Recently in Geekdom Category

A fun Engineer story

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I love engineers but sometimes they can be a little too literal.
One such story from the wonderful Not Always Right:

And He’s An Engineer?!
I developed both a website and an intranet solution that approximately fifty civil engineers log into in order to submit files, reports, and other internal reports.

One of the engineers called me.

Engineer: “The solution you developed is absolutely worthless! I can’t even log in!”

I had sent a very detailed set of instructions in a PDF file, something I thought was absolutely idiot-proof.

After a step-by-step set of instructions over the phone, he resorted to calling one of the secretaries to see if she could log herself in.

As soon as she sat down in front of his computer, I heard her giggling, followed by bursts of laughter by several people surrounding his station. It was minutes before I could get someone to reply on the phone.

Turns out he was trying to log in on the PDF file’s screenshot.

I worked for an ocean engineering company for a couple of years.  I can so see this happening.

Turing test anyone?

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Plausible.  It is going to happen one of these days.  From the London Daily Mail:

Google engineer warn the firm's AI is sentient: Suspended employee claims computer programme acts 'like a 7 or 8-year-old' and reveals it told him shutting it off 'would be exactly like death for me. It would scare me a lot'

    • Blake Lemoine, 41, a senior software engineer at Google has been testing Google's artificial intelligence tool called LaMDA
    • Following hours of conversations with the AI, Lemoine came away with the perception that LaMDA was sentient
    • After presenting his findings to company bosses, Google disagreed with him
    • Lemoine then decided to share his conversations with the tool online
    • He was put on paid leave by Google on Monday for violating confidentiality

The fact that he was put on paid leave speaks volumes.

Somewhere, Skynet is smiling...

UPDATE: Slashdot covered the story and there is a good and robust conversation going on

Eyes on the prize - China and TSMC

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Biggest and best chip maker in the world is in Taiwan.  China wantsses its preciousssss...
From Tom's Hardware:

"We Must Seize TSMC" Urges Senior Chinese Economist
China's government has an intense craving to take control of TSMC, reveals a report shared by Bloomberg today. The financial news organization has published some alarming quotes from Chen Wenling, chief economist at the government-run China Center for International Economic Exchanges. In brief, Chen called on Chinese authorities to "seize TSMC" if the US and the West begin to implement Russia-war style sanctions on China. She was speaking at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University at the end of May.

On the university stage, Chen told attendees, "If the US and the West impose destructive sanctions on China like sanctions against Russia, we must recover Taiwan." However, the reasoning contained within this sentence is clearly topsy-turvy. The US and other democratic powers only imposed severe sanctions on Russia after it invaded neighboring Ukraine and refused to withdraw. It is expected very similar sanctions would be applied on Chinese interests worldwide if China invades Taiwan, but not if it maintains the status quo. It is curious why Ms. Chen has put the cart before the horse.

Wishful thinking.  Nice source of hard revenue.  Unfortunately, the infrastructure is so sensitive, the requirements for the clean room are so demanding that someone walking through with a burning highway flare would shut down their lines for at least six months if they could be brought back online at all.

China's homegrown efforts are where we were in about 2010 or so.  Not bad but not good - we have come a long way.

There is a wonderful convergence of technology for making virtual film sets using a combination of cheap hardware and free and/or open source software.  Here is just one example of what is being done:

From Cliff Mass:

Bad News. Clouds will Obscure the Meteors for Most of Washington State
I am disappointed. It looks like clouds will make viewing of the meteor shower tonight impossible for most residents in Washington State.

The lastest visible satellite image shows lots of clouds over the region. But the real threats are the clouds stretching from the WA Cascade to the east. High clouds that are moving westward over towards western WA. There are lower clouds over NW Oregon...they will evaporate around sunset.

The very latest NOAA/NWS HRRR forecast of clouds at 10 PM tonight (the time of max meteors) shows 100% clouds (blue colors) over much of Washington.

Oh well...  I'll be up anyway - got the camera charged up and tripod out and ready.  See what happens.

Supply-chain woes

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And things just get crazier and crazier - from Freight Waves:

Rash of parts thefts is leaving Freightliner trucks inoperable
A rash of thefts of semiconductor-loaded powertrain control modules from parked Freightliner and Western Star trucks is turning the tractors into oversize paperweights. Daimler Truck North America is going after the bad guys but has few leads.

The rip-offs of common powertrain control module 4 units relate to the ongoing shortage of microchips. Harvesting and reprogramming the modules allow them to work in other trucks, Daimler said.

