Entries Tagged as '! ALERTS !'

Hybrid Vehicles

There’s been a great deal of “buzz” over hybrid vehicles being green… but for a very long time I’ve had some serious questions about just how green they are.

Yes, there’s no question that their carbon emissions are substantially lower than gasoline powered vehicles (but remember, hybrids do use gasoline).

Yes, hybrids are a significant step forward (though the modifications to hybrids that allow them to be recharged and ran totally from electricity certainly makes them far more green; and really shouldn’t cost any more in a production model).

But the reality is green isn’t just about the emission in the every day use of the vehicle — green also has to do with the environmental impact of the production of the batteries and their disposal.

Most hybrids use lead acid, a few newer ones use Lithium Ion / Lithium Polymer… neither of which is exactly eco-friendly (I’d prefer them not to be buried in my back yard, or any where near where my water comes from).

Lead acid batteries have a limit life; how long they last depends on a number of variables, and some of the materials can be recycled and reused – but you need to make sure that your community has setup to deal with those issues before you buy your hybrid.  My reading indicates that only California has implement stringent rules for the warranty and handling of lead acid batteries in hybrid (hopefully more states will follow suit).

Lithium cells appear to be a great solution.  They’re small and dense; but the downside is they have a three year life span from the time they were manufactured.  And Lithium is an extremely dangerous substance to release into the environment.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy a hybrid; they are good choices for many drivers (particularly commuters who can’t use all electric), but consider the impact of the improperly disposed of batteries, and even the properly disposed of batteries resulting from normal wear and tear as well as accidents.

Green isn’t something you should try and see under a microscope — it’s an end-to-end game.

Originally posted 2010-01-17 01:00:52.

Off Shore Drilling

For years the oil and gas companies have been telling us (the American public) how safe off shore drilling is, and they’ve been trying to convince us that they have contingencies for anything that might happen, and that there’s no substantial risk to our environment.

Well, take a look at the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the relatively tame Gulf of Mexico and the inability of the world’s largest oil company to stop (or even really slow) a huge oil leak and consider who ill prepared the oil companies would be to handle a spill anything like this is the Gulf of Alaska (or any place near the Artic) in the middle of the Winter — or what could happen in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic seaboard during hurricane season.

Yes, I think it’s a travesty that the Federal Government didn’t have any contingency plans for oil spills of this magnitude — but don’t point a finger at the current administration; you’ll find that’s been years and years in the making (and least you forget, we just had an “oil and gas man” in the Whitehouse for eight years), but in the end, it is the industry itself that is ultimately responsible for the impact of their decisions to use such a small amount of their profits to insure the safety of their endeavors — and it is the companies that should be made to pay for the damages they’ve caused.

Damages to the coastal ecosystem of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are increasing hourly as BP does little to stem the disaster — except possibly try and contain the public relations damage.  While BP stock is down 40%, first quarter 2010 saw record profits — and in the end, I suspect BP will find a way to pass all the costs and loses onto consumers and reward their investors.  BP CEO Tony Hayward has already assured investors that the company has “considerable firepower” to cope wit the severe costs… but missing are statements to the world that they’ll commit the “firepower” it’ll take resolve this disaster.

Bottom line, perhaps rather than increasing the leases for off-shore drilling it’s time to pull back all the currently unused leases and start heavily fining the oil and gas industry for any and all violations.

NASA Satellites’ View of Gulf Oil Spill

Originally posted 2010-06-07 02:00:25.

Retail Transactions and Privacy

I purchased a couple pairs of shorts the other day (Wednesday before Thanksgiving) and to my surprise the retailer ask me if I’d like them to record my driver’s license number to make any return easier (by swiping the information into the terminal).

WTF?

Last time I checked retailers were not entitled to the information on my driver’s license.

And this was particularly eerie to me because a group of my friends and I had been discussing an issue concerning the collection of personal data on consumers as part of the return process.

