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Comment: I feel like this is solving the wrong problem. (Score 1) 77

by w3woody (#48168139) Attached to: An Air Traffic Control System For Drones

It seems to me the real problem is separating drone traffic--including drones bought by amateurs and self-built drones--from passenger carrying aircraft. Meaning rather than sending commands causing drone traffic "swarms" to self-separate or to prevent them from flying outside of their desired area--which strikes me as problematic if you want ot use a drone to inspect a pipeline or inspect telephone wires (for example)--wouldn't it be better to simply create advisories to help separate drones from passenger airplanes?

For example, wouldn't it be better to simply advise drone operators to keep their aircraft 400' AGL (or lower) and keep them out of the approach corridors of various airports (and publish those locations and encourage drone manufacturers to provide maps), and pass laws which make it a potentially criminal offense to operate a drone above 400' or in a landing corridor unless your drone has a transponder, you're in constant contact with ATC (and are being actively separated by ATC) and the drone has the ability to land itself when communications with its operator is lost?

Yes, it'd be a bitch if two drones collide. But there you're just talking about property damage. What frightens me is some idiot with a DJI Phantom and a GoPro trying to get a close-up of a 737 carrying passengers as it attempts to land at LAX--and getting his toy sucked into the engine, taking that engine out and risking everyone on board and everyone on the ground.

Comment: Bad example, interesting points. (Score 1) 240

by w3woody (#48139729) Attached to: Fighting the Culture of 'Worse Is Better'

I think the author's original focusing on C++ as an example of "worse is better" is a sad distraction. Clearly C++ was designed with the goal of being compatible with C. There are plenty of examples of languages which attempted to solve object-oriented programming but threw away backwards compatibility as a design goal: D, Java, and C# come to mind.

That said, I think he does have an interesting point about our unwillingness to sit down and carefully consider our response to problems as they arise during development--that we are constantly chasing incremental changes without considering the technical debt that arises. I've seen it particularly inside many of the companies I've freelanced to; they consider their software an asset rather than a depreciating liability, that must be preserved at all costs--even if that cost is increased technical debt that makes maintenance nearly impossible.

But the real source of the problem, in my opinion, is not a culture which thinks "worse is better." It may appear that way, because many companies engage in tradeoffs which, to the casual observer, seems like they really consider "worse" as "better." The real problem is that many corporations and many organizations don't necessarily reward competence, because they are often run by the incompetent. The Dunning-Kruger effect extends beyond self-assessment. Thus, they treat software as an asset rather than as a depreciating liability: management is unable to properly assess their internal processes and the value of the result. All that work, and we're supposed to throw it away?

The scary part is that to many of the organizations I've freelanced to, too much competence creates organizational friction. The places where I've done work who've ranked my work the best are exactly the places where I've "phoned it in", so to speak, only going a little bit above the call of duty. Go too much above the call of duty, pause everyone to have a considered response and to carefully do what is right, and you find yourself up against very powerful forces who, thanks to their inability to self-assess, push back hard.

Comment: Smells of bullshit. (Score 1) 151

by w3woody (#47601983) Attached to: Planes Can Be Hacked Via Inflight Wi-fi, Says Researcher
Given the age of most aircraft in the fleet, and the age of most FAA-approved avionics, I have a hard time believing any of the avionics used in today's fleet are capable of TCP/IP communications, much less being able to hook into the in-aircraft wifi system. Most in-aircraft wifi systems I've seen are add-ons; separate systems which only tap into the airplane's power. And the only thing in the cockpit that may tie into the wifi system is the pilot's iPad.

Comment: Re:Show me the money! (Score 1) 441

by w3woody (#47351197) Attached to: Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year

Wind displaces coal and thus reduced the energy cost of caring for people with lung disease, but your measure misses that.

Actually that should be factored into the higher insurance and liability costs of mining and using coal, as well as motivates a drive to make coal safer.

For example, Duke Energy is facing a massive $10 billion dollar cleanup for spilled coal ash. That $10 billion will eventually be paid for by consumers of electricity generated by Duke in higher electric costs--which simply reflects the actual higher costs of coal than was originally estimated.

