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It's Not Developers Slowing Things Down, It's the Process

uncqual Re:Nope... Nailed It (185 comments)

One problem with discussions like this is that there is a lack of consistency in titles and job role naming across companies.

For example, in some companies first level managers of developers are not very technical (fortunately, I've never worked at a company where this was the norm) and can only manage work units and people but not solve technical problems themselves or provide detailed technical guidance. They can be good people managers, good at working the politics, good at making sure that the project dependencies (both inward and outward) are being tracked, and good at protecting the group from abuse. However, they need to rely on project leaders/lead programmers for the technical stuff. In other companies (fortunately, the most of the ones I've worked at as a developer or a manager), managers are de facto project leads and/or psuedo-architects and are able to (and do) look at code, review specs, make technical decisions when necessary.

Similar story for "project managers". At some companies they just push lines around on PERT charts and note and track that there's an issue that needs to be resolved by next Thursday about if the asdfasdf is to provide some data to the lklkjfsdf or if the lklkjfsdf should independently fetch it. At other companies, "project managers" would actually know what asdfasdf and lklkjfsdf were and be able to understand, at some level, that lklkjfsdf couldn't possibly independently fetch the data because security policies don't allow it no matter how loudly the owner of asdfasdf insists otherwise (and, knows who/how to bring in to shut the owner of asdfasdf up).

5 days ago
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Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court

uncqual Havard Law School needs to teach vocabulary. (203 comments)

It's November and 1L students have been in class for a while.

HLS should teach vocabulary on the first day of class to 1Ls - particularly the meaning of the words "frivolous" and "standing". Sad that these students managed to get an undergraduate degree without understanding the meaning of those words and their applicability to lawsuits.

OTH, maybe they will learn a lot from this experience as the judge laughs uncontrollably and the entire courtroom joins in. Oh, and sanctions them. Hopefully they get a judge who went to Yale Law School - double humiliation.

about a week ago
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Microsoft Azure Outage Across the Globe

uncqual Re:Yawn ... (167 comments)

However, in a widespread outage like this, I'll bet the big cloud providers have a better record of rapid recovery than their customers had in-house. By necessity, MS, Amazon et al have very competent engineers who know the product well available to pull off what they are doing (including sleeping) and jump into any really serious problem. There simply are not enough such engineers to go around all the mid-sized IT organizations in the world nor interesting enough work to keep these engineers interested and sharp at most of these IT organizations (to say nothing of the cost of keeping such engineers around).

For a car analogy... When your high end car has a nagging problem that your local mechanic can't figure out, the dealer often can figure it out quickly, possibly with the help of a factory specialist who deals with (say) ECUs on only this make all day, every day. Rarely can an independent mechanic specialize enough to come close to the factory specialists in diagnosis. Now, if your car just has a dead battery, your local mechanic may give you faster, better, and cheaper service than the dealer.

about a week ago
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Apple Disables Trim Support On 3rd Party SSDs In OS X

uncqual Re: Why? (327 comments)

If someone was happy to pay her $20 for it, what's the problem? Willing seller, willing buyer, free market. AC didn't say she held a gun to the buyer's head and forced him to buy it. She also didn't say that she misrepresented the machine's age or capabilities. Maybe the buyer just wanted something to sit in his workshop to look something up occasionally or do some quick calculations and this machine met his needs 100% and, at $20, he wouldn't care if he dropped it and it broke into two.

about two weeks ago
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US Weather System and Satellite Network Hacked

uncqual Re:LOL (76 comments)

Really? In a world where responsible US web sites need to implement some sort of "we haven't gotten a national security letter in the last x seconds" sentinel in order to maintain their customers' trust and their own moral integrity?

Yes, the NSA is a necessary agency. Your local police are also a necessary agency - but surely you don't think your local police agency should be able to shoot and kill anyone that they think might be suspicious "because they are a necessary agency".