Of course, there’s not federal law that limits the amount of information a retail establishment can request (well — unless that transaction has to do with health care, and the HIPAA would require that you be provided with a privacy policy covering how the information could be used — but they can still ask).

To me, the moment the Patriot Act was signed American freedoms and privacy quickly started to spiral down the toilet; and I said it a decade ago and I’m still saying it — the law needs to be repealed.

I personally do not feel that retail stores are entitled to any personal information; that they should be required to honor their return policies as clearly posted; and that in order or collected and store personal information they must obtain a signed release at time of sale, and understand that they and their agents are fully and completely liable for any misuse of that information not explicitly contained in the signed release.

And while I don’t generally jump up and down about federal laws we need — we definitely need uniform consumer protection across this country.

Some states have a patchwork of laws that partially protect consumer privacy; but even in those states business have abused the laws because consumers don’t have a clear, consistent understanding of them — and I’ll point out that with more and more consumer transactions involving interstate commerce, only a federal law would really be able to insure consumer privacy.

Originally posted 2012-11-24 12:00:45.

Promise NS4300N NAS

I’ve been a reasonably big fan of Promise in the past; their PCI IDE cards worked well, their PCI SATA cards worked well, their 16 Channel SATA2 RAID5 PCIe cards worked fine, and their NAS box seemed like a really good buy.

When I first got the box almost two years ago it worked fine; it had a few issues (like the lack of hard drive spin-down, even though there tech support insisted it had it)… but in general it was a reasonable buy.

A week ago I invested in some 1.5TB Seagate SATA2 drives to upgrade my Promise, their web site indicated that the new firmware that was just released supported the drives so I felt fairly confident in buying them.

Well, the answer is, you can four 1.5TB drives in the box, but you cannot use more than three of them in a RAID array… seems like maybe they never tested it with four drives (wow — a four drive NAS not being tested with four drives).

What happens i that you can build out all the drives, put content on them, but when you reboot — the box complains of file system errors and the only thing you can do is start over — losing the content of your RAID (I hope you haven’t depended on your RAID actually being fault tolerant… if you have you’re SOL).

I figured yeah, this is a bug, I’ll just file a trouble report with Promise and get an ETA on a fix.

I submitted the trouble report (after having to go through way too much of a hassle to setup an account there), got a confirmation email that indicated I’d get a response within one business day…

Let’s see, that’s been almost a week ago — and I don’t have an ETA on a fix, I don’t have any response from them (not even one that says that they’re looking into it — aware or it — or anything).

Let’s face it, if a vendor can’t meet the low-bar expectations they’ve set by actually providing a reply within one business day, what confidence should I have in them that they will ever be able to actually fix the problem and maintain reasonable quality.

All I have to say is that I’m glad my last two RAID controllers came from one of Promise’s competitors — and I guarantee you my next RAID controllers and NAS boxes will likely not come from Promise!

Originally posted 2008-11-20 12:00:04.

The Anti-Green – Junk Mail

Why does the United States Postal Service encourage companies to send “Junk Mail” by substantially reducing the costs of distributing it?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Sure, I understand that it may actually cost the post office a little less to distribute junk mail than it does to distribute first class letters and such — but take a look at how little junk mail you even look at… and how much ends up in your recycle bin (and I’m not even going to bring up the large number of people who probably don’t recycle since they don’t have curb-side recycling programs).

America needs to take action to reduce it’s carbon footprint — and as I have pointed out for the last few days it would be extremely easy to make a fairly substantial improvement without sacrificing anything most consumers care about — and in fact, it would probably improve the quality of life for most Americans not having a mailbox full of junk mail they have to sort through so as not to miss something that might be important.

Sure, the post office would probably have to raise the cost of postage, and possibly reduce the service level (hey — I have no problem with mail not being delivered on Saturday — of maybe being delivered only on alternate days or only a few days per week).  The overall effect would be a decrease in the waste (of natural resources and energy).

Originally posted 2010-05-10 02:00:50.

