Recently in Geekdom Category

Happy 45th birthday - Ethernet

| No Comments

The backbone of the internet - from Infogalactic:

Ethernet was developed at Xerox PARC between 1973 and 1974. It was inspired by ALOHAnet, which Robert Metcalfe had studied as part of his PhD dissertation. The idea was first documented in a memo that Metcalfe wrote on May 22, 1973, where he named it after the disproven luminiferous ether as an "omnipresent, completely-passive medium for the propagation of electromagneticwaves". In 1975, Xerox filed a patent application listing Metcalfe, David Boggs, Chuck Thacker, and Butler Lampson as inventors. In 1976, after the system was deployed at PARC, Metcalfe and Boggs published a seminal paper.

More at The Register:

Ethernet — a networking protocol name for the ages
In the beginning, Ethernet was optional. When Bob Metcalfe and David Boggs cooked up their network protocol at Xerox PARC in the early 1970s, it was meant to connect the research haven’s now famous Alto machines — but only if researchers felt the need. “Each scientist would get a kind of Alto order form,” Metcalfe remembers, “and you had to check a box if you wanted Ethernet.”

Then, one afternoon, with maybe ten Altos on the desks of ten PARC researchers, someone accidentally disconnected a networking cable. When ten people stood up to ask “What happened?,” Metcalfe realized his fledgling network protocol might be a keeper. “From then on,” he says, “Ethernet was not an option.”

More than thirty years later, Metcalfe went looking for a new Ethernet cable, strolling into an everyday American electronics retailer. “The woman at the cash register took me to a twenty-foot-wide wall filled with cables and said ’What color do you want?’”

Pervasive and foolproof. The backbone of modern computing.

Found on the web

| No Comments

Presented for your enjoyment:


Handy Chrome tips and tricks

| No Comments

Been using Google's Chrome browser for quite a few years now. Here are some handy tips you might not know.
From Fast Company:

27 Incredibly Useful Things You Didn’t Know Chrome Could Do
These days, a browser is more than just a basic navigator for the web. It’s effectively a second desktop—a gateway to countless apps, sites, and services. And optimizing that environment can go a long way in increasing your efficiency.

Google’s Chrome in particular is full of hidden shortcuts, features, and power-user possibilities. Take the time to learn these tips, and watch your productivity soar.

Going to incorporate these in my daily browsing...

Pocket calculators - a history

| No Comments

Fascinating article about the origins of the HP-35 pocket calculator. This was manufactured by Hewlett Packard and was the first calculator that could perform trig functions. Here are some excerpts of this from Codex 99:

The article starts by talking about HP and how it had grown from two people in a garage to 9,000 employees:

Tom Osborne, a Berkeley-trained electrical engineer, wasn’t one of those 9000 employees. In his Bay-area apartment, he had built a floating-point electronic calculator he called the Green Machine (after the color of the automotive touch-up paint he used on the balsa wood case). He tried shopping it around but no one was interested until he showed it to HP in June, 1965. Bill Hewlett asked “can it do transcendentals [sine, cosine, tangent, etc]?” Osborne’s Frankenmachine couldn’t, but he replied “Sure, why not?” Hewlett was sufficiently impressed and convinced Osborne to stay on for six weeks as a consultant to see if he could turn his device into a proper calculator.

And, a few years later, they came out with 1.0

“I was barely able to stay ahead of the alligators on my tail,” Osborne recalled. His six weeks became six months, then a year, and then another, but, finally, in early 1968, they had finished the 40-pound, typewriter-sized 9100A Computing Calculator.

The 9100 was introduced at the New York IEEE show on March 11th, 1968. It filled a gap in the market between simple adding machines and complicated mainframes and was, in many ways, the first personal computer. Steve Jobs (yeah, that Steve Jobs) remembered the 9100 as the first desktop computer he ever saw.

The HP-35 was released in January 4th, 1972 and they were stunned by the demand. Everyone wanted one. I had serious lust in my heart but could not afford the $395 price tag. I did get an HP-45 when they came out though - also a great machine. The first year of sales accounted for half of HP's profits. Not bad.

A fun and well-written article - worth reading if you are interested in the history of electronics.

An interesting observation from Popular Mechanics:

The Longest Route You Can Sail in a Straight Line Without Hitting Land
The Earth is about 71 percent ocean. If you start at a port and head into the sea, you’ll likely travel hundreds or thousands of miles before seeing land again. But what course would allow you to travel the farthest distance in a straight line without ever hitting land?

Back in 2012, a Reddit user by the name of kepleronlyknows posted an interesting map of the world, showing a line from Pakistan to Russia across the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans. The poster claimed that this was the longest straight-line path anyone could take without touching land. The problem was that such a claim was extremely difficult to prove mathematically.

Now, two computer scientists, Rohan Chabukswar at the United Technologies Research Center in Ireland and Kushal Mukherjee at IBM Research in India, developed an algorithm to find a solution. The problem is that manually checking every straight-line path would take ages, so instead the researchers employed a much faster technique called the branch and bound method.

Much more at the site - the route is 19,939.6 miles, just about 5,000 miles short of the planet's circumference. I bet someone somewhere is thinking about getting a boat and outfitting it for this journey...

The Geek-fu is off the charts here - from The Atlantic:

Artificial Intelligence Is Cracking Open the Vatican's Secret Archives
The Vatican Secret Archives is one of the grandest historical collections in the world. It’s also one of the most useless.

