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Power Grids: The Huge Battery Market You Never Knew Existed

JaredOfEuropa Re:We have day and night rates (179 comments)

Poor reliability would be an issue, but to what extent is that really a problem with older batteries? I haven't heard of older batteries somehow being less reliable, though older Li-ion cells can have safety issues.

As for replacement, that seems a rather simple operation: disconnect the old battery, remove it, slot in a new one. Even having to replace it every 2-3 years shouldn't be an issue as long as the replacement battery is cheap enough after deducting the salvage value of the old pack. It's probably less of a hassle than the yearly maintenance of your gas heating furnace. The only issue is weight: that Tesla pack apparently weighs around 500kg, but it consists of 14 modules that can perhaps be split and carried out separately.

6 minutes ago
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Power Grids: The Huge Battery Market You Never Knew Existed

JaredOfEuropa Re:We have day and night rates (179 comments)

Indeed, cost is the most important factor; energy density, weight, and projected lifespan are less important for fixed installations. Household energy storage may be an attractive market for end-of-life EV batteries; a battery which has degraded to 80% of its original capacity and expected to drop to 50% in 5-10 years of daily use is crap for a car, but perfectly fine for a fixed installation if you have room for a few extra batteries. The smaller Tesla battery at 50% of its capacity still holds 30kWh, sufficient to power the home of a typical (Dutch) household for 3 days. Combined with solar, that's not quite enough to disconnect from the grid, but it's pretty good.

When household energy storage units become more popular, I suspect that the utilities will indeed want to make use of the market opportunity that GP identified, to balance the grid by selling excess power to consumers without solar panels at an attractive rate. My municipality already did something similar 25 years ago; our house had a warm water tank and electric heater, which we could operate but which the power company could also turn on remotely. If we let them heat the tank on excess power, the kWh rate charged to us was much lower than the regular rate.

2 hours ago
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Apple Said To Team With Visa, MasterCard On iPhone Wallet

JaredOfEuropa Re:Why? Nobody uses NFC payments (178 comments)

There's an offline mode for payments? I've never seen that in action, and the only portable terminals I have seen have a cellular data connection.

The card itself is indeed capable of verifying the PIN, which is used for online banking and payments (at least it is in the Netherlands). Online banking uses one-time passwords (OTP), generated by a small dongle into which the bank card is inserted. The card's PIN has to be entered on the dongle every time in order to generate an OTP, and the card will lock out after 3 incorrect PINs have been entered. It's not bad, but a pretty good system since the PIN never has to be entered on a computer, only the OTP is entered and that cannot be used by key loggers for replay attacks. The system is still vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks but in principle you can more or less safely do your online banking from, say, a web cafe in Bangkok, if you are careful (only do one transaction per session, end the session and contact your bank if you receive an "incorrect OTP" error).

yesterday
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Apple Said To Team With Visa, MasterCard On iPhone Wallet

JaredOfEuropa Re:Why? Nobody uses NFC payments (178 comments)

It looks like they want to combine NFC with some interaction on the phone. It could be as simple as only allowing payments when the phone is unlocked, so with an iPhone 5S that would mean 1) take phone from pocket, 2) unlock by thumbing the home button / fingerprint scanner, 3) swipe phone past scanner. Perhaps there's a popup to confirm the amount if it's over a certain limit. At the very least, I'd expect such integration to mean that swiping the phone will automatically open the payment app if required.

Partnering with major CC companies is nice but what I am really hoping for is integration with companies like Maestro (part of MC), linking the phone to a debit card. This would make the transaction fees for merchants a whole lot lower and would speed adoption in Europe. In my country, pretty much everybody has a Maestro compatible debit card linked to their current account, and almost every shop has a Maestro terminal.

yesterday
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New Windows Coming In Late September -- But Which One?

JaredOfEuropa Re:Not worth it (251 comments)

Just get your PC from a reputable OEM. I get mine from a local shop who build machines to spec or provide one of their predefined configurations, and they give knowledgeable advise on tuning, configuring, noise management, etc. They install Windows for you with no crapware (but with the right vendor-supplied drivers, and with any additional software you specify), or without Windows if you so prefer. By the way, over here any shop will sell me an OEM version of Windows if I buy a PC component (motherboard, processor or even just a mouse) at the same time.

