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Ask Slashdot: Are Progressive Glasses a Mistake For Computer Users?

minkie Single-vision wins (464 comments)

What you want to do is get a dedicated pair of glasses for sitting at the computer. And, don't let them give you any bull about, "We just have to measure you for distance and reading, and can calculate it from that". Get a tape measure (one of those cloth ones used by tailors works great) and measure how far away your screen is from your eyes is as your normally sit. Do this a bunch of times over a few days to make sure it's accurate. If you also use a laptop, measure that distance too (in whatever posture you normally use your laptop). You may find it's not the same as your desktop. It might help to enlist somebody to help you make these measurements.

Then, tell your eye doctor to measure your eyes for that distance. The standard machine they use can do that, they just don't like to do it because it takes more time. There's a calibrated rod that attaches to the phoropter (that's the Rube-Goldberg thing you look through with all the dials and lenses), and a card they can hang from that at any specified distance. It's called a near-point scale. The doctor should set that at whatever distance you measured for your workspace.

Next, make sure the doctor writes a specific prescription for this distance. Again, don't let them give you any crap about how the optician will figure it out from your distance and reading Rx's. All the optician will do is average them, which may be good, or it may not be. Insist they do it right. If your doctor isn't willing to take the time to do the exam right, vote with your feet. Many doctors won't want to do this because it takes more time, and time is money.

Then, have a set of full-vision glasses made up with that intermediate prescription. Use them. Keep them at your desk if that's more convenient than carrying two pairs of glasses around with you.

I found progressive lenses horrible. I went through a few attempts, and eventually settled on old-fashioned bifocals. The kind with the line in them. In addition to the full-vision intermediate lenses described above, I have a pair of bifocals made up for my exact use-case: being able to see the whiteboard or screen in a meeting, and still be able to work at my laptop. To do that, I have my distance Rx in the top, and my *intermediate* Rx in the bottom. I also had them drop the line between these a little, so I really have to look down to see through the lower part. And, the lower part is also a little wider than the standard area. It's exactly what I needed. The thing to realize is they can make up any combination of lenses to fit your exact need. Car mechanics often have bifocals made up with the near-vision lens on top (so they can see what they're doing when working under a car on a lift). It's called occupational lenses. If your optician isn't willing to work with you to make you exactly what you need, again, vote with your feet. PS, some vision plans will pay for occupational lenses above and beyond the regular benefits.

about a month ago

Comparison: Linux Text Editors

minkie Editor warrs, the next generation (402 comments)

It used to be that the editor wars were vi vs. emacs. Now we've evolved to the point where it's the text-based editors (vi and emacs lumped into the same camp) vs. the graphical-based ones (sublime and all the rest).

I've never used Sublime, but a few people in my office use it, and I'll admit, it looks pretty neat. If I was editing files exclusively on my desktop, it might well be what I would use (and I say that after 30-odd years as a die-hard emacs user). But, the biggest problem I see with Sublime (and I'm assuming the same for rest of the graphical editors) is that it doesn't work and play well in a cloud environment.

We do all our work on servers in a hosting provider. My desktop is just for reading mail, browsing, and hosting terminals windows. And maybe, as I get dragged kicking and screaming into gmail, that list might get reduced to just "browsing and terminal windows". All the files I want to edit are remote. I've got my terminal program configured so one click gets me a shell connection on a remote machine, then I run emacs (in text mode, i.e. -nw). All my files are there.

I watch my office mates who use Sublime struggle with moving files back and forth. Drag a file down from the server to their desktop. Edit it in sublime. Push it back up to the server. There's some kind of integration which takes much of the drudgery out of that, but it's still pretty clunky. Even if you used something like sshfs to mount your remote directory, it's still a lot slower (I'll often grep 100's of source files to find a function name; that would be deathly over sshfs).

Yes, you could run the sublime app on the remote machine, talking to the X11 server on your desktop, but that's pretty horrible in its own way. It does solve the problem of getting the editor close to the files, but U/I performance sucks over most real-life networks.

I will admit that the idea of customizing/extending my editor using elisp is just frightening. A cool idea 35 years ago, but at this point, it's absurd. I'm glad that there are still a few lovable fanatics out there continuing to maintain the language bindings I use, but it's clear that's at an evolutionary dead end.. The fact that Sublime uses Python is one of the things that makes it attractive.

about 6 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Joining a Startup As an Older Programmer?

minkie a few years over 40??? (274 comments)

I'm 55. 4 years ago, I left a good paying job at a Fortune-100 cube farm (where I was miserable) and went with a startup (where I'm having fun again). Best decision I ever made. I'm the oldest person in the company. Many of the people I work with are half my age. It all works just fine. Get over it. You're there to do a job, not be a frat buddy. If you don't want to go clubbing with the guys after work, don't go clubbing.

