The Almighty Buck

Leased LEDs and Energy Service Contracts can Cut Electric Bills (Video) 51 51

I first heard of Consumer Energy Solutions from a non-profit's IT guy who was boasting about how he got them to lease him LED bulbs for their parking lot and the security lights at their equipment lot -- pretty much all their outdoor lighting -- for a lot less than their monthly savings on electricity from replacing most of their Halogen, fluorescent, and other less-efficient lights with LEDs. What made this a big deal to my friend was that no front money was required. It's one thing to tell a town council or non-profit board, "If we spend $180,000 on LEDs we'll save it all back in five years" (or whatever). It's another thing to say, "We can lease LEDs for all our outdoor lighting for $4,000 per month and save $8,000 on electricity right away." That gets officials to prick up their ears in a hurry.Then there are energy service contracts, essentially buying electricity one, two or three years in advance. This business got a bad name from Enron and their energy wholesaling business, but despite that single big blast of negative publicity, it grows a little each year. And the LED lease business? In many areas, governments and utility companies actually subsidize purchases of anything that cuts electricity use. Totally worth checking out.

But why, you might ask, is this on Slashdot? Because some of our readers own stacks of servers (or work for companies that own stacks of servers) and need to know they don't have to pay whatever their local electric utility demands, but can shop for better electricity prices in today's deregulated electricity market. And while this conversation was with one person in this business, we are not pushing his company. As interviewee Patrick Clouden says at the end of the interview, it's a competitive business. So if you want the best deal, you'd better shop around. One more thing: the deregulated utility market, with its multitude of suppliers, peak and off-peak pricing, and (often) minute-by-minute price changes, takes excellent software (possibly written by someone like you) to negotiate, so this business niche might be one an entrepreneurial software developer should explore.
Transportation

Meet the Makers of an Exotic (Partially) 3-D Printed Car (2 Videos) 25 25

Last month, in a story headlined 3D Printed Supercar Chassis Unveiled, we promised video interviews with builders Kevin and Brad "in the near future." Here they are. First, we have Kevin Czinger, Founder & CEO of Divergent Microfactories. He says the way we build cars is more important from an environmental standpoint than how we fuel them, and that the way we make cars now is a lot less efficient and a lot more expensive than it needs to be. Divergent's first demo vehicle, the Blade, is a tandem-seating 700 HP supercar its makers say does 0 - 60 in 2.5 seconds. Price? No word yet, but it's safe to assume "plenty" might be an accurate guess.

In the second video, Blade project lead Brad Balzer goes into detail about how, why, and where they use 3-D printing, and explains the modular nature of their car chassis design. He says they don't need to change many parts to go from ultra-sports car to pickup truck. He also says that while Divergent Microfactories is working on cars right now, their manufacturing system can be applied to many different industries. Indeed, their long-range goal is to help people build microfactories making many different kinds of products faster, more flexibly, and for less money than it takes to make similar manufactured items today.

Note: The transcript covers both videos and has a little 'bonus' material in it, too.
DRM

Cory Doctorow Talks About Fighting the DMCA (2 Videos) 48 48

Wikipedia says, 'Cory Efram Doctorow (/kri dktro/; born July 17, 1971) is a Canadian-British blogger, journalist, and science fiction author who serves as co-editor of the blog Boing Boing. He is an activist in favour of liberalising copyright laws and a proponent of the Creative Commons organization, using some of their licenses for his books. Some common themes of his work include digital rights management, file sharing, and post-scarcity economics.' Timothy Lord sat down with Cory at the O'Reilly Solid Conference and asked him about the DMCA and how the fight against it is going. Due to management-imposed restraints on video lengths, we broke the ~10 minute interview into two parts, both attached to this paragraph. The transcript covers both videos, so it's your choice: view, read or listen to as much of this interview as you like.
Classic Games (Games)

Interviews: Ask Steve Jackson About Designing Games 111 111

Since starting his own company in 1980, Steve Jackson, founder and editor-in-chief of Steve Jackson Games, has created a number of hits, starting with Car Wars . . . followed shortly by Illuminati, and later by GURPS, the "Generic Universal Roleplaying System." In 1983, he was elected to the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame - the youngest person ever so honored. He has personally won 11 Origins Awards. In the early 90's, Steve got international press due to the Secret Service's invasion of his office. The EFF helped make it possible for SJ Games to bring suit against the Secret Service and the U.S. government and win more than $50,000 in damages. His Ogre kickstarter a couple of years ago brought in close to a million dollars. His current hits are Munchkin, a very silly card game about killing monsters and taking their stuff, and Zombie Dice, in which you eat brains and try not to get shotgunned. His current projects include a variety of Munchkin follow-ups, and the continuing quest to get his games translated into digital form. Steve has agreed to put down the dice and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Linux

