Recently in Geekdom Category

Object of Desire

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I want one of these machines:

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Gorgeous CGI - I love the kinematics on that spring in the middle of the linkage. The ever-so-slight camera shake and jerkiness is just icing on a wonderful cake.

Killed by Google

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Google is famous notorious for buying technology, running with it for a little while and then killing it off. Here is a website devoted to this app-icide: Killed by Google

So so true - cables

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Also saw this on Barry's site:

Wood's Law of Cables
Anyone who has spent any time with a large number of cables will have an innate understanding of the concept of entropy. It was while dealing with a pile of tangled up microphone cables that I postulated this law:

The resting state of a cable is tangled.

I challenge anyone to disprove this.

Open Broadcaster Software

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Looks interesting - DaVinci Resolve is proving to be perfect for my needs but it does not do screen capture and it needs specific (standard) files for importing video and audio.

Open Broadcaster Software seems to handle screen capture very well and it has a couple outlier file formats that it can process. Be looking at it when I get down there tonight.

Scientific Glassblowing

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Great article and video about Gayle Price

And from The Wellcome Collection:

The art of scientific glassblowing
Wearing a knee-length white lab coat and wraparound shades, her long hair clipped back, Gayle Price adjusts the amount of gas and oxygen flowing into her burner. It has the look of a blowtorch, but one fixed in place and with six different outlets. The wavering orange flame that’s shooting out of it becomes fierce blue and sharp as a pin, its dull roar now a hiss.

Holding a 1.5-metre-long glass rod in one hand – hollow, with a 7 mm diameter – and a much shorter, thicker solid metal rod in the other, she starts heating the glass in the flame. As it glows and softens, she begins coiling it evenly around the metal. Her movements are quick but rhythmic. She works by eye alone.

Gayle hasn’t always worked with glass for a living, but she now can’t see herself doing anything else. She studied photography at school, then trained as a painter and decorator. After that she worked as a bouncer in Glasgow for a couple of years, but found night shifts increasingly tough.

When I was growing up, my Dad taught at the University of Pittsburgh and I would go in on weekends when he worked. I always loved to see the various labs and glassblowing was something that always fascinated me. Played around with it but nothing like what this woman is doing. Exquisite stuff!

What it says on the box: 3D Printers in Libraries

One in Lynden, one in Seattle and a couple nearby (the penninsula, Tacoma, etc...)

Talk about computational horsepower - from Wired:

Google just smashed the world record for calculating digits of pi
Pi just got bigger. Google’s Compute Engine has calculated the most digits of pi ever, setting a new world record.

Emma Haruka Iwao, who works in high performance computing and programming language communities at Google, used infrastructure powered by Google Cloud to calculate 31.4 trillion digits of pi. The previous world record was set by Peter Trueb in 2016, who calculated the digits of pi to 22.4 trillion digits. This is the first time that a publicly available cloud software has been used for a pi calculation of this magnitude.

And the machine she used?

In September of 2018, Iwao started to consider how the process of calculating even more digits of pi would work technically. Something which came up quickly was the amount of data that would be necessary to carry out the calculations, and store them – 170 terabytes of data, which wouldn’t be easily hosted by a piece of hardware. Rather than building a whole new machine Iwao used Google Cloud.

Iwao used 25 virtual machines to carry out those calculations. “But instead of clicking that virtual machine button 25 times, I automated it,” she explains. “You can do it in a couple of minutes, but if you needed that many computers, it could take days just to get the next ones set up.” Iwao ran y-cruncher on those 25 virtual machines, continuously, for 121 days.

And the benefits of this excercise:

While it may seem like a niche hobby, pi is often used by developers and programmers to test the performance of new hardware. Its uses can even stretch further than just cloud computing, into areas like healthcare. “There are a lot of applications that require a lot of complex computing resources, like weather forecasts, and actually, this proves that the cloud is capable of handling those calculations,” says Iwao.

Very cool!

