* Posts by Dr. Ellen

296 publicly visible posts • joined 14 Jul 2007

Page:

Shag pile PC earned techies a carpeting from HR

Dr. Ellen
FAIL

Shocking

In early days, that pile carpet could have gotten you fired./ Walking on shag makes electrostatic charge, the bane of early computers.

FAA grounds all US departures after NOTAM goes down

Dr. Ellen
FAIL

Pot? Kettle here.

This will make it far more difficult for the FAA to scold or fine Southwest.

Rolls-Royce, EasyJet fire up first hydrogen-fueled jet engine

Dr. Ellen

Re: Hydrogen?!

I did mention that the containers for hydrogen gas had to be extremely sturdy, and were heavy. You might get by with an airship, where the hydrogen is (mostly?) not compressed, IF you are very very careful. Helium works in an airship, but we're having a helium shortage and really shouldn't be throwing it away in balloons (or ballonets). Reliable storage for a lot of hydrogen gas would probably weigh as much as the rest of the plane put together.

Hydrogen doesn't belong free in the air unless it is very dilute.

Dr. Ellen
Mushroom

Re: Hydrogen?!

Nor was it the case at the Cambridge Electron Accelerator in 1965. I wasn't there when it happened, fortunately, but earlier (before filling) I'd been crawling around the LH2 bubble chamber. That thing was sturdy.

http://washuu.net/cea-bang.htm

Dr. Ellen
FAIL

Hydrogen?!

Hydrogen is dangerous. It leaks through everything, and it is flammable. The mass of something able to contain enough hydrogen to feed an engine for a long trip is not something an aircraft wants to carry around. The Hindenburg disaster is a hint that when things go bad with hydrogen, they go bad very enthusiastically. To quote NASA, "Liquid hydrogen must be stored at minus 423°F and handled with extreme care. To keep it from evaporating or boiling off, rockets fueled with liquid hydrogen must be carefully insulated from all sources of heat, such as rocket engine exhaust and air friction during flight through the atmosphere." Gaseous hydrogen needs a very strong container, or something that can adsorb or absorb the hydrogen - then release it. Both are heavy.

NASA uses liquid hydrogen (with great precautions) mostly in UPPER stages. Dealing with liquid hydrogen in a main stage only makes all the problems bigger. The Shuttle engines used liquid hydrogen, but they threw the fuel tank away before they reached orbit. Wouldn't want the leftover fuel close to the shuttle and its crew and cargo for the entire trip. Wouldn't want airplane passengers sitting on it either.

The only place I can see hydrogen being really useful in transportation is for a train, where weight is far less significant.

Boffins hunt and kill cockroaches with machine vision laser

Dr. Ellen
Happy

Movie?

Perhaps not a full movie but it's been a manga and anime for years, and is also a video game. The starring laser eliminator is a doll named Hoi-hoi-san.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnHqgd1i2fY

Google Japan goes rogue with 5.4ft long keyboard

Dr. Ellen
Coffee/keyboard

This keyboard reminds me of the only movie Dr. Seuss scripted -- The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. from 1953.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgpfMxYFSmE (The significant part is at 1 minute.)

The crime against humanity that is the modern OS desktop, and how to kill it

Dr. Ellen
Windows

Re: System 7 - the horror, the horror.

Ah, the horror of the walled garden. I wouldn't mind buying a new computer, but they come with Windows 10 or 11 -- and have been "fixed" so you can't put Windows 7 on them. I'm still using Windows 7. If nothing else, Microsoft has stopped improving it.

I started programming on an IBM 704 back in 1959 or 1960. I'm eighty now, and tired of learning new languages and interfaces. So it's old computers, and that's okay -- people are throwing them out. So I can grab them and train them in my ways. It's cheaper.

NASA scrubs Artemis mission yet again because SLS just can't handle the pressure

Dr. Ellen
Devil

Liquid hydrogen is an escape artist!

