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Ask Slashdot: Best Drone For $100-$150?

CityZen Understand the features. (116 comments)

It's good to know why some drones are more expensive than others. (I'm going to use "drone" instead of "quadcopter" or "multicopter" since it's easier to type.)

Your basic drone will have a 3D gyro & accelerometer that will keep it flying upright. That's about it. As far as the altitude, it's up to you to constantly vary the throttle setting to keep it somewhere near the height you want. It will also drift in the wind, and you'll have to vary the directional controls to counter this. It may also rotate when pushed by the wind.

A magnetic compass can help the drone keep a constant heading. This is important, since most drones are piloted relative to the direction they are heading. (Fancier ones have additional piloting options whereby you don't need to know which way they are pointed.)

Fancier drones (like Parrot AR) have additional sensors to maintain altitude. Either a pressure sensor (barometer) and/or ultrasonic sensors aimed at the ground will allow it to accomplish this. However, the drone will still drift in the wind.

The next level up adds either GPS or an optical flow sensor (low-resolution camera pointed straight down). With one or both of these, a drone can maintain its absolute position, give or take a couple feet.

Then, of course, there's the camera. The most basic thing is a camera that records to an onboard SD card. Then there are cameras that transmit NTSC/PAL video signals over the air to a receiver (which might be combined with a screen into the controller). Or there are cameras that transmit video via wifi to your mobile device. The latter tend to have more latency (delay), making it harder to pilot (when you're flying fast).

You'll want the camera to have a relatively wide FOV (field of view). Otherwise, it's hard to know what's around the craft that you might run into.

Then there are gimbals. These keep the video stabilised. Of course, now we're in the several hundred dollar range, so perhaps that's where to stop.

about three weeks ago
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Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

CityZen Re:Distribution and Generation are split (488 comments)

Exactly! Con-Ed in NYC charges more for distribution (per KWH) than Seattle Light charges for the whole bill (per KWH). The distribution costs in NYC are about the same as the generation (supply) costs (both of which are quite high).

about 3 months ago
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LTE Upgrade Will Let Phones Connect To Nearby Devices Without Towers

CityZen What happens in a crowded stadium? (153 comments)

You always need to consider the extremes. What happens when there are thousands of devices in range?

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Smartwatch Apps Could You See Yourself Using?

CityZen Re:Repairability/Upgradability/Modularity (471 comments)

Tech can "last forever". Take my digital wristwatch, for instance. All it needs to keep going is a new battery every so many years. Fortunately, it's battery is replaceable. However, I agree with your point that many tech makers get this wrong. Non-replaceable batteries and closed, locked-up software environments help to make tech go obsolete much faster than necessary. Also, functional dependence on some other infrastructure (Apple Watch depends upon iPhone) doesn't help either.

about 3 months ago
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Combating Recent, Ugly Incidents of Misogyny In Gamer Culture

CityZen Re:One bad apple spoils the barrel (1134 comments)

No, rather like people posting your home address and telling you that they plan to harm you.

about 4 months ago
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Combating Recent, Ugly Incidents of Misogyny In Gamer Culture

CityZen Re:Nobody has the right not to be offended. (1134 comments)

Perhaps you missed the part about rape and death threats, and not just general ones, but the "I know where you live" kind?
I believe that courts have ruled that this is indeed not free speech, but criminal action.
But these criminals hide behind internet anonymity, so are difficult to prosecute.

about 4 months ago
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Intel's Haswell-E Desktop CPU Debuts With Eight Cores, DDR4 Memory

CityZen Re:Elephant in the room (181 comments)

I once paid $100 for 16KB ($6400/MB). Of course, Apple was charging $400 for the same amount ($25,600/MB).

about 4 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Recliner For a Software Developer?

CityZen Just a word of warning (154 comments)

If you make it too comfortable to be sedentary for long periods of time, you'll need to find ways to balance yourself with appropriate exercise. Too much comfort (or too much of anything) can be bad. It's all about the balance.

Back exercise helps you in several ways: makes sleep more comfortable, makes it easier to have good posture, prevents you from hurting yourself when lifting/pushing things, and generally keeps you from deteriorating faster than you ought to.

(I can't say enough about good posture, either: it helps you breath better, and it looks so much more attractive than most alternatives.)

about 4 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Bulletproof Video Conferencing For Alzheimers Home?

CityZen Biscotti TV (194 comments)

I've been looking for something similar myself. I was using the Logitech Revue until they shut down their Vid service.

The Biscotti has many good traits:
1. Has HDMI passthrough so no need to switch inputs if TV normally stays on a particular HDMI input.
2. Can overlay calling notification.
3. Can switch on the TV via CEC if needed.
4. Can be set to auto-answer.
5. Compatible with SIP and various standards.

Unfortunately, it's not perfect. You don't want to put it on a hot TV, or it might overheat.
Sometimes it has issues and needs to be rebooted by unplugging/replugging.
Recently, it looked like Biscotti's servers were down for a bit, so calls couldn't go through.
But aside from these typical kinds of issues, it's the best solution I've found so far.

about 5 months ago
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Is the App Store Broken?

