Recently in Geekdom Category

DaVinci Resolve - control surfaces

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Been having a lot of fun with the DaVinci Resolve video editing software. Totally free for individual use and very feature packed. Stiff learning curve but well worth it.

Couple of things that are very cool - they offer some dedicated control surfaces that give you a lot more tweaking ability than can be done with a keyboard and mouse. The downside is that the absolute cheapest of these - the Resolve Micro is $987 at Amazon:

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Fortunately, since I have been doing electronic music for a long long time, I have an older version of this dedicated controller surface for my music software (was Sonar, now Cubase and Ableton):

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This was made by Mackie and can be used to stop and start the recording process. There are knobs for setting parameters and sliders for adjusting the volume.

Turns out that it is possible to use the internal scripting language of Resolve to run this surface. The scripting language in question? My favorite: Lua  I consider Python to be overrated.

Very nice software!

Just wonderful - cheap televisions

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One reason why they are so cheap - from Tech Dirt:

Vizio Admits Modern TV Sets Are Cheaper Because They're Spying On You
If you've shopped for a TV recently, you may have noticed that it's largely impossible to just buy a "dumb" TV set without all of the "smart" internals. More specifically, most TV vendors don't want to sell you a bare-bones set because they want you to use their streaming services. Even more specifically, they want you to buy their sets with their specific streaming functionality because they want to spy on you. Poorly.

That's always been fairly obvious to most folks, but it was nice to see Vizio CTO Bill Baxter acknowledge that the reason you pay a discount is because your viewing habits are being collected and sold to the highest bidder

Just wonderful - wonder if anyone has developed a Raspberry Pi utility that monitors and blocks this? Probably and probably very easy to set up.

Just looked: here, here, here and here for starters...

Clients from Hell

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This is one of my favorite IT / Business / Geek websites - Clients from Hell

One story from today:

Client: I set up the router like you told me but I still don’t have any internet.
Me: Is the router’s WAN light on?
Client: No.
Me: Are any lights on?
Client: No, it’s all black.
Me: Did you plug the router in?
Client: Why should I? It’s wireless, isn’t it?

I can only imagine the author's epic facepalm. Sometimes people are just that clueless. Keeps us IT geeks paid though...

Well crap - The Geek Group

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No news beyond this article - from Michigan Live:

Tech center, once the ‘Geek Group,’ shuts down for good after raid
After a federal raid at its Leonard Street NW business, the National Science Institute, formerly known as The Geek Group, said Friday, Dec. 31, it has shut down.

The non-profit agency, dedicated to science and technology, provided hands-on educational opportunities, including use of high-tech equipment and facilities by students, inventors and others.

It periodically handed out used computers at little or no cost to help children of struggling families.

In a Facebook post, president Chris Boden said the institute – in the former West YMCA building at 902 Leonard St. NW - was a labor of love but it could not generate enough funding to pay its bills.

The Dec. 21 raid by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and the IRS, among others, was the last straw.

I love to experiment with high voltage (hell - voltage of any kind) and have built Tesla coils, Jacobs Ladders, lots of stuff. The Geek Group was this shining city on a hill where large-scale experimentation was the norm of the day. I always had it in my mind to do a pilgrimage to Grand Rapids. Sad to see them be shut down and I look forward to when they can tell the story of what really happened.

No surprises there - smartphones

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I keep mine in the car most of the time. It is handy but I am not plugged in to it 24/8 (Beatle weeks)
From The Moscow Times:

Russian Patriarch Warns ‘Antichrist’ Will Control Humans Through Gadgets
The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has said that humans’ dependence on modern technology will result in the coming of the Antichrist.

In an interview with Russian state media, Patriarch Kirill explained he does not entirely oppose gadgets, but warned against “falling into slavery” to smartphones.

Patriarch Kirill said that the collection of user data including “location, interests and fears” will make it possible for humans to be controlled by external forces.

“Control from a single point is a harbinger of the coming of the Antichrist,” Kirill told the state-run Rossia-1 TV network on Orthodox Christmas Monday.

“The Antichrist is a personality that will be at the head of the world wide web controlling the entire human race. Thus, the structure itself presents a danger,” he said.

Makes a lot of sense - Facebook, etc... Time to leave the Goolag.

