Recently in Geekdom Category

Looks like this worked - from Bloomberg:

A Google Plan to Wipe Out Mosquitoes Appears to Be Working
An experimental program led by Google parent Alphabet Inc. to wipe out disease-causing mosquitoes succeeded in nearly eliminating them from three test sites in California’s Central Valley.

Stamping out illness caused by mosquitoes is one of Alphabet unit Verily’s most ambitious public-health projects. The effort appears to be paying off, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Biotechnology on Monday.

A bit more:

Since 2017, the company has released millions of lab-bred Aedes aegypti male mosquitoes into several Fresno County neighborhoods during mosquito season. The insects are bred in Verily labs to be infected with a common bacterium called Wolbachia. When these male mosquitoes mate with females in the wild, the offspring never hatch.

In results of the trial published on Monday, Verily revealed that throughout the peak of the 2018 mosquito season, from July to October, Wolbachia-infected males successfully suppressed more than 93% of the female mosquito population at field test sites. Only female mosquitoes bite.

Brilliant and it works. Talk about a sucessful bit of debugging.

This explains a lot

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Found on the web:

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Shades of this little gadget:

The State of New Jersey is issuing a call for COBOL Programmers. From Tom's Hardware:

New Jersey Pleas for COBOL Coders for 50-Year Old Mainframes Amid Coronavirus Crunch
The governor of New Jersey made a seemingly odd call for help last night: The state desperately needs COBOL programmers to revamp the software powering the 50-year old mainframes behind the state's unemployment system. That may seem surprising on the surface because COBOL debuted back in 1960 and mainframes ceded the leadership position to general-purpose x86 servers decades ago. However, these (sometimes) archaic systems still power much of the infrastructure behind governmental agencies, banks, and airlines. 

The need comes as New Jersey struggles to process a staggering 1,600% increase in unemployment claims as the wave of coronavirus-spurred business closures comes crashing to shore. 1980's-era mainframes power new Jersey's unemployment system, so scaling operations up to handle the increased load requires programmers that mostly no longer exist. That presents a unique challenge as the state looks to pay out more than 362,000 unemployment claims filed over the last two weeks, half of which are unpaid, not to mention the continuing onslaught of new applications.

The state will have competition, though; Connecticut is already leading a joint project with three other states to recruit COBOL coders to overhaul its own aging mainframe infrastructure. None of these efforts will find easy success: COBOL is a dead language that hasn't been taught in most universities for decades, and the rare COBOL coders command anywhere from $55 to $85 an hour. As such, New Jersey is looking for volunteers, likely of the retired sort, to help solve its problems.

The idea that these systems are still running on such antique hardware simply boggles the mind. There comes a part where electrical components start to fail with age (here and here for starters) and many of these are simply not manufactured any more and because the failure is age-related, other pieces of NOS (New Old-Stock - items dating from the same period which are still in factory boxes having never been used) will suffer the same problems. At some point, they must migrate the software to a newer platform.

If someone wanted to quietly make a crap-ton of money, they could develop software which would read the COBOL code and issue commented code for the LAMP service stack. Not going to be as name-worthy as the next facebxxk but certain administrators for certain governments would pay whatever it took.

I especially love that they looking for volunteers - yeaaahhhh - like that is going to happen any time soon...

Great tumblr site of cartoons - spot on: Business Town

From the site:

What Value-Creating Winners Do All Day
An ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry.

The drawings are visually a bit like Richard Scarry's work but totally different subject and totally different audience. Here are three of them:

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Good stuff...

More Boeing troubles - the 787

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Glad they caught it - unreal. Poor software testing. From The Register:

Boeing 787s must be turned off and on every 51 days to prevent 'misleading data' being shown to pilots
The US Federal Aviation Administration has ordered Boeing 787 operators to switch their aircraft off and on every 51 days to prevent what it called "several potentially catastrophic failure scenarios" – including the crashing of onboard network switches.

The airworthiness directive, due to be enforced from later this month, orders airlines to power-cycle their B787s before the aircraft reaches the specified days of continuous power-on operation.

