* Posts by Rick Dickinson

20 posts • joined 12 Jul 2007

Confirmed: Bezos' salvaged Saturn rocket belonged to Apollo 11

Rick Dickinson

Re: If the Cosmosphere were on I70....

Here's a good explanation of the differences:


Doctor Who? 12th incarnation sought after Matt Smith quits

Rick Dickinson

The Hugh Laurie suggestion is intriguing, but....

...since we're suggesting Blackadder alums (including Steven Fry and Brian Blessed), why not go with a cunning plan, and give the spot to the man, himself: Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor.

Although, now that I think of it, Tony Robinson might be fun in the role, as well.

US Senator introduces 'Patent Abuse Reduction Act'

Rick Dickinson

Here's an idea....

How about allowing independent third parties to contest any patent on the basis of existing prior art or obviousness, with the loser of the "contest" paying the winner's legal costs plus statutory damages of $1000 to the winner.

Lots of intelligent folks could make a *very* nice living for a while by providing the public service of debunking *tons* of existing crap patents. And, it would go quite a long way towards preempting the filing-for of crap patents in the first place, if there was a better-than-even chance that some punter would come along and call you on it shortly thereafter.

Barnes & Noble bungs Raspberry Pi-priced Nook on shelves

Rick Dickinson

Too bad they're not offering this in the States, too.

I just checked, and there's no equivalent stateside promotion, and the .uk store will only let you specify a delivery address in the Ukogbani.

I'd be "all over this" if I could order one or two, myself.

Ubuntu without the 'U': Booting the Big Four remixes

Rick Dickinson

Any distro recommendations for use on an old Thinkpad 365XD?

I'd like to use my old Pentium 100, 40MB RAM Thinkpad 365XD for something useful (like a MAME box, ferinstance). Unfortunately, 40MB is the max RAM it will hold -- 8MB on the mobo, and a 32MB SIMM.

Any distro advice?

When I bought the laptop initially, it was a darn good little Windows 3.11/DOS 6.22 machine. Upgrading it to Windows 95 yielded only "marginally acceptable" performance, however, and a later attempt to install Win2K led to nothing but frustration....

At one point, I had a version of Slackware installed on it, but I remember having quite a bit of trouble finding a reasonably stable configuration for X, and reverted it to Win 95 Second Edition.

Are biofuels Europe's sh*ttiest idea ever?

Rick Dickinson


I drive a diesel pickup truck. About 5 years ago, I had trouble with my fuel gauge starting to read incorrectly -- it stayed on "Empty" after I filled the tank. (I had also had a couple of clogged fuel injectors that needed replacement on two separate occasions prior to this.)

The mechanic told me that the fuel gauge issue was probably due to a buildup of crud in the tank level sensor, from "dirty fuel" (and the clogged fuel injectors almost certainly were, as well). He suggested that, before paying him several hundred dollars in parts and labor to pull everything apart and replace the sensor, I should try adding a bottle of "Techron" fuel additive to a tank of fuel, and see if the detergent action would clean things off the sensor, and allow the gauge to work properly again.

It did, but it took a second bottle in another tank of fuel to completely fix the problem.

About a year later, it happened again. Coincidentally, I had been doing a lot of reading about biodiesel, and had heard that, among its other properties, it was a much better solvent than regular diesel, and tended to keep the fuel system "squeaky clean", even to the point of sometimes causing problems right after older vehicles were switched to it, as years of accumulated buildup in their fuel tanks would come loose, and could clog one's fuel filter.

Since I do most of my own routine maintenance, I didn't mind the idea of maybe needing an early fuel filter change. So, I decided to try running some biodiesel in my truck, to see if it would work as well as the Techron additive had, and fix my fuel gauge problem. (The fact that, at the time, biodiesel was available for about $0.50 cheaper a gallon than regular "petrodiesel" may have helped carry the argument, as well....)