Up for auction through the U.S. General Services Administration:

2EA SCRAP INTAGLIO PRINTING PRESSES
2EA INTAGLIO PRINTING PRESSES, SCRAP, WEIGHT IS APPROX. 150K LBS. TOTAL, WINNING BIDDER IS REQUIRED TO BE R2 OR E-STEWARD CERTIFIED. THIS IS A LARGE SCRAP SALE AND WILL REQUIRE A MINIMUM OF FIVE LARGE MOVING TRUCKS TO REMOVE.

And the auction location:

Property Location and inquiries/questions regarding property inspection and/or removal:
Department Of The Treasury
Bureau Of Engraving & Printing, Wcf
9000 Blue Mound Road
Fort Worth, TX 76131

Current bid is only $10.

And back again

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The radio net was a lot of fun. Some good people out there.

It was a big thing back in the 1990's. It is a big thing now. More marketing than anything else. From Slashdot:

40% of 'AI Startups' in Europe Don't Actually Use AI, Claims Report
Two-fifths of Europe's AI startups do not use any AI programs in their products, according to a report that highlights the hype around the technology. From a report:

Out of 2,830 startups in Europe who were classified as being AI companies, only 1,580 accurately fit that description according to the eye-opening stat on page 99 of a new report from MMC, a London-based venture capital firm. The label, which refers to computer systems that can perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, was simply wrong. 

"We looked at every company, their materials, their product, the website, and product documents," says David Kelnar, head of research for MMC which has $400 million under management and a portfolio of 34 companies. "In 40% of cases we could find no mention of evidence of AI." In such cases, he added, "companies that people assume and think are AI companies are probably not."

Build the hype, go public, sell your shares, quit the company. Lather, rinse, repeat...

A fun geek story - email

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From iBiblio - The case of the 500-mile email

Just a brief excerpt - much more at the site if you are into geek stuff.

I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago when I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.

"We're having a problem sending email out of the department."

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"We can't send mail more than 500 miles," the chairman explained.

I choked on my latte. "Come again?"

"We can't send mail farther than 500 miles from here," he repeated. "A little bit more, actually. Call it 520 miles. But no farther."

"Um... Email really doesn't work that way, generally," I said, trying to keep panic out of my voice. One doesn't display panic when speaking to a department chairman, even of a relatively impoverished department like statistics. "What makes you think you can't send mail more than 500 miles?"

"It's not what I *think*," the chairman replied testily. "You see, when we first noticed this happening, a few days ago--"

"You waited a few DAYS?" I interrupted, a tremor tinging my voice. "And you couldn't send email this whole time?"

"We could send email. Just not more than--"

"--500 miles, yes," I finished for him, "I got that. But why didn't you call earlier?"

A great bit of detective work and a fun story.

Knew about this place for a while - it is a collection of communications transmitters for emergency services and state operations located about 20 miles away. It - for some reason - was located in the bottom of a valley. You want antennas to be high up for them to have the best distance but for some reason...

There is something very unusual about this particular site:

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Nothing really out of the ordinary apparent here - let us get a little closer with our zoom lens.

20190302-ant02.jpgAn unusual structure for the base. There is a lattice of support structure, a very large black insulator (about three feet tall - these are large towers) and then the actual radiating part of the antenna. The final power amplifiers for the transmitter are also raised about fifteen feet above the ground.

This is carried over to the transmitter and backup power generator - again, about fifteen feet above ground level:

20190302-ant03.jpgAgain, this array is located in a valley bottom - a valley which floods regularly. Many times in spring, this piece of land is under five or ten feet of water. The rest of the valley floor is agricultural land and the farmhouses are built on higher ground.

I have no reason why they built here but they took great pains to be able to be on the air 24/7.

Flashback to the 1990's

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What if Samsung had marketed a foldable phone in the '90's - from BoingBoing:

The creative minds at Squirrel Monkey imagine what the new Galaxy Fold would be like if it had been released in the late 1990s. I don't know what technology they use to make these videos, but they do a perfect job of capturing the look and feel of the era.

