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Comment: Re:Panasonic (Score 1) 151

by dj245 (#46694339) Attached to: Tesla: A Carmaker Or Grid-Storage Company?

=...

Recalling that rescue workers dealing with Prius might not know if a vehicle is de-energized, one of the thoughts that went through my mind is that an electrician or fireman might think that by cutting off power at the breaker, they can assume the entire house and all subsystems are de-energized. I wonder if their procedures involve checking for alternate sources of power such as checking for solar panels and uninterruptible power supplies.

The typical procedure in industry is to put a very large and very prominent warning label on the panel cover- "THIS PANEL ENERGIZED FROM MULTIPLE SOURCES", and then list the panel #'s which power the subject panel. I assume this is compliant to OSHA and NEC standards since I have seen this approach in many different places.

Comment: Re:No problem! (Score 1) 163

by dj245 (#46682143) Attached to: It's Time To Plug the Loopholes In Pipeline Regulation

What? The market will not go out of business. Capital is relatively plentiful and there are many participants, many trying to geologically diversify. No economic plant will stay shutdown for long. The sooner uneconomic plants shutdown the better. That was the main point of power pools...

What you describe might happen in areas still under rate base. Fortunately most power pools have been running for a decade now (without the drama we saw in CA). Only areas where the 'local' power companies have so much power (cough, Southern Company, cough) that market based systems are being delayed is bankruptcy and bailout still a possibility.

The fundamental flaw in your argument is that you assume that uneconomic plants are not needed. This is far from true!! For the 1-5 hottest days of the year*, uneconomic plants are desperately needed when the rest of power is already used up. There are plenty of sites across the US which operate for less than 2 weeks a year, because they are for the greatest "peak of the peak". The power grid needs these plants just as badly as it needs the 24/7 coal/nuclear plant. But in a pure economic model, those handful of days a year aren't enough to justify maintaining that kind of plant. Speculating that the price will skyrocket on hottest of hot days enough to keep you solvent is very risky. It is also bad for society as a whole- society risks not having enough power AND is assured of higher electricity rates on hot days.

In the old days, the utility would operate such plants since they relied on them. Nowadays, there are 2 kinds of power pools- those which subsidize this kind of plant and those which do not. In subsidized markets, they are paid a capacity payment every day which they are "ready". This kind of "payment for nothing" gives free-marketers heartburn however, so some markets don't do this, or don't do it as much as they need. Those markets are the ones which have huge problems on the hottest days, and because they are frequently on the edge of overcapacity, the price of electricity is always higher.

Keep in mind that "idle plants" is a synonym to "overhead which isn't making me money". Private industry wants to keep the % of idle plants as low as possible.
In regulated markets, the utility has the obligation to do what is best for their customers. It is better for their customers that the grid isn't near the edge of overcapacity on a daily basis. Their % of idle plants is higher as a result. With a larger pool of potential power available, the utility can use the cheapest generation on the majority of days, and keep the expensive power plants as a reserve for the very hottest days. The private industry model thinks those reserve plants are uneconomical, and so on the hottest days they get into trouble.

For the end customer, private electricity markets will always be less predictable compared to a regulated market. Usually in a way which is not favorable to the customer.

Comment: Re:Some may close (Score 1) 152

Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant closed because of this situation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H...

Perhaps partly but that plant was a piddly 63MW. In the 1960s they were building 500MW coal powered plants and rapidly scaling up nuclear power output. By the early 1970s, 800-1000MW nuclear power plants were the standard. The manpower requirements of a big nuclear power plant aren't substantially different from a small nuclear power plant. Humboldt Bay was economically obsolete. Other factors may have provided good excuses but IMO the underlying problem was the output was no longer competitive.

Comment: Re:A unified design? (Score 1) 152

Yes, this would make things simpler. The French have done this (PDF link), using one standard reactor design wherever possible. IIRC the American method was to use some standard components, but allow the architect responsible for the plant to make lots of changes (e.g. the piping between the standard components is different at each plant).

Part of this is a problem of capability. Companies like Siemens, Alstom, Areva, etc build turnkey plants based on a "reference" design in Europe. They have thousands of engineers to plan every detail of a power station, all under the umbrella of 1 company. But in the USA, no single company has this capability. GE and Westinghouse (Toshiba) have decided they don't want to be in that business, and want to sell equipment only. Customers are accustomed to buying the condenser from one company, the turbine from another company, the overall control system from a different company etc. The European conglomerates have the capability to provide everything, but have decided that since the tradition in the US is equipment-only (not turnkey), they don't want to take the risk in trying to push that kind of solution. This goes for both nuclear plants and conventional (gas, coal, etc) plants. I don't see this practice changing unless 1/2 of the major equipment OEMs in the US leave the business, which might lead to consortiums or joint-ventures between the manufacturers of different types of equipment. This isn't that likely so the situation of custom-built plants in the US will likely never change.

