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Comment: Re:We are fucked (Score 5, Insightful) 125

by maynard (#48016899) Attached to: FCC To Rule On "Paid Prioritization" Deals By Internet Service Providers

Remember when Gilmore said, 'the internet routes around damage'?

Remember when it was commonly accepted that censorship on an open network was virtually impossible?

Remember then?

All that idealism crushed with buyouts and consolidation, money thrown at the problem of uppity citizens using disruptive new technology to assert their pesky rights. And it worked. The Internet is nothing like what I remember twenty years ago. A free thought and open platform for exchange of ideas and technology. Now it's a marketing platform at best, global surveillance mechanism at worst.

My parents generation from the 60s had their idealism crushed too. What with the assassination of a president, a civil rights leader, and that president's brother murdered on the campaign trail while running for President. No wonder in the '70s people turned their backs on civics danced away their troubles.

And if you look back to the Wobblie generation - my great grandparents - at the beginning of the nineteenth century, so too did it happen then as well. Utterly crushed under the boot of money and violence. People danced during the roaring twenties too.

At least not too many 'net idealists have been killed this time 'round. Though it doesn't seem like it's time to dance either. The mood has gotten too ugly to party the bad news off.

+ - Could we abort a manned mission to Mars?

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "The next great leap in human spaceflight is a manned mission to a world within our Solar System: most likely Mars. But if something went wrong along the journey — at launch, close to Earth, or en route — whether biological or mechanical, would there be any way to return to Earth? A fun (and sobering) look at what the limits of physics and technology allow at present."

Comment: Re: Utilities Fighting Back (Score 1) 488

by maynard (#48011853) Attached to: Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

Hi Ken,

If I understand your comment correctly, you argue that all renewable subsidies ought to end. And in particular, argue that Net Metering laws are an especially pernicious subsidy that forces utility companies to buy energy from homeowners at inflated rates. You use the common 'buggy whip' metaphor for disruptive economic shifts due to technological advancement to explain this rationale, presenting the hypothetical: what would happen if government had subsidized buggy whips?

So I'll counter, there are two kinds of renewable subsidies at play here.

The first are manufacturing subsidies. China subsidized manufacturing buildout of solar assembly lines with the hope they would take a dominant position in the world market. They're betting solar will be a high growth high-tech market and these subsidies will have long term benefit to the Chinese economy. This is no different from the US betting big by subsidizing pharmaceuticals through medical research grants. Or the initial funding of computer science and packet switched networking (ARPANET), what we now enjoy as the Internet. Those subsidies funneled wealth toward industries each nation expected would show long term economic benefit.

From that perspective, fossil fuels receive significant subsidies today, even as solar manufacturing subsidies decline. See this BBC article:

But there's a second kind of solar subsidy. The one you argue is especially pernicious. That of Net Metering, whereby utilities buy back electric generation by rooftop solar. This subsidizes not the manufacture of panels but their purchase, deployment, and use. As utility companies complain, Net Metering essentially is forcing those companies to diminish the value of their investments in gas and coal fired power plants. Since they've put billions - half a trillion wordlwide - into these investments, a general popular shift to rooftop solar means that as local solar ownership increases so too does the value of central production decrease.

Why should laws force them to buy the knife that's slitting their own throats?

I argue because increased energy production - in aggregate - is a net good across the board. The solution is not to limit deployment of renewables, particularly since they're already cost effective, but to find alternative use for those gas and coal burning plants during this transition period. You won't get buy-in from utility investors unless they see some kind of ROI on prior investment. Otherwise, they'll fight this to the bitter end, which would delay renewable deployment longer than planning to maximizing use of current fossil fuel infrastructure anyway.

But let's get to your buggy whip argument. Because I think this is particularly flawed. Here, you conflate a manufactured good - the buggy whip - with an energy resource. It takes net energy to make buggy whips. If they're useless, regardless of subsidy, that's a net loss to the economy and society in general. The whip will sit unused until it decays and is thrown away. Energy production is different. This can be stored for use another day. Whether that's direct use in smelting and manufacturing, as I proposed, or in storage - say mass hydro by pumping water uphill, hydrogen gas production and storage, whatever - energy production can be converted and saved in ways that a useless manufactured object cannot.

The analogy fails because the two (subsidized energy production vs subsidized manufacturing) are not comparable at fundamental levels.

At least, that's the perspective I take. I look forward to your counter-argument. Best. -M

Comment: Re:Utilities Fighting Back (Score 5, Informative) 488

by maynard (#48008555) Attached to: Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

For the most part, they already have.

