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Comment I hope they succeed, but... (Score 5, Interesting) 426

I hope that this effort of GM's succeeds at least well enough for them to continue R&D into EV's, but there are 2 significant problems I see that they'll need to overcome:

First, they'll need a high-speed charging network that will allow for long-distance road trips. Public charging infrastructure is too slow to realistically allow for a trip that is further than what one can do on a single charge. Granted, with 200 miles instead of 40, this is significantly better than what's out there now, it's still not good enough for someone that wants to occasionally take their car on a multi-state road trip. Tesla's supercharger network gives them a competitive advantage, and GM will need something similar. Tesla has said that they are willing to share access, but it has to be on their terms. If GM is willing to buy in on that, we might see a Bolt capable of using Tesla superchargers - this would solve this issue for GM.

Second, the established dealer network has no interest in selling EV's. Most of their profits come from after-market service, and EV's have (theoretically) significantly less service needs. To this end, the dealers are motivated to push traditional ICE's over EV's in virtually every case. This is the major reason why Tesla does not use the traditional dealership sales model. No car salesman will direct you to a Bolt - you'll only get one if you come in specifically wanting one and push past their sales tactics to get you into something else. Buyers of the Nissan Leaf have reported resistance to and sometimes outright hostility from dealerships over wanting to purchase an EV. Unless GM is somehow able to break the dealership cartel and begin direct sales themselves, this issue won't be overcome anytime soon.

Another thought: at $30,000, I strongly suspect it is priced as a loss-leader, meaning it is being sold under cost. Tesla needs the economies of scale of their massive battery factory they call their "gigafactory" now under construction in Nevada in order to achieve a $35,000 price point for the Model 3. It seems unlikely to me that GM has managed to bring the cost down so much without a gigafactory of their own. It seems likely to me that the Model 3, at $5000 more expensive, will be superior to the Bolt in virtually every respect (Tesla has repeatedly said that their 200 mile range will be a real-world figure, while the Bolt's 200 mile range will probably be an ideal figure in perfect conditions, though I'd love to be proven wrong about the Bolt).

All this assumes that GM actually delivers as promised, which is far from guaranteed.

That said, more competition in the EV space is a good thing, so I hope the Bolt does at least well enough for GM to continue research in the area.

Comment Re:Stagnant (Score 1) 157

Well, if your current ICE does last 3-4 years like you hope, maybe you'll be able to replace it with a Tesla Model 3. 200 miles of range, base price of $35k, expected release in the 2017-2018 time frame.

I'm actually in a similar situation - my car is showing signs of age, and while it is running fine now, I can't be sure how much longer it will. Most of my daily driving is under 30 miles, so a Nissan Leaf would do the majority of the time, however once a month I take a trip that is about 100 miles round trip. Granted, unlike you, it's generally pre-planned (I actually have one tomorrow), but it's often enough that the idea of renting a car whenever I do it sounds like too much of a hassle. Also, since my 30 miles of normal driving still happens on those days, an EV has to have a minimum of 130 miles of real world range before it is even an option. To be an option I'll consider, 200 miles is minimum to cover those one-off cases of needing to go even further.

The Tesla Model S is currently the only option that meets that requirement, but it's far too expensive for my budget. That said, I have high hopes that the Model 3 will be my next car.

Comment Comcast Internet good, customer service not (Score 1) 401

My experience with Comcast as an ISP is that the service itself is actually pretty good, if a tad expensive. I have a high-speed, low latency connection with native IPv6. However, I cringe whenever I have to contact their customer service for any reason. Their policies seem designed to make any customer interaction as painful as possible, and I have never had a positive experience when I have had to call them. This recording does not surprise me at all, as the representatives that cancel service probably have metrics that state they must save a certain percentage of those that call to cancel (my guess is that particular rep had been threatened by his boss that if he didn't do better in that regard that he'd lose his job).

If they want to fix their bad CS, they need to make fundamental changes to the way they approach customer service. A good starting point is to give their reps more authority to deal with issues themselves and not be beholden to policy. If the company doesn't trust their employees to make good judgement calls on what's good for the customer and the business, then they shouldn't have hired them in the first place. When someone calls to cancel, it is OK to politely ask why once, but if the person refuses to answer it should be left at that. Remove any metrics that are in place about how many saves a rep must perform.

