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Comment Re:Only a fraction of US munitions... (Score 3, Informative) 189

So, nothing to do with all of the US troops and bases occupying their territory?

Boy, people have short memories. Iraq didn't renew a security agreement back in 2011 for political reasons. The local population didn't want it. The US was mostly withdrawn from Iraq at the end of December 2011. It took about 6 months before ISIS took advantage of the situation.

From 2nd link-

In July 2012, al-Baghdadi released an audio statement online announcing that the group was returning to former strongholds from which US troops and the Sons of Iraq had driven them in 2007 and 2008.[219] He declared the start of a new offensive in Iraq called Breaking the Walls, aimed at freeing members of the group held in Iraqi prisons.[219] Violence in Iraq had begun to escalate in June 2012, primarily with AQI's car bomb attacks, and by July 2013, monthly fatalities exceeded 1,000 for the first time since April 2008.[220]

I'm too lazy to look up when the US sent sizable forces back to Iraq, but it was only on request and permission of the Iraqi government.

Comment Re:Why did it come to this (Score 1) 347

If you want to kill an evil food company, lets go after Nestle.

Nestle are saints compared to Hersey.

Everywhere all over the world (except the US), Kit Kat bars are under Nestle control. In the USA, we are stuck with Hersey. Outside the USA, there are multiple flavors of Kit Kat. Some countries have seasonal flavors which they rotate in and out. I believe Japan has more than 30 flavors! Kit Kat bars (even the original flavor) from Japan and Canada taste better than Hersey's Kit Kat bars (opinion).

Hersey basically buys up the rights to brands, and then does nothing with them except swap out ingredients for cheaper ones. Their chocolate is the worst tasting mass-produced chocolate of a company of their size. Nestle at least innovates and brings out new products and flavors.

Comment Re:Ah, no. Just no. (Score 1) 163

An attacker who controls the meter also controls the meter's software, allowing him to cause it to literally explode."


No. Just no. Look them up, at most what they have is remote disconnect relays with a cycle time of 30 to 120 seconds. The aren't solenoids (wire coil relays) but stall motors that move the contanctor open or closed and are not fast acting. That is their only active function. The rest are passive. So they might be able to fiddle the bill, or turn your power on and off. But make the meter explode? I've not seen any designs that would fail in that way. Admittedly, I've not seen every design, but most use a stall motor to move a spring loaded armature/contactor set open or closed.

Consider these devices to be like a home router. You can hack one router, possibly cause someone some grief, but it generally won't affect them much even if their router is part of a big botnet.

The problem I worry about is if someone were to hack hundreds or thousands of these smart meters and started cycling large numbers of them simultaneously in a nefarious way. Electricity grids are generally managing a predictable demand. To do that, calculations are performed which consider time of day, forecasted temperature, weekday vs weekend vs holiday, recent rate of change of the demand (average of several time periods), yesterday's demand at the same time, etc. If the demand was suddenly unpredictable, managing the grid would become very difficult, possibly even impossible.

Comment Re:has to be asked (Score 2) 574

Not an expert here. Far from it, but it sounds like the electric generation and the grid control systems have the possibility for multiple sites of failure as well as multiple sites for intrusion by bad guys. This sounds like a recipe for disaster. Hopefully critical sites such as the defense department, local police departments, hospitals, etc., have standalone electric generators independent of the grid and web. Then again, a large enough cohort of spies and terrorists could disable those. Maybe we need a system of signal fires, flags, carrier pigeons to keep the grid up in an emergency. If the fuel supply or cooling water to power plants is shut down, why worry about the Internet controls.

At the end of the day, every major electrical generation site has means for some sort of manual control. There are enough "blackstart" (electrical plants that can start up without any external power) units in place to restart the grid in the event of failure. Syncing a generating unit to the grid "by hand" is not that hard (I have done it). You watch your Synchroscope carefully and flip the switch at the right moment. Then you open the steam valves to your turbine and start "pushing" on the grid, if the grid is small enough that you can actually push the grid past 60.3Hz or so, there are local systems in place to close the steam valve slightly, and automatically.

