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Comment GPS is not foolproof... or proof against fools. (Score 1) 186

One of the things that gets lost is that GPS units have a learning curve. Just like any other technological device in our society, the operator has to know enough to decide whether or not to follow the directions being given.

I have seen accounts of people following GPS intructions into wildly illegal and sometimes fatal misdirections, which points out that we can't just turn off our brains and follow the commands.

For myself, I drive a commercial truck and am in constant interaction with my GPS. Having a simple map display gives me a constant read on where I am in relation to the roads around me, and allow me to change my actual driving route quickly in response to traffic conditions. The interaction between local knowledge and the information given by the GPS allow me to get around town much faster than I would without it, or even by just blindly following the directions it gives.

Comment Re:Annoyance ads (Score 1, Interesting) 439

Unfortunately annoying people is a valid marketing strategy.

By pissing someone off, the marketers create a sense of emotion for the product that tends to outlast the memories of anger. A customer walks down a grocery aisle and the product catches their eye, they feel some sort of emotion linked to it, assume it is a good emotion and buy it.

Like and dislike can cause some of the same physiological responses, it is only memory and perception that tells us which feeling is which at the time. Lose the memory and we have a much harder time telling what we are feeling.

Anger can also be a pretty useful tool in building an association between a problem and a supposed solution (the product). When I get a headache, I still sometimes think of those annoying "apply directly to the forehead" commercials.

Anything that gets a person thinking about a product helps to differentiate it from the huge formless mass of the same thing in the market, and so may help make a sale later down the line.

Submission + - T-mobile suffering a major phone and data outage. (t-mobile.com)

Rowanyote writes: T-mobile is suffering a pretty major phone and text message outage that started about 5:30pm EST. Current estimate as of 9pm EST (according to their support page) is that approximately 5% of T-mobile customers are being affected. From the messages in the discussion, it is looking like people are getting intermittent service for voice and data, with one or the other sometimes working.

Personally, I can call out from my t-mobile phone, but incoming calls get a busy signal and no text messages are getting though at all in either direction.

Comment Abuse (Score 2, Interesting) 152

What springs to mind first is the terrible potential to abuse this technology on political prisoners, criminals, etc.

Depending on how well you pinpoint certain areas of the brain, but I wonder if you can permanently destroy a person's effectiveness at whatever skills the government doesn't want them pursuing. It sounds like this procedure doesn't leave any external evidence, and the internal lesion may not be readily identifiable without biopsy.

"We will release you to your family immediately, but only if you consent to this minor procedure...."

Comment Re:It's just a fresnel lens (Score 3, Interesting) 141

There are some key differences. In a fresnel lense the ridges just bend the light passing through a small amount. It is basically the surface of a regular lense stepped into a flat surface. Thus it acts almost exactly like a standard lense and has a focal point somewhere behind that all the light is reflected to.

From the sound of it, this lens bends all the incoming light 90 degress or more, sending it towards the center through the lens itself to a secondary optic area which concentrates the light and reflects it all out of the center with a focal length of effectively zero.

Comment Burn, burn your little b*%^&rds & solar sm (Score 2, Funny) 141

My house has an nearly unbeatable infestation of small ants, and I can't help but think just what a magnificent burning lens one of these would make minus the solar chip.

But aside from that, there are some other pretty nifty uses for concentrated sunlight. I am definitely curious whether the lens can be scaled up to a square meter or more, enough to possibly melt glass or aluminum.

Comment Re:What's the point? (Score 1) 218

your arguments stand up with current visual technology (monitors = a small 2d window into "data space") but not neccesarily with technology that is not yet in common use.

Look around whatever room you are in and see how much data is intuitively organized in a three dimensional space. I can point to any of a hundred books on my shelves, DVD's by approximate location, files of financial data, etc. The human brain has an amazing ability to organize objects using spacial relationships. This ability is part of what makes folders, desktops and menus a useful and usable means of organization instead of or along side simple file lists. (I intuitively know the "physical" location of the couple clicks it takes to get to all my commonly used files and software. This is done without even reading the text and tends to be quickly relearned when I change things on my system)

But, all these are very limited by display space and lack of depth. I think that upcoming technologies will make more use of our brains spacial abilities to expand the "area" usable to organize data in all three dimensions.

One final thought is that tabbed browsing is somewhat of an analog to having a third dimension added to a browser. There is one layer "on top" with all the rest underneath.

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The time spent on any item of the agenda [of a finance committee] will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved. -- C.N. Parkinson