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Comment Kettle (Score 1) 497

3kW "fast-boil" kettles are very common in the UK. Never underestimate and Englishman's consuming need for immediate tea. Also, they're inherently more efficient than lower-powered kettles :-)

As an aside: When I bought my house, I discovered that the previous owners had rigged their electric cooker to the same loop as the kitchen wall outlets, which itself had a standard mains cable that was nonetheless embedded in the plaster below the damp-course (no trunking.) I'm no EE, but those of you who understand such things will appreciate the need I felt to run a new heavier-grade cable to the fuse-box through some trunking before installing my own electric range...

Comment Re:My cell phone makes me feel funny (not...) (Score 1) 287

I had a friend who hated mobile phones because he got an instant headache whenever one nearby was transmitting. It was remarkable to witness; he would say "phone" about two seconds before somebody's phone started ringing, consistently enough that we could rely on it. Out of respect for his headaches, we would be able to cancel the call immediately, leave the room and call back. He didn't experience this from any other sort of device, to my knowledge.

I'm not suggesting that this is common or easy to explain, but having witnessed this first-hand, I feel confident that there are grounds to dispute any blanket claims that "phones have no effect." I'm often the first to scoff at alarmist knee-jerk complaints about EM pollution and such, but unusual cases like this give good reason to at least entertain the possibility that our understanding is not yet full enough to entirely dismiss concerns.

Comment Re:Meh (Score 2) 152

I'm not judging here, just wondering: have you considered having more than one box? If money is no object then fair enough, but it sounds like you're shelling out a lot for top-notch hardware to do lots of mid-level tasks, when you distribute the work on a KVM setup. You'd save a bundle in hardware, reduce your VM overheads, and introduce some healthy redundancy for when that very expensive rig does something smokey and difficult to diagnose.

Comment Single-chip response (Score 1) 38

Hmm... provided you could build some capacitance into the die, it would be trivial to manufacture, en-masse, an array of incredibly inexpensive devices that could respond to a light-signal stimulus, much the same way that RFID tags respond to a suitable RF signal.

I can't think of an immediate application, but the key technical difference would be that you can transmit focussed, directional light in a laser, which is a much more difficult and wasteful feat with RF. You could therefore elicit a response from one of these chips at pinpoint accuracy and great range, which is not currently possible with RFID. I'm sure some more innovative people than I could conceive of a novel application.

Comment Perhaps a compromise? (Score 1) 804

I appreciate both sides of the argument, but I think the debate should centre around the core problem - which is that of courtesy and consideration - and thereby evince some genuine and wide-ranging solutions rather than result in litigious patches to this specific problem. It should cover other such evils as mobile phones, noisy or obnoxious foods and late arrivals/early departures. In fact most educational institutions do have rules and guidelines regarding such behaviour that include suitable sanctions and instructions for reasonable care, but they are seldom enforced with any consistency or authority.

Frankly, it shouldn't matter to anyone else what a student does in-class (subject to the tutor's whims, of course) as long as they don't cause an unreasonable detriment to anybody else's education. Facebooking or idling online where others can see you and claiming that you're not bothering anyone else is an ignorant and pig-headedly poor appreciation of human nature. I would suggest that lecture halls should be another location added to the list of proposed sites for controlled access to mobile signals (including hospitals, cinemas, concert halls/theatres and any bus seat within 3 metres of me, thank you very much, get-off-my-lawn.)

On that note, when I bought a netbook specifically for use in class (my notes in East Asian History have been significantly more valuable and comprehensive since) I made damned sure to check the noise the keys make before choosing one. Even the most conscientious student can be an insufferable distraction in class if they're banging away like a typing-pool percussionist, and if someone can't appreciate and mitigate the negative effects of their actions on their classmates then some policing is reasonable and, I would argue, necessary.

If you want to pay for a class and then piss half of your fees away then that's your own prerogative, but don't expect anybody else to suffer the same losses for your life-choices. There, wrap that up in statute and stick a ribbon on it.