Much of the automation in place in the grid is mainly for convenience, stability during adverse events, and manpower reduction. You could have somebody physically at each major valve and switch with a radio and have them control the thing. I have done that too, it is a boring job but it is possible.

There are enough varied systems out there that launching a wide-scale attack would take a lot of time to prepare, and somebody would likely notice. Smaller attacks are possible but not particularly worthwhile, you can probably cause a small utility some grief and money but it wouldn't accomplish much. Stuxtnet was a huge wakeup call to the industry and NERC has been ramming good IT practices downwards to utilities and equipment OEMs for the last 6 years. The protections in place aren't foolproof but nothing is. The industry is full of engineers and we generally weigh the likelihood of risk & cost to recover.

Comment Re:It's the controller, stupid (Score 1) 221

If they'd make a nintendo-branded bluetooth dpad and holder we wouldn't be having this conversation, it would be a conversation about how much money they're making.

Touchscreens aren't everything. Humans have fingers. D-pad is brilliant. Stop drinking the Ive kool-aid. Poor Mario.

Oh, and make some more of those NES classics. Stupid nintendo. I'd have bought at least 5 of them if they were available. I got a knockoff chinese USB d-pad clone instead.

The future of gaming in my family is looking more and more like it will be Retroarch on either Android or Windows for the older games, and Steam for the newer ones. Nintendo offers a pretty decent walled garden, but it isn't a very big garden and the per-game cost is high enough to give pause when compared to the bargains that can be had on Steam.

Comment Re: "doing business" (Score 1) 55

No. Transportion of individuals and their belongings (your flight in), accommodations for a private individual (your hotel), etc are not mentioned in any of the piles of sanctions. And Americans can, to this day, send money electronically to a tour company based in China and receive a DPRK visa (delivered to Beijing for you to pick up there) in a couple of weeks. Take it from a guy who went there in 2013. "USA has very nice people but we don't like your government" was the attitude that North Koreans came to me with. The 8-day tour was hugely helpful for me to learn how to understand the reasoning of people from VERY different backgrounds.

Comment Re:A confused article (Score 1) 220

Except where it mentions actual cost per MWHr. ' It started with a contract in January to produce electricity for $64 per megawatt-hour in India; then a deal in August pegging $29.10 per megawatt hour in Chile. '

These production costs are huge. Prices in the Houston area wholesale are approximately $20-$25 per MW-h on any given day. And this is in a first world country with high labor costs and a high standard of safety.

The google term you are looking for is "LMP map", which is a map showing the wholesale price of electricity. (LMP stands for Locational Marginal Pricing) Add the term "MISO" for the midwest, "ERCOT" for Texas, "PJM" for the eastern atlantic states, "ISO New England" for the northeast, etc.

Houston seems be benefitting from excess wind production in other areas of the state, many of which are at substantially negative cost. Why would anyone sell wind turbine power at negative cost? Wouldn't it make more sense to shut the turbine down and spare the maintenance? The answer is the subsidies. Many wind farms make much more from the subsidies than their actual function of providing power. These factors are not shown on LMP maps, but you can imagine the subsidies must be quite high- there are pockets in Texas as I type this currently at -$20 to -$50 per MW-hr.

Comment Re:Savings (Score 2) 97

I wonder how much it will help owner/operators and the truck drivers. As it stands now, the truck driving industry is following textiles and meat packing into oblivion, where even a minimal living is tough to do.

I wonder how this will affect immigration policies, both in the USA and elsewhere. My company ships heavy industrial equipment and parts regularly. It is quite rare to see a US-born driver for these loads (step deck or flatbed, other types of trucking may vary). The barrier to entry is low- low education or english ability is not a huge barrier, which makes these jobs viable for foreign immigrants. If the driver workforce starts shrinking, and this seems inevitable, foreign immigration of low-skill workers will become an even more important topic than it is now.

Comment Re:New product opportunities (Score 1) 253

That's why I'll be offering a special device called an AirPods retention strap. It consists of a small cord connected to the end of each AirPod, that you tie to the device. It's so genius, and so obvious, I don't know why anyone never thought of doing that before.

