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Comment Terrible place for a solar plant (Score 1) 127

Chernobyl is at 51 degrees North latitude. That far north, the angle of the sun and the earth's tilt significantly reduces the the available solar power throughout the year. It's about the same latitude as Germany, which only manages a solar capacity factor of about 0.10 (i.e. if you have a fixed panel with 100 Watts peak generating capacity at that location, over a year it will on average generate 10 watts). Capacity factor incorporates weather, night, average angle of the sun, and less sunlight reaching the ground because it has to travel through more air due to its oblique angle through the atmosphere.

The continental U.S. sits closer to 40 degrees North latitude, and has an average solar capacity factor of 0.145. The best locations for solar are closer to the equator, and in arid environments with few clouds. Solar capacity factor in Southern California and Arizona for example is about 0.185. That is, you can get nearly double the energy production of Germany for the same surface area of panels, simply by putting them in a better location. Chernobyl sits along Ukraine's northern border. Unless there are huge differences in average cloud cover, Ukraine would be much better served by building the solar plant along its southern border.

Comment Re:This disaster is entirely of your own making (Score 2) 501

I thought the U.S. screwed up too at first. But then I read an article that in Europe, you basically can't contest fraud on your card. The reasoning is that because the chip cannot be defeated, and you're not supposed to tell your PIN to anyone, any use of "your" card must be legit. Either you made the purchase yourself, or you loaned the card to someone else and told them the PIN. So it must be your fault, therefore you are on the hook for the fraudulent purchases. Even if you're talking with the bank on the phone while sitting at home with your card in your hand, and there are transactions showing up on your account from Indonesia, they'll insist it's your fault. You are presumed guilty, and have to work to prove your innocence.

The problem is the chip isn't hack-proof. A researcher (can't find the article right now) showed that the specs for the terminals have several different protocols, one of which confusingly uses the same signal for "the correct PIN was entered" and "a PIN (any PIN) was entered." He rigged up a card which would make the terminal accept his PIN via this message (card connected to a computer in his backpack via a cable hidden in his sweatshirt), grabbed a half dozen volunteers, and demonstrated his hack allowing him to put charges on their cards at a bunch of random stores in France. Criminals have already been caught using this hack in the wild. There are probably other ways to defeat it too which we haven't figured out yet.

The chip and signature system allows an American cardholder to contest a charge simply by pointing out the signature doesn't match their signature. The system is more secure than magnetic swipe cards, but not so secure that banks and the government start to assume fraud is "impossible" and thus shift the burden of proof onto the victim to prove that s/he was victimized.

Comment Re:All the stories I'm seen look horrifying (Score 1) 482

You can upgrade to Win 10, and immediately roll it back to 7. It might uninstall some programs it deems incompatible, but otherwise should put you back where you started. Microsoft's servers register the fact that you've taken advantage of the free upgrade to Win 10 (dunno if it's tied to the hardware or to the Win 7 key), so you can go back to Win 10 for free again any time in the future. This is actually the strategy I've been advising - that way you can decide whether or not to upgrade to Win 10 after seeing what features/horrors the Aug 2 update brings.

Key transfer limitations are the same as with Win 7. Retail versions can be moved to new hardware. OEM versions are tied to the original computer.

You supposedly have 30 days to roll back to the previous version of Windows that you had, but I'd advise rolling back long before then. One of my VMs was upgraded July 2. I just tried rolling it back yesterday (July 28) and it said it was too late for me to roll back. This despite the Windows.old folder still being on the drive with all the Win 7 files still in there. On well, that's what snapshots are for.

Comment Re:The safe 1 minute summary (Score 5, Interesting) 126

United Airlines flight 232 crashed into an Iowa cornfield while attempting to land. A turbine in the #2 engine flew apart mid-flight due to a manufacturing defect, severing all the hydraulic lines. The crew controlled the plane with differential thrust from the two remaining engines, and frankly it was a miracle they even made it to the runway. Roughly a third of the people aboard were killed.

One of those killed was a lap child - a child flying without a paid seat, and thus held on a parent's lap during the flight. This presented a problem during the emergency landing. Lead flight attenand Jan Lohr followed FAA procedure and instructed the parents to put the child underneath the seat in front like a carry-on bag. After the accident, the mother (who survived) came up to Jan and, in tears, told her "I did what you told me to do, and I can't find my child."

Jan was beset with guilt, and began a quarter-century crusade to outlaw the practice of lap children. That any child flying should be required to have their own seat with a crash safety seat like we use in cars. She even testified about her experience before Congress. It all came for naught when in 2012 the FAA issued its final decision that lap children would still be allowed. A victory for the selfish, self-centered stockholders and management behind the evil airlines, right?

