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Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

slickrockpete No silver bullet (222 comments)

I would think software developers would remember that in a complex problem there is no silver bullet solution.
Remember that coal is extremely cheap if you ignore the externalities.
I hope they didn't think they would come up with cheap and efficient solar panels that I can paint onto my roof plus the perfect energy storage medium that fits in my closet or even see a clear path to these things in a few years. This is a complex problem that would take some technology/engineering and basic science, but also a lot of political and economic thinking.

about 2 months ago

UK Company Successfully Claims Ownership of "Pinterest" Trademark

slickrockpete I, too am interested in the plays of Harold Pinter (133 comments)

I was disappointed to find that the cat photos on pinterest do not display the depth of understanding of the human condition that the thought provoking plays of the great Harold Pinter so brilliantly illustrate.

1 year,22 days

"Clinical Trials" For Programming Languages?

slickrockpete Re:Languages for professionals (232 comments)

Yes Deep understanding comes from deep and interesting use. A professional is forced into deep understanding. A hobbyist, dabbler, autodidact or amateur is unlikely to go deep, but some do. A week is not really enough time to go deep.
All that said this sounds like it will be a good learning experience if he can pull it off. The first thing is just getting over syntax. Just translating between all the procedural languages will get you somewhere, but will get severely boring. A lot of people stumble over syntax.
The more interesting thing is noticing the underlying fundamentals for each language. I hope he can use some of the interesting ideas behind each language even though most will allow you to just translate the syntax using the procedural subset. The fact that he used haskell first bodes well.

1 year,22 days

Harvard Bomb Hoax Perpetrator Caught Despite Tor Use

slickrockpete In the good old days (547 comments)

When I was in middle school (sometime around 1970) someone would call in a bomb threat every afternoon for about a week. They were beautiful spring afternoons spent outside horsing around with my friends.

They finally caught the guy. He always called from the same pay phone a couple of blocks from school during lunch. He wanted to get out of his french class. They gave him a good finger wagging and explained that this was actually a serious federal offense the could land him in gigantic trouble and made him go to french class. It didn't happen any more. I wonder if he continued to stay out of jail.

about a year ago

A War Over Solar Power Is Raging Within the GOP

slickrockpete Markets are always rigged (1030 comments)

All this idealized free market reverence is misplaced. Even the free-est markets are not free.

Every time there is a lot of money at stake and there are some extra-large entities involved (very large corporations and governments come to mind, but I'm sure you can think of others) those large entities try to push the system by manipulating the meta-market so the rules work in their interest. The more money or power the entity has the more it is able to game the system in its favor. When government is working well it is gaming the system based on the interest of its constituents (the people, the long view, individual freedom, fairness) but the other big entities can also influence the government in many ways to game the system to their liking.
Corporations today are almost completely beholden to stockholders and a quarterly report based view of the world. Modern democracy-based governments are designed to take their directions from the people, but none is perfect.

Every time the rules change, either because of disruptive technology, scarcities, changes in government, or whatever, someone is going to be on the losing end of it. The big entities will fight any change that makes them the loser. If it is a change that can't be controlled then they will try to change the rules so they can't lose.

There is some ebb and flow here. The big actors don't always know what the best thing for them will be, but they will be out there pushing things around in a direction that someone thinks is in their favor. There will be bizarre structures left in place by strange interactions between some big actors and some (perhaps different) big actors will fight to keep that bizarre structure in place and it can get pretty Byzantine.

This is the nature of the world. Economics and politics are always intertwined. Whether it's the government or a giant corporation someone is picking winners and losers and influencing the "market" in ways contrary to what a "free" market might be.

Anyway I hope there are some big actors that can take the long view and try to make things generally safer, and more stable while also being aware it is a 900 pound gorilla. Promoting alternatives to fossil fuels seems like a good idea.

about a year ago

NSA Wants To Reveal Its Secrets To Prevent Snowden From Revealing Them First

slickrockpete Too many secretes in the first place (216 comments)

The problem with the spy industrial complex (aside from all the actual bad things they do) is that there are so many secrets that they need to have too many people in on them just to do their jobs.
If everything is secret then everybody needs to have access to secrets.
The first rule about keeping anything secret is to limit the number of people with access to it.
The normal spy industry attitude is normally that almost everything must be classified, and there's nobody thinking about and pointing out the silly stuff.

about a year ago

Third Tesla Fire Means Feds To Begin Review

slickrockpete gas fires ought to be more common (375 comments)

I'm amazed that we don't have more gasoline fire incidents. It's really everywhere and extremely flammable. This would seem to be a testament to the ability of all concerned to design all the gasoline handling systems very well.
It's also a sign that the gasoline internal combustion engine is a really mature and ubiquitous technology. The designers of all the systems involved know what works.

