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Comment Re:Easy to book vendors (Score 2) 43

Since Bellingham is already a hot-spot for Vancouver-ites doing their cross-border shopping, it's gotta be easy to book vendors! Looks like a great event.

Not necessarily. Unless you hit a sale at Fry's, computer stuff is often cheaper in Vancouver than in Bellingham or Seattle.

My criterion for bringing something back is 50% off the Canadian price, or just plain unobtainable.

The border people can be unpredictable: I've been waived through and told to have a nice day on a day trip with $800 worth of stuff, and I've done all the paperwork for $50. On one memorable trip I had collected a new telescope mount in Anacortes. Even the cashier said "ouch!" when she punched it up in the computer.


Comment Epoch ecstasy (Score 1) 492

I'll be 77 in 2038, but expect to be very much alive and kicking.

Closer to the time, I expect this to be much like Y2K: some genuine issues that will be quietly handled behind the scenes, irresponsible media reporting and nutcases being, well, nutcases. Like Y2K, it's not like we'll need to back out any changes.

I did my own Y2K audit in 1998, while preparing to move across the country and deciding what to take with me. My VCR had several Y2K bugs: it would not accept a date after 31 December 1999, it rolled over from Friday 31 December 1999 to Monday 1 January "00", and when I tried to set a program to start recording the evening of 31 December 1999 and stop the morning of 1 January, it overflowed internal data structures (including tuner PLL settings) and required a cold reboot to recover its sanity.

In my work we've had to deal with GPS week number rollovers, every 1023 weeks from 1 January 1980. It happened in 1999, and will happen again in 2019.


Comment Yesterday (Score 1) 329

I have POTS at home, VoIP at work. Like others, my ADSL came with POTS phone service. Dunno.

I have no complaints about the Asterisk-based VoIP setup at work. The call quality is about the same as a cellphone, both for audio quality (G.729 codec) and call setup/drops/etc. It also means I can have a local phone number just about anywhere I want, which makes life much easier when head office (i.e. my boss) is a five hour flight away. It also gives me more stuff I can put on my resume.


Comment Current geek artwork (Score 1) 89

A print of the southern Milky Way, from the Pointers (Alpha and Beta Centauri) to the Eta Carinae nebula. Including the Southern Cross and the Coal Sack.

A Georgia O'Keeffe print of a Jimson Weed flower that looks like a dogwood but isn't.


Comment Re:Demise of the English langauge (Score 3, Interesting) 289

We're now using and at the start of sentences?


Face it: language changes. The English of Beowulf is a foreign language to modern speakers. Chaucer is heavy going. Hell, many people struggle with Shakespeare and Dickens.

Some changes I've seen in my own life. I'm 51.

Loss of distinction between adjectives and adverbs in spoken English, particularly "good" vs. "well".

Loss of "hw". "Whale" and "wail" are homonyms except in a few regional accents.

Singular "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun. I like this and use it myself.

Very few people use colons or semicolons in written English. Fewer still know how to use them correctly.

My grandparents were born from 1884 (paternal grandfather) to 1905 (maternal grandmother) and used the subjunctive mood. It was largely gone before I was born. It only survives in fossilized expressions like "so be it" and the song title "Let it be".


Comment Maps are fun (Score 3, Interesting) 27

I find maps endlessly fascinating. I routinely access FlightAware for information on commercial flights I've taken, then visualize the route in Google Maps.

When I flew to visit family over Christmas I got the flight plans (and later tracking data) from FlightAware and drew maps with the results, though "CYVR V347 GARRE SEATN J534 CYWL" may not mean much if you're not a pilot.

On a night flight back from Dallas (via Phoenix) in October I solved a mystery with FlightAware and Google Maps. At one point we flew just east of a prominent city with several obvious suburbs. Way off in the distance was a very large urban area, right on the horizon. My first thought was Salt Lake City, but that was way east of the great circle route. I knew we were west of the great circle route to avoid the restricted airspace north of Las Vegas (including R-4808N, i.e. Area 51). I had made a note of the time of the Big City, so I got tracking data from FlightAware, figured out how far the horizon was at our cruising altitude, fed the results in to Google Maps and found that the city was Reno, while the lights off in the distance were the central valley of California, from Sacramento down to Stockton.