Out of copyright - where to download

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Great practical article at Motherboard:

How to Download the Books That Just Entered the Public Domain
Starting at midnight on January 1, tens of thousands of books (as well as movies, songs, and cartoons) entered the public domain, meaning that people can download, share, or repurpose these works for free and without retribution under US copyright law.

Per the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, “corporate” creations (like Mickey Mouse) can be restricted under copyright law for 120 years. But per an amendment to the act, works published between 1923 and 1977 can enter the public domain 95 years after their creation. This means that this is the first year since 1998 that a large number of works have entered the public domain.

A lot of links at the article - here are just a handful:

For instance, ReadPrint.com, as well as The Literature Network (mostly major authors), and Librivox (audio books), Authorama (all in the public domain), and over a dozen other sites all have vast selections of free ebooks.

Also:

 More at the site - lots of very cool writing - audio books too!

Now this is beautiful

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Music From The Fibonacci Sequence

Performed by aSoungScout

More on Fibonacci numbers - quite a beautiful series and found very often in nature.

Ho. Li. Crap. Amazing video and audio editing software. Check out DaVinci Resolve 15 from BlackMagic. Got turned on to it a few days ago and been playing with it.

Best part? Free. There is a paid version ($299) that adds a few features but the free version is pretty amazing for what it does. A lot better than Pinnacle in my opinion - suits my workflow better, easier to grok.

Now this will be fun - hackers

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From tech website Motherboard:

Hackers Threaten to Dump Insurance Files Related to 9/11 Attacks
On Monday, New Year’s Eve, a hacker group announced it had breached a law firm handling cases related to the September 11 attacks, and threatened to publicly release a large cache of related internal files unless their ransom demands were met.

The news is the latest public extortion attempt from the group known as The Dark Overlord, which has previously targeted a production studio working for Netflix, as well as a host of medical centres and private businesses across the United States. The announcement also signals a slight evolution in The Dark Overlord’s strategy, which has expanded on leveraging the media to exert pressure on victims, to now distributing its threats and stolen data in a wider fashion.

In its announcement published on Pastebin, The Dark Overlord points to several different insurers and legal firms, claiming specifically that it hacked Hiscox Syndicates Ltd, Lloyds of London, and Silverstein Properties.

“Hiscox Syndicates Ltd and Lloyds of London are some of the biggest insurers on the planet insuring everything from the smallest policies to some of the largest policies on the planet, and who even insured structures such as the World Trade Centers,” the announcement reads.

And this is not an idle jape:

A spokesperson for the Hiscox Group confirmed to Motherboard that the hackers had breached a law firm that advised the company, and likely stolen files related to litigation around the 9/11 attacks.

Time for a bowl of popcorn, sit back and watch the sparks fly. They released a 10GB file of the texts but it is encrypted. They are threatening to release the key if not paid.

Great election bumper sticker

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Saw in the store parking lot today:

Kenobi
2020
Our Only Hope

Now this looks like fun - MIB

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Loved the first two:

Heh - a Christmas Meme

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From the web:

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Appropriate technology

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Fun video:

What a wonderful idea - Pi-Hole

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I use the wonderful MVP HOSTS file for blocking a lot of online advertising and popups. Works really well and very lightweight - does not take a lot of my computer's power to run.

This approach looks really good - it requires a stand-alone system based on the Raspberry Pi but would make an excellent portable unit and it covers a lot of what the HOSTS file cannot. Check out Pi-Hole. From their DOCUMENTS page:

Network-wide ad blocking via your own Linux hardware
The Pi-hole® is a DNS sinkhole that protects your devices from unwanted content, without installing any client-side software.

    • Easy-to-install: our versatile installer walks you through the process, and takes less than ten minutes
    • Resolute: content is blocked in non-browser locations, such as ad-laden mobile apps and smart TVs
    • Responsive: seamlessly speeds up the feel of everyday browsing by caching DNS queries
    • Lightweight: runs smoothly with minimal hardware and software requirements
    • Robust: a command line interface that is quality assured for interoperability
    • Insightful: a beautiful responsive Web Interface dashboard to view and control your Pi-hole
    • Versatile: can optionally function as a DHCP server, ensuring all your devices are protected automatically
    • Scalable: capable of handling hundreds of millions of queries when installed on server-grade hardware
    • Modern: blocks ads over both IPv4 and IPv6
    • Free: open source software which helps ensure you are the sole person in control of your privacy

What's not to love. Will be trying it out when I have some spare time. The beauty here is that it can also run as the primary internet access point so it will block ads and popups on my phone as well as my machines.
Stuff that in your Pi-Hole...

Now this looks good - Mortal Engines

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One to see on the big screen:

Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL) did the soundtrack - he is a composer whom I recently discovered through his YouTube channel and really really like.

Quite the collection - Dimensions.Guide

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From their website:

Dimensions.Guide is a comprehensive reference database of dimensioned drawings documenting the standard measurements and sizes of the everyday objects and spaces that make up our built environment. Created as a universal resource to better communicate the basic properties, systems, and logics of our world, Dimensions.Guide is a free platform for increasing public and professional knowledge of life and design. Updated daily.

Give it a spin - they have a lot of data in there. Dimensions.Guide  The Browse button opens up a catagory menu bar.

Amateur Radio

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Great ten minute documentary on what Ham Radio does and what we as operators do:

Save the date - January 25, 2019

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From the fine freedom loving folks at Creative Commons:

Join us for A Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain
Save the date! Please join us on January 25, 2019 for a grand day of celebrating the public domain.

Co-hosted by Creative Commons and the Internet Archive, this celebration will feature a keynote address by Lawrence Lessig, lightning talks, demos, multimedia displays and more to mark the “re-opening” of the public domain in the United States. The event will take place at the Internet Archive in San Francisco, and is free and open to the public.

The public domain is our shared cultural heritage, a near limitless trove of creativity  that’s been reused, remixed, and reimagined over centuries to create new works of art and science. The public domain forms the building blocks of culture because these works are not restricted by copyright law. Generally, works come into the public domain when their copyright term expires. But U.S. copyright law has greatly expanded over time, so that now many works don’t enter the public domain for a hundred years or more. Ever since the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act, no new works have entered the public domain (well, none due to copyright expiration). But for the first time this January, hundreds of books, films, visual art, sheet music, and plays published in 1923 will be free of intellectual property restrictions, and anyone can use them for any purpose at all.

Join creative, legal, library, advocacy communities to celebrate the public domain growing again for the first time in decades, and come network with an amazing lineup of people and organizations who will help us welcome this new class of public domain works.  Presenters include Larry Lessig, academic, political activist, and founder of Creative Commons, Corynne McSherry, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cory Doctorow, science fiction author and co-editor of Boing Boing, Pam Samuelson, copyright scholar, Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, Jamie Boyle, the man who literally wrote the book on the public domain, and many others.

In the evening, the celebration continues as we transition to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for the World Premiere of Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky’s Quantopia: The Evolution of the Internet,

a live concert synthesizing data and art, both original and public domain materials, in tribute to the depth and high stakes of free speech and creative expression involved in our daily use of media. Attendees of our Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain event can get discounted tickets here. If you can’t make the daytime event, separate tickets for Quantopia are available here.

Looks like quite an event! Don't feel like travelling but I am sure that it will be available online. This is momentous.

Digital media services are way overpopulated. So things adjust.
From My San Antonio:

Digital-media bubble is bursting. That's hurting generation of promising young journalists.
About five years ago, I was asked to visit the newsroom at Mic, a digital-media start-up backed by venture capital and focused on news for the millennial audience.

As the public editor of The New York Times, I suppose I was seen as an expert in traditional journalism ethics - especially through the eyes of Mic's reporters and editors, mostly in their 20s, and many in their first jobs out of school. And because I was active on Twitter and writing a frequent blog, perhaps I looked like I knew how to build a bridge from old-school newspapering to the digital-first present.

I remember how smart, engaged and hopeful the Mic staffers were as we talked, in their Lower Manhattan newsroom, about topics such as conflict of interest, objectivity vs. fairness, and possible career paths.

Could this exciting venture - then only two or three years old - thrive long into the future? Could these young journalists build their lives and careers on it?

In 2013, that seemed possible, despite some flashing danger signs.

But last week, Mic was the latest of its ilk to crash and burn. More than 100 employees were fired, amid word that its staffless shell would be sold to another media company.

Hey - bubbles happen. As a "journalist" you are supposed to research your topic and study its history. If you had done your work, you would have known this. My only complaint is that the management kept the condition of the business from you until the absolute last moment. They should have seen the writing on the wall and given you folks a couple weeks heads up to find new employment (Would you like fries with that?).