On the other hand, go into it with your eyes open. Startups are not the most financially stable place to work. Before I took this job, I discussed it with my wife. We've got no kids, no debt, and enough in the bank that if the startup went bust in 6 months (as, statistically, startups are likely to do), we'd still be OK. I would be more worried if I had kids to support, and loss of a paycheck might mean missing a mortgage or car payment.

about 9 months ago

New Service Lets You Hitch a Ride With Private Planes For Cost of Tank of Gas

minkie Re:Having a private pilots license (269 comments)

The article says, "Airpooler’s legal counsel is a former Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulation at the FAA", so I suspect they have a reasonable idea of what's legal and what's not. On the other hand, as they saying goes, "We're the FAA. We're not happy until you're not happy", so, yeah, anything's possible.

That being said, having been a flight instructor myself, I've seen a lot of amazingly scary aviation being committed. You are truly taking your life in your hands when you jump into an unfamiliar plane with an unfamiliar pilot. And I'm not sure if the mechanical condition of the average GA plane or the skill of the average GA pilot frightens me more.

about 10 months ago

Kodak Ends Production of Acetate Base For Photographic Film

minkie Re:Thankfully (137 comments)

I'm sure you can get both for a lot less than $50 on Craig's List, or freecycle. I gave my setup away years ago. I only hope the person I gave it to got some use out of it before dumping it in the trash.

about a year and a half ago

AT&T Quietly Adds Charges To All Contract Cell Plans

minkie Re:Surcharge (338 comments)

A good way to get the attention of somebody like a phone company is to file a complaint with your state's Public Service Commission. The PSC will forward the complaint to the company, who will have to respond officially to the PSC. If they're going to jerk you around, that's the best way to jerk them right back.

about a year and a half ago

T-Mobile Ends Contracts and Subsidies

minkie Re:They get it (404 comments)

On the other hand, Ting is great for people like me who don't watch video on their phone. I do email and maps/gps/traffic. I save a ton of money over my old AT&T plan where I never came close to using up my minutes or data quota but had to pay for it anyway.

about 2 years ago

Taking a Hard Look At SSD Write Endurance

minkie Re:100,000? (AWS?) (267 comments)

Which technology is Amazon using for their AWS instances? Their instance description page (http://aws.amazon.com/ec2/instance-types/) doesn't say one way or the other.

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Favorite Monitor For Programming?

minkie Re:27" FTW (375 comments)

I've tried 30" monitors and they were just too big, but for me 2x27" is perfect.

I've got 2 x 27" now, and I keep thinking if I were to do it all again, I'd go with a single 30. The problem with 2 monitors is you can't really have a window spanning the break in the middle. The OS supports it, of course, but it's annoying since the two halves never line up perfectly, and even if they did, there's a gap. Plus, of course, twice as many cables.

Or, maybe it's just a case of the grass is always greener on the other desktop.

about 2 years ago

Facebook Sued By Rembrandt IP For Two Patent Violations

minkie Re:When will this stop? (105 comments)

I patented the process to think.

Near as I can tell, very few people are actually violating your patent.

about 2 years ago

From a NAND Gate To Tetris

minkie There's some bad physics going on here (103 comments)

I looked at the "Getting Started With Digital Logic - Logic Gates" part. Anybody who has actually built something with TTL on a breadboard should know that 7400 series gates can sink a lot more current than they can source. Connecting a logic output to ground through a LED may not draw enough current to turn the LED on fully. The right way to do it is to connect the LED between the logic output and the Vcc rail in a pull-down configuration (with a current limiting resistor). Of course, that gives you inverted logic (LED on means logic 0, LED off means logic 1), but you get used to that. If it bothers you, use an inverter.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: What Were You Taught About Computers In High School?

minkie Mid-70's (632 comments)

I graduated from a pretty typical suburban NJ high school in 1977. We had an HP 9810 (http://www.hpmuseum.net/display_item.php?hw=51), and also a ARS-33 connected to a time-shared BASIC system a few towns away. I got to play with them my junior and senior years. That was my first introduction to any sort of computer. It was, or course, also my first introduction to computer games (hunt the wumpus, lunar landrer, and some kind of Star Trek thing where you got to explore the galaxy and blow up klingons with photon torpedos.

I was also lucky to spend the summer between my last two years of high school at a program run by Stevens Tech, where I was exposed to FORTRAN and PDP-10 assembler (both via punch cards).

more than 2 years ago

FAA Permits American Airlines To Use iPads In Cockpit "In All Phases of Flight"

minkie Re:Not too suprising (372 comments)

Have you ever seen the reams and reams of paper in 3 ring binders...

Actually, 7 ring binders. They look like http://www.pooleys.com/prod_detail.cfm?product_id=843. Why 7 rings? So pages that get used day in and day out don't tear out of the binder.

more than 2 years ago

How Apple Killed the Linux Desktop

minkie OSX desktop / linux backend, best of both worlds (933 comments)

This, he says, led developers to use OS X as a desktop for server programming.

