Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest
If the type is too small, Ctrl+ is your friend

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Yacht over the Alps

LE BOUVERET, Switzerland, Aug 7, 2009 (AFP) - America's Cup defender Alinghi began a spectacular airlift of its giant yacht from landlocked Switzerland over the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea on Friday, dangling beneath the world's biggest helicopter. After some two weeks of trials on Lake Geneva, where it was built, the new 90-foot high-tech catamaran is being flown about 300 kilometres (186 miles) to the Italian port of Genoa for its first sea trials. Under bright skies, Alinghi 5 was lifted off Lake Geneva here by a Mi-26 heavy lift helicopter, flown in specially from Russia, on the end of long cables.

The Road Across the Top of the World

Chinese Border Gate with Pakistan at Khunjerab Pass, 15,500 feet elevation.
China and Pakistan have signed a deal to develop an 'economic corridor' from Kashgar, China to Karachi. There is a road between the two countries now, but it's is not what you would call a highway.

With the 'stans getting all the press these days, I wasn't even aware that Pakistan shared a border with China. Of course it's not like an army is going to come flooding across the border.

Khunjerab Pass

At least not until they get the highway built. This isn't China's only project. They seem to be intent on rebuilding the entire 3rd world.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Terrain Map

Northern Italy, 50 miles Northwest of Milan. View is about five or six miles across.

I was looking at a dam right by the 'e' at the end of 'Parco Naturale' at the bottom center-left of this image. The satellite resolution was very poor, so I switched to the terrain view. This view surprised me. In the lower right we have a fairly normal topographic display. The center looks very different. Either the ground is much rougher, or the detail level is much higher. And then over to the right, we have two colors, gray and green, not just green. Father out it goes all gray. Kind of odd to see such a jumble of textures in one view.

Citizen X

Citizen X, an HBO movie from 1995 about a Ukrainian serial killer. Stars Stephen Rea, Donald Sutherland and Max Von Sydow. I recognize Donald and Max of course, surprised they are still alive. Of course the movie is almost 20 years old, but it turns out they are both still alive today. Anyway they show up as clean and polished, almost like dolls on a stage. Stephen is the lead detective on this case and he looks more like a man in his element - perpetually rumpled, even when his suit was neatly pressed. He looked familar. Checking with IMDB I find he was in V for Vendetta, one of my all time favorites, though I don't remember his character from that movie. The movie strikes me as rather spare - made for a dollar and half in Eastern Europe, and not very subtle, but it tells an interesting story, and it's not the one about the serial killer. We have these two (and later three) guys investigating this series of murders, but they are trying to do it from inside of the Soviet bureaucracy, and that bureaucracy has them ham-strung six ways from Sunday. Early on in the film we see our detective pass by a Lenin poster (above) on the street, just so you know where you are. The investigation goes on for years and eventually the Soviet Union collapses. We see the same scene again, except this time there are only a few scraps of the poster hanging on the wall, most of it has been ripped down. Now that the political empire has collapsed, the committee meetings to review progress on the case are much more civilized affairs. Previously we have a crowd of suits sitting at a long table facing down our hero, not that any of them mattered. The fat political officer at the end of the table was the only one with any real clout. The others were there just to bow and scrape, near as I can tell. Now we have a brave new world [tm]: we only have the Major (Sutherland), now promoted to General, and our detective, who is now promoted to Major, and isn't long before they have a suspect in custody.

Bonus: Soviet Steam Locomotive

Because the killer frequented train stations.


