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Comment Re:Yet a zip gun is so easy to make (Score 1) 133

I don't even think it counts as a milestone in 3D printing. It is essentially *is* a zip gun. The hard part of the finished *system*, whether it's a printed plastic gun or a zip gun, is in the ammunition. A "gun" such as this simply provides a source of mechanical impact to ignite the primer in a cartridge. A nail and rubber band can perform that trick.

When you can 3D print, on a printer that is within the price range of a consumer, a gun that approaches the reliability, accuracy, and ergonomics of a cheap handgun, that'd be a milestone.

Comment Re:Ho-hum, another really amazing device (Score 1) 147

Tell me what specifically this (or any other phone of its calibre) is missing that is so wrong?

That's easy. More battery life. I know battery life is impressive, but it doesn't matter, you can always ask for more. Same with radio performance.

Oh, and there's greater ruggedness. Until I can hammer a nail with a device and use it as a deep sea fishing lure, without voiding the warranty, I can always ask for more ruggedness.

And *cheaper*. That's the real frontier, and a perfectly acceptable way of meeting the nail/deep sea criterion. And it's a tough nut to crack, because manufacturers don't want to be selling cheap commodities. That's how Palm became irrelevant. Rather than selling $20 m500s, they destroyed their market identity by making more complicated devices and competing in that market.

Comment Re:Yup (Score 2) 147

You kids make it sound like living for a long time is a character flaw or something. Trust me, your turn at being the ridiculously old guy is coming, and faster than you imagine.

Anyhow, my teenaged son and I were discussing the Stones just the other day. He said that he thought they had some good songs, but they were overrated. My response was no shit -- they were the *Rolling Stones*. Nobody could be as awesome they were supposed to be. But they put on a great show, and they had some good songs, what more could you possibly ask for?

Eternal youth, apparently.

Comment Quote from The Mythical Man-Month (Score 1) 356

I don't like the "rockstar" label, but excellent software developers are more than worth it, as Fred Brooks knew years ago...

Study after study shows that the very best designers produce structures that are faster, smaller, simpler, clearer, and produced with less effort. The differences between the great and the average approach an order of magnitude.

I don't have the book in front of me, but there is a reference at http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Fred_Brooks.

That book is worth rereading every few years.

Comment Re:"miniscule" (Score 1) 190

As far as I can tell, They're angry and running about calling it "cheating" over what appears to be a simple case of not understanding the horribly dense and overly-complicated rules....

Well, if you're rich enough to play the game, you can afford to pay somebody to read the rules carefully. That's how *all* rich guy games are played -- litigation, for example. If your lawyer screws up reading one of the laws you and your rich buddies have drafted, you lose.

Comment Re:Two peas in a pod (Score 2) 216

Well, I wouldn't say the Saffir-Simpson scale is *subjective*, but it is somewhat *arbitrary*. A lot of the problem is that we talk about hurricane classes as if they were purely descriptive of storms, but really the various classes characterize the potential interaction of a storm with man-made structures. Each hurricane class represents the likely level of damage to a wood frame structure built with construction techniques common in the US in 1971. This could easily have been calibrated using historical insurance statistics, at least for the more common category 1-3 hurricanes. So the scale is not *subjective*, it's *contrived for a particular use*.

The National Hurricane Center originally took Saffir's wind speed scale and factored in potential storm surge, which I think makes sense. A few years ago NHC changed the scale to be a pure wind speed based scale, which might be more useful for some purposes but I think reduces the relevance of the scale to most people. Take Sandy, which was "only" a category 2 hurricane; the damage was caused by storm surge. Another factor that would go into a really useful scale of hurricane power would be geographic extent. Sandy, while not packing intense winds, was *huge*; that meant that it was going to find the right conditions of pressure, wind and tide to cause major damage *somewhere*. Consequently Sandy caused more damage than any other Atlantic hurricane excepting Katrina -- $65 bln. The next hurricane down the list by damage is lest than half that (Ike, at 29.5 bln).

So the issue of whether we need another, higher level category is not a matter of wind strength alone, whether or not that strength is increasing. It's a matter of needing to characterize a potential for damage to things other than wood-frame structures.

Comment Re:FP (Score 3, Informative) 308

Well, if you look at the recent history of Liberia, particularly the reign of the now-convicted war criminal Charles Taylor, it's not the fault of white people *per se*, but meddling by and collusion with corrupt, unprincipled outsiders. These include a veritable rainbow coalition of crooks and thugs, with brown people like the Sierra Leonean RUF and Indian-American Christian evangelist R.A. Paul. White people have their share of venal Taylor cronies too, such as the Russian mobster Viktor Bout and American televangelist and politician Pat Robertson.

The contribution of outside governments to the mess in LIberia has been tolerating people who operate outside the bounds of the law. Pat Robertson is part of the US contribution; he solicited funds from his 700 club viewers and diverted them to Liberian diamond mines he got from Taylor. The VA AG, a personal friend of Robertson from the evangelical wing of the Republican party, blocked prosecution on the basis that *some* of the fund solicited did make it to Rwanda.

