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Comment Re:Is that really the right Question? (Score -1, Troll) 239

Could it happen, sure. But that risk is FAR lower than things like, say, giving $150 Billion to Iran and telling them "go ahead and build nukes, we won't look", or allowing all kinds of unrestricted gene manipulation and release of GMOs into the environment. (Bill Joy's salient fears may well be proven valid on this latter point, if they haven't been already.)

FWIW, either of these are arguably FAR more dangerous to humanity than the mythical global warming. (I refuse to call it climate change - the climate is *always* changing, and ours has been naturally warming in fits and starts since the last ice age....)

Lastly, it's a lot harder (and takes a lot more energy) to move these rocks around than you seem to think. Play with Kerbal Space Program for a while to get a feel for the real difficulty: https://xkcd.com/1356/

Comment Re:Jets are much slower than A-10 bullets (Score 1) 502

Actually, even fighters from 1950's can fly at mach 2, BUT:

Actually, the fastest jet aircraft ever built were (at least designed) in the 1950s - all current planes (that we know about for sure) are sluggards by comparison: YF-12A/SR-71, B-70 Valkyrie, B-58 Hustler, the entire Century series of fighters, especially the F-104 Starfighter. That's not even counting the amazing stuff that was on the drawing board but never produced due to the advent of high-altitude missiles - the B-70 is arguably right on that cusp, but I'm talking about Mach 3+ planes like the XF-108 Rapier (intended to intercept a Soviet analog of the B-70), which did influence the later A-5 Vigilante.)

Even as a *bomber* the B-58 was a fair fraction as fast as the SR-71 - my Dad and a buddy were in marginally supersonic jet fighters when they snuck up on one near FortWorth (home of the Convair plant that built the B-58) and pulled up alongside, giving him a "bang-bang, you're dead" hand signal. The B-58 pilot turned first to one of them, then the other, waving "bye-bye", and all three planes went to full throttle. Dad said the fireballs from the B-58's four afterburning engines collapsed into one and then disappeared from sight nearly as fast as the image collapsed to a dot on an old CRT television, and he and his wingman were left looking at each other across the empty space where the aptly named Hustler had been only moments before.

BTW, some of these planes suffered from the runaway systems complexity and cost that will doom the F-35, but at least they were good at their one job, unlike the F-35 which excels at nothing...

Comment Re:quotation marks (Score 1) 424

Google in particular has been getting increasingly bad about this in the past year or two. AFAICT, they blithely ignore all the things that *used* to make it possible to actually give Google value - the Google-fu expressions, including most importantly +term and -term.

Just recently, our dev team was searching for results and Google simply refused to let us filter out the crap or require the only phrase that would guarantee relevant results.

Even the dash in between words (making looking-glass match looking.glass, looking glass, and lookinggglass) seems to be mostly (but not entirely ignored).

It was exactly Google's support for this sort of precise search specification that put them on top, especially after the vastly superior InfoSeek (IMO, the best search engine ever) died a horrible, emasculated death after being acquired by Disney/ABC/Go.

There is good news, though - we finally got what we needed - the answer, which has become a larger and larger part of our bag o' tricks in the past several weeks? Bing! Surprisingly, Microsoft has been really working on it - it's actually *better* than Google now at an increasing number of searches. I now use it about half the time - it's the default in Firefox, my primary browser, vs. Google in Chrome, which is used mostly for dev and testing....

Comment Re:View angles (Score 1) 567

All monitors are made to be viewed landscape.

No they're not.

It's about biology. Our eyes are by nature more accustomed to view wide scenes instead of tall ones. If you feel like flipping your monitor to a vertical format, you probably have a too small monitor. With a properly sized widescreen monitor, two webpages fit nicely side-by-side. Who maximizes browser windows nowdays anyway?

Uh, me, right now, and pretty much always...

Viewing the world through the letter slot of widescreen displays is simply horrid - HDTV set the computer graphics world back by well over a decade, and we're only just now beginning to release ourselves from its slimy clutches...

Comment Re:Ah, auto dealer politics (Score 1) 137

The inspector would write up faults, they would fix them, he would write up new faults...eventually he lost patience and let it be known that the real problem was that he hadn't yet found a blank envelope filled with cash.

