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White House: Use Metric If You Want, We Don't Care

yellowstone Re:Start here (1145 comments)

A better place to start would be to explain why I should put up with a switch to a bunch of mostly unfamiliar measures of distance, volume, and temperature?

Because honestly, the "big problem" for imperial measures (lots of weird measures with odd conversions) really has never been a problem for me. It doesn't matter what a rod or a hogshead is (or a bushel, or a dram, or how many teaspoons in a gallon, or inches in a mile) because I pretty much never need to know (and if I do need to know, I can just google it).

about a year and a half ago

How Many Text Messages Do You Send a Day?

yellowstone Re:Age Gap (217 comments)

10 a day? How about 10 a year? Also, get off of my lawn.

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Best Mobile Phone Solution With No Data Plan?

yellowstone Tracfone (294 comments)

I have a Tracfone, and like it pretty well.

  • For US$20, I get 90 days + 120 minutes (+ usually a bonus 20 minutes). If you need more minutes, they're not that expensive.

  • You have your choice of phones. You can get a Smart Phone if you want, but you can also get a relatively primitive phone for US$20. I've got one of the cheaper ones. Supports texting (although I've only used that a little bit) and web browsing.

  • Best of all, it's pay-as-you-go, and so all it takes to "opt out" is to stop buying renewal time.

more than 2 years ago

Building 2011's Sub-$200 Computer

yellowstone Re:Press F2 to continue... (394 comments)

I think it's a fair assumption that anyone willing to assemble a computer from parts is going to have stuff like spare keyboards, mice, and what-not lying around. And who doesn't have a USB drive anymore? Also (at least where I live) the library has publicly accessible computers (although a library card is required here). You may also need to get your distro via torrent, depending on available bandwidth, restrictions on duration you can use the computer, and the distro size.

I think the real cheat is any budget that involves a mail-in rebate.

Yeah, no argument there.

more than 3 years ago

The "Scientific Impotence" Excuse

yellowstone Re:Most people... (892 comments)

... aren't intelligent enough to assess the quality of their own thinking.

Oh, but thankfully, you are free of this terrible malady! Please, please, mister smart person... tell us again how the science is settled, the time for debate is over?

more than 4 years ago

I suspect my current job will end when ...

yellowstone When I induce the singularity! (409 comments)

After that, I suppose I'll just stay home and play Duke Nukem Forever.

more than 4 years ago

On Pennies:

yellowstone Re:Rounding to EUR 0.05 (594 comments)

I'd prefer small $1 coins over the bills

The US has $1 coins. Nobody uses them. Probably because most people carry around more metal than they want anyway.

I always get the wrong bills out, because they all look the same.

Let me help you out. The bills with the big '1' at each corner? Those are the $1 bills. If it's got a big '5' on each corner? That's a $5 bill. Etc, etc. Seriously, how hard can that be?

more than 4 years ago

SF Signal Meme: what book are you reading right now?

yellowstone Re:Here's mine with less detail: (2 comments)

I've read all the original (i.e. by Frank Herbert) Dune books (including the first four recently). Dune Messiah can be a tough read, but is short enough to make through just on sheer determination. In my experience, Children of Dune is much better (and an easier read), while God Emperor of Dune is mostly a long slog through a lot of talk and not much action.

I remember liking the last two (Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune) quite a bit when I first read them, but it was a long time ago (I'll probably go back to this when I finish System of the World).

I've also read 3 of the "Brian Herbert" books (House Atreides, House Harkonnen, and House Corrino). They were OK, but... well, not Frank Herbert's style (which I guess can be both good and bad--as you are discovering, he can go a long way without explaining much).

Art of Computer Programming can be a tough read, too. I remember reading the part where he's talking about floating point representation, and he has a statement (something like)

the decimal point can be interpreted on the extreme left (liberally) or the extreme right (conservatively)

I puzzled over that... I don't remember how long before I realized he was making a joke.

more than 4 years ago

Microsoft Says, Don't Press the F1 Key In XP

yellowstone Advisory is not quite right (324 comments)

Here, let me fix it:

[T]he vulnerability relates to [...] using Internet Explorer

You're welcome.