Comment: Re:Strategic move to compete (Score 1) 535

by dj245 (#46583449) Attached to: Facebook Buying Oculus VR For $2 Billion

Do you understand either Glass or Occulus Rift?

Does Facebook?

Recent history is littered with interesting start-ups getting bought out and abandoned because of a misunderstanding of the start-up's core concept.

Or maybe there's a patent that Facebook wants for leverage in some other area and everything else will just be dropped...

2 Billion dollars is a ridiculous amount to pay for patents, supposing Occulus even has any good ones, and supposing they are in some way vital to Facebook's future plans. You could licence such a patent, even at exorbitant rates, for a LONG time for 2 Billion dollars. And if it turned out to be a worthless patent you could just stop licencing it and walk away.

When companies (especially Facebook) are spending these huge sums of money on dubious investments, something very bad is coming. Maybe it is another bubble ready to pop, or maybe it is something different. When it happens, it isn't going to be pretty.

Comment: Re:Ummm.... (Score 1) 330

So yes, your 40 mpg motorcycle (horrible mileage by the way, a crotch-rocket by any chance?

40MPG isn't great for a motorcycle, but it isn't "horrible" either. The MPG has absolutely nothing to do with being a "crotch rocket" or not. Most motorcycles 650cc or larger have efficiency which is somewhat comparable.

Comment: Re:How can they be certain no one survived? (Score 2) 491

by dj245 (#46566423) Attached to: How Satellite Company Inmarsat Tracked Down MH370

The calculations show the southern flight path and consequently a water landing. But...how can they be so certain that no one survived? Isn't it possible that the airplane made a controlled glide into a non-powered water landing and that the life rafts deployed and allowed some of the passengers to survive? That has happened before. Admittedly this is very unlikely but can anyone at this point say it is impossible as the Malaysian government is doing?

Each life raft has an EPIRB which is marine rated, and can be picked up by sattelites basically anywhere on the planet. At least one EPIRB would be of the automatic type which starts transmitting when it hits water. The EPIRB is wrapped up deeply inside the packed life rafts, so disabling them would be impossible while the plane was in the air. Unfortunately this means that if the life raft doesn't deploy and instead sinks, the EPIRB will not go off. The fact that no EPIRB signals were transmitted indicates to me that if anyone survived the crash, they are long dead. Even if they were hanging on to floating wreckage, with no potable water and no shelter from the elements they would not last much more than a week.

No EPIRB signals also implies that the plane either broke up in the air, broke up when it hit the water at high speed, or nobody was alive to open a cabin door. In any of those cases the chance for survivors would be very low.

Comment: Re:Flight recorder (Score 4, Funny) 491

by dj245 (#46566083) Attached to: How Satellite Company Inmarsat Tracked Down MH370

Still vastly better than what it was only a day ago, and there seems to be a lot more possible debris sightings in the search area which I take as a sign they might be in the right area and will hopefully pin it down some more. The race now is to find it before the black box transmitters go silent, a task for which the US is dispatching some specialist search gear apparently, because that's probably the only hope of giving the bereaved a chance at some closure left now.

Forget the bereaved, how on earth will the media ever get closure if the plane isn't found?

Comment: Re:Why is the lens still plastic? (Score 4, Insightful) 70

by dj245 (#46516055) Attached to: Camera Module Problems May Delay Samsung's Galaxy S5
I used to think the same, until I got video from my Samsung S4 and compared it to my Canon T2i. I can't tell the difference between video in a lot of cases.

Now, the T2i isn't primarily a video camera, but it has far better lenses and a far better/bigger sensor than the S4. It should perform substantially and irrefutably better than the S4. It doesn't.

As far as photos go, I'm either going to get out the big DSLR or I'm not. The DSLR obviously has superior image quality, but the camera is too big to carry around all the time, and is a significant theft risk if left unattended. If I have to wrangle 2 kids and whatever bags of stuff they require, I don't have a lot of patience for carrying around a camera bag too. Point-and-shoot consumer cameras are pretty much the same thing as cameraphones, unless you are talking about large models with big lenses (which have the same size problems as DSLRs). The cameraphone goes in my pocket. Of course it can be stolen but it is unlikely to be stolen if it is in my pocket. With the larger cameras you have to constantly be on guard and conscious of possible theft.

The best camera is the one you have with you. 1 device to rule them all is perhaps not the ideal solution but it is the most practical.