*EFFECTIVE* JUDICIAL OVERSIGHT AND PUBLIC TRANSPARENCY ARE CRITICAL TO SUCH AGENCIES IN A FREE COUNTRY.

about two weeks ago
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US Weather System and Satellite Network Hacked

uncqual Re:LOL (76 comments)

My kingdom for mod points (I had them a few hours ago :()

Commerce relies on the web feeds directly or indirectly (it may just be a contractor deciding if they will do Job A today [inside] or Job B today [Outside painting]). It would be nice if the government shutdown the data feed with message/press release "We have been compromised by hackers and are striving to harden our systems. Meanwhile, we have shutdown the feed. Please track our every four hour posts (or more frequently) at aaa.bbb.gov for updates on progress).

On the other hand, try getting off the "no fly list" if you're a consultant with an unfortunate name (perhaps including Mohammad) who NEEDs to fly.

The US government needs to get their priorities straight and focus on important stuff and be more transparent. Hint -- some dude smoking weed or selling it to their buddy probably isn't as important as securing critical government networks.

about two weeks ago
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Denmark Faces a Tricky Transition To 100 Percent Renewable Energy

uncqual Re:Real-time market approach (488 comments)

You, obviously, don't understand time of use metering. In a regulated utility (which most are in the United States at least), TOU metering would result in higher prices for usage at times that the spot price is high (due to higher demand) than when it's low. Utilities typically buy contracts and/or have their own generating capacity for much of their anticipated usage and can predict those costs fairly well so TOU pricing would be fairly predictable (the more predictable, the higher that predictable price will be typically be -- these contracts can be modeled, in part, as options). On the margins though where demand spikes (such as due to unseasonably cloudy weather that, increasingly, will result in low solar yields and spikes in demand from customers relative to their anticipated demand), they often need to go to the spot market.

For some time variants of TOU metering has been commonly available to businesses in areas I've worked -- and there's no question that businesses alter their usage in response. Residential users are not, generally, as accustomed to this yet but will be in the future just as they are now familiar with higher rates for toll lanes based on near instantaneous congestion levels. The days of "contracted fixed rates" being the only (or the most rational) choice for consumers are numbered and utilizing less predictable sources of power (wind and solar in particular) will accelerate this transition.

This is all from the United States viewpoint of course where there may be a stronger tendency to use markets to solve problems than in some other countries.

I can sell that at the spot market or power down my plant.

Your choice if you pay the price I will charge you for it.

That is correct -- but you (and all the other suppliers acting independently in their best interests) are making similar decisions -- which then impacts the spot price as you (and all the other producers acting in independently in their best interests) offer more power on the spot market for the next hour. The utilities nearly always have to buy the power if it's available at a rational price due to regulators. These markets can break down of course as they did in the winter of 2000/2001 in California - it's worth at least skimming this report [PDF] for some analysis of this disaster.

about two weeks ago
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Denmark Faces a Tricky Transition To 100 Percent Renewable Energy

uncqual Re:Real-time market approach (488 comments)

Nope. IoT (or similar) to the rescue - mostly automated.

First, your Tesla is set to charge to x% by time y and monitors energy prices and projections to decide when to turn the charger on/off (or, even decrease charge by backfeeding into the grid to take advantage of high energy prices - you might even be able to work from home often enough to decide to skip the commute to work and drain the Tesla to 10% by the next morning).

Second, your thermostat is hooked to it - and responds quickly to price increases - you notice and respond w/sweaters or reducing clothing (depending on which guests you may have visiting at the moment -- this does, however, have some potentially interesting side benefits in select cases).

Third, your lighting is hooked to it and begins to dim lights.

Fourth, your dishwasher, dryer, and washer is/can be set up to run on a "complete by" schedule and monitor energy prices and projections to decide when to start a preloaded cycle.

Fifth, a crawl appears at the bottom of your TV when prices get really high.