Relatively portable high energy content batteries are much less mature, and the lithium batteries even more cutting edge.
I have a tech/nerd's (maybe over) confidence in tech/nerds tesla that they can reduce the likelyhood of future fires. We'll see.

For one data point or an anecdote my mom's gasoline car spontaneously caught fire while she was driving it. Turns out a rodent had built a nest on the manifold. The car was totaled and no one was hurt.

about a year ago

Arizona Commissioner Probes Utility's Secret Funding of Anti-Solar Campaign

slickrockpete similar campaign against wind power in Idaho (207 comments)

There's a similar campaign against wind power in general going on in Idaho. I've only really seen billboards with vague questions associating wind power projects so corruption and insider deals, but it is pretty obviously a political campaign to stir up ill will in the voting public.

As if the utilities never made any corrupt or insider deals.

The way public utilities were originally set up was intended to deal with a regulated structural monopoly and keep a fair balance between ratepayers and the "owners" of the infrastructure. Since laissez-faire capitalism has been the fashion for the last 30 years the utility commisions have been packed with insiders and had any regulatory teeth taken away. Thank you Saint Ronnie of Alzheim.

about a year ago

The Sharing Economy Fights Back Against Regulators

slickrockpete Re:Sharing not good for a debt-based economy (192 comments)

Money is a medium of exchange. Having a good medium of exchange makes the economy much more efficient.
If people think hoarding money is a good idea then it becomes a lousy medium of exchange. Deflation is far more destabilizing than inflation. It will make your cash worth more, but it will make everyone poorer. Hoarding money looks very attractive if inflation goes negative and begins to look attractive with positive inflation near zero.
Inflation forces the medium of exchange (currency) into the market, but it also makes people have to think about what to do with their accumulated wealth. (Hint: cash is a poor investment and it's intended to be that way.)
If you want to hoard something hoard gold or toilet paper or bottle caps or something.
If you want to protect your accumulated wealth you will need to invest one way or another.

On topic:
The companies bringing individual buyers and sellers of services together more directly have some interesting problems with maintaining trust between clients and satisfying the local regulations. On some level the local regulations are about maintaining that trust, but often they are about protecting some vested interest in the guise of maintaining trust or safety. It will be interesting to see how this disruption goes.

about a year ago

FCC Rural Phone Subsidies Reach As High As $3,000 Per Line

slickrockpete This is not very efficient (372 comments)

If we really wanted to be fully efficient then we would all work in cubicles (or the nearest equivalent for the job) and live in 8-to-a-room dormitories sharing with others who work alternate shifts so we can share a bed with them. Then to make sure nobody is a freeloader we need some compliance officers who are authorized to press anyone who looks like they might be a freeloader into service.
But that sounds like some sort of dystopic future doesn't it?

about a year and a half ago

Malcolm Gladwell On Culture and Airplane Crashes

slickrockpete We'll never really know, will we. (423 comments)

This kind of Gladwellian thought experiment is interesting and thought-provoking. Maybe some cultural proscription against questioning one's elders/superiors had at least a partial influence on how this crash played out. Maybe we can take that as a lesson about cockpit communication. Or communication in general.

The point I'd like to make is that we'll never know if that was the cause or not. It's most likely a lot more complicated than that.

about a year and a half ago

Real World Stats Show Chromebooks Are Struggling

slickrockpete Re:I own one (250 comments)

I'm reading this on one in the kitchen. It's been a great kitchen computer. My wife uses it for taking minutes at some of the community organizations she belongs to. Every time we show it to a friend they say it's perfect for my wife, mother, boyfriend, grandfather, etc. and the price is right.
It's probably right for most laptop users for 99% of what they do, but if that last 1% will be frustrating then it could be very frustrating.

about a year and a half ago

Do Kiosks and IVRs Threaten Human Interaction?

slickrockpete Supermarket self check-out as a model (294 comments)

The supermarket self checkout systems are a model of how automated kiosks can work and make things a little more humane.
Typically they have one person monitoring and helping people for 6 machines. If it's done well that person engages each person pro-actively to make sure they are getting what they want and the process goes smoothly and is watching to make sure nobody is gaming the system. That last thing is the real reason the person is there and so helpful, but because of that the process is much smoother and *more* personable. Contrast that with the typical human supermarket checkout. The cashier is scanning the items as quickly as possible looking down at the groceries and the screens. The customer is staring at the card swiper and entering a pin or loyalty card number. The only time they make eye contact is when there's cash back or handing over the receipt.

about 2 years ago

Why Kids Should Be Building Rockets Instead of Taking Tests

slickrockpete budgets and fear of lawsuits (381 comments)

Two things are big drivers behind the disappearance of any kind of hands-on learning experiences.

