Saturday, October 18, 2014

Prosperity and Global Warming

I am most of the way through "Waking the Frog" by Tom Rand. In it, he argues for strong, immediate, and concerted action to limit greenhouse gas levels with the goal of limiting global warming. His discussion of economics and carbon pricing is intriguing and he makes his case well.
I tend to agree with him that cap-and-trade would be an ideal solution to control carbon dioxide emissions. It is a market-based solution that requires relatively little government intervention. What most people who oppose cap-and-trade don't know is that it has already worked spectacularly in the case of sulfur dioxide, the cause of acid rain. In the 20 years since the start of the SO2 cap-and-trade system, SO2 levels have plummeted to next to nothing. Another place cap-and-trade is working is in Europe, where it was begun in 2005.
You don't have to be an expert on the climate science to understand that mitigating the risk of global warming by controlling CO2 emissions is a good insurance policy. It's an uncertain risk with a horrific downside, so we ought to extra careful to hedge against it. An apt analogy would be that of the cold war. One could have made the argument that the US and the USSR would never use their nuclear weapons because of ABM, or mutually assured destruction. That did not stop anybody from being concerned about the prospect of nuclear war, nor should it have. It did not stop the push to stop nuclear proliferation and international treaties continued to be signed for arms control and reduction. Why? Because as illustrated in movies like "Threads" or "The Day After," the potential downside of maintaining the status quo was too horrific to ignore.
So it is with global warming. However, getting global warming under control is a little different than stepping back from a nuclear arms race. It is different because it hits people in the pocketbook. When you price carbon into the market, prices rise. This more than anything is one of the major problems people have with cap-and-trade. The reaction to any government initiative that will raise prices has only intensified since the Great Recession. Yes America is in recovery and the unemployment rate has gone down, but housing and groceries have gone up and the low unemployment rate hides the vast number of low wage jobs and the hordes who have dropped out of the workforce entirely. There are core fundamental weaknesses in our economy that have led many economic commentators to conclude that the "recovery" is only due to continued Fed intervention.
So the ethical argument that NOT pricing carbon is like dumping trash where you like instead of paying for proper disposal doesn't mean much when people struggle to pay for life's necessities. As a matter of fact, I've known a number of people who have had to move because of economic pressure and actually dump their unwanted stuff on the side of the road because they had neither the time nor the money to deal with it. The environment takes second place to personal needs. Perhaps this is why cap-and-trade could pass in countries with a strong safety net but fail in the US. If I remember correctly, the years leading up to the Great Recession in the US were characterized by increasing public awareness and concern for environmental issues. But then everyone lost their shirts.
Enter Peak Oil. The US peaked in March of 1971 when the Railroad Commission of Texas lifted production caps for the last time. Incidentally (and I believe consequently), real wages in the US have been on a long-term downtrend since right around that time. The volatility of oil prices since then is a consequence of our needing to source oil internationally.
Consider also that for most of history, mankind has never been able to combine the accumulation of wealth with systemic care for the environment. The fact that we have had the resources to turn around and pay attention to environmental issues at all is due to the massive amount of wealth and technology that has been made possible by oil: an incredibly dense, powerful, high EROEI fuel, until now.
EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested, also EROI) translates directly into economic growth, profits, and general standard of living. We are already challenged on all three fronts in the US; reducing the EROEI of fossil fuels through cap-and-trade is a hard sell. We could have done it in the 1990s. Now... I am not so sure. We have waited a bit too long as our combined EROEI continues to drop.
Back to the book, Tom Rand advocates for three baseline electric sources: next-gen nuclear, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, and geothermal. Geothermal is a poor choice from an EROEI standpoint, and nuclear is off the table after Fukushima. It's no wonder the market prefers to power on with coal with CCS.
As a matter of fact, moving to more coal with CCS generation will bring unexpected benefits to global warming. As our CCS technologies get better and cheaper, we can use CCS to sink CO2 in the atmosphere and bring down CO2 concentrations.
Our population will not stand for any more across-the-board reduction in EROEI. Although the average person does not know the term, they know the effect: a reduced standard of living. Since the Great Recession, there is no more tolerance for this. (Europe's cap-and-trade started before the Great Recession.) Geothermal has low EROEI and nuclear is off the table. Oil's EROEI continues to fall. The best solution in this case is exactly what the market has been doing: electrify everything and increase electric generation from coal with CCS. Obama has been able to implement the kind of EPA regulation to push CCS in the right direction with his so-call "War on Coal."
Although I still support cap-and-trade, this is going to have to wait until people have something to give again.

