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Comment: Used Batteries: meh (Score 1) 133

by AlanObject (#48642117) Attached to: Tesla About To Start Battery-Swap Pilot Program

What I don't like about this scheme is that I end up driving my car around with someone else's batteries. With my own battery pack I know what the batteries have been through -- their service record, the conditions they have been in, and also what I can expect out of them in terms of performance because I have been using them recently. When you swap out the battery pack that all goes out the window.

These batteries degrade over time. So I could end up swapping my batteries with 400 hours on them for batteries that have 10,000 hours on them. No thanks.

Comment: It makes no sense (Score 1) 77

by AlanObject (#48238287) Attached to: Study: New Jersey e-Vote Experiment After Sandy a Disaster

Has anyone managed to explain why e-voting always fails when the same technology can be used to run a network of online banking and ATM services, backed up with face-to-face tellers (yes they still exist!) to serve those who don't have online access?

I haven't heard that banks are losing tons of money because it is all online and a lot more convenient for me than it was last century. Yes there are crooks but they are quickly detected and dealt with.

If these systems can keep track of trillions of dollars of transactions with an open-ended commitment to each customer surely a single vote per customer constraint should be no problem.

Electronic voting doesn't work only because we don't want to make it work.

Comment: Only part of the problem (Score 1) 170

I have less concern than the amount of data being stored as I do the incredible number of files that a typical system stores. Do an ls -lR / on a typical system and you will get tens or even hundreds of thousands of files.

As recently as the days of Windows/NT 4 I could probably keep the gist of the entire structure in my head -- what each sub-tree is for and in most cases what each directory/file is for. Somewhere since then it has become impossible to do so and that goes for Windows, MacOS X, or almost any Linux distribution.

Comment: Elon's secret (Score 1) 96

by AlanObject (#48207495) Attached to: What It Took For SpaceX To Become a Serious Space Company

I don't know that much about him other than as an investor, but the thing I have noticed about Elon Musk is that he does the homework. He works the numbers and if they don't add up he does something else. So although it seems to an outsider that he is doing something wild, he is actually keeping to a dry spreadsheet.

Someone who didn't do this might have tried a newer whiz-bang battery technology for Tesla. Or maybe fuel cells. Instead he stuck with "boring" old Li-Ion battery technology because he found a way to make the numbers work. And if that technology improves over what it can do today so much the better.

Maybe someone here more knowledgable than I am about what SpaceX is doing can say if he has done the same thing there. From the article it seems like SpaceX has managed to apply technology to get the price-point he thought was necessary. That suggests to me that Elon did his homework many years ago and did it right.

Comment: Re:It had better be reliable! (Score 1) 158

If you are curious about this you should take a look at the electronics that go into airliners. My company makes a circuit board that uses Freescale processors and many other chips and they want us to guarantee availability for another 20 years. In fact I think we have orders on the books through 2026. During that time one of my successors will have the nice job of finding chips to build them if the various silicon manufacturers decide to shut down the line.

On another application we kept a product going for 5 years after the main chip went EOL by working with a company that specialized in licensing EOL designs just for this purpose

The thing about an automotive application in the console is that the "1000 or more parts" PCB that we are talking about can be replaced with an upgrade much more easily than anything that flies. Boeing has $20,000 circuit boards that were designed 25 years ago they still order even though I could replace the whole thing with a $15 FPGA on a $30 PCB today. The reason: you don't mess with flight critical components without millions of dollars of testing. The $20,000 assembly is cheaper.

In contrast the Tesla console could probably be redesigned in a few years with updated components and possibly even 100% software compatible. The barrier to getting it qualified would be far less even though the car is highly dependent on it working. So if you are making a list of things to be worried about in buying a Tesla this shouldn't be on it.

Comment: Re:Wow (Score 1) 152

by AlanObject (#47730613) Attached to: China Pulls Plug On Genetically Modified Rice and Corn

It is not a health concern, and has been used in organic food production for decades before suddenly becoming controversial once genetic engineering got involved.

The difference is that Bt used to be applied topically, and in a relatively short while biologically breaks down so you don't ingest it.

In contrast, Bt corn produces the chemicals internally. The chemicals get ingested intact where before they never were. As a result entire populations of people test positive for contagion of Bt that never were before.

That's my understanding anyway.

Comment: The more it changes this thing never changes (Score 2) 294

by AlanObject (#47651575) Attached to: The Technologies Changing What It Means To Be a Programmer

My experience reaches back to the toggle-and-punch cards days and I don't want want to bore anyone with stories about that.