The Anti-Green – Phone Books

Wasting natural resources and destroying the environment to produce and distribute phone books is simply unconscionable.

Ask yourself why a company would produce a paper phone book and distribute them to every household they serve.  In fact, there are multiple “yellow pages” produced and distributed.

Why???

Many, though admittedly not all, households in this country have broadband internet connections — and that enables them to locate up-to-the minute information online… none of these people really need a phone book of any kind.

Further, automated directory assistance actually makes it considerably less expensive for a company to do away with phone books entirely and just provide free directory service to their customers — and certainly there are a number of providers that offer free directory service to anyone (you do generally have to listen to an advertisement).

This country could greatly reduce it’s carbon footprint simply be eliminating much of the waste… and phone books are a good place to start.

I certainly don’t want a phone book or any “yellow pages” style book delivered to my house — and while I do recycle them, eliminating them entirely would save the trees, the paper, the energy required to produce and distribute as well as recycle!!!

Obviously American business isn’t going to change without encouragement (if they were going to change and do “the right thing” we’d see a movement in that direction by now)… so why don’t we as a country implement a recycling tax???  Simply put, each and every producer must pay a fee based on materials used in the production of goods and services — that get’s passed along and those who turn the items back in for recycling or re-use get a credit.

Obviously companies that send out “free” items have to bear the cost of the fee, and consumers who receive these un-wanted items get the credit.

My guess is even a modest fee would reshape the landscape almost overnight.


You might want to make sure you read the terms and conditions on the below link and understand that you’re disclosing information to a third party who you will have to decide whether or not to trust… I personally find the web site a little light on providing me with legal information to take serious.

YellowPagesGoesGreen.org

Originally posted 2010-05-08 05:00:25.

Seagate Firmware Issues

If you own a Seagate hard drive in the Baracuda 7200.11, or Barracuda ES.2 (SATA only), or Maxtor DiamondMax 22 series you might want to read on…

Seagate has confirmed that a number of issues customers have been seeing in 500GB, 750GB, 1TB, and 1.5TB drives is because of an issue with firmware (it also affects other drives, but apparently is seen most often in the “larger” drives).

There have been a number of write ups on the internet about this problem, and Seagate released firmware SD17 in December 2008 which they believed fixed the problems; and then SD1A in January 2009 which again they believed fixed the problems; but reports indicated that these firmware revisions may actually create one of the very problems Seagate is attempting to address.

The firmware issues can adversely effect the drives performance or it can render the drive totally useless (brick mode).

In an effort to prevent worse PR than Seagate is already suffering for this problem, they have stepped forward to assure everyone that they are working on the issues, that the drives have five year warranties (three for Maxtor), and that they will pay the costs for data recovery service if the drive bricks and cannot be used.

I’ll take this opportunity to remind everyone that Seagate is a California based company; and California has a “lemon law” and fairly strict consumer protection when a vendor advertises products that are supposed to have some feature and fail to deliver on that promise.  It’s unlikely Seagate will allow this problem to spin out of control, the financial liability is simply too high for them (we’re talking about potentially being forced to repurchase almost every drive they’ve sold for the past three years AT THE PRICE THE CONSUMER PAID for it if they don’t fix the problem soon.

You can view more details in the knowledge base article below, and subscribe to updates.  You can also view many rants on these issues by doing a web search.

Originally posted 2009-01-22 01:00:02.

AT&T = Pathetic Customer Service

My AT&T U-Verse bill notice came in over the weekend; so this week I launched the web site to take a look at the details.

When I signed up for the service I was “promised” $20 off per-month for signing up for electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

Well, the first month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that my bill was processed _before_ I had signed up for the electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

The second month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that something must have went wrong — that I needed to unsubscribe and then resubscribe; of course their policies clearly stated that if I discontinued either of the requirements I would become ineligible for the statement credit.  I escalated the issue to a supervisor who impressed me as being more incompetent than the front-line people; then I escalated it to the executive complaints office — who assured me it would be resolved.

