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Secret Quonsar Thank You Thread

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Brighten your day with tales of thoughtful people being nice through the mail, in the Secret Quonsar Thank-You Thread -- now including Quonsmas magazine.

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digdoug
1 day ago
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Louisville, KY
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Slow But Eco-Friendly Lawnmower

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digdoug
2 days ago
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Louisville, KY
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Kindle Oasis Review: Is bigger better?

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I loved the first-generation Kindle Oasis. Though nobody needed to buy a $290 ebook reader, it was the best Kindle you could buy. Without its mandatory battery case, it was impossibly thin and light, and brought back the hardware page-turn buttons that Amazon seemingly abandoned several generations of Kindle ago.

The second-generation Kindle Oasis still holds down the top of Amazon’s Kindle product line, but it’s a very different product than the original model. The mandatory case is gone, the price has dropped $40 to $250, and the hardware itself has bulked up.

The second-generation Oasis is still shaped like the original model—it’s got a thicker side (8.3mm) that’s easier to grip and features the two page-turn buttons, and a thinner side (3.4mm) that helps the devices weigh less. But about that weight: Free of its case, the old Oasis weighed only 4.6 ounces, making it the lightest Kindle by quite a bit. This new one weighs 6.8 ounces, slightly heavier than the Kindle Voyage and slightly lighter than the Kindle Paperwhite.

The fact is, the second-generation Oasis is scaled up in all dimensions. It’s thicker, heavier, wider, and taller—but at least the increased width and height means that the screen is large. It’s a seven-inch diagonal, up from the six-inch screen size Amazon uses on all its other current Kindles. I’m not sure I’ve ever picked up the second-generation Oasis and marveled at the screen size, but if you’re someone who needs to use large type to read, you’ll get a real benefit. (My friend and fellow Kindle aficionado Scott McNulty says he thinks the larger screen is fantastic—so perhaps I’m an outlier here.)

To be fair, the first-generation Oasis only managed to be small and light because of the battery case, which came with the Kindle and extended the rather skimpy battery life of the core device. And I’ve never been a fan of Amazon’s cases for Kindles, so I’d have to say that the new Oasis is an improvement in that department. If you’re a fan of Amazon’s Origami case design, you’ll also be happy, because this Oasis will work with them again.

wet-oasis
Amazon is very excited that this Kindle is waterproof.

The second-generation Oasis is the highest quality hardware I’ve ever seen from Amazon, courtesy of its aluminum back and sides. I’d gotten so used to the Kindle being a plastic gadget, it was surprising to open the box and see the metallic sheen. It definitely makes the device feel more “premium”, which is appropriate, given that you could buy two Paperwhites for the cost of one Oasis.

The second-generation Oasis is also waterproof, the first time Amazon has offered that feature in a Kindle. I’m not someone who takes baths and I don’t own a hot tub or a swimming pool, but if you’re someone who (like Jeff Bezos) has been keeping their Kindle in a zip-top bag in order to read it in the water, it’s time to rejoice.

Another feature this Kindle offers that I don’t use: Bluetooth connectivity. You can attach a Bluetooth audio device and use screen-reading software or play back Audible audiobooks. Again, this is a feature I’m never going to use, but if you’re someone who frequently switches back and forth between Kindle books and their Audible equivalents, it might be convenient to have them both available in one place.

For me, though, Kindles are all about price and ergonomics. The second-generation Oasis is a nice piece of hardware, but I really appreciated the light weight of the first-generation model and I had hoped Amazon would push a little bit more in that direction. The larger screen is good, but it’s not like I’m reading a hardcover book—it’s just a slightly larger paperback size, which is fine but not revelatory. Waterproofing will be an important distinction for some people, to be sure.

New (left) and old Kindle Oasis models.

As with the first-generation model, this new Oasis model is for people who love reading ebooks and don’t mind spending more money for a nicer experience. I’d prefer if the second-generation model were lighter and smaller, but regardless, the Oasis remains the best Kindle you can buy, and is appreciably nicer than the Paperwhite on almost every front.

Still, for most people, the $120 Paperwhite is the right choice. The Kindle Oasis is a splurge for people who simply want the best ebook reading experience around and don’t really mind that it costs twice as much as a perfectly serviceable alternative.

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digdoug
2 days ago
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I effing *love* my Oasis. Amazon's really knocked this version out of the park. It's a little spendy, but if you actually read on these things, it's super high quality. It just feels 'right'
Louisville, KY
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Google’s AlphaZero Destroys Previously Top-Ranked Chess Computer in 100-Game Match

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Mike Klein, reporting for Chess.com:

A little more than a year after AlphaGo sensationally won against the top Go player, the artificial-intelligence program AlphaZero has obliterated the highest-rated chess engine.

Stockfish, which for most top players is their go-to preparation tool, and which won the 2016 TCEC Championship and the 2017 Chess.com Computer Chess Championship, didn’t stand a chance. AlphaZero won the closed-door, 100-game match with 28 wins, 72 draws, and zero losses.

Oh, and it took AlphaZero only four hours to “learn” chess. Sorry humans, you had a good run.

That’s right — the programmers of AlphaZero, housed within the DeepMind division of Google, had it use a type of “machine learning,” specifically reinforcement learning. Put more plainly, AlphaZero was not “taught” the game in the traditional sense. That means no opening book, no endgame tables, and apparently no complicated algorithms dissecting minute differences between center pawns and side pawns.

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digdoug
3 days ago
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I'm finding this the single weirdest, simultaneously frightening and amazing story of 2017
Louisville, KY
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1 public comment
satadru
9 hours ago
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Some nerd is going to teach AlphaZero how to use OKCupid and then she's going to obliterate the competition.
New York, NY

Trombone Text

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(via Neatorama)
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MaryEllenCG
4 days ago
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Bwa ha ha ha ha!
Greater Bostonia
digdoug
4 days ago
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Louisville, KY
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By chris24 in "Collusion Course" on MeFi

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@mrbenwexler
THE RIGHT: Yeah he's a serial child molester but he'll confirm the guy I want on the Supreme Court

THE LEFT: Yeah she's good on global warming and tax policy and race relations and expanding healthcare to poor families but I can't vote for someone who gave paid speeches to Goldman
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MaryEllenCG
4 days ago
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Greater Bostonia
skorgu
4 days ago
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digdoug
4 days ago
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Louisville, KY
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1 public comment
vpatil
4 days ago
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Yep.
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