I've made several attempts over the years to use Linux on the desktop. Every time, I end up running back to OSX. What I've got now is the best of both words. All of our servers are linux. I have a linux box locally I use for development. I also have a Mac Mini on my desk and use that for my desktop (and a MBP I use from home or when on the road). With a trivial amount of work, you can configure profiles in Terminal.app so you just click on an icon and you've got an ssh window open to whatever host you need to work on. I can export my linux file system and mount it on my Mac using NFS. It's all completely seamless.

The extra hardware cost is hardly worth mentioning (you can get a Mini for $4-600, depending on how you configure it). For the one or two times a year I need to get to the real linux desktop, I just hit the "input select" button on my monitor, and swap where my USB keyboard is plugged into. In theory, I can fire up X11 on my Mac to run linux X11 apps, but I can't remember the last time I bothered. At one point, I experimented with desktop sharing (Chicken of the VNC, gotta love that name), but that's far more pain than it's worth.

more than 2 years ago

Hurricane Could Make a Mess of Republican Convention

minkie Shut that whole thing down. (503 comments)

I wouldn't worry about it. If it's a legitimate hurricane, the Republican party has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.

more than 2 years ago

Digg.com Sold To Betaworks For $500,000

minkie Re:Look on the bright side (193 comments)

For Red Hat the product is support, sold to companies, and for Facebook the product is you, sold to advertisers.

In some cases, the product is the company, sold to the stockholders. That's the only sale that matters.

more than 2 years ago

Why Linux Can't 'Sell' On the Desktop

minkie Linux: great server, crappy desktop (1091 comments)

I've made several attempts over the years to run Linux as my desktop. I inevitably give up. Most recently, for about a year, running some relatively recent Ubuntu release. As a server, it's an excellent platform, but the desktop tools just suck. Every X11 app is just a little bit different in how it handles basic things like window management and copy-paste. It drives me nuts. I think I've found the sweet spot. I run a OSX on a Mac Mini for my desktop and do all my work on a Linux box. I get the best of both worlds.

more than 2 years ago

T-Mobile Exec Calls For End To Cell Phone Subsidies

minkie Re:Apple is killing text messaging (355 comments)

Personally, I think it's great that carriers rip people off for SMS. I probably average 2 or 3 texts a month, and that only to respond to a very few people who text me. I'm happy that there's millions of other people out there forking over obscene amounts of money to the telcos to subsidize my voice and data usage.

more than 2 years ago

Linode Exploit Caused Theft of Thousands of Bitcoins

minkie Re:Newsflash (450 comments)

Insurance is all about sharing risk. I'm unwilling to risk my house burning down. I know it's not likely that it will, but if it does, the loss would be devastating to me. Most people feel that same way, so we all get together and share the risk. In return for a promise that none of us will ever have to suffer the catastrophic loss, we all chip in a small fraction of our home value every year and create a pool from which to compensate those who are unlucky enough to have their house burn down. What the insurance companies do is essentially act as a market maker for these risk pools. Rather then me have to go out and find 1,000,000 people to share the risk with, the insurance company does it for me (and takes a small fraction of the pool as their profit)

Now, the insurance company doesn't want risk any more than I do. To avoid that, they need to make sure they charge enough in premiums to pay off all likely claims. And to do that, they need to be able to accurately evaluate the probability of a claim. For open-ended liabilities (i.e. a replacement cost homeowners policy), they also need to be able to accurately estimate the maximum size of a claim.

For things like fire insurance on houses, there's tons of history to base these estimates on. They've insured hundreds of millions of houses, and have been doing it for many years. They've paid off millions of claims. For a given location, type of construction, age of house, etc, they know exactly what the risks are and can price the policy accordingly. Ditto for group health insurance, automobile insurance, and so on.

But, bitcoins? Insurance companies have no clue about bitcoins. There's essentially zero history establishing what they're worth, and likewise there's essentially zero history establishing what the risks are. How often do bitcoins get stolen, lost, destroyed, etc? What best practices exist to reduce the risk of these losses? What types of fraud might exist in bitcoin loss claims, and how can the company determine if a claim is fraudulent or not? For the most part, there are no answers to these questions. At least not today. Thus, it's unlikely that you would be willing to find an insurance company willing to accept any bitcoin risk. And if you did, it would probably come with a very high premium, fixed liability limit, and onerous conditions. For a large insured value, you might also find that the only way a company would take the risk would be if there was a consortium of companies which all took a part of the risk (this is what places like LLoyds of London are all about).

more than 2 years ago

How To Sneak In To a Security Conference

minkie Re:Body language is an effective tool (189 comments)

Tell me about it. I used to work in a hospital (not as a member of the medical staff). I had a labcoat that I kept mostly to keep warm when the air conditioning got too cold. If I put it on and wandered the halls, there was pretty much nowhere I couldn't go. I'll bet if I hung a stethoscope around my neck, I could have walked into the OR and nobody would have said "boo".

Adjust the costume to fit the venue. Hardhat at a construction site. Trial case in a courthouse. If you saw a guy with a pitchfork and covered in manure walking through a stable, would you stop him and demand to see his ID?

more than 2 years ago


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