November 10, 2014

Google Rents Moffett Field

Google has agreed to lease Moffett Field for 60 years for...whatever. Feel free to imagine anything. Part of the deal is that Google will restore Hangar One.

Hangar One
Hangar One these days
. Photo by Simon Tunbridge.

permalink | November 10, 2014 at 09:35 PM | Comments (1)

October 24, 2014

The Great Word vs. WordPerfect Battle Continues To Smolder

"The word processor that most of the world uses every day, Microsoft Word, is a work of genius that’s almost always wrong as an instrument for writing prose. Almost-forgotten WordPerfect—once the most popular word-processing program, still used in a few law offices and government agencies, and here and there by some writers who remain loyal to it—is a mediocrity that’s almost always right." It's not often that the philosophy of Plato is cited in an article about word processors. John Dewey gets rolled in there too.

permalink | October 24, 2014 at 01:11 PM | Comments (1)

October 21, 2014

Returning To The Big Screen!

The Greatest Science Fiction Film Of All Time: 2001: A Space Odyssey has been digitally remastered and will open November 28 in the UK at a British Film Institute film festival. Go back and watch the original 1977 version (or whatever version of the original you can find) of Star Wars. If you were around in 1977, you will recall that its special effects blew us away. Now they look cheezily obvious. Then go watch 2001 which was made before most of you were born: 1969 1968! It still works. It still takes your breath away when it jumps to Jupiter space. And at the end you still don't know WTF was going on*. That's good cinema!

Appropriately enough, they've brought the trailer up to the standards of 2014:

HAL is still so sorry he couldn't open that podbay door.

*it's just a lengthy attempt to direct blame away from the opposable thumb and put it on some "space aliens."

permalink | October 21, 2014 at 03:37 PM | Comments (3)

October 19, 2014


If you follow Apple announcements then you've heard the brouhaha about the iMac with 5K Retina display (5K, 5K!, which is one more K than 4, starts at $2,500) and the iPad Air 2 (thinner, lighter, more powerful, starts at $500). But there never is any brouhaha about my favorite compromise that will put a real Mac on your desk for as little as $500: the Mac mini. This is what I have, but my model is a year old. It's not as powerful as an iMac.

Processor speeds:
iMac1.4 GHz2.7GHz2.9GHz3.2GHz3.4GHz3.5GHz4.0GHz
Mac mini1.4GHz2.6GHz2.8GHz 

iMacIntel HD Graphics 5000Intel Iris Pro GraphicsNVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics processor with 1GB of GDDR5 memoryNVIDIA GeForce GT 755M graphics processor with 1GB of GDDR5 memoryNVIDIA GeForce GTX 775M graphics processor with 2GB of GDDR5 memoryNVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of GDDR5 memory.AMD Radeon R9 M295X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
Mac miniIntel HD Graphics 5000Intel Iris Graphics 

Base prices:
Mac mini$499$699$999 

But I'd guess that if you don't know how much power you need, then an iMac is likely to be more than you need, unless, of course, you are modeling global weather or nuclear warfare.

Yes, the display, keyboard and mouse are extra on the Mac mini, while they are included with the iMac, so you've got to add that cost to the Mac mini. But that's actually another advantage for the Mac mini. You've got a wide range of products and prices to shop from. When you need to upgrade either your display or your CPU, those are separate purchases, but with the iMac the display and CPU are all one unit. If you need to upgrade or replace either, you've got to purchase both.

Small side benefits nobody ever mentions are that the Mac mini is more portable and more easily physically secured - unplug it, lock it in a drawer. Try that with an iMac.

Still, there is that 5K Retina display (with "organic passivation" - a new term to me that I plan to misuse as often as possible). If you're a professional photographer or if you've got the money to spend to impress friends, then get it. Here's a soft video (no real tech, but lots of gee-whiz) that I believe will play only in Safari or on an iOS device. Hey, Apple writes the rules, not me.

permalink | October 19, 2014 at 07:01 PM | Comments (1)

October 8, 2014

MIT Students Invent A Cheetah

At the moment it can't run any faster than 10 MPH, but it can jump over any barrier up to 33 cm high.

Someday this will probably be what we use to chase down zombies.

permalink | October 8, 2014 at 01:02 PM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2014

iPhone 6 Encryption

The new iPhone 6 will encrypt "emails, photos and contacts based on a complex mathematical algorithm that uses a code created by, and unique to, the phone's user." "Breaking the code, according to an Apple technical guide, could take 'more than 5 1/2 years to try all combinations of a six-character alphanumeric passcode with lowercase letters and numbers.'" That, of course, would be a brute force method, and I'm pretty sure the NSA and FBI have more sophisticated techniques than that.

