Logikal Blog

Thoughts and words from Roland Hughes


May 30, 2011

What We Choose to Remember Isn’t Usually What We Should Remember

Another Memorial Day is upon us. If you happen to be somewhere nice enough to be outside, then you are most likely enjoying it. Others, those trapped inside, are either chatting on-line or watching a series “all day marathon” or one of the seemingly countless WWII movies which every other station saves for just such holidays. I used to enjoy watching them when I was a child and they were “new to me.” Many of those movies have “The Duke” staring in them, so you cannot be an American without liking them, but lately, I’ve begun wondering what they left out.

Recently, I finished watching “The Pacific”. I watched most of it with my father and was shocked at how much they left out. They didn’t leave it out, they left the explanation out. I had watched a lot of documentaries along with recent movies. Towards the end of the series, they simply show you the various atrocities without making any attempt to explain them. Quite frankly I was pissed off when I had to explain to my dad the reason for the bayonet charge by the Japanese at one point was the fact that they had no bullets left. They were ordered to die on that island or kill every American, but they were never re-supplied. The movie didn’t bother to drop in a single character, like a shiny new replacement soldier, whose sole purpose was to utter that information.

Another recent movie I’ve had the pleasure of seeing several times is “The Runaways”. This is a great flick. It covers a lot of the hardship these girls had to go through to become famous. They even cover a bit of Joan Jett’s solo rise at the end. What they left out, thankfully, was documented in the “Bad Reputation” video you can find on youtube: 27 different record companies turned down “I Love Rock & Roll” with various flavors of insults. Thankfully, 26+ million people thought it was worth buying. This is one of the better known Indie music success stories.

What we really need to remember about the Japanese soldiers on those islands is that their atrocities came from orders which did not allow for retreat or surrender and a re-supply situation which offered no other options.

What we need to remember about Joan Jett is the shit she had to go through in order to become the kind of success which could launch a massively successful Indie record label. Indeed, she was the first woman in rock to ever own her own record label. A label which recently passed the 25 th anniversary mark.

 

May 29, 2011

Some Real Argument Ending Links

I cannot tell you the number of times per week I’m contacted by pimps working for consulting firms which are willingly and knowingly breaking federal labor laws. The lower the grasp of the English language, the more intent they are on committing the crime. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do about it.

The first thing you can do is direct their attention to the illegal alien wage calculator:

http://www.flcdatacenter.com/OesWizardStart.aspx

After you choose a location and a code from the list, it will tell you the absolute minimum you can pay a visa worker without instantly going to prison. Of course, this is the Utopian “you don’t have anybody else with a similar job title working for you” Utopia. They can’t be working on-site either. That means, when you lease that one desk from your client to deliberately violate the H1-B worker rules, your minimum is subject to all the wages paid at that location, whether or not they are paid by you.

Remember the earlier post on this site which contained the following:

In order to comply with the first attestation, the employer must attest that it will pay its H-1B employees the higher of the following:

  • The actual wage rate that it pays to all other individuals with similar experience and qualifications, and

  • The prevailing wage level for the occupation in the geographic area of employment.

This is designed to ensure that an H-1B employer won’t undercut its competitors (because it must pay the prevailing wage). At the same time, an employer already paying higher than normal wages to its work force must pay those same wages to its H-1B workers.

http://www.americanlaw.com/h-1b.html

Just for laughs, I selected the location of Warren, NJ and chose code 15-1031 for computer programmer. Keep in mind this is a generic rate for programmers of all walks, even those without marketable skills. The level 4 rate (having some experience) was 45.82. A rate which, when advertized is dramatically below prevailing wage. How do we find prevailing wage?

We go to Ask.com and search for this: “computer programmer prevailing wage Warren NJ”

One of the links which turns up takes us here: http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/lpa/employ/oeswage/oeswage_index.html

When you scroll down and click on “By Major Industry Sector” for Warren County, you get a PDF. Line 126 is the line of interest since that would be the wholesale rate paid a consultant. Boy is it interesting! 58.25 is the Mean Hourly Wage with 54.75 being paid the bottom 25 th percentile and 59.40 being paid the 50 th percentile and 64.30 being paid the 75 th percentile. Keep in mind that these are averaged billing rates! The outliers have already been smoothed. The $145/hr mainframe programmer with 20+ years of experience has already pulled up the $17/hr DBASE-III programmer.

