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Samsung SSD 850 EVO 32-Layer 3D V-NAND-Based SSD Tested

LehiNephi Re:lowering price? (127 comments)

They're not stacking silicon wafers on top of each other. Rather, they're putting more layers of oxide, semiconductor, etc onto each wafer in order to produce the 3d stacking. Yes, it's more complex. But it's a pretty mature technology.

about two weeks ago
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NASA Tests Aircraft With Shape Shifting Wings

LehiNephi Re:Major /. faux pas (55 comments)

"noise during takeoffs and landings"? I've been on plenty of airplane flights, from a Cessna up to a 747, and on none of them have I ever noticed noise from flaps. I don't get the whole fuel-savings bit, either. That's kinda the point of flaps--increase lift at lower speeds, with a corresponding increase in drag. When you're landing, your engines are running at reduced power anyway, and when you're taking off, the flaps don't stay extended for very long--just the first few minutes of flight. Now, if you told me they were making wings that could alter the thickness of the airfoil or the length of the wing in-flight, I'd be interested.

about a month ago
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Will the Nissan Leaf Take On the Tesla Model S At Half the Price?

LehiNephi Re:what happens when the batters wears out? (398 comments)

Do you have any idea how much money you could be saving by doing your own maintenance? Your local auto parts store has frequent sales on oil and filters for $25 for a set. Changing the oil takes a whopping 10 minutes. And unless you're driving 20k miles per year, you certainly don't need to be changing the oil every 3 months. A brake fluid flush *might* take you a couple of hours but requires no special tools (a combination wrench set, a short piece of hose, a jar, and a jack and your lug wrench is all you need). The AC "service" was probably just a matter of topping off the coolant (another 10 minute job). A transmission fluid/filter change is slightly more expensive and time-consuming, but again, no more than an hour.

about 8 months ago
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Will the Nissan Leaf Take On the Tesla Model S At Half the Price?

LehiNephi Re:Oh noes, I can't drive X miles (398 comments)

Um, 2 miles can NOT be leisurely walked in 15 minutes. That's a 7:30 mile pace, which is a pretty decent running pace, depending on what kind of shape you're in.

Make it 30 minutes, and you're about right.

about 8 months ago
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If Ridesharing Is Banned, What About Ride-Trading?

LehiNephi Re:It's a barter transaction (353 comments)

Good point. There's also the issue of "how do I get credits in the first place?" or, "I don't own a car but still want to participate!" The obvious way would be for people to buy "miles", but that makes it even easier for the city governments to argue that it's still the same service.

about 9 months ago
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How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

LehiNephi Re:Good or Bad (715 comments)

I think there's a false assumption here--that separating students into different schools based on academic performance is a Bad Thing. On the contrary, such segregation would enable the schools to tailor their teaching to the needs of their respective students. So the higher-performing students aren't held back due to a lower-performing student, and the lower-performing students don't feel lost because the teacher has to trying to teach an arbitrary curriculum at an arbitrary speed.

about a year ago
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How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

LehiNephi Re:Yeah, like the present school system is working (715 comments)

There is one thing, however, which I don't know how we can fix, at least not from a legislative or policy standpoint, and that is the lack of parental participation.

While I agree with some of your points, I'll take issue with this statement. In my opinion, the lack of parental participation and school/legislative policy have degenerated in a vicious cycle. Schools try to do more to help kids, while discouraging/preventing parental influence on school policy. As a result, parents are less involved, which leads the school to do more, etc.

As for "day long day care" - so true. Look no further than the push for 4k and Head Start, which have repeatedly and consistently failed to produce lasting benefits, while costing taxpayers *billions*. There's no educational justification for it.

about a year ago
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Former TigerDirect President Indicted In $230 Million Laundering Scheme

LehiNephi Re:Tigerdirect is the victim here (109 comments)

What was odd about the Fry's case was that many of the companies that got that business were actually lower-cost suppliers, like ECS. Right after that case broke, Frys stopped doing the really good CPU/Motherboard deals. So customers actually ended up worse off when they caught the guy.

about a year and a half ago
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Using Technology To Make Guns Safer

LehiNephi Re:Lousy ideas (1013 comments)

Speaking of which, automatic firearms are already banned, unless you go through a rigorous screening process. Nearly all handguns today, and many rifles, are semi-automatic (one trigger pull per shot). It's "semi" because although the gun automatically loads the next round, it will not automatically fire that next round.

about 2 years ago
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Using Technology To Make Guns Safer

LehiNephi Re:Lousy ideas (1013 comments)

It's fairly well understood that the sound of racking (that's the proper term, I believe) a shotgun actually will not scare away an intruder. I wish it did--I'd much rather have the bad guy run away than have to shoot him.
Secondly, if you want a larger spread, you don't get a larger barrel--it's 12gauge (or 40, or whatever) all the way down. You can get barrels with different chokes, which constrict the opening at the end of the barrel to various degrees.

about 2 years ago
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A Twisted Clean-Tech Tale: How A123 Wound Up In Bankruptcy

LehiNephi Re:Private enterprise... (164 comments)

The problem is that it wasn't exactly a private free enterprise. They received a $17.1m loan guarantee from the federal government, without which their plant would not have been built. Investors saw them as a bad risk, and appropriately declined to invest in them.

about 2 years ago
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A Twisted Clean-Tech Tale: How A123 Wound Up In Bankruptcy

LehiNephi Re:Just another cautionary tale (164 comments)

For perspective, the tax breaks given to oil companies amounts to about $2.4 billion/year (in the form tax breaks which are similar to the same tax breaks that every other industry gets for investing in expansion). Loan guarantees like the one A123 got totalled $90 billion in the "stimulus" bill passed in 2009.

Government sticking its thumb on the scales of the economy is always a bad idea--whether it be bailing out banks or perpetual ethanol subsidies + ethanol mandates + import tariffs.

about 2 years ago
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US Birthrate Plummets To Record Low

LehiNephi Re:If you are young(ish), save for yourself (567 comments)

The current projections are for the Social Security Trust Fund to be depleted around 2037, last I checked. At that point, assuming the government only pays out what it brings in, benefits will be reduced by about 25%. I would assume with current demographics, the payroll taxes will pay for an ever-shrinking percentage of the original benefits, until the baby boomers die off in significant numbers.

I don't know anybody under the age of 55 who is planning on receiving benefits from SS when they retire.

about 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: The Search For the Ultimate Engineer's Pen

LehiNephi Re:Bic (712 comments)

You can find Bic Clic Stic pens on amazon and ebay. They're my wife's favorite as well.

more than 2 years ago
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A Suicide Goes Viral On the Internet

LehiNephi Re:Calm before the hyperbole (566 comments)

Good point. It also sounds like at least some of the folks at Fox were trying to prevent the footage from going live, and they apologized immediately afterward. Buzzfeed, on the other hand, deliberately posted the footage with full knowledge of its contents.

