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Slashdot Anniversary: Santa Monica, CA, US

penguinchris such and such (12 comments)

I'm going to be a rebel and wear one of my BoingBoing shirts.

more than 2 years ago
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Feds Ban 'Buckyballs' Magnets

penguinchris Re:Only in America! (820 comments)

I had no idea they were actually banned in the US... I used to get them regularly in Canada when I was a kid growing up in a border town (Buffalo, NY). I regularly brought them back across the border, too, when I was older and went to Canada by myself or with friends. Canada has a whole different selection of non-toy-containing candy from us so I assumed it was just another thing we didn't get in the US (even though you can easily find other Kinder-brand items in the US).

The chocolate in those things is fantastic, by the way, and the toys are decent for what they are.

more than 2 years ago
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Best Buy Cuts 650 Geek Squad Techies

penguinchris Re:I think Best Buy and the author missed the poin (143 comments)

I'm not sure about the "great layout" part - I love Fry's as much as the next slashdotter but the way the stores are organized is ridiculous. For many categories of things there will be at least two separate places in the store with a selection of said things (not the same selection, a different selection). You can't just go to one aisle and expect to see everything in that category.

I mean, that does make it fun, because you have to hunt around the store meaning you'll see all kinds of other neat stuff - avoiding the salespeople as best you can along the way :)

more than 2 years ago
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Apple, Google: Battle of the Cloud Maps

penguinchris Re:Google Maps Gripes (179 comments)

It's always seemed to work fine for me in NYC, either driving or as a pedestrian, with my Nexus One. But you do need to have more situational awareness there than you do in more spread-out places, though of course that applies no matter how you're navigating there. You can't rely on following voice instructions like you (usually) can elsewhere because sometimes the signals bouncing off the buildings will confuse it - but you can glance at what street it wants you to turn on next and look for it yourself, and it will give you a rough idea at least of how close you are to the turn.

I suspect that smartphones mostly uses wi-fi triangulation in places like NYC, actually, and standalone GPS units are probably much worse.

The only parts of town where these things are an issue (anywhere in Manhattan) are relatively easy to navigate anyway because of the way the streets are gridded and numbered - and unlike that episode of Top Gear you won't have a problem with one-way streets because in NYC anyway they're all known to Google (and presumably GPS companies).

more than 2 years ago
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Apple, Google: Battle of the Cloud Maps

penguinchris Re:Google Maps Gripes (179 comments)

That must be a localized issue, it's known about every toll bridge/tunnel I've been across, on the east and west coasts and lots of different states and cities in between. It can even get you from mainland New York to Long Island and back without paying the ridiculous NYC bridge tolls (the least-convenient bridges don't have a toll but even if you look it up ahead of time it can be difficult to figure out where to go).

more than 2 years ago
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TomTom Flames OpenStreetMap

penguinchris Re:Which isn't Tomtom's market (345 comments)

You are right, that when I go visit my parents in Canada I can't use it, unless I want to pay roaming charges...

I'm from Buffalo, NY and drive to Toronto occasionally for various reasons. If you've updated the google map and nav apps lately, you can pre-cache map areas. What I do is make sure everything along my route is cached (I've only needed to cache it once but I'm not sure under what conditions it'll clear the cache so I just always check), and set a nav route to my destination in Toronto (if it isn't someplace I know how to get to already) before I leave.

Once you're there you can't get a nav route back unless you find wi-fi somewhere, of course, but you can just backtrack and like you imply, it's really not necessary - even if you're looking for a specific destination you haven't been to before. It's just nice to have sometimes.

If there are multiple places in Toronto I'm going (and there usually are) I just star them in google maps. Cacheing unfortunately doesn't let you search for places (although if you zoom in it has most place names including businesses so I hope they'll allow searching the cached data in future updates) but the stars still show up.

more than 2 years ago
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Golden Age of Silicon Valley Is Over With Facebook IPO

penguinchris Re:Facebook (222 comments)

You're kind of missing the point. Facebook *is* the "cloud" that replaces e-mail, forums, blogs, etc. (at least for a lot of people - I have an account but never use it, but do use the other options you mention). It's accessible from any device, anywhere, and if your friends and family are all using it too then you can handle essentially all of your correspondence on it. In two years everybody will certainly not be hosting their own communication systems.