Best way to stay trouble free on Windows? Don't use IE. Or Outlook. Or IIS.

more than 4 years ago

How To Enter Equations Quickly In Class?

yellowstone Re:What's old is new (823 comments)

I already have a HUGE set of properly formatted equations all nicely written out, it's called the Book.

1) You never had an instructor talk about something not in the text?

2) Personally, I find taking notes during lecture (or reading a text!) helps me retain the information, even if I already have my own record of what's being discussed.

more than 5 years ago

The Most Useless Key On My Keyboard Is...

yellowstone I'm an emacs user! (939 comments)

You insensitive clod!

more than 5 years ago

At What Temperature (F) Do You Prefer Your Nerd Cave?

yellowstone Summer or winter? (1233 comments)

...it makes a difference. In the summer, the AC is generally set to ~80F (26.7C). In the winter, the heat is usually set to ~68F (20C).

more than 5 years ago

SMS Hack Could Make iPhones Vulnerable

yellowstone Here's what to do (254 comments)

If you survive the initial peril (the next thirty hours or so), then there are obvious procedures that can give relative safety: Do not accept High Beyond protocol packets. At the very least, route all communications through Middle Beyond sites, with translation down to, and then up from, local trade languages.

more than 5 years ago

Italy May Hold Its Own Pirate Bay Trial

yellowstone Bad summary (120 comments)

Pirate Bay is not the same as dimeadozen, zomb, traders den, etc.

more than 5 years ago

ARM — Heretic In the Church of Intel, Moore's Law

yellowstone Re:monster market (390 comments)

These are the people who have enough money to buy things like bicycles, motor bikes, televisions, and cell phones. A great many would love to own a computer [...] But they can't afford the price.

There is a local store that sells "refurbished" computers. Last time I was there, they were selling 800mhz x86s for US$100, and 2000mhz for US$200 (price includes monitor, keyboard and mouse). Maybe they can't buy a new computer, but if you've got a C note to spare, you can get a computer.

Another anecdote: last year, a place having a yard sale had some computers out. I picked up a 800mhz x86 box for US$25. It had a tiny HD and not very much RAM, but it worked (and works: it's the computer I'm using right now).

more than 5 years ago


yellowstone hasn't submitted any stories.



Was it a mistake for Decca to turn down the Beatles?

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 3 years ago

I just clicked on an article The Stupidest Business Decisions in History. First on the list was the record label Decca, declining to sign the Beatles to a record contract.

For those that aren't aware of the background: in the late 50s and early 60s, the Beatles were a cover band that, not to put too fine a point on it, played a lot of dives in Hamburg Germany. Along came Brian Epstien to be their manager, and set to work getting them a recording contract.

Epstien got them an audition with Decca, and early in the morning of January 1, 1962, the Beatles recorded 15 songs for them.

If you click through to look at the set list, notice it's mostly cover songs, along with three Lennon/McCartney originals. Also note that, with the exceptions of Money and Till there was you, none of these songs made it into their main-line releases. (Versions of some of them can be found on Live at the BBC).

The fact is... these demos are pretty underwhelming. There's just none of the raw energy you can hear on Please Please Me, and the Lennon/McCartney compositions don't come anywhere near the quality of their later work. (Four of the tracks are available on the Anthology 1 set, for those that are interested).

Of course, in rejecting the Beatles, Decca executives famously said "guitar groups are on the way out". But the fact is, even if they had prescience to know that was wrong, there's precious little evidence on the Decca audition recordings that the Beatles would or could lead a world-wide resurgence of guitar groups..

So, while Decca didn't handle things very well, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that John, Paul, George, and Pete Best were not the Fab Four (or even the Fab Three plus another guy) yet, and it probably would've been a mistake for Decca to sign them to a recording contract.


Bookmarklet: sane margins

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Ever visited a web page that has text from one side of the browser to the other? (GNU is a particular offender.)

Here's a bookmarklet to give you sane margins:

javascript:var style=document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0].style;style.marginLeft=style.marginRight='1in';style.maxWidth='7in';void(0)

White space can be a wonderful thing.

Update: fixed stupid typo. document, not documents


Has CSS (+ JavaScript) wrecked the WWW?

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Pop-ups are back. You've seen them, right? "Take our short survey." "Subscribe to our magazine." Crap like that. Stuff that uses JavaScript and CSS to scroll out some stupid invitation to waste time and give up my (and your) personal information.