Sixth, I'm sure there is a sixth.

about two weeks ago
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Denmark Faces a Tricky Transition To 100 Percent Renewable Energy

uncqual Re:Real-time market approach (488 comments)

Yes, I think they will. When depends on each person's perceived value and cost of failing to do so. Given an indicator that was hard to miss, I think the majority of middle class people in America would reduce their home electrical use substantially when power hit, say, $3/kwh - although, I suspect enough businesses and others would have cut demand long before the cost rose to $3/kwh in most cases.

Over time, most people who use electric heat or A/C would have their thermostats programed to automatically drop/increase the "on" temp significantly for modest transient increases in electricity prices.

about two weeks ago
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Denmark Faces a Tricky Transition To 100 Percent Renewable Energy

uncqual Re:Real-time market approach (488 comments)

Because the excess of supply or excess of demand are by the minute or hour, not by the week, month, or year.

It's somewhat like buying a last minute airline ticket. If people were unwilling to pay more for a last minute ticket, all tickets would cost more (fine) but it would be impossible (because the airlines would price tickets to insure every seat was sold - or oversold - many hours before wheels up to minimize the risk of a single empty seat) to get a ticket on a commercial airliner to get to mom's bedside 1500 miles away before she expires.

By increasing prices when demand approaches the absolute maximum supply, consumers will reduce demand quickly (good, since supply can't be increased quickly). When power gets expensive enough, they will shut off rooms, wear more sweaters, turn lights off, instead of cooking a fancy dinner they will nuke something in the microwave and use disposable utensils (or, just wait to wash them until the next day), they will sit around in a single room and talk instead of playing on their computer or watching TV in individual rooms. Demand is extremely elastic, supply is inelastic at the top end. In extreme cases, they will shutdown their entire house (using winter shutdown procedures as needed) and gather in friends and neighbor's houses (perhaps, splitting the cost of the very expensive power during those times).

about two weeks ago
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Denmark Faces a Tricky Transition To 100 Percent Renewable Energy

uncqual Re:Use the money you save (488 comments)

Who is going to build a conventional power plant and get it online within a few minutes of the moment when power will be almost priceless? "Almost priceless" because there simply is no other power available because every region nearby is in the same boat of having 100% renewable, most of which vary dramatically based on weather which has been unusually unfavorable for weeks. (The answer is: No One - It's Not Possible).

Presumably, hospitals et al won't be allowed to have their own generators powered by fossil fuels in 2050 (after all, that would violate the "end the burning of fossil fuels in any form by 2050"). Perhaps, for every two floors of patients, they will have a floor of batteries which they keep charged (and, most of which, get recycled due to old age without ever having been used during a "black swan" climate/power event), but that will drive up health care costs of course.

Realistically, there probably needs to be a tax on anyone connected to the grid to pay for, ironically, fossil (and, perhaps?, nuclear) powered power plants to be kept on standby for a few hours a decade of use. Ironic, because we are used to "green taxes". As well, each meter will probably need a way to cut amperage (and communicate to the house electrical control system) to fairly distribute the limited power -- you decide if you want your refrigerator or your 02 concentrator powered in a limited power shutdown and you will bid for the power you need to buy in a real time market.

about two weeks ago
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Free Broadband For NYC Public Housing?

uncqual Re:Hardly "impossible" (250 comments)

It's true that Police, and usually Fire, services are included in your tax bill (directly or perhaps indirectly if you're a renter for example). However, these are not easily "metered" utility services. And, at least on some areas, you will get a bill from the City if you call the Paramedics come to your house unless you pay an annual subscription fee. These services are also for the common good (the person who calls the police is not the one that necessarily benefits from getting the murderer off the street for example or if your neighbor's house is on fire even if it's a complete loss by the time the Fire Department gets there, it's in your interest tha they attack the fire before it spreads and burns down the entire block). These services realistically can't be "metered". Also, it was once fairly common in some areas to subscribe to a fire service -- if you didn't subscribe, and your neighbor did, the service they subscribed to would protect your neighbor's house and not lift a finger to put your house fire out unless doing so would help save your neighbor's house.