Not so fast. See, here's the thing. Flying is really, really safe. Due to the irrational nature of people's emotional mind, we fixate on large accidents while multiple small ones slip by unnoticed. So every time an airliner crashes, it makes national if not worldwide headlines. But if there's a car accident nearby, even your local news station is unlikely to cover it. Consequently we've spent decades concentrating on making flying disproportionately super-safe. The FAA crunched the numbers, and determined that if a family with a child decided to travel for vacation, the odds of the child dying in a plane accident - as a lap child - were lower than the odds of the child dying in a car accident while strapped into a car seat. So to encourage people to fly instead of drive with their child on vacation, they allow the family to fly without having to pay for an extra seat for the child.

The lap child policy saves lives, despite its horrific outcome when the statistics don't work your way and there's a lap child aboard a plane which does crash. (As for forcing airlines to give children a free seat, that doesn't work either because they don't know until the time of the flight exactly how many people will be aboard. The way the industry operates is to slightly overbook because on average a certain percentage of people will miss their flights. When that gambit fails and more people show up for the flight than there are seats on the plane, someone has to be bumped off the flight. Forcing them to hold an unknown number of seats in reserve for "surprise" undeclared children would shift the number of passengers for a "booked" flight down, forcing them to raise the per-seat price, which again would encourage parents of young children to drive instead of fly.)

Morality is hard.

Comment Re:Best selling product of all time? (Score 1) 359

This is something I've noticed about iPhone owners. Not all of them mind you, just a disproportionately larger share of them. They like the product not because it works well for them, but because it's popular. That is, their sense of the product's value is externalized. They feel better about their purchase because they know they're buying something lots of other people bought. That's why you get those silly iPhone covers with a cutout letting other people see the Apple logo - because it's important to them that other people know they have an iPhone.

When one of these people is a reporter, they'll write articles exaggerating how "popular" the iPhone is, because it makes themselves (and other iPhone users) feel better about their purchase. The best evidence of this is when iPhone users are proud that the iPhone has the biggest profit margin of any cell phone. As a customer, a big profit margin is against your best interests. If you had to choose between buying two cars and one had a 20% profit margin and the other a 5% profit margin, all other things being equal, you as the purchaser would take the one with the 5% profit margin. But because their sense of self-worth is based more on popularity, and profit correlates to popularity, they basically like that they are over-paying for a product, simply because lots of other people are also over-paying for the same product.

Comment Re:Stock media (Score 1) 211

They're not free. When you buy a CD (or DVD) of stock photos, the fee you paid for the CD or DVD includs licensing rights for you to use those photos commercially.

That's the way it used to work. The web changed all that by cutting out the middleman so to speak. You didn't need to buy an entire DVD full of images 99.9% of which you'd never use. You could go to the website of a stock photos company and license only the photos you wanted to use. Getty is one of those companies.

I'm more curious how Getty ended up thinking they owned the copyright on those images. If they misappropriated her photos, it's possible they misappropriated photos belonging to less-famous people by simply lifting them off web sites. I would propose Getty be forced to produce documentation (contracts for photos shot as work for hire, licensing rights for photos licensed, etc) for every single one of the photos they offer for sale. It's not unreasonable - that's what they ask you to do if they claim you're using one of their photos in violation of copyright. Now that their copyright "chain of custody" has been found to be flawed, they need to do the same for every photo they're using.

Comment $1 billion is actually pretty reasonable (Score 5, Informative) 211

The music industry set the bar at $22,500 per violation ($675,000 for 30 works) for an individual violating copyright without a profit motive. $1 billion for 18,000 works is only $55,555 per violation, which is relative to the Tenenbaum case is not unreasonable when you consider this is commercial copyright violation. Her lawyers are actually being nice by "only" asking for $1 billion. Copyright law allows her to sue for up to $150,000 per violation, which would be a cool $2.7 billion.

In other words, if she gets less than $22,500 * 18,000 = $405 million out of this, there's been a gross miscarriage of justice either in her case or the Tenenbaum cause. Unlike filesharing, what Getty Images did is precisely the sort of thing copyright law was made to prohibit - profiting off the work of others.

Comment Re:Location from Wifi? (Score 1) 109

It is very useful. The vast majority of wifi access points have fixed locations (homes, businesses). In my experience (I used my phone with GPS off in an older handset because it wasn't implemented properly and drained the battery), it's nearly as good as GPS - usually able to pinpoint you to about 20 meters.

