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Local Hackerspace Loses Solar Balloon, Creating Another UFO In New Mexico

anorlunda The Flying Tortilla (31 comments)

Yo quiero Earth.

about two weeks ago
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FCC May Permit Robocalls To Cell Phones -- If They Are Calling a Wrong Number

anorlunda NotAs Simple as it Sounds (217 comments)

The Federalist Society recently posted a podcast on this subject.
http://www.fed-soc.org/multime...

The issues, and unintended side effects of The Telephone Consumer Protection Act are more extensive than you probably imagine.I recommend that podcast as TFA for this thread.

about two weeks ago
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The 'Radio Network of Things' Can Cut Electric Bills (Video)

anorlunda No radios needed. (172 comments)

The Summary says "Now kick that up to the electric company level, and give them a radio network that tells them which electric provider to get electricity from at what time to get the best (wholesale) price"

That's crazy. There are already organizations called Independent Systemm Operators (ISO) that run real time auctions to do thst function. They have been operating since the 1990s. No radios are needed. They have had high reliability communications methods for many decades.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Sounds We Don't Hear Any More?

anorlunda Tick Tock of the Grandfather Clock and the Cuckoo (790 comments)

Few people have working wind-up clocks in their houses any more. At least. It working day in day out. The sounds of ticking clocks at night was soothing.

Also soothing was the sound of the cuckoo clock cuckoopint on the hour.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Sounds We Don't Hear Any More?

anorlunda Ice Box Drip Pans (790 comments)

Before refrigerators, we had an ice box. Under the ice box was a drip pan to catch the melt water.

All night long. Drip. Drip. Drip.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Sounds We Don't Hear Any More?

anorlunda Mechanical Clapper Pedestrian Crossing Signals (790 comments)

Instead of white icon lights and a chime, some pedestrian crossings used to have mechanical clappers. Clap slow to wait, clap fast to cross.

On a hot summer night when all windows were open (because we had no AC) you could hear those damn clappers clapping from all over the city.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Sounds We Don't Hear Any More?

anorlunda The Five O'clock Steam Whistle (790 comments)

Telling the factory men (and the whole town) that it was time to go home.

about three weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Sounds We Don't Hear Any More?

anorlunda Re:Joke? (790 comments)

That was fun. But he cheated, and dinged the end of line bell manually without reaching the end of line.

about three weeks ago
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Professor: Young People Are "Lost Generation" Who Can No Longer Fix Gadgets

anorlunda Re:Dupe (840 comments)

My Ford Falcon used to get low voltage. The cure was to whack the regulator with a tire iron.

No special smarts needed.

about a month ago
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Google Fiber's Latest FCC Filing: Comcast's Nightmare Come To Life

anorlunda A New Kind Of Monopoly (221 comments)

There is another approach. To my knowledge, it has never been used anywhere in the world.

One monopoly could own, operate, and maintain the poles, wires and fibers. They would be a public utility and be answerable to the public service commission for tarrifs and meeting reliability and availabilty requirements. But they would not provide any consumer service at all. Their customers would be the electric power and communications companies that rent use of the facilities. Perhaps even natural gas and water distribution pipes could be included in the bundle.

It is already true that power and communications utilities outsource a lot of the line construction, operation, and maintenance of distribution to outside contractors, so the change might not be a dramatic as it sounds. It would be primarily a legal change to make these contractors public utilities, with the rights and obligations that go along with their role.

Please correct me if you know of some place where this approach has been applied.

about a month ago
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Neglecting the Lessons of Cypherpunk History

anorlunda Re:Strategic vs tactical interception (103 comments)

Mod the parent up.

We are trying to make bulk surveillance harder, not targeted surveillance. By bulk I mean something like 500 million devices, all to be cracked.

about 2 months ago
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Mathematicians Study Effects of Gerrymandering On 2012 Election

anorlunda States too are districts (413 comments)

In federal elections, state borders can be considered as districts causing the same kinds of distortions.

It would take a pretty thorough rewrite of The Constitution of the USA to eliminate disproportionate weight of citizen votes.

 

about 2 months ago
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MARS, Inc: We Are Running Out of Chocolate

anorlunda The Great Nestle Hedge Bet (323 comments)

In the early 60s I worked as an exterminator. Our company was hired to fumigate warehouses full of cocoa beans owned by Nestle. They hired every vacant warehouse in New York State to hold those beans. I got to see a lot of warehouses and an unimaginable quantity of beans. The fumigations were strictly precautionary.

  I was told that Nestle was taking advantage of low world prices and had bought the the entire world' scrap,of cocoa beans for thst year. In following years, they could either sell them at a profit, or use them up in Nestle chocolate factories.

about 2 months ago
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Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

anorlunda Re:Profits a function of regulations (517 comments)

Second, utility company profit is typically regulated to be a percentage of revenues, and reduced sales (because of conservation, self-generation, or whatever) will reduce power company revenue, but profits will remain at the regulated percentage of revenue.

No. Not a percent of revenues, but rather a percent of investment. A critical difference in this context because falling revenues will not cause falling profits.

about 4 months ago
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Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

anorlunda Re:TFA False Premise (517 comments)

One could carry it to the logical extreme. Expect everyone to supply their own power, but charge only a fixed fee to serve as a backup source.

Even in thst extreme case, the public service commission is required to grant rates which proved the utilities a guaranteed return in investment. Investments in transmission and distribution are huge. Return on those investments does not depend on them actually delivering energy all the time.

A death spiral would occur if too many people go completely off grid. But those people will have to learn to live with having power only part time. There are periods in winter where days are short and winds are calm for weeks at a time. In places where it gets to be 20 below, backup,power os dearly needed. (Things are a bit easier in warm, sunny, parts of the country.)

You are also still neglecting the people in high density and high rise housing who can not easily generate their own power. As many as half the population is in that category.

about 4 months ago
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Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

anorlunda TFA False Premise (517 comments)

The TFA uses a false model for computing profits. In the USA nearly all electric utilities are regulated monopolies. The government grants them a monopoply for a particular service area. The utility fronts the capital investment (historically up to 20% of all capital investment in the whole country!!! They must raise the capital in the private markets and convince investors to invest in utilites instead of Apple or Alibaba. High returns are needed to attract that money.). The pubic service commission is obligated to allow rates that guarantee the utility a defined return on investment profit. In real life, there is a lot of wiggle room and lots of politics in rate setting, but competitive pressure is not a factor. TFA ignores this.

We could, as a matter of public policy, decide to revoke the monopoly. That would open the door to any competitor, but it would also allow the utility to charge any rate they like without asking permission, and would remove any obligations regarding reliability and quality of service. (Think daily brownouts for anyone who doesn't pay for "premium service" on the hottest day of the year.) It would also open the door for another set of poles and another set of wires running down every street; one set per competitor. NYC was like that in the 1890s, and some places in Asia are like that today with hundreds of wires on every pole and laying over every rooftop.

But a death spiral in which rising rates paid by the remaining non-solar customers drive more and more customers to generate their own power could still be possible. But it would not directly affect utility profits as the TFA claims. The regulated utility business model would be challenged, not the profits of utilities that remain regulated. Those profits are guaranteed by law.

We should also recognize that lots of the population lives in high rise apartments and do not own enough rooftop or yard square feet to use solar panels.

about 4 months ago
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Finland's Nuclear Plant Start Delayed Again

anorlunda Re:Arevas failure (130 comments)

I worked on a competing bid for this plant from a Swedish supplier that had a track record of completing nuclear plants ahead of schedule and under budget. After loosing thst bid, the nuclear department of that company was shut down.

The same company and the Finns were also set to sign the contract for a downtown district heating nuke for Helsinki. It would have been a major success for nuclear technology. The day before the signing press conference, Chernobyl happened.

My point is that the process of bidding and bid evaluation on high priced projects is so burdened by politics, marketing hype, and luck that we might as well just flip a coin. It happens all the time that the contract is awarded to someone who can't fulfill it, while more capable suppliers are sidelined.

about 5 months ago
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Securing the US Electrical Grid

anorlunda US Government is the Biggest Attack Vector (117 comments)

If NSA has installed weaknesses and/or back doors into most commercial hardware and software globally, then everyone, Al Qaeda, as well as power companies, use the same stuff.