You jest, but it is probably going to happen as a way to deflect liability for broken devices. My hearing aid has the potential to be bumped off and it has an small strap with an aligator clip. I have never used it (nor heard of anyone who does) but the description in the manual indicates that it is clearly a liability dodge.

Comment Re: Big whoop! Supercritical steam! I'm sooo afrai (Score 1) 160

Depending on the how much pressure the injection well pump can provide and the geology of the field, supercritical geothermal could be possible. Not common, but possible. Most geothermal wells are under 600F and the steam temperature declines over time. Heat carrying capacity of supercritical steam is not great, however, so this could potentially be very damaging to the geothermal field. It would also wreck havoc on most turbine designs, even ones with superalloy parts and overlays. Unlike most power plant steam, where the water chemistry is very carefully controlled, geothermal steam is quite dirty with sulphur and arsenic compounds and salts. Supercritical or even superheated steam could cause a creep / stress corrosion cracking failure quite quickly.

Comment Re: very large boilers create steam this hot. (Score 4, Informative) 160

This is not correct. Combustion temperatures can reach these temperatures, but boiler water circulates by convection fast enough that the heat is conducted away before the boiler tubes reach those temperatures. The superheater tube bundles must be carefully designed since they are cooled only by steam (less heat carrying capacity than water) and are often exposed directly to the radiant heat. Typical properties for high temperature steam for coal or natural gas plants is 1000F-1050F (538-566C) at 2400psi (measured at the turbine inlet). Plants do exist at up to 1100F steam with some designs using up to 4200psi steam, but these designs are less common due to extra costs of using thicker pipes and pressure vessels, requirement for superalloys and more frequent maintenance.

Comment Re:Theranos II ? (Score 1) 114

Note to VCs and other money-types.

When a candidate talks about 'revolutionary technology' make sure you see it actually working before you give them mountains of bucks. Oh, and make sure you get it independently tested, too.

Tech has already changed the meaning of 'innovative' to 'same as last year's model minus an interface port' now they're turning revolutionary into some ironic hipster term.

My experience (in a totally unrelated industry) is that there seems to be a large amount of money out there in private equity looking for something to do. Many of the people doing such work do their due diligence (since they will immediately gut and then flip the company), but suckers are born every minute. In other cases, it seems that the investor/investee relationship is protracted battle between con artists.

But I'm just an engineer, some big shot will probably just jump in here and tell me that I was naive to think the world worked any other way.

Comment Re:This MUST be fake news (Score 1) 243

Why in gawd's name would anyone mass produce such a device? This must be one of those fake news stories we've been hearing so much about.

I can't imagine any legitimate use for such a device, so I assume it would be made illegal as soon as the politicians can get off their duffs.

I'm sure certain companies and government agencies working with very sensitive information or critical infrastructure would find some value in it. You can disable USB in software or fill the ports with hot glue gun glue, but both can be undone/worked around. There may be other, better methods to secure the USB ports, but there are definitely some legitimate uses for such a device.

Comment Re:Shrooms, too. (Score 2) 151

From what I understood, it was indeed promising but it never went beyond that. The problem with psychedelics is that while we did have some very good results, it was too unpredictable. You talk about non-scientists but there is nothing scientists hate more than unpredictability. When a psychiatrist gives a drug to a patient, he wants to know the effects beforehand, he wants to know how things can go wrong, what to do next, etc.. You can't have it with LSD. I don't think we went passed the point of throwing it at a patient and see how it sticks.

One of the last potential use of psychedelics is for treating cluster headaches. A benign but extremely painful condition. Interestingly, the most effective treatments are all hit-or-miss repurposed drugs, psychedelics are of these.

Every drug has potential side effects and some level of unpredictability. If you were to measure the negative side effects and the benefits of commercial prescription antidepressants and mood disorder drugs, the net gain is very small or even negative in some cases. Some antidepressants on the market actually perform worse than a placebo. That's not a particularly high bar for these drugs to clear.

The only reason these drugs weren't fully researched is because they were made very difficult to study, both by regulation and by the social stigma / loss of reputation that anyone trying to study them would have to endure.

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