(1) School district budgets are often squeezed and when they are the "expensive" programs are dropped. Expensive meaning anything that requires more infrastructure than desks and chalkboards. Once a program is dropped it is much harder to reinstate in the fat times. The exception is usually athletics, but that is a politically driven decision.

(2) The other issue is fear of lawsuits. Rocket building would give the worried district superintendent a coronary. There are so many hazards when kids are allowed to use real tools and instruments. It only takes one or two scared members of a decision making body to scare the rest of the group with visions of evil lawyers and an image of a kid with a screwdriver in his eye, plus see (1).

Of course there are the other thousand tiny (and large) cuts that keep anything fun out of the curriculum.

My local school board is a long way past this. I think it's mostly that they just don't value education, much less knowledge. They are closing schools and firing teachers.

I wish I had more solutions. I'd like to hear more solutions.

more than 2 years ago

New Study Confirms Safety of GM Crops

slickrockpete unintended consequences (571 comments)

I'm not really worried that some GMO food will poison ME. I'm more concerned about the effects of the introduced gene escaping into the wild and having some unforeseen consequences.

The issue I remember recently was about farmed salmon. The new gene made them fatten up faster. The regulatory safety qualifications were only based on the food produced and didn't even take into consideration what might happen if some of the gm salmon escaped into the wild.

Then of course there are all the problems of industrial agriculture and vast expanses of genetically identical crops, but that's an issue with old fashioned genetic tinkering. The GMO thing just turns it up a notch.

more than 3 years ago

BitCoin, the Most Dangerous Project Ever?

slickrockpete Governments don't have to outlaw it (858 comments)

Let's just assume, for arguments sake, that all the technical claims are correct. It's untraceable, and verifiable. One can trust that a transaction involving bitcoins behaves like a transaction involving physical objects. The payer had the coins before the transaction, and didn't have them after, the receiver ends up with them and can spend them later. It's as if they are trading in atoms of unobtainium.

Governments will not need to outlaw bitcoin specifically, all they need to do is spread FUD. The existing financial establishment has such a vested interest in preserving the existing system that they will effectively prevent exchange between national currencies and bitcoin. This will involve FUD and freezing out any known bitcoin traders.

If you feel like you are doing business with crooks when you transact in bitcoin then you will not really be motivated to use it for anything but black market items. All I need to say is "Bitcoin is just used by perverts to buy child porn". It doesn't really have to be even close to accurate. It just has to smell plausible.

You know the traditional form of currency used by black markets around the world is US $100 bills.

more than 3 years ago

Glove Emulates Musical Instruments

slickrockpete No controller needed (82 comments)

This system was originally invented by Harold Hill in Gary, Indiana and required no glove. It's called the "think system".

more than 3 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Would You Take a Pay Cut To Telecommute?

slickrockpete Myabe a pay cut now, or maybe pay ceiling later (615 comments)

Regardless of whether you take a cut now to telecommute, unless everyone, or nearly everyone, at work telecommutes you will find you won't get the raises that you would have working physically close to the ones that make the decisions about pay. This is really untestable, and there are bound to be exceptions, but I think it is probably the case most of the time. The other thing to note is that it's harder to move up the org chart if you are telecommuting. That said, I have been a happy and distant telecommuter for almost all of the last 20 years.

more than 3 years ago

Auto Safety Tech May Encourage Dangerous Driving

slickrockpete automotive transport is less fatal now (601 comments)

I remember a quote from the old VW repair book by John Muir (not *that* John Muir!) defending the driving position on a VW microbus of old. "Everyone should drive as if they were strapped to the front of their car"

I think cars and driving are really safer than they once were, but the paradox is that we all drive with less care now that we can.

In general the more "efficient" we make roads and cars the less attention we need to pay to use them. This can also mean that the roads become less safe for other road users like pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians.

The problem is that we are not paying enough attention to avoid an accident when the extraordinary event inevitably happens.

more than 5 years ago

Best Paradigm For a First Programming Course?

slickrockpete Re:All of them. (592 comments)

My first introduction to programming (aside from a couple hours of messing with flow charts in high school) was a the programming for CS majors class in pascal. I have worked professionally in lisp, Dylan, C and java in significant amounts. All of them is a nice answer in theory, but you do need to solve some problems hard enough so that there's not enough time in a survey class to do a relatively hard programming project in more than one or maybe 2 languages and really get something out of it. My favorite idea is to bottom up and top down driven by state machines. By bottom up I mean assembly language, or even some sort of micro-code or simple hardware design given some components. At the same time spend some time on something very far from the hardware like functional programming or logic programming. The key here is how they meet. How does this functional program reflect this state machine, and how would this function be compiled? In the interest of instant gratification some scripting languages that can make pretty animations should be thrown in. Unfortunately this won't allow any time for your english requirements, which are very important to geeks.

more than 6 years ago


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