Cheeseburger Gothic

The eReader that gets you wet.

Posted February 22, 2015 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

I scored my free Kobo late last year from a PR firm looking for a quote. I was happy to give them one because anything which vexes the Beast of Bezos gets a tummy rub from JB on general principles. I forget what I said for them.
They let me keep the unit, though, which was nice of them. It is, as I’ve mentioned earlier, the water-proof model. The Kobo Aura H2O, I think it’s called.


I’ve been using it long enough now to be able to write an honest review. I’ve read about half a dozen dozen books on it, some good some not so much. Enough to be able to separate any feelings or thoughts I might have about the device from my response to the books I read.
So, bottom line, is it as good as or better than a Kindle?
Depends.
I have an old first gen PaperWhite Kindle, smuggled into the country via the good offices of Professor Boylan. Much as I hate the Beast, I recognise the quality of his kit and the PaperWhite is a quality eReader. The 2nd Gen, I’m told is even better.
The Kobo doesn’t sit quite as nicely in my hands as the Kindle. It feels just a touch bigger and more angular. Possibly a little heavier. But only a touch. That doesn’t make it noticeably less easy to hold for hours at a time. It just feels like a slightly heavier, boxier artefact. Still, judged on its own merits, I’m more than happy to use it. Compared to an iPad or even an iPad Mini, it remains a superior option for reading - as a dedicated single-use device should be.
The screen is as clean and crisp as the PaperWhite, the text exquisitely defined. In direct sunlight it does look like ink printed on good stock. Unlike a Kindle, the Kobo doesn’t right justify unless you force it too, so you don’t get the ugly layout effects that sometimes occur on the market leading eReader.
Backlighting, or uplighting to be perfectly geekly about it, works well. You can read this in the dark without straining your eyes and the Kobo has none of the uneven lighting issues of the 1st generation PaperWhite. (Not that they bothered me much anyway).
Battery life?
Meh, not so great. Or perhaps "not as great as Amazon delivers", might be a fairer call. I find the Kobo needs charging about once every book and a half, which seems a little hungrier than the Kindle, but still way way better than any tablet you’d use as a reader. (I read long books). Charging time runs to about four or five hours for a full battery. Standby on wifi - about a month or so.
The bookstore will have most of what you want. I haven’t run into problems with a lack of content yet. I don’t think they claim as many titles as the Kindle, but then again since Amazon opened up their AU ebook store I’ve found myself blocked from accessing the US site. And worse, because I started with a US account, I now find it impossible to buy in either Kindle store. I just get bounced back and forth between the two.
Lucky I don’t buy Kindle titles any more.
On the other hand I have had trouble using the offer codes that Kobo occasionally send. In fact I’ve never successfully used one. Ever. I enter the codes and the server refuses to recognise them. Maybe it’s a problem with my account. Maybe it’s systemic.
However, that’s not what everyone is waiting to hear about. The one feature that sets apart the Kobo Aura H2O is it’s ability to take a drink, or a bath, or a dip in the ocean.

It is waterproof. Just as advertised. I’ve tested this thing in the bath, the shower, down by the pool with a beer and about half a dozen times on the beach. It feels weird and wrong. The first time I exposed it to water was in my backyard where I perched on my beer-drinking ledge in the pool and necked a San Miguel while knocking over a couple of chapters of Lev Grossman’s The Magician.
It was nerve wracking at first. I felt like I was going to either destroy the Kobo or myself. But we both survived.
Oddly enough for a water proof piece of tech, the Kobo doesn’t like getting spotted with droplets. Dunno why but it copes a lot better with being fully submerged than with having a few drops splashed on screen, or a wet finger used to turn a page. That will often result in a warning screen saying that you should wipe it down. But drop the thing to bottom of the pool or toss it in the surf and it’s fine.
The beach is where the Kobo really comes into its own. You can take a Kindle to the beach. Jeff Bezos famously seals his inside a ziplock bag. I’ve done the same. But the Kobo rules here. You don’t even need to worry about sand. The micro USB slot where you plug in your charger is protected by a good rubber seal and although grains of sand can get stuck where the screen meets the bezel, a quick immersion in the surf will see them washed away – as well as making you seem the most interesting crazy man on the beach.
When you’re a parent, a lot of your time by the seaside is spent waiting for kids to be done. I approach those endless, baking beach runs with less trepidation now I know I have a waterproof, sand proof and beautifully useable eReader to take with me.
I wouldn’t go smearing sun block on it though.

8 Responses to ‘The eReader that gets you wet.’

Ed Jones would have you know...

