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Comment Not how you build a network (Score 1) 126

While this is an interesting variant, it faces the same problem that vehicle-2-vehicle communication based on the DSRC and 802.11p protocols does.

Nobody has ever, as far as I know, built a network technology where you must network with random strangers you encounter out in the physical world. You can't build that because there is no value to the first people to install the tech, no value even to the first million in a country with 250 million cars like the USA. The odds of any 2 given cars being able to talk is one in 62,000 at that point. How can you sell a tech that provides no value to the first millions of customers? Even with the legal mandate they are hoping for, it will take decades before there is wide deployment of the 2013 designed technology that is then very obsolete.

I explained this in more detail in my series on V2V at

Comment YMMV (Score 1) 561

YMMV indeed. Turns out half of these transit systems you talk about in the USA don't do so well on the passenger miles per gallon. The average is the same as cars (which get 35 pmpg) and not as good as hybrid cars or electric cars.

Outside of a few cities, these systems also take a lot longer to get where you're going, don't go where you're going, and don't run at night or much at mid-day. At rush hour you may not get a seat (they're efficient then, but lose all that with the non rush hour empty vehicles)

Big sedans are not that efficient, but private transportation can be very efficient, much more efficient than typical public transit. It can be lighter per person, it doesn't start and stop all the time, and it only goes directly from A to B, not out to C first to change trains.

Comment Re:Profoundly? (Score 1) 561

Yes, very profoundly.

Look at the numbers: 1.2 million people killed every year in traffic accidents, many millions more maimed or otherwise injured.

230 billion dollars per year cost of accidents in the USA (NHTSA)

50 billion hours spent driving every year in the USA (3 trillion miles.)

25% of greenhouse gases and many other pollutants emitted by cars. (Why robotic cars would seriously reduce that number is quite involved but it's possibe.)
Making serious dents in these is pretty profound.


Nearby Star Forecast To Skirt Solar System 135

PipianJ writes "A recent preprint posted on arXiv by Vadim Bobylev presents some startling new numbers about a future close pass of one of our stellar neighbors. Based on studies of the Hipparcos catalog, Bobylev suggests that the nearby orange dwarf Gliese 710 has an 86% chance of skirting the outer bounds of the Solar System and the hypothesized Oort Cloud in the next 1.5 million years. As the Oort Cloud is thought to be the source of many long-period comets, the gravitational effects of Gliese's passing could send a shower of comets into the inner Solar System, threatening Earth. This news about Gliese 710 isn't exactly new, but it's one of the first times the probability of this near-miss has been quantified."

Comment Watts' new post-- replying to a few rumors (Score 5, Informative) 1079

Peter Watts has put up a new post on the event. All emphasis mine:

"I'm at the point now where I can't talk a whole lot about ongoing proceedings. I am seeing a few common misrepresentations making the rounds, though, that I'd like to set straight:

  1. Some are concluding that, when I was "dumped across the border in shirtsleeves", I had to walk across the Blue Water Bridge in a snowstorm without my coat. No. The bridge is on the US side of the border, which they had to drive me across to dump me on the other side of; and Canadian Customs was on that other side. This was no Starlight Cruise; I was not exposed to the weather unprotected for an inordinately long time. Still. It's winter. And they have my coat.
  2. Others have warned me to delete my previous post, lest the bad guys seize upon it and twist it to their own dark purposes. Having had erroneous quotes attributed to me in the past, I know this is good advice (which is why I won't be commenting in too much detail upon some of the arcane blow-by-blows of the case in question). But my lawyer vetted that post before I put it up; I stand behind it.
  3. Thanks to whoever posted the link to the Times-Herald story. I have three comments about the allegations therein. Firstly, the story claims that I was entering the US, not leaving it: this is empirically false. Secondly, I find it interesting that these guys characterise "pulling away" as "aggressive" behavior; I myself would regard it as a retreat. And thirdly, I did not "choke" anyone. I state this categorically. And having been told that cameras were in fact on site, I look forward to seeing the footage they provide.

That's it for the technical items. I have only two more things to say. Firstly, I am absolutely flabbergasted by the online reaction to this story, and by the support (both moral and financial) that's inundated me over the past few hours. I don't have a hope in hell of answering even a fraction of the incoming traffic at this point, so for the moment let me just say I'm humbled and a little bit scared. I did not start this campaign; it actually started when I was still in jail, and had absolutely no idea what was going on. But to the catalytic folks who orchestrated it, know that I am looking into having my vasectomy reversed so that I can sire a firstborn son and sacrifice him to you.
Secondly, I'm going to bed.

Comment Just cringe harder next time: they have guns? (Score 1) 1079

I'm reminded of Digby's comments during the Gates incident back in July:

"I have discovered that my hackles automatically going up at such authoritarian behavior is not necessarily the common reaction among my fellow Americans, not even my fellow liberals. The arguments are usually something along the lines of "that guy was an idiot to argue with the cops, he should know better," ...

"Now, on a practical, day to day level, it's hard to argue that being argumentative with a cop is a dangerous thing. They have guns. They can arrest you and can cost you your freedom if they want to do it badly enough. They can often get away with doing violence on you and suffer no consequences. You are taking a risk if you provoke someone with that kind of power, no doubt about it.

"Indeed, it is very little different than exercising your right of free speech to tell a gang of armed thugs to go f*ck themselves. It's legal, but it's not very smart. But that's the problem isn't it? We shouldn't have to make the same calculations about how to behave with police as we would with armed criminals. The police are supposed to be the good guys who follow the rules and the law and don't expect innocent citizens to bow to their brute power the same way that a street gang would do. The police are not supposed wield what is essentially brute force on the entire population.

