Blog Index for October 2017

DIY Build your own laptop for under $100

(October 27, 2017)

Tired of paying thousands of dollars for laptops you can't customize? We used to be able to take apart laptops, fix anything, upgrade them any way we want. Increasingly we're facing laptop choices where the need-for-thin and lightweighting means laptops are glued together, with components soldered to logic boards, and the whole thing is unfixable and unupgradeable. One response is what I've done - this is being typed on a 2012 MacBook Pro that's upgraded to the max in the hope it'll remain viable until sometime in the future when Apple wakes up to what we want. The mindset currently running Apple is missing something big.

Another choice is what's shown in this video -- find out a way to make your own laptop using cheap DIY methods. DIY computer hardware is growing more powerful every year. The exact build shown here is pretty ridiculous, so we should treat this as demonstration of a minimum-viable-product rather than a completed anything. Namely, the build shown here is a Raspberry Pi in a rough cardboard case, a pair of 18650 battery cells with a voltage regulator for power, various hacked up cables, a simple HDMI for display, and everything hot-glued together.

There are several ways to improve on this -- for example the Orange Pi and Banana Pi lines both include boards with 2GB of memory and support SATA drives -- hello large SSD for fast mass storage. And it should be possible to rig up a proper rigid case and a better keyboard/mouse. For a display it's possible to get a laptop display, remove the LCD portion, find an HDMI driver board, and rig it up in a bezel.

Turbo Encabulator inspired Rockwell's Retro Encabulator, the Micro Encabulator and more

(October 22, 2017)

Encabulator Transmissions supplying inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, and is also capable of automatically synchronizing with cardinal grammeters. These are important attributes in modern control systems, as anyone in the know will tell you. The Turbo Encabulator launched a wave of machines using Encabulator technology. Instead of power being generated by the relative motion of conductors and magnetic fluxes, the Turbo Encabulator produced power by the modial interaction of magneto reluctance and capacitive duractance. Originally they used a base of prefabulated ammulite built to keep the spurving bearings in direct line with a panametric fam built using marzalvanes. The Turbo Encabulator shown in this video has undergone much development, and is successfully being used in novertrunions.

Encabulator technology became most popular when Rockwell developed the Retro Encabulator. Chrysler got involved by applying the technology to the Dodge Viper.

Because little or nothing is known about the principles involved in magneto reluctance, diagnosing faults can be a problem. Fortunately a diagnosis machine, the DRB2, is available. It is connected to the aft-end of the moxiinterrupter, using adapter WUPV2. The most common fault is sigmoid rumbling below the belt-line, that customers will describe as a burping or hiccuping noise. The Turbo Encabulator Diangnostic Procedures and Songbook contains instructions for any repair.

After 2010, the cost of the grammeters and other parts of the traditional Encabulator design drove some to develop a less expensive version. It would found using 3 hydrocoptic marzalvanes instead of the usual 6 achieved the same effect, at lower cost. A Jeffrey's Tube connected the marzalvanes to a quasilubial waneshaft they custom 3D printed in the shop. Another innovation is replacing the grammeters with low-cost multiplexing.

Google search ranking and YouTube monetization changes - demoting fake news while harming legitimate sources

(October 19, 2017)

Fake News constitutes a war on Truth, in that the more fake news is bandied about, the more confused we all are, making our collective decisions worse than they should be. The election of our dear President Donald Trump is an example of a horrible collective decision based on fake news. Other examples include the continued dependence on harmful fossil fuel consumption, and the fake news campaigns combatting the truth that fossil fuels poison everything around us, causes climate change, etc. To combat Fake News, Google, Facebook, and other search engines or social media websites, are working on their ranking algorithms to detect and supress fake news. Unfortunately many legitimate news sources are being harmed in the process.

Google is the 8-million-pound-gorilla in both search engines and online video. As cool as DuckDuckGo is, it doesn't bring as many organic search visitors as does Google's search engine. Website publishers, online authors, and video content creators alike are all dependent on Google's search ranking algorithms to bring visitors. For years Google has been fighting against spammers (a form of fake news) by tweaking its search results algorithms. Those tweaks have dramatic results on search traffic going to a given website, or viewing a given video, or the advertising revenue from a video. Hopefully it's having the desired effect, in that fake news sites are losing prominence. Indications are that several prominent legitimate news sources are being harmed either from lost traffic or lost ad revenue.

Cryptomining for altcoins (Magi Coin) on linux single board computers

(October 19, 2017)

Bitcoin's value is flying high currently making for lots of interest in how you earn Bitcoin. One earns any cryptocurrency by "mining", which is putting your computer's CPU power to work helping to maintain the blockchain used by the particular currency. In the Bitcoin market, the only mining equipment that is profitable are expensive ASIC-based equipment running extremely custom hardware produced for the specific task of Bitcoin mining. CPU mining, or using a regular computer, is completely untenable for mining Bitcoin, but some other cryptocurrencies are still open to CPU mining.

Because the ARM-based Linux single board computers (like the Raspberry Pi) have extremely low power consumption, they're attractive for this task. The video below goes over the steps required to set up cryptomining on Linux single-board-computers for a specific cryptocurrency.

The primary advantage is their extremely low power consumption. The main cost any cryptocurrency miner faces is the electricity required to power the machine.

Plex says - This server is not powerful enough to convert video

(October 15, 2017)

Plex can run on low-end computer hardware and still stream video to one or more Plex clients. For example, Drobo file-server appliances can run Plex making for a powerful combination of large data storage capacity and a powerful video server application. Depending on the videos in your collection, Plex may want to transcode the video on the server. That's fine unless the server is not powerful enough to convert (a.k.a. transcode) video.

Why doesn't Amazon's Kindle allow reading EPUB files?

(October 15, 2017)

The EPUB3 format has been documented in the open since 2010, but Amazon hasn't seen fit to implement it on the Kindle. Instead, Amazon uses a proprietary version of the MOBI format. Since the Kindle is such a dominant force in electronic books, the whole e-Book market is being held back. As I pointed out the other day, e-Reader innovation hasn't stalled, the public is prevented from enjoying the advances which have occurred, because of Amazon's actions. Amazon doesn't say why they've done this.

Easily installing Plex with Docker - easiest home media server

(October 14, 2017)

Among video/media servers for the home, Plex is perhaps the most popular. It is supplied using a Freemium model, where the basic service is free, and you pay for extended features. Client apps for mobile computers are available, as well. The idea is to store a video archive on one computer, accessing the videos from anywhere on your home network either via a web browser or a mobile device app. With a little extra work you can additionally access your video library from anywhere, so long as your home network is available 24/7 on a relatively fast Internet connection.

The simplest way to install Plex is by using Docker. A few simple commands, assuming your computer already has Docker, and Plex is up and running with no muss, no fuss.

Google starting to purge free Google Apps for Domain accounts?

(October 13, 2017)

Back in the day, Google offered an amazingly free service called "Google Apps for your Domain". The service bundled together GMAIL, Google Drive/Docs/etc, and many other Google services, into an account branded with the domain name of your choice. If that sounds familiar, Google calls the service "G Suite" today, and it is currently offered only at a fee. For a fee you can attach a long list of Google services to your own domain, and have Google-managed email and document storage/editing, and more. Before this was called G Suite, it was called Google Apps, and there was a free tier of service. Anyone with a domain could hook it up to this service and get the same long list of Google services attached to the domain. I did this with all the domains I owned at the time, and therefore have maybe a dozen of these Google Apps for a Domain accounts. Despite transitioning it to a payola service, Google has promised all along the free accounts would remain free. But that doesn't mean Google isn't trying to sneak around the edges to close those free accounts.

e-Reader innovation hasn't stalled, the public is prevented from enjoying the advances which have occurred

(October 12, 2017)

The e-Reader market could be exploding if only certain advances would be allowed to reach the population. The primary format for electronic books, EPUB, underwent a major advancement a couple years when EPUB v3 was developed. Prior to EPUB v3, the technical implementation of electronic books was hampered by limitations in electronic book formats. EPUB v3 electronic books can now be implemented with almost the full HTML5 and CSS and JavaScript goodness we enjoy on the Web. Electronic books today could be interactive marvels with embedded video or audio, and JavaScript driven interactive presentation of data and information. But, the market is being held back by the marketing decisions of a few large players.

Amazon's amazing warehouse robots automate assembling your purchases for shipping

(October 11, 2017)

Modern business corporate mantra seeks to automate everything, eliminating the costs of human employees. Artificial intelligence and robotics have combined in Amazon's warehouse facilities to create an automated order fulfillment system.

Stored items are held in modular shelving units. The robots drive themselves around the warehouse, following markers on the floor, and slide underneath the shelving unit they are to move. The top of the robot lifts the shelving unit off the ground, and drives off carrying the shelves. The robot then has to make its way through the warehouse, dodging through the mulling crowd of other robots carrying other shelving units, until it arrives in the shipping area. Rather than human-driven forklifts, these robots perform the same task.

Humans have in front of them a screen showing the Amazon order they're assembling. The human picks what's needed off the shelving unit, and the robot drives off to return that unit back to the warehouse, while the human finalizes assembling the order.

The system lets Amazon store more stuff per square feet of warehouse space. Amazon can speed up order processing and this is how Amazon has begun to offer same-day-delivery.