The grandeur is obvious. Located within the Vatican’s walls, next door to the Apostolic Library and just north of the Sistine Chapel, the VSA houses 53 linear miles of shelving dating back more than 12 centuries. It includes gems like the papal bull that excommunicated Martin Luther and the pleas for help that Mary Queen of Scots sent to Pope Sixtus V before her execution. In size and scope, the collection is almost peerless.

That said, the VSA isn’t much use to modern scholars, because it’s so inaccessible. Of those 53 miles, just a few millimeters’ worth of pages have been scanned and made available online. Even fewer pages have been transcribed into computer text and made searchable. If you want to peruse anything else, you have to apply for special access, schlep all the way to Rome, and go through every page by hand.

But a new project could change all that. Known as In Codice Ratio, it uses a combination of artificial intelligence and optical-character-recognition (OCR) software to scour these neglected texts and make their transcripts available for the very first time. If successful, the technology could also open up untold numbers of other documents at historical archives around the world.

Just wow!  There is a big difference between trying to decipher a typeset page and one that was hand written. A fascinating article that goes into some of the difficulties of OCR - specifically the Catch 22 of Sayre's Paradox. A fun read if you are interested in typography - the solution is ingenious!

This will be an amazing resource for scholars and historians. Truly a fun time to be alive!

Something cool from Google

| No Comments

Ahhh Google - the company that people love to hate (privacy concerns). They came out with an artificial intellegence kit for makers last year. Now they came out with a much improved pair - from Google Developers blog:

AIY Projects: Updated kits for 2018
Last year, AIY Projects launched to give makers the power to build AI into their projects with two do-it-yourself kits. We're seeing continued demand for the kits, especially from the STEM audience where parents and teachers alike have found the products to be great tools for the classroom. The changing nature of work in the future means students may have jobs that haven't yet been imagined, and we know that computer science skills, like analytical thinking and creative problem solving, will be crucial.

We're taking the first of many steps to help educators integrate AIY into STEM lesson plans and help prepare students for the challenges of the future by launching a new version of our AIY kits. The Voice Kit lets you build a voice controlled speaker, while the Vision Kit lets you build a camera that learns to recognize people and objects (check it out here). The new kits make getting started a little easier with clearer instructions, a new app and all the parts in one box.

To make setup easier, both kits have been redesigned to work with the new Raspberry Pi Zero WH, which comes included in the box, along with the USB connector cable and pre-provisioned SD card. Now users no longer need to download the software image and can get running faster. The updated AIY Vision Kit v1.1 also includes the Raspberry Pi Camera v2.

Looks like a fun kit with a lot of possibilities for machine learning. What makes it fun is that these kits are being sold at Target of all places: Google Voice Kit AIY and Google Vision Kit AIY

Fun time to be alive...

A new way to make graphene

| No Comments

Graphene is one of the latest hot new materials - it is basically a very thin layer of carbon and can be used for electronics as well as chemical processes (filtering) Used to be expensive to manufacture but no more - from MIT:

A graphene roll-out
MIT engineers have developed a continuous manufacturing process that produces long strips of high-quality graphene.

The team’s results are the first demonstration of an industrial, scalable method for manufacturing high-quality graphene that is tailored for use in membranes that filter a variety of molecules, including salts, larger ions, proteins, or nanoparticles. Such membranes should be useful for desalination, biological separation, and other applications.

“For several years, researchers have thought of graphene as a potential route to ultrathin membranes,” says John Hart, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity at MIT. “We believe this is the first study that has tailored the manufacturing of graphene toward membrane applications, which require the graphene to be seamless, cover the substrate fully, and be of high quality.”

Very cool!

Self-driving cars boats

| No Comments

Curious development - from Motherboard:

Autonomous Boats Will Be On the Market Sooner Than Self-Driving Cars
When the Costa Concordia hit a rock near Tuscany and dipped into the Mediterranean in 2012, people around the world wondered how the captain of a cruise ship carrying 4,229 people could have made such a simple yet fatal miscalculation. Altogether, 32 passengers died.

“Ships worth hundreds of millions of dollars shouldn’t be able to be manually driven onto the rocks. We have the technology available to control these vessels,” marine engineer Michael Johnson, who worked as vice-president of project management at Crowley Maritime at the time, told me in a phone interview from Boston. His company ultimately won a bid to perform what, at $1.5 billion, became the most expensive commercial salvage of all time.

Had no idea that the volume of shipping was so great:

In the autonomous revolution that is underway, nearly every transportation machine will eventually be self-driving. For cars, it’s likely going to take decades before we see them operating freely, outside of test conditions. Some unmanned watercraft, on the other hand, may be at sea commercially before 2020.

That’s partly because automating all ships could generate a ridiculous amount of revenue. According to the United Nations, 90 percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea and 10.3 billion tons of products were shipped in 2016. According to NOAA’s National Ocean Service, ships transported $1.5 trillion worth of cargo through US ports in 2016. The world’s 325 or so deep-sea shipping companies have a combined revenue of $10 billion.

Makes a lot of sense - eliminating 20-50 jobs per ship quickly adds up. No reason why the Captain can't be sitting in an office somewhere looking at a screen for eight hours (although the mariner in me cringes at the thought).

A little over 16,000 of them. Searchable and you can either listen to them online or download individual ones as a WAV file.

