Category: Podcast

Episode 073 – Purism Laptops & Underage Smartphone Use

We’ve got global communications for adventurers, the very purest of laptops for tinfoil hat wearers, quantum wireless charging, the half-truths of Fisker, and underage smartphone use along with Content I Like and Today I Learned.

Ethan’s wife is on a long distance trail.

  • So how’s he keeping track of her?
  • Garmin InReach discussion.
    • Global coverage via Iridium LEO satellite network.
    • 2-way texting
    • SOS monitoring – big button on the side
    • Track and follow blue dot and track on a topo map via web,
    • GPS receiver with built-in maps
    • Weather
    • Capex & opex

Eric’s looking into laptops.

  • “We believe people should have secure devices that protect them rather than exploit them. To that purpose, we provide everything people need into a convenient hardware and software product. We offer high-quality privacy, security, and freedom focused computers and software.”
  • PureOS – completely Free/Libre software
    • Based on Debian GNU/Linux so I’m on board, since I loves me some “Apt” package management!
    • Gnome 3 with Wayland display protocol
    • It comes with the best Free/Libre privacy and security software and apps for privacy “out of the box”—including the Tor browser, the Duck Duck Go search engine, EFF Privacy Badger, and HTTPS: Everywhere bundled into our official web browser, PureBrowser.
    • Also comes with LibreOffice, which is a perfectly good office suite (I use it fairly often)
    • qTox for chat which uses leading-class encryption and no centralization, so you know your text, voice, or video chat is only accessible to you and the intended recipient.
    • Has a map app that uses OpenStreetMap which is a collaboratively maintained mapping system
  • They also make computers. Apparently really nice computers. A 2-in-1, a 13”, and a 15” laptop. I read lots of really great reviews.
  • I’ve been in the market for a laptop for a while (let’s be honest, I’m always in the market for a tech device of some sort or another), and Purism popped up in one of my feeds so I took a look and fell in love with the idea, since I’m such a tin-foil hat kinda guy.
  • Where do these rank on Eric’s patented Citizens of Tech Tinfoil-hat-o-meter?
    • Hardware switches for the camera, microphone, bluetooth, and WiFi. Want one without wifi? No problem.
    • But wait, those Intel chips have Intel’s AMT management tech embedded in them, you say! Nah. That’s been neutered.
    • No proprietary BIOS here, either, just coreboot here – an open source BIOS/UEFI replacement.
  • I wanted to generally make folks aware of what they’re trying to provide over at Purism, and while I can’t provide an explicit endorsement of the product(s), since I haven’t actually used one, I’m on board with what they’re doing.
  • So much so that we are in the process of lining up an interview with the founder in the near future!

Quantum wireless charging – maybe?

  • Current wireless charging works through magnetic induction. You’ve got a resonator and a receiver. You couple them with a magnetic field. Tweak the resonator frequency to work the best for the distance apart and orientation of the two ends, and you get more or less efficient energy transfer, no better than about 95%.
  • Quantum wireless charging works on a different principle, that of quantum change, parity, and time-reversal symmetry.
  • The part that matters here is that of parity-time symmetry. This means that quantum systems are “indistinguishable if they’re moving up and forward in time or moving down and backward in time.”
  • Okay. So, the theorists at Stanford wondered if there was a way to use quantum CPT and make an application of wireless charging. They knew about some optical systems that were mirror images of each other that did indeed behave in this way, so it seemed plausible.
  • Long story short, they built a quantum-like system for wireless charging that was a mirror image of itself. On the one side, an emitting coil with an amplifier adding energy to the system. On the other, a receiving coil that takes the energy and uses it for charging. Simulations suggested that such a system should behave as a single system, even separated by an air gap.
  • Now, it wasn’t clear from the article just what the mechanism was that transferred the energy. We know with magnetic induction what’s going on – those are measurable forces. Other than citing quantum CPT, the article didn’t explain. And maybe that’s the point here, although what’s throwing me is that they describe this as a non-quantum system. So, if it’s non-quantum, why does it behave with quantum CPT principles? I’m missing a little something.
  • In any case, it worked, with the big advantage over mag induction of not being as distance sensitive. It worked from 75cm to about a 1m before it was no good anymore.
  • On the other hand, a big drawback is efficiency. The amplifier in the system was only 10% efficient, although there are amplifiers that could work with up to 90% efficiency.
  • Another issue is scale. A possible use case is to charge cars while they are moving, but this early demo doesn’t really give us insight into the sort of system using CPT quantum principles that might be required to make that work, despite addressing the distance and orientation issue of magnetic induction.

Fisker’s Amazing 400 Mile, 9-Minute Charging Car!

  • Fisker has had issues in the past, like, inability-to-keep-a-CEO type problems and oh yeah, bankruptcy problems.
  • They produced the Fisker Karma in 2011, a 400HP 20KWh a plug-in hybrid luxury sports sedan
    • Sort of has Porsche Panamera lines, to me.
  • They also re-launched the Karma in 2016 as the Karma Revero. It’s essentially the same car with some refinements and tweaks.
  • The big news is the new all-electric “EMotion” car.
    • $129,000 – sounds like a lot, but for a boutique car, not unreasonable.
    • But hey, wait a hot second, the Karma Revero already goes for $130k… and doesn’t have Lidar, carbon fibre wheels, a massive battery capacity, and numerous other expensive widgets.
    • 400 Mile Range thanks to a new graphene-based hybrid super-capacitor technology.
    • That supercapacitor was to be the key to the ultra-fast 250+ KW DC charging. Since capacitors can “ingest” voltage far, far faster than li-ion batteries.
    • ….but they’re not shipping the Emotion with graphene-based super-capacitor tech… it’s shipping with li-ion batteries.
    • They still tout the “9 minute quick charge” though! So that’s a relief!
    • ….but that’s not entirely accurate, because if you dig into a press release, the outline that:
      • “The Fisker EMotion has been proportioned to accommodate an advanced high-energy density, patent-pending battery pack and cooling system. It can be charged through the vehicle’s proprietary UltraCharger™ technology, charging over 100 miles in nine minutes.
    • Still – 100 miles in 9 minutes sound pretty great… except there’s no charging infrastructure anywhere that can support that, currently. Tesla probably will be able to in the near future, but Fisker specifically says their charging is going to be proprietary, so that’s out. Fisker is going to need to roll out the network for this or have Nissan’s CHAdeMO or CCS DCFC compatibility, as well, or folks will be stuck charging only at home.
  • Pretty car? Sure. Realistic car? Yes and no. Ridiculous marketing babble? Definitely.

Parents Against Underage Smartphones

  • Short story – a dad gave his pre-teens smart phones, and saw them become moody, etc.
  • He threatened to take them away, and they reacted like addicts.
  • His reaction was to form PAUS, which cites a bunch of unverified statistics like 750K child predators and pedophiles online, suicide rates among children, impact of porn on young eyes, and so on.
  • And he’d like to outlaw smart phone use by pre-teens.
  • “What then, can we do, you ask?? The struggle will be mighty, but we can unite and if our representatives refuse to act, we will act for them, and place by citizen ballot measures laws that place age restrictions on children owning portable internet electronics, force phone manufacturers to actually make filters that function before handing them to our teens, and hold ourselves as parents responsible for child endangerment if we give unlimited internet access to any child.
    Further, children need to be able to turn in graphic images sent to them without fear of their own records being scarred.  New technologies need to be created to make the internet safe for kids when they do go online.  I join Mary Aikens in the call for the creation of a separate internet which is safe for children. It is possible.“
  • We opine.
  • BTW…broke my Twitter addiction.

Content I Like


  • It’s what’s been called a “Walking Simulator”
  • “The year is 1989. You are a man named Henry who has retreated from his messy life to work as a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness.”
  • This is the first game in some time to actually hold my attention, since I’ve been in a bit of a “tell me a story” phase of late.
  • Things go from very mundane to very odd and compelling quite quickly. I haven’t finished the game yet, but I suspect I’m near the end.
  • Beautiful cell-shaded graphics (that will even run on older systems)
  • High quality music
  • Great voice acting
  • Compelling story that you start shaping from the very outset.
  • Available on GOG (DRM Free!) and Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux. For $19.99

Today I Learned

Penguins don’t just live in Antarctica.
“All penguins live in the Southern Hemisphere, though it is a common myth that they all live in Antarctica. In fact, penguins can be found on every continent in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Episode 072 – Understanding High Dynamic Range Video

We’re going to talk about potential uses for that spare Mac mini you have sitting around, how much I hate to love my new phone, solar roof sales are…through the roof (deal with it), Intel and AMD’s new CPU architectures, converting 80 years of film to HDR, I’m not a millionaire, two deathwatch discussions, Today I Learned and more!

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The Boring Company

Episode 071 – Elon Musk is Boring!

Tesla Solar Roofies, some solar blinds to augment that roof, Microsoft OSXing Windows 10, Fan made games, herd immunity requires… you know… the whole herd, Spotify Scan Codes, Conquering the world with stirrups, Tesla’s Model 3 will earn them money, CIL, TIL, and more! This is a jam-packed episode.

The Citizens of Tech podcast covers energy, science, astronomy, inventions, and space exploration with a little gaming, gadgets, apps, and related nerdy things thrown in along the way. Find out all about us at, CitizensOfTech on Twitter, and in the CitizensOfTech subreddit.

Order Your Tesla Solar Roof

  • Orders are now open.
  • Black glass smooth tiles and the textured glass tiles, with additional styles available in the future.
  • Connectors are magical. Lots of tech involved, apparently.
    • Musk. “This is a connector that has to last for more than 30 years. It has to be weatherproof, heavy rain, snow, slush, salt, water leaking – it’s like connector hell.”
    • Tesla CTO JB Straubel. “A lot of the challenges here leveraged some great learning from the Tesla team on validating automotive connectors and volume production processes. Tesla is building all these tiles ourselves – we are not outsourcing it. We have been able to solve those more complexed design problems and hit those price points that you see.”
  • Tesla says that, “typical homeowner can expect to pay $21.85 per square foot for a Solar Roof.”
    • That’s if 35% of the roof are solar panels. Shingles? Definitely some weasel words there.
    • Tesla thinks that the average homeowner will need around 40% of the roof as solar, although some as much as 70%. All depends on your energy needs.
    • More weasel words, but worth considering, is that you end up getting paid for the roof, because you are making electricity.
    • Actual cost for a solar tile is $42 per square foot which is naturally more costly than a regular shingle, but Tesla considers them cheaper than other alternatives when you factor in the power generated.
  • Elon Musk described the warranty. “Made with tempered glass, Solar Roof tiles are more than three times stronger than standard roofing tiles. That’s why we offer the best warranty in the industry – the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first.”
    • Then even shot a ball of hail at the tiles during the durability testing.
  • Calculator to estimate the total cost.
  • Quotes automatically included an installed 14kWh Powerwall 2, which you can opt out of. But you wouldn’t.
  • $1,000 deposit required.
  • 5-7 day installation time. US market prioritized first. Outside US, probably next year.


SolarGaps – Energy Generating Solar Panel Window Blinds

  • “Reduce your apartment, home and/or business electricity bill by up to 70% with solar energy generating smart blinds.”
  • “SolarGaps smart blinds automatically track the sun throughout the day, adjusting position to the optimal angles to generate solar electricity to power devices in your home, apartment or office.”
  • “DIY PLUG & PLAY – With apartment renters in mind, the interior wall brackets are designed as a non-permanent, plug & play solution with additional installation options for homeowners to maximize energy production.”
  • “ENERGY GENERATING – Built-in solar panels can generate up to 100W-150W of renewable energy per 10 sq. ft. (≈ 1 m2) of a window, enough to power 30 LED light bulbs or three MacBooks.”
  • “ENERGY REDUCING – In addition to generating solar energy, the window blinds also save energy by shading your home interior and reducing air condition cost by up to 40%.”
  • “AFFORDABLE – Energy surplus can either be stored by battery or can easily be sold to your electricity company as green energy through a two-way meter they provide.”
  • “SMART FEATURES – Easily integrate with smart devices like Google Home, Echo, Nest Thermostat and more to control by voice, temperature and/or smartphone app.”
  • Install inside or outside – they recommend outside.
  • $18,146 out of $50,000 needed. KickStarter ends Wed, June 14 2017 12:56 PM EDT.
  • Pledge from $39 to $4,895 with lots of options in between depending on what size you get and quantity.


Microsoft Windows (10S store requirement, Timeline, Cortana)

  • “Windows 10 S blocks the execution of any program that wasn’t downloaded from the Windows Store. Arbitrary downloaded apps, or even apps with physical install media, are forbidden, a move that on the one hand prevents running malware but on the other blocks the use of most Windows software.”
  • “Why would Microsoft make such a move? According to critics, it’s not for any reason that benefits Windows users, but rather so that the company can enjoy the riches that come from taking a 30-percent cut of everything sold through the Windows Store.”
  • But the big positive is a clean Windows experience. Apps that meet some Microsoft criteria are in the store. Apps are installed and uninstalled cleanly. Less Windows clutter. Less malware destroying the world. For the right user, this isn’t a bad thing.
  • Let’s assume there’s going to be enough apps in the store is all…not a for sure thing right now.
  • “At its annual Build developer conference, Microsoft took the wraps off the next major Windows 10 version, the Fall Creators Update, and announced some of its new features.”
    • “Timeline tracks what you’re doing—which documents you have in which apps, which e-mails you’re writing, what Web pages you have open, that kind of thing—and lets you retrieve that information later.”
    • “On Windows, the Timeline information is displayed in the task switcher. Press the taskbar button (or, we’d hope, Win-Tab) and Windows will continue to show your currently open applications. But you can now scroll that view to bring historic applications and documents into view.”
    • “The Cortana element is called “Pick Up Where I Left Off,” and it allows a similar kind of restoration of what you’re doing. PUWILO is available in Windows, but, like Cortana, is also available on iOS and Android. This means that for applications that support it, you’ll be able to stop what you’re doing on one machine—writing an e-mail, say—and resume that task on an iPhone.”


