Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Back for a limited time - Get 15% off sitewide on Slashdot Deals with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" (some exclusions apply)". ×

Comment Not just the TLAs (Score 1) 285

Heck, they learned this from the gun grabbers who jump on every shooting and demand more laws, when by golly, the existing laws, if enforced, would do. (see for example, Fast and Furious, laws for gun-free zones, laws against murder no matter how you do it, and so on forever, already existing) Never let a crisis go to waste. Always consider the source...I think this behavior is ghoulish, personally. And when Ed Snowden "hurt" the TLAs, they have a lot of balls to say that hurt the USA - as if they alone were the USA - it helped the vast majority of actual citizens who, unlike them, do obey the laws of the land.

Comment Already there (Score 1) 172

My on-campus data center, such as it is (right now, half a dozen each of x86 boxes, mostly NUCs, and a similar number of raspi-2's driving a bunch of arduinos and teensys for data aq and control of off-grid stuff) - has been running on solar, with batteries, and gasoline and diesel backup - since 1979. Of course the mix of machines has changed, but it's plenty for a couple of users - and my fusion research lab.

I call what I'm doing "the LAN of things". Anyone who puts all that sort of thing "out there on the internet" is frankly crazy or doesn't know squat about security.

People called me crazy for spending that money (incrementally) while much of this gear cost more than it does now. I'm not so sure...haven't paid a power bill since '79 - have a phone/internet bill, and that's it. Yeah, car insurance (A Volt gets me to the beer store), property taxes and so on - but net-net - I'm making out like a bandit. Yes, I have to run the backup gennies sometimes, but not very often. The thing about solar in the mountains of SW VA - February...we don't always have enough sun, and no way can you have enough batteries - self discharge alone kills that plan - to handle that. But it's a pretty decent system, I rarely notice any limitations, and our uptime is far better than the local power company to boot - I am essentially running on a huge UPS all the time. In fact, one of the pis is in charge of monitoring and controlling that, along with controlling the backup gennies - all I can say is, it works. Doesn't hurt I used to make my living as a hardware/software/systems/product designer so I knew how to build all this.

Comment Sad to say, they have a point - not what you think (Score 3, Interesting) 533

I've been off-grid solar since around 1979. It was just too much money they wanted to run wires to my place in the boonies, so why not? I started small, it's really nice now - even charges my Volt... The entire time, batteries have been the limit - you become a battery expert, or you get broke fast. You learn how to baby those suckers, and you do it, or you'll be replacing them often.

Most people who put in solar, expect the power co to essentially provide them with free batteries. They in fact aren't free. So they have a point. No, transformers work both ways just fine, and it's quite rare someone has enough to push more net into the grid even at peak times than they would draw at peak times. No one puts up that many panels (room can be an issue even if money isn't). Even though the power co doesn't currently use batteries, the effect is the same - they still have maintenance costs, have to keep wires up, trees off them, and now with this new source, have to be a lot more agile. Older coal and I'd suppose nuclear plants don't ramp up and down quickly as the sun goes behind a cloud, leading to further waste, or having to use faster responding nat gas turbine plants to handle wildly variable loads. I hate to defend these guys - they are evil, no doubt, always have been while I've had this particular company in my neighborhood - their feed-in tariff has varied from 2c/kwh for electricity you produce while charging you 14c/kwh for electricity they sell you - and they demanded two separate meters, so you'd have had to make 7x the electricity you created (after your own use) to just break even. Jerks. For a little while, law made them kinda fair, but they got that overturned first opportunity (they get the best law money can buy, right?). Entitled to a profit...gheesh. Nice to watch from a distance...a great distance. Popcorn helps.

One advantage to living in the boonies off-grid. The power company is aptly named - they have power to enforce building permits - your stupid local gov delegated that one almost everywhere. No permit required, your PP taxes are nil....heh. So I was able to afford 4 homes, taxed as barns...yeah, the solar cost a lot, as did the batteries, and you have to adapt a bit during the "dark month". But...all in all - I win, they can go and die in a fire. This has little or nothing to do with being green. It's more like I'm Scottish. I don't hate nature, but that's not the motivation. Libre was. Freedom to not have to have a job for monthly bills, and other advantages ruled the decisions. Building my own homes was fun too. And you feel like you've done something net-positive in the world. In the boonies you can get this done before the .gov even realizes you're here. And it's fun when there's a major storm, and the power co brings in outside help that asks if they can give you power - despite being the only place with lights on, and can they read your meter? Yeah, I show them my computerized meters....I've even gotten the comment from them "you can't run a house on that" - while I was actually doing exactly that and had been for decades. Doh!

