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Comment: Consider leaving a vent open (Score 1) 252

In warm humid areas they now air condition the encapsulated crawl spaces. As I recall it actually increases efficiency to condition the crawl space. I believe it has something to do with the temperature difference causing condensation.

In any case, encapsulation can make a big difference. My parents had their crawl space encapsulated when they bought their house. A few years later Terminex cut through all the side insulation to spray for termites. We realized what had happened when we started seeing cockroaches. Temperatures and humidity in the living areas increased. After they repaired the barrier the insect problem significantly decreased. We now see the occasional roach entering around drain pipes. Before the repair they had to run a dehumidifier inside the house almost constantly. Last summer they only used it a few days.

Last year my sister and her husband had to spend thousands of dollars repairing damage to their floor joists from mold. They had their crawl space encapsulated and the mold is now gone.

My parents spent about $5k getting their encapsulation redone. There were enough method and material improvements in the 5 years between projects that it was worthwhile to replace rather than repair the barrier. While encapsulation is expensive it protects your property investment and reduces utility expenses. It also can have significant health benefits.

Comment: Re:Why open source hardware is not like software (Score 1) 64

by dcooper_db9 (#49242421) Attached to: Open Source Hardware Approaching Critical Mass

I was really hoping there was some way the donatee could fill this role.

Kind of a catch-22 there. If the donatee is to defend the patent they need to have a revenue stream to do so which presumably would have to come from the product which (probably) necessarily requires that they exclude others from using it. Not really sure how to resolve that conundrum. Patents were designed to combat the Free Rider Problem but in this case the economics of the patent system interfere with the ability of people to put something in the public sphere and keep it there in a manner similar to copyleft.

My theory is that some companies would have an interest in fostering an environment where patents could be developed for the common good. Perhaps if it's worthwhile to back a software non-aggression pact it might also be worthwhile to back an organization that independent inventors could donate their designs to. Somewhere I could send my designs to knowing that any resulting patents would be available to anyone to use.

Out of curiosity, what sort of product is it? What does it do in general? You don't have to tell me all the gory details but you've piqued my interest.

I'm trying to figure out how I can answer that question. There's nothing about the hardware itself that's particularly sophisticated. It uses technology that was invented decades ago and any patents would have long since expired.

The opportunities here are not in the hardware but in designing applications to interface with it. The problem is that in today's world it's possible to patent the application of an idea. My concern isn't that someone else could be the first to bring this to market. It's that someone else could patent the idea and prevent anyone else from exploiting it.

Comment: Re:Why open source hardware is not like software (Score 1) 64

by dcooper_db9 (#49236345) Attached to: Open Source Hardware Approaching Critical Mass

Doesn't really solve the core problems. 1) It's expensive to get and defend a patent. If you cannot defend a patent then companies with deep pockets will ignore the patent.

I'm happy to have people ignore the patent if that were possible. I just don't want someone to claim the patent and then charge others to use it.

2) Even if you get a patent that doesn't guarantee you'll be able to produce a useful product without infringing on other patents. Lots of tech products simply cannot be produced without cross-licensing agreements.

I was really hoping there was some way the donatee could fill this role.

3) Manufacturing hardware is expensive even without worrying about patents. Software can be manufactured very cheaply - almost for free. Hardware requires a credible business model and substantial capital investment for even the simplest of products.

Agreed. But I think the need for all that is driven by the licensing issues. There's simply no way to put hardware designs into the commons. You can't copyleft a patent.

No disrespect intended (seriously!) but if you cannot afford to get it patented then I have to wonder if it is terribly valuable. Patents cost a few thousand dollars. Costly enough to keep the casual out but it's not a prohibitive amount of money. Defending the patent on the other hand can be very expensive if it is something that others might care to copy. It's not terribly hard to get financing to patent and produce a product with some meaningful market value.

None taken. I think it would be useful to a lot of people but I have no interest in patenting it for my own profit. It doesn't make sense to pay $2000 to patent something unless you're going to make your money back. I guess I'm suggesting that a non-profit could patent and protect the donated hardware designs.

Comment: Re:Why open source hardware is not like software (Score 1) 64

by dcooper_db9 (#49235333) Attached to: Open Source Hardware Approaching Critical Mass
We really need some kind of an organization that we could donate hardware designs to that would guarantee any resulting patents would be open. I have an interface device I've been working on for about 15 years. I can't afford to patent it and certainly can't afford to get it to manufacture. I'd be happy to give away the designs but I don't want some patent troll to claim it. So it sits on the shelf gathering dust.

Comment: Conflicted interests? (Score 1) 261

I'm more interested in what this says about the Washington Post than the book. Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post. TFA is a book review with a link to Amazon, where you can buy the book. I wonder if this is part of the owner's strategy to make the paper profitable. And why does the entire article ignore the difference between color displays and e-ink?

Comment: Tackle one piece at a time (Score 1) 716

by dcooper_db9 (#49029651) Attached to: Is Modern Linux Becoming Too Complex?