Fan Games

  • Some folks out there love certain games so much that they’ll mod them or mash them up with other games. Like taking a map from Red Dead Redemption and bringing it into GTA5.
  • The problem is legality. Good chance this behavior is breaking copyright laws, and will earn you a DMCA takedown notice.
  • Stephen McArthur is an LA lawyer who specialized in video game intellectual property. He helps game companies create policies for “fan games.”
  • “Don’t break the rules and they won’t come after you, is the implication, even though every policy still reserves a right to shut something down in unforeseen or unspecified cases, or for any reason. Still, such rules have to exist, and McArthur thinks it’s good business for publishers with huge fan followings to adopt them.”
  • But if you’re a tool, well…yeah. The companies will act against you. Duh.
    • “McArthur says anything that looks like “cracking” a game is a deal-breaker even if a publisher has articulated fan-use guidelines. Anything that could be considered a hack or a cheat is going to find trouble.”
    • “His advice to mod-makers and fan-game designers: Keep it non-commercial, giving the work away for free. Do not use any of the company’s logos or music, and make it clear that the work is non-official and not sponsored or endorsed by the publisher.”
    • Then, “Keep it clean; nothing controversial, racist, sexist or otherwise offensive.” In case that wasn’t clear enough, “Do not damage their brand or company.”


If you don’t vaccinate, measles breaks out. Super weird!

  • Some folks have decided that vaccines cause autism. There’s no science to back that, but lots of “Internet wisdom” aka ignorant hysteria.
  • In a Somali immigrant community in Minnesota, their vaccination rate dropped from 92% in 2004 to 42% in 2014.
  • Minnesota has now got its largest measles outbreak since the 1990’s.
  • How did the FUD spread? A guy named Wakefield…
    • “Wakefield, a former British doctor who now lives in Texas, is considered the founder of the modern anti-vaccination movement. In 2010, around the time he was visiting the Somali community, he was stripped of his British medical license for falsifying a 1998 study. The study fraudulently alleged that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. Wakefield was paid to produce the study to aid a money-making legal scheme, which ultimately failed. The study was retracted, and Wakefield was also found guilty of dozens of other counts of professional misconduct, including abusing autistic children. Despite the shocking misconduct and retraction, the harmful belief that life-saving vaccines cause autism lives on.”


Spotify Scan Codes

  • QR-like codes for sharing anything on Spotify are coming. Spotify scan codes.
  • Camera built-in to the toolbar.
  • Or grab a screenshot and import it into Spotify.
  • Haven’t seen the official announcement as yet, but it’s interesting.
    • Shows an emphasis on easy mobile sharing.
    • OTOH, there’s lot of ways to share that seem easy enough.
    • OTOOH, anything that reduces a swipe or a click is good. I assume that the codes are going to reduce some of the friction.


Were Metal Stirrups The Making Of The Mongols?

  • “Many historians believe [the Mongols’] power stemmed from an incredibly simple technological innovation: the stirrup.”
  • Stirrups are a big deal. You can ride longer. Less likely to get knocked off your horse during battle.
  • Leather loops were early forms of stirrups.
  • “In 2016, archaeologists at the Center of Cultural Heritage of Mongolia unearthed the remains of a Mongolian woman dating back to the 10th century AD. Along with sturdy leather boots and some changes of clothes, she was buried with a saddle and metal stirrups described as in such good condition that they could still be used today. The stirrups are one continuous thick piece of metal with an open loop for a saddle strap on the top and a wide, flattened, and slightly rounded foot rest. The stirrups had to be comfortable and tough, because Mongols used them to ride in a way no one else rode.”
  • The Mongols were described as riding standing up. They practiced hard in this position, and learned to maintain balance and horse control, hands-free. That meant they could pivot at the waist, and use weapons, making they flexible and formidable in battle. They could flow smoothly while the horse moved under them.
    • Reminded me of being a kid and riding a mountain bike down a hill. You had to let the bike move around underneath you, or you’d get thrown off.


Making Sweet EV Money With The Tesla 3

  • EV’s have been loss leaders for automotive companies.
  • But Tesla makes money on the Model S, and it looks like they might make money with the Model 3. Sort of important with the Model 3, since this is a mass production car, not a boutique special for rich people only.
  • “Whether or not they will manage to is still up for debate, but an analyst today came out with a note predicting that they will be able to achieve a ~25% gross margin – comparable with the Model S’ margin.”
  • “It would be a game changer for Tesla since at a planned production of 400,000 units per year and an average sale price of ~$45,000, it would represent $18 billion in revenue and roughly $4 billion in gross margin from a single vehicle program. In the process, it would remove the popular talking point in the auto industry that reasonably priced all-electric vehicles can’t turn a profit.“


Content I Like

Sam Harris “Waking Up” Podcast

  • Thoughtful, interesting topics.
  • Neuroscience, cognition & consciousness, science, societal implications of xenophobia, true racism vs. political correctness, does man truly have free will, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, the ethics of eating meat.
  • Sam is best known as an atheist, and an anti-religion attitude comes up frequently in his content. Fair warning if that will put you off.


Today I Learned


Animals that are mobile and (relatively) mature immediately after they are born. For example, baby bunnies are born fully furred and with their eyes open.


The first microwave oven developed by a Ratheon engineer:

It weighed about 750 pounds and was nearly 6 feet tall. It also required water cooling, so it had to have water lines run to it.


The beta microwave was placed in a restaurant in Boston for testing. Raytheon introduced a commercial microwave oven, the 1161 Radarange, in 1954. It was expensive — priced at $2,000 to $3,000 (the equivalent of $16,000 to $24,000 in today’s cash).

Episode 70 – The Internet Can’t Be Neutral

Today on the menu we’ve got: Net neutrality, Macrophage heart-throbs, Cassini’s crash and burn (for science), is EV market interest really as high as full size pickups?, renewable energy is more appealing in the long term than fossil fuels, CIL, TIL and other complete nonsense.

Net Neutrality

Citizens of Tech is a listener supported podcast. So go to and become a Patreon supporter. If you want. Whatever. You know, it’s fine. WHATEVER. This is fine.

But seriously, tell your friends about the show. Make them subscribe using the mind powers that every Citizen gets upon hearing their first episode. That happens. That’s how that works.

You know how else something works? The stuff we talk about on this show is partially selected by Redditors, meaning YOU. Go to Reddit, find the Citizens of Tech sub, and upvote the stuff you want to hear us talk about.