Without crapware, Windows is a decent enough OS, except the unbelievable usability choices they made in Windows 8. I'm hoping Windows 9 will fix those mistakes, and that they will not hit me for the full amount when upgrading.

about a week ago
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Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

JaredOfEuropa Re:Things (191 comments)

It's all about degrees of disaster. If there's a real disaster, I wouldn't give a rodent's behind about my electronics and I too would be happy with my emergency stash of food and water. But even so I have taken some precautions... My router, server, NAS etc sit in the basement, but they are mounted as high as possible in case there's a flood, and there's a flood detector as well. No use against a real flood (we live below sea level), but if the water mains bursts or if a minor dike breaks, my stuff will be reasonably safe and I will be notified in time to move it if the flooding continues. The same level of protection that people arrange in hurricane areas, I suppose, like having sheets of wood handy to board up the windows with. Not sure how you'd protect your things against a minor earthquake, though. Not mounting them in a wobbly cabinet is probably a good start.

about a week ago
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Mangalyaan Gets Ready To Enter Mars Orbit

JaredOfEuropa Re:Congratulations, India ! (67 comments)

So it's an excuse for not doing these things at all?

They are doing both the space program and doing something about living conditions. The problem is that fixing poverty is hard, and like the problem of travelling to the moon or Mars, you don't solve it merely by allocating a budget, that's only the start. If fixing poverty was easy, a lot of other countries wouldn't have any. Hell, perhaps the USA wouldn't have any. And fixing their poor living conditions probably costs a multiple of what it costs to run their space program. According to their 2013 budget, the Rural Development Ministry alone receives over 16 times the ISRA budget. My point is that I think it would be a big mistake to shift the +- 1 billion $ space budget to further rural development.

about a week ago
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Mangalyaan Gets Ready To Enter Mars Orbit

JaredOfEuropa Re:Congratulations, India ! (67 comments)

India is doing well economically and I think they have the right idea: they promote high tech industry and have a couple of high profile projects like these. This makes them more independent, builds their economy, and instills national pride. The wrong way to do it is to take things one at a time: first get plumbing and sanitation in place, and only then work on getting a meal into every child's belly, and only then provide basic education, and only then introduce mechanised farming, and only then work on a national road network and electrical system, and so on. India's space program is money well (and frugally) spent.

about a week ago
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The Tech Fixes the PS3 Still Needs, Eight Years On

JaredOfEuropa Re:3D Blu-Ray Player (99 comments)

I play most games on my PC as well, but sometimes it is just nice to boot up a quick game on the console and have at it with some friends. My main niggles about the PS3, compared to the older consoles:
1) The old games were very much about head-to-head action, but many PS3 games have poor support for multiple players on one console, and instead focus on networked play
2) The updates. The god-damned updates. The PS3 is switched on only every now and then for a few quick games, only to find that both console and game require a patch, which sometimes takes over an hour to download and install. Fail. The whole point of a console is that it's instant-on.

about two weeks ago
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New EU Rules Will Limit Vacuum Cleaners To 1600W

JaredOfEuropa Re:Waaah. (336 comments)

Contrary to anti-EU people*, it's not completely pointless. Regulations like these are not just for controlling the wattage of vacuums, the curvature of banana's, or the number of times a paperclip can bend before it breaks. Thanks to regulations like these, certification for products in the EU has become a whole lot easier; no more need to have it done in each country separately. The problem is that the EU has a lot of bored politicians eager to make their mark, and they *love* to slip politically motivated items into these bills. Some are relatively harmless like the limit on vacuum cleaner power, some are a bit more evil and designed to give certain countries an edge over others (look at EU farm policy), and some are just stupid, like fixing the maximum weight a worker is allowed to lift at 23.5kg, when most bulk goods like cement come in standard 25kg bags (the limit was taken from a US study, and converting the nice round weight given in pounds to kg, they arrived at the 23.5 figure)

*) I'm all for the idea behind the EU, but very much against the intransparent, bureaucratic and unaccountable mess they turned it into. The EU needs a severely limited mandate as well as better democratic controls.

about two weeks ago
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Tech Looks To Obama To Save Them From 'Just Sort of OK' US Workers

JaredOfEuropa Re:Not exactly endearing you to the public (441 comments)

Not superior, just cheaper. The guy is right when he states that, in tech, "The difference between someone who's truly great and just sort of okay is really huge". It stands to reason that you'd pay a hell of a lot more to the truly great compared to the good, and that the good still earn quite a bit more than the sort of ok. Funny how that never seemed to happen, though, except in a few companies I've seen (where you also had management reeling in horror at the fact that some techies made more than them). I bet there's plenty of talent to go around in the US, but top performers command top pay or they'll up and leave. Foreign workers are a cheaper and less mobile work force.

about two weeks ago
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Microsoft Lobby Denies the State of Chile Access To Free Software

JaredOfEuropa Re:Publicly Funded Governments (159 comments)

There are many reasons why proprietary software is sometimes the better choice. In some cases the TCO will be lower, or the software is easier to use for office workers (like it or not, Windows / Office is pretty much what employees will already be familiar with). It may be easier to find support staff for some proprietary software. And in some cases, the proprietary software will simply be of better quality, more reliable, or a better functional fit. Also, I fail to see why license fees are evil.

With that said, I think governments should use open standards for data, document storage and interfaces where available, and avoid products (proprietary or otherwise) that do not support such standards.

about two weeks ago
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Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead

JaredOfEuropa Re:god dammit. (521 comments)

Which bird gets killed? A few cats offing 100 pigeons (essentially flying rats) isn't as bad as this thing zapping one of the last bald eagles.

about two weeks ago
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Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead

JaredOfEuropa Re:god dammit. (521 comments)

I'm trying to think of the name of the thin, extremely fragile layer of crust on undisturbed desert ground that environmental groups want to shut down land so people won't walk on it.

That's cryptobiotic soil, I think. Worth preserving, but I think we can stand to lose a few square miles of it in exchange for power for 100k+ homes. This isn't random people walking or driving over it for a moment and then leaving, this is permanently putting a piece of desert to useful work.

about two weeks ago
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Phoenix Introduces Draft Ordinance To Criminalize Certain Drone Uses

JaredOfEuropa Re:Redundant laws weaken the system (199 comments)

Our problem is we have a caste that calls themselves "lawmakers" and so all they want to do is make new laws.

Unsurprising, when you are ruled by lawyers. Poking around demographics on Congress, we find about 40% of members with a law degree (over 50% in the Senate). In contrast, only 2% of them are scientists or engineers...

about two weeks ago
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Munich Reverses Course, May Ditch Linux For Microsoft

JaredOfEuropa Re:Surprise? (579 comments)

Users will compare the office environment with what they know, which is usually Windows, and usually a version that isn't locked down thus giving a better experience. They will complain, it's inevitable. How they complain about the office setup and whom/what they blame for it depends on the situation:
- Windows at work: "Why can't our crap IT department make this simple stuff work properly, if I can do it at home?"
- Linux at work: "Why are we even using this cockamamie hippie software, instead of Windows which the rest of the world is using?"

There are good reasons for managers to go with MS, SAP, IBM. For the manager, they are safe choices; the decision to select any of these vendors is unlikely to be challenged. The Windows situation will only give him a stick to beat IT with, or at best some leverage to wring a discount or some free consultancy from MS. In case of Linux, it provides an opportunity to attack the decision to go with Linux itself. If the guy happens to be against Linux, or talked to MS about a sweet deal involving a move of their Euro HQ to Munich for example, those user complaints will come in very handy indeed.

about two weeks ago
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Selectable Ethics For Robotic Cars and the Possibility of a Robot Car Bomb

JaredOfEuropa Re:Not really game changing (239 comments)

Modded "flamebait", but you're sort of right. The hard part of blowing something up is getting the cash together, obtaining enough explosives, and finding the right target and opportunity, all that without having some security agency get wind of your plans. Finding some poor deluded soul willing to blow himself up for a crappy cause is actually the easy part, especially if you can draw from a pool of religious nuts. And islam has plenty of those, sad to say.

about two weeks ago
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Companies That Don't Understand Engineers Don't Respect Engineers

JaredOfEuropa Re:us other engineers matter, too (371 comments)

On the face of it, that makes a lot of sense, but in practice it is rarely that simple. If a team sees a 10% increase in productivity, it's often the manager who takes credit, but often enough it's due to that old boy engineer or that senior business analyst helping out the rest of the team and making things more efficient. Unsurprisingly, to make engineers work better you often need an engineer, not a generic manager. This is the difference between managers and leaders, and it's also why I think training (*real* training) and coaching are so important (and, like the engineer, they are undervalued by management). If you're a manager and you think that your staff comes fully equipped for the job, with up to date skills and knowledge of standards, best practices and procedures, think again.

about two weeks ago
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Gartner: Internet of Things Has Reached Hype Peak

JaredOfEuropa Re:Gartner cynic here - enlighten me (98 comments)

I'm a cynic as well, though I do read their reports from time to time (our company has access to them).

The value of these reports is not insighful conclusions, but in the research that "proofs" those conclusions. Let's face it, everybody knows that cloud-based computing has gone mainstream: it's been around for a while now, there are various stable, standardized and cheap services available for it, and many large companies already have good experience in using cloud resources, even though they have some issues from time to time. What Gartner does is put some numbers to those common insights: how many services, how have cost and competition evolved, what standards have emerged, how many companies actually use it and for what % of their business, anyone using it for business critical stuff, what kind of issues have they experienced, etc.

