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Comment Just like the memory industry (Score 1) 435

How many times in the last 30 years have we seen this exact kind of boom and bust in the computer memory business?

There seems to be a 4-5 year cycle of high prices, over investment in production, and price crash. You see similar cycles in disk drives, LCD screens and other components. I suspect it is endemic to businesses that have massive capital costs for each technology iteration.

Yet we don't hear people saying that computers aren't viable simply because memory suppliers are having challenges timing market demand cycles.

Comment These comments prove the point (Score 2, Insightful) 803

As I read the comments for this topic, what stands out is that there are a bunch of arbitrary and conflicting interpretations of the "right" place to put things on a Unix/Linux system, each of which is justified by some sacred "historical reasoning" (even though no one can ever agree on said reasoning).

And that is the problem. Why should I have to know which arbitrary approach happened to be followed by a particular distro or installed package?

I don't have touchy geek pride or a need to whip out my big nerd phallus at parties--I just want the systems I manage or use to be reasonably robust and consistent. I don't care who wins--I just don't want all the variations.

Comment Re:Direct Competition? Already being demonstrated (Score 1) 156

There are already several comanies working on multi-core ARM chips for servers, because they believe that will be the most power-efficient way to handle big workloads. Here is one product announcement from the day after ARM 64 was announced:

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Applied Micro Circuits Corp. fired a shot across the bow of Intel, demonstrating the first 64-bit ARM server processor here. The X-Gene chip is the first of an array of competitors that will attack Intel's multi-billion dollar server franchise with cheaper, lower power ARM SoCs.

AMCC's X-Gene packs multiple 3 GHz cores complaint with the ARM 64-bit V8 architecture announced today at ARM Tech Con. The cores are quad-issue, out-of-order superscalar designs. The chip also sports Ethernet MACs, PCI Express and Serial ATA linked on an 80 GByte/second fabric.

The company showed a working version in an FPGA emulation it will ship in January. Silicon will sample in the second half of 2012.

Comment Does nuclear really equal "progress"? (Score 5, Interesting) 848

Nuclear is, at best, a faustian bargain--awful, but arguably less awful than a few other choices.

While many Slashdotters happily wave away its real-world problems (waste, decommissioning, uninsurability, capital intensiveness, fuel supply, terrorism, non-distributed grid model, construction lead time and yes, slight potential for massive damage to life and property in a large geographic area) as irrelevant, many others are less sanguine. And that is not just because they are idiots--they look at the factors, weigh them and draw different conclusions.

And there are alternatives that might well be better. A recent study by the California Energy Commission that looks at estimated costs of 21 types of energy generation facilities estimates that a gen-3 Westinghouse AP1000 1,000 MW Pressurized Water Reactor would generate electricity in 2018 (the first year any of them could be expected to reach operational status) for between $0.17/kWh and $0.34/kWh.

The cost of solar PV today is already competitive with the high end of that range, and is dropping at a rapid pace.

This comes on the heels of another new report showing that the free-market insurance costs for nuclear would add from ($0.20/kWh) to a staggering $3.40/kWh.

If costs are the same or lower for renewable energy technologies that have numerous benefits and far fewer risks, why would rational people choose nuclear?

Submission + - Nuclear in 2018 more expensive than solar PV today (thinkprogress.org)

hmbJeff writes: A study by the California Energy Commission that looks at estimated costs of 21 types of energy generation facilities estimates that a gen-3 Westinghouse AP1000 1,000 MW Pressurized Water Reactor would generate electricity in 2018 for between $0.17/kWh and $0.34/kWh.

The cost of solar PV today is already competitive with the high end of that range, and is dropping at a rapid pace.

This comes on the heels of another new report showing that the free-market insurance costs for nuclear would add from ($0.20/kWh) to a staggering $3.40/kWh.

If costs are the same or lower for renewable energy technologies, why would rational people choose the risks of nuclear?


Amazon, Rackspace Add New Cloud Capabilities 45

miller60 writes "Amazon Web Services has rolled out Elastic Beanstalk, a free feature which automatically handles the deployment details of capacity provisioning, load balancing, auto-scaling, and application health monitoring. AWS execs tell GigaOm that Beanstalk represents a move up to Platform-as-a-Service and is designed 'to address the idea of vendor lock-in and inflexibility that commonly afflicts other platforms for application development.' Meanwhile, Amazon rival Rackspace Hosting has extended its cloud platform to its European data centers, opening the service to customers bound by data protection regulations, and says it now has more than 100,000 cloud customers."

Comment For something more polished, try SipX (Score 1) 83

I looked at various Asterisk-based distributions for the residential phone system I run in my condo complex, and I found them all to feel pretty messy and hacked together. I kept looking and found SipXecs (http://sipfoundry.org), which is an amazingly polished open source project used in many companies.

It has a completely-integrated web management interface that controls all aspects of system config and operation. It is highly scalable, allows for clustering, comes pre-integrated to support SIP trunks from many carriers and phone devices from many vendors. It includes voicemail, IM, ACD (call center functionality), all completely managed through the web interface, and provides a user web portal as well for allowing access to these features plus call routing rules, phone directories, etc.

Architecturally SipX is cleaner, I think, than Asterisk, and is fully SIP-based. Calls between phones on a SipX switch pass their audio directly to each other, rather than passing through the switch, as is the case in Asterisk. Integration for SIP trunks is built-in. However if you need to use physical phone lines, SipX connects through external SIP gateway hardware from many vendors, rather than depending on the messy integration of cards into the server itself.

I now run phone service for myself and 25 of my neighbors for less than half of what we were paying, with way better features. Many SipX installations scale easily to hundreds of users.

Comment Inexpensive and open stuff from EKM (Score 1) 172

Check http://ekmmetering.com./ They sell simple metering units that can either meter small (up to 30 amp, I think) circuits directly, or any size circuit using external current sensor rings. You can chain together a number of meters with simple 2-wire serial connections and attach them to a net-connected controller. The controller can be read from anywhere with a simple TCP socket call or they provide a free app that does it. The app runs on Windows, Mac or Linux. I plan to use their stuff for a networked submetering system for the co-op I live in, to allow us to consolidate down from 30 utility meters (which cost $14 per month just to be hooked up) down to 4 meters. This will also allow us to share and net-meter a large solar array we are developing.

Comment Re:Have you ever heard of "positive feedback loops (Score 1) 1657

One individual is not threatened--he could just move when his ecosystem gets unworkable, although he would have a hell of a time selling his old assets(who would buy them?) and buying new ones somewhere else.

The problem is, when this happens to hundreds of millions or billions of people all at the same time, where do they all go? Into your cozy niche?

Not to mention the problem of losing many of the investments of thousands of years of civilization, when cities are made unusable due to rising coastal waters and tidal estuaries, failing water supplies or the repeated damage of extreme weather events. What is the economic hit of losing Manhattan or London, or Tokyo?

Sure, some people will be OK, but do you really think we can maintain our economic growth, our just-in-time global industrial systems, our political stability and the rule of law under such stresses?

Maybe, but why would anyone think so, when tiny little fluctuations in the economies of single countries (like the runs on currencies in Mexico, Thailand, Russia, etc.) end up causing huge global disruptions. Don't you think a systemic change in the physical viability of large areas of the planet might knock a point or two off the old DOW?

Comment Have you ever heard of "positive feedback loops"? (Score 1) 1657

This seems to be a key point that is obfuscated or ignored by deniers. That there are gigantic sinks of fossil carbon, in addition to the fossil fuels we bring up, that have been sequestered safely under the conditions prevelant during all of human civilization. Many of these are predicted to, or have already begun being released, as global temperatures rise. Positive feedback means the more it happens, the more it will happen, until the system spirals wildly out of control.

Example of this are the permafrost areas at the edge of the Northern polar region, the Methane Clathrates, reversal of the Amazon rain forest from a carbon sink to a source, and the greater absorption of heat from sunlight as melting ice and snow changes Earth's albedo.

And here is what is meant by irreversible--that these feedback loops will accelerate and cause massive disruption in time scales directly relevant to human civilization--i.e. the next few centuries, at least. Deniers like to bring up crap about there having been massive changes in temp all throughout the billions of years of the fossil record, so we should all relax. That is true, but in each case, these changes caused massive dislocation or extinction of the dominant plant and animal species of that time.

We're talking about what happens to this particular race of animals that is here spending its time reading and writing Slashdot postings. It is disingenuous for deniers to claim some lofty halo of wisdom that transcends mere human-centric concerns, especially when, for the most vociferous of them (such as the paid lackeys of Exxon-Mobile), they are more concerned with making a buck in the next fiscal quarter than they are about the concerns of even the humans alive today, much less those not yet born.

Comment Pixel Qi screen -- better than Kindle (Score 3, Insightful) 584

See the Adam device from Notion Ink. It will ship with a Pixel Qi screen that works in reflective mode (like the e-ink screen on a Kindle) in sunlight. However, unlike e-ink, it can also run in full color with normal video-friendly refresh rates, just by turning on the backlight. You get the best of both worlds, including very low power usage when running in reflective mode. On most Pixel Qi devices this switching on and off of the backlight can be done manually or automatically with an ambient light sensor. The Adam device runs Android, rather than a direct Linux OS.

Feds Target "Mongols" Biker Club's Intellectual Property 393

couchslug writes in with a Reuters account of a Federal raid on a California-based motorcycle club, the Mongols, on charges "ranging from murder and robbery to extortion, money laundering, gun trafficking and drug dealing." The interesting twist is that the authorities are asking the courts to seize the IP of the biker club — specifically, their trademarked name "Mongols." "Federal agents and police in seven states arrested more than 60 members of the Mongols motorcycle gang on Tuesday in a sweep that also targeted for the first time an outlaw group's 'intellectual property,' prosecutors said. The arrests cap a three-year undercover investigation in which US agents posed as gang members and their girlfriends to infiltrate the group, even submitting to polygraph tests administered by the bikers ... [T]he name 'Mongols,' which appears on the gang's arm patch insignia, was trademarked by the group. The indictment seeks a court order outlawing further use of the name, which would allow any police officer 'who sees a Mongol wearing this patch ... to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back' ..."

Comment Re:Skeptics, what's your program? (Score 0, Troll) 659

I think "vast sums of money in government handouts" is a bit overblown. The entire budget for the U.S. National Institute of Science (NIST) is about $640 million for 2008. According to this summary, about $5 million of that was set aside for "Measurements and Standards for the Climate Change Science Program" (although NASA and NOAA probably spend a lot more). Exxon Mobil alone is making 10 billion dollars of profit (not revenue) every 3 months. Who is getting the "vast sums of money"?
I suspect this fear of environmentalists is mostly just a fear that someone will try to tell you what you should (or should not) do, and you might not like what they say. That is understandable. However, the mentaility of the lone rugged individualist "doin what I want with MY land" has always been a false abstraction even when people were spread thin, as no piece of land exists in isolation from the rest (unless you happen to live in the biosphere project ;-). It is suicidal when applied to a population approaching 7 billion armed with technology, a market-driven mythology of infinite growth, and 10 million gallons a minute of oil equivalent fossil energy (to put this number into perspective, one gallon of gasoline provides usable energy equivalent to about 2 months worth of human physical labor. Thus, every minute, fossil fuels provide the equivalent energy of over 200 billion extra humans working).
And why the hyperbole of "Gaia-worship-by-force"? Most enviromentalists I know are exquisitely practical in their thinking. They see systems in operation that SIMPLY CANNOT BE SUSTAINED OVER TIME and treat this as a problem to be solved. I suspect that you too would acknowledge, if asked in a respectful manner and encouraged to extrapolate things you already observe or believe, that things cannot go on this way much longer. Environmentalists look for workable solutions to this dilemma that can be applied early enough that there is some hope of having an effect before critical natural systems reach a point where they essentially fail to operate. Mostly they want to start by leveling the playing field for alternatives, or by giving them a minor start-up boost to help overcome the inertia of entrenched approaches.
As for Gaia worship, yes, environmentalists frequently look to biological systems for guidance. This is because they are the only systems known that can continue to operate successfully for extended time periods without catastrophic failure. Properly cared for farmland can be (and has been) productive for tens or hundreds of generations WITH NO EXTERNAL INPUTS except for the input of the sun and the natural distribution mechnisms of the water, carbon and other cycles. No technological solution ever devised can come close to doing this (the majority of farming done today is an industrial process for turning petroleum and natural gas into food--see The Omnivore's Dilemma for a good exploration of this).
Again, I ask, what is the program? Because one's personal unease with the consequences being a sprawling race on a fragile lifeboat is no substitute for a workable plan.

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If the aborigine drafted an IQ test, all of Western civilization would presumably flunk it. -- Stanley Garn