The power cycling is needed to prevent stale data from populating the aircraft's systems, a problem that has occurred on different 787 systems in the past.

According to the directive itself, if the aircraft is powered on for more than 51 days this can lead to "display of misleading data" to the pilots, with that data including airspeed, attitude, altitude and engine operating indications. On top of all that, the stall warning horn and overspeed horn also stop working.

Seriously? WTF - how hard would it be to do an accelerated test of several years duration for crap just like this? Common proceedure for mission-critical software.

Groan

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From 90 miles:

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Working from home?

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Now this is very cool - ventilator

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A release from medical equipment company Medtronic:

OUR VENTILATOR SPECIFICATIONS.
YOUR INGENUITY.
Medtronic is mobilizing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic — and we’re inviting innovators everywhere to join us. Currently, there is a shortage of respirators and ventilators around the world. As recently announced, Medtronic is responding to this crisis by making the design files for the PB560 ventilator system available to the public. Our hope is that manufacturers and engineers will use this intellectual property to inspire their own potentially lifesaving innovations.

To access the specifications, please register below. After you do, you will be redirected to a new page on medtronic.com to download the files. Note that all documents and guidance are subject to the provisions and restrictions contained within the assets being provided.

Thank you for your interest in using innovation to save lives. Together, we can help speed the development and production of this important technology.

So now, other companies like GE and the automotive manufacturers wanting to make ventilators can just copy this proven and approved design. Great move Medtronic!

COVID-19 in film

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Shows what you can do when you have a lot of time on your hands...

From Austin, TX film company Cut to Black

Looks like a fun project for boating

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Great project from Tom's Hardware:

This Raspberry Pi Boat Computer Is for Sailors
Ready to hit the water? This Raspberry Pi boating project was created by a developer known on Reddit as bearthesailor. Bareboat Necessities is a DIY Pi-powered computer designed with all of your boating needs in mind.

This project houses a Raspberry Pi 4 below deck, so waterproofing your Pi isn't necessary. The Bareboat Necessities has a panel of interfaces on the front and back with a wide selection of features. You'll find USB ports, voltage meters and power switches for different components. There are even RF connectors to use with antennas.

The maker has the Pi running the Pi's Raspbian operating system, along with OpenPlotter 2.0, an open-source sailing platform. Because the project uses a Raspberry Pi 4, you can use Wi-Fi to set up the software remotely and even access the boat computer using a smartphone or tablet.

Bearthesailor provided a big list of recommended software on the project Github page. You can find applications to display weather predictions, a compass, plus temperature and barometric readings. There are even marine-specific applications, like SailGuage to help monitor things such as speed over ground, course over ground and depth below transducer.

Tuktuk Chart Plotter and KIP Dashboard interface with Signal K—an open-source self-described universal marine data exchange. And, of course, you can add a music player because boats absolutely need kicking tunes.

Here is the GitHub listing - project description, code, parts list complete with vendors and links (Amazon, DigiKey and AliBaba): Bareboat Necessities Projects

Very comprehensive design and the engineering is well thought out.

Some serious horsepower

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I have participated in online computing for a number of projects dating back to the original SETI@home. I was managing a large test lab at MSFT and with my boss' permission, up to 1,000 computers were spending their time processing the telescope data.

This is fascinating - from Anand Tech:

Folding@Home Reaches Exascale: 1,500,000,000,000,000,000 Operations Per Second for COVID-19
Folding@home has announced that cumulative compute performance of systems participating in the project has exceeded 1.5 ExaFLOPS, or 1,500,000,000,000,000,000 floating point operations per second. The level of performance currently available from Folding@home participants is by an order of magnitude higher than that of the world’s most powerful supercomputer.

Right now, cumulative performance of active CPUs and GPUs (which have returned Work Units within the last 50 days) participating in the Folding@home project exceeds 1,5 ExaFLOPS, which is 10 times faster than performance of IBM’s Summit supercomputer benchmarked for 148.6 PetaFLOPS.

