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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 8 declined, 2 accepted (10 total, 20.00% accepted)

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Submission + - What's on your hardware lab bench?

50000BTU_barbecue writes: I made a comment a few days ago in a story basically saying the oscilloscope is dead. While that's a bit dramatic, I've found that over the last 20 years my oscilloscopes have been "on" less and less. Instead, I use a combination of judicious voltage measurements, a logic analyzer and a decent understanding of the documentation of the gadget I'm working on.
Stuff is just more and more digital and microcontroller based, or just so cheap yet incredibly integrated that there's no point in trying to work on it. (I'm thinking RC toys for example. Undocumented and very cheap. Doesn't work? Buy another.)
While I still do old-school electronics like circuit-level troubleshooting (on old test gear), that's not where the majority of hobbyists seem to be.
Yet one thing I keep hearing is how people want an oscilloscope to work on hardware. I think it's just not that necessary anymore.
What I use most are two regulated DC lab supplies, a frequency counter, a USB logic analyzer, a USB I2C/SPI master, and a USB-RS-232 dongle. That covers a lot of modern electronics.
I have two oscilloscopes, a 100MHz two-channel stand-alone USB unit and a 1960s analog plug-in based mainframe that is a '70s hacker dream scope. But I rarely use them anymore.
What equipment do hardware folks out there use the most? And would you tell someone trying to get into electronics that they need a scope?

Submission + - What's the problem with tech in Canada? (

50000BTU_barbecue writes: Why is Canada unable to sustain a technological lead? Blackberry, Nortel, the Arrow, we are able to be world-class for a while, but then, nothing. Are we still just happy to be a resource-based economy? Do we lack a certain something, maybe personality traits? What's the deal?

Submission + - What's the most depressing sci-fi you've ever read? ( 2

50000BTU_barbecue writes: Usually sci-fi provides adventure with happy endings for everyone. But what story have you read that resonates years later because of some insight about human nature or society that's basically cynical or pessimistic? For me it's Fred Pohl's "Jem" with its sharply divided resource-constrained future world driven by politics, and its conclusion that humans are just too destructive to handle contacting alien life, especially if humans have the technological upper hand.

I'm wondering what other stories have stuck in people's minds. It can be a short story, a novel or an entire series of books.

(Sorry, I have no idea what the tags are supposed to do or how they work. I click and it becomes "!politics" or there's a picture of a hat. No matter what I type in "tags" it stays as "politics" with a "x" I can click to make it "!politics". I've rarely seen something so useless be so counter-intuitive. sci-fi doesn't work, but when I type "science fiction" the space bar apparently acts as en enter key so all it sees is science. I think my next submission will be about depressing user interfaces.)


Submission + - Why are old hard drives so expensive? ( 1

50000BTU_barbecue writes: I was idly daydreaming about how I could build a small lapping/polishing machine when I thought of using an old hard drive as the platform. The mechanics and finish are perfect, just put a lapping film on the platter and power the thing. So I started looking for old hard drives on eBay, figuring the size and heft would be best for tinkering. I was amazed to find that the prices on 20 year old hard drives is staggeringly high. With that kind of markup, there has to be a reason. It's not just one model that could conceivably be of use in old but very expensive medical equipment for example. It's all of them. ST-506, MFM, ESDI, you name it, the prices are insane.
So there's either a market for a universal Flash->ancient HD bus interface (go for it!), or some people know something I don't!
What gives?

Submission + - Fusion power in four years? (

50000BTU_barbecue writes: A few years ago I researched fusion as a practical energy source in the foreseeable future for a school paper. I thought I had been quite thorough in finding and describing all the contenders starting with the usual suspects like Tokamaks and Polywell, etc. My conclusion, based on my skepticism was that, at best, real practical fusion energy was half a century away and would likely be just another energy source and not a panacea. Things like peak helium and the need for superconducting magnets really stood out as a problem. Somehow, the folks at General Fusion escaped my attention at the time.

They are proposing a "solid based" system of fusion using a large spherical reaction chamber filled with molten lead and lithium and then using acoustic shock waves to compress the core where all the good stuff will happen. I'm looking for insights and comments from /.ers in the know about the project. Is this viable? Can it produce power? If so, this is a huge deal.

Input Devices

Submission + - Combo scroll-wheel/middle button mouse

50000BTU_barbecue writes: "I just bought a Logitech G5 mouse and I find that the scroll-wheel/middle-button is useless. It triggers a scroll before it detents, so using it as a button is very frustrating since if you don't click just *exactly* between detents and *exactly* in the right orientation, it will scroll before registering as a click. Of course this means you're not clicking where you thought. Should I exchange this mouse or are they all like that? Which mouse correctly implements a usable combo scroll/click wheel? This is for finicky CAD work on a large monitor rather than gaming, BTW."

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