November 23 2013: A major auto manufacturer has now introduced a hydrogen-powered vehicle. But not hydrogen as a combustion fuel... rather, for electrical fuel cells. Electric vehicles, with the torque and low-maintenance of electrical motors, but with the range and refuel speed of conventional gasoline autos. I'm sure there are going to be kinks to iron out with the refueling, and the distribution network for hydrogen, but this is a step in the right direction.
The company is Hyundai. The first hydrogen fuel-cell model they are producing for sale: the Tucson!
November 19 2013: Last week was Veterans Day, and Jerri and I went to see the parade. While we were there, we picked up some information about a self-guided Walking Tour of Downtown Tucson. The following Friday, we did the tour.
November 16 2013: I have taken the plunge.
In a vain attempt to work up something with the GE addressable Christmas lights string (project is now two years old), I figured that to talk to the string, I needed a RS422 link and a level shifter. Probably, I could have run a RS422 link from a peecee at some distance (and I may yet try that), but fast serial links don't work all that well at distance, so I figured I needed something near the string - a microcontroller of some sort. And to control it from a peecee at some distance, I would want a comm link - like Ethernet. And rather than attempt to design and build one myself (one unending project at a time) (well, please, no more unending projects until I work down the backlog), I might as well buy a pre-built board. After a bit of research, it came down to:
My original intent was to stick with PIC and hone my proficiency. However, I knew that the development cycle would be pretty long for doing it this way - it would definitely be more than I'd want to do in assembly, and getting the GCC PIC cross-compiler up and seeing if the Microchip-provided TCP/IP software would be compatible with GCC would be a J.O.B all by itself. But if I were going to go with BeagleBone or Raspberry Pi, I was tossed up - the BeagleBone is more "open", and has its storage on-board, while the Pi has the ARM as part of a nasty closed Broadcom chip, and uses a SD card for storage. In the end, two things swung the deal: The Pi generates RS170 video (compatible with my cheap TI composite video monitors), and I could get this nifty starter kit for doing some orientation I/O tutorial projects!
This is my new Pi rev B (with the Ethernet; the cheaper rev A doesn't have it). Shown with a "Humble Pi" prototyping board that snaps onto the Pi somewhat like an Arduino "shield" (turns out the BeagleBone millieu has the same sort of thing, which they call "capes").
This is the kit. Top row, left to right: Jumper wires for solderless breadboard. Bag of components for tutorial projects. Kit for building a cool plastic case for the Pi. 5V USB-style power adapter. USB-to-serial cable for connecting a host computer (via USB serial port) to a debug terminal port on the Pi. Big solderless breadboard. Next row down: Ethernet cable. Cute Raspberry Pi decal. USB cable for powering the Pi (the Pi has a dummy USB port just for power; it also has a regular USB port). Bottom row: "Pi Cobbler" cable, which breaks out the Pi's I/O connector to a header for plugging into the solderless breadboard. 4GB SD card and adapter; below it is a little SD-to-USB reader for loading software (such as the startup package, "NOOBS") on a peecee.
So now the playing begins.
November 15 2013: Clever hackers, coming up with a "smartcard" that apparently works like a magnetic stripe card. Talks you your smartphone, you tell it which card you want it to be. Amazing.
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From a story in ECN: "cloaking" technology. Seems to be aimed at Radar. The idea that light could be spoofed is harder to swallow, but apparently, Radar can. This could replace "stealth" low-Radar signature technologies, but I'll bet it takes a lot of power to work.
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Found a site maintained by KOLD TV News that allows people to post their own pictures. Some real beauties on this site; here's one that caught my eye. There's no info on the site about usage restrictions or copyright or even attribution, so I'll just trust to this being a non-profit site.
November 13 2013: This is the NR-1, a secret submarine from the Cold War era that has since been decommissioned and dismantled. This fascinating ECN story has more details about the sub and some of its crew.
The article caught my eye, because it reminded me of the time I went to New London and Groton on a Tomahawk missile job. I was working at the General Dynamics Electric Boat sub-building shipyard in a mock-up section of a submarine hull integrating a launch control system. One day at lunch with a few other Raytheon folk and one GD lady, we were sitting at an outside table overlooking the Thames River, and we saw an odd thing - a wave in the middle of the river moving rapidly upstream. "That's a secret submarine", our GD friend told us. "It never surfaces in public view". It was heading to the SUBASE facility, further up the river from Groton, where doubtless it had an enclosed dock to hide it from the ground or the air or from satellites in orbit. So the NR-1 may or may not have been the first top-secret nuclear submarine, but it seems the Navy has a few other secrets they keep in Connecticutt!
November 7 2013: For a while, there was a sintered tungsten-steel stereolithography machine at Hughes/Raytheon. It was too expensive to use, really. However, I know a few engineers who had prototype parts made on that machine, for actual use, not just the usual show-off stereolith (usually made of the waxy plastic stuff). So, (tungsten-steel sintering machine) + (3D printed plastic gun parts) = (sooner or later, someone is going to make the real thing). Well... it has happened.
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A REAL flying car, now approved by the FAA - the Moller Skycar. Developed by flying-car genius and innovator Paul Moller. It does fly, but with those spindly little landing-gear style wheels, I don't think it's much of a car. Not that it matters; with VTOL capability, I don't think anybody would want to drive it anywhere!
November 6 2013: I've noted "3D printed guns" here, before. Now, how about 3D printed automobiles?
Here's the "Urbee", an ultra-economical car that some innovators have designed, built via 3D printing techniques, and are planning to drive it across the nation.
Will you see it in showrooms anytime soon? I'm thinking not, since dealers are essentially owned by the major automakers, who are unlikely to license the design for a novelty machine. But stranger things have happened, and maybe it's time for an alternative distribution system.
Unlikely that I would get one. I'm not convinced that something this economical wouldn't have the pep of a sick lizard on a warm rock. Pluse an all-plastic frame and body doesn't strike me as either safe or long-lived. But it's definitely geeky sweet.
November 5 2013: A young man implants his own circuit board under his skin, risking severe infection. This is kind of sad, that such geeky smartness should be combined with such disregard for the God-created marvel and dignity of the human body. But then, this is a consequence of the atheism ("there is no meaning or value") that so often accompanies intelligent people educated in the secular West.
November 4 2013: Updated the Arizona Page for the current state of the Tucson Originals restaurant club (including the sad loss of El Parador, after 40 years in Tucson), taking the now-departed Padres off the Tucson attractions, adding the Sunshine Mile to the list of unique shopping venues, and (somewhat controversially) adding Cosanti and Arcosanti to the list of Arizona attractions. Well, the are attractions, and unique to Arizona, and I have every intention of visiting them!
November 2 2013: This is long overdue, but way back in April, we had the opportunity to tour some of Tucson's oldest buildings or homes in the Barrio Viejo. I've now put up a description of the tour (which unfortunately consists of photos of the outsides of the homes but none of the insides).
October 31 2013: A few weeks back, we went to Flagstaff to see a NAU play in which our older daughter Charity was acting. My fears that it was an anti-Christian play were replaced by my regret that it was merely an anti-"church culture" play. My review here.
Also, much to the bemusement of my family, I have started a mini-hobby of collecting photos of the Arizona Centennial highway signs that the state has set up all over. Take a look! I am not above accepting contributions...
October 13 2013: There seems to be three "Maker Communities" in Tucson, strangely enough all downtown.
Tucson Meet Yourself was this weekend, so in addition to overdosing on Irish Dance and Jamaican food (the closest I will probably ever get to CeeDee Jamaican Kitchen, just up the road from us on Swan), I got to check out the three Maker hangouts.
October 12 2013: Finally finished with the Route 66 travelogue.
October 4 2013: Busy weekend: Breakfast this morning at Delectables on 4th Avenue, where we saw the streetcar doing its trials, followed by a quick visit to the newly-opened Gutierrez Bridge that carries Cushing Street across the Santa Cruz River, and then visiting some of the shops along Sunshine Mile (the Broadway merchants have formed their own informal association).
The streetcar, headed north on 4th Avenue, just past Delectables
On the east end of the new Gutierrez Bridge, with "A" Mountain just beyond. The bridge is very nicely done, with story bits from Tucson's history embedded in the pedestrian walkways on either side. The Santa Cruz River Park is accessible via stairways at both ends, and there are picnic tables on the east end. There are really no parking areas... but in a few more months, it won't matter, because you can leave your car at the University in a parking garage and catch the streetcar! Which is why the bridge is here, to carry the rails over the river to the Mercado area. Which I think will really be a test case for the promise of the streetcar to stimulate urban in-fill, since (except for the under-delivering Mercado) there's nothing over there.
August 23 2013: Interesting little article about Derek Roskell who designed chips for Texas Instruments in Bedford, England - particularly the TMS9995, the heart of the Geneve 9640 second-generation TI Home Computer. I particularly liked the bit of him being the older "senior" engineer guiding younger, smarter engineers. Experience has its place. Also how he resisted the pressure from upper management to "cut corners". Another important role for older engineers.
Like me. Even if I'm not in the same class as Derek Roskell.
August 10 2013: No, it's not abandoned.
But it has lain neglected a long time. Loss of discipline.
Most notably, a question (which actually hasn't been completedly settled) of whether I move with the TOW Program Office to Huntsville, Alabama. Plus the experience of being thrown off TOW (due to cost-cutting reasons) and absorbed into XFACTOR (a company initiative of developing a high-performance radar processor). So lots of work-related changes. More later.
Charity is in Ireland, right now, on a "mission" trip, and she will be coming back next Monday (August 12). She will walk into a barrage of nags to write up her experience in a Family Travelogue. But I could not reasonably expect her compliance without writing up our recent family experiences myself. Such as the trip up the Apache Trail, and the cruise of the Canyon Lake in the Dolly Steamboat. New travelogue up here.