January 26, 2017 brianradio2016

Southern California Edison (SCE) has flipped the switch on what is now the largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in the world — a substation with 80 megawatt hours (MWh) of capacity.

Located Ontario, Calif., the new Mira Loma substation quietly went live Dec. 30. The substation is made up of commercial-grade Tesla Powerpack 2 lithium-ion battery units.

monolith battery storageSCE

Southern California Edison engineer Grant Davis examines components in one of the 604 racks of battery modules at the Tehachapi storage substation completed last year.

When fully charged, the system will hold enough energy to power more than 2,500 households for a day or charge 1,000 Tesla vehicles. But that’s not its purpose.

The Mira Loma facility will be used to ensure that electricity generated from photovoltaic solar and wind farms does not go to waste and can be used as a supplemental power source during peak hours of the day. The plant also acts as a buffer power source while more common gas-fired “peaker” plants are being fired up to supplement the grid.

January 26, 2017 brianradio2016

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has approved what will be the largest U.S. offshore wind farm when it’s built off the east end of Long Island. It will generate enough electricity to power more than 50,000 homes on Long Island’s South Fork.

The South Fork Wind Farm will consist of 15 wind turbines with 90 megawatts (MW) of capacity. While the project still needs to complete its permitting process, construction could start as early as 2019 and it may be operational as early as 2022.

The approval of the South Fork Wind Farm, to be located 30 miles southeast of Montauk, is the first step toward developing 1,000 megawatts (1 gigawatt) of offshore wind power in that area, Cuomo said in a statement.

Block Island Wind Farm Deepwater Wind

The Block Island Wind Farm began producing electricity for New York last month.

The wind farm approval comes two weeks after Cuomo’s State of the State Address,  during which he called for the overall development of 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. The 2.4 gigawatt target, which is enough power generation for 1.25 million homes, is the largest commitment to offshore wind energy in U.S. history, Cuomo said.

January 26, 2017 brianradio2016

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has approved what will be the largest U.S. offshore wind farm when it’s built off the east end of Long Island. It will generate enough electricity to power more than 50,000 homes on Long Island’s South Fork.

The South Fork Wind Farm will consist of 15 wind turbines with 90 megawatts (MW) of capacity. While the project still needs to complete its permitting process, construction could start as early as 2019 and it may be operational as early as 2022.

The approval of the South Fork Wind Farm, to be located 30 miles southeast of Montauk, is the first step toward developing 1,000 megawatts (1 gigawatt) of offshore wind power in that area, Cuomo said in a statement.

Block Island Wind Farm Deepwater Wind

The Block Island Wind Farm began producing electricity for New York last month.

The wind farm approval comes two weeks after Cuomo’s State of the State Address,  during which he called for the overall development of 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. The 2.4 gigawatt target, which is enough power generation for 1.25 million homes, is the largest commitment to offshore wind energy in U.S. history, Cuomo said.

January 26, 2017 brianradio2016

Apache Eagle, originally developed at eBay, then donated to the Apache Software Foundation, fills a big data security niche that remains thinly populated, if not bare: It sniffs out possible security and performance issues with big data frameworks.

To do so, Eagle uses other Apache open source components, such as Kafka, Spark, and Storm, to generate and analyze machine learning models from the behavioral data of big data clusters.

Looking in from the inside

Data for Eagle can come from activity logs for various data source (HDFS, Hive, MapR FS, Cassandra) or from performance metrics harvested directly from frameworks like Spark. The data can then be piped by the Kafka streaming framework into a real-time detection system that’s built with Apache Storm or into a model-training system built on Apache Spark. The former’s for generating alerts and reports based on existing policies; the latter is for creating machine learning models to drive new policies.

This emphasis on real-time behavior tops the list of “key qualities” in the documentation for Eagle. It’s followed by “scalability,” “metadata driven” (meaning changes to policies are deployed automatically when their metadata is changed), and “extensibility.” This last means the data sources, alerting systems, and policy engines used by Eagle are supplied by plugins and aren’t limited to what’s in the box.

