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Comment Just replace your thermostat. It's easy. (Score 2) 252

"We turned your thermostat up to 85 degrees and you can't change it. We want $5000 worth of Bitcoins in 72 hours--or we find out if your furnace perpetually on full-blast will burn your house down.

You do realize that virtually all consumer thermostats use a fairly standard interface, and they can be swapped with one another, right? This includes the Nest/Ecobee, etc. If someone threatened me like that, I'd laugh at them, disconnect the thermostat from the wall, and attach a cheap replacement.

Comment XML is being generous (Score 4, Informative) 32

Having looked at the XML files they provided, while some are marginally useful, about 1.4 million reply comments are simply dumped into CDATA sections without any consistent formatting or separators. After much regex splitting, it was readily apparent that the downloads they provided were missing about 700k comments. Glad to see they're actually admitting it and may even remedy it.

Comment Re:Weird article (Score 1) 177

I doubt it as its intended to track flying things. This data is already available from multiple sources.

The article mentions several times that it can be used to track cars, trucks, and boats. Obviously we have data from lots of interstate monitoring stations, as well as devices to measure the amount of traffic passing specific points, but I'm not so sure we have such detailed data across such a wide swath of territory (multiple states) that could actually track object movements (rather than, say, just a count of vehicles passing a point). Maybe someone who knows better can chime in.

Comment Weird article (Score 1) 177

Weird article. On the one hand, it presents the blimps as the "last gasp" of a white elephant, defense contract gone-wrong project. On the other hand it plays up fears about privacy that are probably a bit overblown (the blimps don't have cameras, and even if they are installed, the range drops from a 340 mile radius to "dozens" of miles).

Even so, radar can track hundreds of square miles of traffic, and the real question is what the Army will do with that data.

Hopefully they will let transportation analysts have a look at it? Could be really helpful in infrastructure planning.

Comment It's because it's by David Fahrenthold (Score 5, Interesting) 200

I guessed that before even opening the article. He has a habit of writing misleading Washington Post pieces about government waste. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of government waste, but blame does not fall squarely on NASA. I complained about a piece he wrote last year:

David Fahrenthold's April 24, 2013 article "Feds spend at least $890,000 on fees for empty accounts" incorrectly states that the Pentagon spent $435 on a hammer. That claim has been repeatedly debunked for a number of years. The hammer was $15, and the the $420 represented R&D costs for a project spread evenly across all items. See, e.g.:

To which he responded:

Hello, Dave Fahrenthold here from the Washington Post. I wrote the story that dealt with the cost of “zero balance” accounts, and so I was forwarded the correction request you sent earlier. First, thank you for reading, and reading the story so closely. At this point, I don’t see the need for a correction to the story. Here’s why: the story says that the Pentagon “paid” $435 for a hammer. I had written it that way consciously, since I’d seen the findings you referenced in that govexec story: the hammer’s cost to the Pentagon included $420 worth of overhead (which had been distributed evenly among all the items for which the Pentagon was charged in that same order). The cost of the hammer, at least on the Pentagon’s books, was $435. To me, it’s still correct to say that’s what the Pentagon “paid,” no matter how that cost had been calculated. I’d welcome your thoughts, however. I’m grateful again for the feedback. DF

Nice enough, but to me this shows that he very well knew the full story but chose to present it in a purposefully misleading way. Given that there is so much real waste, I don't understand the need to latch on to myths like this.

Comment Re:XBMC Finally? (Score 1) 140

On one hand, it's overkill for little electronics projects where something like an Arduino would be much better suited.

Kind of. But if you want network connectivity for an Arduino, the cost starts to add up very fast. In contrast, you can get a Pi with a built-in ethernet port, or stick in a cheap WiFi dongle.

They recently released the A+, which is $20. You can get USB Wifi dongles for under $10, add $5 for an SD card, so for about $35 you've got a dev board with WiFi. Compare that to the Arduino ethernet shield, which by itself is over $45. The WiFi shield is even more.

The only thing comparable I can think of is the Electric Imp - I've been playing with one over the past few weeks. It's $25 for the unit, which includes built-in WiFi, and $12 for a breakout board. They provide an online IDE that is very easy to use. However, the whole platform is web-hosted, which makes me pretty uncomfortable.

Comment Re:I am by no means a fan of Comcast... (Score 1) 291

"a blog post about the increased electricity costs, where they conclude it's about $8 per year in the mid-Atlantic area -- if it's being used." And this suit is being filed in CALIFORNIA, where the price of power is much higher.

I wouldn't put too much stock in an analysis that confuses kW with kWh (it's probably just a typo, but these things matter). FWIW I live in a state with the fourth highest average electricity costs in the country, so I'm very sensitive to electricity costs. But it's not fair to compare a year's usage at idle vs a year's usage at full load.

If they wanted to make this realistic, they should have estimated the average time one of these public hotspots is used, and then compared that additional cost to the average home usage of the private hotspot (while noting that at some points the usage may overlap, and so the electricity cost may be shared between the two).

Comcast gave me their Technicolor POS modem that came with a public hotspot. It was a terrible router in general, so I took it back and got an older model that has been far more reliable, plays nice with my own router, and doesn't have a public hotspot (or WiFi at all).

Comment Re:Web Searches For These Suck (Score 1) 127

Concur that my initial Googling for R topics was sometimes frustrating. But lately I've had little difficulty. Stackoverflow or the R mailing list archive are usually the top results. Not sure if I've adjusted or what.

My experience is that if you have any experience programming, R makes far more sense than other common packages, like Stata or SPSS. After all, it's an actual programming language. My biggest adjustment was learning how to not use loops.

Don't even get me started on SAS.

Comment Not necessarily (Score 1) 195

Not necessarily. I've no idea about remote starters; the window deal could probably be accomplished with basic electronics, though sounds like a pain. But you can get RPM readouts and many other stats through the ODB II interface required for all normal cars in the U.S. since 1996. There are bluetooth and USB adapters available; I imagine you could probably put together a project with an Arduino that would display RPM readout on whatever display device you want. It's probably already been done.

Comment Re:21 cents / kWh in Connecticut, 38 cents in Hawa (Score 1) 148

I'm an apartment dweller, so many of the home upgrades aren't possible for me, though when I do buy appliances, energy efficiency is a top concern (recently got a front-loading washer). Line-drying was a no-brainer - why pay when the sun and air will do it for free :-)

Just replaced an energy-hogging server with a low-power version (about 30 watts with little load, 45 with heavy load). It's normally on S3 suspend, and I use WOL to wake it whenever I need it, including remotely (it also wakes itself twice daily, once to do a backup, and once to update a household energy usage chart online).

Bake more instead of frying. Turn off the oven in the last few minutes.

Now that one surprises me. I do have an electric range/oven, and I would have thought that pan-frying would use less electricity than baking - especially since I'm usually baking for at least 30 minutes, whereas cooking in a pan can often be done in 20 minutes or less. I get that the heat is well-retained in the oven whereas a lot is lost on the range, but I don't have a way to actually measure the stove's usage. I do generally put baked items in before the oven's preheated and turn off the oven before the time has elapsed, except when I'm doing breads.

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