Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

May 7th, 2008:

Odd Lots

  • Here at the condo this morning, I can't bring up squat on the Web because everybody's out there trying to figure out who won the Democratic primaries last night. So I did an absolutely unheard of thing: I went down to the White Hen, got some of their great coffee, and picked up a newspaper. What a notion.
  • I'm hearing more and more people say that Wi-Fi doesn't work as well as it used to, which is weird because microwave physics hasn't changed recently. But…look at how many APs Windows can see from wherever you are. From my kitchen table here, NetStumbler sensed twelve APs…and walking around inside our dinky little condo picked up four more. Three of the strongest signals were on default Channel 6—and five out of sixteen were cleverly named “linksys.” I don't think it's the physics, folks.
  • After went all-paid (and highly paid) I investigated an alternative called Gatheroo, which later (in response to another damfool lawsuit from somebody) became Zanby. The site's been redesigned and is worth a look if you want to start a meatspace social network where you live. There are both free and paid levels of participation, and it's certainly not as expensive as Meetup.
  • Matthew Reed (and lots of others after him) sent me pointers to articles about the recent implementation of memristors, which are a species of passive electronic component postulated in 1971 but not actually implemented until HP researchers made some earlier this year. Whether this interests you varies directly by the strength of your passion for electronics, and whereas I understand the concept now, my head is still spinning trying to figure out what it implies. Everybody's talking about better computer memory, sure…but what could this do in simple analog circuits?
  • Jim Strickland sent me a pointer to a YouTube video about a flame triode amplifier/oscillator lashup, and guys, you gotta see this. It's basically a vacuum tube without either vacuum or tube: When the electrodes get hot, it starts amplifying. I don't fully understand the physics yet, but this would be one fantastic high school science fair project. The question arose in our local group as to whether this could be considered steampunkish, and I'm not sure. People in the steampunk era had no problems generating reasonably hard vacuum and blowing glass envelopes. What they had problems with was understanding electrons. Nonetheless, with a big enough flame and some honkin' batteries, you could have done some impressive things back in 1888.
  • Global Cooling adherents have been sending me pointers to Watts Up With That, and Fascinating reading, including numerous facets of the climate change discussion that you won't see in Big Media. F'rinstance: Weather monitoring installations that were built sixty or seventy years ago out in the leafy countryside have recently become surrounded by new development, buildings, pavement, etc., and as a result are now in the middle of heat islands. What might that do to long-term temperature data? Hmmmm….