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Some people do not have a clue - either that or there are too many lawyers in Wisconsin. From the Milwaukie WI Journal Sentinel:

Whacked with a 4x4: Menards, Home Depot face lawsuits over descriptions of lumber size
Menards and Home Depot stand accused of deceiving the lumber-buying public, specifically, buyers of 4x4 boards, the big brother to the ubiquitous 2x4.

The alleged deception: The retailers market and sell the hefty lumber as 4x4s without specifying that the boards actually measure 3½ inches by 3½ inches.

The lawsuits against the retailers, would-be class actions, were filed within five days of each other in federal court for the Northern District of Illinois. Attorneys from the same Chicago law firm represent the plaintiffs in both cases. Each suit seeks more than $5 million.

The sheer cluelessness and/or stupidity astonish me. A bit more (Turin is the lawyer)

The cases name three plaintiffs — two against Menards and one against Home Depot.

The Menards plaintiffs bought their lumber at stores in Gurnee and Fox Lake, Ill., in November. The Home Depot plaintiff bought his lumber at a store in Palatine, Ill., in December.

As Turin described it, all three men wanted the lumber for home-improvement projects, got home and measured the pieces, felt they had been deceived and then turned to the law firm.

Asked whether it was coincidence that three different men found the same sort of issue with lumber first at Menards and then at Home Depot, and then all decided to go to McGuire Law, Turin said he couldn’t comment.

Someone is fishing and decided to invent some plaintiffs.

Quite the auction - Radio Shack

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UBid Estate & Auction Services LLC is auctioning off 500+ items of Radio Shack memoribilia - some interesting stuff, quite the historical collection:


A lot of their older computers - TRS-80, Model 100 and 102 (I still have my Model 100 - it was great for writing and notetaking. Ran forever on a four AA batteries). They also have a lot of Allied Electronics catalogs - tempted to bid on one - they are currently at around $15 for a hardbound one of 400 pages.

End of an era - shows you what bad management can do to a wonderful corporation.

Happy 70th - Flying Saucers

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From The Seattle Times:

‘Flying saucers’ became a thing 70 years ago Saturday with sighting near Mount Rainier
Before June 24, 1947, terms such as UFOs and flying saucers had not entered popular vocabulary. Then, on that afternoon 70 years ago, it all changed because of Kenneth Arnold:

“Supersonic Flying Saucers Sighted by Idaho Pilot.”

Arnold reported seeing near Mount Rainier nine “circular-type” objects flying in formation at more than twice the speed of sound.

His was the first widely reported UFO sighting in this country, and it set off a wave of other reported sightings.

I want to believe but I find it telling that the number of sightings has declined with the advent of cameras in phones and the rise in digital camera useage. As they say - Photo or it didn't happen...

A blast from the past

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Before Facebook, there were Bulletin Board Systems, before BBS's, there was Usenet. Here is an amazing rant from Steve Harris from 1998:

Yeah, but that's only because as a society we've become effete and
lost the will to try new things just for the hell of it. In the 60's
they were trying things like nuclear propulsion, and they were walking
on the moon. Then, something horrible happened in the early 70's. I
grew up then, and I could FEEL it. I'm still trying to figure out
exactly what it was, but I think what it was, was a generation of kids
who grew up with television instead of playing with gizmos, and who got
into power and then just turned our society into a big mess of
paperwork and lawyering, because paperwork was all they'd ever learned
to do. When I look at the physiology research done in the 60's, it
takes my breath away. The creativity of it! The things they did! I
find my "new" ideas all the time in papers done in the 1960's, but they
never went anywhere (perfusion of organs with fluorocarbones to cool
them, for example). One guy (the same guy in fact), before heart lung
machines, repaired the hearts of babies by surgically cross-connecting
them to the circulation of adult humans, who volunteered in order to
save a life. Where has that kind of courage gone? Where are the
Yeagers and the Goddards and the Microbe Hunters? How come the heros
of our movies are no longer Micky Rooney or Spencer Tracy playing
Thomas Edison, or Paul Muni playing Erlich or Pasteur, instead Val
Kilmer playing Jim Morrison and Woody Harrelson playing Larry Flint?
And movies whose heros are lawyers. Arggh. I don't care if it is Tom
Cruise or John Travolta. And the rest of the movies seem to be
re-creations of 60's TV shows.

Paperwork and lawyering. Fixing and improving and advancing society
by talk-talk, not building. A lawyer president and his lawyer wife.
Crises of power that don't involve spy planes and sputniks, but
incredibly complicated and desceptive word defintions and complicated
tax frauds. You think we're not preparing to go to Mars because SF is
too optimistic? Sure. But it was optimistic about whether or not the
can-do engineering of the 40's and 50's, done by the kids who'd grown
up playing with radios and mechanics in the 20's, was going to
continue. Needless to say, it didn't. I've seen a late 1950's book of
science fair projects for teenagers that include things like building
your own X-ray machine and cyclotron (no, I'm not kidding-- it can be
done). There are rockets in there, and cloud chambers, and all kinds
of wonderful electronics stuff. But we didn't go that way. Instead,
we turned our children into little Clintons, and our society into a
bunch of people sitting at PCs, entering data about social engineering,
not mechanical engineering. So instead of going to Mars, we went
instead to beaurocratic Hell. Enjoy, everybody. It really could have
been different. Nature didn't stop us-- WE stopped us.

Steve Harris

Nails it. This is why I am so glad to see the maker culture in ascendancy - we can salvage something of that pioneering spirit.

Cheap fun

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You find the damnedest things for sale at Amazon - one thousand of these stickers for only $8.78

Oh the fun you could have...

Quite the auction

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Murphy just posted the preview this afternoon - been drooling over the possibilities and definitely bidding on some items if the price is right.


Amateur Radio Field Day

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Jon Fournier over at Da Tech Guy Blog has a good post on Field Day:

When all else fails there’s Amateur Radio
The title of this article is not just a slogan; those are words amateur radio operators live by. Whenever there is a major disaster, such as an earthquake or a hurricane, amateur radio proves to be the only form of communication into and out of the disaster area. This was especially true during Hurricane Katrina. The winds and storm surge devastated the regular telephone service, cellular communications networks, police communications, fire communications, and the internet, along with the electric power grid. Over a thousand amateur radio operators converged on the disaster area and very quickly re-established communications with the affected agencies and over 200 evacuation centers.

Amateur radio operators work very closely with the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Homeland Security, local police and fire, along with many other agencies to provide emergency communications. Emergency communication is what amateur radio operators do best. Immediately after a disaster we can get on the air because our equipment is portable and can be powered by a car battery or a small generator. A slingshot and some rope are all it takes to get a wire antenna up into a tree. A mast of PVC or metal pipe will also work as an antenna support. With that simple setup an amateur radio operator can talk to just about any part of the globe.

The knowledge and expertise that is essential for successfully handling communications during an emergency is far more important than the specialized equipment. Throughout the year amateur radio operators practice for emergencies by providing communications for events such as parades, road races, and other similar events. In October amateur radio operators take part in a simulated emergency test. There are two organizations within the amateur radio community that specialize in training and organizing emergency communications. They are the Amateur Radio Emergency Service and the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service.

The fourth weekend in June is set aside for the single largest emergency communications exercise in the United States. This exercise is called field day. That weekend 30,000 amateur radio operators converge at thousands of locations, such as parks, across this country. They set up complete stations, housed in tents or trailers, where no facilities exist. All of the equipment is powered emergency power and all antennas are set up using temporary supports or trees. The setup takes only a few hours and the stations are kept on the air for 24 straight hours. This year field day begins at 2 pm on Saturday June 24th and ends at 2 pm on Sunday June 25th. Many groups will begin the setup process on Friday the 23rd at 2 pm.

Jon lives on the East Coast - for us, it is from 11:00AM to 11:00AM. The ARRL has an interactive map showing the 1,524 sites listed so far.

Some cool software being ported

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Downloading this as I type. Programming involves using a set of high-level languages which take your commands and convert them directly into the ones and zeros that the host machine directly understands. These languages can be simple ones like BASIC, complex ones like C, C++, and C#, they can be scripting languages like Python or Lua or web-based languages like Java.

Microsoft created an awesome editor for writing in these languages. It is an editor, it will also check for mistakes like missing punctuation, syntax errors, etc... It can also manage snippets of your code library for specific things - turning on a light, rotating a motor, sending a character to a display screen so you can re-use existing functions.

From Infoworld:

Visual Studio Code comes to Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi
A community build project led by developer Jay Rodgers is making Visual Studio Code, Microsoft’s lightweight source code editor, available for Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi boards, and other devices based on 32-bit or 64-bit ARM processors.