I think Fox has the moral (relative) high ground here.

more than 2 years ago
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Complex Systems Theorists Predict We're About One Year From Global Food Riots

LehiNephi Re:Catastrophe (926 comments)

Malthus, perhaps. Hari Seldon, probably not.

more than 2 years ago
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Cash-Poor Sharp Mortgages Display Factories

LehiNephi Anyone else have trouble parsing the title (111 comments)

If the title of this post isn't reason enough to reform the English language, I don't know what is. At first I though it had something to do with homeowners refinancing.

Cash-Poor (adj) Sharp (adj/noun) Mortgages (verb/noun) Display (verb/adj/noun) Factories (noun)

more than 2 years ago
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Craigslist Demands Exclusivity For Postings

LehiNephi Re:Craigslist is a shithole (160 comments)

There are plenty of other places to list ads, though none are as big. My preference is Bookoo, which *does* do some sort of radius searching (I forget how exactly it works), but still has individual local sites.

more than 2 years ago
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East Texas Getting Compressed Air Energy Storage Plant

LehiNephi Re:This cannot possibly be efficient (248 comments)

Yes, PV=nRT (or some more accurate version of it). However, for this application, the volume is so huge that the air doesn't actually heat up all that much as it's compressed. Similar methods have been used for storing natural gas in salt domes for decades.

more than 2 years ago

Submissions

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LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  about 8 years ago

LehiNephi (695428) writes "(Disclaimer: I work for an oil company)

An article was posted today about the National Science Teachers' Association's rejection of several tens of thousands of copies of "An Inconvenient Truth". Naturally, much discussion ensued about how Big Oil (and big companies in general) are too involved in politics. What I want to discuss is a side topic that arose: Big Oil and Global Warming. I can't and won't debate whether Global Warming is real or not--my knowledge and expertise are not sufficient to make a judgement. For the sake of this piece, we'll assume that Global Warming is real and caused directly by humans.

The general consensus is that an increase in the quantities of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere traps solar radiation and, over time, increases the temperature of the earth. And the largest source of Carbon Dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, is the combustion of fossil fuels--oil, natural gas, propane, coal, etc. I have no problem with that. However, to blame it on the companies that produce that fuel is at best a mistake and at worst an attempt to seize political power by eliminating any responsibility for our own actions.

Blaming the human race's use of fossil fuels on the companies that produce them is a logical non-sequitur. It's like blaming auto manufacturers for car accidents (at least those not caused by a defect). The oil/gas/coal companies are simply supplying a good that people demand. Did you catch that? Supply and Demand. People demand energy, whether it's in the form of electricity for the home or business, gasoline for the car, or heat for the home. Under current circumstances, oil/gas/coal are the most economical way to produce that energy. The people, WE, are the ones causing the production of greenhouse gases.

Example #1: Please excuse a pet peeve of mine: enormous, bloated, oversized SUVs. I see tons of them on my way to work with a single occupant. There are a few people who genuinely need an SUV, but a vast majority of SUV owners bought it for questionable reasons. How much gas do we waste by driving these behemoths? And why do we insist on living so far from our work?
Example #2: I currently live in Houston, where by some undefined Divine Decree every business sets their thermostat at a frigid 70F or colder during the summer. Nearly everyone finds this too cold, and it wastes lots of electricity, but 70F is the standard. On the flip side, we recently took a trip to Utah, where we found that despite the cold (30-50F) temperatures, all the buildings were heated to the high 70's. Again, how much energy is being wasted here?

The point is that we can't blame the oil & gas/coal companies for our own selfish irresponsibility. The way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce how much oil/gas/coal/wood/whatever we burn. That's right--Only you can prevent greenhouse gas emissions."

Journals

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Small rant: strobe lights on big vehicles

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 6 years ago My commute for work has recently doubled, thanks to an office move. I now spend over two hours per day driving to and from work. And I've been reminded of a small pet peeve: strobe lights on big vehicles.

Back when I was in high school, I was mystified and very annoyed when school bus manufacturers started installing very bright strobe lights on top of their buses. Here you have a vehicle that is eight feet wide, thirty-five feet long, ten feet high, has lights all over, and is painted BRIGHT YELLOW. Anybody who manages to run into a school bus probably doesn't deserve a driver's license in the first place. Do they honestly think that adding a strobe light is going to significantly increase its visibility? In the early morning hours, when other drivers' vision is adjusted to the darkness, the strobes aren't just bright, they're blinding.

Now, apparently, the trend has spread. I first noticed it on garbage trucks. Now, I can understand the need for flashing yellow lights on the back of a garbage truck. While they move around their routes, they stop and go a lot, which can create a legitimate risk for surrounding drivers. As I drive down the highway on the way to work at 70mph+, I see garbage trucks (also barreling along at 70mph) with their lights flashing away.

Similar, but even more annoying flashers have now appeared on run-of-the-mill semis. Why does a semi need a bright, flashing yellow light, when it already has six tail lights, plus all the other decorative lights?

I understand the desire to ward off rear-end accidents. However, I can count on one hand the number of rear-end accidents I have seen in my life that involve a semi. Why? Because truck drivers tend to give themselves a lot more following room, which means that they rarely make sudden stops. The people who are following too closely behind generally have enough warning to slow down in time.

I wonder as well whether such lights are creating more risk than they are averting, by creating a distraction for drivers. Sure, that flashing yellow light might slightly increase safety for the one person directly behind the semi. But what about the couple dozen other drivers who are three lanes over, and are only distracted and annoyed by it?

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Why Microsoft Licensing is Evil

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 6 years ago I just returned to the office after several months away, and I have a new neighbor in the next office over. In talking with him, I am beginning to understand the antipathy some hold towards Microsoft and their licensing schemes. My co-worker is older, and not particularly tech-adept. Consider the following:

1) My new neighbor recently had a motherboard die on him. Because it was an OEM computer (HP, I think), replacing the motherboard with the exact same would have been prohibitively expensive, and replacing the motherboard with something else would have required a new license. (I know you can sometimes talk MS's CSRs into letting you reactivate, but 'officially' it's not allowed)

2) I recently bought a copy of Windows XP Home Upgrade. I didn't buy it at a store. In fact, I bought it from someone else who had. This same person had intended to install it on their computer running Windows 2000. And they couldn't. Not because of any technical reason, but because of arbitrary limitations imposed by Microsoft. See, in order to upgrade, you have to have an existing installation of Win95/98/98se/ME, OR an install disk for Win95/98/98se/ME/2000. And they fell neatly into a corner case. And they couldn't return it, because Best Buy won't take back opened software (can't blame them, really).

