Sat, 31 Mar 2007

Thuban

Thuban is an Interactive Geographic Data Viewer. I've contributed some small bits of code to it. They're considering assigning copyright. This serves as notice that I abandon any copyright claim to my contributions.

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Fri, 30 Mar 2007

The Shangri-La Diet 2

Been on the diet for about a month. I don't feel like I'm losing weight very quickly, but of course, that's a benefit, not a feature. Good things happen slowly, bad things happen quickly. I noticed that I've been really hungry the last few days. Then I realized how much bicycling I've been doing. Of course the diet predicts that I'll be more hungry. Eat to maintain setpoint. Exercise and you'll just get hungrier

Going to India for a week. I'll have to switch to hot sugar water, but in the land of tea, that shouldn't be a problem. I'll also try eating as many strange (to me) foods as I can.

Posted [22:48] [Filed in: food] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Ride starting Fri Mar 30 18:30:06 2007

15.88 km 52094.51 feet 9.87 mi 2730.00 seconds 45.50 minutes 0.76 hours 13.01 mi/hr

Just a bit on the cool side today. In the thick of maple sugar season. Freezy nights, melty days. Just what the sap run needs, but it makes bicycling a bit cool. Saw a gazillion deer, all of them bold enough to just look at me, even when I talked to them. They're like "What? Does he think he's scary just because he's a human??" I was disappointed that they didn't even care to look at me.

Posted [22:32] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Mark XII Electronics

The Mark XII keyboard is as yet unbuilt. I'm happy enough with the Mark XI physical design. With a little bit more work, it's manufacturable, except for the electronics. For that, I need something which consumes less power, is smaller, can implement chording, and implements the HID profile. That perfectly describes the Broadcom BCM2042 bluetooth keyboard controller.

Unfortunately, that chip is a BGA chip, which is hard to work with. Fortunately, several companies implement Broadcom's 92042 bluetooth keyboard module. Blue Packet is one of them. They sell the 2042 on their BP20422 bluetooth keyboard module (to which I can't link directly, but it's off the drop box.) They haven't (yet) committed to modifying 8051 firmware with the necessary chording algorithm, but I'm confident that I can talk them into it. Talk, yes, and money. Unfortunately, the module on the PC board isn't working. I suspect that I toasted it while soldering it to the PC board.

Speaking of the PC board, my friend DJ Delorie very graciously answered my questions about how to use PCB, the Open Source PCB package. Then, he even volunteered to make the board for me. Ahhh, it's to nice to have college buddies. They make your life so much easier. This first cut at a board is just a footprint adapter. I wanted something from which to hang discretes, as well as have good access to the pins. Plus, Blue Packet hadn't yet sent me the schematics.

I have ordered another ten modules from Blue Packet. That should be enough to get a good prototype working, even without the chording firmware. I'll only be able to type 7 keys without chording, but I'll have all the electronics in order at that point.

Blue Packet (Thumbnail)
Posted [17:50] [Filed in: chordite] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Mark XI keyboard

Been sitting on this version of the keyboard, but I want to get it out there. This one is much smaller and stealthier. It also puts the keys on a flexible PC board. That's much more manufacturable than the previous versions which used the key's mounting straps. The keys flex a little along with the PC board, but that's not a big problem. Because the keyboard is cupped, that gives it much more strength than if it were flat. And the pressure from the fingers is always directed against the direction of the cupping, so physics is my friend here.

This version is just the flexible PC board, mounted in a chunk of shapelock. It doesn't pocket as well as the Mark X keyboard, whose thumb rest folded. But, it's sturdier, lighter and fits well in my hand. The back view shows how the big ugly electronics (hopefully the Mark XII electronics will be smaller), the palm support, and the way the thumb rests on the battery box. You can see the PC board just a bit here. In the back of the hand view, not much shows beyond the fingers.

back view (Thumbnail) back of the hand view. (Thumbnail) side of the hand view (Thumbnail) top of the keyboard (Thumbnail)

Posted [17:34] [Filed in: chordite] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Tai Chi Power Training

So, after tonight's Tai Chi power training session, I was stoking up the furnace with some scrap wood. I had a too-long piece of 5/4" square hardwood. Not something easily broken. I tapped it on the door of the furnace and said "You're not going to break that with your arms".

Thought about what we learned today about compressive and expansive force and remembered Dragon's Back. Not exactly part of the form, but we practice it as much. It's a Chi Kung movement which slowly whips the back forward and backward like a snake, while the arms follow the whipping motion out in front of the head. So I generated power from the legs, through the Dragon's Back, and out into my arms, moved it down about 6" and snapped it clean in half.

