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An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

PhantomHarlock rewind to the real problem (342 comments)

Burning Man has created an artificial monopoly for ice. By the description it sounds much like bread lines in Russia. If you try to bottleneck and manage essential goods at a single source, it invariably gets unmanageable as it scales up. They're dealing with a pretty large population these days for a bunch of festival organizers.

Based on the commenter who described the actual process via way of being a volunteer, a short term solution without getting into the political questions is to massively increase parallelism during peak times. Despite the pretty simple process, the peak demand is straining the system.

If they kept statistics about load vs. time they could figure out easily when to have a whole bunch more labor present to get the job done more quickly for the throngs of thousands.

about 2 months ago

SkyOrbiter UAVs Could Fly For Years and Provide Global Internet Access

PhantomHarlock It's been tried... (48 comments)

Funny enough it's been tried as a business concept, though under different circumstances. In the mid-90s a company called AngelCorp wanted to build a series of manned aircraft that could loiter at high altitudes for long periods of time to provide high speed internet access. This was shortly before DSL, CableModems, WIfi and T1/T3 connectivity at the workplace would pretty much saturate that market. Bad timing.

Scaled Composites built one ship, the Proteus, a beautiful, revolutionary aircraft that is still in use today for many other payload missions such as airborne laser testing. The Proteus was also the uncle of White Knight I, the mothership for SpaceShipOne.

  The odd thing is, the AngelCorp website still exists, frozen in time.

With advances in battery propulsion and cheap UAV / drone guidance systems, it could be a workable thing for providing temporary access to remote regions.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: the State of Free Video Editing Tools?

PhantomHarlock Vegas Movie Studio (cheap not free) (163 comments)

If you are open to using Windows, buy a copy of Sony Vegas Movie studio for fifty bucks. It's a stripped down version of Sony Vegas, which is a very powerful professional editing package, I prefer Vegas to Premiere and Final Cut.

Basically I did not see any limitations with the movie studio edition that would prevent you from making nice, clean HD videos. The editing interface is far better than Premiere's as far as I'm concerned.

about 3 months ago

Verizon Throttles Data To "Provide Incentive To Limit Usage"

PhantomHarlock I have an unlimited data plan... (316 comments)

...but I actually don't use more than about 600MB per month on average. I could have a newer plan and it wouldn't matter, but they charge exactly the same for their lowest current data tier ($30/mo) as I am paying for unlimited. I'm keeping it on principle.

about 4 months ago

The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

PhantomHarlock Re:As an ex. Commodore Service tech (192 comments)

I saw her still doing stuff for Newtek at NAB shows until more recently, she still looked good. Yup we all loved her back in the day. :)

Also, by the time Voyager came around LW was being used on windows machines. I turned down a job doing the 'anomaly of the week' for Voyager at Foundation to go work at Digital Domain instead. Large unix-driven renderfarms for LW and their other tools. Pretty spoiled for gettin your frames done...also never worked with more talented people in my life. They had just come off doing Titanic and The 5th Element. Lots of Lightwave digital ship shots in Titanic by Frank Alber, he went on to become a big guy at Pixar. The stuff still holds up today.

about 5 months ago

The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

PhantomHarlock Re:A500+, A600, A1200 (192 comments)

I'd take this guy's advice if you just want some Amiga hardware to fiddle about with. The A1200 is a good late model choice. I remember owning one as a general purpose machine to replace the 500 I had.

about 5 months ago

The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

PhantomHarlock Re:Not Forgotten (192 comments)

Here here....a lot of show title sequences rendered on the one we had at the station. That eventually led to my vfx career. Got in when lightwave was the hot thing and rode it all the way to its peak down in LA. Good times. Eventually got tired of staring at a monitor for 10 hours a day though and switched careers. Still do a little photoreal FX rendering as part of my job, but only about 10% of it now.

about 5 months ago

The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

PhantomHarlock Re:SCSI madness (192 comments)

As much as people fawn over computer nostalgia, they forget how much the pre-plug-and-play era actaully kind of sucked on a day to day basis. Sure, it got you job security, but today I enjoy unboxing my SATA drive, plugging it in and moving on to whatever it is I wanted to do with the new drive.

about 5 months ago

The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

PhantomHarlock Re:As an ex. Commodore Service tech (192 comments)

There were some great demos coming out of Europe. I remember trading them at swap parties.

