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Comment: zwave + vera (Score 1) 189

by James McP (#48790703) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Options For Cheap Home Automation?

I went with zwave because of the variety of manufacturers. The GE Wink and Lowe's Iris systems are both zwave at heart and most of the devices use standard zwave device profiles so they work on any zwave controller.

I went with a vera3 because it is turnkey, supports a wide variety of devices and inputs including many security systems, has software for insteon modems, is user hackable, and can be controlled locally or remotely without being dependent on an active internet connection. (I.e. Wink)

The trick to controlling costs is to use it where needed and not because it is cool. I.e. my thermostat (iris zwave $100) and the switch on my pipe heater ($35) are zwave. I have internet weather and a couple of sensors that fine tune the house temperature throughout the day. Now my 2nd floor bedrooms don't swelter, the lower floor tv room isn't freezing and even when the temps dropped to 5F(-15C) my water lines were flowing and I didn't have to worry about it.

I won a Hue starter set and while light control is interesting (i use it as an alarm clock) the fact switches render the bulbs inert makes controllable bulbs a novelty. Controllable switches are the important part. Except remote controlled lights aren't very useful beyond novelty. The exception are exterior house lights. Having those on a randomizable timer or turned on by Autotasker geofencing when your phone drives up, and/or triggered by your security system in alarm mode are all good usrs of "smart" lights.
    Oh, and if you know anyone with hearing problems. Having the lights flicker/dim or color cycle when you have a phone call or doorbell ring is very helpful. But for typical people its just novelty.

Comment: Re:Meh. (Score 1) 3

by James McP (#46182547) Attached to: New Slashdot Beta Sucks

The Beta design is something I would have expected about 5 years ago. It's very much a design suitable for a low-res, resistive touch screen. The amount of "dead space" even at 1280x800 is silly. If I had a 16:9 screen, it would be a nightmare of scrolling.

The fact the comment system in Beta has issues is unbelievable. Slashdot has been all about the comments. Heck, I remember the firestorms around moderation and then meta moderation.

That would have been apocalyptic.

Comment: Re:Why? (Score 2) 2219

by James McP (#46182193) Attached to: Slashdot Tries Something New; Audience Responds!

I get the feeling the designers are using something other than a regular mouse/keyboard or tablet. Maybe Windows 8.1 or something, but the white space usage is is just astoundingly bad. This is an information desert.

I tried 3 different pages on Beta, including this one, and two gave errors on comments. Including this one. I was going to comment using the new system but couldn't. Sad.

The beta user accounts are just ... silly. We need trophies and achievements? And if you have achievements, shouldn't you bloody well have a mouse-over to explain what the shazbat they are or why some are gray? Sure, I know that the "4UID" one is because I have a 4-digit UID but what why is that even an achievement? Is it to give me internet-hipster cred, so I can prove I was on Slashdot before it was cool? At this point it means "been on slashdot so long I'm starting to get out of touch with the cool stuff if it ain't on slashdot".

Have I mentioned the white space? My [deity], the amount of scrolling needed is just ridiculous.

Comment: Open Source support already exists (Score 4, Interesting) 137

by James McP (#38824595) Attached to: HP To Open Source WebOS

While WebOS is not yet open sourced, the operating system is sufficiently open and accessible that there is a significant open source community devoted to it: WebOS Internals ( They have hundreds of OS tweaks (called "patches"), custom kernels, new services, apps, etc. Furthermore, WOSI worked with HP to develop the roadmap for open sourcing WebOS.

One of the big things that releasing this framework does is let existing WebOS developers quickly port their apps to Android and possibly iOS and WP7. It may be counter intuitive, but giving developers a way to produce apps for other platforms actually keeps them in the WebOS community. There are already WebOS apps that have been ported to Android ( This means that the good WebOS devs (and there are several) will get to keep developing WebOS apps that quickly cross-compile to Android.

Comment: Re:Seems to make sense to me. (Score 1) 236

by James McP (#32037616) Attached to: Does HP + Palm = Facepalm?

go to or You'll need to first get the WebOS Internals Quick Install application for your PC. That will let you install the PreWare app on your phone over USB. After that you can install all the unofficial apps you want using the PreWare tool.

One of those items in the "Patch" category, enables character counters in SMS messages. There are something like 300 of those little patches available through PreWare.

Plus, the system is designed to be OS upgrade friendly. When an OS update comes out your patches are removed but PreWare knows what you had. Then as those patches are re-released for the new OS version you can reinstall them all with a couple of clicks.

I have about 3 dozen patches on my Pre. The character counter, date+time in title bar, battery level as percentage instead of icon, enabling "open link in new card/window" in the browser, landscape email, etc, etc.

Comment: Sprint is #3 carrier and probably was 3rd choice (Score 2, Insightful) 236

by James McP (#32037456) Attached to: Does HP + Palm = Facepalm?

I agree but Vzw must have been working for a quite a while on getting the license for "Droid" from LucasFilm. Notice that the original Droid was a Motorola but the Droid Incredible is from HTC, so Droid is a Verizon brand. I'm pretty sure Palm wouldn't want their "splash" phone to have a brand they don't own and Vzw probably wanted their first Droid phone to be just "Droid" not "Droid Pre".

