Tag Archives: Tech Stuff

Off the beaten track

Off into the Wilder West of County Clare today looking at houses. Successfully finding a place to buy with all the things you need is a protracted process and needs a lot of serendipity. Failing that, a great deal of persistence and sheer bloody mindedness. Relying on sites like Property.ie and Daft.ie only gives you a part of the story.

Fortunately I have a great deal of bloody minded persistence in my DNA. So the hunt will continue, down leafy Irish lanes, dodging the tractors along tiny boreens and up farm tracks, thankful for decent SUV suspension. Might even book an outdoor table for lunch in Localtown tomorrow. We have errands there, so why not?

Work is slack at the moment, so this means both Mrs S and I have plenty of spare time for reading and research. And I was considering investing in a ground source heat pump, when of course we do find our new building project. However, some fairly reputable sources are making me question this aspiration.

Yes, I know he’s (only) a tradesman and not some highly qualified academic who publishes highbrow papers, but when push comes to shove, he’s got nothing to gain, loads (Over ten years) of hands on experience, and as he states in his video, particularly with regard to Air Heat pumps, there’s a burgeoning legal mis-selling culture. Don’t know about ground source. But I do know that Air Heat pumps do surge at startup, which may mean that any ‘savings’ aren’t worth the candle. I’ll do the sums and see if it has a significant payback between 3-5 years. If not then I think my interest might exhibit significant wane-fall. However, we live and learn.

Certainly I’ve lived in a house with an air heat pump in Canada and wasn’t too happy at being awoken in the middle of the night by the noisy monster. New ones may be quieter, but after four or five years? Experience tells me there’s potentially a big downside.

Maybe if we end up out in the sticks as seems likely, we should invest in a methane digester as backup to a more traditional hot water / heating gas boiler setup. Spend our money on top notch insulation instead. Go for the passive solar option. Keep the heating bills down that way.

On a more positive note…

I’ve been watching this branch of technology develop over the last year or two. All sorts of applications come to mind, which have already been trialled by the UK Royal Marines, Royal Navy, Special Forces, Mountain Rescue and even as a sport.

Or the new sport of Droneball….

I think the phrase I’m looking for is “Cool or what?”

You will believe that a man can fly. Because he can.

Droning on

Mrs S and I are out on the road this week now the county borders are ‘officially’ open. However, I’m writing most of this on a Tuesday for my own amusement. Watch the videos below. First one for the “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” entertainment value, and then for the dark side.

Now in my darker moments I’ve often thought about weaponizing drone technologies to use against oppressors. My own vision is different from that in the sci-fi short below. Say using a small drone as a weapons platform, getting into a small hiding space and waiting for activation before emerging to fire miniature dumb missiles at a specific target, or using a drone as a means of delivery for a small magnetic based shaped charge, dropped onto the top of a vehicle when moving at speed. Fitting a lightweight pistol device that can swerve into close quarters, fire, and zip away, or simply do a kamikaze with a relatively small amount of explosive.

Now at the current state of technology, even a small drone can carry a few ounces of high explosive, which could be set to home in on a particular mobile phone for example. Without going anywhere near the need for sophisticated facial recognition. Dial the targets phone, when they answer or even dismiss the call, set the drone to home in on that device and detonate. Very user unfriendly.

However, the mini-movie ‘Slaughterbots’ is well worth a watch and a little too close to possibility than I’m comfortable with. Have a view, and if it doesn’t give you a large dose of the willies, or one very large willie with extra whipped cream on its own, then can I have some of the drugs you’re on please?

What depresses me is that there are people in places of power who would happily pull the trigger on something like this. Because they are afraid and that fear has made them incredibly stupid, no matter how well educated or otherwise ‘intelligent’ they might think they are.

Fortunately such weapons would only be extremely short range because of battery life issues, but with today’s technology, they are now just on the edge of possible. We could be in real ‘oh shit’ territory here.

It’s times like these that I eye the levels on my Jameson’s Whiskey collection and think; “I need a serious top-up here.”

