Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

Odd Lots

Boy, writing this entry just felt good. I gotta do more of these…

  • People are asking me what’s happening with Dreamhealer. (First chapter here.) I’m working with an artist on a cover. The ending needs a hair more editing, but after that it’s an afternoon’s work to lay out the ebook in Jutoh. I had intended to introduce it at LibertyCon mid-June. Lacking a LibertyCon, I’m now just intending to get it out as fast as I can.
  • Are any of my ham friends (general or higher) interested in an experimental sked on the low bands? If so, where have you heard Phoenix? I usually try 20M before anything else, but if anybody’s got any heuristics, let me know somehow.
  • Everybody (ok, every nerd) knows about the Carrington Event. Even I didn’t know that we had another one of those in May 1921. Although Carrington is more famous, by strictly objective measure (the disturbance storm time index, or Dst) the two solar storms were almost exactly alike. In both cases telegraph stations caught fire from currents induced in the wires, and a lot of telephone equipment (which wasn’t deployed in 1859) was destroyed in 1921 by the same induced currents. Damn, like I needed something else to worry about.
  • I’ve backed a number of technologies before. Risky business. I backed Wi-Fi back in the early oughts and won big.I backed WiMAX and watched it swiftly and silently vanish away. I backed Powerline networking (now gathered under the umbrella term HomePlug) and lost but still use it. Here’s a good article on what happened to both WiMAX and HomePlug.
  • One technology I haven’t backed yet is 5G mobile, which is finally getting some traction in the marketplace. My LTE phone works just fine, and I don’t stream video to my phone. (I have a big honking TV for that.) Where I think 5G is most promising is as competition to the mostly monopolist residential broadband providers. We have cable Internet here, and it’s…ok. If 4K (or God help us, 8K) video is to have a chance, it will be through the benefits of 5G, and not otherwise.
  • Neil Ferguson’s computer model of the COVID-19 pandemic caused the UK’s lockdown. Now it comes out that the model was a good design with a trash implementation. (This from a computational epidemiologist, who just might know a crap pandemic model when he sees one.) Imperial College refuses to release the original model’s code and is making stupid excuses why not. A fragmentary and much-jiggered source code suite is now available on Github, and includes things like a global variable struct with 582 fields. (And lots more global variables.) Uggh. Her Majesty should demand her people’s money back.
  • A San Diego County supervisor stated that only six of 194 recorded coronavirus deaths were actually caused by the virus. The others died with the virus, but according to the supervisor, not of it. Yes, yes, I know, it’s not either-or. COVID-19 can push an elderly heart or cancer patient over the edge. Still, we need solid numbers on how deadly this thing is, and for that we have to back out the count of people who were already dying of other things.
  • Here’s a good example: A Colorado man died of alcohol poisoning. (0.55%, when the supposedly lethal threshold is 0.3%.) He was tested for coronavirus and found to be carrying it. So he was listed as dying of COVID-19. He had no comorbidities, beyond enough booze to kill a middling elephant.
  • The county I grew up in now has more COVID-19 cases than any other county in the US. Good ol’ Cook County, Illinois. I guess we got out in time.
  • In good news locally, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is announcing plans to build a $10B plant in Arizona. Is it possible that those jobs are coming back? (Sorry, Steve.)
  • Now that we’re all obliged to wear masks, it was inevitable: Gait recognition technology is in development. It uses deep learning and sensors in the floor. This is more than a little creepy, granting that we once said that about face recognition as well. I recall a friend (now deceased) telling me in 1976 that “You walk as though you’re on your way to kill something.” (That was partly ROTC marching and partly the need to walk fast from one busted Xerox machine to another in downtown Chicago.) Maybe I should buy a scooter.


  1. Joe Dubner says:

    > Are any of my ham friends (general or higher) interested in an experimental sked on the low bands?

    I would welcome this as an opportunity to get active on the bands again. I have only a lousy vertical but 20m would suffice if you can work CW. Late morning or mid-afternoon before the DX starts rolling in would be best. de K7JD.

  2. Orvan Taurus says:

    Perhaps that last will usher in the Era of Silly Walks.

  3. TRX says:

    > powerline networking

    I remember that from the 1980s. Novell promoted it hard in the mid ’90s, but I don’t remember ever seeing them ship anything. I had a Radio Shack intercom system that talked over the powerlines about that time.

    Back in the ’70s I saw articles telling about how power station crew used telegraphy over the powerlines to chat between power stations as far back as the 1920s. So the basic idea is hardly new.

    My local power company has meters that have to be read by someone pointing a pistol-like sensor. Infrared light? I never could understand why the meter didn’t just talk to the station over the power lines.

    Yeah, intervening transformers hose the signal, but it would be simple enough to make a relay box to bridge the signal across.

  4. TRX says:

    > gait recognition

    It’ll probably be at least as accurate as face recognition.

    The purpose isn’t actually identification, it’s to establish “probable cause.” Near-100% accuracy would actually be detrimental for many applications.

    You might be amused to know that Arizona used to be infamous for its police/court computer systems. Back in the 1980s there were a number of lawsuits from people who were arrested and jailed on phantom warrants. It was big enough it made 60 Minutes at least twice. I hit a couple of search engines to point you to a story or two, but if there’s anything about it on the web, the engines aren’t indexing it.

  5. Keith says:

    Knowing only about the Carrington event, people could acknowledge that it would be devastating if something similar occurred today, but put off action to protect against it by claiming we did not know how likely another event was (ignoring that an EMP attack would be very similar).

    Now that it comes to light that an equally strong event occurred in 1921, that ought to move the priority of protecting against such events to the top of the priority list, but I’ll bet many people will still treat the possibility as unlikely enough to push down in priority.

    I wonder whether there are reliable indications in the pre-telegraph historical records that would allow generation of a threat analysis for Carrington-type events that could give us a solid basis for deciding how urgent it is to take the actions necessary to minimize the effects. Would it be enough to look for reports of aurora displays below a certain latitude? Or would we need more details to assess the strength of those events to make the study believable enough to have a chance of triggering action?

  6. Eric Brombaugh says:

    I actually worked on one of the first WiMAX chips – about 17 years ago I was at Intel on the team that did their first one. I stuck around for a year or two and it still looked viable at the time I left. It’s an interesting waveform but just doesn’t have a good niche here in the US.

  7. Michael Black says:

    In 1989 a big blackout here in Quebec was blamed on solar flares. I can’t remember details so not sure if it was speculation or more.

    In Heinlein’s “Double Star” he has a character disguise himself by altering his walk. It didn’t hide him, just make people doubt they’d seen him because there was something different. I think the step was forced by a pebble in the shoe.

    1. The 1989 blackout was real, and was definitely cause by a solar storm. No speculation required. The Dst value for the storm was 589, only about two-thirds the intensity of the Carrington event or the 1921 solar storm. But it still did a helluva lot of damage to the power grid.

  8. Orvan Taurus says:

    I’ll admit, I NEVER liked the idea of “carrier current” (no matter what name it was given) as it screamed RFI to me.

  9. Jason Kaczor says:

    Gait recognition avoidance in science-fiction… see “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow.

    1. Heh. Saw that. Actually, the nuns at my grade school were relatively sane as nuns went, and only three were even “old.” The other three (I had two lay teachers) were quite young, and in fact my first-grade teacher (1958) was right out of college and was still teaching in 2003.

      This was evidently not the case in all Catholic grade schools. Still, I hold the nuns at Immaculate Conception with a great deal of affection.

  10. Alex says:

    Homeplug does have one niche use. I have a friend who had a dead spot in her house. Just a couple of weekends ago, coincidentally, she was telling over the phone that she couldn’t get a wi-fi signal in her bedroom at all. I told her about homeplug and said it might be worth looking into. So she immediately ordered one online and installed it when it arrived. It worked perfectly apparently as she thanked me the following week for telling her about it.

    1. Yes. This. When we built our house in Colorado Springs in 2003, I had the sense to put CAT5E in the walls. But there were still dead spots (it was a huge house) and I finessed them with Linksys Powerline bricks. Did the same for my sister-in-law who was having a similar problem. I still use them. In 16 years I’ve had exactly one go bad. Solid product, increasingly less necessary, but reliable and fast.

    2. Jonathan O'Neal says:

      Similarly, my in-laws’ condo is effectively a labyrinthine Faraday cage, making cell reception iffy and inter-room Wi-Fi virtually impossible. Murphy’s Law being in full effect, the internet demark can only be in one place, which is far from the living room TV setup, and running Cat5e is out of the question. Powerline ethernet to the rescue! The all-important Netflix shows are once again available, and the son-in-law with the magic beige wall plugs is the hero once again.

  11. Olli says:

    “A Colorado man died of alcohol poisoning.”

    One should not slurp the DIY hand sanitizers…

    “Emergency DIY hand sanitizers (read the description)”

  12. Olli says:

    Fractals, they are here again…

    “The fractal time growth of COVID-19 pandemic: an accurate self-similar model, and urgent conclusions”

  13. Bob Halloran says:

    Jeff, a general problem with replacing hardline internet with 5G is likely to be rain fade (though less of a problem for you in AZ…). There’s also the problem of frequency vs. penetration; to use it as the last-mile solution may mean an antenna feeding your home LAN, given that signal penetration through the average home will be lousy.

    1. Precisely. I don’t know a great deal about how the frequencies at which 5G works propagate. My impression has been that they won’t easily penetrate ordinary buildings, and probably not penetrate stucco houses at all, given that such houses (like the last several I’ve lived in) are chicken-wire Faraday cages.

      As for the last-mile problem, I pictured some sort of spiky little antenna up on the roof, ideally with line-of-sight to the cell. My first broadband connection in Arizona was a fixed point-to-point system with the master antenna on South Mountain. The downside was that the the uplink was…dialup. But it was better than nothing.

      1. Bob Halloran says:

        There’s a set of 5G bands overlapping the high end of 4G between 1.7 & 2.5 GHz, another set extending up to around 6 GHz, then mmWave in 24-28 GHz (Elon Musk’s Starlink is also intending to use this Ka-band range) ; this last one is where they expect to get the high-bandwidth traffic, but you can exoect propagation will be poor. The articles I’ve seen are talking about a LOT more towers with fiber backhaul to solve this, and questioning whether there’ll be any savings over simply doing FTTH.

        Reading between the lines of the commercials it appears T-Mobile’s planning to use 5G *protocols* over their/Sprint’s existing lower-band networks to get better penetration/coverage, presumably while they play catch-up on upgrading their towers.

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