XBox (Games)

Modded Xbox Bans Prompt EFF Warning About Terms of Service 254

Last month we discussed news that Microsoft had banned hundreds of thousands of Xbox users for using modified consoles. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has now pointed to this round of bans as a prime example of the power given to providers of online services through 'Terms of Service' and other usage agreements. "No matter how much we rely on them to get on with our everyday lives, access to online services — like email, social networking sites, and (wait for it) online gaming — can never be guaranteed. ... he who writes the TOS makes the rules, and when it comes to enforcing them, the service provider often behaves as though it is also the judge, jury and executioner. ... While the mass ban provides a useful illustration of their danger, these terms can be found in nearly all TOS agreements for all kinds of services. There have been virtually no legal challenges to these kinds of arbitrary termination clauses, but we imagine this will be a growth area for lawyers."

Comment Do not go out for this show in North America (Score 2, Informative) 87

There's been a lot of press on this shower, and I think it's been very misleading. The predictions say there will be no special show in North America. The special show (only mildly special) will be only visible in Asia, at 21:40 UT and about an hour around that. Only if it is after midnight at 22 UT is it worth looking for this shower. Outside of that, ie. in NA, you will see a quite mild show, the kind you can see every year from several showers including the Perseids which take place on warm August nights.

This one has a new moon, which is indeed what you want for a shower but that is all it has. Expect to see one meteor every few minutes if you are doing well.

Even the Asian shower will be minor compared to the big showers of 98-02. And they were minor compared to the mega-storm of 1966. This will be nothing like that. Meteor showers can be fun, but I fear all the press on this one will disappoint people for being misled.

Comment What about the electricity? (Score 4, Informative) 227

Such a RAID is for an always-on server. Expect about 8 watts per drive after power supply inefficiencies. So 12 drives, around 100 watts. So 870 kwh in a year.

On California Tier 3 pricing at 31 cents/kwh, 12 drives costs $270 of electricity per year, or around $800 in the 3 year lifetime of the drives.

In other words, about the same price as the drives themselves. Do the 2TB drives draw more power than the 1TB? I have not looked. If they are similar, then 6x2TB plus 3 years of 50 watts is actually the same price as 12x1TB plus 3 years of 100 watts, but I don't think they are exactly the same power.

My real point is, that when doing the cost of a RAID like this, you do need to consider the electricity. Add 30% to the cost of the electricity for cooling if this is to have AC, at least in many areas. And the cost of the electricity for the RAID controller etc. These factors would also be considered in comparison to a SSD, though of course 10TB of SSD is still too expensive.

Comment Re:This should have come from someone else (Score 1) 94

Again, I would be interested to hear other people's definitions. The 90s are often referred to as the dot-com era now, and to me (regardless of whether ClariNet fits or not) this always was meant to refer to the explosion of companies (some real, some vapour) which arose to do business on the internet. The existing companies who simply started using the internet are not, as far as I can tell, what people refer to when they talk about this. Even though Microsoft and Apple might well be doing far more business on the internet than any upstart, they were not "dot-coms," precisely because they were not upstarts. The excitement of the dot-com era was about "Here's this new way to make a company, with better and cheaper ways to reach customers" that allowed small and brand new companies to rise to prominence quickly.

This is not to say that there was not a lot of excitement and talk about how existing companies would make use of the internet to grow or change their business. But there was, and is, a difference between that and the companies that used the internet to create their business. And you may not consider the difference between the two types of internet business to be all that significant, and thus not view ClariNet's position as possibly the earliest of the 2nd type as having any significance in the story.

It may seem like more self-promotion, but back in the early 90s the view was quite different. Back then every new internet book talked about the company, and the VCs were knocking on our doors rather than the other way around. It was exciting, but I incorrectly judged it to be overhyped, being too close to things. I think it's fair to claim it had a position of significance.

But mostly the anniversary showed up on my calendar and I thought it was time to write the story.

Comment Re:No, he's not. (Score 1) 94

UUNET certainly counts, and has a section in the article. I simply divide early net business into two categories -- selling the pipes themselves (which uunet is a pioneer in) and using them. There had to be dot-net companies before there could be dot-com companies. Even before uunet there were companies selling equipment for internet connection as a business, and there were the mostly non-profit regionals selling internet access to schools and labs. UUNet (version 2, the for-profit one) sold pipes and dial-up connections without the AUP on them, paving the way for dot-com companies to arise.

Comment Re:This should have come from someone else (Score 1) 94

No, I would certainly agree that a business created for e-Mail would be a dot-com. Or for FTP. I believe the term, in common usage, means the companies that sprang up to use the internet. That would apply to any of the protocols. It would not simply mean a company that used e-mail in its business, as that's every company (and was the majority of companies on the net back then, whether they admitted it or not.) Every company is not a "dot com," now or then.

Which company or companies are you suggesting were founded to use internet E-mail as their business platform?

The reason I concluded there were none, both back then when I tracked this keenly, and now, in retrospect, is that this would have violated the AUP, unless the company sold only products in support of research and education. This doesn't mean they could not have existed, but they would have to have been semi-underground. ClariNet got around that by using the NSFNet to feed research and educational customers, and then having them feed local commercial customers USENET style. Once the data had arrived at the lab or school over the backbone, the NSF had no problem if it was copied on a regional network not funded by NSF. With email, this was more difficult. Not that people din't ignore that, but I am interested to know who you refer to.

Comment Re:First, Brad? What about J. T. Toys? (Score 1) 94

Amazon is certainly a dot-com. It was created for the internet, it sells only over the internet.

What do you think it means to be a "dot-com?" I would be interested in other definitions. I discuss the most obvious ones (just having a domain in the .com TLD) or doing some business over the internet (which goes back to BBN) but I would be interested in your alternate definition.

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