Monday, February 12, 2024

You Have To Wonder If We ARE Suckers.

With supermarkets in the headlines so often, and for so many predatory cruel and exploitative reasons, we now (and quite rightly, I reckon) view everything they do with suspicion and outright skepticism.

What Have They Done This Time?

A few places have for a long time been offering specialised collection for old batteries. Since their soft-plastics recycling credibility is in the bin with the collapse of that particular little exercise in greenwashing themselves, supermarkets are now realising that there's money in old batteries, especially since that's become the knee-jerk topic of the day in light of people wanting to see fossil fuels ditched and new batteries set up to supply reliable energy.  I think it's going to be another load of shit but first - 

Let me start with some history. (Or go here to skip all the history...)

A Historical: Milk

Almost a decade ago they came into the spotlight because they were screwing (sorry, but there's no nice way to talk about supermarkets) their dairy farmer producers and their customers. They stopped paying for milk by the litre and started paying for the evaporated solids in the milk by the tonne, which they then "reconstitute" to give their customers a "more consistent experience." 

What that actually meant was that they could more easily stockpile milk solids so that they could slowly and imperceptibly give themselves so much leeway that they could easily deprive the dairy producers of their income for a whole season if need be, to bring them to heel and accept any price the supermarkets chose to dribble their way. 

What else it actually meant was that they'd buy the milk solids from (say) 10 megalitres of dairy milk and somehow along the way that would reconstitute into 15 megalitres of  "a consistent consumer experience." If you think that sounds like 15 megalitres of bullshit and screwing the customers then I'd have to agree with you. 

Also there's "permeate" which is the liquid left behind after the solids have been extracted, i.e. it's pretty much water with a shelf life, and sometimes, there's whey, the watery liquid left after making cheese from liquid milk. That's sometimes added to the "a consistent consumer experience" and there was a bit of a furore about all that a decade back if you remember. 

In fact, that was when the whole milk scandal broke and several farmers' cooperatives ended up broke, and when the dairy farmers complained that they got less for the solids of each kilolite of milk than they'd gotten for a kilolitre of milk before. And then the ever-obliging supermarkets added the small surcharge that they assured us was going to go to the dairy farmers - until it was revealed that not even half of that surcharge actually was getting to them. 

This is how supermarkets operate - the co-ops were the farmers' way of having a way to negotiate a better deal from the supermarkets, the co-ops began to look out for themselves rather than the farmers they were created by and started competing with each other for larger contracts with supermarkets - albeit at lower prices - and the whole lot slid down the wash-chute. The farmers didn't profit by it, the customers were being charged an extra - was it a dollar? I think it was? - for no discernible benefit to the farmers, and the supermarket shareholders creamed themselves at the obscene profits. 

A Historical: Meat

Several decades ago I came across a few factoids that I felt could be stitched together in a slightly sinister fashion. I was investigating some meat in China (sorry this is not a rant against the Chinese, just the tip of an iceberg that started my investigation) that had been circulating from not legal cold store to illegal warehouse to some other dodgy storage, and was being sold to makers of all manner of meat products, dim sum, spring rolls, tinned and frozen meals, etc. 

And why I found out about it was because some of these products were finding their way to Western supermarket shelves. This meat was in many cases "mystery meat" that had been sold and resold so many times that it was a best guess as to whether it had started out as beef, pork, poultry, or whatever. It was moved from one operator to another, sometimes in a chiller or freezer truck, often just piled on the back of open trucks with a covering of rag or canvas, sometimes not even that. 

Why this came to media attention is that some of it seems to have been circulating like that for thirty years. And I need to make it clear - I couldn't verify this in person but there were quite a few sources for the information, and so I'm going with a healthy kernel of truth in that. At the time I was also reading about garlic grown in the fields where human excrement from sewage works had been spread to dry and compost, handled and packed on the ground in the same places, then fumigated with methyl bromide because we in Australia wouldn't accept it just as packed.

And among the news snippets I turned up while investigating that, I found hints that supermarkets themselves seemed to already have invested in deep deep cold storage research and possibly facilities, the kind where meat is cooled, then frozen to normal levels, then transferred to an intermediate deep cold freezer and finally to the deep cold storage freezer. 