PCR – A Doctor speaks

Is the PCR test fit for purpose? Does it really say “For lab use only” on the packaging of all of these tests, like the warning on many mask packages “Will not protect against viruses”

A Dr Sam Bailey puts forward her observations after she was ‘fact checked’ by some self appointed ‘fact checkers’

Important stuff

While so many idiots are trying to replicate Medieval society by ‘taking a knee’ cancelling BLM heretics, ‘climate change deniers’ and all those other bagatelles, I’m busy watching the truly interesting stuff going on down in Texas. Musk’s project at Boca Chica for example has a certain Heath Robinson (or Rube Goldberg) air about it.

There’s a sort of wonderful chaos going on with spacecraft prototypes being built in plain sight while construction goes on all around. And the state has little to do with it. It is truly inspiring to watch.

And I’ve had a gutful with all the middle class white kids with nothing better to do making all the fuss in Seattle and suchlike. So I prefer to watch the minor miracles being performed rather than sink into the seething sick morass of self loathing being pushed by radical leftist morons, who no one wants to send home after a well deserved spanking. That and have their money supply cut off. Which they so richly deserve.

The one upside of this whole coronavirus pandemicky thingy thing is that many ‘liberal arts’ colleges are in financial difficulties, and a number have shut up shop for good with more to follow. So all the snowflakes will have to find something else to do. In the meantime, the riots will continue. Until the politicians let the Police off the leash and the courts hand out some serious jail time for these cultural vandals.

Anyway, I’m focusing my attention on the antics of Mr Bezos and Mr Musk who are currently doing wonderful things to advance the course of humanity, rather than try to drag us all down into a slough of pseudo-medieval conformity and corporate serfdom like the ‘protesters’.

I can’t win

It must be cabin fever. Mrs S has received one of those Amazon widgets that does sound and voice control. The kids bought it for her for her birthday. Personally I don’t like them. Won’t have them anywhere near me due to the well documented privacy issues. To me, they are junk that has no real facility. I call them junk because they report to outside entities, rather like Windows 10, which is a shit operating service Microsoft won’t let you control and is full of bloatware. Besides, voice control and recognition has many drawbacks. Did play around with a few voice activation programs a few years ago, but when those report outside of my control, well… ’nuff said.

Today Mrs S waved the uninstalled item at me and said that I “Won’t let her use it.”
To which I had to respond; “Use it if you like, but I want nothing to do with it.” Now guess where I ended up. Go on. Guess. All because I like to keep my personal affairs private.

So the sound on her PC is now ‘inadequate’, because she wants to fill the house with Andre Boccelli singing the Easter Mass, which is my fault apparently. Not Boccelli, but the inadequate sound. If Mrs S wants to install the wretched gadget herself, she can do it.

Not that I care much for opera. The only Opera I’ve got any time for is using it as one of the five web browsers I use on a daily basis. When it comes to some opera I’d rather saw my own head off than be exposed to it any longer than necessary. Opera as an art form is an acquired taste I have chosen not to acquire. Not surprisingly there is no opera in my music collection. There’s classical music, a lot of Prog rock and electric folk, but no opera. Okay, I’d go to a performance if the tickets were free, but only if you didn’t mind tracking where I was in the audience by my snoring.

Add to that I’ve got a minor headache and a seasonal sniffle. A sort of light echo of what Mrs S suffered the day before yesterday and shrugged off in forty eight hours. So today we took a drive out. Unlike in Ontario and New Brunswick, the RCMP here in BC have better things to do with their time than randomly stopping people and demanding to know where they’re going, or if they’ve been buying stuff the prodnoses disapprove of. It was just a nice day for a drive, even if there was nowhere to go.

We have officially been in self imposed lockdown since 10th March. When the panicking is all over I am going to have the mother and father of all timeouts.

Deeply sorry to hear about Tim Brooke Taylor, comic actor who made the nation laugh in shows like I’m sorry I’ll read that again, At last the 1948 show, The Goodies and many more. The man was a national treasure, but now we have to bury him. He’d probably have enjoyed that gag.

Bugger.

Utter coblenz

There’s complete cobblers running around Twatter that the Johns Hopkins Covid19 stats site is infested with malware and trojans. Newsflash kiddies! I run a premium antivirus suite and ran a series of scans while online via a VPN. See result below.

Did the ‘Advanced’ scan too. Same thing. This isn’t freeware either. I keep my pro antivirus bang up to date.

Two possible conclusions; either there are no Trojans and Malware as claimed on Twatter or my Antivirus suite is crap (It isn’t). Well you might say, but, but, but the malware claims are on Twatter so they must be true.

To which the only sane response is “Yeah, right.

It’s tough to make predictions…..

“….especially about the future” thus spake Baseball hero Yogi Berra. However, I’ve been looking at a post written over five years ago about the state of nuclear fusion. Nothing has happened to change my mind since then. Not even news of the German Wendelstein 7-X Stellerator. It’s still only half way to sustainable fusion. And it’s still a Tokamak at heart. Yes, they do work, after a fashion. However, the design concept has it’s limitations. I’m not a nuclear engineer and even I can see that. Although I dare say those involved have their doubts and would like to follow a better track, but nuclear physics is expensive and short sighted politicians hold the purse strings. So, Tokamaks it is.

About the future, you never know what is coming around the bend. In our case it was having to chase up Highway One, exercise our power of attorney for Elderly Friend who fell off her chair and brok her arm, then getting a flat at 8pm on our way home. Then finding out, having driven like Miss Daisy all the way home in pitch darkness on a skinny spare, that the one inch screw causing the puncture had done so in such a way as to render any attempted repair useless. On a brand new tyre with less than five hundred K’s on it no less. So, there’s another two hundred and fifty dollars down the pan.

Oh, did I mention that Accounts are getting on my case over a minor matter? They’re stressing over me not doing something I couldn’t have done because I wasn’t given the right information in time on Friday. They want it done now, now, now and aren’t prepared to wait while I deal with the chaos caused by all the other work related matters where some clever clogs was using our departments credit card for stuff they weren’t entitled to. Which means we have to get a new departmental one issued. Which shuts part of our operation down for two whole weeks.

So it’s all been fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fucking hell, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun.

Oh joy.

Could be worse I suppose. Could be in China. Plague of Locusts, Coronovirus plague. No frogs, boils or rains of blood (Wait a minute, what was that in 2014?) yet, and the firstborn don’t seem to be affected, but we shall see.

This is cool

While the UK lamestream are doing hit pieces on free speech activists and someone who was once a comedian (Briefly, sometime around 14th November 1983 I believe) used their bully pulpit to make foul insult and then claimed that such crudity constituted a ‘joke’ (Not even close – jokes have to be funny), I thought I’d offer up this little bit of techno-fun as a form of mind bleach.

First saw this item on Rt.com under the headline “Humanoid robot gets tired of merciless bullying & pulls gun on meatbags” It’s actually by turns disturbing and hilarious.

How the parody was put together.

Now the current state of the art. April 2018 but still interesting and fun.

Now I’m off to check my inbox and get all my paying work related tasks out of the way. My Lemon tree plants, Carnations and Roses are doing well but I’m going to have to re-seed the Sweet William after their foul strangling by the now-executed pansies. Such is life.

As for the ‘apology’ for the “Throw battery acid over people you disagree with” meme. Not acceptable. It was bandwagon jumping of the most mean and petty kind. When a free speech activist does get battery acid thrown in their face, we’ll know who to blame, won’t we?

Put not thy trust….

“Put not thy trust in Princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no hope.” Goes the old scripture verse (Psalms 146:3) or the words of The Earl of Strafford in 1641 when he heard King Charles 1st had signed his death warrant. Which is one of the odd pieces of wisdom scattered across that venerable tome. Hey, just because I’m an agnostic doesn’t mean I can’t cherry pick my references. Wisdom is wherever it is found and even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Even Noam Chomsky gets it right sometimes. Not often but sometimes.

A while ago, my financial advisor pressed me to put money into Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet, the Google parent company. I strenuously declined, describing them bluntly as ‘bubble stocks’. On reflection I think my pejorative was unfair. They’re more ‘Tsunami investments’. Which isn’t a bad analogy if you think about it. Such stocks arise and move very quickly and do a lot of damage when the wave breaks on the shore of reality. The trick is to stop surfing the crest just before it starts breaking. Buy low, sell high and cash out just before the market peaks. A worthwhile piece of investment advice is when everyone else is buying the answer is to look elsewhere. By the time the press get hold of a gold rush story it’s usually far too late to make real money on a buy-in. Unless you’re in the middle of a serious bull market.