Comment Re:Curiosity (Score 4, Insightful) 150

If it hits, Opportunity is hosed no matter what. The comet will kick up such a dust cloud that Opportunity's solar panels will not be able to keep it powered. The comet is big enough that it will have a direct effect on the entire planet.

Curiosity, on the other hand, would do fine unless it is unlucky enough to be caught within the blast radius. Note that even if they know now exactly where it will hit, if Curiosity is within the dead zone, they wouldn't be able to do anything about it - it can't move anywhere near fast enough to get out of the way when faced with something this big. The best we'd be able to hope for is that it would be able to get some spectacular shots of the final approach and is able to transmit them fast enough before the end.

That said, assuming it does survive the initial blast (pretty good odds, actually, given just how big a planet really is), having a functional probe on the ground would provide invaluable data about the resulting dust cloud and how it affects the climate.

Comment Re:False Equivalence (Score 5, Informative) 193

"...have the Librarian of Congress revisit that decision" != "Make Cell Phone Unlocking Legal"

That is all.

The summary is poor. The petition itself actually states "We ask that the White House ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal."

Comment Re:32-bit signed integer? (Score 1) 492

Probably laziness. You need an integer variable, you just use int without thinking about whether the value might ever go negative or not. This probably happens all the time, but it is extremely rare that it actually becomes an issue. After all, a signed int can store a number up to just above 2 billion - how often do you need to store numbers even approaching that big? The same thing happened in World of Warcraft with gold. For a while, the gold cap was (2^31)-2 copper (which translates to 214,748 gold, 36 silver, 46 copper) - which indicates they used a signed int despite the fact that it's impossible to have a negative value of money in the game.

At some point (I'm not sure exactly when, but I think it was during the Wrath of the Lich King years), they changed it to use a 64-bit value, and the gold cap is now 1 copper shy of 1 million gold. That was an artificial limitation - there's no real reason why they couldn't just use the entire 64 bits if they wanted to - I don't think anyone would ever be able to reach the 2^63 (assuming a signed 64-bit integer) that it could store.

Comment Re:Thoughts (Score 1) 129

Something to keep in mind is that spy satellites looking down have the same problem that astronomical ground-based telescopes have looking up. Specifically, they have to look through the atmosphere, and the distortion that causes puts a pretty firm upper limit on how clear images can be. Yes, there are tricks that can be done to minimize the issue, but those tricks only go so far. I doubt they'll ever be able to read a newspaper from orbit.

That's why Hubble was useful in the first place. As a telescope, it's not that impressive - far bigger and fancier ones exist. What sets it apart is that it is above all that atmospheric interference.

Comment Re:Lenovo T400 does not meet WoW's minimum require (Score 1) 503

Ok, so the Mobility Radeon HD3400 is slightly better than the GMA 4500, enough that it does technically make the cut for meeting WoW's minimum requirements, but it is still an underperforming, dated chipset. Performance in WoW will still be sub-par. And yes, I have first-hand experience with the HD3400.

Seriously, do your kids a favor and get them a new computer with Windows 7 (or even Windows 8) preinstalled. A $500 desktop machine will do just fine, and won't spoil them in the "beefy" category.

Comment Lenovo T400 does not meet WoW's minimum requiremen (Score 3, Informative) 503

See title. I feel it important to point out that the Lenovo T400 does not meet World of Warcraft's minimum requirements. The Intel GMA 4500 GPU that this laptop has is specifically listed on Blizzard's website as not being supported. What this means is that even if you manage to get it to run, performance will be poor and the game really won't be any fun. In fact, I have to wonder if the problems you've had related to getting it to run in wine are more hardware-related - the computers you are trying to do this on simply aren't beefy enough.

Other specs on the system are borderline bottom for barely meeting the requirements. Don't subject your kids to that. Get them a new computer with Windows 7 preinstalled. For virus protection, Microsoft Security Essentials does fine (free with Windows 7, though it is a separate download).

