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Comment things nobody has mentioned (Score 1) 557

Residential heliostats. We have two. Natural light is awesome.
Multisplit air heat pumps. After adding insulation and reducing air leaks, the new
heating system as 4 zones. We can heat the whole place on the coldest day
with about 48 kilowatts of heat, which is less than the flue loss on our old
propane furnace.

Attic trapdoor tent, to reduce one source of air leaks. I feel like camping any
time I have to unzip and enter the attic.

Serious gutters. I really wish we had aluminum instead of the rusty steel, but
more importantly for us are the hardcore micromesh guards that finally, finally,
finally will keep out the needles.

I'm also loving the new 10 year battery only smoke detectors. Anything that cuts
down maintenance is a win.

Comment I've found these tools useful (Score 5, Informative) 132

I've found these tools useful, with an honorable mention to gnupdf. I've never used it personally, but the code looks pretty solid. That said, when I really needed to produce great multilingual PDF I pulled out the PDF spec, gritted my teeth, and generated it directly.

leptonica - turn images into PDF
tesseract - turn images into searchable PDF
qpdf - linearize PDF for random access over HTTP
jhove - basic validation
jhove-pdf-a - validation with better compatibility guarantees
pdftk - command line tool for splicing pages together or apart
ttx/FontTools - tool for modifying custom fonts
reportlab - python library, easy to use but works best with Latin scripts


Submission + - Google open non-destructive book scanner; books and libraries rejoice (

leighklotz writes: "Google released open hardware designs for a book scanner that "sucks" pages to turn them, using a vacuum cleaner. The Google Tech Talk Video starts with Jeff Breidenbach of the Google Books team, and moves on to Dany Qumsiyeh showing how simple his design is to build. Could it be that the Google Books team has had enough of destroying the library in order to save it? Or maybe the just want to up-stage the Internet Archive's Scanning Robot.

Disclaimer: I worked with Jeff when we were at Xerox (where he did the awesome hack Gnu Chess on your Scanner), but this is more awesome because it saves books."


Submission + - US Air Force scraps ERP project after $1 billion spent (

angry tapir writes: "The U.S. Air Force has decided to scrap a major ERP (enterprise resource planning) software project after spending US$1 billion, concluding that finishing it would cost far too much more money for too little gain. Dubbed the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS), the project has racked up $1.03 billion in costs since 2005, "and has not yielded any significant military capability," an Air Force spokesman said in a statement. "We estimate it would require an additional $1.1B for about a quarter of the original scope to continue and fielding would not be until 2020. The Air Force has concluded the ECSS program is no longer a viable option for meeting the FY17 Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness (FIAR) statutory requirement. Therefore, we are cancelling the program and moving forward with other options in order to meet both requirements.""

Comment Re:Realities and Incentives (Score 2) 732

You have chosen to measure life in terms of personal dollars; nothing I write is going to change that. But I have a different perspective. A revolutionary jet engine would be fantastic. It goes way beyond corporate profit. A better engine contributes to air travel; making it faster or safer or more accessible. Something to be very proud of.

This is an age old issue. For example during the Dutch Tulip Bubble in the 1600's people were pissed off that too much energy and wealth was wasted in the hands of (parastic / useless / unproductive) tulip speculators. I'm also an MIT engineering graduate, around the time of the first dotcom bubble. Some of my talented technical friends spent their precious time chasing dollars, which at the time meant selling knicknacks over the internet. Others stuck with engineering and did just fine, including the aero-astro folks. If you are facing this decision, think long and hard what is really important. We are only on this planet for a short number of years, spend it wisely.

Comment Re:Sports injuries... (Score 1) 201

I've raced for about 20 years in cross country skiing (starting with high school, then at the NCAA level in college, and now in citizen races) and have probably entered well over 100 events. More importantly I've known a lot of racers over the years. I've never, ever heard of knee damage being a common problem for cross country skiers. In fact, cross country skiing is one of the more gentle sports on joints, especially compared to long distance running which has a lot of pounding. There are tons of old people (70+) competing in citizen races, and they are often quite fast. Even the skating technique is not so troublesome, although it is a little more wearing than diagonal stride over very long distances. Are you thinking of something in particular that causes knee damage?

Comment Cloud Scanning (Score 1) 126

If Google wants to be really clever, they could make sure there is support for scanning in the exact same specification. Historically there has been a huge imbalance between paper sources (printers) and paper sinks (scanners), so it's no surprise that ideas like the paperless office never took off. However, in the last five years, fantastic scanning equipment has reached consumer availability; for example the Fujitsu Scanscap S1500 has an automated document feeder and has dual sensor bars, which allows duplex scanning without weird paper paths and associated jams. It works great for evaporating large piles of random paper from financial documents to old notes from school to obscure manuals for equipment. Hopefully Google will step up to the plate, make Scanning a first class citizen of this initiative, and finally fix the historical imbalance. This will - quite literally - have tons of impact on people's lives. I care enough that I'm willing to help make it happen.

Comment There Are No Electrons: Electronics for Earthlings (Score 5, Informative) 301

Thumbs up from this electrical engineer. Here's a portion of the Amazon description:

It may be the only "introduction to electronics books" with back cover comments by Dave Barry, Ray Bradbury, Clive Cussler, and George Garrett, as well as recomendations from Robert Hazen, Bob Mostafapour, Dr. Roger Young, Dr. Wayne Green, Scott Rundle, Brian Battles, Michelle Guido, Herb Reichert and Emil Venere. As Monitoring Times said, "Perhaps the best electronics book ever. If you'd like to learn about basic electronics but haven't been able to pull it off, get There Are No Electrons. Just trust us. Get the book."


Asterisk Vishing Attacks "Endemic" 141

Ian Lamont writes "Remember the report last year that the FBI was concerned about a 'vishing' exploit relating to the Asterisk IP PBX software? Digium played down the report, noting that it was based on a bug that had already been patched, but now the company's open-source community director says that attacks on Asterisk installations are 'endemic.' There have been dozens of reported vishing attacks in recent weeks, says the article: 'The victims typically bank with smaller regional institutions, which typically have fewer resources to detect scams. Scammers hack into phone systems and then call victims, playing prerecorded messages that say there has been a billing error or warn them that the bank account has been suspended because of suspicious activity. If the worried customer enters his account number and ATM password, the bad guys use that information to make fake debit cards and empty their victim's bank accounts.'"

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Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato