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Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?

mothlos Reasons (397 comments)

Medium sized power outages are generally caused by a failure of local transmission lines. These lines are frequently exposed to a variety of hazards, particularly trees, wind, ice, wildlife, and humans. There are only really two ways to secure against this, burying cables and building redundancy, both of which are quite expensive. Transmission fees in the USA are usually heavily regulated and the prices they may charge would not cover such an expense. It is also unclear if a market would want to pay for this, and it is very difficult to discriminate in price and service among customers who would.

Finally, bureaucracy and in-fighting between local utility providers sometimes blocks redundancy when it might otherwise available. Historical feuds, hurt feelings over regulatory decisions regarding service area, and disagreements over cost sharing to handle inter-network connections can leave one person at the end of a service line with no way to get power from another provider just down the road.

4 hours ago

In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars

mothlos Re:Flawed, 'cos... (453 comments)

1. Peak demand. In car-culture areas there's a peak demand. *Someone* has to own the rush hour fleet. But no business is going to want to invest in a fleet that has 21 hours of downtime during non-peak loads.

This isn't the comparison which makes the most sense. The question is, "Can fleet ownership result in greater value for consumers significant enough to make a profit?". Most of the trips that residential vehicles make are commuter trips, but the vehicles making these trips are very often compromise vehicles, capable of doing a larger variety of tasks. If the surge is commuters, the commuter fleet can mostly be made of much smaller, task-oriented vehicles, reducing fleet costs. Many of these vehicles will be able to service multiple users sequentially, since the starting and ending times for work surge over a two-three hour period, increasing utility rates. A non-insignificant portion of this surge fleet will still be in use by people throughout the day. The reduced nuisance of parking could increase useage for things like lunch trips. The potential for there to be economies of scale is here and benefits from fleet ownership, so this cannot be simply dismissed.

The logic of where the savings exist can be thought of in terms of, "Are there savings that self-driving vehicles could accomplish with smaller modifications to the system?". If I had a way of making my self-driving vehicle available to people to pay me to use during the day, that would result in an overall increase in economic efficiency. If it was more convenient for people to rent specialty vehicles, utilization would increase and rental costs would decrease such that my every-day car could be optimized for commuting tasks and thus less expensive, more than offsetting the occasional rental costs of specialty rentals, increasing economic efficiency. These efficiencies are easier to realize with fleet ownership and thus there is room for cost savings for consumers and profits for a fleet owner.

2. Consumers want reliability and 100% availability. Consider Uber and Lyft that promise this, except during surge pricing periods. People hate this. It's economically correct in the case of Uber and Lyft, and an obvious idea, but surge pricing during rush hour isn't going to work. People will still own their own cars.

The problem with Uber, Lyft, car sharing, and taxies is that pockets of high useage have a lasting decrease in service availability in those areas. With self-driving vehicles, there is a very small cost to shifting resources to fill in empty pockets of the map. Yes, this becomes problematic the more rural one gets, but in urban and suburban environments, populations densities are high enough that with high levels of utilization, it could easily be economical to make it a very rare occurrence to not have a vehicle able to be at any address within a small number of minutes after being summoned.

3. Personalization and customization. Hey, I like my cars stock, but I still have my stuff in the center console, my presets on the stereo (yes, 760 am in the morning, I'm a dying breed), and my iPhone paired to Sync. A different car every day isn't going to cut it. And think about comfort, especially on a commute. If it's hit or miss as far as comfort, people are willing to pay for 100% access to a Fusion versus an Elantra (or choose an Elantra versus a smaller B-sized car).

Storing crap in one's car is probably the best argument for what will bother people about changing to this system, as having to lug crap out to the car while you are on the clock is a stress people will likely often buckle under; however, this seems like a problem which could be solved by some interesting lateral thinking. Radio presets are an easily solvable problem and luxury models are a method of price discrimination which would likely very quickly enter the marketplace, although it would be strains on my previous arguments. Much of the other elements of vehicle size and status are an extension of driving and how it feels to do so and they diminish greatly when one is a passenger. A self-driving sports car would lose a lot of its mystique. Another 'comfort' issue would be managing vehicle cleanliness between users, which might be a difficult problem as well. Of course, airlines have shown that people will tolerate an awful lot of discomfort in order to save a buck, so this is all a big open question.

4. Toy haulers. You're not going to call Uber or Lyft to tow your trailer to a state park or tow your boat to a launch. And this isn't 99%'er speaking, this is blue collar worker in my part of the country.

I really don't understand the objection here. In fact, I think owning trailer toys would be easier in a self-driving world as it can be expensive to own, operate, and maintain a huge vehicle for these purposes when you only use the towing feature a few times per year and many are not comfortable hauling a trailer at all. A self-driving towing vehicle available on your intermittent schedule and which would then be used by other people on the next weekend seems like an easy win.

All of this is going to depend on balancing a lot of variables and developing logistics algorithms and a hell of a lot of accounting, but this is not incredibly difficult stuff, just a bit tricky to get right. It is not immediately obvious that fleet ownership of residential vehicles is uneconomical and plenty of reasons for smart people to sit down and crunch numbers with the potential for them to make money and for consumers to save money under the new system.

2 days ago

In this year's US mid-term elections ...

mothlos Re: Lies, damned lies, statistics (551 comments)

While your comment has some insight, it shows the difficulties with the terms involved and the general lack of consistency of them.

Libertarian movements tend to share the commonality that large bureaucratic governments tend to lose the detail of personal-level problems and thus do a poor job of mediating them.

The big difference between Libetranianism and Libertarian Socialism is an evaluation of what the problems are and how the quality of outcomes should be measured. Libertarians tend to feel that justice is allowing people to rise and fall on their own merits and government in a force which allows those with less merit to benefit at the expense of the freedom of those with greater merit; they measure success on the lack of restrictions placed upon people's ambitions. Libertarian Socialists tend to feel that the natural state is for humans in small communities to help and support each other and that large bureaucratic governments empower actors to disrupt this in order to exploit people more effectively; they measure success on the closeness of person-level communities and their compassion for their neighbors.

In both cases, they seek smaller government, but the justifications for why this is desireable are very different with the division being the common political fault of fairness of opportunity vs. compassion of outcome. Since individuals tend to be more complex than these ideals can represent, members of these movements borrow from both, so it isn't surprising to hear ideas which are most at home in one ideology appearing in conversations about the other.

As for the term 'anarchist', it does get lobbed around a lot at both of these groups, but historical anarchist movements have tended to be more of the Libertarian Socialist sort, with calls for the development of human-scale, participatory governance over the rule of an econo-political elite. Libertarians don't really have a widely held policy proposal in the area of precisely how to structure the governance that they feel is necessary, so their calls for a radically less intrusive government presence combined with this lack of a detailed story of how governance would function leads many down the slippery slope of effectively no governance at all.

about three weeks ago

It's Not Just How Smart You Are: Curiosity Is Key To Learning

mothlos Re:.. and this is new ? (83 comments)

Unfortunately, not. Educational theory is a highly divided and conservative field. There are still plenty of educators who doggedly believe that students learn by behaviorist incentive motivation (carrots and sticks) and that students are blank slates. The idea that education should consider and perhaps even change in response to the internal motivations of students is an idea which has been around for decades, but has continued to be slow to catch on. Perhaps research like this, as limited in its scope as it might be, can provide quantities to convince more that student curiosity is an important factor in learning.

about 2 months ago

It's Not Just How Smart You Are: Curiosity Is Key To Learning

mothlos Re:.. and this is new ? (83 comments)

This is yet another issue of lay definitions not lining up with definitions used by researchers. Curisotiy in this case is probably best understod as internally motivated and sustained interest compared to interest from external sources.

about 2 months ago

Programming Languages You'll Need Next Year (and Beyond)

mothlos Elixir? (315 comments)

As long as we are hyping Erlang, the Erlang community is getting some disruption from a language developed by a prominent Rubyist called Elixir. Clojure-inspired metaprogramming, a Ruby-ish syntax, and it all compiles down to the same VM code that Erlang compiles into.

about 4 months ago

North Korea's Home-Grown Operating System Mimics OS X

mothlos Re:Dates (252 comments)

I wasn't referencing the linked articles, but commenting on the summary.

The Red Star OS is peppered with North Korean propaganda, and its calendar tells users it is not 2014, but 103 — the number of years since the birth of former North Korean leader Kim Il-sung.

The term "propaganda" may have inoccuous roots, but clearly holds a sinister connotation and it is juxtoposed in the same sentence with the bit about the North Korean year. This is the xenophobic fear mongering I was referencing.

about 10 months ago

North Korea's Home-Grown Operating System Mimics OS X

mothlos Dates (252 comments)

its calendar tells users it is not 2014, but 103

So what? Is this supposed to be some menacing thing that one group of people use a different date system than I do? Should I be concerned that in Japan the state writes Heisei 26 as the year on official documents? There are serious problems in North Korea, but we don't need to stoop to xenophobic fear mongering to illustrate it.

about 10 months ago

Should Everybody Learn To Code?

mothlos Perhaps not everybody, but many more (387 comments)

Having worked in office environments, the amount of effort office workers could reserve by having access to a decent scripting language is immense; I once saw someone renaming over three thousand files by hand in order to change a date format. The potential drawbacks are also fairly obvious since businesses tend to do a terrible job of managing their IT tools and anarchistic coding is going to make this worse. However, the potential for productivity enhancements is there and it seems like a challenge which can be largely overcome, particularly if the workforce had these skills which were languishing. If this is the reality we should to push for, then some sort of programming experience which can be linked to useful activities seems like it would be worthwhile for many, from the drones in the office to automated farm equipment and CNC operators.

about 10 months ago

Is Ruby Dying?

mothlos Re:Short answer: no (400 comments)

As a big fan of Ruby generally, I hate to take this side, but Ruby is definitely no longer for the 'cool' kids and the community has been shrinking a bit for a while now.

