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Comment: Re:I'm probably missing something (Score 1) 417

by Eric Green (#49332239) Attached to: How 'Virtual Water' Can Help Ease California's Drought

The Central Valley of California is sitting on rich topsoil over 100 feet deep. Before the modern water projects, it mostly grew winter wheat, because there's enough moisture in winter (the rainy season in California) for that in most years. The Central Valley is technically a Mediterranean climate, not a desert (though the southern part of the Valley is technically semi-desert). But the water projects made it profitable and possible to grow crops year-round rather than just in the winter, mining that 100 feet of topsoil for food. Telling people they can't mine a resource like that doesn't go down well with Americans, who tend to be an ornery sort.

Comment: More expensive water can mean more water usage (Score 1) 417

by Eric Green (#49332111) Attached to: How 'Virtual Water' Can Help Ease California's Drought

An example is almonds. Almonds now use close to 10% of water used in California. One almond takes approximately 1.1 gallons of water to create it.

So: Why, in the midst of drought, are California farmers planting *more* almonds? The answer, paradoxically, is because water has become more expensive. The water projects are not delivering water to California farmers, so California farmers have a choice between a) not growing crops (and thereby losing their farm, since no crops means they can't pay the mortgages they took out on their farm equipment and/or farmland to expand in earlier more optimistic times), or b) drilling wells. Drilling wells that in some cases are a thousand feet or more deep. The water from these wells is ridiculously expensive for two reasons: 1) the simple cost of drilling, and 2) the large amount of electricity needed to haul that water (at 8 pounds per gallon) up that 1,000+ feet of pipe to the surface.

In fact, the water from these wells is so expensive that if the farmers used it to grow a low-water-use crop like wheat they'd lose money. Most low-water-use crops like wheat or corn have a relatively low price on the commodities market, a price that will not pay for the cost of the well and the electricity to pump water out of the well. So, paradoxically, expensive water has caused farmers to instead grow almonds -- one of the only crops that sell for a higher price than the cost of the water needed to grow them, yet also one of the most water-thirsty crops on the planet.

And now you know the side of the story you don't get from the Libertarian free market think tanks and their notion that expensive water would cause water usage by farmers to decline. What matters to farmers is *not* the absolute cost of the water. What matters to the farmers is the *marginal* cost of the water -- the difference between what it costs to obtain the water, and what income they get from using the water. When water was cheap but in limited supply, farmers grew crops that were water-thrifty because the price of those commodities was enough to pay for the water. Now that water is expensive but they can pump as much as they wish from the ground (until the aquifer runs dry, anyhow!), the California farmer's slogan becomes "drill, baybee, drill!" and the almond trees go in.

Comment: Re:Yes. What do you lose? But talk to lawyer first (Score 1) 734

by Eric Green (#49216141) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Let My Kids Become American Citizens?

Actually, 65% of rich people in the United States (defined as the top 1% of income level) were born rich, according to the latest report I read on intergenerational income mobility in the United States. The only resources or intelligence they were ever required to exercise were to call Daddy when they needed more money. In my experience they're not stupid, but the documentary "Born Rich" probably gives you a good sense of the bubble they're born and raised in and its effects on them.

Just as with the AMT now hitting middle class families, current US tax policy against expatriates merely uses rich people as an excuse to be abusive towards middle class expatriates. Truly rich expatriates don't make money income (their income is investment income typically "earned" in the United States) so are not subject to this insanity.

It is always wise to distinguish between the propaganda used to pass a law, and the actual effects and purpose of the law.

Comment: Re:Yes. What do you lose? But talk to lawyer first (Score 0) 734

by Eric Green (#49194141) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Let My Kids Become American Citizens?

People whose field is IT tend to have children whose field is IT. And while the world is large, the SF Bay area is still the center of the technology startup world. The amount of money invested in SF Bay area technology startups every year by venture capitalists is greater than the amount of money they invest in technology in the entire rest of the world. While I agree that you can be a sysadmin anywhere, if you want to work on game-changing technology there's a mouth-drooling variety of possibilities in the SF Bay Area. I resisted moving to the SF Bay Area for years, but there's just too much cool stuff going on here to move away again.

