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Comment: Re:Where's the new ROI calculator? (Score 3, Informative) 262

by djrobxx (#47267407) Attached to: Elon Musk's Solar City Is Ramping Up Solar Panel Production

Solar panels typically have a 20 year warranty, and are guaranteed to output 80% of their power at year 20 (these figures are required to be met in order for the systems to qualify for tax incentives, so they're pretty common amongst manufacturers). They'll most likely continue working after the warranty. I will, however, probably have to replace my inverter every 10 years or so. It looks like I can pick up a new one on ebay for around $2000 right now. I'm hoping the cost of these drops over time or the technology improves such that my next one is more reliable.

As for ROI, my break even was only 5-6 years. In Southern California we pay dearly for electricity (over 30 cents per kWh once you get past some scant "baseline"), but we have plenty of sunshine. It's been almost 3 years now. The estimated savings for my $15k investment was projected at $100k or so over 20 years. I feel they're using too high of a percentage year-over-year increase of utility power, but even if I only make half that, it's still a good investment.

I did opt to buy instead of a pre-paid lease. The salescritters promised that the leasing companies would effectively gift me the system for $0 at year 20 because it would be too costly to remove, and that the real money was in the accelerated depreciation in years 0-5. However, if I think of the solar panels as a money printing machine, it seems unlikely that the panels, even if they're 20 years old, would have a fair market value of $0. No business would give away something that they can get money for, so I have to assume that at year 20 they will do something to ensure they continue to get a profit from the system that they legally own on my roof. Forget that uncertainty, I decided to just buy it so there are no unknowns. I think it will be really fascinating to see what happens to all of these ultra-long leases in the 2032 time frame.

Comment: Re:Not just that (Score 1) 127

by djrobxx (#47194953) Attached to: Sony Overtakes Rival Nintendo In Console Sales

The Wii controller was a bit better than a gimmick. It re-introduced the light gun in a way that works on modern plasma and LCD TVs, and in a way that can be part of a more elaborate control system. People loved the Zapper on the NES, but the games were pretty shallow because all you could do is pull the trigger.

If you played Metroid Prime with the Gamecube, and then the remade Wii version with the Wii controller, you'll find the Wii controller version is unquestionably better for the gaming experience, because you can aim and shoot at the enemies, instead of fighting with an auto-targeting system. Of course, this is meaningless with the Wii-U's controller, which is a regular game pad with a screen, which is not a new concept - the Dreamcast had something similar. Fortunately games can still use the original Wii controllers.

I was excited to get a HD Nintendo console, but so far the experience ha fallen flat. The key Nintendo franchise games have not materialized. I have no interest in playing the old Wind Waker game again. I want a new Zelda or Metroid title.
 

Comment: Re:Not Really Passed... (Score 1) 432

by djrobxx (#47192045) Attached to: Turing Test Passed

> So this isn't really AI, it's a take on the Eliza program of the late 80s/early 90s that hides the computer better.

Although the site's being slashdotted at the moment, I saw some transcripts of Eugene chats, and I was disappointed that it didn't seem to be that great of an improvement over Eliza. It still uses a lot of the same sorts of very generic, pedantic responses to try and change the subject to fake not having a real answer. By now I'd expect to see some improvements in terms of keeping to a conversation's overall context. Perhaps try to bring up a related topic to something previously discussed. Instead we still have generic stuff like "I'm glad you agreed. Oh, what a fruitful conversation;-)" or "Even my grandpa would find your words strange."

Speaking of trascripts, here are some from chatbot batles:
http://www.square-bear.co.uk/c...

Comment: Re:Hell Yes! (Score 3, Informative) 251

by djrobxx (#47072005) Attached to: It's Time For the <em>Descent</em> Games Return

The original Descent and its sequel were open-sourced, there are Direct3D versions of it now that run on modern OSes. I used to use D2X, but there's

http://www.dxx-rebirth.com/

which seems to be popular now. Configuring an old game controller should be a non-issue, the game supports full configuration of whatever inputs your controller supports, and the USB/Game port adapters will map all of the available controls to DirectInput pretty cleanly. I played Descent with D2X using an Xbox controller and it worked great. Today's modern controllers with dual analog sticks and buttons galore are great for Descent. :)

Comment: Re:group messaging (Score 2) 415

Getting texts on multiple devices (computer especially) is certainly a worthwhile feature. The end-run around ridiculous text fees for those without unlimited plans is also fantastic. I just wish it was more open. I'd like to see an Android and a Windows iMessage client. Making those available would make iMessage more useful, even for Apple's own customers.

