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Comment Re:Not Really - (Score 1) 262

You're missing WindBourne's point.

What systems like this do is take a very complex mechanism and make it more efficient by making it even more complex. Yes all the engineering problems can be solved, but the point is that you have an already complex regular car PLUS all this stuff necessary for the flywheel. The complexity adds cost, increases weight, and reduces reliability.

An electric car instead removes a lot of complexity. It's just an energy store and a very simple electric motor.

Comment More than vector graphics (Score 4, Insightful) 166

Flash became dominant because it filled many real needs. Vector graphics is just one. It also brought creation tools so artists could work with it, it brought a scripting environment fast enough to use in a browser. Like you say, it also brought commonality to all the different browsers. This means that Flash brought a lot of features to the masses:
  - browser games. These were known as Schockwave or Flash games.
  - usable online multimedia. Yes there were video sites, but they became far more usable and reliable with Flash video.
  - rich design. As much as we hate them for all their inherent problems (and I do too), the fact is that before HTML+CSS caught up the only way to implement a crazy design was with Flash.
  - rich typography. We've only got proper font support very recently. That means the website can define its own font, not simply choose among the handful of Web fonts one could assume were available on the client.

Yes you could do video with native plugins like WMPlayer. Do you remember how terrible that was? Half the videos wouldn't play because of some unknown problem with codecs or such. When FLV came in it was great. Despite its problems, it brought reliability. I don't think YouTube would have become as successful as it is without Flash. Same with audio.

Despite its many problems, Flash brought a rich, standard interface to the web when nobody else could.

Comment Display server is a forced choice (Score 1) 241

This Mir/Weyland/X debate is NOT another KDE v.s. Gnome or Emacs v.s. VI. In those debates every user is able to choose what they prefer.

The display server choice is made by the software writer, not the end user. If the end user wants to use a particular piece of software, they will have to use the display server that the software requires. There is no choice.

Comment Re:Radioshack's main problem... (Score 1) 423

The problem is "inventory is expensive". For a store to have a cabinet full of resistors and switches, they have to buy them from the manufacturer, put them in little plastic bags, then send them out.

So? Plenty of items are sold like that, with profit. Any hardware store sells fasteners like this, with much more variety and niche sizes. With today's metal prices I bet the fasteners are more expensive to produce, yet are sold at a fraction of RS's components. The electronic components cost pennies to make, like you say the cost is all their overhead. The fasteners are also low volume (because if you want a lot you'll buy them in bulk) but the difference is that you know they won't be absolute junk. So if you need one, you go to the store. That means the low volume is high enough to be profitable.

The problem is that RS has carefully trained every one of their serious customers that any alternative is better. So if you need one, you head online. You also don't buy incidentals.

Comment Harbor Freight? Really? (Score 1) 423

If you want to see a store that is on the ball (and now another great place to buy batteries) is Harbor Freight.

Harbor Freight prove the premise that there's nothing more expensive than a cheap tool.

Out of the half dozen or more of their tools that I've used, not a single one was fit for its intended purpose. Not one. There's the rotary tool with a shaft so crooked and unbalanced that it's useless for all but the most coarse jobs, the torch that stops working within days, the brake bleeder that can't keep vacuum (and comes with accessories made of such cheap rubber that it falls apart halfway through their first use). HF tools belong next to my Radio Shack soldering irons that don't get hot enough to solder.

Comment Re:Symbolic characters are on the decline. (Score 1) 876

counterpoint: emoji. brand-new. symbolic.

if you look at western civilization, some of the earliest writing forms were cuneiform and egyptian hieroglyphics. both evolved to become more abstract and less ornate as time evolved. greek, english, german also simplified over time. both structurally, and by dropping letters. so it's easy to be whiggish about this. but emoji is a brand new hieroglyphic augmentation. i think this is a serious challenge to the view that languages tend to evolve toward syllabic and alphabetic.

Good example, and I think it will be interesting to see how Emoji changes over time.

But I'll argue that at this point Emoji is more akin to punctuation than a symbolic written language. You don't use Emoji to transmit facts, you use it to transmit how you feel about them, much like you use the '!' symbol to signify your excitement. You also wouldn't, for example, use an Emoji icon for the moon to talk about months, something that Chinese and Japanese do.

Comment Re:Symbolic characters are on the decline. (Score 1) 876

Typing Chinese characters usually means typing out the pronunciation and then selecting the character.