This doesn't make US politics the main culprit in the mess that is modern Liberia -- far from it. There are too may other contributors to make such a claim. But our *contribution* to the mess there isn't confined to pre-Civil War history. And our contribution to the bess is arguably a sign of our own political dysfunction and tolerance of what plain sense should tell us is corruption; Taylor ma have been an evangelical Christian, but he was no friend of the US where there was money to be made. After 9/11 he harbored two Al Qaeda operatives, not for ideological reasons but for a million dollars in cash. He bought "friends" in the US, who bought "friends" in American government, none of whom were friends to Americans.

Comment The explanations offered might be true ... (Score 1) 308

but one thing is certain: they screwed up the design of their admission exam.

There's a simple-minded attitude that takes the position that when it comes to tests and scores, tougher is better, but this ignores the fact that tests are administered in order to support good decisions. That's why tests like the SAT are continually recalibrated, so they yield the maximum useful information about the current crop of college-bound students.

Having a 100% failure rate may be telling the authorities that there are no students prepared to undertake the program at U of Liberia, but if this is a surprise to them, then they're incompetent. They *must* know that there are practically no prepared students, and they ought to have a plan to address this. Unless the plan is "stop admitting students until the country's education system is fixed", then the test ought to identify students who are sufficiently prepared to undertake the remedial program they've devised.

Comment Re:Two peas in a pod (Score 5, Informative) 216

a storm four times more powerful means 540mph winds. do you seriously think that we will have storms in the 700mph wind speed category?

This is a willful misreading of the original post. "4x more powerful" is vague, of course, but by no reasonable reading would interpret it as "4x windspeeds". I read it to mean "4x as destructive". That could be a matter of an increase in as little as 10 mph. Damage to manmade structures is what we're interested in.

That by the way, is how the Saffir-Simpson scale was defined. If you look at the speeds involved, it seems to make little sense:
Cat 1: 119-153 kph
Cat 2: 154-157 kph
Cat 3: 158-208 kph
Cat 4: 209-251kph
Cat 5: 252+ kph

Herbert Saffir, who conceived of the scale for Atlantic hurricanes, was a civil engineer, and his scale was calibrated in terms of potential damage to a well-built frame house. Category 1 hurricanes have dangerous winds but pose only minor danger to a well-built frame house. Category 2 hurricanes commonly cause extensive roof and siding damage to well-built frame houses. Category 3 hurricanes commonly cause major damage to roof decking and gable ends of well-built frame houses. Category 4 hurricanes will cause loss of most of the roof structure and some side walls of well-built frame houses. Category 5 hurricanes cam be expected destroy many well-built frame homes in their path.

Now it's clear that in terms of just describing the potential effect of a hurricane on a well-built frame house, you don't need a category that goes above "complete destruction to many well-built structures". But the very success of the scale in terms of its impact on building codes means we probably should recalibrate the scale because of a change in the meaning of "well-built". But that would be confusing when comparing current to past hurricanes, so adding a category 6 representing "widespread destruction of frame structures built to modern building standards" might make sense.

If more powerful hurricanes become more common, we may also wish to have a category that represents potential catastrophic damage to reinforced concrete homes with shallow hipped roofs -- structures you'd expect to survive lower-end Cat 5 hurricanes largely intact.

Comment Re:Amusing (Score 3, Interesting) 355

Well "fucking it up" is one way of putting it. And it's true, if by "fucking it up" people mean moving towards being just another player rather than the dominant player in the market.

Sears was the Amazon of its heyday -- if not more so. It dominated a huge slice of the American retail economy, using the hot technology of the day: the mail order catalog. It spent decades in decine, powered by inertia and massive paid-for infrastructure -- hundreds of yellow brick stand-alone stores and distribution centers across the country built in the 1920s to 1950s. I remember the Sears of the early 70s. Dirty, unattactive stores full of (except for tools) shoddy, undesirable merchandise.

Sears went though a decline-driven break up, divesting itself of insurance, consumer credit, construction and other non-retail operations before selling the rump of the retail business to K-Mart in 2005. "Sears" today is essentially a re-branded K-Mart, and many spun-off pieces of the old Sears conglomerate survive and prosper as independent entities or with new owners in a related business. The problem wasn't with any of the individual pieces of the business, it was moving with the times while managing all the different *kinds* of pieces of the business.

Which is not to say that Microsoft is necessarily going the way of Sears, but there are some interesting parallels. Like Sears, MS exploited an unique market position to enter many other markets. Like Sears, MS has several highly successful cash cow operations that can sustain marginally successful side businesses. That's a blessing in the short term, but sometimes a curse in the long term. In the mobile space, MS wore Palm down with shear financial persistence, only to lose that hard won market to more agile and creative competitors.

MS may still regain its mobile position by funding that business from its cash cows, but it's not sure thing. Doing that across many business areas could translate into a lot of lost profit in the long term, depending on its future success in those areas.

Comment Re:Seattle makes this list? (Score 1) 240

That said, I do have a fairly stable 50/10 cable connection at work and a very stable 35/35 fiber connection at home.

Luxury. We have to start downoadng our movies at six o'clock in the morning, uudecode them by hand, eat a handful of 'o computer punch dots, work a twenty hour day at the call center for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would thrash us to sleep with a token ring cable, if we were lucky!

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