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Comment: Re:In Finland (Score 4, Insightful) 462

by retroworks (#48466105) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?

As an American married to a European, I've often been asked by puzzled Europeans as to why Americans build houses from wood. Alexis de Tocqueville probably said it best (Democracy in America Vol II, Chapter VIII):

"I accost an American sailor, and I inquire why the ships of his country are built so as to last but for a short time; he answers without hesitation that the art of navigation is every day making such rapid progress, that the finest vessel would become almost useless if it lasted beyond a certain number of years. In these words, which fell accidentally and on a particular subject from a man of rude attainments, I recognize the general and systematic idea upon which a great people directs all its concerns."

Americans regularly get second mortgages and put additions and improvements to their homes, expanding and adapting them. The less this is true (inner cities) the less likely the home is made of wood. And that may turn out to be true of many high-line wires. I'm not sure about power lines, but would assume we'd pay for telephone cables to be buried at the same time, and that seems incredibly wasteful. If the USA paid to put all the telephone cables underground, how will it pay off if everyone goes wireless, as has happened in most rapidly emerging market cities? When I had my home rewired in 1998, I thought it would be wise to pay for double phone lines, put in for DSL cable. I wish I could get that money back and put it into a savings bond.

Comment: Re:The French can be just as Clownish... (Score 1) 370

by retroworks (#48445471) Attached to: Blame America For Everything You Hate About "Internet Culture"

Who can worry about Kitty Cat Memes, with all the Evil Clown crime?

My friends in Denmark and Norway tell me that the word "Friend" in the north is much more reserved, and it has held Facebook back. But like Halloween, differences in culture have a way of being only a generation deep. My mother in law, in southern France, is no slouch with the LOLs.

Comment: What Works and What Doesn't (Score 2) 91

by retroworks (#48443365) Attached to: How "Big Ideas" Are Actually Hurting International Development

What works is the "tinkerer's blessing" (opposite of the curse of natural resources). Chronicled in Yuzo Takahashi's history of Japanese radio technicians , development is best done through normal trade with geeks and technicians. South Korea, Singapore, Guangdong, Taiwan, etc. all developed from refurbishing and reverse engineering used technology. Benjamin Franklin was engaged in buying used surplus printing machines and textile machines for reassembly in the USA, Technicians, nerds, repairers, fixers tend to be smart quiet truthful people, and when economies grow from talented knock off (Shanzai in Chinese) to outsourced contracting to ODM, you wind up with Terry Gou, Simon Lin, and Lee Byung-chul.

What has tragically happened in Africa and India is that do gooders and celebrities like Annie Leonard have found a recipe of white guilt and created a bogus "e-waste" crisis which puts African geeks and nerds in prison. FreeHurricaneBenson. Forums like Slashdot, where repair and tinkerers gather, have been important places to assess the ewaste hoax. I lived in Africa in the mid 1980s and have been finding win-win trade with display devices for almost two decades, and see Africans getting increasingly furious at the people making up fake stats, taking pictures of kids at dumps, and making money without sharing. Search Heather Agyepong's "The Gaze on Agbogbloshie", or read Emmanuel Nyaletey's "My Reaction to The E-Waste Tragedy" Emmanuel is an electronics repair technician who grew up a few blocks from Agbogbloshie, Ghana, the scrapyard in a city of 4 million people (Ghana). currently on scholarship for coding at Georgia Tech. I'll put my money on geeks like Emmanuel and the free market over anti-trade rantists and celebrity AID show Bob Geldoffs all day long.

Comment: Source article link biased, but interesting case (Score 1) 1

I didn't know anything about this person, but as the article says, she appears very well known in Pakistan and it was interesting to be made aware of her. Wikipedia article (for now anyway) appears less biased.

+ - Space E-Waste? Or Russian Killer Satellite?->

Submitted by retroworks
retroworks (652802) writes "Financial Times reports:

"For the past few weeks, amateur astronomers and satellite-trackers in Russia and the west have followed the unusual manoeuvres of Object 2014-28E, watching it guide itself towards other Russian space objects... The object had originally been classed as space debris, propelled into orbit as part of a Russian rocket launch in May to add three Rodnik communications satellites to an existing military constellation. The US military is now tracking it under the Norad designation 39765."

