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Comment: Re:Pick a different job. (Score 1) 459

Do you understand the benefits of a union?

A union is most beneficial when workers are easily replaceable -- because if management can replace worker A with worker B without a lot of overhead, management can (and usually will) use that to drive salaries down, approaching the lowest salary that they can find at least one worker to accept.

The trick in programming is to make sure you are not so easily replaceable -- if the company knows that it would take 6-12 months to get a new hire up to your level of productivity, they will not be so quick to "value engineer" your salary and benefits. Then you don't really need a union to stand up for you, because you have leverage to stand up for yourself. (The right way to do this is to know the company's software inside and out; the wrong way would be to make the software so convoluted that only you can understand it... ;))

Comment: No big deal (Score 1) 64

by Animats (#47726537) Attached to: How Does Tesla Build a Supercharger Charging Site?

This is a straightforward industrial electrical installation. There's a pad-mounted distribution transformer and meter provided by the power company, a weatherproof load center provided by the customer's electrical contractor, and the Tesla supercharger control unit and outlet stations. No big deal to install. There's a comparable installation at every large standalone store.

That's a small charging station. Here's the build-out of a bigger one. Black and Veach, which does infrastructure construction for the energy and communications industry (substations, cell sites, etc.) is doing the job. They see it as a lot like building out cell towers. (If you watch that video, you may wonder why the transformers and switchgear are on raised platforms. Probably because there's a flood risk at that location.)

Installing a gas station's underground tanks, which today are dual tanks with leak detection, is a much bigger job. There's a big excavation, lots of plumbing and wiring, and several different trades involved.

Comment: Re:There is no "FarmBot" (Score 1) 133

by Animats (#47714057) Attached to: FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

If you watch the video at the bottom of the article, you'll see photos of several prototype FarmBots that do, in fact, exist.

Those are just tabletop gardening robots. That was done 20 years ago.

There's lots of real robotic agricultural machinery, much of it mobile. Building a gantry over a tabletop doesn't scale.

Comment: Re:NIMBYs? Crackpots? (Score 1) 482

by Jeremi (#47712307) Attached to: Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead

According to the gov, 33% total efficiency for coal.

Of course if you take into account the energy expenditure it will take to pull the excess CO2 and other chemicals back out of the atmosphere, that number goes down a bit.

(Impractical to do, and therefore will never be done, you say? Okay, take into account the costs of living with a permanently impacted atmosphere, instead)

Comment: Re:CONSIDER THE ETHICS (Score 1) 133

by Jeremi (#47709541) Attached to: FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

Keep in mind, a cheap solution would be a threat for most the worlds farmers, who are not high tech like the ones in the 1st world nations.

The world's small farmers are already being driven out of business by automated mass-production farming that their labor-intensive, small-scale methods can't compete with, and that they can't afford to replicate. Cheap, easy-to-use small-scale automation could allow them to grow food more cheaply, making them more competitive, not less. I doubt that any of them enjoy doing back-breaking field labor for 10 hours a day for very little compensation; why wouldn't they want a robot that could do the tedious labor for them?

Comment: Re:How to prevent illegal immigration (Score 1) 133

by Jeremi (#47709497) Attached to: FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

It seems like that would cut down so heavily on demand for labor, that not many people would find it worth trying to cross.

Not to mention that anyone with a sufficiently capable farm-bot could use it raise their own crops to eat, and would therefore no longer need to go searching for a menial job in order to feed their family. Win-win!

Comment: Re:not true at all (Score 1) 133

by Jeremi (#47709397) Attached to: FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

And thus this is likely yet another solution without a problem.

I think there's definitely a market for this. For example, I'd like to have a nice vegetable garden in my back yard, but I don't have the expertise or the free time to do the work necessary to keep it healthy and happy. If I could buy a FarmBot at the local Home Depot, set it up, press "Go", and not worry about it until harvest time, that would be a pretty tempting prospect. And once the technology got cheap enough and reliable enough for most people to afford and install, anyone with some land could easily grow their own organic produce, exactly to their own specifications. For people who don't have their own land, neighborhoods could do slightly larger-scale versions of the same thing in the community gardens. Peoples' ability to feed themselves (rather than rely on buying food from large corporations) would increase, which can only be a good thing.

Comment: Re:The power of the future... (Score 1) 295

by Animats (#47708177) Attached to: If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

Fusion power is roughly 20 years away from being viable...and has been for the last 40 years LOL.

Longer than that. Fusion power has been hyped since the 1950s. From the article:

Nuclear fusion could come into play as soon as 2050

Heard that one before.

Fusion power has some real problems. After half a century of trying, nobody has a long-running sustained fusion reactor, even an experimental one. The whole "inertial fusion" thing turned out to be a cover for bomb research. There's a lot of skepticism about whether ITER will do anything useful. It's not clear that a fusion reactor will be cost-effective even with a near-zero fuel cost. (Fission reactors already have that problem.) It's really frustrating.

Fusion reactors are a pain to engineer. They have a big vacuum chamber with high-energy particles reacting inside, and huge cryogenic magnets outside. This is far more complicated than a fission reactor, and is why the cost of ITER keeps going up.

Comment: LibreOffice/OpenOffice still kind of suck (Score 5, Insightful) 570

by Animats (#47699241) Attached to: Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft

The basic office-type products for Linux still kind of suck. I've been using them since the StarOffice/SunOffice days, and now use LibreOffice. They've improved a lot, but they're still flakier than they should be, a decade after initial release. Nobody wants to fix the hard-to-fix, boring bugs which damage usability.

Oracle buying the remnants of Sun didn't help.

Comment: Re:MUCH easier. (Score 1) 239

Given a choice, I think autonomous cars at some point WILL be programmed with such a choice. For example, hitting an elderly person in order to avoid hitting a small child.

I doubt it. Any company that wants to stay in business will instead concentrate on making sure the car does not get into a position like that in the first place -- because once the car is in a "no-win" situation like that, it doesn't really matter what choice it makes, the company is going to be hit with a big lawsuit either way.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson