10 December 2013, 8:54 UTCOver-engineering your thermal mass water tank setup
Various energy-efficient building designs emphasise high thermal mass. When retrofitting existing buildings, one would probably use a water tank — easy to install and very high heat capacity per volume. Pretty simple to use, too; just put it in, fill it with water and maybe check it once or twice a year.
Of course, once one has a water-based thermal mass system, one can over-engineer it...
- The tank can double as backup water supply or as ballast for a fishtank or hydroponics. (Only one of the three, please.)
- Run the water through a solar heater on winter days and/or through an outside radiator (convector) on summer nights. These can be separate or a single dual-use device.
- If it's divided among several tanks in different parts of the house, circulate water between them to equalise the temperatures.
- An entire second system, with different setpoints, for the wine cellar.
27 November 2013, 5:07 UTCDoctor Who and the Copenhagen Interpretation
I wonder if the concept of "time-locked" in Doctor Who corresponds to:
- "observation" in various interpretations of QM, and
- broadcast by the BBC.
We, the audience, are the observer.
27 November 2013, 5:03 UTCDoctor Who and the 13th regeneration
There's any number of ways they could do it...
(a) It might be a law of Gallifrey rather than a law of nature, in which case it can be set aside (in consideration of his efforts in the war?) and/or broken by the Doctor. It wouldn't be the first law he's broken and, given the current state of Gallifrey, enforcement is likely to be patchy at best.
(b) Something like the Sisterhood of Karn or Bad Wolf might reset the count and/or remove the limit. Indeed, might have already done so, the Sisterhood incidentally with the regeneration potion, Bad Wolf, well, it's not like she was really in control of her faculties, was she?
(c) The Doctor could regenerate, say "Huh, that was... unexpected!" and carry on.
I'm hoping for (c), myself.
22 November 2013, 6:30 UTCSelf-driving model cars
I wonder if technology is now at the stage where one could put together a self-driving model car. One that uses a camera for lane-following, collision avoidance, obeying street signs and traffic lights...
A rough calculation suggests that a Raspberry Pi would just about fit inside a 1:32 model car. Certainly there are radio-controlled cars as small as that, and a computer these days is not going to be much larger than an older R/C receiver. It needs to be powerful enough to do video processing, but that, too, doesn't sound like a problem any more. If it's really a problem, one could use a bigger scale, maybe 1:18 or 1:12 or something; that would give ample room for pretty much anything.
I wonder if that already exists, or if I should try to put it together and popularise it as a hobby.
18 October 2013, 6:08 UTCSilk Road shutdown
What does the shutdown of Silk Road mean for the future of such enterprises?
(Assuming the allegations are true for the sake of discussion...)
DPR made some rookie mistakes, from opsec to language selection to contingency planning. There were other infelicities on Silk Road, probably on the entire scale of difficulty all the way up to really difficult problems with no known solutions: its public key infrastructure, for instance, was primitive; delivery of physical goods via ordinary mail was naïve; even the reliance on a central server was unfortunate, since ultimately it had to be physically located somewhere. In the middle of the scale come things like connecting to the server through a short chain of ssh connections rather than via Tor.
It was perhaps inevitable that he would eventually be caught.
Yet — a moderately incompetent operator ran Silk Road for about two years. A more competent person would probably have lasted longer; but does "longer" mean three years, or thirty?
Do we stand at the end of online black markets, or do we stand at the drug equivalent of the Napster shutdown, in a pause before something else takes its place, something that's stronger and harder to shut down than what came before?
I do not know what such a next stage would be, whether it would learn a lot from the first iteration of Silk Road or only a little. There are obvious puns about drug-dealing via DHT, but they are just that — puns. The reality would be completely different, maybe quite sophisticated, with real innovations, maybe completely ordinary, just doing the same thing more carefully.
Or maybe Silk Road really will stay shut down.
27 September 2013, 0:56 UTCUsing Google Calendars with multiple e-mail addresses
Sometimes, I get Google Calendar invites that I need to respond to, but which are sent to my main e-mail address (I rarely use my Google one). By default, that doesn't work and shows a red error message.
I've recently found out, though, that there's a check-box in the settings to make it work: https://support.google.com/calendar/answer/74783
With that check-box ticked, it works the way you'd expect.
I'm not sure which genius came up with that default, or with the UX of being shown a red error message which doesn't even mention this option, let alone allowing you to change it. It certainly seems suboptimal. However, at least the option itself is there.
22 May 2013, 9:36 UTCThe relationships in the stories we tell
The other day I saw an analogy somewhere that teenagers effectively getting their "sex ed" from watching porn is a bit like doing "driver's ed" by watching James Bond films. Come to think of it, though, it could be worse — people could be getting their "sex ed" by watching James Bond films.
Stories are how we make sense of the world, right? What sort of stories, then, are we giving our children and ourselves? Do they involve relationships that are healthy and positive, or ones that are problematic? If the latter, if the stories we tell celebrate problematic and even deeply disturbing relationships, what impact does that have on us, on our world?
And there are some pretty troubling stories out there, whether it's the likes of James Bond on the one hand or something like Beauty and the Beast or Twilight on the other.
15 May 2013, 3:47 UTCBitcoin central
One of the selling points of Bitcoin is that it has no central point of control... yet it does.
- About 85% of the hashrate is divided among 5 parties, the large mining pools, and not equally. There are countries with more parties than that in parliament! These mining pools pretty much control the day to day transactions. If they decide to reject, say, payments to a certain address, that address is blocked. So far, they've only (publically) used this power to deal with bugs and version incompatibilities.
- The authors of the standard client have substantial control in practice, and also have been known to exercise it. For instance, they hard-code "known good" blocks in the client, over-riding the block chain. They exercise control on a longer time scale than the pools.
- On a longer time scale still, there was a rather large amount of central control at the point of initiation, and Satoshi Nakamoto clearly took advantage of it. Of all the possible ways to initially distribute the Bitcoins, he chose one likely to substantially enrich himself and (to a lesser extent) other early adopters, at the expense of other desirable properties for a monetary system.
In three different ways, on three different time-scales, there is indeed quite substantial degree of central control in Bitcoin. Some of them, especially the last, may be unavoidable; but we should not be blind to them.
7 May 2013, 2:52 UTCPost-scarcity now
We live now in what is, in a very real sense, a post-scarcity world; we just haven't learned to behave that way.
A small fraction of us (low single digit percentage) can produce enough food to feed everyone. By any definition, that's post-scarcity, and an amazing concept for anyone more than about a hundred years ago. People go around asking each other in autumn "what are you thankful for", because everyone has been able to forget the traditional: "I'm thankful that there was, in fact, a harvest, that it looks like we won't starve this winter".
Sadly, we are not so good at distributing this plenty, so that many of us on this planet go hungry — not generally to the extent of famine (except during armed conflict), but hungry none the less. There would seem to be room for improvement.
When will we turn our post-scarcity world into a true post-scarcity society?
6 May 2013, 5:25 UTCTerraforming the galaxy
It was an old race, older by far than the Ancients, back in the mists of time, who first looked up at the stars and dreamed of travel. Yet their science was young, for it was only their own, and the speed of light is a difficult barrier. They could breach it, just, but not in their spaceships. Only their gates could let them travel faster than light, and then only to places where another gate had been built.
The galaxy was yet barren.
So they toiled and built spaceships — space probes, really, for they could take no passengers. They set them the task of searching the galaxy for other worlds, building gates and moving on. They built well. Even now those ships pass from star to star, continuing their work, yet frugal and careful that they do not overwhelm.
Then they pass from history, how or why we do not know.
On a million promising worlds, gates stand; all within the zone that was once, long ago on a vanished world, called "temperate". From time to time they activate — perhaps simply a self-test, some sort of maintenance, perhaps deliberately — spreading seeds of life from world to world, first primitive, then more and more complex.
So when you see the gates on your television, wonder not why they stand in so similar a forest on each world; it is the same forest, spread from world to world by the gates themselves.
3 May 2013, 12:51 UTCPrivacy; a draft
1 May 2013, 6:35 UTCGoogle Glass
1 May 2013, 6:22 UTCFood miles and self-driving cars
1 May 2013, 6:02 UTCBitcoin is not disruption
26 February 2013, 4:57 UTCDemocratic social network
4 November 2012, 9:10 UTCOlder things — parallel-run, today, backlinks, auth, ecash, inflatable sailing boat...
3 November 2012, 10:42 UTCExercise bikes and Google street view
1 July 2012, 13:45 UTCThe Internet as an alien
1 July 2012, 13:37 UTCWhy would anyone do that ...? (Self-aware AI)
10 June 2012, 5:59 UTCRevolution in Art & Design using 3D Printing — Neri Oxman
4 June 2012, 12:45 UTCEben Moglen — Innovation under Austerity
13 May 2012, 3:15 UTCThe future is normalised
30 April 2012, 2:37 UTCSmall payments among friends
29 April 2012, 11:01 UTCxkcd random²
27 April 2012, 16:01 UTCTalk slides — The Version 3 Effect — April 2012 SLUG meeting
27 April 2012, 1:36 UTCA/B testing and optimisation methods
19 April 2012, 5:13 UTCVirtualisation on the desktop?
28 March 2012, 12:36 UTCElsevier's two jobs
28 February 2012, 5:38 UTCbzr split and garbage collection
27 February 2012, 8:29 UTCThe Version 3 Effect