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Comment Strange swarm behavior (Score 2) 220

We've seen strange swarm behavior here in Southern California the past two years. Anecdotes follow:

Last year, we had a swarm that probably lost its Queen (or didn't have one to begin with). They maintained a big ball in the tree for nearly four months, gradually all dying off. They made no honeycomb, just a few weird strands of propolis. In the past, when swarms failed to form a new hive, they didn't continue to go and harvest pollen and function like a hive, but all died off much more rapidly.

This year, we had a swarm ball up in a tree mid-afternoon. They hadn't found a hive by the next morning. By the next evening, they were all falling to the ground and writhing as if poisoned or something. By the second day, there were just heaps of dead bees all around the garden.

I don't claim to be any expert (although my Dad kept several hives when I was a kid). Still, I haven't seen this before. I don't know the cause of either phenomenon.

Comment Re:Let me be the first to say. (Score 1) 117

When I first saw the pictures (and didn't know who was piloting) I was not surprised. A lot of weekends that (or another similar) yellow PT-22 has been hotdogging over Mar Vista - flying too low and being overly exuberant with wing waggles.

I'm in the Mar Vista "return path" area south of KSMO, and about a year ago, I tried phoning the FAA when he (or a similar PT-22) flew at about half the altitude that the normal traffic uses. Engine was backfiring and really making a hell of a noise. Not surprisingly, FAA wasn't interested. After all, I'm just estimating elevation (true), I'm not a professional pilot (true), and there are a lot of spurious complaints (not true in this case).

Apropos Surfridge ... good luck clearing West Los Angeles. I don't have major objections to the air traffic, but when someone flies low enough to shake my house on the turn-around, it makes me want to join one of the anti groups.

Comment Re:More ambiguous cruft (Score 1) 514

Yeah, as I understood it, the objection is that it forces farmers to buy seeds yearly. That's fine in a first world economy, but subsistence farmers need to be able to re-seed with their own crop yield. Many of them may never see enough cash to buy seeds in the first place, but there was concern about "first crop is free!" type promotions.

I don't know how realistic the concerns were in this particular case, but the history of companies like Nestle and their milk formula scheme is enough to give pause to a lot of people.

Comment Awwwww crap (Score 1) 211

This has me more concerned than some of the other recent bugs, primarily because it's so easy to exploit by script kiddies.

Plus, there are huge, vast, barely conceivable numbers of network-attached embedded devices that use the gethostbyname() call. What percentage of these are remotely update-able? What percentage of these will have their firmware re-flashed?

This one seems like it gives black-hats the ideal way to get a swarm army of (relatively) weak and/or dumb devices. Yet even these weak, dumb devices should be sufficient to set up warrens of ssh tunnels, nodes for DDoS attacks, etc.


Comment Re:360K already double-sided (Score 1) 173

No, I had a Teac DSDD drive on my TRS-80 Model I. I had to build a custom disk controller to support it though. This was in '80, so it predated the IBM PC by about a year and a half. Also, the PC used soft sectors, didn't it? The TRS-80 drive controllers were all hard sector.

I also had a Shugart 35-track SSDD drive, if I remember correctly.

It's obviously been a while, but I remember 35 track hard sector SSSD, 40 track hard sector SSSD, 40 track hard sector SSDD, and the brilliant Holy Grail of 40 track DSDD.

Comment Re:Missing option: CNC Router (Score 1) 175

ABS melts at around 200F, not 200C. But even at 100F you'll find that a lot of plastic structures lose their integrity. And it they're load bearing in any way, they're goners. PLA has a higher melt temperature, and Nylon higher still. You might be able to get away with those.

Still, aluminum! brass! wood! soap! er ... wax! ... er ... well, I dunno. I just like the idea of a diversity of material to work with. If I had more cash, I'd have both a 3D printer *and* a CNC router. And if I had even more? A full on 4+ axis CNC mill!

Comment Missing option: CNC Router (Score 1) 175

I will have one of these soon.

It will work on materials other than soft plastics and nylon (e.g., wood, brass, aluminum), so it will be usable for fabricating real parts that can withstand temperatures like southern California car dashboards.

The downside is that the affordable ones are 3 axis, so you can't have overhang in parts. With clever use of zeroing and flipping the part, you can mitigate that somewhat.

I guess if I was willing to cast in metals, a standard 3D printer would be OK. Print in wax, make a mold, and cast. But that seems like a lot more work than its worth for most of the things I want to fab up.

Comment Oh well (Score 1) 74

The sad thing is that now that everything's back up, it'll be business as usual.

I grudgingly subscribed to Adobe Creative cloud when I found that buying Illustrator would have cost me $750 for a legal copy, or $30/month and also include the rest of the CC package. I already own a legal copy of Photoshop CS5, which is good enough for me, so I haven't downloaded that, but I've had two projects that required video editing (so I downloaded Premier) and extracting difficult text from a PDF (so I downloaded Acrobat Pro after spending hours with PDFtk and PDFBox).

Before I subscribed, I found a torrents for a cracked version of Illustrator, which I used to determine that the program would solve the problem I was working on. After that, I bought the subscription. Adobe is really annoying; the software nags me a lot, and it opens a million network connections. Still, if I'm using their software to make money, I feel like I need to pay them.

Given the choice, I'd still rather have stand-alone versions of everything, but I can't afford to spend that much for programs I won't use very frequently.

Comment Curious how things change (Score 4, Interesting) 440

Back in the day (1980s), I helped run an emergency food pantry in Southern California. At the time, Sol Price (founder of Price Club, which I believe is one of the constituent chains that merged to become CostCo) donated pallets of dried milk to us to redistribute. In general, these were pallets where there had been damage, so some of the packages were not usable - the vast majority of the packages, however, were fine.

At our pantry, that donation made up a substantial part of what we gave out to people, especially those with children.

I always thought it was both generous and great business sense for them to donate that food. After all, Price Club got a tax write off, there was less waste, and the hungry people got food without it impacting Price Club's sales.

Comment Curious (Score 1) 359

Uh, it's perfectly possible to be a sociopath and also do good and important things.

The personality part is interesting because it shows that Assange's personality is both what enabled him to accomplish all he did with WikiLeaks, and what sabotaged his efforts to make WikiLeaks into something even bigger and more powerful. His fallings-out with other WikiLeaks people predates much of the external pressure. Based on many sources, he strikes me as a deeply flawed individual who has accomplished great things. It's sad that he has not been able to accomplish more.

My guess is that history will show him as paving the way for Snowden and other future leakers. He'll be remembered more for the way his actions changed the discourse and environment for transparency than for his actual technical accomplishments. His personality will be an afterthought.

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