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Comment You have no idea (Score 1) 374

I'm the full time admin puke for my National Guard company. Until recently, my main machine was a P4 with 256MB of RAM. I have a new laptop now with XP and Office 2007 (separate rant), so I'm semi-modern.

But the program I use to put my soldiers in for pay after their proverbial one-weekend-a-month? DOS-based. The program for submitting requests for orders to send them to schools, etc.? It opens in a browser window--some kind of Oracle app server solution--but other than that, looks just like the DOS-based one.

But hell, it's the National Guard. We just traded in our muskets last year.

Comment Blue collars (Score 1) 386

My older brother dropped his AP courses in high school and took as much auto shop as he could fit in, despite "counseling" from the administration. He worked as an auto technician for 12 years, picking up an AA in Toyota along the way, and was the head diagnostic tech for his shop the last few years.

But where to go from there? He didn't want to open his own shop, and he didn't want to contemplate doing the same thing for another 30 years.

So he went back to school and now he's a licensed practical nurse, with lots of career progression options available, and he's much happier at work doing something that is challenging and working with people.

I would happily have hired him--who knows next to nothing about computers--as a desktop tech over most of my coworkers at any of my jobs. You can teach computers, but some people cannot seem to grasp cause and effect and customer service. I could have made him a fantastic computer tech in a few months.

On the other hand, I threw away a viable (if unexciting) career in IT to become a soldier, so maybe I'm the wrong guy to offer perspective.

Comment Re:Toughbooks live up to their name... sort of. (Score 1) 54

In all fairness, I don't think the system designers who picked out the Toughbook expected us to be using it out on top of a hillside while people were shooting at us. The cumbersome and heavy nature of the rest of the equipment bears that out; it was "nominally" man-packable, but really designed (I suspect) for someone to use from a nice hotel somewhere... The Toughbook was probably just a scheme to add a few Gs to the overall price. The software interface WAS designed for touch screen, unfortunately, which meant that it was very difficult to use with a keyboard.

Comment Toughbooks live up to their name... sort of. (Score 4, Informative) 54

We used a Panasonic Toughbook in Afghanistan in some pretty nasty places, and it held up very well. Never had any problems except for the screen, which just couldn't take the dust contamination and the scratches, and even that could have been alleviated somewhat by not using the stylus.

We had an adapter that allowed us to charge the thing off one of our standard 5590 SINCGARS radio batteries. Even batteries too discharged for the radio would power the laptop for a few more hours; a fresh one would run the laptop for 24 hours or so.
Space

Submission + - Houston, We Have a Drinking Problem (hughpickens.com)

Pcol writes: "Aviation Week reports that astronauts were allowed to fly on at least two occasions after flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so intoxicated that they posed a flight-safety risk. A review panel, convened in the wake of the Lisa Nowak arrest to review astronaut medical and psychological screening, also reported "heavy use of alcohol" by astronauts before launch, within the standard 12-hour "bottle to throttle" rule applied to NASA flight crew members. Dr. Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon, says it's a tradition for crew members to gather for a barbecue on the eve of a shuttle launch, and these gatherings sometimes include alcohol and a toast but that the greater problem is that preparation before a flight can leave astronauts sleep-deprived and overworked. Meanwhile at Frenchie's Italian Restaurant, a popular astronaut hangout in Houston, owner Frankie Camera disputed the reports. "The Mercury astronauts may have been a little more wild (than later ones) but I did banquets for them and never really saw any of them drink so much they were out of control or drunk.""
Censorship

Submission + - Global Warming Oppression Goes Both Ways (washingtontimes.com) 1

Reverend Darkness writes: "With all of the stories about climate change scientists being silenced by the Bush Administration comes an EPA investigation into a letter from the president of ACORE that threatens the career of a scientist who dares question the cause of climate change. From the article (in the Washington Times):

"It is my intention to destroy your career as a liar," Mr. Eckhart wrote. "If you produce one more editorial against climate change, I will launch a campaign against your professional integrity. I will call you a liar and charlatan to the Harvard community of which you and I are members. I will call you out as a man who has been bought by Corporate America. Go ahead, guy. Take me on."

... and it's not the first time he's made such threats."

Microsoft

Submission + - Review roundup: Dumping Microsoft Office (computerworld.com)

SplatMan_DK writes: Computerworld is running an article about Microsofts dominance in the world of office suites, and pointing to strong alternatives for both Mac and Windows — even if you need MS Office compatibility. Under the title "Review roundup: Dumping Microsoft Office for an alternative suite" Ryan Faas and David Haskin explain that:

there are alternatives out there — all cheaper than Microsoft's standard, and a couple that are even free. We sorted through nine contenders, some for Mac and some for PC (and a couple for both), to find out the best non-Office office suites available.
The article contains a good analysis of 9 non-web Office products for the PC.

Upgrades

Submission + - Sixpack from sitting at the computer (twibright.com)

Clock writes: "The secret dream of all computer geeks has come true. Surfing the Internet can now have similar positive effect on bodily attractivity as surfing Waikiki or Malibu. Twibright Labs have developed Exciter, a cheap open source DIY exercise bike that is to be used while sitting at a computer. Running as a three-phase self-excited induction machine, it generates electricity to power the computer, the LCD screen or at least a desk lamp. This arrangement both saves time and provides additional motivation and fun in exercise. And if you tweak the excitation capacitors, you can draw over 500 volts!"
Spam

Submission + - Is eBay Now Completely Unusable?

An anonymous reader writes: I recently read an article about one person's experience trying to sell on eBay, which closely reflects my own. According to the author, eBay is now riddled with so much active fraud and spam that is has become impossible to sell anything or conduct business in any way. He suggests several ways eBay could fix the problem, none of which have yet been implemented. So I'd like to tap the Slashdot community and get more advice for how to make eBay usable for myself, and what else you think eBay should do to fix all their problems?
Biotech

Submission + - Americans Clueless About Cancer Risks (cancer.org)

Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "A study conducted by the American Cancer Society found that a surprising number of Americans believe scientifically dubious claims concerning cancer, and that the groups with the greatest burden of cancer are the most likely to be misinformed. For example, the majority of survey respondents didn't think smoking was more likely to cause lung cancer than pollution — despite 87% of lung cancer cases being due to smoking. The most interesting finding was that people who described themselves as knowing the most about cancer were more likely to have false beliefs. Participants who labeled themselves as "very informed" about cancer were more likely to believe underwire bras cause breast cancer, or that quitting smoking did nothing to reduce cancer risks. The article abstract is availabe from the journal Cancer."
Biotech

Submission + - Nursing Home Cat Can Sense Death (yahoo.com) 1

Raver32 writes: "When Oscar the Cat visits residents of the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, the staff jump into action — Oscar can sense within hours when someone is about to die. In his two years living in Steere's end-stage dementia unit, Oscar has been at the bedside of more than 25 residents shortly before they died, according to Dr. David Dosa of Brown University in Providence. He wrote about Oscar in the New England Journal of Medicine. "It's not that the cat is consistently there first," Dr. Joan Teno, a professor of community health at Brown University, who sees patients in the unit. "But the cat always does manage to make an appearance, and it always seems to be in the last two hours.""

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