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Comment Re:Evolution (Score 1) 965

Agreed. There's a definite parallel with the automotive industry here. My parents got me a '66 Mustang when I turned 16 and I was always amazed at how accessible/intelligible things were under the hood compared to the latest models, with their fuel injection and microprocessor-controlled componentry. Tinkering or repairing new cars now requires taking it into a shop with fancy diagnostic gear. End result: fewer and fewer ordinary folks attempting to DIY their car maintenance, and becoming more dependent on specialists.

Is this a good thing or bad thing? Depends on your point of view. On the one side, some people would say that such industrial and technological evolution undermines the core of society. Others would say, "Bring it on, baby!" (though perhaps not quite in those words).

This advancement of complexity in our technology, leading to less tinkerer-accessible devices over time, is a natural phenomenon and a consequence of a society that encourages a division of labor, as ours does. I'll bet that 10,000 years ago, tinkering types were probably complaining about the difficulty in hacking their new-fangled farming and hunting tools. For the nostalgic, here's a cool web vizualization of the various objects we humans have crafted over the years.

Comment Re:redmine, launchpad, basecamp (Score 1) 428

+1 for Redmine. I've been using it for about a month and so far so good.

It has a nice set of functionality: wiki, forum, time tracking, source code version control integration, etc. Interestingly, uses it both as a CMS for their website and for task/bug tracking for the development of Redmine itself. So it's good dogfood.

It's actually a Rails-based app, so it's easy to install and set up from any webhost that supports Rails (as many do), or you can run it internally. Rails should also help on the extensibility front, in theory.

Configurability is good and it's easy to search and create links between different issues. One limitation of Redmine is that projects can only be nested one level deep (project -> subproject) -- also a limitation of JIRA, btw. This could blessing though, as a deeply nested project tree could become hard to manage. Keeping things relatively flat and using tags/categories might be a better approach. Redmine does support tagging and categories, though I've not explored it.

Comment Re:Money on both sides of the equation (Score 1) 551

Yes, we need to do a better job at not letting our scientific braniacs slip through the cracks. But we'd be doing a disservice to society by focusing on them to the exclusion of the masses who go on to pursue other careers. Great ideas and technological innovations could fail if people don't understand them, can't intelligently discuss them, or can be easily swayed into fearing them.

We need everyone to be more scientifically literate, regardless of what career path they choose: turn them on to science without necessarily turning them into scientists (or into the same type of scientists). I brought this up a couple of years ago.

Comment Re:Struggles to find no Higgs (Score 1) 371

I can totally vouch for Doug's stance on taking his meds, as a witness to his certification back in the day. He's way beyond needing meds at this point. Just don't mess with his quaternions, man.

Sure, he might need a little help with math here and there, but at least he doesn't have a problem with rambling run-on sentences.

One-time LHC blogger

Comment Re:Yeah, but javascript sucks (Score 1) 500

I'm sorry but I just can't stand developing in Javascript.

Why write in Javascript when you can use a library like jQuery or toolkit like GWT that spare you the messy details of working in straight JS and take care of cross-browser compatibility?

I guess one answer would be, "because they don't support HTML5." Anyone know the status of HTML5 support/compatibility in these JS libraries and tools?

Comment No universal binary, no Tiger (Score 1) 251

The Mac version of Chrome requires Intel CPU and Mac OS X 10.5.6 or later. So the (vast number?) of Mac users that are either still using a PowerPC-based or Tiger will have to sit this one out. With luck and perhaps some prodding, Google will produce a universal binary version that runs on 10.4.x as well. The Leopard dependency might indicate a requirement for Java 1.6, which is not supported in Tiger, unless you have an Intel mac.

Submission + - To The Best of Our Knowledge About Nerds

Trutane writes: "In a program that is part celebration, part exposé of nerd culture, Wisconsin Public Radio's To The Best of Our Knowledge show recently re-aired their "Revenge of the Nerds" program. Included are interviews with authors of various nerd-related media, such as the authors of American Nerd (previously reviewed here), Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them , the producer/director of Nerdcore For Life, Holly Black, and the War Nerd."

Comment Re:The author is missing something... (Score 2, Interesting) 591

Basically, you're right that consumption reduction isn't a necessary part of this story. Loyd simply wanted to take advantage of the freely available thermonuclear energy stream we get from the sun every day. But cutting his consumption of energy from the utility company is a key motivation here. By reducing his overall energy consumption, he will increase the percentage of his energy usage that is funded by his solar installation, reducing his dependency on the grid.

As someone who has also experimented with a solar installation over the past 6 months, I can attest that a funny thing happens regarding your attitude towards energy consumption when you start getting some of your energy from the sun: It makes you hyper-aware of your overall energy consumption and much more aggressive in saving energy wherever you can.

My solar installation is micro-scale compared to the Loyd's: I started out with one PV panel hooked up to one deep-cycle battery off of which I ran an inverter to power handful of small devices in my office running on AC adapters (modem, router, phone chargers, etc.). The whole thing was under $500.

While my initial motivation was like Loyd's (supplement my energy sources), my little experiment has made me extremely protective of the energy I get from the sun; I don't want to run any devices more than necessary lest I drain my battery, to maximize the solar-based energy. As a consequence, I'm much more aware of which devices really need to be on or off and which are energy hogs. I'm also more conscious of energy drains that aren't hooked up to my panel (lights) as well as non-electricity based energy (central heating).

End result: My Dec 2008 monthly energy bill was $200 lower than Dec 2007. I can attribute only a fraction of these savings to the energy I get from my micro-solar set up. The bulk of it came from the energy consumption awareness imparted by having a solar installation.

Btw, I intend to write up the details of my do-it-yourself micro-solar home installation. Keep an eye on if you're interested. (I just updated DNS for this domain, so it may take a few hours/days to resolve.)

Comment Re:Speaking of C (Score 1) 517

Awesome C book: "Expert C Programming - Deep C Secrets" by Peter van der Linden.

I heartily second (or third) this. I don't even program in C anymore and yet I still keep it on my shelf and peruse it from time to time, just to enjoy the wit and humor of van der Linden's writing. His instructive yet amusing approach brings a sense of joy to the art of programming.

A great example is his analysis in chapter 3 of Lewis Carroll's Knight's paradigm in terms of the C type model. A true classic.

No sig here. Move along now...

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