The local biodiesel cooperative buys and supplies its members "B99", which is 100% biodiesel with just a "splash" of regular "petrodiesel" added. They do this to qualify for the government subsidy on all "blended" fuels.... They have 2 fueling stations located in trailers around the Los Angeles, California area, and one happens to be located not far from where I work, and the other isn't too far from my home.

Well, after driving just a few miles with my first tank full of B99, my fuel gauge started working properly again. This was *much* faster than when I had used the additive, which required running 2 tanks of "doctored" diesel through my truck to fix the problem. I did replace my fuel filters about a month later, but not because of any problems -- it was just time to do it as part of routine maintenance on my truck. I didn't actually notice any difference from the times I had previously replaced the filters -- they looked about the same.

I've made it a habit to run a tank of B99 through my truck every few months since then, and have never had a recurrence of the fuel gauge problem, or any more clogged fuel injectors. It's been about 4 years since I started running the occasional B99 tank, and, unfortunately, the prices on B99 have risen quite a bit in the interim. However, I am convinced that it does a very good job of keeping my entire fuel system clean, so I still put a tankful in every 3 or 4 months to help prevent problems.

Honestly, I think the environmental arguments in favor of biofuels are complete bunk, at least considering the way that biofuels are currently produced. However, I find the occasional use of biodiesel worthwhile from a purely practical standpoint: it seems to do a very good job of preventing fuel injector and fuel gauge problems, by keeping my fuel system clean.

Bitcoin prices spike on Euro woes

Rick Dickinson

Re: Frying pan -> Fire

Ah, yes. The legendary "dreadnought Louisville Slugger, festooned with nails". Basil Hosmer would be proud!

WTF is... UltraViolet

Rick Dickinson

DivX, Part Deux

Back when DVD was just starting to gain a foothold in the market, Circuit City introduced an alternative format, known as "DivX", which was basically DVD with extra DRM, and a phone-home-to-rent-content marketing plan. The studios, of course, loved the idea, as it gave them additional control over who could view their content, and when. Customers could be forced to buy the same movies again and again to watch them.

DivX failed miserably in the marketplace, because consumers want to buy a movie once, and be able to watch it forever, whenever they feel like it. DivX was too much of a "bait and switch" -- you could buy the movie now, and be unable to view it later.

UltraViolet is the same thing, once again. Buy the movie now, and we'll "let" you watch it for a while. In a few years, if you want to watch it again, you'll end up having to re-buy it.

Hopefully, consumers will reject this just as soundly as they rejected DivX.

(Side note: There is a mostly-unrelated video codec, also called "DivX", that uses MPEG-4 compression. The "mostly" is because it was named as an ironic reference to the failed DivX rental DVD format, but is otherwise completely unrelated to it.)

HP TouchPad 32GB WebOS tablet

Rick Dickinson

WebOS is actually running on top of a Linux Kernal

2.6.something, depending on the exact WebOS version.

HP exec: WebOS tablet will trounce iPad

Rick Dickinson

Angry Birds runs just fine on WebOS

I have one of the original Palm Pre WebOS phones, and Angry Birds runs just fine on it. I have no doubt that it will run just fine on a WebOS tablet, as well.

Apple eyes kill switch for jailbroken iPhones

Rick Dickinson

And this is why I own a Palm Pre

I knew that there were good reasons to avoid buying an iPhone. Thanks for the confirmation that I made the right smartphone choice.

US to postpone analog TV death

Rick Dickinson

Just flip the switch, already!

I live in the US, and I have to agree: if you aren't prepared for the switchover, it's entirely your own fault at this point. The switchover has been advertised -- ad nauseum -- for the past few years, and the coupon program makes the total cost of the switchover only about $10 per television, since the tax payers are subsidizing $40 per converter box.

We have satellite TV (Dish Network) for our day-to-day TV-watching, but I still got the coupons and ordered two converter boxes, just so that we can use one of them on the little portable TV we keep around in case of major emergencies (and have another box as a spare). For the less-than-$20 it cost me (postage included), it would have been silly not to do so.

Anyone who still isn't ready for the switch deserves what they get -- nothing!

Just flip the switch, already!