Ask any security manager. He'll tell you that we must assume that bad guys will eventually learn how to exploit those weaknesses and/or back doors, leaving us highly vulnerable to attack.

The Cyber Command wing of NSA has the responsibility to assure that they can successfully attack any enemy, any time. They can not know now who that future enemy might be. Therefore, the only way they can be assured of accomplishing that mission is to make sure that no computer, no IT operating anywhere on the planet is really secure. I fear that they are planting the seeds by which bad guys can attack the power grid in the future.

about 5 months ago

Submissions

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Ask Slashdot: Why no Third Party Facebook Clients?

anorlunda anorlunda writes  |  about 6 months ago

anorlunda (311253) writes "Facebook annoys me (and millions of others I'm sure). In order to see pictures and news of family and friends, I have to be exposed to all their "likes" and "shares" and now plain ads. Facebook won't let me filter those things categorically.

The stage seems ripe for a third party client that will access my Facebook account, but that caters to my wishes about what I don't want to see. There must be thousands before me who had the same idea, yet I find no trace of discussions on this topic on Slashdot.

Of course Facebook will hate this idea but that hasn't stopped third party apps in many analogous cases. How does Facebook prevent third party clients or third party apps? How do they suppress even discussion of the topic?"
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Wind Based Air Defense

anorlunda anorlunda writes  |  more than 4 years ago

anorlunda (311253) writes "The NYT has a story called, "Wind Turbine Projects Run Into Resistance." It tells about military opposition to wind farm projects; especially in the Mohave Desert of California. Apparently, the spinning blades interfere with radar, both military radar and weather radar.

They go on to say, "The military says that the thousands of existing turbines in the gusty Tehachapi Mountains, to the west of the R-2508 military complex in the Mojave Desert, have already limited its abilities to test airborne radar used for target detection in F/A-18s and other aircraft."

Now there's a road map to a modern air defense system. Just put wind farms around your most important targets and the US military will be hindered in attacking you by air."

Link to Original Source
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Where Is Population In The Climate Debate?

anorlunda anorlunda writes  |  more than 5 years ago

anorlunda writes "One of the 6,780 reports released today by Wikileaks, is entitled Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Perspective on the Top 20 Emitters and Developed Versus Developing Nations (RL32721 / 2008-12-24) It contains some very simple, easy to understand, and very useful information about greenhouse emissions.

Namely, it says Population delta + per capita GDP delta + Intensity delta = Emissions delta

An interesting side point is that the current world-wide recession causing big negative GDP growths will have a huge inadvertent impact on emissions.

Most important, the equation makes clear that if we continue to allow population to grow, and if we are committed to elimination of poverty, and ending the recession, then population and GDP growth inevitably overwhelm any gains we can make in intensity (i.e. energy consumption and efficiency). There is no scenario in which technology can outrace population x GDP.

Despite that, it seems that 100% of the debate hot air on climate change is over intensity. We are barking up the wrong tree! Assuming that we remain committed to elimination of poverty, the only way that we can beat the climate change problem is to reduce population. Efficient light bulbs be damned; how are we going to reduce global population?

Here's some figures from the report (in percent per year.)
... Population delta + per capita GDP delta + Intensity delta = Emissions delta
... global: +1.4 +1.7 -1.6 = +1.6
... USA: +1.2 +1.8 -1.9 = +1.0
... China +0.9 +9.1 -4.9 = + 4.8
... EU-27 +0.3 +1.8 -2.4 = -0.4
... Russian Fed -0.2 -0.4 -2.0 = -2.7"
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The Politics of Power Bring South Africa Down

anorlunda anorlunda writes  |  about 7 years ago

anorlunda writes "The NYT reported today that "Power Failures Outrage South Africa" The crux of the story is that politicians in South Africa screwed up by delaying approval of needed new power plants and failed to deliver on alternatives. They were warned in 1998 that this would lead to shortages in 2007, but they ignored it. Now, South Africans are subject to daily rolling blackouts. It may take as long as five years to repair the problem. By then, the South African economy will be completely trashed.