Remember when Google got in trouble with the EU because their Google Street View cars were capturing too much wifi info? They were recording wifi info to build a global map of wifi hotspots specifically for wifi-based location services. Remember when Apple got in hot water for iPhones sending people's GPS location history back to Apple? They were doing that for the same reason - to build up a global map of wifi hotspots.

Comment Re:Another day in paradise... SNAFU (Score 1) 181

Bottled tap water - Aquafina (Pepsi), Dasani (Coca-Cola), as well as many store brands like Kirkland - is usually reverse osmosis filtered and shouldn't have these sorts of contaminants. RO is so effective you actually have to add minerals back to the water after filtering to improve the taste and prevent it from leeching minerals out of your teeth and body because it's so pure.

Bottled spring water is from a natural source, and will have things objective test equipment considers to be contaminants, including organics like algae. But people like to buy it because it's "natural."

Comment Re:I call BFD here (Score 5, Insightful) 603

Normally I'd agree. But 74 mph is too fast for any road which allows cross-traffic (truck was on opposite side and made a left turn through the Tesla's path). I'm actually surprised it was even marked as a 65 mph zone when it has an uncontrolled intersection (not even a stop sign in the left turn lane).

From an aircraft investigation standpoint (every accident has multiple contributing causes), I'd actually put most of the blame on the truck driver. If you look at the pic of the intersection, there is absolutely no way he didn't see the Tesla coming. He simply got impatient and made the turn, gambling that he could force the Tesla driver to slow down to avoid him (which didn't happen because the driver was inattentive with Autopilot on).

That's not to excuse the Tesla driver. A big part of road safety is that both drivers are trying to avoid an accident. When one driver abandons that philosophy, the chances of an accident instantly double. When both drivers abandon that philosophy, you pretty much guarantee there will be an accident. While the truck driver made a one-time mistake, a Tesla driver who relies too much on Autopilot is making a continuous mistake. There will be a high chance of an accident any time he (or rather the car) drives past another inattentive or reckless driver.

Comment Re:Free time (Score 2) 346

You're leaving out the core reason all of this works - someone else has to want what you're producing with your hobby for it to have a chance at becoming a new business. Big companies work because they've found something lots of people want, and have made themselves super-efficient at producing that something. To succeed at doing your own thing requires (1) you be good at doing it, and (2) it be something someone else wants (i.e. will pay) you to do. (2) is what allows something to transition from hobby to business. Even if you're the best person in the world at catching Pokemon, if nobody else is willing to pay you to do it, you can't turn it into a career.

Personally, I blame the parents of the millenials (i.e. my generation). We insulated them from failure as they grew up, teaching them that they could be whatever they wanted to be in life, ignoring how good or bad they were at it, and whether or not it was actually a job someone else would be willing to pay them to do. And when they moved out on their own and real life threw failure at them, they didn't know how to handle it because they'd never experienced it before while growing up.

IMHO, my parents generation taught us right - hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Try to achieve our dream career, but to have a "safe" backup plan in case that didn't pan out. Yeah you can try to become a rock star or pro athlete, but you really should make sure you first complete that employable college degree (i.e. not art or English lit unless you're really, really good at it). Y'know, just in case your dreams of music or professional sports superstardom don't pan out like it doesn't for 99.999% of people who try it.

Comment Re:22 Days? (Score 1) 44

Unless they were covering up the solar panels while on the ground, and only using them to charge batteries while in the air, there is no point.

Technically all energy sources except geothermal are solar. Fossil fuels are solar energy collected by plants millions of years ago. Wood is solar energy collected by plants in the last few decades. Nuclear is energy from stars which went supernova to create the elements heavier than iron that we use for fission. Wind is the air's movement in reaction to differences in localized warming by the sun. Hydro is water which was evaporated by the sun, and traveled to a higher potential energy state.

So if you're charging your batteries with solar panels while the plane is sitting on the ground, then it's really no different from using any of the above energy sources. It's all just collecting solar energy in one time period, and using it to fly a plane around the world in a different time period. They're just doing it with solar panels (collector) and batteries (storage), instead of with plants (collector) and oil (storage).

The only way this would be a technology demonstrator is if they're only using the solar panels to charge the batteries while in the air. That would be demonstrating that a plane can carry enough solar panels to sustain itself in continuous flight through both day and night. I've been following this project on and off since it first began with their first plane, and I still haven't figured out if this is what they're actually doing. It's like they want to do it because Solar! Not because it would indicate we've crossed a fundamental engineering threshold with PV technology (generating capacity / weight has exceeded a certain point which makes continuous flight possible).