Comment Re:Things have changed. Get over it. (Score 1) 429

"...each home should probably have one, albeit for reasons they couldn't quite pin down"


We bought it to help with your homework
We bought it to help with your homework
And the household accounts
If your dad ever works it all out

Lunchtimes in the library, writing down the pokes and peeks
copying an access code, get a taste for home taping
Fetishists of map-making
Rubber keys and rotten leads, rand and run and load and screens
Then five minutes fingers crossed, hoping not to witness the terror
of R: Tape Loading Error

zx spectrum 81, dragon vic and oric1
commodore 64, amstrad and an acorn electorn
cheaper BBC micro
jet set willy, sabre wulf, lords of midnight, underwurlde
dark star, transam, ant attak
and of course, manic miner
the hobbit and knight lore and elite

It made a generation
who can code
A bubble before proper consoles
who all know
That the games you get today
well, they may be very flash
But they'll never beat the thrill of
getting through Jetpac, Oh!

Hey Hey, 16K,
What does that get you today?
You need more than that for a letter
Old Skool Ram Paks are much better.

Personal Computer Games, Your Sinclair, 16K
Kempston Competition Pro, Crash and Cursor Keys
and GO TO Dixons and bother Saturday staff
with loops that never end...

For n=0 to 2

Those were the days

Next N

Comment Re:Quantity, not quality. (Score 1) 535

There IS a written language called "Chinese," as near as dammit (there are variations, but it's quite intelligible across all of them.) The written language was unified under Shih Huang-di (the first Emperor of China) specifically to facilitate cross-communication throughout the empire, and although it has undergone some simplifications since then it is still as unified and mutually intelligible as the various dialects of English.

The spoken languages of China are sufficiently different to be considered unique languages, and it is this fact that confuses most people, but it's not a relevant problem when discussing written Chinese.

Not berating, just correcting a widespread misconception.

Comment Or use it as a game mechanic...? (Score 1) 279

I forget where I saw it now, but I saw mention of Mojang considering the creation of a new team-based multiplayer mode that made use of security systems, griefing etc. in a similar fashion to the SourceForts HL2 mod (a truly excellent pre-TF2 mod that's sadly fallen by the wayside)

The idea was for teams to build fortresses and attempt to raid their opponents' using all their ingenuity, setting traps and pitfalls for each other while defending their bases as best they could. There wasn't any more detail than that, but I thought the notion sounded exceptionally fun, and would not require any hacks to the core game mechanic (possibly slightly more prolific mineral distribution, allowing for quicker building of steel defences/doors, circuits, TNT, diamond tools etc.) Distinct build/attack phases could be enforced (again similar to SourcForts) using the inherent day/night cycle to great advantage and enhancing the Survival-mode's need to be in-tune with daylight.

A distinct advantage over other team-based deathmatches would be the ease with which you could host 3 or more teams without worrying about uniquely tailored maps. The exact objective is maybe not clear, but I would think that CTF would work best (flag would have to be below sea-level to prevent unassailable sky-towers). I've seen Youtube clips of people building TNT-powered "cannons," hidden underwater bases and ingenious traps and escape mechanisms, which suggests to me that this niche is aching to be filled (fnarr.)

There are already unofficial game-modes being played - SPLEEF being a prime example - but there is real potential demand for unique, dedicated game modes, once Notch's new team is up to speed.

Comment Re:I liken it to playing with Legos (Score 1) 279

...if you liked building cars and creatures more than playing the actual game in Spore you'd probably enjoy Minecraft.

Beautifully put. There are other fun ways to play it, but you've just described the game's appealing qualities (to me) in a nutshell. If the sandbox design elements of Spore had a decent risk/reward system, it would very closely map to the Minecraft experience.

Comment Hear hear (Score 4, Insightful) 484

I currently work in an open-plan environment. My job requires some significant coding work (requiring total focus for long periods of time) while all of my colleagues are involved in much more piecemeal work. They have absolutely no comprehension of how frustrating and damaging it is to my productivity to be subjected to their distracted working pattern all day.

There are definite benefits to working open-plan, but for some tasks it is simply inappropriate and detrimental.

Comment Why applaud Mr Moore, specifically? (Score 1) 987

He's one of a slew of celebrities who have offered up bail for Assange. Why is his offer more significant than any of the other (predominantly British) celebrity supporters who attended the hearing and offered equivalent sums, or the club-owner whose offer of residence was instrumental in overturning the judge's initial bail decision?

I don't mean to rant, but this is an egregiously US-centric summary of a distinctly international case. At least Mr. Moore himself had the decency to mention some of the others (Ken Loach, John Pilger, writer Jemima Khan) in his post - can't Slashdot give the same courtesy?

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