List for these modules is about $1,400. Black market is about $8K It bricks the truck when stolen.

The older designs are looking more and more desirable...  Maybe we will return to sanity. One of these days...

This has been known for a while but they are now getting the timing narrowed down.
From Sky & Telescope:

Will there be a new meteor shower on the night of May 30–31?
There’s only one way to find out.
Meteor observing can be relaxing and enjoyable — and potentially dramatic. Yet the only equipment needed for serious meteor watching is your eyes and a modest amount of patience. Most of the annual meteor showers are fairly predictable, but the main attraction is that it’s impossible to predict what you will see. Occasionally you might be surprised by a dazzling fireball or the brilliant flash of a bolide.

During the overnight hours of May 30–31 things might turn exciting.

In the fall of 1995, Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (SW3) fractured into several pieces and left a trail of fragments in its wake. Should the Earth encounter this stream of debris, a sudden outburst of meteors might erupt, ranking with some of our richest annual displays (Geminids and Perseids). There’s even a small chance that something extraordinary — perhaps a full-scale storm of meteors — might take place.

Or perhaps, visually, nothing at all will happen.

Timing:

The shower likely will last only a few hours. As to when it should reach its peak, for those in the Pacific Time Zone this should be around 10 p.m. on May 30th; for those in the Eastern Time Zone that translates to about 1 a.m. on May 31st. Sadly, for the Pacific Northwest, the twilight sky will probably be too bright, precluding a view of any possible display.

I'll be watching and have my camera set up.  Might be specatcular.  Might not...

That went quickly - 49 years

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Chris Lynch points to this article at Wired:

May 22, 1973: Enter Ethernet
Bob Metcalfe's originating ethernet memo included this rough schematic rendering. Bob Metcalfe of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center writes a memo outlining how to connect the think tank's new personal computers to a shared printer. The memo puts forth the basic properties of -- and names -- ethernet.

Much more at the site. Had it all - distributed, IP over telephone, the precursor to WiFi.
Smart cookie...

Check it out: Truth Social

The registration process did not work with the Brave Browser but it worked fine with MS Edge and I am using Brave for reading posts - works fine so far.

Still no Android app. iOS or Desktop for now...

From these people: Gravity

Made me smile

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Escher? Maurits Cornelis Escher  Amazing work

East coasters will see the whole thing - it will be underway for those of us on the west coast.
From Sky & Telescope:

WITNESS A TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE ON SUNDAY, MAY 15–16
You can't do better for an astronomical event than a total lunar eclipse. It's visible to city and rural residents alike across half the planet, requires no special equipment, lasts for hours and is guaranteed to happen. How many other celestial shows offer this kind of ease and certainty? About the only thing that can get in the way are clouds. And for that, you can check current cloud maps to find the nearest clear skies. More about that in a moment.

On Sunday night–Monday morning May 15–16, the Moon will undergo a total eclipse widely visible across the Americas, Europe, and Africa. From the East Coast partial eclipse begins about two hours after sunset, an hour after sunset for the Midwest, and near sunset for the mountain states.

Farther west along the West Coast, the moon will rise fully immersed in Earth's shadow. While that may make it sketchy to see at first, as the sky darkens, dramatic views of a highly reddened Moon near the horizon will make for stirring photographic possibilities. In the Eastern Hemisphere, European and African observers will witness the eclipse in the early morning hours and at dawn.

Visibility chart and times at the site.

A fun morning was had

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The usual coffee but left early and went to this event: SCARC ANNUAL HAM RADIO SWAPMEET

Ran into about 20 people I knew - both from here as well as from at the farm.  I was a lot more active in the club up there. Lots of stuff for sale - some interesting things but nothing that I needed.

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I am wanting to build a magnetic loop antenna so looking for some vacuum-variable capacitors as well as some 1" or larger diameter flexible hardline coax for the loop. Left empty-handed but happy.

Pepper's Ghost - up to date

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Pepper's Ghost is a classical stage illusion and Joshua Ellingson has been having a lot of fun bringing it into the 21st century.

More info on how it's done and how to do it yourself:

His channel has a lot of fun projects.  Just subscribed.

Open source too.  $400 - from here: Sky's Edge:

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The Rotary Un-Smartphone is a followup to this personal project. It's a production-ready ground-up design with all new parts (yes, the rotary dial too) and many neat bells and whistles.

