Intel's Ronler Acres Plant


Silicon Forest

Monday, November 24, 2014

Obvious, when you think about it

Look at all the money we spend on defense. If we had spent that money on space exploration we could have had thriving colonies on the Moon AND Mars by now. The only reason we got the Hubble telescope is because the NRO didn't have anything new they wanted to look at that week. No wonder people sign up for facism, they get tired of all the petty squabbling over chickenshit. Ve are going to do it this Vay and that is the Vay Ve are going to do it! Sieg Heil! Okay, that didn't quite follow, but it's early. I probably should wait until I can be a little more coherent before I start writing shit down.

TV announcers like to tell us how heavy rockets are when they blast off, and they do have some impressive numbers, but most of that weight, like 99.9999% of it is fuel. The actual rocket, spaceship and payload weigh next to nothing. An Atlas rocket is less substantial than a beer can.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

US Navy

Saudi Arabia & Islam Versus Communism & Communists

Kabul, Afghanistan
Saudi Arabia plans to start construction on a new mosque in Kabul.

King Faisal Mosque in Islamabad

The rest of this is from 2012. Sometimes it takes me a while to catch on. Rumor has it that it will be similar to this one that they built in Islamabad.

What does Saudi Arabia care about Afghanistan? A vacuum draws all kinds of opportunists.
Afghanistan is an ideal springboard and battleground for the spread of Saudi Sunni Wahhabism and Iranian Shiite fundamentalism throughout Central Asia; especially out towards the former Soviet breakaway nations that are hungry for any teaching necessary to fill the failed Bolshevik indoctrination vacuum; especially any form of Islam.- Khalil NOURI November 2012
Mecca, Saudi Arabia, October 16, 2013.  The Clock Tower and the Grand Mosque. AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE

 The new mosque will be big, but it cannot hold a candle to the Saudi clock tower in Mecca.

Moderate Moslems, i.e. Westernized or civilized Moslems, need to start differentiating themselves from the terrorist Moslems. As long as both groups are claiming to be Moslems (or is it Muslims? I can never keep the politically correct lingo straight.), there is going to be confusion. Some people will take the time to determine what kind of Musselman a person is. Some people would prefer to just shoot them all and let God, sorry, Allah, sort them out.

All we really need is a new name for one or both sides of the fence. You know, Democrats and Republicans are both capitalists, although you can be forgiven for forgetting that essential element. They make such a big stink about not being like the other guys. And then there are capitalists and communists, though they are getting hard to tell apart. So what can we call these two major factions of Islam? Mudders and Brudders? Mummers and Bombers? Mohammadinians and Abuhasinians? Philistines and Pharaohs? Okay, maybe these aren't too good, but you get the idea, and somehow we need to get these two sides of the fence to start using these new terms. Otherwise someone who can't tell them apart is liable to get pissed off and nuke Mecca. During the haj.

The $12 “Gongkai” Phone

Such a great story I had to steal the whole thing from:

The $12 “Gongkai” Phone

How cheap can you make a phone?
Recently, I paid $12 at Mingtong Digital Mall for a complete phone, featuring quad-band GSM, Bluetooth, MP3 playback, and an OLED display plus keypad for the UI. Simple, but functional; nothing compared to a smartphone, but useful if you’re going out and worried about getting your primary phone wet or stolen.
Also, it would certainly find an appreciative audience in impoverished and developing nations.

$12 is the price paid for a single quantity retail, contract-free, non-promotional, unlocked phone — in a box with charger, protective silicone sleeve, and cable. In other words, the production cost of this phone is somewhere below the retail price of $12. Rumors place it below $10.
This is a really amazing price point. That’s about the price of a large Domino’s cheese pizza, or a decent glass of wine in a restaurant. Or, compared to an Arduino Uno (admittedly a little unfair, but humor me):
Spec This phone Arduino Uno
Price $12 $29
CPU speed 260 MHz, 32-bit 16 MHz, 8-bit
RAM 8MiB 2.5kiB
Interfaces USB, microSD, SIM USB
Wireless Quadband GSM, Bluetooth -
Power Li-Poly battery, includes adapter External, no adapter
Display Two-color OLED -
How is this possible? I don’t have the answers, but it’s something I’m trying to learn. A teardown yields a few hints.

First, there are no screws. The whole case snaps together.

Also, there are (almost) no connectors on the inside. Everything from the display to the battery is soldered directly to the board; for shipping and storage, you get to flip a switch to hard-disconnect the battery. And, as best as I can tell, the battery also has no secondary protection circuit.

The Bluetooth antenna is nothing more than a small length of wire, seen on the lower left below.

Still, the phone features accoutrements such as a back-lit keypad and decorative lights around the edge.

The electronics consists of just two major ICs: the Mediatek MT6250DA, and a Vanchip VC5276. Of course, with price competition like this, Western firms are suing to protect ground: Vanchip is in a bit of a legal tussle with RF Micro, and Mediatek has also been subject to a few lawsuits of its own.
The MT6250 is rumored to sell in volume for under $2. I was able to anecdotally confirm the price by buying a couple of pieces on cut-tape from a retail broker for about $2.10 each. [No, I will not broker these chips or this phone for you...]

That beats the best price I’ve ever been able to get on an ATMega of the types used in an Arduino. Of course, you can’t just call up Mediatek and buy these; and it’s extremely difficult to engage with them “going through the front door” to do a design. Don’t even bother; they won’t return your calls.
However, if you know a bit of Chinese, and know the right websites to go to, you can download schematics, board layouts, and software utilities for something rather similar to this phone…”for free”. I could, in theory, at this point attempt to build a version of this phone for myself, with minimal cash investment. It feels like open-source, but it’s not: it’s a different kind of open ecosystem.

Introducing Gongkai
Welcome to the Galapagos of Chinese “open” source. I call it “gongkai” (公开). Gongkai is the transliteration of “open” as applied to “open source”. I feel it deserves a term of its own, as the phenomenon has grown beyond the so-called “shanzhai” (山寨) and is becoming a self-sustaining innovation ecosystem of its own.
Just as the Galapagos Islands is a unique biological ecosystem evolved in the absence of continental species, gongkai is a unique innovation ecosystem evolved with little western influence, thanks to political, language, and cultural isolation.
Of course, just as the Galapagos was seeded by hardy species that found their way to the islands, gongkai was also seeded by hardy ideas that came from the west. These ideas fell on the fertile minds of the Pearl River delta, took root, and are evolving. Significantly, gongkai isn’t a totally lawless free-for-all. It’s a network of ideas, spread peer-to-peer, with certain rules to enforce sharing and to prevent leeching. It’s very different from Western IP concepts, but I’m trying to have an open mind about it.
I’m curious to study this new gongkai ecosystem. For sure, there will be critics who adhere to the tenets of Western IP law that will summarily reject the notion of alternate systems that can nourish innovation and entrepreneurship. On the other hand, it’s these tenets that lock open hardware into technology several generations old, as we wait for patents to expire and NDAs to lift before gaining access to the latest greatest technology. After all, 20 years is an eternity in high tech.
I hope there will be a few open-minded individuals who can accept an exploration of the gongkai Galapagos. Perhaps someday we can understand — and maybe even learn from — the ecosystem that produced the miracle of the $12 gongkai phone.

Via Detroit Steve.This phone brings us one step closer to my vision of the future where a career can be made of sweeping up discarded cell phones off of the street.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Nicaraguan Canal, Part 2

Who is Wang Jing? Man behind Nicaragua's canal project is as dodgy as they come.
Did a little checking and came across a post on Alek Boyd's blog from July of last year, which contained this little bit:
Furthermore, reports in Chinese media warn that the project is fraught with risks, and most likely unviable, given its geopolitical significance. The argument, in short, goes that the US government is not about to allow China to build and control an interoceanic canal in Nicaragua.
Now, a year and a half later, they are talking about starting construction next month.  Huh.


Local climbers roped together - walking across the Eliot glacier
In Neal Stephenson's novel Anathem there is an episode where our hero journeys across the arctic. He makes it most of the way, but a few miles from his destination he and three of his fellow travelers are marooned by the transport company. The situation is not good, they are in the arctic, they are walking on ice and snow, but it is not desperate. They only have a few miles to go to reach civilization and they should be able to walk the rest of the way. Two of the guys are brothers and appear to be ineffectual. The fourth is a veteran traveler of these frozen wastes and agrees to lead their party to safety.
     The ground is treacherous, there are deep crevasses that have been covered over by a thin layer of snow, much like a glacier, so the leader probes the snow with a thin pole every step of the way. They tie themselves together with a long length of rope so that if one person falls in a hole the others will be able to pull him out.
    If it slow going, but they trudge on and they can see that they are making progress. The veteran traveler is leading the way, the two dummkoffs are in the middle and our hero is bringing up the rear. The two in the middle are not following the leader very well. Eventually disaster strikes and our hero finds himself lodged in a crevasse. He is not very far down and the leader, who is inexplicably still standing up top, helps him out.
    The other two are very much further down in the hole. One can be seen and they manage to pull him out, but the other is lost. The one they have rescued is injured so they rig a sledge and skid him the rest of the way to town. All's well, more or less.

   Sometime later our hero is wandering around town, getting his bearings, looking around when he is set upon by a mob. Seems the guy they rescued is angry that his rescuers abandoned his brother. Our hero only escapes thanks to the intervention of a group highly trained fighters (Hai! Karate! Ju-Jitsu! Hai!).

When I first read this passage I was astounded by the logic of the injured party. After due consideration it has become apparent that it is no different than the logic, if you can call it that, used by a great many people on this planet.
    While many people use poor logic, not all of them decide to use their bizarre conclusions to justify their violent attacks on other people. That's what separates the political infighting in this country (the USA) from most of the rest of the world.

Endangered Species

Nixon signing the Endangered Species Act. AP photo via Politico.

Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act? Came across this little tidbit while reading a Venue interview with author John Mooallem:
Manaugh: Speaking of politics, it feels at times as if the Endangered Species Act—that specific piece of legislation—serves as the plot generator for much of your book. Its effects, both intended and surreally unanticipated, make it a central part of Wild Ones.

Mooallem: It really does generate all the action, because it institutionalizes these well-meaning sentiments, and it makes money and federal employees available to act on them. It amps up the scale of everything.

The first thing that I found really interesting is the way in which the law was passed. It was pretty poorly understood by everyone who voted on it. The Nixon administration saw it as a feel-good thing. It was signed in the doldrums between Christmas and New Year’s, almost as a gift to the nation and a kind of national New Year’s resolution rolled into one. And it was passed in 1973, as well, during both Vietnam and Watergate, so the timing was perfect for something warm and fuzzy as a distraction.

But most people never read the law and they didn’t realize that some of the more hardcore environmentalist staff-members of certain congressmen had put in provisions that were a lot more far-reaching than any of the lawmakers imagined. Nixon didn’t understand that it would protect insects, for example. It was really just seen as protecting charismatic national symbols, in completely unspecified, abstract ways.

In the preamble to the law itself—I don’t remember the exact quote—it says something like: “We’re going to protect species and their ecosystems from extinction as a consequence of the economic development of the nation.” Passing a law that is supposed to put a check on the development and growth of the nation—all the things government is supposed to promote—is pretty astounding.