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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 4 declined, 2 accepted (6 total, 33.33% accepted)

+ - Seeking Distilled Software Engineering Experience-> 1

Submitted by
knapper_tech
knapper_tech writes "I'm a 26-year-old web programmer self-trained in nice MVC based frameworks, including Yii and Django, with their ORM's, well-packaged extensions, database agnosticism and all that other high-minded stuff thrust into a professional track of imperative PHP and MySQL. As usual, believing in high-minded concepts is never quite as informative as witnessing the cascading bugs in haphazardly maintained, undocumented code that never seems to go away and stay with the customer. In addition I get a lot of blown projects by would-be developers in the door. In the spirit of reuse, what are some really good pieces of literature for one to hone their use of the force? I'm not so much asking for logical proofs of why a certain pattern is always better than another, but moreso examples of, "This was the code, this was the fallout, and this was how to decouple it and hook it in properly." I'll be able to pick up the core concepts on my own reading. What I can't duplicate economically (time being priceless) is time spent in the industry. What of course would be most informative is what practices you as a coder hope to find when expecting my code to have a useful lifetime in a code base."
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Japan

+ - Tokyo Summer Blackouts a Sustainability Spotlight->

Submitted by
knapper_tech
knapper_tech writes "knapper_tech writes "TEPCO expects electrical shortages will return this summer, undoubtedly affecting supply chains and impacting a global economy still described as "recovering." While the worst of the disasters has given way to the rebuilding phase, the looming question is how to avoid blackouts this summer in Tokyo, the heart of the world's third largest economy.

One analyst's estimate, "the best-case scenario would see TEPCO boost its capacity by 12.5GW to 46.5GW, well short of peak summer demand of between 55 and 61GW." Tokyo's summer cooling climate peaks in August, so while there might not be enough time to build additional generating capacity or transmission capability, more readily implemented techniques and technologies like cool roofs or simply unplugging devices when off, require only awareness and small investments, such as a switchable power strip.

A seminar series last fall at the University of Oklahoma covered energy consumption reduction through architecture and new usage models. Among unamiliar items were virtual store aisles, which eliminated open-faced cooled shelves. Considering how something currently as niche as a vacuum insulated panel might find easy life inside a Japanese vending machine, where hot and cold beverage storage obviously complicates insulation design, it's seems to be a good time to reflect on the available quick-fixes and help the Japanese and the world recover economically. Surely there are programs similar to the one at OU, and surely there are more ways of robustly saving electricity. I will be in contact with a Hitachi overseas division regarding another energy saving project, and any quality information will be relayed to Hitachi ltd.

Furthermore, given the demonstrated capacity of the Japanese keiretsu to coordinate focused industrial efforts, robust electricity savings could lead to a clear test of whether or not sustainable technologies can affect the growth of an economy, perhaps opening up opportunities to increase energy competitiveness back home. With power consumption fresh on the mind, what are some back-burner items that perhaps should be looked at more carefully moving forward from this disaster?
"

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Japan

+ - Ask Slashdot: Avoiding Summer Blackout in Tokyo?-> 1

Submitted by
knapper_tech
knapper_tech writes "Manufacturing disruptions in Japan have already affected parts supplies in my part of the world and may send workers home as early as April. While the worst of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis seems to have given way to the rebuilding phase, a looming question for Japan and the global economy recently described as "recovering" is how to avoid blackouts this summer in Tokyo, the heart of the world's third largest economy. The typical peak demand period is in August, so while there might not be enough time to build additional generating capacity or transmission capability, more readily implemented techniques and technologies like cool roofs or simply unplugging devices when off, require only awareness and small investments, such as a switchable power strip.

Last semester I had the privileged of attending a seminar series at the University of Oklahoma with many guest speakers including experts on energy consumption and architectural energy conservation in particular. Among unfamiliar items were virtual store aisles, which eliminated open-faced cooled shelves. Considering how something currently as niche as a vacuum insulated panel might find easy life inside a Japanese vending machine, where hot and cold beverage storage obviously complicates insulation design, it's seems to be a good time to reflect on the available quick-fixes and help the Japanese and the world recover economically. Surely there are programs similar to the one at OU, and surely there are more ways of robustly saving electricity. I will be in contact with a Hitachi overseas division regarding another energy saving project, and any quality information will be relayed to Hitachi ltd.