Supporting Linux and Chrome OS as well as the DEB (Debian) and RPM package formats, the automated builds of Visual Studio Code are intended for less-common platforms that might not otherwise receive them. Obvious beneficiaries will be IoT developers focused on ARM devices—and the Raspberry Pi in particular—who will find it helpful to have the editor directly on the device they’re programming against.

Very cool - been playing with the Raspberry Pi a lot - have five of them. ALso have a Chromebook and love it - it would be fun to get into developing on that too.

A different way to compute

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Base 3 or Balanced Ternary - actually makes a lot of sense for some things - from Dev:

The Balanced Ternary Machines of Soviet Russia
It's pretty common knowledge that computers store and operate on data using the binary number system. One of the main reasons for this can be found in the circuitry of modern computers, which are made up of billions of easily mass-producible transistors and capacitors that can together represent two states: high voltage (1) and low voltage (0).

Such a design is so ubiquitous nowadays that it's hard to imagine that computers could operate in any other way. But, in Soviet Russia during the 1950s, they did. Enter Setun, a balanced ternary computer developed in 1958 by a small team led by Nikolay Brusentsov at the Moscow State University.

A lot more at the article - go there and read if you are interested in computer hardware or programming. Their language is near and dear to my heart:

In the late 70's, Brusentsov and some of his students developed a programming language for the Setun-70 computer called the Dialog System for Structured Programming (DSSP). In my research 4, I have been able to discover that it is a stack-based language (no surprise there) similar to Forth that uses reverse Polish notation. This allows one to write programs in a relatively high-level language yet still feel "close to the metal". So close, in fact, that the authors had the following to say:

DSSP was not invented. It was found. That is why DSSP has not versions, but only extensions.

I was a big fan of Forth about 30 years ago on CP/M and DOS machines - elegant, fast and extensible. Do you want Forth to have a function that it does not already have? Write it and recompile Forth and there it is.

President Trump has picked some great people to work under him - Governor Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy is one. From Digital Trends:

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has detailed plans for $258 million in funding that is set to be distributed via the Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project. The PathForward program will issue the money to six leading technology firms to help further their research into exascale supercomputers.

AMD, Cray Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Intel, and Nvidia are the six companies chosen to receive financial support from the Department of Energy. The funding will be allocated to them over the course of a three-year period, with each company providing 40 percent of the overall project cost, contributing to an overall investment of $430 million in the project.

“Continued U.S. leadership in high performance computing is essential to our security, prosperity, and economic competitiveness as a nation,” Perry said. “These awards will enable leading U.S. technology firms to marshal their formidable skills, expertise, and resources in the global race for the next stage in supercomputing — exascale-capable systems.”

Department of Energy might seem like a strange place for this project but it makes sense in that they would be designing Nuclear Reactors and the computers would be used for modeling their operation. This would also be invaluable for climate and weather forecasting.

Here is the website for the project:

The Exascale Computing Project
The Exascale Computing Project (ECP) was established with the goals of maximizing the benefits of high-performance computing (HPC) for the United States and accelerating the development of a capable exascale computing ecosystem.

Exascale refers to computing systems at least 50 times faster than the nation’s most powerful supercomputers in use today.

The ECP is a collaborative effort of two U.S. Department of Energy organizations – the Office of Science (DOE-SC) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

ECP is chartered with accelerating delivery of a capable exascale computing ecosystem to provide breakthrough modeling and simulation solutions to address the most critical challenges in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic competitiveness, and national security.

This role goes far beyond the limited scope of a physical computing system. ECP’s work encompasses the development of an entire exascale ecosystem: applications, system software, hardware technologies and architectures, along with critical workforce development.

If I was 30 years old again, I would already be camped out on their doorstep - this is going to be some amazing cutting-edge technology and the pure joy of it is that in ten years or so, this tech will trickle down to us poor schlubs running our own desktop systems.

Cool news on the battery front

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Batteries are always a limiting factor in things - power tools, personal electronics, etc... Looks like there may have been a major advance in energy density and lifespan - from Australia's Swinburne University:

Breakthrough technology at Swinburne makes batteries safe and sustainable
As exploding batteries in mobile phones, computers and headphones continue to make headlines, researchers at Swinburne’s Centre for Micro-Photonics are one step closer to producing commercially viable, chemical-free, long-lasting, safe batteries.