I was working at the Cambridge Electron Accelerator in 1963. Right next to the beamline I was on there was this gigantic block of iron (or steel - I didn't check its pedigree). It was a liquid hydrogen bubble chamber about ten feet tall, or three meters. It was still in its youth, and had not yet been filled with hydrogen. I graduated (1963) and went back to Minnesota. The first time they filled the chamber, very carefully, the diabolic machine exploded. That was on July 5, 1965. Obviously, the hydrogen had not behaved itself.

http://tech.mit.edu/archives/VOL_085/TECH_V085_S0235_P011.pdf

You have to be insanely sure of yourself to come anywhere near liquid hydrogen.

Record label drops AI rapper after backlash over stereotypes

Dr. Ellen

Re: Call centre accent spoofing.

Sometimes it's a real call center - in India. If the accent is more legible after going through the gizmo. I do not have the best of hearing. I don't ask for English, though; I ask if they have anybody who speaks Midwest American English. This is, of course, when I make the call. Otherwise, I pick up then hang up for any call from an unknown name or place.

California to phase out internal combustion vehicles by 2035

Dr. Ellen
Facepalm

Re: Not going to happen

If they want flying cars, their only chance is to lure Elon Musk back into California.

Apple to compel workers to spend '3 days a week' in the office

Dr. Ellen

No authority figure likes the masterless man, and the masterless woman is at least as frightening. Apple bosses want to be able to give their peasants a hard stare now and then. Far too many bosses and officials yearn to live in a feudal society.

Bad news, older tech workers: Job advert language works against you

Dr. Ellen
Boffin

Re: So?

If you're Steven Hawking, maybe. (Myself, too. I came back from some rather serious surgery with instructions not to do a number of things, including lifting heavy objects. I was called in from medical leave to help the librarian, and some exhibit designers. "Think of me as an associative memory bank right now," I told them, and helped them find things.) But that was temporary.

By and large, I had other things to do in my daily work. Sometimes a piece would be missing from an artifact. I had to recognize something was missing, and make a replacement. The educators wanted electrostatic generators for a class, with all the accessories. I designed and made them. Then, after I'd learned how it was done, I wrote and illustrated a booklet so they could make their own. I suppose that counted as handing my work off to muscle - but it had to be educated muscle to be able to use the tools needed.

This was no art museum. I'd be lost in an art museum. This was a museum full of made things. from the last three centuries. To really understand and explain a made thing, you need experience with it. Ideally, you make one yourself.

And once I'd made enough, I would farm it out to the people that wanted it. See, there are several things you can want from an object. You may just want a lookalike to put on display. You may want the original object, preferably in good condition. (Sometimes the "good condition" takes a bit of work. The rules are different in a technology museum.) Sometimes you want a work-alike, so you can demonstrate things. But whoever does these things needs to be an artisan, a maker. The intellectual shades into the physical through many stages, and you sometimes need to lift things. Some of them weigh perhaps an ounce; some of them weigh more. The worst I ran into weighed 180 pounds; it was broken because the previous guy who tried to move it dropped it. I never should have done it, but I got away with it.

Eventually I looked over the things that needed to be moved. Fifty pounds seemed reasonable to me. If you wanted less, I'd accept thirty, or even twenty-five pounds. If you were a trained watchmaker, electronics technician, micro-machinist, or gunsmith, even just ten pounds would be acceptable. All those trades involve taking complicated things apart, seeing to whatever needs doing, and putting them back together in the same order. The mind and the hands must be in harmony for this kind of work.

You want the person repairing your car to know cars. When somebody rewires your house, the electrician must know the job, because it's going to be inspected. If you write an article and give it to a typist for a neat copy, the typist must know the difference between < and > . (Good thing I type-read that one, eh?)

You simply do not have the time and patience to educate someone in the intricate details of doing the job.

Dr. Ellen

Re: So?

When my hands lost some of the necessary dexterity, I did. quit the job.

Now, as an encore, could you please tell me how to tie my shoes? Bonus points for including tying a necktie.

Dr. Ellen

Re: So?

Look. This was a technical museum. Sometimes the object has hundreds, or thousands, of parts. Sometimes, also, it might have loose screws or bolts. Worse -- it might have corrosion. I would have to lift it onto the work bench, look it over, maybe turn it on its side to check things out (if it seems safe to, and if it even has a side it can stably be rested upon). I might have to open it up. I might have to make something to replace a damaged part.