Cute!

An interesting launch - Beresheet

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From C|Net:

Thirty-million-page backup of humanity headed to moon aboard Israeli lander
On Thursday night, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried an Israeli-made spacecraft named Beresheet beyond the grasp of Earth's gravity and sent it on its way to the surface of the moon. On board Beresheet is a specially designed disc encoded with a 30-million-page archive of human civilization built to last billions of years into the future.

The backup for humanity has been dubbed "The Lunar Library" by its creator, the Arch Mission Foundation (AMF).

"The idea is to place enough backups in enough places around the solar system, on an ongoing basis, that our precious knowledge and biological heritage can never be lost," the nonprofit's co-founder Nova Spivack told me via email.

The AMF also placed a small test archive on Elon Musk's red Tesla Roadster that was launched in the direction of Mars aboard the first Falcon Heavy demonstration mission last year. That archive consisted of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy encoded in a disc made of quartz silica glass made to last millions of years as the Roadster orbits the sun. The AMF has also placed a solid-state copy of Wikipedia on board a cubesat from SpaceChain in low-Earth orbit.

Interesting idea - do they know something the rest of us do not? Hmmmm???

BTW - Beresheet is the first word in the Torah and is loosely translated as In The Beginning

The Facebook SDK

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An SDK is a Software Development Kit. A set of tools used to build an application. Turns out that Facebook has an SDK for making mobile phone apps and it has a wee bit of a security issue - from BoingBoing:

Mobile apps built with Facebook's SDK secretly shovel mountains of personal information into the Zuckermouth
If you need to build an app quickly and easily, you might decide to use Facebook's SDK, which has lots of bells and whistles, including easy integration of Facebook ads in your app's UI.

The quid pro quo is that your app will send all your users' sensitive data to Facebook, and Facebook stores that data forever and uses it in every conceivable way.

I have not been active on Facebook in about a year and am seriously thinking of disconnecting from it entirely. It is a cute application for local events and people but there is too much dark shit going on under the surface for me to feel secure. A bit more:

Notably, none of these apps' privacy disclosures mention Facebook. When called by the Wall Street Journal, the companies behind the apps had a variety of responses, from denial to lying to shock and horror. Facebook -- predictably -- blamed the app vendors for not understanding that the apps they built would spy on their users on Facebook's behalf. Apple and Google -- who distribute these apps -- threw up their hands and blamed everyone except themselves (of course).

Of course they are going to point the finger somewhere else. I mean nobody actually READS the fine print do they?

Cute - Kentucky Fried Chicken

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Fun video and yes, they have moved the secret recipe to this place: Bahnhof Data Center

Yikes - expensive mistake

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From Anand Tech (TSMC is the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company - they are a fab house for many smaller chip manufacturers):

TSMC’s Fab 14B Photoresist Material Incident: $550 Million in Lost Revenue
TSMC on Friday revealed more details regarding an incident with a photoresist material at its Fab 14B earlier this year. The contaminated chemical damaged wafers on TSMC’s 12 nm and 16 nm lines, and the company now expects the full impact of the event to reduce their revenue by a whopping $550 million in the first quarter.

TSMC said that a batch of photoresist it used included a specific element which was abnormally treated, creating a foreign polymer in the photoresist. The problem was detected late when the wafer yeilds were lower than expected. As it turns out, consequences of the photoresist incident at Fab 14B were more serious than initially calculated by TSMC. There are media reports claiming that between 10,000 and 30,000 wafers were affected and had to be scrapped, but TSMC has never confirmed either of the numbers.

That is also going to hurt the chip makers who will have to wait for their product.
$550 million in the first quarter is a brutal loss.

