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Comment No way. (Score 1) 502

I'm a fan of solar and wind. I buy into the optional wind-source program offered by our local utility even though it raises my electricity bill by about 5%.

But when I recently looked into installing solar, got a quote from a local installer, it was going to cost $13k (after federal tax credit/subsidy) to buy and install a grid-tied system. That would replace about 1/2 the 700 kwH / month that we use at our house (gas heat, gas hot water, gas cooktop). Our utility charges $0.135 / kwH. The payback for the installation without counting on any alternative return on investment for the $13k was 16 years. The other assumption is that the solar system requires no maintenance.

Here is some of the information I got from the installer during the bid process:

1. In northern states in the USA, you can figure on about 1,250 kwH per year from 1,000 watts (manufacturer peak rating?) of panels. So if you use 625 Kwh / month, you need 6,000 watts of rated power to replace your usage 100%. That's only 24 250 watt panels, or a panel price of 6,000-$7,500.

2. If your panels do not get 100% equal sunlight, the array will produce at the rate of the most shaded panel. UNLESS you buy the panels with the inverter/converter built into it. Then each panel produces whatever it can, independent of the production of the other panels.

3. Batteries are expensive and they wear out in 10 years. So if you buy a big battery system for $6,000, you're effectively spending $600 / year on the batteries unless you make unicorn-rainbow assumptions about advances in battery technology. For this reason, a grid-tied system is probably going to be about $50 / month more cost effective.

4. Mounting systems for attaching the panels to your roof can cost around $100 per panel.

So, install it if it makes you feel good, or if you live in a place where power costs far more than the $0.135 / kwh it costs where I live. But until the costs drop by 50% or the price of power doubles, I'm not going to buy.

I think Morgan Stanley is probably going to turn out to be wrong. I don't think we'll see solar panel prices continue to drop 20% / year and right now, panel prices are only about 1/3d the cost of a system, the other pieces and the labor are 2/3rds, so even if solar panels dropped 20%, the cost of an installation would drop at best 10%, and more likely something like 6.7%.

Large-scale wind farms look more likely to me.

Comment Snowden is a hero. (Score 5, Insightful) 389

Mr. Snowden exposed, in an undeniable manner, a grave threat to the freedom of each and every US citizen. He deserves a Presidential pardon or some kind of get out of jail free card on this act, because he did break the law, but the law in this case is shielding people who are secretly undermining our fundamental freedoms through massive unwarranted spying on US citizens.

Is Snowden a criminal? Yes. Is he a hero to those of us who wish to continue to live in the land of the freer than average? Yes.
Here's what our government has been doing since 9/11/2001 gave the anti-freedom brigade carte blanche:

1. As Mr. Snowden rubs our face in it: massive and sweeping unwarranted surveillance and collection of data and meta data of our phone and internet communications,
2. Secret courts.
3. Extra-judicial assassinations of both foreign nationals and in rare cases, US citizens. 4. Drone strikes on people in many countries outside of our declared war zones (Iraq and Afghanistan).
5. Declaring war on a country that has not invaded us or attacked us or any of our allies (Iraq).
6. Detaining criminals without due process, no sentence, no release date.
7. Torture on a massive scale. Abu Ghraib is just where we got caught on film. We've funded the torture of thousands of individuals. We as taxpayers are complicit and accruing a pretty massive karmic debt.
8. CIA black sites where our government can and does operate outside any bounds of law or moral constraint.
Since 9/11, we have been sliding into a nasty democracy of evil and unconstrained government behavior. We need to start rolling this stuff back. Strike down the patriot act and adopt a pre-9/11 stance towards freedom, due process, privacy and the constitution. It'd be a bargain to suffer a dozen 9/11 attacks, compared to what we're becoming because of our craven fear.

Live free or die.

Comment A few more key ideas (Score 1) 598

1. 99.999% of end users/customers do not understand software design documents and never will understand software design documents. So we must prototype rapidly into existence so we can get useful feedback early and often directly from the people that will use the tools we build is important.

2. I rarely optimize for performance. But when I do, I always measure first, record the results, and after each change, measure again. Use a stop-watch, a routine you build yourself, or a fancy-pants Profiler that tells you how much time each line of code took, but never ever optimize without measuring.

3. Software Engineers/Programmers are usually religious fanatics when it comes to languages and tools. Almost any problem can be solved in almost any language. If you're on a project with someone who loves Java, they'll write better code in Java. This idea extends to OS choices. If someone loves the Mac OS, their programs written on the Mac OS will be much better than anything that programmer would ever write on Windows or Linux. 4.

