top Ask Slashdot: Remote Support For Disconnected, Computer-Illiterate Relatives
I support a Windows 7 PC in our community center (retirement community). I simply installed Drive Vaccine (http://www.drivevaccine.com/), which is cheap and allows you to either lock the PC down entirely (no virus infection possible
:)), or keep say a "documents" folder writable, but locks the rest of the PC down. This PC has run for several years, and is restored to a "baseline" after each restart. Never an infection, as it can't survive the reboot. Users can surf the Internet all they want, and write and receive emails etc, etc. Occasionally, I unlock it to do updates of various sorts, but then I lock it down again. Sounds perfect for your parents.
top Ask Slashdot: What To Do After Digitizing VHS Tapes?
I second this approach. Keep a "master archive" of highest quality, both on local hard drives and backed up to the cloud (BackBlaze for example has unlimited backup for $5/mo). Then provide "exhibit" copies at a lower quality to the web and to friends. Backing up the "master archive" is critical! The "derivative" files shared out aren't so critical, as they can be reconstructed from the "master archive". An example is MPEG-2 will preserve videos at high quality, but with large file sizes. Scanning slides to TIF at say 4800 dpi will create 20mb files. These are "master archive" material. But you can prepare a copy of the video as an MPEG-4 or H.264 at much lower quality and much lower file size, that will still look stunning over the web. And you can derive JPGs from the master TIFs that at much lower quality, still look stunning over the Internet, for example. But for posterity, the "master archive" can become a museum collection for your descendants that they will cherish. An interesting thing to ponder is, will the US ever get hit with a few EMP nuclear bursts? If so, they may wipe out all magnetic media everywhere. That is where backups on optical disks, say, Blu-Ray, would be valuable. May be being a little paranoid there?
:). For more information on this approach, consult http://archivehistory.jeksite.....
top Ask Slashdot: Best Service To Digitize VHS Home Movies?
I bought a Magnavox ZV427MG9 DVD Recorder/VCR, available at Amazon for about $280, or on a Sears website for $180. I converted a large tub of precious family VHS tapes directly to DVD in this machine. I played around with different resolutions, but the highest resolution was visibly better, so I went with that. Then I copied the VOB files from the DVD's to my computer, and imported them into Cyberlink's PowerDirector, which has no trouble with the VOB files. The VOB files have a frame width and height of 720x480 at 29 frames/second, which I think gets the most information possible from these old VHS tapes. From PowerDirector, I can save these videos in a variety of formats, keeping the 720x480 and 29 frames/second, such as MP2, MP4, H-264, etc, etc. This has worked extremely well for me, and I think justified for my family the purchase of the machine. We are sharing it around to increase the benefit of purchasing it. In doing a bit of research before this project I read that combined DVD Recorder/VCR's automatically kept the voice in sync with the video, a problem apparently with some capture cards. I can only report excellent results for myself, given of course that VHS recordings aren't of the quality of modern hi def recordings.
top Microsoft Kills Off MapPoint and Streets and Trips In Favor of Bing Maps
I am a retired computer guy, and an RVer. I've used Streets and Trips for the past three years, and have found it invaluable for RV travelling. What makes Streets and Trips work so well for travelers is that it is always there, whether you have Internet or not. And my experience even with a smart phone and hotspot capabilities, is that travellers do not always have access to the Internet. Which renders MS's "Bing" solution useless. And Streets and Trips on my laptop is connected to a printer, so printing out strip maps for the next day is easy. It makes it easy to create long trips, stop by stop, and save the whole route. I'm talking about several months and 10,000 miles of traveling here. I've tried using Google and Bing maps, but actually, the closest trip planning tool I've found that provides for long range planning and in any detail I want is actually Google Earth. But until Streets and Trips is dead, I will be using it. And it sounds like it should work for the next several years.
top That Toy Is Now a Drone
Of course, it is the American Modeling Association, which has provided the hobby's only defense against overreach and destruction of the hobby of aeromodeling by the FAA. The AMA has been working with Congress and the FAA since the rule making process on unmanned aircraft began.
top Ask Slashdot: Which VHS Player To Buy?
