How a group of neighbors created their own Internet service | Ars Technica

When you live somewhere with slow and unreliable Internet access, it usually seems like there’s nothing to do but complain. And that’s exactly what residents of Orcas Island, one of the San Juan Islands in Washington state, were doing in late 2013. Faced with CenturyLink service that was slow and outage-prone, residents gathered at a community potluck and lamented their current connectivity.

“Everyone was asking, ‘what can we do?’” resident Chris Brems recalls. “Then [Chris] Sutton stands up and says, ‘Well, we can do it ourselves.’”

Doe Bay is a rural environment. It’s a place where people judge others by “what you can do,” according to Brems. The area’s residents, many farmers or ranchers, are largely accustomed to doing things for themselves. Sutton’s idea struck a chord. “A bunch of us finally just got fed up with waiting for CenturyLink or anybody else to come to our rescue,” Sutton told Ars.Around that time, CenturyLink service went out for 10 days, a problem caused by a severed underwater fiber cable. Outages lasting a day or two were also common, Sutton said.Faced with a local ISP that couldn’t provide modern broadband, Orcas Island residents designed their own network and built it themselves. The nonprofit Doe Bay Internet Users Association (DBIUA), founded by Sutton, Brems, and a few friends, now provide Internet service to a portion of the island. It’s a wireless network with radios installed on trees and houses in the Doe Bay portion of Orcas Island. Those radios get signals from radios on top of a water tower, which in turn receive a signal from a microwave tower across the water in Mount Vernon, Washington.

Source: How a group of neighbors created their own Internet service | Ars Technica

Amazon built its hyper efficient warehouses by embracing chaos — Quartz

Good look at how Amazon takes advantage of randomness in its warehouses.

Amazon has completely redefined warehouse efficiency and customer convenience. Through its Prime membership, it has promised tens of millions of customers free two-day shipping on more than 100 million products, and, last year, it shipped 5 billion items to them. “That was the major innovation,” says Daniel Theobald, who cofounded a warehouse robotics company called Vecna in 1998 and counts major retailers and logistics companies as clients. “As soon as people realized, you can order something and get it tomorrow, that turned the industry upside down.”

The core of this disruptive efficiency, though, is not Amazon’s automated shelf-moving warehouse robots, which is the innovation that gets the most attention. And it isn’t, on its surface, something that you would associate with a well-oiled machine. It’s not even a breakthrough technology. In fact, some version of it was already in place when Alperson worked in Amazon’s early warehouses.

What makes Amazon’s warehouse work is the way they organize inventory: with complete randomness.

Source: Amazon built its hyper efficient warehouses by embracing chaos — Quartz

“This Is Serious”: Facebook Begins Its Downward Spiral | Vanity Fair

Years ago, long before Mark Zuckerberg became Mark Zuckerberg, the young founder reached out to a friend of mine who had also started a company, albeit a considerably smaller one, in the social-media space, and suggested they get together. As Facebook has grown into a global colossus that connects about a third of the globe, Zuckerberg has subsequently assumed a reputation as an aloof megalomaniac deeply out of touch with the people who use his product. But back then, when he only had 100 million users on his platform, he wasn’t perceived that way. When he reached out to my friend, Zuckerberg was solicitous. He made overtures that suggested a possible acquisition—and once rebuffed, returned with the notion that perhaps Facebook could at least partner with my friend’s company. The chief of the little start-up was excited by the seemingly harmless, even humble, proposition from the growing hegemon. Zuckerberg suggested that the two guys take a walk.

Taking a walk, it should be noted, was Zuckerberg’s thing. He regularly took potential recruits and acquisition targets on long walks in the nearby woods to try to convince them to join his company. After the walk with my friend, Zuckerberg appeared to take the relationship to the next level. He initiated a series of conference calls with his underlings in Facebook’s product group. My friend’s small start-up shared their product road map with Facebook’s business-development team. It all seemed very collegial, and really exciting. And then, after some weeks passed, the C.E.O. of the little start-up saw the news break that Facebook had just launched a new product that competed with his own.

Source: “This Is Serious”: Facebook Begins Its Downward Spiral | Vanity Fair

How Insulin Became Unaffordable | Harvard Political Review

This is appalling. People are dying because they can’t afford insulin.

The U.S. health care is broken. Only single-payer will fix it and I will support any politician who supports it. No one should die over profits!

On May 20, 2017, Smith turned 26, aging out of his parents’ insurance. Because he was a single man with a decent job, Smith didn’t qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. The most inexpensive plan Smith and his mother could find on the Minnesota exchange was around $450 per month with a $7600 deductible. Smith could have afforded the monthly premiums, but the deductible made the plan too expensive. Although the family had been researching plans for Smith since February, he had to go off of health insurance entirely.

When Smith went to the pharmacy to pick up his insulin in early June, the bill was over $1300 without insurance. He couldn’t afford the medicine that day, and decided to ration his remaining insulin until he was paid. Smith did not tell his family that he was adjusting his carbohydrate intake so he could lower his dosage.

“He knew the signs of being in trouble with his diabetes,” Smith-Holt told the HPR. “But when your body starts shutting down like that, you’re not making very clear, rational decisions.”

On June 25, Smith went to dinner with his girlfriend, where he complained about stomach pains. It was the last time anyone saw him alive. He called in sick to work the next day. On June 27, Smith was found dead in his apartment.

Source: How Insulin Became Unaffordable | Harvard Political Review

Cheap Renewables Keep Pushing Fossil Fuels Further Away From Profitability – Despite Trump’s Efforts

Rapid cost declines made renewable energy the United States’ cheapest available source of new electricity, without subsidies, in 2017. In many parts of the U.S., building new wind is cheaper than running existing coal, while nuclear and natural gas aren’t far behind. As renewable energy costs continue their relentless decline, they keep pushing fossil fuels further from profitability – and neither trend is slowing down.

This dynamic is apparent in the decade spanning 2008-2017, where nearly all retired U.S. power plants were fossil fuel generation, and was capped by utilities announcing 27 coal plant closures totaling 22 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in 2017. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts coal closures will continue through 2020, potentially setting an all-time annual record in 2018.

Source: Cheap Renewables Keep Pushing Fossil Fuels Further Away From Profitability – Despite Trump’s Efforts

Raleigh’s in the Running for Amazon’s HQ2. But Do We Really Want the Damn Thing? | Wake County | Indy Week

IndyWeek pretty much repeats what I’ve been cautioning about Amazon HQ2 landing in Raleigh. Be careful what you wish for.

There’s been something surreal about watching cities all over the country prostrate themselves before Amazon in hopes of landing HQ2, the company’s second headquarters, which will employ some fifty thousand workers and pump $5 billion into the local economy over the next two decades. Newark has offered the internet behemoth $7 billion in incentives. Philadelphia offered as much as $2 billion over ten years. Missouri offered in excess of $2.4 billion (which wasn’t good enough; Amazon rejected bids from Kansas City and St. Louis). Other cities that have made their incentive packages public aren’t far behind. For those that haven’t—including North Carolina—it’s difficult to imagine that figure not reaching the billions.

Source: Raleigh’s in the Running for Amazon’s HQ2. But Do We Really Want the Damn Thing? | Wake County | Indy Week

Could a bubbling Canaries volcano see Britain engulfed by killer tsunami?

A tsunami wave, perhaps 100 feet tall, will wreak havoc on the U.S. east coast the day that the Canary Islands’ La Palma volcano blows up. Increased seismic activity has experts worried that day is coming sooner rather than later. Are we ready?

WHEN you think about tsunamis, you don’t tend to picture the killer waves crashing down on British beaches.But with a volatile volcano in La Palma ready to blow, the government is now drawing up plans for dealing with monster waves on the British coast.

The terrifying truth is that we’re largely in the dark about tsunamis, and it’s difficult to say with any certainty when Britain will next see a killer wave.But many volcano experts point to Cumbre Vieja, an active volcanic ridge on La Palma, in the Canary Islands, as a probable source of a future tsunami.

With seismic activity picking up in the area, volcano monitors are on high alert over fears that an eruption could send a huge chunk of the mountain crashing into the sea – triggering a monster tsunami.

There’s still debate around how big the tsunami would be by the time it reaches Britain, although there are fears that waves as high as 25 metres could threaten New York and Miami.

Source: Could a bubbling Canaries volcano see Britain engulfed by killer tsunami?