That's bad enough. An annoyance; mostly harmless. But now, there's 'click-jacking'. I suppose the lesson here is to stay away from facebook (done and done, at least for my part). But how long will it be before this "invisible action" crack is used some place else?

So much of the web these days needs JavaScript to work. What happens when it becomes too dangerous to surf with JavaScript turned on?

Update: I read down into the comments at the link, and apparently, 1) this is actually rather old, and 2) there's a Firefox add-on to guard against click-jacking. Too bad I like to use Opera, though :-(


24 Season 3 Hour 1

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Michelle! (aww, they're married)
President Allstate!
Kim :-p (so far, not threatened by a puma!)

Looks like Jack picked the wrong day to quit shooting heroin!


From the "No Pleasing Some People" Dept:

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

I was just reading through the customer ratings for a used reseller over on amazon. Here's one that caught my attention:

"Great transaction - item exactly as described...couldn't ask for better!!!!"

The rating? 4 out of 5.


24 Season 2

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

There is, of course, a lot I could write about regarding the second season. But I'm going to stick (I think) to just one topic, and the keystone of the whole plot. That is the Secret Evil Cabal Within Our Own Government (SECWOOG) vs. Heroically Restrained President Allstate.

Probably the most obvious problem is that President Allstate is too Heroically Restrained. Even early in the season, he is looking for a way to dodge a military response, apparently unaware that even attempting to detonate a nuclear bomb on American soil is still an act of war.

Then, after the bomb has gone off, he's still dragging his feet. The President simply cannot make military decisions based on the doubts of one field agent, even if it is Jack Bauer. And when he calls off the attack based on the initial reports of unverified evidence?

I know I'm supposed to be rooting for the President at this point; instead I'm thinking this is really not a guy I'd want as Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Senator Allstate was one of the few intelligent characters in season 1; it's really a disappointment they had to make him into a dope for season 2 to work.

Of course, there's plenty of problems on the other side of the issue. They're seriously going to go to war based on a single piece of uncorroborated evidence? Yikes.

And you can add a double "yikes" for the fact that they know the head of NSA is compromised. Any sort of SIGINT has to be viewed with at least some suspicion at that point.

And why on Earth do they need to launch their response less than 12 hours after the nuke went off (besides, of course, the fact that the structure of the show requires it)?

Ah, well. It was still fun to watch, and as usual, the best parts are when Jack Bauer is on-screen...


24 Season 1: hours 21-24

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Suppose you've got some high-value prisoner. Does moving him around to different facilities every few weeks make sense to anybody? And speaking of (allegedly) highly secure facilities, does it make sense to have it staffed with 5 guys and a couple janitors? Does it make sense for it not to have it's own back-up generators?

OK, Mrs. Senator Allstate is now working on being a full-on psychopath. And Senator Allstate is... oh, wait! Senator Allstate susses out the adultery-for-blackmail trap his wife set. Hurray for at least one character that's not a dope! (On the bad side, how does Little Miss Hottsie Tottsie not realize any way forward from her situation results in her getting fired in very short order?)

Man, the Bad Guys really suck at tying up their hostages. That's 0-for-2 on Bauers getting the drop on them because they can't secure their prisoners.

And the Über mole is revealed. As I mentioned earlier, there are a limited number of choices for suspects, and once we know there are two moles, Nina's alibi has to be called into question. It was actually a good ploy to suggest George Mason (aka the Management Weasel Jack tranq'ed in hour 1) as the best alternate suspect.

And Teri Bauer gets killed because she thinks she and Nina are BFF :-p And BTW, if you're a mole, at risk of detection at a moments notice, don't you have some kind of one-button kill-switch to wipe any incriminating data? You can add the fact that Nina didn't have a way to 1) push a button and 2) beat feet for the horizon as soon as she was found out as another preposterous element of the plot.


Other final thoughts:

  • A lot of the stuff that I commented on is really just nit-picking and having fun. But one thing that really does bug me is when characters do something really stupid. That's why I was so glad Senator Allstate didn't fall into his wife's adultery/blackmail scheme; it would have required him to be stupid on at least a couple of levels.