Find the Magnavox DVD Recorder ZV427MG9 with Line-In Recording at Walmart (or Amazon) for about $160. It is worth searching for, or having it delivered to your local store from another store. This is a VHS-to-DVD recorder, and does an amazing job. I copied about 40 VHS tapes to DVD's (priceless family videos). The audio is perfectly synchronized with the video. Now I am loaning it out to other family members and friends for their collections. Be sure to specify the highest quality. The results are amazing.
top Global Biological Experiment Generates Exciting New Results
Just as bacteria and viruses, exposed to high levels of antibiotics, have evolved antibiotic resistance and immunity, so will humans evolve resistance or immunity to the new versions of bacteria and viruses. Of course, the way evolution works, the few humans with superior resistance or immunity to the new superbugs will be the fittest survivors, and the rest of us will become extinct. Evolution has worked that way for 3 and a half billion years, no reason for it to stop now
top Microsoft's "New Coke" Moment?
I see Windows PC's in so many workplaces, offices, doctor's offices, etc. Most (not all) have upgraded from XP to Windows 7. These are offices where often multiple programs run at once, where productivity is king. I cannot envision Windows 8 working at all well in an office environment. Maybe, if the clerk has one application ONLY that they run, but a lot of office workers are actually pretty good power users of Windows. All this goes out the window (so to speak) with Windows 8. I have helped many new users with Windows 8, and it has been uniformly bad. I myself had a windows 8 computer for ONE DAY, and went all over the place to find a Windows 7 machine (wonderful HP Envy
:)), display model, but I didn't care. I now enjoy productivity, the enjoyable Aero interface (which is actually beautiful compared to the blocky 90's looking Win 8), and easy navigation of multiple windows. With a 3 year warranty with my new Windows 7 laptop, I am set until at least Blue. Then I will decide if it is finally time to jump ship. The next move is yours, Microsoft. I will be watching.
top FBI Releases Boston Bombing Suspect Images/Videos
Low resolution cameras are so yesterday. We use 10Mpixel high definition security cameras at our security gates that can easily identify a person with high accuracy, and they are inexpensive. All existing security cameras across the country, and especially in cities with highly popular mass activities, need to be upgraded from NEARLY USELESS to highly discerning high definition. I feel so sad at all the ancient-technology video security footage you see after every crime, when current cameras at often lower cost, are AMAZING. Please, everyone with a security camera, for the sake of innocent victims, please upgrade your security cameras to high definition. Ok, so you may need to upgrade your security camera servers too. Again, for the sake of the victims, please put it in your budget now !!
about a year and a half ago
top FAA Grants Arlington Texas Police Department Permission To Fly UAVs
Radio controlled aircraft used to be just hobby aircraft. But in the past few decades, military versions of UAV's have proven that they can be used for lethal purposes. With terrorism on the rise, and as the number and type of UAV's growing hugely (I mean, they will have unmanned full sized fighter planes soon, for real!), the US government has correctly decided to regulate UAV's. The hobby lobby (couldn't resist that), has done a stellar job working with the FAA in protecting the venue of the RC hobbyists. One of the ways to distinguish a "UAV" from an RC hobby aircraft is "purpose". Am I enjoying my hobby, or am I taking pictures of houses for a Real Estate company. Moving away from strict hobby use to Commercial or Military use redefines the RC aircraft from "hobby use" to "UAV", under a different set of laws, even if it is the same plane. Hobbyists are limited to 400', line of sight, weight restrictions, no-flyover-people, and must contact the airport if flown within 3 miles of an airport. By following these rules, we hobbyists protect our hobby even in the face of more strict UAV laws. And even we hobbyists get "NOTAM" alerts, shutting us down for a few hours when the POTUS comes to town.