Now that's the way to break a piece of wood. None of this karate breaking of pine boards with the grain for me. :-)

Posted [02:27] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Wed, 28 Mar 2007

Ride starting Wed Mar 28 16:12:30 2007

19.24 km 63111.34 feet 11.95 mi 3637.00 seconds 60.62 minutes 1.01 hours 11.83 mi/hr

Second ride of the year, this one on a clearer but cooler day. Brrrrrisk!

Posted [17:51] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Tue, 27 Mar 2007

Ride starting Tue Mar 27 18:20:05 2007

12.95 km 42500.63 feet 8.05 mi 2165.00 seconds 36.08 minutes 0.60 hours 13.38 mi/hr

Not a bad pace for the first ride of the season! Helps that I've stayed in reasonably good shape with Tai Chi training. Nice warmish day, 56 degrees and mostly overcast. First day that I felt I could ride without a good chance of being rained on. No peepers yet. I expect them within the week, though.

Posted [19:07] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Sun, 25 Mar 2007

Linux

Linux is the name of the operating system consisting of the Linux kernel, the GNU tools, the X Window System, the Mozilla browser, the Evolution email client, the Open Office.Org productivity suite, and everything else. "Linux" is a far better name than GNU/Linux/X/Mozilla/Evolution/OpenOffice/Etc. -- and not only because everybody already calls it Linux.

Posted [00:14] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thu, 15 Mar 2007

GPLv3 Root Password

The "current" draft (which is nearly 9 months out of date) of the GPLv3 specifies:

The Corresponding Source also includes any encryption or authorization keys necessary to install and/or execute modified versions from source code in the recommended or principal context of use, such that they can implement all the same functionality in the same range of circumstances.

which seems to require you to give the root password so that users can execute modified versions of setuid programs. One hopes that the current-current draft of the GPL has removed this section, or at least makes it clear that the owner of the machine gets to protect themselves from mere users of the machine.

Posted [13:12] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Tue, 06 Mar 2007

Decision Making

I learned a long time ago how to make painless decisions. Gather your facts together, evaluate them, and decide. "Oh, but it's not that easy!" I agree. Sometimes, after you've gathered your facts together, you still can't decide. That means that the impact of the decision exceeds your confidence level. That means that you need more facts. "Oh, but it's too hard to get more facts!" Sure, that can happen. If the cost of getting more facts exceeds the impact of the decision, and you cannot choose given the facts available, then you should choose arbitrarily.

Posted [15:39] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 03 Mar 2007

Transportation Subsidies

I was noticing the other day that all widely used transportation technologies are OVER 100 years old. Why should that be? I think I know: they're all subsidized. Canals, railroads, airports, and roads. None of them bear the full freight of their passage. Now, invent some new technology, e.g. a dual-mode monorail like the RUF. How can it possibly gain a foothold against the subsidized modes of transportation? It can't. It has to get a subsidy of its own. Politicians are bad at picking new technologies because most of them fail, and no politician wants to be seen as having backed a failure.

That is the cost of transportation subsidies: no innovations can come to market.

Posted [17:10] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thu, 01 Mar 2007

Community-led Eminent Domain

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, who writes articles for the Economic Times and The Times of India under the name "Swaminomics" (which is just a great name), has an interesting suggestion. He calls it community-led land acquisition. He means it to be applied to India, which has its own set of land acquisition problems, but it would work for our eminent domain ( Kelo v. City of New London (04-0108)) problem as well.

Here is the gist of his proposal as it applies to us: Governments should negotiate acquisition proposals with landowners, and then let the landowners vote on the deal. If a large majority--it could be two-thirds or three-quarters--vote in favour of selling, this should be binding on the minority.

The biggest advantage of this rule is that it prevents under-valuation of the property. The Constitution states "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Right now, the government decides what is just compensation, and then the government pays the price. Clearly there is vast potential for injustice there, and when you look at the history of eminent domain acquisitions, you will find plenty of charges of unjust forced sales. But by ensuring that a supermajority of landowners agrees that the price is "just compensation", that will ensure that the price really is fair.

UPDATE 3/1: Marvin writes in to point me to an article published in the Utah Daily Herald. Seems that the Utah Legislature had completely revoked the power of eminent domain. They have now replaced it with a scheme very much like the Swami describes above.

Posted [22:53] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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