We are just going through another contraction like what happened in 1997 through 2000

Now this is very very cool - clocks

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Readers will know that I have a fondness for accurate time measurement and own two Cesium clocks as well as some synchronised GPS clocks. (The Cesium were surplus from a cell tower upgrade). The National Institute of Standards and Technology is responsible for developing more accurate ways to measure time - their latest is pretty amazing. From Motherboard:

This New Atomic Clock Is So Precise Our Ability to Measure Gravity Constrains Its Accuracy
Researchers at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed an atomic clock that is so precise that our models of Earth’s gravity aren’t accurate enough to keep up with it. As detailed in a paper published this week in Nature , the atomic clock could pave the way for creating an unprecedented map of the way the Earth’s gravity distorts spacetime and even shed light on the development of the early universe.

“The level of clock performance being reported is such that we don’t actually know how to account for it well enough to support the level of performance the clock achieves, ” Andrew Ludlow, a physicist at NIST and the project lead on the organization’s new atomic clock, told me on the phone. “Right now the state of the art techniques aren’t quite good enough so we’re limited by how well we understand gravity on different parts of the Earth.”

For a look at NIST's time keeping, here is a very wonderful interview with the Nation's Time Lord Dr. Judah Levine:

Remember Big Mouth Billy Bass from about eighteen years ago? He just got updated - from the Amazon website:

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Big Mouth Billy Bass – Compatible with Alexa

    • Big mouth Billy bass is back and better than ever. Everyone's favorite talking and singing fish is now programmed to respond to Alexa voice commands.
    • Pair big mouth Billy bass with your preferred device in the Echo family and let the fun begin.
    • Responds to Alexa voice commands
    • Lip syncs with Alexa spoken responses
    • Responds to inquiries about the weather, your commute, the news, random facts, and more
    • Reacts to timers, Notifications, and alarms
    • Dances to the beat with music. This is a hilarious gift!
    • Includes the original song “fishing’ time”
    • Pairs with Alexa via Bluetooth/automatically updates with Alexa upgrades
    • Includes Power adapter/battery compartment also available (batteries not included)

Only $40 - I have issues with always-on electronics in my living spaces so am not going to be getting Alexa at any time but this is a fun idea for someone whose sense of privacy is not as finly tuned (or anal depending on how you look at it).

An interesting bit of technology - RISC

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There are two schools of thought regarding computers. Complex instruction sets that run at a given speed or reduced instruction sets that - because of the simpler design - are able to run much faster. CISC v/s RISC. They both had their pluses and minuses but in the marketplace, CISC won out.

Now, it seems that RISC is back - for a very good reason. From manufacturer Raptor Computing Systems:

Q: Why POWER9? Why not just package a cheap ARM SoC or x86 processor on a libre-friendly mainboard?
A: As you may be aware, both of the main x86 manufacturers have decided to require non-free, unreplaceable, highly privileged firmware "black boxes" (blobs) in order for their CPUs to function. These blobs are cryptographically signed and verified by the CPU hardware; as such, there is no way to replace them or remove them. Because of their tight integration with basic system operation, even a complete mainboard redesign will not remove them. Worse, public hacks into this system management firmware have already been demonstrated on at least one occasion--and are unpatchable without full vendor cooperation. As a result, some developers have turned to ARM, only to find that ARM does not have the computing power required for many development tasks. ARM-based machines also tend to lack upgradability and expandability, and, unfortunately, ARM is going through its own gradual lockdown regarding higher-performance devices. POWER9 does not have any of these concerns, and brings a wide array of modern technologies to the table without requiring you to give up any of your freedom.
When you look at the complete price of a comparable build-it-yourself x86 bundle--even though POWER9 has state-of-the-art technologies, like PCIe 4 and CAPI 2, that no x86 machine offers-- the Talos™ II bundles are similar in cost. Why lock yourself into the proprietary, insecure x86 ecosystem with hacks on the rise and GDPR-related data breach penalties on the horizon? Make the smart decision and invest in a truly open platform, even if it means relying on open-source applications -- your lower TCO and provable compliance will justify the initial investment.