about a year and a half ago
top Aaron Swartz Case: Deja Vu All Over Again For MIT
The University system should provide Sanctuary for its students. It takes the most brilliant and promising children of each generation, and takes the best of them to the frontiers of human knowledge, and encourages and teaches them to push and develop these frontiers. This is one of the highest callings of the University system. This also gives the Universities a great responsibility -- to protect those young bright minds who are going boldly where none has gone before. They need to provide Sanctuary for these students, to have their back when they push the boundaries of our society. This does not cover murder or other violent sociopathic acts. But it should protect students from most of the reckless overreaching laws, and especially in all gray areas of our society. Rather than give students up for minor unlawful activities, the University system should give them Sanctuary. When they do give them up, they break this Sanctuary promise to their students. They teach them and encourage them to the frontiers of our society, and then betray them when they give them up to local (or federal) gendarmes.
I call on ALL University administrators to develop proactive policies of Sanctuary, which should include refusing EVER to give up students for minor or gray area "crimes". They should at the very least, refuse all cooperation with police agents, and at the best, provide a defense for students. But NEVER break your moral contract with the students you teach, by turning them over to outside law. This policy can include ejecting students who break University laws. But it should never extend further than sanctions or expulsions. The University systems should develop a non-cooperation understanding with all police forces. Exceptions only would include violent sociopathic crimes such as rape, murder, violent assault, bombings, etc. But the University should be a Sanctuary for non-violent crimes where the student (or faculty for that matter) is pushing the boundaries of society.
This awesome article at New York University, The University as Sanctuary, says it more powerfully and elegantly than I ever could.
about a year and a half ago
top What Early Software Was Influential Enough To Deserve Acclaim?
Paradox for DOS was a breakthrough program for its time, permitting fairly serious multi user networked business applications to be built in DOS with a relational database. The PAL (Paradox Application Language) was very powerful. I built a rock solid and fast multiuser system for a mental health clinic with it. And Commodore 64's Logo was actually HP's graphics language in disguise, a great program for what it was and for its time.
about a year and a half ago
top Microsoft May Invest $1B-$3B In Dell Buyout
Are you ok with a Dell business machine? If you go to the Dell website and look at ANY business machine (Optiplex, Vostro, Dimension, Latitude), either desktop or laptop, they are listed across the board with Windows 7. Windows 8 is not in sight. I think it will be a long time before businesses are ready for the Windows 8 nonsense.
about a year and a half ago
top Dutch Cold Case Murder Solved After 8000 People Gave Their DNA
As pointed out in other posts, your statement, "not DNA from the rape itself", is completely incorrect. As the article says, "The decision to launch the DNA appeal came after De Vries in May broadcast information about a Playboy cigarette lighter found in Vaatstra's bag which contains DNA traces that match the traces found on the schoolgirl's body. " The DNA WAS found on the girl's raped body. Because it was ALSO found on a cigarette lighter sold locally, that is why they suspected a local person. So his DNA matches exactly that on the raped girl's body! At least, their approach was logical. Just to be clear.
top Mozilla To Bug Firefox Users With Old Adobe Reader, Flash, Silverlight
Pale Moon (
http://www.palemoon.org/ ) is a long-standing fork of Firefox produced by Moonchild Productions, which is distinguished by being optimized for efficiency and speed in 64 bit Vista and Windows 7. There are 32 bit versions as well. Firefox does not provide a 64 bit version at this time. If you've never heard of Pale Moon, check it out. It is now my main browser of choice. Here is a review: http://www.softwarecrew.com/2012/08/pale-moon-15-building-a-better-browser/. Perhaps this browser will give you your "Firefox" experience without the upgrade "bugging" that Mozilla is introducing.
top Another Call For Abolishing Patents, This One From the St. Louis Fed
There are two ways companies can take advantage of their inventiveness if patents were abolished. First is to ramp up company security and keep the inner workings of the patent a complete secret. This method is even available today, if a company were to elect to keep a patentable item secret instead of patenting it. This method will certainly work in the short run.