Professor Baohua Jia and Dr Han Lin lead a team developing the Bolt Electricity Storage Technology (BEST) battery – a graphene oxide-based supercapacitor offering high performance and low-cost energy storage.

The technology could, according to one investor, make chemical batteries a thing of the past.

“The battery is very thin, it’s carbon based and it’s environmentally friendly,” Professor Jia says. “We filed a patent on the technology last year.”

The technology is on the brink of becoming a commercial prototype.

Faster please!

Now this would be a fun ride

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From the Everett Herald:

Everett submarine firm will take you to Titanic for $105K
When a big ship sinks in the open ocean, it does not gently drift to rest on the seabed. It slams into it, coming to a crushing stop.

“Each wreck lands on the bottom and cracks,” submarine driver David Lochridge explained, slapping his right hand into his left to punctuate his point.

The impact’s violence only adds to any damage that may have led to the sinking. Once on the bottom, natural conditions wear down even the biggest shipwrecks given enough time.

A bit more:

Lochridge and OceanGate plan to return to the site this summer to conduct further research. It is part of the startup company’s effort to push ocean exploration. It is also training for its deepest dive yet: the wreck of the RMS Titanic, which lies about 12,000 feet — more than two miles — below the waves in the Atlantic.

OceanGate, which is based on Everett’s waterfront, plans to dive on the famous wreck in 2018 — and it is taking along paying passengers. They will not be tourists, though. Each one has to pass a physical and will work alongside other expedition members, said Stockton Rush, OceanGate’s chief executive officer and co-founder.

Here is the website: OceanGate

From Failure Magazine:

Museum of Failure opens in Sweden
The Museum of Failure isn’t on any list of the Top Things to do in Sweden—at least not yet. The new museum, which opened last week in Helsingborg, a city of 130,000 people on Sweden’s southern coast, has already attracted worldwide media attention and is drawing visitors from around the globe. In fact, Chinese tourists have been arriving by the busload “to look at the Donald Trump board game,” notes curator Samuel West, a former clinical psychologist who has more than 70 different failed products and objects on display in the 450-square-meter space. 

And how they got their content:

How did you acquire the products in the Museum of Failure?
Twenty to thirty percent were donated by individuals. Some have been borrowed because they are too expensive. The rest were bought on Craigslist or eBay or Amazon.

Interestingly, none of the companies that I contacted early on wanted to cooperate. I approached quite a few innovation directors—my clients, or former clients—and asked them for examples of failure that they’ve learned from. I explained that this is serious and we are not having a laugh at them; it’s done with full respect. I thought it would be easy to get them to collaborate but nobody wants to be associated with the Museum of Failure. None of them—zero—choose to cooperate.

I do not doubt this - although failures are very educational, nobody wants to be reminded of their own mis-steps.

The museum's website is here: Museum of Failure Scroll down for some videos of some of the displays. Looks like a lot of fun.

Too cute - Rollin' wild

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A YouTube channel dedicated to the question: "what if animals were round" - here is the most recent:

Trailer for an upcoming film:

Nothing on IMDB as yet.

Jiffy Lube - oil change

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Jay Leno's Garage did a commercial promotion with Jiffy Lube - they 'gave' him a card good for one free oil change. Jay shows up in his tank car - M-47 Patton tank engine left over from the Korean War. Oil capacity? 17 gallons.

Cunningham's Law

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This came up in an email - quite brilliant actually:

"The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question, it's to post the wrong answer."

Here is more on Ward Cunningham

And the word of the day is: Absement

From InfoGalactic:

In kinematics, absement (or absition) is a measure of sustained displacement of an object from its initial position, i.e. a measure of how far away and for how long. Absement changes as an object remains displaced and stays constant as the object resides at the initial position. It is the first time-integral of the displacement (the area under a displacement vs. time graph), so the displacement is the rate of change (first time-derivative) of the absement. The dimension of absement is length multiplied by time. Its SI unit is meter second (m·s), which corresponds to an object having been displaced by 1 meter for 1 second. This is not to be confused with a meter per second (m/s), a unit of velocity, the time-derivative of position.

It came up in a discussion about motion of an object over time.