Details are sketchy but basically at the end of normal cold chain management, meat can (apparently) be taken to slightly colder than normal freezing, and then once the cells are frozen and thus stabilised, taken to a much colder temperature, and finally transferred to a storage facility at that same low low temperature, and be stored like that for a long time.

Keeping the final storage unit's temperature rock-stable seemed to be important, hence the complicated pre-freezing and special handling. But what I read indicated that quite possible meat preserved in this way could be stored for decades, then slowly brought back to room temperature, and be indistinguishable from normally frozen meat.

I'm stressing here that this is much speculation on my part. But given how supermarkets behave, it's not beyond belief that some of the meat that goes into pies and meatloaves and sausages, or sold as frozen cuts, was purchased ten or twenty years ago at then-current low prices, and is now being sold at today's hugely inflated prices. The piddling price of storing each kilo of meat for ten years pales in comparison to the profits to be made by buying it at the 2004 supermarket cost of $2.50 per kilo and selling it at today's $16.00 per kilo prices... 

But Even If

... we're talking about supermarkets buying lamb today at $4/kg and selling it at $18/kg, I'm sure you can name the two groups of people who are being shafted... They will always make that profit, and once they have a huge profit, will go on to make it obscenely huge, then obscenely and exploitatively huge, and finally, just plain murder on the demographic that can now no longer afford "fresh" milk, "fresh" meat, and "fresh" fruit and vegies and are now basically living on fast food and possibly some kind of shitty bread that's been pre-risen and pre-baked in Ireland, frozen and shipped here for pennies, then finished baking in their store ovens and sold for dollars - many many many dollars. 

(BTW: read up on the history of bakers and bakeries, the way orchards and some market gardeners store this year's harvest excess and sell it next year, while the supermarkets are busy buying that produce, storing it for another year and in some cases, longer, and then selling it at fresh food people prices. It all does happen, gets a few articles in the news, and then forgotten. We are sooooooo good at forgetting their sins and letting them keep getting away with them...)

A Historical: Plastic Bags

Not so long ago, supermarkets grudgingly agreed to stop supplying plastic bags to shoppers and start charging for them if anyone didn't bring a re-usable bag of their own. Then they magnanimously offered to collect soft plastics for REDcycle or whatever the company was that was found to just have stashed over 11,000 tonnes of bags because they actually didn't have a viable plan to recycle them.  

"Customers had been told that soft plastic items like bags, ice cream wrappers and bubble wrap were being recycled en masse into useful products such as shopping trolleys, traffic bollards, gardening kits, and asphalt and concrete additives."

In fact, four years later the woman then heading REDcycle said they weren't able to sell anyone on the idea of adding plastic pellets to asphalt for roadbase, and that said to me that pretty much they'd been pinning their entire venture on making pelletised asphalt additives. 

In fact, and reading further and also between the lines, it seems that there were no other plans at all, which isn't surprising seeing as how LDPE - which is what the majority of soft plastics are - is too soft to form into "...shopping trolleys, traffic bollards, ...and... gardening kits..." and the only way to profitably recycle it is in combination with a mix of other plastics and sand into hard burnt bricks or pavers. It can also be recycled into shoe components and other soft products but none of those would stand up to a hot Aussie summer day in the sun since LDPE can melt at temperatures 65C which are easily attainable if left in the sun on a 40C day. 

What seems even worse, is that REDcycle appears not to have actually even had a plant for burning LDPE with sand and other plastics into roadbase aggregate. So basically, who was surprised when they wanted to sell a material that would have been on par with, or more expensive than, commonly dug up aggregates, without knowing exactly how the new aggregate would behave in Australia's baking temperatures, whether it would become a new biohazard in the form of microplastics once car tyres started wearing on it - and which would be coming from a plant that apparently still hadn't been built? 

Someone made a lot of money setting up REDcycle and then bankrupting it. Someone made a lot of mileage from the "sustainable, look at us, we're even recycling plastic bags now!" image they projected. And apparently no-one thought to check that what REDcycle would actually be able to deliver what they offered to. 


