Category Archive: technology

Apr 12 2016

WaitButWhy and Iron Man

Really first class article about Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX, energy use, and the future of the world.

So on my visit to California, I had two goals in mind: to understand as best I could what Musk and his teams were working on so feverishly and why it mattered so much, and to try to gain insight into what it is that makes him so capable of changing the world.

Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man

Jan 04 2016

Glorious exhibit of the quest to determine longitude at sea

In many ways, this was the space program of the 18th century. The current exhibit at Mystic Seaport is glorious and mesmerizing.

For centuries, longitude (east-west position) was a matter of life and death at sea. Ships that went off course had no way to re-discover their longitude…With life-changing sums of money on offer, the challenge became the talk of London’s 18th-century coffee houses and captured the imaginations and talents of astronomers, skilled artisans, politicians, seamen, and satirists; many of whom came up with ingenious methods and instruments designed to scoop the Board of Longitude’s tantalizing rewards and transform seafaring navigation forever.

The H3 timekeeper

 

Ships, Clocks & Stars

Apr 22 2015

Old tech can be good tech

To the delight of the attendees at the conference where the results were announced, Jonathan Betts was able to announce that Clock B lost 5/8ths of a second over the 100 days – a phenomenal achievement and a tribute to Harrison.

http://www.salonqp.com/updates/watch-news/john-harrison-guinness-world-record-clock-greenwich-observatory/

Aug 08 2014

Why I quit Amazon

I submitted this as feedback on my Amazon account today.

I’ve been a long-time Amazon customer, since 1997 in fact, and have purchased thousands of dollars and dozens of items from you in the last 17 years. I’ve always been pleased with the utility of your website and the ease of purchasing books, music, and other products.

Over the years, I have unhappily noted that small bookshops have disappeared throughout the country, with rare exceptions. This saddened me, since book browsing has always been one of my favorite pastimes; however, I also whole-heartedly embraced the digital revolution, and I recognized this loss as a disheartening consequence.

So I am not just disheartened, but dismayed, that Amazon has elected recently to impede the sales of books from Hachette. Amazon’s appeal to me was not simply that it could send hard-to-find books quickly; it was that it was open-handed and its reach enabled it to find almost any book I needed. Now, however, by limiting or blocking Hachette’s catalogue, I see that this is not true. Worse, Amazon has chosen to do this even as it has driven most of its competition out of business; it is almost impossible for me to now go to a bookstore to find unusual books, since they simply can’t afford to compete with you and maintain such an inventory. So Amazon, by blocking Hachette, has not simply interjected its self-interest into its own marketplace, but has in effect has blocked me from finding Hachette titles anywhere.

This is an unfriendly act to the Hachette authors and overall publishing industry. But it is also an unfriendly act to me, as a customer of Amazon. However easy and effortless purchasing on the Amazon website might be, it is useless if the book or other product I want isn’t there.

So, whoever in the vast organization of Amazon is reading this, I am hereby informing you as one of your millions of customers that I will no longer turn to Amazon first for book or other purchases. Instead, I will be looking for small bookstores or local vendors. And if that should fail, I will seek other website vendors who may offer those products. Amazon will be my last, rather than first, choice going forward. Competition is a wonderful thing, and your actions regarding Hachette have reminded me to patronize your competitors as a way of ensuring that my freedom to find and purchase what I want in the future is protected.

Update: this issue was resolved, although Amazon’s policies toward booksellers and others remains troubling. That said, I have set up an Amazon Smile charity, to which Amazon will donate a small portion of every purchase I make, as a small way to offset Amazon’s negative impact on small businesses and independent contractors.

Apr 26 2014

Rediscovering the early images of space exploration

Once upon a time, NASA collected high resolution photos of the Moon and Earth on tapes, transmitted by early-generation satellites. Then they put the tapes away. Then the tape decks stopped working, and the companies stopped making them, and the engineers retired, and the tapes were forgotten.

And then one day someone found an old tape deck…

The Hackers Who Recovered NASA’s Lost Lunar Photos

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

Nov 17 2013

“Tesla Motors may make its own batteries”

It was only a matter of time for Tesla to come to this conclusion. Buying batteries from a foreign supplier left them vulnerable in the long term to single-source risk: suppose Panasonic had a fire, or raised its prices exorbitently? Not to mention that Tesla has no real control over the timing of manufacture or the design of the batteries themselves. It’s too much of a risk for the major essential component of their product.

Tesla Motors may make its own batteries

Nov 12 2013

iOS vs. Android: why Steve Jobs blew his stack

Jobs was betrayed by Eric Schmidt of Google even as Schmidt sat on Apple’s board. So much for “don’t be evil” (Google’s motto).

Jobs had trusted Google’s cofounders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt was on Apple’s board. All three had been telling Jobs about Android, but they kept telling him it would be different from the iPhone. And for some reason he believed them until he actually saw the phone and its software.

Steve Jobs On Android Founder Andy Rubin: ‘Big, Arrogant F***’

Nov 12 2013

Yet Another Inane Post: “Is Tesla Motors Doomed?”