Facebook broke last July and its value has been like a dead cat bouncing down the stairs ever since. Despite the latest scandal, Twitter is still at the beginning of this process so there’s still time to get out with minimal loss. Their market peaked in mid 2018. Indeed Google (Alphabet) share values are down about USD 200 since then. Peak value was slightly over the USD 1280 mark, now Google shares are bobbing around USD 1080. None of these three are worth the buy in. Facebook is heading the way of Myspace. Twitter will follow (Are following?) As will Google. There is a slow fragmentation of Internet related services as increasing numbers of people seek alternatives.

Expect Microsoft to follow next year as people increasingly look for alternatives to the utter abortion that is Windows 10. A well-marketed strain of Linux might just do it. The Microsoft product is rotten to the core. They’ve tried to turn what was a moderately useful but buggy operating system into a ‘service’ and come up with an appalling piece of crap. Full of bloatware I can’t get rid of.

Sixteen hours later…

Early yesterday afternoon my Windows 10 laptop informed me that there was yet another ‘upgrade’ for my machine and that it was going to nag and nag until I let it do what the Micro-Serfs wanted it to. In the early hours of the morning, some time around five thirty AM it finished ‘upgrading’ and to be quite honest I can’t tell the difference. Apart from some losses of functionality, like losing the zoom function on my webcam, for which I have since installed some proprietary software. Stuff that actually works and is stable. Unlike Windows 10.

Now here’s the thing; I started my working life in IT configuring and sorting out Windows based kit back in the early 90’s and I can safely say with my hand on my heart that I have never had to upgrade computers this often and take so long to do it. Even back in the early days when all upgrades had to be done manually, but never this often. It seems that never a month goes by that the ‘upgrade’ warning comes on and your machine is essentially unusable for four to five hours. This time sixteen hours elapsed between me heaving a heavy sigh, clicking on the ‘Upgrade and restart’ option and going off to read a modestly long book, water the deck garden, dead head the roses, clean my kitchen, watch a couple of YouTube documentaries, get most of a nights sleep and make some sausage rolls for tea this afternoon. Which left me another six hours to play with before the ‘upgrade’ finished its last reboot. I could have cloned ten hard drives in that six hours using Ghost, working sequentially and starting over on a fresh hard drive that needed formatting and wiping first.

It’s the longest I’ve ever spent upgrading a machine. To ‘upgrade’ three apps? Not to mention that my laptop feels like it’s running almost twenty percent slower than before the upgrade. Now I would go down the Linux route if I could find a version that would work with my laptops wi-fi card. Don’t even get me started on Apple, over-priced, data-slurping S.O.B’s. So I’ll be switching off the ‘upgrades’ using the tips and tricks listed in the video below.

The upside is that for my next laptop, I will definitely be looking at one which will function properly with a Linux build and KDE desktop. Windows will not be a purchasing option. Which is a pity. They’ve had a couple of really good platforms; Windows 2000 (SP4) and Windows 7. The rest have been, in varying degrees, total kak. I will be a Windows user no longer.

A handy hint

Recently took delivery of a Samsung 4K TV screen after our old one went “Pft-fizz” and died a few weeks ago. Lovely definition, terrific picture, decent sound and intuitive setup with our DVD player and AppleTV box. One problem. When streaming a movie or TV show, every so often, the sound blanks off and needs to switched out to the main menu and back again. An evening with a stop watch found no pattern. Swapping the ports likewise. A total pain in the bum and an annoyance because as is the nature of these things, it always failed just when on screen stuff was getting vaguely interesting. Mrs S was reduced to snarls and loud shouts of “Bill!” Sometimes less than two minutes after I’d got the sound working again. Dark noises were being made about “Taking the bloody thing back.”