Go here: BBC Sound Effects

Some restrictions:

The Sound Effects are BBC copyright, but they may be used for personal, educational or research purposes, as detailed in the license.

Facebook killer? Meet Hello

| No Comments

An interesting alternative lurcking in the wings - from Bloomberg:

The Man Behind Orkut Says His ‘Hello’ Platform Doesn’t Sell User Data
In 2004, one of the world’s most popular social networks, Orkut, was founded by a former Google employee named Orkut Büyükkökten. Later that year, a Harvard University student named Mark Zuckerberg launched ‘the Facebook’, which over the course of a year became ubiquitous in Ivy League universities and was eventually called

Orkut was shut down by Google in 2014, but in its heyday, the network had hit 300 million users around the world. Facebook took five years to achieve that feat. At a time when the #DeleteFacebook movement is gaining traction worldwide in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Orkut has made a comeback by launching a new social network in India. Say hello to “Hello”.

“ is a spiritual successor of,” Büyükkökten told BloombergQuint. “The most important thing about Orkut was communities, because they brought people together around topics and things that interested them and provided a safe place for people to exchange ideas and share genuine passions and feelings. We have built the entire ‘Hello’ experience around communities and passions and see it as Orkut 2.0.”

Sounds good - if they can resist the temptation to commercialize by aggregating user data and selling it, they should do OK. I like the community idea - something a bit more regulated than Reddit. Reddit is a lot of fun but it is a bit Wild West for my tastes.

Curious editorial at New York Magazine:

The Internet Apologizes …
Something has gone wrong with the internet. Even Mark Zuckerberg knows it. Testifying before Congress, the Facebook CEO ticked off a list of everything his platform has screwed up, from fake news and foreign meddling in the 2016 election to hate speech and data privacy. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility,” he confessed. Then he added the words that everyone was waiting for: “I’m sorry.”

There have always been outsiders who criticized the tech industry — even if their concerns have been drowned out by the oohs and aahs of consumers, investors, and journalists. But today, the most dire warnings are coming from the heart of Silicon Valley itself. The man who oversaw the creation of the original iPhone believes the device he helped build is too addictive. The inventor of the World Wide Web fears his creation is being “weaponized.” Even Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, has blasted social media as a dangerous form of psychological manipulation. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he lamented recently.

To understand what went wrong — how the Silicon Valley dream of building a networked utopia turned into a globalized strip-mall casino overrun by pop-up ads and cyberbullies and Vladimir Putin — we spoke to more than a dozen architects of our digital present. If the tech industry likes to assume the trappings of a religion, complete with a quasi-messianic story of progress, the Church of Tech is now giving rise to a new sect of apostates, feverishly confessing their own sins. And the internet’s original sin, as these programmers and investors and CEOs make clear, was its business model.

To keep the internet free — while becoming richer, faster, than anyone in history — the technological elite needed something to attract billions of users to the ads they were selling. And that something, it turns out, was outrage. As Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in virtual reality, points out, anger is the emotion most effective at driving “engagement” — which also makes it, in a market for attention, the most profitable one. By creating a self-perpetuating loop of shock and recrimination, social media further polarized what had already seemed, during the Obama years, an impossibly and irredeemably polarized country.

Much more at the site - an interesting read.

They have made their money, they have lobbied for legislation which allows them to maintain their monopoly and now they apologize for the social ills caused by their making their platforms attractive.

Time to cue the Worlds Smallest Violin...

Well crap - RIP Art Bell

| No Comments

I used to listen to his radio show a number of years ago. Pure conspiracy theory but a lot of fun. From the Las Veas Review-Journal:

Pahrump-based radio host Art Bell dies at 72
Longtime late-night radio host Art Bell died Friday at his Pahrump home. He was 72.

Bell was best known for his unsettling conspiracy theories shared on his paranormal-themed show, “Coast to Coast AM.” He was fascinated with the paranormal and the unexplained, including Bigfoot, UFOs and crop circles.

Coast to Coast was syndicated nationwide on about 500 North American stations in the 1990s before he left the nightly show in 2002. He broadcast the show from Pahrump’s KNYE 95.1 FM, a station he founded. He was his own producer, engineer and host.

He was also a long-time radio amateur - W6OBB now SK

Hat tip to The Silicon Graybeard for the link: The Open Space Agency One of their projects is the Ultrascope - a smallish reflector telescope using an arduino for the controller and a smartphone camera for the imager (no eyepiece). This scope is designed to be remotely operated as a distributed array for people looking for asteroids, meteors, etc...

From the project website:

For the Ultrascope project we asked ourselves if it was possible to develop a kit-set telescope that would reduce the cost of pro-level astronomy by an order of magnitude.

In other words, a robot telescope - or ARO - Automated Robotic Observatory, that would allow amateur astronomers to contribute to citizen science projects for a radically reduced cost. We're still refining the performance of our first EXPLORER SERIES ULTRASCOPE - a 3.5 Inch mirror ARO that is able to conduct celestial photography and photometry.

This dream would have been almost impossible just 24 months ago. The levels of precision required for a maker-made scientific quality scope would have resulted in compounding errors conspiring to make observations frustrating for aspiring citizen scientists. However the emergence of low-cost 3D printers and Laser-cutting, paired with microcontroller platforms such as Arduino and Lumia 1020- with its 41 Megapixel CCD - mean that a project such as this is now eminently possible. 