3) The gazillion versions. Yeah, lots of other people have complained about it, too, I know. But you know what? It's even worse than you typically hear. Take a look at all of newegg's offerings for Windows Vista. There are twenty-seven. Not only do you have the Basic/Premium/Ultimate/Business versions, you have a choice between Retail and OEM versions, Upgrade and Full versions, 32- and 64-bit versions, and single- and 3-packs. And, as we see in #2, if you get the wrong one, you're screwed.

4) The price is ridiculous. Period. Windows, in and of itself, doesn't help me do things. It's the applications that count. Comparisons to a Linux install (cost vs. what you get) are apt here.

5) I work for a big, faceless corporation. Our IT people buy (or do they lease? I don't know) laptops from Dell. They pay for the license that comes with the laptop, then pay again through their site license. Yep, Microsoft is double-dipping. I bought my own hard drive and happily installed XP using that unused license (and dual-boot Ubuntu), in case I actually want to do something useful with the laptop, which is otherwise tightly locked down. Off the company network, naturally.

6) It's becoming pretty difficult to purchase a computer from any of the big OEMs without getting burdened with Vista. I get the feeling that the number of people who prefer Vista over XP is overwhelmingly small. Yet Microsoft leverage their market position to force a copy of Vista onto nearly all new computers. And if you want to switch back to XP, you get to pay Microsoft again.

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I switched back to XP...for now

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 6 years ago Back in October of last year, I installed Ubuntu on my main computer at home. I did a few tweaks, and was quite satisfied with the results. Other than a few hiccups, mostly related to sharing a printer, everything went smoothly. I'm now a convert.

But a few weeks ago, I ordered myself some parts for a new build. My intention was to similarly install Ubuntu, get the right drivers set up, and off we go. Unfortunately, it didn't work. Here is what I ordered:

  • Athlon 64 X2 3600 (yes, it's already overclocked)
  • Biostar TForce 7025 uATX mobo
  • 2GB some generic PC2-6400 RAM
  • Radeon HD3850
  • 300GB SATA (either WD or Maxtor, don't remember :eek:)

So nothing unusual. Since I had heard that the new Catalyst 7.12 drivers supported the Radeon 3xxx series under Linux, I thought I was set. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the drivers to work. Trust me, I tried a lot of things. And I know that plenty of other people have had success doing it. Just not me.

So I bought a copy of XP Home Upgrade from someone who had a Win2k installation and realized only too late that you need either an installation of Win98 or Win98se or Win95 or WinME OR an official CD for one of the above or Win2k. They fell into a corner case--Win2k was installed, but they didn't have the CD. They couldn't install it because of an arbitrary restriction, and they couldn't return the (now-open) box. Even before I started installing XP, I started understanding a bit better the aversion some have for commercial software.

That feeling continued through the next while of setting up and installing things. True, all the drivers and utilities for my hardware were relatively up-to-date and polished. But it seemed to me like many of the things Windows does or wants to do are not for my benefit. Activation, for example. And setting up Windows Media Player and telling it NOT to send any information. And Windows Genuine Advantage, for the naming of which all of MS management ought to be drawn and quartered.

Granted, for the normal user, these things aren't any sort of big deal. I understand that Microsoft want to reduce piracy, and I have no issue with that. Even setting aside the "punish the customers, let the pirates go free" situation that results from WGA, DRM, and similar efforts, I still have issues with Microsoft poking around my hard drive. The necessity of installing anti-virus software is also annoying. Normally, I'd create a limited user account and use that, but so many applications require an administrator account that it's impractical. I miss sudo. I miss being able to update everything on my system at once, without having to download executables and run them individually. I miss compiz (I had problems paying half price for XP--you think I'm gonna spend money for Vista's eye candy?!). I don't have any alternative at the moment, though, so until there is a reliable and easy way to get my video card working under Linux, I'll be using XP. I don't hate it. In fact, I know how to work with XP better than I do with Ubuntu. It's just....less comfortable.

Here's hoping Hardy Heron brings me luck. Three months to go...

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Gadget Feature Request #4

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago Gadget: Digital picture frames
Feature: Dimensions that reflect the reality of photography

At some time in the near future, I would like to buy my wife a digital picture frame. I started looking around, and found, to my utter consternation, that a vast majority of the under-$100 picture frames are widescreen. Yes, nearly all of them sport a screen with a resolution of 480x234. How many people actually take pictures with that sort of aspect ratio? I'd venture to say practically none. Nearly every digital camera defaults to taking photographs with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Widescreen LCDs are great for movies, yes, and some of these frames can do that. But for their primary purpose, i.e. displaying photographs, they are singularly unfit.

Let's take that 480x234 panel as an example. In the ideal case, we would have a photograph 1) displayed in its entirety (no cropping), 2) fill the whole screen, and 3) maintain its aspect ratio. With these devices, however, you get to choose two.

What were they thinking when they designed these?

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Ideas for a dream house

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago At some undefined point in the future, my wife and I want to build our dream home. We have lots of ideas and opinions on what we want. The purpose of this Journal entry is to serve as a temporary repository for ideas, wishes, requirements, and fantasies for our dream house, and to collect ideas from anyone willing to share. Here is the list so far:

Rooms we want:

  • Kitchen
  • Dining area (my wife wants a formal dining room, although I think it's a waste)
  • Living room (this plus the family room plus the play room = 3 living spaces? too many, methinks)
  • Family room
  • Master +3 bedrooms + guest suite
  • 3.5 baths minimum (4.5 if guest suite is on first floor and all other bedrooms are on the 2nd)
  • Den/study/library
  • Play room/theater/game room (maybe the "family room" can take the place of the formal living room, and this will be the informal room)
  • Workshop for me (either separate room or space in garage)

Things to avoid:

  • Two-story rooms
  • Wasted space
  • Rooms that are too big, especially
    • Family/Great room
    • Master bedroom
  • Extra rooms that add little usability
    • sunroom
    • big central foyer
  • Tile in the kitchen and eating areas (I installed it earlier this year and it practically pulls food onto itself!