Furthermore, given the demonstrated capacity of the Japanese keiretsu to coordinate focused industrial efforts, robust electricity savings could lead to a clear demonstration of how sustainable technologies can affect the growth of an economy, perhaps giving the rest of the world an opportunity to continue developing economically without colliding politically over energy demand a little less. With power consumption fresh on the mind, what are some back-burner items that perhaps should be looked at more carefully moving forward from this disaster?"

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Transportation

+ - Can Auto Industry Retool to Build Rails?

Submitted by
knapper_tech
knapper_tech writes "The scope of the auto industry troubles continues to increase in magnitude. The call to retool and develop new vehicles has been made several times already, but with all of the challenges from labor prices and foreign competition, what exactly can the industry retool to that will be more competitive? In light of superior competition facing losses, there doesn't seem to be enough room in the industry moving forward. In the context of finding a new place in the auto industry, the future isn't bright. Calls for no disorderly collapse of the cash-strapped big three and a reluctant congress can only point to an underlying lack of direction.

However, consider two other standing economic challenges. The airlines have continued to struggle due to fuel prices and heightened security. Consumers backed off of SUV's due to high fuel prices, and while those prices have eased in the face of global recession, the trend will pick up again with growth in China and India leading the fight for resources.

In short, things are moving less, and the industries that support that movement are in need of developing new products while consumers are in need of cheaper means of transportation. Looking abroad, it's clear the US has far lest invested in local and regional rail systems. With regard to high-speed rail systems, the US is conspicuously behind. France's TGV is moving people at 574km/h. China operates the world's first commercial maglev line while the famous Japanese Shinkasen goes without mentioning. In the US there is only one line in operation between DC and Boston with a few more planned as a result of the 2008 election in California.

The traditional barrier to implementation of rail systems is the initial investment costs, but in the context of economic stimulus, such investment sinks are actually desirable. The auto industry has clearly taken note with proposals from companies like Caterpillar for huge new infrastructure projects.

A friend who recently bought a house observed that real-estate prices are on the rise nearer to city centers, where the fallout of mortgage problems and expensive, time-consuming drives from the suburbs can be avoided. Recalling the huge number of urban revitalization plans and efforts to increase the viability of older city centers, it seems as though many municipal governments would also be in line to gain from the added density of rail systems and increased activity they can support in downtown areas.

Putting it all together, it seems like now would be a good time to direct the industrial capacity of the automotive and supporting industries to developing local and regional, high-speed rail systems to provide a more efficient and effective infrastructure basis for US cities while essentially creating a new market where competition from foreign car manufacturers will not be a problem. At the same time, a huge labor force would be required. The task would call for engineers for development, factory workers for manufacturing, operators, and maintenance workers. Caterpillar still gets to sell construction equipment. The inevitable stream of stores popping up around stations would provide new commercial areas. Last-mile bus and taxi services would also have a new place. The list goes on.

Besides the savings in fuel, the US could also gain international prestige and possibly help lead China and India away from our mistakes, helping to stem the rising demand for oil globally and avoiding the attendant international tension. Climate change is yet another win in this scenario.

It seems like we're not exactly headed in that direction, and I'm curious to see what slashdot readers think of all this. What pieces need to be in place to make the investments pay off? What are additional resources that are required? Can the industries really make such a change of direction? Do we have everything we need in the US? How would such systems work out long term? Would the initial investments be able to pick up fast enough to stimulate the economy?"
Transportation

+ - Where are the US's High Speed Rail Systems?->

Submitted by
knapper_tech
knapper_tech writes "France has TGV weighing in at 574km/h. Shanghai owns the worlds first commercial Maglev line. The famous Japanese Shinkansen goes without mention and has also been exported to Taiwan. The US currently only has one line in operation between DC and Boston. More were recently approved in California through the 2008 election. The question is, with a huge economic stimulus package likely in the making, auto industry in the soup line, and airlines still facing challenges from fuel and security concerns, has there ever been a better time for the US to investigate constructing a high speed rail network?

After doing a little preliminary research on the internet[sic], there seem to be enough areas of demand. Take routes like Houston-Dallas-Austin or any pick of east-coast and west-coast cities in the distance/time sweet spots. The biggest issue affecting success after that is creation of local systems to disperse traffic from the main stations. In the past, that would have presented a large investment barrier, but in the context of economic stimulus, creating such systems is actually desirable.

