Sunday, July 31, 2016

I Just Want to Point Out

Today's the end of July. 

In this month, I've done "Techy" posts on an AI system for running air to air combat that runs on a Raspberry Pi and never loses to a human fighter pilot instructor; wearable gesture sensor interfaces to a computer, a camera lens based on mimicry of an obscure Nigerian fish's eye; a look at the code used on the Apollo Guidance computer; genetically engineered silkworms producing a spider silk that may become the next generation of bullet resistant vests, and Smartbolts for high end, critical uses. 

I've done several posts on machine shop work: how I designed a new part for my CNC conversion project when it seemed highly impractical to make the design I had bought; showed it after it was built; and the steps it took to finish the part.  From there I transitioned to how I powder coat painted, described the difficulties I encountered and how I got around them to paint everything.  Finally, I showed a new method of cheating in bike racing using a motor that can fit in the seat tube of a bike. 

The shop and general techy posts were the majority of what I talked about, but I also talked about FBI director Comey's abandonment of the rule of law; the Philando Castile case and some things that were turning up that didn't fit the narrative; added a couple of pieces on the effects the central banks are having on everything; made fun of Bernie Sanders supporters for not being able to see that they're not only protesting the wrong thing but that the solution they propose is the cause of what they're protesting; and pointed out a particularly stupid scumbag in the DNC power structure. 

Oh, and I included a piece on Fast Radio Bursts in radio astronomy and their implications, the strange Mandela effect and stinkin' thinkin' that entails, the coup in Turkey, a storm chaser's weather video, the stupidity and logical problems with Obama's constant harping on gun control at the most unfortunate times.

Not to mention a photograph of Colonel Sanders and Alice Cooper.
I try to be a full service blog, and I don't see that wide a range of subjects in any other blog I know of.  Hope y'all enjoy it.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Finished With the Paint Booth

Except there is no actual "paint booth", just open air.  I bring my powder coat gun, and oven out onto the back porch, set them on a little aluminum platform along with a handy shower seat to make using the oven way more comfortable.  I do the spraying standing up alongside the platform, to minimize overspray of powder onto the platform. 

Today, I finished the last parts, the standoffs for the Z-axis.   Here's everything in the "family portrait", standoffs in front on the right.
User Malatrope commented last time
You know, I don't see any problem at all with leaving the holes open and then just running a tap back through them after the coating. Am I missing something?
I answered that the sources I was reading said to use a special "chasing tap" and not the one I used to cut the threads.  As is often the case online, that's sort of the Extremely Anal Retentive Person's way of doing it.  Since some of these parts have so many holes, I didn't have any way to mask them other than screws, so I used screws.  If the screw didn't go all the way through (deliberate experiment), a few threads filled with paint.  That paint was easily removed by running the screw through the hole again.  Didn't need a tap at all, just a screw to chase the threads.

Getting to be time to start taking the Grizzly G0704 apart and rebuilding with all these parts in place.  I need to look over all the things left to do.  I'd hate to take the mill apart and need it for something I have to make later. 

Internet, You Disappoint Me

It has been two full days since Hildebeest did her big speech at the D&C DNC in a white pantsuit and NOT ONE IMAGE can be found showing her as the Stay Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters.

Only one other blogger in the universe seems to even see the resemblance.


(I'd do it, but I'd have to sit with photo editing software and look at her long enough to try and put something together.  I'm not that tough).

EDIT 7/30 2100 EDT  I swapped email with the great Zoomie and he has done it.  Warning: may induce nausea. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Science Story of the Year So Far

It hasn't gotten much press, but there's a very interesting little story going around in the radio astronomy world.  Radio astronomers have identified a set of signals that are either some completely new objects; new physics we don't have theoretical understanding of.  You will notice I said 'either' but didn't give an 'or'".  There is some chance that they're being generated by an intelligent source.  The signals share a mathematical basis that nothing known can produce other than a deliberately modulated transmitter.  (To modulate a signal is to add information to it; you're familiar with AM, amplitude modulation, and FM, frequency modulation.  Same idea.)
Telescopes have been picking up so-called fast radio bursts (FRBs) since 2001. They last just a few milliseconds and erupt with about as much energy as the sun releases in a month. Ten have been detected so far, most recently in 2014, when the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, caught a burst in action for the first time. The others were found by sifting through data after the bursts had arrived at Earth. No one knows what causes them, but the brevity of the bursts means their source has to be small – hundreds of kilometres across at most – so they can’t be from ordinary stars. And they seem to come from far outside the galaxy.

The weird part is that they all fit a pattern that doesn’t match what we know about cosmic physics.  [Bold added: SiG]
Start with the idea that they emit a pulse that lasts a few milliseconds.  The great mathematician Joseph Fourier showed that any waveform can be generated by a series of different sine and cosine waves.  Today, virtually all signal processing involves calculating the Fourier transform of the signal.  This can be really time consuming to calculate, and in 1965 a couple of scientists developed a method of calculating this called the Fast Fourier Transform or FFT.  The FFT is so important it used in millions of pieces of hardware and software every day. 

The entire purpose of that paragraph was to explain that by using the FFT, we can determine the frequencies which define the pulse.  Wavelength and frequency are simply related (frequency times the wavelength is the speed of light), and radio astronomers conventionally speak of wavelength.  The ratio of the longest wavelength to the shortest is called the dispersion. 

Here's the part that's not fitting into any known physics.  Everyone of these Fast Radio Bursts have had a dispersion that's an integer multiple of 187.5.  Most have been the fourth multiple of 187.5 (most radio people will call that the fourth harmonic).  
Now I find it necessary to point a couple of things about this that I see as problems.  The first is that there are only 10 of these FRBs that are on that chart.  That's all that has been observed.  Sometimes weird stuff shows up in small samples.  If the next ten come in with dispersions that aren't multiples of 187.5, the story breaks down.  The second thing is that statement that source power is one month's of the output of our sun.  That's based on them thinking they know where it's coming from.  Since these are short lived and there isn't tons of time to try to be more precise, I see these as sloppy numbers.  If the FRBs are substantially closer, their output is substantially lower.  Conversely, if they're much farther out, they're putting out even more power. 

When nature throws an unexpected surprise at you, the most useful thing to do is consult with the theoreticians who have models that explain just about everything else.  Astronomers have come up with some scenarios that they think could explain the short pulses with extremely high energy.  There is currently no way to verify any of those as correct.  While everyone has to take pains to say there's just as much evidence it's contact binary stars as aliens (none, to be precise), intelligence can't be ruled out.  The "Mother Nature News" website posts something to ponder.
If the radio bursts do turn out to be beacons from extraterrestrials, which is a possibility that can't be ruled out, then there are some exciting but scary scenarios to consider. FRBs would not be easy messages to send. The amount of energy required to send such powerful bursts from another galaxy is hard to fathom. Such alien technology would be far more advanced than anything we can imagine, with the ability to harness power equivalent to the sun.

In other words, any face-to-face encounter with such a civilization may not end well for us, if they turn out to be hostile.
Unless that along with developing the ability to put out the energy of an entire month's worth of the sun's output in five milliseconds they also developed some way around the speed of light speed limit in the universe, there's little worry that we'd ever come face to face.  Still, without trying to do numbers, it sounds like a society with bows and arrows coming in contact with one that has nuclear weapons.

