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Comment: Yeah, except that's not universally true either... (Score 1) 261

by King_TJ (#49786895) Attached to: California Is Giving Away Free Solar Panels To Its Poorest Residents

I'm not a California resident so can't speak directly about the situation out there, but I can speak for solar here in Maryland. The power we generate with solar panels is purchased by the utility company, but technically NOT at "retail prices". (That's generally a fallacy perpetuated by the folks against solar.) They DO probably pay more than they'd prefer to pay (a rate that's a bit higher than their true cost to generate the same amount of electricity themselves), but we have to pay the transmission costs for it to get carried down the wires back to the utility company.

In general, what I've observed around here is that quite a few people who are more "middle class" than "rich" are the ones with PV solar on their roofs. Most of the time, they did a solar lease or "PPA" agreement so their up-front cost to have the panels installed was as little as zero, or as much as maybe a few thousand dollars paid up front in order to secure a better deal on the terms of the lease agreement.

I'm one of the exceptions in our town who decided to buy my panels straight out, but our family couldn't really afford to do that either. I had to get a "solar loan" from a lender offering it, after scraping up about $9,000 to pay upon completion of the work. (That will come back to me as the Federal tax credit for going solar, but they pay it back in stages, at least given my own tax situation. So I have to wait until next tax year to recoup the rest of the credit.) The rest of the cost will get paid off over the next 12 years on this solar loan, at an interest rate of close to 8%. So essentially, I'm gambling here on whether or not the whole project EVER really gives me a positive return on my investment. I *think* it can, but it's really a long term projection..... They estimate the panels will last as long as 25-30 years, and I bought SunPower branded stuff (which has a little less performance drop-off over time than many other cheaper panels). The inverters will almost surely need to be replaced once or twice during that length of time ... but they're under warranty for the first 10 years. By then, you've got to think they'll have better and/or cheaper replacements available to put in their place than what's available today.

Meanwhile, what will power cost in 20 years? The same price as today or close to it? Somehow I doubt that.... and I doubt that enough to take this type of bet as insurance against higher costs on it. But in any case, my system only covers about 60-68% of our total energy usage needs. There's just not enough usable roof space facing the right direction for it to be cost effective to add more capacity. (A problem I see with MANY homes doing solar.)

I guess my point, though, is this: PV solar isn't typically going to make this massive energy savings that some people think when they see the "cool looking solar panels" all over a property. When govt. started with the subsidies on it, it was because the tech. made NO economic sense at all without that padding added to the equation and they were just trying to use our tax money to jump start the whole industry.

Today, I think it *can* make some sense, but the wealthy really won't care about the small savings we're talking about seeing with it! If they do solar, it's merely for show and to give off that "feel good, eco friendly" vibe. The upper class can easily afford to pay their electric bills as a very SMALL part of their total income.

Comment: Keeping costs down, etc. etc. (Score 1) 200

by King_TJ (#49783201) Attached to: Clinton Foundation: Kids' Lack of CS Savvy Threatens the US Economy

IMO, the "bigger picture" problem is simply that America has jettisoned most of its decent paying jobs in favor of automation and/or outsourcing. What do we really produce here in significant quantities, that we can actually export to the rest of the world? Entertainment and software. (And both of those keep hitting limitations because many parts of the world don't respect the whole concept of intellectual property as something you give heavy legal protection to.)

Furthermore, the music industry is struggling in America today with the shift towards "all I can listen to via streaming for a cheap monthly rate", vs. actually buying the albums or songs individually. Expect the same to happen with movies, post initial theater release, as broadband becomes more commonplace and less expensive.

In a word, we're pretty screwed. As someone pointed out last week on Slashdot, self-driving trucks are on the way. Whenever that becomes acceptable on our roadways, you're going to see all of the middle class "truck driver" jobs vaporize, ALONG with all of the business they used to bring the hotels, truck stops, diners and restaurants along the highways that served them.

There are still some good paying jobs in the medical field, since humans haven't really found a way to stop getting injured, catching various illnesses or diseases, or aging. But even there, the healthcare system (whether you think "Obamacare" was a net positive or negative) is slowly imploding. People don't earn enough money doing OTHER jobs to afford the cost of the healthcare, and insurance can't keep covering it without A) taxing the heck out of you, or B) extracting it on the front end from your employer so you salary diminishes.

