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Comment: Re:Ok.... Here's the thing, though ..... (Score 1) 533

by King_TJ (#49507251) Attached to: Utilities Battle Homeowners Over Solar Power

Understood.... But as I've said from the beginning about PV solar, it's probably a technology that starts causing problems when there's too much density of it used in a given geographic area.

Right now, even a system that costs a homeowner $30,000 or so to purchase and install is likely not to generate more than a maximum of 50KWh of power on a bright, sunny day. And once it gets dark, we know for a fact all of these systems will produce exactly nothing.

Considering how much of the power generated is actually consumed by the homeowner as it's being generated, the amount of surplus power going back out to the grid really isn't that substantial. I have no problem at all with the utilities examining the current situation before someone applies to install a new PV solar system. Tell them, "Sorry... but due to too much solar online in your neighborhood already, we're going to have to limit you to a system no bigger than 2-3 KWh capacity." Whatever ....

It just seems like making blanket statements or full-blown efforts to restrict PV solar is unreasonable, given the reality of the situation. What I've seen here in Maryland is there are really only a couple of solar projects that are really large in scale, producing more power than what a large number of homeowners would produce, combined. I would think these commercial projects are the ones they should have reconsidered allowing, or restricted, before limiting everyone else.

IMO, there really are a lot of solar installs driven primarily by leasing companies collecting all of the tax credits on the installations -- and that probably needs to be put to a halt. A lot of people are getting these systems put in based on false promises.

Comment: Ok.... Here's the thing, though ..... (Score 5, Informative) 533

by King_TJ (#49504813) Attached to: Utilities Battle Homeowners Over Solar Power

The complaints that the rooftop systems are invisible to the power companies "because they sit behind a customer's meter and we don't have a means to directly measure them" can be addressed pretty easily with updated electric meters.

The power companies are all moving towards "smart meter" technologies anyway. Why not make sure they've put one in that can monitor the output of a PV solar (or even a wind turbine) installation while they're at it?

When I had my solar system installed, the power company had to switch out my meter. And even though we're one of the last remaining areas around here that doesn't yet use smart meters, they still upgraded me to a bi-directional meter so my power generation vs. usage can be tracked. So they're spending $'s on labor and hardware to mess with your meter each time a new solar system is put in. It's their short-sightedness if they don't put more useful equipment in place while they're doing that anyway!

And when it comes to solar, I think the output is fairly predictable too. The only real "fluctuations" you get with the output are based on the day's weather conditions. If you compare my panels to my friend who lives on the other side of town and has a PV solar installation, our daily power generation numbers are within 2-3KWh of each other, and the hourly rates on a graph look almost identical. The power company receives and has to sign off on a registration form stating you've installed a small power generation system and they're made aware of its exact size/maximum output at that time. So even with NO other metering capability, they'd be able to predict that in a certain part of the circuit, they now have someone who will add, at most, a specific amount of power back to the lines between the hours of 10AM and 2PM (when the panels produce the most power). It seems like this is data they should be able to work with.

Comment: re: broadcasting both analog and digital (Score 2) 293

by King_TJ (#49502341) Attached to: Norway Will Switch Off FM Radio In 2017

As I understand it, that's only one of the possible modes of operation for the "HD" FM stereo used in the USA right now.
Up here in the DC area, that seems to be exactly what stations like DC 101FM are doing. If the digital signal cuts out, the radio falls back to the analog broadcast until it can switch back to digital.

The problem with FM HD though is they often opt to broadcast 1 or 2 additional digital stations, and there are no analog equivalents for those. So they just abruptly cut out when the signal gets weak. (And it happens OFTEN when driving around a metropolitan area with tall buildings and the like which intermittently block part of the signal.) Makes the whole thing unusable, IMO.

Comment: re: Socialism? Not such a great answer ..... (Score 1) 109

by King_TJ (#49501121) Attached to: For the most recent tax year ...

Both of the major political parties in the U.S. are FULL of liars and opportunists. That's the nature of politics.

That doesn't mean you can't have the occasional sincere person who affiliates themselves with one of the 2 big party platforms, simply because it's practically a requirement to get elected. And then, it turns out they actually want to do things that help the average citizen -- not just further their own agenda.

IMO, if you want some real relief from excessive taxation, your best bet is looking towards the candidates who seem to best fit the mold of independents, yet are running as Republicans or Democrats anyway.

