and I can't find the 2700 K color temperature. I did find one promising looking cheap fixture, but on eBay only and it's an import from China... I have no way to be sure of the quality, other than just buying one and trying it.

My current plans are just to install some fixtures that have air gaps for circulation, so I can use the Phillips LED bulbs (omnidirectional, not directional like the Ecosmart ones). I'm going to install one of these tomorrow and see how we like it. In case the URL doesn't work right, this is a "Project Source 2-Pack White Ceiling Flush Mount" from

Based on my experience with these lights, we are just on the cusp of these becoming mainstream and common. I've been buying these because they are subsidized, but electronics always gets cheaper over time, and within a couple of years or so LED lights should be cheap enough without subsidy that everyone starts buying them. (Even without the subsidy, they make sense long-term versus incandescent bulbs. If you have incandescent lights, consider LED rather than compact fluorescent.)

P.S. I haven't bought these, but I wish the office where I work would buy them. These are Cree replacement lights for standard fluorescent fixtures. Some companies are making LED lights that are the exact size of a T8 fluorescent bulb, with matching pins; for $60 or $80 or so each bulb, you can replace fluorescents (but you must rewire the fixture to bypass the ballast; these bulbs want mains power directly). Anyway, Cree made a complete fixture, with the elegant design feature of a heat-sink that is on the underside of the fixture (a black strip down the center) so that it is constantly in the circulating room air. Cree claims the payback period is less than a year; when I do the math it seems quite a bit longer than that, so I'm not sure what their assumptions are, but according to Cree these LED lights use 75% less power than T12 fluorescents, look better, and last at least a couple of decades (no bulb replacements needed) so I do believe they will pay for themselves within a reasonable time. The YouTube video is why I want the company for which I work to install these...

Comment A tie means Intel loses (Score 4, Insightful) 163

I have said it before: with ARM, you can choose from multiple, competing chip vendors, or you can license the ARM technology yourself and make your own chips if you are big enough; with x86, you would be chaining yourself to Intel and hoping they treat you well. So, if low-power x86 is neck and neck with ARM, that's not good enough.

Intel is used to high margins on CPUs, much higher than ARM chip makers collect. Intel won't want to give up on collecting those high margins. If Intel can get the market hooked on their chips, they will then ratchet up the margins just as high as they think they can.

The companies making mobile products know this, and will not lightly tie themselves to Intel. So long as ARM is viable, Intel is fighting an uphill battle.

Comment Re:1.25v DDR3, but CPU efficiency... (Score 4, Interesting) 128

The i7 3770K has a TDP of 95W.

I know that, at least in the past, Intel used to issue TDP numbers that represented "typical" heat, while AMD used to issue TDP numbers that represented worst-case heat (which is what TDP ought to be IMHO). I have read here on Slashdot that more recently, AMD has started playing those games as well.

But according to NordicHardware, in this case Intel is under-promising and over-delivering, and the chips really do dissipate only 77W despite being rated for 95W. (But how did they measure that? Is this a "typical" 77W? I guess it's not that hard to run a benchmark test that should hammer the chip and get a worst-case number that way.)

Curiously the AMD processors tend to stack up better on the Linux benchmark suites.

This is probably because Linux benchmarks were compiled with GCC or Clang rather than the Intel compiler. The Intel compiler deliberately generates code that makes the compiled code run poorly on non-Intel processors. The code checks the CPU ID, and the code has two major branches: the good path, which Intel chips get to run, and the poor path, which other chips run.

The irony is that Intel, by investing heavily in fab technology, is about two generations ahead of everyone else, so they can make faster and/or lower-power parts than everyone else. This means they could be competing fairly and win.

But because Intel does evil things like making their compiler sabotage their competition, I refuse to buy Intel. They have lost my business. They don't care of course, because there aren't many like me who are paying attention and care enough to change their buying habits.

If you want the fastest possible desktop computer, pay the big bucks for a top-of-the-line i7 system. But if you merely want a very fast desktop computer that can play all the games, an AMD will do quite well, and will cost a bit less. So giving up Intel isn't a hard thing to do, really.

Comment Re:It won't be a smooth distribution of versions (Score 1) 298

Wow, thank you for the fact check. It just goes to show that subjective memories aren't the best guides. I was sure that the gap between 2.3 and 4.0 was much longer than ten months! This is probably because I pay more attention to available devices than to software release dates.

The changes between Gingerbread and ICS were big, and the rollout took quite a while for pretty much all brands of phone. Once a phone company successfully adopted ICS, it must not have been nearly as hard to upgrade to Jelly Bean, because updates came faster.

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