As an example: I was at the workbench one day when the Director came in with a visiting scholar. The director pointed to an interesting object off to the side. "Can you show Mr. Visitor that one, and explain how it works?" I picked it up and looked it over (it was 1930s electrical equipment with a 1930s cord and plug) and decided it was safe to plug it in. I did. It did nothing, so I unplugged it and looked it over. "There's a loose screw, and it needs some adjustment," I said. So I tightened the screw and made the adjustment, and it worked.

I ask you: could you tell somebody how to do this, in two minutes, with an audience? Lord love a duck, I couldn't even have told the Director! He was a scholar, but of history. I was a scholar, but of technology. Hired muscle is probably neither.

The motto of MIT is "Mens et Manus" -- Mind and Hands. They work together, and curator is one of the jobs where they have to.

Dr. Ellen

Re: Don't know about that

Our writing is drifting back to Shakespeare (or even Chaucer). In times past, there was no such thing as universal literacy - people spoke as other people spoke, and gave little thought towards their inability to read or write. The more informed could write, but the words they set down were spelled according to the way they thought right. (They didn't all agree.) William Shakespeare's name has been spelled in many ways: during his lifetime it was "Shakespeare" in his published work, but he used "Shakspere" in his signature.

People weren't ignorant during the Middle Ages -- but books were hand-transcribed and enormously expensive. Many people had never even seen a book up close and personal. They got their entertainment from bards or plays, and their news from travelers and criers. You can learn from listening, but spelling doesn't come along with it.

Today we get much of our news and entertainment audiovisually. Texting? The spelling can be abominable. And the writing of many reflects it, especially when homonyms enter the picture. Ah, well -- if Shakspere could live with it, so can we.

Dr. Ellen

Re: So?

I must be able to communicate -- I wrote a novel and sold it. You, on the other hand, still haven't explained why the museum should hire two people to do a job better handled by one.

Dr. Ellen

Re: So?

You really do not understand the job. The curator knows the strong and weak points, where, when, and how to lift things. This is a matter of muscle memory and dexterity, and it's almost impossible to explain how the job should be done. Curators have to do these things themselves if they want them done correctly.

If you try buying an AI and hiring some muscle. you have problems. AI is stupid. It doesn't have a lifetime of experience; and having the lifter-and-carrier means you have to hire one -- plus pay huge sums for an AI and train it.

And if that's not enough -- when you hire the muscle, the ad will still have the requirement to lift fifty pounds.

Dr. Ellen

Re: So?

I worked as a museum curator. This is a job that's part intellectual, part physical. When you are working with an artifact, sometimes you must pick it up and move it. Most of the artifacts were 50 pounds or less, so when I retired, I noted that any future curator should be able to handle 50-pound objects. (There were some that were considerably larger -- moving them was a group project.)

This is ableism, of course. So? It was part of the job.

Amazon can't channel the dead, but its deepfake voices take a close second

Dr. Ellen

Re: Telemarking deep fakes never work

I could use an accent translator that would let me understand the assorted flavors of voice at help centers. If they could be turned into American Midwestern, they'd be one hell of a lot more useful. But as many have warned: fake voices could be dangerous in many ways. The useful is outweighed by the hazardous.

IBM-powered Mayflower robo-ship once again tries to cross Atlantic

Dr. Ellen

Re: Here's the "crew".

There is a large network of buoys (NOAA has about 1300 of them) collecting data on surface ocean conditions. An international organization maintains a fleet of Argo profiling buoys. These float about 1 km below the surface, then descend to 2 km. They then rise slowly to the surface, collecting info on temperature, pressure, and salinity. Once at the surface, they transmit their location and information to satellites.

Those buoys and floats are unmanned. But they are in communication with scientists, and when one has problems, a crew can be sent to fix or replace it.

On Mars or Titan, there is data to be had, but no repair crews. This (admittedly limited) AI ship is 'learning' how to operate without human assistance. We're going to have to learn this sort of thing if we want to explore where none have gone before.

