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Comment Re:A cure for which there is no disease (Score 1) 249

There is no discernible reason to invest scarce resources in "smart meters" (which are looking more like "dumb meters"). Ordinary old-style meters do an adequate job, and give employment to a lot of meter-readers. (That's a good thing, by the way). They are sufficiently accurate.

I don't know what reasons you were given for using smart meters, but where I live accuracy and saving the wages of people wasn't the ones we were given. It boiled down to one thing: being able to pass the real cost of power to the customer. The hope is the consumer will then change their usage patterns. Changing it is possible in theory as the thing we use most of our electricity for is moving heat around - things like heating water, cooling houses, refrigerators and freezes, cooking and so on. You have a fair amount of freedom on when you run some things (washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, hot water systems), and it's not hard to store heat (or cold for that matter - we used to do it using ice boxes).

The incentive to move your usage to when power is cheap is pretty big where I live as the cost of power varies by a factor of 500% or so during the day. But of course you need a meter that can measure power consumption at 15 minute intervals or so, and that's not something the old-style analogue meters can do. Some electricity retailers here already provide tariffs that vary during the day - but you must pay for a smart meter installed to take advantage of them. Some people do.

Whether any of this pans out remains to be seen. It may well be the cure is worse than the disease as you say, but not for any of the reasons you give. A 500% price differential provides one hell of an arbitrage opportunity, but it one the consumer can't take advantage of because of the limitations of those old style meters, so traditionally taking advantage of it has remained securely in the hands of the electricity cartel. Having a smart meter means the consumer can break into that cartel, something that hasn't been lost on Mr Elon Musk's battery salesman.

Comment Re:It's been tried before, in the 90s. (Score 1) 160

It's not a profitable model.

Err, one of biggest car repairs on the planet have been using this business model (and only this business model) for 20 years. They can claim to be the biggest because the mechanics are employees, not contractors or franchises. I gather numerically others are far bigger.

Comment Re:Not new (Score 1) 160

Really, seems like a case of: X, but on the Internet!

Not even that. Lube Mobile is on the internet. In fact using their web site you can book the service / repair, get a firm price (even for some repairs!), confirm a date and time, even select your favourite mechanic if you want to. Someone does have to be there though when they start - they do require a signature before starting work, and someone has to provide payment when it's done, although this is usually via EFTPOS on the spot.

Comment Re:Nuclear: too dangerous, too expensive (Score 1) 88

In use, power plants which can't be throttled back for times of low demand are as much a problem as power plants which vary their output during the day.

Yeah, but they handle that by varying demand. To wit: most of coal here have an aluminium plant pair with them, who get their power for near free. They take the excess supply. It's not a total solution because the price of power here goes negative most nights (ie, the coal power generators PAY others to take their power) - so they are offloading some of it onto the rest of the grid as well. But to me that's fair, as ultimately the coal and nuclear power plants are paying the price for their inability to follow the load by giving away the energy. Currently wind and solar are offloading the cost of not being able to supply when needed to the rest of the grid. Clearly they will have to pay the cost one day - probably by giving their excess power away to pump storage operators, who then get to sell it later.

How we pay for the peak demand pumped storage, which still costs $5/watt but is only used a couple of days a year is an interesting question. But we have the exactly the same issue with transmission lines - we have to pay a huge amount extra to cope with demand imposed by just a few days a year. We managed it, so I guess we will manage it with pumped storage too.

Comment Re:Nuclear: too dangerous, too expensive (Score 1) 88

In reality they have just crossed another milestone: they are cheaper when they are generating. That will do for now while there is substantial fossil capacity to back them up, but if we are to phase out fossil fuels entirely the figure you have to compare nuclear to is generation plus storage.

The cheapest by far is pumped storage. In countries with plenty of hydro it's effectively free. For the rest of us it's about $1/watt generation capacity. Nuclear comes in at $8/watt or so. Wind comes in at $4/watt and solar is hitting parity with that, so even with storage renewables are cheaper. Nuclear is already history.

An argument I often see here is there are no sites available for pumped storage. Turns out that's wrong. Here in Australia (which is mostly flat desert) we did a survey recently. You need is a hill where you build a dam about 500m in diameter, that has a valley about 400m below within 3km or so. Turns out the country is littered with literally 10's of thousands of sites like this.

None of this is free of course - you still have to spend the $5/watt or so. Australia's energy consumption is 50GW, so that totals AU$250 Billion. That's a metric fuck ton of money to a small country like Australia. But as it happens out coal generation facilities are near retirement, so we would have to spend it anyway.

Comment Re:Where the fuck is the problem? (Score 1) 532

But frankly, what's wrong with smoking in a bar? ... Nobody forces you to go to my bar

As others have pointed out the staff can't go elsewhere. Non smoking bar staff have successfully sued their employers after getting lung cancer.