Ho. Li. Crap. That is a lot of power. Most modest computers will have several "cores" or separate processors housed in one chip sharing a pool of memory and resources. This machine I use for email, surfing, etc... has four cores. Still, they have enrolled 4.63 Million cores. A wonderful use of resources and an outpouring of generosity from computer users everywhere.

Sweet desk lamp

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The maker doesn't give any more information (processor, brand of LED strip or source code) but should not be too hard to replicate:

I love interesting lamps and lighting - always have.

A candidate for sainthood

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The author of Bulk Crap Uninstaller - a wonderful application (and very dangerous - it assumes that you know what the fsck you are doing).

I am cleaning off several computers here. For example, I had been using Pinnacle video editing software. It is OK but I moved up to Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve - much better. I uninstalled the Pinnacle application but there was a metric ton of cruft left over that I simply did not bother to take the time to root out and delete. BCU picked it up and got rid of it.

Same for a number of applications. Also, some uninstall routines require user intervention. BCU will schedule all of these at the beginning of the run so you can hang out, hit the ENTER key a couple of times and then go and do something else while the rest of your work is being done for you. I sent him $20 - well worth it.

Not just me - getting motivated

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Not into computer games but I do love them as they were the driving force behind cheap and good computer graphics. There may have been a total of 30,000 graphic artists worldwide clamering for decent displays and these were out there for $4K (in 1980 dollars). Throw in 300,000,000 computer gamers looking for the same thing and the price came down rapidly. Adam Smith'sinvisible hand of the market writ large for everyone to see. Capitalism at work.

Fast-forward to today with "work at home" entering the social lexicon - from Forbes:

Video Games Are Being Played At Record Levels As The Coronavirus Keeps People Indoors
With school closures, mandatory work-from-home policies and lockdowns taking place in the U.S. as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, gaming has seen higher engagement, especially over this past weekend.

    • Steam, the most popular digital PC gaming marketplace, reached new heights Sunday, drawing a record 20,313,451 concurrent users to the 16-year-old service, according to third-party database SteamDB.
    • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, released by Steam-owner Valve in 2012, seems to be the top beneficiary of the increased engagement, breaking it's all-time peak on Sunday with 1,023,2290 concurrent players, topping its previous peak last month by a million, which itself beat the record set in April 2016.
    • Like other esports, CS:GO has had to cancel events due to the virus, particularly the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice earlier this month, though its peak viewership reached over a million, making it one of the most watched tournaments in the esports' history.
    • Activision Blizzard's new free-to-play battle royale spinoff Call of Duty: Warzone, launched March 10 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, is also likely benefiting, drawing in a staggering 15 million in three days, besting the record 10 million in three days by last year's battle royale sensation Apex Legends.
    • These new heights follows similar effects of the virus on China and Italy: Telecom Italia's CEO told Bloomberg it saw a 70% increase in traffic over its landline network, with Fortnite playing a significant part, while Chinese live-streaming service Douyu experienced increased viewership of the country's most popular games, according to market analyst Niko Partners.
    • While gaming was considered "recession proof" during the 2008 market crash, stocks aren't immune to the current historic drops: software developers like Activision Blizzard are facing a 9% decrease in price year-to-date, while hardware companies that rely on Chinese manufacturing like Nintendo are seeing bigger drops of 24%.

What To Watch For: If these records keep rising as the closings and lockdowns continue. Arriving this week is Nintendo's long-awaited Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Switch console, a relaxing "life-simulator" that's set to have a big day with many fans not-so-jokingly asking Nintendo to launch early.

Work at home... Yeah... Right... At least I am honest about sitting here surfing, gazing out at the ocean and the mountains and listening to old liturgical music.

Well crap - wrong order

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I have some electronics work in the pipeline - a project for the house and several ham radio experiments. Decided to update my soldering iron. I know - a life change... Taking slow and deep breaths here...  Have used it for 20 years at least and there are some new ones out there. One in particular came highly recomended so I sprung for one of them on Amazon (a TS80 in case you are interested).

I ordered a specific brand (SainSmart) as I am familiar with them and very happy with their quality. What was delivered was #1) - a "Smart" brand and #2) - a very bad re-pack with a damaged box.

