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Switching From Microsoft Office To LibreOffice Saves Toulouse 1 Million Euros

JanneM Re:As We Speak (284 comments)

Cheaper than zero?

Bribes would effectively create a negative cost, at least for the peoplereceiving them.

4 days ago
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Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

JanneM Re:Astronomy, and general poor night-time results. (540 comments)

"They can fix astigmatism now?"

Yes. Here's the Wikipedia entry (though it feels written by a proponent): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...

Basically, they measure the retinal reflection from lights coming from a number of different angles to map the lens aberration (just a linear approximation, but with a grid of lights that's plenty close enough). Then they use that to map shorter, more focused laser pulses to reshape the cornea appropriately.

If I understand it right, you normally get rid of all primary and secondary astigmatism (such as coma), but you can still have a small bit of residual astigmatism afterwards. In practice it's night and day; once my eyes stabilized (it took two months) I don't have double vision or any of the other annoying effects of astigmatism any longer.

4 days ago
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Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

JanneM Re:Astronomy, and general poor night-time results. (540 comments)

I'm 45 and I've had presbyopia for five years, bad enough that I always need separate glasses when reading or working in front of a screen, or even using my phone. I still went ahead with surgery last winter. And I'm very happy I did.

I had pronounced astigmatism in addition to nearsightedness. When you add presbyopia it becomes almost impossible to get a pair of lenses that will correct all of it anywhere but right in the center of vision. In practice I had to movemy head instead of my eyes when reading, playing games, programming... It was frustrating and gave me increasingly common headaches.

With LASIK (a fairly new type that maps the eye and removes the stigmatism) I now have 15/15 and only need glasses for presbyopia. I have one pair for close-up work, that now lets me see in my entire field of vision; and my old favourite pair has no correction at all except at the bottom, where mild close-up power lets me see my phone, read labels and stuff like that when I'm out and about.

It may not sound like much of a difference since I still often wear glasses. But it's night and day - headaches are gone, I really see much better now (I actually see towards the sides again!) and for many activitites such as snorkeling or photography I need no eye correction at all.

5 days ago
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Foxconn Replacing Workers With Robots

JanneM Re:Why is it cheaper in China? (530 comments)

But an assembly line manned by robots? Why should that be cheaper in China? Is capital that much cheaper?

Even if wages and other costs were equal, the location advantage is substantial. It's not that it's cheaper in China, but that it's cheaper in the huge manufacturing hubs. You have suppliers and manufacturers for just about every single component you need without long-distance shipping, and a deep pool of design and manufacturing expertise working in the area.

That's not to say you can't manufacture efficiently elsewhere (we have plenty of recent examples such as the Raspberry Pi), but that the advantages has as much to do with the concentration of resources as with the cost of labour and regulations. And of course, as this inudstry becomes ever more automated, it no longer matters much for jobs where it happens any longer.

about three weeks ago
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Airbus Patents Windowless Cockpit That Would Increase Pilots' Field of View

JanneM Re:Quite... (468 comments)

You can use the exact same arguments against fly-by-wire technology. Yet, that is now the norm, with not a mechanical linkage in sight.

about three weeks ago
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Wikipedia Mining Algorithm Reveals the Most Influential People In History

JanneM Re:Carl Linnaeus? Here's why: (231 comments)

[...] but it's not more influential than Jesus.

Well, at least Linnaeus existed; that's a major strike in his favour right there.

about 2 months ago
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Google Announces 'End-To-End' Encryption Extension For Chrome

JanneM Re:Always a balance (100 comments)

OpenPGP was right in all ways except one: you can't even explain what it does to your grandma, let alone get her to use it.