RIP - Jean Sammet

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One of the people behind the COBOL language - from the New York Times:

Jean Sammet, Co-Designer of a Pioneering Computer Language, Dies at 89
Jean E. Sammet, an early software engineer and a designer of COBOL, a programming language that brought computing into the business mainstream, died on May 20 in Maryland. She was 89.

She lived in a retirement community in Silver Spring and died at a nearby hospital after a brief illness, said Elizabeth Conlisk, a spokeswoman for Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, where Ms. Sammet had earned her undergraduate degree and later endowed a professorship in computer science.

The programming language Ms. Sammet helped bring to life is now more than a half-century old, but billions of lines of COBOL code still run on the mainframe computers that underpin the work of corporations and government agencies around the world.

A bit more - she was an academic mathematician and had quite the opinion on computers:

Ms. Sammet was a graduate student in mathematics when she first encountered a computer in 1949 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She wasn’t impressed.

“I thought of a computer as some obscene piece of hardware that I wanted nothing to do with,” Ms. Sammet recalled in an interview in 2000.

Her initial aversion was not unusual among the math purists of the time, long before computer science emerged as an academic discipline. Later, Ms. Sammet tried programming calculations onto cardboard punched cards, which were then fed into a computer.

“To my utter astonishment,” she said, “I loved it.”

In the early 1950s, the computer industry was in its infancy, with no settled culture or rigid career paths. Lois Haibt, a contemporary of Ms. Sammet’s at IBM, where Ms. Sammet worked for nearly three decades, observed, “They took anyone who seemed to have an aptitude for problem-solving skills — bridge players, chess players, even women.”

Ms. Sammet became one of the most prominent women of her generation in computing. Her deepest interest was in programming languages and using them to open computing to a wider audience. Her ambition, Ben Shneiderman, a computer scientist at the University of Maryland, recalled her saying, was “to put every person in communication with the computer.”

One of the great ones. COBOL is still very much in use - it handles arrays of numbers very well and was designed from the ground up for business applications: calculation, formatting, printing reports...

Great idea - jaywalking awareness

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This is being done in Paris, France:

From DIY Photography:

Billboards are often ignored. You can walk past a hundred of them in a day and not remember what a single one of them was promoting. We just kind of tune them out. This one in France, however, is a little difficult to ignore. Especially if you’re crossing the street when you’re not paying attention.

The billboard has sensors which monitor for people crossing the road when they’re not supposed to. It plays a loud tire screeching sound making the hapless wanderer believe their life is in danger. It then snaps a photo of the terrified pedestrian and puts it on the billboard. The goal is to raise awareness for the dangers of being a careless pedestrian.

They say that such carelessness results in 4,500 victims each year in the Paris region alone.  Alongside their photo is a caption which reads something to the effect of “Don’t risk staring death in the face. Pay attention to the traffic lights.” Seeing a photo of yourself with a genuine reaction, that look of shock and horror on your face is certainly bound to make an impact. Metaphorically speaking.

4,500 accidents each year. The initial development cost would have been a bit high but once done, these should be fairly cheap to deploy. Brilliant solution to a real problem.

Here is the latest airplane from his company - Scaled Composites:

Stratolaunch Systems, a Paul G. Allen project, will build a mobile launch system with three primary components, a carrier aircraft, a multi-stage booster, and a state-of-the-art mating and integration system.

The Stratolaunch carrier aircraft, currently in development by Scaled, will be the largest aircraft ever flown. The airlaunch system will provide orbital access to space with greater safety, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility.

Uses an airplane with the worlds longest wingspan to lift the rocket to above 90% of the Earth's atmosphere making for much simpler, lighter and cheaper rocket requirements. More at Stratolaunch Systems including this photo of the beast:


I would love to see one of those puppies flying overhead... Brings to mind a reclusive billionaire building a weird plane. Wonder if this will eventually wind up in McMinnville next to the Spruce Goose.

Very clever idea - Plykea

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They are based in England and only ship to the UK now but they are planning an office in San Francisco. Check out Plykea

From their website:

At Plykea we manufacture premium quality doors, drawer fronts, cover panels and worktops, specifically designed to fit IKEA’s latest range of Metod kitchen cabinets. Using the latest CNC machinery each item is precision cut to ensure it fits as perfectly as any original IKEA door or drawer front. We then hand finish everything we make first by sanding any wooden faces or edges, then applying several coats of clear hard wax oil to create a finish that is both beautiful and durable.