Comment All of this has happened before (Score 2) 206

All of it will happen again. Before Yahoo (before the Web actually), there was a Veronica which did a fairly reasonable job of cataloging the big gopher sites. And before that, there was an ftp site (can't recall the name) which tried to mirror most of the content hosted on other popular ftp sites (and was eventually displaced by Archie).

Yahoo foundered because their core web search was built on people hand-picking what should be the best results for a search term. I remember trying to find a decent car mechanic in Boston, and being able to drill down their indexing tree for businesses, Massachusetts, Boston, car mechanics. And there was a list of repair shops who'd either registered themselves with Yahoo, or someone else had taken the time to add an entry for them. AltaVista gave that tedious indexing job to a computer, with mixed results since computers don't understand context or what people find valuable. Google succeeded because they realized the very structure of the web itself (i.e. number of links to a site) gave them that context - what sites other people found valuable.

Comment Re:Mall shooting in Germany (Score 1) 191

Way to ignore suicides, accidents, children accessing guns in the home and all the other bad things that happen that wouldn't happen if people didn't have guns laying around

I would've thought the events of the last few months would've put to rest this flawed line of logic. The folks saying "guns don't kill people, people kill people" were right. If you take away access to guns, people don't magically become non-violent and pacifist subjects. They figure out other ways to accomplish their goal of killing people. Like build bombs, or drive a truck into a crowd. These things still happen.

The number of people killed in the U.S. in 2013 from accidental discharge of firearms was 505. By contrast, the number of people killed by drowning (mostly in pools) was 3,391. 2,780 people were killed by fires. The number of people killed by going to the hospital was 2,768. Heck, the number of women killed due to complications from pregnancy was 1,138. All of these are a much bigger danger than gun accidents. You just have a warped view of the relative size of these risks because the media disproportionately over-reports gun accidents (probably because most of the people who work in it would like to see the 2nd Amendment repealed). If their reporting reflected the actual statistics, every single news story about a child accidentally killing someone with a gun would be accompanied by 7 stories of a child drowning in a pool, 5 stories of children dying in a fire, 5 stories of children dying due to a botched surgery or mistaken treatment at a hospital, and 2 mothers dying while giving birth.

21,175 people committed suicide by gun. But 19.974 people figured out some other way to kill themselves. So it's pretty safe to say banning guns wouldn't affect the suicide rate in the slightest.

The 11,208 murders by gun are the only area where the argument holds some ground. 4 people were only wounded in the Wurzburg train attack because the perpetrator only had a knife and axe. 1 person was killed and 5 wounded in the Reutlingen attack because the perpetrator only had a machete. If they'd had guns, the toll probably would've been higher. But it's foolish to think the number would've been zero (4,913 people were murdered without a gun). And 29,001 people were killed due to alcohol, 30,208 people were killed due to falls, 35,369 from car accidents (some overlap with the alcohol stats), 38,851 from overdoses and poisonings, 41,149 from suicide. If your goal is saving lives, all of these are much more important issues we should tackle first, before gun violence.

Fundamentally, violence, terrorism, and suicides (which account for 97% of gun deaths) are social problems. Eliminating the tool via which people are acting out on those problems doesn't make the problem go away. These things will still happen. Just not with a gun. This is a common logical error made by people with bleeding hearts (I won't say liberals because many conservatives make the same mistake too). They don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by blaming people for having faults, so they instead shift the blame onto other inanimate things that have no feelings. Like rap music, or playing too many video games, or porn, or frat parties, ... or guns.

To address these problems, you have to tackle the root social cause. Which is hard, scary, will hurt lots of people's feelings, and there's little consensus on what's the best way to tackle them. So nobody wants to do it that way, when you can take the easy way out and convince yourself that some inanimate object is the root cause, and that eliminating that object will cause all those other problems magically go away.

Comment Re:Not just at the border... (Score 2) 318

We have the same in San Diego - a border check on 5 fwy 40 miles from the border. It's the only direct way to get to Orange County from SD & I drive through it every day. I am baffled as to why we cannot keep the border checks at the border.

Because there are lots of other places along the border where foreigners can slip in illegally than at border checkpoints. The 5 freeway is the major thoroughfare from San Diego to Los Angeles, and unlike at the Mexican border you cannot drive willy-nilly around it through the desert (Camp Pendleton Marine Corp base blocks you). So pretty much anyone entering the country illegally who wants to go head straight to Los Angeles is funneled into I-5. (The alternate route is I-15.)

I think Trump's border wall with Mexico is a stupid idea, but that's exactly what you need if you want to eliminate these sorts of checkpoints away from the border. (Unless you're willing to just throw your hands up and give up control of immigration.)

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