Nightcrawler (warning: autoplay), starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis (pronounced Lewis) Bloom

Right off you can tell there is something wrong with Lou: he's stealing manhole covers to raise cash. Copper, bronze, lead and even aluminum I can understand. Those metals are actually worth something, but manhole covers are cast iron which has got to have a value of less than zero. I mean it takes more gas to haul them to the scrap yard than they are worth. That's why cities can leave them lying around on the street. Nobody in their right mind is going to bother stealing them.
    And he's glib. He can run off a line of patter as well as the best corporate spokesperson or a good motivational speaker. He's obviously smart, is able to communicate well, yet he's using the same technique for raising funds that crack addicts use.
   He's also attracted to shiny things, like the security guard's watch, and the shiny red car (read Chrysler Corporation product placement, above). Once he gets going in his new (nightcrawling) business he's making a couple hundred dollars a night, which is not really enough to afford a shiny new muscle car, but hey, every adolescent male has that dream, don't they? Who am I kidding? Even I have that dream, although I'm too cheap to do anything about it.
    The movie does a good job of taking apart our TV news business, which includes both the cutthroat culture and teamwork involved. People want to see stuff (that's the demand), other people find things to show (that's the supply), and somebody else figured out how to make it pay. And then there's the whole tech crew that puts it all together to deliver the package to your screen. I can see how just putting together a single news broadcast could give you a quick ego boost. The sad part is viewers won't even notice, unless you screw up.
    Jake is a very unpleasant person. It's hard to explain just what is wrong with him, but the feeling is there from the get-go. He is polite and well spoken. Perhaps too polite and too well spoken, like maybe he's a con-man trying to sell you a bridge. He is persistent, perhaps a little too persistent. Sometimes I expected someone to yell at him or punch him, but that never happens. Kind of makes me wonder how he got to be this way. Kind of, but not very much.
    Then there's the bit about tailing the bad guys with his bright red car. Are the bad guys dunderheads? Didn't they see the bright red car earlier? Could be that high stress impaired their perception, or a feeling of elation made them careless. We'll never know, they are out of the picture soon enough.

Best quote from best movie of the year

LEGO MOVIE - Batman is the worst person I've ever met!

Via Uniberp.

Update April 2017 replaced video. I think I got the right line.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


I was looking at the chili factory in Fort Madison because I thought it belonged to Hormel, but it turns out that it belongs to Pinnacle Foods. But I'm looking at the map and on the other side of the main railroad line I see all these toothpick like things lying on the ground and I wonder what the devil could they be. Telephone poles, maybe? No! They are wind turbine blades. This here is the Siemens factory.


I like Spam, though I can't remember the last time we had a can in the house. Everyone else here seems to be prejudiced agin it. My dad was in the South Pacific during WW2, and Spam was common in our house when I was a kid, though I suspect it was an indulgence, after all, it came in a can. Then we've got Todd Rudgren (!?!), Monty Python, Hawaii and one can for every person in the world. 395 cans a minute comes to 200 million (10^6 for you, Stu) cans a year, or ten semi-truck loads a day.

Via Comrade Misfit.

Blast from the Past

Antonov An-225 Mriya with Buran atop
 There are two An-225's. One operational with the twin tale and one waiting in the wings with a single tale.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

One Trillion

I am reading about Bunnie's Novena laptop computer project and he mentions that with some fancy new solid state disk this computer is going to contain one trillion transistors.
Chipworks did an excellent initial analysis of Samsung’s V-NAND technology and you can see from this SEM image they published that V-NAND isn’t about stacking just a couple transistors, Samsung is shipping a full-on 38-layer sandwich:
This isn’t some lame Intel-style bra-padding exercise. This is full-on process technology bad-assery at its finest. This is Neo decoding the Matrix. This is Mal shooting first. It’s a stack of almost 40 individual, active transistors in a single spot. It’s a game changer, and it’s not vapor ware. Heirloom backers will get a laptop with over 4 trillion of these transistors packed inside, and it will be awesome.
Sorry, four trillion transistors. We use thousands of dollars to buy a car and there are millions of people in a big city and billions of hurts in radio signals, but not too many things with trillions. Okay, there are terabyte disks that hold a trillion bytes, but I don't think disks, . .  wait a minute. I don't really know how disks are made these days. They used to be just really flat metal plates plated with super magic magnetic materials. But lately they've been talking about stacking bits (or domains) on end. Nah, they're still plating them. Photo-etching, like they use for making computer chips is good for small parts, maybe the size of your fingernail, but I don't think anybody is using the technique for anything that you could measure with a ruler. Well, except the military, but that's secret, so don't tell anybody.
    In any case, I got to wondering how big a trillion is. One trillion is ten to the 12th power. Any time you take about powers of ten someone always brings up the metric system. It's like Godwin's law (or is it Goodwin? Whatever.) Fine, let's go with the metric system. One cc (cubic centimeter) or water weighs one gram. Each cubic millimeter of water weighs one milligram. (ten millimeters in a centimeter, ten cubed is a thousand). People, and food, are mostly water, so every time you see a milligram on a nutrition label, think cubic millimeter. Not very big, but big enough you can see it and pick it up. Kind of like one of those chunky grains of sea salt that are so popular on everything these days.
    So imagine that you could package one transistor in a cubic millimeter size package. Then a thousand transistors in row would be one meter long. A thousand rows lined up next to each other would make square meter, one millimeter thick and would hold one million transistors. Stack a thousand of these panels on top of each other and you would have a cube that measured one meter every which way. It would hold one billion transistors. To get a trillion transistors you are going to need a thousand of these blocks. A cubic meter is big. To hold a your trillion transistors / thousand cubic meters would you would need 15 semi-trailers. Huh. If they are getting all those transistors in a laptop size package, they must be very much smaller than a grain of salt.

P.S. Mal shot first, in case you were wondering like I was.

Update October 2016 replaced missing picture, fixed dead link.

Lois Lane

At least ten women have portrayed Lois in live action films, and twice that many have (presumably) done her voice in animated ones. My favorite was Margot Kidder because, well, Margot Kidder. One of the inspirations for the character came from Nellie Bly, pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochrane. The pen name comes from a Stephen Foster song.

Inspired by Dustbury and Jerrie Mock. Evidentlie, famous women can't spell their first name with a Y.


yo mobil, 2011 show car for speculative Russian auto company
Not a cab, but I'd go for a ride.

A few weeks ago younger son was het up about driving for Uber, the gypsy cab company, telling me how much money he could make. Haven't heard much in that vein lately. That's okay, he's young, he's easily enthused and that's good.

The thing about cab companies (and tow truck companies, and beauty parlors in some places) is that they are licensed by the state (as in the local governing authority, probably not the state government). Those licenses effectively confer a monopoly on that line of work and those licenses become valuable. In New York City, last time I checked, taxicab medallions cost around $70,000. If you put up seventy large you are going to want to get a return of at least ten grand a year, which is $200 bucks a week. While not a fortune, it makes a big impact on how much a cab driver takes home.

The one time I was in England we saw a bunch of those iconic black London taxicabs running around, even caught a ride in one once. Can't say I was impressed. Pretty much beat to death, like a 50 year old Checker, but without the Checker's comforting mass. Called for a cab when we were leaving and some tiny little Japanese car showed up at the door. At first I didn't think it would hold us and our luggage, but no problem. There was no sign of a meter or a license, so I surmise that London has had an underground cab empire for quite a while.

Inspired by a post on Dustbury.

Totalitarianism Today

Gate to existing Deveselu Airbase
While looking for information about the new missile base the US is building in Romania, I came across this wonderfully written story by Alina Stefanescu.

You may have heard of Bowe. His actions created some controversy. Alina's story isn't really about Bowe, he's just the stepping off point. Well worth reading.

When Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania’s dictator, was finally taken down, my father, of a similar age, wondered why they couldn't just leave him alone. He's an old man, what's he gonna do? I didn't agree. I thought if there was a chance to make him pay for his sins, we should seize the chance before he kicks off on his own and escapes justice forever. Funny how stories can get your back up. I've never been to Romania, don't know anybody from there. Why should I care? Because there is a difference between right and wrong, though sometimes it's really hard to tell which is which.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Albert Michelson’s Harmonic Analyzer

(5 short videos)

Albert Michelson (of Michelson and Morley fame) built this machine a hundred years ago. It can combine sine waves to produce complex wave forms, and with some fiddling, it can break down a complex wave form into it's components. Relative to sound waves it operates very slowly, but it illustrates the principles, and that was the important part, because back then not everybody believed that complex wave forms could be broken down into a selection of simple sine waves. Okay, not everyone believes it now, but as far as the religion of science goes, it is an established fact.
    It is a bit of a complex process, so even if the machine has no other practical purpose, it is a very good teaching tool. Nowadays computers can perform this analysis or synthesis in real time, think Moog Synthesizer.
    The fifth video in the playlist (there are five) illustrates the relative pace of the sign waves generated by the 20 levers in this machine. The cute part is that you can click on any of the numbered boxes across the bottom of the video and it will take you directly to that portion of the video. The last one, number 21, has all 20 running simultaneously, which is kind of entertaining.
   I was a little confused when I first started looking at this machine because all the gears appear to be straight cut gears, meaning that the shafts of two meshing gears should be parallel. This machine has 20 gears of graduated sizes, all on one shaft, meshing with 20 gears, all the same size, on a second shaft. If the shafts are parallel, the machine won't work because only the largest gears will engage. But you can't run them at an angle because that would be wrong! Only a neanderthal, or a heretic would attempt to mesh straight cut gears at an angle. But that's what he has done, pagan free thinker that he was. Of course, we are running this machine without any kind of load, it's only being turned by hand, and only intermittently, so I guess it will survive. And guess what? It has.
    He also built one with 80 gears.

This whole business of decomposing wave forms kind of bothers me. If you can do analysis with 20 gears, why do you need 80? Why do you even need 20? Shouldn't 2 be enough? I suppose it's a matter of how accurate you want to be, which is kind of contrary to all the mathematics I was taught, which was all about having the right answer, not some approximation thereof. Can you imagine what your teacher would say when she asked you how much two plus was, and you answered that it was approximately five?
    I guess approximations are the name of the game these days. Jack tells me that the wave forms that come out of analog equipment that are supposed to be clean and pure are not, and that digitally synthesized wave forms are usually closer to the ideal. Talk about faith in the unseen. What I have believed all these years turns out to only be an approximation of a theoretical construct. God forbid we could see what all the electromagnetic radiation going on around us is actually doing.

Teapacks - Push The Button (English Subtitles)

Eurovision Song Contest 2007 Helsinki, Semifinal (May 10th) Live

I have no idea what to say.

Power for you, Power for me

India. Construction of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant.
I was just reading about 'load balancing' for electrical power utilities, and it occurred to me that we are overlooking something here. Seems to me that while everyone is concerned about the cost of power, residential users are more sensitive to power rates than businesses are. I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps because electrical power is such a small part of the budget for any kind of going concern, except perhaps for an aluminum foundry, but for a family living on wages, the power bill can be significant.
    I remember seeing an episode of Connections a while back where the hero was talking about how India was planning on building a giant new power plant to provide more power, but if they would have just replaced all their inefficient refrigerators with more efficient ones they could have cut their electrical consumption by a like amount. Supposedly replacing nine zillion refrigerators would have been cheaper than building a new power plant. They built the power plant anyway.
    Dustbury calculated that some personal computers cost as much to operate for a year as they cost to buy. I'm not sure I buy that, but doing the calculations to figure out if he is right or not would be a lot like work, and what I really want right now is a nap.
    I'm wondering if maybe we should have a sliding rate for electricity and water usage. Everyone gets their first kilowatt (or megawatt or whatever) for the same low rate. If you use more, the rate goes up. People who hold their consumption down to 'authorized' levels get off with a small bill. Wasteful sinners have to pay.

Inspired by Tam and The Silicon Greybeard

Monday, November 24, 2014

Circuit Stickers by Chibitronics

Make your own electronic greeting cards or secret agent circuits. Via Bunnie.

J. B. S. Haldane, Man of the Day

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane
Jack sent me this tidbit:
In his decompression chamber experiments, he and his volunteers suffered perforated eardrums, but, as Haldane stated in What is Life, "the drum generally heals up; and if a hole remains in it, although one is somewhat deaf, one can blow tobacco smoke out of the ear in question, which is a social accomplishment." - Wikipedia
Obviously a man of outstanding character. When I looked him up I found this memorable line:
My own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.
I also found this line, which I found a little curious until it was explained.
"God has an inordinate fondness for beetles." This alludes to the fact that there are more types of beetles than any other form of insect, and more insects than any other kind of animal.
He also had a fondness for Lenin, which I will excuse because of his claim that reading Lenin cured his gastritis. The last bits come from Wikiquotes.

Incremental Improvements in Personal Computing

Detroit Steve got us started by pointing out Bunnie's post about the $12 phone.
I upgraded [SWMBO]'s flip phone yesterday for $12


Microcenter is selling Microsoft Office for a year for $59...

oh, along with the free Window 8.1 machine.

It hard to keeping up with the times.

Microsoft. Hmmph. That stirs me enough to reply.
My gang all have smart phones that cost me an arm and a leg every stinkin' day. They seem to like them. Occasionally they have even helped us navigate out of traffic jams or found us a place to eat, so I guess they are not ENTIRELY USELESS.

I use Google Docs. I much prefer it to Microsoft Office or Open Office. It's all on the web, nothing to install, nothing to back up, nothing to buy. Get to your stuff from anywhere, which does come in handy even though I seldom come out of my cave.

Admittedly, most of the stuff I do is pretty simple-minded, no fantastically complicated financial spreadsheets, so Google suits me. You do need a high speed connection. Well, I don't think I could handle trying to do anything over a dial-up anymore.

I am still running XP, though a new Windows 7 machine is starting to look like a possibility. I have used Linux before and I keep threatening to go back, but it takes some actual effort to do that, and I'm really lazy.
CE expands:
Like Charles P,   after 20+ years of using MS Office, I switched to Google docs a few years ago and never looked back - and still have no regrets.

Actually, you don't need a high speed connection to use Google Docs / Spreadsheet.  You can use them offline and they automatically re-sync to the cloud the next time you're connected.

Bitly, for shortening links published on my blogs, but sometimes I use google's product for the same thing

Evernote, for storing document because a version was included with my Fujitsu ScanSnap Scanner

IFTTT to deliver some events from an organizations published event list directly to my Google Calendar. 

Basic hyperlink tricks and more grousing from yours truly:
I don't use short URL's. I embed the links in the text using Google's handy-dandy link-in-ator. Some of them are really long and I don't even want to look at them, much less think about them.

I also right click on embedded links and select 'Open in a new tab'. Saves having to copy and paste. Y'all probably know this, but surprisingly not everyone does.

Of course, sometimes links need editing, like when you want to point out a specific part of a YouTube video.

I bought an old XP machine from a recycler last summer for $150. I thought it was a pretty good deal. Then I thought about buying a laptop for traveling. I was surprised to see I could buy one on Amazon for $200. My son bought a netbook last summer for $200. My wife has a tablet and she uses the heck out of it. It's an Apple and cost some ridiculous amount of money.

If it has a touchpad or does not have a mechanical keyboard, I do not want it. And giving money to Microsoft is like throwing money on the fires of hell.

Never mind all that, we are all obsolete and soon to be consigned to the scrap pile of history. CE shows us the way.

My daughter, now in her senior year at Depaul University, uses mostly a Galaxy Tab S for her schoolwork.    It weighs one pound and the battery lasts about ten hours  She carries it in a Logitech mechanical keyboard case that allows her to use it like a laptop.   She said she doesn't need a laptop anymore for school because "everything is on the cloud".

Logitech Type-S Thin and Light Protective Keyboard Case for Samsung Galaxy Tab S

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.

Friday, November 21, 2014

More Rockets

Kazakhstan, Nov. 21, 2014. Russia's Soyuz-FG booster rocket with the space capsule Soyuz TMA-15M that will carry a new crew to the International Space Station (ISS), being prepared for launch at the pad in Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome. Start of the new Soyuz mission is scheduled on Monday, Nov.24.(AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Lot's of rockets going up this week. We won't even mention Pakistan's.

Construction of Nicaragua canal to begin December 22

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) speaks to Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega after arriving at the international airport in Managua. This is from July of this year. This photo could be real, but Putin looks photo-shopped. Guys in the front row have their jackets buttoned. Guys in the second row don't. Huh. Wonder why that is. Actually, no I don't.

China has signed a deal to build a canal across Nicaragua. It sounds like it could be a real deal. Russia might be involved. It makes sense that they would want their own canal across Latin America instead of being dependent on American's 'friend', Panama. Who is in charge of our foreign policy? Does it involve anything besides pissing on everyone else?

Scope it out

Pretty good trick getting a photo through a rifle scope. I have a hard time just getting my eye lined up with the scope. This is from a training mission on Cyprus.

China Deja Vu

A Long March-2D carrier rocket carrying the Yaogan-24 remote sensing satellite blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu province, Nov 20, 2014.  (Xinhua/Ren Long)

I saw this photo of the same Long March rocket carrying the same remote sensing satellite as the one I saw a couple of days ago and I'm thinking something is not quite kosher because while this launch was during the day, the other one was at night. Turns out it was two different satellites, Yaogan-23 and Yaogan-24, launched from two different launch sites about 600 miles apart. The are not far from Russia's new launch site (12-1500 miles), globally speaking.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Get the whole fantastic story here. The text is in Russian, but that's okay, you don't need it. 
The pictures tell the whole story.

Orion Spacecraft

Orion as it will appear in space for the Exploration Flight Test-1 attached to a Delta IV second stage.

Vostochny Cosmodrome

Russian is building a new space launch facility in their Far East to accommodate the new Angara rocket.

The new site is being built over Svobodny 18, a former strategic missile base. The base was originally built in 1968 and shut down in late 1993. As many as 100 silos were built in the region, with coal mining as a cover story.


New British bayonet. The blade sits to the right of the barrel, and the hilt is designed to allow the round to travel through it. I dunno bow dis, deyz messin wid tradition, and I'z purdy sure daz not good.

Jerry with Gun

Jerry Miculek shoots a balloon at 1000 yards with a Barrett 50 caliber rifle.

Jerry is an impressive shooter. He also makes a good video. Yada, yada, shut up and shoot, he shoots, and then gets in his golf cart and drives down to look at the target. The video of the drive is run at high speed and it still takes minutes to get there. How fast does a golf cart go? At 10 MPH it would take 3 minutes to cover the half mile to the target. And notice where he is at the end of the video: it's a real gun nut's paradise.

Girls with Guns

Pistol Packin' Mamma - Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters

A different version of this song (perhaps this one) was playing when I was at the doctor's office this morning, Sirius Radio, the receptionist tells me. I hadn't heard it in like forever. Did we used to sing it in elementary school? I wonder if anybody sings it anymore, anywhere. I think I prefer the original version of this tune but the slide show on this one is simply breathtaking. Every one of my girlfriends is up there!

Corita Kent and the Reptilian Humanoids

If you use the Google, then you know that today is Corita Kent's 96th birthday. Corita seems like a clever person. She penned this little ditty.

To understand
is to stand under
is to look up
which is a good way to understand

When I Googled the first part of this, I encountered this phrase:
The word understand does not mean "to comprehend" as we use it, but to stand under (authority), which is why
under the Merriam Webster listing in the search results,

but when I went to their definition it wasn't there. What gives? So I Google that phrase which takes me to a discussion on David Icke's website, where I find that this phrase is blamed on someone named Freeman and since Freeman is all bullshit all the time, this explanation of 'understand' is also bullshit. 