January 26, 2017 brianradio2016

Employees come and go, or switch departments, so IT managers seek an automated way to give (or deny) them access privileges to corporate systems. Two of the top software products for identity and access management (IAM) are Oracle Identity Manager and CA Identity Manager, according to IT Central Station, an online community where IT professionals review enterprise products.

Both products have their fans who say the sophisticated software helps them handle routine access tasks … without paperwork. But users also note that there are areas where the products have room for improvement — areas such as the user interface, initial setup and vendor tech support, according to reviews at IT Central Station. Plus, several users said the vendors need to migrate these products to the cloud.

IT Central Station has produced a 63-page report that compares the two rival products, based on commentary from enterprise users about the strengths and weaknesses of each product.

Register now to download your free copy of the report, “User Reviews of Oracle Identity Manager and CA Identity Manager.”

January 26, 2017 brianradio2016

apple-campus-hq.jpg

The first quarter of its financial cycle is Apple’s most profitable of the cycle. Not only does it include the holiday period, but it also includes the iPhone release period, which makes it doubly important.

But with iPhone sales going soggy, and iPad sales not what they used to be, Apple is under pressure.

Here are five questions to keep in mind during next week’s earnings report and conference call.

Must read: Five things you shouldn’t buy from Apple

#1: Will the iPhone return to growth?

The iPhone is the engine that powers the Apple machine, and as such all eyes will be on how well this single product line is doing above all else.

Q1 2016 saw iPhone sales of 74.8 million, which while strong, weren’t as strong as had been hoped for. As far as Apple’s guidance for this quarter as issued back at the end of October, Apple is hedging its bets, with the revenue guidance of $76 billion to $78 billion allowing for either a small fall or gain in iPhone sales for the period.

If it’s been a strong quarter, driven by high demand for the iPhone 7 and the iPhone SE (the SE only represents a few million units, but it could still make the difference between growth and decline), then sales could be as high as 80 million units, but weak sales could see the numbers fall as low as 74 million. Yes, for most companies worrying about sales of “only” 74 million would be a champagne problem, but Apple is under pressure to boost sales of the iPhone back into growth territory, and anything over 75 million units would do that.

A benefit to Apple for Q1 2017 is that the quarter is a little over a week longer than Q1 2016, and this makes direct comparisons a bit harder, and could make it a little easier for Apple to push the iPhone into growth.

#2: Will iPad sales show signs of an upgrade cycle kicking into motion?

iOS 10 was a big turning point in the iPad lifecycle because for the first time it rendered a whole swathe of iPads — around 60 million based on estimates — obsolete. A question of Apple watcher’s minds is this: Will people spend money to upgrade their old hardware?

But the long-term fate of the iPad doesn’t solely rest with upgraders. Enterprise usage has also been increasing, and while consumer interest in the iPad may be fickle, enterprise may help soften the blow.

But everything is up in the air, especially when you throw into the equation that some schools are turning their backs on iPads in favor of Chromebooks.

It could be a very decisive quarter for the iPad.

#3: How are ASPs (Average Selling Prices) doing?

It’s easy to focus on units sold alone, but it’s also important to keep an eye on ASPs. This offers an easy way to see if lower-priced iPhones and iPads are cannibalizing sales of higher-priced units.

#4: Will Mac sales be hit as hard as PCs?

While Mac sales have their ups and downs, for the past three years we’ve seen them float around the lower 4 million and upper 5 million mark.

Now, given that PC sales are a mess, it’s easy to assume that this will be true for Macs, but the fact is that Mac sales appear to be resistant to the issues affecting their Windows counterparts.

With a MacBook Pro update landing a few days before the Q1 2017 quarter started, this could be a source of good news for Apple.

#5: How is the Apple Watch doing?

While we don’t get numbers directly from Apple, by keeping an eye on the “Other Products” category of the summary data (which includes sales of Apple TV, Apple Watch, Beats products, iPod, and Apple-branded and third-party accessories) we get a barometer of sorts.