I just had to add these quotes from this article:

"The transition to renewable energy can’t be achieved without massive fossil fuel expenditure and carbon emissions along the way. 'What we forget,' says Miller, 'is that the process of bringing renewable energy to mass scale requires huge fossil fuel inputs for extraction, manufacturing, and transport.'

"My friendly Cassandras have a point: The ecological and economic breakdown is already under way for most of the planet. For the economically secure in the wealthier nations, we can periodically wake up to the breakdown, but still ignore its systemic nature.  But if you’re a Bangladeshi farmer, you’re already trying to survive climate change and you’ve possibly become a climate refugee. If you’re a farmer in the Central Valley of California, you are wondering if your unprecedented drought is part of a 'new normal' with weather."

"The radical insistence on limits to growth seems the choice of privileged people who volunteer for a simpler lifestyle and then inflict it on others with far fewer choices."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Present Distress or Present Crisis of 1 Cor 7

"I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are."
1 Cor 7:26 (NRSV)

The Apostle Paul gives this advice to the unmarried at the early church in Corinth. He admits he has no hard and fast rule from God on whether single people should get married. So he basically says that, in his opinion, it is better for single people to remain single. Reason being is that there is an "impending crisis."
What is/was this impending crisis? Interpretation of this verse has long been guided by the KJV rendering, which uses the phrase "present distress". Specifically, it has traditionally been interpreted one of two ways. The first claims that because of the persecution in the early church, life would be easier for those who were unmarried. The second claims that, because the Christian life promises trials and tribulations, it is easier to remain unmarried.
While the persecution of the early church is well understood, with the exception of Nero, systematic persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire did not begin until 250 AD. The book of 1 Corinthians was written in the 50s AD, even before the actions of Nero. So then it is very unlikely that it is referring to persecution.
The second traditional interpretation is guided by the concept of "present" distress. While there are no major textual variations here, the Greek itself has been translated quite a few different ways into English. The Greek word translated "present" is not quite so specific, and actually carries the broader idea of immanency, as if to say that the "distress" is right at the door. In other words, "present distress" is better understood as "the distress we are presently faced with". Other versions translate this as "present crisis" (NIV, NLT), "impending crisis" (NET, NRSV), or a similar variation.
The concept of "immanency" is familiar to modern followers of theology as an eschatological buzzword. It is understood in that context as the concept that Christ could return at any time. The point here is, that the early church expected the return of Christ in their lifetimes. Understood in this way, "present distress" refers to "imminent trouble," the great shaking and cleansing of the earth that will occur near or upon Christ's return. If true, apparently the Apostle Paul expected it soon enough to warn off single people from getting married!
Another (probably better) interpretation is the identification of the crisis as a famine. There is plenty of historical evidence to suggest that there was a famine in the eastern Mediterranean area roughly around 60AD, which would have led to the collection for the Jerusalem saints in 2 Cor, as well as the Jewish uprising in 66 AD. In the mid-to-late 50s such a famine would at least be in its early stages. This understanding also helps to counter the poor interpretations of the Jerusalem collection as a failure of communalism, the decision by the Jerusalem Christians to pool and share their wealth.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mount error 12 Cannot allocate memory when connecting SMB share

Problem: When mounting a Windows network share from Linux (such as Clonezilla), the mount command fails with error 12 cannot allocate memory.

On the Windows server, set
HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\LargeSystemCache
to "1"

and set
to "3"

Then reboot.

I found the solution HERE.

Windows 7 Won't Boot After Installing Intel HD Graphics

Problem: After installing the Intel HD Graphics driver and rebooting, Windows 7 will not boot, and ask you to run startup repair.

Resolution: Use F8 to boot into Safe Mode. Uninstall the driver, then reboot normally. Install SP1 for Windows 7; or, install the hotfix from KB979903 and reboot. Then reinstall the driver.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

USB Multiboot Heaven

Here I will list all of the tools that make creating a multiboot USB drive easy and fun.

1. YUMI. This program does all the hard lifting. Choose the utility or Linux distribution you want to add to your boot menu and it will do the rest. The built in format function is great for drives up to 32GB.