Interview: Ask Linus Torvalds a Question 383 383

samzenpus writes: Linus Torvalds, the man behind the development of the Linux kernel, needs no introduction to Slashdot readers. Recently, we talked about his opinion on C++, and he talked about the future of Linux when he's gone. It's been a while since we sat down with Linus to ask him questions, so he's agreed to do it again and answer any you may have. Ask as many questions as you'd like, but please keep them to one per post.
Government

Mayday PAC's Benjamin Singer Explains How You can Help Reform American Politics (Video) 233 233

Larry Lessig's Mayday PAC is a SuperPac that is working to eliminate the inherent corruption of having a government run almost entirely by people who manage to raise -- or have their "non-connected" SuperPACs raise -- most of the money they need to run their campaigns. The Mayday PAC isn't about right or left wing or partisan politics at all. It's about finding and supporting candidates who are in favor of something like last year's Government by the People Act. As we noted in our Mayday Pac interview with Larry Lessig last June, a whole panoply of tech luminaries, up to and including Steve Wozniak, are in favor of Mayday PAC.

This interview is being posted, appropriately, just before the 4th of July, but it's also just one day before the Mayday PAC Day of Action to Reform Congress. They're big on calling members of Congress rather than emailing, because our representatives get email by the (digital) bushel, while they get comparatively few issue-oriented phone calls from citizens. So Mayday PAC makes it easy for you to call your Congressional representatives and even, if you're too shy to talk to a legislative aide in person, to record a message Mayday PAC will leave for them after hours.

The five specific pieces of legislation Mayday PAC currently supports are listed at the RepsWith.US/reforms page. Two are sponsored by Republicans, two by Democrats, and one by an Independent. That's about as non-partisan as you can get, so no matter what kind of political beliefs you hold, you can support Mayday PAC with a clear conscience. (Note: the transcript has more information than the video, which is less than six minutes long.)
Crime

Interviews: Ask Brian Krebs About Security and Cybercrime 53 53

Brian Krebs got his start as a reporter at The Washington Post and after having his entire network taken down by the Lion Worm, crime and cybersecurity became his focus. In 2005, Krebs started the Security Fix blog and Krebs On Security in 2009, which remains one of the most popular sources of cybercrime and security news. Brian is credited with being the first journalist to report on Stuxnet and one of his investigative series on the McColo botnet is estimated to have led to a 40-70% decline in junk e-mail sent worldwide. Unfortunately for Krebs, he's also well known to criminals. In 2013 he became one of the first journalists to be a victim of Swatting and a few months later a package of heroin was delivered to his home. Brian has agreed to give us some of his time and answer any questions you may have about crime and cybersecurity. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Programming

Starcoder Uses a Multiplayer Game to Teach Programming (Video # 2) 11 11

We ran video # 1 about Starcoder yesterday and linked to the project's Kickstarter page. At that time, the project had raised $3221 out of a $4000 goal. Today they're up to $5836, which means they've reached their goal and then some, and they still have four days of Kickstarting to go. Nice! It looks like Starcoder will soon be available to a lot more students than are using it now, and that (hopefully) there will be enough server capacity to accommodate students who want to sign up and play on their own, not necessarily with help from their schools.

To learn more about Starcoder, you may want to check out these video clips on Vimeo that not only show you how the game was developed, but give you a look at how it's played. Note: this is video 2 of 2. The transcript covers both videos, plus some material we were forced to edit out of the videos due to length restrictions.)
Education

Starcoder Uses a Multiplayer Game to Teach Programming (Video # 1) 37 37

Starcoder, says the project's Kickstarter page, "is a multiplayer online space action game that teaches kids coding as they play." Their page also points out that it's easier to learn as a group than it is to learn alone. The Starcoder Kickstarter project has collected $3221 at this writing, out of a $4000 goal, and they have until June 17 to come up with the rest. So please take a look at Starcoder, see how it works and why it is unquestionably a more interesting way to learn programming basics than the traditional "highly theoretical and (frankly) boring manner."