Q: Wait, so even coreboot won't help me? Why haven't I heard about this?
A: The management firmware in question--the "Management Engine" (ME) on Intel and the "Platform Security Processor" (PSP) on AMD--is a somewhat poorly kept secret, but only a small percentage of users, executives, and organizations are aware of its existence, let alone the danger that the associated centralized control actually poses. Coreboot is unable to boot modern x86 without at least two blobs involved, one of which is mandatory per the hardware-enforced signature checks; while coreboot may be a step in the right direction, it is far from a fully auditable solution on x86. Unfortunately, this situation is permanent, given the current hardware available; it is one of the main reasons for our switch from x86 to OpenPOWER.

Very interesting - big fan of Linux. Had no idea that there was such an embedded back door. Microsoft used to compile Windows for RISC machines - notably DEC Power PCs but stopped with Windows XP or thereabouts. Linux runs fine on these.

Close-up magic

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I love it. This guy is incredible. Obviously, there secrets at play under the baize but the end result is pretty freaking awesome:

Eric has a YouTube channel - no website that I could find.

An Obituary - Mario A. Segale

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A Seattle man with a curious history - from The Seattle Times:

Mario A. Segale
Mario A. Segale, from Tukwila, WA passed away surrounded by his family on October 27, 2018. He was born April 30, 1934 in Seattle, WA to first generation Italian immigrant farmers, Louis and Rina Segale and was their only child. It was a humble beginning for a man who, with sheer determination and unbelievable self-taught business acumen, created a remarkable legacy.

And the curious history?

While he was the inspiration for the name of Nintendo's 'Super Mario' from when they were tenants in his business park in the 1970's, he always ducked the notoriety and wanted to be known instead for what he accomplished in his life.

So there really was a Super Mario...

Life before AutoCAD

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CAD stands for Computer Aided Drawing and is the replacement for having a lot of people hunched over drafting tables doing this manually. Bored Panda has a great collection of photos - here is just one:

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AutoCAD is sort of the gold standard (in features and in price) when it comes to drafting programs but there are a lot of other options available. These are free: LibreCAD, FreeCAD, BRL-CAD, OpenSCAD. For doing electronic circuit boards, KiCad is excellent.

Forged and Filed from Jesse Beecher on Vimeo.

Just when I think I'm doing some nice work, people like this come along. An inspiration...

Robot moonwalk

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The people at Boston Dynamics are making some amazing robots. Here is Spot dancing to Uptown Funk:

Standards are good

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That is why we have so many of them. Batteries? There are AAA, AA, C, D and 9volt radio batteries right? Nope - here is a list of over 70 different battery sizes and designations.

Who would have thought...

Make something a little more difficult to read and your brain will remember it better. Such is the idea behind this new typeface. From the Australian Broadcasting Company:

Sans Forgetica font makes readers remember text by being harder to read
In an age of information overload, it's good to have some memory hacks up your sleeve.

And text in its multitude of applications has become a style destination in its own right.

Now a team of experts have developed a font specifically designed to help you remember things, aptly named Sans Forgetica.

But how can a humble typeface improve your mental processes?

Stephen Banham, a lecturer in typography at RMIT who helped create it, told RN Drive San Forgetica was actually a good font to discuss on the radio because it was designed on a highly conceptual basis.

"Sans Forgetica is a typeface that's been specifically designed with features in it such as back-slanting and little gaps inside the letters," Mr Banham said.

The unexpected elements encourage the reader to take more notice, he said, triggering memory because of the effort required to process the text.

A sample:

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Avaliable as a free download here: Sans Forgetica

From the fine people at HACKADAY:

MALICIOUS COMPONENT FOUND ON SERVER MOTHERBOARDS SUPPLIED TO NUMEROUS COMPANIES
This morning Bloomberg is reporting a bombshell for hardware security. Companies like Amazon and Apple have found a malicious chip on their server motherboards. These are not counterfeit chips. They are not part of the motherboard design. These were added by the factory at the time of manufacture. The chip was placed among other signal conditioning components and is incredibly hard to spot as the nature of these motherboards includes hundreds of minuscule components.

Though Amazon and Apple have denied it, according to Bloomberg, a private security contractor in Canada found the hidden chip on server motherboards. Elemental Technologies, acquired by Amazon in 2015 for its video and graphics processing hardware, subcontracted Supermicro (Super Micro Computer, Inc.) to manufacture their server motherboards in China. It is unknown how many of the company’s products have this type of malicious hardware in them, equipment from Elemental Technologies has been supplied to the likes of government contractors as well as major banks and even reportedly used in the CIA’s drone operations.