Posted February 22, 2015
Not too bad at $A 229 either. How have you found the pricing of the books in the store? At first glance they seem a little more expensive than the beast. But maybe that's a plus to your kind?!
Wondering if their Android app will work on the Kindle so I can try them out... lol


John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 22, 2015
At $229 I'd totally try out the free app first.

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tqft puts forth...

Posted February 22, 2015
Amazon keeps asking me about my country of residence and have I moved.

Nope, still riverside Iowa Mr bozos.

Right now books I just bought from humble bundle haven't shown up on my tablet. 24h still waiting. Downloaded fine.
Ereaders great idea, hardware good but the ecosystem sucks.

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damian asserts...

Posted February 22, 2015
Does sound pretty nice, fersure.
Been doing the ziplock bag thing for a while, maybe this will be worthwhile if the price of ziplock bags goes up unexpectedly :/

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sooty nnewt is gonna tell you...

Posted February 22, 2015
Nook is the best Android e reader on the kindle works a treat if you side load it.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted February 22, 2015
I used to love the old Nook with the Carabiner loop. Dunno why. Just did.

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Noctor Dick mutters...

Posted February 23, 2015
Wonder if they'll give me one to test if it's depth-proof ;)

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George Fripley swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 23, 2015
I just can't get into e-readers, and it's not any deep-seated philosophical problem - I have one but never seem to use it. Doesn't spring to mind when thinking about reading. Perhaps I can get treatment to bring me into the modern age?

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Oh noes! I may be forced to buy a new iMac

Posted February 6, 2015 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Yes, I know, I just bought one last year. Yes I know, it's not a 5K Retina model. None of that is relevant. The venerable old 2007 iMac which became the family work horse has finally carked it. It won't turn on. It is no more. It is an ex-parrot.

I wrote a lot of books on that machine, and even more articles, columns and blogs, of course. It served me well and many times in its last years of use I found myself shaking my head in wonder that it just kept going.

No more, though.

And we need a family work horse.

So I see no alternative to handing down my new iMac and making the supreme sacrifice of getting in a replacement 5K model.

A moment's silence please. This is a sad day.

19 Responses to ‘Oh noes! I may be forced to buy a new iMac’

w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted February 6, 2015
When you fire up those new 14.7 million pixels, I think that will help you with your grieving and your sacrifice. The sooner the better, I reckon.

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she_jedi would have you know...

Posted February 6, 2015
If you sneak down in the middle of the night and unplug the power cord then this will result in the computer not turning on. Coincidence? Well played Mr Birmingham, well played.

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Sennafumi ducks in to say...

Posted February 6, 2015
I smell an opportunity here.....
A dead but sign by Mr Birmingham Mac with such provenance would surely have some historical value to someone who hangs out here.

insomniac asserts...

Posted February 6, 2015
Well, apparently he wrote all his books on it. Must be in tiny tiny writing to get them all on. Hope there's still room for a signature.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted February 6, 2015
Get a new one, by all means, but pay whatever tax deductible dollars it takes to get the old one fixed.

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Rob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 6, 2015
I am thinking of getting an Imac for my studio. Not because I've finally given up on PCs (because my PC rig is awesomesauce) but I've been offered an obsolete iMac from the local uni for SFA. and you know my studio will look like a real artists studio if I have a big screen apple product in there, and not half a suburban car hole.

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Murphy mumbles...

Posted February 6, 2015
Will it be this one?

http://www.apple.com/mac-pro/

If I had the dough, I'd definitely go Mac Pro, yo.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted February 9, 2015
No - because at the moment Apple doesn't sell a separate 5K display. The only way you get it is by buying the iMac.
The best separate display you can get from Apple is 2560x1440.
If you were going to go the Mac Pro route, you'd have to go to another vendor to get a good IPS 4K+ resolution screen. Dell has the really nice UP2715K which is 5K (5120x2880) - but you're paying almost 2,300 for it.
For the price, you're better off going the iMac - as going the Mac Pro with that monitor is going to cost you roughly double the price.
(Also - if you're getting a 4K monitor - make sure it's IPS. Non IPS 4K monitors (the ones that are under $1000) are rubbish)

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GhostSwirv mumbles...

Posted February 6, 2015

I feel your pain and existential angst JB with having to make the supreme sacrifice and pass the newbie iMac down the line of succession.

I too have to surrender my 3 year old MacBook Pro to my youngest spawn, but only after I have received the latest 15 inch Retina model that work insists I use, purely for educational purposes you understand.

