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Third-largest coal producer in the US files for bankruptcy

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coal train.

Enlarge / WRIGHT, WY - OCTOBER 19: Train cars full of 100 tons of coal leave a mine near Wright, Wyoming on October 19, 2006. Empty cars head to the facility. (credit: Photo by Andy Nelson/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

Cloud Peak Energy, the US' third-largest coal mining company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late last week as the company missed an extension deadline to make a $1.8 million loan payment.

In a statement, Cloud Peak said it will continue to operate its three massive coal mines in Wyoming and Montana while it goes through the restructuring process. Colin Marshall, the president and CEO of the company, said that he believed a sale of the company's assets "will provide the best opportunity to maximize value for Cloud Peak Energy."

Cloud Peak was one of the few major coal producers who escaped the significant coal industry downturn between 2015 and 2016. That bought it a reputation for prudence and business acumen.

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kclowers
37 days ago
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Seattle, WA, US
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Uber's IPO documents admit that they need to destroy public transit.

jwz
1 Comment and 13 Shares
In case you haven't heard, many Uber and Lyft drivers are on strike today nationwide, so if you use either of those services today, not only are you supporting a vile business model and an appalling corporate culture that is destroying your cities, but you're also crossing a picket line while doing so.

Oh, apropos of nothing, KC reports:

In the "tone deaf moves on the day of a strike" department, I just learned that Lyft chartered a boat I used to work on for a company yacht party today.

Uber has acknowledged in a federal filing that its long-term goal is to privatize public transportation around the world.

In a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the ride-hail company reports that it seeks, as part of its growth strategy, not just to get people out of private cars but to get them off public buses and trains. Those public services would be replaced by Uber Buses, now being tested in Cairo.

That stunning revelation is deep in a 300-page document called an S1, which the SEC requires for any company planning an initial public offering. [...] Uber admits in the document that it might never make a profit; that it continues to lose billions by underpricing its product (rides) to gain customer loyalty and market share; and that its entire business model could collapse if regulators or the courts decide that its drivers are employees, not private contractors.

So how is this company going to be attractive to investors? By about page 160, the company starts talking about its "Total Addressable Market." [...]

Increasing Ridesharing penetration in existing markets. [...] We believe we can continue to grow the number of trips taken with our Ridesharing products and replace personal vehicle ownership and usage and public transportation one use case at a time, including through continued investment in our affordable Ridesharing options, such as Uber Bus and Express POOL.

The company, as far as I know, has never admitted that before. Its PR materials always talk about the environmental benefits of getting people out of private cars. The idea of decimating public transportation in the name of profits for a global corporation is pretty scary.

We have seen this before, starting in the 1930s, when a handful of big companies including General Motors and Standard Oil bought up urban rail lines around the country to force people to buy private cars. This is now considered a dark moment in environmental and transportation policy that created, among other things, the freeways and smog of Los Angeles and the end of rail transit on the Bay Bridge.

There's a reason transportation, especially urban transportation, is public. Many Muni lines would lose money if they were treated as business ventures; they don't have enough passengers to justify their existence. But San Francisco has a policy of making transit available to everyone, in every neighborhood.

The 8 Bayshore and the 9 San Bruno, for example, serve southeast neighborhoods that badly need transit access -- but that likely wouldn't get an Uber bus.

But Uber is telling Wall Street that its future as a company may depend on its ability to convince people to take private cars and buses instead of public transit, starving transit and ultimately forcing everyone to pay Uber to get around.

Sup. Aaron Peskin, who chairs the Land Use and Transportation Committee and has long been critical of Uber, told me that "this sounds like a Machiavellian plan to harm the tens of millions of people who rely on public transit ... if there's a definition of evil, this is it." [...]

Uber would probably not exist in its current format if San Francisco and other cities had not allowed it to break the law and run illegal cabs for years. Now, as always seems to be the case, policy-makers are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the impacts of Uber-friendly policies.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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kclowers
42 days ago
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Seattle, WA, US
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1 public comment
zippy72
41 days ago
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Never use Uber. Never use Lyft.
FourSquare, qv

Improving the Container Workflow

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As I mentioned in my talk at Scale 17x, if you aren’t using containers for building your application yet, it’s likely you will in the not-so-distant future. Moving towards an immutable base OS is a very likely future because the security advantages are so compelling. With that, comes a need for a mutable playground, and containers generally fit the bill. This is something I saw coming when I started making Builder so we have had a number of container abstractions for some time.

With growing distributions, like Fedora’s freshly released Silverblue, it becomes even more necessary to push those container boundaries soon.

This week I started playing with some new ideas for a terminal workspace in Builder. The goal is to be a bit of a swiss-army knife for container oriented development. I think there is a lot we can offer by building on the rest of Builder, even if you’re primary programming workhorse is a terminal and the IDE experience is not for you. Plumbing is plumbing is plumbing.

I’m interested in getting feedback on how developers are using containers to do their development. If that is something that you’re interested in sharing with me, send me an email (details here) that is as concise as possible. It will help me find the common denominators for good abstractions.

What I find neat, is that using the abstractions in Builder, you can make a container-focused terminal in a couple of hours of tinkering.

