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Comment Just bite the bullet and use ProE or Solidworks. (Score 1) 413

Post the models and analysis online - that's better in keeping with the ideal of a F/OSS project anyway. I use ProE professionally and had used Solidworks 2003-2007 while at school. ProE has all the required features and is improving with the UI, while Solidworks is the other way around. On the balance, they're both perfectly viable engineering tools.

However, getting all the features included (assemblies, full GTOL support in drafting, harnesses, ECAD integration etc) while maintaining a vaguely usable UI seems to be currently beyond what FOSS projects can deliver. The CAD market is growing and highly competitive - and even then the professionally-developed software has trouble getting these things right. A couple of weeks ago I was involved with a plastic part redesign because the ECAD -> ProE interface lost a couple capacitors in the translation and prototype parts ended up interfering.

FEA and CAM are two other areas that require a significant amount of effort to get 'right'. ANSYS (FEA) has been developed since at least the 1980's and is still either 'easy to use' or 'fully featured'. CAM (CNC pathing, etc) is critical for prototyping components quickly and accurately.

Add to all that, the fact that none of the open interchange CAD formats (STEP, IGES, STL for 3d) contain all/any of the metadata (parametric model data, dimensioning and tolerances, for example) that proprietary formats do. For CAD software to be useful, it must be able to interchange data with other systems - every company/effort will need to exchange CAD data with another at some point, to communicate with a partner, vendor, consultant etc.

Long story short, proprietary CAD packages are the best ones available, which should be the real concern for a manned space program (since people's lives are clearly immediately at stake). They have the experienced people in the jobs market and the extensive knowledgebase needed to work through day-to-day problems. I can just google something to find out how I can do what I need to in ProE, or walk down the hall and talk to the guy who's been using it for 20 years. If I needed to submit a bug request and wait for a response and work-around, I wouldn't be able to do my job.

Comment Um, duh? (Score 1) 331

Do people really think the human immune system is magic? It needs exercise and practice just like any other part of the body to be effective.

Not to say we should start rolling in our own bodily waste, but a little dirt really never hurt anyone. Except maybe a burn victim.

Comment Re:Waste MORE time!? (Score 1) 1073

What's with all these schools having gifted classes? In my graduating class there were over a dozen of us who wanted to take AP stats (in my case in addition to AP Chem, AP Physics and AP Calc (AB)) and the administration couldn't schedule it for budgetary reasons. We were scheduled into study halls to cut costs.

And this was not middle-of-nowhere, a small suburb outside Boston filled with doctors and lawyers raising their families.

There needs to be serious consideration of budget issues if the federal government demands longer school hours. States aren't always willing or able to back up their own demands of local education systems.

Comment Re:Apple spends 25.24% of total operating exp. on (Score 1) 552

They're not researching the next Nylon or ductile tungsten (the real development that allowed for cheap and reliable light bulbs). Apple is finding out how to more cheaply produce iPods that will last through a product refresh or two.

Lots of their products are really slick, but none of it is fundamentally different from any other piece of consumer electronics. When they came out with "unibody" MacBooks I was thoroughly confused as to what was actually new. CNC machining has been done in various forms since the Apollo program. The machine shop in the basement of my building machines all manner of things out of plastic and aluminum plate stock, and while cool, is nothing extraordinary.

Comment Re:It's not the business model that is broken. (Score 2, Insightful) 552

I believe there have been some recent changes encouraging more detailed reporting of R&D efforts carried out in the US. I've had to fill out some surveys recently for the accounting department asking me to itemize and detail how much of my time has applied to several categories of 'R&D'.

Granted, most of the qualifying activities are not basic research but instead specific process improvements or cost reductions for existing products.

Still, seems to be a start.

Regardless, I don't know whether it was the tax structure or the changing participation of investors in the stock market that had a worse effect. I took a history class on this in school. The course was mostly focusing on the actual history and accomplishments of 'industrial R&D', but we did discuss factors leading up to the death of it in the last 20-30 years. Part of it was the end of the cold war...lots of things were developed in secret to beat the Russkies. Corning, for example, made some extraordinary developments in glass production just to make better camera lenses for the U2.

A bigger bit was the increased trading volume and shorter share retention times in the stock market. If shares are traded on the basis of daily fluctuations and not on a long-term interest in the company. Stocks used to be purchased for a profit as well as to gain a hand in steering the course of a corporation. This latter aspect seems to have disappeared from the public interest who hope for a bit higher return on their 401k (which have turned out so great for everyone the past year or two). Companies were rewarded for increasing their stock value on a daily or weekly basis, or paying dividends rather than reinvesting in research.

Comment Re:Would this be the place (Score 1) 334

At work I deal with several different injection-mold contractors. Far and away the best, in terms of both customer service and part quality is a Chinese owned and operated company. The only downside is the added cost (and lead-time) shipping material to (some of our custom colors are only blended state-side) and product from China.

Comment Re:Dimmer Savior! (Score 1) 569

Dimming is effective at saving energy. At the high end you lose almost no perceived light level, even up to ~15% dimming, and this is a 15% cut in electricity usage, and as an added bonus the bulbs last significantly longer (something like 3-4 years at 15% dimming), due to filament life being proportional to something like temperature^8 .

At the low end you lose the linearity and the perceived light is very sensitive to total power.

I'm eager to try out these new "high efficiency" (with the IR opaque/reflecting coating on the inner bulb) halogen lamps. I found tha with the 'standard' halogen bulbs they produce something like 20-30% more lumens for the same approximate wattage, which means I either need fewer fixtures to light up a room or that I can dim them down 10-20% and come out ahead in energy and light output.