Other features:

  • Must be extremely energy-efficient, especially with respect to climate controls.
    • Double or triple-paned windows
    • More than the normal amount of insulation
    • Skylights where practical
    • designed to let light but not heat in
  • Double oven
  • Breakfast bar
  • If adjacent dining and living rooms, ability to segregate or join the two in a way that's not obvious (really big pocket door? pocket *wall* like in that one episode of Monster House (the gangster house)?)
  • Ideally All bedrooms upstairs except for guest suite
  • Kitchen close to garage
  • 3-car garage
  • bathtubs in every full bathroom (no bathrooms with just showers)
  • garage doors not visible from front
  • Big pantry immediately accessible from the kitchen
  • Mudroom area by garage
  • Kitchen close to dining room

Other ideas:

  • Desk/mini office in the kitchen for mom
  • Outlets placed for Christmas lights (D.U.H.)
  • Some place for the kids to do homework (possibly a table that folds up against the wall in an existing room when not in use?)

In a way, this is a bit similar to the Dilber Ultimate House, but what I'm looking for is a subset of what Scott Adams was looking for. At this point, I'm thinking on the level of "what rooms do I want, and where do I want them?" rather than "we should put hooks by the garage door to hang keys on!"

Please feel free to post any ideas or suggestions you have. This could be things you would like in your own house, things you have done that you really like (or that didn't turn out as well as you thought), things you wish you had done or are glad you didn't do, etc. I'll include them in the lists above and, of course, credit the contributor.

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Boeing, Airbus et al: a request

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago Over the last few months, I've done a fair amount of travel for my job. This has led me to ask this question:

Why, oh why, are airplane windows so small?

You see, as I sat on a flight from Paris down to my destination in Africa, I noticed that from our altitude, the view of the stars was absolutely breathtaking. I blocked as much cabin light as I could with my pillow, shaded my eyes, and wondered at how well I could see so clearly. Except I couldn't see much. Because of the thickness of the window (triple-paned), and its small size, my view was severely restricted. And I had to twist around to a rather uncomfortable position in my seat in order to get a decent view.

In fact, it would seem that airplane windows are sized and positioned as to be as useless as possible. Sure, if you happen to be flying at sunset and the plane happens to be pointed in the right direction and you have a window seat on the correct side of the plane, you'll get a good view. But you can see sunsets from the ground. What do people want to look at when they're up in an airplane? The ground, of course. Or, as in my case, if they notice the brilliant sky above, they'll want to look at the stars. But you can't get a decent view of either without smashing your face up against the glass, and even then, your view gets distorted by the three panes separating you from the outside.

You would think that after some fifty-plus years of jet airline design and construction, airplane manufacturers would have noticed that their windows are inadequate for any practical purpose. But no, windows are only slightly larger in the upcoming Dreamliner as they were in the DC-3.

C'mon, Boeing. You've made planes attractive for the airlines by making them more efficient. Now make them more attractive to passengers by improving the view.

While you're at it, those seats could use some work, too.

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Did Microsoft miss their big chance to improve Windows?

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago As I sat on an early-morning flight this morning, I started thinking about the difficulties Microsoft is facing in encouraging adoption of Vista. I thought about all the big complaints I have read, and then it hit me:

Why don't Microsoft follow Apple's lead and build the next version of Windows on a BSD foundation?

Now, I've only toyed with Vista a little bit while browsing through the local Fry's and fiddling with friends' computers, I've gotten a fair impression of what it's like from a User's perspective. And it seems to me that for billions of dollars worth of investment, there's not much from a user's POV that drives sales. Sure, it might be a little more secure under the hood, and the driver model is new, but neither of those affects (or should affect) the user experience. Yeah, there's some eye candy, but certainly nothing to justify the amount of development. And now we have a whole mountain of relatively new code in which to find bugs and security vulnerabilities.

Now let's do a bit of speculation. What if Microsoft had built Vista on a BSD core? Well, on the good side, they would start off with mature, complete, pretty-darn-secure code, which would save them an enormous amount of time and money. It would also have improved compatibility and interoperability with the rest of the world, although the cynic in me would say that this would act as a reason for Microsoft not to do it. Also on the minus side side we have application incompatibility. Microsoft, however, is a Grand High Master at handling this problem. In addition, most programs (setting aside games for now) work pretty well in Wine. Microsoft could even create an API analogous to Apple's Carbon to allow developers to easily write code for the old and new versions of Windows.

What about hardware? Well, considering the paucity of drivers at Vista's release, and considering the fact that most common hardware actually work out of the box under Linux, I don't think this one is as large an issue as it initially appears, even if much of the code is written by independent developers.

Now, of course there are other "soft" issues that would follow such a transition. First of all, there's a whole ecosystem of developers who know how to code for Windows but not for anything else. This includes pretty much all of Microsoft. Consider this, though: there were six years between the release of XP and Vista. How long do you think an experienced Windows programmer would take to become competent at writing code for a BSD-based OS? Would a year of full-time training and practice be enough? Two years? And if the remaining four (or five) years were spent on writing the new version of Windows, would it be enough?

One could certainly write a book on this subject, and I've only scratched the surface, but there's one point I'd like to put forth. What about this: write the next version of Windows on a BSD core, and run every single old application in an emulator, or on a compatibility layer, or something similar. It may seem drastic, but here's my thought: breaking backwards compatibility can be a good thing. I've heard stories upon stories of patches, quirks in windows, extra execution paths, and special application-detecting code that have made their way into the windows codebase in order to ,a href="http://dansdata.com/gz070.htm">make a specific, single application run right. Break the yoke of backwards-compatibility and make it all run in its own space, and let Windows be an OS and window manager.

Before I get off rambling, I'll end it here. Comments?

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Gadget Feature.....idea

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago Gadget Feature: Fiber-optic link for displays.

I recently read an article where the author was given a demonstration of various HDMI cables and their ability to carry High-Definition content over longer distances. For a standard 6-ft cable, there was no difference in data transmission between the cheapest off-the-internet cable and the ludicrously expensive top-of-the-line brand name cable. However, when they tested 10-meter cables, there was a significant difference between the cables. The expensive cables were able to carry higher-resolution images farther than the cheap ones.

So here's my idea: why don't we use a fiber connection for our displays? I'm not particularly familiar with the encoding HDMI/DVI uses, but in terms of raw data, 1920x1080 x 60 frames per second * 24 bits/pixel comes out to around 3Gbps. That's a lot of data. It's a perfect application, in my opinion, for fiber. It's immune to electrical noise, so you don't have to worry about running it parallel to power lines in your house. It only takes one fiber, and requires no extra sleeving, so you have one small, light cable to attach. It can go considerable distances, provided it's a decent fiber, so you can put your projector, your receiver, your cable box, and your HTPC wherever you want. And it's getting quite cheap.

The home thater seems like a perfect situation to use fiber, but there's no reason it wouldn't work for desktop PCs, conference rooms, or any of a number of other applications as well. But nobody seems to be using it. Is there something I'm missing?

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Don't want to wait for SSD's to hit the market?