I also started looking into Vagrant integration and now the basics work. But we’ll have to introduce a few hooks into the build pipeline based on how projects want to be compiled. In most cases, it seems the VMs are used to push the app (and less about compiling) with dynamic languages, but I have no idea how pervasive that is. I’m curious how projects that are compiling in the VM/container deal with synchronizing code.

Another refactor that needs to be done is to give plugins insight into whether or not they can pass file-descriptors to the target. Passing a FD over SSH is not possible (although in some cases can be emulated) so plugins like gdb will have to come up with alternate mechanisms in that scenario.

I will say that trying out vagrant has been a fairly disappointing experience compared to our Flatpak workflow in Builder. The number of ways it can break is underwhelming and the performance reminds me of my days working on virtualization technology. It makes me feel even more confident in the Flatpak architecture for desktop developer tooling.

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kclowers
42 days ago
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"if you aren’t using containers for building your application yet, it’s likely you will in the not-so-distant future. Moving towards an immutable base OS is a very likely future because the security advantages are so compelling."

Ugh, I hate the future so damn much
Seattle, WA, US
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Why crowdfunding freely licensed documentation is illegal in Finland

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On the Meson manual crowdfunding page it is mentioned that the end result can not be put under a fully free license. Several people have said that they "don't believe such a law could exist" or words to that effect. This blog post is an attempt to to explain the issue in English as all available text about the case is in Finnish. As a disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, the following is not legal advice, there is no guarantee, even that any of the information below is factual.

To get started we need to go back in time a fair bit and look at disaster relief funds. In Finland you must obtain a permit from the police in order to gather money for general charitable causes. This permit has strict requirements. The idea is that you can't just start a fundraising, take people's money and pocket it, instead the money must provably go to the cause it was raised for. The way the law is written is that a donation to charity is done without getting "something tangible" in return. Roughly if you give someone money and get a physical item in return, it is considered a sales transaction. If you give money to someone and in return get a general feeling of making the world better in some way, that is considered a donation. The former is governed by laws of commerce, the latter by laws of charity fundraising.

A few years ago there was a project to create a book to teach people Swedish. The project is page is here, but it is all in Finnish so it's probably not useful to most readers. They had a crowdfunding project to finish the project with all the usual perks. One of the goals of the crowdfunding was to make the book freely distributable after publishing. This is not unlike funding feature work on FOSS projects works.

What happened next is that the police stepped in and declared this illegal (news story, in Finnish). Their interpretation was that participating in this campaign without getting something tangible in return (i.e. paying less than the amount needed to get the book) was a "charitable donation". Thus it needs a charity permit as explained above. Running a crowdfunding campaign is still legal if it is strictly about pre-sales. That is, every person buys "something" and that something needs to have "independent value" of some sort. If the outcome of a project is a PDF and that PDF becomes freely available, it can be argued that people who participated did not get any "tangible value" in exchange for their money.

Because of this the outcome of the Meson manual crowdfunding campaign can not be made freely available. This may seem a bit stupid, but sadly that's the law. The law is undergoing changes (see here, in Finnish), but those changes will not take effect for quite some time and even when they do it is unclear how those changes would affect these kinds of projects.
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kclowers
42 days ago
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well that's one of the dumber things I have seen in a while
Seattle, WA, US
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Password Manager Improvements in Firefox 67

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There have been many improvements to the password manager in Firefox and some of them may take a while to be noticed so I thought I would highlight some of the user-facing ones in version 67:

Credit for the fixes goes to Jared Wein, Sam Foster, Prathiksha Guruprasad, and myself. The full list of password manager improvements in Firefox 67 can be found on Bugzilla and there are many more to come in Firefox 68 so stay tuned…


  1. Due to interactions with the Master Password dialog, this change doesn't apply if a Master Password is enabled
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kclowers
44 days ago
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Seattle, WA, US
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Twitter without Infinite Scroll

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I like reading stuff on twitter.com because a lot of interesting people write things there which they don’t write anywhere else.

But Twitter is designed to be addictive, and a key mechanism they use is the “infinite scroll” design. Infinite scroll has been called the Web’s slot machine because of the way it exploits our minds to make us keep reading. It’s an unethical design.

In an essay entitled “If the internet is addictive, why don’t we regulate it?”, the writer Michael Schulson says:

… infinite scroll has no clear benefit for users. It exists almost entirely to circumvent self-control.

Hopefully Twitter will one day consider the ethics of their design. Until then, I made a Firefox extension to remove the infinite scroll feature and replace it with a ‘Load older tweets’ link at the bottom of the page, like this:

example

The Firefox extension is called Twitter Without Infinite Scroll. It works by injecting some JavaScript code into the Twitter website which disconnects the ‘uiNearTheBottom’ event that would otherwise automatically fetch new data.

Quoting Michael Shulson’s article again:

Giving users a chance to pause and make a choice at the end of each discrete page or session tips the balance of power back in the individual’s direction.

So, if you are a Twitter user, enjoy your new-found power!

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kclowers
51 days ago
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Seattle, WA, US
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