The real problem with these spreadsheets is how the data is obtained. Most of it comes from salary survey forms sent out to companies, and I don’t find any random audits being applied to responding companies, nor could I find posted the fines and penalties of not responding. Hence, it is to the company’s advantage to fabricate lower numbers than their employees actually make even if they never bring in a single visa worker. These numbers are public information and when your employees find out the Mean wage for their skill set is twice what they are currently making, they will be taking a hike.

What I really want to see is the IRS publishing this information. For those people who work W-2, they have the stubs. They have the actual amounts paid and they know your employer category. They only need one additional piece of information which may already be on your W-2, job classification. After that, they can generate an accurate spreadsheet for every geoloc code. Every amount listed will have come from W-2, so all will know that 1099 and corp-corp rates are higher.

What happens when they aren’t? You use this link: http://www.dol.gov/whd/contactform.asp

Most of the visa abuse today happens because people don’t bother to file complaints with Wage and Hour. When they do, we get to read stories like this:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33145705/ns/business-bloomberg_businessweek/

 

May 29, 2011

Expanding the Range of Your Cradlepoint MBR1000

I have seen this question asked a thousand times on-line. Almost nobody has a valid answer. You hear a lot of cheap basta’s asking if they can just add an external antenna…asking…you never hear from them again. Well, I finally bit the bullet. I needed to get a bit more range that I was getting with my current setup: http://www.logikalsolutions.com/wordpress/?p=24 so I finally bit the bullet.

I logged onto TigerDirect.com and ordered:

 A191-0012 AMPED HIGH POWER WI-FI SMART REPEATER

MPN: SR150

This thing worked like a charm. I unhooked all my existing stuff leaving only the MBR-1000 turned on. Went into the house and installed this device in place of both the range extender and the 4-port hub. A quick connection via browser to the IP address printed on the quick start card got me into the configuration which allowed me to turn off security and to tell it which network to extend. That was it. Quite honestly it took longer to box everything else up.

One caveat, the Lexmark Pro 700 cannot really be configured to work correctly with wireless N. This is a problem with the setup software for the OpenSuSE drivers (and windows for that matter.) After you tell it the indicator on the front of the printer is flashing red, it wants you to connect a USB cable to continue configuration. While that “might” have been an option for the computers in the house, it was definitely not an option for the computers out in my office. I wasn’t taking them apart to lug into the house, nor was I in posession of a 500+ foot USB cable. Thankfully, there was a wired Ethernet port on the back of the printer, so I simply switched over to a wired connection with a fixed IP address.

 

May 29, 2011

Watch Dewey Do-er

It’s funny how stories from one’s childhood pop up at odd times. Almost as funny as how most ten minute small talk conversations hop through at least seven topics before they end. Nobody knows why, they just do. During a recent small talk conversation I was reminded just how many people used to have whatever kind of license was needed to own and use dynamite when I was a kid. It seemed back then like you never had to go very far to find it. If you had a stump or rock that needed removal it was a lot easier and cheaper to buy $4 worth of dynamite than it was to burn the clutch out of your loader trying to dig that thing.

Eventually, this conversation reminded me of a second hand story about a guy named Dewey. It was a nickname actually. The person who told the story claimed to have been there when it happened. Given all of the various characters that lived out in this area, the story was completely believable anyway.

A local farmer had an overgrown piece of land they were clearing the trees out of so they could farm more of the field. They had long since gotten rid of their livestock operation so no longer had any need for a tree filled pasture. One group of people were in charge of getting all the trees down, then Dewey was in charge of knocking loose the stumps. There were quite a few kids around, so, to keep them where he could see them, Dewey decided to entertain them. One guy went around with a little auger drill making a hole under/into the stump where Dewey would put two sticks and a short cord. This was enough to pop a bunch of the dirt out, but, given the size of the stumps, would leave them held up in the air by roots.

Dewey would have the kids go off a distance, then connect the wire to the plunger he had hanging off his hip. When they were all grouped together on a side opposite the drill side he would shout “ Watch Dewey Do-er!” and slap the plunger on his leg. Two sticks was never enough to be dangerous with a stump that size, but it sure did provide good old fashioned entertainment. Well…at least until people started talking too much to Dewey.

At some point during this billable day of stump removal somebody struck up a conversation with Dewey after he placed the sticks, but before he hooked anything up. Yes, it was a long and laughing conversation, probably right around lunch. When Dewey returned to his task, he started from the beginning…putting two sticks in the hole… All of the kids quickly took their places when they saw Dewey hooking up the cord to the plunger. This time, “ Watch Dewey Do-er!” was followed by an ear ringing four stick detonation. As unbelievable as it sounds, the stump didn’t split, shatter, or impale itself in Dewey. Instead, a stunned group of kids and adults watched Dewey ride that stump three feet into the air and have it sit right back down in the hole it had just vacated. After that, a rather shaken Dewey didn’t do-er anymore.