Could a similar problem happen in the USA? Sure; in fact it already did to some extent. The 2000 power crisis in California was primarily caused by flaws in the 1996 law that allowed predators like ENRON to run wild. It resulted in rolling blackouts reputed to cost the California economy $1 billion per day. Fortunately, the USA still regulates power on the state level, so political mistakes are likely to affect only one state or one region at a time; not the whole country.

Power reliability engineering is a subject so crushingly boring that it can bring tears just to read about it. The reliability councils tell us how much reserve generating margin of what type we need in which locations to maintain reliability. That it is something that is highly likely to be overridden by politics.

The sad news is that energy plans must be so conservative that we refuse to let go with one hand until the other hand has a firm grip on the rock face. We need to plan to build both the dirty (but proven and doable) conventional plants and renewable plants. To the extent that the renewable plants actually get built and actually produce, the conventional plants can lay idle or just sit around for possible backup use or their construction plans can be canceled. We must not the country hostage by canceling conventional plans for keeping up with electric demand while hoping for newer and cleaner alternatives to take their place.

If we screw up the reliability engineering in our rush to stop polluting, then we risk the same fate as South Africa. The consequences could make the great depression seem like a picnic."
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anorlunda anorlunda writes  |  more than 7 years ago

anorlunda writes "I'm retired and all my money is in an IRA account at TD Waterhouse. I access it online the only way I can, via public WiFi hotspots. Naturally, I'm very concerned about security. If someone hijacked my account I'm dead broke.

The TD Waterhouse home page has fields for logging in. However, IE6 does not show the SSL icon for the page on the status line. Firefox shows neither the SSL icon nor the signer's name on the status bar. However, near the login fields there is a padlock icon.

TD Waterhouse has a second page specifically for, client login, and that page shows the SSL icon and the signer's name in the Firefox status bar, as it should.

TD Waterhouse should be a trusted source, so I emailed them this question and got the following reply.

From: clientsupport@tdameritrade.com
Information entered on http://www.tdameritrade.com/welcome2.html in the sign-in box is transmitted through a secure server. Please notice the lock on the "Log on" button. This segment of the page is secure.
Mark C.
Client Support, TD AMERITRADE
Division of TD AMERITRADE, Inc.

Should I believe them? He seems to claim that a segment of a page can be secure even if the page itself is not secure. My instinct tells me to ignore any text or graphics in a web page's content that claims that it is secure, and to believe only my browser (if anything). After all, any old scam artist could put a padlock icon on his web page."
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anorlunda anorlunda writes  |  about 8 years ago

anorlunda writes "This is pure speculation. I notice that experts seem to be increasingly concerned with zombie PCs on the web and all the damage that they can do. There will come a day when an injured party sues the zombie's host ISP claiming negligence. A natural reaction to that could be for the ISPs to insist that their PC customers use the most hacker resistant, yet ubiquitous OS around — namely Vista.

I can hear the screams of anger now from millions of users who don't want to switch. On the other hand, few or none of them would stop using the net or even switch ISPs. Most would probably grumble, then switch to Vista. Hardware and third party software vendors and congressmen would back the ISPs because it would trigger the biggest mass upgrade since Y2K and create a surge of thousands of jobs.

The security debate to be acted out before congressional committees would be entertaining. We would pit the antimonoculturalists on one side versus the ban-those-Win95-skeletons proponents on the other side. It would also make the perfect opportunity to advocate the mobile browser plus net apps as the non-PC alternative architecture.

Could a major ISP successfully refuse Mac and Linux customers? I see no legal impediment. They can argue security and simplfied support as their motives. Once again, most aggrieved Mac and Linux customers would scream, but they would rather switch than go back to dial-up. Therefore, relatively few customers would actually defect.

I hate bringing up such an ugly speculation. I can see the flames coming my way now. But, the simplicity and rationality of a Vista-only future from the point of view of the ISPs and others seems too powerful to ignore. Perhaps the question should be, what would stop it from happening?"

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