I think the point that symbolic characters are on the decline is very valid.

It's true that symbolic (logographic) writing systems have various disadvantages. However there are also advantages. For example, whilst reading Chinese is harder to learn, once learned it's easier to read quickly because there are fewer characters needed to make up a word. You can squeeze up a lot of meaning into a very space. A good example has appeared fairly recently on the Chinese intertubes. They have a Youtube-like service which shows pirated TV shows over which are laid viewers' comments, which scroll horizontally across the screen. Many different comments are floating across the screen at the same time. The idea is to poke fun at the plot line, etc, etc. Now the interesting thing is that you're only allowed very few characters to make your comment, I don't recall how many but I think it's about 3 or 5 or so. That's easily enough for them to make a witty point. This just wouldn't work in, say, English. The comments would take up too much space and you'd likely only ever be able to read one at a time.

I used to think that too, because from an information theory standpoint it should be. Like CISC vs. RISC, the complex characters should mean fewer characters. And in some instances, like maybe microblogging that's true. But look at any product packaging, instruction manual or form written in several languages. English almost always takes up the least amount of room.

There are probably lots of reasons for that that I can think of: The characters need a larger font size due to their complexity. Maybe there are a lot of concepts that don't match a single character, so then you have to have combinations and that takes space. Also language tends to evolve short words for commonly-used concepts, so a phonetic language will likely use short words a lot. Written Chinese doesn't benefit from this as much, because you need to have an integer number of (large) characters.

Also, Chinese words are short in general, even when spelled phonetically. So the savings might not be that high to begin with.

Comment Re:Symbolic characters are on the decline. (Score 1) 876

Chinese is a unique situation.

Probably the largest contributor to keeping a highly symbolic written language is the fact the various spoken Chinese languages ("dialects") are mutually unintelligible.

If you have symbols, anyone that knows the characters and the grammar can read letters/printed material, no matter how they end up pronouncing those characters. Or no matter how many distinguishing tones they use (anything from 4 to 6 seems to be in use there).

Very good point. I'm also wondering how they handle the borrowed words among the different dialects, because their symbolic meaning is, well, meaningless.

I also find this "dialect" phrasing strange, because they really are entirely different languages that just happen to share a writing system. A Mandarin speaker cannot communicate verbally with a Cantonese speaker. Also, we call Swedish and Danish different languages, but a Swede can speak to a Dane in Swedish, and the Dane can reply in Danish, and they will likely understand each other perfectly.

BTW, I believe Cantonese has 9 tones.

Comment Re:Symbolic characters are on the decline. (Score 1) 876

And yet, the Japanese had the opportunity to switch to the Latin alphabet, but they didn't. Look up Nihon-shiki.

Nihon-shiki and other romanization schemes are more for fitting Japanese into foreign worlds than the other way around. It's difficult to do business with foreigners if they can't even spell your name. These schemes are all on the "good enough" scale, but don't quite match the Japanese language. If they decided to switch to a phonetic writing system they'd probably simply drop Kanji and use Hiragana and/or Katakana instead. The cultural shock would be much smaller, something that's important for a very conservative culture like Japan, and Hiragana matches spoken Japanese perfectly (the romanji schemes don't).

Comment Symbolic characters are on the decline. (Score 5, Informative) 876

>surviving languages use symbols representing sounds
over a billion people have a few symbols with you...

Are you referring to the Asian languages that use Chinese characters?
  - Vietnamese used to be written in Chinese characters, it now uses the Latin alphabet.
  - Korean replaced Chinese characters with the phonetic Hangul 500 years ago.
  - Japanese has not one but two phonetic alphabets to go along with their Chinese characters. They mix all three together, and you can tell a passage is intended to be simple to understand when it will be all phonetic except the simplest of Chinese characters.
  - Even China simplified the traditional characters because they were deemed too hard to learn. School children are taught new Chinese characters via pinyin, a phonetic scheme that uses Latin characters. Since they don't have a phonetic system, when they borrow foreign words then they match the foreign pronunciation with the set of Chinese characters that have the closest pronunciation. The result is a mix of characters where some have their original symbolic meaning, and others that only stand in for their pronunciation. Think "what your name means in Chinese" party trick.
  - Typing Chinese characters usually means typing out the pronunciation and then selecting the character.

I think the point that symbolic characters are on the decline is very valid.

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