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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 a week 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 a month 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 a month 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 2 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 3 months 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 3 months ago

New Home Automation?

PhantomHarlock Re:Don't. (336 comments)

My family's 1963 house came with an intercom system when it was built. It was a fad at the time the tract was built. They never used it much either. It's still in place though it hasn't worked in a long time.

about 3 months ago

New Home Automation?

PhantomHarlock Re:Z-Wave (336 comments)

My experience with Insteon is that it does very badly if you have unreliable power. I live in a rural area and brownouts or voltage variations will kill Insteon devices in no time. I installed insteon switches in nearly the entire house, and nearly all of them died after a few years. I gave up and put the regular light switches back in (which I had saved just in case) and decided that home automation was a hobby that I did not have the time or money to deal with properly. Some of the other posters farther down have the right idea...if it's not wired it's a toy, and if you're building a 4,000 sq ft house, you might be able to consider the higher end stuff. When you turn a light switch on you want it to just work.

about 3 months ago

Google Brings AmigaOS to Chrome Via Native Client Emulation

PhantomHarlock Works pretty well (157 comments)

As a former long time Amiga user, this seems to work pretty well on the outset, and gives an authentic experience in regards to the clock timing and boot time. (though it thankfully may be a little faster :) ) It looks like they are using the emulation code from Cloanto (Amiga Forever) which has been around for quite a long time now.

This OS and demos may look very simple to younger folks, but it was quite groundbreaking at the time. the H.A.M. (Hold and Modify) demo showing 4096 colors was pretty impressive at a time when most PCs were stuck with 256 colors. There are a lot of really nice demos for the Amiga from the demoscene that took all of that a step further even, hopefully someone thought to save and compile them.

The only issue I ran into so far is on the juggler demo, the ESC key is needed to exit the demo, while on the emulator the ESC key is what switches you away from the emulator mouse to your native mouse, so it does not trigger an ESC on the Amiga. (you need to reset the emulator) Juggler doesn't let you pull down the screen to reveal the workbench. There may have been a keyboard shortcut that I have forgotten about to toggle screens. I haven't touched an Amiga in 20 years.

Hats off to the coders, brought back a lot of memories.

about 4 months ago

The Real Story of Hacking Together the Commodore C128

PhantomHarlock Re:Megahertz myth and the 6502 (179 comments)

And as a descendent to that is was amazing what the Amiga did with the 68000 and its custom graphics and sound chips, as you mention at the very end. you never saw smooth scrolling and sprite movement on a PC. The Amiga and the C=64 both had arcade quality graphics locked to a 60hz interlaced or 1/2 vertical res (single field) refresh rate of a standard NTSC television signal. Since the whole thing was timed to that frequency, you never got tearing. The only downside was interlace flicker without a frame doubler, but not a lot of applications used interlaced mode.

about 4 months ago

The Real Story of Hacking Together the Commodore C128

PhantomHarlock It was worth having the 128... (179 comments)

...to play Ultima V in dual SID mode.

After several C=64s and the 128, I moved to the Amiga, which got me into the VFX business thanks to the Video Toaster and Lightwave.

Looking forward to reading this article. If it's good I'll stash a copy next to my "Rise and Fall of Commodore" book.

about 4 months ago

Tesla Planning an Electric Pickup Truck, Says Elon Musk

PhantomHarlock Re:The main issue with an electric pickup... (293 comments)

Depends on where you are. Priuses (Priii?) are everywhere in urban environments, but last time I visited texas oil country, every last car in a parking lot at lunch one day was a full size pickup.

about 5 months ago

Tesla Planning an Electric Pickup Truck, Says Elon Musk

PhantomHarlock Re:Hard market to break into (293 comments)

A large factor in the derth of small pickups is the chicken tax, the stupidest protectionist law still on the books.

about 5 months ago

Tesla Planning an Electric Pickup Truck, Says Elon Musk

PhantomHarlock The main issue with an electric pickup... (293 comments)

...is towing capacity. The tremendous torque would make it no problem for power, but range is a huge issue. Buzzing around town light, no problem. But the traditional use of a full size pickup to haul boats, toy haulers, travel trailers and 5th wheels long distance would probably garner almost nonexistant range due to the wind drag and weight. It's hard enough to make that equation work with diesel and gas - I take a significant hit when hooking up the toy hauler trailer.