There are also other pointers to it being a good quarter for the Apple Watch:

  • It was a holiday quarter
  • Target was selling the first-generation Apple Watch for $199
  • The Nike+ version shakes up what was before quite a reserved lineup
  • The bottom falling out of the wearables market for other players (Fitbit earnings will be interesting)

See also:

The top 5 tips for new iPhone 7 users:

January 26, 2017 brianradio2016

In my previous post I installed openSUSE Tumbleweed, Manjaro and Debian on my shiny new ASUS X540S notebook. Now I am going to continue the testing by installing Fedora 25 Workstation (Gnome 3), Linux Mint 18.1 (Cinnamon), Linux Mint Debian Edition 2 (MATE), and Ubuntu 16.10 (Unity).

That’s four different distributions with four different desktops – it should be fun and interesting!

Fedora Workstation

First up for installation this time is Fedora. I have chosen the Workstation version rather than one of the other spins because I consider Fedora to be one of the reference distributions for the Gnome 3 desktop. I’m not too fond of Gnome any more, I find it a bit too tedious, and a bit too determined to force me to work the way they want me to, rather than let me work the way I want to. I will almost certainly not install any other distribution with Gnome 3 (I already passed the chance with Debian), so if I’m only going to have one, it might as well be the best one.

anaconda.png

Fedora’s Anaconda Installer

Image: J.A. Watson

The procedure I used to download and install Fedora was the same as the previous distributions – download the 64-bit Live image, dump it to a USB stick, boot the USB Live image, and run the installer.

If you are using a Windows system to prepare the installation media, Fedora actually makes it a bit easier for you. You can download the Fedora Media Writer for Windows, then use that to download the Fedora Live image and copy it to a US stick – thus avoiding the problem of Windows not having a dd utility.

Rebooting after the installation completed brought up the standard Fedora Gnome 3 desktop:

f25ws.png

f25ws.png

ASUS X540S / Fedora 25 Workstation

Image: J.A. Watson

As with the first batch of distributions, everything seems to be working, with the exception of the only semi-functional touchpad. Because I have gotten at least one comment and a number of emails telling me that I just need to go to Mouse/Touchpad Settings and activate it, let me make this perfectly clear: THAT IS NOT THE CASE. I’m not quite that dense, I promise.

mouse.png

mouse.png

Image: J.A. Watson

Depending on the distribution and how its configuration utilities are designed, when I go to Touchpad or Mouse/Touchpad settings, sometimes there is a big, fat, red bar across the top of the window that says “No Touchpad Found”, sometimes there is no “Touchpad” tab in the window, sometimes the options for touchpad configuration are greyed-out, and sometimes they just don’t have any effect. But in no case have I found a distribution (yet) which lets me activate and/or configure the touchpad, and on no distribution has it worked beyond the most basic pointer movement and click actions.

The real problem here is quite clear by now. Whatever this new touchpad or clickpad device is that ASUS has used in this notebook, Linux is recognizing it as a pointing device but is not recognizing it as a touchpad.

In another area, I was following up on a comment to my previous post on this system, and testing the headphone jack with Fedora. I found that not only does it work, but the cute little icon windows that show up when the Fn- audio keys are pressed actually have the word “Headphones” added at the bottom when something is plugged into the headphone jack.

headphones.png

headphones.png

Image: J.A. Watson

Linux Mint 18.1

The latest release of Linux Mint (18.1) just came out in mid-December with Cinnamon and MATE desktops. The KDE and Xfce versions are still in pre-release testing, but should be available any time now – perhaps even by the time you are reading this. In order to cover both of the Mint “native” desktops, I decided to install the Cinnamon version of Mint 18.1, and the MATE version of Mint Debian (LMDE).

insttype.png

insttype.png

The procedure is the same; download the Live image, copy it to USB stick, boot that and run the installer.

The installer is derived from the Ubuntu installer (ubiquity), with minimal changes to the branding and artwork. As I have mentioned many times before, one of the unfortunate side effects of this is that Linux Mint uses the same EFI boot directory name as Ubuntu, so if you plan to have both of them installed on the same system, you have to make some special allowance for that. As this Mint installation is the first of the two I will ignore that for now, and deal with it later when I install Ubuntu.

