Tesla, leading.

In a huge and stunning move, Tesla invites all comers to help themselves to Tesla’s patents: All Our Patents Are Belong You.

Elon is refreshingly candid, explaining exactly why, “Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars.”

In other words, Tesla gathered their patents to protect against competition from the market incumbents (Ford, GM, Toyota, VW, etc.) who are almost entirely disinterested in eCars. Instead, Telsa’s most worrisome problem is a lack of consumption. If Tesla and electric cars are to succeed long term, they need to disrupt gasoline powered cars. To accomplish that, they need a thriving marketplace with strong competitors pushing forward the state of the industry.

I want a Tesla Model X more than ever.

chained commands are SMP friendly

I just wrote a command chain (something unix admins do often) that looks like this:

  1. gzcat threeGB-file.gz \
  2. | grep ‘match this’ \
  3. | grep -Ev ‘but not this’ \
  4. | cut -f1 -d’ ‘ \
  5. | uniq \
  6. | /usr/local/bin/idn -u \
  7. | tr ‘[:upper:]’ ‘[:lower:]’ \
  8. > infile.fifo &

That command pipeline decompresses a file, filters out the metadata, weeds out dupes,  converts punycode IDN names to  UTF-8, converts caps to lower case, and makes the data available as a file.

While sucking the contents of that file into a MySQL table, I noticed that each of the commands in the pipeline was running on a separate CPU core. While it’s not the same as Grand Central Dispatch, it’s fun to see just how well the Unix Philosophy had weathered the decades.

Windows is so much fun

I have a Dell R610.

  1. I want to update the firmware (BIOS, NIC, iDRAC, etc..)
  2. I can’t update the firmware using the built in Lifecycle Controller because it’s too old (as of 2012) to recognize the signatures on the current Dell firmware updates.
  3. I can’t update using a USB drive with the updates for the same reason (signature not recognized).
  4. The only path forward is to install from a host environment (Windows or Linux)
  5. I happened to have a Windows 7 installer on a USB thumb drive, and I only need the OS running for about 20 minutes, so I chose Windows, because then it can natively run the the Dell Repository Manager, which fetches the firmware updates.
  6. After installing Windows 7, I can’t install Dell Repository Manager because .NET 4 isn’t installed.
  7. I can’t install .NET 4 because SP1 is installed.
  8. I can’t install SP1 yet. Maybe because these 103 other patches need to be installed first.
  9. First attempt to install patches fails.
  10. Install a half dozen patches. Reboot. Install 25 more. (Repeat 4x)

PS: After a few dead ends, the solution to getting all the updates applied was booting the system onto Windows and installing a newer (v1.5.X) Lifecycle Controller. Once that is accomplished,  booting into it via F10 at the BIOS POST, and let the lifecycle controller upgrade everything else directly from ftp.dell.com.

IPv6 works on Comcast!

Yesterday my ancient TimeCapsule was misbehaving. Our network connection still worked, but nothing else did. Because of its age, I decided it was time to retire it from being our home’s gateway to the internet.

I reconfigured my v6 Airport Extreme and connected it to the shiny new IPv6 enabled cable modem that I installed in 2012. I had been anticipating that eventually IPv6 would arrive. My 10 year old Motorola Surfboard 5100 was retired because it didn’t support IPv6. After rebooting the Motorola SB6121 cable modem, the IPv4 network came right up. I went in to set up IPv6 tunneling and noticed I had native IPv6 addresses assigned!

Apparently Comcast rolled out IPv6 in Washington in Sept. 2013.

Open Source = more secure?

One of the many arguments Open Source advocates make is is that OSS is more secure because “anyone and everyone” can review the source.  This critical crypo bug in the GnuTLS library takes that idea out back and shoots it. Execution style.

(I’m not being critical of OSS. After all, I’m an OSS author and contribute to quite a few OSS projects. There are plenty of compelling arguments for OSS software, but increased security isn’t one of them.)

Pencil Sharpeners

While volunteering in my son’s classroom, his teacher asked if I’d sharpen some pencils, “Having a supply of sharp pencils is the bane of my existence!” I grabbed her basket of pencils and headed to the sharpening station, in a shared resource room. There I found this lovely little X-Acto XLR 1818 Electric Pencil Sharpener.

X-Acto sharpener

I sharpened about 25 pencils before the unit overheated. After 30 minutes it still refused to work. After 45 minutes I was able to sharpen 20 more pencils before it overheated again. Frustrated, I decided to engineer a better solution.

Design considerations:

• manual sharpeners don’t overheat
• teachers might be upset if I removed the electric sharpener
• pencil shavings should be dealt with
• doesn’t require [much] more space than a 11×17″ box lid
• one-handed operation is desirable

The first step was to acquire some good pencil sharpeners. I read a bunch of Amazon reviews and ultimately found penciltalk.org where pencil sharpening nerds hang out and write about their passion for sharpeners. I whittled down my list to these four which I purchased:

• Classroom Friendly
• Classic Manual (Deli 0620)
• Stanley Bostitch MPS1BLK (Amazon)
• Westcott Axis iPoint Evolution Electric Heavy Duty (15509) Amazon

After the sharpeners arrived, I grabbed a sheet of graph paper and a ruler. I measured how much clearance each sharpener needed to avoid skinned knuckles. Then I produced this sketch.

Pencil Station

With a design in hand, I headed to the garage and found an 8’ piece of 1” thick shelving. Because MDF wouldn’t hold a dado joint, I  glued each edge and screwed in L-brackets on the 4 back  corners (not pictured). Then I added the angle brackets to stiffen up the front. The result is a sharpening station that’s very heavy and stable.

Pencil Station

All three manual sharpeners came with a round L bracket designed to mount on the edge of a tabletop. I wanted a more secure attachment and the slippery shelf surface didn’t help. The solution was to add a layer of non-slip padding between the sharpener and shelf. Combined with the included bracket, the sharpeners have remained firmly attached for half a school year.

To keep the automatic sharpeners from sliding when pressing a pencil into them, I applied a pad of industrial strength Velcro hooks to the bottom shelf and hook-and-loop pads to the electric sharpeners. Now they too remain firmly in place while sharpening.

I am now experienced in bulk pencil sharpening. Every pencil in that basket is very sharp. I’m a fan of the Wescott and Classroom Friendly sharpeners. The fastest technique I’ve found is to load the Classroom Friendly, which grips the pencil and allows one-handed sharpening. I sharpen that pencil with my right hand, and sharpen another in the Westcott with my left. Both sharpeners are fast and good. I can settle into a rhythm where I’m cranking out two sharp pencils every 10 seconds.

I can see no evidence of anyone using the X-Acto any more. The Bostich is a piece of junk. It will only sharpen perfect pencils, it doesn’t produce a great point, and emptying the shavings is much harder than the Classroom Friendly and electric sharpeners.

What do the teachers think?

Hi Matt,

When I spoke with our staff this morning about pencil sharpeners, their eyes lit up! They would love to have one station per grade level (two for kindergarten). The total would be ten, if possible.

Mike
—-
Mike VanOrden – Principal

Nissan Leaf musings

In June of 2013, we leased a 2013 Nissan Leaf SV. It has since been our daily driver, making a 40 mile daily round-trip commute. It’s also the first car to leave the driveway on weekends. We like the car. A lot. It is fun to drive, spacious with 4 passengers, and fits 6 full shopping bags in the trunk. Our intent is to use all 12,000 miles per year allowed. After a few months driving, the fuel results are in.

  • electric bill: increased $30/mo.
  • gasoline: decreased by $100/mo.

Switching to electric resulted in an expense reduction of $70/mo. Our lease payment is $220/mo. If we reduce the lease payment by the fuel savings, our net payment is $150/mo. That’s a low payment for a $32,000 car.

Considering that 90% of our electricity here is renewable (hydro + wind), and electric cars are 90% efficient, and that ICE (internal combustion engines) are less than 30% efficient, the environmental impact of switching to electric is a big bonus.

The range is occasionally a limit. Lucas and I drove it to Meany Lodge. We’d have made the 75 mile trip except for the climb over Snoqualmie Pass. We had to stop at the pass and ‘juice up’ for a 1/2 hour, adding 10 miles of range. Then the Leaf nimbly climbed the forest service roads up to the lodge. We returned home with 25 miles to spare. Thousands of feet of elevation makes a meaningful difference in range.

It would be challenging if our only car was electric. We can’t pile 4 of us and luggage into the Leaf and drive to the Redwood Forests. Despite the Leaf’s great handling, the passes are just far enough away, uphill, in cold weather, that we’ll be taking the Fusion hybrid (37 mpg) on ski trips. For the 3% of our household driving that we don’t take the Leaf, range is the limiting factor.