US Solar subsidies in decline:

Australian subsidies in decline:

China cuts solar subsidies:

And yet it hasn't stopped solar deployments. Because even without subsidies, they're now cost competitive. Utility companies can't use the canard of government subsidized energy any longer. Yet they've invested - as the Economist notes - half a trillion in fossil fuel plants worldwide. I'm proposing a solution that at least prevents a utility meltdown during the transition period.

Comment: Utilities Fighting Back (Score 5, Interesting) 488

by maynard (#48008345) Attached to: Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

As the Economist notes, due to German and other European solar government incentives, European utilities face an existential threat to their investment future and business model. Utility giants the world over have seen this and decided to fight back against Net Metering and other means whereby homeowners can feed back into the electric grid excess energy production from rooftop solar. Barclays, the British multinational banking giant, agrees that rooftop solar and net metering represent a threat to centralized electric production utilities.

The problem utilities face is that solar tends to maximize output at mid-afternoon, exactly the same time spot prices have traditionally been at maximum. So their solution is to lobby government the world over to reverse net metering laws and end solar subsidies.

OK, time for me to get on a soapbox. I think this is shortsighted. The real problem here is that government and electric utilities have agreed on a price structure and investment plan to build out gas powered and coal powered plants that now appear to be unsustainable due to disruptive shifts in the market from technical innovation in the renewable field. As is noted in TFA, solar is - or will soon be - already cost competitive even without government subsidy.

Market fundamentalists would argue, 'let the utilities die. Their investors bought into a dying technology, the market will decide their fate.' Except that they have an endless stream of money to buy lobbyists and legislators to warp law in their favor. Further, they have a good argument that intermittent renewables will only meet partial demand. You still need baseline generation capacity from central utilities. So the problem - from their perspective - is excess production by renewables.

Except: when has excess energy production ever been a problem?

The real problem is twofold: We want to move off of fossil fuels due to global climate change and they want to maximize their vast infrastructure investments. A real policy solution would meet both needs.

Rooftop solar should be maximized. During periods of excess, gas powered plants should funnel their energy to local raw materials ore processing facilities and manufacturing. This has the benefit of distributing labor where it's needed near mining sites, rather than shipping raw materials where labor is cheapest for exploitation as well. And it keeps utilities running for the next thirty years to generate a viable expected ROI. And government policymakers could then plan a rational transition period away from fossil fuels without the economic dislocation of utility giants imploding worldwide.


+ - "Shellshock" may be partially patched, but it's still highly dangerous->

Submitted by operator_error
operator_error (1363139) writes "David A. Wheeler, a computer scientist who is an acknowledged expert in developing secure open-source code, posted a message to the Open Source Software Security (oss-sec) list this evening urging more changes to the bash code. And other developers have found that the current patch still has vulnerabilities similar to the original one, where an attacker could store malicious data in a variable named the same thing as frequently run commands. Norihiro Tanaka, a Japanese open-source developer, noted the problem in an e-mail to the bug-bash list today. By using an environmental variable called cat—the same name as a Unix utility that can concatenate files—he was able to bypass the fixes in the latest bash patch and pass through executable commands. Wheeler noted this vulnerability as well, in an email to both oss-sec and the bug bash list:

I appreciate the effort made in patch bash43-026, but this patch doesn't even BEGIN to solve the underlying shellshock problem. This patch just continues the "whack-a-mole" job of fixing parsing errors that began with the first patch. Bash's parser is certain have many many many other vulnerabilities; it was never designed to be security-relevant. John Haxby recently posted that "A friend of mine said this could be a vulnerability gift that keeps on giving.” Bash will be a continuous rich source of system vulnerabilities until it STOPS automatically parsing normal environment variables; all other shells just pass them through! I've turned off several websites I control because I have *no* confidence that the current official bash patches actually stop anyone, and I am deliberately *not* buying products online today for the same reason. I suspect others have done the same. I think it's important that bash change its semantics so that it "obviously has absolutely no problems of this kind".

In other words, “Shellshock” may be partially patched, but it’s still highly dangerous on systems that might use bash to pass information to the operating system or to launch other software. And it may take a significant change to fix the code."
Link to Original Source

+ - Fired NY Fed Regulator's Secret Audio Recordings Inside Goldman Sachs 2

Submitted by maynard
maynard (3337) writes "Carmen Segarra used to work as a regulator for the New York Federal Reserve Bank, one of twelve regional banks that make up the US central banking system. In her capacity as regulator, Ms. Segarra was assigned to a team overseeing investment banking giant Goldman Sachs. There, while investigating a case of Goldman having advisied a client about a buyout offer by another company in which the firm held significant investment holdings, she determined that Goldman didn't even have a conflict of interest policy. Her supervisor initially backed the investigation, until it became clear she meant to file a written report detailing her findings of fact. Then they abruptly fired her.