The demands on new tooling, development, construction, maintenance, and operation present a huge investment site for any new stimulus package. Rail systems have a tendency to promote tighter, more efficient and lively city centers. Local connection systems could form the basis of a new mass transit system, lowering the country's energy bill and environmental footprint while at the same time stimulating urban centers. Instead of investing in infrastructure for foreign cars to burn foreign gas on, the US could pursue a local industry that would pay off in the long run and give us more diplomatic leverage for global warming issues in the future, not to mention international brownie points for being a responsible nation.

Where would we get the resources to go about starting such an industry? Look at the excess industrial capacity of the domestic auto industry and all the people currently out of work. The resources, needs, manpower, technology, manufacturing, and motivation is here. Where are the rail systems?"

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Handhelds

+ - What's Keeping US Phones in the Stone Age?

Submitted by knapper_tech
knapper_tech (813569) writes "After seeing the iPhone introduction in the US, I was totally confused by how much excitement it generated in the US. It offered no features I could see beyond my Casio W41CA's capabilities. I had a lot of apprehension towards the idea of a virtual keypad and the bare screen looked like a scratch magnet. Looks aren't enough. Finally, the price is rediculous. The device is an order of magnitude more expensive than my now year-old keitai even with a two-year contract.

After returning to the US, I've come to realize the horrible truth behind iPhone's buzz. Over the year I was gone, US phones haven't really done anything. Providers push a miniscule lineup of uninspiring designs and then charge unbelievable prices for even basic things like text messages. I was greeted at every kiosk by more tired clamshells built to last until obselescense, and money can't buy a replacement for my W41CA. I finally broke down and got a $20 Virgin phone to at least get me connected until I get over my initial shock. In short, American phones suck, and iPhone is hopefully a wakeup call to US providers and customers. Why is the American phone situation so depressing?

Before I left for Japan about a year ago, I was using a Nokia 3160. It cost me $40 US and I had to sign a one year contract that Cingular later decided was a two-year contract. I was paying about $40 a month for service and had extra fees for SMS messages.

After I got to Kyoto, I quickly ended up at an AU shop and landed a Casio W41CA. It does email, music, pc web browsing, gps, fm radio, tv, phone-wallet, pictures (2megapixel), videos, calculator etc. I walked out of the store for less than ¥5000 (about $41) including activation fees, and I was only paying slightly over ¥4000 (about $33) per month. That included ¥3000 for a voice plan I rarely used and ¥1000 for effectively unlimited data (emails and internet).

Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the costs facing American mobile providers can explain the huge technology and cost gap between the US and Japan. Why are we paying so much for such basic features?

At first, I thought maybe it was something to do with network infrastructure. The US is a huge land area and Japan is very tiny. However, Japan would have lots of towers because of the terrain. Imagine something like Colorado covered in metropolitan area. Also, even though places like rural New Mexico exist, nobody has an obligation to cover them, and from the look of coverage maps, no providers do. Operating a US network that reaches 40% of the nation's population requires nowhere near reaching 40% of the land area. The coverage explanation alone isn't enough.

Another possibility was the notion that because Americans keep their phones until they break, phone companies don't focus much on selling cutting edge phones and won't dare ship a spin-chassis to Oklahoma. However, with the contract life longer, the cost of the phone could be spread out over a longer period. If Americans like phones that are built to last and then let them last, the phones should be really cheap. From my perspective, they are rediculously priced, so this argument also fails.

The next exlpanation I turned to is that people in the US tend to want winners. We like one ring to rule them all and one phone to establish all of what is good in phone fashion for the next three years. However, Motorola's sales are sagging as the population got tired of dime-a-dozen RAZR's and subsequent knockoffs. Apparently, we have more fashion sense or at least desire for individuality than to keep buying hundreds of millions of the same design. Arguing that the US market tends to gravitate to one phone and then champion it is not making Motorola money.

At last I started to wonder if it was because Americans buy less phones as a whole, making the cost of marketing as many different models as the Japanese prohibitive. However, with something like three times the population, the US should be more than enough market for all the glittery treasures of Akiba. What is the problem?

I'm out of leads at this point. It's not like the FCC is charging Cingular and Verizon billions of dollars per year and the costs are getting passed on to the consumer. Japanese don't have genetically superior cellphone taste. I remember that there was talk of how fierce mobile competition was and how it was hurting mobile providers' earnings. However, if Japanese companies can make money at those prices while selling those phones, what's the problem in the US? It seems to me more like competition is non-existent and US providers are ramming yesteryear's designs down our throats while charging us an arm and a leg! Someone please give me some insight."

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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