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Comment: Re:Three years and counting (Score 1) 278

by Macman408 (#47408515) Attached to: My most recent energy-saving bulbs last ...

Make sure you're not confusing the "white" you see with, for example, LED flashlights, with the "white" that you would get if you bought good LED lightbulbs. The Philips ones are especially good, in my experience. You can get them in usually at least 3 different colors; warm white, cool white, and daylight. Warm white, usually around 2700K-3300K color temperature, is what most people have in their homes; it's the same as tungsten, and is considered "relaxing". Cool white is more bluish; something like 5000K. It is more often used in offices, because studies show that people are more productive with cooler-colored lighting (perhaps because it's closer to the color of noontime sun than tungsten, which is more like sunrise or sunset). It's also used in kitchens and bathrooms, because it's a fairly neutral color. Finally, daylight is the bluest color, at 6500K; it's also used in work areas or factories and places like that.

Sometimes, the cheapest and most efficient LED bulbs are in the blue end of the spectrum, especially when the color temperature doesn't matter too much - like a flashlight. So cheap lights will have a poor blue color to them. But good quality lights can give you any color you want - so you can pick which color looks best to you. I'd recommend seeing if there is a home improvement or other store in your area that sells light bulbs and has a display so you can compare a variety of lamps when turned on.

In the end, LEDs basically have it all; instant-on like tungsten, longer lifespan and lower energy usage than CFL, and available in any color you like. Not all of them support dimming, and not all dimmers support LEDs, so that's something to be aware of, if you have any dimmer circuits. I replaced nearly all of my bulbs with LEDs (and one of my four dimmers), and you'd never know the difference. My power bill sure does, though...

Comment: Re:Long term jobs are rare and getting rarer. (Score 1) 282

by Macman408 (#47395793) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Often Should You Change Jobs?

A not-entirely-dissimilar story; I worked for a small company where there was an HR manager and two assistants. During the downturn in 2000, they had to lay off a number of employees, so the manager directed one of the assistants to prepare and assemble kits for each of the earmarked employees giving them information on the benefits and resources available to them. At the meeting where the layoffs were announced, the assistant handed out these packets to the employees, and was then handed her own by the manager. (Ouch.)

Several years later, when things weren't looking terribly rosy, the HR manager quit; there were rumors that there might be another round of layoffs to come, and she didn't want to go through the painful process of doing them again. (Despite the rough delivery above, she was genuinely a nice person; just forced to be less compassionate by corporate need. Case in point; I burned my finger on a soldering iron while at work, and stopped by her office to ask if we had any ice available. I could see on her face that her first reaction was genuine concern and sympathy, followed very shortly afterwards by an "oh dear, there's going to be some paperwork associated with this" look.)

Luckily, we mostly avoided the feared second round of layoffs - 7 people were let go, which was probably more just thinning the herd than layoffs due to purely financial concerns. Thankfully, I had left by the time that the office was shut down several years later. I think everybody knew it was a sinking ship, but nobody was motivated enough to find a different job until they had the engineers packing boxes and disassembling office furniture.

Comment: Re:I can't buy one (Score 3, Interesting) 377

by Macman408 (#47252351) Attached to: Are US Hybrid Sales Peaking Already?

I'm going to go ahead and assume that you didn't buy a "really fat kid" for yourself, and 'splain some things that I've learned as a nerdy Prius owner...

First, it's not gutless as you might think. It's not going to win any awards for acceleration, but it can do 0-60 in 9.7 seconds. That's probably on the slower half of the scale, but still faster than a Yaris Hatchback or Matrix, as well as non-US models like the Avensis, Aygo, or Auris - and that's looking only at Toyota sedans. Most of the gutlessness comes from us schmucks inside the car, who are in no hurry to rush you to the next red light when we can get there at the same time as you, and with half as much fuel, by taking it easy. Some of the gutlessness comes from a software setting that adjusts the throttle response to the gas pedal's position; in Eco mode, you really have to mash the pedal if you want to move, while PWR mode makes it more like most American cars where it's jumpy if you so much as look at the gas pedal. In between is "Normal" mode. There are plenty of Prius owners who hate the car in anything but PWR mode because they like to accelerate fast.

Second, it is a HUGE car on the inside relative to most of my friends' sedans. A good amount of the space is vertical, so it helps if whatever you're carrying is tall or can be stacked. But I've carried 3'x8' sheets of plywood, an 8-foot ladder, or 4 people and backpacking gear for a 4-day wilderness trip. Many people can carry several bicycles inside the car without taking them apart - my wife and I are both very tall, so we have to take off the front wheel of our bikes to fit our bikes in. Out of all my friends, none have cars that can carry any of those things - except one bicycle with the wheels removed, and the handlebars sticking out the window.