The third month it didn’t happen; and AT&T really had no excuse.  Again I escalated it to a supervisor, and got the promise that it would be researched and resolved.

This month (the fourth month), I lost it — I was pissed off the minute I called AT&T — and I pointed out to them that they were wasting my time month after month after month — and I was tired of it.  The front-line person was totally incompetent and the supervisor was just as incompetent… and rude.

One thing’s for sure — NO ONE beats AT&T for the most pathetic customer service on Earth.

If you subscribe to AT&T services based on promises of rebates, cash back, credits, special pricing, etc — make sure you keep copies of everything; and be prepared to file a small claims action, because it probably will come to that.

It always comes down to who has pissed you off the least (lately) and who is offering the best deals — but in the end you have to decide between the cable company and the phone company and just live with pathetic customer service.

Originally posted 2010-07-10 02:00:01.

Due Process Dies

On Monday 17 May 2010 the Supreme Court of the United States of America handed down a 7-2 decision that affirms the ability of the federal government to hold inmates they deem as “sexually dangerous” in the future indefinitely.

Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin surely stir in their graves at the finally winning the wars they started so long ago.

In the last decade American have lost civil right after civil right; legal protection after legal protection — all in the name of making ourselves “safe”… but in fact all we are doing is making ourselves slaves.

Let me point out that in the United States, a person is found guilty by a trial of their peers, and a judge passes sentence for the crime… when the period of internment expires the criminal has paid his “debt” to society.  Apparently we now believe that the United States government [though the Department of Justice] has the ability to adjust the term of a sentence indefinitely.

How long is it until the United States government just dispenses with the formality of a trial all together, and locks away individuals who they say are a threat… oh wait, that’s already happening — at Guantanamo Bay!

NOTES:

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the court’s majority opinion stating that it is “a ‘necessary and proper’ means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others.”

The judgment reversed a lower court ruling that said Congress overstepped its authority in allowing indefinite detentions of prisoners considered “sexually dangerous.”

“The Federal Government, as custodian of its prisoners, has the constitutional power to act in order to protect nearby [and other] communities from the danger such prisoners may pose.”

In order to do it, however, the government must prove the following:

1. The individual has previously “engaged or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation.”

2. He/She currently “suffers from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder,”

3. The prisoner “as a result of” that mental illness, abnormality, or disorder is “sexually dangerous to others,” in that “he would have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released.”

A hearing, during which the individual would remain incarcerated, would then determine whether or not he/she could be released.

“If the Government proves its claims by ‘clear and convincing evidence,’ the court will order the prisoner’s continued commitment,”

Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia dissented.  Justice Thomas argues that Congress can only pass laws that deal with the federal powers listed in the Constitution (States Right) and stated that nothing in the Constitution “expressly delegates to the Congress the power to enact a civil commitment regime for sexually dangerous persons, nor does any other provision in the Constitution vest Congress or the other branches of the federal goverment with such a power.”

The Supreme Court ruling upholds the Adam Walsh Chile Protection and Safety Act signed in 2006 by George W Bush.

Originally posted 2010-05-19 02:00:33.

Federal Express is a SPAMmer

Yesterday evening I received an Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE, aka SPAM) from Federal Express in violation of the California Professions and Business Code Section 17538.45.

Apparently Federal Express has taken to harvesting email addresses used in requesting tracking services and subscribing them to their marketing mailings lists without obtaining the permission of the owner of the email address (California law prohibits OPT-OUT policies, and requires that advertisers use OPT-IN methods).

Not only have I send a demand to Federal Expresses marketing campaign company and Federal Express demanding immediate payment of the fifty dollar fine specified by California Law; but I will no longer do business with Federal Express PERIOD.  That means I do not ship via FedEx, and I do not accept packages via FedEx, which means I don’t deal with vendors that use FedEx.

Originally posted 2009-02-19 01:00:25.