Recently in Geekdom Category

A big Stihl recall

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I will have to check mine tomorrow - from Wildfire Today:

STIHL recalls 100,000 chainsaws
Today the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a recall of 100,000 STIHL chainsaws that are at risk of fire and burn hazards. The saws being recalled are:

    • MS 461
    • MS 461 R
    • MS 461 R Rescue
    • GS 461 Rock Boss.

The first three are used by firefighters. The last two were not included in STIHL’s official recall notice but a company representative we talked to at the STIHL recall office confirmed they are also on the list.

Pinched and leaking fuel lines - free repair at any Stihl dealer (Bellingham is Hardware Sales). More here: Recall Notices

USB Made Simple

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The Universal Serial Bus has been around for ten years and it is a perfect example of plug and play. Ubiquitous and it just works for most applications.

Ran into this website that explains how it works on the basic level - if you want to understand how to write applications that use the USB port on an atomic level, this is the site for you.

Check out USB Made Simple

Technology in filmmaking

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Great video from Vox and The Beeb - part one of three:

Fun time to be alive!

Now this is cool - Pixar

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Pixar just released a bunch of free training materials through the Kahn Academy.

Check out Pixar in a Box - lots of stuff there.

Fun toy - assault trombone

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Tip of the hat to Peter at Bayou Renaissance Man for the link. I'll have to make one of these for the farm - I have a bunch of compressed air storage tanks - that would be a great source. Find an old truck horn somewhere.

Skid steer gymnastics

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I have mucked around with bulldozers, backhoes and skid steers and love working with my tractor. This guy is amazing:

The machine is 100% stock, no modifications or weights. Hydraulic over hydraulic controls for better response. He estimates about 7,000 hours of practice.

His website is here: Black Sheep Skid - Ho. Li. Crap

Want to play the hacker?

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Become a soooper hacker without having to learn code.

Go to this website: hackertyper and just start typing random shit. You key in gibberish, the website displays authentic code in a perfect green on black color scheme.

DIY Printer Repair

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Looks legit to me:

Ho. Li. Crap - indoor skydiving

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I knew about this - basically a vertical wind-tunnel that you can fly in. There are now organised competitions - here is the winner of the freestyle competition:

From the ever wonderful Miss Cellania writing at Neatorama:

The Flying Teenager
The 2017 WindGames were held in Spain last weekend for competition in indoor skydiving. The winner of the freestyle category was 14-year-old Kyra Poh of Singapore, who was competing against adults for the first time. Here's her winning performance.

While the acrobatics were amazing, that ending was super-impressive. Poh also won the solo speed category, in which competitors must complete a series of specific moves in the fastest time possible. You can see her solo speed performance here.

I always loved being weightless - did a lot of scuba diving in Boston and on travels to other places. I used to work for a public aquarium that had a large multi-story salt water tank as their central display. The aquarium rented out for events after hours and I was one of the people who would volunteer to dive and put on a show feeding fish, etc... I loved to suspend myself upside down and float down into view from one of the windows and gesture to the people watching that I thought they were upside down and that I was right-side up. Almost all of them 'got it' and we had a lot of fun.

There is one of these places South of Seattle but it is a bit expensive for what you get - $70 for two 60 second flights. I would want to hog the facility and spend an hour or more in there.

They have been known to engage in spontaneous combustion - from the South China Morning Post:

Fire breaks out at Chinese factory that makes Samsung Note 7 batteries
A fire broke out in a Chinese factory that makes batteries for Samsung’s explosion-prone Galaxy Note 7 smartphones on Wednesday morning.

Samsung SDI Co., a supplier of batteries to the Galaxy Note 7, said a “minor fire” broke out in the plant in suburban Tianjin’s Wuqing district but was quickly put out.

No one was injured in the incident, news portal reported.

More on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fires at cNet:

Here's why Samsung Note 7 phones are catching fire
You plug your smartphone into the bedside charger and place it on your nightstand with care.

You wake to find your nightstand in flames, smoke billowing everywhere.

Or maybe your Jeep. Your hotel room. Your entire home.

How could this have happened? Simple: your phone is a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 -- and it's one of over a hundred that have spontaneously burst into flames.

After 35 reported incidents of overheating smartphones worldwide, Samsung made the unprecedented decision to recall every single one of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphones sold. That's said to be 1 million of the 2.5 million that were manufactured. (Since the recall was first announced, the number of explosive Note 7s has nearly quadrupled.)

OUCH! Bad mechanical design that did not leave room for the battery to expand as it worked.

Actually really nice - ten hours long:

Halfway tempted to see if I can download just the audio and keep for long road trips or such.

UPDATE: Now that was quick - Listen to YouTube

UPDATE: Took about an hour to download - 1,056,152 KB in size. Plays just fine.

Whoops - do not buy a Visio television

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Unless you like it watching you. From the Federal Trade Commission:

What Vizio was doing behind the TV screen
Consumers have bought more than 11 million internet-connected Vizio televisions since 2010. But according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, consumers didn’t know that while they were watching their TVs, Vizio was watching them. The lawsuit challenges the company’s tracking practices and offers insights into how established consumer protection principles apply to smart technology.

Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.

Why? Money:

Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details – for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership.  And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.

I can see them wanting to do this for the income but this is an invasion of privacy - the article at the FTC website said that this was all done without the consumer being asked or being aware that anything was going on. Not planning to buy a TV anytime soon but when I do, it will not be a Visio.

Ham radio fun and games

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One of the big problems with ham radio is that frequently, manufacturers will make a product that emits radio noise on frequencies that we use. This can be fun trying to find the culprits and isolate them. Fluorescent lights seem to be a big one - the electronic ballasts are a problem with some brands.

It turns out that some consumer items are poorly shielded against ham radio transmissions even though the transmitter is operating on a legal frequency and power. Case in point these Circuit Breakers:

From Hack A Day:

Arc-fault circuit breakers are a boon for household electrical safety. The garden-variety home electrical fire is usually started by the heat coming from a faulty wire arcing over. But as any radio enthusiast knows, sparks also give off broadband radio noise. Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCI) are special circuit breakers that listen for this noise in the power line and trip when they hear it. The problem is that they can be so sensitive that they cut out needlessly.

Our friend [Martin] moved into a new house, and discovered that he could flip the breakers by transmitting on the 20-meter band. “All the lights in the place went out and my rig switched over to battery. I thought it was strange as I was certainly drawing less than 20 A. I reset the breakers and keyed up again. I reset the breakers again and did a [expletive] Google search.”

And of course, it’s a known problem in the Ham community. In particular, one manufacturer has had serious problems misinterpreting intentional radiation, and went to the amateur radio community for help to prototype a new version. [Martin] got sent complimentary Ham-resistant breakers when he called the manufacturer and let them know, so all’s well that ends well.

Mine seem to be just fine but I am not using AFCI breakers. Will have to try one out.

Quite the history - the USS Enterprise

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The USS Enterprise is being decommissioned. From the Navy:

Navy Decommissions "The Big E"
The aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), was decommissioned during a ceremony held in the ship's hangar bay, Feb. 3.

The ceremony not only marked the end the ship's nearly 55-year career, it also served as the very first decommissioning of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Capt. Todd Beltz, commanding officer of the Enterprise, addressed the ship's company, former commanding officers and distinguished visitors and spoke of where the true spirit of "The Big E" comes from.

"For all that Enterprise represents to this nation, it's the people that bring this ship to life," said Beltz. "So as I stand in this ship that we all care so much about, I feel it's appropriate to underscore the contributions of the thousands of Sailors and individuals that kept this ship alive and made its reputation. We are 'The Big E.'"

Enterprise was the eighth naval vessel to carry the name. It was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding Co. and was christened Sep. 24, 1960, by Mrs. Bertha Irene Franke, wife of former Secretary of the Navy William B. Franke. The ship was put to sea in 1961 and safely steamed more than 1 million nautical miles on nuclear power over its entire career of more than 50 years.

From engadget:

US Navy decommissions the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier
It's the end of an era for the US sea power, in more ways than one: the Navy has decommissioned the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The vessel launched in 1961 and is mainly known for playing a pivotal role in several major incidents and conflicts, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War and the 2003 Iraq War. However, it also served as the quintessential showcase for what nuclear ships could do. Its eight reactors let it run for years at a time, all the while making more room for the aircraft and their fuel.

As you might guess, the decommissioning process (which started when the Enterprise went inactive in 2012) is considerably trickier than it would be for a conventional warship. It wasn't until December 2016 that crews finished extracting nuclear fuel, and the ship will have to be partly dismantled to remove the reactors. They'll be disposed of relatively safely at Hanford Site, home of the world's first plutonium reactor. It's hard to know what the long-term environmental impact of the ship will be -- while there's no question that the radioactive material is dangerous, this isn't the same as shutting down a land-based nuclear power plant.

Whatever you think of the tech, the ship leaves a long legacy on top of its military accomplishments. It proved the viability of nuclear aircraft carriers, leading the US to build the largest such fleet in the world. Also, this definitely isn't the last (real-world) ship to bear the Enterprise name -- the future CVN-80 will build on its predecessor with both more efficient reactors and systems designed for modern combat, where drones and stealth are as important as fighters and bombers. It won't be ready until 2027, but it should reflect many of the lessons learned over the outgoing Enterprise's 55 years of service.

Godspeed - I hope she is opened as a museum somewhere. Even fifty year old tech is still tech and fascinating. The Navel Undersea Museum is a lot of fun and they have some amazing exhibits.

Great video on some common conversational phrases and where they came from:

Tears in the Rain

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Amazing movie shot as a pre-quel to Blade Runner:

From the film's website: Tears in the Rain

In a dystopian Los Angeles future, replicants or genetically engineered humanoids are created to work forced labour on off-world colonies. The latest generation, the Nexus 3 series, begins to display erratic and violent behaviour. Replicants were not designed to experience complex emotions or develop long-term memories. In the wake of corporate scandals of the previous decade, the Tyrell Corporation quietly attempts to remove Nexus 3 from circulation.

John Kampff (Sean Cameron Michael), a senior engineer, heads up the Tyrell Retirement Division. With the primary objectives, detect and remove Replicants, John has suspected Nexus 3 Andy Smith (Russel Savadier) firmly in his sights. As John soon learns, Replicant detection is nearly impossible without specialist equipment. The Voight-Kampff, a polygraph-like machine used by retirement engineers to help in the testing of an individual to learn if they are a replicant, is a distant thought in John Kampff's mind.

Wonderful stuff. Amazing that it was shot with a budget of $1,500

Very clever idea

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If I wasn't switching from woodworking to metalworking and blacksmithing, a set of these saw blades would be showing up at the farm. Brilliant idea and $350 is not a bad price for all that you get:

The people in the IT Department

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Ab. So. Lutely. Nails. It. - From BoingBoing - click for full-size:


Shades of Person of Interest

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The premise behind the show Person of Interest is that there is a large AI who has all of the feeds from all of the surveillance cameras in New York City. The AI was developed to stop terrorism (which it does well) but the story arc is all of the irrelevant (non-terror related) data it gathers - potential murderers or victims and the protagonists find these people and help them.

We just moved a little farther from fiction and a little closer to fact - from Vocativ:

Memo: New York Called For Face Recognition Cameras At Bridges, Tunnels
The state of New York has privately asked surveillance companies to pitch a vast camera system that would scan and identify people who drive in and out of New York City, according to a December memo obtained by Vocativ.

The call for private companies to submit plans is part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s major infrastructure package, which he introduced in October. Though much of the related proposals would be indisputably welcome to most New Yorkers — renovating airports and improving public transportation — a little-noticed detail included installing cameras to “test emerging facial recognition software and equipment.”

From the Memo:

The Authority is interested in implementing a Facial Detection System, in a free-flow highway environment, where vehicle movement is unimpeded at highway speeds as well as bumper-to-bumper traffic, and license plate images are taken and matched to occupants of the vehicles (via license plate number) with Facial Detection and Recognition methods from a gantry-based or road-side monitoring location.

Pretty heavy-duty implementation. There are ways to counter the face recognition - glasses and hats that break up the structure of the face work well. The various Electronic Freedom groups are going to have a field day.

Fingers of steel

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Better watch out there - you could bust a knuckle...

Artificial Intelligence

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The two main actors in Person of Interest are two advanced Artificial Intelligences which have access to all of the networked surveillance cameras and equipment in the Metropolitan New York City area.

It is only fitting that this story should surface today - from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA:

CMU AI Is Tough Poker Player
As the "Brains vs. Artificial Intelligence: Upping the Ante" poker competition nears its halfway point, Carnegie Mellon University's AI program, Libratus, is opening a lead over its human opponents — four of the world's best professional poker players.

One of the pros, Jimmy Chou, said he and his colleagues initially underestimated Libratus, but have come to regard it as one tough player.

"The bot gets better and better every day," Chou said. "It's like a tougher version of us."

A bit more:

Brains vs. AI, which began Jan. 11 at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, pits Chou and three other leading players — Dong Kim, Jason Les and Daniel McAulay — against Libratus in a 20-day contest in which they will play 120,000 hands of Heads-Up, No-Limit Texas Hold'em poker. All four pros specialize in this two-player, unlimited bid form of Texas Hold'em and are considered among the world's top players of the game.

While the pros are fighting for humanity's pride — and shares of a $200,000 prize purse — Carnegie Mellon researchers are hoping their computer program will establish a new benchmark for artificial intelligence by besting some of the world's most talented players.

The choice of Poker:

Libratus is being used in this contest to play poker, an imperfect information game that requires the AI to bluff and correctly interpret misleading information to win. Ultimately programs like Libratus also could be used to negotiate business deals, set military strategy or plan a course of medical treatment — all cases that involve complicated decisions based on imperfect information.

And the track record:

In the first Brains vs. AI contest in 2015, four leading pros amassed more chips than the AI, called Claudico. But in the latest contest, Libratus had amassed a lead of $459,154 in chips in the 49,240 hands played by the end of Day Nine.

Here is the website for the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center and the Casino tournament site: BRAINS vs. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE RE-MATCH!

Obama working yesterday - light bulbs

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Obama's Department of Energy just banned a bunch of light bulbs yesterday evening.Fropm the Washington Examiner:

With midnight regulation, Obama Energy Department just outlawed your three-way bulb
In the last full day of the Obama administration, the Department of Energy just issued a final rule that will outlaw even more light bulbs.

The 2007 light bulb ban in effect outlawed most incandescent light bulbs by imposing efficiency standards on ordinary light bulbs. Congress exempted a few types of light bulbs, including bug lights, three-way bulbs, "rough service lamps," and some decorative bulbs, such as globe-shaped bulbs.

A bit more:

Three-way bulbs, which have two different filaments and thus three different brightnesses, are currently exempted. DOE just ruled that they now need to be covered. The Department's reasoning: "DOE expects these sales will likely increase since these lamps could be used as replacements for other regulated lamp types." In other words: People might start buying these bulbs because they want regular light bulbs rather than expensive LEDs or crappy fluorescents.

DOE also spiked the exemption for globe-shaped bulbs. Many manufacturers make, and many retailers sell, globe-shaped bulbs that met the standards, but consumers were left with the option to buy globe-shaped bulbs of the old type. That couldn't stand.

This rule doesn't go into effect for three years, but it could lead pretty quickly to domestic bulb makers ceasing production.

A few bulb types are still exempt, including bug lights and oven lights.

Christ on a corn dog - I will buy the kinds of light bulb that I want to buy. There are some places where an LED bulb is best. There are also places where a halogen or regular incandescent bulb is best. I want to be able to pick and choose. I do not need some nanny-statist trying to tell me what is best for me.

Back home again

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I went to the yard sale looking for two items and found both of them in great shape.

First was a Triplett 630-A multimeter. These date back to the 1950's and were the go-to standard for benchtop multimeters. I sold mine when I moved from Boston to Seattle and always regretted it. They require an odd 30 volt battery but there are workarounds using three 9-volt radio batteries (27 volts is close enough).

Second was a Heathkit HD-1250 solid-state dip meter. You use plug-in coils to provide a wide range of frequencies from 1 million cycles per second or Megahertz all the way up to 250 MHz. 90% of the amateur radio frequencies lay within this range. The frequency is generated by a simple oscillator and when the unit is brought near to something that is resonant on the same frequency, power is transferred. I can rock the tuning dial back and forth, notice where the peak power transfer is and that is the resonant frequency of the object I am testing. I already have something that does this automatically for antennas but it only works for fully completed antenna systems and not for individual components. If I need to make a coil for a given frequency, I can calculate what I need, wind about 10% more turns and then gradually use wire clippers to nibble the coil down to my desired frequency. Not something I will be using every day but when you do need it, it is invaluable.

All in all, a great score. Ran into a bunch of friends at the event - probably about 20 people picking over a very large pile of junk collectibles. The museum is an amazing resource for Bellingham and an incredible collection of electricity, radio and television history.

Something happening in Space

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Curious - from the BEEB:

Galileo satellites experiencing multiple clock failures
The onboard atomic clocks that drive the satellite-navigation signals on Europe's Galileo network have been failing at an alarming rate.

Across the 18 satellites now in orbit, nine clocks have stopped operating.

Three are traditional rubidium devices; six are the more precise hydrogen maser instruments that were designed to give Galileo superior performance to the American GPS network.

Galileo was declared up and running in December.

However, it is still short of the number of satellites considered to represent a fully functioning constellation, and a decision must now be made about whether to suspend the launch of further spacecraft while the issue is investigated.

I bet some engineers are changing their underwear frequently. Reliability is something that is essential for satellite construction. These clocks should have been tested to within an inch of their lives. To have more than one or two of them fail is unreal.

About that tech boom

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Sobering news from England's The Register:

Ooops! One in three tech IPOs now trading below their starting price
Around 33 per cent of the technology companies to enter the market in the last ten years are currently valued at a price lower than their IPO mark.

This according to researchers with analytics house Geckoboard, who studied 100 software, hardware, and social networking companies that have undertaken IPOs since 2006. Of those 100 companies, 67 are trading above their IPO valuation and 33 are below.

Among the 33 are Twitter (down 49 per cent), Zynga (down 66 per cent), and Groupon (down 84 per cent). Meanwhile, some the biggest jumps were seen by Facebook (up 249 per cent), VMware (up 95 per cent), and LinkedIn (up 199 per cent).

In general, the Geckoboard report suggests software companies were the safest bet to maintain their value. Gaming, meanwhile, had the lowest number of companies now above their IPO price.

Glad I got in and then got out of tech stocks when I did. I could have ridden MSFT for another year but I tend to be very conservative when it comes to investing. Made enough to be happy.

Very good meeting tonight

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The Mt. Baker Amateur Radio Club - Digital Group met tonight and they have some fun projects lined up. Swiped a brilliant solution for something that had been bugging me. Very electronic/nerdy/radio idea so I will not post it here but it solves a serious problem for just a couple of bucks. Makes the radio setup a lot easier too.

I'll post some photos once I order the parts and build my own.

One of the main goals of radio experimentation is to see how much data you can transmit reliably over a very narrow bandwidth channel. There is also a lot of work being done on slow data transmission using ultra-low power over very long distances (they guy who spearheaded this was the same guy who developed the radio system for the Voyager satellite - Joe Taylor K1JT)

One holy grail is to be able to digitize speech (which otherwise takes a very large bandwidth) and find a way to transmit the binary digits and reconstitute it on the receiving end. There are a couple systems that work really well but they are commercial and proprietary and $$$. Australian David Rowe just figured out the holy grail and is making it open source and free.

Check out CODEC 2 700C

Codec 2 700C
My endeavor to produce a digital voice mode that competes with SSB continues. For a big chunk of 2016 I took a break from this work as I was gainfully employed on a commercial HF modem project. However since December I have once again been working on a 700 bit/s codec. The goal is voice quality roughly the same as the current 1300 bit/s mode. This can then be mated with the coherent PSK modem, and possibly the 4FSK modem for trials over HF channels.

I am not going to quote any more - you can read more at his website. Sufice to saw, this is really interesting and I will be playing around with it as soon as I get a couple other projects banged out. And, oh yes, it runs on Raspberry Pi computers. Perfect for portable work. David's About page is here.

Interesting information

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We go up to Vancouver couple times/year and to get to Vancouver, we go over the new Port Mann Bridge. Gorgeous bit of engineering - very beautiful and functional.


Image swiped from here.

Here is a short video on how they clean off accumulated snow and ice build-up. Very clever.

Now it seems that Fiat/Chrysler was caught doing this too. From Yahoo/Reuters:

EPA accuses Fiat Chrysler of excess diesel emissions
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV of illegally using hidden software to allow excess diesel emissions to go undetected, the result of a probe that stemmed from regulators' investigation of rival Volkswagen AG.

FCA shares plummeted as the maximum fine is about $4.6 billion. The EPA action affects 104,000 U.S. trucks and SUVs sold since 2014, about one-sixth the vehicles in the Volkswagen case.

The EPA and California Air Resources Board told Fiat Chrysler it believes its undeclared auxiliary emissions control software allowed vehicles to generate excess pollution in violation of the law and each issued notices of violation.

Oopsie - this would indicate collusion between companies. I wonder who makes the controller computers for the TDI vehicles - is the same company making all of them? Software? The problem:

Regulators said FCA failed to disclose engine management software in 104,000 U.S. 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0-liter diesel engines. The undisclosed software results in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

And the ridiculous thing is that they could eliminate the NOx problem by adding a urea system to the exhaust. My truck has this - I fill up on Diesel Exhaust Fluid every couple thousand miles and it injects drops of this into the hot exhaust. The ammonia in the urea forms with any NOx to produce water vapor and nitrogen gas. This way, you can run the diesel engine at peak efficiency instead of having to run it very lean to minimize NOx production. NOx produces smog and is irritating to mucus membranes - lungs, eyes, etc....

Dog beers - Snoopy

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Good point! A tee shirt design from BRIK



Wonderful news - patent trolls

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From Computerworld:

A potentially fatal blow against patent trolls
For years, patent trolls have been the best evidence that pure evil exists. And like most evil entities, they are almost impossible to stop. Even a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that was highly critical of patent trolls has done little to slow their slimy, reptilian-like existence. But a federal judge on Dec. 19 crafted a novel tactic to curb patent trolls when she slapped a half-million-dollar bill on the lawyers and said that they were personally responsible for paying it, not their client. This could truly be a game-changer. 

This unusual decision could make lawyers hesitate to take patent trolls as clients. Part of the patent-troll economic model is based on lawyers taking a contingency fee, meaning that they take a percentage of whatever money is extracted from victims rather than being paid an hourly fee. This makes the lawyers more of a partner than a traditional contractor, which factored into the judge’s decision. 

The ruling may make lawyers say forget about contingency fees; we want upfront hourly fees. And patent trolls, unwilling or unable to do that, may forgo pursuing the most tenuous lawsuits. As a result, the patent-troll business model starts to crumble. 

A definition:

Let’s start with a definition of a patent troll. A troll is a firm that does two distinct things. First, it purchases lots of patents that it has no intention of using. That is a prerequisite for being a patent troll, but it doesn’t make a company one. The second element is essential: They must take this patent (and the vaguer the patent, the better) and threaten lots of companies that in reality have done nothing wrong. Those companies must either pay license fees or be dragged through the court system at great expense. The troll then offers to sell a license at a deeply discounted price, counting on companies deciding that it would be much easier and cheaper to pay than fight. 

It is funny that one of the most egregious of these entities is in Seattle and was run for a while by Paul Allen of Microsoft - more on Interval Research at The Seattle Times.

Great elegy for Neon Signs

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It is funny - I have been to Hong Kong a bunch of times about 35-40 years ago and I recognized that this was not only Hong Kong, but I recognized the area - Tsim Sha Tsui and Nathan Road. Spent many an evening closing down Ned Kelley's listening to Ken Bennet and the Kowloon Honkers.

Anyway, ran into this video about how neon signs are made - a fascinating technology. Sadly being replaced with LED but there is room - I bet - for an artisanal revival.

Did a lot of network reconfiguration with the cables in trays about eight feet off the floor. I had a pair of drywall stilts and those worked great but mount and dismount was always a pain. These look perfect for the job. It uses the same sort of gas-lift mechanism that is used to raise and lower office chairs - brilliant hack:

From The Register:

Trio charged with $4m insider trading by hacking merger lawyers
US prosecutors have charged three Chinese men with making more than $4m (£3.2m) by allegedly trading on information obtained from hacking top merger and acquisition law firms.

The defendants are charged with targeting at least seven top international law firms with offices in New York, which advised companies on corporate mergers and acquisitions.

The men are alleged to have successfully obtained inside information from at least two firms by hacking their networks and servers. Once they obtained access to the law firms’ networks, they targeted email accounts of law firm partners who worked on high-profile M&A transactions.

That information was used to purchase stock in five companies before the public announcements were made. By purchasing shares before the public announcements were made, they made $4m.

In addition, the defendants are alleged to have repeatedly attempted unauthorized access to the networks and servers of five other firms. Between March and September 2015, they attempted to cause unauthorized access on more than 100,000 occasions.

Very clever - go to the source of the information. WHomever thought of this has a good mind albeit a criminal one.

Making a Korean sword

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Nice short video of a Korean sword master - gorgeous work and he starts with refining his own iron ore:

Another leap second mishap

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A British ISP - from the BBC:

Leap second briefly catches out computer firm
Web firm Cloudflare was briefly caught out by the leap second added to the end of 2016.

A small number of the firm's servers failed to handle the added second properly making them return errors.

The problem meant that the sites of some of its customers were hard to reach in the early hours of 2017.

The second was added to compensate for a slowdown in the earth's rotation and helps to co-ordinate time-keeping among nations that use GMT.

An ISP of all people - bet there were a few red faces around the teapot the next day...

Fallout from last night's leap second

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Some computer systems cannot handle 61 seconds in a minute which happens when a leap second is inserted. I do not know if this is the case here but it certainly sounds plausible - their IT department should spend some more time with man ntpd.

From the Beeb:

London ambulance service hit by new year fault
Ambulance response times were delayed in London overnight after technical problems hit the control room, the ambulance service has said.

It is understood the computer system crashed, so calls had to be recorded by pen and paper for nearly five hours on one of the busiest nights of the year.

I have been a time-nut well before joining the email list and remember reading about system crashes from the 2008 and 2012 leap seconds. 2015 saw interruptions of around 40 minutes duration with Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix, Amazon, and Apple's music streaming series Beats 1. More here: Infogalactic: Leap second

Looking forward to 2017

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Leap Second in Tennessee

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I subscribe to the Time-Nuts email list and a reader in Tennessee just posted his leap second photo to the list - it just passed midnight over there:


Thunderbolt refers to his clock - a Trimble Thunderbolt (how to hack it here) - these have been used at many cell towers for Wireless Enhanced 911 capabilities so are available fairly cheap on the surplus market. I own one of these. My other clock is a Lucent KS-24361 Fun stuff...

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Climate Depot
Green Trust
Jennifer Marohasy
Planet Gore
Science and Public Policy Institute
Solar Cycle 24
Space Weather
Space Weather - Canada
the Air Vent
Tom Nelson
Watts Up With That?

Science and Medicine
Derek Lowe
Junk Science
Life in the Fast Lane
Luboš Motl
New Scientist
Next Big Future
Ptak Science Books
Science Blog

Geek Stuff
Ars Technica
Boing Boing
Don Lancaster's Guru's Lair
Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
Hack a Day
Kevin Kelly - Cool Tools
Slashdot: News for nerds
The Register
The Daily WTF

The Argyle Sweater
Chip Bok
Broadside Cartoons
Day by Day
Medium Large
Michael Ramirez
Prickly City
User Friendly
What The Duck

Awkward Family Photos
Cake Wrecks
Not Always Right
Sober in a Nightclub
You Drive What?

Business and Economics
The Austrian Economists
Carpe Diem
Coyote Blog

Photography and Art
Digital Photography Review
James Gurney
Joe McNally's Blog
The Online Photographer

A Western Heart
American Digest
The AnarchAngel
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Babalu Blog
Belmont Club
Bayou Renaissance Man
Classical Values
Cold Fury
David Limbaugh
Defense Technology
Doug Ross @ Journal
Grouchy Old Cripple
Irons in the Fire
James Lileks
Lowering the Bar
Maggie's Farm
Marginal Revolution
Michael J. Totten
Mostly Cajun
Power Line
Questions and Observations
Rachel Lucas
Roger L. Simon
Sense of Events
Sound Politics
The Strata-Sphere
The Smallest Minority
The Volokh Conspiracy
Tim Blair
Weasel Zippers

Gone but not Forgotten...
A Coyote at the Dog Show
Bad Eagle
Steven DenBeste
democrats give conservatives indigestion
Cox and Forkum
The Diplomad
Priorities & Frivolities
Gut Rumbles
Mean Mr. Mustard 2.0
Neptunus Lex
Other Side of Kim
Ramblings' Journal
Sgt. Stryker
shining full plate and a good broadsword
A Physicist's Perspective
The Daily Demarche
Wayne's Online Newsletter

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Geekdom category.

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