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Comment Yes I'll pay! (Score 1) 578

I'd LOVE to pay for content. I'd love to pay NBC some money to see the Olympic events streamed online. But they won't take my money.

What I won't do is pay for 200 channels that I have no interest in so I can get the one or two that I want.

In fact, "channels" are obsolete. I don't want all the other crap that comes with a channel, I just want the particular shows or content I want.

But I would stoop to paying for the whole Olympics, even if I can't buy individual events.

PLEASE let me pay for the content I want!

Comment Traveling with John (Score 5, Interesting) 57

In the late '90s I met Jane Houston, who assisted John in his telescope making classes at the California Academy of Sciences. Her garage was full of mirror blanks, grit sorted into particle sizes, and pine-tar pitch for making pitch laps. I married her in 2000. (Yesterday John passed away on our 14th wedding anniversay.)

Over the next few years, we would often get a call from John at his home in San Francisco, and he would say "It's clear out! Should I finish my dinner?" That was our cue to load the van, pick up John, and take him to either 9th & Geary, or 24th & Noe, and spend the evening doing sidewalk astronomy. We would often have three or four hundred "accidental astronomers" participate in what we call "urban guerrilla astronomy."

During the summers, we took at least three excursions with John to the Grand Canyon Star Party. There's not much in life to compare with spending eight or ten hours on the road with John. He would make the most interesting observations of the landscape around him, or sometimes just launch into a new puzzle for us. You could always count on something interesting from John when he would say, "Okay now I have to tell you a story ..."

His views of cosmology were certainly unorthodox, but they were based on a solid foundation and understanding of the physics, chemistry, and math involved. I didn't always agree with his views, but he never failed to give me a fresh perspective on physics and cosmology. He was a fan of Fred Hoyle and Halton Arp, a champion of the steady-state universe. You would often see him in a sweat-shirt that says "The Big Bang is a Thing of the Past," or a button saying "Nothing Doesn't Exist."

One of my favorite John quotes: "Anything that happens is natural. A battleship is just as natural as a pine tree."

And one last John story: We were on our way to the Bryce Canyon Star Party, and passed one of Utah's famous rock shops. He glanced out the window and said, "Oh look! Pieces of planet!" Yes, we spent an hour or so shopping there.

Comment Under the floor (Score 1) 250

Here at Disney Interactive's Grand Central Creative Campus they built the new building with all of the HVAC and cabling running under the floors. It makes for a very clean look; no downposts carrying cables from above a false ceiling. The floor has several junction boxes with power and network that blend into the carpet scheme nicely. It's a little strange having forced air coming up from the floor rather than down from the ceiling. :)

Comment Microsoft's "upgrade" page is what (Score 1) 879

Here's what's keeping me from upgrading my XP machines to Windows 7: Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7

That's the top (unsponsored) Google link for the query "how to upgrade windows xp to windows 7."

Note the bullet items under "what you need:"

  • An external hard disk
  • The original installation discs or setup files for the programs that you want to use

Sorry, they want me to pay for the privilege and blow a whole weekend to update my four XP machines at home? What do I get out of this? My XP machines do what they need to do just fine.


Comment Shmegapixels! Need dynamic range! (Score 1) 108

I'm sure they put on some great shows, but these modern "overhead projectors" often lack the dynamic range of the best discrete planetarium projectors out there.

Even among dedicated planetarium projectors, only the best are able to replicate the differences in brightness between mag 1 and mag 6 stars with any convincing accuracy. Many of them project such a "flat" sky in terms of brightness that it's difficult to recognize even familiar constellations. The old Morrison Planetarium projector had dedicated lamps for particular bright guide stars, and the projector at Chabot Science Center is very good at that.

It's discouraging to see a run-of-the-mill college planetarium with "bright" stars that are just smears of bigger dots.

So they aren't pixelating, but I bet their Spica is nearly the same brightness as their Porrima.

Comment Don't use a mount! (Score 1) 85

When we photograph meteors for genuine data collection, we don't use a mount at all. We set up a ring of cameras with each covering several degrees of sky, and let them all take five or ten minute exposures. It's your best hope of catching a bright one and several faint ones. If you're using a decently short lens (50mm, 35mm), (a) you'll catch more meteors and (b) the star trails are less notable, or you won't care about them.

Remember, with meteors being an atmospheric phenomenon, you'll catch more closer to the horizon than looking up. (You're looking through more air.)

And it makes no difference if you're looking toward or away from the radiant for meteor count.

Comment Take classes (Score 1) 565

One thing that worked well for me is taking classes at UCLA Extension, even working for a certificate. Admittedly the classes are usually pretty lame, and you'll find yourself cruising through them for the most part. It's not the classes themselves that you get most of the skill from, it's just doing organized work in the language, and all periphery skill you acquire along the way. I do much better with scheduled in-person classes that have real homework than with online stuff.

Comment Without looking at the keyboard (Score 1) 425

Not looking at the keyboard is essential. You need to be able to read and correct your typing as you go. Aside from that, I agree with the others that getting another 10wpm matters not.

If you only ever used one keyboard, switching to Dvorak would make sense. These days that's just impossible, even if you're not a computer tech professional.

Comment A small TrueCrypt drive can hold passwords (Score 1) 1007

What I've done is make a small TrueCrypt drive, and redirect Firefox to use that for its local data. It will store the cache and my passwords on that drive, thus keeping my passwords hidden without first entering the TrueCrypt password.

Find Firefox's profiles.ini file in your local application data directory.

Downside: you have to give TrueCrypt a password whenever you startup, and Firefox won't boot at all if the TrueCrypt drive isn't mounted. The error message is misleading too, "Firefox is already running ..." (fail!)

Bonus: the pr0n downloads in your cache are encrypted too.

Comment The words "Milky Way" are losing their meaning (Score 1) 612

People born in cities these days don't realize that the Milky Way is something real that they can see with their own eyes. The words "Milky Way" themselves are losing their meaning. For a lot of people, the words "Milky Way" just mean something vaguely spacey.

When faced with the Milky Way for the first time from a dark location, they'll easily think "oh there's a line of clouds moving in." In the city, the clouds glow. From a truly dark location, the only way you can tell there are clouds is by the big patch of dark where there should be stars.

And likewise, many people will never have the experience of having their vision fully dark adapted. It's amazing how milky gray the sky looks when you actually are dark adapted.

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