Comment Re:What's the problem? (Score 1) 699

I attended the other CMU, graduating just over a year ago, and I have to disagree - your network access policy seems especially draconian.

All my registered machines had a publicly-accessible IP address, and if a machine was found in violation of policy, the MAC address was banned for a period of time.

They did suggest installing Norton corporate AV, and supposedly windows machines lacking certain MS updates were disconnected after some period of time, but I never ran into that.

In fact, my friends (mostly CS and ECE) and I (MechE) chose to stay on-campus all four years to maintain access to the network

I found Verizon (provider of my parent's DSL) to be a much more restrictive ISP than CMU.

In short, regarding the original poster: Sucks, dude.

Comment Re:Rich democrats and their mansions... (Score 1) 147

I don't really get why everyone finds these wind farms so objectionable aesthetically. They're not built on the beach, but 4-11 miles offshore. I personally think they look nice and even have some kind of "Zen" quality to them (there are a bunch of turbines being put up in Central PA that I drive past semi-regularly on the turnpike).

If they were painted bright colors or had all kind of flashing lights on them, I could see a better argument against them from a "ruining the view" perspective.

Most of the time I've been to the Cape it's been overcast and very gray overall...the white painted turbines wouldn't even stand out from the ocean and sky too much.

People like to protest everything. I've been to town meetings where people have simultaneously complained about the "radiation" from cell phone towers as a reason to block their construction in town and then complaining about how cell reception sucks everywhere in the town.

If the lawsuits against the wind farm won, the same people would turn around and protest the nuclear or fossil fueled plan built to produce the 170 MW that the windfarm will produce on average.

Comment Re:IE Almost 70% -- Really? (Score 2, Insightful) 640

Business users. I would say 75%+ of my company's intranet only functions properly in IE. I get around this by having IEtab installed in Firefox. I have all the quick links to relevant intranet sites be in IE tab. I'm not sure what aspect of say, the corporate phone book doesn't run native in FF, but it doesn't respond, and there are plenty of other, more complex internal sites that dont even load properly.

IT is working to migrate to better-written sites, but apparently a non-trivial of corporate machines still have IE6 installed. IE7 was part of new system images, but apparently wasn't applied across the board until the updates they're running over the holiday season.

We are very cautious with IT upgrades. We still run Office 2000 (with the exception of Outlook 2007, and visio, project and a couple others that are 2003). I honestly don't mind; they start up instantly on my dual-core WinXP workstation and have something like 95% of the functionality of their 2003/07 equivalents.

The real frustration is that our CAD/PLM (Pro/Engineer, Intralink) software is something like 3-4 years out of date (2ish software versions) and most of the engineers are itching for an upgrade for added functionality (automated statistical tolerance analysis, tight integration with MathCAD, smaller memory footprint and a fully modernized interface among others)

I am lucky, however. My company's policy on installs and non-corporate data on computers is "whatever, as long as you have the license for it" which is great. I can install Gimp for the occasional photo-touchup without trying to convince my manager I could make good use of Photoshop (I couldn't, certainly not for whatever the full purchase price is).

Anyway, the point is, I wouldn't be surprised if many IE users are people on corporate machines.

Comment Re:1st post (Score 1) 171

I have a P4 Dell XPS from about 5 years ago. The battery has a subwoofer. Let me repeat that. The 16-cell battery has a subwoofer. In its defense, it got a good 2.5 hrs of battery life back when it didn't staunchly deny the existence of said battery.

Fun fact: My T60 (CD 1.83GHz and Radeon x1300 discrete card) benchmarks just about the same as my XPS (3.4GHz P4, Radeon 9700) and gets double the battery life to boot...and I didn't get questions from people asking if it's a laptop in a docking station/media base.

I genuinely enjoyed its speakers...I primarily used headphones with it to not bother the roommate. I at one point purchased some 'portable' speakers that were battery or wall-wart amplified so I could more easily listen to music from across the room. I almost never used them because they just weren't worth it.
When I upgraded to a Shuttle desktop/Thinkpad combo I split the desktop's audio output between various headphones and some really nice Behringer studio monitors my roommates and I got. Those things utterly rocked. Too bad we never found a good solution for streaming music between computers (our 'switching' method was a couple of 1/8" stereo extension cables and a Y-splitter. I know, I know, terrible, right?). Shoutcast had too much lag and I was stuck with windows for games and CAD and there didn't seem to be a good cross-platform solution.

Anyway, the point is, agreeing with everyone above - don't buy speakers from Dell if you're going to drop several grand on a desktop from Dell. Nothing wrong with that desktop, but a DAC/amplifier in a separate piece of hardware is almost always going to do a better job than one crammed into a mobo or expansion card. I have an X-Fi Titanium card (my built-in sound card doesn't do 3D sound in games or dolby live whatever...the 5.1 advertised was something of a gimmick, but the latest Realtek chipsets are a lot better) piping Dolby Digital at 96kHz to a Yamaha receiver hooked up to a couple-hundred bucks of a low-end 5.1 Boston Acoustics setup. It sounds pretty fantastic.

The only really good PC speakers that were totally worth their purchase price was the set of 2.1 speakers that came with my old P2 Gateway back in the day. They're from Boston Acoustics and weigh about 5 lbs for each of the little desktop units. I snagged them from my parent's house and have them hooked up to the old XPS for listening to podcasts and whatnot when I'm at the opposite end of the apartment from the 5.1 setup.

...I guess what I'm trying to say is: I HATE SAUERKRAUT.

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You mean you didn't *know* she was off making lots of little phone companies?