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Comment: Re:stone tablets (Score 3, Interesting) 250

by vtcodger (#48919535) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Medium For Personal Archive?

I looked into the reliability of CDs a decade or two ago. The consensus back then was that the lifetime of writable CDs (as opposed to the plastic disks with mechanically stamped pits) was unknown, but probably somewhere in range of a few years to a few decades. Worse, to avoid royalty issues, every CD maker used a different proprietary dye layer with different characteristics. Back then, it was far from a sure thing that a CD written on one drive could be read back reliably on a different drive even before the disk aged for a few years.

I'm not saying that CDs aren't suitable for storage, just that one probably ought to do some research about longevity before committing to their use as an archiving medium.

Really, same's probably true of any media other than punched cards.

Comment: Re:Not so sure about this... (Score 2) 252

by vtcodger (#48738375) Attached to: The Missing Piece of the Smart Home Revolution: The Operating System

> I wouldn't call ethanol "a mediocre fuel".

Ethanol has low energy density and doesn't burn efficiently in a conventional engine. It's true that it burns slowly and thus can be used in a high compression engine. But then you can't burn gasoline or gases like methane, propane, etc in that tengine. As produced and used in the US it's pretty much a fiasco.

(But it's OK to drink in moderation if you're so inclined).

Comment: Re:Dupe (Score 1) 840

"Take cars, for example. Fixing a modern car aside from trivial cases is not easy"

Actually, that's not as true as most folks think. Fortunately, thanks mostly to the Japanese and no thanks whatsoever to "Detroit", modern cars are quite reliable despite having an awful lot of parts, The few things that actually require maintenance -- brakes, oil filters, light bulbs, timing belts, spark plug wires, exhaust parts, and the occasional broken sensor -- can be replaced by a shade tree mechanic with a few hundred dollars worth of tools, and a place to work on the car.

I've maintained my own cars for three decades, and it's not that hard once you find a copy of the service documentation and get to know the car. Only hobby I've ever had that showed a profit.

I'm not so sure about the current crop of electronic wonders. They seem to me to have an awful lot of dubious features and rather a dearth of useful documentation about what all those little CPUs are up to. I suspect that they may not age well.

Comment: Re:I'm at a loss. And I RTFA (Score 1) 252

by vtcodger (#48735091) Attached to: The Missing Piece of the Smart Home Revolution: The Operating System

"What do you use now? Shells? Toilets and faucets haven't advanced in the USA. Why don't we have two faucet controls, one for temperature and one for stream force?"

A pet peeve of mine actually. When I was a kid in the 1940s and 1950s, showers and baths had two controls -- one for hot water and one for cold. Possible, if not especially easy, to get the temperature and flow you desired. Since then, that system has been replaced by four dozen variants of single knob controls. All of which suck and none of which work as well as the ancient two control system. Your idea would probably be even better and seemingly would not be hard to implement.

Comment: Re:Not so sure about this... (Score 2) 252

by vtcodger (#48735037) Attached to: The Missing Piece of the Smart Home Revolution: The Operating System

> I'm sorry you don't care about energy efficiency and renewable power.

Get back to us when you have renewable energy that works. Corn ethanol is, for the most part, an expensive, agricultural support program that converts hydrocarbons like petroleum and natural gas into a mediocre fuel. Wind and Solar for the most part require hugely expensive (and probably environmentally destructive) buffering -- think hundreds of billions of dollars -- to interface their intermittent output to a reliable power grid. Hydro power is actually OK technically, but it's environmentally destructive, and simply isn't available on the scale needed to support even the most energy efficient modern society -- not enough precipitation. Not enough suitable sites. Nuclear is fine on paper. But the evidence that nuclear plants will be managed at times by nitwits is pretty strong and we do not have a fullproof design for nuclear plants that can safely be run by nitwits.

Energy efficiency is fine. Seriously. And the US and Canada in particular could do substantially better than they do. But in my experience, few advocates of energy efficiency have realistic ideas of how to achieve it or even of what can realistically be achieved.

Comment: Re:Not so sure about this... (Score 1) 252

by vtcodger (#48734981) Attached to: The Missing Piece of the Smart Home Revolution: The Operating System

> Networks run by professionals can't keep the hackers out, and I want my home to have an operating system?

Exactly. For the most part, the ideal operating system for the home is probably the human brain augmented by some switches and simple (repairable) MECHANICAL timers like those on dishwashers.and washing machines. For the most part, the digital hardware in my house sucks. The interfaces are, for the most part, poorly designed, non-intuitive and not especially reliable. There is entirely too much of it. It has, on average, not brought me joy and/or happiness. I do not expect that situation to change.

That said, there is a case for limited automation of some homes for purposes of allowing the temporarily or permanently handicapped to survive without live-in helpers. But for the general public. It's a bad idea that will be probably be badly implemented.

HINT: If some semblence of security is desired, do NOT connect the home electronics to the internet. Things like home entertainment, "phone" and perhaps fire/intrusion alarms that need a connection to the outside world should be separated from any home network by a healthy air gap.

Comment: Re:Can't imagine anything going wrong (Score 1) 92

A system that can deliver Molotov Cocktails for less than the cost of a soft drink? What could possibly go wrong? This concept is almost as inherently safe and harmless as hooking every traffic light in the country to the internet.

And furthermore we're going to need it to deliver food and medicine when some bored teenager in Budapest switches every traffic light in Western Europe, Australia, and North America to a permanent red.

Comment: Re:excessive scripts (Score 1) 143

by vtcodger (#48496065) Attached to: Black Friday '14: E-commerce Pages Far Slower Than They Were in 2013

> All the user can do is complain that bootup is slower...yeah, y'reckon?