Comment Weight loss and weight maintenance (Score 5, Insightful) 150

I was anorexically skinny in my teens, but gained a bit of weight (related to other life changes) and was comfortable in my 20s and 30s. My weight crept up on me in my 40s, and I was in a constant state of denial about it. No. I'm not fat. Who, me?

Then I decided to look in to a long-standing dream of mine and learn to fly. I got as far as the left seat of a 172 and couldn't get the seatbelt around me. Hell, I could only just barely close the door. I was crushed, but motivated. I did something about it...

I've lost a total of 160 pounds. Once again I'm skinny. Not as skinny as I was when I was 17, but nicely long and lean. I like it. No. I fucking love it. As part of my weight maintenance I weigh myself every Sunday morning. And I've beaten the odds: 90% of people who lose weight gain it back within a year. I'm coming up on two years. I hope to maintain my weight the rest of my life.

BTW: I passed my flight test last May. Flying is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. :-)


Comment Two motivations (Score 1) 514

I see two motivations for learning another language or six. It doesn't matter which one(s).

The first motivation is that learning another language gives you better perspective on your own. You have a basis for comparison that you didn't have before. I learned way more about English in French class, and added to that insight when I studied German and Spanish on my own.

The second motivation is that it opens doors. Language is a window on culture. It shows how people think. If you travel, it will be helpful. If you don't, it may not be. My German and Spanish are decidedly fumbling, ungrammatical and arm-wavey, but the attempt is respected and opens doors. The less said about my Russian the better...

In a past job I worked with customers in France, Belgium, England, Germany, and Quebec. An important distributor were near Orly airport. Paris looks very different when you have an expense account. :-)


Comment Cold turkey (Score 1) 943

If you want to do it you have to go cold turkey. Just like other countries have done. Stop printing $1 bills, start issuing $1 coins. Done.

In the 20th Century in Canada we ditched $0.25, $1 and $2 notes in favour of coins, and ditched $1000 notes entirely. The last series of 25 cent notes were dated 1923, withdrawn by the Bank of Canada with the 1935 series, BTW.


Comment Buying a used cop car (Score 1) 146

A few years ago I was in the market for a car, and I considered a used police car.

The car makers usually have a police option group, including heavy duty front suspension and a heavy duty electrical system. Just what I need for driving up mountains with radios and telescopes.

Not to mention the intimidation factor. Around here, the cops like Ford Crown Victorias. And only cops drive them. Ford haven't sold them to private individuals for a long time, and they were never a big seller anyway.


Comment I'm Canadian... (Score 1) 707

...and I support Obama, and hope he wins.

From what I've seen of the campaign, Romney is more of the same, while Obama genuinely wants to change the direction of the country. I wish him well.

A question I heard on the radio yesterday: the U.S. economy is the worst it's been since the 1930s, and the best the Republicans can do appears to be a dead heat. Why?


Comment Do it yourself cluster (Score 1) 161

I sometimes look at the ads for the local computer stores and add up what it would cost to roll my own cluster. At 2012 prices a 32 core cluster (say, 8 Core i5 CPUs) would cost only a little more than my first computer, that I bought in 1986. And that's at retail prices. I'm sure if I wanted a bulk purchase, the stores would cut me a deal.

Then I wonder what I would do with it, and decide I have better things to spend my money on...


Submission + - Little boxes around the edge of the data centre?

spaceyhackerlady writes: We're looking at some new development, and a big question mark is the little boxes around the edge of the data centre — the NTP servers, the monitoring boxes, the stuff that supports and interfaces with the Big Iron that does the real work.

The last time I visited a hosting farm I saw shelves of Mac Minis, but that was 5 years ago. What do people like now for their little support boxes?

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"The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment." -- Richard P. Feynman