Comment Re:GM claims (Score 1) 330

Well, by comparison the Volt is a luxury sport car. For one thing. As the commenters below mention, the VW isn't really as good as that anyway. No die-sel for me, at any rate. Stuff stinks here in the USA - even the supposedly low sulfur stuff. And you need to add that other junk periodically to clean the exhaust ($+hassle) - which is why GM looked at, then ditched a diesel version for the range-extender engine. I'm happy where I'm at.

Comment Re:other stuff matters also? I claim it does (Score 4, Informative) 330

Real life experience with my 2012 Volt (since Oct-2011) says yes, they get really reduced range in the cold (I get nearly 50 mpc in summer, around 35 in winter), when running the heater. So I don't - I preheat the car while on my off-grid power (the heated seats help a lot and don't draw squat in the scheme of things, they are a rounding error). The AC is killer-efficient and doesn't use diddly of the power, it's really effective too. I wish they had a heat pump for the cold times. Else, no issues. I'm not going to sell this one - I'll drive it till I can't anymore. For one thing, it's super fun to drive too - and surprisingly fast on the mountain twisty roads where I live. Sleepers are more fun sometimes...

Comment GM claims (Score 2) 330

That they'll replace my (2012) Volt battery free for the 8 year warranty if it drops to less than 80% new capacity, and current out of warranty replacements are priced at ~$2500 + labor (which is easy, but of course any dealer will overcharge). Just sayin. They probably lose money on that. Why should I care? Range anxiety? Get a Volt, there is none. Gets 40 mpg (good gasoline really matters to the number here, junk low octane ethanol gas is more like 26 mpg) on gasoline...I just don't think about it any more. And my particular Volt has never been charged from the grid since it left the factory (off grid solar, baby). At that, it probably costs less than replacing any major drivetrain component in any other car. And I don't wear out the engine (usually I get all-electric), brakes, you name it. It's looking like I won't be having to buy any new cars for a long time now. Those other costs (oil changes...) add up too. No one ever seems to work all this out fairly, but I can say my wallet is getting a lot fatter from owning one.

It's why I didn't get a Tesla, much as I admire them - and even Bob Lutz gives Elon credit for making it possible for him to shepherd the Volt through GM's BS management.

Comment Yeah, Volt - no anxiety at all (Score 1) 286

I have a 2012 with around 15k on the clock - I'm retired and don't drive much. It's never had to be charged via grid - I've been off-grid since 1979 (and yes, the old panels still put out, though I added more till I ran out of roof). That same system runs my whole 4 building campus, computer networks and so on - it's silly to charge the cost of it to just a car, which is actually a handy place to stuff extra when the house batteries are already full (often by 10-11 AM on a sunny day).

I get ~ 40 mpg on gasoline. There is no range anxiety. Further, the gasoline backup is a more efficient charger for my house (backup) than the Honda Inverter-Charger I also have (always wise to have more than one hot spare). When dumping around 600w into my home via an inverter I put on the 12v system of the Volt, hooked to a forklift charger, the engine runs ~ 90 seconds every ~15 minutes (this is about twice what my house uses "at idle" on average so I get net charge to the house system). There are serious advances in IC engines with all the ECM stuff (variable valve timing and so on, effectively, variable compression ratio - better gas gets you better efficiency).

There is no fscking way this pollutes more than my Honda Ridgeline, which gets at most 17 mpg...give me a break. I'm sorry about your illiquid investments in oil (and the useful idiots their shills have created). It's not my problem. I just go where I want, when I want. It's a great car and fun to drive.

I didn't do it to be green, it just worked out that way - just like I bought a farm and let it grow up to a nature preserve, because I'm too lazy to be a good farmer. Yeah, the furries are cute, but that's not the reason, I like being away from the nut-cases that inhabit most cities.
The key word is "freedom" as in libre - not having to have a job to pay an electric bill. It's amazing how much money you save driving for the cost of tire wear and insurance alone. Things like oil changes - only when it gets old, not ever X thousand miles. Brakes rarely needed, that's what regen buys you. Nothing wears out. Add those costs...or as I did, subtract them, and suddenly the wallet is too fat to sit on.

Disingenuous comparisons with just the CO2 output of fossil fuels are...stupid. Mining, EROEI, deaths, mercury, radiation (check those last two downwind of a coal plant) and so on should be added - you'll pay those costs someday, even if not in the power bill. Cost of right of ways, wire maintenance, plant maintenance - all gone with distributed solar. Yeah, it won't work in the north. Sorry guys. It works fine in Virginia.