Those who gripe and imbibe in the gnashing of teeth over your serious lack of Appleness don't understand how hard and traumatic this whole scenario must be for you ... as I peruse the latest iPhone+ diamonte-encrusted model I'll be thinking of you.

GhostSwirv over out - to pick up dinner, adult Thai, pre-teen garlic pizza and large popcorn for the unending saga that is #libspill.

she_jedi asserts...

Posted February 6, 2015
Off topic but is not #libspill just the glorious gift that keeps on giving? I've been drowning in Schadenfreude all week. It's been divine.

Spanner asserts...

Posted February 6, 2015
I've been gorging on the schadenfreude all week. I've stuffed fresh schadenfreude in my gob. Canned schadenfreude washed down with a schadenfreude smoothy. I've had schadenfreude burritos and schadenfreude a'la orange. It is just so fucking good. I don't want it to end. I'm just hooked on watching the slow motion trainwreck of the #libspill unfold. Can a person overdose on schadenfreude? If so I don't care. GIVE ME MAOR SCHADENDFREUDE.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
*goes and sits in corner rubbing schadenfreude on my nipples

GhostSwirv swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 6, 2015

I prefer my Schadenfreude best served chilled, with a soft, warm brioche on the side, a dipping sauce with just a hint of chilli and a long, tall glass of Cooper's Pale Ale ... Nick Cave croons languorously in the background, the #libspill twitter feed barrels along while I crank up Die Hard on the big screen TV.

Hans The Abbott Gruber has just ordered a refried Urban Assault Vehicle, not realising the turmoil that's about to be unleashed upon him and his goons by a vengeful electorate who doesn't like to lose.

All that is missing from this picture is the heart-warming sediments, er sentiments of the All-Seeing, All-Knowing Wise One ... who will truly lead us all from darkness when he 'mansplains' the antics of OneTermTones and anoints a new vassal, er successor.

GhostSwirv over and out ... the Schadenfreude awaits

PS - I have taught my Mac to spell libspill

Halwes ducks in to say...

Posted February 6, 2015
There is always another grub lurking around the corner to take their place. The loss of Abbott and the instalation of Turnbull will see the conservatives in power for a longer time. Abbot was beatable at least. Turnbull is a lot slimier.

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted February 7, 2015
Here you go Spanner:
http://www.sbs.com.au/comedy/article/2015/02/04/julia-gillard-rushed-hospital-after-overdosing-schadenfreude

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Jon puts forth...

Posted February 7, 2015
Take it out the back and shoot it.

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Craig Richmond ducks in to say...

Posted February 7, 2015
If it's no worky, when you turn it on, it's very likely the power supply that met it's demise. My old one went the same way (just after I sold it to my friend - *sigh*). The replacement power supplies are a moderate challenge to install and seemingly hard to come by. That is presumably the result of them being a weak point and otherwise useful computers requiring them to be brought back to life. Sorry for your loss, but the replacement will be awesome!

Sudragon puts forth...

Posted February 7, 2015
Of course power supplies are hard to come by. Why sell you a part you can install yourself when they can get you to buy a whole new computer?

Craig Richmond would have you know...

Posted February 11, 2015
Apple will happily produce parts for machines that are well less than 8 years old. They are like most other reputable manufacturers in this regard.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted February 11, 2015
SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP

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The Secret Life of Passwords

Posted November 23, 2014 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Really lovely and thoughtful piece in the NYT about the way our passwords "take on secret lives". It's a great Sunday read.

Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar — these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.

Perhaps my biggest surprise has been how willing, eager actually, people are to openly discuss their keepsakes. The friends I queried forwarded my request, and before long I started receiving passwords from complete strangers. There was the former prisoner whose password includes what used to be his inmate identification number (“a reminder not to go back”); the fallen-away Catholic whose passwords incorporate the Virgin Mary (“it’s secretly calming”); the childless 45-year-old whose password is the name of the baby boy she lost in utero (“my way of trying to keep him alive, I guess”).

21 Responses to ‘The Secret Life of Passwords’

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted November 23, 2014
Yep, so true.
For a 4 digit pin, I mainly use my mate's pin he told me 20 years ago because it is a mildly amusing pun.

And, the secrecy! Write them down. Perhaps put them on post-it stickers on your computer (semi-joke). Because password crackers don't generally find out your password by breaking into your house.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted November 24, 2014
I use two methods for choosing computer passwords. I choose randomly chosen automobile license plate numbers (e.g. 367ULK - taken from the license plate of a Toyota I was stuck behind on California Hwy 395 somewhere near Susanville). Or I do it the way the International Dada Committee chooses the date for their conferences (by randomly drawing pieces of paper showing numbers and (letters and sometimes symbols, depending on the host's requirements) from a box or bag.

