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Comment Paper Ballots counted by hand (Score 4, Insightful) 279

The touch screens we use here are cool, but what is the point? There is no real audit trail and there is no way in hell to really know who or what your vote was counted for. Most of the rush to automated voting has been media driven. There is no requirement for elections to be decided by the morning news, and it is too important to leave something like this to us geeks, and yes I do consider myself one from WAY back. I am holding a copy of Running Wild: The Next Industrial Revolution by a Mr. Adam Osborne. If you don't know who he is look him up. He was one of the founding fathers of microcomputers. In his this book Chapter 7 is titled Powerful Tools or Powerful Weapons . The second sentence in the second paragraph says this, "Nevertheless, computers should be excluded by legislation from three important applications: the tabulation of election results, the transfer of large sums of money between banks, and the central operations of stock exchanges."

Too late for number two and three, but number one is probably the most important anyway and is by far the most difficult to audit in case of chicanery. WHY do we need computers to vote? What is the rush in getting the totals? My guess is that having real time or near real time election returns is driven mostly by the media and has been from the beginning. Newspapers wanted the scoop (remember Truman vs Dewey?) and the 24 hour cable news channels live for election night so they can "CALL" the election before the polls close.

Call me a Luddite if you wish but the more people actually involved in the voting process, and especially the counting of votes, the less chance there is that one or a few people can put their thumb on the scale. My vote is to go back to PAPER ballots counted by people from EACH party or person in the election in an open counting room with live coverage. It might take a few days to know who won, but it isn't a ball game, it is an election and knowing who won or lost in record time is not the point. The point is that the vote MUST be honest and counted HONESTLY.

Comment Electives (Score 1) 515

Took some courses as electives as part of a degree in engineering. Let's see.... Algol (which seems to be a direct antecedent of Pascal) followed by PDP8 assembler and then a packaged called GPSS II which was used for queuing simulations.

After that I just picked up new languages as needed for my work including FORTRAN, Pascal, PERL, C, and far too much JCL just to get things to work on Big Iron. Still Going with a bit of Python and of course the newer web things that I don't think of as a general language (e.g. HTML, PHP, CSS, etc) but are useful for specific tasks. Got into Unix/Linux late in my career and I hope this learning curve never ends.

Comment Stone Mountain Georgia (Score 1) 144

One of the largest exposed Granite lumps in the world is near my house and the "background" radiation near it is higher than whatever the "normal" average background level is supposed to be. It would be interesting to see the same types of photographs taken in the large state park and recreation area that surrounds it. Without any sort of reference values or calibration they are completely useless for any real purpose except propaganda.

Comment It worked for me (Score 1) 207

I was given a speed reading class as a high school graduation present in 1965. It was the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course and at that time it was a very nice and expensive graduation gift and it was in a class room setting at least once and maybe more often per week for perhaps two months. I was a bit cynical about the techniques taught but I did practice and do all the exercises. About a year latter while a Freshman studying engineering I found myself far behind in some of the required non-engineering courses such as History and Political Science. I had not read most of the assignments and was looking at a complete failure on the final exams. One professor even told me that to even get a grade of "C" in their class I would have to get an "A" on the final exam. Using the techniques I learned the previous summer I read the books two or three times in the week before the final. I got a "C" in the class that required an "A" and I think I got a "B" in the other one.

During my career I used this technique to get up to speed very quickly on a new subject and it did work. It was not fun, I never used it for recreational reading, but the time I was told that management had decided to convert our infrastructure from Token Ring to Ethernet and that I was hosting the bidders conference in a week I was able to learn enough about Ethernet to understand what was being discussed and soon thereafter my BS filters were pretty well tuned to deal with the sales weasels that a large contract always attracts.

As always your mileage may vary, but I found it invaluable for situations such as this.

Comment The Language God Talks (Score 2) 908

The Language God Talks -- Richard Feynman

A quote from the book with the same name, both in print and in audio, by Herman Wouk about his conversations with Feynman while doing research for his two volume magnum opus on WWII. According to Feynman the language is Calculus

Comment Same Issue Smaller Scale (Score 1) 169

I had pretty much the same problem in the late 1990's when management FINALLY decided to give up Token Ring and rewire for Ethernet. The cable troughs in the building were packed slap full of IBM Type 1 and Type 2 cables with no where for the Cat5 to go. Five floors of a 20 story office building had to be stripped of the Token Ring Cables and have Cat 5 pulled at the same time we were transitioning from the IBM MAU's to 100 Mb switches on each floor with Gigabit fiber backbone.

Oh, one more thing.... Management didn't want any down time or overtime either...