Remember when they started putting these in? To "...make the shopping experience faster and more convenient for shoppers..."? I remember it. Almost unanimously, shoppers hated it. They found them inconvenient, intrusive, and a further burden on their time.

Yeah. And when people started taking "staff discounts" by not checking some items through - or checking an expensive item as a cheaper item - the supermarkets screamed blue murder. They hadn't wanted to reduce staff numbers, they said. They wanted to use their existing staff for more value-laden activities. Like standing at the self-checkouts policing shoppers with attitudes...

Oh and then they still reduced staff. And had the gall to ask for the government to provide police to stand around their self-checkouts. They wanted the government to pay those cops but station them at every supermarket. THESE are the corporations now wanting us to trust that this time, for sure, this time - they'd not shaft us in some way or other. 

And Now... 

Bringing us into the present. And yes I made you read down to here to get hold of the link to the story. I'm a bad man. But there's a point I want to hammer home - supermarkets are Evil. And Incompetent at doing anything Good, Fresh, Healthy, or Environmentally Friendly. Big Food has had almost two centuries to home every bastard trick in the book to take our money and give us and the producers as little as possible in return for it. 

Putting in recycling bins for batteries is one of those things - the supermarkets really don't need to do much, the recyclers will deal with the bins. If the recyclers don't come, they can and will just send that bin to landfill without a shred of remorse. 

Now I mentioned way back at the beginning of this article that there have already been shops having recycling bins for batteries, for - oh ... about ... - a few decades now. We've for over ten years had a cut-down 3litre milk jug that's labelled "The Battery Oubliette" and into which our deceased battteries go and every so often I make a detour into one of those shops to drop whatever the Oubliette has allowed us to forget. (The word "oubliette" is - like our milk jug - a place with an entrance only at the top, and the word came from the French root word oublier, to forget, because they'd drop inconvenient prisoners down an oubliette and then - forget about them... In our case, we use it so we don't forget that batteries are better recycled than in landfill.)

Am I In Favour?

No. Not really. Supermarkets only touch something if they can squeeze street cred or extra profits out of that thing. They don't give a flying fig about what happens to the batteries after they've delivered them there, and we can see how well their other greenwashing exercise with soft plastics went. I noticed that they are "B-Cycle certified" but what does that even mean? What happened to the way batteries were recycled before, with other collection sites? Is that suddenly going to be swept away by "B-Cycle certified" companies that will wipe out the old recycling outfits, and then go broke so that the pollution can continue?

Does it bind the supermarkets to provide the collected batteries to a certified battery recycler or will they be free to find another one, one that they perhaps have some stock in? "We sell you the batteries - profit. You give us the batteries back - no profit for you. We recycle the batteries for valuable components and chemicals - oh look, we profit again!

Or perhaps another RedCycle, what, exactly, do the supermarkets care as long as they've been seen to have acted in a way that can be misconstrued as being "good." That they aren't, doesn't matter. As long as the customer public doesn't question it. This is why they're so glad that the media doesn't make a big deal out of stories like the ones all throughout my article. They rely on us forgetting it really really quickly. 

And the media is built around filling our need for news. By definition, a story about some petty crimes in the milk supply chain ten years ago is no longer "news" and so we don't get follow-ups, nor will the journalists refer us back to that if they can just get you reading whatever is the media circus of the day. 

I mean - RedCycle - when you saw "battery recycling" did it make you remember that other fiasco? Probably not. I only remembered it because it's a topic of particular interest to me.

So I'm in favour of ignoring the supermarket battery recycle bins - as long as it doesn't cost you time or a detour - and go seeking out the places that have existed for the last 20-30 years with battery recycling bins, and make sure your waste batteries actually get recycled. We have as usual no idea whether batteries recycled at the supermarkets will get recycled or end up as another warehoused disaster.

If there was a very transparent public statement as to exactly which battery recyclers these batteries are going to, that'd be lovely thank you supermarkets. But until that happens, I'm going to the places where I know my batteries are actually going to be recycled.

I'm also going to go out on a bit of a limb here and say that ALDI was one of the first supermarkets to put battery recycling bins in their stores. And as far as I could tell, those batteries actually did get recycled. I'm not sure what happens now, haven't checked for a few years. But ALDI is the only one I halfway trust to do this right.

