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Comment: Um, nice, but not so fast (Score 2) 734

by skidisk (#46049347) Attached to: Will Electric Cars and Solar Power Make Gasoline and Utilities Obsolete?

Two quick problems:

1. My solar panels on my roof give power to the utility company, not to charge my car. I then suck power from the grid at night from excess capacity of the power grid, who generates this power using -- yes, you know the answer -- oil, gas and coal, along with some hydro. Now it's not all bad -- the power I supply via solar panels reduces the need to build new power plants to support peak needs, but still, they are using oil, gas, coal and hydro to produce my electricity for my car (and house).

2. I can generate a lot more solar power than people farther north and those who live with crappy weather. But I still can't generate it at night when I need it. Almost no one is deploying solar panels and storing the energy locally, so this feature article is a bunch of hooey, as much as I wish it not to be.

Comment: I don't think so, Marc... (Score 3, Insightful) 332

by skidisk (#46037531) Attached to: Marc Andreessen On Why Bitcoin Matters (And A Critique)

So Marc's article is basically cheerleading Bitcoin. I understand that; he's decided it is the future and has tens of millions invested in making it so. Glenn's critique takes issue with Marc's analogies of Bitcoin to the PC and Internet -- whether those analogies are correct or not seems irrelevant to the main issue: is Bitcoin "the answer".

After reading these, two things make me think Bitcoin won't ever be huge:
1. The assertions about no charge or low charges for transactions. Glenn's seems correct when he says this can't continue. Right now, people justify their computing expenses "keeping the books" by mining, but that will end as we approach the end of bitcoins in the mine. For them to continue providing their service, they have to get some value, and that will come from fees. (Did you see what people are paying to set up powerful enough computers these days? http://dealbook.nytimes.com/20... ) So the nirvana of incredibly low transactions fees vanishes (sale ends soon so act fast -- supplies are limited!)

2. The assertion that the network is safe from attack or manipulation. Right now, bitcoin is too small so no one cares. But when governments start caring, does anyone really believe that the NSA will not throw its resources at this problem if needed? Most stories (including these) quote how it's virtually impossible to have enough computing power to destabilize the network. I've heard these claims before -- in the 1980s, the US government would allow us to export software with a 40 bit salt on our pathetic 32 bit encryption because it was "too secure and endangered national security". Yeah, right. Every single claim has been true for a while -- until it wasn't. Everything is eventually cracked. I'm not sure I'm willing to turn over all my assets to the cloud, and I don't think most people will, either. So bitcoin may be a bit player, but I don't expect it to rise to the levels Marc projects.

Comment: Forget the device -- buy the ECC patents! (Score 4, Interesting) 139

by skidisk (#44542013) Attached to: BlackBerry Officially Open To Sale

I'm sure there is some value in the device, technology and related patents, but perhaps the greatest value is in the patents the own for ECC (Elliptical Curve Cryptography). Now that RSA's algorithm is on the way to being cracked, it's possible many will move to ECC -- and that means big money for Certicom, who is owned by...Blackberry. I know RSA will refute the patent claims and there is sure to be a war, but whoever owns Certicom has a big dog in the fight. The NSA has been pushing for ECC for almost a decade, so none of this is new news. However, it will be a factor in the level of interest for potential acquirers.

Comment: It's free. C'mon. (Score 4, Insightful) 144

by skidisk (#44531701) Attached to: Bad Connections Dog Google's Mountain View Wi-Fi Network

I live and work in Mountain View (not for Google). Look, the thing is free. What do you expect? I can log in and use it reasonably well. I certainly wouldn't depend on it for my only connectivity, but it works well enough when I need a quick piece of data or need to send something and don't have cell service or am using a wifi device. Just chill.

Comment: Chord Keyboard (Score 4, Interesting) 124

by skidisk (#44181623) Attached to: Doug Engelbart Passes Away

I met Doug and spoke with him a few times when we were both at Tymnet, which was purchased by McDonnell Douglas in 1985. At the time, Doug had a shock or white hair but was still cranking out ideas. At that time, he was working very hard to sell his idea of a chord keyboard -- you had five keys for each hand and you "played" them to control the computer. Doug was amazing with them -- he code program and write documents extraordinarily fast with them. He thought that DEC might buy the idea and turn it into a product, but obviously that didn't happen. Doug was always thinking a generation ahead -- recall that at that time, we had not really accepted the mouse yet. But from Doug's perspective that was old news from almost twenty years ago. Talking to him was amazing -- just trying to get into the frame of mind he was in was challenging and fun. I wish I could have spent more time with him. Thanks for everything, Doug -- we still haven't caught up with you.

