July is always one of the hottest months in the U.S., but this year the heat got an early start. Sustained hot weather has slammed huge parts of the country, and led to some serious consequences. All those AC units employed to bring some relief to homes have contributed to the extended post-storm power outage in the eastern part of the country; five days in, the count is still over a million customers in the dark. (I'm writing from Austin; this year Texas's famously warm weather is a little less impressive by comparison to the midwest, the Carolinas, and many other places; temperatures are expected to remain under 100 until Saturday.) If you're in one of the severely affected areas, how has it affected you? More importantly, what strategies have you used to beat the heat in the absence of (or simply unreliable) electricity? Details help. In particular, how are you keeping the human and animal members of your household safe from overheating? Read on below for an extended set of questions on dealing with the ongoing heat wave of 2012's early summer, and respond to any of them that make sense in your situation. Note, answers are of course encouraged from people who aren't in the worst-hit areas, too! Though you're free to respond however you'd like, it would be useful if you start with your location right at the top of (or in the title of) your comment, so others can scan them easily.
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An anonymous reader writes "There is a lot of controversy and a big hullabaloo about Southern California Edison and various other utilities around the country installing smart meters at residential homes. Various action groups claim that these smart meters transmit an unsafe amount of RF and that they are an invasion of privacy. The information out there seems rather spotty and inconsistent — what do you engineers out there think? Are these things potentially harmful? Are they an invasion of privacy?"
illcar writes "Hi, I am a 40-year-old working as a senior developer for one of the biggest investment banks. I have always worked as a full time employee in my career; however the last 5-6 years have been very tough for me because of office politics, outsourcing, and economic conditions. The financial industry is not doing well, and we may be at the brink of another round of layoffs. My family is growing, my spouse does not work, and I still don't own a house. I am worried regarding my job security & career growth. Considering Medicare does not kick in till 65, I am still looking at 25 long years of career. I am wondering what the best way would be for me to stay employable in the coming years?"
shinjikun34 writes "I am currently stationed on a U.S. Navy ship deployed in a country with restrictive internet policies. We are currently in the process of setting up an entertainment internet connection for the crew to use in their downtime. I suggested (and was thereby tasked with finding) a VPN service that would support 100 to 500 devices, have an end point inside the continental United States, be reasonably priced, and secure/trustworthy. Something that is safe to use for banking and other financial affairs. Ideally, it would be fast enough to support several VoIP calls (Skype, Google Voice, etc) along side online gaming, with possible movie/music streaming. It will need an end point in the U.S. to allow for use of Google Books, Netflix, Hulu, and other services that restrict access based on region. I, in all honesty, have no idea where to begin searching, and I ask the good folks of Slashdot to aid me in my quest. One of the main requirements I was given is that the company has to be trustworthy. And it has to be a company — computer in someone's closet hosting a VPN isn't acceptable to the Navy. What services would Slashdot recommend? (I understand that our connection without a VN probably won't be able to handle the described load, but I would prefer a VN service that offers capacity above our need. That way when T/S'ing the connection, the VPN can be at least partially ruled out.)"
An anonymous reader writes "I'm part of a team of six people developing applications for mobile devices (Android & iOS). In our company, which consists of many teams responsible for 'classic' software development, business intelligence, virtualization, hardware, etc., we are kind of a small startup because we were the first to use agile methods like Scrum and we are open to new technologies and methods. Also, our team is pretty young — I'm the oldest at 30 years of age. We would like to further raise productivity and motivation, so we're currently collecting ideas about what makes a good developer/hacker culture, and how it can be improved in our team/company. These can be things we do ourselves, or suggestions we pass on to management. I would like to know: what, in your opinion, defines good, modern developer culture? What does developer culture consists of? For example, is it: clearly defined career opportunities? A geeky office? Benefits like trips to extraordinary conferences? Please let me know what you think."
First time accepted submitter Dslice_allstar writes "I have a '77 GMC Van that I would like to take into the 21st century with some good tech. I have several large LCD monitors, and I want to hook at least one up for watching movies and doing some mild PC gaming. I am concerned about power, i.e. using an inverter and not frying the computer every time the van starts/stops, and I'm worried about whether the alternator will support a computer/monitor setup as well as LEDs and the like. Would a UPC backup be a good idea? I would also like to be able to play music over the sound system, preferably off the computer. Should I be thinking mini ITX HTPC, or would a netbook better serve my purposes? How would you all pimp out an old conversion van?"