Your Google query chart is a bit wonky as it captures all sorts of oddities. Here is a revised chart which only looks at Computer + Electronics related searches using Google's categories for everything except Python, which I can't seem to figure out how to get it to appear.

about a year ago

US Government Embraces Bitcoin in Hearing on Virtual Currency

mothlos What's the point of Bitcoin if this happens? (233 comments)

The hopes underlying Bitcoin rely on the belief that this currency has qualities which other currencies lack, namely anonymity and freedom from government manipulation. This hearing seems to be a bunch of government officials saying that they love Bitcoin, but the government is already getting good at figuring out who is participating in transactions and wants to figure out how to regulate it, which would be a trick to pull off without making it vulnerable to government manipulation. What is left if these are no longer credible advantages?

1 year,7 days

A Math Test That's Rotten To the Common Core

mothlos Re:Why reinvent the wheel? (663 comments)

It is this sort of uninformed armchair policy making which is the greatest obstacle to legitimate education reform. We defer to engineers on how to best keep a bridge from falling, but everybody seems to be an expert when it comes to knowing what is best and what works in education.

The biggest problem with your assertion that educational methods at the turn of the twentieth century had indisputably better results than schools today is that schools which produced artifacts of their success weren't in the business of educating all of their students to their fullest potential. The grading system, which we maintain, was designed as a system of discrimination intended to sort students by academic capability and eventually into different tiers of work performance. These schools set a rigid standard and those who failed to meet it were simply marked as inferior. The entire system was designed around conformity to a standard and those who failed to conform were tossed aside. By this measure, dropping out of school is not only accepted, a low rejection rate was considered to be a sign of poor standards. This entire mindset is incompatible with our modern vision of an inclusive education system with an intended goal of raising everyone to their maximal learning potential.

1 year,24 days

Motorola's "Project Ara" Will Allow Users To Customize Their Smartphones

mothlos When do we get this for laptops? (112 comments)

I honestly don't care too much about my phone's specs, but build-your-own laptops have never seemed to surface despite BYO desktops being an important surviving part of that shrinking sector. I just want to be able to buy processor and graphics upgrades and not have to purchase a new monitor and keyboard whenever I want a new mobile computer.

1 year,28 days

OS X 10.9 Mavericks Review

mothlos Re:Enough already! (222 comments)

bad design creates false cues that misdirect users

I don't think I could agree with this any more. I didn't intend to take sides in the pro/anti skeuomorphism debate; I'm simply annoyed to see /. consistently framing skeuomorphism as fundamentally flawed instead of something which newbs and the artistically inept (e.g. suits) will rely on too heavily and apply when inappropriate.

about a year ago

OS X 10.9 Mavericks Review

mothlos Enough already! (222 comments)

Here we have Soulskill yet again trying to act like skeuomorphic artistic design is some sort of big, bad thing which we should be concerned about. This is not an important issue in human interface design. This seems to be some sort of pet peeve lens which Soulskill keeps bringing up. Skeuomorphism may bother designers who don't want to be tied down to designs based on mid-twentieth-century conventions of office life and people who demand every last pixel of their screen be useful for them. ell, it may even be the plastic teak dashboard of the 21st century, but its presence or lack thereof has such a tiny impact on usability for all but the most constrained interfaces that it is not worth /.'s concern. Please stop.

about a year ago

I wish my car could...

mothlos be replaced by convenient, reliable mass transit (443 comments)

I want my automobile, and the cars of everyone else who lives in an urban environment, to move away and never return so that we can reclaim the horrendous amount of wasted space and inconvenient placement of services. Cars for city folk should live in parking structures in the urban/rural interface where they can be rented and taken for work or recreation. The money we save by drastically reducing the number of vehicles we own and reduced infrastructure costs directly through roads and indirectly by placing things so far apart from each other can be used to build mass transit systems which don't suffer a large host of problems which plague them in automobile-centric communities.

about a year ago

The Luddites Are Almost Always Wrong: Why Tech Doesn't Kill Jobs

mothlos The Real Lesson (674 comments)