And all this would have been another unfortunate case of 'she-said / institution-said' ineffective whistleblowing were it not for the fact that Ms. Segarra saw what was coming and had bought a keychain audio recorder. With it, she collected 46 hours of internal discussion and meetings, including statements by Goldman Sachs principles admitting the firm didn't have a conflict of interest policy and that the deal under investigation had been "shady." Additionally, she collected reams of documents and testimony. She thought her case iron clad.

However, when it came time to reveal her findings in full to superiors, though initially supportive of the investigation, her boss quickly shifted gears and worked to squelch the report. This culminated in a recorded meeting where her boss made clear his supervisors at the Fed insisted she downplay those findings. Then, a week later, before she could formally file the report, they fired her.

While bits of the story have been out in print for about a year, the radio show This American Life just published actual excerpts from those audio recordings. They make for harrowing listening. As the producer says in the introduction, her recordings show: "Repeated examples of pervasive regulatory capture by the industry regulators are meant to oversee."

In other words, whereas before we could all surmise just how bad banking regulation must be, what with the Financial Crisis having nearly tanked the world economy and all, with this audio we can hear first hand and in minute detail what it's like for an honest regulator to try to do the job properly: You get fired. Quickly. Then your embarrassing work is buried and reputation smeared. And if she'd just kept her mouth shut, she coulda gotten rich! This, at the very heart of the global financial system.

Is it any wonder why the public has lost faith in our political and economic institutions?"

Comment: Completely converted house to LED, 3 have died. (Score 1) 585

by RingDev (#48004617) Attached to: The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy

This was exactly my experience as well. My mother in-law has some of the initial run Phillips CFLs. Her hippy roommate installed them in the kitchen in 1994, and they are still going, but they were like $50 a pop back then. They take longer to "warm up" than the new bulbs do, but they provide solid light at a tiny wattage.

Most the the cheap-o CFLs have worked well for me. But the small socket super compact CFL and LED bulbs for my ceiling fan lights have been horrible. The line noise and vibration coming off the motor just destroys the el-cheapo caps and diodes. Same deal, individual LEDs are fine, but I've seen bad caps on the CFLs and scorches on the LED circuitry.


Comment: Do you want to do research or be a programmer? (Score 2) 471

by AuMatar (#47975941) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

A Phd is a researching degree. If you want to use that degree, you should be making very targeted applications at companies that are looking to hire people in your subfield. You should not be applying to general developer positions, you should be applying to very specific jobs you specialize in.

If all you want is a job as a developer, then you're going to get interviewed like a developer. Don't hide your phd, but don't expect it to mean anything. A Phd isn't going to help you write a webpage, or develop a standard business or phone app. The things they need aren't addressed in a phd program. They need programmers. So they're going to test that you can actually program. They're going to treat you just like any other applicant, whatever degree they have. That means starting with the "is this guy a complete fraud" test.

I've gotta ask- why did you get the Phd? If you got it because you wanted to work on a specific field, work in it. If you got it because you wanted to call yourself doctor or you thought more degrees the better, you should have done some research before spending 6 years of your life on it.

Comment: Re:How long is rent going to go up before?dun dun (Score 4, Insightful) 71

by AuMatar (#47932765) Attached to: Airbnb To Start Collecting Hotel Tax On Rentals In San Francisco

Because face time is important. Interacting with coworkers is important. Being able to go over a design at a whiteboard together rather than reading the same powerpoint slide separately is important. THe best ideas I've had in my career have been created as a result of talking to my coworkers over lunch/coffee break/tangent from another discussion. Telecommuting is a loss to productivity even if they are perfect about actually working (which having done it for a year- its not an easy thing to do, there's a lot of temptations). Its not only easily worth 15-30k, its worth 2-3 times that to have then onsite. That's ignoring the fact that a large number of people won't be on point when working from home- many without even meaning to cheat the system.

Comment: Re:Keyboard (Score 1) 216

by AuMatar (#47932567) Attached to: iOS 8 Review

I doubt you paid much attention to this. I do, I've been developing keyboards for 5 years now. Some of those at Swype, some at a second startup (I left Swype a few months after the buyout and have had neither residuals nor stock in the company or its new owner since May 2012), and now well its still on keyboards but I'm under NDA preventing me from stating where. Do all Android users use continuous path input? Of course not. Not even a majority. But a very solid percentage do, and a majority of those wouldn't use a device without it for a phone sized device (answers differ on large tablets where swyping isn't as efficient). So no, I don't think I oversold the importance of the technology- its a blocking issue for millions of people moving to iOS. Would they have moved had it been available when they were making their OS choice? Some large percentage of them would have. Will they now? Who knows- now they're locked in by various apps and expected behavior. We'll see.

Debug is human, de-fix divine.