July 31, 2015

Expert talks about roll out of Windows 10

Windows-10Hundreds of thousands of computer users in Iowa will see pop-ups on their screens soon, as Microsoft is releasing a free version of Windows 10 this week. Thor Schrock, a computer repair store owner in Omaha/Council Bluffs, says it you reserve a copy by Wednesday, the new operating system will be delivered automatically.

“Anybody who has a Windows 7 or a Windows 8 computer might be eligible for a free, as in no cost at all, update from Windows 7 or 8 up to Windows 10,” Schrock says. “Now, your computer’s hardware will have to be compatible. Almost every computer running Windows 8 will be compatible. Most computers running Windows 7 are also compatible.”

Computers that are compatible will get a pop-up window asking them if they want to upgrade. Having seen the new O-S, Schrock says it has several impressive features.

“If you’re excited to get Windows 10, you should reserve the copy because you’ll be ‘among the first,'” he says. “They’ll release this in waves. The last time this happened, between Windows 8 to 8.1, some 20% of the computers that attempted to install 8.1 automatically ended up failing, they ended up crashing.”

According to Microsoft, those not wanting to upgrade now can purchase Windows 10 upgrades later at prices that range from $120 to $200, depending on the version. Also, there are a few wrinkles in the red carpet rollout. “You won’t get a pop-up if your computer is not compatible or if any device on your computer, like an old printer, is not compatible,” Schrock says. “Another thing to be aware of, if you’re using Office 2003 or Office 2007, neither one of those are compatible with Windows 10. You’ll have to buy a new copies of Office if you upgrade.”

One of the new features of Windows 10 is a personal digital assistant, called Cortana. It aims to rival “Siri” on iPhones. “Microsoft’s voice recognition blows Siri out of the water,” Schrock says. “When you figure, they’re going to leverage Cortana on over a billion devices next month, it’s going to have the opportunity to learn so much. It’s going to be Skynet before it’s done.” That’s a reference to the popular “Terminator” movies, where Skynet was an artificial intelligence-driven computer system which eventually took over the world and tried to wipe out all of humankind. He’s kidding. Relax.

Big supply keeps propane prices down

Propane-barbecuePropane prices continued to fall this week, and were down eight cents compared to last month’s price. Iowa Department of Agriculture energy analyst, Harold Hommes, says the cost for a gallon of propane continues to be below one dollar at 93 cents.

“Quite a dramatic difference from a year-and-a-half ago — if you remember January and February of ’14 — we were up to four-and-a-half, five dollars for a lot of product,” Hommes. He says the companies that sell propane have too much on hand. “There’s actually some pretty significant supply problems, as a nation we are at record levels of propane production right now,” Hommes explains.

He says inventory levels in the midwest and across the nation are at record levels. Hommes says Canada has major issues with propane supplies. “Especially up in Alberta, the Edmonton area, where production is so steep they are pricing propane at pretty much no value. If you have a truck and are willing to get it out of there, it essentially has no value,” Hommes says. He says now is the time for Iowans who heat with propane to fill their tanks.

For those who buy propane tanks for grilling, Hommes says those prefilled tank prices are not impacted much by the drop in price.

Johnson County officials to seek $10.10 minimum wage in county


Mike Carberry

Johnson County supervisors plan to move ahead with plans to require a higher minimum wage in the Iowa City area. The state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour was set in 2007.

The supervisors plan to propose raising the minimum wage in Johnson County in increments, so by 2017 it would be $10.10 an hour. Mike Carberry, a member of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, says it’s about creating a “living wage.”

“Johnson County has the highest cost of living in the state,” Carberry says.

And Carberry says 18 percent of the those who live in Johnson County live below the poverty line.

“No one can survive in $7.25,” Carberry says.

The board will vote on the proposal at meetings during the month of August. State officials have said it is unconstitutional for a county to set its own minimum wage that’s different from the state minimum wage and Carberry says it’s a “worthy” and “moral” fight to take to the courts.

Le Mars plans to build large ethanol storage facility

Ethanol-pumpThe city of Le Mars has completed plans to build a large ethanol storage facility in its industrial area. Mayor Dick Kirchoff says the facility may be in operation by late this year.

He says it will consist of a 300,000 gallon tank to hold ethanol that’s trucked in and then later loaded onto rail cars.

“So, I think it’s going to be a nice opportunity for the city of Le Mars,” Kirchoff says. The city council first made a five-year agreement with Le Mars Public Storage in order to have an easement to a vacant lot in the industrial park area.

Kirchoff says the storage and loading facility will be operated by Plymouth Energy of Merrill. “What that’s gonna do is to allow them to get into the Chicago market on the C-N Railroad and then on up to Canada,” Kirchoff says.

Kirchoff says city leaders have been meeting and planning for this new venture for the last two-and-a-half years. “One of the things we were always concerned about was safety. And we have taken every precautionary measure during these meetings to make sure the operation is built right. And we feel like we are progressing ahead on it,” Kirchoff says. The Le Mars mayor says the new industry would not have been possible if not for the city making an earlier agreement last April with Burlington Junction Short Line Railroad.

(Reporting by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, LeMars)


Experts looking to next round as first wave of bird flu winds down

Cleaning a truck used to haul away dead birds.

Cleaning a truck used to haul away dead birds.

The Iowa turkey and chicken facilities are still working on recovering from the bird flu outbreak, as state and federal officials look ahead to the possibility of another outbreak.

Veterinarian Jack Shere with the U.S.D.A.’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, says the summer heat should prevent another flare up right now.

“The chances of it recurring the flocks currently is pretty small. What works in our favor is the high temperature. What this virus likes is the cold, wet, rainy type weather — which we see in the fall and spring,” Shere says. Shere says they know another outbreak is possible when the wild birds start their fall migration. “We know that this virus still exists in the wild birds. We don’t know to what extent it is in the wild birds or whether they have had a chance to throw the virus off,” Shere says. “If we use the occurrences of what we’ve seen in Asia and in eastern Europe and part of western Europe the outbreaks that they have seen, we know that this can recur. So, we are preparing for that.”

Shere says they are also expecting the virus to spread after infecting the western, pacific and central fly zones of the birds.”We’re considering the fact that it’s probably going to be in the eastern flyways this fall. And so that is a consideration we are preparing for. All the major poultry states are beginning to plan on how they are going to deal with this. They are looking at their resources,” according to Shere. He says they have been talking with producers in all the states that have been hit by the avian flu to help prepare for the next round.

“We’ve talked about what are the best procedures to use…in the event of another outbreak,” Shere says. “What’s the fastest way to deal with this disease, what are the options we need to bring to bare? And what things do we need to be looking at for preparation should this occur again?” He says it’s hard to predict if there could be an outbreak the size of the one that hit this spring.

“Depending on how much virus there is there, what the load is and how fast they move south — we may see a large number of outbreaks — we may see a smattering. And then we have to worry about spring 2016. That’s the next time the virus will be moving north,” Shere says.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary, Bill Northey, says some Iowa facilities won’t be repopulated by the time the fall migration starts. He doesn’t know if others will wait to repopulate until the fall migration is over.

“I haven’t heard conversations within the industry where they have said ‘I am purposely waiting to restock’ because of concerns in the fall,” Northey says. Northey says Iowa facilities will do their best to prevent more outbreaks.

“Because we now know that this virus is deadly and it moves fairly easily between facilities, we have folks who are going to be very aggressive in trying to prevent the virus from coming onto their farm,” Northey says. The poultry industry will hold a conference on avian influenza next week in Des Moines.

Work back underway at Iowa Fertilizer Plant following bomb threat

The Iowa Fertilizer Plant near Wever.

The Iowa Fertilizer Plant near Wever.

Workers returned to the Iowa Fertilizer Plant construction site today in Wever after it was evacuated Tuesday following a bomb threat. Iowa Fertilizer Company Officials issued an order to evacuate the facility around 11:30 a.m.

The bomb threat was discovered scrawled on the wall of a Port-A-Potty on Monday, saying that a “bomb will go off at noon tomorrow”.

Fertilizer Company Officials told Lee County Sheriff Jim Sholl that no threat was discovered, and that the evacuation was precautionary as bomb sniffing dogs made their way through the massive plant site. No combustible fertilizer materials were present in the plant facility, which is not yet in operation.

(Photo and story by Rob Sussman, KBUR, Burlington)


Hundreds of workers being evacuated from southeast Iowa fertilizer plant construction site

Sheriff-patrolLee County Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Cirinna has confirmed that the Iowa Fertilizer Plant construction site in Wever is being evacuated after a bomb threat was discovered Monday.

A press release from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department indicates a message was found Monday afternoon scrawled on the wall of a Port-A-Potty reading: “A bomb will go off tomorrow at 12:00.”

Law enforcement and security searched cars on the way in to the plant and workers reported hours-long delays heading in to work this morning. Around 11 a.m. plant officials evacuated the entire facility. No word yet on whether an explosive device was discovered. The plant’s not yet in operation and no combustible materials are present in the storage tanks.

(1 cut, Rob Sussman, KBUR, Burlington)