This is Texas after all - a call to the Texas Rangers might well have ended that kind of corruption for good - most inspectors are state-licensed, and it's hard to make a living if you've lost your license. I'm not saying we're corruption-free here, but in my experience, the level of common ethical business standards is still much higher in Texas than in some other states I've done business in. (Cough, *California*, cough *Illinois*, cough, *New Jersey*...)

Comment Re:Probably (Score 1) 137

Really, if Tesla gets their way, then GM (or Toyota, VW, etc) can force you to get your GM car serviced only through "authorized" GM service centers, under pain of voiding your warranty. Especially in today's world of telematics, they will control your car more than you do. Is that what consumers want? I damn sure don't...

Tesla's model is hideously proprietary and abusive of its customers. The silly thing is that Tesla's customers are such fanboys that they cheer Tesla on in their subjugation of their rights as customers.

I'm no fan of dealers, but at least at a dealer there's a *chance* someone cares about me, if they're locally owned and not part of one of the increasing number of megachain dealerships. That chance is near-zero if my only choice is to deal directly with the manufacturer.

I said it before, Tesla is evil, and no amount of greenwashing can change that...

Comment Re: "there's a certain logic to doing those in Tex (Score 1) 137

Remember that the dealership layer was inserted by the states to PROTECT consumers from the crushing power of the auto manufacturers, and add some local accountability through choice. (Choice that has vanished lately as we've allowed huge dealer networks to replace that local ownership, more or less defeating the original purpose.)

There are certainly significant problems with the current model, but remember that the current dealership model was created to address problems that resulted from exactly what Tesla is asking for - direct control of the customer relationship by the manufacturer, especially during the rapid consolidation of brands in the first three decades of the 20th century. That means we should at least THINK about what we're doing here before we make reactionary policy changes either for or against what Tesla's asking for. I'm no big fan of the dealership model, but I am skeptical that if Tesla gets what they want, that it won't be a huge win for the big manufacturers at the expense of local power and control, and ultimately, at the expense of buyers. (Dealers who regard customer service as a possibly necessary evil aren't exactly helping themselves here, of course...)

State government policy should first serve both the people and the corporations (which are just legally "embodied/corporeal" groups of people empowered to act as a single person) of the state. The best ironclad principle of true libertarian conservatism is that government power and control must be kept as local (at as low a level) as possible, as the higher it rises, the more corrupt and evil it will eventually become. Neither big government nor big business is a good thing, but the two of them "working together" is pretty much always a very bad thing...

Comment Re:"there's a certain logic to doing those in Texa (Score 1) 137

Namely paying the workers less.

This is just errant bigotry against Texas. If you actually knew anything about he state that's creating 75% of the new jobs in the entire US, you'd realize that there is a *very* competitive labor market here.

I definitely have to pay more for talented or skilled software people here (especially in Austin) than in other parts of the country. Hell, if you've got a CDL and can pass a drug test, you can make $100K+ driving an oilfield truck - all due to the economic miracle called fracking - no thanks to the US Government, which has tried its best to kill the strongest economic engine still running in the US... That said, there are a LOT of programmers who aren't worth what they're getting paid, and when the next bubble burst in the mobile/social software space, there are going to be many people out of work and with suddenly unmarketable skills.

BTW, it's not like the laws here are hurting Tesla any - Here in Austin, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one of the things. I know one thing - I'd sure hate to own a Mercedes or BMW dealership, since that demographic has made the Tesla the currently trendy car for show-off poseurs.

Comment Re:obviously they should track the sun (Score 1) 327

This is wishcraft. Hell, solar has a very hard time ever reaching break-even *without* the cost of trackers. (Many plants will NEVER reach breakeven, but then they're not supposed to -they're really just there as a means of acquiring government subsidy money.)

In my experience in building the world's top utility-scale PV array management system, trackers haven't got a prayer of paying off. They break often, and when they do (unless they happen to break pointing straight up), they keep the panels they're attached to from making much power at all until they're fixed. If you have even a little bit of extra space, you're way better off just throwing more fixed panels out there and avoiding the maintenance and power loss headaches.

Comment Re:But that isn't possible (Score 1) 327

The capacity factor for solar is abysmal anyway - trying to optimize it much is a fool's errand. Unless you live someplace exceptionally sunny or cloudy, or at extreme latitudes, You'll be within a percent or two by figuring the nominal power output of your array for an average of FIVE (yep, only 5) hours a day.