Some seller out there tried to pull a fast one but they are not getting away with it. Grrrrrr...

Hamming it up - radio active

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Been monitoring the local frequencies and there have been check-ins and a few basic drills but nothing involving actual work. Hope that it stays that way. The county seems to be pretty proactive and the US government is doing an incredible job - much better than the swine flu of 2009-10.

A fun little website: You're getting old

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Just go here: You're getting old

Happy Pi Day

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Today is 3/14 or the first three digits of Pi - 3.1415926535 or thereabouts (used to remember about 20 digits)

More of an observation than a celebration.

Today is also Albert Einstein's Birthday (03/14/1879)

A celebration more than an observation.

I am in heaven

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From America's newspaper of record - The Babylon Bee:

Nation's Nerds Wake Up In Utopia Where Everyone Stays Inside, Sports Are Canceled, Social Interaction Forbidden
The nation's nerds woke up in a utopia this morning, one where everyone stays inside, sporting events are being canceled, and all social interaction is forbidden.

All types of nerds, from social introverts to hardcore PC gamers, welcomed the dawn of this new era, privately from their own homes.

"I have been waiting my whole life for this moment," said Ned Pendleton, 32 -- via text message, of course -- as he fired up League of Legends on his beefy gaming PC. "They told me to take up a sport and that the kids playing basketball and stuff were gonna be way more successful than us nerds who played Counter-Strike at LAN parties every weekend."

"They all laughed at me. Well, who's laughing now?"

To prepare for the onslaught of the deadly disease, nerds are changing absolutely nothing and are expected to rise up to rule the post-Coronavirus society, as they are the ones best adjusted to being sheltered in a basement, garage, or room for many days at a time marathoning Halo, Half-Life, The Legend of Zelda, Red Dead Redemption, or Horizon Zero Dawn. They're also ready for any post-apocalyptic wasteland, as they've played many, many hours of Fallout and are adept at killing bloatflies and collecting bottlecaps.

Of course, many nerds are running out of hygienic products, but they say that's "not an issue."

Hey - I resemble that remark... Nerd from way back.

Is this just my imagination or

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Do these two technologies look a lot alike?  First, a selfie camera from a new division of Ricoh:

Actually looks kinda cool - if it has decent image specs and is for sale for less than $150, I might seriously consider getting one. And then, there is this technology from a few years ago:

Now if one of THOSE were for sale for under $150, I would certainly go ahead and get one.

Something interesting from Amazon

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Just found out that they have an Amazon Renewed division. They take returned, open box, pre-owned items; they refurbish them and sell them at a significant price reduction. I was looking for a rack mount server for a project but they also do the same thing for cameras, cooking, office products, phones, tools, etc...

Check it out: Amazon Renewed

Our friends in China

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Do we really need to do business with them? From Reuters:

Exclusive: Newly obtained documents show Huawei role in shipping prohibited U.S. gear to Iran
China’s Huawei Technologies, which for years has denied violating American trade sanctions on Iran, produced internal company records in 2010 that show it was directly involved in sending prohibited U.S. computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator.

Two Huawei packing lists, dated December 2010, included computer equipment made by Hewlett-Packard Co and destined for the Iranian carrier, internal Huawei documents reviewed by Reuters show.

Another Huawei document, dated two months later, stated: “Currently the equipment is delivered to Tehran, and waiting for the custom clearance.”

The packing lists and other internal documents, reported here for the first time, provide the strongest documentary evidence to date of Huawei’s involvement in alleged trade sanctions violations. They could bolster Washington’s multifaceted campaign to check the power of Huawei, the world’s leading telecommunications-equipment maker.

It is bad enough that they steal our technology - they sell it to nations who are not friendly to us? Unconscionable. Time to find other nations to manufacture our toys and tethers. Or just do it ourselves - what a concept...

From Amazon:

News you can use - prepping

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National Public Radio has a nice report on how to prepare for a pandemic. Today's pandemic de jure is the Coronavirus (Kung Flu) but this is good solid information and is simple and cheap to implement. From NPR:

A Guide: How To Prepare Your Home For Coronavirus
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling Americans that they should be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in their community.