Socialism, IMO, solves nothing. Each country has its own unique problems and situation, so you can't just do a direct "America vs. Canada" comparison and conclude that it's a "better deal to live in Canada". People keep trying to do this with the neutral countries too (Denmark, etc.) -- yet they're ignoring major differences, like the amount of land belonging to the nations. Sure, they give you all kinds of government benefits like free healthcare and large amounts of paid time off from work if your wife has a kid. But they also tax people at a higher rate than the U.S. does, on the whole, to accomplish it. And there total population is much smaller. There are things you can do pretty easily when you don't have to scale it up too big. But then you're also stuck living in a nation that has fewer good job opportunities because there are simply far fewer square miles of space where people would open new businesses and create things.

The U.S. needs some serious political reform .... but not a change of basic principles of governance. The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and overall concept of being a Democratic Republic are pretty solid.

If the U.S. only did ONE thing; putting a cap on military spending to no more than 2% of the annual GNP, it would cut the budget deficit in HALF -- and would be right in line with the budget most nations have for the military.

Comment: re: woman in Oregon (Score 1) 271

by King_TJ (#49500249) Attached to: Gyrocopter Pilot Appears In Court; Judge Bans Him From D.C.

The original story I read was the one shared by KPLR TV (channel 11) in St. Louis:

But this story has been edited since I first read it last week, as far as her punishment for the offense. (I even shared it on Facebook last week and it received comments from people who read the link and were outraged that she received such a light sentence for the crime.)

Perhaps it was in error, since they now give a date she's supposed to return to court and only speak of her being released on bail in the meantime.

Comment: Another load of Federal B.S. (Score 5, Insightful) 271

by King_TJ (#49496469) Attached to: Gyrocopter Pilot Appears In Court; Judge Bans Him From D.C.

It was abundantly clear that this guy did this act as a political protest and informed people in the press a YEAR in advance that this was his plan. Secret service officials were informed about it and determined the guy wasn't a psycho or had a criminal background or anything else alarming, so they basically ignored it as a non-concern. Then, days before he did it, he let people know he was about to do it, too!

If you wanted to give him a slap on the wrist... say, a fine for violating the rules on airspace? Sure, I think he even fully expected as much. Perhaps confiscate his gyro-copter too. Whatever.... But banning him from setting foot in the District of Columbia and talking about YEARS of prison time? That's outrageous.

Just last week I read about a psycho woman in Oregon who bashed a guy's skull in with an aluminum baseball bat on their first date, when he went out there to finally visit her in person after a 2 year long online relationship. They only gave her a sentence of a few MONTHS in jail for the incident, despite her planning the whole thing and getting another woman to assist her with it - AND saying she got the idea from something she read or saw that said it only takes 7 pounds of pressure to snap someone's neck. Which person are you more concerned will do people physical harm in the future??

Comment: Re:They were actually unhappy with Pearson. (Score 1) 325

by King_TJ (#49488439) Attached to: LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan

This is true, but I think Apple was mentioned specifically because people following this story from the beginning are probably most familiar with it from the technology and Apple-centric web sites, who initially praised it as evidence the iPad was going to become a big player in education.

There were always a lot of questions about whether or not the high cost of buying that many iPads was really sensible (and apparently with good reason, as the contract apparently guaranteed they'd pay $768 per iPad -- a price which is above full retail today on one).

Comment: Exactly! (Score 1) 325

by King_TJ (#49488393) Attached to: LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan

I don't think Apple owes anyone any refunds in this situation. They provided the products that were ordered, and apparently, in good working condition.

Pearson *may* have misrepresented what they were actually selling on the software side of things, but that would be an issue for the courts to decide, should they get challenged on it.

The ridiculous thing is that the school district spent all this money, approving a plan that they clearly didn't test well enough in advance. Personally, I do think iPads could have a legitimate place in school as learning tools. But like any electronic device, they're only as good (or bad) as their implementation. For starters, I think they're expensive enough so any school purchasing them for a large group (or all?) of their students should have a cost justification plan in place as part of the project. (Basically, you'd have to get all of your physical textbooks in e-book format, negotiated as part of a deal so it's much cheaper to get them and keep them current in digital format on the iPad vs. buying the printed textbooks.)