Why would people who use it in that way - which, again, is not me but it is a lot of people - want to look for "other means" to do these things, when it's all already in one place?

We geeks will do our own thing. We tend to form connections differently, and more regularly have discussions with strangers (on the internet, like we're doing now). But even a lot of geeks see the appeal of all the people they care about being in one place.

This isn't to say that there isn't a better solution, in theory. A cloud-based decentralized system not controlled by a megacorp would be ideal - but it has to have all the features Facebook has and more, and it has to be seamless across any device like Facebook is. I think this is the idea behind Diaspora, but excepting some major event (like Facebook and Google Plus and Myspace and whatever else all suddenly disappearing, or forced integration into Windows maybe) Diaspora is probably going to remain a Linux-like niche.

more than 2 years ago
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Aero Glass UI No More On Windows 8

penguinchris Re:Nice job guys... (426 comments)

You clearly haven't used a Mac in several years. For at least the past three versions of OS X there's no ugly brushed aluminum anymore, and the stoplights (which were indeed ugly) are now all grey. In fact the entire UI is now almost completely greyscale (which is not necessarily ideal for usability, but it's not ugly anyway) and completely unobtrusive. And once I got used to Finder, I hate having to browse files on other computers - for me, Finder is far superior (of course I was coming from Linux where file explorers are terrible but I'm just as familiar with Windows Explorer).

I don't mean to start a Mac vs. Windows flamewar, but you're misinformed. And - crucially - the UI that one person prefers may feel like an abomination to another person. That's how I feel about Windows - even the classic NT/2000 interface, but especially the latest versions which even in stripped-down modes look ugly and feel awful in use to me.

more than 2 years ago
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Aero Glass UI No More On Windows 8

penguinchris Re:They got it all wrong (426 comments)

The Model T didn't have the same UI as modern cars. There was a great Top Gear segment where they went to an old car museum and drove a bunch of cars, including the Model T (and one created by my great-great-grandfather Duryea), to show all the different interfaces that were around before everyone decided on something.

It's true that it did have a steering wheel and pedals, but other than that superficial similarity (and the fact that the steering wheel works essentially the same) everything works completely differently than a modern car :)

more than 2 years ago
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Aero Glass UI No More On Windows 8

penguinchris Re:They got it all wrong (426 comments)

You know, to most people motorcycles/motorbikes are a huge statement (both fashion and otherwise). Whether or not that's your intent when you ride your motorbike, that's how people perceive you - as making some sort of statement.

If you wanted to avoid making a fashion statement with your "ride", your best bet would be a common (and thus fairly anonymous), mid-priced (being either cheap or extravagant is a statement but even rich people drive mid-priced cars sometimes) sedan/saloon car in a neutral color. A motorbike is pretty much the last thing you'd choose :)

more than 2 years ago
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Kodak Basement Lab Housed Small Nuclear Reactor

penguinchris Re:I had a clue (169 comments)

After animal activists went after Wegmans for their egg farms a few years ago, they preemptively quit selling their own duck. You can still find it there, but it's in the "Game Meats" section which is all prepackaged stuff brought in from elsewhere.

After that, it became a lot more dangerous for urban explorers to go into Rochester's abandoned subway...

more than 2 years ago
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Is Google the New Microsoft?

penguinchris Re:Let's just say (492 comments)

Are you really trying to pull what amounts to a "No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame." argument, and here of all places? ;)

more than 2 years ago
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MacBook Pro Fragrance Created

penguinchris Re:Buying product with better resale throwing mone (114 comments)

I think there may be a difference in the type of problems Mac users typically have vs. what other users have, but that's just speculation.

What isn't speculation is that if you have a problem with your Mac, you can take it to an Apple store and they will fix it right there while you wait (if they can - obviously not everything can be fixed in-store quickly), for free. I recently took my 3-year-old Macbook Pro in because the touchpad stopped working, and they fixed it for free even though it was two years past the warranty expired (it turns out I could have fixed it myself, but I didn't have the right screwdriver for their security screws... but that's a different discussion, and the point is that I didn't have to do it myself and neither do people who aren't experienced techies).

What do you do if your Asus or Toshiba has a problem? I honestly don't know, but I guarantee it's not as convenient and is probably quite unpleasant.

