August 4th, 2020

One of the projects I ponder from time to time is making a 3D printer big enough to print a house. I’m really curious whether it would be possible to take this technology further than it’s already been taken – in particular I’m interested about the possibility of having the printer I electrodeposit or just plain insert rebar at appropriate places, and I’m also curious, how cheap could you make such a beast?

Obviously it’s going to have some expensive parts – a high pressure concrete pump – but mostly it’s just some ropes, some big gear motors, and some sort of scaffolding to hang the whole thing off of.

Another project I have joked about many times – the ConeDrone, a series of remote controlled cars to move around traffic cones so we don’t spend a hour before every construction project shutting down the road and another hour bringing it back online – involves precision locating via RF, which would also figure largely in a 3D printer big enough to print a house.

I should probably start out by making a *small* 3D printer just to get a sense of the problems involved. It looks easy enough, but I suspect like so many things of that nature, the devil is in the details.

I do also sometimes ponder subtractive 3D printing i.e. CNC – watching the amazing work on the Marble Machine 2.0 has made me really appriciate how far this technology has come, and I may get some subtractive 3D gear for the solar tracker project.

In other news..

August 3rd, 2020

If anyone is wondering what’s up with the music, well, I’ve been woodshedding my paws off. I’ve discovered that the 12 bar blues are a very effective framework for shedding improvising around, and I’m working on being able to do that comfortably and effortlessly in every key. I recently added a hour meter to my mixer so I could keep track of how much time I’m putting in and it looks like it’s between 1 and 2 hours a day.

I’ve also been working on my guitar skills, and while they are still meager, they are getting to be steadily less so.

So, the general overshot of all this is, good things are coming. I’m not recording because I’m working on upgrading my nervous system, although I will try to still kick out the odd cover so you all know I’m still there. I’ve also had a couple of recording attempts that I felt like went extremely poorly so I didn’t publish them. But I’m still working at it and we’ll be publishing more soon.

One side note – I do still occasionally broadcast on WSHR ( and I also have set up a automatic archiver for it. If anyone wants to have a account so they can look at those, send me a message. Note that if you get in now it’s free, but probably starting in about six months from now I’ll require people to toss a buck in the patreon hat 😉

Solar adventures

August 3rd, 2020

So, earlier in the year, when COVID was just starting to ramp up and also when coincidentally I was in the midst of about as manic as I let myself get these days, I – in perhaps a moment of unreasonable paranoia – decided I wanted a backup generator. Except, I wanted a backup generator that would actually be useful if social unrest or other issues resulted in gasoline being difficult to get. (Not that many gas stations have backup generators, so even just a city-wide blackout could the cause this, and we’ve certainly had our share of blackouts since moving to this house, including one !5-day! outage)

So, I did what seemed the most reasonable thing to me at the time, which was buy a bunch of solar panels, some lead acid batteries, and a couple of big inverters.

It has been working pretty well – my basement’s been running off it since March, I think, and I haven’t run out of power yet – however, at the moment the panels are just lying in the front yard. If my math is correct, this is only giving me 30% of the power i’d get if they were on a two axis tracker.

So, I’ve been slowly working through various designs to try to figure out how I want to do tracking with them. I’d like to do something cheap-ish and DIY, and I’m fine with the east/west axis being manual but I want the RA axis to be automatic. I was pondering something like a drawbridge with a winch, but lately I’m again favoring the idea of using a couple of large bearings (I like the idea of using wheel bearings and wheel hubs from a car for some reason) and a gear motor. But it may change designs again. I’ve been suffering from a certain extent of laziness surrounding it. Some of my problem is that I am not really that great at using 3D modelling software – I really need to sit down and learn, but I’m not really sure which software I want to use. I am increasingly thinking I need to buy a desktop application for this as I tried using several different web based solutions and all of them had serious performance issues. I do not think 3D modelling is really something that’s well suited to being a web app, especially in the post-flash world. Of course, maybe part of the problem is just my lack of 3D modelling skill..

Anyway, winter is coming, so I should probably put a little more effort into this. It’s easy to generate enough power to run your basement in the summer in Seattle.. we have very long sunny days. The winter, with it’s very short, cloudy days, is likely to be a good deal more challenging.

One thing that is very sasisfying about having thrown together a solar array – beyond that it worked on the first try and I was able to easily set up a raspberry pi to track energy in and out of various things – is that I can use it to charge my EV. Whatever wars we get up to over oil are therefore that much less my fault. It’s possibly the most effective protest of the US war machine I’ve ever come up with.