World's smallest working fuel cell developed

Rick Dickinson


"the canisters probably actually contain hydrogen in its liquid form"

Not likely, as I don't see a bunch of insulation surrounding them (liquid hydrogen is one of the coldest cryogens).

It's much more likely that the hydrogen gas is adsorbed under pressure onto the surface of some material within the tank, and is released back by the pressure reduction as some of the gas is drawn from the tank as it's used.

NASA deploys huge clingfilm strato-pumpkin over Antarctic

Rick Dickinson

@Anomalous Cowherd -- re: "Zylon"


There's not much to do on a Saturday night at McMurdo station. The "Z" is just an "N" that got drunk, and fell over.

Undetectable data-stealing trojan nabs 500,000 virtual wallets

Rick Dickinson
IT Angle

So, let me get this straight

So, let me get this straight: the only way to clear up a Master Boot Record (MBR) infection is to reformat the disk & reinstall the OS?

Whatever happened to fdisk /mbr ?

Where's the IT expertise?

Catholic priests cane YouTube over blasphemous vids

Rick Dickinson

As Tom Lehrer so aptly put it....

First you get down on your knees, Fiddle with your rosaries, Bow your head with great respect,

And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Do whatever steps you want if, You have cleared them with the pontiff. Everybody say his own, Kyrie Eleison,

Doin' the Vatican Rag.

Get in line in that processional, Step into that small confessional, There, the guy who's got religion'll Tell you if your sin's original.

If it is, try playin' it safer, Drink the wine and chew the wafer,

Two, four, six, eight, Time to transubstantiate!

So get down upon your knees, Fiddle with your rosaries, Bow your head with great respect,

And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Make a cross on your abdomen, When in Rome, do like a Roman,

Ave Maria, Gee, it's good to see ya,

Gettin' ecstatic and Sorta dramatic and Doin' the Vatican Rag!

BlackBerry redoubles iPhone challenge

Rick Dickinson

Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it...

"I think we've cracked the code of the smartphone flip," Balsillie said this morning. "It was considered uncrackable before."

I guess Balsillie has never heard of the Palm Treo 180, 270, or 300, then....

Windows Genuine Advantage cries wolf (again)

Rick Dickinson

Finally, they admit it!

"WGA's goal is not to punish the people who purchase these programs; they, of all people are the most victimized," wrote Alex Kochis, WGA senior product manager in the WGA blog. "The goal is to give these people a tool to let them know they have been victimized and can do something about it."

It's refreshing to hear someone at Microsoft admit this, for once.

Now, if we can only convince Microsoft to *stop* victimizing people, we'll have really got somewhere.

PDF spam tsunami hits email inboxes

Rick Dickinson

SEC rules regarding "insider trading", etc.

I'm curious, and hope someone who knows can answer: what are the legal rules about acting upon information received in the form of spam emails?

In other words, as a random spamee, if I get a "pump-n-dump" spam in my in-box, recognize it as such, and then short-sell whatever company had been advertised, is doing so illegal?

Is receiving "information" as spam considered "public disclosure", even though the "information" I'm actually gaining is simply the knowledge that someone else (unknown to me) is running a scam involving a particular company's stock?

I know it's illegal to use non-public information about a company to profit from anticipated changes in a stock's price, and I know that it's also illegal to orchestrate changes in a stock's price by fraudulent means, especially with the intention of profiting from said resultant change. However, I'm not clear on whether or not there would be anything either morally wrong or illegal with profiting by taking notice of the fact that someone else appeared to be running a mass-emailing pump-and-dump scam, and anticipating the resultant stock price swings on my own.

I think it comes down to whether or not mass-emailed pump-n-dump spams count as "public" disclosure of the fact that someone's running such a scam involving that company.

Of course, I'm not a lawyer, and none of my speculations should be construed as legal advice....

- Rick

75-year-old has world's fastest private internet connection

Rick Dickinson

Everyone seems to be making the same mistaken assumption...

Everyone here seems to be making the same silly assumption: who says she only has one PC?


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