I'm guessing Newtek did not want to make an entirely different hardware rev for PAL on the toaster. Wasn't as easy back then to just handle both with a software switch. :) Would be a huge investment for both software and hardware departments.

I did also have the A3000 which was my last big Amiga build. there was also an A1200 which was a later version of a 500-type layout. I don't remember if that was US only.

about 5 months ago

The Almost Forgotten Story of the Amiga 2000

PhantomHarlock I owned one (several) (192 comments)

I owned just about every Amiga model put out in the US, but the A2000 was the workhorse business machine. Coupled with the video toaster card and lightwave it was a video production tool that cost about 1/10th to 1/100th of what it would cost to assemble all of the discreet machines it replaced. With the addition of the Flyer card it also became a non-linear editor, a tough feat in those days. I did a lot of good work with my A2000. I had the SCSI controller and a hard drive (probably 40 - 80 MB in those days)

I was also big into Amiga gaming as it was way ahead of its time compared to PCs and Macs. You would pop in something like Shadow of the Beast and just marvel at the arcade quality parallax scrolling and really nice stereo sampled sound using all those nice custom chips that PCs and Macs did not have.

The linked article is very short on details (there are many) for those of us who lived through it, but even after all this time my own memory of specifics of things is basically gone.

A good book to know why all of this did not last or evolve is "The Rise and Fall of Commodore". For those of us who started with the C=64 era and went out till the end with the Amiga, it's an enlightening and sometimes frustrating read about the politics behind our favorite company.

I think that outside of serious collectors and computer history museums, trying to maintain and fiddle with the hardware today is, well, a dedicated hobby. Best of luck. You're often better off with the emulators out there to get your feet wet.

Within the limitations of technology at the time, the Amiga era was a grand ole time, and we all knew we had the best at the time. Thanks to marketing by other companies who think they invented everything, it will indeed likely be relegated to a forgotten footnote of personal computing history. For those of us who lived it, it was a way of life.

about 5 months ago

Home Depot Begins Retail Store Pilot Program To Sell MakerBot 3-D Printers

PhantomHarlock ...and oversell them on what they can do with it. (127 comments)

I don't think the price point vs. quality is worth it for that crowd.

For me I just send things out to shapeways because I need small, fine parts, not fused piles of spaghetti.

Plus, how many people in the general population can do any solid modelling?

about 5 months ago

Physical Media: Down, But Maybe Not Out

PhantomHarlock most people cannot get BRD-like bit rates online (116 comments)

When streaming services can deliver 1080P at 25mbits/sec, sign me up. Most "HD" streaming services I have seen are fairly horrendous. Either they are streaming at reduced resolutions such as 720P or the data rate is poor enough that there are bad artifacts in high motion scenes and transitions. When you have a projector and a large screen, this is a major problem. You see it all. With Blu Ray, there are no artifacts it feels like you're in a theater.

Also, outside of big cities, most of us are on fairly slow 1.5 to 5mbit/sec connections. The local cable provider recently got a fiber backbone in town which greatly increased their offerings (pulling about 18mbits / sec at home right now) but I am moving and the new neighborhood is back to the slowboat offerings. The duopoly is slow to catch up, they need a concrete competitor before they will make any improvements to their infrastructure. It was only when the cable service started offering internet that the phone company (AT&T) finally started offering DSL in the area.

about 6 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Easy-To-Use Alternative To MS Access For a Charity's Database?