I think you'd also have to have your school's wi-fi network in order, ensuring the iPad users can't just get online and surf random web sites. The iPads would also need to be centrally managed to protect against theft and to control which apps were installed on them, etc.

I think all of this could be done, but I'm not so confident anyone has ever successfully done all of it properly, to date? (I see so many schools who don't even seem to have a good handle on their wireless security. They'll claim students aren't allowed to use it to get to sites they're not supposed to be on, and 10 minutes later you have a student laughing because he's using their network to access porn sites via a proxy or VPN tunnel they didn't account for.)

Comment: Re:Decent (Score 1) 482

by King_TJ (#49486155) Attached to: Seattle CEO Cuts $1 Million Salary To $70K, Raises Employee Salaries

I don't really know anyone who read this story and thought the guy was a jerk for doing this?

The issue I have is just the way these things get reported in the news, as though we're all too clueless to understand that these CEOs aren't really putting a crimp in their lifestyles when they make these "sacrifices".

I think it was just last week in USA Today, they did an article listing 5 CEOs who only accepted a $1 salary this year. We all know that's basically just a gimmick. When you're CEO of a successful company, you likely have very little in the way of personal expenses. You can charge almost everything you do to the company, negating the need for your own personal salary. Your wealth is primarily made of the stock options you hold.

Yes, you could make the argument that whatever salary a CEO volunteers not to accept is money going back to the company's bottom line. But as CEO, the salary they accept is pretty arbitrary to begin with, AND probably entangles them in a lot of tax law too. (I can imagine there are cases where taking a small salary is actually the smarter financial move for someone than getting taxed on a big income.) If as CEO I accept a "raise" from $1 million a year to $2 million a year (you know, because things are going well and stockholders are pleased?), and then the following year I take a 50% pay cut voluntarily -- did I really just "save the company $1 million", or was I just playing a numbers game? Depends on your perspective, I think.....

Comment: A few positive points about Apple's watch .... (Score 5, Informative) 290

I've got to admit that initially, I was *not* excited by the Apple watch announcement at all. Like a lot of people, I was thinking, "Stupid! Most people don't wear watches anymore. The smartphone is what KILLED them for many of us!" I thought the prices were insanely high for the fancier models, and it's little more than a "remote display/control for the phone" anyway.

I'm also aware of the Android watches that came first, and one of my best friends uses one. It has its good points, but I never felt it was anything I'd use myself.

But as it turns out, Apple's online ordering for the new watch went live on the day of our anniversary, so my wife offered to get me one as a gift. (Frankly, I wasn't willing to stay awake until 3AM to place an order, but the "hype machine" did at least convince me to browse Apple's site before I went to bed, just to see what configurations they had. I mentioned to my wife that if I was going to get one, I'd probably do the space grey with a black sport band -- as it was the only one I thought looked any good without spending crazy prices for the upscale editions.) Turns out she DID stay up until 3AM and ordered that one for me.

So now, as I wait my 4-6 weeks for delivery, I've been doing more research to find out exactly what this thing will and won't be able to do for me. And as the long-term reviews come out from people who got to use one for a week or more, it sounds promising. Unlike the initial reports that the Apple Watch would basically "do nothing but tell the time" when it wasn't paired up with your phone in your pocket? I'm finding out that's not quite so. For starters, it apparently has 2GB of storage in it for music. So you can use it as a music player with a pair of bluetooth earbuds without your phone anywhere around. It's also smart enough to pair to your phone via your wi-fi network, as well as via low power bluetooth. So you can walk around your house or office and the watch will be fully functional, even though your phone was left on your desk or nightstand.

Additionally, reports are coming out that as long as the watch is on a wi-fi network, you can send and receive iMessages on it without the need of a paired phone.

Then there's the fitness tracker aspect of it. My workplace just started a program where everyone gets a free FitBit and there's a website you can log into to compete with co-workers for who walked the most in a day or a week, etc. etc. It's part of the overall "wellness program". Great, but I really dislike my new FitBit. Because it lacks any GPS functionality, it's too "brain dead" to realize when I'm in a car, on the metro, in a plane, etc. etc. -- so any vibrations that happen get counted as steps taken. It can literally be 50% off on counting your steps! The Apple Watch and iPhone combo makes a far more powerful fitness tracker than FitBit.

