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Comment Will Aerobee do a Milk Steamer as well? (Score 1) 76

I'm guessing the answer is probably no, because it's not something that's easy to do in plastic, and in a hotel room you can get by with heating the milk in a microwave, while there are other devices out there for stove tops or camping stoves. But I'd love to see one if there's a practical way to do it.

Comment Re:The Physics of the Aerobie (Score 1) 76

I met Adler a few years ago at a design thing at Stanford. I forget if it was after I'd bought my Aeropress. The press isn't the same as a high-pressure espresso machine, but it's pretty good, and really convenient.

Aerobie's dog frisbees seemed like they'd be fun also, if you've got an appropriate dog. (I've got cats; flying catnip mice are only interesting to the cats if they're throwing them around themselves.)

Bitcoin

Bitcoin Inventor Satoshi Nakamoto Could Actually Be Group From Europe 186

An anonymous reader writes "Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto could be a group from Europe which has a strong footing in the financial sector. From the article: 'Josh Zerlan, the Chief Operating Officer of Butterfly Labs and a person familiar with the Bitcoin network, has said it is highly likely that Nakamoto could be a group of people working the financial sector. Speaking to IBTimes UK on the sidelines of a Global Bitcoin Conference in Bangalore, India, Zerlan said: "One of the prevailing theories, I think has credibility, is that it was some group of people from financial sector that created this. They released it and stepped back and let it go. So, Satoshi Nakamoto is a group of people, I think, is a reasonable possibility."'"

Comment Ubuntu Install CD will fix your mom's PC (Score 1) 408

OK, I haven't actually taken this approach with either my parents or my wife's mom :-) My parents bought a Mac back in ~1987, and continued to upgrade Macs occasionally. My mom's Mac is currently secured by the fact that it's a Mac, and she only uses dial-up internet because that's good enough for email and she doesn't see well enough to use the web unless she really needs to. (And my siblings all grumble about not having decent internet access when we visit, but she really doesn't want to bother upgrading, even though she did finally get cable TV when the digital transition broke her ability to receive the PBS station she likes via broadcast.)

We got my wife's mom a generic Windows PC when she retired, with AOL. It let her chat with her friends, keep up on the celebrity news, and generally stay connected to the world when she was getting less mobile. "Computer security" for her system meant occasionally formatting the disk, reinstalling Windows from scratch, reinstalling a new free AOL coaster, and having her log in to AOL, because she kept everything she cared about in the cloud rather than on her PC.

Comment $5 LED bulbs vs. "Cheap" incandescents (Score 2) 1146

Yes, you could buy a pack of 10 incandescent bulbs for less up-front money than an LED that will outlast all of them, though my wife just bought some LED bulbs for $5 (I think they're 40-watt equivalent), and I've bought 60-watt equivalent bulbs for $10. But you can't run the bulbs for all that long without the cost of electricity making up for the lower purchase price, and for the guy in Wisconsin who considers the waste heat to be a feature, remember that that's only true half the year, and if you're in Wisconsin, you've probably got a heating system that's much more efficient than the electric heat I have here in California.

Comment Of course it was a race - to one-up Sputnik (Score 1) 230

The first space race was about satellites, and the US lost; the reason for the moon was partly because it was a sufficiently big project to make up for having lost the first round. The real technical driver on both sides was ICBMs, but a lot of ego got dragged along as well.

Comment Keyboard has single-color LEDs, not RGB (Score 2) 129

I don't know about you, but the only time I notice the LEDs on my keyboard are when something's wrong (e.g. everything's frozen, and I look at the disk LED to see that it's just the disk busy again), and they're not very bright. This has a brighter RGB LED that gives you a wide range of colours. In practice, no, I wouldn't bother using one of these things on my laptop, because it's physically awkward; might be fun to build something like this for a desktop machine, I suppose. (OTOH, the next desktop machine I'm likely to build would be a Raspberry Pi, which has its own support for this kind of thing, and the LED could be useful because the box itself would be jammed behind the TV.)

Comment Simple Microcontroller Blinky Designs (Score 2) 129

In this case it's an Atmel atTiny85 instead of a PIC chip, and a tri-color RGB LED instead of three separate LEDs, but yeah, it's not all that complex. It also has a printed circuit board, not particularly complex, and yes, you could build it yourself on breadboard. You could also snark about how Arduinos cost ~$30 when they only have
You could also buy a Digispark for ~$9 which has a Tiny85 and a voltage regulator, and breaks out the pins for convenient access, with room for headers so you can build the equivalent of an Arduino shield. Instead of a USB socket, it uses the trick of printing traces on the PCB in a layout that acts as a USB Type A plug, so it's more compact and doesn't need a wire.

Or you could spend ~$8 for an Adafruit Trinket and add an LED; it may be a shade less convenient than the Digispark just because they put the connectors on two sides of the board instead of one (so it's harder to use an RGB LED, but you could put it on the back of the board.)

Comment Re:Dictatorships (Score 1) 462

No, and no "thanks for playing", either. There are no clear lines in a dictatorship, it's whatever The Authorities feel like doing, and while you know that some things are definitely forbidden, like criticizing the dictator, you can never trust that anything else you do is safe.

Dictatorships have almost all the bad parts of monarchies*, with newer technology, and the leaders don't even have the excuse that some strange woman lying in a pond handed them a sword or that a Divine Being appointed them, so they have to make sure that the population stays afraid to mess with them. Ever.

By the way, if you want to read an astoundingly good article on Machiavelli, it starts here, at Ex Urbe's blog.

* Most dictatorships don't have hereditary succession, so the dictator is usually somebody who was competent and/or vicious enough to rise to the top, as opposed to being some random idiot who was lucky or unlucky enough to be the kid of the previous king. (North Korea excepted, along with many years of the Roman Empire..) On the other hand, this means that they know they're only in power as long as they suppress or coopt anybody else who's competent and vicious enough to displace them, so they never get to relax unless they can abscond with a lot of cash and move to the South of France.

Comment Re:Don't even try (Score 1) 120

The arguments for Nick being Satoshi, other than the fact that he's one of the few dozen people with the skills and interests to do the design right, came down to

  • "he uses this set of technical terms, and so does Satoshi" and
  • "he also uses a few other sets of phrasing in his academic papers that Satoshi uses" and
  • "pay no attention to the US-vs-UK spelling differences."

But the technical terms that the current speculation mentions are all standard terms in the field, like "trusted third party" (which was probably used more 5-10 years ago than today), "timestamp" used as a verb (common), "timestamp service" (there have been some done by crypto people like Stu Haber, and it's a well-understood concept.) The general language choices are mostly using passive phrasing like lots of academic papers do; you could argue that Satoshi is probably either an academic now, or has been one once, or learned English in an academic environment (i.e. learned it in college if he's actually Japanese.)

It's more likely that Satoshi is really Nick than that he's really David Chaum, but unless Nick admits to it in public or suddenly starts using his billions of dollars worth of bitcoins to build an Evil Genius Secret Headquarters, it'd be rude to hassle him about it even if you think it's true. (Also, in the latter case, you'd be saying that Nick isn't capable of maintaining his disguise as a mild-mannered academic while also secretly building his Secret Headquarters, and saying that "We can't tell who's really building this Secret Headquarters so it must be Nick!" doesn't really cut it.)

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