So who is this David Icke? From his website we have:
A series of amazing synchronicities or ‘coincidences’ . . . led me to becoming a newspaper, radio and television journalist, a sports presenter with the BBC and a national spokesman for the British Green Party. These experiences helped me to realise what an irrelevance the mainstream media and politics are at informing the public what is really going on in the world.
He's a little full of himself but that last sentence really resonates with me. On the other hand we have this bit from Wikipedia:
He nevertheless continued to develop his ideas, and in four books . . .  set out a worldview that combined New-Age spiritualism with a denunciation of totalitarian trends in the modern world. At the heart of his theories lies the idea that a secret group of reptilian humanoids called the Babylonian Brotherhood (including George W. Bush, Queen Elizabeth II, Kris Kristofferson and Boxcar Willie) controls humanity, and that many prominent figures are reptilian.
Shades of Weird Al. (Boxcar Willie? Oh, no! Not Boxcar Willie, whoever he is). Then there is this:
Richard Kahn and Tyson Lewis argue that the reptilian hypothesis may simply be Swiftian satire, a way of giving ordinary people a narrative with which to question what they see around them.
I like the plain meaning of statement, I mean, it explains so much, but if the 'satire' explanation makes you feel warmer and fuzzier, well don't blame me when our Reptilian Overlords invite you over for lunch and you find that you are entree.

P.S. The discussion mentions FOTL, which doesn't stand for anything other than Fruit Of The Loom, but what that has to do with understanding is beyond my comprehension.
P.P.S. I have no idea who Freeman is either.

Rosetta's Orbit

I am wondering how long it takes Rosette to make one orbit about the comet. The approach was done with numerous course corrections, but once you've actually matched velocities and are happy with your distance, I think that a nice stable orbit would be a really good idea, mostly because you wouldn't be using any of your limited supply of fuel just to maintain your position. But the comet has very little gravity, the escape velocity is less than one MPH. You could probably leave the comet if you jumped hard. Right now they are somewhere around 20 to 30 kilometers from the comet. If we assume one half mile per hour as the speed you need to maintain your orbit, and you run the numbers:

It's going to take Rosetta ten days to make a single orbit.And this is while the comet (and Rosetta) are hurtling around the sun at several miles per second.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Falling cats and tumbling athletes inspire search and rescue robots

So even our fancy multi-giga-hertz processors can't figure this stuff out fast enough. I see a big application for parallel processing here, or possibly neural net stuff. But that stuff is complicated, maybe too complicated to be implemented by mere mortals. Machine learning might help some, but it might take more years of training than we have before the next war overruns us all. Human beings are hard to beat, which shouldn't be surprising since we've been polishing our combat algorithms for a zillion years, ever since we were knee high to a paramecium.

Via army-technology dot com

Update December 2019 replaced missing video.

Elephant Ranch Revisited

Ivory that was confiscated in Singapore in 2002 and returned to Kenya was burned during the first African Elephant Law Enforcement Celebrations held on July 20, 2011 at Kenya Wildlife Services Field Training School at Manyani, Kenya. (Steve Njumbi / IFAW)
We watched an episode of Blacklist last night, number 206 I believe. Peter Fonda (I haven't seen him since forever) plays the magnanimous head of global conservation organization, but because this is Blacklist, he is also secretly the head of global cartel that deals in exotic and endangered animals and their parts. His explanation for this apparent contradiction is evil, and logical. There is demand for these products, both live animals and products made from them. You are not going to stop the demand, and with the way that people are and the way the world works, someone is going to find a way to fill that demand. So he is exploiting the situation to his advantage, and possibly the animals. He is doing this by eliminating all of his competition thereby gaining a monopoly in his market. The world creates the demand, and he controls the supply, and since he is a businessman he is making sure that no one threatens his supply.

This sounds suspiciously like my plan for an Elephant Ranch. I don't know how much that ivory in the picture above would have been worth on the market, black or white, but it seems likely that it could have paid the salaries of an anti-poaching patrol for a while.

Spoiler (well, sort of, you only need to watch a couple of episodes to know how this one is going to turn out): Red isn't happy with Peter, though if I got the story right, it was not because of his animal exploitation scheme, but because of the ruthless methods of his nominal 'employees'.