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Earth

Denmark Faces a Tricky Transition To 100 Percent Renewable Energy 485

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-ain't-easy-being-green dept.
HughPickens.com writes Justin Gillis writes in the NYT that Denmark is pursuing the world's most ambitious policy against climate change, aiming to end the burning of fossil fuels in any form by 2050 — not just in electricity production, as some other countries hope to do, but in transportation as well. The trouble is that while renewable power sources like wind and solar cost nothing to run, once installed, as more of these types of power sources push their way onto the electric grid, they cause power prices to crash at what used to be the most profitable times of day. Conventional power plants, operating on gas or coal or uranium, are becoming uneconomical to run. Yet those plants are needed to supply backup power for times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. With their prime assets throwing off less cash, electricity suppliers in Germany and Denmark have applied to shut down a slew of newly unprofitable power plants, but nervous governments are resisting, afraid of being caught short on some cold winter's night with little wind. "We are really worried about this situation," says Anders Stouge, the deputy director general of the Danish Energy Association. "If we don't do something, we will in the future face higher and higher risks of blackouts."

Environmental groups, for their part, have tended to sneer at the problems the utilities are having, contending that it is their own fault for not getting on the renewables bandwagon years ago. But according to Gillis, the political risks of the situation also ought to be obvious to the greens. The minute any European country — or an ambitious American state, like California — has a blackout attributable to the push for renewables, public support for the transition could weaken drastically. Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the Danish climate minister, says he is tempted by a market approach: real-time pricing of electricity for anyone using it — if the wind is blowing vigorously or the sun is shining brightly, prices would fall off a cliff, but in times of shortage they would rise just as sharply.
Government

US Midterm Elections Discussion 401

Posted by timothy
from the mostly-I-vote-because-I-love-dark-humor dept.
November 4th will be election day in the U.S. Though the presidential race is still forming, this midterm election has lots of close races that may give a hint about the likely outcome in 2016. Many pundits and pollsters see a strong chance that Republicans will gain a majority in the Senate in Tuesday's election. Think of the discussion attached to this post as the place to discuss the election: candidates, political advertising, voting technology, and the wisdom of voter ID laws. If you are voting, this chart of poll closing times might be useful. (And, as with the similar post from 10 years ago today, you can take a look at the current poll to see what the Zeitgeist looks like for Slashdot readers, and mentally fill in the past tense, if you're one of the many early voters; not much room in the poll question field.)
Patents

Disney Patents a Piracy Free Search Engine 164

Posted by timothy
from the that-cuts-out-a-bunch-of-disney-movies dept.
wabrandsma writes with this excerpt from Torrentfreak: Disney has just obtained a patent for a search engine that ranks sites based on various "authenticity" factors. One of the goals of the technology is to filter pirated material from search results while boosting the profile of copyright and trademark holders' websites. A new patent awarded to Disney Enterprises this week describes a search engine through which pirated content is hard to find. Titled "Online content ranking system based on authenticity metric values for web elements," one of the patent's main goals is to prevent pirated movies and other illicit content from ranking well in the search results. According to Disney their patent makes it possible to "enable the filtering of undesirable search results, such as results referencing piracy websites." Disney believes that current search engines are using the wrong approach as they rely on a website's "popularity." This allows site owners to game the system in order to rank higher. "For example, a manipulated page for unauthorized sales of drugs, movies, etc. might be able to obtain a high popularity rating, but what the typical user will want to see is a more authentic page," they explain. Probably not a good place to look for a grey-market copy of Song of the South.
Earth

Imagining the Future History of Climate Change 495

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
HughPickens.com writes "The NYT reports that Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University, is attracting wide notice these days for a work of science fiction called "The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future," that takes the point of view of a historian in 2393 explaining how "the Great Collapse of 2093" occurred. "Without spoiling the story," Oreskes said in an interview, "I can tell you that a lot of what happens — floods, droughts, mass migrations, the end of humanity in Africa and Australia — is the result of inaction to very clear warnings" about climate change caused by humans." Dramatizing the science in ways traditional nonfiction cannot, the book reasserts the importance of scientists and the work they do and reveals the self-serving interests of the so called "carbon combustion complex" that have turned the practice of science into political fodder.

Oreskes argues that scientists failed us, and in a very particular way: They failed us by being too conservative. Scientists today know full well that the "95 percent confidence limit" is merely a convention, not a law of the universe. Nonetheless, this convention, the historian suggests, leads scientists to be far too cautious, far too easily disrupted by the doubt-mongering of denialists, and far too unwilling to shout from the rooftops what they all knew was happening. "Western scientists built an intellectual culture based on the premise that it was worse to fool oneself into believing in something that did not exist than not to believe in something that did."

Why target scientists in particular in this book? Simply because a distant future historian would target scientists too, says Oreskes. "If you think about historians who write about the collapse of the Roman Empire, or the collapse of the Mayans or the Incans, it's always about trying to understand all of the factors that contributed," Oreskes says. "So we felt that we had to say something about scientists.""

Comment: Oh boy, even more oversubscription. (Score 3, Insightful) 97

OK, let's say for sake of argument you bring gigabit to every doorstep. Or heck, even 1% of doorsteps. All of your uplinks are going to be so massively oversubscribed that it's essentially meaningless, except for content that's hosted on local caching servers. This is great for things like Netflix, but even ultra-high quality 4K video with uncompressed multichannel audio isn't going to consume that much bandwidth. 40Gbit connections are standard on the largest backbones, with 100 Gbit coming on-line, but that's some awfully expensive hardware right now.

So my question would be: what added benefit you expect to get with a gigabit local loop when it's still going into the same sort of congestion limits? i don't mean to sound like a curmudgeonly old bastard, but this sounds more like a marketing gimmick. Even governments aren't immune from spreading marketing bullshit; in fact it's sometimes easier when you know you won't be held accountable (advertising fraud vs political promises) and it's all other people's money anyway.

Operating Systems

The Classic Control Panel In Windows May Be Gone 347

Posted by timothy
from the good-riddance-or-sorely-missed dept.
jones_supa writes In Windows 8, there was an arrangement of two settings applications: the Control Panel for the desktop and the PC Settings app in the Modern UI side. With Windows 10, having the two different applications has started to look even more awkward, which has been voiced loud and clear in the feedback too. Thus, the work at Microsoft to unify the settings programs has begun. The traditional Control Panel is being transformed to something temporarily called "zPC Settings" (sic), which is a Modern UI app that melts together the current two settings applications.

Comment: Oh come on... (Score 2, Informative) 384

The Obama Administration (and Bush / McCain / Romney would have been no better) looked around and were thinking ... hmmm... who could we appoint for this? An expert in epidemiology? Somebody with experience in coordinating the logistics of an emergency response? A useless public relations shill? Or an even more useless lawyer crony with connections to that epic success Solyndra?

Yeah, that last one sounds about right. We'll go with that.

Comment: Re:Hoax (Score 5, Informative) 986

You should have professional magicians look at it. These are people who know how to find the "trick".

You nailed it. I was just reading about James Randi's debunking of the alleged psychic Uri Gellar, who had managed to fool a bunch of scientists back in the 1970s. Randi claimed that scientists are some of the easiest people to fool because, as you said, they operate under a lot of preconceived notions and once you figure out how to work around those it's a piece of cake. As Randi put it, to catch a magician (who are essentially people who fool people for a living) you send a magician.

Space

The Cult of Elon Musk Shines With Steve Jobs' Aura 181

Posted by timothy
from the what-is-this-cologne-you're-wearing? dept.
HughPickens.com writes Alan Boyle writes that over the years, Elon Musk's showmanship, straight-ahead smarts and far-out ideas have earned him a following that spans the geek spectrum — to the point that some observers see glimmers of the aura that once surrounded Apple's Steve Jobs. "To me, it feels like he's the most obvious inheritor of Steve Jobs' mantle," says Ashlee Vance, who's writing a biography of Musk that at one time had the working title The Iron Man. "Obviously, Steve Jobs' products changed the world ... [But] if Elon's right about all these things that he's after, his products should ultimately be more meaningful than what Jobs came up with. He's the guy doing the most concrete stuff about global warming." So what is Musk's vision? What motivates Musk at the deepest level? "It's his Mars thing," says Vance. Inspired in part by the novels of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, Musk has come around to the view that humanity's long-term future depends on extending its reach beyond Earth, starting with colonies on Mars. Other notables like physicist Stephen Hawking have laid out similar scenarios — but Musk is actually doing something to turn those interplanetary dreams into a reality. Vance thinks that Musk is on the verge of breaking out from geek guru status to a level of mass-market recognition that's truly on a par with the late Steve Jobs. Additions to the Tesla automotive line, plus the multibillion-dollar promise of Tesla's battery-producing "gigafactory" in Nevada, could push Musk over the edge. "Tesla, as a brand, really does seem to have captured the public's imagination. ... All of a sudden he's got a hip product that looks great, and it's creating jobs. The next level feels like it's got to be that third-generation, blockbuster mainstream product. The story is not done."

Comment: Are all costs accounted for? (Score 1) 346

To start with, I have no idea what the answer to this question is with regards to the Swedish system, but I've found that in many cases of solutions like this the "cost" paid by end users is heavily subsidized in other areas (in the US it's so common it can almost be assumed). So if the $40 / month pays for all of the capital costs, maintenance, depreciation, etc. then wonderful. Otherwise it's just accounting slight-of-hand - put a happy number out for the public, and if somebody digs and puts together real costs then they find that the real number is horrific.

On the other hand, in the US most major metropolitan areas (there are exceptions) have sold monopoly or duopoly franchises on internet service, which also distorts prices horribly and in other directions. I live in one of these areas, as do most of the people I know (I get to chose between mostly tolerable but pricey Cox, and utterly abhorrent AT&T - for practical purposes just one choice). In many cases these "utilities" are limited to certain profit levels, so they just adjust their costs up. Competition isn't magic; it just incentivizes aggressive pursuit of the best cost / quality tradeoffs (which are usually subjective and may vary significantly between individuals, eliminating the possibility of a good "one-size-fits-all" solution).

Businesses

Complain About Comcast, Get Fired From Your Job 742

Posted by timothy
from the now-that's-some-customer-feedback dept.
ub3r n3u7r4l1st writes When you complain to your cable company, you certainly don't expect that the cable company will then contact your employer and discuss your complaint. But that's exactly what happened to one former Comcast customer who says he was fired after the cable company called a partner at his accounting firm. Be careful next time when you exercise your first amendment rights. From the article: At some point shortly after that call, someone from Comcast contacted a partner at the firm to discuss Conal. This led to an ethics investigation and Conal’s subsequent dismissal from his job; a job where he says he’d only received positive feedback and reviews for his work. Comcast maintained that Conal used the name of his employer in an attempt to get leverage. Conal insists that he never mentioned his employer by name, but believes that someone in the Comcast Controller’s office looked him up online and figured out where he worked. When he was fired, Conal’s employer explained that the reason for the dismissal was an e-mail from Comcast that summarized conversations between Conal and Comcast employees. But Conal has never seen this e-mail in order to say whether it’s accurate and Comcast has thus far refused to release any tapes of the phone calls related to this matter.

+ - Details of iOS and Android Device Encryption

Submitted by swillden
swillden (191260) writes "There's been a lot of discussion of what, exactly, is meant by the Apple announcement about iOS8 device encryption, and the subsequent announcement by Google that Android L will enable encryption by default. Two security researchers tackled these questions in blog posts:

Matthew Green tackled iOS encryption, concluding that at bottom the change really boils down to applying the existing iOS encryption methods to more data. He also reviews the iOS approach, which uses Apple's "Secure Enclave" chip as the basis for the encryption and guesses at how it is that Apple can say it's unable to decrypt the devices. He concludes, with some clarification from a commenter, that Apple really can't (unless you use a weak password which can be brute-forced, and even then it's hard).

Nikolay Elenkov looks into the preview release of Android "L". He finds that not only has Google turned encryption on by default, but appears to have incorporated hardware-based security as well, to make it impossible (or at least much more difficult) to perform brute force password searches off-device."
Security

JP Morgan Chase Breach: Shades of a Cyber Cold War? 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-we-all-just-get-cyberalong? dept.
TheRealHocusLocus writes: The New York Times is quoting "people briefed on the matter" who allege that the JP Morgan data thieves "are thought to be operating from Russia and appear to have at least loose connections with officials of the Russian government." The article suggests it could be retaliation for sanctions. Personally, I'm skeptical — I've seen the former Soviet Union evolve into an amazingly diverse culture that is well represented on the Internet. This culture has grown alongside our own and runs the gamut of characters: tirelessly brilliant open source software developers, lots of regular folk, and yes — even groups affiliated with organized crime syndicates. This is no surprise, and these exist in the U.S. too. Are we ready to go full-political on this computer security issue, worrying more about who did it than how to protect against it in the future? How do you Slashdotters feel about these growing "tensions," and what can we do to help bring some reason to the table? The article also notes that the same group responsible for the breach at JP Morgan Chase was responsible for attacks on 9 other financial institutions.

"Those who will be able to conquer software will be able to conquer the world." -- Tadahiro Sekimoto, president, NEC Corp.

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