Ahhnold… er, I Mean Atlas

While still in man vs. machine mode around here, I thought I’d add this interesting story…

Meet DARPA’s real-world Terminator, Atlas

DARPA and Boston Dynamics, of BigDog, Petman, and Cheetah fame, have unveiled their most advanced humanoid robot yet: Atlas. At 6’2″ (188cm) and 330lbs (150kg), Atlas is incredibly imposing; with 28 hydraulically actuated joints, LIDAR and stereo vision, a beefy on-board computer, and some of the most advanced robotic limbs ever conceived, Atlas is remarkably human-like in its behavior.

*Bold emphasis mine.

It’s no joke, either. Watch the video. It’s kinda’ creepy to see that machine moving like that. Of course, it’s a long way from a T-800, but give it time.

War = Profit. You can bet on it. These machines may fill many disaster recovery rolls, but I can guarantee you that there will be specialized models that will be utilized as killing machines. Humans are very, very good at finding new ways to kill. We’ve never turned away from any useful tool that aided in that pursuit, unfortunately.

Read the rest of this interesting article from ExtremeTech. Don’t forget to watch the video. :)

Later…

~Eric


20K Robots… Soon To Be 1 Million?

In light of my recent article regarding the future interaction between man and machine, I thought this appropriate.

20,000 robots are on the job in Foxconn factories

By Michael Kan
July 15, 2013 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld – Hoping to save money on labor, China’s Foxconn Technology Group could also be ushering in a new era of manufacturing as it sets its sites on putting 1 million robots to work.
Read on…

Later…

~Eric

The Great 2013 Certification Hunt – a Brief Update

Some of you may remember that I was distracted from my normal routine here by a brief interlude involving some Cisco training back in January of this year.

Well, I managed to pass the course and acquire my CCENT (ICND1) certification. I’ve been on a self-study program for the past couple months with the ultimate goal of passing my ICND2 (CCNA) cert. Unfortunately, the best laid plans and all that…

A glorious spring here in Florida distracted me from my studies during the month of March, so I postponed my examination till the end of May. Sadly, other things have distracted me from my studies since then, so I’m forced to postpone again.

I will endeavor to persevere, as the old Indian said to the outlaw Josey Wales. I just wanted stop in here a minute and write something so that WordPress would not think that I ran off with some sexy native chick to an island in the South Pacific somewhere.

If that does actually happen, I’ll post about it. ;)

Until then…

~Eric

Image credits: Island girl borrowed without permission from Island-Girl-Boutique. Hopefully, they won’t mind too much since I’m giving them credit and free advertising here on my blog that receives 2 bazillion hits a day. ;)


Cyber-life Interrupted by Real Life

Hello happy readers, commenters, lurkers, etc.

Beginning very soon, like right away, I’ll be somewhat absent from here. The reason for this is that I’ll be spending most of my waking hours (and some of my sleeping ones) for the next 8 or so weeks studying for my Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) examination.

If all goes well, I well have that coveted industry cert and those spiffy letters after my name sometime in March of 2013; with a good job to follow shortly thereafter, hopefully. 13 is a good number for me; maybe it’ll be a good year, too. We’ll see… :)

In the meantime, carry on. Try not to burn the place down while I’m gone.

Later…

~Eric


The Future Is Here… 3D Printing

Earlier today, I received an email newsletter with a link to an interesting article related to three dimensional printing.

I had only heard snippets about this new technology. It sounded almost like Sci-Fi/Fantasy at first. I had to read a bit more about it to understand just what the technology is and how it works. THIS site has a nice little introduction to the technology and its possibly evolution in the near future. There’s even an interesting little video you can watch:

What the future holds for this amazing new technology is unknown, of course, but you can let your imagination run wild. As with most technologies, I’m sure there will be good and bad aspects to how it is utilized.

There you have it. Read more about this amazing technology when you get the chance. I’m sure you’ll be seeing more about it in your regular news soon.

Later…

~Eric


iFixit – Very COOL!

While perusing my latest issue of Mother Jones today, I came across a great article about the iFixit website and the fix rather than replace movement.

Wow! What a refreshing idea; fix something rather than toss it in a landfill and purchase another. Who’d a-thunk it? Well, let me brief you younger folks on a bit of history…

Back in the Dark Ages… oh, say 25 years ago or so… we used to actually fix things. Yup. That’s right. When your dad’s Sony Walkman or mom’s Singer sewing machine stopped working for some reason, they’d take it into a shop where a repair person*, with actual knowledge of the device and real tools, would sit at a work bench and troubleshoot and fix the issue for them. Awesome, huh? Then, dad and mom would pay a small price (compared to the price of a replacement) and take their Walkman or sewing machine home for many more years of use and enjoyment.