Elon...I hope he does well. He's my only living hero. Most people would have retired to a beach after making that much money on PayPal, not "gone all in" for what they believe. Succeed or fail - the man is the man. Even Bob Lutz (always certain, sometimes wrong, as he says) admits that without the push by Elon, the Volt (which I like better, actually) would not have been done. Search on Charlie Rose's website for a very good interview with both of those people...he discourages hardlinks, but it's there.

I take the Volt whenever it isn't a truck-only job (like moving horse poop from my neighbors' hobby horse farms to my garden, or firewood). It's fun to dust off ricky rice-racer on the mountain twisties where I live - they seem to think Fast and Furious2 is how you win a race - it's fun, but nope. There's a vid on my youtube channel, with yes, a visiting GM engineer holding the cam as we hit a 15 mph hairpin at over 60mph and didn't slide to the yellow line. He needed toilet paper immediately thereafter. Lighten up and have some fun!

Comment Well, (Score 2) 206

It might not solve all issues, after all, it's not like Ubuntu itself is never hacked. But my solution is to run the Mate desktop over Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and get the best of both. It works great, and avoids the crap that is unity, gnome3, you name it - it's like having a stable version of gnome2 that actually works right. I agree with the commentors on many of the other issues. Unity is crap on a multi monitor desktop. It has built-in surveilance on you for crying out loud, huge icons if you've got 4 24" monitors, that you can't move. I like to be able to put the tic-tac-toe buttons where I wish, I like menu and task bars I can autohide, and put on the monitor I want. I paid for every single pixel on them - don't tell me what I can have on my screen or where I can put it. It's not like I don't have other options. Cannonical really stuck its head up its butt in a number of ways of late - and when told so, they said it was our fault for not liking their stupid ideas, which were and are genuinely stupid. Too bad, otherwise they were the good stuff. But they are not alone. Somone figured out that most computers hit the dumpster with the same opsys they shipped with. Since PC sales are falling (the ones out there are all good enough by now anyway, why buy a new one is a good question for most users) - they decided on a "one size fits all" for PCs and mobes. Stupid idea - I have both and use them for different stuff and at different levels of security for that different stuff. It seems the current crop of programmers is too stupid to put in a single boolean - true if PC, false if mobe, or vice versa, and do the rest of the install based on that. Even if my quad monitor setup was reachable by anything but my extended legs and was touch enabled, I'd think this current bunch of Ubuntu stuff was crap for it, what I have is far better, and a lot more usable. It might work out on my nexus, only it's better the way it is already, than unity would make it. They really jumped the shark on this - in company, but still....

Comment Re:No meh here (Score 1) 95

If you've got tons of room and don't care about complexity, then look into vanadium redox batteries, for things where those don't matter much - those exists and are already in use in Japan and other places, sadly burdened with IP rules and patents.

If you look at energy in a capacitor - Joules = 1/2 ce^2, most of the energy is at the top of charge, and you'd have to be a real swithing supply guru (which I happen to be) to get most of it out, even, at some usable range of output voltage - those parts would be costly, and you might need more than one set to cover the range of inputs.

Li batteries are eminently recyclable, probably easier than lead-acids which are already recycled in large %. I know this as I use them in my off-grid solar system, and frankly, would kill to get the Volt system for my home (or several of them, as that's what it would take to replace the truckloads of submarine batteries I now use).

Sorry I didn't quote numbers above - someone else (Xiph) thankfully did that for me - they are so far off, no matter who's been spinning them - we can assume that's the case like with most numbers (noticed what you actually pay for groceries vs the official inflation rate for example?) - that's my point - even worst case and post-spin we're not in the same order of magnitude, much less "near" or "better" and won't be soon, if ever. With only a bit of physics knowledge, you'll understand why. It's true that we are also not that far from limits on battery energy density, this is one thing that definitely does not follow "Moore's law" as the periodic table is already full. But that doesn't mean that even with single atomic layer high D dielectrics and very expensive single layer epitaxy, we're going to beat that with caps. In fact, the chances are, we have a higher failure rate in practice than with batteries unless no cosmic ray ever hits your single layer insulator...and so on.

And oh, if you hit the webpage in my sig and pass the turing test by finding it - my number IS on there.