So you buy the base cabinets from Ikea and then use these people to modify the drawer fronts and countertops - very high quality and very clever idea.  They just do the kitchen counters for now but intend to start on other furniture later this year. Everything is cut to order using CNC so you can add modifications to their existing designs.

Signed up for a training session on Digital Mobile Radio in three weeks. Looks like a lot of fun - allows for more channels of radio in the same band as analog plus some nice features like trunking. Two radios can connect over the internet so I could use my hand-held rig to talk to my local repeater and have that repeater trunk to another repeater in Texas or wherever I wanted..

Do not forget your towel!

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Some test equipment

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Readers will know that I have been doing electronics for a long time - here are some basic pieces of test equipment as found on Facebook:


A limerick

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From the book of face:


This is unreal - from Sky News:

HP laptops secretly recording user keystrokes
Security researchers have discovered that a feature installed in a number of HP laptops is recording all of the keystrokes that the laptop users make.

In capturing everything users press on their keyboards the software is recording sensitive information, and by saving that information in an easily accessible file the researchers claim that it is potentially exposing users' passwords to attackers.

According to the Swiss cybersecurity group behind the research, Modzero, the feature wasn't designed to spy on users - but it was implemented in such a way that it records everything users type.

This means that from the moment a user logs into Windows on affected HP laptops, every key they press, including to enter passphrases for online banking and email accounts, is recorded and stored.

Got an HP laptop? Visit these links: How-to Geek and ZDNet

Tip of the hat to Peter at Bayou Renaissance Man for the links.

The Dark Crystal returns

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The original was a movie by Jim Henson - amazing vision and creativity.

Netflix just announced that they have ten episodes in development for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance - a prequel to the original.

I loved the original - it will be interesting to see how the new ones hold up.

Oh Yes!

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Perry Metzger has some excellent advice at Samizdata:

How not to be a victim of computer malware
For my friends who don’t know much about computers:

I do computer security work professionally. People always ask in the wake of yet another internet attack “what should I do to protect myself.”

The advice is always the same. Do what computer professionals do. Don’t do what you imagine computer professionals do, because you’re probably wrong.

    1. Always run the latest version of the OS and software.
    2. When security updates appear for your operating system or software, apply them as soon as possible, meaning that day. Configure your system to automatically apply updates if possible.
    3. Back up your computer frequently. Since normal humans cannot remember to do that, get software and/or a service to do it for you.
    4. Don’t use the same password with two different services, period. Since you cannot remember hundreds of different passwords, use a password safe, and remember only the password for it.
    5. If a web site offers two factor authentication (that is, you can set it up so it both requires a password and a code your phone generates), turn that on.

Every professional security person does those things.

If you ignore my advice, you’re going to get screwed one day, period. You might still get screwed even if you do follow my advice because the world is dangerous, but I can guarantee you’ll get screwed if you don’t.

Every organization that got infected recently by the ransomware worm was ignoring (1) and (2). Their suffering was avoidable. Do you want to suffer like them? Those that forgot (3) are really suffering because they have no way to recover. Why do you want to suffer? Every day, people get badly, badly screwed because the password that they use everywhere gets stolen and it is de facto impossible to remember every place you use it. Why set yourself up to suffer?

As to the question “who would attack me? No one is going to attack my computer, I’m unimportant”, the answer is that it isn’t individuals doing the attacks, it’s machines that are programmed to try to attack other machines by the hundreds of millions. You’re not being personally targeted, but that hardly matters when everyone on earth is being attacked. Your obscurity will not protect you. Even if you think there is nothing for the attacker to gain by taking over your machine, they’ll want it anyway, so they can set up a botnet to send spam from it, or use it to bring down other people’s web sites, or to take over yet more people’s machines.

Much more at the site - be sure to look through the comments - lots of good stuff there too.

Now this looks like fun

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New series on Fox: The Orville


SpaceX Launches Super-Heavy Communications Satellite
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from launch pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center here today (May 15) with a communications satellite that will complete Inmarsat's fifth-generation broadband network.

The 23-story-tall booster soared off its seaside launch pad, which once hosted NASA's space shuttles and Apollo moon rockets, at 7:21 p.m. EDT (2321 GMT). It was the sixth of more than 20 missions SpaceX plans to fly this year.