IMO, this big push for STEM and software coding is just a way to try to mask the reality as much as possible that we don't produce enough jobs anymore for all the people who want to work. To an extent, automation will increase the need for these folks. (Self driving cars and trucks, for example, will need software and software code updates on a regular basis, as well as engineers and mechanics to keep them going.) Fast food places going to automated touch-screen ordering systems or food processing/vending systems will need them too. So do farms that go to robotics for harvesting crops. But the very *reason* these technologies add value for the people implementing them is the REDUCTION in labor they bring. You're talking 1 person taking care of one of these systems for at least 4 or 5 people they put out of a (lower paying) job.

In the long run, I can't really see a scenario that doesn't result in a whole bunch of unemployed people and a relative few with decent paying jobs taking care of the machines that keep the rest unemployed. I *hope* I'm wrong and has been the case in previous history, new things will emerge that create jobs I'm not even thinking of right now. But it looks to me like it's got to get pretty bad before it gets better.

Comment: Re:Arrogant bastards (Score 3, Interesting) 434

Exactly.... Personally, I don't see the problem with the concept that some jobs are predominantly of interest to one sex over the other? Isn't this exactly why we had predominantly females in nursing for decades? There simply weren't as many guys interested in doing that particular job (though obviously, *some* do, and that's fine too).

What I do see is some blow-back from the fact that with mostly guys making video games, the games have catered mostly to guys. You do have more females interested in actually playing games now, instead of just watching the guys do it. So yeah, there's some understandable irritation that the games are almost all "guy-centric". But most people who play video games don't have an interest in WRITING them, just like most people who drive cars don't want to become auto mechanics or work in the auto industry.

Ultimately though, markets always follow the money, so even if it takes a bunch of male programmers to do it, they'll build more titles that appeal to females if that's an untapped market. No social manipulation required here.

Comment: Re:Wrong question (Score 0) 382

by King_TJ (#49748187) Attached to: What Was the Effect of Rand Paul's 10-Hour "Filibuster"?

Well, first of all, I don't really happen to think Rand has the most well thought out stances on some of the issues. Certainly, he's not a cookie-cutter of his father's political beliefs -- and IMO, where he differs from Ron is typically where I least like what he's saying.

Specifically, I think Rand is much more of a believer in the U.S. using its military might to try to shape politics in other parts of the world, where Ron was much more clear that our forces had no business acting as the aggressor in ANY circumstance. (That means no business occupying foreign soil with military bases for "strategic" reasons when we're not actively at war with those nations.)

But that said, I'm not sure those two quotes about Russia are completely incompatible or opposites? It's one thing to believe the Cold War never ended, and another to interpret Russia's latest aggression as a recent happening that really isn't tied to a perceived constant goal of theirs. Russia has been through a lot of changes in leadership over the years.

For example, from the mid 60's through mid 70's, they didn't even have a single leader. Rather, it was a group of 3 individuals; Leonid Brezhnev, Alexei Kosygin and Nikolai Podgorny essentially ruling as a collective.

Many people say Russia's current actions are just a desperate attempt to reclaim some of its former glory .... steps it wasn't really taking in earnest for at least the last couple decades or so.

Comment: Re:It's Jason Scott (Score 2) 123

by King_TJ (#49735733) Attached to: Jason Scott of Wants Your AOL & Shovelware CDs

Yeah.... it's Jason Scott, the guy I had the dubious privilege of having a fairly long, involved conversation/debate with on a Facebook forum a while back. (I belong to a private message group someone created on there where people discuss the "good old days" of the local BBS scene in the area code I lived in back then.)

The BBS Documentary Project was brought up and somehow he was invited to the discussion. I thought that was pretty cool, initially, because I'm one of the people who did an advance purchase of that set of DVDs when I heard it was coming out. I'd never had a conversation with Jason Scott before, but always admired the guy for caring enough about the BBS scene and preserving it as a part of history to make the documentary. (Heck, part of me always wanted to do one myself. I went through a phase where I bought a fair bit of video editing and recording gear and helped make DVDs out of other people's footage from vacations and other events, and wanted to produce something of my own. But life got in the way, as it often does .... a messy divorce, a kid I had to raise on my own, and demands of a new job pretty much squashed that little dream for me.)