Never mind grandma, I can't use it. Decided I'd try it this spring. Spent an afternoon reading manuals, blog posts and howto's, until I realized this is complicated and brittle enough that I'm likely to mess things up and compromise any security as a result. Better to avoid it, and behave under the assumption that people are bulk scanning and analyzing everything i send or receive.

about 2 months ago
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Emory University SCCM Server Accidentally Reformats All Computers Campus-wide

JanneM Re:Sounds like IT incompetence (564 comments)

People make mistakes. Everybody makes them, everybody does it all the time, and they do it even when they should know better, when the consequences are high, and when they've received training specifically aimed at avoiding those particular mistakes.

Aviation, process and other industries know this by now, after many, many hard-earned lessons. They know you have to design your interfaces under the assumption that people will screw up, push the wrong button, or misread the situation. The general software industry, on the other hand, seems amazingly resilient against accepting this simple fact.

about 2 months ago
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Percentage of Elderly In Japan Continues to Grow as Number of Children Drops

JanneM Re:This may be crass but... (283 comments)

It's easy to say we want to make the rural areas as attractive as the big cities. Notably, I've yet to see any credible ideas for actually achieving it.

Big cities are amazing. Because of network effects and the efficiencies of small distances and dense accumulation of resources, competing directly is extremely difficult. It's like deciding you want to make a new, fledging social network as attractive to users as the current big ones. The only thing you could feasibly do in both cases is to push it as a niche for special interests.

about 3 months ago
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A 32-bit Development System For $2

JanneM Re:Very cool - but where do you get the chip for $ (138 comments)

"I don't know anyone who just has a serial converter just lying around unless they're an engineer"

This is not a first project for anybody. Chances are high that you've already played with Arduino a fair bit, and built your own on breadboard as well. In which case you most likely have a USB-serial cable or board already, in order to program them.

about 3 months ago
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Programming Language Diversity On the Rise

JanneM Re:A good sign (177 comments)

"Which platforms were Java and Obj-C specific to again?"

The wording was unclear on my part; you pretty much need to use Java to develop for Android, and Objective-C to develop for IOS. Those platforms use those languages specifically, not that they are used only on those platforms. You can use a few other languages to develop Android or IOS apps if you insist, but with more pain, less support, and you'll normally still have to write minor parts in these languages to make it a complete application.

about 3 months ago
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Programming Language Diversity On the Rise

JanneM Re:A good sign (177 comments)

"I'd error on having 3 languages in the shop and that's about all that you'd need for most things."

That sounds on the low side to me. One low-level, hardware-linked language (C or C++); one dynamic language (Python, Ruby); a functional language (Scala, Scheme, Haskell); one for numerics (R, Matlab/Octave); one embedded language (Scheme, Lua); client-side web (javascript); database access (SQL); and of course the platform-specific major languages you can't get around: Java, C# and Objective-C. I'm sure you can add other categories to the list as well.

about 3 months ago
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Stanford Getting Rid of $18 Billion Endowment of Coal Stock

JanneM Re:Activist investors (208 comments)

The endowment is there to serve the university. And the university is plenty sensitive to its public perception; that affects both enrollment as well as donations. It's not a stretch to say that a fairly large proportion of both current and former students and faculty view global warming as a threat and coal as a bad choice for producing power.

Making these people happy is vital for the universitys bottom line - not to mention that "the university" consists of people that themselves share many of these values. So yes, they are acting in the best interest of those the endowments are there to serve.

about 3 months ago
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The Exploitative Economics of Academic Publishing

JanneM Publiation costs (72 comments)

It's worth noting that while many open access journals charge for publication, so do many closed access journals. I can't find the link now, but a comparison a few years ago found that the average cost was actually higher across closed journals than open access ones. And of course, they "double-dip" by also charging libraries and readers high fees for carrying the journals.

about 3 months ago
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Volvo Testing Autonomous Cars On Public Roads

JanneM Re:No way I could trust a self-driving car (98 comments)

Have you ever seen a stupid driver try to merge onto a freeway with their turn signal on and their foot on the brake? Or see three cars bumper-to-bumper trying to merge onto a busy freeway as a pack?

