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Comment Re:Town centers (Score 1) 193

I shudder to think of what the 3d printer people will come up with for "ink" prices and vendor-lock-in, especially given what they've managed to charge for inkjet cartridges. It would be cheaper to print with snake-bite venom than new cartridges.

This may sound overly pessimistic, but I fully expect consumer 3d printing to be a boondoggle. There will be incompatible, competing standards, there will be problems with designs not translating into physical devices properly (especially for inexpensive designs!) and since most 3d printing these days produces cheap plastic crap, it'll make just as much sense to get higher-quality, mass-produced cheap plastic crap at big-box stores where it's quality-checked to at least a minimum, than to attempt to produce one's own cheap plastic crap at home where one may not be able to perform the quality control one's self.

This does make me sad, but life will not be like Star Trek.

Comment Re:And it's only getting better (Score 1) 687

Both of those have much higher regulatory costs than their subsidies, though my understanding is that coal is a better proposition that way.
  Which is sad because nuclear with modern designs is far better than solar or coal. Coal actually puts more radiation in the environment and solar produces a lot more toxic waste compared to many designs that effectively recycle their nuclear waste down to a tiny fraction of older designs.

Mycroft

Comment Re:And it's only getting better (Score 1) 687

It was sooner than twenty years ago, probably close to 8-10 IIRC. I looked into it because my dad asked me to as he was thinking about putting solar on his roof. At the time they were still not (as a practical matter based on the real world, not a panels theoretical output under ideal conditions) not there. Theoretically in ideal conditions they were close, something like 95% if you used sun tracking near the equator with defect free cells that never degraded faster than expected and never had any cloud cover.
We found he could spend about 6500 to save about 7800 over 10 years if he got all the tax breaks and bought the cheapest reputable brand he could and did all the installation himself. Or he could put in a 4 hours overtime a week for 3 months and make more.
The horrible toxic wastes that making the cells generate were just salt on the wound for him.

Mycroft

Comment Re:And it's only getting better (Score 1) 687

Actually they cost more than that. But many governments subsidize their production and/or purchase by the end user.
    If they really have gotten significantly cheaper (actual costs, not post subsidy) than they produce over their lifetime in the last few years I've missed it (not really looked into it in abt 5 years).

Mycroft

Comment Re:Town centers (Score 1) 193

None of the hardware stores local to me sell high quality fasteners except for their non-chrome, non-stainless Grade-8 SAE or Grade 10.9 Metric, and I have lots and lots of places to choose from.

If I want high quality I have to go either Grainger or McMaster-Carr, and we're back to catalog again. So few people, relatively speaking, need this kind of hardware that it's difficult to justify speculatively distributing it around the country. It makes more sense to make enough to keep stocked in one or a few places, and to distribute it as ordered. Sure, it's annoying if you need a Stainless Grade 10.9 M10x1.25 10mm bolt, but most of the applications calling for this are also professional productions, not hobbyist or repair work, and the manufacturers or designers will order in batches to keep on-hand what they'll need for the development or manufacturing work, and reorder when they get low.

I've been surprised, in a good way, by Ace Hardware actually. Ace stores are franchises, and one franchise owner may only own a few stores, and their stores might not be close to each other. I have five Ace Hardware stores within ten miles of home, and only two of those are owned by the same franchise. They get to make choices for what they stock, and I know that this store may be better for fasteners and that store may be better for copper tubing and parts, and this other store may be best for PVC and black pipe and the like...

Heck, one of them has stocked HVAC-rated copper tubing in sizes over 1/4"ID, while most only sell lighter-wall in those sizes. This is handy for compressed air for the shop.

Comment Re:Town centers (Score 1) 193

Ah, but the bazaar and the make-it-yourself are basically cottage-industry levels of production, not mass production. You're generally not going to get identical things out of cottage-industry. If you want sameness or mass-volume, you have to use a factory of some sort, which means one or few points of production and a need for distribution.

Comment Re:And it's only getting better (Score -1) 687

It'll be a while, it currently take more energy to make a solar panel than it can generate in it's lifespan and costs more than coal or nuclear without the subsidies.
And that's not even counting that solar panel production has so much toxic waste associated that it's one of the worst.
That said I do like the potential if we ever find a way to make solar cleaner and cost effective without government (tax payers) money artificially sustaining what would otherwise be an economic failure.

Mycroft

Comment Re:NO NO NO (Score 1, Troll) 687

It can, only problem is last time I checked (a few years ago though) it took about 6 TW of energy to produce solar cells that could deliver that much energy. It also produced more and more highly toxic waste than the same in coal which in turn produces more radioactive contamination than nuclear, which in modern designs is even better and much safer.

Mycroft.

Comment Re:Town centers (Score 5, Insightful) 193

Before urbanization, we used to order much of what we bought from catalogs. You could order everything from shoelaces to a prefab house kit from the Sears Catalog, and if you lived in a rural place, you pretty much had to mail-order.

One can argue that the retail shopping experience that we've come to regard as the norm didn't really appear until the middle-class started shopping like the upper class did, where choice became possible and one could actually discriminate between objects to purchase. It's fairly expensive to run a retail store that's packed full of merchandise that lets everyone touch everything. You have to have plenty of floor space. You have to have pretty displays and lots of bright lighting. You have to clean up after the customers. You have to stock things speculatively en masse, and have to discount merchandise that doesn't sell but try to strike a balance between that discounted merch and full-retail prices for other merchandise, lest people not buy your full-price stuff and instead opt for the cheap stuff. And you have to deal with all of the inevitable clashes between your staff and the public, and between members of your staff.

A catalog service does away or shrinks many of these issues. Floorspace and lighting are what's OSHA-mandated. Appearance isn't so much an issue so long as the warehouse is kept tidy enough to avoid damaging the merchandise, and the warehouse can go decades between remodels if it's set up right in the first place. Less staff and no public browsing means no staff-public interaction problems, and if the staff is kept busy pulling and shipping merchandise, less staff-to-staff problems. The warehouse can also actually stock less materials if they want, so if something doesn't sell they don't have as much of it on hand as they might in retail stores, and since online it seems harder to compare this discounted thing with this full-priced thing on a tangible level, it might not even cannibalize full-priced sales.

I like some retail shopping, but sometimes it's really annoying, and I think there's plenty of good in a mail-order or internet-order catalog to make up for the negatives.

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