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Comment: Re:View angles (Score 1) 567

by dublin (#48577263) Attached to: The Case For Flipping Your Monitor From Landscape to Portrait

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

by dublin (#48568433) Attached to: Tesla Wants Texas Auto Sales Regulations Loosened

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

by dublin (#48568359) Attached to: Tesla Wants Texas Auto Sales Regulations Loosened

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

by dublin (#48555213) Attached to: Tesla Wants Texas Auto Sales Regulations Loosened

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

by dublin (#48552191) Attached to: Tesla Wants Texas Auto Sales Regulations Loosened

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

by dublin (#48519439) Attached to: You're Doing It All Wrong: Solar Panels Should Face West, Not South

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

by dublin (#48519407) Attached to: You're Doing It All Wrong: Solar Panels Should Face West, Not South

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

by dublin (#48519401) Attached to: You're Doing It All Wrong: Solar Panels Should Face West, Not South

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

by dublin (#48519355) Attached to: You're Doing It All Wrong: Solar Panels Should Face West, Not South

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).

Comment: Re:According to the police... (Score 1) 698

by dublin (#48390051) Attached to: US School Installs 'Shooter Detection' System

With the newly Obama-mandated Electronic Medical Records that will keep your medical history for generations to come (harming not only you, but potentially your progeny, too) seeking mental illness treatment may soon be prima facie proof of poor mental faculties, anyway. It's hard to imagine a move that places a bigger stigma on those who would otherwise consider seeking help. #UnintendedConsequences

Seriously, I believe this is a far greater deterrent to needed treatment than "more aggressive institutionalization". Let's face it - most of the "homeless" are mentally unstable and at least marginally incompetent people who would have been institutionalized in past years. I have a hard time believing it's "kinder and more respectful" to let them fend for themselves and die on the streets than to make sure they're cared for in a State Home. It's certainly not cheaper to turn them out, at least in the long run...

Comment: Re:Benefits, but still misses the point... (Score 1) 698

by dublin (#48390003) Attached to: US School Installs 'Shooter Detection' System

I didn't take then into school, but there were guns in a fair fraction of the cars in the parking lot (including quite a few in gun racks in the back windows of pickups, back when no one ever stole the guns that way...)

We'd head down to the river or the I-35 underpass and blast away after school. Pistols, rifles, shotguns, you name it. There might have even been an "illegal" weapon or two from time to time - one guy filed his sear to get full-auto - the problem with that method was that once you pulled the trigger, you had to empty the entire magazine, since releasing the trigger won't stop it firing.

It was tons of fun and a literal blast, but no one was ever killed or even injured (at least by firearms, with the exception of the occasional newbie whose improper grip would slice the web of his thumb with the slide of an auto pistol.)

One guy shredded his knee slipping into the creek, though. Turns out mud can be more dangerous than guns...

Comment: Re:Wonderful idea. (Score 1) 698

by dublin (#48389923) Attached to: US School Installs 'Shooter Detection' System

There's probably a good chance you could get a false positive with a firecracker or similar device - even maybe something as small as a cigarette load or those little pops-when-you-throw-them (or pull-on-them) things, if near the sensor.

This could rapidly become a popular new sport at schools equipped with this system. Just sayin'... (Don't try this at school, kiddos!)

Comment: Re:Wonderful idea. (Score 1) 698

by dublin (#48389901) Attached to: US School Installs 'Shooter Detection' System

It depends a LOT on both the round and what you're shooting it from. While many rimfire .22s are subsonic, especially from pistols, some can be quite powerful with longer barrels - check out this test of .22 magnum penetration of aluminum diamond plate when shot through the new KelTec CMR-30 carbine: http://olegvolk.net/blog/2014/11/13/should-22mag-be-taken-seriously-as-a-defensive-caliber-new-on-alloutdoor/

Comment: Re:Don't mess with the geek's toys (Score 1) 114

by dublin (#48389843) Attached to: Groupon Backs Down On Gnome

No, there is approximately ZERO chance of anyone confusing Gnome (which was a word long before Stallman decided to mispronounce it), a commercial product by a company called Groupon, with GNOME, a free window mangler by the GNOME Foundation, part of an organization that is explicitly designed to *prevent* commerce. Yeah, sure, people will confuse those.

Sorry, but from both the trademark law and a common sense points of view, the GNOME Foundation is simply engaged in self-righteous trademark bullying rather than valid defense of a mark.

It appears that PL/I (and its dialects) is, or will be, the most widely used higher level language for systems programming. -- J. Sammet

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