But one thing I have noticed in all those years a I cannot recall a single year where it wasn't proclaimed by someone that software engineering would be dead as a career path within a few years.

Academia and Industry is actually pretty good at coming up with new and better ways to program. Hundreds if not thousands of new languages, frameworks and tools have appeared over the years and an amazing number of them were designed with the idea that "you don't need a programmer anymore." They're still doing it.

If you have been around long enough, you realize it will never happen.

Comment: Re:A Republican clearing up your misconceptions. (Score 1) 502

by AlanObject (#47614999) Attached to: Why Morgan Stanley Is Betting That Tesla Will Kill Your Power Company
Didn't Jesus have access to power sources unknown to us? The Bible tends to refer to this as "god's" power and it doesn't give any more detail but I am pretty sure what Jesus did would require energy sources beyond what the Bronze age could provide.

Comment: Office Space? (Score 1) 100

by AlanObject (#47607783) Attached to: Tesla's Already Shopping For More Office Space

My office is in the Warm Springs district of Fremont less than 1KM from the Tesla plant. I can't step outside without a Tesla fresh from the factory or a demo rolling over my toes.

There is a huge amount of empty real estate around here. The main Solyndra building got purchased by Seagate, but they occupied several other buildings which are still empty. Including the Solyndra HQ which was visited by Obama for a photo op. It used to be the HMT building, then MMC, then Solyndra bought it and completely refurbished it. Next to it is about 500,000 sq ft of what used to be a Compaq facility, then HP, then Solyndra, now empty.

There are tons of other buildings that were full of dot-com era tech that are all now empty. And new buildings on what was the McCarthy Ranch. It is a few miles further away but easy freeway access.

Let's just say it is a buyer's market. Why Tesla would be having any difficulty all choosing what space they want to occupy is an amazing notion. I'll never understand commercial real estate.

Comment: Re:Let them drink! (Score 2) 532

by AlanObject (#47329687) Attached to: NYC Loses Appeal To Ban Large Sugary Drinks

Intelligent people can fall prey to addictive substances including heroin, narcotics, and nicotine. Sugar is addictive and it has been shown to be on par with cocaine that way. How else do people down 44 ounces of liquid in a single serving?

Beyond simple sucrose/glucose, high-fructose sweeteners used by the soft drink industry have additional negative health consequences even beyond weight gain that aren't readily apparent to consumers. The sugar-water companies reap huge profits -- as big as any the tobacco industry ever did -- selling this stuff.

We regulate dangerous consumables, so why not sugar and HFCS? If I had my way minors wouldn't be able to buy this stuff.

Comment: Language? What Language? (Score 1) 466

by AlanObject (#47246919) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Rapid Development Language To Learn Today?

My personal experience is I spend 10% of my learning curve learning whatever language and 90% of my learning curve learning the available libraries for that language.

So I tend to want to use Java for everything not because the language is better than some other (it isn't, but arguing about it is pointless) but because I am proficient in a lot of class libraries that come with it. Also it has a defacto-standard project structure pretty much enforced by Apache Maven.

Most recent case in point for me is learning Objective-C to do IOS applications. Learning the language itself is not that big a deal even if you do stumble a lot (at first) over the square-bracket syntax of its message statements. The only thing that makes it usable at all is Xcode's excellent IDE support for the library documentation always just a context-sensitive click or two away.

That, to me is the biggest problem with Javascript. The language itself is pretty cool in some ways yet full of pitfalls and more prone to abuse and misuse than almost any other language I can think of. Netbeans does a decent job of making a debugging platform workable but the class libraries alway require web searches for examples and tutorials. Until you are proficient (months of coding maybe) it is really slow going.

BTW, if you really want to go the Javascript route but still yearn for Python you should look into CoffeeScript.

Comment: Re:What about the shareholders? (Score 1) 211

by AlanObject (#47224275) Attached to: Tesla Releases Electric Car Patents To the Public
The plaintiffs would have to demonstrate how the company lost value by them doing that. If Tesla somehow lost significant value and a lawsuit against management were initiated for some other reason, this issue might be appended to the lawsuit to try to build the case for mismanagement. The defense would counter that since the shareholders did not vote as a majority to replace the BoD with one that would appoint officers (not Musk) that would not do such things, the BoD was simply following the will of the majority of the shareholders in their own best judgement. There used to be a lot of law firms around that would try it, but while the company's stock value is up there simply is no way to claim damages.

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