Tuesday, 29 June 2010 at 20:50
Arguably, since the dawn of the solid state
era the human race has been experimenting with the development of computronium
, or forms of matter optimized for the processing of information. The doped silicon semiconductors that make up the CPU and much of the supporting circuitry of the computer you're using right now are variants of computronium (albeit very primitive when compared with the above link). Most circuitry as we know it today has a few limitations that we don't often think about, however. First of all, it's on the fragile side. Drop a circuit board when it's not inside a housing of some kind and you'll be lucky if the fiberglass and resin composite sheet doesn't shatter into dozens of sharp pieces. If you were able to decapsulate a silicon chip you'd find it even more fragile than the circuit board it had been soldered to.
There are ways and means to mitigate these drawbacks, of course: the plastic casings of practically all of our tech toys are a cast iron bitch to open to protect the printed circuits inside. Sure, you can fake it for a while without a housing of some kind (in fact, that's how you work on the bench) but if you want your project to last you really should protect it somehow. However, PC boards and plastic cases tend to weigh a fair amount; flexible circuitry
has been around since the early 1980's at least but it's tricky to make and not many hobbyists are doing much with it
right now. Most flexible circuitry has to be mass produced for consumer goods
to be worth the trouble and cost of making. That was until an outfit called Seeed Studio
in China started playing with the idea of Arduinos built using flexible circuit boards
. Somehow it's only fitting that everybody's favorite microcontroller
(well, almost everybody - there will always be people who claim that foo
causes cancer) is the first to hit the wires. A quick peek at the specs shows that yes, this is a true blue Arduino, from the Atmel 328 microcontroller at its heart (backward compatible with the 168 if that's the way you roll) to the built in USB interface to the connector layout we all know and love. Unfortunately it's in alpha right now. Structurally speaking it's fragile and will crack if flexed too much and it doesn't have the complement of connectors we're accustomed to. Still, it's a great first start and might have potential if it gets off the ground.
More under the cut...
Tuesday, 29 June 2010 at 18:59
By some accounts, the Amazon
crash that began somewhen around 1600 EST5EDT today is the first downtime they've evidenced in years. On one hand I can't help but chuckle a little bit when I see this because, for once this isn't my fault. I can just sit back and fiddle while somebody else's network burns. On the other hand I've been on the other side of the screen when stuff like this happens and the thought of getting trapped in the data center trying to resuscitate the service of one of my old employers jolts me awake dripping with sweat in the middle of the night. I've kept Lyssa awake all night because "shit done blown up real good" at work and I was on the front lines of the restoration effort (and receiving new orifices in tender parts of my body from my boss the next morning, let me tell you). You can never really run a perfect service; things will always fail and backhoes unerringly find fibre optic trunks.
Keep an eye on #amazonfail
for up-to-the-second updates.
As of 1912 EST5EDT I think Amazon's back on its feet. Good work, fellow BOFHes. May your dressing down be mercifully short, may you keep your jobs, and may it be beer o'clock soon.
Actually, even better. May it not have been anything within your collective sphere of influence.
Monday, 28 June 2010 at 21:03
Monday, 28 June 2010 at 20:55
Not the sort of thing I expected to see in a parking lot.
Monday, 28 June 2010 at 20:51
Welcome to Virginia.
Monday, 28 June 2010 at 20:48
Sunday, 27 June 2010 at 11:48
One of the cornerstones of the Internet is making information available to whomever wants it for low or no cost. Case in point, the TCP/IP stack
within the operating system you're now running to read this post was probably originally posted to the Internet better than twenty years ago under the BSD license
. In fact, if you dig around inside the "About.." panes of Windows chances are you'll find that little block of text (at least, everything up to Windows 2000 had it, it's been a couple of years). The fan cultures that many of us partake of grew, at least in part, out of short stories, analyses, and discussions held on freely accessible forums online; for example, The Lurker's Guide to Babylon-5
began this way, with many and sundry contributing their thoughts. Back in the day (in the late 1990's and early 2000's) musicians around the world posted their music for anyone to download on a website called mp3.com (which no longer exists, sadly) because they discovered that if people could listen to a couple of tracks for free they were more likely to buy the entire album rather than take a chance on buying something that wasn't to their liking.
mp3.com is especially notable here because it started to shake up the powers that be, in particular, ASCAP
because it meant that up and coming artists didn't have to join them to get their music recorded and distributed. Last week on Boing Boing
composer Mike Rugnetta passed along a weapons-grade WTF to Cory Doctorow
. Rugnetta had received a letter from ASCAP
which urged members to contribute money to something called the ASCAP Legislative Fund for the Arts. The letter goes on to state that the Free Culture Movement is advocating mass piracy: that all music and art should be free regardless of the terms of licensing. Nothing can be further from the truth; ASCAP is, to put it succinctly, lying through their teeth because more and more popular artists are deciding to not join so they can strike out on their own, and are making good without ASCAP backing.