You're not going to learn anything amazing from Gartner reports, but there is a reason that even smart managers look at these reports to judge market readiness or trends: they provide evidence to support what you probably already knew, and it's a lot better evidence than what Google punters can come up with.

about three weeks ago
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Patents That Kill

JaredOfEuropa Re:And this is the same for copyrights. (240 comments)

It's silly to punish authors who have a big hit when they are young, by cutting short the copyright on their works, solely because there may be other writers who become successful only late in their life. A life+ copyright doesn't punish late bloomers, only their heirs. And the purpose of copyright is not to ensure an income for writers' offspring, in fact I think the system should be life, not life+. The heirs are welcome to whatever fortune a writer is able to amass, but not to the IP.

about three weeks ago

Submissions

JaredOfEuropa hasn't submitted any stories.

Journals

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Packaging, the scourge of the 21st century

JaredOfEuropa JaredOfEuropa writes  |  more than 5 years ago Packaging, in the broadest sense of the word, is starting to really piss me off.

Let's start with physical packaging. Whatever happened to the days when a fish would be packaged in yesterday's paper, small parts (screws and bolts) came in a little cardboard box or paper bag, and some stuff wouldn't be packaged at all? These days, some packaging (most notably the so called blister packaging) can be deathly dangerous to open. I'd like to propose one single, simple rule for packaging: one should be able to open it by hand. I'll make two exceptions: stuff that is notoriously easy to steal can go into blister packs, and it's acceptable to require a knife, key or any old sharp implement to cut packing tape.

Then there's labelling and pricing. Another simple rule: either provide a label or price tag that comes off clean, or don't label at all. When I buy a present for someone, a book, a DVD, a bit of wood that I intend to finish properly, a glass ornament, whatever, I would very much like the object in question to look nice. So why is it that shops insist on using labels that will tear when removed, and will leave a nasty gooey residy that won't come off no matter what? I can kind of understand putting such labels on packaging or on paperbacks... but not on expensive gifts.

And finally, there's the matter of "packaging" software. Some more rules:
- I DO NOT WANT software that I run only "on demand" to install some resident "helper" software to check for updates or whatever. You can check for updates when I start your program. Are you listening, Apple?
- I DO NOT WANT to answer the same questions over and over again whenever I install an update of your software. An update should be just that: replace the software that is already there with no questions asked; do not treat it as a more or less fresh reinstall. Are you listening, Zone Labs / Checkpoint?

Major issues to be sure... Come to think of it, if this is what I worry about, I suppose I have a pretty good life.

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Cat pictures!

JaredOfEuropa JaredOfEuropa writes  |  more than 10 years ago *sigh* No words of wisdom or idle banter to write in the journal today. Nevertheless, the question on my last journal entry has been answered, so time to push it off the top.

Today, I offer the bored reader who aimlessly wandered into here: cat pictures of Dolly and Mickey

These two little furballs are my cats. Enjoy!

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Hmm, stupidity

JaredOfEuropa JaredOfEuropa writes  |  more than 10 years ago "Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain". If only I could remember who uttered this particular wisdom.

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Suspicious white dot in Slashdot

JaredOfEuropa JaredOfEuropa writes  |  more than 11 years ago So... what is this funny little white dot that appears on the slashdot pages just under the banner ad? *pokes the dot* I don't trust you.

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JaredOfEuropa JaredOfEuropa writes  |  more than 11 years ago As someone pointed out, it should be

find ~your -name '*base*' | xargs chown us

instead of

chown -R us ~your/*base*
as my sig currently reads. I'll change it later, I suppose...

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Redundant posts...

JaredOfEuropa JaredOfEuropa writes  |  more than 11 years ago From now on, these will automatically be metamoderated 'unfair'. Don't waste your moderator points on insightful posts that happen to be dupes. Mod some other insightfull stuff up, or mod the fluff down. That is all

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Most hated words and terms

JaredOfEuropa JaredOfEuropa writes  |  more than 11 years ago Boredom sets in once again, work is slow today. Anyways... There's a few annoying words that have wriggled their way into everyday idiom, at least in some circles. My personal top 3 of most hated ones.

3) Cracker. The rest of the world calls such a person a hacker, and will continue to use this word, no matter how much you try and drill the hacker/cracker distinction into them. Give it up already.

2) Wardriving. A term that fails in so many ways to convey what it actually means, and makes most people think of something having to do with Osama bin Laden.

1) Blog. An odd way to abbreviate the word 'weblog', and one that sounds like sicking up at that. Blog. Blogging. Yeck. Someone please come up with a better and nicer-sounding word.

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Slashdot oddities...

JaredOfEuropa JaredOfEuropa writes  |  more than 11 years ago Who the hell is Saskboy (id 600063) and what is he doing on my "preferences" page?

Also... one begins to wonder where my moderator points are after over a year of being at this place. What gives? (and yes, I did check the "want to moderate" box).

Oh well, time for another bottle of wine

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