Internet service is really much more similar to a utility - in fact it IS a utility. Few cities provide free utilities. Sometimes they offer subsidies for low income residents (life-line rates for example). Private companies often provide the service instead of the city (where I live, all these utilities are provided by a private company -- the resident pays the private company, not the government, for the services - just as they pay Comcast or AT&T for their internet service).

about three weeks ago
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Free Broadband For NYC Public Housing?

uncqual Re:Not enough (250 comments)

There are some services like education, medical care and child care that are cheaper and more efficient for the government to deliver

Is this why there are relatively few areas in the US where people with money send their kids to public schools? Is it likely that these people prefer an inferior education for their kids and are willing to shell out a lot of money for that while still paying taxes for superior educational services they have chosen not to use? Hmm... Sounds unlikely to me. My, admittedly limited, sample set of people I know who do choose to pay to send their kids to private school certainly don't do it because they are seeking an inferior education for their spawn.

about three weeks ago
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Free Broadband For NYC Public Housing?

uncqual Re:buh (250 comments)

2, how about free internet access for all?

Because this is impossible.

Someone has to pay for purchasing, installing, and maintaining cables in the ground/undersea, switches, routers, head ends, etc. (And, being government provided, likely means the associated labor would have to be Union in many areas which will increase the costs).

I assume you are you offering to pick up the cost. (You must be very wealthy although I don't recall seeing drinkypoo on Forbes 100 list, but I assume you're Bill Gates or someone similar using a alias). Or, perhaps you think I should pay for it? Who? If everybody pays for it, then it isn't free for all and, in fact, is free for none (even those who don't use it).

The government doesn't provide electricity, water, food, sewers, phone service, bus service, or trash pickup "free for all". Why should they do so for internet access?

about three weeks ago
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Rite Aid and CVS Block Apple Pay and Google Wallet

uncqual Re:Good luck with that. (558 comments)

The amount seems to vary by store -- perhaps based on their chargeback history or willingness to accept some of the risk?

about 1 month ago
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An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

uncqual Re: Agner Krarup Erlang - The telephone in 1909! (342 comments)

There's quite a bit of inefficiency with this system at my (very large) local Fry's when it was very busy. Although with NewEgg et al, I rarely go into a Frys now - I used to go in once every week or two now maybe only go once every few months and rarely when they are busy so my experiences may not reflect current practice well. In this case, they have many registers open and it's quite far from the head of the queue to the registers at the extreme reaches of the large register farm. As a result, when a checker is assigned a register a long way from the head of the queue, they end up waiting several seconds for their next customer to arrive and begin their transaction and that waiting time is wasted labor. Those checkers who are assigned registers closer to the head of the queue keep busier -- I don't know if they rotate to compensate for this or the best checkers are put at registers near the head of the queue or there is some other way to help compensate for this phenomena.

Also, without a "line coordinator" (who usually stands on a platform so they can see over the heads of customers), there can be several "green lights" on registers and as people self dispatch to these lights, it's often unclear to the next person in line if all the registers with green lights have been "claimed" by customers ahead of them who are walking towards registers and it's also hard to notice when a register light has just changed from red to green. This results in two people arriving at the same register or the person at the head of the line standing there thinking there's no available register when there is. Fortunately, when they are busy, the always seem to have a line coordinator to keep track of all this.

However, it occurred to me immediately that technology could pretty much solve this problem and eliminate the line dispatcher. At the head of the line, there could be a button (perhaps along with some motion/proximity sensors) which the customer at the head of the line holds down. A screen would display a register number as it becomes available and, perhaps, that register's light could then flash orange or something to make it stand out. When the button is released (and perhaps when sensors note the person at the head of the line has passed beyond the button), the displayed register is considered assigned and the next customer presses the button to get their next assignment. It's a bit complicated, but the average Fry's customer (at least in this area) is probably a little smarter and able to understand such a system than the average Walmart customer.

There, actually, would probably be no reason for the lights anymore on the registers with this system since each customer is told which register to go to.