In March 1989 I was sitting at the Cafe Allegro in Seattle and a friend of mine came in with a printout, handed it to me and said that this looks really interesting. It was Sir Tim's paper on Hypertext and the Web. From ZD Net:

CERN's world-first browser reborn: Now you can browse like it's 1990
A team at Switzerland-based research center CERN has rebuilt WorldWideWeb, the world's first browser created in 1990 for its researchers.   

The WorldWideWeb browser was built by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1990 on a NeXT machine, following his March 1989 proposal for a 'Mesh' or global hypertext system for CERN that he would later call the World Wide Web.

The WorldWideWeb browser simulator is now available online to view in a modern browser. For anyone curious to know how to use it, the developers have provided written instructions and a video demo.

Opening a webpage in the browser involves selecting 'Document' from the menu, then selecting 'Open from full document reference', and typing in a URL such as http://w3c.org. Once inside a document, navigation requires double-clicking links.

Really fun times.

Brilliant design for a picnic table

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Very clever idea:

20190219-chair.jpg

This person does not exist

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Fascinating website - from Inverse:

This Person Does Not Exist Is the Best One-Off Website of 2019
At a glance, the images featured on the website This Person Does Not Existmight seem like random high school portraits or vaguely inadvisable LinkedIn headshots. But every single photo on the site has been created by using a special kind of artificial intelligence algorithm called generative adversarial networks(GANs).

Every time the site is refreshed, a shockingly realistic — but totally fake —picture of a person’s face appears. Uber software engineer Phillip Wang created the page to demonstrate what GANs are capable of, and then posted it to the public Facebook group “Artificial Intelligence & Deep Learning” on Tuesday.

The underlying code that made this possible, titled StyleGAN, was written by Nvidia and featured in a paper that has yet to be peer-reviewed. This exact type of neural network has the potential to revolutionize video game and 3D-modeling technology, but, as with almost any kind of technology, it could also be used for more sinister purposes. Deepfakes, or computer-generated images superimposed on existing pictures or videos, can be used to push fake news narratives or other hoaxes. That’s precisely why Wang chose to create the mesmerizing but also chilling website.

Here is the link to the website: This Person Does Not Exist

Sometimes you get odd results - it seems to have problems with ears and jewlrey.

Tip of the hat to James Gurney for the link. Fun stuff.

Groundbreaking press release from Intel:

Intel Announces New Class of RealSense Stand-Alone Inside-Out Tracking Camera
Intel today introduced the Intel® RealSense™ Tracking Camera T265, a new class of stand-alone inside-out tracking device that will provide developers with a powerful building block for autonomous devices, delivering high-performance guidance and navigation. The T265 uses proprietary visual inertial odometry simultaneous localization and mapping (V-SLAM) technology with computing at the edge and is key for applications that require a highly accurate and low-latency tracking solution, including robotics, drones, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality.

The thing is about 4.25" by 1 by 0.5 inches and sells for $200. This is going to make things a lot easier for robots and 3D automation. Very cool. They are going to sell a lot of these...

Happy 110th Birthday - Bakelite

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The first sucessful plastic. Invented by Leo Henricus Arthur Baekeland

An interesting application - MP3Gain

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Check out MP3Gain

From their website:

Tired of reaching for your volume knob every time your mp3 player changes to a new song?
MP3Gain analyzes and adjusts mp3 files so that they have the same volume.

MP3Gain does not just do peak normalization, as many normalizers do. Instead, it does some statistical analysis to determine how loud the file actually sounds to the human ear.
Also, the changes MP3Gain makes are completely lossless. There is no quality lost in the change because the program adjusts the mp3 file directly, without decoding and re-encoding.

Lifewire has a nice tutorial on using MP3Gain

How to Normalize MP3 Files to Play at the Same Volume
If you listen to MP3 files on your computer, iPod, or MP3/media player then there's a good chance that you've had to adjust the volume between tracks because of varying loudness. If a track is too loud then clipping can occur (due to overload) which distorts the sound. If a track is too quiet, you'll normally need to increase the volume; audio detail can also be lost. By using audio normalization you can adjust all your MP3 files so that they all play at the same volume.

