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Comment: Re:edu-babble (Score 1) 204

by TheRaven64 (#49558665) Attached to: The Future Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher
Really? Wikipedia tells me that kindergarten in the USA means up to age 6. By that time, I had been taught to read, write and do arithmetic (though I sucked at long division and found long multiplication hard until I was taught a third method a few years later). My handwriting is not much better now than it was then, though it did improve a bit in the middle as a teenager when I was writing on a regular basis.

Comment: Re:Z80 was in TRS-80 (Score 1) 82

by TheRaven64 (#49558639) Attached to: When Exxon Wanted To Be a Personal Computing Revolutionary

God I miss 80's computing.

I don't, but if you want to get the same fun without all of the old annoyances there are two things I'd recommend:

The first is to get an FPGA dev board. BlueSpec is a nice proprietary high-level HDL that is free for academic use, but if you don't qualify for that then CHISEL from Berkeley is also not bad - they're both a nice step above Verilog / VHDL.

The second is the mbed boards from various ARM partners. Some ARM folks handed me one of these to play with a few months back. These are aimed at getting embedded development to people who don't normally do it. They've got all of the fun I/O stuff from the BBC micro (plus some new stuff like USB and Ethernet) and a nicely put together development environment.

Comment: Re:Ah the Z-80 (Score 1) 82

by TheRaven64 (#49558617) Attached to: When Exxon Wanted To Be a Personal Computing Revolutionary
They're increasingly hard to justify though. Cortex-M cores are really, really cheap (M0 and M0+ especially) and a modern 32-bit instruction set can be a significant win. You can't justify a 16-bit microcontroller on cost grounds anymore, let alone an 8-bit one. The main places Z80s are used is in systems designed in the early '80s that would cost too much to change, but which need periodic repairs.

I've seen a few things recently that have taken an amusing middle ground and bought ARM cores and used them to run a Z80 emulator, because it was cheaper to get the associated peripherals to attach to the ARM core.

Comment: Re:Google+ failed becuase it's GOOGLE (Score 1) 145

by TheRaven64 (#49558559) Attached to: Google Insiders Talk About Why Google+ Failed
I don't understand why Microsoft wants to go down that path. Their big money comes from businesses. They should be trumpeting private clouds (buy Windows server, install on a rack, run all of the cloudy stuff that you want under control of your company) and privacy to actively differentiate themselves from Google.

Comment: Re:Google Streams (Score 1) 145

by TheRaven64 (#49558545) Attached to: Google Insiders Talk About Why Google+ Failed
I've spent a depressing amount of the last couple of weeks looking at hotel web sites to find somewhere to stay for a business trip. About a year ago, almost all of them would have used Google Maps for their location page. Now about half used Bing Maps. I was quite surprised by this, though I vaguely remember Google starting to charge businesses for using GMaps (it could also be that Google highlights all of the competing hotels in the map, which probably isn't something that hotels want...). I didn't find the Bing map any worse than the Google one. Both were annoying in different ways.

Comment: Re:What we are seeing is ... (Score 1) 145

by TheRaven64 (#49558537) Attached to: Google Insiders Talk About Why Google+ Failed

I expect Google to die in the same way that IBM died: it will still be a huge and influential player for a long time, but won't be the company that defines an industry that people care about. The same sort of path as Microsoft.

When I interviewed at Google a few years I was reminded of something that JWZ wrote about Netscape, claiming that it started to decline when it started hiring people who were there because it was a cool place to work, not because they wanted to change the world and believed in the things that the company was doing. Everyone I met at Google told me that I should would there because it was a cool place to work...

Comment: Re: and... (Score 1) 277

by TheRaven64 (#49551027) Attached to: Tesla To Announce Battery-Based Energy Storage For Homes
It obviously can be done, the question is whether it makes financial sense. It seems that, if it were cost-efficient to store electricity in LiIon batteries then the biggest buyers of them would be power companies, so maybe there's some market inefficiency that you can exploit by doing it in customers houses, but it even with that it sounds like it will have a very long ROI. I pay about £400/year for electricity (about $600). A $13K battery storage array would cost me the same as almost 22 years of electricity. Even if it reduced my electricity bills to zero, it would take 22 years for it to pay for itself. I think the overnight rate, if I switch to a tariff that has one, is about half of the normal rate, so it would actually take 44 years. Probably a bit less as electricity prices are likely to go up over the next few decades, but even with a 20 year ROI there are far better uses of my money.

Comment: Re:One of many potential causes (Score 1) 90

by Rei (#49550329) Attached to: Bees Prefer Nectar Laced With Neonicotinoids

Yep. It's wierd because the symptoms can correspond with many different causes. For example, the climate change thing makes sense because bees can be tricked into thinking it's spring and start foraging or even swarming in the middle of winter when they really should stay in the winter cluster. The occasional warm day is good for them to be able to get out and void themselves, but longer periods of significantly fluctuating weather can be bad.