While the possibility that the answer could be radio beacons designed to attract technological civilizations is appealing to us sci-fi geeks, we have to admit that the energy requirements are so great that it's likely an astronomical phenomenon.  A wild card is the possibility that a satellite the researchers don't know about (a classified satellite) is producing these signals, and they just appear to be coming from deep space.  That would make them much, much lower power and easier to explain.  A couple of times in the past, signals that generated great interest turned out to be satellites no one was supposed to know about.  I recall one in the early 1990s, and search engines appear to show others.  Another possibility is unintended interference between different satellites or a satellite and a transmitter on earth - such as  intermodulation distortion products.  The team at the Parkes Telescope in Australia discovered that what they thought was a deep space source was actually the microwave oven in their break room.

Folks who have paid attention to this subject will probably recall hearing about the "Wow!" signal, detected in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence efforts in 1977.  It occurred once, and never repeated itself, so it's pretty much disregarded.  Lately, a theoretician has found a possible way to explain it using nothing but comets outgassing hydrogen.  They're attempting to observe some comets to see if they can confirm his theory. 

I think of this as a total win-win.  If we find out it's the Federation looking for societies that have gotten advanced enough to build radio telescopes to join them, that's pretty hard to beat as news goes.  If we find it's totally new physics no one has thought of before, and the universe is a more amazing place than we thought before, that's pretty darned cool, too. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Raging Against the Wrong Machine

I have to admit to not having the stomach to watch the DNC coverage - much as I didn't watch the RNC coverage.  In the case of the Evil party this week, I just had my gall bladder taken out; my system just isn't used to that much bile.  Besides, as I've said many times, I hate day to day politics.  Paying attention to politicians is like cleaning the cat box.   It's a disgusting, revolting task that exposes you to all sorts of dirty, filthy things you'd rather never see, but if you don't do it, the job just gets even more disgusting and revolting.

I have seen or heard bits and pieces; I've heard the crowd in the convention chanting "Lock Her Up" about the Hildebeest, which was the chant heard during the RNC that instantly and automagically became hate speech.  I've seen the idealistic communist Bernie supporters, and I'm going to rant against them for a minute.

There's a quote attributed to Friedrich Hayek that goes, "if socialists understood economics, they wouldn't be socialists", and it's obvious how right he was when you read what those kids are saying.  They show complete ignorance of what they really want and what socialism really means.  Take these two signs:  “End Capitalism Before It Ends Us (And the Planet),” and “Human Needs Over Corporate Greed.” These are dirt-common democratic beliefs; homilies for the spiritual brothers if you will.  To quote from The Scandal of Money.
Most Democrats see robotics and other advancing computer technologies as job killers rather than job creators, as if more workers would be employed if they were less productive. They see energy production as chiefly a source of pollution, to be suppressed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They are transforming the Internet into a sterile and litigious public utility regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. They are making the banks into a protectorate of the Federal Reserve Board, which they are turning into a fourth branch of government. All these Democratic extensions of government thwart entrepreneurial job creation. They are the chief threats to the middle-class family’s economic well-being.
In the case of the first slogan, it has been shown time and again, that when a company makes more of something, it costs less: 20 to 30% less for every doubling of quantity sold.  Pay attention Bernie lovers: that means the more they make, the more efficient they are, which means less waste and less harm.  In the second, case, capitalism isn't about greed, it's about filling people's needs.  If a company doesn't fill their customers' needs, they go out of business regardless of how greedy the owner is or isn't.  Furthermore, no system in history has lifted more people out of poverty than free markets have.  Free market principles have lifted almost 3/4 billion people out of extreme poverty in China alone, since the introduction of market reforms in the early 1980s.
Between 1981 and 2010 it lifted a stunning 680m people out poverty—more than the entire current population of Latin America. This cut its poverty rate from 84% in 1980 to about 10% now. China alone accounts for around three quarters of the world’s total decline in extreme poverty over the past 30 years.
The situation has improved so much since free market reforms in India that they have the same upward mobility as Americans do.  Comparing the year intervals of 2004-05 and 2009-10, about 40% of poor households moved above the poverty line between the intervals. Similarly about 11% of poor and vulnerable moved into the middle class during the same period.  

The kids don't know what they're protesting nor do they understand what they want to replace it with.  Take this quote from a protester named Michaela Bennett:
Bennett, who was a history major, noted that in countries such as Russia and China it hadn’t worked “when they’re tried to implement communist or socialist policies.”
This is the classic argument!  It has never worked before, they killed over 100 million of their own citizens, it has always ended in misery and suffering, but This Time It Will Be Different because they just didn't have the Right People in charge.  No thought to the fact that those previous times, those people thought they had the Right People in charge.  One wonders just how there could be advocates for such a system in 2016, despite well over a hundred years of experience with it. They misunderstand the system completely!  It's not going to work no matter who's in charge.  The same person, asked if her beliefs were socialist, says
“The idea of the community working together and supporting each other, that idea I do support,” Bennett, who lives in Bend, Oregon, remarked. “So if that’s socialism, I guess so.”
No.  No, it's not.  Not the way you put it.  What you describe is being a community and being a good neighbor.  At the most, it's contributing to local charities.  Socialism is when you get the government to train guns on everyone, take their money and use it to help communities they're not part of.  

When they rage against the "top 1/10 of 1%", they've got it all backwards.  They're raging against the wrong machine.  They're raging against people who are generally not doing anything illegal.  Sure, they're beneficiaries of a rigged system and a few probably helped set it up, but not all of them.  Why not try to fix the system so that it really can't benefit one segment of society, if the goal is really to "end injustice".  If they don't want to fix the system, their argument comes down to, "let me benefit from corruption".   The bad system is our phony money from the central banks.  If we had real money and not the central banks' imaginary numbers, there would be nothing to take advantage of.

When they talk about money as being wealth, they have it backwards.  Dollars aren't wealth, they're only a yardstick to measure wealth by.  By analogy, a clock measures time, but it isn't time itself.  And wealth can't be created by creating more dollars any more than you can create more time by painting more numbers on your clock.  It's a good analogy because if you repainted your clock to 36 hours, you'd decrease the "worth" of each hour - from 1/24th of a day down to 1/36th of a day but a day would still be a day just as the value of each dollar goes down in proportion to the number they create.  You'd have more hours but the same amount of time just as every time the Fed creates more money, you have more dollars but the same amount of wealth (if any) thanks to the fetid central banks.

So when they rage about the top 1/10 of 1% having gained so many more dollars, it's meaningless.  The real effect of the central banks is that everyone has more dollars compared to 10 or 20 years ago, but the buying power of those dollars has been diluted by the numbers of dollars they've created.  Adjusted for inflation, using numbers more like measured data in The Chapwood Index or the 1980s method used at Shadowstats than official CPI numbers, the majority of people haven't had an increase in buying power since all power was given to the central banks and the "gold window" closed in 1971, destroying real money.  The only things that allow most of us to survive are the improvements technology has brought us (including farming technologies) and the work of wealth creation, such as the price decrease that comes with every doubling of quantities manufactured.  The incredible price decreases in electronics have increased the standard of living for billions of people.  Did you know that the cost of lighting an area; your home or whatever, has decreased one hundred-thousandfold if you go back to the middle ages?  That's in terms of the hours of labor per lumen-hour of light.  (See Gilder, The Scandal of Money, Kindle location 445)  Stretched out over long periods of time, that's the improvement that markets and technology have given us. It's the main reason anyone feels like we're not sliding backwards in buying power.  As we slide backwards in buying power. 

But Bernie supporters will probably never argue to get rid of the Fed and restore real money.  The Fed, while technically not a government agency, is Big Government personified.  It's complete central control on a par with the old Soviet Politburo.  Bernie supporters seem to long for an all-protective Big Brother (to borrow a phrase) to provide for them, rather than to face the world.  Although some of them might go with BitCoin over the Fed if we didn't tell them it wasn't government controlled...
Bernie supporters, if your argument is "let me benefit from corruption" instead of fixing the system, you're part of the problem.  If you want a surrogate parent, who really doesn't care the slightest bit about your best interest and will crush you with the slightest wrong move, push for a bigger government.  Go ahead and get that pepper spray in your face.  If you really want justice, try getting on board with the moves to get rid of central control of money, so that it's fair again.  Real money depends on justice above all else.  Your enemy isn't the "richest 1%", it's the Federal Reserve Bank.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

First Pieces Done

It has been a day of powder coating and learning lessons.  Learning a work flow and how to do everything I've only set up in my mind.  My 10 or 12 year old Sears powder seems to work as if it's new and everything is turning out well.  My only mistake was putting too light a coat on my first pieces.  I'm doing this all on the back porch because of the issues about fumes I mentioned last time.  It's only 90-ish outside, and the sea breeze that starts up mid morning keeps it feeling reasonably comfortable in the shade.  When I work on the metal, I use vinyl gloves to keep skin oil off them.  When I spray the powder, I use a 3M dust mask - and keep the wind at my back. 

First, I decided to do the right angle motor brackets, because these seemed easy with the exception of having six holes that I didn't want filled with paint.  The powder coat kit came with silicone plugs (like these, in a smaller range of sizes) for screw holes, but only four; not enough to fill all of the holes of one bracket.  One bracket got the silicon and two screws, the other got screws in all the holes, wrapped with heat resistant tape (like this) which also came with the gun.  Both of them had a piece of copper wire clamped under a screw to get that metal-to-metal contact with the rack.  I grounded one of them to the gun, but used a test lead jumper wire to connect to the other.  Here's what they looked like after the 20 minute bake at 400F to cure the paint.
You can see the one on the left has the white silicone plugs while the other has 8-32 screws (SHCS) wrapped with the heatproof tape. 

As these were the first parts, I gave them a good look over and while they're certainly usable, the paint on one came out a bit too thin.  Look at the piece on the left. Too light on its left.
So with that lesson learned, I decided to do the Z-axis motor mount - which is a pretty simple piece.  The center of the bore needed to be kept paint free (actually, I'm not 100% sure of that), so I used the heat resistant tape to mask that.  Made a deliberate effort to put on more powder, and this one came out better.
It's resting on the roll of heat resistant tape. 

So far, so good.  I have five big pieces to do - you've seen them all so I won't bore you - and four threaded standoffs that will probably just get the screws with heatproof tape.  I'm not sure how many of these things I can get in the oven at once, and I'm sure my cycle time will go down, so maybe a couple of days of doing this left.  After all that setup work I've done.  That's the nature of doing stuff like this. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Techy Tuesday - SmartBolts?

It's hard to estimate how many bolts are sold in a year, but suffice it to say there's a lot.  Bolts are so ubiquitous that no one questions their history and where they came from; they've just always been there.  Bolts as fasteners that allow assembly of complicated assemblies were around before the Industrial Revolution, perhaps as far as 400 years ago, although development sped up as the Industrial Revolution unfolded. 
The “History of the Nut and Bolt Industry in America” by W.R. Wilbur in 1905 acknowledges that the first machine for making bolts and screws was made by Besson in France in 1568, who later introduced a screw-cutting gauge or plate to be used on lathes. In 1641, the English firm, Hindley of York, improved this device and it became widely used.
In critical applications where the reliability of the bolted joint becomes important, bolts are pretensioned; that is they're stressed until they stretch a desired amount.  The restoring force of the bolt trying to return to its un-stretched length keeps the hardware tight and doing its job.  The most common way of prestressing a bolt is to torque it to some specification.  From a purist's standpoint, and one I recall hearing in classes, using a torque wrench to apply a known amount of torque is not the same as applying a known amount of stretch to pre-load the bolt.  When the torque is applied, the user is counting on that torque turning into the exact amount of stretch the system should experience, but that depends on everything else being perfect.  All the torque wrench can really tell you is how hard it is to turn the bolt, and anything from a badly threaded nut (or bolt) to a misaligned bolt/nut combo to something as simple as dirt under the bolt head can affect that.

A torque wrench can be misleading, but direct measurement of the stretch is difficult to impossible in many situations.  How does anyone know they got it right?  A company called SmartBolts has developed a product intended for verifying that the preload on a bolt is correct at a glance.  There's an indicator in the head of the bolt that changes color from a red when the bolt is completely loose to black when properly tightened (stretched).  I don't see how it could indicate the bolt was stretched too far, but understretched appears to be what it was designed to overcome.
Seems like a nifty little idea.  When you look at their website, there's more information.  As you might expect, due to the size of the components that need to go into the bolt, this is for larger sizes only.  The smallest they list is 7/16" diameter, so you're not going to see this on any 1/4-20 or 10-32 hardware for a while (if ever).   
Fastener TypesHex Flange Socket Stud Other
Diameter (Minimum) 7/16” (M10) ½” (M12) 1” (M24) ¾” (M20)  –
Diameter (Maximum) 2 ½” (M64) 2 ½” (M64) 2 ½” (M64) 2 ½” (M64)  –
Length (Minimum) 1 ¼” (30mm) 1 ¼” (30mm) 3” (75mm) 3” (75mm)  –
Most of us don't work with bolts larger than 1/2", if that, and the added complexity from the indicator is going to price this out of the reach of all but the most critical applications. As a guess, things like aircraft, possibly bridges and buildings, large trucks and other heavy equipment, especially equipment that's life-critical.  Still, I can see how this might simplify life on the assembly line and make the assembly operations simpler, faster, safer.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Russia Bombs US SpecOps Base

When I read Day by Day Cartoon today, I didn't know what it was talking about.  Easier to post than describe:
Chris Muir usually gives some link or reference to the story, but Breitbart has it (and H/T WRSA).  Russia did indeed bomb "a “secret base” near the Jordanian border in Syria used by “elite American and British forces” as part of efforts to strong-arm the Obama administration into agreeing to cooperate with Moscow,”.  This was back on June 16th.  Apparently their intelligence is good enough to conduct the bombing when the US and UK special forces weren't there, however four U.S.-backed Syrian rebels were killed by the Russians. They kill US-backed Syrian rebels pretty regularly if you haven't been keeping score.

