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Comment Re:Worth experImenting with (Score 4, Informative) 130

My publishers don't give me stats that distinguish what ebook readers are purchasing my books, so I really don't know what percentage the kindle accounts for. However I also have a few Kindle books (ie exclusively Kindle) and they aren't exactly flying off the (virtual) shelves.

You can't tell us these things!

No, seriously, you can't. Term 7 of the KDP terms and conditions is:

7 Confidentiality. You will not, without our express, prior written permission: (a) issue any press release or make any other public disclosures regarding this Agreement or its terms; (b) disclose Amazon Confidential Information (as defined below) to any third party or to any employee other than an employee who needs to know the information; or (c) use Amazon Confidential Information for any purpose other than the performance of this Agreement. You may however disclose Amazon Confidential Information as required to comply with applicable law, provided you: (i) give us prior written notice sufficient to allow us to seek a protective order or other appropriate remedy; (ii) disclose only that Amazon Confidential Information as is required by applicable law; and (iii) use reasonable efforts to obtain confidential treatment for any Amazon Confidential Information so disclosed. "Amazon Confidential Information" means (1) any information regarding Amazon, its affiliates, and their businesses, including, without limitation information relating to our technology, customers, business plans, promotional and marketing activities, finances and other business affairs, (2) the nature, content and existence of any communications between you and us, and (3) any sales data relating to the sale of Digital Books or other information we provide or make available to you in connection with the Program. Amazon Confidential Information does not include information that (A) is or becomes publicly available without breach of this Agreement, (B) you can show by documentation to have been known to you at the time you receive it from us, (C) you receive from a third party who did not acquire or disclose such information by a wrongful or tortious act, or (D) you can show by documentation that you have independently developed without reference to any Amazon Confidential Information. Without limiting the survivability of any other provision of this Agreement, this Section 7 will survive three (3) years following the termination of this Agreement.

Note that section (3) indicates that all sales data is confidential and therefore you are not allowed to disclose it. You don't even seem to be allowed to say anything about Amazon, including 'I spoke to Amazon today about the misprint in my latest book.' Luckily, as the T&Cs themselves are publically available without having signed the T&Cs --- naturally enough --- it's possible to discuss them (see (A)).

I was intending to sign up for this, but the above clause seems unusually draconian to me.

Comment Re:I hate DRM. (Score 1) 355

It appears that Amazon have recently changed their DRM so that each book is encrypted with its own key --- certainly, I've been unable to decrypt the last (and only) book I've bought. (Neal Stephenson's Anathem. If there's ever a case for ebooks, it's Neal Stephenson; because now I can lift one of his books in one hand.)

This is with a Kindle 3 using the latest firmware.

Comment Re:Been looking forward to this (Score 2) 68

2000m below 'Lunar standard sea level', i.e. what people generally consider to be altitude 0, which is a sphere 1737.4 km in radius. Take a look at the settings if you're interested. (I think it's all up-to-date in hg.) 2000m was picked arbitrarily to give a decent balance of land and sea.

However, the moon is actually hideously lopsided, due to tidal effects caused by Earth; the near side is noticeably bigger than the far side. This makes the lunar gravitational field uneven. Therefore the surface at which water will actually settle to (which is known as a geoid) is not a sphere. Luckily, Lunar prospector mapped this shape too, so I can compensate for it. That's relatively small, a mere 100kB PNG file.

Comment Been looking forward to this (Score 5, Interesting) 68

I have a slow-going project to render the moon using Povray. Except, because I'm awkward, I've terraformed it. There are some very slightly better (but still very poor) videos here and here.

I'm using a monster dataset from the Kaguya spaceprobe for the terrain data, which, at maximum resolution, ends up as a 270MB 16-bit greyscale PNG file. Even so, it's only about 4 pixels per degree and, as you can tell from the videos above, the terrain is way too smooth to be interesting. I've experimented with adding algorithmic complexity with some pretty good results, and need to render the videos, but it's cripplingly slow and is, of course, cheating. [*]

So a higher-resolution dataset is great news for me. Now I just need to figure out how to get a global DEM at the highest possible resolution, which is not easy (I can see DEMs at 64 pixels/degree, but the 256 pixels/degree data appears to be available only in tiles with odd projections).

[*] Also, procedural code in Povray is very slow. I have been looking into rewriting the whole thing in Renderman but my model is too pathologically weird for most Renderman implementations --- I'm viewing a very, very large sphere with huge displacement shaders from very, very close up, and the open source Rendermans I've tried so far just curl up and die. Any suggestions gratefully appreciated.

Comment Re:Fun stuff in the China Desert (Score 1) 412

I reckon they're salt pans, partially filled with water. I can see distribution channels, a feed canal coming from the north, and the telltale fractal structure of evaporating salt.