As well, the system could track how long, on the average, it takes between a transaction finishing and the next one starting (presumably longer for those far from the head of the queue) and as hints of transaction completion are evident (payment in full for example) and item count/size are analyzed (for estimating bagging time), the next customer could be dispatched to the register before the prior transaction was actually complete - sometimes this would result in double stacking but the checker could delay the dispatch if they knew there was some reason the current transaction would take longer to complete "post payment" and if double stacking occurred the checker could notice it and with a single button push put the "stacked" customer at the head of the electronic queue and they would get redispatched to the next available nearby register (perhaps only "downstream" if possible to reduce two way traffic). Redispatches would be indicated on a small screen at each register and would only be done once a target register is immediately available (i.e., no speculative dispatch so customer doesn't get pissed at being "stacked" multiple times).

Extra credit for all the germs passed from customer to customer touching the button - although with some "gating" system sort of like freeway onramp metering and sensors, the button could probably be eliminated at the expense of a bit of floor space :)

Perhaps short sub-queues closer to the registers they service could be instituted (people are directed from the single long line to three or four short subqueues which service a subset of the registers, thereby reducing the time between register assignment and the customer appearing at the register. However, this would probably require more floor space, create more confusion, and, although more efficient at getting people to the front door more quickly on the average then the current system, may seem "unfair" to those who happen to get stuck in a slower subqueue than the customer behind them.

about a month ago
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Worcester Mass. City Council Votes To Keep Comcast From Entering the Area

uncqual Re:Walmart is used to this (232 comments)

Largely, though, it's the clientele. Just look at the "People of Walmart" websites...

What, did Walmart breed or cloned these people? Did they raise their own food and make their own stuff before and stopped doing this when Walmart came to town? Surely these people were shopping somewhere before Walmart came to town. So, is your complaint is that "Before Walmart, these people stayed on their side of the tracks where I couldn't see them"?

about a month and a half ago
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ISPs Violating Net Neutrality To Block Encryption

uncqual Re:No Carriers (149 comments)

It's kind of like watching a Hollywood hacking scene.

Speak for yourself. The password cracking programs I use display all the passwords as they are checked (unfortunately, I've been unsuccessful at cracking passwords in keyspaces exceeding 5 alpha numeric characters - I think I need a monitor with a faster response time).

about a month and a half ago
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Test-Driving a $35 Firefox OS Smartphone

uncqual Re:Buffering.. (132 comments)

OpenSignal isn't a very reliable source of information on coverage as it's based (at least in part) on crowd-sourced data. If people in an area are not using the app and contributing data, an area will show no coverage.

It's quite likely that the more rural an area is in India (or the United States), the less likely it is that someone will be using OpenSignal's app in a given location for several reasons. First, there are just less people per square km each day - so a 1% market penetration for the app is more likely to leave areas without data. Second, rural areas tend to be less affluent and therefore less likely to have phones that have room for lots of apps and/or subscribers who are willing to spend money for bandwidth for the app. Finally, I wager (admittedly based on my experience in the US) that urban areas have, on the average, a larger percentage of people who are techncally savvy and likely to have even heard of OpenSignal.

I live in one of the world's tech centers with very good cell coverage. However, the heat maps would lead you to believe in many areas that the only coverage is along freeways and arterial streets and there is none on secondary (typically residential) streets. I know this is completely untrue and I assume it reflects that thousands or tens of thousands of people a day use each freeway and arterial streets and drive a significant percentage of their miles on such streets so if a small percentage of the people run the app, one of them will end up using the major streets every so often and providing data. On the other hand, in a quiet residential neighborhood, that same penetration of users would likely show many/most blocks w/o coverage because these streets have so few "passenger miles" per year.

As well, there are large greenspace areas w/hiking trails around where I know there is coverage and there's absolutely NO hint of that shown via OpenSignal - again, low usage by people with their phones on and running the app probably is the cause.

Maybe you can trust OpenSignal where they claim there is coverage, but it's pretty unreliable for showing where there isn't coverage. (This gives me some ideas for a better app - but I won't share that here!)

about a month and a half ago

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