Apple has an obvious advantage because they have retail stores and are able to offer that service, but, there's really nothing stopping the other manufacturers from doing the same thing (except the fact that they care more about profit margins than customer service). I'd think it'd be a huge boon for the other manufacturers if they decided to get together and install non-douchey customer service and repair people at certain retail stores across the country (e.g. they'd take the place of Geek Squad at Best Buy, or at Radio Shack or some other nationwide chain) to provide a similar service. Or maybe an expansion of the Microsoft Store nationwide - I've been in the one at Costa Mesa and it seems like they could provide similar things that the Apple Store does.

more than 2 years ago
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Mandatory Brake-Override Proposed For All Cars

penguinchris Re:Just turn off the car? (911 comments)

I don't know what difference it may make but when I had to do that for a while (starter broke on my manual car and I was working at a summer camp sort of in the middle of nowhere) I always put it in 2nd, or reverse, and pushed with my left leg out the door a minimal amount before popping the clutch (a bit of fancy footwork was required unless I had a passenger to push). Perhaps if you put it in 5th you wouldn't get as big of a lurch (unintended acceleration!), but is it as easy to get it to turn over?

BTW the summer camp was in Canada north of Toronto, and I lived in Buffalo NY at the time. After driving 5+ hours back to the border with no issues, the customs guy told me to turn off the engine! I've crossed the border dozens (if not hundreds) of times and never had them ask me that before or since - only when the starter was broken :)

more than 2 years ago
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Facebook To Buy Instagram For $1 Billion

penguinchris Re:What was instagram? (162 comments)

The draw was that it's its own social network focused exclusively on snapshots. You may be on to something that Facebook bought it to stifle further growth of the social side of Instagram, now that it's available on Android.

more than 2 years ago
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How Las Vegas Missed Out on a Life-Sized Starship Enterprise

penguinchris Re:better idea (240 comments)

A giant penguin would be cool, and I would go out of my way to stay at a penguin-shaped hotel (which you might guess based on my screen name), but I think a giant flamingo hotel would be more appropriate for Vegas - and would be really cool with the long legs being glass tunnels that the elevators go up. But that has the same structural support questions that an actual full-size Enterprise would have. A penguin would be a lot simpler.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?

penguinchris Re:Physics? (279 comments)

That was very helpful. The only thing I can add is a reiteration of your last point. It sounds like your situation was worse, but I got screwed by my graduate adviser and two years after leaving the school I haven't been able to find a job or another graduate program. It's crucial to stay on their good side.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Advice For Budding Scientist?

penguinchris Re:The News Is Not Reality (279 comments)

That's great for you but what can you say to young academics today who will find extreme difficulty in attaining such a position?

Not everyone will get such a position, of course, we understand that. But what can we do to improve the odds?

Just as in every other part of the economy, there isn't enough funding for all the potential grad students and certainly not enough professor jobs for them once they finish. To me there's a huge disconnect being pushed - politicians call for more students in science and engineering, but once the students are there, there's no place for them to go. And it's outrageous that this is the case - we could have a much stronger science and engineering base in this country than we do (not that it isn't already strong). I'm one of several advanced science degree holders in my circle of friends who can't find a relevant job and can't find a professor with funding for grad students to go back to school with.

I realize that you as a professor of twenty years are insulated from all that, but surely you've seen such issues in your department, with more well-qualified students applying than you have funding for, and students finishing PhDs and then not being able to find a position?

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Have You Handled Illegal Interview Topics?

penguinchris Re:Discrimination (714 comments)

It would be nice if you note in the job listing that you won't provide visa sponsorship (if you do and people don't see it or ignore it, that's a different matter).

Though how you expect people to get visa sponsorship from any other source, I'm not sure. I've run into this myself as a geologist who can't find a job - I'm willing to move to whatever random country for a job (in fact, I would enjoy it), and lots of e.g. oil companies have job openings in other countries and post listings looking for US candidates. But they won't sponsor your visa. WTF?

more than 2 years ago
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Have Online Comment Sections Become Specious?

penguinchris Re:Use forums instead (429 comments)

Has The Buffalo News suddenly started printing anything worthwhile since I stopped reading it... when I was 10?

It's not the worst local newspaper I've seen, not by a long shot. But it's pretty bad. I realize I'm an unfair judge as someone who doesn't care about Buffalo - but that includes everyone who grew up there and tried to get away as soon as possible, and most of the people who still live there.

more than 2 years ago

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