IOT problems

August 2nd, 2020

So, one problem that we in general have with computers is that they are constantly in a state of growth and therefore it tends to be difficult to read files written 20 or 30 years ago because we don’t have anything remaining that can either handle the physical or logical format. (This makes me wonder if anyone has made something like the 7 layer model for data storage)

Anyway, one upcoming problem is that we lately are doing a lot of IOT devices – and a whole lot of these are going to be in landfills in ten years. The basic problem is that the people coding for them have fallen in love with the latest moronic fad, which is to have a ‘app’ to set up everything.

We need to have a *universal* configuration language that runs over bluetooth – someone should have a working group together. Or, we could just stream HTML over bluetooth – hm, that seems like a really good idea now that I mention it. Anyway, I also am pondering if most devices should just use bluetooth to negotiate the initial internet connection and then be configured via a web page. That seems like it might be best.

What isn’t best, what is in fact awful, is to have custom code, a dedicated app, for each device to be configured. Some of the obvious problems with this:

1) It requires the user to have a device that the app will run on. In 20 years there may be no android or IOS devices left because someone may have written a much better operating system

2) There’s also some version issues. As per usual the developers don’t write things to run on all versions, and it’s very likely that future versions will also be incompatible

3) This requires the developers of the hardware to continue releasing software – in some cases the developers may not even exist, and even if they do exist capitalism says it won’t be profitable to continue to support devices that are even a few years old so I doubt if we’re going to continue to see new versions of configuration tools

So, here’s what I think tehy should be doing

#1: We need a standard communication protocol for bluetooth for configuring all devices that are configured via bluetooth or BLE. Bluetooth working group, I’m looking at you. If you can charge $8000 per device for people to have your logo, you can do less of a halfass job at telling them not to make devices that won’t be configurable in a few years because the apps will no longer be maintained

#2: We need to have a agreement that whenever possible we’re going to use a standard web browser to configure devices. You can still make custom apps that do it as well, but you should document the API and have a plain ol’ javascript version of it so those of us who don’t want to deal with your apps can still use our devices

#3: Whenever possible you should make it so that your device can be maintained locally without your cloud service. Ideal ways to do this include docker and kubernetes containers that run your service that the customer can install on their local hardware, open source descriptions of your protocols, etc.

#4: You should publish schematics, source code, and whatnot for your products – both allowing users to change the basic functionality and publish new and better versions of the firmware, and allowing them to look for security holes and design flaws. In a lot of cases, IOT devices can cause a lot of damage – you all need to be building equipment we can trust.

I’m currently in the process of working on firmware for a IOT device, and it has really made me think about how poor a job humans are doing on IOT in general right now.

Another thing I’d like to mention, and this in particular is aimed at ORbit’s B-Hyve. Whenever possible, *DO NOT* waste the user’s time. If you do not *need* to upgrade the firmware to be able to continue, *don’t*. If you must upgrade the firmware, try to do it over the internet rather than BLE – at the very least, kick into bluetooth classic in order to be able to get halfway decent amounts of bandwidth.

(B-Hyve is in many, many ways a example of how not to, when it comes to IOT devices. It’s a great idea, and the hardware is well done, but the software is *awful* in a very long list of ways)

Money sucks, part 2

August 2nd, 2020

Ok, so leaving aside how often capitalism makes us optimize against the best interests of either the race or individuals, I wanted to talk about a way that money sucks that as far as I can tell applies to almost every single large scale resource allocation system ever built.

Even in “Comminist” and “socialist” countries, they end up using money. And the problem with this is that not all actual real goods are created equal, but every transaction involving money throws away all metadata. So you can trade your paper rubles or dollars or francs or what have you for your resources, and we have completely lost track of what went into those resources. People keep talking about how the “invisible hand of the market” will solve everything, but as far as I can tell, the invisible hand of the market is A: myopic B: slow C: wasteful and D: not really how we should be wanting to do things.

Lately COVID has given us some excessive examples of this. Ideally we would have just stopped pumping as much oil when we realized we weren’t burning as much, but because this didn’t happen, for a while barrels of oil literally had a *negative* value.

Now I get that you could not, pre computers and networks, track every single type of fixed good and inventory on hand. However, things have changed, and I really think someone should be sitting down and working on designing a resource allocation system that is properly tuned to what we can now do.

P.S. Money sucks

August 1st, 2020

So, I know I’m repeating myself here, but the whole COVID thing really does underline how we need to be more agile in our thinking regarding resource allocation. At the end of the day we’re likely to get millions of people killed (by the end of this) and a large number of these deaths are because we can’t let go of the idea of money and we can’t just let people have the things they need for free until we’re on the other side of this pandemic.

Now, I understand that a lot of this is that a number of evil ideas are pervasive on earth.. and I know that various right wing friends of mine are horrified at the idea that anyone could get anything for free and are convinced that this would lead to us all starving because no one would work. I think this shows a lack of understanding of human nature, although it may be true that humans should go extinct and be replaced with something else because it may be true that we simply suck too much to continue existing. We certainly are one of the most destructive to other life forms species to ever live – one of the problems we have is that we don’t have any natural predators that can really take us on, and we breed like rabbits, so we’re going to overload the ability of the planet to generate resources sooner or later unless we change the way we think about the world. I’ve made the suggestion that we should start creating software (in the form of neurological interconnects) for our minds such that we can experience having anything we want while not actually placing any load on the planet for physical resources at all – once we learned to do that we could likely also become immortal by moving the software that was us from body to body, and we could do things like using hypervisor-like structures to do the necessary work to keep everyone fed while also providing the conscious experience whatever we wanted.

And we may or may not get there, however, in the meantime we still have this problem that we have a resource allocation system that is fragile as hell. Pandemic? economic crash. Volcano? Economic crash. Flood? Localized economic crash. It also encourages stupid decisions – like building stickbuilt houses in flood areas when we could build houses that could survive flooding without damage – we could also build fireproof houses, cars that need virtually no maintenance, and a number of other similar things but people are too in love with a system where everyone must work. I personally think the system where everyone must work is awful and should be torn down.. it’s one of the many many things about Earth I would criticise. But perhaps I’m just too negative in my thinking and Earth is actually perfect and providing everyone but me with what they want and need.

(Or perhaps not.)

The delusional thinking is strong with these folks

August 1st, 2020

So, I was looking at a list of everyone’s plans for COVID and schooling (this one) and I was impressed at how many people plan on reopening schools. We know from several recent event with school summer camps that despite the idiocy of the idiot-in-chief, children do in fact catch and spread COVID. As such, there is really no hope for a in-person reopening this year. Nonetheless, large numbers of people have deluded themselves into thinking this is what they should do. We also know, by the way, that in rare cases (maybe 1:10,000) COVID kills perfectly healthy children. So, this decision is likely to kill hundreds of kids.

Part of what’s frustrating to me is we see Trump being wrong, over and over. He keeps making statements that are obviously wrong. We’ve seen the GOP be wrong over and over about things that got people killed, and they just keep standing up and making more wrong statements and people eep identifying with them and loving them because after all, if they voted for democrats a bum somewhere might get a free beer and that’s the most horrifying thing that could ever happen. Never mind the hundreds of billions of dollars we spend murdering people around the world to prop up the petrodollar, never mind the ill will we’ve generated around the world that will be coming back on us for centuries by murdering people’s friends and family and/or getting people’s friends and family killed in our stupid proxy wars, never mind the obvious lies about things like weapons of mass destruction in order to make more money, it’s all about let’s make government small.. except the department of perpetual war (“Department of defense” my ass) which needs to be as big, bloated, and overpowered as possible.

And what’s frustrating is, obviously these people didn’t learn as their children were killed in the endless and stupid wars, so they’re not going to learn when their children die of COVID. They’re still telling themselves that COVID is “almost over” despite much historical data telling us that it’s only just getting warmed up, and they’re planning to reopen schools despite the USA having the world #1 record on both deaths and cases. I guess the USA also has the world #1 record for corruption and stupidity in government.

While we’re talking about annoying – these same people are going to slowly acknowledge that OK, COVID wasn’t a democratic hoax but they’re going to continue to assure us that global warming is. Their base is either stupid enough or brainwashed enough to continue buying into this point of view – one of the things I’m slowly wrapping my head around is we’re either really good at manipulating people’s points of view or a lot of people are just not very bright to begin with and completely unable to master skills like critical thinking and.. this one might be kind of important.. recognizing that they’re being sold large amounts of bullshit by a propaganda machine.

Anyway, if we do continue with the school reopening, I predict the failure.. and the deaths.. will be epic.

Potpourri of thoughts

July 23rd, 2020

So, this is a collection of thoughts I’ve had over the last few weeks and thought, I should write about that in my blog. It’s interesting that my blog has kind of developed this mixed flavor – originally it was just for me to follow my own personal growth, but now it’s a mix of that and a soapbox, which is funny because it probably doesn’t have a lot of readers. (my web stats broke a while ago and I never got around to fixing them, so I don’t actually know)

Anyway, my first thought is related to the cloud. I recently told someone that you shouldn’t build anything that you want to still be working ten years from now on the cloud. This is partially because companies come and go, partially because companies get gobbled up by other companies that don’t feel the need to follow the original company’s agreements to their customers, and partially because of what I call the “microsoft office effect”.

