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Comment: Not putting up with jerks (Score 4, Interesting) 226

by Animats (#47732661) Attached to: When Customer Dissatisfaction Is a Tech Business Model

You don't have to put up with jerks.

  • Internet provider - Sonic.net DSL. No packet filtering, good support, no nonsense.
  • Phone - Caterpillar B15 ruggeized Android phone.. Bought from Caterpillar dealer, not carrier. Declined Google account at first power up. Google services disabled. No updates from Google.
  • Cellular carrier - T-Mobile. Has no control over phone. No carrier apps.
  • Email - IMAP server. SpamAssassin spam blocking.
  • Main desktop machine - Ubuntu 12.4 LTS.
  • No Google account. No Twitter account. No pay TV. Ad blocking on all browsers.
  • Main news source - Reuters. (More news about Ukraine and ISIS, less about Bieber and Apple.)
  • Main food store - Trader Joe's. No "club card" required. Good prices.

For almost every crap business, there's a competitor that isn't crap. Find them.

Comment: Re:Actually, it does ! (Score 4, Insightful) 365

We've actually paid more tax per head, and received less back per head, than England for every one of the last 110 years, which is as far back as the available data goes. So it's long before the discovery of oil.

However, that's not the point. The United Kingdom has, through imperialism and military adventurism, very reasonably made itself the second most hated nation on the planet. I'm tired of being embarrassed to travel on a UK passport. I'm tired of paying taxes to bomb other people's countries. I'm tired of my country providing bases for the US to set up its torture centres. I'm tired of my country supporting every two-bit dictator who will buy weapons.

We can do better than this - and we will.

Comment: No big deal (Score 2) 177

by Animats (#47726537) Attached to: How Does Tesla Build a Supercharger Charging Site?

This is a straightforward industrial electrical installation. There's a pad-mounted distribution transformer and meter provided by the power company, a weatherproof load center provided by the customer's electrical contractor, and the Tesla supercharger control unit and outlet stations. No big deal to install. There's a comparable installation at every large standalone store.

That's a small charging station. Here's the build-out of a bigger one. Black and Veach, which does infrastructure construction for the energy and communications industry (substations, cell sites, etc.) is doing the job. They see it as a lot like building out cell towers. (If you watch that video, you may wonder why the transformers and switchgear are on raised platforms. Probably because there's a flood risk at that location.)

Installing a gas station's underground tanks, which today are dual tanks with leak detection, is a much bigger job. There's a big excavation, lots of plumbing and wiring, and several different trades involved.

Comment: Re:Zooooom! (Score 4, Interesting) 227

Well, that depends on the amount the jobs pay, doesn't it? Have average salaries for manufacturing jobs (with respect to inflation) increased, decreased, or remained the same over the past 20 or so years?

That's how you can have an increase in the number of jobs while simultaneously collapsing a middle class. You can also convert full-time positions with benefits to part-time positions without, decrease sick and vacation days, require people lucky enough to have health benefits pay increasing amounts for them, etc., not to mention taking actions that simply raise stress in people's lives like making people work more erratic shifts, threatening them with off-shoring or outsourcing, basically any psychological gambit that makes the employee feel powerless - which has the follow-on effect of making them too cowed to asked for a fair share of the company's profits, again leading to less money for what was equivalent or better work. Plus that latter thing makes it less likely that workers would organize as a labor block or politically in their communities - a fine multiple win for the factory owners vs. their employees.

So yes, I can see several ways that a middle class can be hollowed out, even while increasing numbers of even worse, lower-paid jobs are created (and taken). That you don't see how this doesn't make things better for most demonstrates that either you are unaware of how the real world has been working for quite a while or you have some sort of odd ideological ax to grind.

Comment: Re:"Great minds think alike"... apk (Score 1) 178

by metlin (#47722387) Attached to: Professor Steve Ballmer Will Teach At Two Universities This Year

I would characterize those areas as IT and software engineering, and not necessarily Computer Science.

I would perhaps state that some areas of computing (e.g., systems design, architecture) are better grouped under software engineering, given their nature.

I almost feel that there needs a distinction between software engineering and computer science. To paraphrase David Parnas, computer science studies the properties of computation in general while software engineering is the design of specific computations to achieve practical goals.