The message goes on to name names: ASCAP claims that the Creative Commons is trying to undermine copyright. Nothing is farther from the truth. The Creative Commons
does not advocate piracy either. The EFF is one of the few organizations out there who've been standing up for the rights of everyone online and has been doing so for twenty years now. They are behind the push for consumer rights for people like you and I which are increasingly coming under fire. They advocate for freedom of speech and the press in this country, rights which are also starting to take some shots. They also advocate for privacy for you and I in a time where even the contents of your personal e-mails may be sold to third parties if you don't watch out for people sneaking things into end user licensing agreements. Public Knowledge
is another advocacy group fighting to keep the law from being changed such that people who aren't large corporations can innovate and so that you can I can continue to claim our right of fair use
as well as the continued growth of the body of work known as the public domain
(which is also taking a lot of fire
So.. what can you do?
First of all, if you're a musician don't join ASCAP. Or contact them and tell them exactly what you think
about what they're doing, though if you don't do it intelligently and succinctly I doubt they'll pay much attention to you. I also recommend that you donate money to the organizations that they're spreading FUD about, namely, the Creative Commons, the EFF, and Public Knowledge. I also strongly urge you to read this rebuttal to their letter
, written by Eric Steuer of the Creative Commons.
This rant is published under the Creative Commons By Attribution/Non-Commercial/Share Alike v3.0 (unported) License
. You are free to copy and share it however and wherever you like, you make adapt this work however you like (remixing), and you may use it in your own non-commercial projects only so long as you give the author (moi) credit for the material that you use. I'd really appreciate a link back to this post if it's online, too.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010 at 14:19
I've spent a couple of weeks trying to figure out what I wanted to write about this, partly because it hits so close to home. I quietly followed the murder of Sophie Lancaster in 2007
because what happened to she and her boyfriend hit a little too close to home for me. Because it happened in the United Kingdom it really didn't have much of a media impact in the States, though word can and did get around. In summary, Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby of Lancashire, both of whom were part of the gothic subculture in the area, were jumped by a group of teens while out and about. Sophie Lancaster never regained consciousness after having her head kicked in and later died
; she wound up bearing the brunt of the attack, which is probably what saved Robert's life. Two of the kids who did it got life in prison
; the other three received sentences between four and six years each.
In the year 2009 the Lancaster family founded a charity organization in the UK
to act as a legacy for Sophie as well as to challenge the prejudice faced by people who, to be blunt, don't look like all the other people for whatever reason. The Foundation is also campaigning for amendment of the United Kingdom's Hate Crime Laws in response to Sophie's murder. In the months since its official recognition the charity has gained attention internationally, and last month the Foundation announced the release of an online-only fundraiser album called Hope
which features tracks donated by some of the luminaries of the gothic world, including Alien Sex Fiend
, The Mission (UK)
, New Model Army
, and Faith and the Muse
. All of the money raised by sales of the album will go to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010 at 13:57
For a couple of years now the US Department of Homeland Security has reserved the right to confiscate the laptop computers of US citizens for forensic analysis
upon re-entry to the country after traveling abroad. It didn't matter if you were on one of their watchlists (and who isn't these days?), it didn't matter if you'd mouthed off to a security guard, it didn't matter whether or not they had probable cause, they could do it and possibly never return it to you depending on when the got around to going through it and how they felt that morning. It's caused a lot of people to think twice before leaving on a business trip and even been the reason that many a corporation has reworked their SOPs so that employees didn't have to transport sensitive information into or out of the country because the potential risk of the information getting out was deemed too great. Not too long ago a US District Judge in California ruled that DHS can't legally seize the equipment of travelers and store it for months on end without doing anything with it
. The case in question involves one Andrew Hanson who returned from a business trip to South Korea early in 2009. Upon flying into SFO his laptop was confiscated by DHS, who claimed that his laptop was not covered by the bill of rights, the Fourth Amendment
to the contrary. His laptop was returned months later after having been analyzed for the presence of electronic contraband. US District Judge Jeffrey White ruled that DHS couldn't legally do that without a warrant, which requires them to show probable cause.
One has to wonder what effect this will have elsewhere in this country
Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 20:59
You know, one of these days Lyssa is going to walk into my office and find me stone dead, keeled over my laptop clutching my chest, possibly with blood streaming from my nose and mouth and steam spraying wildly from my ears.
The Republican Party of the state of Texas has just published its official party platform for the year 2010 and they're going out of their way to make certain people feel welcome
. It starts off pretty normally for them, about traditional marriage being founded upon one man and one woman, nevermind history
saying something completely different
(though that never stopped them). However, they are also demanding that Congress pass an amendment which will only permit heterosexual marriage in the United States, thus attempting to step on the toes of the other 49 in the union. To put the cherry on the cake they make the demand that anyone who performs a same-sex wedding ceremony or even issues a marriage license for a same-sex wedding be brought up on felony charges.
Time out, people. First of all, the GOP of Texas can't really make demands of Congress, nor are they calling the shots for every Republican in the United States. If the party at the national level starts echoing their cries (assuming that more of them
don't get outed
, which I wholly support) then we have something to worry about. Third... none of this has been passed into law yet, so for the moment it's still safe to be queer in Texas, at least for the moment.
Family values, indeed. One supposes that xenophobia, hatred, and homophobia are family values if they're passed down to one's children, though not of the sort we'd like to consider.
Monday, 21 June 2010 at 08:22
Very busy at work and at home.
Just getting over being sick, but unfortunately Lyssa's caught it and is fighting it off.
Behind on, well, everything, from watching Sir Derek Jacobi
reading parts of Shakespeare's The Tempest
with operatic interludes sung by a countertenor
to going camping with some close friends.
Was shocked and amazed by Snoop Dogg doing filk
Silliness and madness abound in equal proportion.
Oh, and I have a backlog of pictures to post and things to write about. I'm going to try to clear half of those things this week, if I can.
Half a league, half a league, half a league onward, all in the valley of Death rode the six hundred...
Sunday, 06 June 2010 at 17:32
Last last month and early this month, a disturbing amount of WTF appears to have been cropping up around the country. While that shouldn't really surprise anyone as it seems like a common state of mind anymore, I still find it fascinating in the "Wow, that's how they cut someone out of a wrecked car?" way.
First of all, the Supreme Court decided by a vote of 5 to 4 that one's Miranda Rights mean far less than they used to
. Dating back to the court case Miranda v. Arizona in 1966, the Miranda rights of American citizens
are the rights you have when you are taken into custody by law enforcement for interrogation. In short
, you are supposed to have the right to remain silent, the right to speak to an attorney and have him or her present, and the right to have legal representation appointed if you can't afford to retain a lawyer. If you have not been placed under arrest then they don't have to read them to you. At least, that was the way it worked up until recently, when the Supreme Court decided that you must break your silence to assert your right to remain silent
. Stop and think about that for a minute.
The case dates back to a fatal shooting in the year 2000 where one Van Chester Thompkins was arrested under suspicion of shooting Samuel Morris in Michigan. He was advised of his rights, and opted to say nothing while he was in custody. However, two hours and change into his interrogation the police asked him a "do you still beat your wife?" question, to which he answered in the affirmative. This was enough to convict him, and carried a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. The US Court of Appeals decided that this constituted Thompkins waiving his Miranda rights and upheld the conviction. Most of the US Supreme Court agrees, though there are many (the ACLU, the other four justices, and the Criminal Legal Justice foundation) who are understandably upset about this. Interestingly, all sides concerned admit that this represents a substantial undercutting of a fundamental part of US criminal law.
More under the cut...
Friday, 04 June 2010 at 20:20
When last I went in for dental work
I'd done some planning ahead and made an appointment to get one last problem taken care of, namely, the oldest and first filling in the clinical disaster area known as my mouth that had started leaking a few years ago. So, I went in to see my dentist this morning... after the usual round of novocaine injections and pleasantries Dr. Huang started to drill away the old filling and clean the decay and accumulated cellular garbage out. About halfway through the procedure I started feeling everything. Not because the local gave out, mind you, but because the nerves were involved (probably in the early stages of infection, judging by how lousy I'd been feeling this week) and just weren't going offline. Another x-ray showed a bit of inflammation of the roots, which meant that I was in the HOV lane headed to root canal city with a plastic temporary filling riding shotgun and one hell of a case of nerves.
By a case of nerves, I mean a full blown panic attack, complete with dizziness and shaking hands. I've been feeling off for a couple of days but between a bad tooth, my usual French press of coffee this morning, and three jabs of novocaine mixed with epinephrine, I kind of lost my shit somewhere between the dentist's office and home. I was able to make it home for a few minutes during which time I was able to dump my baggage (so to speak) and pull myself together. That got me as far as Dr. Suh's office, where it required another four syringes of whatever high-test stuff he uses to be able to go in there and clean the works out. Even when he broke out my old friends
I could still kind of feel it down in one of the roots. I finally headed for home around 1400 EST5EDT today, called off of work, and tried to get some sleep. My facial nerves had taken so much abuse that even my left eye was having difficulty tracking with its twin (which made driving entertaining, let me tell you) and I'd managed to use up all my blood sugar reserves (which rarely helps anything).
To give you an idea of how fried I am, it's taken me about three hours to write this entry.
Note to self: avoid coffee when expecting stimulants later in the morning. The central nervous system saved will be probably my own.
Additional note to self: add all dentists to my Yule card list.