It’s getting tiresome seeing lazy blog posters trolling for readers by posting wildly overdramatic headlines. Like this one.

One, Two, and Now Three Fires: Is Tesla Motors Doomed?

No, Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) is not doomed…

So why read beyond the first 6 words?

Oct 25 2013

Five Billion Years of Solitude

Reviews of a new book on astrobiology, the history of the earth, and our future.

…in equal parts, a primer on the search for alien worlds, a biography of Earth and the life that inhabits it, and a story about how exoplanetology grew, and how, with the hour of its greatest triumph approaching, it fell short.

The Economist

…it’s really an amazing and entirely unprecedented time to be alive if you’re interested in the question of life beyond Earth. Right now is one of those strange moments where you have a singular confluence of brilliant minds and breakthrough observations that will become legendary in the history of science.

interview  with the author in The Atlantic

Oct 25 2013

Interactive clothing

Imagine clothes that change their look depending upon your mood – or the mood of your friend. Then read about Cute Circuit.

In 2002, Cute Circuit released a shirt allowing two people to send each other hugs in different places. After getting a notification on their phone, the hug-receiver, who is ideally always near his hug shirt, puts on the garment. When they put on the shirt, the hug is awaiting them. The shirt then begins vibrating warmly, tightening around them. Each hug is personalized by the hug sender’s grip and the amount of time they held on to their own hug shirt. [Cute Circuit article]

Oct 24 2013

Laser-mediated broadband from lunar orbit

[NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer has]…a series of lasers on the outer hull designed to shoot back data to three base stations here on Earth much faster than traditional radio data links – and the agency reports the first tests have been a roaring success 

 

So this is probably faster than my broadband from Comcast.

622 Mbps Broadband Found On Moon

Oct 14 2013

Iconic: a photographic tribute to Apple innovation

OK, say you’re an Apple devotée. No, say you’re an Apple fanatic. No, actually, say that Apple has changed everything you do, that Steve Jobs is one of the most influential people in your life, and that it is inconceivable that you could imagine functioning day to day without at least one Apple product in your hand, your pocket, or your purse.

Then you need this book.

Iconic.

Aug 30 2013

Charging the Model S

I’ve created a small spreadsheet to calculate the charging times at various stations for the Tesla Model S, and the optimal kW/m usage to maximize range.

 Tesla-charging

Jun 22 2013

ZFS: some day my prince will come…

Lost

Many of us believe that filesystem integrity is the single most important component of computer systems. Disk drives fail, computer systems are upgraded, networks improve and and morph from wired to wireless – but the data files that represent the accumulated work and knowledge of users remain. It’s bad enough that, as applications become outdated, proprietary file formats become unreadable: who now can read an old WordStar doc? (Even NASA has learned, to its chagrin, that failure to have a policy regarding collected data can result in historic losses. For example, the original video transmission tapes from the Apollo 11 moon landing are gone, nowhere to be found; and telemetry from the first lunar orbiter satellites were stored in an uncertain file format on tapes that could only be played on machines no longer made.) We will probably never entirely overcome these kinds of issues. But it would be absolutely stupid to compound them, by using filesystems inherently vulnerable to data loss.

Anyone who has used Macs or PCs for more than a minute has erased a file they wished they’d kept. Or had a disk crash and become unreadable. Or discovered that a long-unread but valued image file now contains junk.

Over the years, OS designers have come up with various methods to prevent this from becoming a disastrous Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 21 2013

Tesla phones home

This weekend, my Signature Model S P85 sent out a cry for help.

Not to me, mind you. I never heard it. Instead, Essie went all ET-like and phoned home: she powered up her cellular 3G antenna and transmitted an alert to her Mom and Dad at the Tesla engineering labs in Fremont, California. “Help me,” she whined. “Isolation fault!”

Now, I don’t keep my Model S isolated at all. I love this car, and pay her all kinds of attention. If she feels isolated, it’s obviously something deep inside her, someplace I can’t reach. But she wasn’t talking to me, and I had no clue how she felt.

But Mom and Dad did. On Saturday, they called me. “Mr. Allan?” they said. “We need to see your car. She’s sending out a fault alarm. Can you either bring her to us, or can we pick her up?”

Getting Amped in Dania Beach

Getting Amped in Dania Beach

I was damned if I was going to drive my uncommunicative vehicle all the way to Dania Beach just because she was feeling, well, faulty; so instead the Tesla geniuses arranged for a specially-trained tow service to send a flatbed to my home to pick her up. Specially trained, indeed: the driver is one of the only operators in S. Florida who understands Teslas, and how they need to be lifted into jack mode and driven at a 30-degree angle onto a flatbed tray, secured not with hook tie-downs but with web loops around the wheels, and conveyed like fairy princesses down the Interstate to the shop. Shades of John Broder, I thought: now everyone is going to see how my Tesla is leaving me, running away with a tow truck and looking broken down.

But the next day, the Tesla geniuses called me. “No worries,” they said. “Yes, she was having issues with isolation. But we gave her a brand-new battery pack, and she feels young and healthy again.”

“What happened?” I asked. “What did I do?”

“Oh, nothing!” they replied. “Hard to why or who’s at fault. But rather than try to analyze it too deeply, we just decided a new pack would fix it quickly.”

And a day or so later, back came Essie, clean and bright and shiny on a Tesla trailer, home to my front door. I was admittedly a little concerned when Tesla Genius handed me a five-page document to sign. But as I read it I became positively cheerful. Not only was Essie recharged and rejuvenated; they had cleaned her, and filled her tires, checked and changed the lift gate seals, inspected the A/C and re-routed the system harnesses, replaced the rear axle nuts, checked the PSRCM calibration and J1772 adaptor, and – most delightful of all – replaced the front floor mats and installed a new rear mat as well. It was like coming home from the hospital with a new set of clothes and a haircut thrown in. I’m lucky at Mercedes if they wash the car; forget new floor mats.

Now, just last night, even as Essie was sitting happy and content again in my garage, Elon Musk announced a new battery-swap program. It takes all of 90 seconds. Phew. That’s almost faster than I can find my credit card at Sunoco to start with. It certainly is faster than the 2 days that my Model S was in the shop. But, then again, they don’t give you new floor mats, and I’ll bet that PSRCM calibration takes a little longer. So I’m happy. Essie is happy. And all is right with the world.

Jun 18 2013

1990 WWDC swag

Found this buried in a storage cabinet. Blast from the past. When WWDC was in San José, and Mac programmers were Real Men, not wimpy iOS code monkeys. Does anyone remember HyperCard? MacApp? MPW?

 

1990 WWDC briefcase

1990 WWDC briefcase

 

1990 WWDC briefcase label

1990 WWDC briefcase label

 

Jun 13 2013

Remember the old Mac Pro?

Well, just in case you’ve forgotten how cool it was then, here‘s the intro commercial for the G5.

G5

Mar 23 2013

What I learned today from my corporate cousins

Thanks, Michael Johnson

https://twitter.com/drwave/status/315325314953777152/photo/1

Mar 21 2013

Flagler Bridge to remain open

 
March 21, 2013. Palm Beach Duh News.

The Florida Department of Transportation assured residents of Palm Beach County that the Flagler Bridge will remain open indefinitely, officials said today.

“We have no plans to close the north bridge,” said Jojo deLojo, chief dreamer of the Department. “There is nothing wrong with the bridge that chewing gum and duct tape can’t fix.”

Officials have been scrambling in recent weeks to understand the problems that have caused the supports of the bridge to settle during construction of its replacement. However, despite repeated attempts to drill tiny little holes into the muck below the bridge using straws, they have been unable to fully reveal the damage believed to have occurred to its foundation. All that has been seen to date are millions of wood-borer worms and a handful of flattened styrofoam coffee cups tied together with string, which they believe were used by the original engineers to fill gaps in the wood of the pilings.

Mayor Gail Coniglio of the Town of Palm Beach announced her support for the proposed repairs, after they were unveiled in a public meeting in the back of E. J. Bradley’s late Saturday night after a three-hour open bar cocktail party. “We have every hope that the Department of Transportation will hire someone who knows what they are doing and that the next set of engineering drawings will use the latest and most sophisticated CAD/CAM tools available, rather than the scribbled sketches on the inside of a Mars bar wrapper that were previously relied upon,” she said Monday.

DOT’s deLojo circulated plans of the proposed bridge repairs to attendees at Saturday’s event, though most ended up being used as cocktail coasters and dartboards. The repairs are clearly seen as long strands of heavily reinforced unidentifiable organic material, secured at either end of the bridge by gold-plated golf tees from the Palm Beach Country Club. “The State of Florida will not skimp to find the most expensive and exotic technology to use to keep traffic open between the mainland and the island of Palm Beach, notwithstanding our belief that island’s citizenry are undeserving of any assistance,” deLojo assured the crowd. “The State may be broke and may refuse any monies from the Federal government, but we have confidence that we can produce all the required funds, if necessary by printing fake Florida dollars with the likeness of Rick Scott and Donald Trump.”

State officials estimate the cost of the repairs to be no more than $500 million, give or take $50 million depending on the fees necessary to pay the Palm Beach Water Taxi and other ferry services while the repairs take place. They believe it will take no more than 15 years to complete, working mainly at night from 1:00 am to 1:10 am to minimize noise and inconvenience to the bridge keeper, who normally sleeps during the period while cars are waiting for the gates to go up. Officials also revealed that emergency escape procedures from cars left hanging precariously over the edge of any collapsed portions of the new bridge will use zip lines and plastic tie wraps attached to large commercial fishing hooks, capable of holding people weighing up to 350 pounds.

“This is Florida,” said one representative from the Governor’s office. “From our voting equipment to our infrastructure, everything here works like we intend it to.”

Feb 16 2013

Steve + Steve + blue box = …

This is beyond funny. The phone phreak subculture of the 1970s ended up changing the entire world, much like the model railroad club at MIT did.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak’s “eureka!” moment @ Salon.com

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