    • Pocket-sized
    • Full LTE connectivity. Obsolescence-proof for at least another decade.
    • Access and call your personal contacts faster than with a smartphone
    • Use your own SIM card with your favorite carrier's "Bring Your Own Device" option
    • Real (mechanical) ringer bell made gold or silver-coated brass; externally visible
    • Receive basic SMS messages and send pre-typed messages and numeric strings
    • 2 displays: Front-side OLED and back-side ePaper
    • Physical disconnect switch for the microphone
    • Mechanical power switch
    • MicroSD card stores contacts list as a text file
    • TRRS headset jack
    • USB-C charging port
    • Incandescent-like indicator LEDs
    • Weighs 163g [6oz]
    • Injection molded parts available in several striking colors

Halfway tempted.  Great fun to pull it out to receive a call...

SkyGlass - the application

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This looks like fun - I have been having a lot of fun with my ADSB Flight data reciever and my account at FlightAware

This looks like it kicks things up a notch:  SkyGlass  It takes the flight data and presents it in a 3D environment instead of a flat map. Lots of options for filtering out all but specific aircraft. $55/year for unlimited access.  They do full tracking of military aircraft which the people at FlightAware have chosen not to do.  There is a 14-day free trial which I might activate once I am moved to NC.

In honor of Earth Day

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For your fun and enlightenment:

Explains a lot - neuralizer

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Neuralizer? here
Part of the trove recovered from Area 51.  The MIBs are still pissed that it was used in the movie.  That was need-to-know but it fit so well into the storyline that Sonnenfeld included it anyway.  Who would believe it after all...

News you can use - smart TVs

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From Labzilla:

Your Smart TV is probably ignoring your PiHole
If you’re using PiHole on your network to block ads and prevent your various smart devices from sending tracking information to their manufacturers, you might be surprised to find out that some of these devices are using a sneaky tactic to bypass your PiHole entirely.

Smart devices manufacturers often “hard-code” in a public DNS server, like Google’s 8.8.8.8, and their devices ignore whatever DNS server is assigned by your router - such as your PiHole.

Nearly 70% of smart TVs and 46% of game consoles were found to contain hardcoded DNS settings - allowing them to simply ignore your local network’s DNS server entirely. On average, Smart TVs generate an average of 60 megabytes of outgoing Internet traffic per day, all the while bypassing tools like PiHole.

Say what? "60 megabytes of outgoing Internet traffic per day"

PiHole uses a cheap linux machine (Raspberry Pi) to intercept the traffic to and from the machines in your house.
It blocks 99% of targeted advertising and speeds things up a lot.  Highly recommended and easy to set up and administrate. An alternative on a machine by machine basis is to use a HOSTS file on each computer - MVPS HOSTS is an excellent one and is free to download.  Good stuff.

Now that you mention it...

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Citizen Science - Camaliot

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I love citizen science. Interested people can do useful participation in scientific observation. I already belong to a few of these programs and just discovered this new one:

From the Camaliot website:

Collect data from satellites for scientific research in weather forecasting
The Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) is a set of satellites that orbit the Earth.

These GNSS satellites provide valuable information to many different location-based applications from the satnav in your car to flying a plane. But we can also use the data for scientific research.

We developed the CAMALIOT app to gather data from these satellites, taking advantage of new developments in mobile technology to collect and access the raw GNSS data from Android phones.

All the data are gathered by individuals like you. You don't have to be a scientist, you just need to have access to an Android mobile phone with your GPS turned on.

In return, you are helping to build better weather forecasting models, and there is a chance to win prizes at the end of the campaign.

To use the app you need to keep the phone stationary with a direct view of the sky so not something you can have as a background task while you are running errands.  Still... 

Google Play store if you are interested.  Android only...

Heh - so true — "smart" homes

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The clueless ponces running Europe are trying to legislate something that they do not comprehend.
From Bleeping Computer:

EU draft law adds security checks to all crypto transactions
The European Parliament has taken the first steps for new legislation against money-laundering that covers cryptocurrency transactions, which are an important part of illicit activities today.

Members of the European Parliament from the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and the Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) have agreed on adopting (with 93 votes in favor, 14 against, and 14 abstentions) draft legislation for more transparent crypto asset transactions.

“Under the new requirements agreed by MEPs, all transfers of crypto-assets will have to include information on the source of the asset and its beneficiary, information that is to be made available to the competent authorities,” reads the Parliament’s announcement.

The new rules will cover transactions from private-held cryptocurrency wallets without considering transaction thresholds, which erases any limits for anonymous transactions - previous proposal allowed up to €1000 to be transferred without giving any details about the sender and the recipient.