PhantomHarlock Quickbase. (281 comments)

Quickbase - it's a kind of expensive service but amazing.

All online, no software or machine maintenance. Access from anywhere.

The amount of flexibility it has is astonishing.

Get a free demo - they'll set it up for you exactly how you want it. They've rarely said 'no' to anything I've asked if it could do, and then they implemented it, within minutes. It also has an API so you can add on to it all you want. There are a number of affiliated vendors that have ready made add ons for it as well.

Quickbase can do very very quickly what would take hours or days to program into a custom SQL type app.

about 7 months ago

Sony Warns Demand For Blu-Ray Diminishing Faster Than Expected

PhantomHarlock online streaming is still problematic... (477 comments)

...for those of us with projection screens. When you're looking at a 150" screen projecting at 1920X1080, a blu-ray is gorgeous, just like being in the theater. At 25mbits / sec, artifacts are nonexistant. With the reduced bitrates and resolutions of even "HD" streaming, it all shows up. Streaming is not quite there yet due to last mile problems at least here in the states.

At this year's NAB conference in Vegas, 4K was starting to take over in a really big way. I was flabbergasted by the difference in adoption between last year and this year. Everyone had 4K gear. I don't know how long it will take that to filter down to the consumer market, but I don't think streaming services are going to be able to keep up at all for a while. A 4K disc format will hopefully be in the offing.

That being said, Blu Ray has been a pretty raw deal for small and independent video producers. If you want to make a video and publish it on Blu Ray officially, you have to pay the Blu Ray consortium a hefty royalty fee up front and you are obligated to use DRM even if you don't want it. They have come down hard from the beginning so that you can't go to any replication house and get replicated BRDs made without going through this process. You're limited to burning BD-R discs on your own if you don't want to deal with that. Fortunately BD-Rs are 100% compatible with all Blu Ray players, unlike DVD-Rs and DVD players, which were very problematic with compatibility. (that's a long story in and of itself)

I was initially happy that Blu Ray won over HD-DVD until I found out how bad it was to actually just get something replicated onto BRD. I don't know that HD-DVD would have been any better though.

about 7 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Good Print Media Is Left?

PhantomHarlock Niche publications... (285 comments)

I write for and read a niche publication related to an obscure hobby of mine (related to model trains) and it actually sells very well and they still pay well for contributions. Mostly because the target audience is retirees who are of a generation that are used to and comfortable reading the printed page, and are happy to pay for it. Many of these people also supplement their subscription with online forum discussions, which has changed the nature of the magazine. The primary focus is on lengthy how-to articles that people would not normally compile for free and post online due to the time and effort involved, but are happy to put into print because they (and I) are being paid for it. Club announcements and updates and stuff are less needed thanks to online forums.

The one thing the magazine has not done is embraced a digital version and made their archives available digitally. One magazine that has done this to great effect is Model Railroader. Rather than collect stacks of back issues, you can now get the whole set online or on discs. One of the main issues depends on what the original contract with the writers looked like. If it did not have a 'and all future media' type clause, you would have to seek individual permission from each contributor to make the back issues available digitally. That has been one of the things holding back the particular magazine I write for. I myself am all in favor of making back issues available digitally. At the very least they could sell a digital edition beginning with new issues, with a new contract for the writers that includes it.

As far as mainstream periodicals, I occasionally like to pick up a Wall Street Journal or a New York Times when at an Airport, but 99.9% of my current news intake happens online these days. Financial Times of London is a good one, but again can be had online.

what I do read exclusively in printed form is books. I just like them, and I like to keep the best ones for re-reading later. Mine will be among the last generation to prefer this most likely.

about 8 months ago

3D Printing: Have You Taken the Plunge Yet? Planning To?

PhantomHarlock Re:Hype (251 comments)

The over-promising and hype has indeed hurt the reputation of the industry and it's painful every time I read some article that has the words '3D printing' and 'revolution' in the same sentence. In the mean time people who are familiar with a range of manufacturing options are getting good value out of what is there right now through services like Shapeways.