Ask your Coles or Woolies manager to tell you exactly where their battery collection bins go to be emptied. See how many straight, confident, and BS-free answers you get. 

What Can We Do? 

You and I and everyone you can talk to about it, and should share and publicise stories like this one I'm writing. I'd love it if you shared it. I'd love it if you followed me by reading about my other posts at https://rebrand.ly/tedsnews and shared that link with your social media too. We're only going to win this war with corporations if we do things like this - many small actions by hundreds of thousands of us to publicise these sorts of things and called them out.

If you can spare the price of a cuppa perhaps make a donation, if you'd like to help me get a bit of circulation share the link to this or any other of my articles, there are share  / copy / bookmark buttons down below for your convenience. 

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Need Images? Free Image Collection.

Not AI generated, or *choke* clip art, but some really good, royalty-free, free-to-use - 

I'll let this video explain it. And give you a quick rundown. 

Picryl Image Collections

The Picryl image collection site offers a range of image collections, generally can also be searched by topic (tag) and so forth. A BIG GOTCHA - they would prefer you to pay a subscription so if you search for a lot of images it'll blur the third results page onward and want you to subscribe. I did get a few great results from "old steam radio" and I think my favourite was this one:

I remember Telefunken from my childhood.

Get out! My grandparents back in Vienna would have had a radio very like this one when we were there and I was, like, four years old. And then ten years later I was in Australia and HAD what from memory was the identical radio to the one above. (Which may or may not have been the one my grands would have listened to their news and music on.)

You can also create a free account but it doesn't get you a lot. In my case, it got me https://ptec3d.getarchive.net which lets me show the images I collect. Yep, you can make collections. PROTIP: Create a new collection other than "download & private" because no-one will see that. I made a collection called Public in which you can see a cartoon of a prawn and the last known image of my uncle Sergei. Poor bugger...(JK! I don't even have an uncle Sergei. And I have no idea of who that is in that image.)

You can't upload images but fair enough, the world already has far too much crappy pr0n anyway, and you just know that that's where an upload button would lead to. I guess I could find a way to submit a collection of my blog images and artwork but really cbf. (Which is shorthand for "Can't Be Bothered" in case your fur was almost ruffled...)

Okay this was another one of those lucky finds, shared for your pleasure and enjoyment and possibly also even some useful purposes, do me a favour, share this article using the new links below, and donate the price of a cup of coffee (in a mug (with a heart on it))!

 (PS: If anyone knows a Share This Page script that works for Bluesky or Mastodon please contact me!)

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Computing On The Edge, 1977 Style.

Please scroll down before reading further. There's an important announcement there. Please take action and then come back to here.

What was your first computer? Pentium AT format PC? Core i5 laptop? Snapdragon on mobile phone? IBM 370/terminal? Prepare for a bit of a snigger... 

I have the pleasure of saying that I hand-built my first computer from discrete components, integrated circuits, and a kit circuit board. The kit was produced by Dick Smith electronics Australia and I first saw it in my monthly electronics magazine, Electronics Australia, in early (I think!) 1977. Being near to my birthday, I decided to spend most of my pay packet that month on the kit, which duly arrived and was oooh'ed and aaah'ed over by the other guys at work before I asked permission to spend a few evenings after work to assemble it with our state of the art workshop tools. 

That kit was the Mini-Scamp. As you can see it had very little memory, no way to permanently store a program, and as well as that, I needed to learn machine code. I put it in my packing case for travelling back closer to home with my sci-fi monthly magazines - and never saw either again...

But the Sinclair ZX80 came out around that time, and I learned BASIC, then an Amstrad CPC464 with extra software finally let me learn assembly language and machine code. 

The link to the computer museum leads to a pretty skinny article with not a lot of info, and a few nice pictures that I can't view the large version of because the website uses Flash or somesuch. But to save you needing to follow through with that article above, here are some of  the images from it: 

The heaviest thing about it was the relatively large transformer. All the old computers had this problem, they ran on a low voltage, usually 12V, and the only way to get that was with a bulky iron transformer. I can only count myself lucky I suppose, because a later server tower I had, contained a transformer that easily weighed 10-20kg  - it was a huge cube of steel laminations and copper wire and I'd heard that people actually made arc welders out of them when these old ITT (I think?) towers went on sale for scrap. I had two of them and they were tall enough that I could lay a solid core wooden door across them and use that setup as my electronics workbench. It took a lot of strength to lift one, I remember that. 