The FBI objects to this.

At Apple and Google, company executives say the United States government brought these changes on itself. The revelations by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden not only killed recent efforts to expand the law, but also made nations around the world suspicious that every piece of American hardware and software — from phones to servers made by Cisco Systems — have "back doors" for American intelligence and law enforcement.

permalink | September 28, 2014 at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2014


An article about W-DMX, the tech used to control the lighting on the vehicles from Camp Walter, like the Bug below.

Camp Walter's VW Bug On The Night Of The Temple Burn (4750)

permalink | September 26, 2014 at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2014

An Onion Kickstarter?

I'm hoping that it is, but fearing that it isn't.

permalink | September 17, 2014 at 07:39 PM | Comments (1)

September 9, 2014

The Apple Watch Is An iPhone (eh, maybe not)

They don't say that, but it runs iOS [well, they don't actually say that] and you can make phone calls on it [uh, maybe], so it's an iPhone. [Maybe it only bridges to your iPhone in your pocket.] This video explains all. Except the price. The Watch will be available in 2015. The way the battery is recharged is very interesting, and, Yes, that means you will be able to buy yet another connector for your Apple product. But if you wait a little while third parties will bring out less expensive versions to replace your original when it breaks. New navigation style. Very interesting watch bands. The Watch comes in two sizes, 42mm and 38mm. And there are three styles:

  • Watch
  • Watch Sport
  • Watch Edition (the high price model)

It's a fitness tracker (all styles, not just Sport).

New flexible retina display made of sapphire can sense force as well as touch. So firm touches will do something different than light touches. It doesn't look like they are going to mar the beautiful exterior with anything so plain as a headphone plug...not even a proprietary Apple connection, so it's Bluetooth or listen via the speaker which I'm sure is amazingly well designed, but still very, very small. And it does have a microphone so you can talk to Siri.

You can securely [they say that now] store credit and debit cards and use the Watch to pay at retailers who have the appropriate contactless reader. This is called Apple Pay and will become available in October for iPhones and the Watch.

The Watch seems not to have a camera, but it can function as remote control for your iPhone.

You can store music on it (they don't suggest how much) or it can play your music from your nearby iPhone. But if you're using Bluetooth anyway, why not just connect directly to your nearby iPhone?

A useful function: you can use your Watch to locate your iPhone!

permalink | September 9, 2014 at 01:49 PM | Comments (1)

September 4, 2014

Flying Tetrahedron Test

Go here to see a brief video of a hexacopter levitating a lighted tetrahedron that rotates around the Burning Man.

Here's the explanation for what you saw, via the brc-uav-drones-list:

Ryan Luecke Wed, Sep 3, 2014 at 11:04 PM
Cc: ""
Hey Isaiah,

I'm the hexacopter guy - and together with my project partner and co-pilot Florian, we were successful!

Here's a flight video:
An exposure shot:
Ground shot:

We flew several times during the week, wind permitting. We hovered between 20-100 feet each flight, with flight durations of about 8 minutes. We normally get around 14 minutes at sea-level, and north of 32 minutes without the payload (3 lbs). Our PIDs need a little work for better stability, but we achieved our goal of bringing a glowing tetrahedron to the night sky of Burning Man!

Florian rotates the structure with a secondary transmitter which controls a small prop at a corner of the tetra, while I fly the hexacopter. Two ball bearing units connect the copter to the tetrahedron, using cables which function as mechanical support as well as electrical power for the LED strips. This allows the tetrahedron to rotate freely (and must be well balanced before takeoff). We can change the LED patterns from the ground with a remote, or let them cycle on their own.

For those interested, the copter build is my first (though I'm a long-time fixed-wing and single-rotor hobbyist).

Tarot 680 Pro airframe
Tiger Motors, MN3508-29 (380kV)
Tiger Motor 600Hz 25A SimonK ECSs w/o BEC
APC 12x3.8 Slow Fly props
Pixhawk flight controller
Kyosho Zeal vibration absorption gel
Spektrum 9645 DSMX receiver
Castle Creations 10A UBEC
Maxamps 10,900 mAH 120C 6S batteries
Extra-long carbon to extend landing gear (for tetrahedron clearance on takeoff/landing)

We ran through an extensive flight checklist before every flight, our camp folks were present to maintain a safety perimeter during flights. We had a takeoff/landing tarp, fire extinguisher, and safety towel (see We always strive for safety as our top priority, because we know that the way to keep this hobby as restriction-free as possible is to demonstrate safe, respectful flying practices.

permalink | September 4, 2014 at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)