2. GUIFormat. When you have a USB stick greater than 32GB, it will not format in a bootable manner with most utilities. GUIFormat handles large drives with ease. So you would format, say, a 64GB USB drive with GUIFormat and then proceed to use YUMI to add your tools.
[I'm going to save you 15 minutes and point out that the download link for the 32bit version of the program is the screenshot itself!]

3. BOOTICE. This is a low-level utility for tweaking your USB drive. In several clicks you can wipe, repartition and format the drive. BOOTICE will default to exFAT format on large drives over 32GB. One important use for BOOTICE is to correct a wrong drive type. For most situations, you will want the drive to show up as USB-HDD removable with a single partition. Sometimes the drive comes up as a fixed drive or maybe even a floppy. When repartitioning the drive, BOOTICE will allow you to select the correct setting. Then you can proceed to reformat with GUIFormat if you need to.

Several tools I have loaded on my own USB multiboot drive:

1. Clonezilla. Indispensible at work, since that is what we use for imaging. Good for other places as well.

2. Ultimate Boot CD. Tons of diagnostics for PCs, now even better on a USB drive!

3. Hiren's Boot CD. Loads into a stripped down version of Windows XP. Lots of utilities to help your Windows install come back to life. I have used it many times to correct a no boot situation just by running a chkdsk on the boot and/or main partitions of the hard drive.

4. AVG Rescue CD. For when you are seriously infested.

And of course, don't forget to add your own utilities to the USB drive to use from within Windows.

Friday, August 01, 2014

"Unable to access computer" error when accessing Device Manager remotely

Problem: "Unable to access computer" error when accessing Device Manager remotely from Computer Management (compmgmt.msc)

(You can do this from your workstation instead of the remote workstation in question)

1. Run "gpedit.msc /gpcomputer: computername" where "computername" is the name of the remote computer.

2. Go to Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Device Installation.

3. Enable "Allow remote access to the PnP interface"

4. Close gpedit

6. Run "services.msc"

7. Right-click "Services (Local)" and choose "Connect to another computer"

8. Choose "Another computer" and enter the computer name, then click OK.

9. Set "Plug and Play" and "Remote Registry" services to Automatic.

10. Start the "Plug and Play" and "Remote Registry" services.

11. You may need to force the group policy update. You can either restart the remote computer, or run "gpupdate /force" at the remote computer. If you are sure no one will be interrupted, you can do "shutdown /r /m \\computername /f /t 00" where "computername" is the name of the remote computer for an immediate remote restart.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Hybrid and electric cars will save us?

In these days of continually increasing energy costs, economy has become a driver of technology. Technology for its own sake is worthless; it must improve the human condition. There is nothing like the continued march of peak oil to slap a society that worships the god of technology into awareness.
Having totaled a nice, fuel efficient 2003 Toyota Corolla in 2013, I took my insurance payout and bought what I could: a 1999 Chrysler 300M. It's a nice car, but going from 28 mpg to 20 mpg was a bit of a shock. Through more efficient driving, most especially driving with the secondary objective of avoiding brake usage (primary objective is always safety), I manage to get 20.5 mpg according to the readout on the car, although I think I may be getting 21 or even 22 mpg. Anyway, driving a six cylinder engine has completely opened my eyes to the fact that American roads and highways are designed for cars with 200+ HP. The 300M (250 HP) doesn't break a sweat where the Corolla (130 HP) would have gone to 3500-4000 RPMs just to maintain speed up certain inclines.
As an old car, now 15 years old, it could go out anytime. I take good care of it (as I have done all of my cars) but you never know. So in my curiosity I decided to review my options for a new car that wouldn't take a large toll on my budget, should I need to buy another one due to a catastrophic mechanical breakdown on my 300M. Initial price is important, but fuel costs are important, too. I settled on three contenders: the Chevy Spark, the Toyota Prius c, and the Nissan Leaf.
The Chevy Spark is a small, fully-gasoline powered car that gets 32 mpg combined. The Toyota Prius c is a budget, non-plug-in hybrid that gets 50 mpg combined. The Nissan Leaf is an all-electric car that gets 99 MPGe combined. I'm not getting a lot of horsepower with any of these vehicles but I can't afford to pay for a new car with 200+ HP, so I better enjoy my 300M while I can!
I created a spreadsheet that calculated the monthly cost of owning each car at various gas prices and various annual mileages. For the Nissan Leaf, each MPGe is equivalent to .0292mi/kWh, so at 99 MPGe, the Nissan Leaf gets 2.8908 miles for each kWh used. Fuel cost is calculated using this figure and the national US average electricity cost of $0.12 per kWh. The car payment is estimated using the MSRP from for the model and dividing by 60, making the assumption that I qualify for zero percent financing.
US drivers average 15,000 miles per year on their cars:

$5 $436.06 $477.38 $555.89 Spark
$6 $475.13 $502.38 $555.89 Spark
$7 $514.19 $527.38 $555.89 Spark
$8 $553.25 $552.38 $555.89 Prius c
$9 $592.31 $577.38 $555.89 Leaf
$10 $631.38 $602.38 $555.89 Leaf

Well there you have it. Until about $8/gallon, an old fashioned fully-gasoline powered vehicle is more economical than even a hybrid. The hybrid reigns briefly around the $8/gallon mark, with crown going to all electric right away at $9/gallon. Now let's stop and think about this for a minute. Aside from the glaring economic practically of a cheap, gasoline-only car, it almost makes no sense to buy a hybrid. By the time gas prices get to the point that a hybrid is a better economic choice, the all-electric car is only $3.51/mo more expensive.
Some may complain that the price of hybrids and electrics will go down in the future. This doesn't change the cost of ownership for several reasons. One, increasing gas prices will result in inflation that makes the car more expensive to start with. The same increasing gas prices will increase the cost of electricity needed to run an electric car. Last, my fuel cost for the Nissan Leaf doesn't take into account charging losses of up to 15% (electricity lost between the wall and the battery), so I've given it a bit of an advantage in my comparison.
But what is absolutely insane is when you take a look at the bigger picture. Where do you think our economy will be with gasoline at $8/gallon? Commuting costs will be the least of your worries, if you even have a job at that point. The golden rule of increasing oil prices is 2008... a tipping point is reached, the economy hits the skids, the economy recalibrates to higher energy costs producing higher inflation and higher base unemployment, gas prices drop temporarily, then meet and exeed their previous high until another, higher tipping point is reached. By my guess we are two more "recessions" away from $8/gallon gas, and our economy will be in shambles by then, unless our government takes us to war.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The End of Growth... at the Office

There is coming a day when we will not have the knowledge workers necessary to maintain our current economy. Technology is great, but it must be built, installed, and maintained by specialists. As far as economic development goes, building the technology is one thing, but it takes a whole new level of economic development to support the necessary technicians.
Now don't get the mistaken impression that I am referring to electronics only. I am referring to any number of advanced processes that have become a part of the business world. Whether it is IT, HR, Accounting, Marketing, Facilities, Electronics, Electrical, etc. and etc., knowledge workers exist on the premise that they can leverage modern techniques to improve the efficiency of a company's operations.
Companies these days are getting squeezed by a long-term economic downtrend caused by expensive oil. They are cutting costs by minimizing wages and minimizing workforce. The existing workforce is being put into multiple roles, paid less, and trained less. As a matter of fact, few companies develop their employees anymore. The hot new job requirement (though it is unspoken) is that you must be able to hit the ground running and train yourself. Even when a "training period" is provided, it is more of a honeymoon period where the new employee tags along with existing workers for a short period.
No development also means no promotion. A skeleton crew is by definition static. There is no place to move because everyone is on essential duty. Furthermore, promotion means more money. So then there is an unspoken "promotion freeze," even if hiring is going on. This feeds back into the lack of development. Why develop employees that aren't going to be promoted anyway; the company risks losing highly-trained employees.
The second facet of this issue is the destruction of college education. Costs are rising to the point where many young people are skipping or dropping out of college. Those who graduate can't find jobs because companies are running lean. All of this means that there is little next generation workforce. Ultimately, there will be no next generation force if present trends continue. The economy is not providing a level of growth that makes college education spending worthwhile, nor is it providing a level of growth that allows companies to provide true apprenticeship and development.
What about people who quit? Certainly replacements will be needed there. What you have to take into account is that the economy is in a long-term contraction trend. Attrition doesn't mean new hires; it is becoming a way for business to ride the contraction down. Another force that is going to help cancel out the upside of attrition is labor arbitrage, or moving jobs to countries where the labor is cheaper.
However, by the time the day comes that we don't have enough skilled workers, our economy will be degraded enough that it won't matter.