Very cool and something definitely do-able for anyone with access to a makerspace.

A fun time to be alive. I would be building this project if I didn't live in an area with poor seeing.

Could not be happening at a better time. Of course, it will be several years before production is ramped up but there is a worldwide need for Rare Earths and China is the only vendor so far. We have huge resources in the USA but the environmentalists will not let us mine them. From Nature:

The tremendous potential of deepsea mud as a source of rare-earth elements
Potential risks of supply shortages for critical metals including rare-earth elements and yttrium (REY) have spurred great interest in commercial mining of deep-sea mineral resources. Deep-sea mud containing over 5,000ppm total REY content was discovered in the western North Pacifc Ocean near Minamitorishima Island, Japan, in 2013. This REY-rich mud has great potential as a rare-earth metal resource because of the enormous amount available and its advantageous mineralogical features. Here, we estimated the resource amount in REY-rich mud with Geographical Information System software and established a mineral processing procedure to greatly enhance its economic value. The resource amount was estimated to be 1.2Mt of rare-earth oxide for the most promising area (105km2×0–10mbsf), which accounts for 62, 47, 32, and 56 years of annual global demand for Y, Eu, Tb, and Dy, respectively. Moreover, using a hydrocyclone separator enabled us to recover selectively biogenic calcium phosphate grains, which have high REY content (up to 22,000ppm) and constitute the coarser domain in the grain-size distribution. The enormous resource amount and the efectiveness of the mineral processing are strong indicators that this new REY resource could be exploited in the near future.

Very cool - 50 years worth of ores. China just lost a major revenue source.

A quiet day

| No Comments

T has written a study guide for her teaching and we are updating it as well as putting it up for sale on Amazon.

Their Kindle Direct Publishing is very awesome and easy to use. Choose the page size, download the appropriate MSWord template and cut and paste. Upload and you get a bunch of options for selling your magnum opus - either buy copies for yourself or sell them through Amazon as either paper books or Kindle files.

The big storm that was forecast is turning out to be a nothingburger here. Some blustery winds earlier this afternoon and some off-and-on rain but not the big storm they were telling us about.

About that coal problem

| No Comments

I love coal and it is not a problem although some enviros seem to think it is. Wonder if they have ever held a piece of it. I use it for blacksmithing and usually keep a couple nuggets in my truck to show people. It is not dirty in the least - very clean burning and environmentally friendly if burned correctly. Coal just reached a new level of awesome - from the University of Kentucky:

UK Researchers First to Produce High Grade Rare Earths From Coal
University of Kentucky researchers have produced nearly pure rare earth concentrates from Kentucky coal using an environmentally-conscious and cost-effective process, a groundbreaking accomplishment in the energy industry.

"As far as I know, our team is the first in the world to have provided a 98 percent pure rare earth concentrate from a coal source," said Rick Honaker, professor of mining engineering.

From national defense to health care, rare earth elements or REEs are essential components of technologies like iPhones, computers, missiles and other applications. Interest in REEs is at an all-time high in the U.S. right now, with the Department of Energy investing millions in research. Honaker has received $7 million from the department to produce rare earths from Kentucky coal sources, a feat he has now accomplished, and $1 million for other REE projects.

"The primary objective for our DoE (Department of Energy) project was to produce a concentrate containing a minimum of 2 percent rare earth elements," he said. "We have far exceeded this objective."

The process recovered more than 80 percent of the REEs present in the feed sources. The concentrates were comprised of more than 80 percent total rare earth elements on a dry whole mass basis and more than 98 percent rare earth oxides. More importantly, critical elements such as neodymium and yttrium — used in national defense technologies and the high-tech and renewable energy industries — represented over 45 percent of the total concentrate.

We know of a lot of REE ore deposits in the continental USA but the enviros have been sucessful in blocking any mining efforts which is downright stupid because we turn around and buy them from China who does absolutly zero environmental mitigation. Our mines would be clean but those nutcases will not let us build them. Nice to find an alternate source!

Fun times with a Tesla Coil

| No Comments

Those crazy Ukrainians :)

Netflix in the news

| No Comments

Some heavy virtue signalling from them - from Musings from the Chiefio:

Dear Netflix…
I see you have hired Susan Rice on your Board Of Directors.

Now as I see it, there are only 2 possible reasons for doing this. She isn’t exactly a media mogul after all, no screen credits that I know of, not a lot of business acumen on display, hasn’t built a media empire… so what’s left?

1) You are sucking up to The Progressive Socialist Left / Clinton Machine / Obama Wannabee Machine.

2) You are a fellow traveler giving her a great cushy income for doing nothing but “virtue signalling” you are on side.

Now which of these tells me I want YOU to send MY MONEY to HER? Hmmm?

Oh, wait, none of the above.

E. M. Smith goes on to ask the question that the Netflix CEO needs to ask:

Can my company, Netflix, survive a year or two if 1/4 of my audience (say 1/2 of the 1/2 that voted Trump) get pissed off and cancel while they go look for alternatives?

So, can you?

’cause here’s the deal: We’re done with the whole “We’ll be nice and you can be shouting shit in our faces and picking our pockets” thing. It’s “on Mother F…” You hit me with a spit wad, I take out the bazooka.

Netflix has put a lot of time and money into developing an intuative user interface and has some entertaining content. -but- there is a lot of competition out there.

It seems that this cronyism is not limited to just Netflix - from FOX News:

Big tech companies offer gilded safe space for Obama officials
When former national security adviser Susan Rice was named to the Netflix board of directors Wednesday, she became at least the third high-ranking official under former President Barack Obama to receive a top post at a tech giant after leaving the White House.

And a bit more:

But Rice isn't the only Obama alum benefiting here. David Plouffe, a former senior adviser to Obama, was hired by ridesharing company Uber in August 2014 to be its senior vice president of policy and strategy. This past January, Plouffe was lured away from Uber by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to help run his Chan Zuckerberg social advocacy organization.

Former White House press secretary Jay Carney has settled down at another titan, Amazon. Carney, who departed the West Wing in June 2014 and spent six months as a political analyst at CNN, joined Amazon in March 2015 as senior vice president for corporate affairs.

They are now reaping their rewards for having enabled these tech giants to make money hand over fist while the US was in the middle of a big recession.

PDF format - a history

| No Comments

Fascination history of the Portable Document Format - a brilliant idea. From Motherboard:

Why the PDF Is Secretly the World's Most Important File Format
The Portable Document Format, or PDF, is everywhere. But it's still a format that causes headaches for the average person.

Just take former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who may not be the average person, but who runs into issues with the PDF just like the best of us.

Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s most recent indictment of Manafort noted how the lobbyist and his colleague, Richard Gates, collaborated on modifying a PDF document by converting the document into Word format, changing an amount in the document, then changing it back to a PDF.

This created something called a paper trail, bolstering Mueller’s case against Manafort.

It's not often, of course, that the PDF gets this level of notice. The PDFs origin story is a bit more boring than that of the MP3, which was built around the contours of Suzanne Vega’s unaccompanied voice on “Tom’s Diner,” and the ZIP file, which came to life in a brutal legal battle that was egged on by the whims of BBS users.

But the PDF still has a story, and that story is that of a format that promises to be even more valuable in the decades to come. Here's why.

“What industries badly need is a universal way to communicate documents across a wide variety of machine configurations, operating systems and communication networks. These documents should be viewable on any display and should be printable on any modern printers. If this problem can be solved, then the fundamental way people work will change.”

John E. Warnock, the cofounder of Adobe, discussing his thought process around the need for a simple document format in an essay revealing the existence of The Camelot Project (which is, of course, in PDF format). Warnock, who was also responsible for helping to develop Adobe’s bedrock PostScript document scripting language, noted that PostScript and its sister language Display PostScript was too heavy for most computers being made at the time he wrote his essay, around 1990. “The Display PostScript and PostScript solutions are the correct long-term solution as the power of machines increases over time, but this solution offers little help for the vast majority of today’s users with today’s machines,” he explained.

A great read.

The Spruce Goose is no longer the airplane with the biggest wingspan - from The Seattle Times:

Why is Paul Allen building the world’s largest airplane? Perhaps to launch a space shuttle called ‘Black Ice.’
A massive airplane being built by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen moved a step closer to flight last week, when it crept out of its hangar in Mojave, California. and practiced rolling down the runway, hitting a top speed of 46 mph.

Known as Stratolaunch, the plane has a wingspan even greater than that of business mogul Howard Hughes’ famed Spruce Goose, and is designed to carry as many as three rockets, tethered to its belly, to about 35,000 feet. Once aloft, the rockets would drop, then fire their engines and deliver satellites to orbit.

But Allen has even bigger ambitions for Stratolaunch, and is considering pairing it with a new space shuttle that’s known inside the company as “Black Ice.”

In exclusive interviews last summer, Allen and Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch System’s chief executive, laid out the company’s plans for the giant plane, providing an answer to why anyone would want to build an aircraft that has 28 wheels, six 747 jet engines and a wingspan longer than a football field.

“I would love to see us have a full reusable system and have weekly, if not more often, airport-style, repeatable operations going,” Allen said in an interview, while sitting in his Seattle office.

That puppy is huge!

Heh - appropriate technology

| No Comments

Seems like someone at the US Nave had a great idea - from Stars & Stripes:

The Navy's most advanced submarines will soon be using Xbox controllers
The control room of the Navy's most advanced submarine is filled with sophisticated computers, flat-screen monitors and sailors who grew up in a digital world.

At times it can look a bit like a video game arcade, and not just because of the high-resolution graphics.

The Navy is beginning to use an Xbox 360 controller – like the ones you find at the mall – to operate the periscopes aboard Virginia-class submarines.

And its use?

Unlike other types of submarines people are familiar with from Hollywood, Virginia-class submarines don't have a traditional rotating tube periscope that only one person can look through at a time.

It's been replaced with two photonics masts that rotate 360 degrees. They feature high-resolution cameras whose images are displayed on large monitors that everyone in the control room can see. There's no barrel to peer through anymore; everything is controlled with a helicopter-style stick. But that stick isn't so popular.

So they replaced it with an Xbox controller - significantly easier to use and some cost savings too:

The Xbox controller is no different than the ones a lot of crew members grew up playing with. Lockheed Martin says the sailors who tested the controller at its lab were intuitively able to figure out how to use it on their own within minutes, compared to hours of training required for the joystick.

The Xbox controller also is significantly cheaper. The company says the photonic mast handgrip and imaging control panel that cost about $38,000 can now be replaced with an Xbox controller that typically costs less than $30.

From my own experience, Xbox controllers are used a lot in personal CNC machine equipment - MACH4 has an Xbox controller plugin and these are a lot cheaper than the custom built 'pendants' normally used. Win/Win

Canadian Modern Print Design

| No Comments

Great website featuring modern Canadian type and logo design - some gorgeous work here: Canada Modern

True North Indexed.
Canada Modern is a physical and digital archive of Canadian graphic design, with modernism central to its glowing heart.

Technology hurdle - Automated Cars

| No Comments

Heh - a little problem as told by  the truth about cars:

Automated Cars Are Not Able to Use the Automated Car Wash
We’ve been cautiously optimistic about the progress of autonomous driving. The miraculous technology is there, but implementing it effectively is an arduous task of the highest order. A prime example of this is how easy it is to “blind” a self-driving vehicle’s sensors.

TTAC’s staff has had its share of minor misadventures with semi-autonomous driving aids, be it during encounters with thick fog or heavy snow, but truly self-driving cars have even more sensitive equipment on board — and all of it needs to function properly.

That makes even the simple task of washing a self-driving car far more complicated than one might expect, as anything other than meticulous hand washing a big no-no. Automated car washes could potentially dislodge expensive sensors, scratch them up, or leave behind soap residue or water spots that would affect a camera’s ability to see.

Automakers and tech firms have come up with a myriad of solutions to this problem — though a man with a rag and some water appears to be the most popular. Toyota, Aptiv, Drive.AI, May Mobility, and Uber have all said they use rubbing alcohol, water, or glass cleaner to manually wash the sensors, before carefully finishing the job with a microfiber cloth.

Of course, they will come up with a solution to this but it is a bit funny for now.

Now this is interesting

| No Comments

From Pricenomics:

Is There a Connection Between Bad Grammar and Negative Online Reviews
The internet is full of people giving their opinion on things. From blogs to forums to social media, the internet is a tool that empowers people to share what they think. Most of the time, these posts are not particularly useful (and sometimes even harmful), but for e-commerce sites, user reviews have been revolutionary.

Right now, there are millions of products available to purchase online. Despite never seeing the product or knowing the specific seller, you can make a well-informed decision before buying just by reading the experiences of other people who already purchased them. Academic evidence agrees. Studies show that reviews matter for customer decision making.

But not all reviews are created equal. Some are thorough and provide details on a specific product feature, while others are vague and unintelligible gibberish. Research shows users put a higher value on well-written reviews. Websites like Amazon take this into account by letting you rate whether a review is helpful or not.

Reading through so many reviews ourselves got us thinking, is the quality of writing (spelling, grammar, etc.) markedly different between positive and negative reviews?

The article goes into some detail on their analysis and statistics - the take-away is that the worse the review, the more  spelling errors their were:


Fake news again - Global Warming

| No Comments

Don't these "reporters" do their homework? A two-fer:

First - from the UK Independent:

First ship crosses Arctic in winter without an icebreaker as global warming causes ice sheets to melt
A ship has made a winter crossing of the Arctic without an icebreaker for the first time as global warming causes the region’s ice sheets to melt.

The tanker, containing liquefied natural gas, is the first commercial vessel to make such a crossing alone during the winter months.

And a bit more - the company and the ship in question:

Belonging to the shipping company Teekay, the ship Eduard Toll made its way from South Korea to the Sabetta terminal in northern Russia in December.

Second - from Teekay itself:

Eduard Toll is the fourth of 15 Arc7 LNG carriers being built for the Yamal LNG project and Teekay’s first of six LNG Carrier Newbuildings contracted to service the project.

Recently, the vessel made history as it underwent the latest seasonal independent passage by a merchant ship on the Northern Sea Route.

A fitting legacy for its namesake: Baron Eduard Toll, a Russian geologist and explorer who dedicated his life to the discovery of the Arctic – and pioneered Russian Polar expedition.

The vessel was technically accepted in Korea at the beginning of December 2017 after successfully completing sea trials and immediately thereafter departed for her journey to Northern Russia.

Over the past month, she has transited via the Northern Sea Route, breaking ice 1.8 metres thick at speeds of five knots astern – and arrived at the Sabetta terminal ahead of schedule.

This marked a major milestone for shipping in the arctic as this was the first time a shipping vessel made independent passage, without the support of an ice breaker, during this time of year.

The ship did not need an icebreaker escort because of global warming, the Eduard Toll did not need an icebreaker escort because the ship itself is an icebreaker. Teekay figured it would be cheaper in the long run to build an LNG transport ship that was ice certified - saves the cost of the second ship and crew.

"Josh Gabbatiss Science Correspondent" was the Independent's author and he should be ashamed of himself - what a moron.


| No Comments

Interesting move in video photography

| No Comments

From Nikkei Asian Review:

Foxconn eyes digital film sector as smartphone demand weakens
Major iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn Technology Group, said on Sunday that it plans to team up with premium camera maker RED Digital Cinema to make professional-quality and affordable film cameras for the general public, while expanding into the manufacture of semiconductors for displays and cameras.

Those moves come as the Taiwanese company is building facilities to make large-scale display panels in the U.S. and China. It is seeking new revenue sources to compensate for weakening smartphone demand. It wants to reduce its business dependence on Apple, which accounts for more than 50% of its sales. Foxconn assembles iPhone mobile phones and MacBook computers among other products for Apple, but profit margins are razor thin. The manufacture of more electronics equipment and components could improve the company's earnings.

"We will make cameras that will shoot professional-quality films in 8K resolution but at only a third of current prices and a third of current camera sizes," Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou told reporters in Taipei following the company's annual employee party before the Chinese New Year. 8K ultra-high definition resolution has become the benchmark standard for digital television and cinematography.

Emphisis mine - Ho. Li. Crap. And this will only foster more competition from other vendors driving the prices down even further. Fun time to be alive! A tricked out RED 8K is around $30K - to have the same image quality in a $10K camera will be a gamechanger. Not something that most people will own but cheap enough to rent for a week or two for a given project.

Paper Jams

| No Comments

When I was living in Seattle, I owned a computer store for 12 years and over the last six, it morphed into a copy and print business. People were buying computers online and I could not compete on price so I moved over to graphic arts and taught myself how to run a printing press (I had two). My Mom's family had a large paper business in Pennsylvania so I was exposed to printing from a very early age and always liked it. Had a lot of fun running the business but the profit margins simply were not there. I got a killer job offer at Microsoft so I sold the business and moved on.

For people interested in copy machines and graphic arts and paper, Joshua Rothman has a delightful article on Paper Jams at The New Yorker:

Why Paper Jams Persist
Building 111 on the Xerox engineering campus, near Rochester, New York, is vast and labyrinthine. On the social-media site Foursquare, one visitor writes that it’s “like Hotel California.” Conference Room C, near the southwest corner, is small and dingy; it contains a few banged-up whiteboards and a table. On a frigid winter afternoon, a group of engineers gathered there, drawing the shades against the late-day sun. They wanted to see more clearly the screen at the front of the room, on which a computer model of a paper jam was projected.

The jam had occurred in Asia, where the owners of a Xerox-manufactured printing press were trying to print a book. The paper they had fed into the press was unusually thin and light, of the sort found in a phone book or a Bible. This had not gone well. Midway through the printing process, the paper was supposed to cross a gap; flung from the top of a rotating belt, it needed to soar through space until it could be sucked upward by a vacuum pump onto another belt, which was positioned upside down. Unfortunately, the press was in a hot and humid place, and the paper, normally lissome, had become listless. At the apex of its trajectory, at the moment when it was supposed to connect with the conveyor belt, its back corners drooped. They dragged on the platform below, and, like a trapeze flier missing a catch, the paper sank downward. As more sheets rushed into the same space, they created a pile of loops and curlicues—what the jam engineers called a “flower arrangement.”

A fun read. The article references this scene from Mike Judge’s 1999 film “Office Space”

Classic - we have all been there...

Cool software

| No Comments

Been wanting to record some things for YouTube and was looking for a decent webcam. I have several Nikon cameras and software to do still photos but nothing for video. Just ran into SparkoCam Virtual Webcam

SparkoCam is a webcam and video effects software for broadcasting and applying live webcam effects to your video chats and recordings.

    • Use Canon / Nikon DSLR camera as a regular webcam
    • Enhance USB webcam video by adding cool webcam effects and graphics to your live video chats and video recordings
    • Split your single webcam and use it simultaneously in several applications

You can do green-screen and also import your desktop (or portion thereof) into the video feed so if I was demonstrating software, I could capture the screen as I worked with it.

Decently priced at $70 for one family of camera (Nikon -OR- Canon) and free upgrades for life. Free download but your video is watermarked.

Now this is cool - filtering water

| No Comments

Potential to be a game-changer - from Phys Org:

Researchers discover efficient and sustainable way to filter salt and metal ions from water
With two billion people worldwide lacking access to clean and safe drinking water, joint research by Monash University, CSIRO and the University of Texas at Austin published today in Sciences Advances may offer a breakthrough new solution.

It all comes down to metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), an amazing next generation material that have the largest internal surface area of any known substance. The sponge like crystals can be used to capture, store and release chemical compounds. In this case, the salt and ions in sea water.

Dr Huacheng Zhang, Professor Huanting Wang and Associate Professor Zhe Liu and their team in the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, in collaboration with Dr Anita Hill of CSIRO and Professor Benny Freeman of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, have recently discovered that MOF membranes can mimic the filtering function, or 'ion selectivity', of organic cell membranes.

With further development, these membranes have significant potential to perform the dual functions of removing salts from seawater and separating metal ions in a highly efficient and cost effective manner, offering a revolutionary new technological approach for the water and mining industries.

I hope this technology is made cheaply - lots of people around the world would love to have a cheap desalinization plant.

Heh - Bitcoins in the news

| No Comments

Bitcoins are mined using a hashing algorithm - you can either buy a dedicated machine for Bitcoin mining or you can use your personal computer. Seems that some folks in Russia grabbed a bit more than they should have - from the Beeb:

Russian nuclear scientists arrested for 'Bitcoin mining plot'
Russian security officers have arrested several scientists working at a top-secret Russian nuclear warhead facility for allegedly mining crypto-currencies.

The suspects had tried to use one of Russia's most powerful supercomputers to mine Bitcoins, media reports say.

The Federal Nuclear Centre in Sarov, western Russia, is a restricted area.

The centre's press service said: "There has been an unsanctioned attempt to use computer facilities for private purposes including so-called mining."

The supercomputer was not supposed to be connected to the internet - to prevent intrusion - and once the scientists attempted to do so, the nuclear centre's security department was alerted. They were handed over to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian news service Mash says.