But hey, here was a guy in a different place in life who was able to run around the country in his R.V. and actually go get all of these interviews and make the documentary. So, cool... I was happy to give him a little financial support by buying a copy.

After Facebook, my opinion of him changed a bit. For starters, it seems he's really NOT very good at handling constructive criticism. Many of us, for example, simply felt his documentary was oddly biased in a few parts and wanted to ask him why he made some of those choices. For example, after watching the whole thing, I was a little perplexed why he left so much footage in there covering the "ANSI artwork scene"? I fondly remember the days when the WWIV BBS owners would play around in the ANSI art editors for DOS, creating cool welcome screens, and how certain folks achieved near celebrity status as the top ANSI artists out there. But most of the documentary interviewed these younger kids who were part of the later scene that was a very minor footnote. (We're talking the "warez BBS" groups at this point, with people who often as not, just processed GIF or JPG images into ANSI art with utilities and made massive things that had to scroll through 2 full screen displays to see the whole image.) And IMO, their interviews came off pretty arrogant - like the whole BBS community revolved around their work or something. It just felt inaccurate to me.

So anyway, we brought that up to Scott - but to my surprise, he started attacking us, rather than having an honest discussion about why that choice was made. It turned into a big finger-pointing session of "If you think YOU can do so much better, why don't you make your OWN documentary then!?" It wasn't much different when a few of us wanted to know why our requests, back in the day, to get interviewed for the project were ignored. (Basically, he never interviewed a single person living in our area code or any surrounding area codes, yet we had a huge, fairly influential BBS scene in the 80's.) He turned it into a rant on how expensive it was to drive all over the country to collect all of the footage, and how there was no way he could interview everyone who contacted him, etc. etc.

At the end of the day, I'm still very happy he got some of the interviews captured on video that he did. Some of that would surely be lost to history if it wasn't done. And yes, kudos to him for actually going out there any making this documentary when clearly, the rest of us weren't willing or able to do it at that point in time. But man -- drop the negative attitude! Most of us who would even make the effort to discuss this thing with you and question it are among the core group who actually LIVED it. We actually watched all 4 DVDs full of what you put together, which frankly, MOST people would never even do because they'd find it too "dull and dry" of content. (You kind of had to be there, in the middle of it, to care that much about this stuff.) Some of my questions came more from curiosity than anything else.... like what's the story behind why you couldn't visit city X or Y? There could be some interesting anecdotes about "the time the RV broke down outside Toledo, and ....." or whatever. I think we wanted more of that and less of the, "Screw you for questioning my work, since YOU guys didn't ever make one of these!"

Comment: The same skills everyone else needs, IMO .... (Score 3, Insightful) 302

by King_TJ (#49727913) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Skills Do HS Students Need To Know Now?

Teach kids how to effectively use search engines and tools, for starters. The wealth of knowledge (and garbage) on the Internet requires good search skills to use it effectively. I see far too many adults, much less teenagers, who don't know how to put together searches consisting of more than a word or two. Learn the power of putting exact phrases in quotation marks, and suddenly you'll be able to narrow things down to just one or two very relevant pages when you Google for an error message. Use the * as a placeholder in a search for wildcard terms. Find social tags by putting @ in front of a name. Use minus-signs in front of words to exclude from search results, to help make them more effective. (If you're looking for information about purple rain but not a musical reference, try searching for it with -Prince.)

Comment: Need the pop up ad revenue? Doing it wrong.... (Score 4, Insightful) 618

by King_TJ (#49710899) Attached to: Editor-in-Chief of the Next Web: Adblockers Are Immoral

I'll be honest.... I won't shed a tear if a good 50 or 60% of the existing web sites die off, due to lack of revenue generation.

Maybe then we'll get back to something more sane? Look, I get that a lot of special interest blog sites would die if they didn't receive ad revenue. I used to write for one of them myself. (And guess what? It died, because they couldn't generate enough page hits to impress enough advertisers to spend a lot of money on it.)