Third, I'd say it doesn't really have two power trains; it has one power train of which the gasoline engine and two motor-generators are an integral part. The car would be incapable of driving if any of them are removed, although it'd be easier to remove the gasoline engine if anything. The Prius doesn't have a normal transmission; there are two planetary gearsets that connect the MGs and engine to the wheels. By adjusting the speed and direction of the MGs, pretty much any gear ratio can be obtained. It's sometimes called an "eCVT" because of this, but it could just as easily be called a single-speed transmission. Get rid of the electronic parts of the powertrain, and you'd have to put in a transmission instead to replace it. Also, you'd lose the regeneration abilities of being a hybrid. Of course, if you remove the engine, you'd have to use a much larger battery instead - and even then, the Prius motors are not designed for high-speed use (over 45 mph, the engine has to be spinning to keep the motors from over-revving; I think the limit is about 60 mph in the plug-in variant of the Prius). So both halves of the powertrain are really required for it to work, much less for it to work as efficiently as it does.

That's not to say it's a car for everybody - and indeed, if your choices come down to a Tesla anything or a Prius, I'd go with the Tesla any day unless you plan on regularly exceeding its range in areas where high-speed charging is not available. But it's a good choice of cars for many people.

That said, I'm not surprised that hybrid sales occasionally have a down year - but the trend still seems to be pretty positive. Even though they mention share dropping from 2009 to 2010, the hybrid share is still up about 15% since 2009, at about 3.2% of all cars. Meanwhile, EVs are starting to take off, and often catch the attention of the same eco-minded type that was purchasing the early hybrid models years ago. Still, they only amount to about 0.6% of all vehicle sales. But I don't think hybrids are a long-term solution, just like gas cars aren't either. Unless we start synthesizing gasoline from something other than oil, we'll need to find an alternative fuel sooner or later - whether that means EVs or something else, only time will tell.

All I can say is that I hope Tesla gets other auto makers fired up, otherwise I may have to find a big pile of cash next time I want to buy a car...

Comment: Re:The Woz actually came on /. to talk about this (Score 1) 307

by Macman408 (#47189187) Attached to: GM Names and Fires Engineers Involved In Faulty Ignition Switch

You're misunderstanding. (And I didn't really try to explain it thoroughly, so here you go:)

There are several displays. The speedometer always shows the actual speed. There is another display to the right of the speedometer that shows various settings relating to the radar cruise control - the set following distance, whether the system detects a car in front of you, the set speed, and (if the Lane Keep Assist feature is turned on) whether the car has detected the lane edges or not.

When turning on the cruise control, the set speed shown on the right display is equal to the current speed. When you use the Accel or Coast buttons, it adjusts the set speed shown on the right display, independently of whatever speed you are actually going. Because of this, you can adjust your set speed even when the system is going slower than the set speed due to traffic in front of you. Also because of this, you can adjust your set speed much faster than the car is capable of reacting to match.

There is something to be said for consistency - for example, the Prius fakes "engine drag" when you let up on the accelerator, by drawing power off of the electric generator and charging the battery. It is also programmed to have creep like an automatic car does, where it starts crawling forward when you let off the brake pedal. Both of these are done to make it feel like any other car; there's no inherent reason that it needs to do these. Woz's difficulties with the cruise control stem from the fact that they depart from the standard cruise control behavior. On the other hand, if they didn't, performing some actions (like adjusting your set speed) would be much more difficult, so I don't really fault them for it. Honestly, if you're paying $30k+ for a car with all the bells and whistles, you really ought to RTFM. It may be *mostly* like every other car you've ever driven, but it will also answer a lot of questions you'll probably have, and even a few you didn't know you had.

Comment: Re:The Woz actually came on /. to talk about this (Score 2) 307

by Macman408 (#47185365) Attached to: GM Names and Fires Engineers Involved In Faulty Ignition Switch

No, Woz said he had an entirely different problem - one that he later clarified was more akin to a "broken button on the radio" than the alleged unintended acceleration - the cruise control would start accelerating rapidly, but he could still tap the brakes and cruise control would turn off. Initially, he mentioned it as a "hey, this is something different, but maybe it's related and will help you track down the issue!", but later it became clear that this was not an issue.

In the end, it turned out to be an unexpected behavior-as-intended. Most people are used to cruise control where you hold the Accel button until you reach the speed you want; once there, you let go of Accel and it maintains the speed. However, with the radar cruise control on his (and my) Prius, the Accel button adjusts the set speed shown on the LCD on the dashboard independently of (and generally more rapidly than) the vehicle speed - first, by 1 mph at a time, and eventually by 5 mph at a time if you keep holding it. So if you start out at 55 mph, and hold Accel until you're going 70 mph, the set speed shown on the dash might be 110 mph by then. So yes, the car will continue accelerating - but his issue was from not understanding the intended behavior of the system, not from a bug. This is possibly an indicator that the behavior is unintuitive and should be modified, or possibly an indicator that car owners should just read their damn manuals, even if you're Woz.