So yeah, the Apple Watch is definitely not a "need", but simply a "want". And many people may not want it at all. That's fine. But I think I'm forced to rethink my original opinion that this was generally going to be a bad idea for Apple. What it may do is re-kindle the interest in wearing a watch around, because it finally gives people some reasons why they should consider doing so, EVEN THOUGH they carry a smartphone already.

Comment: Not my type of show either.... (Score 1) 148

by King_TJ (#49463479) Attached to: Nearly Half of <em>Game of Thrones</em> Season 5 Leaks Online

I'm glad so many people enjoy it, and it speaks to the quality of original television HBO has managed to create in recent years. (Great way to re-imagine themselves as they realized their classic business model wasn't going to sustain them into the future. Too much competition with the business model of offering a selection of "seen before" movies to view for a fixed monthly rate.)

But for whatever reason (and frankly, I can't explain it!), I just can't really get into television or movies that take place in these time-frames? I could barely get through any of those medieval times movies with knights on horses jousting and dragons and castle sieges. (That's despite one of my best friends constantly watching that stuff and trying to get me into it, years ago.) Anything about ancient Rome or even non-existent fantasy worlds with similar levels of technology (a la Lord of the Rings)? Same thing .... Just not feeling it.

And I feel kind of guilty about it, because by contrast, I love good science fiction. Anyone else out there relate to this? I feel like the only guy on the planet who loved Star Wars, Star Trek, the remake of BSG, etc. etc. -- yet who couldn't ever bring himself to bother watching The Hobbit or the LOTR trilogy!

Comment: The Dice are loaded ..... (Score 2) 139

by King_TJ (#49377143) Attached to: IT Jobs With the Best (and Worst) ROI

I have to admit that I haven't even looked at the job listings on Dice for years (largely because I've been happily employed and didn't feel the need). But as someone with a background in network/systems administration, PC support, etc. -- I distinctly recall finding FEW interesting listings on Dice. The web site seemed slanted towards those looking for software coding or web development jobs, DBAs, or specialists in rolling out and supporting large ERP packages.

So when a survey from Dice tells me that there's more growth, opportunity and money in all of those areas -- I have to take that with a grain of salt.

I mean, look.... I think we should all know by now that help desk jobs are a dead end, unless you're with one of the few remaining companies who hires from within and essentially demands you do your time on their help desk to earn the right to one of the better positions in I.T. they offer. We don't need a survey to tell us that. There's a whole group of jobs out there that tend to have titles like "systems specialist", "support specialist", "support analyst" or even "network manager" where you're likely to wear multiple hats. Often, these turn out to be jobs where you're really the only full-time I.T. person for a small business who finally decided to get serious about I.T. and quit hiring consultants at hourly rates whenever they screwed things up. Other times, you're part of a team who does everything from help desk type support to ensuring backups run to making recommendations for upgrading the whole infrastructure.

I find these positions to be right up my alley, in the sense they aren't as likely to get boring and I get to "call the shots" more and more often, as I get established in such a role and prove to management that I know what I'm doing. (You probably won't make big $'s in these positions, but you'll get your hands on all sorts of different things and get a decent shot at working for a business where you're not just a number or line-item in a spreadsheet.)

So sure.... Dice can hawk the software development side of I.T. as "where the money's at!" -- but I'm good doing what I do, thanks.

Comment: re: everyone staring at their phones (Score 1) 353

At least 5 years ago, I heard the exact same complaint about what it looked like on your typical college campus.... Dozens of people wandering around the courtyards, faces buried in their phones.

Perhaps it only "seems very abnormal and unhealthy" because we're all part of the older generation that didn't ever have the devices in the first place?

I, too, used to think it was a "disturbing" trend ... but I often find myself doing the same thing now, when I'm grabbing lunch at work or waiting for the metro train, or just waiting someplace in line. Truth is, the younger generation really uses these things as their primarily communications tool. When it looks like they're a bunch of zombies staring into smartphone screens, they're actually *interacting* with each other via those screens -- so it is a form of being social.

And I know in my own case, I was never a very social, outgoing person in the first place. Large social settings full of strangers were always uncomfortable for me. Looking back, I would have LOVED to have a smartphone back then to pull out, instead of just holding a drink and trying to look like I was having a good time.

The time spent on any item of the agenda [of a finance committee] will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved. -- C.N. Parkinson