Incidentally, all these sites have (or claim to have) Panoramio pictures nearby, although it's impossible to tell how accurate the positioning is.

Comment Re:simple fix (Score 4, Interesting) 397

I would like Google to actually search for the terms I asked for, and not what it thinks I should be asking for --- I fight that bloody autocorrect feature daily. Search for any programming term and chances are you'll get a tiny message saying 'Searching for FOO instead (unless you really meant BAR)', and then irrelevant search results.

If you go look at their forums, they're full of complaints about this. Including people saying that their company name can't be found at all, because it gets autocorrected to something else if people try to search for it!

I understand why this feature's there, but please, please, provide a way to turn it off...

Comment Re:...but does require a server plugin (Score 1) 151

Yes, that is a neat trick --- the most obvious way I can think of of doing that is to do all the ssh processing on the client, and make the daemon a simply proxy; but a quick look at the source code shows you don't appear to be doing that. Or at least, I couldn't find it.

Unfortunately the platform I'd really like this to work on, my Kindle, doesn't support WebSockets (of any kind)...

I have, in fact, been vaguely thinking about trying to recompile a Java ssh client library under GWT and trying to make this work, but finding such a library that uses message-passing only and not threads is quite hard. Java likes threads.

Comment ...but does require a server plugin (Score 4, Informative) 151

You need a daemon to proxy between the WebSocket connection (which, remember, isn't a straight TCP stream) and the ssh server proper. Although it appears this doesn't need to be on the machine that the ssh server is running on, so it doesn't look like too much of a hardship. Also, I can't find any reference of which of the umpteen different WebSocket variants it supports.

There's actually a number of these things out already, such as ConsoleFish or ShellInABox. There's also an HTML5 VNC client, which looks very interesting.

Comment Re:This seems unlikely to work (Score 1) 227

This requires separate landing systems for each stage of the rocket. This is a lot more added mass. And the worst thing to add to a rocket is more mass. Simple reusable systems like parachutes (as were used by the shuttle's solid rocket boosters) are one thing, but full-out rocket powered landing will weigh a lot more, will require a lot of additional fuel, and will add all sorts of technical requirements.

Does it?

Don't forget, those Merlin engines are restartable (something NASA never went in for much). So the first two stages land on the engines they took off with. And now they're empty, so they're very light. The second stage needs an heat shield, but other than that the only extra mass you need are the landing gear, avionics and attitude control, and the fuel. And even some of the fuel comes for free too, as there's a hefty safety margin in both stages, which you can eat into when landing.

So yeah, you are going to need more mass to do this, which will eat into the payload, but not as much as you might think. If the cost advantages of being able to recycle the stages outweighs the decrease in payload, then it'll be worth it. (Which, of course, for the shuttle it wasn't.)

Comment Re:Why? (Score 1) 585

9. Built-in PDF reader --- no crappy plugins, it just works.

10. Does not have a panic attack when it sees a self-signed SSL certificate. This was what made me finally jump ship away from Firefox: I spend a lot of time browsing mailing list archives trying to dig up obscure information, and there's a common software package people use for this that prefers to use https via a self-signed certificate. Trying to read these via Firefox was horrible. Yes, I do want to be told when the certificate is invalid, but Firefox's behaviour is way over the top. Plus, it actively encourages the user to add the certificate to their trusted list (facepalm).

Comment Re:15 billion, but 0 within reach (Score 1) 188

Surely you mean 3: the warm Earth-like world we're currently standing on (well, in my case, sitting), plus Mars, plus Venus. Both of which are pretty easy to get at using current technology. Some of the gas giant moons probably count too, but they're a special case as they're not in Sol's habitable zone.

Just because the planet's the right mass and about the right distance from its primary doesn't necessarily mean we'd find it habitable...

Comment Re:Oh, SO going into my Alpha Personal Workstation (Score 1) 199

Been there, tried that --- this was on an old CATS ARM box. Turns out that there's a lot of ia32 code in ROM on the graphics card which, of course, ARMs and Alphas are totally unable to run.

The CATS box managed to at least initialise the card into text mode by running the graphics card ROM via the world's slowest ia32 emulator; the keyboard lights would flash for ten seconds on bootup and then you'd get the graphics card's POST message. I don't know what Alpha boxes do.

I have tried to make PCI graphics cards work on an embedded system that didn't have such an emulator, and discovered that xorg relies heavily on the BIOS having initialised the card to a sane state on startup. Without that initialisation you're pretty much out of luck (particularly since it's all undocumented). That said, if you're already using an ATI card on the Alpha then there must be some mechanism to make it work, so... good luck!

(Come back, Open Firmware. All is forgiven...)

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