The Mini Scamp was based on an SC-MP processor chip and 256bytes - not kilobytes or megabytes, bytes - of memory, front-panel toggle switches and DMA for programming and reading the results, and as you can see from the lower photo above, a lot of "those integrated circuit thingies" (when I started my career in electronics, only a select and expensive few things had them, notably some avionic equipment I got to marvel over, and a few computers that I couldn't. Ever.

Anyhow - one of the interesting things I remembered about the MiniScamp was that it was possible to write a complete program on a few sheets of paper because the toggle switches that selected the memory and then the content you wanted to write to that location were just binary code - two four-bit words, one the address, the other the code you wanted to put there, and a "deposit" button to make it so, then either "step" or manually enter a new memory location, add the code for that location, "deposit." and you could only do that for a maximum of 256 steps because that was it, that's all she wrote, out of memory. To say it was limited was an understatement - but it was a functioning teaching computer that you could set a program into and run. Had I been able to learn on it, it would have been a great teaching computer that I built, myself. 

I wrote in a recent article how supercomputers are a load of crap, and that little computer was part of the reason why. 1977 - 1987 I took several quantum leaps of computer power, 1997 I was on fairly powerful PCs and on the Internet, and look where we are today, the circuit that lets me turn on and off my lounge room lights with the app is a few orders of magnitude more powerful than that SC-MP processor chip was... 

The Future?

I've been wondering about that. I've watched the usual beginning-of-new-year videos that make their predictions for the future of - tech / biology / physics / cosmology / etc and trying to work out what I reckoned. I wrote about how to use AI to remove "bottlenecks" in life, and an attempt to see how we could get past most of those (for which a part #2 is coming as well) and due to the magic of scheduled posting the part #2 link may not work until February, but I'll see what I can do.

I think things like mobile phones have about run their course, I have no idea what'll replace them but it'll be a major shift. I have no idea if  PCs, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones will still remain as favoured computing / communicating devices but I reckon whatever replaces the mobile phone will shake ALL of these up, and also maybe steal a march on huge content servers leaving only distributed content delivery networks and a lot of cloud computing as our main options. Owning a private server behind a private LAN may well become a red flag for our governments... 

Also - our currency was once tied to our country's physical wealth, but almost all of them have now been taken off the Gold Standard and relate to absolutely nothing at all, so the next step that seems inevitable to me is the shutting down of cash money in favour of online currency.

I'm totally against the last of these things but you know that people will always find a way around such restrictions, be it the use of shells or IOU notes or scrip or whatever, I just urge you to be very careful about what you agree to let your government do in the interests of "security."

There are worse things than beatings, prison terms, or execution, and one of them is the complete loss of privacy that those changes will enable. Fight against it. 

Okay, we're "down here." What's going on? My wife is facing a life/death medical issue and I'm spending as much time as possible with her, caring, being there. 

That does mean that I'm not doing as much writing, which means fewer posts, fewer announcements on social media, fewer people's eyes being directed to the blog suite. You can help me out though - share this article, follow the (newspaper icon) link to the News Stand and share that on your social media too. This should bring a few more readers, and with luck, a snowballing effect.

You can also help immensely by making a donation, either one-off or periodically, as that will allow me to pay online / running costs rather than taking away what little income we have.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Lots of 3D printable models list page

I don't normally make what amounts to one-liner posts but this page is a list of so many 3D model file sites that I just have to.

I was looking for McMaster Carr, a hardware seller that has a 3D model of almost everything they sell, and realised this page has a load more links:

Top 100 Sites for Free 3D Models and CAD Block Libraries

So enjoy, it's one of the more comprehensive listings I've found. And that's it, that's the article.