The original source, the Wall Street Journal (paywalled) notes:
The risk that U.S. and British forces could have been killed at the border garrison hardened opposition at the Pentagon and the CIA to accommodating the Russians. But White House and State Department officials, wary of an escalation in U.S. military involvement in Syria, decided to pursue a compromise.
For reasons only Putin knows completely, Russia upped the ante on July 12, by dropping cluster bombs on another base near the Jordanian border that housed hundreds of family members of CIA-backed fighters and other displaced Syrians, adds the Journal, citing unnamed U.S. officials briefed on the strike and rebel commanders.
At least “two young children, aged two and three, were killed along with two young women and a man in his mid-50s,” WSJ learned from Tllass Salameh, a commander with the Lions of the East rebel group which works out of the base.  He added that “48 people were injured, all civilians.”
Oh, there was the pro-forma US and Russia disagreeing publicly, but that was followed by the inevitable US concession.
A provisional agreement reached by Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow last week—over Pentagon and CIA objections—calls for the former Cold War adversaries to join forces in strikes against the Nusra Front, Syria’s al Qaeda affiliate. In exchange for the U.S. easing Moscow’s international isolation, Russia would halt airstrikes on the U.S.-backed rebels and restrain the Syrian air force.
It's noteworthy that these joint US/Russia missions will also target ISIS, but the Nusra Front is one of Syria's most effective enemies, and Russia has gotten us to agree to fight their enemy.  Ironically, since they're an Al Qaeda franchise, you'd think we would already be fighting Nusra.  Russia is committed to propping Assad up.  We'll see if there really ever are any substantial Russian attacks on ISIS.  I suppose the State Department will routinely disagree with the CIA and Pentagon, but I find it kind of noteworthy how we got here.  Putin ordered the bombing of two secret US bases and did so when US and UK special operators weren't present.  He broke some stuff as a show of force, or as that SEIU thug Andy Stern put it, "the persuasion of power".  It shows how Obama won his no balls peace prize. 

There's a meme about Putin I've seen on Pinterest that seems to work here. The bottom half doesn't really apply to Syria, but the comparison of their styles is right.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

On The Road to Powder Coat

Another one of those Bob Hope/Bing Crosby Road movies?  The two of them singing "We're off on the road to Powder Coat"... ?  I used to love those movies when I was a kid.  Of course it's not one of those. 

My last post about my shop shenanigans ended with me saying that since some of the parts I'd been working on were going to be visible in use, I thought I'd powder coat them.  The next day, I dutifully got everything spread out to work on, read everything I had in my instruction manual, and everything I could find online.  (There's an excellent summary of how to powder coat parts online from the Houston Home Machine Shop Club (pdf), if you're interested).  The first thing I did was prep the parts mechanically; made sure the edges were all broken (not sharp) if possible, then wet sanded with 220, followed by 400 grit.  Then I started working at trying to get ready to spray and hang parts. 

This is something that needs to be done with the least amount of handling possible.  The biggest way powder coating gets good coverage is that the paint is charged with static electricity by the gun.  While you can get some paint adhesion without it, coating works best if the gun is grounded to the work; the paint literally jumps on to the piece.  If the colors stand out well, you can see the powder cloud moving toward the work.  Still, while the powder is clinging to the metal, it's just a powder that can be knocked off the part if you bang it around or (especially) touch it.  The easiest way to make sure you don't mess them up is to spray and bake on the same metal rack with the parts grounded to the rack by bare wire.  This is where I discovered my first problem.  My bake-out oven is a plain old toaster oven, and it has a limited selection of positions for the rack.  The oven maker envisioned food on top of the rack; I'm hanging metal pieces below it!  (If I put parts on top of the rack, they'll have bare stripes).
This is one of my motor mounts hanging from a clip looped over the oven rack.  There isn't much room in there and some of my bigger parts didn't fit.  

So now I had a problem.  How do I raise that rack, which is recessed into the sides of the toaster oven?  Thankfully, as I like to say, I know someone with a machine shop.

I first thought of simply making some standoffs and mounting the rack on them, but that rack is too wide.  You can see the grooves it slides in: about an eighth inch deep on both sides.  I thought about cutting the rack narrower, and that might have been an acceptable idea, but I eventually thought I'd just get a piece of perforated sheet metal with lots of holes in it and mount that.  My local Borg store had this stuff in stock - and it's almost exactly what I was thinking of.  All I had to do was cut it to size, and my jig saw cut it like a hot knife through butter. 

I made some 5" tall standoffs from some 1/2" diameter round aluminum bar I had, threaded them 8-32 down the axis, and then found that they were too tall to clear the burner on the bottom.  So I swapped the back two 5" standoffs for some 3" ones I had made for the CNC project.  Voila.  Here's one of my big parts in a fit test.  Tons of room - that motor mount above fits on this one over the big hole - the mount is actually a bit shorter than this end cap.
So, yeah, this had to be done to just get the parts into the oven.  I haven't painted the first part.  The parts are mostly clean, masked and ready to paint, but they've also been touched, or could have been touched, so prudence says I clean them again before painting.  I'll paint outside and maybe run the oven out there, too.  Not quite sure about that part.  Some sources say the fumes are toxic or irritating, and that's enough to say "do it in the backyard" since I don't have a fume hood that vents to the outside. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Political Dirty Tricks - DNC Scumbag of the Day

Politics is for scumbags.  In this case, the DNC are the scumbags de jour.  I'm not aware of the RNC doing something like this, but will publish it if I find it.

Thanks to the leaked DNC emails from Wikileaks we can see a DNC plan to try to make Trump look like a "sexist pig".  If anyone would be stupid enough to believe it.  (H/T to 90 Miles From Tyranny)   Breitbart has the story.
In an email dated May 18, 2016, Christina Freundlich, Deputy Communications Director at the DNC proposed that the Democrats impersonate the Trump Organization on Craigslist, placing a fake ad for “hot women” aimed at making the Republican candidate look as sexist as possible.
Now, if Christina's name should sound familiar to you, and you're not an Iowa Democratic Party insider, it's probably because she got some attention for taking a selfie at the site of an explosion in New York City that knocked down a building and hurt a lot of people.  A lot of people who live in the area were offended by that. 

Should you find this email interesting reading, the full archive of emails can be browsed and searched at WikiLeaks’ site.  You can be sure it's being searched as we speak.  The complete text of the mail follows:
On Wed, May 18, 2016 at 7:09 AM -0700, “Freundlich, Christina”  <<<>> wrote:
Mark and Luis –
digital created a fake craigslist jobs post for women who want to apply to jobs one of Trump’s organizations. This will be a microsite and we still need to send it to Perkins. Since we will be pitching this, need your approval please. Thanks

Multiple Positions (NYC area)

Seeking staff members for multiple positions in a large, New York-based corporation known for its real estate investments, fake universities, steaks, and wine. The boss has very strict standards for female employees, ranging from the women who take lunch orders (must be hot) to the women who oversee multi-million dollar construction projects (must maintain hotness demonstrated at time of hiring).

Title: Honey Bunch (that’s what the boss will call you)

Job requirements:
  • No gaining weight on the job (we’ll take some “before” pictures when you start to use later as evidence)
  • Must be open to public humiliation and open-press workouts if you do gain weight on the job
  • A willingness to evaluate other women’s hotness for the boss’ satisfaction is a plus
  • Should be proficient in lying about age if the boss thinks you’re too old Working mothers not preferred (the boss finds pumping breast milk disgusting, and worries they’re too focused on their children).
About us:

We’re proud to maintain a “fun” and “friendly work environment, where the boss is always available to meet with his employees. Like it or not, he may greet you with a kiss on the lips or grope you under the meeting table.

