Thursday, May 30, 2013

It Took Seven Months

But I finally had my first major "working in the cloud" problem: Dropbox is Down.

The only reason that it's a major problem is that there's no "native" Dropbox app for ChromeOS yet. If there was, then my files would be automagically stored locally, in their most recently updated versions, and the only thing I'd be missing due to this outage would be automatic updating across machines of their latest versions when I finished working with them for the day.

Since there's no native app, my files are stored on Dropbox and Dropbox alone unless I take additional steps on my own. I load them from Dropbox. I save them back to  Dropbox when they've been edited.

As it happens I do make local copies of some key files on a day-to-day basis because, as mentioned in a previous post, I have to do so in order to FTP them to a server. But for various reasons relating to how my cloud apps work, it's a huge pain in the ass to actually do my editing work with the local copies.

So: Petition Time.

I Saw The Light

And it only cost me $4.99 (h/t Claire Wolfe).

I've indicated an interest in solar power on this blog several times, although not in such an interesting way that it's worth looking up those posts and linking them.

One of the problems with books about solar power is that they tend to be over-priced, and sold in a way that presages many up-sells and add-ons before you get to the good stuff.

A Solar Electric System On the Cheap, On the Fly, and Off the Grid is not overpriced. It's just $4.99.

Joel, the author, doesn't use the book to try to sell you a bunch of other crap, nor does he make you sit through 30 minutes of video raves about how great the book is for the privilege of buying the damn book (like one $59 joker did -- I didn't buy).

A Solar Electric System On the Cheap, On the Fly, and Off the Grid is also not the Bible of solar energy. But it doesn't have to be. It explains, in plain English, exactly what is involved in building a basic solar electric system. And it just so happens that that's precisely the information I've been looking for, and that people have been claiming they want to sell me for ten times as much money, but only if I'll sit through some kind of multi-level marketing schtick first.

If this is the kind of info you are looking for, I recommend it. You can get it here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Snail, Crawling on the Edge of a Straight Razor ...

That's my recurring experience with Microsoft Windows. It's just horrifying.

I understand why some people feel like they have to use it -- for example, gamers who have limited choices because game makers build their software for Windows. That's my elder son, who is in the middle of a Windows 7 re-install at the moment.

What I don't understand is why the industrial side doesn't just switch platforms to something that, um, works. If users will put up with Windows, it seems reasonable to assume that they'll put up with the transition to something better than Windows. And pretty much anything is better than Windows.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Chrome Extension I'd Like to See

It would really only save me a minute or two a day, but it would just be more ... elegant. Here's the situation:

Every day, as part of my work routine, I create some text files (in SourceKit); these files are automatically saved to my Dropbox.

I then upload them to a server, but I can't do that directly -- I have to download them from Dropbox to my physical drive first, then FTP them.

I'd like to skip that step. It's really only a minute or two a day, five days a week, but it just bugs me. It's inefficient. It's one of the few "differences of working in the cloud" that I just can't get used to.

What I need is either a Dropbox client for Chrome OS -- I'm somewhat scandalized that there's not one yet -- or an app that lets me treat my online Dropbox like a local drive for FTP purposes.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

For a Good Cause ...

More ...

So we started with three chicks, bought live at the feed store, quickly followed by two more. All five survived the brooder box and eventually moved outside to an enclosure/coop/small yard I built out back. They're huge now. They'll be laying in a couple of months. We let them free range at least a couple of hours a day, and they seem ... content.

The one who wasn't content was Liam. He enjoyed raising the chicks from "just a few days old" to "reasonably self-sufficient," but what he really wanted -- bad enough to spend some saved Christmas money and allowance on a $70 incubator -- was to hatch some of his very own.

So, OK. Part of the whole homeschool/unschool bit is letting the kids figure out what they're interested in and then facilitating that as a learning tool, right? And there's quite a bit of learning to be done there.

We bought some free range eggs at a local farmers' market (the guy said that some of them would likely be fertile). Liam stuck nine of them in the incubator, faithfully turned the eggs daily, candled them periodically to check out development, monitored temperature and humidity, etc., and ~21 days later ...

Four of the eggs weren't fertilized (or at least didn't develop enough for candling to reveal anything happening).

One of the eggs did develop, but the chick never made it out of the egg, for whatever reason (the corpse didn't look like it had fully developed).

Four of them hatched, and the little critters seem to be healthy.

So, four of nine from a random assemblage of eggs, four of five from those we know were actually fertilized. Not bad for a kid who just turned 12 two weeks ago and wasn't raised on a farm, in my opinion.

On the other hand, he's now desperately trying to re-negotiate the "we have enough chickens, we don't want any roosters, these will have to either be given away or killed and eaten" clause we agreed on when he decided he had to do this.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Objections to "Papers, Please"

If a police officer does not have probably cause to suspect that I have committed, or am engaged in committing, a crime, who I am is none of his damn beeswax.

If a police officer does have probable cause to suspect that I have committed, or am engaged in committing, a crime, I am under no obligation to assist in my own prosecution, including but not limited to revealing my identity to make it easier for him to investigate me.