The following tutorial will show you how to use a freeware program for the PC, called MP3Gain, to normalize your MP3 files without losing audio quality. This lossless technique (called Replay Gain) uses the ID3 metadata tag to adjust the "loudness" of the track during playback rather than resampling each file which some programs do; resampling typically decreases sound quality.

I was looking for this as, over the years, I have accumulated several hundred thousand tracks of various music and a lot of them have varying levels of gain. Playing them necessitates reaching for the level control when a new track comes on. With MP3Gain, I can batch process all of the files - let it run overnight if need be.

Hacking fun - construction cranes

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Turns out that these are now controlled with wireless links using off-the-shelf hardware with ten year old security.
From Forbes:

Exclusive: Hackers Take Control Of Giant Construction Cranes
Federico Maggi will never forget the first time he saw a crane being hacked.

Last March, he was on a strange kind of road trip. Travelling the Lombardi region of Italy with his colleague Marco Balduzzi in a red Volkswagen Polo, the pair hoped to convince construction site managers, who they’d never met or spoken with before, to let them have a crack at taking control of cranes with their hacking tools.

Surprise, surprise: They weren’t having much luck. But one such manager, who Maggi fondly remembers as Matteo, was game. Armed with laptops powered by the VW’s battery, scripts for running their hacks and some radio hardware to beam out the exploit code, Maggi and Balduzzi got to work.

Matteo was asked to turn off his transmitter, the only one on-site capable of controlling the crane, and put the vehicle into a “stop” state. The hackers ran their script. Seconds later, a harsh beeping announced the crane was about to move. And then it did, shifting from side to side. Looking up at the mechanism below a wide blue sky, Matteo was at first confused.

“I remember him looking up and asking, ‘Who is doing that ?’ Then he realized the test was successful,” Maggi recalls.

A really thorough (82 page PDF) analysis of the problem can be found at Trend Micro Research:

A Security Analysis of Radio Remote Controllers for Industrial Applications
Radio frequency (RF) remote controllers are widely used in manufacturing, construction, transportation, and many other industrial applications. Cranes, drills, and miners, among others, are commonly equipped with RF remotes. Unfortunately, these devices have become the weakest link in these safety-critical applications, characterized by long life spans, high replacement costs, and cumbersome patching processes. Given the pervasive connectivity promoted by the Industry 4.0 trend, we foresee a security risk in this domain as has happened in other fields.

Our research reveals that RF remote controllers are distributed globally, and millions of vulnerable units are installed on heavy industrial machinery and environments. Our extensive in-lab and on-site analysis of devices made by seven popular vendors reveals a lack of security features at different levels, with obscure, proprietary protocols instead of standard ones. They are vulnerable to command spoofing, so an attacker can selectively alter their behavior by crafting arbitrary commands — with consequences ranging from theft and extortion to sabotage and injury.

A tech savvy ex-employee with a grudge could cause a lot of trouble. This is the same problem that caused (and is still causing) so much trouble with industrial SCADA systems.

DaVinci Resolve - control surfaces

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:

20190121-davinci.jpg

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):

20190121-mackie.jpg

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:

20181219-batteries.jpg

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.

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Environment and Climate
AccuWeather
Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Climate Audit
Climate Depot
Green Trust
ICECAP
Jennifer Marohasy
MetaEfficient
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
Medgadget
New Scientist
Next Big Future
PhysOrg.com
Ptak Science Books
Science Blog


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


Comics
Achewood
The Argyle Sweater
Chip Bok
Broadside Cartoons
Day by Day
Dilbert
Medium Large
Michael Ramirez
Prickly City
Tundra
User Friendly
Vexarr
What The Duck
Wondermark
xkcd


NO WAI! WTF?¿?¿
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
DIYPhotography
James Gurney
Joe McNally's Blog
PetaPixel
photo.net
Shorpy
Strobist
The Online Photographer


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


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

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