Any password with any kind of meaning designed to allow fast recollection can potentially be sussed out.

tarl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 24, 2014
If you're worried about someone sussing out your passwords, remember that rubber hose cryptanalysis almost always works.

The goal of a password is making it harder for someone to pretend they are you while not making your own life hell. So you want something you can remember relatively easily, you can touch-type accurately frequently (without having to mumble it), but brute-force crackers won't trip over. That generally means long sequences of words, and an increasing number of applications are allowing that. When you see a password limited to eight characters, it indicates either an obsolete program or an obsolete programmer.

The requirements for mixed case, numbers, non-alphabetics, etc. actually reduce security because they increase the odds someone will put them on a yellow sticky. And with people having to type passwords on iPhones and the like, shifting and selecting numbers have gotten much more painful than typing extra characters.

And let's not get into multinational keyboards screwing around with where the non-alphabetics are - the keyboard you are forced to use isn't necessarily the one you are used to, and the labels on the keys don't necessarily match what the computer interprets the keys as.

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 25, 2014
In NZ we all use pun numbers

w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted November 25, 2014
Choice, bro!

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insomniac puts forth...

Posted November 24, 2014
I reuse my qwerty password on a lot of sites but figure I'm way too unimportant for anyone to be interested in me, or assume my inconsequential identity.

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Lulu puts forth...

Posted November 24, 2014
I generally pick something from a book I'm reading, a film I've just seen etc - we have to change them regularly at work, so keeping just one wouldn't work. Having said that, my e-mail password (picked on the same principle) doesn't change and it's become my standard 'go to' password for a lot of things over the past several years.

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Therbs puts forth...

Posted November 24, 2014

Marx Brothers had passwords sorted out.


<DL>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: ...you can't come in unless you give the password.</DD>
<DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: Well, what is the password?</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Aw, no. You gotta tell me. Hey, I tell what I do. I give you three guesses. It's the name of a fish.</DD>
<DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: Is it "Mary?"</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: [laughing] 'At's-a no fish!</DD>
<DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: She isn't? Well, she drinks like one! ...Let me see... Is it "Sturgeon"?</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Aw, you-a craze. A "sturgeon", he's a doctor cuts you open when-a you sick. Now I give you one more chance.</DD>
<DD><I>Wagstaff</I>: I got it! "Haddock".</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: 'At's a-funny, I got a "haddock" too.</DD>
<DD><I>Wagstaff</I>: What do you take for a "haddock"?</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Sometimes I take an aspirin, sometimes I take a calomel.</DD>
<DD><I>Wagstaff</I>: Y'know, I'd walk a mile for a calomel.</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: You mean chocolate calomel? I like-a that too, but you no guess it. [Slams door. Wagstaff knocks again. Baravelli opens peephole again.] Hey, what's-a matter, you no understand English? You can't come in here unless you say, "Swordfish." Now I'll give you one more guess.</DD>
<DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: ...swordfish, swordfish... I think I got it. Is it "swordfish"?</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Hah. That's-a it. You guess it.</DD>
<DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: Pretty good, eh?</DD></DL>

Harpo Marx ("Pinky"), whose characters operated only in pantomime, gets into the speakeasy by pulling a sword and a fish out of his trench coat and showing them to the doorman.


Marx Bros - "Horsefeathers"

Halwes would have you know...

Posted November 24, 2014
I watched a lot of marx brothers when I was a kid but have only recently switched on to the incredible dialogue. I think it was the slapstick that must have attracted me when I was young but, reading some of these scripts now, these blokes were incisive social commentators and comic geniuses.

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Darth Greybeard would have you know...

Posted November 24, 2014
Nice piece, even if it gave me flashbacks. I used to run a couple of networks on the same site, one with about 1500 users, the other only 150. But about 1350 users were teenagers and of the rest, some had grown up with computers as walls of flashing lights in movies they probably didn't like anyway. Security was, as they say, an "issue". There was the adult who argued that he should be allowed to use "password" for every login and never, ever change it. Another claimed to forget so often that eventually her HOD asked for it to be made permanent and semi-public. Kids of course swap passwords faster than STDs which not only allowed file-swapping but plausible denial of the contents of their home drives. Every problem had a technical solution, most of which we set up in advance but the human factor gets you every time - i.e. your boss says cut back on security to "make life easier". Still, at least his default password was m3g@cactus - because he was such a prick. Gaaah! It's all coming back. Is it too early to start drinking?