So I did what I always have when stumped for an answer, gone and checked out the support forums and tried all their solutions. HDMI connections were checked. Ports swapped (again). Firmware updates checked (Both for set and streaming box). All the suggestions on the Samsung support forums were tried and failed. Then I checked my cable specs. I’d bought my HDMI cable at the same time we bought the AppleTV box some five or so years ago. At the time it had been top of the line, 12Gbps full bandwidth and operated flawlessly. So what had changed? In the end I went shopping to one of the local electronics emporiums and put my reading glasses on. The answer had been staring me in the face. My old HDMI cable was not fully 4K compliant. Almost, but not quite. So I got out my wallet and stumped up for a full on 18gbps HDMI cable with gold plated connections (All right, it was on sale). A couple of hours after fitting I’m fairly sure the sound is fixed and domestic harmony is restored to the Sticker household. Well, for now. Until the next wanked-up Windows 10 upgrade.

I love this

Hey young Earth person! Are you tired of the dull life here on Earth? Do you want to be someone special? Someone great? To defend not just your country but the world? Become a Space Marine!

Yes it’s true. This is Trumps Star Wars moment. (H/T ZeroHedge) He’s just authorised the militarisation of space. Which rather walks all over a couple of old cold war treaties regarding military assets in Earth Orbit. Not that anyone was paying these treaties any mind you understand. The Chinese have been testing killer satellites for the last two decades to my knowledge and the Russians simply can’t afford them. Which means these treaties have effectively been ignored for years, so what he’s just said (See speech below) shouldn’t raise anything more than an ironic eyebrow.

So what good will the creation of this new ‘US Space Force’ do? Well, create a bit of competition for the private space efforts and add a spur to Musk and Bezos’s Falcon X and Blue Origin programmes. Maybe light a fire under NASA’s sluggish arse. Perhaps they’ll even think of putting some money into ‘Spike’ rocket engine development or Hybrids like the old Hotol concept or even resurrect the wholly reusable X-33 spaceplane concept. See Curious Droid’s video assessment below.  Which I can access off YouTube, but the linking has somehow gone awry.  Oops, no.  The trained Monkeys have done their thing and the 500 error is fixed.

For a sci-fi freak like me the possibilities are endless. I’m genuinely enthused.

P.S: Have just checked my Lemon Tree seedlings to find that all thirteen have pushed tiny shoots above the soil and even as I type are raising little green heads toward the sun.  Yay!

Social death

Facebook is hurt. Badly hurt. 30 points down and falling as of 28th March.
See my screenshot taken on the 23rd, a mere five days ago.

Yes I know one is for over the last twelve months, the other for the last three, but neither paint a pretty picture. I have a feeling that the Cambridge Analytica scandal is just the tip of a very big problem-berg. Over the next few months I can see a larger loss en-route, as in shit, fan, incoming! Perhaps a complete collapse. Who knows? It’s like watching a run on a poorly funded bank.

While this is all very entertaining in the median term, it may blow over, it may not. Facebook may survive, but it is what I’d describe as a ‘Castle in the Air’ stock. Looks pretty, but has no real fiscal security, as like one of the fairy fortresses, the only thing that keeps Facebook going is the power of belief.

Elon Musk (To name but one) has pulled his companies out of Facebook and there’s a class action in the offing. As far as some of the other tech giants go, Alphabet, parent company of YouTube and Google is also suffering with a less drastic 4% fall after accusations of bias, which they strenuously deny, but a number of their users who have had their content demonetised and even deleted aren’t convinced. Amazon may be worth a punt though, as their share value has taken a hit. But they actually sell real things, so I’d view them as a fairly safe bet and treat the current downturn as a buying opportunity for their stock.

Facebook on the other hand, what do they have to sell, apart from their users data? Twitter likewise. Which begs another question. Where will all the Twatter outrage mobs go if the platform collapses? Will they suddenly find themselves suffering a form of electronic social death? Mmm. Couldn’t happen to a nastier bunch of people.

Talking of social death, the institutional antisemitism endemic within the UK Labour party has surfaced once again. This is no surprise to me, as every extreme left winger I’ve ever met has been a racist anti-Semite. Never understood it myself. I think the only half way sane reason must be that extreme left (and right) wingers are avidly pro big government and the Zionists are big on family. The family (A very human, grass roots institution) and big government (Big state, top down driven) are philosophically opposed. The big government people see the family as the biggest obstacle to their authoritarian utopian fantasies, so to their mind anyone who has a strong family as the basis of of their culture must be undermined and if need be, eliminated.

Well it makes sense to me.