  • The whole Drazen family seemed to have this weird watered down, vaguely Eastern European accent. Was that on purpose, or were these guys just bad at doing accents?

  • Dennis Hopper's part was disappointing... it really doesn't compare well to his similar small-but-pivotal role in the first "Speed" movie.

  • One of the problems with the whole "this all happens in 24 hours" premise is that for at least some of the characters (like Teri and Kim Bauer in season 1), they really should be emotional basket cases well before the end of the 24th hour. I get that dramatically, they can't let major characters spend 6 hours curled up in a corner, but the result is that they seem to become emotional zombies.

  • Watching the series on DVD loses some of the immediacy of the "happens in real time" premise too. When it's being broadcast, the plot clock follows along with the wall clock. On the DVD... not so much. Even if you wait to start watching at the top of the hour, if you take out the commercials, previews and coming attractions, you're left with about 42 minutes of actual show. I suppose you could pause the DVD at each commercial break, but... well, yeah, right.

  • On the other hand, watching the series on DVD gave the plot a little more immediacy, since I watched it over the course of a few days, rather than the 5 months the broadcast version took.


24 Season 1 Hours 17-20

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Jeeze, Mrs. Senator Allstate is quite the piece of work, isn't she?

Apparently the cure for Exploding-Car Onset Amnesia is to be nearly shot, and then dramatically rescued at the last second.

Kim Bauer just has the awesomest track record in picking friends.

Yay, Dennis Hopper!

Beep boop... beep boop... only four hours left!


24 Season 1, Hours 13-16

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Jack rescues his family, and it looks like the whole Gaines team is dead. I guess that means we've seen the last of Evil Twin Photographer Dude? Wow. I realize I've been obsessing a bit on this guy, but it seems like all the most preposterous elements of the plot have centered up on him, including

  • Plastic surgery is magic! We can make one guy look like another close enough to fool at least casual aquaintences!
  • We want to be very discreet when we eliminate Original Photographer Dude. So let's blow up the airplane he's on
  • And, for the pièce de résistance, we're going to blackmail Jack Bauer into a position so we can frame him up for the murder of Senator Allstate!

Oh, look--here's the New Assassin Dude, and it's David Gilmour, circa 1985!

Oops... Dreamy McKidnapper is still alive, and Kim's going all "Stockholm Syndrome" on him. Does she ever do something that's not stupid?

They're going to send the Staff Hottie undercover (har) on a date with the new Assassin Dude? Yeah, what could possibly go wrong?

Pro tip: when a car slides down a hill, it usually doesn't explode in a fireball like it's full of dynamite. I'm just sayin'. And now, we have exploding-car onset amnesia. That kind of thing happens all the time. Right?


24 Season 1, Hours 9-12

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

OK, so the Bad Guys removed Real Photographer Dude from the plane's passenger list. Still, why not just jump him in the airport parking lot or something? (Yeah, yeah, I know--sploding plane gives the set-up part of the plot some much-needed life (particularly for a show that hadn't been picked up past 13 episodes yet)).

...and the real Bad Guys start to show up. Has Zeljko Ivanek ever played anything other than a tightly-wound, bitter antagonist?

...and the official motive is revealed: revenge. They are still violating one of the basic rules for evil overlords: "#4: Shooting is not too good for my enemies." They almost certainly could have had Senator Allstate, Jack Bauer, and his whole family dead--all they had to do was dispense with this contrived frame-up plot.

Ah, well. I should say, though, in spite of my plot-point nit-picking, I am enjoying the story. Plus, Dennis Hopper shows up in the second half. He always did a good job as a mentally-unbalanced bad guy.


24 Season 1, hours 7+8

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

  • Oh, look! They didn't forget about the Evil Twin Photographer Dude.
  • The Bad Guys are tapped in to all the CTU security cams? Awesome securty, guys.
  • The mole is revealed! Not that much of a surprise, since 1) It can't be Jack, 2) it's not the guy their making look guilty (Tony), 3) Nina has an alabi, and 4) that pretty much leaves one other suspect...

OK, so their plan for explaining how the Photographer Dude survived the plane explosion was... hope nobody would notice he was supposed to be on the exploding plane?

And their goal is not only to assassinate Senator Allstate, but frame Jack as the shooter? Needlessly, needlessly complicated.