Supreme Court urged to halt 'unconstitutional' Texas content-no-moderation law

Dr. Ellen

Re: Balkenisation?

Cuss-words are indeed a puzzle. Worse, they vary from place to place, group to group, nation to nation. The US Supreme Court has taken up the puzzle many times, though they use the term "fighting words". There are certain combinations of letters that cannot be used on license plates. (They probably vary from state to state.) Let the cuss-words through, I guess.

When it comes to climate change, I disagree with you. I'm eighty years old. I've lived through a lot of climate panics. In the seventies the climate panic was another ice age - global cooling. The earth did not freeze. But the climate narrative shifted to global warming. The earth did not boil or burn. Now we have to worry about climate change. Clever people! Climate changes all the time, so their warnings are unfalsifiable.

What we've experienced is the climate warming by a degree or two as we climb out of the Little Ice Age. I approve. When climate scientists set their sights on maintaining the pre-industrial climate, they had a lot of choice. They could have picked the Medieval Climate Optimum. Even better, they could have picked the Roma climate optimum, or the Cretan one. Instead, they picked the Little Ice Age. Warming from that is an improvement.

See? I disagree. I'm a doctor. (physics) Doctors disagree.

Dr. Ellen
Facepalm

Re: SPAM, SPAM SPAM SPAM!

Definite "unintended consequences". There are always unintended consequences. That's one that definitely needs reworking.

Dr. Ellen

Re: Balkenisation?

Alexander Pope asked, "Who is to decide, when doctors disagree?" The problem with social media censorship is not the filth and obscenity. The problem is the "lies". Who decides what is a lie? Who watches the watchmen? There are very few issues that don't have reasonable arguments on both sides; witness the debate over global warming.

(See? a lot of you just downvoted me for saying there were reasonable arguments on both sides.)

If it's a defamatory lie, with serious consequences, lawsuits for libel can be a remedy. If it's a statement about reality, the remedy for speech you don't like is more speech. And the moderators should be free to remove the cuss-words. We don't need the cuss-words. If you're literate, you can cuss without them.

Repairability champ Framework's modular laptop gets a speed boost

Dr. Ellen
Thumb Up

I had a TRS-80 III back in the day, and later upgraded to a TRS-4. But I, too, longed for a TRS 100.

Climate model code is so outdated, MIT starts from scratch

Dr. Ellen
WTF?

Re: A language they cannot read?

Lord, lord - my first language was Fortran. But this was long ago, circa 1960. Now there are so many languages running around we have the Tower of Babel under construction.

Android's Messages, Dialer apps quietly sent text, call info to Google

Dr. Ellen
Devil

Re: That rogue programmer was a clever devil!

I heard (it was on the Web) that the programmer studied what tests the cars would have to pass, then wrote engine management software which could detect those tests happening, and made sure the car passed them. This was as much reverse-engineering as cheating. There have been many court cases about such things.

Use Zoom on a Mac? You might want to check your microphone usage

Dr. Ellen

Re: Just looking in

That is exactly what I do. Not that I say anything controversial or business-related, bu that's this week. Who knows what will be controversial next week? And I usually have all external connections on my smartphone turned off -- the battery lasts longer that way. I only turn them on when I am making a call, or expecting one.

The monitor boom may have ended, says IDC

Dr. Ellen
Happy

Re: Blue Christmas

As I type this on my computer, I am looking at a pretty decent monitor. When I click a few buttons on the remote, I am looking at a television. The only fly in the ointment is poor speakers. It has other tricks I have not explored, and it's about as large as my desk can accommodate. Why should I buy something else?

Dutch nuclear authority bans anti-5G pendants that could hurt their owners via – you guessed it – radiation

Dr. Ellen
Big Brother

Re: Total Point Avoider

Vandal Savage has been around a very long time.He was one of the major villains for the original Green Lantern, first appearing in GL 10 (1943). He's still running around, because he is immortal. Back in the old days, they could make him behave by threatening him with a life sentence in the pen. Immortal, so long and boring ... These days , he'd be released on a ridiculously low bail.

What came first? The chicken, the egg, or the bodge to make everything work?