Comment Updates are and have been OFF (Score 2) 720

And people wonder why I turned off updates earlier last year. When (or if) I decide to check I will research each one before applying. Windows 7 is my last Microsoft OS and I will just give up anything I use that does not have a native Linux version or runs under WINE. My response in summary is not only NO, but HELL NO.

Comment Silicone Self Sealing Tape (Score 1) 119

Nobody seems to have mentioned the Silicone Self sealing tape that is used to seal antenna connectors. You stretch it while applying and overlap it with itself and it fuses into one flexible silicone covering. It is better than anything else I have ever used and can be cut off the connectors with no sticky gunk left.

Comment Re:The Dumbing of America (Score 1) 200

There are several Amateur Radio clubs in this area that have classes in soldering and basic electronics for kids of all ages. In November at the largest convention (we call it a HamFest) in the state there was an area called "The Student Shack" where children from pre-school through junior high and beyond were able to learn to solder and build a simple circuit (LED flasher I think) that they could keep. There were also hands on exhibits of radio and communications technology from old restored mechanical Teletype machines (which were connected so that the kids could send them Text messages from their cell phones) to modern software defined radios and world wide digital communications technologies. The place was crowded with eager kids for both days of the event and was successful way beyond our expectations. Maybe there is some hope.

Comment The Dumbing of America (Score 5, Interesting) 200

By the time I was five or six I had an electric train set that my Father taught me how to put together and wire up each time I would use it. I wasn't much, if any, older when I had a chemistry set with chemicals in it that would get you on a terrorist watch list if you bought them today. Before I was ten my Father had taught me how to solder and I got a very nice soldering iron when I was ten and used it to assemble my first radio receiver kit. It used vacuum tubes, which took hundreds of volts to work. What would the parent police think or do today to the parents of a ten year old who was given a 300 degree C soldering tool and left alone to use it to build a radio with high voltages. Yes, I also had an Erector set, and toy guns and latter a BB gun and all of the other things that made kids from the 1940's and 1950's into the engineers and scientists that got us to the moon in 1969.

To learn you have to do and try and sometimes you fail and sometimes things might have some risk but not to try and not to do is a complete dead end for society.

The most hopeful thing I see on the horizon is the Maker Movement, although I think that sometimes it tends to candy coat real learning. Learning is not always easy or fun but LEARNING that is is almost always worthwhile and enriching is one of the most important lessons anyone can have and the earlier the better.

Comment Real engineers MUST do Q&A (Score 1) 216

In the real world of physical objects I can't think of any engineering discipline that does not have some type of Quality review and Assurance built into the engineering process. WOULD you like to fly on an aircraft that was never flown by a test pilot first? Would you like to work or live in a building that did not have the design and calculations for its strength and stability checked independently? I am an engineer who began his career working with the Big Iron mainframes of the late 1960's and early 1970's and ended up doing local area network design and security in the early to mid 2000's. For my first 15 plus years I was doing Q&A for very large mainframe systems application programs that were under constant revision. Over that time I was the first person other than one of the programers who touched hundred of programs and not one of them was without major errors when I first saw it.

Once, in the mid 1990's, a new project manager who implemented new methodology and standards for the programmers cut my requested Q&A time from 6 weeks for a major system upgrade to one. He assured me that in the programs created with his new methods I wouldn't find any major problems. During only one hour of testing the very first program I produced over three detailed pages of major problems where the program either did not do things like it was supposed to or did other things that it was not, or sometimes just crashed. When I turned in my results the project manager didn't want to believe it, but I had documented everything and it took the programming team over a week to correct just those problems. Since there were a number of programs in this project and since my experience was the same with each, we did not release the new system to production for about eight weeks.

Accountants and managers hate to pay for testing and quality control, but when they stop doing it it always comes back to bite them in the butt.

Comment Hams, Engineers, and Roadies (Score 1) 138

Back in the late 1970's and maybe into the early 1980's there was a surplus electronics store on the north east side of Atlanta that I went to many Saturday mornings. It was an amazing place and full of what may have been at that time one of the strangest mix of people shopping for junk. Of course many of the local Hams were there, and often a few engineers from some of the local electronics and computer companies that sprang up in the Silicon Hill area North East of Atlanta, but this particular place also attracted the roadies from several of the fairly popular rock bands that also made their home in the area. Try to visualize the scene with the corporate engineers in white button down shirts (ties were usually off on Saturday morning) and pocket protectors in their shirts, mixed with the Hams in anything from casual clothes to Jeans or Shorts and T-Shirts, and then there were the roadies who stood out from the rest since many stopped by on their way to the biker bar down the street before it opened for the day. Everyone helping everyone else find the part they were looking for or with suggestions and advice on the project they were working on. A wonderful place, a wonderful time and wonderful memories.

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