Rebooting after installation brought up the Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop:

mintcinnamon.png

mintcinnamon.png

ASUS X540S / Linux Mint 18.1

Oh, how I wish that every UEFI firmware system were as easy to work with as this one is!

touchpad.png

touchpad.png

Image: J.A. Watson

Once again all of the hardware seemed to be recognized and working, with the exception of the touchpad. There was a minor change on that as well – when I go into the Mouse & Touchpad control, and select the Touchpad tab, all of the touchpad settings and options are shown, and appear to be active – but I can do anything I want there, and it has no effect on how the touchpad actually works.

Linux Mint Debian Edition 2

While browsing the Linux Mint download directories on the local (Swiss) mirror, I stumbled across a new beta release of lmde-2-201701! This hasn’t even been announced yet (that I have seen), but it is really good news, because the previous release of LMDE 2 was 2015-03, so it was getting pretty old, which meant that installing a new system from scratch required a lot of updates. I’m not privy to any inside information about what this new release will be, but given the way LMDE is developed and supported, and the fact that I haven’t seen any other discussion about it, I assume it is simply a roll-up release to provide a new installation base.

When I booted the LMDE Live USB stick, I ran into a problem that I should have anticipated, but didn’t. Linux Mint Debian Edition is based on the Debian “stable” release, which is currently “jessie”. I already know from installing that in the previous post that it doesn’t get the display resolution right, and the touchpad doesn’t work at all. Sure enough, that is exactly what happened when I booted LMDE – I got 800×600 resolution and a dead touchpad. Sigh.

I actually managed to fight my way through the installation, which is pretty nasty because the Mint Installer window is too large to fit on an 800×600 display, so you can’t see all of it – and the part which is cut off by default is the buttons across the bottom – oh, and of course I had to drag out the USB mouse again.

I was hoping that after the installation was complete I would be able to fix the display and touchpad problems, but that didn’t work out either. I fixed it on the Debian installation by upgrading to the Debian “testing” distribution, but I couldn’t do that with LMDE. I thought (hoped) that the Mint Driver Manager might be of some help, but I couldn’t even find that (is it not included in Mint Debian?). Sigh. I finally had to give up on LMDE for this notebook.

Ubuntu 16.10

Ubuntu. Ah, Ubuntu. What can I say. It’s there, lots of people love it, and I don’t. But if I want to give as much information as possible about installing and running Linux on this notebook, I have to include Ubuntu. So here we go.

On the Download Ubuntu Desktop page you will find two versions available – 16.04 LTS (Long Term Support), and 16.10. The difference is that the LTS release will get 5 years of security and maintenance updates (so about 4 more years from now), which means that after installing it now you just have to keep it updated, without having to worry about (or plan for) a fresh installation or major upgrade until 2021. The “normal” 16.10 (non-LTS) release only gets 9 months of security and maintenance updates, so if you install it now you have to plan on upgrading or reinstalling when the next Ubuntu release comes out in April (17.04).

I chose the 16.10 release, because I wanted to be sure to get the latest kernel, drivers and Xorg possible. The same procedure for download, copy to USB stick and boot works as for the other distributions, although if you already have a running Ubuntu system, you can also copy the ISO image to a USB stick using the Ubuntu Startup Disk Creator utility.

Installation was routine, although a bit slow. Reboot after installing brought up the Ubuntu desktop:

ubuntu.png

ubuntu.png

ASUS X540S / Ubuntu 16.10

Image: J.A. Watson

Once again the hardware was mostly recognized and working.

touchpad.png

touchpad.png

Image: J.A. Watson

No surprise that the touchpad had limited functionality, and the Mouse & Touchpad control does not show any of the touchpad options.

I was, however, surprised by the Fn-keys. I first went to check them just to see if they would have the same cute little trick as Fedora when the headphones were plugged in. What I found, though, was not only that they did not have that, but that the only Fn-keys that work are the audio controls (up/down/mute). None of the rest work at all.

Closing the laptop lid also does not Suspend the notebook, but at least if I chose Suspend from the panel menu that worked, and it did Resume correctly.