Arguments of this sort should help us understand that talking about this problem as a matter of jobs numbers is a flawed strategy. We should be talking in terms of how economic production is distributed and how much of the risk workers should be expected to assume to provide the workforce flexibility required to accommodate these productivity enhancements. There is only a dilemma between protectionism and innovation if we are unwilling to take responsibility for the economic outcomes which give the vast proportion of productivity gains to the investor class.

about a year ago

I'd prefer my money be made of ...

mothlos Fungible IOUs (532 comments)

I want people to be able to create IOUs which they promise to reclaim in the future in exchange for goods and services. I want these IOUs to be fungible, so that I am not up a creek if any particular debtor fails to service his or her debt. I want the entire scheme to require that regulated institutions be responsible for managing the risk of the system so that those who do default are offset by greater contributions from those who do not. These institutions could be rewarded for securing particularly good debt and punished for securing bad debt.

Hmmm... all of this sounds vaguely familiar.

about a year ago

You're Invited: Take a Look At Slashdot's New Beta

mothlos why do web designers hate their users? (69 comments)

As mentioned elsewhere, you seem to think that people don't actually use their screen real-estate. You are throwing away nearly a quarter of my browser's horizontal space for empty regions which fail to contain my gaze in the information I care about. You then go and give two-fifths of the used space to the right-hand side-bar which contains your adverts, yes, but it also means that the region remaining for the story summaries is inadequate. If I have the images on, many summaries require scrolling to get through.

The stalking header bar is useless. It contains links to things which I might want to utilize upon visiting, but when I am paging down to read stories, I'm not suddenly going to think, "I need to submit a new link." or "I can't remember what site I am on and need a link to it.". It just steals vertical space in a world where people have an excess of horizontal space on their screens. Stalking elements also break the idea of a web page of being a page which the user is examining through, which is not only creepy, but it makes it more difficult to maintain a spatial awareness on the page.

There is insufficient visual hinting regarding the boundaries of stories. Visual hinting allows people to more efficiently navigate information by ignoring what isn't important to them. In particular, the story titles are in a font which takes up too much space (too many stories have multi-line titles) and the font weight is so low as to not give them sufficient contrast. Speaking of contrast, the light grey frame is far too weak to create a box for the story. You also are trying to use white space to organize the data within a story element, but it just means that nothing in it anchors the reader's gaze requiring constant reevaluation.

Comments are just fucked. You have thrown out a somewhat successful threading system for an unnavigable mess. Even more than stories, the ability to skip comments is essential to find the parts of a conversation the reader finds interesting. The lack of width and size of overhead for each comment, plus the fact that auto-minimizing of comments isn't functional makes it just a stream of awful.

For all of the slamming of skeuomorphism and seeming praise for iconocentric user interfaces which gets promoted on this site, this pedestrian redesign to look like an AOL blog site is utter crap. Are there improvements to be made to the old design? Absolutely. It would be less offensive if this particular redesign was actually trying something new instead of regurgitating the crap which is already out there.

about a year ago

Ars Technica Reviews iOS 7

mothlos Skeuomorphism? Still? (233 comments)

The small minority of designers with an axe to grind about skeuomorphic interfaces does not deserve a shout-out. Interface design is just generally bad on consumer products, trading long-term productivity for short-term accessability. These designers who eschew skeuomorphic design rarely are proposing anything of real value aside from asthetic alterations; they don't like putting spiral binder holes on the interface, waah. If they were proposing real long-term productivity improvements and had decent arguments about how skeuomorphic details are impeding this, then I would be happy to listen, but comparing these designs vs. the sorts of designs I see the anti-skeumorphic community proposing and it just seems like they don't enjoy the asthetic.

about a year ago



Elixir 1.0.0 Released

mothlos mothlos writes  |  about 2 months ago

mothlos (832302) writes "

Elixir is a dynamic, functional language designed for building scalable and maintainable applications.

Where languages like Scala and Clojure implement concurrent, functional languages on a VM designed for imperative code, Elixir, instead, is a re-imagining Erlang on Erlang's own VM with a proven record running extremely high-availability, distributed systems. With a Ruby-inspired syntax, Lisp-inspired metaprogramming, and no-overhead compatibility with Erlang's libraries, Elixir makes a decades-honed toolset for concurrent programming more accessible than ever."
Link to Original Source


Is Peer-to-Peer Giving the Wrong Impression?

mothlos mothlos writes  |  more than 6 years ago

mothlos (832302) writes "With Comcast's clash with the FCC, the term peer-to-peer is being brought up in less tech-savvy venues. In anecdotal conversations with lay folk, I have found the sentiment that "peer-to-peer" is somehow breaking the rules of how the internet works. Is the term peer-to-peer damaging to the political effort to keep the internet open and what could it be replaced with that would be more agreeable to the undereducated public?"


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