Meaning improper estimates do self-correct--unless government steps in and tips the scales, 'natch.

Comment: Re:Show me the money! (Score 1) 441

by w3woody (#47350813) Attached to: Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year

It is well known that removing boundaries leads to that result.

[Citation Needed]

So, you want money to muddy boundaries.

Actually, I find that money clarifies and greatly simplifies. I mean, how complex of an analysis would you have to do if you sought out the actual energy inputs that go to making a pencil, given how it is made? How many places would you need to visit, how many inputs would you need to consider? And how do you analyze the changing inputs, the changing vendors? How do you factor in everything? Whereas with money, you go down to Office Depot and note it's $1.69 per dozen--which clarifies both the overall resource costs that went to making that pencil down to the last shipping container and rubber tree farmer, and clarifies the cost to you if you wish to use that pencil--and helps you identify other alternatives which you may find a better value in the long run. (For example, you may choose to buy a mechanical pencil, and then spend money on far cheaper leads--which, as an aside, also significantly reduces the energy footprint for your writing needs, by only replacing the relatively small graphite sick each time, rather than replacing the entire wooden body.

In fact, only people who actively seek to hide the overall resource and social costs of their preferred cause (in order to convince us to buy a pig in a poke) who go through so much effort to actually hide the costs by creating metrics which are effectively meaningless. And only people who actively seek to hide the overall social and resource costs who disdain using money as a metric to help guide sustainability costs, because it's just so damned simple to use.

Comment: Re:Show me the money! (Score 1) 441

by w3woody (#47350311) Attached to: Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year

I'm sorry, I thought you were using the metric of energy returned on invested energy, meaning the total lifetime energy output for a generation system given the inputs to that system.

And I'm only arguing that money is a much better proxy for those energy inputs than a study that only goes one or two levels of indirection when calculating invested energy. After all, when using a pencil, rather than calculate the portion of the transportation costs and mining costs for moving the graphite from South America, the rubber for the erasers from Brazil or wherever rubber is grown, the transportation cost and energy costs to manufacture the yellow paint--and apportion the percentage of the energy that went into making the cargo ship and the diesel fuel that powered the ship to bring the materials to the local manufacturing plant, along with apportioning the percentage of energy that went to make that plant, as well as the energy that went into the fluorescent lights and the air conditioner at the point of retail where you bought them--isn't it easier to just note pencils are $1.69 for a dozen at Office Depot?

After all, to assume (as you did earlier) that somehow ERoEI reaches unity because everyone is doing everything to support everyone else in something is to assume the infinite regression of infinitesimally smaller and smaller energy inputs to make that pencil is not a convergent series. But if that wasn't a convergent series then pencils would have infinite, rather than finite, cost.

Comment: Re:Show me the money! (Score 1) 441

by w3woody (#47350009) Attached to: Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year

My original analysis above did not include tax credits; simply the cost to install a turbine and the cost to sell the electricity on the wholesale market.

And you achieve an ERoEI of unity only if everyone is involved in the production of energy.

This type of study can tell us if a particular build out rate is technically feasible or not. Your approach can't do that.

So, money as a proxy for calculating all inputs to making something is not a technically valid approach to calculating ROI because... why? Because government interferes with the results? Or because the results are not to your liking? Isn't either answer essentially political, rather than economic or resource-based?

Now I believe it's valid if the government wants to distort the analysis (as it currently does) to tilt the playing field in favor of renewables, if as a society we believe there is long term value in gaining experience and ultimately easing the transition to a more socially acceptable energy source. But to ignore one of the best ways to estimate up-stream resource utilization because you don't like the results or worse, because you think that somehow involving something as base as money (ick! all that greed, all that concentrated wealth!) into the calculations makes the analysis base as well just strikes me as pretty silly, no matter how well you wrap it in high-minded intellectual language.

Comment: Re:Dumb - not snarky - responses (Score 1) 441

by w3woody (#47349533) Attached to: Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year

Actually I did a financial analysis of the payback time based on publicly available sources for the cost to install a 2MW turbine and the wholesale price you can fetch selling the generated electricity to the grid--and I've pointed out that money is a better metric because it captures all upstream costs, including upstream energy costs.

