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Comment: Re: We can't live without these things? (Score 1) 166

Because NASA isn't in charge of the energy sector? They monitor and advise. DOE via FERC is in charge of the electrical sector. The ES-ISAC, run by the FERC-appointed ERO, NERC, and the regional Reliability Coordinators (PeakRC in the western US, formerly the WECC RC).

More to the point, there are NERC standards being developed which deal with geomagnetic disturbances. A TPL and EOP standard:

The bigger issue is cost. We can prepare for anything, but at what cost? Are you ready for your electricity rates to double to cover a 12% chance in the next 10 years? It's a tough balanacing act.

Why would rates double as a result of putting into place a plan (and probably a few layers of communications systems on top of already existing infrastructure) to mitigate the problem before it starts? Oh right, because we would have to pay for a team at NASA, a team at FERC, a team at each of the regional ISO, etc. to all do the same thing? Ugh. Put NASA in charge, they got us to the moon damnit. If rocket scientists cant fix it, no one can.

Comment: Re:FUD filled.... (Score 1) 166

Roll eyes and move on. I'm sorry you don't know how nuclear power plants work, nor how solar flares cause damage, but get with the program, son.

Critical electrical components in nuclear power plants are more than sufficiently shielded from electrical spikes, and EMPs don't cause magical explosions. Nor, if a melt down were somehow to occur, an explosion an expected outcome.

Actually professor you might want to take a second look at those figures. A nuclear plant relies entirely on *already produced electricity* for safe operation. With a normally functioning grid, this is not an issue. Take that out of the picture (in a scenario like a CME hit) and it will have to fall back on site generators (the local turbine generation is likely to go down with the grid) which hopefully will have been isolated from the effects of the CME and can be instantly switched in to the site system to take over and shut the plant down. However, if any of those switching components went bad during the CME hit, it could be hours before they are repaired, which starts to push the cooling safety margins to the limit (the plant is, after all, still producing heat as if it had a job to do). There are certainly good disaster plans in effect at nuclear plants for situations similar to this, but do you really want to test them all at once? There are bound to be holes. Mushroom cloud style explosions are out of the question, but we know from experience with Fukushima that all kinds of bad things can happen (including lots of little explosions of errant hydrogen) when plants go dark and can't be shut down safely.

Comment: Re:We can't live without these things? (Score 2) 166

Really? This would be devastating? We can't live without electricity, electronics, water pumps? It's amazing we're here today!

Yes, it very likely would. All those urban areas that grew as big and relatively healthy as they did, thanks to clean water and efficient sewage systems? If that wasn't brought back online, fast, they'd start moving toward their pre-sanitation population levels. The hard way.

Same would apply for agricultural areas and yields that depend on powered irrigation. Unless that was brought back online, and quickly enough to avoid damage to the crop, you'd see yields plummet toward historical levels, with population following suit shortly thereafter. Very unpleasant.

Hopefully there would be enough enough backup systems to restore function relatively quickly; but if not things would be unlikely to go well.

Generator-powered factories producing generators would suddenly be very very valuable.

The real question we should be asking is; why doesn't NASA have the authority to order a nationwide grid shutdown in the event that one of their several satellites dedicated strictly to predicting and identifying solar disruptions actually works and warns us before it happens? We have spent billions on this already, why not put that to use instead of fear mongering about how long it would take to manufacture a bunch of high voltage transformers?

Comment: Re:Missing Key Information (Score 4, Insightful) 134

Until the vendors who are building this system get their company name in the headlines, the status quo will continue.

The other key information is this: The SSA has 65,000 employees and is in charge of a staggering $736B per year (as of 2011, and it continues to rise). And we are here having a pissing match about all the reasons that $300M is too much to spend on the system that is supposed to make sense of over 300 million "customers" (1 dollar per customer?) One half of one percent of their annual budget is too much to get this right? Most corps spend upwards of 10% of their annual revenue on IT, and surely the SSA is not most corps but the scope of what they do is really impossible to underestimate so a project in the hundreds of millions shouldn't make anyone flinch.

The real missing key information is exactly why this kind of story is surprising, on any level, to anyone? My gut says it's the fake shock of someone who would protest anything that came out of the SSA.

Comment: Re:hire the team, they can scale (Score 4, Informative) 134

These government agencies need to hire some developers for whom a few million hits is just another day. Something like gets more traffic than, and handles it with two well-configured commodity servers.

Something tells me that with, the "interaction" is mostly "client-side" so the, er, "workload" is actually minimal. And the use case count, I believe, still stands at 1, and they are at best appealing to exactly half of the US population. It's a bit different than a place like the Social Security Administration, an org that has taken on the unenviable task of managing retirement and disability insurance for *every goddamn american* which is a pretty ludicrous scope. If raw horsepower were the issue, yes bring in outside help. The real problem (or at least one of them) is that of all 65,000 employees, many of them have a specific task since the aforementioned scope is so grand. Try finding a way to economize when you are basically building a system for a small clerical office, and then doing it about 15,000 times with each iteration just different enough from the last to require constant rewrites.

Comment: It's a brave new world (Score 1) 359

by jeffmeden (#47518209) Attached to: 'Just Let Me Code!'

"What was the experience of riding a bicycle has become the equivalent of traveling by jumbo jet; replete with the delays, inspections, limitations on personal choices, and sudden, unexplained cancellations — all at a significantly higher cost."

You can't exactly get everywhere you need to go via bicycle these days. Blame globalization.

Comment: Re:First question (Score 1) 102

"Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party of the United States..."

Whoopsie, wrong questionnaire.

Here is the form you were looking for: "are you or have you ever posted to Slashdot as Anonymous Coward? Ok next question: Are you or have you ever browsed slashdot at -1?"

we have a subversive on our hands!!!

Comment: Re:Don't buy cheap android (Score 2) 289

by jeffmeden (#47501303) Attached to: Why My LG Optimus Cellphone Is Worse Than It's Supposed To Be

but any other area where the experience is worse than stock android of the equivalent version just seems weird.

Where do you think Samsung and LG stick all the junior devs and QAs? And then pull them off the moment they start making better design choices, to go work on more lucrative projects? Yep, the shitphones. The only choice with the bottom of the barrel phones is to go directly to stock android (which is pretty easy if you have an hour or so to kill and can follow basic instructions) so for Bennett to spend so much time wondering out loud why cheap phones are cheap is the weird part. How about an article on the cheapest phone you can turn into an AOSP/Cyanogen handset with good results? Nah, why bother; that would't start a flamewar!

Comment: Re:Wait for it... (Score 2) 752

by jeffmeden (#47477583) Attached to: Malaysian Passenger Plane Reportedly Shot Down Over Ukraine

I'm not sure. It was at 32000 feet when they last had contact, which means it wasn't quite at cruising altitude, but it was still several miles up. The 777's cruising speed is mach .84, about 630 MPH. I'm not going to do the math (i'd love it if one of you aerospace guys would, especially since we know where it landed and the last known altitude and the great circle between Schipol and Kuala Lumpur), but I think it would be safe to say that on the ascent it would be going about 350-450 MPH. I can't see terrorists getting their hands on that kind of hardware. Both Ukraine and Russia on the other hand...

FWIW the last flighttrack data showed a speed of 490 kts (564mph), altitude of 33,000 feet (a common cruising alt if there is turbulence at 35k+) Lat 48.088 Lon 38.6359.

Comment: Re:FBI crime prediction (Score 1) 435

by jeffmeden (#47470345) Attached to: FBI Concerned About Criminals Using Driverless Cars

How about they actually solve a murder, rape, or kidnapping once in a while? 35% of murders don't get solved

The second sentence contradicts the first. They do solve murders quite often; 65% of the time in fact.

Its actually more nuanced, only 2/3rd (65%) of all murder cases nationally see a single *arrest* which is to say that they have a decent suspect in mind. Not every arrest turns into a conviction, naturally, so the actual "solved" rate is much lower, below 50% for a lot of places. Here's a recent stat to help you plan your next murder: "In 2008, police solved 35 percent of the homicides in Chicago, 22 percent in New Orleans and 21 percent in Detroit. Yet authorities solved 75 percent of the killings in Philadelphia, 92 percent in Denver and 94 percent in San Diego." As you might expect, areas with lower murder rates overall saw a higher solve rate.

Comment: Re:don't drive with nobody in it? (Score 1) 435

by jeffmeden (#47469351) Attached to: FBI Concerned About Criminals Using Driverless Cars

Plus, it really eliminates the need to own so many cars. The car can do multiple duty, and borrowing a car is much more practical when it can pick you up at your door (whether it is shared between neighbors or is actually a taxi).

Parking becomes much easier to optimize when cars can drop and pick people up anywhere, and park themselves. There is no need for parking locations to be within a short walk of every destination.

You can also split up cargo vs personnel transport. Passenger vehicles could be smaller and optimized for passengers, with cargo vehicles being big boxes on wheels. You could take a bus to the grocery store and send your 12 bags home in a cargo vehicle while you take a bus back, or a 1-person car, etc. People don't need to own a vehicle large enough to make that trip they make once a month - they can rent for that.

Endless possibilities for transportation when you don't need people in the loop.

You hit on the solution to the very problem. To operate in passenger-less mode simply require that the car be reciving destination instructions from an approved souce (such as some big, audit-able company) who would be a fair bit less likely to greenlight rolling-bomb commands on their cars.

Comment: Re:Incandescent will be best for the environment. (Score 3, Insightful) 278

by jeffmeden (#47416635) Attached to: My most recent energy-saving bulbs last ...

As rooftop solar gets cheaper every year, electricity won't be the biggest environmental impact of lighting.

I already have a number of friends who's rooftop solar panels generate more electricity than they use. Once people reach that point, the biggest impact to the environment will be manufacturing --- either with poisons like mercury in CFL bulbs or with dirty semiconductor fabs and lead on circuit boards for LEDs.

Hard to beat a plain glass globe with a metal wire for clean recyclable environmentally friendly materials.

Don't forget that the solar panels only over-produce for the household at times when they *don't need lights*. This impacts your environmental summarization because in order to shift that electricity from solar hours (when the sun is up) to non-solar hours (when the sun is down and you need more indoor lighting) you need to use additional expensive (economic and environmental) techniques like battery storage or borrowing electricity from a nearby coal fired plant.

Comment: Re:Dimmable LEDs (Score 1) 278

by jeffmeden (#47416591) Attached to: My most recent energy-saving bulbs last ...

I have a few dimmable Cree bulbs and they flicker. Not impressed. Supposedly Phillips make better dimmable bulbs.

I just tested the two and had the exact opposite experience (with a pretty nice leviton digital dimmer, too). The 9.5w/60w equiv Cree bulbs worked fantastic, no flicker at any light level. The Philips bulbs (10.5w/60w equiv dimmable, according to the package) flickered like crazy and wouldnt even turn off all the way, they just slowed to a 1Hz flicker.

It's a poor workman who blames his tools.