zaba writes "Once again, I can hear the tell-tale signs of a hard drive dying. This time, it's in the DVR for one of our TVs. In the U.S., are we at a point where, with a little technical savvy, 'cutting the cord' makes sense? If so, what are the best options? Does a refurb Roku (anywhere from 60-80 USD) make the most sense? Does building a mythbox or some such device make sense? For my family of four (ages 36, 30, 13 and 4), we are paying ~100 USD/month for two receivers (one with a DVR). What, in your opinion, is the best option to have TV service in two rooms of the house? Kid's shows could be in one room and adult shows in another. Or, all of it could be on one server (I have computers lying around) that could go to multiple rooms. We like the DVR for the instant access, but saving a hundred bucks a month would be nice as well. I can drop CAT-5 as needed, but Wi-Fi would be preferred. For programming, we currently have 'standard' cable and mostly watch the major networks. I would love to have ESPN, but can get my sports fix (mostly college football) through other means, I'm sure. How do you all watch TV? What have you found to be the best way to get what you want?"
jdray writes "My wife and I own a mid-sized restaurant with a couple of Point of Sale (POS) terminals. The software, which runs on Windows and .NET, uses SQL Server on the back end. With an upgrade to the next major release of the software imminent, I'm considering upgrading the infrastructure it runs on to better ensure uptime (we're open seven days a week). We can't afford several thousand dollars' worth of server infrastructure (two cluster nodes and some shared storage, or some such), so I thought I'd ask Slashdot for some suggestions on enabling maximum uptime. I considered a single server node running VMWare with a limp-mode failover to a VMWare instance on a desktop, but I'm not sure how to set up a monitoring infrastructure to automate that, and manual failover isn't much of an option with non-tech staff. What suggestions do you have?"
An anonymous reader writes "As a calculus professor for a small undergraduate institution, I normally lecture students who are majoring in the natural (or 'hard') sciences, such as mathematics, physics, and computer science. In fact, I have done so for almost thirteen years. However, for the first time this fall semester, we have a shortage of professors on our hands. As a result of this, I have been asked to teach a general education statistics class. Such classes are a major requirement for the large psychology student body we have here. I have never lectured social science students in any mathematics-related classes. My question to the Slashdot community is as follows: What are your experiences with teaching natural science classes to social science students? How is the experience the same or different in comparison to natural science students who may be more adept to the nuances of mathematics and other similar fields?"
An anonymous reader writes "Hello! Every summer (and other holidays) the work load at my job becomes minimal. I like scripting (HTML, CSS etc.) and would like to get into programming just to tinker a bit due to curiosity. At work we are not allowed to install anything except company approved software. Is there something I can program in that has an IDE like PortableApps.com? I guess I am asking for a recommendation on both language and IDE at the same time. Again, I want to reiterate that this is to satisfy my tinkering curiosity and thus not need something great, just something more advanced than HTML/CSS."
An anonymous reader writes "I have two kids, 7 and 8. I would love to allow them internet access on a regular basis. The problem is what's out there: I really don't want them to deal with porn ads and such, but making either a blacklist or a whitelist myself would take months. So I figured I would ask you: what free software would you use with preferably prebuilt lists to protect your kids online? What is out there with fairly easy configuration ability (to allow for game servers — they love Minecraft), but secure enough they can't just bypass it using a Google search?"
Jason Levine writes "My son is 8 years old. I'd love to get him interested in science-fiction, but most of the books I can think of seem to be targeted to older kids/adults. Thinking that the length of some novels might be off-putting to him, I read him some of the short stories in Isaac Asimov's I, Robot. He liked these, but I could tell he was having a hard time keeping up. I think the wording of the stories was too advanced and there was too much talking and not enough action. Personally, I love Asimov, but I think much of it just went over his head. Which science fiction and/or fantasy books would you recommend for an 8-year-old? (Either stories he could read himself or that we could read together over the course of a few weeks.)"
An anonymous reader writes "My grandfather is a retired electrician whom I've been trying to keep mentally busy. Together we've gotten an Arduino kit and have been working on some simple projects. He does the wiring and I've been writing the code. Recently his arthritis has been getting worse and he's been unable to work with the tiny components that the Arduino projects require. Does anyone have a recommendation for something similar we could work on together that would be easier for someone with his compromised manual dexterity?"
First time accepted submitter at.drinian writes "Last week, we heard about the many applications for new top-level domains that have been put forth by various businesses and organizations. ICANN, of course, has come under heavy criticism for its process. If you didn't have the accumulated baggage of 30 years of DNS, how would you redesign things? .public and .private TLDs only? No TLD control? Country-level domains?"
John3 writes "For the past 15+ years I've maintained The Hardlines Digest (URL omitted to reduce the /. effect), an email discussion list for members of the retail hardware and lumber business. Since the beginning I've run the list on a Windows box running Lyris Listmanager, and it's worked admirably over the years. However, the list now has over 2,600 members and Listmanager doesn't have a nice web interface for users that like to read via their browser. Listmanager also doesn't handle attachments and HTML formatting well for the daily 'digest' version of the discussions. Finally, I'd really like to move hosting off-site so I don't need to maintain the server. The list members are hardware store owners and many are technically challenged, so I need to keep change to a minimum and make it easy for them to migrate. I've considered Google Groups and that seems to have most of the features I need. Are there any other low cost solutions for hosting a large discussion list?"