Since I've seen and analyzed the actual measured data from literally hundreds to thousands of solar installations, I can tell you this number holds up pretty darn well as a rule of thumb. (That's assuming you're using quality PV panels from a Western or 1st tier Chinese supplier. Panels from the cheaper (and thus pretty popular) Chinese panel suppliers never even approach their spec sheet outputs, and many are delaminating after only seven or eight years, leaching toxic heavy metals into the environment. (Disposal/recycling of panels is rarely factored into solar lifecycle cost analyses, though it should be...))

Comment Re:obviously they should track the sun (Score 1) 327

See my comment above. Trackers don't make economic sense, especially with today's natural gas prices, which make even the cheapest solar far too expensive to be economically viable without HUGE subsidies. They're usually a maintenance nightmare, too. (Remember that every "truck roll" costs an average of $1000! That's the fully burdened cost of two crew, equipment, supplies, etc. The exact figure varies a bit, but all the utility scale solar operators I've worked with use a figure that's in that ballpark...)

Comment Re:obviously they should track the sun (Score 1) 327

And obviously, this has been tried.

Seriously, there are lots of both single and dual-axis trackers. Note that single-axis trackers still have this issue, and that skewing them westward can make a difference in late afternoon power production. (BTW, this isn't a huge difference, and of course, it's not free - you're just trading off power in the morning for power in the late afternoon, which is itself offset somewhat by the fact that the panels are considerably more efficient in the cooler ambient air of the morning. (To a first-order approximation, the voltage output of PV panels is almost entirely an inverse function of temperature, and output current is almost entirely a function of irradiance (incoming sunlight) - so the best solar power days are cold and clear. Heat absolutely slays PV power production. This is one of the most important "physics things" to understand about solar PV.)

Unless you're someplace where real estate is really expensive, trackers don't even pay for themselves. Given the increasing efficiencies of the panels themselves over the past few years, you're far better off just throwing in more panels and avoiding the maintenance headaches associated with the trackers. (As they are mechanical devices and need to be built as cheaply as possible since no one makes any money in solar without subsidies, trackers are BY FAR the most and trouble-prone and expensive part of an array from a maintenance perspective.)

As the guy who led the development of the most advanced utility-scale solar array monitoring system on the market, I can tell you that pretty much every site that has trackers wishes they'd either added more panels or just settled for less output. The exceptions are usually sites where economics are not a factor - "green cred" showplaces and the like - and there are a lot more of those than you might think...

In reality, the optimum angle to face the panels is driven by several competing concerns, including relative time-of-day pricing, which of course can vary after you build the array, so it's not entirely safe to use as a design criterion. In MOST cases, the optimum is around 20 degrees West of South. If you need to optimize for peak power, just do that (or something close to it) and call it a day. Anything else is over-analyzing and probably not really beneficial.

Also, keep in mind that you're already losing a fair amount of power by having the panels at the wrong (usually too shallow) elevation - almost all real-world solar installations tilt the panels at only 15-20 degrees off horizontal, which means that in latitudes higher than those numbers, you're losing power since the panels aren't pointing directly at the sun anyway (Here in Austin, for instance, that means you're at least 10 degrees off optimum all day, every day.) This is a very deliberate and conscious design decision made simply because the cost and strength required (and weight, if roof-mounted) to survive likely wind loading at higher angles is generally prohibitive.

BTW, acting as though this is some great discovery is as bogus as hell - Common array design practice is to orient due South, which is clearly suboptimal, but one of only dozens of really stupid conventional design practices in solar - tha most idiotic probably being grounding the negative leg of the DC side, thus turning all your wiring into a sacrificial anode. It's not like the telco guys didn't figure this out well over a century ago - there's a reason your phone line is at -48 Volts! I've seen lots of arrays only a few years old that are headed for having the panels connected by hollow straws. Having to replace any sizeable fraction of that wiring (esp. at the current price of copper) will ensure that the entire solar plant can NEVER break even. Break-even usually takes over 20 years best-case, and the panels only last 25-30 years, if they're not the cheap Chnese junk everyone's using now. Most solar PV plants being put in now could well be both dollar and energy negative over their entire life. (Do a Google search for Wassermann and EROEI for some of the latest and best figures).

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