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Comment Love Blu Ray (Score 1) 1162

I have had a great experience with Bluray and really appreciate the increased quality in video and sound as well as reduced number of discs for things like TV series. But in the end, I still buy three or four $3-5 DVDs at some Big Box Store for each Bluray. Buying on Bluray means I'm committing to really wanting to own something for a long time to go back to and watch again and again. A $3 DVD is something that I will watch more than once so it's worth not renting or hoping it comes up streaming. A $3 DVD is a movie my girlfriend and I wanted to see but never got to in theaters and isn't likely to be streaming.

Comment Re:From TFA (Score 1) 705

It's pretty clear that all you have to do is claim to be smart. According to TFA, all this guy really did was look up the technical standards used by traffic engineers which are widely available and applied those assumptions to the situation they were facing.

It doesn't take a genius to look up how much faster you can expect traffic to go if you add a median and widen the road.

Comment Re:Well, the "developer" doesn't get it (Score 1) 338

Exactly. Diaspora, despite the critics is still a huge success for OSS even if they haven't made it to Alpha yet and here's why:

Something big and proprietary kind of sucks. Some bright, albeit inexperienced kids, have a pretty good idea about how they would rebuild that functionality in new software from the ground up that fixes some of the reason the big, proprietary software sucks. Two things then happen-- first, they're able to get people really interested in what they're doing, allowing them to raise capital. Second, they are able to do some of the initial work to lay out their idea and then draw upon the knowledge of the huge base of people who they just got really interested in their work.

This is precisely how good OSS development should work! Good idea, generate interest and support, seed the process with some code, and then crowdsource the development with the proper centralized decision-making to ensure steady, solid progress and goal setting.

Comment Different Experience with Photovoltaic in NY (Score 1) 482

On Long Island, we were able to install a full 10,000kW system of photovoltaics for about 16k. Should make the money back in 6-7 years. Meter stops running forward the day the solar setup is installed-- starts to run backwards within a month. Now we get paid by our power company most billing cycles, and immediately saw our first bill drop to 44.

Comment As a Brown student I want to clarify (Score 1) 244

While the issue took three days to resolve, the unilateral shut down of the accounts prevented students from reading other students' emails during that period.

So for review, no one got to read others' email for three days, instead, they got to read no email for that time and email sent to the accounts which were routing wrong was bounced back.

Comment Missing the point (Score 1) 843

I agree that Word is far from dead, that many of us print out documents, and even more of us are not so stupid that we think that Commenting and Track Changes in Word doesn't work well and easily.
However, I think that the call to move toward Wikis for collaborative writing deserves a little criticism as well. First of all, Talk pages are not nearly as convenient as the highlight and comment system in Word. Second, ==subheader== doesn't work well for transferring to other formats.
What I've been wondering for some time now is how can I, a casual user, start writing using XML so that my writing actually can be attractive in various settings while still being content based (and perhaps even more searchable). We have a format that's way better than the Wiki format, and far more extensible. Wikis may be great for collaboration and even for "archiving", but really, I want my writing to be in small files without markup that can be instantly made viewable with the application of some simple rules.

Comment Re:Stick it in Wolfram Alpha (Score 2, Informative) 109

One of the best tools I've found online for going through government data is the IPEDS (Integrated Post-Secondary Data System), which allows you to mine for some pretty interesting and specific information that's reported to the Department of Education by all post-secondary institutions. The ability to work with this common data collected by the government anyway makes my own research far easier.

Wolfram|Alpha mining sets like these would just take the whole process one step further by allowing non-expert users access using plain language searches. I'm all for it.

People want accountability from their government, but I think many of those same people a) Don't understand how to read through thousands of pages of complex collected data b) Assume the government knows how to do (a) well, and c) Are often too lazy to do (a) and based on (b) thinks it should just be laid out there in pretty pictures just because they thought that information was important in the moment. This is precisely where a tool like Wolfram|Alpha could be quite useful.

Now if only Wolfram would list their sources and be far more clear about how a data set was collected and interpreted, then we'd really be able to get to work.

