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Odd Lots

  • I regret to report that Robert Bruce Thompson has left us, at age 64, of heart problems. He’s best-known for his books PC Hardware in a Nutshell and Building the Perfect PC, but he’s also written several books on astronomy and telescopes that I much admire, as well as several books on home-lab chemistry. He was one of the best technical writers of his generation, and has been blogging as long as I have, which later this year will have been 20 years.
  • Apple will be releasing the source code for the Lisa OS this year. The machine came out in 1983 and didn’t sell well due to its $10,000 price tag. (That would be almost $25,000 today.) I’m interested because Lisa OS was written in…Pascal! I’ve heard rumors from the FreePascal community that a port to the Raspberry Pi is likely and might not even be especially difficult. Imagine the OS from a $25,000 machine running on a computer costing $35. I’d do that just to say I did.
  • I didn’t know anything about ArcaOS until a few days ago, but it’s basically a continuation of OS/2 Warp, based on Warp 4, MCP2. Legal, not free, but also not hideously expensive, and supported to boot. If you ever used OS/2 and liked it, take a look.
  • Back before we truly understood the dangers of nuclear radiation, scientists experimented with nuclear fission by moving neutron reflectors around a softball-sized core of PU-239 by hand, and recording the nuclear reaction’s strength from Geiger counter readings. This was called “tickling the dragon’s tail,” and when done clumsily, led to the death of several researchers and shortened the lives of others. Here’s a good summary.
  • The last house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright before his death in 1959 is in Phoenix, and it’s for sale. Got $3.25M in your wallet? You’re set! (Thanks to my own Carol for the link.)
  • Here’s an excellent long-form piece on Amazon Go, the online retail behemoth’s experiment in checkout-free B&M retailing. Take if off the shelf, toss it in your bag, and when you’re done shopping, just leave. You need an Amazon account and ideally a smartphone, but with that you’re in business. No word on when the concept will move beyond Seattle.
  • The Dark Crystal is coming back to movie theaters in February. That was a butt-kickin’ movie, and I will probably hand over the $14 ticket price without a great deal of grumbling. A really big screen is worth something!
  • IO9 mentioned some teasers for Cloverfield III. III? Was there a Cloverfield II? You guys never tell me anything!
  • A Canadian sniper team in the Middle East nailed an ISIS terrorist at 3,871 yards. This is about 1,000 yards farther than the previous record for a sniper kill. I have a lot of respect for marksmen (my father was one) and a sense of awe before the skill of snipers at this level.
  • Every time I crank up Waterfox, it asks me if I’d like it to be my default browser. Every damned time. Something appears to be redefining my default browser without my permission. This support page hasn’t been especially helpful. Haven’t cracked this one yet, but I’ll report here when I do.
  • Something the AGW crowd should keep in mind: If you say that any hot summer’s day means global warming, don’t be surprised if people unroll the syllogism and assume that any cold winter’s day means global cooling. Climate isn’t simple, and we know a lot less about it than we claim.

10 Comments

  1. RH in CT says:

    That’s good news about Dark Crystal but it looks to me like it is showing around here for just two days (Feb 25 & 28)! One afternoon and one evening showing on each of those days.

  2. RH in CT says:

    Be sure to sift through the comments to the article about the long sniper shot for the discussion of the article’s ballistic shortcomings. There is quite a mix of facts and confusion, but the author really needed someone to educate him on basics like gravity. A bullet begins to lose energy as soon as it leaves the muzzle of a gun, and as it loses energy it loses the ability to counteract gravity.

  3. Rich Shealer says:

    Cloverfield II was called “10 Cloverfield Lane”. Started John Goodman who kidnapped a woman and holds her in his bunker. The two men in the bunker insist the world is coming to an end.

    1. Hmmm. Looked it up; I’d say the film needed less John Goodman and more cool monsters.

  4. Orvan Taurus says:

    16 inches of “global warming” here, and Gore isn’t even having his silly meeting or whatever it is here.

    1. Maybe he’s undercover. Snow cover.

  5. jim f says:

    Wow, the FLW house looks great…quite a bit out of my price range…

    Waterfox does not do that to me…

    I suspect that Amazon Go will move out of the testing phase in Seattle…good idea to get the bugs out for maybe a year before rolling it out nationwide.

  6. Amy Bowersox says:

    I don’t know about that Lisa OS port to the RPi…the m68k is different enough from the ARM that there might be issues. And I remember that the early Mac OS was heavily dependent on certain m68k processor features, so Lisa OS might have the same issue. Not to say that some hacker out there won’t try, but it’s definitely a non-trivial problem.

    1. I know a number of guys who would take that as a challenge to their hacker’s honor, and do it just because it’s hard. OSes are virtually always optimized to make use of whatever weird goodies the underlying architecture can provide. And where Pascal fails, assembly steps in.

      Nontrivial problems are what make life worthwhile.

  7. Wile_E_Coyote says:

    Regarding the plutonium experiments, I remember that one of my seventh-grade reading books (circa 1969) had an article about Louis Sloton which celebrated his heroism (for using his bare hands to separate the spheres) but made no mention of his recklessness.

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