Therbs mumbles...

Posted November 24, 2014
I found vodka with a couple of fingers of apple and mango juice, on ice, topped with soda water is quite the refreshing beverage to cope with bad memories and regret..

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Blarkon asserts...

Posted November 24, 2014
This is why people farking hat being forced to change their passwords regularly.

Blarkon mutters...

Posted November 24, 2014
s/hat/hate

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted November 24, 2014
Yeah. We all hate having to keep changing passwords.
I particularly hate it when my password change fails, with the message, "C'mon pal. You have to do more than just change the number at the end."
What! But that is my brilliant strategy. I don't have a Plan B.

Darth Greybeard mumbles...

Posted November 24, 2014
Yer all users, that's what. Users! (runs MONDAY script forcing everyone reading this blog to change their passwords. ALL OF THEMMMM)

Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted November 24, 2014
People most likely to not change passwords are those with the most sensitive accounts. The same people who configure service accounts with admin privileges and use the same non-expiring default password for every service account.

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spokenoise reckons...

Posted November 24, 2014
Man I hate the 'One capital, one number and eight letters' push for non sequenced individual passwords. I can never remember them and constantly need to re change them and then I'm never sure what password is for what site, bank or service.

For me the next killer app is whatever solves this.

Also, no facebook I do not want to sign into everything using facebook.

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John from Canberra ducks in to say...

Posted November 24, 2014
Guessable passwords are a security problem but the bots we need to worry about are probably not (yet) going to be hitting us with social engineering attacks.

So the question becomes "how many goes do they need to brute force it?"

Blarkon mutters...

Posted November 24, 2014
Actually at this point brute forcing passwords is straightforward. Throw Hashcat at a hashed password table.

Security needs to be configured to lock out accounts after a number of invalid attempts - that reduces the chance a brute force attack will be successful.

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Luke mumbles...

Posted November 27, 2014
Wow, I like the article and your coverage. I have digged more and found another coverage by Sticky Password

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Another piece of kit from Weapons of Choice deployed

Posted November 17, 2014 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Laser packs! Sort of. The USN has nailed one to the deck of the USS Ponce as an 'anti-drone' device – which implies it's not quick enough or powerful enough for Phalanx work yet.

Quartz has a write up here. Most interesting factoid, each 'laser blast' only costs a buck.

20 Responses to ‘Another piece of kit from Weapons of Choice deployed’

Murphy would have you know...

Posted November 17, 2014
The U.S. Navy is putting a lot of effort into systems such as lasers, rail guns, and eletromagnetic catapults.

No word on FAE style catapults though.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Chaz ducks in to say...

Posted November 17, 2014
Electrically powered ships are the future!!

HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted November 17, 2014
ZUMWALT class DDG is very electrical I thought. !

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Abigail mutters...

Posted November 17, 2014
Has Stalin's Hammer: Cairo been written yet?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 18, 2014
Gail. I could finish it in about two weeks, but I'm trying to juggle a couple of other ebooks too.

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TheWah is gonna tell you...

Posted November 17, 2014
I love that they installed it on the USS Ponce. I'm guessing nobody will ever snigger at its name again.


Drew from Oz puts forth...

Posted November 18, 2014
Yep. Me too. Definitely LOL'd.

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Sudragon puts forth...

Posted November 17, 2014
Even better... the Captain can pass the order to 'FIRE ZE LASER!!!'

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damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 17, 2014
The USS Ponce has to sail in an isolated "special" flotilla with the USS Informer and the USS Goatfucker. Other ships will target these vessels with their "Shiv" missiles unless strict separation is kept.

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HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted November 17, 2014
yeah, its fkn CRYSTAL to me now!.........................I KNOW I KNOW!!

Halwes ducks in to say...

Posted November 18, 2014

FTA with China? I'm sure all your mates in the dairy industry will sell the farm, and the jobs that go with them, fckwit, to the chinese totalitarians. Free trade and totalitarism. Yeah that could work.

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w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted November 17, 2014
Havock. If I may, I think Charlton Heston night be saying what you are thinking even better than Jack "The Truth" Nicholson.

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Rob mutters...

Posted November 19, 2014
Interesting news.

There's quite a bit more work across the spectrum, too: in the 50 to 60 year life of the F-35, energy weapons are likely to replace all air-to-air missiles in the last quarter or third of that span.

The associated problems are well understood, and fast jet drivers will grouse and whinge and moan about it, but them's the breaks.