I wouldn't worry overly about it. I'm an Australian, and it looks like is end of the line for Australia's actions on smoking. The two areas that annoyed voters were their kids starting smoking due to peer pressure and slick ads, and the mess smokers left around with 2nd hand smoke and butts. The kid problem has been cured by making it expensive and making the packs so ugly it wasn't cool to be seen with one (seriously: no one looks cool with a picture of a gangrenous foot near their mouth), and the 2nd hand smoke was cured by banning it from public places.

If it does stop here it will be one of those rare successes in public policy. It leaves people are still free to do whatever they dammed well please in their private life, while stopping them from effecting others with their less healthy habits.

I'm hoping our nanny state government will notice the success and apply the same techniques to the illegal social drugs. Making them legal, putting high taxes on them, and regulating the purity will solve a myriad of problems. Stopping people dying from injecting bad shit is one of them. Using those taxes to get people to pay for them rehab down the track is another. Removing the money from the swaps created by illegal gangs is another. Win. Win. Win. It is a nanny state, so I guess it won't happen. But I can dream ...

Comment Re:BTW (Score 1) 145

Like or loathe him, it's hard to argue that Trump hasn't been one of the most influential people of the year.

In what way? The only thing I can think of is blowing an extraordinary amount of hot air. Extraordinary is in italics because he's US politician in an election year, so a very high bar has been set by his co-competitors in the hot air stakes. Yet he didn't get just beat them. He clobbered them so hrd they still don't know quite what happened. It was an amazing performance. It's what got him elected and deservedly so.

But influential? He's done nothing beyond telling us what he is going to do. Given that changes day by day to the point of being self contradictory I don't see how anybody could overly influenced by the literal meaning of the words. The underlying message that appealed to the voters must have worked at a much deeper level than specific promises. I've seen many articles theorising on what that message might have been, but few agree and none are convincing. I struggle with the idea that an entire nation could be influenced by an idea nobody can describe. So far his main influence is hold us spellbound, waiting and wondering what his first concrete moves will be.

If he really does jail Clinton, build a wall across Mexico and whatever else he has promised, then yes he will deserve the "person of year award". Probably "man of the century" as well, when the time comes. ("man" because this "person" crap is another piece of unnecessary PC that needs fixing and if he delivers on even 1/2 his promises he's just the man to fix it).

Comment Re:Good journalism is like middle class prosperity (Score 4, Interesting) 624

Once Trump became the leading Republican candidate, they were writing "analysis" headlines questioning their obligation to neutrality.

No they weren't. They were questioning the reporting style they had used for decades - the one where give the appearance of fairness by treating statements from both sides with the same respect. So when Trump said "If I will get rid of Obama care", they gave that the same weight as Clinton saying "I will keep Obama care". And they treat Trump's claim that "Obama wasn't born in the US", as they give to Clinton's view that "Obama was born in the US".

The practice of giving both sides equal weight has always been questionable. I am left scratching my head when I see a reputable news outlets give the same weight to and anit-vaxer's claims as they do to a professor of virology, and later defend it in the name of fairness. Nonetheless, they seemed to be firm believers in the process - until Trump came along. He made it utterly untenable to treat the pronouncements of both candidates identically.

Comment Re:Pointless hype (Score 1) 343

if you want to increase the signature of the stealthy aircraft there are lots of easy ways

You missed: open the weapons bay doors, which the F-35 has to do every 10 minutes or so if it wants to avoid cooking it's munitions. Quoting that link:

  • The F-35's weapons bay can overheat if if the plane is maintaining high speeds at an altitude of under 25,000 feet and an atmospheric temperature 90 F or greater. The trouble occurs if the plane's weapon day doors are closed for upwards of 10 minutes, and opening the bay doors negates the F-35s stealth capabilities.

Has Physics Gotten Something Really Important Really Wrong? (npr.org) 387

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from NPR: Some researchers now see popular ideas like string theory and the multiverse as highly suspect. These physicists feel our study of the cosmos has been taken too far from what data can constrain with the extra "hidden" dimensions of string theory and the unobservable other universes of the multiverse... it all adds up to muddied waters and something some researchers see as a "crisis in physics."
The article quotes Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Lee Smolin, the authors of a new book arguing that "Science is corrupted when it abandons the discipline of empirical validation or dis-confirmation. It is also weakened when it mistakes its assumptions for facts and its ready-made philosophy for the way things are." And according to this analysis of the book, what they're proposing is "to take a giant philosophical step back and see if a new and more promising direction can be found. For the two thinkers, such a new direction can be spelled out in three bold claims about the world. There is only one universe. Time is real. Mathematics is selectively real."

Comment Re:"Trusted" (Score 1) 368

Why do you trust the main CPU, if you don't trust the ME chip?