I do not know these specific children so I have no idea if they have any desire to create leading-edge technology in the future. If they don't, US citizenship is just trouble. If they do, however, US citizenship opens up interesting vistas in one of the few places in the United States that isn't turning into a seedy dump.

Comment: Re:Yes. What do you lose? But talk to lawyer first (Score 1) 734

by Eric Green (#49193569) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Let My Kids Become American Citizens?

As you say, the big advantage to having US citizenship is if they go into technology and want to work in Silicon Valley. No worries about green cards, H1B, etc., just move there and go to work.

The big disadvantage is taxes. But boy, what a disadvantage. It's like the US is trying to build a Berlin Wall around the USA to keep people in. Makes you wonder what our leaders know that we don't know about where our country is going.

Regarding renouncing citizenship, that isn't as difficult or expensive as described above, but if not done right you can be arrested for tax evasion if you ever set foot on US soil again -- even if just transiting to another country, such as flying from Paris to Toronto (which has a stopover in New York City). Ask Maher Arar about that one...

Comment: Re:NetworkManager (Score 5, Informative) 164

by Eric Green (#48658503) Attached to: NetworkManager 1.0 Released After Ten Years Development

Yes, NetworkManager should be fine on most servers. Unless you want to use network bonding. And VLANs. And bridges. Nevermind bridged VLAN's (yes, those are a thing) on top of 802.3Ad bonds. And ... and... well, 90% of the other functionality that is offered by the Linux networking stack. NetworkManager works fine for managing the 10% of the network stack that is used 90% of the time. For the other 10% of the time, it is an abortion that should be taken out back of the barn and shot like a rabid dog. And this other 10% that NetworkManager won't do is 99% of why people pay me big bucks to make Linux do what they need it to do, since you will not get high performance networking out of a server using the limited functionality provided by NetworkManager. As in, the servers I work with generally have at least half a dozen gigabit NICs and two 10Gbit NIC's. NetworkManager won't get me 1/10th of what I need to put these servers into the midst of a large network for use in server consolidation, and is utterly useless once we start talking about Open vSwitch and other such SDN components.

So sure, if you're a sandwich shop putting a $500 server under the cash register, or you are a teenage college student setting up a video sharing network for your bro's in the flop house you board in, NetworkManager will work fine for you. For those of us doing anything more complex, it is a useless abomination and the first thing done when bringing up a new server image is "chkconfig NetworkManager off ; service NetworkManager stop". (Or the AbominationD equivalents thereof).

Comment: They are not axing the Silicon Valley campus (Score 2) 109

by Eric Green (#47943457) Attached to: Microsoft Lays Off 2,100, Axes Silicon Valley Research

In fact, they are expanding it -- they are putting in a brand new data center on the site that was the former Counterpane Security, on LaAvenida across from their SV HQ, and they also have leased a huge building a couple of blocks away on Pear Street. There's also rumors that they're behind the demolishing of an entire block of tilt-ups between LaAvenida and Pear to be replaced by six-story office buildings. In any event Microsoft isn't leaving the Silicon Valley, just Microsoft Research is leaving -- all fifty employees. Every single one of them who can have a job tomorrow by walking down the street to the Googleplex. Not a single one of whom have ever created a product for Microsoft, because Microsoft doesn't create products anymore, they just re-invent other people's products (or their own previously-good products), badly.

Comment: Re:Why not just use hard drives and then store... (Score 5, Interesting) 193

by Eric Green (#47740445) Attached to: Facebook Experimenting With Blu-ray As a Storage Medium

You're actually talking about MAID (Massive Array of Idle Disks), a technology that I first encountered in 2002. Now-bankrupt Copan Systems was the company I first encountered that was doing MAID, and New SGI (i.e. former Rackable Systems) bought their assets out of bankruptcy in 2010. Most storage companies now offer MAID add-ons for their storage arrays, though not all of them allow completely powering down the drive like Copan's solution did.