Comment Meh (Score 4, Insightful) 95

Call me when a supercap has anything like the energy density - by any measure of cubic or weight - as a battery. Till then, they have only niche uses. I've seen various supercap articles that were about tech that was "About to change the world" for how many decades now? OK, sooner or later, they might...I'm still waiting, and I ain't gonna live for as many more decades as I've already been waiting. Till then, I'll drive my Volt.

Comment Re:Is Hydrogen more dangerous than other gasses? (Score 3, Insightful) 479

I use an isotope of hydrogen in my lab, in this case deuterium, which is about the same chemically speaking, if anything, a little less reactive (see how they separate the two normally). At any rate, a hose with a few psi supply of it popped off my gear once and was *instantly* on fire - flames invisible at first, but I could hear it, and then see it when the hose material (silicone) itself began to burn. There was no proximate ignition source - maybe some static electricity in the lab.

No other gas even comes close...the guy who provides my welding gasses, for example, even acetylyene which has to be dissolved in acetone to be "safe" at any pressure over 15-20 psi - it self-explodes otherwise (those unsatisfied carbon bonds) - can't even get the license to sell hydrogen, it's far too much a hazmat.

Now you want to let joe sixpack work with the stuff in quanity, all over the world? Yeah, it'll solve the population problem anyway. Along with the other stuff mentioned, like embrittlement, no way to liquify it at normal temperatures, a continuous explosive range with any air mixture...inefficient production, energy-wise...long list.

Comment Re:It's that damn "idle" process! (Score 1) 558

Well, someone else here who actually knows from anything. Yay! Yes, the stock MFC loop called GetMessage(). Then windows called all the other "idle loops" in any "running" app, and a few of its own, so in practice, both of what we've said is truth. And if you, errm, did anything by overriding mfc's idle loop - which we did frequently to get a cheap "thread" - well, we might have ended in GetMessage(); but the point was, windows still regains control and then does "stuff" - some of which was half-smart, but nothing like what say, Maverick's does to keep idle time maxed out (and no, I'm no apple fan, don't have any of their products, and am a linux guy now that I don't fix windows for a living). Go see the ars article, the 24 page review - it's really decent as explanations of how to cut power go (and the rest, meh, since I don't "do" apple). I think various versions of windows I've been into the internals of were basically afraid to really shut down, depending on an interrupt to wake them again. My real access to the deep internals though, was back in the 9x series...when a customer had the NDA for the source so we could step into things. And that was actually a pretty slick scheduler - about the best there was for hard real-time stuff (I was doing DSP, audio mainly) on the then-current Intel stuff - like pentium II. So, my own knowledge is a bit outdated, but I did learn that corporate culture can change very sloooowwwwllly, and it's usually a safe assumption.

Comment Re:It's that damn "idle" process! (Score 1) 558

Actually, it's probably still not a joke. I used to write ring-0 code in windows, and it never sleeps in power idle waiting for an interrupt to wake up (at least as far as I could tell, up to xp or so). It just spins in a while(1) {LookForSomethingToDo()}; forever, eating cycles for nothing till something happens - a huge polling loop. Which in turn, called the idle loop in all MFC apps, and so on and so forth. Eats lots of power doing that.

Comment Re:Same old story. (Score 1) 292

Self-fulfilling and more complex than that, actually. At your personal end-of-life, investing for the long term is, shall we say, stupid unless you're in it to have a large inheritance to leave someone else, and already have enough. Unless that's the case, you go for max gain/year, which is often, but not always, in stocks that have cap gains growth - and you become one of those evil stock (trader) holders - if it dips, you're gone and on to the next thing, no matter what you believe philosophically about the advantages of long stable growth and dividends. Most don't have anywhere enough money to live on divvies in this interest rate enviornment (thanks, Fed). We have to kill what we're going to eat next month or next quarter or year. With the prevalance of disruptive technologies - the internet is itself the most deflationary invention of all time - cuts out the middlemen - you'd better be on your toes out there. How did long term holdings of stable buggy whip makers work out for you? There is no set and forget sucess to investing, trading, or whatever you want to call it - never was, really, except a few who got lucky, and luck and hope are not viable invesment strategies. And letting someone else make all these "hard" decisions for you is a decision to be fleeced or your welfare simply ignored, as NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR MONEY AS MUCH AS YOU DO. Period. I'm 60 and trade for a living, if I don't do well, I run out of money before I die or SS kicks in (which won't feed me, even on a farm). Yes, I'm one of those evil traders, though I make most of my money out-trading a bunch of robots who are programmed by the young hooker+coke idiots, so I'm stealing my tax dollars back from those who stole from us all, or that's how I see it.

The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all your time.