The beautiful thing is, self-driving cars will see this, due to their extensive sensor coverage. And they will have recordings available of the whole incident for later examination. It will be completely clear who was following all the regulations and exercizing judgement (the self-driving car) and who was driving irresponsibly or dangerously (the human driver).

Once self-driving cars hit the road in any numbers, it will become really, really expensive to try to be a jerk in traffic. No speeding. No lane cutting. No tailgating. No weaving. No nothing - just follow the traffic flow and the law to the letter and spirit or you will get reported. And of course your insurance rate will like go up, simply by being a human driver.

At which point there's of course little point in driving yourself any longer; you drive in exactly the same way as the self-driving cars, and you get there at the exact same time. But you have to sit there and drive, while the people around you are busy reading the morning news or throwing irate fowl at pigs.

about 3 months ago
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Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

JanneM Re:Hard to detect (608 comments)

I did some research, and in order to pick up a TV level signal 100 light years away, we could built an antenna the size of Rhode Island in space.

You make my point :) 100 light years is still really in the neighbourhood. The vast majority of detected planets lie outside that range - that new possibly earth-like planet if five times longer away.

It assumes that you actually have an island-sized structure in space, and it assumes that any civilization is currently blasting radio signals in the same wasteful way as terrestrial TV. We don't have anything approaching your detector, so even at 100 light years we'd miss it, and, as I argue, civilizations are unlikely to beam out strong radio waves in that manner.

I would like to see what kind of detector we'd need for a more realistic scenario. Say, detect things within 1000 light years, and when radio use looks more like our digital low-power and directed radio devices.

about 3 months ago
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Are Habitable Exoplanets Bad News For Humanity?

JanneM Hard to detect (608 comments)

A civilization would be quite hard to detect. The best chance is probably radio emissions, but even that has a fairly short practical limit. And it's noteworthy that our emissions are dropping today, as we increasinly use the spectrum for low-power digital systems rather than analogue "scream at the top of your lungs" broadcasts. It wouldn't be too far-fetched to imagine that we'd be effectively silent in another couple of generations, as we push toward more effective transmission technologies.

We could probably have dozens of other civilizations in this sector of the milky way and we'd never know it.

about 3 months ago
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"Going Up" At 45 Mph: Hitachi To Deliver World's Fastest Elevator

JanneM Re:Expensive (109 comments)

The problem with building really tall buildings is how to transport enough people up and down without using up the floor space on elevators rather than rentable area. Silly fast elevators may well be worth the money if it results in more silly expensive top-floor rent income.

about 3 months ago
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Apple, Google Vying For Mobile Game Exclusivity

JanneM Re:As a developer who uses in-app purchase ... (52 comments)

A free but limited version and a full, paid one is completely reasonable. There's several ways to do it too, but I think perhaps the best division is between the casual and the dedicated user. Casual users are unlikely to pay if forced, but they can still be good advocates for the app, so it may be worth it making sure they still have something to use.

The Aedict Japanees dictionary, for instance, is one of my most used apps. It has a free version that is really the full old (pre-Android 4) version of the app; and a paid version that is newer, better, more polished and with lots of added funcitonality. You can use the core functionality in the old app, but you really want all the improvements in the new one.

Games could have just the first few levels. Productivity apps could limit the document size or number of simultaneous documents. But I do think that making the free version usable for the occasional user likely pays off over time. Casual users advocate the app, and they may become dedicated users over time.

about 3 months ago
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$42,000 Prosthetic Hand Outperformed By $50 3D Printed Hand

JanneM Re:Sunk Costs (288 comments)

[...] but getting a fake hand for the sake of a fake hand is just being vain IMHO.

People are vain. People do care what other people think of them, and people do want to make a good impression on others. And it's completely rational; we are being judged by how we look, what we wear, how we behave. What we think of that is besides the point.

So yes, it turns out most people care about what their prostheses look like as much or more than how well they function. Any maker that disregards that is setting themselves up to become a niche within a niche; and most likely a long-term failure.

about 3 months ago

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