I can see reasons to voluntarily produce "identification papers" for other purposes, of course, but those other people aren't government agents of any sort.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Which Part of "the Genie is Out of the Bottle" Does the State Department not Understand?

Per Andy Greenberg at Forbes:

On Thursday, Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson received a letter from the State Department Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance demanding that he take down the online blueprints for the 3D-printable "Liberator" handgun that his group released Monday, along with nine other 3D-printable firearms components hosted on the group’s website The government says it wants to review the files for compliance with arms export control laws known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. By uploading the weapons files to the Internet and allowing them to be downloaded abroad, the letter implies Wilson’s high-tech gun group may have violated those export controls.

If you aren't one of the first 100,000 or more people who have already downloaded the files, you can get them via torrent from The Pirate Bay. Among, presumably, many other places.

If Cody Wilson et. al end up needing a legal defense, I'll gladly make a (probably small, unfortunately) contribution and asking all of KN@PPSTER's readers to do likewise.

In the meantime, let us pause for a salute to Hillary Clinton ...

Finger! (Photo credit: Miikka Skaffari)

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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

My Latest Florida Discovery

Ah. So that's why they're called fire ants.

Gonna have to do something about that.

Game Over for the Gun-Grabbers

[h/t Kent McManigal]

During WWII, the US manufactured, but didn't really do much to distribute or encourage the use of, a million  FP-45 Liberator pistols.

It was a simple idea, and a good one -- mass-produce a disposable pistol, something cheap enough to air-drop by the thousands into areas occupied by the Germans and the Japanese. The Liberator was only intended to be fired once, or at most a few times. Its purpose was to let you kill an enemy soldier and take his "real" weapon.

The CIA briefly revisited the concept in 1964 with the Deer Gun, but that fizzled when Vietnam escalated into a "real war" instead of an insurgency versus occupying NVA troops.

Defense Distributed's new weapon is named for, and obviously serves the same function as, the original Liberator.

One news report says that the CAD files for printing it at home were downloaded more than 50,000 times on Monday alone, and that all the usual suspects are worried.

And worried they should be. Even more so than Defense Distributed's recent experiments with AR-15 receivers and magazines, this demonstrates that "gun control" is finally, forever, and irretrievably finished as a possibility. It never was going to work, of course, but this makes that fact so obvious that arguing otherwise finally sounds as silly as it really is, so silly that only a nutjob like Michael Bloomberg could possibly argue otherwise with a straight face.

Worry the victim disarmament wackos some more -- download the files yourself, even if you don't have anything to print them on yet!

What would really be cool is for people who do have 3D printers already to start up little clubs of, say, 10 friends.  The one guy provides the printer. The other nine people go in on the cost of material to print 10 of these pistols, and on a 50-round box of .380 ammo. Everyone comes over for barbecue and beer or whatever while the printer runs; everyone goes home with a brand new Liberator and 5 rounds of ammo.

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Thursday, May 02, 2013

There Oughtta Be A Law ...

Photo of James J. Bulger, who is an FBI Ten Mo...
Whitey Bulger
Yeah, you don't hear me saying that very often, do you?

There ought to be a law forbidding judges from "barring" any defenses those charged with crimes want to put to juries. Like this:

The new judge presiding over the James "Whitey" Bulger case has granted prosecutors' motion to bar the reputed mobster from arguing immunity at trial. ... Bulger's lawyers argued they should be able to present a trial defense claiming that a law enforcement official who has died gave Bulger immunity from prosecution.

In my semi-informed opinion (based mainly on the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob, by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill), Bulger can probably make a pretty good argument for the proposition, although he's attempting to attribute the immunity to a conveniently dead prosecutor (Jeremiah O'Sullivan) rather than to the FBI agents (John Connolly and John Morris) who were most active in protecting him as a "confidential informant" even as he built and presided over an organized crime empire in South Boston.

Maybe you can see the problem in this particular case:

The judge works for the same political establishment that is alleged to have been compromised to the extent that it would give Bulger immunity.

Wait, check that. It's not just "alleged" -- Connolly was charged, tried and convicted over it and Morris received ... ahem ... immunity in return for testifying against him.

That establishment wants to throw a few individuals under the bus and disown them and their actions instead of accepting the consequences of corruption that ran way up the political ladder.

Bulger's status a a confidential informant had to be approved at, and supervised from, the top echelons of the FBI and Justice Department, and that approval/supervision worked its way back down the ladder to people like US Attorney O'Sullivan, who implemented the immunity agreement by e.g. excluding Bulger from indictments even though the evidence was there to convict him.

Now, it's possible, maybe even likely, that jurors would disbelieve Bulger's claims, or convict him even though it believed the claims, were he allowed to present those claims. But that decision should be left up to them, not to the discretion of a judge running interference for the establishment.

I'd even advocated for extending the logic in this particular case to all cases. If some guy wants to argue that Satan possessed him to kill a prostitute, or aliens threatened him with a death ray if he didn't rob a bank, or whatever, let him do it. A jury is either competent to weight arguments, or it isn't. If it is, it should have unfiltered access to the arguments. If it isn't, why the hell do we have juries in the first place?
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