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Comment Earthships (Score 1) 735

This seems like a good article on which to talk about something I've recently been reading about: Michael Reynolds and his Earthships.

So this guy, for almost 45 years now, has been building homes out of recycled materials (tires, cans, and bottles mostly). They're designed to as close to "carbon zero" in their energy requirements as possible. They collect their own water from the roof and store it in cisterns rather than needing public water infrastructure or pulling from an aquifer. They are heated and cooled passively by the sun, both in the dead of winter and the height of summer. That of course cuts out the bulk of any energy requirements, since heating and cooling require more electricity than anything else in a typical home. Earthships also treat their own waste water on-site using a greenhouse full of plants. So every piece of public infrastructure that a typical home would require is all taken care of on-site. Water, power and sewer.

Even with drastically lowered power requirements compared to a conventional house, the complete solar power system to run an Earthship costs $25-30,000. That's a few solar panels, a few heavy duty batteries, inverters, charge controller, etc. Now triple or quadruple that setup for a conventional home, unless you just want enough for emergency power, in which case you might as well just have a 7kw-10kw generator installed. What many people are doing is just installing solar panels tied to the power grid to decrease their electric bill. That kind of installation pays for itself within a few years, but of course does absolutely nothing to give you power in emergencies since your local inverter shuts down when the grid shuts down and you have no battery bank to store the power even for overnight usage.

In short, Earthships clearly demonstrate that true grid-independent solar power is still extremely expensive, at least in the initial setup cost. Solar installation should not be talked about in terms of absolute cost but in terms of how much stress it will remove from the public infrastructure and how it will help decrease the country's dependence on centralized energy production. That's not to mention how many millions of people won't have to lose power, water and sewer every time there's an outage. That's really the major benefit to putting in a complete solar power system: partial or complete independence from the grid. Not saving money. If even 10% of homes were Earthship style homes, the impact on the public of major infrastructure outages would be lessened quite a bit. Decentralizing weak points of infrastructure should always be seen as a good thing.

Anyone who's interested in sustainable and/or off-grid housing should visit the Earthship website (earthship.com) or view some of the videos on YouTube. Look for "Garbage Warrior" and "Earthship seminar". Michael Reynolds has been demonstrating for decades now that it is possible to build sustainable homes that don't require any infrastructure for about the same overall price as a conventional home. But you definitely need to think a little bit outside the box.

Comment Time perspective (Score 5, Interesting) 109

More and more in the last decade or so I have seen things that lead me to believe that humans have been basically modern humans for approximately 200,000 years. That's how far back our ancestors have been traced through our mitochondrial DNA. I have no doubt that in coming decades there will be new discoveries that will keep pushing the dates of "modern" human behavior further and further back.

This is a fascinating concept to me because it means the human race and basic forms of human civilization have been around for an incredibly long time. Basic concepts like languages, writing systems, trading, counting, money, philosophy, astronomy, martial arts and many other things have probably been invented, forgotten and reinvented hundreds of times by individual geniuses over the course of those 200,000 years. All the sci-fi stories I've ever read where it's seen as some amazing thing that an alien race has been around for more than a hundred thousand years... Well, the human race proves that's really not that amazing. Or, conversely, that the human race is equally as amazing as those "ancient" alien races. In fact, we could be considered one of those "ancient" alien races, from the perspective of an alien race.

When I was younger, the concept was that just a few thousand years ago we were retarded cave men, and then suddenly civilization happened. Nowadays what I picture is more like endless millennia of fairly intelligent people living like Native Americans in many different ways, with pockets of even more modern cultures that rose and fell through the ages, until finally a few thousand years ago a few things like writing and math were (re)discovered and remembered and propagated to enough other humans that modern civilization exploded into being and had enough momentum and population to finally stick around, where it hadn't been able to "stick" before. I think it was basically luck that things didn't develop either ten thousand years earlier or ten thousand years later. All the basic elements seem to have been there for a looooooong time.

Just my pet theory. I am not an anthropologist, obviously, just fascinated by the things that may have happened during early modern human history, which seems to extend much further back than what I was taught in grade school.

Comment Re:Bob's value (Score 4, Interesting) 379

This.

Read the ancient but still highly useful Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. This is a textbook example of a situation that can be attacked using the advice in that excellent book. If you sidestep Bob when trying to bring this new system in there is about a 98% chance of significant strife and animosity resulting from such action. If you are able to get on Bob's good side and work with him to introduce a new system, things will go infinitely better. Especially if everyone including Bob thinks it's mostly his idea.

Here's the catch though: You can't fake it. You must approach people with a real, genuine interest in getting to know them. If they are difficult to deal with you have to find some chink in their armor that will make them more approachable. If you fake it you will go down in flames and the Dale Carnegie approach will never work for you.

Any other angle of attack in this situation usually will turn out very negatively for one or both parties.

Comment Re:Huh? (Score 1) 816

Darth Mickey?

How long before we see a T-shirt with Mickey holding a light saber and the text below it:
Minnie, I am your father.....

Uhh...

http://www.google.com/search?q=darth+mickey+t-shirt&hl=en&client=opera&hs=wkI&rls=en&channel=suggest&prmd=imvns&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=N2CRUNalJ6_xigLalYH4Cw&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAQ&biw=1863&bih=1073

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=darth+mickey&qpvt=darth+mickey&FORM=IGRE

You folks never been to Asia / Chinatown before? I'm sure a lot of them are officially licensed versions also. Been around for many years.

After the horrors Lucas inflicted on us with the new trilogy I'm surprised anyone is complaining. New ones can't possibly be worse or even as bad, as long as he's not in charge of production/writing/design/etc. anymore.

Comment Re:Be careful! (Score 1) 168

Seconding the parent.

A lot of folks here seem to be confused about the difference between someone finding and disclosing a vulnerability that you found on YOUR OWN COPY of a piece of software, and finding and disclosing a vulnerability that you found while you were on SOMEONE ELSE'S COMPUTER SYSTEM.

To the legal system, and most judges, prosecutors and juries, computers are still "magic". It doesn't matter how childishly, stupidly simple it was to find the problem, or how dangerous it is to others, what matters to the law is that you "accessed" a part of someone else's computer system that you were not authorized to access.

To put this in analogy form, it is illegal to break into and enter someone else's home without permission. If you live in a duplex with a crummy lock on the front door and you find out that YOUR locked front door can be opened with a toothpick, that's one thing. Complain to the landlord or replace it with a better lock if you happen to be the owner. If you then proceed to open your NEIGHBOR'S locked front door with a toothpick, you are committing the crime of breaking and entering, and if your neighbor is at home and sees you doing this he would be well within his legal rights to call the police and have you arrested for B&E. If you're LUCKY and your neighbor is a reasonable person you can explain that you were just testing the security of his front door for him. But you are not legally protected in any way because it ISN'T YOUR HOUSE.

It's stupid, and people have regularly been "burned at the stake" (i.e. "sent to prison") in recent decades for the criminal equivalent of say, checking to see if a stray black cat has a collar and tag. But that's the way it is and to pretend otherwise is very naive.

So do as most people are advising. Find another service and forget any of this ever happened. If it really burns a hole in your heart not to warn them of the problem again, find a good email anonymizer service and send them just enough detail for them to identify and fix the problem, without identifying yourself.

Comment Re:Yay old people! (Score 1) 423

When I was in high school (early 2000's) I used to wonder how they were going to teach lawmakers and enforcers so they could cope with all the new crap that was being made. Were they going to send them all to schools to teach them how networked computers worked or maybe hire a bunch of IT advisors? I was being way too optimistic, its been a decade of incompetent, ignorant, old people making and enforcing laws without an understanding of what they are making laws about. Why is there now law requiring knowledge and education in the field for which you make and enforce laws?

Bwahahaha! Son, I was in high school in the early 90s, and let me tell you, the decades of incompetent, ignorant old people making and enforcing laws without any understanding of what they are making laws about did not just start 20 years ago. It's been with us for at least 20 *centuries*.

The only thing that can possibly change things is geek types managing to get themselves elected, like what's happening with the Pirate Party in various localities. Politicians and enforcers who don't already understand technology are completely uninterested in being educated. Things will unfortunately have to get far more draconian before the general public will really start voting in any new blood in significant enough numbers to make any real changes to the system. By the time enough new blood gets elected there will be new issues that they won't understand because they'll be the old fogies. It's an endless cycle.

Comment Re:Thank you for your interest in this topic. (Score 1) 357

The next step appears to be to move from algebraics to broad descriptions of the type of data you want to download. This is waiting on computers with a great deal more processing power and perhaps emergent AI, but there will come a time where instead of feeding a bunch of packets over a noisy channel the Internet will simply say to your computer "short film with 20-something actor wondering whether to marry now or enjoy life for a while longer" and your system will fill in the rest, completing the transfer mathematically. This is down the road a ways, but newer technology such as lossy compression for data is already available and potentially lucrative for those who are willing to think outside of the conventional box and try something with a few more holes in it.

Later that day your surgically implanted computing device warns you that you're about to run out of space on your 300 petabyte holographic storage crystal. Surprised, you do some investigating and find that the crystal has been filled with 17,381 full-length short films with a 20-something actor wondering whether to marry now or enjoy life for a while longer. At the end of the month you get billed for 2.3 billion dollars for exceeding your monthly data transfer quota.

This happens every month.

A truly glorious future awaits us!

Comment So sad... (Score 2) 533

The saddest part of this kind of crap is just how silly it all is. If instead of just paying her for private sex the "johns" were paying her to make a private "adult film" (with them as director and co-star), then she would simply be an "adult film star" and they would be making "pornography" which is perfectly legal. Take away the camera and suddenly it's "prostitution" which is illegal. Even though the participants and the sex acts will be exactly the same.

What... the... FUCK?

How many more decades or centuries will it be before society at large finally acknowledges that it is complete bizarro-world insanity for "consensual sex for money" to continue to be highly illegal while "consensual sex for money IN FRONT OF A CAMERA" is perfectly legal? It's the same goddamn thing for Christ's sake! Make up your fucking mind!

Prostitution should be exactly as legal as pornography. Legalize it, regulate it, tax it, and test sex workers for STDs/HIV at least once a month just exactly the same as they do with "adult film stars". Any other course is utter nonsense. A few of the actual civilized countries of the world seem to have figured this out, but I give the US another century before it happens here. At least.

Comment Re:One main unified desktop? (Score 1) 1154

I know I'll get flamed for this since it goes against the Linux philosophy, but how about getting rid of competing Gnome and KDE (and now Unity) desktops and agree on one standard desktop with a single API for everyone to write to. And maintain backwards compatibility for the API so an application written for GnoKDE 2.0 still still run unaltered on GnoKDE 3.0.

I know that having multiple desktops gives users choice, but there are many talented developers on the KDE, Gnome and Unity teams, and it seems like they could make a much more polished and usable product if they worked together instead of coming out with separate products. Oh, and stop pushing out alpha releases (I'm talking about you, Ubuntu/Unity) as the default desktop and telling users that it's for their own good.

But hey, don't trust me, I use Xfce since it does everything I need in a desktop.

This is really the core of why Linux is a total failure with mainstream computer users. Because there is no such thing as the "Linux desktop". There never has been and never will be. There is only a frankenstein's patchwork of hundreds of slightly different Linux desktop distributions (and their variations) which are _based_ on Linux. The only Linux desktop that will ever succeed in the market is one that is unified and standardized and packaged as a well-supported product. What's that new distro that's become almost a household name? Oh yeah: Android.

Yeah, it's Linux, but they don't talk about it being Linux, they talk about it as the Android Platform, and that's exactly what it is, a stable platform on which to develop applications. App developers don't develop their apps for "Linux", they develop their apps for "Android". And the public knows it only as Android.

I fully expect to come back in another decade and see the same situation in the Linux world that exists now, with infinite combinations of a half dozen different popular window managers, distros, GUI frameworks and so on. It's a fiddler's paradise that works well for approximately 1% of the population. But for normal humans there will be no penetration of the market until you can say to someone, "THIS is the Linux desktop. There is no other." And that is never, ever, ever, EVER going to happen because it is completely contrary to the whole spirit of the open source community which spawns Linux and it's variations. Individual independence and unilateral dictatorial leadership decisions do not mix well, but it is precisely the unilateral dictatorial decisions that lead to consistency. But consistency can't make everyone happy, which is why open source development was started in the first place! What the geeks want and what the general public wants are diametric opposites!