Comment Don't Worry (Score 4, Funny) 1532

1. None of the essential services, such as air traffic control, will be shut down. You'll still be able to hop into your G5 and fly to Paris for dinner tonight.

2. OSHA, on the other hand, will stop inspecting your refineries, so some of your human resources employees may need to work a little harder to replace losses due to on-the-job mortality and morbidity.

If the #1 and #2 above do not apply to you, please ignore this post, it's not your government that shut down.

Comment Here's an effective diet in one Slashdot Post (Score 2) 461

1. Do not eat at any establishment that normally has a drive-thru window.
2. Do not drink any carbonated beverage except beer or sparkling wine.
3. Do not eat candy.
4. Eat one fresh apple per day. Generally favor fresh vegetables and fruits over grains, meats and dairy.
5. Eat stuff you like, but don't gorge. For instance, I go to my favorite Taqueria once every week or two, but I get two tacos instead of five. Most days, I eat food I cook myself.
6. Restaurants are not usually making low-calorie high-nutrient food in reasonable portions. If you are going out to eat, eat 1/2 the portion they put in front of you and share the other 1/2 or take it home or throw it out. There's no points for cleaning your plate.
7. Avoid packaged convenience foods. If it comes in a cardboard box with a picture of food on the outside, skip it. It's not food.
8. Count your calories with a smart-phone app. Be honest with yourself. If you log everything you eat, you'll make better choices.
9. A normal deck of playing cards is roughly the size of a day's healthy portion of meat (3 oz).
10. Get a moderate amount of exercise throughout the day. By exercise, I mean getting up and walking 15 mins or doing pushups or planking for 90 seconds. Building the big muscles in your body helps you burn more energy while resting. Overdoing this is useless and causes injury.

For extra credit, try fasting once per week to reset your hunger point and save one day's calories. Learn that being hungry for an hour or two isn't necessarily signaling the imminent end of your world.

Comment Orwell was right (Score 1) 442

The simple concept of Doublespeak explains very clearly what a government means when it says: Promote innovation through intellectual property law. Our governments mean to stifle, not promote. Copyright should not extend more than 20 years past the life of the original author. Public domain should be growing every year. Instead it's stuck to protect Disney.

Comment We will NEED GMO food crops! (Score 1) 679

We are not going to do anything effective to halt CO2-influenced global climate change. So, we'll need GMO crops that can withstand our increasingly destabilized climate. In 20 years, I predict the new GMO tornado-resistant tomatoes will make our current grocery-store red rocks seem soft and toothsome by comparison.

Comment Re:not where from, where to? (Score 1) 523

What an awful waste of both Scotch and Parma Ham. The high alcohol content of the Scotch mixes with the high salt content of the ham and utterly kills your palate. You'll taste neither with any acuity. With the Parma Ham, you're much better off with a semi-dry Prosecco. With the Scotch, don't eat anything if it's good Scotch. If it's bad Scotch, don't drink it, it's not worth the liver damage.

Comment Measure Programmer Productivity? (Score 1) 365

How can we have an intelligent discussion about the Cost-Effectiveness of older programmers vs. younger programmers without a method to measure programmer productivity? The only thing measurable is the "Cost." The "Effectiveness" part is left out completely. When you come up with a generally accepted method for measuring programmer Effectiveness, please let us know. Until then, I predict, anti-old-programmer bias in hiring and layoffs will continue in most organizations.

How does an individual programmer deal with this bias in her own career plan?

Option 1: Burrow deep into a niche technology upon which one or more corporations depend for tens of millions (or more) dollars in profit. Ideally this niche technology will be as attractive to current CSci students as learning COBOL is today. Show up for work everyday. You'll have employment opportunities well into your 70's.

Option 2: Start a small business. Software businesses have notoriously low start-up capital costs. If you can identify an unmet or under-served software need of a number of small or mid-sized businesses and work with potential customers to come up good solution, you can create a business that will feed you and your family until you no longer want to work.

Option 3: Bag groceries, deliver pizzas, work seasonally at the post office or in retail or try real estate or insurance sales or used car sales when you're 55 trying to survive to 65 and Social Security/Medicare.

I've seen a large number of techies (not just programmers, but Engineers as well) choosing Option 3 by default because they didn't want to stare the grim reality in the face.

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A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems. -- P. Erdos