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago As I sit here, typing on my work laptop, my left wrist is practically getting burnt by the heat put off by the hard drive. The hard drive on my 700m at home gives me the same toasty feeling. For that reason, and because of the sheer geeky coolness of it, I want a Solid State Drive.

The performance advantages of SSDs have been stated many times: lower power consumption, very fast "seek" times, high data rates, shock tolerance. Several companies, including Samsung, PQI, SanDisk, A-data, and SimpleTech, have announced upcoming SSD products.

The only problem? They're expensive. As in a $600 premium on a notebook with a 32GB SSD instead of a spinning-disk hard drive, as of now (early June 2007). SanDisk say that the premium should drop to about $250 by Q2 2008, but for those of us who are too frugal, or too impatient, or both, there is an alternative: DIY.

It's actually quite simple. You'll need a few things:

  • A dual-card CF-to-IDE adapter. $26 + shipping
  • Two 16GB Compact Flash cards. $150 each + shipping (cheaper may exist--this was the only one on newegg ATM)
  • About 5 minutes of spare time, plus however long it takes to format and install your OS of choice.

Step 1: Insert the cards into the adapter
Step 2: Swap the adapter into the laptop
Step 3: Format the drive and install your OS of choice. Make sure you limit (or turn off) your swap file.

There are a couple things that I've noticed:

  • The adapter listed will only fill about half the space of the original drive, so in theory, four CF cards would fit just fine. I haven't been able to find any four-card CF-to-IDE adapters, though. Do any exist?
  • If your laptop has a slide-in hard drive (as opposed to the type illustrated on the page for the adapter), you'll have to attach something to the adapter so you can actually push it all the way in.
  • For what it's worth, this should also reduce the weight of your notebook by some few ounces. This always seems to be a big selling point for notebook manufacturers.

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Gadget Feature Request #3

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago Device: Notebooks/laptops and anything else that runs on batteries
Feature: Longer battery life

This one really bugs me. I have two regular 53Wh batteries for my work laptop. The newer one gives me 2-2.5 hours of battery life with non-intensive use (web browsing, email, etc), and the older one gives me about one hour. Now neither of these batteries is new, so I can't expect a great deal of capacity from them. And since it is running a company-managed OS image, and it's locked down pretty hard, I can't tell it to spin down the hard drive, and it doesn't make use of SpeedStep. So it's not running as efficiently as it should.

But still. I can't immediately answer the question of "How much is enough?" Truthfully, the answer is, has been, and always will be "more than I have now." For now, I think 5 hours under moderate-to-heavy use should be considered a bare minimum. I would like to see eight to ten hours under the same usage pattern be considered "average", and twelve hours as "exceptional".

So what will that take? There are two approaches to the problem: either increase the supply of energy or decrease the demand (or, most practically, a combination of both). The first approach, increasing energy storage, only really has two real prospects that are likely to become commercial in the near future:
--Increased battery capacity-- There really hasn't been progressing significantly--my now-close-to-15-year-old Thinkpad has a battery with a capacity of about 34Wh, and which is significantly smaller than the battery for my Dell Latitude D610. So in a decade and a half, very little has happened.
--Fuel cells-- It's a great idea, although many hurdles remain before they can gain widespread adoption. First of all, it has to fit in the normal profile of a laptop. We're getting closer to that ideal--current prototypes are about the size of a notebook dock. They'll still need to shrink by a factor of about 10 to become acceptable, but lots of very smart people are working on it. The downside of fuel cells is simple--they require consumables. Forget to take along enough refills, and expect to be tied to an electrical outlet. However, If a single fuel cell can power your notebook for a month, I guess that's not such a big deal.

On to demand. There are a few current developments that are promising, like the various brands of Solid-State Disks and Apple's announcement of LED-backlit displays. Right now, the hard drive in my laptop is keeping my leg uncomfortably warm. Eliminating nearly all that power consumption would be great. What other targets do we have?
--CPU-- This is still the low-hanging fruit in many ways. When running full-blast, it can still consume tens of watts. Intel and AMD (and VIA, although they're ahead of the game here) need to work on that. When idle, the CPU should be using practically zero power. We've had enough of "make it faster, dangit!" on the notebook front, and we need to turn our attention to power savings, even at the expense of some performance. However, this is only possible with the cooperation of...
--Operating System-- You can't point fingers at any one OS here. Linux is just as guilty (if not more so) than Windows, although Vista is working hard to take the battery-sucking crown. Maybe we need mobile-specific OSes that run next to nothing when allowed, so the CPU can get a rest.
--RAM-- Right now, this is by far the hottest part of my laptop. Granted, those modules get no ventilation, but right now I'm doing nothing beyond typing this. Again, the only places SODIMMs go is into laptops (excepting niche applications like industrial control and tiny form factor machines), so they need to be made much more energy efficient.
--Wireless-- Of various sorts--802.11x, Bluetooth, etc. Yes, they have to consume power to transmit, but everything else needs to be pared down.
--Display-- Here's a wild idea--why not use a divergent fresnel lens behind the LCD, and use ambient light instead of a CFL or LEDs?

There are other potential places we could save more power, but that's enough for now. Reducing power consumption would bring lots of benefits. You'd save space on cooling systems, letting you build a smaller, lighter notebook. You'd need a smaller battery for the same lifetime, again saving size and weight.

Yeah, everyone's a critic, and it's easy to be an armchair engineer, but the needs are nonetheless valid.

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Gadget Feature Request #2

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago Device: Optical drives of all sorts.
Feature: Slot-loading

Okay, so we've had slot-loading CD players in cars for years and years, and I like it. Minimal visible footprint, very slick interface, no clunky, plastic trays or faceplates that may or may not match your computer. And if you're modding your computer, or using it in a new one, there's no need for painting, dying, stealth doors, or any sort of mechanical hiding mechanism. All you have to do is cut a slot.

Yes, such drives exist. Well, one model exists, namely the Plextor PX-716AL/SW-BL, but it costs $150! One hundred dollars (or more) is an awful high premium on a mere disc loading mechanism. I'm surprised they sell any at that price.

But why doesn't anybody else make such a drive?

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Gadget Feature Request #1

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago Every once in a while, I come across a situation that makes me really wish for one or another feature for some gadget. So here's my first feature request:

Device: Portable Audio and Video devices (MP3 players, DVD players, maybe even laptops and PDAs)
Feature Request: Integrate an FM transmitter into it.