Comment: Re:Fine by me (Score 3, Insightful) 475

by djrobxx (#47009317) Attached to: Comcast Predicts Usage Cap Within 5 Years

My electric bill is $.98 if I don't use any electricity. My gas bill is $4 if I don't use any gas. My water bill is $2 if I don't use any water. Comcast wants to charge you what you're paying now (which is already making them a healthy profit), and add overages on top of that. They want the perks (heavy users paying more) without giving light users the benefit they deserve.

I'm fine with paying for my usage too, but the use charges need to be reasonable, and the base price needs to come down. We don't have enough competitive pressure in the US broadband market to keep prices in check.

Comment: Re:Grammar (Score 1) 329

by djrobxx (#47006051) Attached to: Your Old CD Collection Is Dying

CD-Rs are, of course, completely different technology, and will only last about a decade.

I have some CD-Rs from 1994. Most still work fine. They were burned with a giant Philips CDD-521 SCSI burner. I didn't even treat them that well (you'd think I would have, since the blank disc was almost $50), but they lived most of their lives indoors in a CaseLogic zipper case, so they get no light exposure whatsoever. The first audio CD-R I burnt in the same time period is scratched to hell but still plays totally fine.

It wouldn't surprise me if the newer "high speed" media also expires at a higher speed though.

Comment: Re:Surely ironic (Score 1) 276

The game changer of the iPhone wasn't features. It was UI and updates. Prior to iPhone, you typically would never receive software updates for your phone. After all, why bother, it doesn't sell more phones. The opposite, even. Bug frustration was a reason why people would "upgrade" by buying new phone whenever they hit the end of the contract period.

Apple was big enough to force the phone companies to allow updates to happen.

Updates were there, they were just a lot slower due to the handset manufacturers needing to test and customize updates.

What was revolutionary was the iPhone's ability to navigate around a "full size" web page or map intuitively and fluidly, at high speed with multitouch gestures. Prior to the iPhone, mobile web browsing was a positively miserable experience.

Comment: Re:Z wave (Score 3, Informative) 336

by djrobxx (#45946993) Attached to: New Home Automation?

It's what I'm starting to use and it's pretty good so far. Door locks, window/door sensors, thermostats, motion sensors, lights, outlets, dimmers, etc. Pretty handy so far. Scripting with LUUP (a LUA like language) is pretty simple, and you can get it to play pretty easily with other whole-house solutions (like SONOS).

You're describing the Vera, which is primarily a Z-wave controller but supports lots of other protocols and ethernet/serial devices. I use this as well. The best part is that there aren't monthly fees to use it, and the community is writing new drivers for things in LUA all the time. Most other HA solutions I've seen are very nickel-and-dime.
 

Comment: Re:Z-Wave (Score 4, Insightful) 336

by djrobxx (#45946949) Attached to: New Home Automation?

If you think you might ever want to use Insteon (which does have some issues, but has some cool features as well), make sure you include a neutral to all of your wall switch boxes.

You want this for Z-wave also. There are two-wire Z-wave switches, but they usually require an incandescent bulb. To expand on this a bit - make sure that lighting switches are wired with a constant hot and neutral, and separate load wiring. Usually this means the line and load's neutrals and grounds are tied together in the switch box, and the hot is switched. There are some other more creative ways to do lighting circuits that make things more of a pain when trying to replace switches.

If you can, get the electrician to label the load wire (the one that runs to the light). That can sometimes be a pain to figure out if there's only line and load in a single gang box. I also second the suggestion for alarm wiring. Figure you want motion sensors and wires to every door and window run to some central location. Changing the batteries on these is a big pain if you have a lot of sensors, and the sensors can also be part of your automation logic.

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