There are only a few more generations of air-launched missiles to go, and that will be that. And it's already 20 or so years since medium-range missiles rendered Within Visual Range air combat redundant.

Remember this the next time some blowahard bangs-on about emerging 'hypersonic ballistic carrier-killing missiles' sinking whatever it likes at Mach 10.

Mach 10?

Against energy weapons?

Why so slow?

damian ducks in to say...

Posted November 19, 2014
Above certain projectile speeds, the bottleneck isn't the speed of the interceptor, but rather the reaction speed of the targeting system driving it. Also with a kinetic payload, turning it to plasma doesn't necessarily help very much.

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Guy mumbles...

Posted November 19, 2014
In WW1 the Royal Navy had the flower-class of ships. You can only pity the poor devils who served in HMS Pansy. As I understand it, British society was slightly less tolerant at the time. You can imagine how the crew might have conducted a boarding action: "Come on you Pansies - up and at 'em!".

Anthony would have you know...

Posted November 20, 2014

I think you may be referring to the Flower class corvettes from WWII immortalised in "The Cruel Sea".

I hate to ruin a good story but there was no HMS Pansy, there was a Bluebell and a Petunia though. The Canadians had one called Asbestos and HMS Arabis was transferred to the US Navy and renamed Saucy. Hence it had a crew of saucy sailors. Frankie Howerd would have loved it...


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Guy reckons...

Posted November 20, 2014
When I was told the story about HMS Pansy I thought it sounded a bit too good to be true, so I checked it out online. Here is a reference to HMS Pansy - a "sweeping sloop" apparently - from 1915:

http://www.worldnavalships.com/directory/shipinfo.php?ShipID=5194

I wasn't aware of the USS Saucy (excellent name, thanks Anthony) and I like the idea of a group of sailors in a bar being a bunch of Petunias.

Anthony is gonna tell you...

Posted November 21, 2014
I only looked in the Flower class for the Pansy. I did feel sorry though for the poor sod of a signals rating having to spell out Convolvulus or Chrysanthemum on an Aldis lamp.<font size="2"> </font>

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andy f is gonna tell you...

Posted November 22, 2014

they called it 'ponce'

whatever cool points they earned by 'laser', they just lost


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ANZAC biography project by the National Archives

Posted October 31, 2014 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

The Archive Super Nerds of both OZ and NZ have a kind of amazeballz project to profile every Australian and New Zealander who served in World War I. They're digitizing the service dossiers of everyone who served, including the women of the nursing corps and all the support services, and throwing it online with a heap of other documents, linking back to an earier project which crowd sourced photographs, letters and so on from family members.

You can check it out here.

6 Responses to ‘ANZAC biography project by the National Archives’

tqft ducks in to say...

Posted October 31, 2014
Just sent it to wife for her family history project.

Have some of it already but there are gaps.

I should also look up my father's mother's relatives.

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Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted October 31, 2014

Excellent resource for the personal history buffs.

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insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted October 31, 2014
I looked up my grandfather's records and found that I was "this close" to not being here at all.

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ShaneAlpha asserts...

Posted October 31, 2014
Please give thanks to our archivists. If you've ever tried to find things from the U.K. national archives website you'll know how much better the Australian one is.

Obviously, the records are only as good as the record keepers. But you can find surprising things when you go looking. For example, letters from your long deceased ancestors. Or, thank's to JB's link here, that one of your ancestors was involved in TWO mutinies on Australian warships during WW1.

Lulu has opinions thus...

Posted October 31, 2014
"U.K. national archives"

The military archives, or ordinary civil? I've tried finding U.K civil records through Ancestry.com.au and it's impossible.

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ShaneAlpha swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 31, 2014
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

I've tried to use this site before and compared to the AU one it's utter arse. They seem more concerned with getting you to pay them and pay a researcher rather then making the information searchable.

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Siri on the autism spectrum

Posted October 20, 2014 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Really lovely article in the Herald (originally NYT) about a mother's discovery of her autistic son's burgeoning friendship with Siri. She makes the point that her boy might have grown close to any AI, and investigates some of the potential for software 'sidekicks' to help integrate those growing up on 'the spectrum'.

But whether Siri or Cortana or el Goog, it's a lovely piece.

Gus had never noticed Siri before, but when he discovered there was someone who would not just find information on his various obsessions (trains, planes, buses, escalators and, of course, anything related to weather) but actually semi-discuss these subjects tirelessly, he was hooked. And I was grateful. Now, when my head was about to explode if I had to have another conversation about the chance of tornadoes in Kansas City, Missouri, I could reply brightly: "Hey! Why don't you ask Siri?"