"Its purpose is unknown, and could be civilian: a project to hoover up space junk, for example. Or a vehicle to repair or refuel existing satellites. But interest has been piqued because Russia did not declare its launch – and by the object’s peculiar, and very active, precision movements across the skies. Russia officially mothballed its anti-satellite weaponry programme – Istrebitel Sputnikov or satellite killer – after the fall of the iron curtain, though its expertise has not entirely disappeared. Indeed, military officials have publicly stated in the past that they would restart research in the event of a deterioration in relations with the US over anti-missile defence treaties. In 2010, Oleg Ostapenko, commander of Russia’s space forces, and now head of its space agency, said Russia was again developing “inspection” and “strike” satellites."

For Russian RT coverage, see

To Track the satellite on your own, visit:"

Link to Original Source

Comment: (Score 3, Informative) 112

by retroworks (#48394205) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Who's the Doctors Without Borders of Technology?

It's an international group which helps defend falsely accused "geeks of color". Here are two recent examples of FTR projects.

1. Ambassador program flies students and techs overseas to meet and qualify buyers of used tech who people are afraid to sell to based on "ewaste" myths.

2. Defense and petitions of UK TV repairman and ex-pat Nigerian Joe Benson, imprisoned in UK for "e-waste crime" based on "common knowledge" that 80% of exports of used equipment to Africa are burned in primitive dumps. FairTradeRecycling got the UN to fund actual research of the containerloads in question, which revealed 91% reuse and repair, better than brand new product, and found the African geeks who buy and repair used equipment were earning 6 times average wages (Ghana, Nigeria).

Disclosure, I'm the founder.

Comment: What is the Next High Bandwidth Tech? (Score 2) 223

by retroworks (#48377603) Attached to: Overbilled Customer Sues Time Warner Cable For False Advertising

Breaking up the cable companies probably wouldn't do much without a new technology introduction. Break up of AT&T worked in retrospect because of advances in cell phone transmission, a leapfrog technology. Otherwise the Baby Bells would have still owned the local cable (like Fairpoint in New England).

I despise so much about Comcast. They have tech support / sales entertwined... Phone support techs in faraway lands read scripted lines like "your modem is at end-of-life". The "tech's" only knowledge of my modem is that it isn't rented from Comcast, can't tell me anything else? C'mon Tech Supporter! ...If you know it's "end of life" you must know when I bought it and must know what it is, right..? Ohhh... All you know is there's no monthly rent charge? Unfortunately, for now it's the fastest and cheapest bandwidth I can get. No other company is going to run a cable to my house. I doubt making "Baby Comcast/TWC" changes that. There has to be a technical advance, probably via satellite service. When Direct TV can compete technologically, cable will play nice.

Comment: Re:How are microbes heritable? (Score 2) 297

by retroworks (#48350651) Attached to: Study: Body Weight Heavily Influenced By Heritable Gut Microbes

Well, Yes, I understand, but that methodology (comparing identical twins to fraternal twins) was already used in 1992 to study alcoholism, and among the reasons it was not definitive is that taste buds are genetically inherited (for example), and dopamine receptors are genetically inherited. They could not say that alcoholism was genetic because correlations /= causation, and it was possible that diet and other causes, e.g. habits affected by taste, were being measured.

... It seemed to me that if the 1992 study could not determine whether alcoholism was genetic, or environmental, that the original poster had made a valid observation. If alcohol consumption could be caused by diet preference (e.g. people who love the taste of beer start drinking earlier in life, when the brain is developing, leading to stronger habits / dependencies), gut flora could also be affected by diet preference, habit, or tastes. I guess you could argue that is a genetic trait, but not nearly in as assertive a way as the Summary suggests.

Comment: Re:How are microbes heritable? (Score 1) 297

by retroworks (#48349279) Attached to: Study: Body Weight Heavily Influenced By Heritable Gut Microbes
Agreed, finding correlating microbes in the guts of twins does not seem to prove genetic causality, if the twins grew up in the same family and same environment. Since we know that the microbes can be passed between mammals via fecal matter ( ) and identical twins are likely exposed to the same traces of fecal matter, I don't see how they have proven genetic causality. The study is behind a paywall unfortunately.

Comment: Re:Underwater will face the same challenges as Tid (Score 2) 216

by retroworks (#48303567) Attached to: Scotland Builds Power Farms of the Future Under the Sea
Since the idea of both tidal and wave energy has been promoted since OPEC price disruptions of the 1970s (see Severn Barrage) but has never been successfully implemented (due to economic costs, largely managing brine and mollusks), either A) they have figured out a simple solution, or 2) they came up with a more novel solution, more interesting than the article suggests, or C) this is /.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.