CityZen Most online stores are "broken" (258 comments)

I'm consistently amazed how everyone continues to make bad online stores when there are good examples to follow.
Ebay and Newegg are fairly good examples. They have extensive hierarchies of categorization, a healthy supply of
sensible filters, and, most importantly, they work in a sensible manner.

Case in point: you navigate down various categories, set up some filters, click on a product, then hit the "back"
button, and, lo and behold, you're taken back to where you expected to be. With some stores, once you
click on a product, it loses all the history of how you got there, which is totally nuts. You have to start over from
the top again. (Or, even if there is a sensible back option, it may be painfully slow to get you there again.)

Of course, having a tabbed web browser makes things even easier, since I can drill down, set up filters, then
middle-click on several different products (opening up each in a new tab), and flick between them at will.
I can add products to a "watch" list, so I can look now and decide later if I want to get it.

The only way that I use the App stores on iOS or Android are to already know the app I want (from having
looked at the wider internet), click on "search", and find that specific app. Anything else is just a hopeless
potshot. I think that Apple/Google know that this is the only method that needs to work, and thus they
don't try to improve things.

about 5 months ago
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Who controls the HVAC at work?

CityZen Annoying engineering with limited local control (216 comments)

So there are thermostats on the wall, but they have only limited control:
- the building central HVAC produces only 1 temperature of air: either hot, cold, or unmodified.
- the temperature of air produced centrally depends upon the outside temp and the time of day.
    (ie, the thermostats have no control over that!)
- on cool days, hot air is produced; on warm days, cold air is produced, except:
    outside of work hours, it seems the air is mostly unmodified (not heated or cooled much).
- the thermostats control the venting such that you either get the central air or recirculated local air.
- (I haven't figured out what controls whether the blower runs or not.)

The net result does seem to be that you are overheated in winter, overcooled in summer,
except after work hours, when it becomes a reasonable temperature.

about 7 months ago
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Major ISPs Threaten To Throttle Innovation and Slow Network Upgrades

CityZen Re:Please support the FCC to do the right thing (286 comments)

While I won't argue that you are wrong, I'm sure the cable companies would be pleased if people just thought "eh, what's the point in trying to change anything?" and didn't do anything.

That's how we got to this situation in the first place.

An alternative way out of this BS is to develop technology to bypass ISPs. Start setting up mesh wifi, or something. Figure it out.

about 7 months ago
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Major ISPs Threaten To Throttle Innovation and Slow Network Upgrades

CityZen Please support the FCC to do the right thing (286 comments)

We all know this is BS. But we also know the FCC doesn't have much backbone. U.S. folks, please show them your support:

http://www.fcc.gov/comments
http://www.fcc.gov/complaints
http://www.fcc.gov/discuss

You may also write your senator or member of congress:

http://www.senate.gov/general/...
http://www.house.gov/represent...

Comments or complaints sent to any of the above may do a lot more good than any posted here.

about 7 months ago
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Microsoft Finally Selling Xbox One Without Kinect

CityZen Thank $DEITY for competition! (227 comments)

Competition can suck, but it's usually worse (for consumers) without it.

In this case, the worst effect of competition is that you might have to buy two game consoles to play every game that you would like to.
It beats paying 2x for the only game console with no competition.

about 7 months ago
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Distracted Driving: All Lip Service With No Legit Solution

CityZen Re:There is this button. (184 comments)

And your teenage driver will certainly follow this advice, just like he/she followed every other piece of useful advice you have offered.

about 8 months ago
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Distracted Driving: All Lip Service With No Legit Solution

CityZen Re:Just replace the driver (184 comments)

Hear hear! I'm anxious to see the day when people-driven cars are in the minority.

about 8 months ago
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For $20, Build a VR Headset For Your Smartphone

CityZen Field of View (50 comments)

Half-baked solutions like this will have limited field of view (among other shortcomings). In order to get a wide FOV (which is important for immersion), Oculus is using very powerful aspheric lenses, which necessarily result in a distorted image. The distortion is "undone" by doing a pre-anti-distortion of the desired images prior to displaying them on the screen.

Latency will be another big issue, especially from tracking using a webcam that's probably running at 30hz.

I think that this stuff is great for experimenters who want to get a taste of VR on the cheap. However, it is a far cry from well-engineered setups.

about 8 months ago
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Switching From Sitting To Standing At Your Desk

CityZen It's not binary (312 comments)

Obviously it's a problem to sit all day. But it's not a binary decision between sitting all day and standing all day.

Like everything in life, the key is "balance": not too much, not too little.

Keep using a chair if that's what you like. Just be sure to stand up, stretch, stroll around a bit periodically.
Set a timer if you need to remind yourself.

If you like to stand, that's fine too. You also need to move around periodically, or even sit down.

about 8 months ago
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Algorithm Challenge: Burning Man Vehicle Exodus

CityZen Re:The playa exit is not the problem. (273 comments)

Then the answer seems obvious: Schedule the last day's events in order from most to least interesting, making sure to have a decent progression towards inanity as you get towards the end. People will naturally trickle away, as they decide the next events are not worth attending. (Perhaps the whole week should be scheduled with the most interesting events in the middle, and the more inane towards start and finish.)

Another possible answer comes up as well: treat the exit line like a Disney theme park entrance line: make it interesting enough to be in, but never interesting enough to hold anyone up.

about 9 months ago

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