It's not that Gus doesn't understand Siri's not human. He does - intellectually. But like many autistic people I know, Gus feels that inanimate objects, while maybe not possessing souls, are worthy of our consideration. I realised this when he was 8, and I got him an iPod for his birthday. He listened to it only at home, with one exception. It always came with us on our visits to the Apple Store. Finally, I asked why. "So it can visit its friends," he said.

32 Responses to ‘Siri on the autism spectrum’

Therbs would have you know...

Posted October 20, 2014
That last paragraph. Wonderful.

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted October 20, 2014
I do wonder what friends it will make. The movie 'Her' suggests with simulated intelligences we may become very fond of these friends finding them much more patient, reasonable and undemanding than our human friends.

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Bunyip ducks in to say...

Posted October 20, 2014
Oh. That was gorgeous.
Ta muchly JB.

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Dave W puts forth...

Posted October 20, 2014
I know who I'd ask about tornadoes in K.C.. Just sayin'.

Respects.
Outer marches etc etc.

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Darth Greybeard asserts...

Posted October 20, 2014
That was a great read. You wouldn't think with something so positive that the "don't read the comments" rule would apply, but yeah.

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NBlob mutters...

Posted October 20, 2014
+1, a nice yarn.

Human relationships are hard. Especially for young men. There seems a trend of people disengaging from human-human interactions. People will always vere away from the distasteful and difficult. Less experience leads to even more difficulty, more hesitance, more avoidance.
Programming continues to produce user interfaces that are more intuitive, more personable.
What will happen to us when these trends intersect?

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Murphy reckons...

Posted October 20, 2014
First, I think the parent is a shit for not having the conversation with the kid anyway and throwing it off to a piece of technology. It sounds like the sort of thing my parents might have done. Besides, one can have a far more productive conversation with Google's app than with Siri.

In relation to tornadoes, I've lived in the Midwest for most of my life. The gaps in habitation can be narrowed down to five months during the Gulf War and eleven months in South Korea. Throw in four to five more months for Basic and AIT in South Carolina/Georgia respectively.
So, I have never actually seen a tornado. The closest I have been to one is a particularly nasty storm which hit the area back in 2003 I believe. It is the one time I sat in a bathtub with a book since I lived in a brick, cockroach infested apartment building. I didn't realize it but apparently the tornado cell had passed over North Kansas City and landed in Kansas City North (further north), destroying a brand new housing development which included the just finished home of KMBC 9 News Anchor Kris Ketz.

We have storms. Just like everyone else does. We don't ride to work on horses nor do we kick the shit from our boots before we go into the general store. Cattle do not roam the streets, we don't eat BBQ every day. Most of the metroplex that has the name, "Kansas City," is actually on the Missouri side with the sister component in Kansas being much smaller (yet every Hollywood script writer puts the entire city in Kansas because they can't be bothered to look at a fucking map). And contrary to popular belief, the city is not inhabited by Larry the Cable Guy clones driving massive trucks tricked out with coal rollers and lift kits.

And I do not think I have ever owned a pair of cowboy boots.

This friendly rant is brought to you by the letter, "N." N is for Nostalgia.
Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

w from brisbane mutters...

Posted October 21, 2014
But, what you do have in Missouri, is the State Animal is the mule.

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted October 21, 2014
"passed over North Kansas City and landed in Kansas City North (further north)"

And you lot laugh at Mooloolaba, Woolomoloo and Woy Woy.

Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted October 21, 2014
To be fair, we laugh at them too. See "Simon's Grandad" and Woy Woy Downing. "You're from where?"

yankeedog swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 21, 2014
Don't listen to Murph. KC is a dusty cattle town where people eat barbecue every day, in front of the saloons with the swinging doors and the guys playing honky-tonk pianos right before the bar-fights start.

Darth Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 21, 2014
Careful y-dog! If you go to KC or KC North or North KC or Even Further North KC, Murph might jest call you out. Two men in the dusty main street, facing each other through the honking traffic.

damian puts forth...

Posted October 21, 2014
We have Point Danger, Mount Warning and Mount Mistake in roughly a straight line

NBlob mumbles...

Posted October 22, 2014
@ Murph, Re: your 1st par. I'd urge you to adjust your judgy pants.

