Bruce Perens writes: A fire at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast, currently over 10,000 acres in size, has approached the pads used by SpaceX and United Launch Alliance. No structures have been damaged, but power lines have been destroyed. There is about 1000 feet of firebreak around each pad, but the presence of smoke and the absence of electrical power is potentially a problem for rockets, payloads, and ground-support equipment. The WorldView 4 satellite and a Delta 4, and a SpaceX Falcon 9 with at least 7 and potentially 11 Iridium satellites are known to be on site. Ground support equipment at the base constitutes the United States only access to polar orbit for large rockets without overflying populated areas. Liquid oxygen stored on the site may already have been released as a precaution or boiled off, and there are large supplies of rocket fuel, but these have so far not been at hazard.
The Soberanes fire near Big Sur, 180 miles farther South on the California coast, has gone on for two months, burning 185 square miles and costing over 200 Million dollars to fight with no end in sight. Obviously, it's dry out there.
Bruce Perens writes: The nighttime launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 containing Iridium satellites at 9:49 PM PST Monday September 19th from Vandenberg AFB SLC-4 is likely to be visible across California and in some Nevada locations. Although Vandenberg has a landing pad for the Falcon under construction, this will probably be a drone-ship landing and some California observers might see two of the landing burns.
The interesting thing about this is that it would probably not have happened with a Google car, because Google makes use of radar that can see above the base of the windshield (probably critical in this case), and can identify pedestrians, bicycles, and other vehicles even through foliage and beyond the usual eyepoints of a human driver.
My impression is that Elon Musk has rejected a google-style radar as impractical mainly based upon it's appearance (it's a spinning cylinder atop the roof of the car). It might be time for Musk and Tesla to re-assess the practical sensor kit required for autopilot.
Tesla makes the point that this is only an investigation, and that the known death toll of Autopilot so far is lower than that for conventional automobiles.
Bruce Perens writes: The "AFCI" breaker is a relatively new kind which detects hidden electrical sparks from poor series electrical connections, by receiving high electrical frequencies that electrical arcing emits. Such sparks can eventually cause a fire. In looking for one on the Home Depot site, I came upon this device, with a review from a customer who returned the breaker because it trips every week or two on their lighting circuit. This indicates exactly the problem the device is meant to catch.
Because there was no way to feed back to the reviewer, I wrote a second review with some safety advice, hoping to inform the next person to come by. But Home Depot rejected it, because it did not specifically discuss the product.
Of course we can't cure all of the world's fire hazards. But it's nice to point out a problem when you see one, lest some poor sap's home burn down. But this is difficult to do when staff at the vendor and its web site don't have a clue. Maybe some publicity on Slashdot will help.
Bruce Perens writes: This Washington Post story says that political policy changes aimed at reducing carbon emissions and economic change due to the availability of affordable less-carbon-emitting energy sources is working to reduce carbon emissions:
The IEA attributed the second straight year of decoupled growth and emissions to a greater uptake of renewable energy, particularly wind, and fewer emissions in China and the United States, the two largest emitters by far. The former country is cutting back its coal use deliberately, while in the U.S., market forces have had a similar effect, as cheap natural gas has pushed out a considerable volume of coal in electricity generation.
Bruce Perens writes: I help some big companies stay on top of Open Source compliance. Last week, a customer found a code fragment that had originated in a blog, in the documentation-writing product of a very big software company that is concerned with documents and graphics. The file was meant to be re-distributed with documents my customer produced. The entirety of the blog was licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike. The big software company's code wasn't under any sort of share-alike license, and thus they were probably infringing on the blog author, and my customer was at risk of being a contributory infringer when it re-distributed this file.
We contacted the help desk of the big software company, and they might get back to us someday. Before getting louder with them, I contacted the blogger.
Bloggers have placed their work under Attribution Share-Alike and other restrictive licenses to prevent their work from being cloned improperly by unscrupulous people on the net, mostly search-engine-optimization scams. The Attribution Share-Alike license requires proper attribution of the author, and sharing of modifications under the same terms as the original. But like many of us, this blogger put code fragments in his writing, and intended for his readers to use them. CC Attribution Share-Alike isn't the right license for that purpose. It's not compatible with proprietary code, nor is it compatible with other share-alike licenses like the GPL.
The blogger admitted that it was tempting to get the big software company to take a look at its own compliance issues, but then graciously agreed to change his blog's licensing. Now, it's CC Attribution Share-Alike for the text, and the MIT license for the code fragments. And his readers can use the code fragments he publishes without worry, as the MIT license is compatible with pretty much everything.