Let me digress to explain the office effect. Office, as software, probably peaked around 2002. That’s when it was the most intuitive, most useful, most stable. However, there’s a team of people hanging around microsoft for Office, and they felt the need to earn their paychecks and didn’t want to get fired, so they talked themselves into a series of what I would call downgrades.. things that made the software less intuitive, less stable, etc. Their managers were soulless evil middle manager types, and so they encouraged the creation of new file formats for each version of office. The net result is the software got steadily worse, but everyone had to upgrade to it or not be able to read each other’s documents.

And, of course, this happens with cloud services too. APIs drift, parameters get added and dropped, etc, because the team maintaining $WHATEVER has to earn their paychecks. It’s one of the evils of capitalism that everything keeps getting marked “new and improved” when in fact it is new but not improved.

Anyway, that said, kill the cloud. Until and unless every cloud service can have a IETF-style approved interface and a guarantee not to drift, and be provided by several competing vendors, encourage everyone you know not to use it and *especially* not to rely on it. Remember, there is no cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer. Also remember the hundreds of thousands of man-hours thrown away when various “free web page” places shut down during the dot com bust.

Segueing into another thought – I was musing how little of today’s software is going to be runnable on *anything* in 20 years. One of the unfortunate phenomenons I’ve been seeing more and more of is people upgrading just to upgrade – I can’t run the latest Allen & Heath mixer control application on my mac because I refuse to “upgrade” past 10.10 [for a variety of reasons] and for no good reason they’ve decided to use settings for the compiler that produce a application that isn’t compatible with 10.10. I’ve been seeing this more and more – realistically, there is no reason *not* to try and make every binary run on the widest number of operating system versions possible, but some developers are so in love with upgrading or playing with the latest toy that they will kick out i.e. applications that will only run on windows 10. Which is also, IMO, awful.

Anyway, one thing that the developers, especially those of web sites but also those of applications, don’t seem to get is *we just want them to keep working*. Sometimes we might want some new features but we *really* don’t want the user interface to change. JIRA, your new interface isn’t any better than your old one and you threw away thousands of man hours of people using it having to struggle to find things they already knew where were. Shame on you.

OK, on to another point. All new governments should go far beyond simple checks and balances, because we have seen that over time, checks and balances are eroded by corruption. Watching for and weeding out corruption should be built into every layer of the system and the founding document should recognize that over time people slide steadily downhill towards placing the needs of the few above the needs of the many. I am guessing we’re watching the endgame for the USA, I am curious what is going to come next and hoping that the loss of life and violence is kept to a minimum. I’m kind of hoping we just break it up into 10-12 countries and start over..

The insanity of democracy

July 15th, 2020

So, being wrong should count against you, politically. Not, this is my opinion wrong, but, factually wrong. And the GOP has been *epicly* wrong about COVID – the amount wrong they are is going to come with a huge body count. We can reasonably guess they are similarly epicly wrong about global warming. They were epicly wrong about the weapons of mass destruction thing and a whole bunch of people ought to be sitting in jail who are instead being re-elected and cheered on for their awfulness. But I digress.

The astonishing thing is I *know* that my conservative friends are going to continue to defend their party even though it’s been demonstrated that *the GOP is out of touch with reality*. Time and time again.. the Laffer curve, anyone? History tells us that it didn’t work, yet of course we’re doing it again. Masks? Of course COVID is just like the flu and we don’t need masks.. on this one, of course, they are slowly bending because otherwise they won’t have a constituency. Which, I guess, is just evolution in action.

The problem with democracy is the majority of the voters aren’t paying attention or have no real memory to speak of for events. So even though the GOP should be at this point a tiny fraction of a percent of congress, if people were voting them out every time they were factually wrong in a way that got people hurt or killed, they play to people’s emotions and people continue to re-elect them even though they are hurting us all.


July 11th, 2020

So, since June 1 I’ve been on a facebook break – it’s been 52 days now. I think it’s been good for me, and I’m not anxious to go back although there sadly are some people in my life I have no other way to communicate with. I do feel a bit bad about not posting the cover of America on facebook although I don’t know how many listeners missed out on that.. I need to pay someone to log into facebook for me and post my music 😉

Other than that, I continue to work my paws off on guitar and keyboard skills.. at this point I’m going to try to get up to a hour a day for guitar (I’m at about 35 minutes now.. building up the callouses and the finger strength) and a hour a day for keys.. I’m still working my way through all the keys in improvising on the 12 bar blues, today was the start of a new key, Ab. (This is convenient because I’m also working my way through all the songs I feel like every keyboard player should know and this week’s is Take the A Train, which is in Ab)

I’m still growing pretty regularly, and I’m starting to surprise myself. I have to imagine another six months of this and I’m going to be shredding.. it’s so frustrating sometimes because I’m *almost* good.. 😉