Interested applicants should send resume, cover letter, and headshot to
Ms. Freundlich's boss in this matter, DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda, was perfectly OK with running this fake ad, as long as "all the offensive shit is verbatim".  

This strikes me as clumsy, crude, juvenile humor not even at the college level, and a reader would need to have the IQ of a guppy to believe this is real.  But "IQ of a guppy" and "dedicated Democratic voter" kinda seem to go together - at least from what I've seen.  Congratulations Ms. Freundlich, you're our scumbag of the day. 
To paraphrase momma a little bit, "beauty is only skin deep, but scumbag goes all the way to the core". 

Friday, July 22, 2016

As the Tour de France Wraps Up

I know I've written about it a few times, but Mrs. Graybeard and I tend to follow the Tour de France every year.  No, we don't turn our lives inside out and watch the daily coverage every day, like we used to when we were Lance Armstrong fans, but we've watched a handful of stages this year and kept up with the progress.  We watched the insanity on Mont Ventoux last weekend.  Mont Ventoux, "The Giant of Provence" is one of the legendary mountain climbs in the tour, and the only climb to claim the life of a tour rider: British cyclist Tom Simpson in 1967.  (Other deaths have occurred in the tour, but on descents and other bad accidents).  This year, the crowds filling the road caused a camera-bearing motorcycle to slam on his brakes, which led to a chain reaction of cyclists smashing into the motorcycle and going down.  Tour Leader Chris Froome's bike broke, and his team car couldn't get him a replacement because of the traffic jam that caused the accident, so Chris started running up the mountain!  No one could recall ever seeing any cyclist run up the mountain.  There are "neutral assistance" emergency back up bikes, and they got him one that fit horribly.  His team car eventually caught up with him, got him a bike set up for him and he finished the climb.

The week before, riders started in a 100 degree hot valley to climb a different mountain, to Arcalis in Andorra, only to find a cold storm at the top of the mountain, dropping the temperature into the 40s and peppering the riders with penny-sized hail.

Tomorrow is the last mountain day and the last day where big changes to the final lineup are a real consideration: Megève to Morzine-Avoriaz.  This is almost in Switzerland, so after the stage the teams will be flown to Chantilly, outside Paris for Sunday's almost ceremonial ride into the city and the sprinters' race down the Champs-Élysées.  It appears Chris Froome will win his third Tour, putting him into a rarefied group of cycling legends - that haven't been kicked out for doping.

Shifting gears radically (see what I did there?), this year is the first year that Tour officials are monitoring bikes with infrared cameras for signs of cheating by embedding small motors in the frame to give the cyclist extra power.  They're calling this "mechanical doping". 
Infrared camera guns, developed by the CEA (the French Atomic Energy Commission) were being used to capture the thermal envelop of each bicycle. Peculiarities in the envelopes would reveal whether or not a micro-motor was embedded in the cycle’s frame. The motors could be used to enhance the cyclist’s performance ― his hill-climbing ability or his speed on a straightaway ― but, used in a competition, it would be considered cheating.
As surprising as this might sound, it's not hypothetical.  This past January, the women's under-23 world cyclo-cross world championship had a competitor's bike seized by the UCI (competitive cycling's governing organization) - for being suspected of having a motor assist.
UCI inspectors had been examining bikes during the event, and the bike of European under-23 champion, Belgian Femke Van den Driessche was detained after something suspicious was found.
It was later confirmed that her bike did contain a motor and the 19 year old rider was given a six year suspension for cheating.   She was also fined 20,000 Swiss francs and ordered to pay legal costs.

Professional athletics is a domain of tiny differences between competitors.  In this year's Tour de France, Chris Froome currently has less than 5 minutes over the second place rider, after 82 hours of racing - 0.1% difference in time.  While that EE Times piece talks about 300 watt motors and using them for long periods, I don't think that's the scenario at all.  Picture the end of race stage.  Everyone has been putting out 700 or 800 watts - sometimes more - for as long as they physically can.  Everyone is turning themselves inside out.  Everyone's legs feel like they're turning to rubber.  A motor that gave a rider 50 or 100 Watts that no one could match would guarantee the stage win.  Think giving the rider just a little margin, not the power to ride the entire stage.  Just a small advantage to use when everyone is burned out.
Cross section of how the motor is setup inside the seat tube of the bike, with a gear to add drive power to the cranks.  The battery can be in the seat tube, in the down tube, or in the saddle bag that many riders keep under their seat.  (Source)

The consistent testing of athletes for doping chemicals hasn't eliminated cheating, it just pushed the cheating out of their bodies and into the bikes.  It's probably better for the riders' health, but it's still cheating.  While the UCI originally addressed cheating at the bike by mandating a minimum weight that bikes can't go under, this is a new frontier.  It never ends.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Life Imitating Art Again

If you saw the Spider-man movies (or are familiar with the comic books graphic novels), you'll know that there's always a company trying to farm spiders to harvest spider silk.   It turns out that's really not that bad an idea.  As a fiber, spider silk has mechanical properties far better than many fibers available (pdf warning).  It has several advantages over Kevlar, currently used in thousands of products. 

Unfortunately, there's a serious problem.  Spiders are nasty animals to try to farm and get to produce silk for you; they're territorial and cannibalistic.

Who cares?  The Army has given a company called Kraig Biocraft a $100,000 grant to develop and test ballistic body armor based on spider silk.  Sort of.  Because of spiders' nasty dispositions, Kraig spliced the genes from the spider into domesticated silkworms, creating a new fiber they call Dragon Silk.  The result was a composite silk that was as strong as normal spider silk yet much easier to produce.
Dragon Silk has a number of applications, particularly in surgery. Many sutures are done with biodegradable silkworm silk, but the increased strength of Dragon Silk allows for much thinner threads. This is useful when performing surgery in sensitive areas, such as the eyes and brain.
With a breaking strength a bit less than Kevlar but superior elasticity, the company plans to make different fabrics and evaluate them.
The company will produce a series of ballistic "shoot packs" with different thread counts, thicknesses, and construction techniques to see how the Dragon Silk performs. If it meets expectations, the Army is prepared to increase the grant to $1 million.

Dragon Silk's primary advantage over traditional Kevlar is its flexibility. Kevlar is slightly more durable than Dragon Silk, with a strength of 3 gigapascals (GPa) compared to Dragon Silk's strength of 2 GPa. However, Kevlar only has an elasticity of 3 percent, meaning it's almost completely inflexible. Dragon Silk has an elasticity of 30 to 40 percent, which offsets the slightly reduced strength.
The genetically engineered silkworms.

I don't know.  It seems innocuous enough.  Folks have been farming silkworms for centuries, and in more modern times, have been researching the mechanical properties of spider silk.  There appears to be a handful of companies on the verge of commercializing spider silk.  What could go wrong? 

Still, I just can't quite shake the feeling that I've seen this movie several times, and there's always something in those spider farms at Oscorp in those Spider-man movies that messes everything up...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Techy Tuesday - Take a Look at the Apollo 11 Source Code

And the guidance computer that ran it.

This story has been in a few places this week, but my link is to Design News.
Chris Garry, a former NASA intern, has uploaded the full source code for the Apollo 11 flight computer to GitHub, a popular site where programmers share code and tips, and it's proven to be a nice slice of nostalgia in more ways than one.

The software for NASA's Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC), which was installed on Apollo command modules and lunar modules, was developed in the 1960s at MIT. At the time nothing for what NASA was trying to do existed so the team from MIT had to code the entire thing from scratch. To do so they created their own version of Assembly language as well as a method for storing computer programs called “core rope memory”, which at the time offered greater storage capacity.
How much memory?  The computer contained a blistering 37 Kilobytes of memory.  For those of you younger than 40, that's .000037 Gigabytes or 1 millionth of the storage in a 32 Gig smartphone.  That's OK because it is a form of core memory, and each byte required tiny ferrite cores be woven into place, so building 37K bytes is a pretty difficult accomplishment. According to the Wiki:  
Contrary to ordinary coincident-current magnetic-core memory, which was used for RAM at the time, the ferrite cores in a core rope are just used as transformers. The signal from a word line wire passing through a given core is coupled to the bit line wire and interpreted as a binary "one", while a word line wire that bypasses the core is not coupled to the bit line wire and is read as a "zero". In the AGC, up to 64 wires could be passed through a single core.
The Apollo Guidance Computer and its display. 

The overall code required was quite a bit larger than 37K; the article quotes an estimate of 2 Megs.  Because that's such a severe size constraint, the engineers relied on switching programs and only running what was needed for a particular part of the mission.  Planning for the unforeseeable, they developed the ability for the code to swap less important tasks for critical tasks.  You may have read (or remember!) that during the last few minutes of Apollo 11's landing approach, the computer started flooding its display with warning messages.  This was intentional and probably saved the landing. 
Due to an error in the checklist manual, the rendezvous radar switch was placed in the wrong position. This caused it to send erroneous signals to the computer. The result was that the computer was being asked to perform all of its normal functions for landing while receiving an extra load of spurious data which used up 15% of its time. The computer (or rather the software in it) was smart enough to recognize that it was being asked to perform more tasks than it should be performing. It then sent out an alarm, which meant to the astronaut, I'm overloaded with more tasks than I should be doing at this time and I'm going to keep only the more important tasks; i.e., the ones needed for landing ... Actually, the computer was programmed to do more than recognize error conditions. A complete set of recovery programs was incorporated into the software. The software's action, in this case, was to eliminate lower priority tasks and re-establish the more important ones ... If the computer hadn't recognized this problem and taken recovery action, I doubt if Apollo 11 would have been the successful moon landing it was.
The code was written by a group at MIT who was literally "going where no man has gone before", at least in the software sense.  At some point, they took this publicity photo of a printer dump of the entire source code listing, alongside Margaret Hamilton, director of Apollo Flight Computer Programming at MIT's Draper Laboratory, and source of the previous quoted paragraph. 
Continuing our story, this code was never "lost", but it's about 50 years old and time takes its toll on any form of storage, including printouts.  Do you have any cassette tapes from the Commodore 64 era, or 5 1/4" floppies from your first 8088-based PC?  It's like that.  Efforts have been going on for some time to preserve this code.
Back in 2003 MIT scanned the physical pages of the AGC code and made them available. But Gary Neff, an airline pilot from Colorado saw how unreadable some of the pages were and decided to reconstruct the code himself. It popped up in a few other places, like on a Google blog from 2009, but Neff's work mostly languished in Internet obscurity until Garry found it and uploaded it to GitHub, where it has found new life among programmers poring over the code and suggesting ways to improve and change it.
Users scanning over the source code have found the coding comments peppered with jokes, asides, and even references to popular songs, Shakespeare, and cultural events of the time.
One of the online sources I came across was surprised that software engineers left jokes in the code comments.  A sure sign they never worked around any!

The code, though, is a monument to great thinking, excellent resource management, and the best of what geeks can do.  I hope it lives forever on GitHub.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The End of the Beginning

I don't actually know how long I've been making the parts for my CNC conversion job.  I find my earliest post was in June of last year.   Figuring a start date is complicated by the fact that I started out doing what the originator calls Phase 1; the simplest conversion that just puts motor mounts and stepper motors on the existing lead screws.  I switched over to the more complex phase 3 this past April.  I have posts from last September about working on parts.  Those parts took a long time to make because it was while I was still working and only had a few hours a week to spend at the machines.  I had virtually completed all of the metal pieces for phase 1, before deciding to switch over to his Phase 3 approach.  This uses ballscrews, and called for almost all new hardware.  Only one piece I had made for phase 1, the Z-axis motor mount, will be used as made.  Four of the threaded standoffs I made can be used after I shortened them 1/4". 

Based on all of that, it's pretty fair to say I started making parts in early April.  This weekend I finished making parts, when I completed the two piece X-axis end cap I've been working on for several days.  I posted about it last week when I completed most of the work (except for cutting the tapered outline).
The tapers are cut upside down.  Basically laid out like this
When the entire piece is tilted at the 16 degree angle like that, and you make a straight cut on the mill, you cut the taper onto the piece.  As you can see, I marked (messily) with a Sharpie and then cut the bulk of the metal off with my bandsaw, just using the milling machine to trim to the final lines.   (That black plastic clamp with the orange jaws on the end cap was just there to keep the angle indicator from sliding down the edge.  Not part of the setup.)  Two 16 degree tapers and two 45 degree tapers.  The actual cutting took almost no time.

So now that I'm done making parts, now what?  Now it's time to take apart the milling machine and start putting the pieces in place.  Before I do that, I'm going to paint the parts that will be visible to the user when the job is finished.  I spent most of the afternoon wet sanding aluminum pieces in preparation for painting.  I have one of the old "ray gun" powder coating guns from Sears.  Seems to still work, although it hasn't been in use in a long time.

Once the mill is apart, I need to cut areas out of the X/Y base, cut grooves into it and add the parts for a pressurized oiling system.  I'm going to add some sort of cooling system - spray coolant.  To do that, I'm going to need to build an enclosure.  All of the motors are going to have to be wired up, and an enclosure built for them.  There's a lotta lotta work left to do.  But I think I've reached the end of the beginning.
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.  - Winston S. Churchill

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I'd Call it Stinkin' Thinkin'

I'd call it stinkin' thinkin' except for the fact that I'm not entirely sure there's much real thinking happening.

But I get way ahead of myself.  A friend who's still working where I retired from in December forwarded me a video on a thing called the Mandela Effect.  It's quite possibly the weakest, most illogical and most egotistical argument I've ever heard of, let alone wasted 20 minutes watching.  (Here if you must, but I advise against it).  He's somewhat of the kind of person who sees conspiracy theories everywhere; he'll tell you it's only for entertainment, but he seems to hold on to them a bit too tightly for that.

The idea of this effect turns out to be widespread.  There are many online groups where people gather to describe their "native timeline" (Reddit or BuzzFeed).  It's hard to explain this group of people, but the name "Mandela effect" itself denotes people who are sure Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s.  Since every reference one can find shows he died in 2013, long after getting out of prison and living a full life, these people conclude not that they don't have perfect memory, but that they are living on an alternate timeline or parallel universe that somehow switched them to this one.

It's hard for me to convey just how bizarre this all comes across to me.  The narrator of that video, for example, say that he recalls the name of an iconic breakfast cereal being "Fruit Loops" and that the name he sees now, "Froot Loops" indicates that he has moved between parallel universes.  He does many examples of similar, improperly remembered things.  It takes a special kind of ego to believe that if you never noticed the proper spelling of Charles Shulz, for example, that the universe has changed the spelling of his name.  Or, I suppose, moved you onto a different parallel universe where his name is spelled differently. 

I did a little reading on this yesterday and was astounded to find people who will swear to you the Challenger disaster was not in 1986.  They will swear they recall being in some class or other specific place and it was 1984 or some other year.  There are people who will swear that Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans not in September, but in April - a full two months before hurricane system, which would rate it as the biggest freak storm of all time.  There are large groups of people who will swear they watched the Chinese tanks roll over the solitary protester in Tienanmen square and kill him (rather gruesomely). 

Look, not remembering things correctly ain't exactly news.  It's a human experience.  We all find we remembered things incorrectly.  There isn't a court in the country, probably not in the world, that would rate an eyewitness' memory of something as more credible than photographs, recordings or other hard data.  Everyone knows memories are fallible (and I gotta echo the idea that the older you get, the more fallible memory might be). 

What's odd here is the implied thought that "since I remember it as X, and everything I can find today says it's Y, everything in the universe is wrong and I'm right".  That's a special level of ego.  While I never took those graduate quantum physics classes, I understand that parallel universes are a feature of quantum mechanics.  One of the implications of the Many Worlds interpretation is that every decision splits off new parallel universes where each possible outcome has occurred (a bit of an explanation), meaning that there's an incomprehensibly huge number of parallel universes in existence.  These universes are isolated from each other. Which means people can't hop between parallel universes and bring their memories of Charles Schultz eating Fruit Loops. 
An illustration of the splitting of parallel universes.  The guy suggests getting a drink to the girl.  At that decision, two universes come into existence: one in which she agrees and the couple eventually marries and has children (after another few hundred universes form and split off); along the other pathway, she declines the drink and they never get any closer.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Attempted Turkey Coup

Seems to have been a really poorly planned operation.  It's like the rebelling forces never considered they might have to fire on crowds.  I'm watching video of crowds of civilians attacking tanks and pulling soldiers out of them to beat.  At least one beheading has been reported.  But tanks are kinda hardened targets, right?  Kinda well armed.  Did they never think they might need to crank up their automatic guns and spray around themselves?  Is this their version of taking the high road?

The oddest aspect seems to be that the cleric being blamed/credited as the motivating force behind the coup, Fethullah Gulen, is living in the Pocono Mountains for Pennsylvania.  There, of course, is the usual blame/denial circle in process.  Turkey says, "Any country that stands by cleric Gulen will be at war with Turkey," and says we are failing to extradite him. 

It doesn't seem to be a surprise then that the American Incirlik Air Force Base has had its power cut and been sealed off from the outside world.  The US consulate is telling US Citizens to avoid the base.  The Turkish military is apparently denying the right to fly in and out of the base for "anti-ISIS coalition airplanes".  Does that make everyone on base hostages to the Turkish government right now?  Are they going to shoot down any US planes going into the base with supplies, or on health and welfare flights? 

What happens if Turkey tries to take over the base by force?  I think that would underline the "at war with Turkey" statement from the Turkish foreign minister. 

Incirlik houses American nuclear weapons.  They are as ready to use as any nuke deployed anywhere.  Does Turkey let ISIS become armed with American nukes? 

This could get really ugly, really fast, depending on how hot-headed the Turkish military gets. 
Incirlik - stock photo. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Awesome Weather Video

If you're a weather watcher, I don't have to tell you that thunderstorms, especially the truly dangerous ones, can be extremely beautiful and fascinating to watch.  From a respectful distance.  Photographer/storm chaser Mike Olbinski spent this spring collecting this footage and turning it into an amazing video. 

This is on Vimeo and I'm going to try to embed it here.  Thanks to the way Blogger works, I really won't know if the embedded version works well for a while.  If it doesn't work well, use this direct link to Vimeo.
Vorticity (4K) from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

And The Stupid Just Keeps on Coming

I didn't watch any of the president's talk at the Dallas memorial service the other day.  I knew it was going to be filled with stupid, and the clips I heard were actually worse than I expected.  It was embarrassingly bad, so predictable in its messaging and tone that it could have been any hack Hollywood writer trying to make up what a doctrinaire Marxist would say.  It's hard to come up with the kind of consistent, day after day stupidity that he does, but he's fully automatic:
As soon as anything triggers him, he goes into an automatic gun control rant.  Any incident whatsoever gets the same response.  Has anyone else noticed how the Orlando Pulse night club shooting went from being reporting by everyone as the "worst terrorist attack since 9/11" to the "worst mass shooting in US history"?  I noticed it being reported that way on Fox News some weeks ago and it bothered me.

Of course, the difference is that if it's a terrorist attack, Obama may have to blame actual terrorists.  Actual Islamic State terrorists.  God knows he's incapable of doing that.  If it's a mass shooting, he can blame the guns, as always.

Even last week, when we have testimony from the Dallas chief of police that the killer told them he specifically wanted to kill white cops, as clear an example of race-based terrorism as you get,  Obama went into full auto mode, reprising what I think is his most idiotic argument of all, that it's "easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a book".  In what country?  On what planet?  In the US, it's a federal felony; a teenager can't walk into the local gun shop and buy any firearm.  Do you mean they commit the felony and buy a stolen gun off the street?  Oh, that's right, you guys don't have the time to enforce those laws, so you want to create some new laws you can not bother to enforce.
Donald Sensing at Sense of Events does a great satirical piece on this preposterous lie, which I'm going to copy mercilessly here.

Outraged at this unacceptable situation, Apple Computer CEO Tim Cook announced that beginning Aug. 1, all teenagers and adult customers of Apple computers and devices will be able to buy Apple products as easily as they can buy a Glock pistol.

"It will be very simple," said Cook after touring the Glock factory in Smyrna, Ga. "From now on Apple products will be sold to teenagers using the same criteria used for them to buy a Glock. It's only fair and I am sure the president will agree."

Apple's press release summarized the new purchasing rules as follows:
  1. No straw purchases: Any person who attempts to solicit, persuade, encourage, or entice any Apple dealer to transfer or otherwise convey an Apple product other than to the actual buyer, as well as any other person who willfully and intentionally aids or abets such person, shall be not be allowed. 
  2. Furnishing a computer to a Minor - No Apple dealer will sell or give an Apple product to a person under 18 years old. All purchasers must sign a statement before the sale that they will not sell, give or otherwise transfer the computer to a Minor.
  3. Apple dealers must complete and have the buyer sign Apple Form 4473, Computer Transaction Record. 
  4. The dealer must verify the identity of the buyer through a government–issued photo identification. 
  5. No Apple product will be sold to any person who is not a legal resident of the state where the sale occurs. Purchases may be made online but the product must be personally picked up by the buyer in the buyer's legal state of residence. Before transferring the computer to the buyer, all procedures stated herein must be in compliance.
  6. No Apple device may be sold to any person who has previously been convicted of or previously entered a guilty plea to one or more of the offenses of murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, or any felony involving the use or possession of a computer and who shall have on or within arm's reach of his or her person a computer during the commission of, or the attempt to commit:
    1. Any crime against or involving the person of another;The unlawful entry into a building or vehicle;
    2. A theft from a building or theft of a vehicle;
    3. Any crime involving the possession, manufacture, delivery, distribution, dispensing, administering, selling, or possession with intent to distribute any controlled substance
    4. Any crime involving the trafficking of cocaine, marijuana, or illegal drugs.
  7. The dealer must contact local law-enforcement offices (LEO) to ensure that the buyer is not disqualified from buying or possessing a computer. A dealer may not transfer a computer unless the dealer receives a “proceed” response, or three business days have elapsed since the dealer contacted the law enforcement office. A dealer may not sell a device when a “denied” response is issued by LEO.
"These are only common-sense measures," Mr. Cook said, "and they will make sure that every teenager, especially in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and other Democrat-administered cities in America, will find it no  more difficult to get their hands on an iPhone or MacBook Pro than on a Glock." 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Project of the Week

Well, it's no so much the project of the week as the parts of the week I've been making for my Grizzly CNC conversion project.  It's that enormous X-axis end cap I've been talking about.

Let me bottom line/short version the story first.  I've got a decent Rev 1 set of parts close to finished and they look like they'll work.  Yes, there are some goof-ups in there, but I don't think there's anything insurmountable.  First, the two piece end cap.
This is a half inch thick piece mounted on top of another half inch piece, and held together by the two black screws at the 2 and 10 o'clock positions of the big bearings.  The bearings fit perfectly.  The next part is a motor mount and stepper motor support that mount on top of this.  The motor mount's bore is considerably smaller than the bearings, sized 0.800" while the outer bore at the bearings is 1.024".  The motor mount compresses the bearings to help control backlash.

I started with the drawings that I purchased for the end cap, and then split them in two.  One became the small top piece while the other became the big bottom.  I partitioned features between them so that when the two pieces are joined, the result should be the same as the one piece end cap.  For example the original part had a dual diameter bore for the bearings: 1.024" that went down 0.638" and the rest of the hole is 0.875".  I split that into the top and bottom pieces, so the top is the larger diameter and the bottom piece has two diameters.

The goof up concerns those three holes around the bearings you can see in the top piece.  Those are not threaded and are sized to clear an 8-32 screw.   The base of the end cap (the large rectangle) has those holes threaded.  I moved them down from the top piece without it registering in my mind that the screws need to thread into the bottom piece but can't because they're not long enough to make it to the bottom piece.  What I missed is that motor mount I mentioned that goes on top of this piece.  The stack up looks like this (the parts are just stacked - no fasteners). 
The motor mount is 3/8" thick, the top of the end cap is 1/2", so a screw has to go through 7/8" of metal before it gets to the threaded holes, and you'd want some engagement there, like another quarter inch (1 1/8).  So instead of 3/4" screws, I need three longer screws.  No big deal.

There's another problem lurking in this piece, which is that when I transferred the base (7x2 piece) from the Sherline, where I drilled all the holes, onto the big mill for boring the holes, I flipped it upside down!  So the view you're seeing is supposed to be, and now is, the top, but the two mounting holes left and right of the 1" thick area are counterbored on the bottom.  That's also probably going to be fixed by two new screws. 

This part doesn't have the stylin' tapers that the original part I started from has.  I'll have to see if I can figure out how to add those without barfing anything up. 
Every part's a puzzle.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Techy Tuesday - Bio Mimicry Develops a New Camera Lens

For decades, now, researchers have been turning more and more to studying biological systems to try to understand how they work.  The incentive is usually that the biological systems do things that no one has figured out how to do, or do things better than any system humans have come up with.

Design News brings a story this week of a biomimicry experiment at University of Wisconsin - Madison.  The aim is to produce a digital camera system that sees in less light; as close to total darkness as possible.  Their bio-inspired photosensitivity enhancer (BPE), is an "artificial eye" which was inspired by creatures that live in deep or murky water, where light is scarce.
Most efforts to develop such a device have focused on improving the sensitivity of the image sensor. But Professor Hongrui Jiang of the UW-Madison Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and his team have instead concentrated their efforts on the optics that focus the incoming light. The team hopes their technology can someday be used robots, space exploration, and even medical applications like endoscopes and X-rays, where highly photosensitive sensors could be of great benefit. "Inspired by natural scotopic visual systems, we adopt an all-optical method to significantly improve the overall photosensitivity of imaging systems," the researchers wrote in a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). "Such optical approach is independent of, and can effectively circumvent the physical and material limitations of, the electronics imagers used."
Their model was the elephant-nosed fish, found in the Niger River basin in muddy, slow-moving water.
As the name suggests, it has long slender protrusion that looks like a nose, but is actually an extension of the mouth. It uses an electric field to help sense its surroundings. But the fish also has unusual eyes with a combination of photonic crystals, parabolic mirrors and a clustered arrangement of rods and cones that help it to see in the dark. This clustered arrangement on the retina is composed of thousands of tiny crystal cups rather than the smooth surfaces common to most animals.

The water these fish live in is so turbid that light barely penetrates it. The fish don't have color vision because in water that murky, the blues and greens are filtered out in the highest surface layers, literally only penetrating a few centimeters. Only red light penetrates to the bottom, so they only have retinal cells sensitive to the longest wavelengths. Their unusual, cup-like retinal structure actually presents images to them that aren't very detailed, which ends up being strangely good for them.  The fish don't focus on the small details like gas bubbles or sediment in the water around them. Instead, the retinal cups let them see large, moving objects, like the potato fish that eat them.
Inspired by the fish, as well as the compound eyes of lobsters, which are known for their high light sensitivity, Jiang and his team built an array of tiny parabolic mirrors and placed them on the surface of a hemispherical dome. Based on the principle of superposition, the “cells” capture light coming in from a variety of angles and then concentrate them to a single point. The result was a fourfold increase in sensitivity. “That makes the difference between a totally dark image you can’t see and an actually meaningful image,” Jiang said in a news release. The lens can be used with any type of imaging system.
To overcome the naturally low-detail images the optical system provides, the researchers went back to man made technology: a super-resolution-processing algorithm to produce crisp, clear pictures.  Still, production is challenging because the optical features need to be very precisely aligned as they're fabricated.  Everything needs to be just right.  "Even the slightest misalignment can throw off the entire system," said Jiang.

Regular readers will know I rarely get into philosophy, but I can't resist pointing out that this will be interpreted completely differently by groups with a background in evolutionary theory or who espouse intelligent design.  Each side will say how it adds evidence to their view.  For evolutionists, they'll point out the obvious survival advantage the remarkable eye gives the fish and how it enables the fish to live where it does.  Consider how the "blind watchmaker" of natural selection could produce a system like this, a system if not unique in the world then one only observed once.  No other animal has a similar system so what did it evolve from?  How many versions didn't work and led to the extinction of different species?  How many millions or billions of different iterations had to be gone through to come up with this system - one which no human had figured out yet.  Is the universe old enough, or has life existed long enough on Earth to go through enough variations?  Intelligent design advocates will say "pretty darned intelligent design, huh"?  No human figured this out.