So you would have a choice of a gas vehicle that will do all those things, or an electric vehicle that is probably only good for short hauls or not towing, and then needing still another vehicle to do towing. A hybrid is a better case for that use, as long as the power is there when you need it.

For all those people that drive them only for a status symbol but don't actually make use of them, then that might be a good market for them.

I use my 7.3L turbodiesel about once a month to pull heavy things like god intended it to, and the rest of the time I'm in my 30MPG car.

about 5 months ago

Fuel Cell-Powered Data Centers Could Cut Costs and Carbon

PhantomHarlock Did they take into account... (108 comments)

...the energy cost of separating the hydrogen from the oxygen? That is currently the Achilles heel of fuel cells. It takes more energy to do that than to burn fossil fuels or nuclear directly. Though every once in a while someone comes up with a lab-proof for doing it more efficiently. Anyone have the latest on that technology?

about 6 months ago

Lessons From the Healthcare.gov Fiasco

PhantomHarlock Are there any positive examples... (501 comments)

It seems like many times when a large government entity spends billions of dollars on a large IT project to consolidate or make more efficient the handling of lots of data, it frequently ends up in massive amounts of wasted money and failed projects, with lots of pork doled out to consultancies and middlemen, and in the worse cases ends up with the project abandoned entirely with all the money down the toilet. Many examples have been posted to /. in the last 10 years.

Are there some good cases of where the money was well spent, and a solid, cohesive working product came out of it?

Some of the root cause may be the politicizing of the contract process in the first place (beltway bandits and congress critters mandating a piece of the work go to their district) and the letting of cost-plus contracts. Other times may be the requirement to take the absolute lowest bidder, which ends up with someone who lowballed the job and cannot possibly execute it properly within the promised budget.

How does one properly motivate and direct a team under these conditions? The actual production of the software needs to be isolated from the politics above, and act as if they are working for a small company developing a new commercial website. With lack of competition - it's not like people can go to all those other government healthcare websites - a replacement incentive needs to be put in place if one wishes to tread down that path. In a monopoly situation, these are common problems. Highly centralized services do not take into account basic human nature.

Earlier in the last decade, there was a famous powerpoint slide that made the rounds within Aerospace circles. It was titled "SLI - The Work of a Nation" and showed which pieces of the Space Launch Initiative* were to be built in which congressional districts. It was the butt of many jokes as de-centralizing the production of such a complicated item always results in ballooning costs as it makes it extremely costly and difficult to integrate the various components. That may not be the case here but it's definitely seen in other federal projects.

* the then-current name for the over-bloated, impossibly expensive shuttle replacement heavy launch system now known as SLS - Senate Launch System as goes the joke.

about 6 months ago

Japan Controls Rocket Launch With Just 8 People and 2 Laptops

PhantomHarlock Any time... (94 comments)

...you see a huge hoard of people launching a spacecraft, or massive ground support infrastructure, you are looking at obsolete technology.

A step in the right direction.

about 7 months ago

Majority of Enterprise Customers Finally 'Migrating Away From Windows XP'

PhantomHarlock Re:Windows 7... (246 comments)

Correct, the Win2k theme. Should have clarified. The default XP theme is hideous.

about 7 months ago

Majority of Enterprise Customers Finally 'Migrating Away From Windows XP'

PhantomHarlock Windows 7... (246 comments)

...is actually nice desktop OS for functional productivity. It's like having XP but upgraded under the hood for modern hardware. Mine is tastefully retrograded to the XP UI theme, plus some deeper settings to get rid of some of the annoying defaults regarding the task bar.

Had no issues with it for a number of years now and plan to continue using it for the time being.

about 7 months ago


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