I drive an old car that has a tape deck in it, so when I want to listen to the music on my MP3 player (an inexpensive 2GB Sansa), I plug a cassette adapter in. This leaves a cord draped onto the passenger seat. Now maybe this might not bother most people, but I'm an engineer, and as such have an instinctive dislike for anything so inelegant. I have an FM transmitter at home that we have occasionally used. The problem is that this transmitter, while respectably small, is still larger than the MP3 player. And it's a separate device. That's attached by a cord. So I end up with a nunchuck-style arrangement.

So let's add an FM transmitter to MP3 players. You turn on your mp3 player, tell it to broadcast on channel xx.x, turn up the car radio, and you're off. Heck, set a preset on your radio and leave the same frequency set on your MP3 player to eliminate a couple steps. Then you can put the mp3 player wherever--in the glove compartment, sitting in the coin tray, put it back in your pocket, whatever.

There are a few potential downsides:
--If the user forgets to turn on the FM transmitter, it would drain batteries faster
--Manufacturers of iPod (and other mp3 player) accessories would be pretty mad
--The FCC might not like the suddenly-increased number of FM transmitters, even if they're all very low-powered
--Added complexity and circuitry might be hard to fit into the same-sized package
--Differing radio frequencies in different countries

Your thoughts?

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Virginia Tech shooting and Politicians

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago In the wake of today's tragedy on the Virginia Tech campus, my wife made a very disturbing, yet profound, observation. Every news outlet is asking the question "What could have done to prevent this from happening?" Everyone and his dog will have an opinion on what VT officials could have done better. And everyone will demand someone's head on a platter. The politicians do it because they want to be seen as acting strongly against such events, and the media do it because it makes it easy to blame someone: "so-and-so should have had more police there" or "the administration should have locked down the entire campus immediately". They have to blame somebody for not seeing beforehand what we now see clearly with hindsight. In other words, we have to blame this on somebody, and punish them. The blame game is particularly maddening, because it shows a lack of perspective, and leads to inappropriate, ineffective responses.

Think of it this way. If the gunman had not been killed, but rather taken into custody, would we still be hearing questions like "why did it take them two hours to send out an email to the students?". Perhaps eventually, but not with such immediacy or such a scathing tone. Instead, there would be much more focus on the gunman. In the last forty-five minutes we've been watching the news, not once did we hear them place the blame on the gunman. Why? Simple. We cannot satisfactorily place the blame on him and punish him. University officials and the police, on the other hand, are right there and present ripe targets. Even though there's little they could have done to prevent it.

Now that I've ranted a bit and complained about what the media are doing wrong, what do I propose as a solution? I propose that university (that's all of them, not just VT) officials take a hard look at what could drive this person to this type of action.

First, figure out what made him crack. Was there too much pressure to succeed in school? Did he have too large of a course load? Did his girlfriend just dump him? Did he just flunk a critical exam? Then, we need to find ways to prevent that cause where appropriate, or mitigate the consequences. Maybe better student relations and counseling would help prevent or reduce extra stress. Maybe we need tighter controls on how many courses students can take. Maybe we need a better "relief valve" for pent-up frustration. Say, a wall with professors' portraits and free use of paintball guns. Or an anonymous forum for rants. I'm not a behavioral psychologist, so I can't say what would work best. Nothing more needs to be done, in my opinion. We need to come to grips with what happened, and get on with our lives.

In any case, we must stop focussing so much on what could have been done had we known everything beforehand, and instead look forward optimistically to find genuine solutions. Solutions that will help us as people better ourselves so that this will never happen again. Instead of trying to shield us from the "bad guys", empower us so that none of us becomes a "bad guy" in the first place.

I'm doing a poor job of expressing my view, but I hope I get the point across.

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I'm sick of AC power!

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago Historically, AC power has been preferred for a couple reasons. The first is because it has been easier to transmit long distances. Simply run it through a transformer to boost the voltage up to some hundreds-of-kilovolts, string it up on high-tension power lines, and step down the voltage at the other end. The advantage of this method is that the high voltage means that relatively little current is required in order to transmit the same amount of power. That decreases line losses in transmission. It's also easy to step voltages up and down very efficiently for distribution.

The second reason why AC is preferred is because that's how almost all electricity is generated. Some piece of rotating machinery (gas turbine, steam turbine driven by coal or nuclear or gas, windmill, etc) spins a generator, which produces AC. The only exception I can think of is photovoltaics, which at this point are still too expensive from a consumer's point of view.

Then why would you want DC? For bulk transmission of large amounts of power, DC is better for several reasons: You can put more DC current through the same wire, since DC uses the entire cross-section of the wire instead of only the surface, as AC does. With DC, you also do away with (or can ignore) capacitance between phases and capacitance between conductor and environment. It's also easier to control power flow with DC.

So AC is better on the generation side, DC is better on the transmission side, and AC is better for distribution. What a fun world we live in.

So why do I want DC? Simple: I recently took a quick survey of my house, and discovered something startling: Practically nothing in my house needs AC power. Seriously, almost everything in my house either already converts AC to DC, or could be fairly easily redesigned to use DC.

Now, this may seem kind of obvious. Computers naturally run off DC, as does everything associated with them--I lump printers, scanners, and network gear of all sorts in that group. Incandescent lights can run off DC just fine--they're fairly close to a simple resistive element in any case. Our stereo and VCR/DVD player run off DC (thanks to internal conversion), and almost everything inside the TV gets power after it's been converted to some sort of DC. Our fridge runs on AC, but fridges that run off DC exist--it's just a matter of using DC motors for the compressor and blowers instead of AC motors. Even fluorescent lighting, including CFLs, can easily work with DC; the electronics in the ballast that control current flow for AC can easily be designed to do the same for DC.

There's one more reason that's a bit of my personal fetish: power backup. That heavy brick of a UPS you have in the corner? It's converting AC power to DC in order to charge your batteries. When the power goes out, that same UPS then converts that DC back into AC to feed into your computer. Once it's in the computer, it gets converted once again to DC before it powers all the fun stuff inside. That's a fair amount of loss incurred through those three conversions, even if it's only when the power's out and only as long as the battery lasts. With a DC-powered house, however, the outside DC would run directly to a power conditioner in the PC, with very little loss along the way. Your UPS would enjoy much higher efficiencies. And if you had a big enough battery bank, your own house could serve to reduce the effect of startup current when your teenage daughter turns on the hairdryer or when someone turns on the vacuum cleaner.

But what about the costs of the inefficiency of converting AC to DC at the supplier's end? They don't matter. You see, you're paying $.xx/kWh for your electricity, and losing some of that energy through AC-to-DC conversion. In effect, you're paying more for each kWh of electricity that's actually doing something beneficial. Pushing the AC-to-DC conversion upstream towards the energy producers would increase the "sticker price" of the power you get, but you would end up using less of it, balancing out the cost.