Now, why did such a remarkably sensible solution to broken items go the way of the T-Rex? Well, it’s simple. Greed. Yup. That’s right. You youngsters may have heard me gripe about greed before. It’s an all-pervasive sickness in this world at the moment. I’m not here to bitch today, though. I’m here to tell you about a really cool website that might appeal to you tech nerds and geeks out there.

iFixit – it’s sorta’ like a Wikipedia for fixing stuff. Between this site and another old favorite of mine, How Stuff Works, you should be able to fix just about anything in your home, as long as you have the skills and can get the parts needed to do the fix. Fixing things yourself is rewarding. You feel you accomplished something. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to fix that favorite old laptop of yours with the jammed up keyboard? You can do it. It could actually be rocket science, but hey… rockets aren’t that complicated. Really! ;)

Well, next time you play with your little iThing, think about the 11 year old Chinese girl who works 16 hour shifts in the factory that makes that thing. Think about the entire countrysides laid waste by the mining of rare earths to make that thing work. Think about all your friends and neighbors who would love a job in a factory that makes stuff instead of some dead-end job in a cubicle farm of some call center. When your iThing breaks, FIX IT! That’ll piss Apple off, huh? Heh-heh…

Later…

~Eric

*For 20+ years I was a component level electronics repair technician. That career no longer exists in the U.S. because very little is actually repaired here anymore. It’s a sad thing. :(

Image credits: Technician from clipartheaven.com.


You Learn Something New Every Day!

I learned today that a mickey wasn’t just some drink someone gave you to knock you out so they could steal your wallet.

Here’s what a mickey really is according to Webopedia:

mickey

A mickey is a unit of measurement for the speed and movement direction of a computermouse. The speed of the mouse is the ratio between how many pixels the cursor moves on the screen and how many centimeters you move the mouse on the mouse pad. The directional movement is called the horizontal mickey count and the vertical mickey count. One mickey is approximately 1/200th of an inch.

Cool, huh? :)

Learn something. It won’t hurt you none. I promise.

Have a great weekend wherever in the world you may find yourself!

Later…

~Eric

Image credits: mouse courtesy of clker.com clipart


Every Once In A While…

… I actually agree with something Richard Stallman had to say.

I was perusing my usual spots today and ran across an article on jalopnik.com regarding that annoying damned Check Engine light on your dashboard display. I’ve been ranting about the monopolization of the auto repair industry by the manufacturers for years now. Jason Torchinsky writes on Jalopnik about his war against the Check Engine light.

From the article Richard Stallman Weighs In On The Check Engine Light:

My fight against the check engine light still goes on, though, like an uncle with an extensive collection of pornography, I’m sure many of you were hoping I’d just keep it to myself. Well, like your pervy uncle, I won’t. I can’t. And, I’m not alone. Among the many emails I received, most suggesting I speak with my clergyperson, I received an email from Richard Stallman, the founder of the free software movement and the man who started the GNU/Linux operating system.

An email from Stallman himself! I’m impressed. Richard never emails me. :(

Jason goes on to quote Stallman:

I agree with you about the “Check engine” light, but that is a symptom of a broader and deeper problem: the owners of cars do not control, what the car’s computers do.  These computers are running _proprietary_ software, software that controls its users.

Jason asks:

So why should general drivers care?

Stallman responds in typical geek fashion with a bullet list:

1. So anyone can maintain the engine — including your choice of mechanic.

2. To protect against abusive features (see http://www.bostonreview.net/BR33.2/stallman.php).  In this case, hiding information from you.  With free software in that computer, people would make programs to give them more info than the Check Engine light gives.  And you could use them even if you don’t modify your car in any way.

RAH! RAH! Sir Richard! I couldn’t have said this better myself. For years now the automotive industry has been attempting to kill the independent parts and service industries in this country by forcing automobile owners to go directly to the dealers for any and all service/parts that might be needed. How have they done this? With PROPRIETARY TECHNOLOGY, PARTS, TOOLS, TRAINING, etc. That’s how.

Nowadays, you almost always have to go to a dealer for even the most minor repairs or parts. This has killed the mom/pop auto repair/parts business in this country. It’s GREED on the part of BIG AUTO that has driven this to its current state; costing many their small business, and/or employment. How have we let this happen? The same way we let all oppression happen; through ignorance and apathy.

New cars are great if you can afford the maintenance agreements. If not, you better trade-in and get a new one once that warranty is up. Of course, this is exactly what BIG AUTO wants you to do. Vicious circle, huh?

Have a great weekend!

~Eric

Image credits: check engine light from repairpal.com article - Understanding the Check Engine Light

Richard Stallman courtesy of Wikipedia.org


Here a /bin, There a /bin, Everywhere a /bin /bin

So, most of you GNU/Linux users have by now peaked into that File System directory on the left frame of your file manager, huh?

Ever wonder how all that /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin stuff came about? Well, thanks to a really interesting article by Thom Holwerda at OSNews, you can now read all about it.

It seems that back in the day (early 70s), when Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie were at Bell Labs tinkering around with Unix in its infancy, how they came to name these directories was primarily determined by their available storage space at the time. Geeks just being practical; ain’t it great?

From busybox.net list:

Rob Landley
Thu Dec 9 15:45:39 UTC 2010

When the operating system grew too big to fit on the first RK05 disk pack (their root filesystem) they let it leak into the second one, which is where all  the user home directories lived (which is why the mount was called /usr). They replicated all the OS directories under there (/bin, /sbin, /lib, /tmp…) and wrote files to those new directories because their original disk was out of space.  When they got a third disk, they mounted it on /home and relocated all the user directories to there so the OS could consume all the space on both disks and grow to THREE WHOLE MEGABYTES (ooooh!).

3Meg… WOW! Nowadays, we dash off inane missives that often exceed 3 Meg in size. We don’t even think about it. Can you imagine? I was 10 years old in ’71, running around in a neighbor’s overgrown yard playing “war” with my pals. Dennis and Ken were in their late twenties and using their genius to create the foundation for pretty much everything you see in front of you right now… the Internet, the operating system on your computer, the code that is the foundation for most of it, etc. Amazing, huh?

Thom Holwerda from his OSNews article laments:

Arguing that the UNIX directory structure is a horrible, horrible mess that defiles an otherwise elegant system is like trying to convince a floor tile to flip over. People are so used to their knee-jerk responses about how it all supposedly makes sense, they often refuse to even think about redesigning it for the modern age. Since the geek is a proud and stubborn creature, there’s little to no chance of this ever changing in my lifetime.

PhotobucketThom is not a big fan of the Unix file structure. I can see his points. When you read how those directories actually came about, you begin to wonder, as Thom often does, whether the whole thing needs a reboot/rename. Well, it probably won’t ever happen. Hell, some of us still like to boot into a command line interface rather than a graphic one. Holwerda says that geeks are a proud and stubborn. Yup… mostly stubborn. ;)

Read the article. Click on the links. It’s some interesting stuff, folks.

Later…

~Eric

Image credits: Ken Thompson/Dennis Ritchie courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, a worthy Internet resource. Help if you can.

Further reading:

The Creation of the Unix Operating System

Dennis M. Ritchie

Ken L. Thompson

The Linux Directory Structure

Arpanet


Present Shock – Will Technology Destroy Us?

In 1970, Alvin Toffler wrote a book called Future Shock, wherein he speculates that we are being overwhelmed by the rapid changes in technology and society.

I was nine years old in 1970. We were guzzling .29 cent a gallon highly leaded gasoline and making calls on heavy bakelite rotary dialed telephones; many of us sharing party lines. Here we are a scant 40 years later and folks are walking around wearing phones in their ears or carrying around hand-held devices that only science fiction writers had the foresight to dream up back then. Where is this headed, and do we really want to go there as a species?

Technology is a wonderful thing, but like all wonderful things, men have a tendency to twist it to their own means. Einstein once said, “Technological progress is like an ax in the hands of a pathological criminal.” This reminds me of another great quote, from 1970, coincidentally: Pogo cartoonist Walt Kelly stated, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  This is a blog about technology, or one specific area of it, anyway. Maybe this article will make you think a bit about this subject.

To me, technology, like a handgun, is neither good nor evil. It just is. What is good or evil depends on how it’s used. The human race has access to absolutely amazing things these days. We have an emerging noosphere in the form of the Internet. What I wonder about is how all this technology and knowledge will be used. What’s it going to be like in another 40 years or so? Will we still be here?

The Doomsday Clock was moved up a minute recently as a result of stalled nuclear arms reductions, unsafe nuclear power plants, and climate change. That’s the least of our troubles. While technology provides jobs, improves our lives, brings us pleasure, enables instant contact with each other; there are entities out there in the corporate word bleeding every shred of data from us to use for their own means.

Privacy? This is quite possibly a thing of the past. We like to think we still have our privacy, but the reality is that Big Bro and everyone else willing to pay for it can gain access to every tidbit of data about us out there right now. I read today that Google is now going to include G+ data into the search stream when folks go there to search for something. Hmm… I always knew G+ was a means to an end. There’s a saying going around these days regarding free online services. I don’t know who first said it, but it’s disturbingly accurate. “If you’re not paying for the product, you ARE the product.”

Where is this all heading?

Let’s talk about the medical field for a moment. We have pacemakers, manufactured joints, prostheses, etc. This form of technology is exploding at an amazing pace. In a few years, I wouldn’t doubt there there will be augmentations available similar to the ones in the game Deus Ex. I wrote a review of the latest game in that series earlier at Nocturnal Slacker v2.0. While the game is fun and the story is intriguing, the possibilities for abuse, as shown in that game, are terrifying. I’m 50 years old. I may still live to see something like this in the near future. Your grandkids will, for sure.

Speculating on the future is no one’s strong suit, really. It’s much too unpredictable because man is often an unpredictable animal. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, though, you can make a difference in how the future turns out by staying informed, choosing leaders who you believe will make the right decisions for our future as a species, and standing up for your rights. Don’t let the greedy few trample the lives of the rest of us.

I’ll close now before I start into a angry diatribe regarding unrestrained capitalism and greed.

Whoops! See what I mean? ;)

Later…

~Eric


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