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Comment Re:Home-brew hard cider is good. (Score 2) 618

Cider's not distilled, just fermented. After you've done that, distilling is optional (or freeze-concentration - you leave it out in the cold and keep skimming the non-alcoholic ice off the top until what's left has concentrated into applejack, though I haven't actually tried that.) Basically you just take some good juice, add an appropriate yeast, stick a fermentation lock on top and wait a week. Yum!

I've only made one batch of beer, and it was from a kit that did basically all the work for you (it has a malt-hops syrup that you ferment.) Once I've used up a bit more of it, I'll try a small batch of with a somewhat more authentic method. (If I'd known there were kits for brewing a gallon at a time, I'd have started brewing years ago; homebrew used to be a 5-gallon-and-up activity, which is way more beer than I can consume before it's gone bad, and you need to do a few experimental batches before you've got anything you can dependably bring to a party, unless you're a college student with friends who'll drink anything they can get.)

Why do it? Same reason it's worth baking your own bread on occasion, you get to experiment, make something tasty, and have fun.

Comment Business market's different than Consumer market (Score 1) 120

Blackberry really was a better product for quite a while, between corporate email support and vertical application integration support, but it was a business product, not a consumer product, and it was more specialized than generalized. Apple sold millions of phones to consumers, and while they've never been easy to support in a business environment (still aren't really), they were a big enough force for consumers to want to use them for business, and BB tanked.

Comment Satellite TV (Score 1) 410

Satellite TV's pretty common in the US - in rural areas that don't have cable, or in areas where the phone company doesn't provide TV so cable's the only choice, there are lots of satellite users, but it's almost all subscription anyway; somebody wants you to pay $30/month and then try to upsell you on extra channels.

Comment Thought they required it a few years ago? (Score 1) 415

Didn't everybody in Europe switch to Micro USB a couple of years ago?

I've still got a couple of devices that have Micro USB but don't seem to use it for charging. My GPS has a cradle with a proprietary connector that's fed by a Mini USB from a cigarette lighter adapter, and while it has Micro USB for a data interface, it can almost run from that but doesn't actually charge (as you might guess, I know this because the Mini USB on the back of the cradle is broken.) And I've got a Coby Android tablet that has a little ~1.5(?)mm charger which runs on 5V; it could perfectly well run off a USB wall or cigarette lighter adapter if it didn't have the proprietary cable, and it also has the "USB will keep it sort of running but not charge the battery" feature.

It doesn't matter as much for cell phones, but I wish everything could use a power cord like the Apple Mac laptop magnetic-disconnect ones. Of course, every new generation of laptop seems to want more voltage than the previous ones; I've seen them go from 12 to 14 to 16 to 19. (Sigh - if they could still use 12V we could just use simple car adapters, instead of 12V->110V->19V.)

Comment Re:...and suddenly (Score 2) 150

My siblings and I used to joke about Evil Aunt Martha (she's no particular relation, except that all Stewarts are either descended from a 12th-century Scottish king or peasants on the land of his descendents, so we might be distantly related to her husband.)

She's going to shiv Lodsys, and it'll look fabulous when she does, with legal papers that are black and white and red all over, in nice wintery colors.

Comment Why you would trust insurance companies on this (Score 1) 385

Insurance companies are in the business of making money by accepting risks in return for premiums. If they don't charge enough for premiums, or the risks are higher than they expect, they'll lose money (sometimes catastrophically, if they've covered too many correlated events.) But if they charge too much for premiums, customers aren't going to buy from them, and customers like banks and big corporations have more choices about who to buy from (including self-insurance) than you do.

So they have to either charge rates that are vaguely realistic, or they're not going to make money, especially if they have competitors who have roughly the same information about risks that they do and will undercut them if they get too greedy.

And as one of the spokescritters said, they have to base their rates on actual science; basing them on politicized "science" doesn't work. Coal companies are in the opposite position - if real science says they're destroying the world with greenhouse gasses, and politicized science says "Sure, no problem", they've got a big incentive to politicize science so they can sell their coal, instead of having policies based on real science that force them to stop.