SuperMicro is a very high end and very good manufacturer - used their products for years building high-end machines for people, while I was at MSFT and now whenever I build a system. Them and ASUS are rock solid top-of-the-mountain when it comes to reliable hardware. To have this happen is really going to hit the fan for them. Talk about consumer confidence...

From our friends at FEMA:

The IPAWS National Test
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a nationwide test of the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Emergency Alert System (EAS) on the backup date of October 3, 2018 due to ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence. The WEA portion of the test commences at 2:18 p.m. EDT, and the EAS portion follows at 2:20 p.m. EDT. The test will assess the operational readiness of the infrastructure for distribution of a national message and determine whether improvements are needed.

The WEA test message will be sent to cell phones that are connected to wireless providers participating in WEA. This is the fourth EAS nationwide test and the first national WEA test. Previous EAS national tests were conducted in November 2011, September 2016, and September 2017 in collaboration with the FCC, broadcasters, and emergency management officials in recognition of FEMA’s National Preparedness Month.

Cell towers will broadcast the WEA test for approximately 30 minutes beginning at 2:18 p.m. EDT. During this time, WEA compatible cell phones that are switched on, within range of an active cell tower, and whose wireless provider participates in WEA should be capable of receiving the test message. Some cell phones will not receive the test message, and cell phones should only receive the message once. The WEA test message will have a header that reads "Presidential Alert" and text that says:

“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

The WEA system is used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing children, and other critical situations through alerts on cell phones. The national test will use the same special tone and vibration as with all WEA messages (i.e. Tornado Warning, AMBER Alert). Users cannot opt out of receiving the WEA test.

About 11:18 AM for those of us on the left coast. A very good system - well designed and robust (except for one time in Hawaii - oops).

Found on the internet - a question

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I can use one of these - drywall

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From engadget:

Humanoid construction robot installs drywall by itself
If Japan's Advanced Industrial Science and Technology Institute has its way, construction workers might be a thing of the past. Researchers have built HRP-5P, a humanoid bot that can handle a variety of construction tasks when there's either a staffing shortage or serious hazards. The prototype uses a mix of environment detection, object recognition and careful movement planning to install drywall by itself -- it can hoist up boards and fasten them with a screwdriver.

The design doesn't have as much freedom of movement as a human being, but makes up for that with numerous joints that flex to degrees you wouldn't see in real people. It won't always look the most natural when doing its job, but it'll be effective. It can also correct for slips, and it's not deterred when it has a limited field of view.

Prototype for now but I can see it ten years from now...

The new internet

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The core design of the internet is for it to be able to route around damage. A node goes down? Traffic is passed along different nodes. No packets are lost. Looks like the inventor of the World Wide Web is looking to route around the damage being caused by Facebook, Google, etc... From Fast Company:

Exclusive: Tim Berners-Lee tells us his radical new plan to upend the World Wide Web
Last week, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, asked me to come and see a project he has been working on almost as long as the web itself. It’s a crisp autumn day in Boston, where Berners-Lee works out of an office above a boxing gym. After politely offering me a cup of coffee, he leads us into a sparse conference room. At one end of a long table is a battered laptop covered with stickers. Here, on this computer, he is working on a plan to radically alter how all of us live and work on the web.

“The intent is world domination,” Berners-Lee says with a wry smile. The British-born scientist is known for his dry sense of humor. But in this case, he is not joking.

This week, Berners-Lee will launch Inrupt, a startup that he has been building, in stealth mode, for the past nine months. Backed by Glasswing Ventures, its mission is to turbocharge a broader movement afoot, among developers around the world, to decentralize the web and take back power from the forces that have profited from centralizing it. In other words, it’s game on for Facebook, Google, Amazon. For years now, Berners-Lee and other internet activists have been dreaming of a digital utopia where individuals control their own data and the internet remains free and open. But for Berners-Lee, the time for dreaming is over.

“We have to do it now,” he says, displaying an intensity and urgency that is uncharacteristic for this soft-spoken academic. “It’s a historical moment.” Ever since revelations emerged that Facebook had allowed people’s data to be misused by political operatives, Berners-Lee has felt an imperative to get this digital idyll into the real world. In a post published this weekend, Berners-Lee explains that he is taking a sabbatical from MIT to work full time on Inrupt. The company will be the first major commercial venture built off of Solid, a decentralized web platform he and others at MIT have spent years building.