The upsides of MAID: Disks are cheap. Turning on and spinning up a hard drive to pull up some bits is faster than a robot fetching a Blu-Ray disk, placing it into a drive in the jukebox, and waiting for the disk to spin up and come online. You could store many more bytes in a cabinet with MAID than you could in an optical disk cabinet.

Downsides: The disk drives in a MAID array simply don't last that long, comparatively speaking. Spinning them up and down all the time is hard on a drive. So you end up having to replicate data and from time to time migrate data to new drives as old drives reach their service life. The service life of rarely used Blu-Ray media that has always been handled robotically (i.e., nothing touching its surfaces ever) is such that Blu-Ray media from ten years ago is probably still usable, the technology itself will become obsolete like DVD-RAM long before the media wears out. Not so much with hard drives, though disk arrays basically have unlimited life given typical failure patterns (i.e., if you're using RAID6, a drive develops errors, you remove the failing drive from the array, rebuild the array on a new drive, and chances of having two more drives fail during rebuild and thus losing the array are slim for a 12-drive array). So MAID has not really taken off the way we expected ten years ago.

At the time I first encountered MAID I was working for a company called DISC Storage, which had a NAS head which would automatically migrate little-used data to an optical jukebox in a way similar to what Facebook appears to be attempting. I designed and implemented the clustering function that would replicate the data between two NAS heads / optical jukeboxes, since the DVD-RAM platters were not themselves RAID'ed, as well as implemented a lot of the back end functionality for jukebox control and so forth. In any event, it looked like a NAS head but most of the files had been migrated to the DVD-RAM platters, and if you accessed one of those files, you would (at some point maybe 15 seconds later) get your data back as the file got read back onto the hard drive. It worked. But it was somewhat slow and cumbersome, because you're relying on a robot to go out and fetch the disk and put it in a drive, and disk robots then, and now, simply aren't that fast compared to media that's already in a drive ready to be spun up and read.

So anyhow, it was fairly obvious to me by mid 2003 that optical jukeboxes simply weren't going to be the future. In the ten years since DISC went under (there is a German company by that name now but it isn't the same company, it bought the name and some of the IP), I have not had any inclination to work for a company doing optical storage, because it's clear that for most problems it isn't the solution. It's too slow, too bulky, and magnetic disk drives and magnetic tape drives just continue getting bigger and cheaper every day. And now, with SSD coming on strong, optical jukeboxes look even less compelling.

So color me amazed. Optical jukebox and optical media technology essentially has barely moved on in the past ten years and what wasn't particularly compelling then, is even less compelling now. If you have need to keep data for a *long* time, this is how you do it... but frankly, I will be surprised if Facebook even exists ten years from now given the pace of innovation in the industry (though I'm just as surprised that Slashdot still exists!), so I question why they would do this rather than invest in LTO tape libraries, which have the advantage of being significantly denser.

Comment: Re:It's not an attempt to "game the system"... (Score 1) 180

by Eric Green (#47726695) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

Orson Scott Card is proof that ideology doesn't stop you from winning Hugos. All that is necessary is to write something interesting and mind-blowing. Writing formulatic space operas that are basically 1950's Don Pendleton manly war-fighting men set in space rather than in the wilds of darkest Africa or Southeast Asia is not the sort of thing that gathers awards, those have been done so many times that they're mind candy, something entertaining if in a certain mood but hardly mind blowing. Neither are fifteen page dissertations on why Libertarianism is the only proper ideology for running a space station. Nobody wants an ideological tract when they read science fiction, they want to have their mind blown. Orson Scott Card's later books haven't won Hugos not because of his right wing ideology, but, rather, because they've been boring, having nothing new to offer over his earlier fiction that did win awards. Which is a shame, because his 80's output was ridiculously good, then he got full of himself and his output got boring.