The frequency of back-seat DVD players is testament to the desperation felt by parents of cognitively normal kids.
The parents of Autistic Spectrum kids are driven far beyond the patience of a statue of a deaf saint.
This is complicated further by the strain of caring for kids on the AS puts on any relationship which frequently, usually results in separation. A friend has a son who is at the "Cognitively Normal" end of the spectrum. She reports %90 of the parents in her group are single, %90 of those relationships ended as a direct consequence of the kids' behaviours & needs. Thus one finds oneself as a single parent, caring for a kid that needs 150% of full time equivalent care. I struggled in my 20's, with a spouse to raise a sole child. I cannot imagine how it is to raise a special needs kid, or 2, solo, with other kids, in my 40's.

So consider firstly a life-line of time offered by Siri (or equivalent) then consider that Siri (or equivalent) may actually help the kid engage with meat people through a kind of conversation on training-wheels as described in the piece.

Sounds to me like a Win with Win frosting. Not abandonment.

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 22, 2014
You got me, man. I am not a parent. I will never be a parent by choice and circumstance.

On the other hand, I do deal with a myriad of special needs individuals ranging from my own brother, patrons at various aquatics facilities, and perhaps most important of all, my students.

I don't throw any of them off onto a piece of technology to avoid dealing with them.

Ever.






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Abigail is gonna tell you...

Posted October 21, 2014

Loved the article! Beautiful story, and as a mother of two Autistic boys I can understand exactly where she is coming from.




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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted October 21, 2014
I also loved this article. Autism is frustrating, mysterious and frightening even for the very best parents. The fact that this child connected with this machine is nothing less than magic.

And Murph, stop lying. When a Kansas Citian isn't eating fried chicken they are wolfing down BBQ. Every fucking time I'm in KC and meet with someone its all "Hey, Paul! How about we get some BBQ?" Every time.

But I understand: it is somewhat delicious.

Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted October 22, 2014
With non-Kansas Citians we assume that the BBQ is what you want to see. But next time you are here we will take you to Niece's on 63rd Street, voted best place to have breakfast in Missouri, for some Chicken and Waffles.

Personally, I think the Mexican food is pretty good here.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 22, 2014
Forgive me, but I intend on avoiding Missouri Mexican food for the same reasons I avoid Missouri sushi: they got no business being there.

However, I am definitely up for some chicken and waffles.

Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted October 22, 2014
West side of Kansas City is probably more Mexican than some parts of California. The food is pretty good. You are surely missing out.

Japanese food, if it can be called that, should be avoided.

Chicken and waffles it is next time you are here.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Surtac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 21, 2014


What Abigail said.

I have two girls on the spectrum and I know exactly what that writer is talking about. Anything, anything, that helps my girls cope with the world is worth it in my opinion.

NBlob would have you know...

Posted October 22, 2014
Are you aware of the T. A. Marshall book "I am Aspien Girl" ?
Opinions?

My Mum is trying to find tactics to improve her relationship with my niece who has (allegedly) a diagnosis of an asperger spectrum condition.
Any resources I can direct her to would be appreciated.


insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted October 22, 2014
As Asperger's is a form of autism wouldn't you start with autism associations and the like?

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Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted October 21, 2014

Thinking about it, how many of us at one time or another when talking with someone get exasperated at them for not understanding, or listening to what we are asking. (or is that just me). These synthetics will never do that.

Classic example when someone says something and we don't hear them clearly we say "I'm sorry speak up, or I didn't catch that" and they reply and once more we don't hear/get it but if ask them to say it again they get annoyed and give up.

These synthetic personalities will never do that, they will be patient, they will never raise their voice, or sound like they are bored or dismiss our random obsessions. How can we not become enamoured of them.

My experience is with the voice directions in the car. Imagine if a passenger was directing you using the street directory and you missed the turn off, or took the wrong street. I know of no one who would state 'Recalculating' in a calm and measured tone and then give you a new route.

insomniac puts forth...

Posted October 22, 2014
Can't you download car voices that would provide you with an authentic typically human response?

Bunyip puts forth...

Posted October 22, 2014
Like a Havock voiced GPS?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted October 22, 2014
I think Garmin allows you to choose Snoop Dog's voice.

insomniac reckons...

Posted October 22, 2014
I thizzle Snoop Dogg provizzle dizzle to anywhizzle would bizzle a lizzle

Snoop translator

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted October 22, 2014

"Like a Havock voiced GPS" that would be responsible for more collisions than driving under the influence of alcohol.

Bunyip reckons...

Posted October 22, 2014
"...responsible for more collisions than driving under the influence of alcohol."

"Working as intended"

Bangar asserts...

Posted October 22, 2014
Hit the horn muppet!
Too slow, pedal to the metal!
Full speed and damn the torpedoes!

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