Summary

Three more Linux distributions installed on this notebook, and one failure. I should have anticipated the problem with Mint Debian because of the previous experience with Debian jessie, so I suppose that doesn’t count as much of a surprise. Everything else went pretty much as expected, though. As I said after installing the first three distributions on this notebook, it is very pleasant to use, and really amazingly good for the price that I paid.

Video: The XPS 27, an all-in-one for the sound-and-vision crowd

January 26, 2017 brianradio2016

Disclaimer: If you try anything we did in this article and the sun explodes, the moon flies out of orbit, or your computer does terrible, terrible things, don’t blame the author, ZDNet, CBS Interactive, or either Barack Obama or Donald Trump. It’s all on you, baby. You’ve been warned.

Well, there went three hours of my life I’m never going to get back. Considering that even the Microsoft tech support rep gave up, and I finally got Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac to work again on my own, I’m taking the time to put this one in writing in case you encounter the same problem.

I first noticed the problem yesterday. Opening any Office application on a Mac resulted in a nasty error. In my case, the problem started happening sometime after I installed Sierra, but I can’t be sure that’s what caused it.

It goes something like this. Instead of launching Word or Excel, Office displays a window showing a spinning wait indicator, and then provides the error message “No credentials. The system requires that you sign on to a valid account. The error code is D000000C.”

office-error.jpg

This was not fun.

Making matters more difficult, there’s no way to provide any credentials to Word or Office in this situation. There’s no login option, and all you can do is close the window. I did some Web searching, and I’m far from the only one with this problem.

After giving it some thought, I realized that the message might be related to the login account on the computer, rather than the Microsoft login. Since I was logged in with full admin privileges, I certainly wasn’t lacking valid credentials. I was pretty convinced it wasn’t that I didn’t have a valid account. I was convinced it was that Office was confused.

So I uninstalled Office. As it turns out, I uninstalled and reinstalled Office a total of eight times throughout this joy ride. I tried different approaches. I went into /Library and removed all the files Microsoft recommended. I eventually found a Github script that also identified some files in ~/Library (the user account), and went through each of those files one-by-one and removed them, too.

When it didn’t work from the Finder, I opened up Terminal, and sudo’d my way through the removal commands, just to be sure that it wasn’t a permissions issue.

I logged into my Microsoft home account and re-downloaded and reinstalled a bunch of times. Still, over and over, I got the same error.

At this point, I realized I’d lost the will to live. This is pretty much par for the course when troubleshooting Microsoft authorization issues. I’m convinced that if Microsoft doesn’t make you wish you were dead at least during some stage of using their products, they feel they haven’t done their jobs. I don’t know. Maybe that’s a legacy of the Ballmer era. Still, not fun.

More great project ideas

DIY-IT Project Guide

DIY-IT Project Guide

Updated: If you’re working on a DIY project of your own, this comprehensive guide to tech projects is a good place to start.

So since I’d lost the will to live, I figured that I might as well call Microsoft tech support. Yeah, I was actually that desperate. I actually reached a rep quite quickly, but it took 41 minutes for him to verify that he did not, in fact, have a clue why I was experiencing this problem. He categorically refused to listen to what I told him I did, so I had to suffer through a screen sharing experience, the lecture about how I could quit any time, and all the rest.

He was a pleasant enough guy, but clearly in over his head. By the time we were done, he pledged to have some Level 2 tech call me back the next day. He told me I’d get a call during a time window of 2-4pm.

Given the level of total bafflement and the desire of every tech to walk you through every basic process before even paying attention, I knew it would be at least an hour before whatever so-called Level 2 tech I got on the phone would actually even listen to the details of the problem.

It became clear that if I didn’t figure out the answer on my own, I’d lose another three or four hours during prime work time. It was time for a cup of coffee (butter toffee) and some thinking.

What if the error message was actually meaningful? I know, it’s almost too much to ask. But what if? That would mean that Office was having some kind of difficulty with credentials.

Many credentials on a Mac are managed by the Keychain Access utility. Fueled by some quality butter toffee-favored caffeine, I decided that I might as well just nuke everything in the keychain that even seemed like it was Microsoft related.