In other words, both sides of the transaction will have to register with the EU to perform any blockchain transaction.  This is a perfect example of something that "sounds good" as opposed to something that "does good".  I covered this very liberal problem in this post (excerpt):

Doing something that "sounds" good is a very liberal thing to do.  There is little or no thought put into the program, all that is needed is for it to sound good.  After the fact, there is no accountability. People do not do the basic research to see if this new program is actually doing what it intended to do.  More often than not, it is not addressing the problem and additionally, adding some new layer of confusion and harm.

The liberal reaction when this is brought to light is to expand the offending program.  They could not have made a mistake - after all, they are the brightest and the best.  It must be that the program was just not given enough money or resources. They need to take the failing program and make it bigger so that it can do even more fail.

And of course, this registration will be hacked in 3... 2... 1...

Been there, done that

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Still do it from time to time - you get caught up in the rhythm of the welding, the bead is laying down nice.
Looking like a perfect stack of dimes.
Flip the helmet up and DOH!

20220324-weld.jpg

From Bleeping Computer:

Microsoft is testing ads in the Windows 11 File Explorer
Microsoft has begun testing promotions for some of its other products in the File Explorer app on devices running its latest Windows 11 Insider build.

The new Windows 11 "feature" was discovered by a Windows user and Insider MVP who shared a screenshot of an advertisement notification displayed above the listing of folders and files to the File Explorer, the Windows default file manager.

As shown in the screenshot, Microsoft will use such ads to promote other Microsoft products, for instance, about how to "write with confidence across documents, email, and the web with advanced writing suggestions from Microsoft Editor."

As you can imagine, the reaction to this was adverse, to say the least, with some saying that File Explorer is "one of the worst places to show ads," while others added that this is the way to go if Microsoft wants "people ditching Explorer for something else."

Well, the good news is that as a Linux enthusiast, this will bring more and more people over to it and away from the dark side (I include Macs in that category). Talk about a bone-headed idea and I can see the goblins in management salivating at the thought of monetizing that piece of real-estate...

All we are talking about is shifting the clocks so that they no longer agree with our natural world.

The sun is at its highest point around Noon.  High noon?

If we wanted to "gain" extra light, why not just shift business hours from 9-to-5 over to 8-to-4 — that would accomplish the same exact thing, it would keep our time in line with the solar system and we would not be at "odds" with the other nations on this planet who do not participate in this foolishness.

From Reuters:

U.S. Senate approves bill to make daylight saving time permanent
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed legislation that would make daylight saving time permanent starting in 2023, ending the twice-annual changing of clocks in a move promoted by supporters advocating brighter afternoons and more economic activity.

The Senate approved the measure, called the Sunshine Protection Act, unanimously by voice vote. The House of Representatives, which has held a committee hearing on the matter, must still pass the bill before it can go to President Joe Biden to sign.

I think that they have more important things to be working on. This is unreal.

It was branded as a conservative-friendly alternative search engine.

No more.

They are not returning searches on conservative websites - from Breitbart:

Diet Google: DuckDuckGo Will ‘Down-Rank’ What It Decides Is ‘Disinformation’
Popular privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, commonly considered an alternative to Google, has announced that it will be “down-ranking” sites associated with “disinformation,” along with adding “information boxes” to “highlight quality information.” The announcement received widespread backlash from DuckDuckGo supporters, who view the changes as adopting the censorship policies of the Masters of the Universe.

Screw them.

I switched over to Bing as a temporary fix - Microsoft's search engine.  I'll explore other options and report back when I settle on one.

The Breitbart article has 1,200+ comments — all along the same lines.  Dead duck.

I want this clock

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Delightful - the time code is generated electronically but the mechanism for moving the numbers is 100% electromechanical - switches, cams, gears and motors. Beautiful design and construction. Yeah, you could do something with three servo motors and an Arduino but this is a lot more elegant:

Elon promises. Elon delivers.

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Two days ago, Elon Musk turned on StarLink coverage to the Ukraine and promised to ship a bunch of ground stations.
Today:

20220228-elon.jpg

A cautionary tale from Europe — from Reuters:

Satellite firm Viasat probes suspected cyberattack in Ukraine and elsewhere
U.S.-listed satellite communications firm Viasat Inc said on Monday it was investigating a suspected cyberattack that caused a partial outage in its residential broadband services in Ukraine and other European countries.