  • The Internet is not one thing. It’s an interconnected group of networks that meet at peering points.
  • Connections between service providers as well as between service providers and content providers (web companies) are negotiated. In other words, it’s not as simple as plugging in and now it works, yay! What sort of traffic goes through a peering connection at what rates, etc. is something determined when the connection is set up.
    • Google, for example, sets up connections to bring their services closer to the people using them.
    • Those links aren’t there to be used simply as transit links to carry a bunch of other Internet services, although technically they could be. They are there as a part of GOOGLE’s network.
    • One of the things you learn as a network engineer using the BGP routing protocol is how to manipulate what traffic flows through which links under what circumstances. How traffic flows across a network is highly controllable and is manipulated by policy.
  • The bandwidth you buy is a theoretical maximum. A peak delivery service. Networks cannot deliver to every endpoint at their maximum contracted rate at the same time. The Internet backbone won’t handle it.
    • Bandwidth caps.
    • Unlimited usage that is still metered and is constrained after you use a certain amount.
  • “Over the top” providers use the Internet to deliver their content to you. Video streaming services are using huge percentages. I couldn’t find recent percentages, but back in 2013, Netflix alone was consuming about one third of downstream bandwidth. That’s 4 years ago.
    • Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation, SlingTV, YouTube & YouTubeTV.
    • Streaming options increasingly available from traditional channels.
    • But also think about the big web companies. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, etc…these are also folks keenly interested in net neutrality.
    • No one wants to pay extra to deliver their content to you, no matter how much bandwidth it takes to do it.
  • Net neutrality is tied into these problems.
  • Many of the Internet network providers have their own content they’d like to prioritize.
  • Or…they feel they should have the right to charge Netflix extra to make sure that Netflix traffic makes it across their network.
  • This isn’t simply a money grab, in that it costs real money to engineer networks to carry all this traffic, and then keep up with demand that never slows down.
    • Building out networks is a very expensive part of being a service provider.
    • If you followed the networking industry, you’d notice a massive trend towards the commoditization of network hardware and software.
    • Also a trend towards simplifying operations.
    • All about driving down costs when massive amounts of bandwidth are required.
  • The question we’re left with is this. Does it make sense for the FCC to be regulating the Internet? If so, in what way? This is actually a complex problem, no easy answers.
    • Ultimately, we want to use the Internet in the way we want to use it.
    • And so far…that’s not been a policy problem as much as it’s been an engineering problem.
    • And hey. I watched HD streaming video on 5Mbps hotel wifi up in the sticks of even more rural New Hampshire than I already live. I don’t think the world is coming to an end anytime soon. There’s a good case to be made that we leave the government out of it until we know there’s a good reason for it to step in.

Immune Cells Helping Heartbeat Regularity

  • Macrophages are critical immune system cells
    • In the late 1800s they were known to defend against pathogens
    • As far as I could find, not much else was known about them beyond that point until 2011
    • 2011: A team of researchers found that macrophages were directly involved in the regulation of thermogenesis in adipose tissue – a.k.a. controlling fat burning.
    • Also 2011: Another team found that macrophages are involved in synaptic pruning, which we discussed a bit in Episode 61 (REM Sleep Pruning Dendritic Spines)
    • In 2016 it was determined that “on-demand erythrocyte disposal and iron recycling requires transient macrophages in the liver.”
  • A new apparent discovery is that they’re critical to the correct electrical delivery to the Atrial Ventricular system (AV)
    • They help deliver electrical signals required for synchronous heart contractions and assist in “recharging” of the cells between beats, allowing the cells to take up charge more readily.
    • So how do we know?
      • Genetically engineered mice, of course!
        • These mice lacked the correct number of macrophages.
        • The experienced irregular heartbeats which would cause pacemakers to be considered in human patients exhibiting the same symptoms.
    • This may lead to advances in the understanding of atrial fibrillation and arrhythmia conditions
    • I’ve heard of folks being told by their doctors “It’s not serious. Some people just have this happen, there’s not much we can do about it.” – this may change that.

Cassini Flying Very Close To Saturn

  • Cassini spacecraft traveled between gas giant Saturn and its innermost rings.
  • Within 3,000km of the Saturn’s uppermost clouds.
  • Within 300km of the innermost edge of Saturn’s ring system. At least, the part that we can see. There was some concern that Cassini wouldn’t survive because no ship has ever flown there before.
  • NASA predicted that if there was something in this zone, it would be the size of smoke particles. Cassini is traveling at 124,000kph, so even tiny particles could damage the vessel.
  • To reduce the risk of particles disabling Cassini, NASA oriented the ship so that the communications dish was aiming directly ahead, acting as a shield.
  • Cassini was out of touch for 20 hours, since the dish wasn’t aimed towards Earth while it was acting as a shield. NASA had to sit and wait while the antenna aimed away, Cassini flew through the zone, and then aimed the dish back.
  • Cassini’s mission is almost done. “Cassini loops Saturn approximately once per week, making a total of 22 dives between the rings and the planet. Data from this first dive will help engineers understand if and how they will need to protect the spacecraft on its future ring-plane crossings. The spacecraft is on a trajectory that will eventually plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere — and end Cassini’s mission — on Sept. 15, 2017.”

Market interest: Full size pickup vs EV.

  • A recent survey from AAA (American Automobile Association) found that interest in electric vehicles amongst consumers in the US now rivals that of full-size pickup trucks.
  • The findings seem a little bit… off, to be honest.
  • 15% of respondents said they were interested in EVs with 16% saying Full sized pickups were their bread and butter.
  • Millennials were higher, with 20% stating they were interested in an EV for their next vehicle.
  • Battle of perception:
    • 69% of respondents said there aren’t enough charging stations
    • 68% said that they were concerned they wouldn’t have enough range to reach their destination
    • Chevy has the Bolt with >230mi range and Tesla’s Model III will have similar range soon(ish)
    • Here is where range-extended EVs can shine. We discuss.
    • There’s also a perception of EVs being slow or boring.
    • Ethan, do you feel that my car is slow or boring?
    • I argue that it really is just a perception issue.

Renewables Trending Cheaper In The Long Term, But It’s Complicated

  • Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) – dividing the cost of an installation by the kilowatt-hours produced over the life of the plant.
    • Looking towards 2022, the most expensive energy sources based on LCOE are…
    • Solar thermal plants at $184.40 per MWh
    • Offshore wind at $145.90 per MWh
    • Coal plants with 30 percent carbon removal capability at $140 per MWh
    • Coal plants with 90 percent carbon removal at $123.20 per MWh
  • For 2022, the least expensive based on LCOE are…
    • Geothermal: $43.30 per MWh
    • Onshore wind: $52.20 per MWh
    • Advanced combined-cycle natural gas-burning plants: $56.50 per MWh
    • Solar PV: $66.80 per MWh
  • For 2022, advanced nuclear is in the middle based on LCOE.
    • Advanced nuclear plants: $99.1 per MWh
  • Levelized Avoided Cost of Energy (LACE) – help make more informed decisions considering aspects of power generation like cost of energy sources being replaced, the fact that solar only operates during the day, or wind energy production varies throughout the year.
    • LCOE isn’t a perfect way to compare the true cost of a plant.
    • LCOE doesn’t compare the cost of these “new” kilowatt-hours with the cost of the “old” kilowatt-hours that the new ones are replacing.
    • “If a resource is displacing power that’s more expensive to run when that first resource would run, that will be reflected in a LACE analysis.”
  • The Energy Information Administration (EIA) writes that the “net difference between LACE and LCOE provides a reasonable point of comparison of first-order economic competitiveness among a wider variety of technologies than is possible using either LCOE or LACE tables individually.”
  • The trend is that as the avoided costs approach levelized costs, the economics make more and more sense.
  • Based on that metric, the 2022 losers are…
    • Coal with 30 percent carbon removal:  -81.3
    • Offshore wind: -88.1
    • Solar thermal: -114.5
  • The only obvious 2022 winner…
    • Geothermal: LACE-LCOE difference of 21.9.
  • The rest are on the fence, served up with a heaping helping of “it depends.”
    • Advanced combined cycle natural gas plants: LACE – LCOE  of 1.7, range between -4.2 and 9.
    • Onshore wind: 1. Range is larger, between -17.4 and 20.9.
    • Solar PV: -2. Range is quite wide, though, between -42.5 and 21.4. In some regions, solar PV will make sense, but in others it will not.
  • A wise green muppet once said, “Always in motion is the future.” That’s especially true here. These predictions are impacted by tax credits and economies of scale. Thus, what really settles in 2022 is a tough call. But it does indeed look promising for certain kinds of renewables. And if you think about it, that seems inevitable. The cost of non-renewables eventually has to go up due to the cost of the fuel. We’ll use it all up at some point.

Content I Like

Nerd shirts

  • Cheap, original designs catering to nerdy folks.
  • Thousands of choices.
  • Wear your odd interests on your chest.
  • Science, gaming, tech, books, puns, offbeat humor, movies.

Steam Calculator – “Get disappointed in your life.”

Enter your steam ID (or that of another person with a public profile) and see all kinds of relevant (or not so relevant) stats about the account in question.

Today I Learned

Vernal pools. “Vernal pools, also called vernal ponds or ephemeral pools, are temporary pools of water that provide habitat for distinctive plants and animals. They are considered to be a distinctive type of wetland usually devoid of fish, and thus allow the safe development of natal amphibian and insect species unable to withstand competition or predation by fish.”

Bog butter. “Bog butter is usually found earthenware pots, wooden containers, animal skins, or wrapped in bark and takes on a pungent, cheesy odor. Looking at over 274 instances of bog butter from the Iron Age to medieval times, Earwood concluded that early Celtic people probably sunk the butter in the bog simply to preserve it or protect from thieves. The cool, low-oxygen, high acid environment of the bog made a perfect natural refrigerator. Seeing as butter was a valuable commodity and was used to pay taxes, saving it for times of drought, famine, or war would have been a good idea.”


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Episode 69 – Retro Computing Special With Paul Hagstrom

Welcome to the Citizens of Tech podcast. Today, we have a special for you. Departing from our normal format, we take a look back at tech of the past with this feature show on retro computing.

Our guest is Paul Hagstrom. Paul, if you would, please introduce yourself to the audience.


  1. Let’s define “retro computing.”
  2. Is there a generally accepted line where it’s no longer retro? As in, 486 is retro, but Pentium class is not, or some such arbitrary distinguisher?
  3. Does vintage silicon from the 80’s still function in the present day?
  4. Finding parts for your retro computer of old.
  5. Old media – floppy disks, cassettes, cartridges. Can you still read these things? All part of the experience.
    1. Preservation.
    2. Jason Scott: (“Floppy Disks: It’s Too Late”)
    3. (“Please help us track down Apple II collections”)
    4. 4am collection:
    5. Kyroflux:
    6. SuperCardPro:
  6. Emulators. Go.
    1. MAME/MESS:
    2. Mini vMac: (68K Mac)
    3. VICE emulator: (Commodore)
    4. AppleWin: (Apple II, Windows)
    5. Virtual II: (Apple II, macOS)
    6. Altirra: (Atari 8-bit, Windows)
    7. Stella: (Atari 2600)
    8. And many many others.
  7. On the retro computing scene, what are the rare, coveted devices that collectors speak of in hushed tones, hoping to get their hands on?
  8. Niches. Are there retro computing specialties people get into? Like…video cards. Or keyboards.
  9. We live in a world today of incredible computing power and retina screens that make the computing scene of 30+ years ago seem almost comical. And yet…there was much productivity to be had. What, surprisingly, is still really useful from the retro computing age?

Getting involved in the retro computing scene


  1. Retrocomputing Roundtable:
  2. Floppy Days:
  3. Retrobits:
  4. History of Personal Computing:
  5. Apple II: Open Apple:
  6. Apple III: Drop III Inches:
  7. Atari 8-bit: ANTIC:
  8. Commodore: Chicken Lips Radio:
  9. TRS-80: TRS-80 Trash Talk:
  10. CoCo: Coco Crew:
  11. Infocom: Eaten By a Grue:


  1. Vintage Computer Festivals, see: 2017 dates.
    1. VCF East (New Jersey, was Mar 31-Apr 2 )
    2. VCF Southeast (Georgia, Apr 29-30)
    3. VCF West (California, Aug 5-6)
    4. VCF Midwest (Chicago, likely September)
    5. VCF Europa (Munich, Apr 29-May 1).
  2. KansasFest: July “18”-23 in Kansas City, MO (Apple II centric)
  3. 26th annual last Chicago CoCoFest: (Chicago, was Apr 22-23)
  4. Retrochallenge:


  1. Terry Stewart (Tezza)’s Classic Computing channel:
  2. Assembly Lines video podcast (Chris Torrence), Apple II focused:
  3. How II video podcast (Charles Mangin), Apple II focused:


  1. VCF forum:
  2. AtariAge:
  3. Applefritter:  
  4. Lemon 64 forum:
  5. ClassicCmp mailing list:
  6. Comp.sys.whatever, I check in on comp.sys.apple2 with some regularity.


There are a million groups, here are a few:

  1. Apple II Enthusiasts:
  2. Vintage Computer Club:
  3. Commodore 64/128:
  4. TI 99ers: software library, top level:


Thanks for listening to Citizens of Tech today. You can follow us on Twitter @citizensoftech, and be sure to visit the /r/citizensoftech sub on Reddit. We post the most interesting stories we find there, and if you upvote them, we’ll talk about them on a future podcast.

Things you want to tell us? Want to share your retro computing story? Did you steal a nuclear football and have to brag about it to someone? Email us –

Episode 68 – Should Automakers Use Android Auto + Apple CarPlay Only?


Welcome to the Citizens of Tech podcast, a dalliance designed to disturb your dutiful day with a delightful distraction. Go to to distinguish the dudes deftly dominating the discourse today.

Eric, what details do we dangle before our devotees in this delivery?

Today on the show we have In-Car Edu-navi-tainment, The USA’s conspicuous lack of space travel, Microsoft Murdering Another of Ethan’s Beloved Apps, Credit cards with your fingerprints stored inside, Uber are a bunch of jerks, CIL and TIL!

Apple CarPlay & Android Auto As An Alternative To Proprietary Head Units

  • My personal CarPlay experience.
    • Had the system for several months.
    • Been through several upgrades.
    • The good.
      • When it works, it’s great.
    • The bad.
      • When it doesn’t work, the main value prop – not interacting with your phone while driving your car – is negated.
    • Audio apps do not consistently work, period.
      • NPR One is a crapshoot. Sometimes, it never gets to a place where you can see the audio stream choices and select something.
      • Spotify is completely unpredictable. It will launch on the phone, but not play in the car. It will think it’s streaming to a remote Spotify system (I have a Gramofon in my office) even though I’m down the road and there’s no wifi, etc. The solution is to use Spotify on the phone itself to get it to play through the car–and then it’s fine.
      • Overcast seems to work okay for the most part.
    • Apple Maps is the best in-car nav I’ve ever used.
      • Usually, I launch it with Siri. “Route me to X destination,” and it happens.
      • Night mode was finally fixed in 10.3, so that the screen is suitably darkened at night.
      • Real-time traffic and re-routing available. It feels like the future.
      • If you fall out of tower range, you start seeing unpopulated grid tiles. You need data. No offline option with Apple Maps that I know of, and Google Maps isn’t an option (yet?).
    • With unlimited data, using live streaming apps, like SomaFM, become a reality. No fear of overusing your data allowance.
    • I like the interface. The iOS 10.3 update to CarPlay added icons in the upper left that allow for fast switching between audio and NAV – a small thing, but very useful.
    • Siri mostly works. Overall, best voice recognition I’ve had, although it’s still wonky at times.
    • I don’t make calls with it, not that I can’t, just not part of my normal comms flow.
    • Text messaging works great, and I use this often.
    • Apps you can use are still strictly limited. For instance, I can’t use Slack messaging via CarPlay, and don’t expect I’ll ever be able to.
  • Should car manufacturers switch to CarPlay and Android Auto and dump their proprietary head unit NAV interfaces?
    • I would.
  • Does it make sense to start moving to the phone as an option for ALL auto system interfaces?
    • This is actually plausible. Plug the car into the phone, and use an app on the phone to control HVAC, etc.
    • Also a viable bridge to the data available via OBD-II. Why not?
    • Use the app on the phone to maintain a database of what’s going on with the car, and use the cloud + big data munging to predict service intervals, diagnose mechanical problems, anticipate failures.
    • Imagine a repair ecosystem where you have a CEL on, or other known malady, and having local garages sending you bids on the work. Or being on a trip, and finding repair shops that can handle the situation for you.
      • Of course…there is presumably some desire for manufacturers to keep repairs within the dealer garages, so perhaps some resistance to this idea?
      • Although, as I understand it, service departments operate as their own business entities. It’s not like the dealer, the service department, and the manufacturer are one big company. They aren’t.
      • So…maybe?

The US Hasn’t Put An Astronaut In Space Since July 21, 2011

  • “This gap has now surpassed the previous longest US spaceflight gap—2,089 days—which occurred between the end of the Apollo program and the first space shuttle mission.”
  • The US puts astronauts in space via Russia’s program to get them to the ISS.
  • This is due largely to underfunding of NASA by US Congress during the Bush and Obama administrations.
  • The big idea is for commercial space flight, though. Been the plan right along. And that’s coming, but just taking a while. SpaceX and Boeing should be able to send humans into space in early 2019. Sierra Nevada Corp and Blue Origin are other possible players.
  • Once the commercial solution is in play, the expectation is that NASA will never be grounded again.

Microsoft Killing Wunderlist for To-Do

  • Ethan is sad and scared.
  • Without gushing too much, Wunderlist has been amazing.
    • Fantastic cross-platform support.
      • iOS support for both iPad and iPhone (iPhone apps running on iPad are awful).
      • Landscape mode on iPad.
      • macOS support.
    • Instantaneous replication of events.
    • Integration with Slack.
  • To-Do is in preview now. TL;DR. It’s not complete yet. Definitely not feature parity with Wunderlist.
    • Wants your Microsoft account.
    • Import available from Wunderlist and Todoist.
    • Clean look, somewhat reminiscent of Wunderlist.
    • No grouping of lists into folder.
    • No subtasks. Subtasks and notes all imported as notes.
    • Attachments are lost in the import completely.
    • You do get recurring events.
    • No assigned tasks to other people.
    • New “My Day” feature. You can add manually whatever you want.
    • New setting of themes per list.
    • Software license terms don’t fit on the iOS screen without manually dragging the oversized document around.
    • No API that came up in Google. Not listed as an integration option in IFTTT. There is with Wunderlist.

Credit Cards With Fingerprint Readers

  • Mastercard proposal.
  • No battery power required, no thicker than regular cards.
  • Power drawn from terminal, and the terminal doesn’t have to be anything new.
  • But…not as sexy as Apple Pay. You have to go to a bank to get your fingerprint read and programmed into the chip on the card.
  • Yes, the fingerprint data is encrypted, but you have to give that data over to the bank to begin with. Not with Apple Pay.
  • TouchID’s mathematical representation of your fingerprint is stored in the Secure Enclave, on the phone, not in iCloud or anywhere else.
  • So, will fingerprint reading cards become more popular than Apple Pay? Doesn’t seem likely.
  • Is there enough of a market gap where people don’t have TouchID capable phones and outlets that don’t support Apple Pay PLUS people who really want fingerprint authentication for purchases that this tech is going to take off?

Privacy Watch

Uber and iOS Fingerprinting

  • Uber was, at some point in the past, fingerprinting iOS devices as a way to track users.
  • This is against Apple app store policies, so Uber went out of their way to make sure Apple didn’t discover the code.
  • They geofenced Cupertino Apple HQ. (!)
  • The point here is to be aware of what apps can do to track you and your behavior. On iOS, you can disable location services for apps that don’t need it, or set location data to only be available when the app is running.

Content I Like

Oddly Satisfying Subreddit

  • Aimed at OCD people.
  • Indeed, much of what I find there IS oddly satisfying.

Today I Learned

IMAX projectors are bright, really, really bright.

Light from the 15,000-watt lamp in an IMAX® projector is so bright that if it were on the moon we could see it from earth with the naked eye.

If a large log were held in front of the light beam from the projector, it would spontaneously combust.

Programming recursion.

A programming function that calls itself to iterate through a problem or computation. I ran into it where a recursive function was used to generate a set of objects that matched a hierarchical model. Each object would match a leaf node in the hierarchical model. I don’t claim to completely get recursion as yet, but I’m fascinated by the concept.


Episode 67 – Garmin Goes After A Patent Troll

Welcome to the Citizens of Tech podcast, show 67. We’re of the nerdy sort. Essentially, we’re IT geeks who plaintively pontificate on perturbations about our passions requiring power. That’s right – tech! Because tech devices need electricity. See what we did there?

Eric, what have we got today?

Solar power, a new EV from Honda, Patent trolls, How Many FPS can the human eye actually see?, Haiku, Nintendo, Content I Like, and Today I Learned.

Solar power hits economies of scale.

  • “In 2002, the International Energy Agency forecast suggested that, by 2020, global solar capacity would still be hovering at around 10GW and still barely register on the global energy markets.”
  • But we’ve done way better than that. The revised forecast is for 400GW by 2020, and even that might be too conservative.
  • The issue about growth is now a money problem. Investment money has got us to this point, but it will take more to ramp up manufacturing volume and to do more research into new solar tech.
  • IF more money comes in, that could result in more efficient and more durable (longer lasting) panels made at a higher volume, which would drive down the cost per megawatt hour of solar overall.
  • So, at the moment, we’re at a spot where solar is still pricey and spiky. Batteries would help with that, though…but again, pricey. However, “by 2030, projections of battery tech and costs, combined with their projections for solar power, would leave solar + batteries competitive with current coal prices.”
  • Grid-aware infrastructure could also help stabilize demand and reduce spikes, making renewables with battery storage a more reasonable supply option as time goes on. For instance, “being able to set your washing machine to start its run once electricity prices drop below a set point, to over-cooling or heating buildings overnight, allowing them to use less power the next day.”

Honda’s Half-Hearted Hybrid Hopes

  • Honda is finally joining the Plug-in Hybrid scene
  • “The Honda Clarity is aimed at accelerating the deployment of advanced electrified powertrain technology and bringing electrified vehicles further into the mainstream. The Clarity series also heralds the advancement of our Honda Electrification Initiative, representing our investment in the full spectrum of electric-vehicle technologies.”
  • Range, range, range
    • 1.5 Litre 4 cylinder range extender engine
    • Total range of 330Mi / 530km
    • That’s just not enough for a $35,000 car, is it?
    • The Honda Clarity is a PHEV with 42 miles (~67 km) of EV range
    • The all EV version is good for around 80mi / 130km
  • Oddly enough the PHEV version of it sounded similar enough in specs to my Volt that I did some digging, and sure enough, GM and Honda recently entered a business arrangement to work together to, according to, “expand the companies’ collaborative efforts beyond fuel cell vehicles to include plug-in hybrids/EREVs.”
  • 105 MPGe – which is slightly behind the Volt, but it is a larger car.

Patent trolling as a business model runs into the Garmin legal machine.

  • Leigh Rothschild has a patent holding company called Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations LLC (RCDI).
  • At least some of his patents are non-specific. Essentially, he creates a patent out of an idea and generic diagram. Nothing specific enough to merit patent treatment.
  • RCDI initiated a lawsuit against Garmin, citing his “customized mixed beverages” patent.
  • Early settlement offer of $75K. Keep it out of court by paying a fee that’s small to Garmin, big to RCDI if enough people would go for it.
  • Garmin didn’t go for it, instead pointing out that his generic patent is in violation of Section 101 of US Patent Law, which means you have to be specific.
  • Drop the lawsuit, or Garmin would file a motion that the patent be invalidated.
  • Garmin isn’t done. They are going after RCDI for legal fees, and questioning company residency, as there is some confusion about where the company, patents, business owner, and legal address are, a mix of Florida and Texas addresses. A technicality, but legally enforceable one.
  • “One of the two patents asserted against Garmin was featured in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Stupid Patent of the Month” series, in which EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer noted that the patent amounted to nothing more than an “Internet drink mixer.” In its lawsuit against Garmin, RCDI says that Garmin activity trackers like the Vivoactive device infringe its claims on a “personalized consumer product.” RCDI has used the same patent to sue Toshiba (PDF), seeking a royalty over the remote operation of cameras. It also sued Sharp (PDF) for sending scanned documents to a mobile device.”
  • This guy is a clown that should be stopped. Making money from bogus patents stifles innovation. I hope Garmin has some success here.

And now, a nerd haiku.

Vlad The Tech Support

  • Working the nightshift
    No calls, no sun, no people.
    Vampire tech support.

Content I Like

Zelda on Nintendo Switch

  • Is the game all that? The one that is going to drive sales of the Switch?Eric, proud Switch owner, tells all.
  • Related. How stupid is Nintendo for cancelling the NES Classic in North America?

Content I Hope To Like

MST3K Reboot On Netflix

  • Kickstarter raised millions.
  • Netflix picked it up.
  • Big names tied to it. Patton Oswalt, Felicia Day. Wil Wheaton shows up.
  • Not 100% the same if you’re used to the old format, but pretty close.
  • I don’t get Netflix, but I’m thinking about getting it for a month so I can binge.

Today I Learned

The setup–high refresh rate TVs and the “soap opera” effect. Now to the question. How many frames per second can the human eye actually perceive?

10 to 12 images per second look like individual images. Higher than this looks like motion. But the human eye is analog. It doesn’t perceive in FPS. The question is really, ”At what point does is the human eye no longer able to see a difference in increased frame rate?” And anecdotally, that answer is somewhere between 60 and 120 FPS.

Lake Nyos disaster

“The Lake Nyos disaster occurred on 21 August 1986, when a limnic eruption at Lake Nyos, in northwestern Cameroon, produced a large cloud of carbon dioxide (CO2), which descended onto nearby villages, killing 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock.

The eruption triggered the sudden release of about 100,000–300,000 tons[1] (some sources state as much as 1.6 million tons) of CO2. This gas cloud rose at nearly 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) andspilled over the northern lip of the lake. It then rushed down two valleys, branching off to the north, displacing all the air and suffocating people and livestock within 25 kilometres (16 mi) of the lake.[4]

A degassing system has since been installed at the lake, with the aim of reducing the concentration of CO2 in deep waters and therefore the risk of further eruptions.

It is not known what triggered the catastrophic outgassing. Most geologists suspect a landslide, but some believe that a small volcanic eruption may have occurred on the bed of the lake. A third possibility is that cool rainwater falling on one side of the lake triggered the overturn. Others still believe there was a small earthquake, but as witnesses did not report feeling any tremors on the morning of the disaster, this hypothesis is unlikely. Whatever the cause, the event resulted in the supersaturated deep water rapidly mixing with the upper layers of the lake, where the reduced pressure allowed the stored CO2 to effervesce out of solution.[citation needed]

It is believed that about 1.2 cubic kilometres (0.29 cu mi) of gas was released.[6] The normally blue waters of the lake turned a deep red after the outgassing, due to iron-rich water from the deep rising to the surface and being oxidised by the air. The level of the lake dropped by about a meter and trees near the lake were knocked down.”

Scientists Running For Office – Episode 66

Citizens of Tech episode 66 proves that, like Schrodinger’s cat, we can be both here and gone at the same time. Now that Eric and I have found compatible calendar space, we have cleverly cornered in canny cohesion the craftiest conversation starters we could connect with.

So Sutphen, slap down the stories we’re subjecting our citizens to today…

I was into typing before it was cool!

  • Retro styled bluetooth keyboard for your phone / tablet / other bluetooth type-y-tappy device.
  • Form over function? Probably, to some extent.
  • However you control the hipster-factor with configurations and options
  • Cherry switches
  • Diamond keycap – 3 years of R&D to enhance typing accuracy and comfort despite typing angle / technique.
  • Chrome keycaps – Full retro – mode. Look really cool. Probably terrible to type on if you’re doing more than light wordsmithery.
  • Macro Bar
    • Flip it up and start pecking at the keys
    • Return to “normal” position when you’re done recording
    • Tap it down to execute order 66… I mean, execute the macro you just recorded.
  • Bluetooth 4.2 – enabling low power mode – 6 months of idle time on 2 AA batteries
  • Pair with up to 5 devices
  • Windows / Android / Mac / iOS / Linux (pretty much anything that supports bluetooth
    • Switchable key layout for Win / iOS
    • Switchable key layout for US, UK, FR, DE
  • Hipster pouch (additional purchase)

GPS isn’t accurate enough for self-driving cars. NEED MOAR HD MAPZ.

  • GPS accuracy is a math problem. You need more numbers for the most accurate calculation. Terrain can get in the way, reducing GPS accuracy. Think hills, valleys, cityscapes.
  • And even then…
  • Autonomous vehicles deserve better.
  • “Fully aware of this need, car makers like BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Ford have been voting with their wallets. They’re investing in companies like Here and Civil Maps that are building the platforms and gathering the data required. The end result will be a high-definition 3D map of our road networks—and everything within a few meters of them—that’s constantly updated by vehicles as they drive along.”
  • Better maps starts with 96 megapixel camera arrays, plus a 32-beam LIDAR array to provide a 3D scan of the road .
  • Aiming for 2020 use.
  • 2 way information. Data comes from the scans, but cars have cameras and sensors that will be used to update the database in real-time. Machine learning (so called) to make sense of it all and apply it back to the maps.
  • nVidia GPUs will be powering the ML algorithms.

Fight the sySTEM

  • The article leads off talking about Tracy Van Houten, a Systems Engineer at NASA JPL
  • She’s been with NASA for 13 years and has worked on the Mars Curiosity Rover among other amazing projects.
  • She’s looking at walking away from her dream job to try to push anti-intellectualism out of Washington
  • She’s looking at running for 34th Congressional District of California, but she’s one of over 20 considering a run for it, so the campaign will be tough.
  • That’s really where the article heads, because it talks about how Tracy is not alone, there has been an upswing in the number of highly educated, STEM employed folks looking at getting into the political world; and how they have no idea how to run a campaign.
  • Enter – the 314 is a reference to… 3.14 – The short version of Pi.
    • “We are members of the STEM Community, grassroots supporters, and political activists committed to bring innovation to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, aggressively advocate for real solutions to climate change and elect more STEM-trained candidates to public office.”
    • Under The Scope: Our mission is to put members of Congress who are anti-science under the scope. By scrutinizing their actions and voting record that go against the facts and data, we will bring attention to practices and policies that are decidedly anti-science. It is no longer the time to sit idly by as partisan motives are promoted in direct opposition to leading scientific consensus on topics such as climate change, clean energy and evolution. 314 Action is committed to holding these members accountable for their actions and their votes.
    • They’re offering support and training for STEM folks in running a campaign for local and national offices.

Privacy Watch

Your Internet data can’t be bundled up and sold.

  • Popular notion lately that ISP’s can sell off your Internet usage to anyone that wants it. Not how that works.
  • There are many ways to track browsing behavior. For example, cookies.
  • But it is somewhat difficult to tie that behavior to a specific individual, especially for an ISP.
    • NAT, CG-NAT (less prevalent over time with IPv6, especially mobile/LTE networks)
    • As you move from place to place, you’re hiding behind a different IP.
    • Limited ability to store data.
    • Encryption.
  • We’re not saying impossible. But we are saying that there is no database in your ISP’s data center when they can say, “Susan Smith surfed these sites for this long and clicked on these things. And then she logged in at her bank. And then…”
  • So what’s really going on?
    • “When ISPs or online services have your data and “sell” it, it doesn’t mean that you can go to, say, AT&T and offer to buy “all of Louis Gohmert’s browsing history.” Instead, what happens is that these companies collect that data for themselves and then sell targeting. That is, when Gohmert goes to visit his favorite publication, that website will cast out to various marketplaces for bids on what ads to show. Thanks to information tracking, it may throw up some demographic and interest data to the marketplace. So, it may say that it has a page being viewed by a male from Texas, who was recently visiting webpages about boardgames and cow farming (to randomly choose some items). Then, from that marketplace, some advertisers’ computerized algorithms will more or less say “well, I’m selling boardgames about cows in Texas, and therefore, this person’s attention is worth 1/10th of a penny more to me than some other company that’s selling boardgames about moose.” And then the webpage will display the ad about cow boardgames. All this happens in a split second, before the page has fully loaded.
    • At no point does the ad exchange or any of the advertisers know that this is “Louis Gohmert, Congressional Rep.” Nor do they get any other info. They just know that if they are willing to spend the required amount to get the ad shown via the marketplace bidding mechanism, it will show up in front of someone who is somewhat more likely to be interested in the content.
    • That’s it.”
  • I will totally VPN all the things.
    • ORLY? That will not help. Just moves your piece to a different part of the board.
    • Obfuscate you personally a little more? Not with cookies.
    • Just means your browsing happens on someone else’s network that can do the same sort of tracking your local ISP was doing.
    • Only now, your performance is slower.
    • And maybe your VPN provider, where your traffic is de-encrypted, isn’t trustworth.
  • Use Ghostery that can help with some of the tracking, if you’re that paranoid.
    • Note that some sites just won’t work if you do. So if they are important sites to you, you might need to “trust” them in Ghostery.

Content I Like

Ghost In The Shell (2017 live action movie)

  • Been years since I saw the anime. Remember largely as this big impression it left on my brain with the word “awesome.”
  • The movie was good. It was not awesome.
  • The complex issues of robot sentience and related morality concerns were mostly not addressed.
  • The cyberpunk/online aspect was desperately underplayed.
  • The visuals were utterly stunning.
  • It was not endless, mind-numbing action.
  • It was not too long.
  • Surprisingly PG-13.

Into The Mind

  • “Sherpas Cinema creates a brain-melting, genre-blurring film that combines next-level skiing and riding with a story about the constant struggle between risk and reward. With this stunning cinematography, freeriding has never looked better.”

Today I Learned

TIL that there is a scientific measurement for the ‘risk of death’ of any action: the micromort. If an activity is rated as one micromort, you would have a one in a million chance of dying while doing it. Running a marathon is ~7 micromorts, sky diving 10, and climbing Mount Everest 40,000!

According to Wikipedia, “Vantablack is a substance made of vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays and is the blackest artificial substance known, absorbing up to 99.965% of radiation in the visible spectrum.”

Episode 65 – Robots Wearing Your Skin

The Citizens of Tech explore growing human tissue over analog metal skeletons, solid state batteries, AMD’s Ryzen CPU, the Nokia 3310 retro phone, YouTube TV, PBS’s City In The Sky series, along with Privacy Watch and Today I Learned.

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