But you didn't get to read it because I got down voted. Guess the results were not politically acceptable to the group.

Comment: Re:Show me the money! (Score 1) 441

by w3woody (#47349349) Attached to: Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year

The problem is when you ignore money and use a different metric, you're ignoring all the upstream inputs which also consume energy in their own right. Ignore worker salaries--and you ignore the energy they took to drive to work, the energy they use to power their homes, the energy used to make the truck they drove to work, the clothes on their back, the food on their tables. All energy resources you indirectly consume when you hire them to build the turbine, as it is work that is not being provided elsewhere.

Ignore material costs and you ignore the upstream energy required to extract the material from the ground, the energy required to smelt the material, the energy used to transport the material to the worksite for assembly.

The beauty of money is that it accounts for all of these upstream costs, including hidden ways in which energy is being consumed to provide you the inputs (labor and material) used to create a turbine--and you only need to look at the balance sheet.

And by ignoring that balance sheet you are deliberately ignoring many of the inputs (which have their own hidden energy costs) that went into making a turbine--and to what purpose? So you can feel better by pretending something consumed less energy than it did in its construction?

Comment: Re:Show me the money! (Score 1) 441

by w3woody (#47349283) Attached to: Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year

I"m fascinated at how this was rated "overrated" and "offtopic".

Were my numbers wrong? Was my conclusion incorrect? Or were my conclusions simply undesirable--and this was a communal effort to put fingers in your ears and shout "lalalalalalala!"

The trouble I have, and I've noted it elsewhere, is when you use a different metric other than money, you are selectively ignoring many of the upstream inputs that went into constructing a turbine--upstream inputs that use energy in their own right. Ignore worker salaries and you ignore the energy they expend driving to work and the energy they expend powering their homes at night--energy paid for in the salary you pay them. (I'm not suggesting you pay them less, but suggesting if you could use fewer workers you'd be using less upstream energy--hidden from this analysis--in the production of your units. And they'd cost less money to manufacture, natch.)

Ignore the raw costs of materials, and you ignore the high energy costs of material extraction and purification. Ignore the IP costs, and you ignore the material and labor costs that went into designing the turbine, from the energy consumed in running the computers used to design the turbines (and the fraction of the manufacturing costs of those computers apportioned to designing the turbines, which all have non-negligable energy costs of their own), to the salaries of the workers who designed them, to the test turbines constructed to verify the design--all with their own energy costs.

Money is fantastic because it allows for you to account for all upstream energy, material and human capital costs without having to do more than look at your balance sheet. It allows you to account for all upstream manufacturing costs of a pencil without ever knowing that the graphite came from South America, the eraser from Malaya, the glue which holds the wood together from some other location, without knowing the apportioned energy costs to run the cargo ship which brought those materials together or the cost to construct the manufacturing plant (including the heavy machinery and the fuel they consumed)--you only need to know the pencil cost $1.69 for a box of a dozen.

But continue to hold your fingers in your ears and shout "lalalala", and listen to reports that deliberately ignore a large number of upstream inputs in order to allow others to sell you a pig in a poke. It does no-one any good, because it pretends that what we have is good enough--and when others who pay attention to all of the inputs decide the investment isn't worth it, you can go around pretending that the problem is a conspiracy or a political problem rather than one where the inputs just don't make sense when compared to the outputs.

Comment: Re:Show me the money! (Score 1) 441

by w3woody (#47349205) Attached to: Researchers Claim Wind Turbine Energy Payback In Less Than a Year

... and everything except electricity have negligible cost.

And, more importantly, consume negligible energy.

Meaning if you ignore human capital, you ignore the resources they consume with the money you pay them--resources which also consume energy in their own right. If you ignore the cost to extract raw materials from the ground, you ignore the rather high costs of smelting the ore and extracting the ore from the ground.

In this case money is a far better metric because it counts for all upstream costs, including all of the energy costs consumed upstream.

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein