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Comment Re:Why only trees? (Score 1) 74

And, then it says, you just put hundreds of thousands of these things under highways, and start reaping a non-trivial amount of electricity

And cause a non-trivial increase in rolling resistance and reduction in mileage of the victim vehicles. That energy had to come from somewhere, and collecting it has side-effects.

TANSTAAFL: The first law of thermodynamics as well as economics.

The trees, on the other hand, may appreciate some energy-absorbing sway damping - especially in a storm. (As long as it doesn't interfere with pumping the water up the trunk to the leaves, of course.)

Comment Re:Too bad they pushed Love out (Score 1) 221

Oops, got the history horribly mixed up. Try this:

Written in 1976, under licensing granting source use in classes, suppressed with the release of System 7 in 1979, which didn't include this license term, (after which Unix source code was deleted from classes and the two-volume set became an underground copier-room classic), general distribution of "ancient source" (including System 6) authorized by SCO and the book reprinted with the 1977 version of the commentary (plus a forward by Ritchie) in 1996.

Comment Re:Too bad they pushed Love out (Score 1) 221

What was the title of those text books?

Lions' Commentary on UNIX 6th Edition, with Source Code, a.k.a. "The Lions Book".

Written in 1976, under licensing granting source use in classes, suppressed with the release of System 7, which didn't include this license term, (after which Unix source code was deleted from classes and the two-volume set became an underground copier-room classic), general distribution of "ancient source" (including System 6) authorized by SCO in 1976, reprinted in 1977 with updated commentary and again with added historical commentary in 1996.

See the above-referenced Wikipedia article for ISBNs, more details, and links to more history.

Comment Re:Too bad they pushed Love out (Score 5, Interesting) 221

SYS V needs to go open next, not that overloaded slowlaris, but lean mean SYS V

I was under the impression that the entire POINT of SYS V was for the major UNIX vendors to re-implement the guts of Unix as a clearly, enforceably, proprietary product (after the CONTU recommendations and the resulting copyright law changes explicitly extended copyright to software), then move to it and orphan the original development thread. (This might make opening it a hard sell to the members of the consortium.)

There were at least a couple issues with the proprietary status of the AT&T code:

One issue was that AT&T was still a government-regulated utility monopoly and there were some requirements about disclosing and releasing non-telephone-related inventions they came up with.

The big issue was that, before copyright applied and before software patents were hacked up (by recasting software as one embodiment of, or a component of, a patentable machine or process), the only protection was trade secret and the related contract law. Trade secrets generally stop being enforceable when the secret out of the bag (with some details about whether the claimant contributed to the leak). Bell Labs had shipped code to a LOT of educational institutions. When the U of New South Wales used the System 6 kernel code and an explanation of it as the two-volume text for an Operating System class, the textbooks became an underground classic. This, along with AT&T's benign-neglect licensing policies, led to the burst of little, cheap, generic UNIX boxes, as this was also when microcomputer chips were just becoming powerful enough to do the job.

Up to then a big barrier to entry was that every new machine needed a custom O.S. to deploy, and these were enormous, machine specific, and mostly in assembler. That made it an expensive, undertaking, suitable only for financial giants. But all but under 2,000 lines of Unix was in C, and the entire kernel, which included essentially all the platform-specific code as a subset, was well under 10,000 lines of code. If you had a C compiler and assembler for your new machine, it was a matter of a few man-months to port it and get it up and running. Essentially ALL the utilities and applications came right over. You didn't have to train users, either, because they all worked pretty much just like what they'd used in college.

The game was:
1. Grab a bootleg copy of the code.
2. Port it to your machine and get it working.
3. Go to AT&T and ask for a license "to port Unix to our new machine and sell it."
4. AT&T, as a matter of policy, completely ignores any "violations" you may have committed during the porting phase and cuts you a license at a very reasonable price.
5. You "port Unix in an AMAZINGLY short time" (like the ten minutes it takes to tell Sales to go to market) and you're in business.
6. You (with your new business) and AT&T (with their small cut) slap each other on the back and laugh all the way to the bank. PROFIT! for you. (profit) for AT&T.
7. Because of the policy in 4., everybody ELSE manearly everbody's king a new machine knows they can do the same thing. So many do. AT&T gets a rakeoff from ALL of them. PROFIT! for AT&T. Far more than if they went dog-in-the-manger, held up the first few for all the traffic would bear, and got no more customers for Unix.

And because of this, it was in nearly everbody's interest to NOT challenge the AT&T-proprietary status of Unix. And it stayed this way until SCO's management screwed up and altered step 4. (Even then the case turned on other issues, so it never did come to the point of attacking AT&T's claim that Unix code was proprietary.)

Comment Re:Why only trees? (Score 1) 74

piezo generators have less than a percent of efficiency is why.

I thought it was closer to 80%, at least theoretically. Can you give me a reference for that "Less than 1%" number?

Whether this maps into anything like that number in a practical device for converting "found" mechanical power - such as tree sway or vibrations - is another matter entirely.

Comment Can this be co-installed with the stock version? (Score 2) 184

Can this be co-installed with the current version (for instance, on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, the latest Long Term Support Ubuntu release)?

Or do you have collisions which require you to purge the old one in order to try the new one, or which cause foulups if you don't?

(Honest question. I've seen a lot of that kind of thing with other projects. So now I'm a bit shy of trying the latest-and-greatest release of any tool on the production machines I depend on for time-critical work.)

Comment Re:Huh? (Score 1) 70

3D printed objects aren't the strongest due to the way the layers are laminated together. I imagine the last place you'd want a weak join is on a 150+ foot long blade swishing through the air.

You betcha.

Especially since a spinning blade gets more efficient as it gets faster. Higher speed = lower torque for a given horsepower density, so a higher tip speed ratio (TSR) wastes less energy "twisting" the air downwind.

Efficient wind turbines run at a TSR of 6 or higher - which means that in windy conditions the tips are running at an appreciable fraction of the speed of sound.

If one of those puppies breaks off it's NOT the kind of baseball bat or boomerang you want coming toward you, whether flying or summersaulting along the ground. (Imagine a caber toss with giants and redwood logs.) Not to mention what the resulting unbalanced spinning does to the other blades and the pylon.

Comment You're right, it's bogus. Dang! (Score 1) 118 mentions none of this.

You're right, it's bogus.

I was told that decades ago. But a little research (in the online patent databases) shows that there were ionization smoke detectors for decades before that (back in the tube era, even, when beta emitters were easily available to the common man). NASA says their only involvement with smoke detector design was (in collaboration with Honeywell) coming up with a variable-sensitivity design to stop annoying false alarms in Skylab.

Sorry to have repeated a myth. B-b

Comment Heroes in more ways than one. (Score 4, Interesting) 118

The Appollo I martyrs are heroes in more ways than one.

One of NASA's responses to the fire was to design a detector for miniscule amounts of smoke particles, to provide an early warning of electrical problems that might lead to a fire - in time to evacuate the capsule if on the ground or hunt down and fix the problem if in space.

The detector used a miniscule amount of radioactive material to ionize the smoke particles and then detected the current conducted by the ions. (Radioactive materials were for NASA, a government agency, to design with, difficult for random inventors or corporations to even consider.)

The first, space-rated, low-volume prototypes were pricey. But the circuitry and the detection chamber were dog-simple and could be dirt-cheap when manufactured in volume.

So this was plowshared, and became the ionization-type smoke detector, the first practical, affordable, smoke detector suitable for broad deployment in residences. Even when this was the only type in use, it was quickly saving, first hundreds, then thousands of lives per year.

Modern detectors, combining ionization and photoelectric mechanisms, are credited with cutting the death toll from fires by somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2. They detect different types of fires, and the one detected by ionization accounts for somewhat less than half of them - which is still an enormous number.

So the loss of those three lives has been repaid with enormous interest in the decades that followed. The benefits are still flowing.

Comment Such sites would RATHER be boycotted. (Score 1) 118

Even better if they boycotted all sites which block ad-blocking viewers, ...

If you're blocking ads, you don't contribute to their revenue, but do contribute to their resource consumption. So the operators of such sites would RATHER be boycotted by people using ad-blockers.

Sounds like a win-win. B-)

Comment They should have argued it was a "Taking". (Score 0) 84

But the rule has meant millions in lost profits for utilities. Those companies argued that the program impermissibly targets retail customers.

They should have argued that it was a "taking" and the government had to reimburse them for their losses.

The tail end of the Fifth Amendment reads:

[...] nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

and the Supremes have already ruled that new laws and regulations, and changes to existing ones, that suck part of the value out of property (in this case, the value of the power generation and transmission infrastructure, which is based on the profit it creates) constitute a "partial taking" and require the government to pay for what it took.

Getting the Supremes to recognize that a rule change which imposes a change in the flow of money from customers to the investors in a busines can constitute a fifth amendment taking of the value of the latter's investment would inhibit arbitrary economic winner-picking regulations and move the US economy away from Fascism (alias "crony capitalism) and toward (free-market) Capitalism.

Comment But how about BeagleBone? (Score 1) 147

So happy to see the Raspberry Pi 3D support. Thanks for the goodies!

Goes double.

Is anything similar planned for BeagleBones - especially BeagleBone Black, which is the current cutting edge?

I have to deal with them, and the last time I looked their kernels were coming out of a separate project - which distributes an archive of script to be applied to the corresponding version of the packages, to be overlaid on and applied to the corresponding kernel sources, to hack them into shape for the Bones. It would be far easier to keep up with kernel fixes if the Bones (or at least the Black) were supported directly by the official kernel distributions.

Comment Retry: Re:Why retail? (Score 1) 298

(Stupid Lenovo touchpad just hit "submit" before I was done. Fortunately, it did it when the first part of the post was pretty clean. Reposing with the rest - unless it does it again B-b )

Why should you be paid retail for generation? That totally ignores the part the grid takes in handling your energy...

You also pay a monthly "be connected to the grid" fee, which pays your share of the ongoing expenses of maintaining the grid, along with a one-shot "get connected to the grid" fee, often amounting to thousands of dollars, which literally pays for installing the infrastructure - poles, drop transformer, etc - to bring the grid to you.

(When the contractor building my rural retirement house connected it to the grid, without my orders, I paid many thousands - money I'd intended for a solar system. Part of that was half the price of the existing transformer that I now shared with my next-door neighbor, who had paid the whole price and was now rebated half of it.)

Utilities are very good at dividing the service into appropriate chunks and billing you reasonably fairly for what you actually use. The bulk of the background costs are already covered (with the standard profit margin), so sellers to the grid are not so much the parasites you might think.

Net metering was a cheap hack - based on the common, low-end, pre-"smart" mechanical meters, which ran equally well forward and backward. It doesn't account for the losses in transmission - but (as was mentioned elsewhere) in the case of distributed generation the power doesn't travel very far, so the losses are far lower than those for power shipped from major power plants to widely distributed residences (and since much of those losses are proportional to the square of the currents, local generation reduces them more than in proportion). Billing a rate that doesn't vary by time of day is ALSO a hack based on those meters: Solar and wind tend to produce surplus power when it's expensive and have a shortage when it's cheap, so net metering (when few enough are using it to not substantially affect grid management) is actually a good deal for the power companies.

Having said that: With arbitrarily capable smart meters available a truly fair pricing scheme would involve some offset between the "buy" and "sell" prices - but the "buy at wholesale" level is far too low.

Utilities, though sometimes privately owned, are generally regulated monopolies with pricing schemes imposed by governments in the interests of their citizens. Attempting to apply free market arguments to them is disingenuous. We're dealing with Fascism, not Capitalism, here.

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