But what does preparedness look like in practice? The short answer: Don't panic — but do prepare.

That "means not only contingency planning but also good old-fashioned preparedness planning for your family," says Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University. In other words, what you'd do in case of a possible hurricane or another natural disaster.

We spoke with Katz and other health experts about common-sense things you can do to be ready should the virus hit where you live.

Common sense stuff - avoid crowds, wash your hand obsessivly, maintain two weeks of food and medicine.

I would add: have a stash of books or games to occupy your time. Get a ham radio license and buy a cheap handheld - cell phones have no guarantee of continued operation.

Free images from America's Attic

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The Smithsonian Institution has been called America's Attic as it has an incredible collection of everything.

They just put a bunch of images online - how many? About 2,800,000.

Check out Smithsonian Open Access

Welcome to Smithsonian Open Access, where you can download, share, and reuse millions of the Smithsonian’s images—right now, without asking. With new platforms and tools, you have easier access to nearly 3 million 2D and 3D digital items from our collections—with many more to come. This includes images and data from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo.

Quite the collection - could spend some serious time going through...

Skynet told me to post this:

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Crime does not pay

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Should have gotten a safety deposit box or something - from C|Net News:

Drug dealer loses $58M in bitcoin after landlord accidentally throws codes out
Between 2011 and 2012, Clifton Collins bought 6,000 bitcoin using money he earned from growing and selling marijuana, reports The Irish Times. At the time, the cryptocurrency's price varied between $4 and $6. Today it stands at over $9,700. But Collins, who is 49, isn't enjoying any euphoria for the windfall -- because his landlord threw out his bitcoin codes.

The Irish Times reports that Collins was arrested in 2017 for growing and selling marijuana and was subsequently hit with a five-year prison sentence. Following this, his landlord sent many of Collins' possessions to a local dump during the process of clearing out Collins' room. One such item was a fishing rod case, which housed a piece of paper with €53.6 million ($58 million) in bitcoin codes printed onto it.

Whoopsie - the article goes on to mention several other large cryptocurrency losses because of stupid circumstances.

Only backup the stuff that you want to keep. Simple as that...

Aaaand it's coffee time

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I feel under the weather but some things simply do not change. Heading out for coffee. Expecting a package at the mailbox - some radio equipment.

Been getting into Digital Mobile Radio - it is an outgrowth of commercial two-way radio and is being adopted by the amateur radio community. You need a lot less power to broadcast, it takes up a lot less space in the band and is overall, a very good thing. It plays nice with the internet too so you can communicate via a hand-held rig to an internet connected repeater and come out the rabbit hole to someone on the other side of the world. All with a $130 radio. PFM*

*Pure Fscking Magic

If at first you don't succeed - sparklers

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From Associated Press:

Technicality extinguishes sparkler record attempt in Wyoming
An attempt in Wyoming to break a world record for the most sparklers lit simultaneously failed on a technicality.

Guinness World Records officials ruled each participant was required to light his or her own sparkler during the attempt in Gillette, The Gillette News Record reports.

The attempt in August was part of the Pyrotechnics Guild International’s 50th annual convention.

The event had an apparatus for lighting multiple sparklers, which was built by students and instructors at Gillette College. Volunteers with torches lit sparklers and distributed them to participants.

Sad that they did not get the certification. I love the fact that there is a Pyrotechnics Guild International - now that would be a fun conference to attend. Ka-boom! Their next convention is in Fargo, ND... Hmmm... 

A fun list

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Was looking for something else and found this. From InfoGalactic:

List of unusual units of measurement
An unusual unit of measurement is a unit of measurement that does not form part of a coherent system of measurement; especially in that its exact quantity may not be well known or that it may be an inconvenient multiple or fraction of base units in such systems. This definition is deliberately not exact since it might seem to encompass units such as the week or the light-year which are quite "usual" in the sense they are often used; if they are used out of context, they may be "unusual", as demonstrated by the Furlong/Firkin/Fortnight (FFF) system of units.

Fun stuff there.

New rulings for drone and drone pilots

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In short - some really well thought out and others? Really stupid and they suck. From Digital Photography Review:

Opinion: New rules proposed by the FAA are a threat to drone pilots – including photographers
The FAA is proposing new rules related to flying drones in the US, and if you fly drones – including for photography – these rules WILL affect you. In this article, I'll look at the implications of the proposed rule changes and how you can comment on them before the FAA makes them final.

The day after Christmas, the drone industry was finally gifted the long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones), and what the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) presented was a shock to many commercial and recreational remote pilots, alike. The government agency completely ignored recommendations from all 74 industry stakeholders that make up the Aviation Rulemaking Commitee (ARC), which is concerning.

The drone industry needs Remote ID, the concept that every drone should have a digital license plate, to move forward. Having a uniform system in place to identify unmanned aerial vehicles in national airspace is imperative for the safe operation of every aircraft sharing the skies. It will also enable more complex operations including flights at night, over people, and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). Remote ID is a step in the right direction but, unfortunately, the FAA has proposed costly, privacy-violating rules that will at first stifle, and then eventually crush, the potential of a burgeoning industry.

I'm not going to summarize every section of the 87-page (the original was 319) document in one article as it goes far beyond the scope of what most DPReview readers want to digest. Instead, I'll cover some of the main points of concern and, finally, offer suggestions and resources for leaving an effective comment for the FAA if you're one of the nearly 1.2 million registered drone users in the U.S. If you're prepared to make your voice heard, comment HERE.

Much more at the site.

I am a registered drone operator - love it. Plan to make my comment heard. Parts of these rulings are needed and are well thought out. Other parts come from the foetid swamp of a bureaucrats mind - specifically, a bureaucrat whose last contact with the real world was in grade school. Not so good and needs to be stomped to the ground so they never try that crap again.

Was looking at media software and ran into this: Open Broadcaster Software  Looks a bit bare-bones but has everything you need for streaming. Interesting - will be exploring further when I get some time.

A really bad pun

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From the Beeb and PBS: Niall Ferguson’s Networld:

From the website:

In this groundbreaking new series hosted by Niall Ferguson and inspired by his bestselling book The Square and the Tower, Ferguson visits network theorists, social scientists and data analysts to explore the history of social networks. From the Reformation and 17th century witch-hunting, through the American Revolution and to the nightmare visions of Orwell’s 1984, Ferguson explores the intersection of social media, technology and the spread of cultural movements. Reviewing classic experiments and cutting-edge research, Ferguson demonstrates how human behavior, disruptive technology and profit can energize ideas and communication, ultimately changing the world.

I remember reading Tom Standadge's wonderful 1998 book: The Victorian Internet 
We do crave new information. Always have, always will. Silly monkey...

A bit of a problem - Apple's iPhone 11

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From IEEE Spectrum:

A Radio Frequency Exposure Test Finds an iPhone 11 Pro Exceeds the FCC's Limit
A test by Penumbra Brands to measure how much radiofrequency energy an iPhone 11 Pro gives off found that the phone emits more than twice the amount allowable by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC measures exposure to RF energy as the amount of wireless power a person absorbs for each kilogram of their body. The agency calls this the specific absorption rate, or SAR. For a cellphone, the FCC’s threshold of safe exposure is 1.6 watts per kilogram. Penumbra’s test found that an iPhone 11 Pro emitted 3.8 W/kg.

Ryan McCaughey, Penumbra’s chief technology officer, said the test was a follow up to an investigation conducted by the Chicago Tribune last year. The Tribune tested several generations of Apple, Samsung, and Motorola phones, and found that many exceeded the FCC’s limit.

This is something that Apple has to have known about. What is the deal?

Also, IEEE is an acronym for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and is pronounced "Eye-triple-E"
It was founded in 1884

A dark day for LP phonograph albums

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Sad news - from Palm Springs, CA's The Desert Sun:

Three-alarm building fire in Banning blocks Highway 243; businesses evacuated due to chemical concerns
Firefighters are trying to determine what sparked a three-alarm building fire that forced the evacuation of nearby businesses and prevented access to Highway 243 in Banning Thursday morning.