Next is AT&T. Yeah, they are going to risk the wrath of The Steve cutting off their money-truck. Notice that AT&T doesn't have much beyond Blackberries competing against the iPhone. The Android OS devices are nerfed and WinMo 6.5 is obviously end of life.

So that leaves Sprint. It's bigger than TMobile, seems to have more advertising dollars for devices, and has a history with Palm.

Soooo yeah. It was the best thing that Palm could pull off.

Comment: Re:How hard is it? (Score 1) 374

by James McP (#30353446) Attached to: Palm Sued Over Palm Pre GPL Violation

While I'm a little disappointed in Palm, it's only a little. Stupid stuff happens in large projects and Palm has so far played nicely with the GPL crowd.

This was a weekend release from Australia. Palm will need a bit of time to respond.

Plus there seems to be a difference of opinion through the GPL community if dynamic linked libraries can be "infectious" or not, at least according to the Wikipedia article on the GPL. If that's accurate, Lawrence Rosen isn't sure that a court would enforce the GPL on dynamic libraries.

And you might be surprised at how reprogrammable the Pre is. With a simple code (june062009) you unlock the phone and can then install .ipkg files over usb, like on-device terminal access as root. You're pretty much in charge of the device once you've got root access.

There are limits based on hardware drivers and the like but you can reconfigure most anything that isn't in a binary driver. Although as OpenMoko showed, coming up with open source drivers for modern cell hardware is not easy.

I do not know if it is "tivoized" and will hork under unsigned kernels or if you can install anything you might want. That'd probably be delimiter for a "completely reprogrammable phone".

Now I *really* want to know if I can put a different kernel on my Pre....

Comment: Re:Interface (Score 1) 215

by James McP (#30317292) Attached to: Novelists On the E-Book Experience

I've got Preader on my Palm Pre and it has a slider bar that you can drag. Open an ebook and drag your thumb along the slider just like riffling through the pages. I suppose you could even request haptic feedback to give you some semblance of the page-flipping sensation.

It also had the normal go to page/percentage options.

Comment: Re:No problem (Score 1) 215

by James McP (#30317012) Attached to: Novelists On the E-Book Experience

Most e-book sites excluding amazon have DRM-free books (see,, etc) but the presence of DRM is up to the publishers.

So use a publisher who doesn't have DRM or device lock-in, like Baen, Del Ray, Night Shade, SRM, Subterranean, and Tor (all at Their e-books are available in rtf, html, pub, etc. I'll point out that they also tend to discount vs. hardcopy as well as offering advanced reader (pre-release) copies for addicts.

Plus there are different kinds of DRM. I detest the Adobe and Mobireader approach that requires a remote server. External authentication or device-specific encryption == devil. You can't trust that you'll be able to get to your book when you want it.

The alternative is password protected encrypted files. The eReader format sets a password on your books based on your name and credit card number. As long as you have the info and the device supports the format you can read it on anything you want. The "safety factor" to the publisher is that if you post the book on a warez site they know who did it, since you also have to post the password (name+cc). Plus, you know, your credit information gets out on the net, which is almost punishment enough by itself.

If you're interested in an ebook reader check this wiki page on ebook formats that shows what hardware will read what format.

Based on that little tidbit, the Nook, and therefore Barnes & Nobles' ebook store, has the advantage that all their formats are either unencrypted or devoid of remote authentication. Maybe not ideal but at least you aren't trapped to a particular device or dependant on a remote server.

+ - Net Neutrality seen through the telegraph->

Submitted by James McP
James McP (3700) writes "Ars Technica has a write up on the unreglulated telegraph of the 19th century, which gives a view into what could happen to an internet lacking any regulation mandating neutrality. The owners of the "victorian internet" used their control of the telegraph to prop up monopolies, manipulate elections, inside trading, and censor criticism."
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Great assumption (Score 3, Informative) 400

by James McP (#30284250) Attached to: Lifecycle Energy Costs of LED, CFL Bulbs Calculated

Oh please. First off, incandescents come in different color spectrums just like CFLs so just because the bulb is incadescent doesn't mean it's "good" light. Second, most of your time spent indoors is under flourescent light (work, restaurants, movie theaters) ergo shopping for work and night-time clothing is best done under flourescents.

You can get CFLs with a Power Factor of 90% or higher, so I call shenanagins. The capacative load increase of a CFL is completely negligible compared to the reduced active power consumption. I point to the fact my power utility is giving away CFLs by the dozen as evidence that power generation/distribution engineers find CFLs to be effective.

I have many CFLs in outdoor applications. I have a barn with 8 bulbs. The first year I put up 6 incandescents and 2 CFLs. My wife was afraid the CFLs wouldn't start up quickly enough so I put up 2 as a test.

In the first year 5 of the 6 incandescents died between our 100F summers and 20F winters. I replaced those 5 with CFLs that have continued to work for the last 2 years. Once my wife decided the CFLs provided good light in winter, I replaced that last incandescent.

Given that 3 of the bulbs are located 25ft off the ground, I really appreciate not having to change the bulbs annually.

I also replaced our two porch spotlights with outdoor CFLs. Yeah, they don't come up to full power immediately in cold weather but I upsized the bulbs. I went from 75W incandescents (950lumens) to 23W (1300 lumen) CFLs so I still have a hefty power savings and they start out almost as bright as the incandescents.

Old programmers never die, they just branch to a new address.