Muddling the two disciplines causes heartache because you have people who are great at designing software, but cannot grok advanced math; and on the other hand, you potentially limit your solutions to what's within the realm of current applicability, without exploring other possibilities (e..g, reinventing new algorithms for quantum computation).

Comment: Re:"Great minds think alike"... apk (Score 1) 178

by metlin (#47722065) Attached to: Professor Steve Ballmer Will Teach At Two Universities This Year

I would add a nuance to your point and state that real world experience matters in IT, but not in CS.

Computer Science is more about algorithms, systems architecture, and a lot of math. I did very little programming when I did CS in grad school and a whole lot of pretty awesome math (computational complexity, graphics, optimizations etc). Not sure about undergrad, since I did ECE, which, once again, was a whole lot of math (DSP, control systems, engineering electromagnetics, circuit theory, VLSI etc).

In any event, real-world relevance is more important to IT than it is to CS. I would say that it is however somewhat important in engineering, which, once again, is a professional degree.

Comment: Re:Is he a scientist? (Score 3, Informative) 178

by metlin (#47719907) Attached to: Professor Steve Ballmer Will Teach At Two Universities This Year

B-schools often hire people who are not in academia per se, but have rich real world experience in solving business problems.

For instance, you will often find senior partners from top consulting firms teaching classes, because they bring to bear not just academic knowledge but also practical experience.

People who do their MBA are not there to just learn the latest and greatest management technique from academia -- they also seek to apply that to the real world.

And this is not just true for MBAs -- it is also true for law schools, medical schools, and many other professional degrees. You'll find former judges and lawyers teaching classes, and you'll find doctors and surgeons with real world experience tempering your academic knowledge with their real world experience.

Public policy is another area where you former civil servants often teaching classes.

Comment: Reason is concentration (Score 1) 507

by alispguru (#47714677) Attached to: Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead

The "bad for wildlife" question basically comes down to:

* how much mass you have to move
* how much land area you have to occupy

per watt generated.

Coal and hydro lose because they both require a lot of mass (water and coal) and a lot of area (dammed waterway, mines and transport).

Nuclear and geothermal win because they both require very little mass and very little area other than the plant itself - uranium ore has at least 1000 times the energy per gram as coal.

Any kind of solar is in the middle because of the large area needed to capture relatively dilute solar energy.

Comment: Re:There is no "FarmBot" (Score 1) 133

by Animats (#47714057) Attached to: FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine

If you watch the video at the bottom of the article, you'll see photos of several prototype FarmBots that do, in fact, exist.

Those are just tabletop gardening robots. That was done 20 years ago.

There's lots of real robotic agricultural machinery, much of it mobile. Building a gantry over a tabletop doesn't scale.

Comment: Re:The power of the future... (Score 1) 303

by Animats (#47708177) Attached to: If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

Fusion power is roughly 20 years away from being viable...and has been for the last 40 years LOL.

Longer than that. Fusion power has been hyped since the 1950s. From the article:

Nuclear fusion could come into play as soon as 2050

Heard that one before.

Fusion power has some real problems. After half a century of trying, nobody has a long-running sustained fusion reactor, even an experimental one. The whole "inertial fusion" thing turned out to be a cover for bomb research. There's a lot of skepticism about whether ITER will do anything useful. It's not clear that a fusion reactor will be cost-effective even with a near-zero fuel cost. (Fission reactors already have that problem.) It's really frustrating.

Fusion reactors are a pain to engineer. They have a big vacuum chamber with high-energy particles reacting inside, and huge cryogenic magnets outside. This is far more complicated than a fission reactor, and is why the cost of ITER keeps going up.

Comment: LibreOffice/OpenOffice still kind of suck (Score 5, Insightful) 572

by Animats (#47699241) Attached to: Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft

The basic office-type products for Linux still kind of suck. I've been using them since the StarOffice/SunOffice days, and now use LibreOffice. They've improved a lot, but they're still flakier than they should be, a decade after initial release. Nobody wants to fix the hard-to-fix, boring bugs which damage usability.

Oracle buying the remnants of Sun didn't help.

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