The fire was reported about 8 a.m. in a 15,000-square-foot building at Lincoln Street and San Gorgonio Avenue and it produced a black plume of smoke that was visible in the Coachella Valley.

“There were multiple reports of explosions when the fire started,” Cal Fire Capt. Fernando Herrera said at the scene. "There wasn't any one spot you could say wasn't on fire."

Eighty-two firefighters responded to the blaze and the fire was contained by 10:45 a.m.

The business is Apollo Masters Corp., a decades-old company that produces a lacquer formula for making master discs which are then used to make vinyl records. Employees were inside when the fire began, but Herrera said none of them were injured.

From the Apollo Masters website:

ANNOUNCEMENT
To all of wonderful customers. It is with great sadness we report the Apollo Masters manufacturing and storage facility had a devastating fire and suffered catastrophic damage. The best news is all of our employees are safe. We are uncertain of our future at this point and are evaluating options as we try to work through this difficult time. Thank you for all of the support over the years and the notes of encouragement and support we have received from you all.

From music news site Pitchfork 

“Devastating” Manufacturing Plant Fire Threatens Worldwide Vinyl Record Supply
Apollo Masters—a manufacturing plant that supplies the lacquer used for making master discs, which are used to make vinyl records—suffered a fire on Thursday, February 6, at its manufacturing and storage facility in Banning, California.

Some more:

“From my understanding, this fire will present a problem for the vinyl industry worldwide,” Ben Blackwell, co-founder of Third Man Records told Pitchfork in an email. “There are only TWO companies that make lacquers in the world, and the other, MDC in Japan, already had trouble keeping up with demand BEFORE this development.” (The emphasis is Blackwell’s.)

Blackwell also wrote that there have been “whispers” of another company “entertaining the idea” of entering the lacquer marketplace, but that Apollo was also the “primary or possibly only supplier of the styli” that are used in the vinyl pressing process. “I imagine this will affect EVERYONE, not just Third Man Pressing and Third Man Mastering, but to what extent remains to be seen.”

Hope that they are able to rebuild. California will be a bear with all the environmental rules these days. Their old plant was probably grandfathered in - any new construction will be incredibly intricate/expensive.

Not a vinyl person - sold my albums a long time ago but I do appreciate the technology and it does give a different sound to the music.

Go and read: Michael Thompson

It starts off with this:

Something to potentially watch: Cosmos 2542, a Russian inspection satellite, has recently synchronized its orbit with USA 245, an NRO KH11.

NRO is the National Reconnaissance Office and the KH-11 satellites are for high-resolution imaging (Key Hole).

An interesting transition - Rolls Royce

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They are deeply involved in maritime power. Now this from New Atlas:

Rolls-Royce plans to build up to 15 mini nuclear reactors in Britain
Rolls-Royce has announced that it plans to build, install, and operate up to 15 mini nuclear reactors in Britain, with the first set to go online in nine years. In a BBC Radio 4 interview with business journalist Katie Prescott on January 24, 2020's Today program, Paul Stein, chief technology officer for Rolls-Royce, said that the company is leading a consortium to produce factory-built modular nuclear reactors that can be delivered for assembly by ordinary lorries.

Currently, the world is undergoing a boom in nuclear power. According to the World Nuclear Association, there are 448 operating civilian reactors and another 53 under construction. However, almost all of these are being built in Eastern Europe and Asia, with China alone building more reactors than the entire Western world combined.

Part of the reason for this is political with every reactor program in Europe or North America facing implacable environmentalist opposition and part of it is the expense of building and operating large reactors in an energy economy now dominated by cheap natural gas. However, one technology trend that could reverse this stagnation is the development of small, modular nuclear reactors that could be mass-produced in factories, carted to the site by ordinary lorries, and then assembled to generate cheap carbon-free electricity.