We also use RP extensively now in aerospace and it greatly increases workflow vs. having a CNC job run for a test article. Much less cost in shop hours to have a print house make a high quality plastic mockup for starters. In a few cases the RP part is the final part. (and more and more cases as time goes on.) RP is being used extensively in patternmaking for traditional casting as well.

about 9 months ago

3D Printing: Have You Taken the Plunge Yet? Planning To?

PhantomHarlock Not at home, here's why. (251 comments)

All the inexpensive hobby printers still make parts that look like melted spaghetti. They are useful only as test fit items, and even then only marginally so. The finish requires too much touch up and filler. One day they will get better, but not there yet.

I use shapeways a lot. No one can even come close for the price vs. quality at the moment, and the materials list keeps growing.

I make a lot of parts for large scale models of trains. Things that originally would have been cast and have complex shapes, like brackets, granb handles, brakewheels, rachets, pawls, trussrod washers. Saves a lot of time in the machine shop, and since I am only making one offs or two offs it is far cheaper and easier than making a pattern and having them cast traditionally. I use the high strength flexible plastic (PA2200) where I can for cost, and stainless RP where needed for functional parts.

Some of these I will be offering on SW to other modelers for a few extra dollars a month in mad money. Another nice SW perk.

I hope in five years I'll come back and say "I got my new home printer and I don't have to wait for the Shapeways delivery any more!" but the quality I need is still too expensive to own on a hobby basis.

about 9 months ago

The Rescue Plan That Could Have Saved Space Shuttle Columbia

PhantomHarlock The shuttle was only reusable... (247 comments)

...if you encapsulate the word "reusable" in quotes. and this is a good illustration of that fact.

At $2bn per flight and a stack of signatures a mile high for each one, they required significant dissasembly and inspection in-between flights. The shuttle was never designed as a production vehicle - it was a test article hastily pressed into production. To keep a "hot standby" for rescue missions would thus be quite costly.

The future is ultimately with 100% reusable "gas and go" vehicles with automotive-like reliability, and not with the latest "SLS" - Senate Launch System. These vehicles require more R&D upfront but the payoff is staggering.

about 10 months ago

CmdrTaco Launches Trove, a Curated News Startup

PhantomHarlock Initial check out (221 comments)

So I created an account using an email address (which is very well hidden compared to the big twit and FB buttons).

It's interesting, but it has a ways to go.

I selected a few "troves" to follow but I still received things from troves I am not following in my home page feed. (with gray trove name instead of green) Could not figure out how to get rid of those, nothing in the preferences that I can find. You do need to manually refresh after you add or remove troves it seems, to update your home page.

Will keep an eye on it as things improve.

about a year ago

Blowing Up a Pointless Job Interview

PhantomHarlock Trick questions and trivia questions are dishonest (692 comments)

The only thing you learn about an interviewee by asking them things like the tennis ball or manhole cover questions is whether or not they are a good candidate for a game show.

Obscure trivia is obscure trivia. It is meaningless.

Attempting to provoke an emotional response via trick questions or questions designed to insult or get the interviewee to take the bait and say something offensive is also dishonest, unless you are administering a voigt-kompf test.

Fortunately I have only ever had to interview for a job during one time in my life, and it was an employee's market so it was easy.

The one oddball question I had was actually a cool one. "Which Star Wars film is the best one" This was before the new ones came out. Any die hard old school star wars fan will typically agree that Empire Strikes Back is the best one, and I answered correctly. I was given a job offer but turned it down and took a job with another company that I really wanted to work for.

The Star Wars question was actually job related, it was a visual effects company and they wanted people that were also fans and had an appreciation of prior art.

Most of my work has come from networking, or running my own businesses. I can't imagine anything more soul sucking than having to submit hundreds of resumes and sit through dozens of interviews.

about a year ago


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