24 Season 1 Update

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Just finished Hour 6. The whole blackmail Jack plot is moving along (although the whole Guy Who Is Not Who He Seems To Be bit doesn't make a lot of sense... if he was just there to kidnap Jack's wife, why didn't he move at his first opportunity?

Meanwhile, the whole Evil Twin Photographer Dude subplot has pretty much disappeared. They are going to get back to that, right?

Also, Jack's kind of a big-mouth with the whole 'Search for the CTU Mole' thing, isn't he? So far, he's told Nina, Jamie, and the known-to-be-on-the-take Management Weasel Dude. Mr. Tight Security.


24 Season 1 Hour 2: Wait, what?!

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

OK, so the Bad Guys want to assassinate Senator Allstate for reasons yet to be explained. Apparently, this is their plan:

  1. Use plastic surgery to create an Evil Twin Photographer Dude
  2. Send an agent to seduce Real Photographer Dude, steal his credentials, and then
  3. Remove Real Photographer Dude by (very publically) blowing up the plane that he's on
  4. Evil Twin Photographyer Dude can now use real credentials and (evil) twin-ness to get inside Senator Allstate's security perimeter.

I'm sure Hour 3 will feature developments whereby it is explained how the Photographer Dude could have survived the exploding plane (actually, I've read more of the wikipedia page on this season than I should have, and I know that somehow this is going to become an even-more-ridiculous assassination-by-blackmail plot).

(I also know enough about 24 to not hold my breath waiting for explanations as to why the Bad Guys are executing a Fantastically Contrived and Hopelessly Fragile Evil Plot)


Watching 24 Season 1, hour 1

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Oh, brother moment #1:

"If I give you a phone number, could you hack in and get all the internet passwords connected to it?"


On the other hand, there is this:

  1. Do not lie to Jack Bauer. If you do, he will shoot you in the leg with a tranquilizer dart, and when you come to, he will have enough blackmail material to get anything he wants to know.


In which this week's episode of 24 has a plot hole

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago I'll try to keep this generic, but still: spoilers!

OK, here's the set up:

  1. The Bad Guys are transporting a hostage in a vehicle
  2. Via Chloe's satallite magic, CTU manages to locate the vehicle in question
  3. Thanks to the evil mole person, the hostage vehicle makes an unplanned detour to avoid CTU ambush

The important thing here is that this detour is completely spontaneous. The Bad Guys had no plans to make this detour. So what happens? The Bad Guys transfer the hostage to a new vehicle (with a new driver). CTU chases original Bad Guy vehicle, new Bad Guy vehicle gets away with the hostage.

You see the problem, right? How could the Bad Guys have a vehicle and driver waiting at an unplanned rendezvous point?

I realize that the plots of '24' are pretty contrived anyway, but it would be nice if they at least tried to be internally consistent.


SF Signal Meme: what book are you reading right now?

yellowstone yellowstone writes  |  more than 4 years ago

I just came across this (nearly month-old) post over at SF Signal. Instead of replying over there were no-one will see it, I thought I would post something here (where no-one will see it). Anyway...

  • What Book Are You Reading Now?

    System of the World by Neal Stephenson.

  • Why did you choose it?

    Stephenson has been on my read-on-sight list since I discovered Snow Crash and The Diamond Age 15 years ago.

  • What's the best thing about it?

    Well, it's Stephenson. Interesting characters, unique situations, and one-of-a-kind prose style.

  • What's the worst thing about it?

    A couple things. First, the 17th-century politics of England and France are an important back-drop to the story. I knew virtually nothing of this era of history before I began reading the Baroque Cycle, and it made it tough going. This is actually my second attempt to read through it, I just got bogged down in the details of history I didn't know the first time.

    Second, System of the World (at least as far as I've got) hasn't featured some of the most interesting charcters of these stories (Eliza, Jack Shaftoe, Enoch Root). Eliza has made an appearance, and I suppose the story will eventually get back to Jack and Enoch, but for now its focusing on Daniel Waterhouse, who (for me) has been one of the least interesting major characters of the series.

    Update: finally finished The System of the World 4/2/10. Final verdict: the Baroque Cycle is definitely worth the time and effort to read, especially if you enjoyed Cryptonomicon.

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