At least one can evict most stuff from the system tray if one works hard enough at it. And it is handy to have a volume control and possibly a few other things there. What, can be done about whackjobs who believe, almost always incorrectly, that javascript is essential to their user's "website experience?"

Comment: Re:But why? (Score 1) 143

by vtcodger (#48496043) Attached to: Black Friday '14: E-commerce Pages Far Slower Than They Were in 2013

It's because every web page wants to load a metric fuck-ton of third-party Javascript and Ajax code from 10 different sources - just to display their banner and navigation panels ...

Sounds right to me. All I know for sure is that today's web has managed the rather remarkable feat of mostly being slower in use than Compuserve was in the early 1990s with a 1200 baud modem. And that's AFTER blocking about 16000 nuisances in /etc/hosts. Our EEE PC's where I don't currently have a hosts file, have become pretty much unusable in Firefox. My esteemed spouse has come to blame Firefox for the situation and would probably advocate execution of the Firefox programmers.

Personally, I think the basic problem is that web site designers are often incompetent and almost universally nuts

Comment: Re:In Finland (Score 1) 516

by vtcodger (#48466069) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?

In California for example much of the earthquake damage seems to be wooden houses although they have noticeably strengthened building codes Californians are still stuck with a whole lot of vulnerable older houses.

Backwards. Wooden structures do much better in earthquakes than more rigid structures -- which is why California's building codes allow wood, but ban unreinforced masonry (i.e. bricks) and lightly reinforced concrete. Wooden buildings aren't always as straight or safe after a major earthquake as they were before. But the vast majority of fatalities and serious injuries in quakes since 1933 have been from the collapse of concrete structures -- buildings and roads. see

Wiring? I live in a mostly rural area, and it's mostly a matter of cost I think. My neighborhood has underground utilities that are quite reliable. But most of the region has overhead wiring that is vulnerable to rain, ice, lightning and vehicles amputating the utility poles. Reason: If there are only a handful of customers per kilometer, the costs of burying the wiring are too high for the customer base to fund.

Comment: Re:car (Score 2) 144

by vtcodger (#48456243) Attached to: Here's What Your Car Could Look Like In 2030

It looks like a black rectangle to me. Maybe their web page is just fucked up.

Didn't miss anything. I got as far as the first slide. Or maybe it's their site web page. Whatever it is, it is quite incomprehensible. I don't know what my car will look like in 15 years -- assuming I'm still alive and still have a car. But I'm virtually certain that these dudes will have no role whatsoever in it's design and implementation.

Comment: Re:In a Self-Driving Future--- (Score 1) 454

by vtcodger (#48444495) Attached to: In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars

Compared to a computer, a human is utterly incompetent to operate any heavy machinery. The reaction times and accuracy just aren't there, and never will be. That makes you comparatively dangerous, no matter how 'law abiding' you might be

I'm sure the air forces and airline companies will be pleased to know that they can fire their pilots and turn the whole operation over to machines.

Comment: Re:In a Self-Driving Future--- (Score 1) 454

by vtcodger (#48444445) Attached to: In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars

I'm quite willing to believe that self driving cars on an expressway that is not undergoing maintenance and in weather that isn't too appalling are significantly safer than human drivers. The worst human drivers are really atrocious. The barrier isn't high.

But I think it is likely to be a long, long time before current map based driving systems are able to navigate suburban or rural roads, deal with detours, pets, or kids, or livestock, or wildlife, or pedestrians with or without strollers, or utility crews, or guys trimming trees, or road crews digging deep holes, or folks signaling a left turn while turning right, or falling/drifting dust or snow (where the hell is the edge of this road and is there a ditch?)

Then there really is a problem with the sales guys overpromising. Are you aware that ABS braking systems worked abysmally for years -- OK on dry roads. not awful on wet roads. Useless or worse in sand, snow, gravel. Probably not, because no one went out to their way to inform the public

I'd like nothing better than to pay someone to install a box or three and a few actuators and sensors that will do my driving for me. But I don't expect it any time soon.

Comment: Re:I liked the original title better (Score 2) 66

by vtcodger (#48404917) Attached to: The New-ish Technologies That Will Alter Your Career

Pretty much :

Internet of Things: The strange idea that my internet connected refrigerator is going to engage in long philosophical discussions with a laundromat in Tashkent and that I will somehow benefit from the discourse. (And that my fridge will not be defrosted by a sociopathic twelve year old in Capetown). Certainly some factory applications will work out. But life changing? My bet is not. (And if I have my way, my ap[pliances aren't going to have an internet connection anyway.)

Parallel Programming: I dunno about the rest of you folks, but I HATE debugging race conditions. There are some applications where parallel programming is a great idea. But mostly, as was pointed out decades ago by I forget who, any advantage gained from multiple CPUs is likely to be lost in expanded interprocess communication and waiting for locks to clear.

3D printing: Seems like it HAS to be good for something. But other than prototyping and maybe some appliance repair where shape is more important than material characteristics, it's hard to see what.

Web APIs: Yechhh. With the best of intentions we've created a monster by allowing everyone to do pretty much whatever they damn well please. Your basic tower of Babel. Yes, there will be careers based on trying to work with this stuff. But I think cleaning septic tanks might be more fun.

Embedded Systems: Fun as a hobby. Will probably be the basis of some really mind-boggling science fair projects. I expect a few folks will somehow create genuinely useful devices and may even profit thereby. But mostly I suspect we're going to end up with uncounted digital nutcrakers and similar pointless stuff.

"The algorithm to do that is extremely nasty. You might want to mug someone with it." -- M. Devine, Computer Science 340