Comment: Re:Journalism students attempting technical report (Score 1) 262

by Macman408 (#47072121) Attached to: The Brakes That Stop a 1,000 MPH Bloodhound SSC

4.6 kW is a bit low for a system

I nominate this for "understatement of the year".
A 4.6 kW braking system would be good for a *bicycle*, which could then stop in about half a second at full braking. As I noted in the GP, the total energy of their vehicle at 160 mph is 4.6 kWh, so it would take an HOUR to stop it at a rate of 4.6 kW. Even if you had 8 discs, it would still take you 7.5 minutes to stop. You'd go well over 10 miles in that time.

Comment: Re:Journalism students attempting technical report (Score 2) 262

by Macman408 (#47061345) Attached to: The Brakes That Stop a 1,000 MPH Bloodhound SSC

4.6kW, eh? That's 6.2 horsepower. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that number is wrong by several orders of magnitude. 4.6MW is more likely.

And, as others have noted, kW is a unit of power anyway, and so is fairly meaningless for a braking system, which is taking huge amounts of kinetic energy and trying to convert them to something else (eg heat) without that something else causing some sort of spectacular show.

But maybe it's just the journalist's error - 4.6 *kWh* would be a reasonable number; eg the equivalent of slowing down a 1000 kg vehicle from 400 mph to 0. Or, in their example, the 160 mph bus must weigh about 6500 kg. Not coincidentally, Wikipedia lists the curb weight of the Bloodhound SSC as 6,422 kg.

(Of course, whether the road is wet or dry has nothing to do with the amount of energy dissipated in stopping the bus. They might as well have said "It's like stopping a bus from 160 mph on a Tuesday.")

I am a geek attorney, but not your geek attorney unless you've already retained me. This is not legal advice.

Sir, you will be hearing from my attorney shortly on the basis that you have provided me with illegal advice. I will be seeking PUN-ative damages.

Comment: Re:Range is the issue (Score 1) 258

by Macman408 (#46897509) Attached to: BMW Created the Most Efficient Electric Car In the US

This is Slashdot. Since when is it a requirement to *read* any of previous postings, much less comprehend them or post something that makes any sense whatsoever given the context? ;-)

Oh well, at least I had the fun of figuring out the gasoline/battery ratio. I had previously calculated that my Prius's battery is basically the equivalent energy storage of two tablespoons of gasoline.

Comment: Re:Range is the issue (Score 2, Informative) 258

by Macman408 (#46895451) Attached to: BMW Created the Most Efficient Electric Car In the US

Most of the power is going to hauling a battery around.

That's a bit of an exaggeration/misinterpretation. Yes, the battery can be heavy; on a car with a reasonably long range like the Tesla, about a quarter of the weight (1,000-1,300 pounds) is the battery. On the other hand, some of that weight gain is offset by removing things that aren't needed - like the gas tank, fuel pump and hoses, gasoline itself (about 120 pounds for a full 20-gallon tank), as well as other components that aren't needed on an EV. As another example, a V8 engine weighs around 600 pounds; the Tesla Model S motor apparently weighs about 150 pounds - or 300 pounds if you include the reduction gear and inverter.

Anyway, the reason why range is difficult is that the energy density of gasoline is far higher than that of a battery. An 85 kWh battery, at ~1,300 pounds, has an energy density of 0.24 MJ per pound. Gasoline, on the other hand, contains about 19.2 MJ per pound. Even at the abysmal efficiency of an internal combustion engine (on average, about 20%), they still need 16 times less weight in fuel than an EV does in batteries.

The car companies are solving for a complex set of variables - the volume of the car dedicated to batteries, the weight (and thus power-to-weight ratio), the cost, the range requirements of their target market, etc. Tesla is trying to make the EV people's primary car, by using a huge battery capable of brief ultra-high-power recharging; most other companies have chosen to simplify, by marketing the EV as a family's second car - good for going to work, school, and errands (and 99% of most peoples' driving); but they still have a second car for road trips.

Comment: Re:Safe (Score 1) 245

by Macman408 (#46881365) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Back Up Physical Data?

Yeah, this seems true to me too. Not too long ago, I bought a house, which involved faxing a wire request to my bank (in a different state). To prove my identity, they called the number I put on the form, and asked me a series of 10 security questions; I didn't have to give a driver's license or other documentation of my identity.

