Technology

John Oliver on Net Neutrality (again)

Another brilliant commentary by John Oliver on net neutrality

John Oliver first commented on net neutrality in 2014 here and it was one of the first really popular youTube posts he made.

If you’re confused about what Net neutrality is, browse this: Net neutrality on wikipedia.

The Trump administration has appointed a new chairman for the FCC, Ajit Pai, who is considering changing the rules put in place during the Obama administration to prevent unfair competition on the internet.

Here’s the link John talked about to make logging into the FCC to comment on this easier: http://gofccyourself.com.

[via Steve Splonskowski]

Primitive Technology: Water powered hammer

Various techniques used to build a water-powered hammer or “monjolo”.

I like the technique he uses to bore the hole in the log and make the trough: hot coal, blow pipe to make it hot, clay to protect the edges and direct the burning.

The key is finding out where the balance point of a log is (might not be the center, logs taper) after gouging out the water-catching trough on the back side.

As the trough fills with water it tips the log and spills the water all at once and the log’s other end falls.

Many different technologies and ideas involved in this brilliant machine. No doubt it took quite a bit of trial and error to get it right.

I’ve seen similar pieces of technology in Japanese gardens (in Japan and in Los Angeles) called Shishi-odoshi.

There are many more of these great videos at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Robert Pirsig and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values has died.

The New York times has an excellent remembrance as does the New York Post. It’s worth reading both and no doubt others that will come out in the days ahead, each will have different takes on this fascinating man and his surprisingly popular book.

Robert Pirsig’s writing had a profound affect on my life and while I read this book in 1976, many of its ideas have stuck with me.

Here’s an anecdote that I remember from the book although my memory is no doubt burnished. And, I was and remain a weak reader (dyslexia) so I’m slow and tend to miss things.

Surface appearance vs. underlying form

Pirsig is riding cross country (Minnesota to San Francisco) with his son Chris and a friend (John) and his wife. Pirsig is on an old Honda (or something like that) and John and wife are on a new BMW (a much more expensive bike).

They’re somewhere in the middle of their trip, camping out and sitting around the campfire one night drinking beer. John has been complaining about the handlebars on his BMW being loose and is wondering if they’ll pass near a BMW place so he can have them fixed.

Understand that the handlebars on these motorcycles are attached to the post they sit on with a clamp (just like a bicycle) and the adjustment bolt/nut could be tightened all the way and there might still be play between the clamp and the handlebars. Unless one can fill that space, it’s a serious problem.

Pirsig is thinking that he could cut up an aluminum beer can with the tin snips he has in his saddlebag and make perfect shim stock (soft aluminum) to take the play out of John’s handlebars. But John, no doubt, would have none of it because to use a beer can on his fancy BMW would be just plain wrong. Pirsig knows that the BMW repair guy will probably use the same type of thing and charge John a fortune for it. Then Pirsig goes deep into the idea of underlying form (the way things actually work) vs. surface appearance (the BMW brand cache), and also the fact that he has no way to talk about this stuff with John and he goes around and around on this in his head, driving himself crazy.

These deep mind trips Pirsig calls “chautauquas” and he has many in this book. They’re laced with a bit of paranoia and mania (Pirsig was in real life, schizophrenic) and for me, that made them even more real.

This loose handlebar scene and resulting chautauqua becomes a metaphor for other scenes in the book and for those of us who read it, for many things in our lives.

For example, some people buy iPhones because they’re the cool phone to have, others buy them because they understand and appreciate Apple’s design of both the hardware and the iOS software underneath. Geek (underlying form) vs cool hunter (surface appearance).

If you’re into the technical stuff it might be frustrating to have some teenager who wants a pink iPhone to look cool to her friends have the same phone as you and have no clue how it works. Or, the teenager can use the phone amazingly well but doesn’t appreciate the stacks of software underneath the surface appearance.

Substitute anything for iPhone, it’s not about Apple vs Samsung, it’s about surface appearance vs underlying form. Android geeks might have the same frustration with people who buy Android phones simply because they’re cheaper.

Understand that Pirsig’s description of this frustration was the first I’d ever read of it and it hit home to me and has continued to hit home with me for over 30 years.

When I read this book I was not a big reader, this was one of the first “big” books I read that had an affect on me. And, it was scenes like the one I describe above that did it. I was struggling to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life and I experienced Pirsig’s struggle. And, Pirsig wasn’t just struggling with ideas, he was struggling with mental illness which affected his ability to relate his ideas to other people.

Phaedrus

Ten years after I’d read this book I found myself running both the Macintosh and HyperCard groups on AOL (America Online). One of the thousands of user/participants in the group had an interesting screen name: “Phaedrus47.” I remembered that Pirsig had used the name “Phaedrus” to describe his past self as a struggling creative writing teacher.

I sent a message to Phaedrus47 asking if he’d read the book. Indeed he had and this started an amazing, multi-year email discussion/chautauqua between me and Phaedrus47 / Alex Forbes who I met years later at Macworld in San Francisco and am friends with to this day.

Less is more

I’m not a big reader of books, not because I don’t want to, but because I’m so slow it might take me many months to finish one and reading is exhausting for me. For every one book I’ve read my wife has read a thousand (seriously).

But, for me, this means that the books I actually stuck with and read have been worth the trouble and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, while in many ways a slog of a read, connected with me and had a big effect.

I will never forget Robert Pirsig’s personal struggle and his articulation of it in this book.

Primitive Technology: termite clay kiln & pottery

Digging clay out of a termite mound, using straw to reinforce it, and making a crude but very effective kiln to fire clay pieces to be used as roof tiles, a water jug, a blower and more. Brilliant.

There are many more of these great videos at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Adding weather to Calendar in Mac or iOS

Weather in your iOS and macOS Calendars

I use Apple’s native Calendar application in Mac OS on my MacBook Pro as well as in iOS on my iPhone 6s and iPad Air II. I’ve used other calendars but there’s something about the simplicity and integration of Apple’s native apps that appeals to me.

I think the reason I didn’t think to attempt to include a weather forecast in my calendar on my Mac before was that I was used to using both the weather widget and a third party widget called Radar in Motion in Mac OS’ Dashboard.

Radar in Motion stopped working a while back and while I have weather set up in my Mac Notification Center (off the right side of the screen), I thought it would be more useful to attempt to integrate a weather forecast into Calendar so I could see both events and weather in the same place.

A few minutes of searching and I found Chris Short’s post above which covers adding a Weather Underground ICS calendar subscription file to almost any calendar, including Mac OS’s Calendar. Note, I’ve not tried this directly on an iPhone or iPad but it should work.

I copied this sample URL into my browser:

https://ical.wunderground.com/auto/ical/NY/NYC.ics

and changed the state and city:

https://ical.wunderground.com/auto/ical/CT/WARREN.ics

Note, before you go and do this, please read the following:

I’ve made numerous categories (calendars) in my Calendar: Home, To Do, Event, Hiking and I’m subscribed to Holidays. I color code each of these calendars and it helps me quickly look at my Calendar and see what’s what. I’ve been doing this for many years, since iCal first appeared.

If you don’t make a new category/calendar called something like Warren Weather” and you go too fast through pasting the URL in your browser, downloading the ICS file and adding it to your Calendar, you may accidentally add the weather subscription to one of your existing categories. I did this by mistake and could not, for the life of me, figure out how to undo it. Couple that with the fact that my Calendar is connected to iCloud and immediately synced with my iPhone and iPad and you have a potential issue if you make a mistake.

I recommend creating a new category/calendar called “Weather” or better, “Warren Weather” (substitute your town/city) and when you download the ICS file add it to that category/calendar and give it a unique color.

calendar detail

The last thing to consider is that this ICS file is for a particular place and it will not change if you travel from, for example, Warren, Connecticut to Chicago, Illinois. If you can figure out how to modify the ICS file to make it GPS aware, please let me know. But, short of that, if you find yourself in another city, make a new weather category/calendar for that city and click the X off in front of your home city to hide it temporarily.

calendar

Looks like we’re going to have some snow on Tuesday and I’ve got an appointment I might have to move. Brilliant.

The Art of Listening

This is a documentary about making music, from instrument making to playing to mixing, mastering, and listening. It was sponsored by Sony although there are only a few plugs in it for Sony gear, the rest is a variety of musicians and music producers talking about how they make and share music. It’s about an hour and 14 minutes long.

The comparison to photography is interesting:

Music: one needs a great song, well played on a decent instrument, well recorded and mastered and played on a decent audio player to channel what the musician laid down.

Photography: one needs a great image, well recorded with decent equipment, well processed and seen on a decent screen or a decent print to channel what the photographer saw and recorded.

In the photography world I like to think of Ansel Adams: he chose great subject matter (Yosemite), used a view camera (big negative, high definition), stopped down to small apertures (more detail), used filters (to get the dramatic look he wanted), and he took great care in developing his negatives and making his prints. If you’ve ever seen a large Ansel Adams print, in person, it’s a thing of wonder and you can feel that care in the print, very much like these musicians and producers talking about the care they take in making and sharing music.

[via Uncrate]

Primitive Technology: Tiled Roof Hut

This is a fantastic process video on making the “ceramic” or fired mud tiles for a hut. Another brilliant piece and this one particularly dear to my heart because of my background in ceramics.

There are many more at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via Dale Allyn]

Disassembling the Ricoh GR for sensor cleaning

One of the great things about Flickr is that there are groups of people with similar interests who not only post images, but also have discussions about issues with cameras and other aspects of photography. I’ve been a member of lots of groups on Flickr since joining in 2004 and currently I’m a member of a few Ricoh GR groups. One of them has an ongoing discussion of the Ricoh GR’s problems with dust and I’ve been tracking it: how do/did handle the dust issue?. The other day one of its members, Jamie Collinson, posted a link to a post he’s written on disassembling a GR and if you’re a GR user (or even if you’re not) it’s worth taking a look at and bookmarking for possible future use:

A guide to disassembling the Ricoh GR for sensor cleaning

Many people have had dust issues with the Ricoh GR. It’s both a cult favorite camera and a rather fragile beast. A theory is that it’s retractible lens (the lens telescopes out of the camera when its turned on, then retracts into the body when it’s turned off) is acting like a bellows and pulling dust in when it moves. Another is that the seals on the camera aren’t doing their thing.

If you have a GR and you’re not sure if you’ve got dust on your sensor, the standard test is to stop down (close the aperture) to f/16 and focus on and shoot a clean white wall or a clean sheet of white paper. You’ll see the dust spots (as hopefully differentiated from dirt on the wall or paper). Or, you may have seen spots in clear skies that are shot at small apertures.

I don’t think its worth doing this surgery for a single dust spot when you can easily clean it up with an image editor like Lightroom but people who get dust in their cameras generally have a number of spots and that can be a tedious clean up process (in software).

If you generally shoot with an open (wide) aperture you’re less likely to see the dust, unless you’re really loaded with it, it generally only shows up at smaller apertures.

It’s worth it to have a look at Jamie’s post just to see what the inside of the Ricoh GR looks like, he’s got great pictures.

The only thing I’d add to his otherwise excellent post is a technique I learned doing surgery on early Macintosh computers (mostly powerbooks and early MacBook Pros) with small sets of different sized screws that might get mixed up. List the steps of the disassembly on a piece of paper and pile the screws next to their corresponding steps. For example, in his post with 7 steps, one might divided a piece of paper into 8 boxes, put a number in each box and put the corresponding screws in a box. Just make sure to not move the paper.

Primitive Technology: woven bark fiber

This is a fantastic process video on gathering bark, turning it into thin strips, spinning those into “thread” and then building a loom and weaving the thread into mats.

There are many more at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via The Kid Should See This]