Public domain or the BSD license would have worked as well. Remember that the default in copyright law is All Rights Reserved. If you don't put a public domain declaration or some sort of license on your code, other folks don't really have the legal right to use it at all.
Hopefully, other bloggers will see this and make sure their code fragments are licensed appropriately. Also, programmers should be careful to make sure that they have the right to use code, even if they're just pulling a dozen lines off of someone's blog. It's not at all clear that the fair use doctrine always applies to such use, make sure you have a license and attribute your copy properly.
Bruce Perens writes: There's no shortage of stories of horrible treatment of women in Open Source projects. But how did we get here? How did we ever get a community where a vocal minority of males behave in the most boorish, misogynistic, objectifying manner toward women? I have a theory.
Bruce Perens writes: Dimitry Rogozin is the Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Space Industry who famously tweeted in Russian that since congress had banned the use of Russian engines on government payloads, the U.S.A. should use a trampoline to get our astronauts to ISS. With the success of today's SpaceX landing, we actually do now have a rocket that can go up and down repeatedly... So I tweeted a photo of the landing to Rogazin this evening, with the text Hello Mr. Rogozin, the U.S.A. has the trampoline you asked for.
Bruce Perens writes: At the TAPR conference this year, I did a talk on why Open Hardware licenses don't actually work, and how it would actually hurt us if they did. I'm not saying you should stop making Open Hardware, I just want to make sure you don't assume the license works better than it actually does. Also, I explain why my latest project is 100% Open Source but the hardware design is more restrictively licensed than the Open Hardware Definition would allow. The video is here.
There's a long prelude of talk about Amateur Radio stuff before the Open Hardware part. But you'll probably find it interesting.
Gary didn't succeed with the Kickstarter to fund recording the entire conference this year, but he made the trip and recorded it with a multi-camera shoot anyway, at significant personal expense. If you like the video, please help cover his expenses. Even $1 would help.
Bruce Perens writes: FCC wants to be sure that WiFi drivers don't cause interference with airport weather radars, but their proposal, to lock down WiFi firmware, won't fly. Many commenters in the proceeding have made it clear that Open Source firmware for WiFi devices must remain legal. While an "alternative" proposal to FCC that would require that all WiFi routers be Open Source is getting most of the publicity today, I have proposed another alternative that would be fair for both Open Source and proprietary software. It requires approval of the source code of a WiFi driver by a person with a technical license from FCC, the GROL+Radar, if that driver is to be mass-distributed in binary form for use by RF-naïve users by either the manufacturer or Open Source. The license assures that the responsible person actually understands how to protect radar systems in a WiFi driver. It's pretty easy for someone competent in radio engineering to pass the license test, and many thousands of people hold the license today. Vendors and Open Source are treated the same. It doesn't place restrictions on testing and development, or conversion of WiFi equipment to other radio services. And it includes an explanation of the problem, for those of you who don't know what the uproar is about.
Bruce Perens writes: A young person wrote to me "Hello Mr. Guru, I'd like to get into Software, take Windows off of my computer, install Debian or something, learn HTML, PHP, and become a good hacker. Is it too late? Where can I find the really smart people?" Here's my answer.
Bruce Perens writes: In the video here, the Falcon 9 first stage is shown landing with a tilt, and then a thruster keeps the rocket vertical on the barge for a few seconds before it quits, followed by Kabooom with obvious significant damage to the barge. It looks like this attempt was incredibly close to success. Given fixes, a successful first-stage recovery seems likely.
Bruce Perens writes: Chris Testa KD2BMH and I have been working for years on a software-defined transceiver that would be FCC-legal and could communicate using essentially any mode and protocol up to 1 MHz wide on frequencies between 50 and 1000 MHz. It's been discussed here before, most recently when Chris taught gate-array programming in Python. We are about to submit the third generation of the design for PCB fabrication, and hope that this version will be salable as a "developer board" and later as a packaged walkie-talkie, mobile, and base station. This radio is unique in that it uses your smartphone for the GUI, uses apps to provide communication modes, contains an on-board FLASH-based gate-array and a ucLinux system. We intend to go for FSF "Respects Your Freedom" certification for the device. My slide show contains 20 pages of schematics and is full of ham jargon ("HT" means "handi-talkie", an old Motorola product name and the hams word for "walkie talkie") but many non-hams should be able to parse it with some help from search engines. Bruce Perens K6BP