Snow drama

We’ve just had a dump of snow that has come and gone. Probably at least twice what the UK has had during it’s latest ‘Snowpocalypse’. For example, on Sunday Mrs S and I were driving across to the south west of the Island and big white flakes were coming down like nobody’s business, hitting the ground then disappearing. But then we’re geared up for it over here, all weather tyres and every other car is an AWD or a 4×4. Some AWD’s being more equal than others. The Winter tyre change is just something you do every year. Those with only traction on one axle tend to have a spare set of Winter wheels ready for driving. There’s none of this nonsense with ‘The wrong kind of snow’ either. We get the same kind of cold wet and heavy type of stuff as the UK, and the occasional six inch fall is treated with insouciance. Anything more, well, road clearing is mostly done by local contractors who have their own chainsaws for clearing fallen trees. On rural roads they don’t wait for the Council workers to get out of bed, the problem’s in front of you buddy, you fix it. Likewise, airports and suchlike keep running no matter what. It takes a fall of over a six inches (All right, fifteen point two four centimetres) within twenty four hours to come anywhere close to shutting those down.

Today there’s no snow left except for the odd north facing slope or compacted pile of dirty ice shunted over into a sheltered corner, slowly melting in the rain. Business as usual. No drama. Only a month or so away from Spring. Even then we’ve had serious snow in April, over two feet on one occasion, which was my first encounter with the term ‘snow day’. There’s even been the odd strinkling in June around the 49th parallel. But that’s weather in the northwestern Pacific rim for you. And we’re about the same latitude as Bordeaux, France.

Not that it matters, it’s all Milankovich cycles, Solar irradiance and changes in albedo anyway.

Apart from the cold outside, Windows 10 is screwing with my wireless keyboard and mouse setup. Both started playing up out of the blue two days ago. Tried fixing with the Logitech receiving package, but no improvement. Windows 10 is truly shite. Every update brings new fuckups. I haven’t had this much messing around with an operating system since MS-DOS, which at least had the benefit of being a stable platform. Windows 10 with the latest upgrade is a buggy, unreliable pile of crap. Mostly because I’ve had to go digging through Device Manager to reconfigure the power management settings after this last fucking update. Not just in one, but all devices, from USB hubs to Mice and Keyboards.

From an ex-support technicians perspective, there were only two versions of Windows that were any good. Windows 2000 because with service pack 4 it was almost bulletproof and Windows 7, because it was the last Windows package to do what the bloody hell it was told, and not allow some Microserf to remotely mess around with your well-configured systems. It’s why I used to switch off the latest update until the tech forums reported all clear. XP was barely tolerable, Vista was utter crap and 8.1, well, best avoided if you want my advice. 10 is a complete abortion. The ‘Home’ edition worst of all.

What scrolls my knurd is the constant basic system changes every time a new bell and whistle becomes available. I spend time and energy setting up my laptop to do exactly what I want, when I want it to. I don’t want the fucking thing to keep second guessing me. Firstly it’s annoying, secondly it’s time wasting, and thirdly it’s completely patronising. It’s got to the point that if old Spoonbanger petulantly did drop a nuke on the good old US of A, I’d bloody cheer if ground zero was Microsoft.

Update: on the topic of driving in adverse conditions, I’ve always wondered why, given Northwestern Europes propensity for cold wet weather, that most vehicle retailers don’t simply spend a couple of extra hundred bucks on all weather rubber for their vehicles. The Ice / Mud ‘All Season’ rating would seem to be the most sensible choice, rather than trust to less grippy compounds which are only really effective above 7 Celsius. Not that there’s much advantage because Summer rubber doesn’t add to the grip if you spend half your time (Like the majority of UK drivers) in heavy traffic commutes.

For a personal anecdote, our Geolander G95’s hold the tarmac nicely in all conditions (Tried and tested) from temperatures in the high 30’s Celsius, heavy snow to intense downpours and packed ice. The rear tyres are due to be replaced with a new pair at 130,000KM (80,000 miles) this September. Still with 1mm remaining on the ‘safe’ tread. Wondering which make is best for your shiny tin box? Start here with a 2017 survey.

All of the above is rather academic really, if as JuliaM puts it so succinctly in the comments, “No machine is worth much if the meatsack behind the wheel hasn’t bothered to RTFM!”