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October 2015
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The LoFi warmth of vinyl and vacuum tubes is back

Mike every instrument and record with every channel turned up to 11, remove all mid-level and midrange sounds, compress the $(&* out of it to MP3. Stream that over a lossy protocol and then compress and stream that over lossy bluetooth to a final analog stage designed in ignorance of the past 100 years of analog design. Play through tinny piezoelectric monaural speakers which peak at the now-removed midrange frequencies. Yes, we’ve finally downgraded HiFi audio to what it was in 1960. Should we be surprised vinyl is making a comeback?

$800 Billion burning a hole in your pocket? Spending idea


Against the better judgment of hundreds of economists as well as the vast majority of the voting public (those annoying constituents), Congress approved Henry Paulson’s bailout plan. Now Paulson’s appointed “bailout czar”, Neel Kashkari has $800 billion tax dollars burning a hole in his pocket and he is trying to figure out how to spend it. My wife was a loan officer and defacto credit counselor way back in the late 1900s when most banks and credit unions still carefully considered credit ratings, debt/income and debt/asset ratios. She often helped people understand how to prioritize their spending. Sometimes little changes such as forgoing the daily cappuccino were enough to lift people out of debt and improve their credit rating. Our bailout czar’s job is slightly different. In order to efficiently bail out failing financial institutions, he must invest taxpayer’s money on assets that no one in their right mind would buy with their own hard-earned money. I personally don’t think this is a good plan. At best it is a temporary patch to a deflating asset bubble. If the bailout czar really wishes to use tax money to improve long term American economic growth and competitiveness, he should consider the following options for spending 800 billion dollars:

  • Bailout Chrysler 800 times (in 1979 dollars). This cash flow diagram indicates that, not so long ago, Detroit fueled a huge portion of the U.S. economy.
  • Repeat the Apollo moon lander program (including R&D from 1961-1969) 32 times (8 times in 2008 dollars).
  • Install photovoltaic solar roofs on 32 million homes (1/5th of all homes in the U.S.)
  • Pay full (unadjusted) tuition for their first year of Yale for 70% of 18-25 year old Americans. (Quoted tuition is for Yale medical school, but Yale has other specialties which could prepare students to become business leaders, presidents, senators, economists…)
  • Fund the National Cancer Institute for 165 years.
  • Provide microcredit loans for the world’s $1 billion working poor.
  • Fund UNICEF for 266 years.
  • Buy every possible ticket combination in the Florida Lotto for 57142 weeks, which means Paulson could hold a winning Florida lottery ticket every week for 1098 years.
  • SETI. Wisconsin’s former Senator and spendthrift William Proxmire once awarded his famous “Golden Fleece Award” to project SETI. Paulson’s bailout money could fund project SETI for 160,000 years.

I’m confident that any of the items on my shopping list would give U.S. taxpayers more bang for their buck than the current plan to reinflate the property bubble, an asset bubble which caused a massive misallocation of financial and intellectual resources and actually works against U.S. global competitiveness.

Incidentally, $800 billion is a lot of money, but it isn’t an infinite amount. Unfortunately it isn’t enough for the following:

  • $800 billion won’t buy enough Starbucks cappuccino to fill Lake Erie, the smallest great lake. However, if you combine all of the recent Fed and treasury bailouts, you could buy enough instant coffee to flavor the Great Salt Lake. You could also buy enough cheap off-brand root beer or Kool-Aid to fill Lake Okeechobee. Wouldn’t this be a nice modern variation on the Boston tea party?
  • $800 billion could easily fulfill Herbert Hoover’s promise of “a chicken in every pot” (in fact everyone’s pot could contain 666 $4 chickens), but to put “a car in every garage” as he also promised, you’d want slightly more money unless we’re willing to settle for a used or economy car in every garage.
  • $800 billion would fill a bag with about 80 billion decent ACE hardware hammers but apparently only 1.3 Billion military grade hammers.
  • If you sent $800 billion to the International Star Registry, they would only name 22 Billion stars after a loved one in their “official” book. But the Milky Way galaxy contains at least 200 billion stars and there are billions of other galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of nameless stars. So at best, only about one in every 10 stars in our galaxy could be named “Henry Paulson”.Billions and Billions of stars
  • By bnitz on Oct 30, 2008

Aruduino Nano programs Super Mario song onto $1 ATiny85 microprocessor

My son and I demonstrate how the Arduino playtunes library can be used in a music program which is uploaded through an Arduino Nano microcontroller development board onto a $1 ATiny85 microcontroller chip. LEDs are flashed at musical frequencies and then a photvoltaic solar sell converts this light into electricity and then polyphonic sound.


Infrared, Arduino and

What do a smartphone, TV, Wii, DVR, remote control toy flip car and Zibit remote control robot have in common? Each of these devices use an infraRed communication protocol. While searching for a method to control a Zibit and an infrared toy car whose remote is missing, I came across this website: with some very interesting projects. I haven’t yet deciphered the zibit or toy car protocol but I’ll post here if I make any progress.

Skylanders science portal of power magnetic undiction

My son and I figured out how Skylanders lightcore figures light up by magnetic induction and we learned how to tap into this power to make our own device light up.


Why Don’t We Design a Better Wheelchair?

In the 1990 film Awakenings, Robin Williams plays Dr. Sayer, a fictionalized Oliver Sachs, who discovered seemingly miraculous effects of the drug L-DOPA on patients who had been trapped in unresponsive states for more than a decade by Encephalitis lethargica. In the film, the doctor is constantly, loosing, dropping and breaking his eyeglasses.

“Where are my glasses?” Dr. Sayer asks.
“On your head!” his patient exclaims.

In an interview with The Atlantic, Sara Hendren the woman behind the Abler accessibility site, asks Why are Glasses Perceived Differently Than Hearing Aids? or wheelchairs, or prosthetic limbs, screenreaders, braille displays, miracle drugs, Stephen Hawking’s voice…
Read more »

Introduction to “Divided we fall”

#UID: 412789512M0

Dear Mr./Ms. <<%NULL DATA FIELD%>>

Orbcorp would like to thank you for choosing this personalized E-book. We have taken careful measurements of your reading habits, socioeconomic background as well as your political and/or religious beliefs in order to provide you with this optimized reading experience guaranteed to tastefully reinforce your worldview and never offend. Have a gloriously nice day!


Charle’s J <<%DECEASED%>>

President and CEO of Orbcorp Unlimited

+++ ~ATH0 <NO CARRIER>~~~~~1tr#€€$¥!”$~~~

“…(My) greatest fear is that as we drifted towards this blandly amorphous generic world view not only would we see the entire range of the human imagination reduced to a more narrow modality of thought, but that we would wake from a dream one day having forgotten there were even other possibilities.”
— Margarate Mead

Hanukkah and Jevon’s Paradox

Last year I published a GreenProphet article explaining the history of artificial lighting. I explained that modern LED lights could run for months on the one day supply of Hanukkah lamp oil that miraculously lasted for 8 days. And yet, even with these enormous gains in efficiency, we use far more energy than we did then. This pattern of our energy use is known as Jevon’s paradox and it  is an excellent example of why the solution to our energy and environmental problems cannot rely on technology alone.

iPad not designed for iFamily

Microsoft Windows PCs are now fairly easy to configure with different access levels for different family members with products such as Windows Live and NetNanny.

But laptops and desktop PCs are no longer primary internet access devices for kids. iPhones, iPads and similar devices are becoming much more common for school aged children. Some schools are actually requiring them! But iPads/iPods and other ‘i’ devices can’t have separate accounts for kids. Apple’s marketing model is geared towards individuals each buying their own device, thus the ‘i’ prefix to iCloud, iTunes, iPad, iPod, iPhone…

I later learned that it is possible to make separate accounts on iPads only by “rooting/jailbreaking…” the device. But the US made this illegal yesterday with yet another pro-monopoly DMCA provision. Unless someone cares enough to sign the petition against this pro-monopoly DCMA provision, my fancy new iPhone won’t do what “I” want it too.  Monopoly-locked iPhones are also useless outside of a carrier’s region or if a carrier goes bankrupt. Which is why I decided that it is a good choice going with an Android tablet. It allows ‘I’ to do what ‘I’ want far more than the iPad does. Android’s latest version 4.2 OS does have multiuser capability but some Android devices are so inexpensive it is much more practical to have one device per family member.

Apple tablets, phones and iPods aren’t bad devices, but they’re targetted to a particular market, young, urban, singles and dual income no kid couples. The rest of us, are more focused on ability to share, freedom to customize, ruggedness price and portability between networks than on slick eye candy. At least that’s what iWant.

Take no prisoners ‘justice’ claims another victim in the US

Aaron Swartz helped create the RSS technology which made blogs, podcasts, facebook and twitter possible. He also created Reddit. He made some mistakes, one of his biggest might look something like this:

wget -r http://www.{website containing scientific journals of tax-funded research}/*

Wget and curl are tools used by web developers, researchers and internet archivists. Similar tools are used by Microsoft’s Bing , the internet archive and Google every day to find, cache and index websites. These tools automate browser “save as” for every _public_ file on the website. Yes I used the word public intentionally because curl and wget are not magic hacking tools. They simply automate what your or I or great-grandma Moses could do with their web browser.

But if the site has no security (for example, a simple robots.txt file or CAPCHA can help distinguish scripts from browsers), the above wget command might download millions of files.  So the US federal prosecutor pushed for a 30 year sentence and up to $1,000,000 fine and ultimately drove Aaron Swartz to suicide. This is just the latest example of what I call a take no prisoners approach  which has corrupted the US justice system.

Academic and free information activist Lawrence Lessig put it well in his article entitled, Prosecutor as Bully:

For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House…  Somehow, we need to get beyond the “I’m right so I’m right to nuke you” ethics that dominates our time.

You hit the nail on the head Mr. Lessig. It’s what I’ve called take no prisoners justice. I’ve seen lives ruined or severely damaged when the US justice system turns a correctable mistake into scorched earth.  One of my most gentle and intelligent friends could not be faulted for never wanting to again set foot in the US after a minor traffic accident almost destroyed his family. It’s the sort of thing you might expect from totalitarian states. I don’t believe the US has yet sunk to that level, but in order to prevent this we need to know how dangerously near we are to the edge.