Perched on top of the two-stage rocket was the 13,400-lb. (6,100 kilograms) Inmarsat-5 F4 communications satellite, the heaviest spacecraft yet to be delivered by a Falcon booster into a geostationary transfer orbit some 22,300 miles (35,800 km) above Earth.

Delivering 13,400 pounds to geosynchronous is some incredible heavy lifting. It took all of the rocket's fuel so they were not able to land back on Earth. They seem to be running a good business:

SpaceX, which has now flown the Falcon 9 six times successfully since the launch pad accident, has a backlog of more than 70 missions, worth more than $10 billion. Inmarsat has an option for another future flight with SpaceX.

Beats having to beg rides from the Russians. NASA did get us to the moon as well as developing some incredible technologies but it is time to get big government out of the picture and privatize the space industry. Bring competition into the mix.

An hour or two of YouTube

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Been watching YouTube most evenings - here are a couple of my favorite channels in no particular order:

Some great stuff there.

Storage Lockers

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I am on an electronic music email list and one of the members was spending a few months in-between houses and was asking people about renting a storage locker to house his music equipment. One of the list members had this to say:

Usually these storage locker business, at least in the States, have extra-curricular activities in the evening after the lights are off and they are ostensibly closed.  Various cultists will meet in the basements and preform rituals. I found it interesting to observe some of these after a hard day of moving gear. Then in the morning they clean up the residue of candle wax, blood, and contraception and clear out...leaving no trace behind. I offered them use of my modular but found that they tended to like LA synthesis and FM instead, which was surprising. One has to be careful about this though, as the various storage locker companies belong to different sects, which have been locked in mortal warfare since ancient times.

Someone has been reading the Illuminati a little bit too much...

Make sure you always update your Windows - it's free and can be automatic:

From The Intercept:

In mid-April, an arsenal of powerful software tools apparently designed by the NSA to infect and control Windows computers was leaked by an entity known only as the “Shadow Brokers.” Not even a whole month later, the hypothetical threat that criminals would use the tools against the general public has become real, and tens of thousands of computers worldwide are now crippled by an unknown party demanding ransom.

The malware worm taking over the computers goes by the names “WannaCry” or “Wanna Decryptor.” It spreads from machine to machine silently and remains invisible to users until it unveils itself as so-called ransomware, telling users that all their files have been encrypted with a key known only to the attacker and that they will be locked out until they pay $300 to an anonymous party using the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. At this point, one’s computer would be rendered useless for anything other than paying said ransom. The price rises to $600 after a few days; after seven days, if no ransom is paid, the hacker (or hackers) will make the data permanently inaccessible (WannaCry victims will have a handy countdown clock to see exactly how much time they have left).

Ransomware is not new; for victims, such an attack is normally a colossal headache. But today’s vicious outbreak has spread ransomware on a massive scale, hitting not just home computers but reportedly health care, communications infrastructure, logistics, and government entities.

Reuters said that “hospitals across England reported the cyberattack was causing huge problems to their services and the public in areas affected were being advised to only seek medical care for emergencies,” and that “the attack had affected X-ray imaging systems, pathology test results, phone systems and patient administration systems.”

The worm has also reportedly reached universities, a major Spanish telecom, FedEx, and the Russian Interior Ministry. In total, researchers have detected WannaCry infections in over 57,000 computers across over 70 countries (and counting — these things move extremely quickly).

The patch to eliminate this was issued by Microsoft in March - be sure to run Windows Update on a regular basis.. This ransomware does not need any action on your part to install, it can install itself in the background without you being aware of any untoward activity on your machine.

Do regular backups of your data on a drive that otherwise remains disconnected from your computer.

We have been practicing with one digital format but there is another one that has several features not found in Winlink. This is called fldigi and it has a lot of very cool bits. So much to learn and having a wonderful time doing it.

Warming up some of the bean soup and settling down for an hour or two of surfing and a glass or two of red wine. Nothing scheduled for tomorrow - it will be raining so will be working at the store and at home.

Back home again - new toys

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I have been having a lot of fun with the Raspberry Pi computers and Amazon was running a screaming deal on some Arduino boards so picked up four of them. The Pi is an actual computer running Linux (although it can run older versions of Windows just fine - 95 and 98. Only one Gig of system memory). You program it in a high-level language (C) or any of the scripting languages (Lua or Python).