But ultimately, it's survival of the fittest like anything else. I think it would be in the best interest of a lot of businesses to host and pay for sites related in some way to products or services they sell, so that would theoretically keep quite a few of them afloat. (A few of the car related forums I'm on work like that.... They're partially funded by contributions by area car dealerships that want to sponsor them, and they charge annual fees for 3rd. parties to host a message base on the forum where they can advertise whatever they like with new message posts.) This model keeps out the spam/malware and ensures target marketing by default. The users LIKE the sponsors and their marketing because it typically includes discount coupon codes on various products of interest, and ensures good
customer service when a forum "regular" also happens to be the owner of the company you bought your items from!

In other cases, people should just learn to accept that hosting a web site is going to cost them something. It really shouldn't cost much, in most cases. If you're not streaming out a bunch of video content or hosting huge downloads, your blog site just isn't likely to generate massive amounts of bandwidth usage (what most hosting services really bill for, because storage space itself is dirt cheap). Every hobby I ever had cost me some money.... Deciding to run a special interest blog or message forum should be no different.

Comment: You assume the "professionals" really are.... (Score 2) 615

by King_TJ (#49707077) Attached to: The Economic Consequences of Self-Driving Trucks

The trucking industry USED to be pretty well regarded for having top notch drivers. I don't think this is the case today. Some of the trucking schools were caught red-handed passing students who had "stand ins" taking the exams for them, for example. And all too often, long-haul drivers are pressed to drive so many hours at a time that they're really not that safe and alert at the wheel some of the time.

The drivers I saw hired at a manufacturing place I used to work for were not exactly pillars of society either. Many had previous criminal records and we had to place GPS tracking systems on the trucks and keep constant watch on where the went, since people tended to use the trucks for non work-related activities otherwise and bill the company for the fuel. That doesn't mean they lacked driving skills ... but it does mean I wouldn't trust them not to misrepresent the truth if they were involved in an accident.

I don't doubt that the majority of accidents involving large truck are still the fault of passenger vehicle drivers -- but I suspect the "big rig" drivers aren't really all that superior of drivers themselves, as often as not. (I've seen some of the guys around here who can barely get the trucks around traffic circles without tearing things up, and who knock down traffic signals going around corners.)

Comment: Re:Of course it's getting more stressful (Score 4, Insightful) 405

by King_TJ (#49651049) Attached to: Is IT Work Getting More Stressful, Or Is It the Millennials?

THIS! rsilvergun is 100% correct here.

I commented already on here about my thoughts on the original topic, but the bigger, underlying issue is definitely tied to the pay rate not really keeping up with inflation. With one of the career jobs most people consider "among the better paying", like I.T., it can really sneak up on you too.

I remember working for a place in the 90's doing server and PC support, feeling I was underpaid but enjoying the other aspects of the job enough not to care. But when I finally moved on, I realized I couldn't find work doing the same thing where my salary was going to be that much higher than what I was making before. (Combination of the dot com crash and economic depression around that time AND the fact that everyone wants to know what you made where you worked previously, and tries not to pay you much more than that.)

Like a lot of people though, I eventually settled for what they were offering so I could at least stay gainfully employed, and believed all the promises of future bonuses and compensation for hard work. But life marches on, even if pay raises don't.... All of a sudden, I'm older and have a whole family I'm responsible for. Things I never cared about before like having a bigger house with a few bedrooms in it and more than one bathroom became big deals (not to mention having to worry about living in a "good school district", vs. just living where you could live cheap).

Wound up not only switching jobs but relocating to get the "better paying" position, only to find cost of living was so much higher where I went, it negated most of the pay increase. One day, you just wake up and say, "WTF man!? I have 20+ years of experience, yet my overall lifestyle and buying power really feels about the same as what it was 10-15 years earlier. I know I'm *doing* way more complex stuff that should offer employers more value, but I'm just treading water."

Comment: Kind of an interesting theory, but .... (Score 3, Interesting) 405

by King_TJ (#49650977) Attached to: Is IT Work Getting More Stressful, Or Is It the Millennials?

I have a few thoughts of my own on the subject, based on my own work situation, and they don't quite line up with theirs.

First off, yes... I would say that at least for our workplace, stress levels in I.T. have generally increased over the last few years. (I work as part of a 4 person I.T. team for a marketing firm that has several locations strategically placed around the country, close to the majority of clients they have or want.)