Because hardware designers making the odd mistake is just normal. I've spent a fair portion of my life papering over their mistakes, always successfully. But to fuck things up beyond redemption; that requires a computer programmer - just ask the patients treated by Therac 25.

Comment Re:I assumed this was already a default (Score 2) 924

A multi-user system shouldn't allow unpriviledged users from consuming resources indefinitely. It's too easy to starve a system or resources. I think that's one of the reasons behind the isolation dockers provides in the first place. Shut down the container and everything gets cleaned up.

What "multi-user systems"? Multi-user systems died somewhere around the turn of the century, when the personal computers became common.

Secondly the people whinging about there do not give a shit about your concerns over large computer systems. And you should listen to them, because they are the people who run those systems. They are the sysadmins in charge of large clusters of machines they control with the likes of ssh, ansible and puppet. If there is a task left running when they log out, it is because they wanted it to be running.

All that aside, this is not 'nix having some issue with leaving processes running indefinitely when a person logs off. I've used 'nix of one version or another since V6 - and even back then it had a solution. When the user logged out, a SIG_HUP signal (so named because back then it was trigged by a modem hangup) was sent to all processes started by that login, and they were killed. So it's been a solved problem for 30 years.

The current problem is the caused by desktop guy's themselves. All the processes that drive their windowing systems needed to communicate, so they created one. Actually they've created several - corba, dcop, and now dbus. Initially they were used for communication configuration changes and such - eg, when you change the desktop font size everyone knew about it immediately, so the entire screen just changed. Then they found new uses for their toy - and soon it is used to communicate to backend daemons to do thing like bringing network interfaces up and down, which often required new processes to be created. That was followed by "address book servers", and "wallet servers" and god knows what else. In doing so they managed to break the old SIG_HUP system for desktop users, because their sometimes new processes weren't spawned by child processes of the login - they were instead spawned by system daemons.

So the desktop guys created a problem for themselves (only). The rancour you see here is the solution they have implemented and forced down everyone's throats breaks existing stuff. This is just laziness. If they insist on designing systems that have background daemons spawning per-session processes they could go to the effort of, you know, tracking them, so they can kill the bloody things when the session ends. Tracking things is after something computers do real well. Yes it would be more work - but they created the problem.

That said - if they were to go to the effort of accommodating legacy stuff (which they did in an exemplary way for the change from SysV init to to systemD init) by say offering up patches to the few programs that do leave stuff running in the background (nohup, term, screen, ...) I still wouldn't be satisfied. That is because what they have put together is a godawful mess, and this "solution" typifies it.

The first time I noticed the winding IPC monster was starting to grow is vim complained it could not save its settings ... when I was running it on a remote machine. wtf? Turned out they had pushed the tentacles of this mechanism to a remote VIM, and it was trying to save its settings on my laptop. Then ssh stopped shutting down properly - turned out because they weren't closing the IPC tunnels they had built. Then network connections started mysteriously changing their configuration - because the desktop had told network-manager who told a dhclient to do something with a virtual network device I had just created - wtf? It has since become evident that where before I could see state of my machines in static text files in well known places usually put there by me, now it was configured by inscrutable ephemeral messages being transmitted between daemons I didn't know had been started and don't write their state anywhere.

Although I have deep misgivings about this design, it ain't an area I'm interested in so I'm willing to concede it may be all necessary to make a desktop machine work. And to be fair, for your average desktop user who can't fix it if it all goes wrong anyway, it doesn't matter if underneath it's plumbing is complex mess only it's creator could understand. But for fucks sake keep this shit out of my domain - which is large clusters of machines that must be up 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - or I have my arse served to me on a plate. This "fix" is a typical example of then not doing that.

Comment Re:The Intel 1915 GPU Gen9 driver finally works! (Score 1) 149

And then there are people that just refer to the definition of what "booting an OS" means, instead of doing silly games.

I suspect we are from the same generation. When the term OS was owned by computer programmers, you had a point. We studied books on how to write operating systems. They sat at a very specific place in the software stack.

That meaning was subsumed when popular culture conscripted the term OS to mean Windows, Android, iOS or whatever. Even Wikipedia uses it in this way. In todays nomenclature after the OS boots, you use it to run "apps" - usually by clicking or tapping things. When you upgrade the OS, you upgrade the entire stack. Nowadays OS could reasonably be defined as the software waiting for you to do something after you power the the device on. If your laptop boots into X and then waits - running X is most definitely part of the boot process. If it doesn't run X, then obviously X isn't part of the boot process - but userspace programs that configure the network, run ssh deamons and display login prompts most definitely are.

Today we use terms like "kernel" where we would have used OS years ago. I thought you were playing word games - but maybe you haven't caught onto how popular culture has re-purposed a term we used to consider our own.

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