Yes, I know. Back up. I have all my data backed up in a variety of ways, and while I don’t really trust Time Machine, I did a backup before settling in with my hatchet-sized scalpel.

First, I did a search on “microsoft”. Keychain Access doesn’t appear to be case sensitive, so I found a number of keys. A quick right-click later and they were deleted.

Then, for good measure, I searched on “ms” and “office”. I found a few keys that were clearly not related to my Office problem, but also another few that seemed to be Microsoft related. So, hey, what the heck? This is the year of living dangerously, right? So I deleted them, too.

Then, for probably the 25th time in a day, I tried launching Word. And what do you know? I didn’t get the error message. I got an actual prompt to login. I typed in my user name and my password and, as if by magic, I was once again able to use Office.

I could finally get back to making my PowerPoints. Yeah, life is good. The will to live returned.

Before I end this tale of rectified woe, let me leave you with some thoughts. First, why? Why, Microsoft, must you do this to your most loyal of customers? Why? Okay, I feel better now.

For the record, I don’t think even the Level 2 techs would have been able to solve the problem. Nothing I found on how to completely remove Office ever mentions the keychain, and yet there were a bunch of records just living in that thing. Microsoft definitely needs to update its removal guidelines.

But what I really want to say is that before you dig into your system and do some unmentionable and possibly irreversible tinkering, think twice. Back up. I’d say that you should call tech support, but that clearly was a bust. But, you know, be careful, okay? Baaaaad things can happen if you randomly delete system data.

So there you go. So long and thanks for all the fish.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

Video: Hybrid cloud storage, first look: Synology DS916+ super-NAS
January 26, 2017 brianradio2016

Apple’s alleged decision to join competitors on the Partnership on AI research group shows it now understands that artificial intelligence can only succeed if competitors find some ways to work together.

Walled garden fail

There are lots of different technologies that contribute to AI. Machine intelligence, sensor development, voice recognition, security and biometrics, pattern matching, neural networking and so many more.

[See also: Apple is teaching Siri to learn new tricks]

The challenge is that as we witness the emergence of what seems likely to be the most disruptive set of technologies since the first iPhone, players in this space must make their solutions compatible.

Think about it

January 26, 2017 brianradio2016

20170125.jpg

JDI’s new product isn’t as flexible as OLED screens but it is bendy enough to wrap around the edges of a smartphone like the Galaxy Edge.

Image: JDI

Apple supplier Japan Display Inc has unveiled a bendable plastic LCD screen that could rival Samsung’s OLED displays found in the Galaxy Edge.

Many reports have speculated Apple’s next iPhone will have a curved if not OLED display, but the only company that can produce OLED at that scale is Samsung.

Apple may now have a new choice, thanks to current iPhone supplier JDI announcing the 5.5-inch flexible display, called Full Active Flex.

JDI’s new display isn’t as flexible as OLED but it is bendy enough to wrap around the edges of a smartphone like the Galaxy Edge, JDI COO Shuji Aruga told the Wall Street Journal.

The Full HD flexible displays are set to hit mass production in 2018, according to JDI, which is aiming to bring them to smartphones, notebooks, and vehicle dashboards.

OLED screens don’t need backlights and can be curved. However, as noted by the WSJ, it would be expensive for JDI to mass-produce them since it would need new production lines. The company also supplies displays to Huawei.

JDI’s flexible display swaps glass for plastic layers on each side of the LCD, which allows them to be flexible as well as more resistant to cracking. It could even be a battery saver since the display supports 60Hz, 30Hz, and 15Hz driving frequencies.

People familiar with Apple’s plans have said the iPhone maker is looking at the flexible displays for future iPhone models, according to the WSJ.

“Mass production is planned from 2018, and we wouldn’t do that without demand from our clients,” Aruga said.

In a bid to catch up with LG and Samsung in OLED, JDI announced last year that it would also start mass production of OLED displays in 2018 and has shown interest in developing flexible OLEDs.

Read more about flexible displays and mobile innovation