Marketing is definitely a business where lots of millennials are hired. Our I.T. group and upper management are really the only people in the company of an older generation than that, other than a few random exceptions.

But to claim the I.T. stress levels are correlated with the millennial generation's lack of in-person communication skills? No... at least for our industry, that's not the case at all. You can't be successful working in marketing for us if you're not an exceptionally good in-person communicator. I know I'm far less comfortable chatting up random people in social situations than any of the millennials we've got working as creative directors, producers, designers, etc. Maybe we're constantly hiring the exceptions to the rule because of the nature of the business ... but regardless, that's the situation for the people our I.T. group supports.

Where I see stress levels climbing has more to do with people expecting more and more from the computerized tools they're given. For example, when I started working for these guys, several of our offices literally spent 90% of their day buried in Outlook. Everything revolved around email correspondence and scheduling meetings or appointments. Sure, they had the occasional need for the rest of the Office suite (especially PowerPoint or Keynote for our Mac users, if they were preparing a presentation for a client), but the vast majority of support calls or issues were "Why did my email bounce?", "It says my mailbox is full!", "I can't find this message I know I saved someplace in here earlier today.", or "So and so received my calendar invite 3 times in a row for some reason." Stuff like that, along with trouble opening various email attachments they received.....

Looking at how things have evolved now? We ran into issues where some of the huge Word templates they use regularly to produce client proposals got too big to keep editing reliably inside Word. (Lots of copy/pasted graphics in them and all that.) So we now paid for a cloud based service designed just for such proposals. Instead of constantly filling mailboxes with email attachments getting shared around, we set up DropBox for Teams so I.T. creates any of the "top level" folders anyone requests and makes sure the proper folks are given read or read/write access to those shared resources. As we've grown, the Finance department required better automation so they could process all the invoices in a timely manner as offices generate them. So they put in dedicated scanning stations at each office with document capture software that goes to "watched folders", with special software that can toss them into their accounting system as it sees new ones appear. The original few, designated office people with copies of Adobe Acrobat (full version, not reader) kept growing as more users saw the benefits of being able to actually edit a PDF document on their Windows PC (or saw Mac users doing it natively with Preview and asked why they can't have the same capabilities). So that led to buying Creative Cloud with user accounts I.T. again has to manage.

On top of that, one of the offices is trying to get more serious about offering in-house video rendering capabilities instead of outsourcing it all the time, so now we're starting to build and support a rendering farm and high end video packages on the clients.

What we haven't done is hire a single new I.T. staffer to help with any of this.... We push for it all the time (especially when one of us is out sick or on vacation and the pressure is really on). But at the end of the day, management feels like it's not cost justified. People are still generally happy with our level of support and when they complain that tickets aren't resolved in a timely enough manner, management tells them they need to just be more patient with us because it's too costly to hire enough staff to shorten those delay times.

Comment: Only partially true ..... (Score 1) 509

by King_TJ (#49638375) Attached to: What To Say When the Police Tell You To Stop Filming Them

I've actually done a ride-along with a cop in a pretty bad area (East St. Louis, IL). It wasn't a pretty scene.... Among other things, we tried to go grab lunch at one place, only to find out it burned to the ground the night before (suspected arson but no real conclusive evidence yet, at that point). The place we wound up was a cafeteria stye place in the basement of a building, where another cop started passing around Polaroids of a body found thrown by the side of the road, asking if anyone recognized the woman. (Probably a prostitute someone shot and killed rather than paying.)

I'd never suggest the cops have an easy job, or that most of them aren't really trying to help clean up the neighborhoods of crime and violence. The problem is, the negative focus on officers today comes from stories on practically a weekly basis where police corruption, misbehavior or mishandling of evidence or people is uncovered. I don't know what exact percentage that works out to, but it's far too great of one -- even if by the numbers, it's only 1% of the police on the force.

Just in my own personal encounters with the police (everything from calling them about stolen property to hanging out with some of them I knew, off-duty, to getting a traffic ticket), I'd have to say I've run into something like one cop with a bad attitude or "issues" out of every 3 or 4. That doesn't mean some of them weren't just having a bad day.... But hey, it's as much a "customer service" job as any others I can think of. When you get poor service at the return counter of a retail store, you get upset and complain about it, right? You might even decide not to ever shop there again. When the police give you poor customer service, they seem to generally get a pass - with people telling you you're just angry because you got caught doing something wrong, or a lecture about how most cops aren't like that.

