Fabbing components, parallel processing with rats, and synthetic neurons.

Life being what it is these days, I haven't had much time to write any real posts here. If I'm not working I'm at home studying because I'm back on the "get letters after my name" trail, and if I'm not studying or in class I'm helping get family moved out and set up on the west coast. Or I'm at the gym because I'm fighting alongside my essential vanity by trying to lose weight; people tell me that I look good these days but there's a fine line between looking healthy and needing new clothes. So there you have it, from the depths of my psyche just above some of the interfaces.

I do have one or two interesting things in the pipeline that I need to write about - in fact, they're going to be submitted to a couple of conferences if all goes according to plan. But I think I'd better get the conference papers written first because you never can tell if the organizers will pitch a fit (or threaten legal action - they're being held in the US, after all) if you blog about something you're going to present. But enough about that.

Some years ago, after the field of 3D printing really took off, a number of hackers began working on the problem of fabricating circuit boards with 3D printers instead of going through the process of laying out and etching circuit boards with chemical processes that are often nasty and messy. But then the question of acquiring components comes up - Radio Shack is as dead as Walt Disney so it's not as if you can jander down to the strip mall and pick up the parts you need anymore (mostly - some Micro Center outlets have entire sections dedicated to this sort of thing, as do Fry's outlets) if you really need something for a project and can't wait to order it online.

A couple of days ago research teams at the University of California at Berkeley and the National Chiao Tung University of Taiwan published a paper last week in Nature's open access journal Microsystems and Nanoengineering which detailed how they used a 3D printer to fabricate reasonably standard electronic components. Their 3D printer was a dual extruder model which laid down successive layers of structural plastic and sacrificial wax to form hollow spaces inside the figure that were later cleaned out to make room for multiple injections of silver paste which formed the conducting portions of the components. The hollow spaces were engineered to have certain electrical properties so that different kinds of components could be constructed, among them inductors and resistors. From these basic components electrical circuits were constructed; as a proof of concept the research team built a "smart milk cap" which had what amounts to a simple lab-on-a-chip to keep tabs on whether or not the milk in the carton had gone bad or not by analyzing changes in the electrical properties of the milk. Data was transmitted from the smart milk cap via a passive RF transmitter that blipped out data whenever an RF probe energized it.

The size of their components? Before cleaning them up they fit comfortably on top of a penny with room to spare. The resolution of their printer (a 3D Systems ProJet HD 3000) is 30 μm or 30 millionths of a meter. This ain't your dad's breadboard.


More under the cut...

The Doctor | 27 July 2015, 12:00 hours | default | No comments

Notes from the Transhuman Superpowers and Longevity Conference - 12 July 2015

And now, hopefully sooner than the last set, my notes taken during the Transhuman Superpowers and Longevity Conference held on 12 July 2015 in Oakland, CA. Everything's behind the cut, with references as applicable. Personal observations (are on separate lines in parenthesis) to differentiate them from the speaker's material.


More under the cut...

The Doctor | 20 July 2015, 09:00 hours | default | No comments

Notes from the Transhuman Strategies conference, 21 March 2015

At long last, here are my notes from the Transhuman Strategies conference held by the Brighter Brains Institute on 21 March 2015. It took me a while to find the notebook I wrote them in, so that's why they're a few months late in coming. Anyway, my notes are under the cut.


More under the cut...

The Doctor | 17 July 2015, 09:00 hours | default | No comments

I am this week's special guest on the More Thank Bits! podcast.

Last week Alexius Pendragon invited me to be the special guest on the podcast he co-hosts, called More Than Bits! During the interview I fielded a bunch of questions about the RaspberryPi and my lunchtop, Squeak and Scratch, capture the flag competitions and Project 2 by dirtbags.net, Project Byzantium, and being on the Global Frequency.

I was unfortunately ill-prepared for the interview because I ran home from work and jacked in without taking the time to get my head or my notes together, so I made quite a few gaffs. I hate it when I'm operating half in work mode and half in home mode, which messes with my memory retrieval mechanism. Truth be told I'm kind of embarassed by the mistakes I made, but that's what happens when you don't take the time to switch out of work mode. Neither am I perfect.

Here is the episode in its entirity, for listening online or download.

The Doctor | 13 July 2015, 11:47 hours | default | No comments

The OPM compromise and information dynamics.

If you pay attention to the news, you've undoubtedly heard that the US Office of Personnel Management, which coordinates the background investigations for every civil servant and contractor of the United States government was pwned so thoroughly that the intruders even got into E-QIP, the online web service that prospectives have to enter their life histories into (well, at most the last decade of it) so the process can begin. Say what you want about government, but this will probably go down as the most gigantic clusterfuck in history and it shows every sign of getting worse, not better. One of the things the US government has gotten incredibly paranoid over since 9/11 is people who aren't USians, almost unto xenophobia. So why, then, did they outsource their entire IT infrastructure management to mainland China?

I got nothin'. And that's not what I wanted to write about, actually. What I wanted to write about is how wrong-headed the idea of "Tell your security officer everything, because if somebody tries to blackmail you about it you can go to them, and they'll help."


More under the cut...

The Doctor | 06 July 2015, 09:00 hours | default | One comment

The California t-shirt conspiracy.

All of the t-shirts commonly available in California seem cut to make you feel bad about yourself. No matter your self-image, no matter your body shape or configuration, just about any t-shirt you find is going to make you feel fat. At the very least, most sizes run one size smaller (i.e., what is marked 'large' is actually cut as a 'medium', and so forth).

Upon reflection, this might be why personal exercise is so common in California.

The Doctor | 26 June 2015, 18:04 hours | randomknowledge | No comments

Pictures from the Covenant Concert, 30 April 2015.

Pictures from the Covenant show at the DNA Lounge on 30 April 2015.

The Doctor | 23 June 2015, 09:00 hours | images | No comments

Makerfaire 2015

If you've never been to Makerfaire, it's a rite of passage for geeks of all kinds. In fact, I'd recommend that everyone attend their nearest Mini-Makerfaire at least once because you'll see all manner of weird, wonderful, and inspiring things on display. I ran a table at the one in Silver Spring, Maryland back in 2013 with HacDC and had a ball. Anyway.

I had a chance to attend the original Makerfaire in the Bay Area a few weekends ago and, though it was a significant journey on BART and on a shuttle bus it was well worth it. There, I saw more kinetic art than I've seen anywhere else (most of it breathing fire), several examples of functional powered armor, TOOOL had an entire tent dedicated to locksport, there were robots running around all over the place, a massive store where the latest and greatest smart components could be bought (I didn't buy any - I don't have time right now, so there was no point), movie props... more than I can really recount here. I did take pictures of most of it, though.

Here are the pictures I took.

The Doctor | 17 June 2015, 09:30 hours | images | No comments

Experimenting with music.

When screwing around with a keyboard try using your off-hand predominently. I find that this bypasses the logical part of my brain which insists that I'm wasting my time and should do something more worthwhile.

The Doctor | 14 June 2015, 20:18 hours | randomknowledge | No comments

More rants, raves, and out of context humor.

I've updated my .plan file. As usual, the usual caveats and warnings apply.

The Doctor | 11 June 2015, 14:55 hours | default | No comments

Baycon 2015

Once, when I was quite small, I had an opportunity to attend a science fiction convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I don't recall exactly when this was, it was long enough ago that Time Trax was on television and still in the first run of its first season (there was merchandise for it all over the dealers' rooms) but it made an impression on me. First, there were other science fiction fans out there, and second there was this thing called cosplay which I didn't really get into until college.

Long story short, I'm finally settled in enough to consider going to any cons in the Bay Area. My search agents caught wind of Baycon, the Bay Area's sci-fi convention which was held a couple of weekends ago. A few months previous I set about making plans to attend, arranging for time off, making reservations, putting out feelers and suchlike. Amberite responded during this process because he was going to be driving down to California around that time. As we are wont to do we'd made plans to dress up for most of the convention. We're both in the Homestuck fandom (and I don't have any of my other costumes left due to multiple clothing purges during the move) so he and I opted to attend as two of the characters, Rose Lalonde and Kanaya Maryam. Amberite already had plans for his costume, which left me getting back into the swing of using my sewing machine.

For those of you who aren't interested in costume making, here are the pictures we took at Baycon. For those of you who are interested I'll put the costume build after the cut...


More under the cut...

The Doctor | 08 June 2015, 09:00 hours | images | No comments

Exhaustion.

Ever have a week where you work 16-18 hour days, five days straight?

There almost wasn't enough coffee on the west coast to keep me going. Almost.

Sorry, everybody else. It was for a good cause. Promise.

The Doctor | 06 June 2015, 21:49 hours | default | No comments

Yes, this really does happen sometimes.

Sometimes, in San Francisco, a band will appear out of nowhere and play for an hour or two under somebody's eave, or on a corner. No rhyme, no reason, just because. This particular band played jazz for commuters on their way home that night.

A random band playing jazz in Oakland.

The Doctor | 10 May 2015, 03:32 hours | images | No comments

Walking along the beach, 7 March 2015.

A beach in California in spring, with a whale skull washed up on shore. I don't think I can say anything else about this.

The Doctor | 10 May 2015, 03:28 hours | images | No comments

The Internet Archive

Yes, this is part of The Internet Archive.

Three of the server racks that comprise archive.org.


More under the cut...

The Doctor | 10 May 2015, 03:24 hours | images | No comments

Photographs from the Alliance of Sound 2014 tour.

Last last year a number of industrial heavy hitters - Skinny Puppy
Front Line Assembly, Haujobb, Youth Code, and S4NtA_MU3rTE - came to San Francisco as The Alliance of Sound. We missed the first few bands due to traffic but arrived just in time to catch one of my favorites, Front Line Assembly whose work was a staple of my misspent youth's soundtrack. It was a joy to watch their retrotech-heavy visuals and hear their newer work live (along with a couple of old favorites). We stayed as long as we could, but I have to be honest the lot of us tapped out halfway through Skinny Puppy's set. Even with shooter's plugs in my ears, the sound system was set to 'punishing' and I stumbled out of the concert hall into the lobby reeling.

Here are the pictures, or at least the ones that turned out as decently as possible.

The Doctor | 10 May 2015, 03:01 hours | images | No comments

I think we found the Waydown.

Amazing what one finds when one goes exploring.

The Doctor | 10 May 2015, 02:43 hours | images | No comments

William Gibson book signing, 31 October 2014.

Last year William Gibson went on a book tour for his latest novel, The Peripheral. I don't have much to say about when he came to the Bay Area because I was (predictably) sick and not running on all 64 bits. Here are the pictures..

The Doctor | 10 May 2015, 02:27 hours | images | No comments

Bitcoin ATM in downtown San Francisco.

It's in a coffee shop, of all places.

The Doctor | 10 May 2015, 02:23 hours | images | No comments

The strangest things get thrown out in San Francisco.

A surgical table with straps on it.

The Doctor | 10 May 2015, 02:14 hours | images | No comments
"We, the extraordinary, were conspiring to make the world better."