The Arduino is a microcontroller - it does not use an operating system and you must use its own high-level language to create your programs. The advantage is that there are tons of pre-built applications that you can swipe and edit to fit your own needs. Lots of libraries for controlling lights, input (both on/off and variable), motors, sensors, etc...

Fun stuff to do now that I can't go and play outside. We are now at two tenths of an inch of rainfall in the last ten hours.

Yikes - be careful

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There is a technique using salt water (or Borax disolved in water) and high voltage and current that can create gorgeous patterns on wood. I am planning to try this at some point but all of my electrictronics experience is telling me to be very incredibly careful. A lot of people are doing gorgeous work with this but there have been some horrible accidents too - here is the most recent from the Walla Walla, Washington Union-Bulletin:

Local man electrocuted using dangerous wood art process
A Walla Walla man died from electrocution while attempting a dangerous technique for sculpting wood, authorities said this morning.

Robert Riggers, 47, died outside his home in the 1400 block of East Alder Street sometime Thursday night, according to Walla Walla County Coroner Richard Greenwood.

His death was reported to the Walla Walla Police Department around 3:37 a.m. Friday, according to police spokesman Officer Tim Bennett.

Riggers had been attempting to create a picture frame using a process called fractal Lichtenberg wood burning, Greenwood said. The process involves running an electrical current through a block of wood soaked in salt water, causing it to burn and fracture into unusual patterns.

Riggers, Greenwood said, had likely used the method before, as many pieces found in Riggers’ residence were apparently products of the technique.

While the process can create fascinating art, it is very dangerous, Greenwood warned.

Here is a video of the process - the action starts about one minute in:

I feel truly sorry for Mr. Riggers accident and his death but this is a known dangerous activity and there are safety procedures that can be taken.

Cutting edge audio

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There is a good-sounding sound system and then, there are the off-the-deep-end audiophiles who think nothing of spending $1,999 for a power cable or a mere $10,000 for 12 meters of ethernet cable (and I'm not even mentioning the $485 Volume Knob made from the finest beech wood)

There is a kind of testing called double-blind which audiophiles detest (here, here, here, and here to start) because their supposed high end gear fails more often than they like. From Infogalactic:

Blind experiment
blind or blinded experiment is an experiment in which information about the test is kept from the participant until after the test. Bias may be intentional or unconscious. If both tester and subject are blinded, the trial is a double-blind experiment.

Blind testing is used wherever items are to be compared without influences from testers' preferences or expectations, for example in clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of medicinal drugs and procedures without placebo effect, nocebo effect, observer bias, or conscious deception; and comparative testing of commercial products to objectively assess user preferences without being influenced by branding and other properties not being tested.

Well, some people did a double-blind test with violins and the results are very interesting - from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Listener evaluations of new and Old Italian violins
Old Italian violins are routinely credited with playing qualities supposedly unobtainable in new instruments. These qualities include the ability to project their sound more effectively in a concert hall—despite seeming relatively quiet under the ear of the player—compared with new violins. Although researchers have long tried to explain the “mystery” of Stradivari’s sound, it is only recently that studies have addressed the fundamental assumption of tonal superiority. Results from two studies show that, under blind conditions, experienced violinists tend to prefer playing new violins over Old Italians. Moreover, they are unable to tell new from old at better than chance levels. This study explores the relative merits of Stradivari and new violins from the perspective of listeners in a hall. Projection and preference are taken as the two broadest criteria by which listeners might meaningfully compare violins. Which violins are heard better, and which are preferred? In two separate experiments, three new violins were compared with three by Stradivari. Projection was tested both with and without orchestral accompaniment. Projection and preference were judged simultaneously by dividing listeners into two groups. Results are unambiguous. The new violins projected better than the Stradivaris whether tested with orchestra or without, the new violins were generally preferred by the listeners, and the listeners could not reliably distinguish new from old. The single best-projecting violin was considered the loudest under the ear by players, and on average, violins that were quieter under the ear were found to project less well.

Now this is going to ruffle a few feathers. The full text is behind a paywall but the abstract tells us what we want to know. Technology marches on and the advances that it brings extends to violins as well as everything else.

Big book - The Klencke Atlas

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How do you digitize a book that stands 5' 9" tall. The British Library is doing just this and have done a short timelapse for posterity:

No word as to what camera they are using. Here is a description from the British Library: The Klencke Atlas including a prior, much lower resolution scan of its pages.

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