But it also matches other problems. Diseased or dying hives often lead to "desperate" swarming where bees start abandoning the hive to try to establish a new, safe place. Most of these swarms, however, will die. The behavior could be seen as a general "exteme stress" behavior. It could also be seen as a neurological disorder from pesticide exposure.

In short, it could match almost any possible cause. And probably is a result of many of them.

Comment: Re:The study was flawed (Score 4, Informative) 90

by Rei (#49550295) Attached to: Bees Prefer Nectar Laced With Neonicotinoids

I think it's important to ask questions because there's been literally "dozens" of different things "definitively linked" with CCD. The public likes to seize on neonicotinoids, but they're probably one of the least supported of these many different "definitively linked" reasons. Whole countries have gone so far as to outright ban neonicotinoids, with no effect on CCD. France, for example, banned them. The next year they largely switched to blaming the condition on Asian Hornets when the decline rates didn't decrease.

The problem is that when you ban a certain pesticide, people start using others. And going from neonicotinoids to organophosphates is a massive step backwards in terms of general safety, not just to pollinators, but especially to more complex animals as well. But the biggest problem with the neonicotinoid theory is that neonicotinoids are only used in a small fraction of the areas where CCD exists. Bees can only fly several kilometers from the hive, they're not going cross-country and picking up every pesticide in every farmer's arsenal. It even exists among people who are in places where no pesticides at all are used.

It's easy for the general public to latch onto a particular cause. But once you learn more about beekeeping you realize how incredibly much out there is that can utterly f* up a hive. And which have in history regularly collapsed bee populations, far worse than the collapses we have today. Trachael mites once nearly obliterated beekeeping in Europe, saved mainly by the development of the Buckfast bee. Check out this very inexhaustive list of bee pests and diseases. There's even some really counterintuitive effects in that small levels of some pesticides can actually increase hive survival rates, in that they're deadlier to bee pests like mites than to the bees themselves.

The public also tends to totally understand colony collapse disorder in the first place. Normal winter colony death levels are about 15% in most locations (though where I am it's higher). CCD raised the US average to about 30% at its peak. This is painful and expensive to beekeepers, but it has literally no impact on the ability to sustain bee populations. A new beehive can be started with just a queen and a handful of workers. Hives can be made to produce queens en masse through proper management. Hence people can mail order starter hives, and there's never going to be a threat to the ability to produce these starter hives - a single hive can make many dozens per year. Even normal hives not managed for breeding starter hives will naturally produce several swarms every year; beekeepers try to discourage and/or catch these swarms.

In all likelihood, neonicotinoids are one among many different stressors to bees in the modern era that causes CCD. Modern bees are much more "stressed" than bees in the past. We've created an environment where new bee pests and diseases have spread far and wide to bees that never would have encountered them in the wild. We raise them on corn syrup and sugar water in the winter (good for reducing dysintery and increasing honey yields, but robbing them of certain vitamins and minerals). We transport them on flatbed trucks hundreds or thousands of kilometers (these are animals that get confused if you move their hive a couple meters; their ability to navigate by sight is poor, they're best navigating by the sun and dead reckoning). And countless varieties of poisons, even unintentional ones, affect them every day of their lives. There's so many factors now that weaken hives that any "new" factor to an area can push them over the edge.

Comment: Re:The study was flawed (Score 2) 90

by Rei (#49550221) Attached to: Bees Prefer Nectar Laced With Neonicotinoids

I'd really like to read the paper but unfortunately it's down. But for example, do the neonicotinoids add a UV signature to the liquid not present in the sugar water? That would have little to no influence in the case of flowers in nature (where they're not looking at the nectar, and there's all sorts of other chemicals in the nectar). What other chemicals are in the neonicotinoid solution (they're rarely pure, they usually have all sorts of other chemicals to increase their effect)? What's their cleaning and handling procedure for preparing and filling the sample containers? I want to know how they controlled these experiments against factors that humans can't detect but bees absolutely can.

Just the very act of hooking electrodes up to bee neurons I'd have concerns about. Is there any induced electric field involved, or even rubbing against the bee hairs? Bees transfer information to one another via dances, such as the waggle dance. Bees build up an electrostatic charge on their body, and a waggling bee imposes an electrostatic force on the antennae and hairs of all adjacent bees, causing them to feel dance over a short distance. Their stereoscopic sense of the dance lets them know the direction, and that combined with the time allows them to work out a direction to a food source relative to the (moving) direction of the sun. It functions like transferring a memory from one be to another. There's also "negation" behaviors, by other bees who don't like the information giving out; they have a different frequency buzz to say "don't go there", and sometimes different bees may even fight with each other over what's good and what's bad information.

Also note that the linked articles refer to a second study published simultaneously which showed no effect on honeybees next to rapeseed fields sprayed with neonicotinoids versus an altogether unsprayed field. Which is pretty remarkable, because you expect almost *any* pesticide next to your hive to have a profoundly negative effect on it.

An egghead is one who stands firmly on both feet, in mid-air, on both sides of an issue. -- Homer Ferguson