I was something like nine or ten at the time I heard this. Sadly, I wasn’t one of the kids watching Dewey ride the stump, so, I can’t tell you if the story is true or not…but it definitely is a story consistent with the characters of the day.

 

May 29, 2011

What’s Wrong With Solar Power Today

It never fails. The week before and after Earth Day brings a slew of tree killing junk mail hawking various alternative energy products and seminars. You would think these so called “green proponents” would at least choose to SPAM everyone instead of killing trees by the thousands.

What I really wish is that the solar power crowd would focus on trying to get their products to a realistic quality instead of selling what they have. Nobody wants an expensive and dangerous system in there house which only cuts their energy costs by some tiny percent. Make no mistake, putting lead acid batteries in your non-ventilated basement is going to prove to be a real problem at some point. Yes, putting them in the attic near the ridge vent would be better, if:

  1. Your attic was a walk in to make changing them easy

  2. Your attic didn’t get so damned hot the batteries cooked to an early death.

Of course, some of the current systems have found a niche. While I’ve never used this system I can understand why hunting and fishing enthusiasts really like it.

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200441246_200441246

I’m talking about the kind of enthusiasts that get 3-4 buddies together to buy 100+ acres around a lake or heavily wooded area with a stream and build themselves a cabin for their trips. Since the locations are quite remote, this is a great solution. It means they can build a much nicer cabin with an actual basement and sump pump. Most of those “ cabin” type locations don’t have commercial power anyhwere near them. Those that do require power to be trenched in at a minimum charge of $8000/mile plus a minimum monthly fee. This system, backed up by a pair of Honda EU2000 linked generators provides a perfect “cabin” solution.

The trouble is a “cabin” solution doesn’t work for my house in the country, nor does it work for “Joe Suburb.” To start with, “Joe Suburb” probably has a townhome or neighborhood association which wants to control every aspect of their lives. That’s only the start of the problem. If the solar world could provide a good solution, the association would actually force all units to have them installed.

What we have here is your basic failure to communicate. No matter how many times the real world tells the solar world what a “ good” solution is, the solar world turns around and tries to sell us what they made this week. This morning, since allergies woke me up, I decided to write it down for them.

A “Good” solar solution is a system which, on a cloudy day, can do all three of these things:

  1. Generate enough electricity to power all of the computers, hair dryers, cooking, and laundry equipment of a typical house hold AT ONCE.

  2. Operate 2 (two), count them 2 (two), traditional central air conditioning units during any given day in August.

  3. Manage to sell some excess power back to CommEd while achieving points 1 and 2 at the same time.

A system which can do that does not need government backing. Most days of the year it will be able to generate enough power that CommEd sends consumers checks each month instead of bills…at least the home owners. Apartment dwellers and condo owners will simply be screwed, but, they’ve always been quasi-screwed anyway, especially the condo owners who bought an apartment when the apartment owners wanted a con to get more dough out of their amortized out building…hence the name, condo.

I don’t see anyone in the solar market selling such a system. I see a lot of companies trying to sell me worthless shit, but no company offering anything like the above. The company which creates the above system…and manages to get batteries which last seven years having a $500 or less replacement cost, will have to add a third shift at their factory. Every house building assembly line (you would call them big name builders like Pulte) would be stuffing one of these systems along with a geo-thermal HVAC system in because they could market the fact their homes generated $2000-$3000 in electrical revenue each year.

Of course, that would beg two questions:

  1. How long could CommEd stay in business once that happened?

  2. Just how worthless will city condos become?

Think about it. Right now we have a “consumer advocate” commission which is supposed to “regulate” CommEd rate increases, but, like free magazine subscriptions, CommEd long ago figured out which boxes had to be filled in to qualify. Right now this commission puts up almost no fight what-so-ever when CommEd wants a rate increase to provide bigger executive pay raises. Just how much fight do you think will happen when they add the box stating every six cent rate increase will have a corresponding one cent increase in the rate paid to consumer generators?

Never fear though. Today’s CEO’s are too busy trying to make a fast buck selling a shitty solar product to ever throw that marketing money into research and develop a useful product. I really honestly believe that if every “manufacturer” out there trying to sell a shitty solar product to consumers right now had put their entire marketing budget into the same research lab, we would already have the system I described instead of the pathetic things we have now.