This approach, too, has its drawbacks, but Rolls-Royce believes that its consortium has got its sums right and can restart Britain's nuclear industry by building up to 15 Small Modular Reactors (SMR) with an expected value to the UK economy of £52 billion (US$68 billion), another £250 billion (US$327 billion) in exports, and 40,000 new jobs by 2050.

Wonderful news - the article quotes the cost to generate at around 0.07 per kWh which is cheaper than electricity for this area. Pressurized water reactors require a huge pressure vessel to run and the attendant plumbing and safety equipment so they are much more costly to build and operate. The new reactor designs are a lot more efficient and operate at normal air pressure. They are walk-away safe too.

Looks like the WOW! factor is fading and sales are slumping. From the Los Angeles Times:

Car buyers shun electric vehicles not named Tesla. Are carmakers driving off a cliff?
Regulators are demanding zero-emission vehicles. And manufacturers are scrambling to provide them, spending billions on electric-car development.

Ford says a third of its vehicles will be electric by 2030. Volkswagen plans to sell a million EVs annually just two years from now. At Volvo, half its offerings will be electric by 2025. By the end of this year, most major automakers will be offering at least one EV.

And buyers? So far, they’re not on board — especially those in the United States.

Despite the debut of 45 pure electric and plug-in hybrids in the United States last year, only 325,000 plug-in passenger vehicles were sold, down 6.8% from 349,000 in 2018, according to Edmunds. That is just 2% of the 17 million vehicles of all types sold in the United States in 2019. Numbers for California aren’t available yet, but 112,961 EVs were sold in the first three quarters of 2019, up only 5.6% from the year-earlier period.

Yeah - it is a big fat gimmick. I would love to own one, most of my driving is within a 20 mile range. I did buy an eBike last summer and love it. That being said, if I owned a full-size EV, I would still keep my gasoline vehicles as they simply cost less to run and when (not if - when), the battery pack needs to be replaced, that is an easy $10-$15K out of pocket. Simply does not pencil out.

Very ingenious hack - from Smithsonian Magazine:

Albatrosses Outfitted With GPS Trackers Detect Illegal Fishing Vessels

No creature knows the sea quite like the albatross
Boasting wingspans of up to 11 feet—the largest of any bird alive today—these feathered goliaths, native to the Southern Ocean and North Pacific, are built to soar. Gliding at speeds that often exceed 50 miles per hour, they can cover vast swaths of the sea in minutes, all the while scouring the water for bright flickers of fish. Some species are known to spend years at sea without touching down on land, and a few have even been documented circumnavigating the globe.

With their keen eyes and wandering ways, albatrosses are, in a way, the de facto “sentinels of the sea,” says Henri Weimerskirch, a marine ornithologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research.

Weimerskirch is working to make that title a little more official—by recruiting the seabirds to patrol the ocean for illegal fishing vessels. He and his colleagues have outfitted nearly 200 albatrosses with tiny GPS trackers that detect radar emissions from suspicious ships, allowing the birds to transmit the locations of fishers in the midst of illicit acts. The results of the tracking method were published today in a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The idea:

The team’s winged recruits may be poised to fill this monitoring gap. On top of their stamina and moxie, albatrosses also have a certain fondness for fish-toting vessels, says study author Samantha Patrick, a marine biologist at the University of Liverpool. To the birds, the fishing gear attached to these boats is basically a smorgasbord of snacks—and albatrosses can spot the ships from almost 20 miles away.

And the results? Surprisingly good:

Over the course of six months, the team’s army of albatrosses surveyed over 20 million square miles of sea. Whenever the birds came within three or so miles of a boat, their trackers logged its coordinates, then beamed them via satellite to an online database that officials could access and cross-check with AIS data. Of the 353 fishing vessels detected, a whopping 28 percent had their AIS switched off—a finding that caught Weimerskirch totally off guard. “No one thought it would be so high,” he says.

AIS is an Automatic Identification System - a beacon that larger boats are supposed to have which continually broadcasts the boats ID and it's position. Very handy for safety.

Very clever hack to use the birds to track the fishing vessels.

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