Dr. Ellen
Facepalm

The chicken or the egg?

The egg came first. There have been recognizable eggs for millions of years before the first recognizable chicken appeared. This also applies to computers: the code in the egg must be subject to proper conditions before a chicken can be created. The code in the computer is the same, and one of the proper conditions is the computer being in a state to reach and run the code.

Smart things are so dumb because they take after their makers. Let's fix that

Dr. Ellen
Devil

Lightbulbs and copiers

There's an old saying: "It's hard to make things foolproof, because fools are so ingenious." The internet of Things is one thing - but there is a whole world of Things that don't use the Internet. But they're designed by the same kind of engineers.

My particular object of tech-hatred was a copier that landed in our library some twenty years ago. It knew how you wanted to use it, and it was determined to do it for you. Only that wasn't always what I wanted to do. An 8-1/2 x 11 copy on 8-1/2 x 11 paper? Flawless. A life-size copy of something small? Surely you wanted the image to take up the entire sheet of paper. Nothing else would do! It could be commanded to do what you wanted, but as soon as you lifted the cover for the next copy, it set itself back to what it knew you wanted it to do.

The trouble was, the people who designed, made, and sold the copier made it work the way they wanted it to. And the rest of us. who used copiers differently, were left cursing in their wake. The makers and the customers weren't the same people. It works that way for light bulbs, too.

Russia's orbital insanity is almost beyond redemption – but there's space for improvement

Dr. Ellen

Re: Orbital stuff at different speeds?

That's simple: there are lots of orbits, each with its own speed. Not only that, but a different speed can be associated with different positions on the same orbit.

Pulling down a partition or knocking through a door does not necessarily make for a properly connected workspace

Dr. Ellen

You can probably use inductive logic to figure it out.

Dr. Ellen
Thumb Up

Re: Working on that..

Ah. A retired five-year-old advisor for the Evil Overlord, I presume? The child is still alive, which is a good credential for the job.

Microsoft: Many workers are stuck on old computers and should probably upgrade

Dr. Ellen
Angel

Re: OK if they donate their old equipment

Where I worked (and that ended 15 years ago) they bought a new computer every time one started to have trouble on the network. Fortunately, there was no rule about destroying or properly disposing of the old ones. So I'd take them, clean 'em up and upgrade if necessary, and find somebody who needed a computer. Usually they upgraded everything - monitors, too, and keyboard/mouse combos. I didn't charge for this - everybody needs a hobby - and made quite a few people happy.

Built quite a reputation as the Computer Fairy .

Fukushima studies show wildlife is doing nicely without humans, thank you very much

Dr. Ellen
Unhappy

Re: Fukushima is big

Fukushima is big. So are wild boars, on a different scale. If the locals are smart, they'll start exterminating boars before the population explodes. Because boars are not good for agriculture - they'll eat just about anything, and they'll root around in the dirt to get more of it. Since these ones are radioactive, they can't or won't be eaten, so they're a total loss, foodwise. They destroy crops and ruin land.

Is it OK to use stolen data? What if it's scientific research in the public interest?

Dr. Ellen
Big Brother

Fifty years ago, I was arguing about valid Nazi medical results obtained by horrible people doing horrible things to innocent victims. There is still no good answer to the question, but at least medical science is advancing so eventually those results can be ignored. (The arguments were carried out in fanzines, which were on paper in those days. No Internet, but there are similarities. Things change, but sometimes they only change venues.)

Oh! A surprise tour of the data centre! You shouldn't have. No, you really shouldn't have

Dr. Ellen
Windows

Re: I could only wish

I tried http://thecodelesscode.com just now, and it worked. I'm in the US, so my results may not be yours. Or, maybe, somebody was On Call and fixed it?

The web was done right the first time. An ancient 3D banana shows Microsoft does a lot right, too

Dr. Ellen
Pint

Re: Maybe not.

Conditions vary. If you don't have any fuel, the axe wins. They're so simple even a caveman can use them. In fact, a caveman invented them.