Comment: It really depends on the situation ..... (Score 1) 509

by King_TJ (#49638271) Attached to: What To Say When the Police Tell You To Stop Filming Them

I think the question people need to start asking themselves, first, is WHY they're filming in the first place.

I've seen a good number of YouTube videos where someone appeared to be videotaping the police primarily to try to make the police look bad. They added their own narrative/commentary to what was being recorded and in some cases, even tried to provoke a negative reaction towards their filming so they could show people "part of the problem".

That antagonistic behavior doesn't really do anyone any good. It makes the cops distrust and dislike the people filming them and it's heavily biased reporting.

On the other hand, if you're recording a police interaction because you really feel you're witnessing a huge violation of others' rights and you may be the only witness who can bring about some positive change with your video capture? Well then, yeah - I think you got yourself into something you need to have the guts to see to its conclusion. Don't start something like that and then back down as soon as the cop tells you to stop filming.

Comment: re: consequences of not divulging a password (Score 1) 288

by King_TJ (#49624751) Attached to: USBKill Transforms a Thumb Drive Into an "Anti-Forensic" Device

Exactly.... All of these tactics that prevent authorities from gaining access to your locked / encrypted data are only marginally effective in most real-world scenarios.

It may be true that nobody can really *force* you to give up a pass-code that you've only stored in your own head. But they don't barge in, confiscate your hardware AND arrest you if they don't feel they've already got a pretty good case against you. (If it really hinges only on them getting to see the data on your computer's drive that's password protected, they don't have enough evidence to arrest and hold you.)

I'd venture to say that in most computer-related arrests made these days, they gathered most of the evidence based on data they were able to see transmitted over the Internet or viewed at a remote destination someone sent it to. (EG. Microsoft's current court case against a guy who they claimed massively pirated copies of Windows 7 by illegally activating them. They've got evidence on the Microsoft activation servers that point to his IP address, uploaded by the computers he was activating. Being unable to see anything on his PC is pretty irrelevant at this point for investigators, I'm sure.)

Comment: Bernie Sanders (any real shot at winning?) (Score 3, Interesting) 395

by King_TJ (#49602487) Attached to: Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic

Just a personal opinion, so take it for whatever you think it's worth. But IMO, Sanders is more of a campaign disruptor than a serious contender for the next presidential election.

He's known as a political "Independent" but as others have already noted, he's more of a Socialist really. I see some value in him wanting to bring up the H1-B VISA issue, but primarily so it encourages the other candidates to debate it.

I also hear quite a few comments from those supposedly disillusioned with "free market capitalism", so some of these people will surely find Sanders an interesting alternative. I find that quite unfortunate though. Personally, I'm still pretty firmly convinced that free market concepts really never got a fair shake in the U.S. in the first place. So often, we're sold that label while reality is quite different. Heck, I was just debating the whole issue with a friend of mine last week about the deregulation of the power companies and the disaster that created for California. He used it as a prime example of why free markets aren't really viable or desirable. I countered that actually, that was FAR more an example of fraud than anything else -- a problem that transcends politics or the type of marketplace you're working with. In fact, much of the scamming going on with all of that was only made possible because GOVERNMENT was still expected to make payments towards keeping the infrastructure working! (They had legislation in place where government would start paying out money whenever the utilization of the power lines went above a certain percentage of their maximum capabilities. Therefore, crooked businesses like Enron would create false entries, reserving utilization that was never really happening to fake capacity limits being hit and profit from the govt. funding that was theoretically going to upgrading that infrastructure.)

Time and time again, this is what I really see happening.... People get frustrated or disgusted at something that supposedly happens because of a lack of governmental controls. But a closer look makes you realize it was only due to government interference or control in the FIRST place that the scenario was set up. The net neutrality debates would probably be another example of this. Sure, we need government to step in and tell Comcast, "No! You can't merge with Time Warner!" now. BUT that scenario was QUITE unlikely to have ever happened in the first place if broadband internet service was handled in the private sector in the first place, minus govt. regulated monopolies getting preferential treatment when the services were first getting built out.

The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Paul Erlich