Honestly, I was a little surprised by how much the bank knew about me.

Similarly, when I needed my birth certificate to get a wedding license, they would have accepted a number of other documents (which are easier to replace) in lieu of a driver's license - like a paycheck and a utility bill.

Comment: Re:Security through obscurity (Score 1) 481

by Macman408 (#46873643) Attached to: US Nuclear Missile Silos Use Safe, Secure 8" Floppy Disks

I would disagree conditionally; security through obscurity is bad if it is your only form of security, and it's bad against a determined, well-funded attacker, but it can still provide some amount of security. Requiring an attacker to acquire an 8-inch-floppy disk (and drive) might serve to deter $SCRIPT_KIDDIE from doing anything to your system, because frankly, it's a pain. It certainly won't do much to deter $FOREIGN_SPY; it'll be a nuisance and probably add time to their planning of an attack (which is still beneficial), but you obviously need other security measures that can prevent their access.

You might think of it like many of the forms of cryptography used online today - the whole point is to create a math problem that would be very difficult for a third party to solve backwards, where "very difficult" is defined in terms of the computation power a potential attacker might have and a period of time after which the encrypted information would no longer have value. This means that encrypted data isn't vulnerable to anybody living today; but some day, it will be. If your goal were to encrypt data for all time (or against somebody with unlimited resources), you would need a very different mechanism to "obscure" your data than today's typical encryption. Security through obscurity is obviously weaker, but it can help to prevent casual attacks. (Then again, so could all the other stuff you have to do to prevent the more determined attackers - so adding obscurity is not helpful, but having it naturally does carry some small value.)

Comment: Re:Fucking Cyclists are ruining the future. (Score 1) 174

by Macman408 (#46864073) Attached to: Google Using Self-Driving Car Data To Make Cars Smarter

Somebody else already pointed out the link, but you should NEVER put yourself in the situation where you are stopped to let a bicycle pass on the right. Even if I'm 100% absolutely positively certain that a driver has seen me and is waiting for me, I will never pass a car on the right in a situation like that unless there is literally no other option (ie I can't slow down and move behind them or to their left). You should have been paying closer attention, and either known that you could safely turn in front of the bicycle without cutting them off, or slowed down sooner and merged into their lane behind them. The latter is by far the preferable option, since most people tend to overestimate how much time they have to pass a cyclist and make their turn safely - especially if they find their right turn blocked by a pedestrian or another car.

(There are some situations where I will pass a car on the right, like when a long line of traffic is stopped at a traffic light, however once traffic starts moving, I will slow down so that I am in between two cars - so if either of them turns right, I won't be in danger of getting hit.)

This is actually something that the Google car did poorly in the video; when they demonstrate yielding to a bicycle passing on the right, the car should have been on the right in the bike lane, not to the left of the dotted white line. I'm hoping that they did this just to illustrate "hey look, we can see bikes coming from behind the car!", and that the car would normally be in the bike lane/shoulder in order to turn right.

One other thing - often, bicycles need to take the lane even when there is a bike lane. Perhaps the surface in the bike lane is too rough, or there is debris, or a poorly-designed storm sewer grate, or any of a thousand other possibilities. Without knowing the particulars, I can't guess whether one of those is what's happening, or if you just happen to commute along the same route as the world's largest asshole.

That said, yes, there are many crappy bikers out there. I'd like to think that if we started designing our transportation infrastructure more for bicycles (rather than including them as an afterthought), that would go away; more bike paths with fewer grade-level road crossings would go a long way. Also, making some roads (eg residential) nearly dedicated to bicycles can help - for example, put some planter boxes in a few places across the road, so only bicycles can pass through. Car traffic is reduced to only the residents, bicycles get a quiet place to ride, and cars don't have to jockey for position with them on the main thoroughfares. That only works if the bike route is sufficiently straight, goes somewhere interesting, and doesn't have many stop lights and stop signs - otherwise some bikes will prefer riding with more cars in order to have to stop less often.

Enforcement, or even just warnings, would also help. Doubly so if the laws were also adjusted to make sense for cycling; for example, the "Idaho stop", where a cyclist is allowed to treat the stop sign as a yield if there is no traffic approaching. But I'll admit I was amused when I was stopped at a red light, and a cyclist (obviously an inexperienced, low-income, casual biker) biked through, and a cop stopped in the middle of the intersection and yelled at him. ("That other cyclist stopped for the red light. You need to stop too. I don't want to have to fill out the paperwork when you become a road pizza.") The cyclist seemed confused at why he was getting yelled at (or was perhaps just putting on the "no hablo inglés" routine), so I don't know that it made things any better, though.

  Well, one rant begets another, I suppose... ;-)

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