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Drilling for Oil and NIMBY in California

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago (Disclaimer: I work for an oil company) I recently heard an interesting story at work. It goes something like this:

A little while back, a large, producible oil reservoir was discovered off the coast of California, near Santa Barbara. Exxon got the lease from the federal government to drill and produce that oil. So far, so good.....except that this is California, and the rampant NIMBY syndrome in the area interfered. Exxon was not able to get the permits to pipe this oil to shore and into pipelines in the area. The protesting was so vocal and persistent that many outsiders began to wonder if anybody in the city actually held a job.

Fortunately for Exxon, the spot of water where this platform was to be built was outside of the State of California's jurisdiction, although it was visible from shore. The plan for the project was changed from a traditional oil platform to an FPSO, or Floating Production, Storage, and Offloading facility. This meant that instead of a single, fairly small oil platform, there would now be an enormous boat (the FPSO), flanked by two enormous oil tankers, which would receive the oil from the FPSO and ship it elsewhere on the coast.

The project was built, and to nobody's surprise, the locals were not exactly thrilled with the sight of three huge ships constantly off the coast. But things did not end there. You see, there's always some amount of natural gas that comes up with the oil, varying from just a few percent up to the upper 90%'s, and it has to be put somewhere. Exxon was able to make an agreement with a local utility company to pipe the natural gas from this FPSO to shore for power generation. I'm not clear on the details, but somehow because it was a utility company, this type of agreement is only governed by federal law and not local law.

Eventually, the state government capitulated, and allowed the oil to be piped ashore at that location, in exchange for replacing the three big ships with a platform and promising not to use the FPSO anywhere on the western coast.

As an interesting sidenote the reservoir in this location is under so much pressure that oil naturally seeps through the rock and sediment into the water and finds its way onshore. And, of course, Exxon gets blamed for it....

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TV ads for Prescription Drugs should be Banned

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 7 years ago Here's another pet peeve of mine: commercials for prescription drugs on TV. And here's why:

Certain drugs require a prescription from a doctor. There are various very good reasons for this. Some drugs can be addictive. Many are dangerous to the patient if not taken correctly. Antibiotics are dangerous to society if not taken correctly. Many drugs have nasty interactions with other drugs. Many diseases or disorders can require different drugs based on subtle differences in the patient's condition. In short, without a prescription system, we would see people killing themselves due to overdose, killing themselves because of a drug interaction, becoming addicted to some drug, contributing to antibiotic-resistant diseases, etc. That's why we have doctors and pharmacists who prescribe specific drugs for specific patients.

So why advertise on TV to people who don't know enough to correctly self-medicate? Because of those magic words "Ask your doctor about [insert medicine name here]." These people have zero need to know about Megadrug or Instacure. If a person has a health problem, he or she can go to a doctor. Doctors are trained to recognize medical conditions and prescribe (if necessary) the correct medicine. Now, however, we have people going in to their doctor and saying "I have condition X, give me medicine Y" instead of letting the doctor do his job, for which he is far better qualified than the patient is.

So as a result, you have pharmaceutical companies spending ridiculous amounts of money on TV ads (which raises the cost of the drug, which is passed on to the customer), and a lot of people who think they know what they need because of a commercial on TV. Oh, and a lot of people who think "Gee, I didn't sleep well last night, I must need a 'sleep aid' to help!"--or, in effect, overmedication.

Let me see if I can say this succinctly. Drug companies spend lots of money marketing to people who can't be trusted with making a decision about buying their products. These people will be convinced that they need it, just like they need a new car or a home equity loan to pay for a new boat. The difference is that the result can be far more dangerous. People complain about expensive prescription drugs, and drug companies complain about the cost of bringing drugs to market. Banning the marketing of prescription drugs to the pubic would benefit both parties.

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Nuclear Power - The US is Stupid

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  about 8 years ago Nuclear power is one of my hot-buttons. While much of Europe has built many nuclear plants, the US lags. Why? There's a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants in the US. While the reasons for the 1974 ban may have been valid at the time (and vindicated by Three Mile Island and Chernobyl), the most common concerns about nuclear power no longer make any sense.

What follows is a line-by-line look at some of the most popular objections to nuclear power, and why I don't think they're valid:

Concern #1: An accident like Three-Mile Island or Chernobyl could happen.
Why it's wrong: Chernobyl will never happen again. A combination of a seriously flawed reactor design and an operating staff unfamiliar with it caused the accident. Training today is leaps-and-bounds better than it was in the 80's. Some types of reactors now being researched can't melt down even in the worst of circumstances. Control systems and safety systems have also advanced way beyond anything available then. While Chernobyl was a very serious accident that impacted hundreds of thousands in some way, Three-Mile Island really wasn't a big deal. Yes, there was a partial melt-down of the contents of the reactor core. But aside from the coolant water that was released (and contained and stored elsewhere on-site) everything stayed in the core. The reactor maintained its structural integrity. No injuries occurred, and exactly one case of cancer was attributed to the accident.

Concern #2: It's dangerous to those who live nearby
Why it's wrong: Let's take Three-Mile Island, where some of the contaminated gases (hydrogen, and steam) were vented to the atmosphere. Testing of people living within a 10-mile radius showed a maximum exposure of 100 millirads (equivalent to 1/3 of a year of natural background radiation) and average of only 8 millirads of exposure (about the same as a chest x-ray). That's after radioactive gases were released after an accident. Under normal circumstances, practically zero radiation escapes.

Concern #3: We have to store the radioactive waste for 10,000 years
Response: Well that's only partially true. Yes, there is solid nuclear waste produced by the reactor, and it is highly radioactive. However, consider the following:
--1) 95% of spent fuel is unconsumed Uranium that can be reprocessed into new fuel. Although Great Britain, France, and Russia do so, the US has banned reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from civilian uses because of proliferation concerns. (me: this is stupid--it's far more likely to proliferate from Russia than the US in any case, and proper security can help prevent it anyway)
--2) actinides, the component of spent fuel that is responsible for the oft-quoted 10,000 storage time can also be reprocessed into new fuel. This reduces the total amount of waste down to about 3% of the original amount.
--3) The 3% left after reprocessing the unspent uranium and the actinides is called the Fission products. These are highly radioactive, but reach safe levels in around 300 years--a far cry from the 10,000 years you hear.

In addition, there is some amount of other 'stuff' like tools and clothing, that gets exposed to radiation and currently must be treated as hazardous. But it's not, really. Your morning cup of coffee is more radioactive. But your coffee grounds go to the landfill and this other stuff has to be stored.

Concern #4: Proliferation
Why it's wrong: Proliferation is gonna happen one way or another. There are enough nuts running around this world with nuclear programs that the likelihood of proliferation from a US facility is, by comparison, negligible.