You may prefer Linux, and it may even work for you, and for you that is fine. But we live in a Windows world - you are doing your kids a serious disservice by not giving them Windows exposure now. They'll need that experience in 10 years when they are trying to get a job - any job - that isn't Linux development.

Comment Linked story lacking in details (Score 2) 307

The linked story is distinctly lacking in details. Yes, it mentions the red or green license plate requirements, but I consider that to be a minor requirement that says nothing about the actual operation. This story has more interesting information and it doesn't even mention the license plate requirement.

Among the highlights:
  • In the test vehicles (presumably the ones with red plates), there must be 2 people in the vehicle at all times, with one able to immediately take over control.
  • Companies must register their testing intentions with the state, such as testing in fog or snow/ice. They must also share results with the state.
  • There must be a "black box" type data recorder that records and stores all sensor data for 30 seconds prior to a collision.
  • Once a vehicle is certified to operate without a driver, a person can operate it without being physically present in the vehicle.
  • The operator is liable regardless of whether they are present or not.
  • There are exceptions for operating an autonomous vehicle while talking on a cell phone (illegal in Nevada without a hands-free device) or texting (also illegal to do while driving), but not for being drunk.

Seems like reasonable rules to me.

Comment Definitely check out the Mormons (Score 2) 292

Any software you find is likely just going to be a database entry/maintenance type software tool for storing your genealogical information, but itself will not give you any information; it just provides a place for you to keep track of information you do find from other sources.

If you are stuck on open-source, I'm not sure how to help you, but if all you really care about is that it is free, I can strongly recommend Personal Ancestral File from here. While it has some fields for Mormon ordinances, you don't have to use those features and it will do nicely to maintain your records.

As for doing the actual research, again I recommend looking into the Mormons - they maintain branches of their main family history library at various church buildings around the world. The volunteers who staff those branches are instructed to not proselyte, they simply are there to help you do the research. The only time you'll have to pay for something is for obvious things like using the copy machine, or if you want to have records shipped in from Salt Lake City you'll have to pay postage, but that's it.

Disclaimer: yes, I am a Mormon, so I may be biased on this matter, but as far as I've seen, the Mormons are the premier experts in the world when it comes to family history research.

Comment Display Port? No thank you. (Score 4, Interesting) 356

I work as a student employee at my university. Over the last summer, we replaced about 500 computers across campus (most of our student lab machines). The new machines only have Display Port as their graphics interface, and we have had lots of problems with it. Lots of various software glitches, and even some significant hardware issues as well.

One issue is that the physical connector is not very sturdy. One good whap (which is not uncommon in an academic environment) and the connector gets destroyed, sometimes taking the graphics card with it. We've had to replace several graphics cards because of this. This was not a problem with our previous batch of machines, which used *gasp* VGA. There are other issues as well, such that there was actually some serious discussion at upper levels of management about the possibility of returning the whole lot of computers (remember, about 500) and demanding the replacement use either VGA or DVI. In the end, they decided that this would be more trouble than it was worth, and that we'd just deal with Display Port issues as they arise. Which, they continue to do.

As for myself, I have no intention of ever using Display Port as my primary display interface on my personal machines unless there is literally no other option. In my opinion, DVI is superior in every respect that matters, and even VGA is preferable.

Comment Do not want (Score 1) 381

I rarely watch movies in the theater. The last one was Toy Story 3, which I saw with my wife. We were rather annoyed with the fact that we had to go out of our way to find a screen showing it in 2D, as it seemed everyone just wanted to show it in 3D.

Even if it was cheaper, I wouldn't want to watch it in 3D. It's a gimmick, and one that gives me headaches at that. If there were no screens showing it in 2D, we would have skipped it and waited for it to come out on video. This will forever be true for me - if moviemakers decide that every movie should be 3D, then my days of going to the theater are done. Now that I have a nice HDTV at home, the desire to go to the theater is lessened, anyway.

I hope more producers take the stance against it that Christopher Nolan has - then maybe we'll see some sanity in the industry about it. Maybe that's a tall order, but I hope not.

Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.