Starcoder starts with Blockly. Then, as students advance to higher game levels, moves to JavaScript. Yes, there are levels. Also competitive play, since Starcoder is a massively multiplayer online game. In fact, a big reason for the Kickstarter project is to expand server capability so that kids can play from home, not just in school or during after-school computer classes. One more thing to note: The Win2Learn team behind Starcoders is composed of professional educators and designers. They've been working on STEM education for a while. Want to see some of the thinking behind Starcoder? They have some video clips on Vimeo that not only show you how the game was developed, but give you a good look at how it's played. Does it sound good? Do you want more kids to have access to an ever-improving Starcoder? Then you know what to do. (Note: This is video 1 of 2. The second one will run tomorrow. The transcript covers both videos, plus some material we were forced to edit out of the videos due to length restrictions.)
Open Source

David Revoy Makes Open Source Art With Open Source Tools (Video) 13 13

This is our second video excerpt from Erik Moeller's PassionateVoices.org. In this one, Erik talks to professional artist Devid Revoy, of Toulouse, France. David distributes his art under an open source license, and he uses open source tools (especially Krita) to make it. Here's a twist for you: if you like David's webcomic, Pepper & Carrot, you can become a patron, just like Catherine de' Medici in the 16th century. And, of course, just like the people who looked at art sponsored by Catherine but did not support it financially, you are free to simply enjoy David's work. To learn more about David, his art, his business model, and the tools he uses to make his art, go to Passionate Voices Episode 2: David Revoy. That's where you'll find Erik's full-length interview with David, along with a transcript of that interview.
The Courts

Interviews: Ask Kim Dotcom a Question 205 205

He was the founder of Megaupload, its successor Mega, New Zealand's Internet Party, and is the world's greatest Modern Warfare 3 player. He was born Kim Schmitz, but you know him better as Kim Dotcom. While he's had a number of run-ins with the law over the years, The U.S. government is currently charging him with criminal copyright violation and racketeering in association with his Megaupload site. Dotcom has recently won a court battle in New Zealand blocking the U.S. from seizing $67 million in assets. Even though he has a lot on his plate, Kim has agreed to take some time to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Google

Dealing with Google's 'Mobilegeddon' Algorithm Changes (Video) 88 88

'Mobilegeddon is here,' said one article I saw about SEO. Others have been similarly doom and gloom about Google's new emphasis on how well a site functions on mobile devices as a factor in search rankings. Brian Sutter, director of marketing for Wasp Barcode Technologies, lives and breathes this stuff -- and doesn't consider Google's algorithm change to be any sort of 'geddon.' He thinks you should be making a better mobile website because a growing percentage of your customers (and his) are viewing the WWW on mobile devices, not because of Google.

Brian's not interested in site design and visibility because his company does SEO or designs websites. Rather, it's because he, as Wasp's marketing guy, wants their site to sit high in Google's rankings if someone is looking for bar code printers or scanners, and he's happy to share what he's learned with Wasp's customers and anybody else who's interested as a goodwill thing. Maybe you aren't directly interested in operating a website or trying to make one popular, but knowing what's going on in the SEO world (for real, as opposed to the flummery often associated with the letters 'SEO') may help you deal with your company's marketing people -- and could be valuable knowledge if you ever decide to start your own business.
Media

Cable Companies Hate Cord-Cutting, but It's Not Going Away (Video) 160 160

On May 29, Steven J. Vaughan Nichols (known far and wide as SJVN) wrote an article for ZDNet headlined, Now more than ever, the Internet belongs to cord-cutters. A few days before that, he wrote another one headlined, Mary Meeker's Internet report: User growth slowing, but disruption full speed ahead. And last December he wrote one titled, Reports show it's becoming a cord cutter's world. SJVN obviously sees a trend here. So do a lot of other people, including cable TV and local TV executives who are biting their nails and asking themselves, "Whatever shall we do?" So far, says SJVN, the answers they've come up with are not encouraging.

NOTE from Roblimo: We're trying something different with this video, namely keeping it down to about 4 minutes but running a text transcript that covers our 20+ minute conversation with SJVN. Is this is a good idea? Please let us know.