Concer #5: Other alternative energy is better
Response: I personally love the idea of solar, wind, and water power. However, the economics currently just don't support it. A 1 GW nuclear reactor with all associated equipment, building, and infrastructure is not that big. A solar installation with that capacity, however, would be ridiculously huge. If we could collect 100% of the solar energy in an area and convert it perfectly to electricity, we would require an entire square kilometer to generate that much power. And it would only generate that much power when the sun is perfectly perpendicular to that spot. Although the efficiency of photovoltaic cells has been increasing, global demand has made supply extremely tight and prices are very high. Solar and Wind power both have the problem that we can't depend on them. Cloudy or windless days render them practically useless. Hydroelectric I like, but there are only so many places to put a dam, and there are lots of other environmental issues that must be worked.

Now, let's compare nuclear power to the status quo: coal-fired plants.
Coal: Huge amounts of CO2, sulphur, and naturally-occurring radioactive material (NORM) get released into the atmosphere to go....wherever. Things are improving, but the fact remains that you're burning stuff and releasing much of the remains into the atmosphere.
Nuclear: A few cubic meters of spent fuel per reactor, of which some 97% can be reprocessed. And we can very effectively control the remainder. We know exactly where it's going.

Yup, that's right. For all the concerns people have about radiation coming from a nuclear power plant, a coal-fired power plant produces (and releases!) far more.

The blame for all the misinformation can, I think, be laid squarely at the feet of those who misguidedly attempt to perpetuate myths that were mostly false when they originated and are all false now. What is so telling about the viability of nuclear energy is this:

The environmentalists that fought so hard against nuclear power 30 years ago? They now promote it.

Would I be willing to have a nuclear plant built behind my house. Absolutely.

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Big Oil and Global Warming

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  about 8 years ago (Disclaimer: I work for an oil company)

An article was posted today about the National Science Teachers' Association's rejection of several tens of thousands of copies of "An Inconvenient Truth". Naturally, much discussion ensued about how Big Oil (and big companies in general) are too involved in politics. What I want to discuss is a side topic that arose: Big Oil and Global Warming. I can't and won't debate whether Global Warming is real or not--my knowledge and expertise are not sufficient to make a judgement. For the sake of this piece, we'll assume that Global Warming is real and caused directly by humans.

The general consensus is that an increase in the quantities of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere traps solar radiation and, over time, increases the temperature of the earth. And the largest source of Carbon Dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, is the combustion of fossil fuels--oil, natural gas, propane, coal, etc. I have no problem with that. However, to blame it on the companies that produce that fuel is at best a mistake and at worst an attempt to seize political power by eliminating any responsibility for our own actions.

Blaming the human race's use of fossil fuels on the companies that produce them is a logical non-sequitur. It's like blaming auto manufacturers for car accidents (at least those not caused by a defect). The oil/gas/coal companies are simply supplying a good that people demand. Did you catch that? Supply and Demand. People demand energy, whether it's in the form of electricity for the home or business, gasoline for the car, or heat for the home. Under current circumstances, oil/gas/coal are the most economical way to produce that energy. The people, WE, are the ones causing the production of greenhouse gases.

Example #1: Please excuse a pet peeve of mine: enormous, bloated, oversized SUVs. I see tons of them on my way to work with a single occupant. There are a few people who genuinely need an SUV, but a vast majority of SUV owners bought it for questionable reasons. How much gas do we waste by driving these behemoths? And why do we insist on living so far from our work?
Example #2: I currently live in Houston, where by some undefined Divine Decree every business sets their thermostat at a frigid 70F or colder during the summer. Nearly everyone finds this too cold, and it wastes lots of electricity, but 70F is the standard. On the flip side, we recently took a trip to Utah, where we found that despite the cold (30-50F) temperatures, all the buildings were heated to the high 70's. Again, how much energy is being wasted here?

The point is that we can't blame the oil & gas/coal companies for our own selfish irresponsibility. The way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce how much oil/gas/coal/wood/whatever we burn. That's right--Only you can prevent greenhouse gas emissions.

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My take on Net Neutrality

LehiNephi LehiNephi writes  |  more than 8 years ago Much has been said in the last several months on the topic of Net Neutrality. Countless thousands have stated their opinion on one side of the topic or the other, and it seems that very few people are in the middle.

From the TelCos' side of the debate, you hear this: Enforcing strict Net Neutrality will hamber innovation on the Internet. Without the ability to give some traffic priority, some services, like video and voice, will not have a guaranteed quality of transmission. There are quite a few applications currently not viable that would become possible with the ability to shape traffic.

From the Geeks' side, you hear this: Unless Net Neutrality is enforced, TelCos will have all the power in the world to get a strangle-hold on any traffic they want. The potential for abuse is very high. In fact, many have already accused Comcast of intentionally causing traffic problems for their users who wish to use Vonage, while simultaneously promoting their own VoIP service. Or, for example, a company could racketeer a successful web-based company--something along the lines of "Pay us lots of money or we won't let your traffic through our lines".

So you have TelCos on one side who say they just want to create an upper tier for special traffic, and geeks who are afraid that ISPs want to create a lower tier for traffic that doesn't directly bring them money, i.e. third-party VoIP.

So while nearly everyone is strongly polarized one way or another, I find myself kind of in the middle. I see the need for a guaranteed-on-time delivery for some data, but I don't want to see anyone get squashed because they didn't pay all the appropriate companies their "insurance".

If I felt I could trust all the TelCos and ISPs, I'd suggest this: allow the TelCos to create the upper tier they want, but force all carriers to leave the current free-for-all alone.

The problem is, I don't trust TelCos and ISPs farther than I can throw them. What is a user or a company to do if an ISP, particularly a large one, intentionally degrades the traffic for that company? Although it seemed that Comcast's customers' problems connecting to Vonage were obviously caused by Comcast, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove that Comcast intentionally crippled that traffic. Because of the "best effort" nature of current infrastructure, connection problems could be caused by something as simple as a glitch in a router, or as sinister as an ISP intentionally degrading that traffic to push customers to their own competing service. And it's very difficult to prove intent. Even in a case where abuse is evident, a court case would take years before a conclusion, driving businesses that fall victim to such abuse into bankruptcy.

In the end, until Telecommunications Companies and ISPs prove that they can be trusted, I have to come down in favor of Net Neutrality. I find it hard to believe the big TelCo's story about Net Neutrality preventing them from making enough revenue. Financially, they currently seem to be doing just fine without a multi-tiered Internet. The potential for abuse is so high and so easy to implement that it must be otherwise prevented.

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