I also come from a Windows background and looking at Linux from the perspective of someone with pure Windows experience is daunting. Lot's of tutorials make assumptions without noting prerequisites. For example, you might not know how to start and stop services, how to elevate privileges, or where to find important files in the folder structure. I'm hardly an expert but I have gotten to where I work on both platforms and I prefer Linux as my primary work station. My advice would be to pick one narrow challenge at a time. For example, you might set out to setup a server with MySQL. Then try setting up an FTP file server. After you tackle a few of these projects you'll start to get some grounding in the system. The best thing about Linux is that there are lots of people out there who are willing to help.

I have to acknowledge that there are some tasks I've just not succeeeded at. I've been (in my spare time) trying to figure out how to setup a Samba domain controller and haven't got that working. The problem isn't that I don't know enough about Linux, but rather that I don't have a background in networking.

Comment: It's not just the bloat they added (Score 1) 296

by dcooper_db9 (#49010951) Attached to: Firefox Succeeded In Its Goal -- But What's Next?

Every time they added features the addon developers took a hit. In many cases the features already existed as addons. They kept the addon developers busy because for every feature they added there was someone who wanted to disable it. But the worst thing they did was to keep changing the API. Some of these changes required pretty much rewritting the addon just to continue functioning.

A lot of the addon developers have walked away. A few addons have been revived from dormancy or forked, but many have just died off. The features are still needed but the developers aren't willing to keep rewriting their code. There are only a few addons that are worth maintaining. And without all the addons Firefox is just another browser.

Comment: Why can't I buy an aftermarket chassis? (Score 2) 229

by dcooper_db9 (#48858813) Attached to: Librem: a Laptop Custom-Made For Free/Libre Software
Just yesterday I was reading about the Novena and a couple of similar and related projects. It struck me that all of these projects are tackiling this from the ground up. It seems to me that more people could contribute if different projects could focus on separate modules. That way I could maybe buy an open hardware video adapter to fix a laptop screen. Or an open hardware disk controller to restore a burnt HDD controller. Having open hardware components available would make it cheaper to repair computers. I'd love to be able to stock a single drive controller card and flash the firmware to match the drive it's controlling. Right now I have a complete laptop with a broken hinge and damaged power port. I'd love to be able to take all the parts out and put them into an aftermarket case. I don't mean a replacement case from the original model. I mean a standardized case that would allow me to swap out parts. Why does no such case exist? Why do I have to order an exact match when the case is just molded plastic and each component is pretty much the same size and shape?

Comment: Re:RAND totally misses it (Score 2) 97

I think it's totally worth ignoring the one or two good autodidacts out there if it also means missing out on the thousands who are absolute crap.

Of course. Here's a list of some of the other autodidacts whose contributions we can dismiss: Leonardo da Vinci, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Edison, Michael Faraday, Benjamin Franklin, Buckminster Fuller, Jimi Hendrix, Abraham Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, Frank Lloyd Wright and Wilbur Wright.

Comment: Not necessarily (Score 2) 190

by dcooper_db9 (#47257701) Attached to: U.S. Democrats Propose Legislation To Ban Internet Fast Lanes
It might. I remember when the first bill was produced a bill to regulate telemarketing. The idea was a classic political maneuver. They'd introduce the bill to give the impression they gave a shit. Then they'd quietly kill the bill or gut it before it got too far. But it turned out that people were really tired of having their phone lines abused. So many people called or wrote their congressmen that they couldn't kill the bill. They did water it down over the years but it had a lot more teeth than they intended. So yes, getting involved matters. When a congressman knows that a lot of people are paying attention it affects how they vote.

Comment: Might have a place (Score 1) 69

by dcooper_db9 (#47243141) Attached to: Transforming the Web Into a Transparent 'HTTPA' Database

Years ago I was working as a subcontractor to a major defense contractor. I had a conversation with IT that went something like this:

IT to all personnel: Anyone with a computer must review each file on their drive and label any that might contain confidential information. Please insert our company logo and the following text into any confidential files.
Me to IT: To clarify, I have approximately X files on my hard drive. Do I really need to review ALL of my files?
IT to me: Yes
Me to IT: Do you have any tools I can use to automate this?
IT to me: No. You need to open each file, review it and determine if it contains confidential information. Then insert the logo and message into any files that do.
Me to IT: I just want to make sure I'm understanding your instruction. The vast majority of my files are operating system files. Some files, like the Outlook PST file might contain confidential information. They're not documents, spreadsheets or anything like that. Modifying those files might affect the performance of my computer. Also, I have several Microsoft Access databases containing thousands of records of sensitive information. I can insert the confidentiality message into the database but it might be more useful to add the message to the reports.
IT to me: No, you must insert the confidentiality message into any files containing confidential information.
Forward to my supervisor: Can you take a look at this? This is going to take a lot of work.
Supervisor to me: I looked into it. You're going to have to do this.
Me to IT: Which department do we bill this to?
IT to me: Your department.
Me to IT: Procurement?
IT to me: Yes.
Forward to procurement: I ran the numbers. It's going to take me a year of working full time to get this done. Can you authorize this?
IT to me: You don't need to review your files.
Me to IT: Okay, thanks.

Old programmers never die, they just branch to a new address.