I liked Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as a work of fiction, and probably would have nominated it for an award that year if I hadn't been 2 years old at the time. L. Neil Smith's work, on the other hand, read like Libertarian tracts with cardboard characters and stereotypical plots, I read a couple of them and was, like, "meh", even though at the time I considered myself somewhat Libertarian and liked a number of other Prometheus Award winners. But ideology is *boring*. In the end, what I want when I read science fiction is something that's going to make me say "wow!", with a story that isn't predictable and characters that seem like real (if perhaps quirky) people and ideas that make me go "Hmm." Heinlein managed that for me, as do writers like Vernor Vinge, Ken MacLeod, and Neal Stephenson. Too many other "Libertarian" or "right-wing" authors don't. If you're going to turn it into an ideological tract with cardboard characters spouting ideological talking points, or just another by-the-numbers space opera where manly men of the finest cardboard kill lots of mooks while spouting pretentious jargon... YAWN.

Comment: Re:Presbyopia (Score 1) 550

by Eric Green (#47528799) Attached to: Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

This is pretty much my calculation. I don't swap glasses, I use progressive bifocals (the newer ones which have multiple focus zones rather than being totally continuous so that you can pretty much always have your workpiece in focus). Even if my vision without glasses was 20-20, I'd still need progressive bifocals, since I need multiple focal points to deal with my daily work (focus point for viewing computer monitor, focus point for viewing iDevice in my hand, focus point for viewing the speedometer in my car, focus point for dealing with tiny screws in computer cases, etc.). Given that, what's the point? I still end up needing glasses, I just add a bit of needless risk to the equation too.

Comment: Re:The only thing that will stop SV... (Score 1) 107

by Eric Green (#46905919) Attached to: Places Where the Silicon Valley Bubble Could Pop

Uhm, it does in fact cost money to post job ads on Craigslist. See http://www.craigslist.org/abou... . It's one of their major sources of money, along with hooker ads (oops, "therapeutic services", my bad).

Why you would do so, however, eludes me. As with the poster above, at multiple employers that have tested the Craigslist waters we've never had anybody remotely qualified respond to one of our Craigslist ads. They're just pocket change compared to Dice.com or compared to paying a recruiter's fee, so it was a "why not?". But every one of our hires seems to have been either a personal referral from a current employee, or a recruiter lured them away from another company.

Comment: Re:Only "discovered" someone's discover, nothing m (Score 1) 357

by Eric Green (#46619183) Attached to: An Engineer's Eureka Moment With a GM Flaw

Manual? What is that? Paper service manuals have gone the way of buggy whips in the auto service industry. Nobody publishes them anymore except maybe General Motors. It's all regularly-updated computer-based manuals for everybody else. Independents use Alldata, which gets updates on a regular basis from manufacturers, and dealerships use their manufacturer's computer system that does the same thing (such as Chrysler TechAuthority). For most newer cars if you are an end user who wants factory service info you go to AlldataDIY.com because paper service manuals are no longer published. For parts lists it's even simpler, you don't have to pay Alldata, the modern mechanic goes to the manufacturer's web site like Mopar.com or to some third party vendors which similarly give access to the manufacturer parts database and look up the part number there. If you pull an old part and put the part number off of it into the parts site search box, the computer will say "Superseded by" and give you the new part number. If there's no part number on the part, you drill down the assemblies list on the parts site until you see the labeled picture with your part on it, and the current part number will be in the list beneath that illustration.

And of course if you go to the dealership parts window, they put in the old part number into their computer, it says "superseded by part XYYZ", and they give you part XYYZ instead.

This is the 21st century. We have these COMPUTER thingies now. Just sayin'. There's no longer an excuse to *not* change the part number when the part has, in fact, changed. And I know for a fact that several part numbers on my Jeep have changed multiple times since it was manufactured in 2011. Which is why any modern automotive engineer has to be suspicious when GM did not change the part number on that ignition switch when, in fact, it's an entirely redesigned ignition switch...

Comment: Re:start telling the truth aws (Score 1) 109

by Eric Green (#46570919) Attached to: AWS Urges Devs To Scrub Secret Keys From GitHub

I'm not quite sure what you're talking about. Auto-scaling groups are the only thing that can restart a terminated instance (actually, they start a *new* instance). If you somehow managed to create an auto-scaling group and don't know how to set its parameters (min/max/desired) down to zero, when it's right there on the GUI, I don't know what to tell you.

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