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Comment How the French messed up the metric system (Score 0) 909

The French messed it up in the 1800's. When setting up the metric system, they had to come up with a distance for the meter. Their approach? Take a measurement of the longitude of the earth and divide by 10,000.

This single, idiotic, lazy-ass decision made life hellish for people around the world. How? For units of weight, volume, or even long distances, it really doesn't matter if a kilogram is 2.2 pounds or 2.3 pounds. It also doesn't matter if Pepsi comes in 2 litre bottles or 1.9 liter bottles. It also doesn't matter if you buy fuel by the litre or by the gallon. You buy all this stuff essentially in bulk, and the quantities are arbitrary.

What does matter is small distances, specifically for machine tools. The French made the inch equal to 25.4 mm. If instead they made the inch 24.0 mm or 25 mm, then everything would be okay today. But with 25.4 mm, you end up with 1/4-screws and M6 nut. They look the same to the naked eye but they don't fit together and need different wrenches to drive them. This is where distance is critical; for small distances, you have a lot of fixtures and hardware out there which is designed to match specific distances at close tolerances. Since the metric and SAE units are off by just a little bit, you end up with a world where everyone needs duplicate sets of tools and stuff that's incompatible with each other because they were fabricated to different units.

Sure, when everyone is on metric the whole problem goes away, but the laissez-faire, overromanticized decision of the French will continue to be a pain in the neck for years to come.

Comment Re:Will EMC follow with Iomega? (Score 4, Interesting) 180

Iomega's blunder with Zip was that for too long Iomega only sold them with external parallel-port and SCSI interfaces. By the time they started offering internal drives, PC's were shipping with 4GB hard drives and 720MB CD burners so 100MB and 250MB zip media was already obselete. I don't understand what took Iomega so long to make an internal version. Internal drives would probably be cheaper to manufacture and support, and Iomega probably could have made even more money with internal drives sold through system builders. Companies would have had them preinstalled in every computer, instead of having one or two drives shared around the office.

I remember spending a lot of time messing around with Centronics extension cables and EPP/ECP settings on Windows 3.1 and 95 boxes to manage external Zip drives. What a waste.

Comment Some kids are bully magents (Score 1, Insightful) 684

Discussion of the bully issue usually avoids the fact that some kids are more prone to being bullied because they're sensitive, easily offended, or cannot handle self-deprecating humor.

It all starts when you're five years old and a kid at school yells at you "I see your underpants. Ha ha!" If you react or protest or cry or run away, then the other kids will smell your fear and attack you like a pack of wolves. If you keep your cool or joke at it, then other kids show you respect. It all comes down to how you handle yourself in those moments.

Anti-bullying crusaders dismiss anything that sounds like "blaming the victim". Instead they consider bullied kids as innocent bystanders, and focus only on the mean, misguided nature bullies, and how parents and teachers should to control them. But to fix the problem you really should look at each kid who gets bullied and show them what they're doing wrong.

Comment Re:How I would fix the post office (Score 1) 473

USPS needs to greatly improve its online services. USPS still does not let you go on the web and print out a friggin first class stamp or envelope. You still have to wait in line at the post office to do registered mail, certified mail, proof of mailing, or to make a claim for lost/late mail. Clearly the USPS has never made it a mandate to make all services available on usps.com, so that people never have to visit their post office except in rare circumstances.

Maybe USPS should just buy stamps.com for a billion dollars and turn it into a free service.

Comment Re:Rubbish (Score 1) 252

Then you might be pleasantly surprised by Colgate Total.

Try this: brush your teeth with ordinary toothpaste (fluoride + abrasive + surfactant), eat a jelly donut, wait two hours, and then check the plaque on your teeth. Then repeat the process with Colgate Total toothpaste (+= triclosan + glue). Huge difference.

Granted there are unknown unknowns about the potential benefits of the flora in your mouth, but the known knowns about the damage done by the flora to your teeth is pretty well known. Until they figure out how regrow teeth or invent plaque-scrubbing nanites, keeping your mouth as sterile as you can is probably a good bet.

Comment Toothpaste versus garbage bags (Score 1) 252

I doubt many people will really miss the use of Triclosan in things like garbage bags and carpet, but toothpaste is a different story. Dental hygiene seems to me to be the one application where you're better off using wide-spectrum antibiotics all the time. Everyone is born with one set of teeth (yes you could argue two), and you'd like all those teeth to last your lifetime.

Comment Pretty encyclopedia? (Score 2) 370

30 years ago your typical young kid would say "Britannica is boring. Everyone should use only World Book encyclopedia and only World Book encyclopedia."

Today a young kid might say you should only use About.com.

Comment Why they killed the mini (Score 2) 329

Google started killing off the mini years ago when they stopped releasing software updates for it, and stopped updating the hardware.

It's kind of disingenuous for Google to say the mini has an 'adequate' replacement. Google Custom Search doesn't give the admin nearly enough control. There's no way to guarantee all your pages will get included in the index, even if you're on a paid subscription. No keymatch functionality, no regex exclusions, no freshness tuning. And the Google Search Appliance costs over 10x the cost of the mini (starts at $45k instead of $3k). It's hard to call that a suitable replacement.

The problem with the mini is that Google couldn't make enough money on it. It basically started out as a min-GSA, with less beefy hardware and a lower license page limit. Customers would buy it, deploy it, and forget about it. It worked great. Google thought that customers would migrate from the mini to the GSA, but I think what happened is once they had the mini they stayed with the mini for their public website, and many never saw the need to spend $$$$$ to upgrade to the GSA for enterprise search.

At one point a few years ago, Google released a "VM edition" of the mini/gsa for development use. They quickly realized that VM was the wrong way to go because without the pretty hardware and cables they couldn't justify the cost of the GSA to customers, so they quietly cancelled the VM and all mention of it. Wish I had kept the copy I had downloaded.

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