The second way to take advantage of their inventiveness is to be recognized as the most competent implementer of the patent. Say an inventor creates a "wave engine". It is a difficult engineering feat, and if the inventor works hard to stay ahead of the competition, then they will do well enough by being recognized as the world experts on the "wave engine". If they don't work hard enough, then competitors will take business away from them.
By keeping trade secrets and by becoming highly competent, all inventors will do well. They might not do quite as well as they would have if they had a "monopoly" on the idea for 17 years, but nevertheless, they would do well enough!
Society is the winner here. If there were no patents, then all competitors could jump on the idea, and innovation would be vastly accelerated, and costs would plummet. It would be harder for companies to make a dollar, but the industries as a whole would accelerate rapidly.
There are numerous serious studies that support the abolition of patents. They examine cases where patents were granted and cases where patents weren't available. In all cases, in the long run, having a patent system slowed innovation, enriched some rent-seekers unjustly, and society always suffered. This is an idea whose time has come.
top ACLU Questions Privacy of License Plate Scanners
The real threat, that the ACLU knows very clearly, is that the clearest path to government oppression of its citizens is to follow the path of China and other totalitarian regimes, and put together a massive dossier on every citizen. Then, anytime the government wants to crack down on a citizen, it has all the information it needs to put the citizen away. As any police officer will tell you, with over 5,000 federal laws, and countless local state and municipal laws, every citizen breaks laws without even knowing it, and if they follow you in a cruiser, then eventually can legally pull you over. What protects us is that most miniscule violations are not on the books. But if the government can collect 100% of all the information technology increasingly permits, they will begin to get 100% information. This will not harm you until the government decides to focus its laser power on YOU. There is little in this world as powerful as government, which can bring down the powerful, the wealthy, even the lawmakers. The ACLU has this one right - our government needs to be limited in the information it gathers on us.
top Why 'Nigerian Scammers' Say They're From Nigeria
I know of an 85-year old retired engineer who FELL for this scam two years ago. I got into assisting him after he had lost $500,000, his life savings (which he had wired to a Swiss bank account). The scammers contacted him after he had lost his money, pretending to be attorneys in London who could help him "recover" a part of the money for an additional $40,000. He was to fly to Amsterdam with the money, and give it to them. I got involved after he came back, when he requested that I assist him in finding the "London attorneys". Turns out he actually had flown to Amsterdam with $40,000 in a money belt, and saw the men outside the terminal holding up a card with his name on it. But the Amsterdam police found his money belt, and deported him back to America. Those police saved his last dime! It took me two weeks of intense persuasion to get through to him that he had truly lost his money, and all he could do was turn in a futile report to the FBI. He finally got it, and is truly a sadder but wiser man now. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't been a part of it. With that kind of return on their investment of scamming time, I see why they put so much energy into it!!!!
top Falcon 9 Launch Aborted At Last Minute
The technology to abort a takeoff in the last 1/2 second is truly amazing, and because of high combustion pressure in an engine is a perfect catch. If the Boeing Delta II in 1997 had had the same type of status checking, it might have discovered the 17 foot crack in the booster, and aborted also, instead of blowing up on launch:
http://www.cnn.com/TECH/9701/17/rocket.explosion/index.html. And a Delta III had a rocket engine failure in 1999, which ruined the mission: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19990626&slug=2968601. So the ability to detect an engine problem and shutdown before liftoff is again an amazing feat, and shows advancing technology. SpaceX is doing this right!
top Microsoft's Hotmail Challenge Backfires
Hotmail accounts have been hijacked at an increasing rate lately. I am a computer tech, and in the last two months, at least a dozen of my correspondents with hotmail/msn have had their accounts hijacked. I have got a smattering of AOL as well. That's it. No gmail accounts hijacked, no Cox/Comcast accounts hijacked, no Yahoo accounts hijacked. Something bad is happening in the hotmail/msn/AOL world. And I am not biased, I have a hotmail account and a gmail account, and use both.