Comment Re:The developers are not end users (Score 1) 1365

I have to take some issue with the statement that, "If an essential component for some software is not included and must be installed and configured separately, it's broke for desktop use." I'm just your average geek, no special computer knowledge I haven't gotten from screwing around, and I like my operating system to disappear behind whatever it is I'm doing. I've never once had a dependency issue on Linux in four years of near 100% use of various Debian-based distributions. So I'm not sure "that last one is a big, big problem for Linux!", simply because package managers like apt/synaptic are excellent at taking care of dependencies for me. By the way, I don't consider it a dependency issue if upon attempting to install the software, the program list by name what it is I need to install first, and I can type that name in and it comes right up and I can install that. That's no different then double clicking on a Windows program only to find out that it needs a new version of .NET that wasn't bundled with the installer and I have to type that into Google and download and install. In fact, the .NET scenario is more difficult than the analogous ones I've run across in Linux.

Comment Re:Skimming... (Score 1) 459

While parental involvement is huge, it's far from the only thing or even the major thing that improves education. Most studies, in fact, have shown that more than any other difference it is the bad teacher versus the good teacher that has the most effect on the classroom.

The gap between a "good home" and a "bad home" when it comes to education is way, way wider than the gap between successful and failing schools. There's an easy solution to narrowing achievement gaps made obvious by this fact-- keep the kids in school longer. It has shown time and time again to vastly improve performance, and most importantly, and especially at a young age, keeping students in school longer narrows the achievement gap. Our system keeps kids in school for less than 8% of their time each year. We're placing the onus on parents and homes to educate our children and not on the schools. We're creating the environment where parent involvement is necessary for success.

Is that what we want? Will we ever be able to make all homes equal? Of course we can work to improve attitudes at home and to greatly increase parental involvement and investment, but the far easier and more far reaching effect to better education would take parent's attitude more and more out of the equation.

Comment Re:Why bother with space solar power? (Score 2, Interesting) 275

Though this is more about pie-in-the-sky this would be cool and inspiring stuff, practically, our best options right now are solar thermal power.

Concentrated solar power uses no new materials-- glass, steel, mirrors, steam turbines, water, and occasionally fancy salts that we've already invented. It's one of the only renewable alternatives that doesn't want any money for research, just help getting some of the start up money to use materials we already have and make here in the US to build up these plants. Though they're not price-competitive yet, most research suggests that once enough capacity is built, economy of scale will kick in and it'll be competitive with fossil fuel costs within five years.

Talk about the ability to prime pump a market.

Plus, concentrated solar works naturally with usage peaks and can be used for desalinization/purification of water which is great considering regions where there is little rain/cloud coverage is ideal.

Two things need to happen-- we need to build more terrestrial solar capacity, both concentrated thermal and photovoltaic, and more importantly, we need to construct better power infrastructure so we can deliver energy from high solar density areas (which are typically desolate and therefore don't have the power pumping capacity some areas have) across far distances.

Comment What's the goal here? (Score 5, Insightful) 1117

Why are students each getting a laptop? What's the goal? Is it to have a single environment with a single set of software that students can all work on commonly to assure instruction can make use of computers effectively? Is it simply to ensure students have computer literacy and/or access to computers for those who do not? How are you going to use these laptops day to day that is unique to what can be done from a home computer or library computer or computer cluster? These are the questions you have to ask before determining how much you want to limit student use. My initial inclination is that limiting the ability to mess with these computers is a huge mistake. It makes students less likely to learn about the machines they're using and less likely to use these machines. It makes these computers a hassle and something used solely for class assignments that cannot be done any other way and a paper weight the rest of the time. The only limitations should be use of anti-virus software and other protections so that they cannot hurt the network at the school when attached to it. Blocking ports for instant messaging services and internet filtering while in school is appropriate to ensure the integrity of the network, but crippling the computers is not necessary or advantageous. Are students really going to be expected to use a single machine bought in 6th grade through 12th grade? Are you going to be able to remove these restrictions, and be willing to go through the work to do so, when students buy their computers out right when they graduate? That could be a ton of work. Protect the network, block stuff from coming in that can affect other machines, but don't cripple the computers themselves. You'll only assure their limited use/usefulness. But honestly, before spending all that money, there need to be some good answers as to why your curriculum has unique needs that require each student have a laptop.

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