Oops - that would have been awfully tempting. Connecting it to the internet was their downfall.

In honor of the SpaceX launch

| No Comments

From Chris at A Large Regular:


Ground control to Major Tom...

Congratulations to SpaceX


Major launch this morning - from Yahoo/AFP:

SpaceX launches world's most powerful rocket toward Mars
The world's most powerful rocket, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, blasted off Tuesday on its highly anticipated maiden test flight, carrying CEO Elon Musk's cherry red Tesla roadster to an orbit near Mars.

Screams and cheers erupted at Cape Canaveral, Florida as the massive rocket fired its 27 engines and rumbled into the blue sky over the same NASA launchpad that served as a base for the US missions to Moon four decades ago.

"Wow, did you guys see that? That was awesome," said SpaceX commentator Lauren Lyons as applause thundered through mission control.

Loaded with Musk's red Tesla and a mannequin in a spacesuit, the monster rocket's test voyage has captured the world's imagination.

About two minutes into the flight, the two side boosters peeled away and made their way back toward Earth for an upright landing.

Both rockets landed side by side in unison on launchpads, live video images showed.

Reusable boosters - I love it. I also love their payload.

Superbowl Sound

| No Comments

Great article on how the half-time act's sound and staging are done. Quite the Herculean act as all of the equipment has to come through the tunnel and the quality of sound has to be a lot better than the stadium's built-in system can provide.
From The Verge:

Patrick Baltzell has been the sound engineer for most of America’s most-watched events in the past few decades. He’s sitting alone in the convention halls of NAMM, a trade show for the music making industry. Though I instantly recognize his signature thin frame and curls of white hair, no one looks as Baltzell stands to greet me with unbridled enthusiasm. It’s likely everyone in this room has no idea who he is. But Baltzell was not only in charge of the audio for the past 19 Super Bowls (excluding this year’s) — he also currently designs and mixes sound for the Grammys, Oscars, and presidential inaugurations.

One hundred-eighty countries will be watching this Sunday’s Super Bowl 52 between the Eagles and the Patriots. And, while everyone will be cheering on the players, the halftime performer, and the person who sings the national anthem, we often forget there is someone, unseen, who has spent months making sure you can hear every word and note. Baltzell talks with The Verge to give an insider’s look at how to make sure everything is heard without a hitch during one of the country’s most-anticipated broadcasts.

I would love to find out about how the video is edited and switched - that has to be another task of epic proportions.

Mary Lee Berners-Lee passed away last November - if that name is somewhat familiar, it is her son Sir Tim who invented the whole concept of the world wide web. Turns out she was quite the computer person as well - from The Guardian:

Mary Lee Berners-Lee obituary
The computer scientist Mary Lee Berners-Lee, who has died aged 93, was on the programming team for the computer that in 1951 became the first in the world to be sold commercially: the Ferranti Mark I. She led a successful campaign at Ferranti for equal pay for male and female programmers, almost two decades before the Equal Pay Act came into force. As a young mother in the mid-1950s she set up on her own as a home-based software consultant, making her one of the world’s first freelance programmers.

Modest about her own pioneering achievements, she is on record (in an interview with computer historian Janet Abbate) as saying that her biggest contribution was to be “the grandmother of the web”. In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee (now Sir Tim), the eldest of her four children, proposed a system to access and exchange documents across the internet, and soon afterwards built the first web server, website and browser.

Tim recalled that his mother had a strong sense of the potential of computers right from the start. “It was obvious to us growing up how incredibly exciting it was,” he said, “not just that you had a new device, but the sense that what you could do was limited only by your imagination.”

Be sure to read the whole thing - she led quite the life.

I thought their motto was Don't be evil? Oh. Wait. They dropped it. Now they personify evil. From the The Daily Caller:

Google Has An Actual Secret Speech Police
More than 100 nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and government agencies around the world help police YouTube for extremist content, ranging from so-called hate speech to terrorist recruiting videos.

All of them have confidentiality agreements barring Google, YouTube’s parent company, from revealing their participation to the public, a Google representative told The Daily Caller on Thursday.

A handful of groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and No Hate Speech, a European organization focused on combatting intolerance, have chosen to go public with their participation in the program, but the vast majority have stayed hidden behind the confidentiality agreements. Most groups in the program don’t want to be publicly associated with it, according to the Google spokesperson, who spoke only on background.

YouTube’s “Trusted Flaggers” program goes back to 2012, but the program has exploded in size in recent years amid a Google push to increase regulation of the content on its platforms, which followed pressure from advertisers. Fifty of the 113 program members joined in 2017 as YouTube stepped up its content policing, YouTube public policy director Juniper Downs told a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Video software

| No Comments

Been looking at video recording software - something that can capture input from a computer screen or webcam as well as import and export various file formats. Just ran into OBS Studio

Looks pretty comprehensive and it runs on Windows, iOS and Linux. It can be extended through the use of scripts which is a real boon.

This looks like way too much fun

| No Comments

The Slo Mo guys run a YouTube channel where they video objects in very slow motion. YouTube funded them to spend a couple weeks in Los Angeles (they are from England) and built them a set and hired a support crew. Here is the trailer for the show - looks like a lot of fun:

Here is their YouTube channel.

May 2018

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Environment and Climate
Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Climate Audit
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

About this Archive

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

Food is the previous category.

Guns is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.2.9