Viasat said a third-party cybersecurity firm was looking into the causes of an outage in recent days across its KA-SAT network, which provides high-speed satellite internet coverage in Europe and Mediterranean markets.

Ham radio and mesh networks - practice them now, well before they are needed.  The cost to set up is not that expensive and it can be a gamechanger.

Sniffing around - take two

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Installed the AirGuard app yesterday and gave it a try this morning.

Spent some time sniffing around the coffee shop and got a couple of hits but these were peoples' Apple devices with their find-me option turned on.

Planning a trip to Costco in the next couple of days.  Walk around the parking lot for a while and see what I turn up.  The app seems pretty well written - easy to use.

Sniffing around - Apple AirTag detection

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Installing this app and will run it tomorrow when I am lingering over my morning coffee.
From Bleeping Computer:

Free Android app lets users detect Apple AirTag tracking
A small team of researchers at the Darmstadt University in Germany have published a report illustrating how their AirGuard app for Android provides better protection from stealthy AirTag stalking than other apps.

An Apple AirTag is a Bluetooth-based device finder released in April 2021 that allows owners to track the device using Apple's 'Find My' service.

Unfortunately, AirTags have great potential for abuse due to their small size as people can slip them into people's jackets, luggage, or even cars to track them without permission.

Although Apple has implemented an intricate anti-stalking system to prevent cases of abuse, stealthy AirTag tracking continues to remain a problem.

The paper is here: AirGuard - Protecting Android Users From Stalking Attacks By Apple Find My Devices

A little bit of a resource and battery hog but it IS continually scanning the environment and needing location information - this can be disabled at your wish. The app seems well written.  Looking forward to trying it in more of a target-rich environment.  Planning a trip to Costco Monday, there's the ticket 😁

Happy 2's-day

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Today is 2-22-22

Carry on...

RIP - John C. Koss

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From the New York Times:

John C. Koss, Stereo Headphone Innovator, Is Dead at 91
John C. Koss, a trumpet player and onetime teenage bandleader who with a friend invented stereo headphones and provided people with a new high-quality — and personal — way to listen to music, died on Dec. 21 in Milwaukee. He was 91.

His son Michael confirmed the death.

Koss headphones became standard equipment for music listeners, disc jockeys and recording artists in the studio — even for members of the House Judiciary Committee when they heard White House tapes in 1974 during President Richard M. Nixon’s impeachment inquiry. For many years they were virtually all Mr. Koss’s company made, until an unsuccessful expansion into other audio products in the 1980s nearly put it out of business.

Used them for a long long time.  Switched over to Grado's - like the sound better.  A nice obituary.

If I lived in Wisconsin - job opening

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CNC is fun stuff - I love machining and this sounds like a really good work environment:

20220203-job.jpg

From Amazon - the teaser:

The cool thing is that this was done without CGI - here is their video showing how it was done:

Again, all practical effects - not a computer in the bunch. Gorgeous work. The show is set thousands of years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Supply chain shortages

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This one gives me the willies - from Redit/r/PrepperIntel

Polymer shortage affecting O-ring and seal availability from Parker Hannifin
Parker Hannifin sent an email out to their supply base, informing us that their raw material supplier has restricted them to 20-50% allocation for a minimum 6 month duration. The email gives the customer base a choice to accept a choice of no new orders for the duration, or a force majeure contract termination. This affects most low temperature O-rings and seals. In our case, we have a bunch of sole-sourced part numbers that we're going to have to scramble to get alternatives for(if they even exist).

Parker Hannifin is the MacDaddy of O-rings - here is a listing which describes O-rings, their use and the various global manufacturers, PH is at the top with nobody else coming close.

Top O-Ring Suppliers in the USA
Although O-rings are small, simple, and low-cost products, they are an absolute necessity throughout a multitude of industries, including automotive, aerospace, marine, oil and gas, healthcare, food and water, pharmaceutical, and chemical, to name a few. O-rings are pressure-resistant gaskets or seals used to prevent the leaks of fluids or gasses.

O-rings are a consumable with a fixed lifespan.  They are used everywhere and if there is a shortage, a lot of things are going to not work very well after a while.  Also, if you take something apart for other service, it is customary to replace all O-rings when reassembling.  The slightest nick and there is a leak.  Good preventive medicine to do when you have it apart anyway.

This is going to really suck...

Been there, got the tee-shirt - from Dilbert:

20220114-dilbert.jpg

Louis Rossman runs a technology business in AOCs district.
He has some good words regarding minimum wage and the value of employees:

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