For the same price you could get a cheap feature phone, a tablet, and a camera. Use the phone for tethering the tablet, which works better for browsing the web and other such functions, and use the camera for taking pictures. That way you don't have to worry about your $600+ phone when you just want to go hiking or go for a bike ride where you don't really need internet connectivity anyway.

I have enough complexity in my life already without juggling 3 physical devices, managing all the interfaces (networking, file transfers, charging) between them, and upgrading/replacing them when needed.

Comment: Re:This is a propaganda war first of all (Score 2) 623

by dj245 (#46515867) Attached to: Russian Army Spetsnaz Units Arrested Operating In Ukraine
Putin's actions are almost cartoon villianny. Maybe he was bunkmates with Boris Badenov when he was in the KGB.

Putin can call the US hippocrites all he wants, but at least when the US invades someplace we don't plant evidence to justify it.

And if we do, we don't get caught redhanded over and over again.

Comment: Re:This is more than a little bit naive. (Score 1) 712

The environmentalists need to learn to quit when they achieve "good enough".

And that point will be reached when all emissions are accounted for. There's no good reason why that can't be the case, heat aside. And even heat emissions should be managed.

Please inform me of how you intent to break several laws of physics. It is impossible to make a power station without having a heat sink and dumping the heat somewhere. This is thermodynamics 101. Likewise, capturing ALL the emissions would require more energy than the power station creates!

If you are thinking about carbon capture- don't. Nobody has proved it on a large scale. The largest projects I have heard of divert a tiny (~1-5) percentage of the exhaust gas from a test (small) power station. All the major OEMs have lots of trouble even with this small proof of concept, and no meaningful advancements have been made in years. From my point of view, carbon capture is a ruse to get governments to funnel truckloads of cash to utilities and equipment manufacturers. Carbon capture carries a huge parasitic loss, an inefficiency which if applied on a large scale would wastefully use up even more fossil fuels.

Comment: Re:This is more than a little bit naive. (Score 3, Interesting) 712

For three, coal works efficiently and predictably at far smaller scale than most energy technologies. Many of the locations coal services today cannot be practically services by other generation methods.

I think you have that backwards. Coal plants under around 250MW are generally not profitable, and a vast majority of this size have been shut down already. The bar is moving towards 500MW as being economically viable. I can count the number of new coal stations in the US build in the past 5 years on one hand. Compare that to the 1970's when a new coal plant was being built every month. The environmentalists need to learn to quit when they achieve "good enough". Coal today is just as clean as other forms of energy when you factor in all the externalities. Those externalities come in different forms however and it is easy to count 1 form of environmental damage when comparing power plants while ignoring others.

Comment: Re:How can they have only $60M of liabilities? (Score 3, Insightful) 465

by dj245 (#46368969) Attached to: MtGox Files For Bankruptcy Protection

No, client funds are not company funds. If you run a parking lot and a car gets stolen from the lot you're not liable for replacing the car. You might get that liabilty if your valet wrecked the car, but not in general. Same with deposit boxes, storage lockers, mail packages and so on if you want to get your money back in case of theft you need insurance. Which is what FDIC is for bank accounts. No insurance, then you might not even have a claim against MtGox. First you'd have to take them to court and win to make them liable for damages. And even if you do, well there won't be any money to collect there anyway.

In accounting, generally deposit accounts with customer money are considered liabilities. If a depositor shows up and asks for their money, you are obligated to give it to them. You seem to be confusing legal liability (a "duty of care" to do or not do something) with financial liability (an obligation which must be paid back).

Mt. Gox didn't have storage boxes without knowledge of what was inside them (safe deposit box analogy). They had computerized accounts for each customer, with money in each account. Regardless of whether they were a "bank" they were holding money for other people and that money is a liability in the financial sense.

Comment: Re:Vive le Galt! (Score 2) 695

by dj245 (#46337307) Attached to: Mt. Gox Gone? Apparent Theft Shakes Bitcoin World

Except that in many areas you most likely could not find a local CE that was also a certified PE to do the engineering work necessary, theres lots of small areas in the US that have no engineering firms at all. You probably could not legally do the work without a certified PE or else the local government would be at fault when the bridge collapses and kills people

The most highly educated, doctors, engineers, etc, are going to be mainly focused around urban centers. Im not saying its not a nice idea, for small little community actions, party planning, things that dont require actual expertise this will work wonderfully. But for things that require an actual college education en-mass to do the work, it just cant happen in alot of america

Most civil engineers get a PE at some point. It is basically required for them to do their jobs. When I sat for the test it appeared to be 60% civil engineers, 25% land surveyors, and 15% electrical/mechanical engineers. I talked to a few and they said that without the PE, job progression beyond entry level drafting work was impossible.

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp

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