What the Linux community really needs to get over is the idea that the "Linux desktop" should in any way be competing with unified commercial desktop platforms. Because it just fucking CAN'T. It is NOT the same animal, and it is NOT made for the same reasons. The "Linux desktop" will NEVER become mainstream. The only possible way that Linux will penetrate the mainstream is as a stablized, commercially supported, branded product like Android. Even then, it will need to be combined with hardware. Notice how Android and Mac OS X are not marketed to the public independently of the related hardware. Android is marketed with smartphones and Mac OS X is marketed with Mac hardware. Linux on the other hand is marketed as a software product independent of hardware. It's an aftermarket modification with extremely limited appeal.

It's kind of like marketing a replacement engine that does all the same things as the engine that's already in your car, is pretty reliable and very fuel efficient, but you probably won't be able to find a mechanic in town to fix it if it breaks down. Why would any non-mechanically-inclined car owner want that? The answer is pretty obvious: They don't. They're perfectly happy with the engine that's already in their car, and they will only be changing their engine when they buy a new car. Sure, there's a subset of people who love to rebuild and swap engines, but that is a tiny part of the car market, just as users who swap operating systems are a tiny part of the general computing market.

This is why there is nothing that can be "fixed" to make the non-existent Linux desktop palatable to most regular computer users. This isn't really that complicated, people.

Comment Re:Showers (Score 1) 365

Only stay at places with shower facilities. RV'ing can be fun, but without some comforts like the ability to take long/hot showers, it will always feel like a small step above camping.

Not something you will want to do for several years. And find places with electrical outlets. Air conditioning is something to die for during the summer, and you wont have it if you are running a generator only.

Just FYI there are quite a few 5th wheels on the market with very roomy nice bathrooms and there is at least one company (Girard?) that is now making an "on demand" water heater that lets you have hot water for as long as you have fresh water and propane. I'd recommend that anyone wanting to fulltime in an RV get something like that installed so that all you need to look for is a site with at least a city water hookup, sewer and power. Most larger 5th wheels are also equipped for either a single or a stacked washer/dryer setup. If you have that you also won't need to limit yourself to locations with laundry facilities.

I'd go so far as to say that the two most important things to look for in your RV are 1) a good insulation package including thermal/double paned windows, and 2) a nice roomy bathroom. Everything else is just gravy. Proper insulation will save you gobs of money paying for excessive propane and/or electrical usage, and lets you stay wherever you feel like staying, rather than needing to follow the seasons like many RVers do. A roomy bathroom will make it feel like you are at least staying in a decent hotel room as opposed to feeling like you're "camping". These two things will make a world of difference.

Sources: Me, from researching the RV market for the last several months after my wife and I rented a class C RV for three weeks last fall and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Comment Re:One click for $235 (Score 1) 242

I've been working in IT depts for roughly 20 years and can't remember ever having issues related to "data breach from lack of encryption". Not saying it doesn't happen, but I reckon for most people (outside of finance/defence/govt etc) it's overkill.
It raises a question, how much security is too much? Do you have a lock on your front door? 3 locks? 45 locks? If you had 100 locks on your door and only locked 99 of them, would this be considered vulnerable? This is how I think of the security industry. One lock is fine. If that doesn't work, then no amount of extra locks will help. The bad guys will simply break a window.

Holy cow that was the most retarded post about encryption that I think I've ever read here, yet somehow it got modded +5, insightful. WTF, Slashdot?

The password you use to login to your computer is like a door lock. Too easily bypassed.

Full Disk Encryption is like building your entire house out of 6 inch thick plate steel, with plate steel shields that descend to protect the doors and windows when you lock the house. And the bad guys only have their hands, feet and a nail file to use to break in with. Overkill in the physical world? Yes. But in the digital world it now costs about the same as not doing encryption, and makes it thousands of times more difficult for the bad guys to get your data.

Your understanding of the relative benefits of digital security vs physical security is really terrible.

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