Comment: Re:Maybe not 11, but definitely Apollo (Score 1) 119

by skidisk (#43235551) Attached to: Bezos Expeditions Recovers Pieces of Apollo 11 Rockets

Yes, you're right, I did not take into account the shuttle SRBs. But watching (feeling) a Saturn V on liftoff was majestic and spectacular, I guess because it rose so much more slowly and the sound blasts were overwhelming and a bit scary (I was just a kid, also). Every time I watched it, I worried it would just fall over, or stop rising and collapse back. But it just kept roaring, and rising majestically.

Comment: Maybe not 11, but definitely Apollo (Score 5, Interesting) 119

by skidisk (#43231515) Attached to: Bezos Expeditions Recovers Pieces of Apollo 11 Rockets

The F1s were only used on the Apollo missions, and they were truly awesome -- they shook the ground like nothing you've ever experienced. My dad worked for NASA and we saw the flights. Even three miles away, it was scary powerful. To give you an idea, one of those F-1 has more power than 3(!) Shuttle MAIN engines -- and there were FIVE F-1s at the bottom of Saturn's first stage. So that's like fifteen shuttles taking off at once. You have no idea what that's like...

Comment: Thank you so much! (Score 5, Interesting) 38

by skidisk (#41850399) Attached to: Behind the Scenes At NASA's Mission Control Center

This is wonderful information -- I'm so glad to finally know it all. Thank you for the thorough documentation! I grew up at 1927 Richvale Lane, just a short bike ride from building 30. We were the first 25 houses there when it was all pastures, wild animals and bayous, and the Manned Spacecraft Center was brand new. My dad worked on Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and then shuttle. We had dinners with the guys who worked there, as well as with the astronauts and their families. Of course, I was just a kid and thought is was all cool but no big deal. In retrospect, I can now see how magical it was. Everyone in the entire community was working together for something so optimistic and positive during a pretty lousy time otherwise, with assassinations, the war, and violent protests and riots.

But we were immune to it because everyone was 100% focused on getting a man to the moon and returning him safely to earth before the end of the decade. I guess that's why I like startups so much -- it's the same focus on a single objective with everyone pulling together. We don't change the world as the 100,000 engineers did on the 60s, but it's all we have left these days.

Comment: We see the actual money thefts (Score 1) 94

by skidisk (#40871751) Attached to: The $1 Trillion Cybercrime Myth

I work for a company that analyzes transactions and detects account takeovers and thefts at banks. Banks call us when they suffer a loss or series of losses. When they call us these losses are typically over $300,000 and the largest attack we've seen is for about $1.5M. We do NOT deal with the biggest banks, mostly regional and local banks. In case you didn't know, there are about 15,000 banks and credit unions in the U.S., so there are a lot of targets for criminals. Not all these banks have assets worth stealing, and not all of them are even on line. By our estimate, roughly 6,000-8,000 of these banks are sufficiently interesting and available to be targets of criminals.

So can I give you a real number? No, because we don't deal with the biggest banks and we also don't talk to all 15,000 banks. But I can tell you that having worked with several hundred banks, these so-called cybercriminals are stealing a lot of money. Yes, true, the banks that call us self-select, so I am NOT saying that every bank is losing $1M/year. But we do see hundreds of banks with losses that seem to indicate that the criminals are stealing tens of millions, and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars. FWIW.

P.S. They are also successfully stealing a lot of money from brokerage houses, so that gets added to their haul, also.

Comment: My 3kw solar panels could even be worth $35,000 (Score 4, Informative) 352

by skidisk (#35918328) Attached to: Solar Panels Increase Home Value

I put panels up 6 years ago and they save roughly $2,000/year in electricity here in California ( my previous three years before panels were $6100; I've spent $300 over the last 6 years on electricity).

A prospective home owner knows they won't have to pay that $2000/year on electricity, so if they pour that into a 4% loan, they can borrow an extra $35,000 for that roughly $160/mo savings.

So to see a story say that my panels should be worth between $10K-$20K to a home buyer makes total sense.

One of the most overlooked advantages to computers is... If they do foul up, there's no law against whacking them around a little. -- Joe Martin

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