Comment And only 1GB RAM? (Score 1) 84

A couple of years ago there were a couple brands of computers available at Fry's for about $250 that had a slightly earlier Atom chip, 1 GB RAM, a small but adequate disk drive, power supply and case. They were small fanless boxes, maybe an inch thick and 6x6 square, enough to be a good low-end desktop PC. 1GB RAM wasn't big enough back then, and it's way too small today.

Yeah, having a few GPIO pins is nice, but you can hang an Arduino off a USB port and get that for $35 today.

Comment It's Research (Score 1) 290

They were in the Research part of Bell Labs, back when both of those existed. There was a lot of slack to do interesting and not-immediately-business-related research there, though if you wanted to buy expensive equipment, you did need to get support for a real budget.

Comment Different Governments have Different Issues (Score 5, Insightful) 406

The most common reasons governments want to have non-US "internet governance" these days are that they want to restrict free speech and free reading by their citizens, or restrict some kinds of commerce by their citizens (US restricts gambling, drugs, etc.) There are other issues; most governments used to have telecom monopolies, either state-run or quasi-nationalized, though the 90s liberalized much of that away. Some governments would like more money to stay in their countries, or keep people from buying goods online that are heavily taxed locally.

It really irks me when international groups get together to talk about internet policy, and advertise their shindig as being about "ending the digital divide" or "providing connectivity to Africa" or other noble-sounding goals, but actually devote most of their agenda to governments wanting censorship. These days, of course, the NSA is giving them a good excuse to want internet governance so they can do their own wiretapping in case the NSA isn't sharing.

Comment Amazon.*** namespaces (Score 1) 406

Amazon's actually using the namespace partly because the publishing world has lots of weird national boundaries - a given book might be published in the US but not yet available in the UK because UK publishing rights haven't been sold to a UK publisher yet, or the UK edition may have different text, title, or cover - and they use the namespace to help keep that isolated.

Comment 40 hours of meetings a week (Score 2) 311

I was once on a project that had 4 or 5 large companies working together to bid on a NASA RFP. At one point we had 40 hours a week of scheduled meetings. It was actually very liberating, because everybody recognized that there was no way anybody could do any work if we all went to all of them, so there was the 15 minute daily status meeting in the morning and then you could blow off anything where you weren't actually needed.

Comment Yeah, didn't know they even had 4500 left (Score 1) 120

Poor Blackberry; they've been on the skids for years. The whole "Lawsuits in Motion" thing distracted them, but mostly they missed the boat when Apple was developing the smartphone market for people who want the shiny toys and Google Android followed up by taking the cheaper smartphone space.

Comment Ecology is really critical, and really hard (Score 1) 308

If you want to stick some apes in a can and send them to nearby parts of space for short periods of time, you can do that without doing much ecology - send enough oxygen and water, and recycle them a bit if you want to support slightly longer missions.

But if you want a long-term space colony, whether it's on a planet/moon/asteroid where you've got some natural resources, or in outer space where you've only got solar energy, you've got to build a sustainable ecosystem, with plants that provide food and oxygen, some way to grow some medicines, some way to make dirt or equivalent for plants to grow in. So far, we haven't even built a human-supporting terrarium that worked without cheating. Biosphere II was really useful, because it failed, and it's the biggest that's been tried. We also don't really know what nutrients humans need - we can do most of the important ones, and you can live mostly adequately off beans and corn and green leaves, but that doesn't mean we've really got everything covered, or waste disposal handled adequately, weird viruses not showing up in the air supply, weird fungi not growing behind the instrument panels, plant diseases not killing off your near-monoculture, etc.

We're not vaguely close to being able to set up a Mars colony. We've got to learn to terraform a planet first, and the only one we've tried it on (Earth) isn't going very well; we haven't even found the thermostat yet.

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