Sorry it's so short, but it's useful and I thought it might be useful. If you foud this useful, maybe share the link to this article instead of the Top 100 page, and that way I'll get a few more readers. Also, find my latest articles at https://ohaicorona.com/teds-news-stand and perhaps subscribe to the newsletter, and also share the link to the News Stand. And if you can spare the price of a coffee, maybe donate it through one of the links below.

Keep on being awesome!

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Australian Initiative Making Hydrogen Electrolysers Right Now

Before you dig in, please scroll way down to the bottom of the page, read the last paragraphs, and please take action. See you back here in a minute!

Despite the slightly disparaging initial tone of this article's headline, what this is, is a state-of-the-art hydrogen electrolyser, a manufacturing plant already producing them and was scheduled to be in full automated production by now.

UPDATE: Scope for the project extended.

The magazine RenewEconomy usually reports slightly more favourably on these things, but maybe it's because Australian technology is always seen as a bit quaint or som. . . - No. I think it's time to start a change in the way we view and report our technology. I reported a while back on a huge - I mean, quite literally, HUGE - list of Australian innovations and technologies that we've invented, developed - and then had to go offshore with or sell to overseas interests in order for them to become successful products. If I can find that again, I'll whack a link in right about here. 

I reported on the total bastardness of our (at each of those stages a RW goverment I note) government for shutting down automotive plant and factories that could by now have been producing our own EVs and EV subsystems, and how fossil fuel operations (coal mines, gas and oil wells) were being propped up by those RW governments over the far more deserving sustainable alternatives, and I'm actually in favour of taking our government, putting the whole lot on a cruise liner to Nauru Detention Centre, and replacing them with a series of SurveyMonkey surveys, which would probably see the country finally run as what it is, which is a successful and innovative member of the world stage. I digressed again, didn't I? But damn these are what we're stuck with here in Oz.

Back To Fortescue

I'm sure everyone here's familiar with hydrogen electrolysers, hands up those of you who know how one works? Come on, anyone? Anyone? 

There's the thing. Or at least, one of the things. It's still not well-known technology.

How many know of the different ways that hydrogen can be generated? Why it can be as good an energy source as (in fact better than) lithium-ion batteries?

And there's another of the things. Some ways of making H2 are clean, others are just a really shitty way to keep using fossil fuels until the planet effing well explodes. 

I Hated Hydrogen

Being an electronics-geek-type, batteries were the way to go, I was sure the next advance in batteries was going to be The One That Saves EVs. 

Toyota's saying they'll have a 900 mile range battery that doesn't explode, by 2027. But that's still three years too late, we need some alternatives to fossil fuels right now. Fortescue Group are going to be too late, this should have been done five years - a decade - two decades - ago. But at least it's one more way to ditch fossil fuels.

Then Hydrogen came along. "Hindenberg In Pinto Form?" was of course the first thought that crossed my mind. 

How do you carry one of the most explosive flammable gases in a wheeled shell that's prone to static sparks, has high current electrical systems, and is driven by primates that are prone to crashing them into each other and each other's vehicles and everything else around them? 

But hydrogen fuel cells are now able to convert H2 to electricity at the kinds of currents needed, and they emit just water vapour from their "exhaust." Also, hydrogen tanks are safer than petrol and diesel tanks thanks to specific materials nano-engineered to soak up the hydrogen like a sponge. No liquid H2 sloshing around, and in fact I believe that these nano-materials can hold more H2 in a given volume than a liquid/vapour tank would. 

By then I was ready to talk hydrogen except for one other thing - the sheer death-grip desperation of the companies I refer to as the FFC - the Fossil Fuel Cartel. Don't forget that this cartel is losing almost their entire raison'd'etre when we stop using fossil fuels. (And will lose the other half when we succeed in making plastic illegal unless it is entirely recycled.) They're a complex organism and we're killing it. Of course it'll fight back. 

One of the ways was to extract hydrogen from hydrocarbons (= "fossil fuels," natch) using more energy (from more fossil fuels, natch) to do so. Not sure what they called it. Red Hydrogen, Blue Hydrogen, Joseph's Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat effing hydrogen - who really cares, it was just a nice bit of obfuscation to divert attention away from the - ahem - fossil fuels part of the process- anyway. 

That's Not The Way. Obviously.

Electrolysis on the other hand, can be. To be clear, half a century ago electrolysis wasn't a way forward, either. Almost all our electricity was derived from fossil fuels. 

Obviously there are large losses at every step from an energy source to the mechanical output. Losing 75% of the energy in fuel between getting it out of the ground to driving your wheels is already a huge kick in the guts. (That by the way is a favourable estimate - many are much worse... )

If we add the losses inherent in converting fossil fuel to hydrogen first, or using fossil fuel electricity to electrolyse hydrogen, there can be far higher losses. 

So to be able to start from solar electricity is already a WIN in letters too large for me to fit on this page. If we can use sunlight and a catalyst to do this directly, that'd be Boss level.

Hydrogen, Energy, Climate, And You

No matter which way you try to spin it, taking fossil fuels out of the equation is the only way we'll deal with climate change.

Wind and waves harvest their energy from the weather systems, and that energy was put into the weather system by sunlight and solar heat, with some coming from inherent geothermal heat. 

Fortunately for us (or rather - unfortunately for us) global warming is increasing the energy in everything, wind, land, air, and seas included. On knowing this,it can be seen that absorbing some of that energy out of the weather systems can only be a good thing. As long as we retire wind plant once the climate crisis is in hand in a century or so. 

So at this time, extracting some of the energy out of the weather system by way of large numbers of wind farms is exactly what we need. By the same token, taking some of the energy out of the oceans by wave and tidal generators is also good. 

What isn't so good is that most of that energy will just leak back out along the way or at the end of the process of consuming it. 

For the moment though - hydrogen can be one of the ways forward. I bet that right now someone's working out a way to inject hydrogen into a petrol engine along with its normal fuel and reducing consumption and pollution. That would at least be a solution everyone can come at. 

And of course eventually getting over our seemingly insatiable need to own a large personal vehicle directly would also be a help. 

Okay, we're "down here." What's going on? My wife is facing a life/death medical issue and I'm spending as much time as possible with her, caring, being there. 

That does mean that I'm not doing as much writing, which means fewer posts, fewer announcements on social media, fewer people's eyes being directed to the blog suite. You can help me out though - share this article, follow the (newspaper icon) link to the News Stand and share that on your social media too. This should bring a few more readers, and with luck, a snowballing effect.

You can also help immensely by making a donation, either one-off or periodically, as that will allow me to pay online / running costs rather than taking away what little income we have.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Programming - This One Weird Quote

A seeming lifetime ago I shared with a friend a quote that I remembered reading - and it changed nothing major. Some quotes are like that...

But the friend did change their email signature. This XKCD cartoon just reminded me of that. And yep this is going to be a bit of a short article.

So the quote runs something like: "Every program can be shortened by one line of code, and every program contains at least one bug. That means that any program can be reduced to one line of code - that doesn't work." 

After that, their email signature ran:


(name of friend)

Bug Coder Extraordinaire

That's it, really. That quote often came to mind when I was trying to figure out why my ESP32 was producing an infinite-length web page before rebooting. I now have a corollary to that maxim:

"Every program can be shortened by one line of code, and every program contains at least one bug. That means that any program can be reduced to one line of code - that doesn't work. If you attempt to eradicate the bug by removing one line of code, it'll never be the line with the bug in it."

I'm also trying to figure out where that quote came from. It's a bit like the "My machine, it will not boot" verse that I recalled from some time earlier and couldn't find a single reference to online so I decided to save it by writing it out. And I've just searched for it and once again can't even find it on any of my blogs. Time to salvage it again I think:


My machine, it will not boot 
I "rm *" while "su root"
The lights will blink, the fans will whir
But I can't get init to stir. 

I've got no backups, nothing - for,
I used the DAT for music store.
It's time to leave this awful place
Before their lawyers build a case

Another job's been offered me
They want me to admin NT
"Admin NT?" I asked the man
"Of course I will! Of course I can!"

So now I sit, and babysit,
This creeping crawling piece of sh*t
NT's installed, how fscking cute.

And my machine, it will not boot...

-- Courtesy of me having the memory of an elephant for anything but serious stuff

I really truly don't know where either the quote or the poem originally came from, but I hope they made you at least smile. 

Now to the serious bit. Please share the hell out of this post and my others. There's a family health crisis and I may not always be able to post as often as I'd like to, but I don't want to lose readers. Your share will help keep up the number of readers and hopefully give them a smile too. If you can manage a donation that would also help. 

Ciao and be happy!

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Supercomputers Are A Load Of Crap

To begin with, there's something I need to tell you. My family has a pretty serious health crisis. The "our next year is completely going to be about survival" kind of crisis. Sorry. Hardware projects are going on soft hold, woodwork projects are going on soft hold, garden projects are going on soft hold, and blogging is going on soft hold. 

I mean that. I'm looking at the latest cucurbit-qubitatron teraflopsical quantum computer on some tech site's web page knowing in my heart of hearts that it's already superseded. And the next one might actually even work. In the sense that someone could run a spreadsheet on it, really really fast. Whatever.

So when I say supercomputers are a load of crap, I honestly really mean it. In the days of yore (OMFSM was it ever 1984? Forty years ago? Well fk me dead.) I remember being in so much awe that a Commodore 64 or and Amstrad 464 could run a spreadsheet or word processor that I'd have had to code by hand for my old ZX80, and load from my cassette player every time I wanted to run it. 

I was in so awe, much big eyes! for that first 386, the 486, the first Pentium I owned. Don't know what I'm talking about? That just proves my point innit? They were powerhouses for their day. And each reigned supreme for a matter of a year or two, sometimes only a matter of a few months, before the next superprocessor came along. 

Silicon Graphics came along with a few superb workstations that amazed, I've never actually used an Apple of any kind, and the CRAY-1 from the previous decade was still one of the most amazing supercomputers I knew about, because it was a first, and it had a new successor the CRAY-2. 

It's almost fifty years after the CRAY-1 and now I've used little single-board computers from the PIC8F series through Arduinos and ESP32s and RP2040 boards. That last on, it's the same processor family as the Raspberry Pi, the little single board computer that's the size of a pack of playing cards. CRAY-1? You're outta here! Yeah, I cried a silent little tear over that. 

But there's a lesson in that. 

Everything is capable of being improved on. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. I just recently posted on one of my other blogs about how far AI and tech in general will improve in the future - if we let it. 

I'll be posting pretty soon (crisis permitting) about how we've gone from just knowing that CO2 is A Bad Thing for the planet and "sequestering" it in the ground to trying to scrub it out of the air with really big vacuum cleaners with great HEPA filters and are now to the point where we can now convert it into useful chemicals and materials and even clean-burning fuel. 

I've also seen EV batteries go from lead acid to lithium to - well, read on. From a range of a few dozen miles and a life of a few thousand miles before needing to be replaced to a a few hundred miles of range and tens of thousand of miles before needing replacement to the fabled million mile battery with a range of a thousand miles per recharge.

Materials that are made from exotic and difficult to engineer like Kevlar originally was, to stuff ten times stronger than Kevlar that can be produced in a medium-high-tech bathtub. Solar panels have gone from pathetic little things that failed in the full heat of the sun after a few months and produced under 100 watts to panels (like the one I use to keep 12V on in the shed and a source of mains voltage for some equipment so I don't need an upgraded breaker for the workshop) that clock in at 240 watts and will probably outlast me. 

And quantum computers are already in the shadow of The Next Big Thing. We're so good at continually improving and even on improving the speed at which we make improvements that there will come a point where the line goes vertical. 

There are also rumours that we already live in a simulation, and perhaps when that point is reached when we create The Last Big Computer, it'll be capable of reversing time and running the simulation on itself so that we can bring its existence about. 

Not going to beat about the bush, unless I can manage some kind of asymptotic increase in productivity myself, I simply won't be able to post as many articles. Fewer articles means fewer social media notifications. Fewer of those means fewer visitors to the blogs, and that means fewer people patronising these pages and less money to pay to keep things rolling along online. It's a death-spiral, people.

Unless you can, you know, maybe donate using one of the links below, share this article or the link to Ted's News Stand, and that way maybe I can keep my own money and pay those things out of patronage. It's a dream I have...

If this was a video I'd be saying "Make sure to like and subscribe, and be sure to visit my Ko-Fi page!"