Looks interesting - much more at the article and at the inrupt website.

Loading up the van for the first of the big garage sales. I signed up with Square to take credit cards - $50 for the readers and a couple percent haircut on each transaction. I went looking for some point of sale software so I could record the transactions as well as allow people the option of a reciept for their purchases.

Found a great free application - Dale Harris runs the Keyhut website and has written a full-function POS that runs great. In MS-DOS. Fortunatly, DOSbox is a free program that opens up an MS-DOS window under the 64-bit operating systems of today. The POS software runs perfectly. Have not tried it with a receipt printer yet but it offers the capacity so not expecting any problem.

Buy it now - BaoFeng

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Interested in ham radio? There is a brand being imported from China that is a really decent rig for a very low price. I am speaking of BaoFeng - specifically their older UV-5R ($25) or the new version, the BF-F8HP ($63). The newer unit has more power (eight watts instead of five) and more features. You will also need to spring for the bigger antenna ($17) and maybe a larger battery ($17). You will also need to pick up a programming cable ($21) but if you are in any kind of ham radio group, probably someone out there already has one you can borrow. Hams are good like that. Free programming software here: CHIRP

The upshot is that for about $100, you can get a much superior system to one that would have cost $500 ten years ago. The rapid march of technology is not just about computers and televisions...

The reason for urging you to buy now? From the Federal Communications Comission:

TWO-WAY VHF/UHF RADIOS MAY NOT BE IMPORTED, ADVERTISED, OR SOLD IN THE UNITED STATES UNLESS THEY COMPLY WITH THE COMMISSION’S RULES
The Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has observed that a growing number of conventional retailers and websites advertise and sell low-cost, two-way VHF/UHF radios that do not comply with the FCC’s rules. Such devices are used primarily for short-distance, two-way voice communications and are frequently imported into the United States. These radios must be authorized by the FCC prior to being imported, advertised, sold, or operated in the United States.

Many of these radios violate one or more FCC technical requirements. For example, some can be modified to transmit on public safety and other land mobile channels for which they are not authorized, while others are capable of prohibited wideband operations. Such radios are illegal, and many have the potential to negatively affect public safety, aviation, and other operations by Federal, state, and local agencies, as well as private users. Because these devices must be, but have not been, authorized by the FCC, the devices may not be imported into the United States, retailers may not advertise or sell them, and no one may use them. Rather, these devices may only be imported, advertised, sold, or used only if the FCC first has approved them under its equipment authorization process (or unless the devices operate exclusively on frequencies reserved for amateur licensees or they are intended for use exclusively by the federal government). Moreover, with only very limited exceptions, after being authorized, the devices may not be modified. Anyone importing, advertising or selling such noncompliant devices should stop.

Yeah - they can operate outside the legal ham radio frequencies. The nice thing for emergency communications is that we can monitor the police and fire and rescue bands. In the event of a full-on emergency situation, that is a very good thing to do and we, as licensed radio operators, have taken the training for FEMA's ICS protocols. The problem that the FCC is seeing are clueless yahoos buying these rigs and using them for family communication without bothering to learn what is right and what is not. They are disrupting public service communications - not a good thing.

Anyway, if you are interested, a great resource for getting licensed can be found at QRZ

On the air

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Spent a delightful 45 minute on the radio with our local ham radio group. Worked on several frequencies and modes. Always good to practice operating with other people.

Now this gave me goosebumps

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Looks like I will be watching more than just YouTube videos next year:

An upcoming project

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Been brushing up on my C++ coding skills and planning a project for the next year. I want to wire the Camano Island house for media and other things (printers, weather station, security cameras, etc...)

Just ran into the openHAB platform - looks really really good! Runs on a lot of platforms - Windows, Android, iOS, Raspberry Pi and it has support for a whole bunch (ie: 1,400 and counting) of devices. Open source so if yours is not there, write it, upload it and we are now at 1,401.

So true - writing code

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I have been playing with a Software Defined Radio recently and using the Raspberry Pi - canned programs are fine but I want to brush up on my C++ and write my own. This cartoon really brings home programming logic:

20180911-code.jpg

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