The ancient days and ways live on. Stone age? Rock is great for prestigious buildings. Bronze age? Look at all those statues! And it doesn't rust. Iron age, industrial age, information age -- they all stand on the shoulders of earlier ages.

(As a side note: I tried to use windows 1. 3.1 was much better.)

BOFH: You say goodbye and I say halon

Dr. Ellen

Re: Hmmm...

I worked in a museum that had a vault to store books and artifacts, protected by a halon system. We were told that halon quenches fire in relatively small percentages, so if somebody happened to be in the vault when it was released, they still could breathe (though they'd be wise to leave promptly). None of us tested that.

In any case, it's better than releasing the kraken.

Dr. Ellen

Re: Great murder choice.

There is a murder mystery by Monica Ferris, called Blackwork, which uses this as a murder method.

I no longer have a burning hatred for Jewish people, says Googler now suddenly no longer at Google

Dr. Ellen
Flame

Re: Shakespeare

Considering the current climate among the intelligentsia, some of the people who helped toss him out were probably angry because he disclaimed Jew-hate.

A hotline to His Billness? Or a guard having a bit of a giggle?

Dr. Ellen
WTF?

dBASEd

Why, yes. I think it was the eighties. I was having royal trouble with the dBase III manual -- so I called the mothership. And got somebody high on the totem pole. I reamed that handbook out for twenty minutes: "Don't you think it might have been nice to have "print" in the index, instead of hiding it under "Set Print"? If you needed that "Set Print", couldn't you put a pointer in the index under "Print"?

I think he was rather shaken by having contact with an actual customer. He sent a copy of the dBase III+ manual, which did help.

Home office setup with built-in boiling water tap for tea and coffee without getting up is a monument to deskcess

Dr. Ellen

Re: Get a b'desk!

The desk has no commode function. That job is reserved for the office chair, whose portability is assured by its wheels. Only $5000 (including decontamination equipment).

Blind man sues Dell over 'inaccessible' website

Dr. Ellen

Operation Longlife

I had a friend who was both blind and without hands. He wanted to write. Some kind of organization gave him a PC XT 286, which was a computer intermediate between the PC and the XT. It lived in a PC box, but had a 286 processor. IBM didn't make many; rumor says they were using up their PC cases before they got to making the AT. (Yes, they existed: https://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=260 )

Since it was an orphan of sorts, repair parts were hard to come by. He'd learned the program (both reader and word processor) and didn't feel like changing -- I quite agreed when I tried to shoehorn some other screen reader into a 386. It involved a special output card, as well, The company had disappeared without a trace. So I ended up maintaining an old, scarce computer for about twenty-five years.

I made a new keyboard for him. He'd learned to use a peculiar keyboard with a modified typewriter, so I made a larger copy mated to a regular keyboard (I had to get access too, for maintenance.) Thank heavens Windows hadn't been created, because I haven't the faintest idea of how to make a mouse. But that PC-286 was his friend and muse, and he wrote a lot with it. (I have a novel he did. Rather Wodehouse, it was.) And I kept it going until the day he died.

New lawsuit: Why do Android phones mysteriously exchange 260MB a month with Google via cellular data when they're not even in use?

Dr. Ellen

Re: Android data robbery

I have a portable computer, which I keep in airplane mode unless I need a phone. Saves data allowance and annoyance.

H2? Oh! New water-splitting technique pushes progress of green hydrogen

Dr. Ellen
Mushroom

Even with highly educated users - if I'd had another year as an undergrad, I might have died of a bad case of hydrogen. The liquid hydrogen bubble chamber at the Cambridge Electron Accelerator blew up right next to the beamline I was working at a year earlier.

Apple seeks damages from recycling firm that didn't damage its devices: 100,000 iThings 'resold' rather than broken up as expected

Dr. Ellen
Gimp

Bondage and Discipline

You will do as Apple tells you.

Microsoft? More like: My software goes off... Azure AD, Outlook, Office.com, Teams, Authenticator, etc block unlucky folks from logging in

Dr. Ellen
Happy

Home is where the data is.

I continue to feel smug over keeping all my programs and data right on this here computer. When my data goes pflui, it'll be something I did, not something some idiot in a computer center did.

Page: