Showing posts with the label Technology

Industrial maternalism

I completed today a purchase of one more piece of Silicon Valley history, the EIMAC 100TH   Transmitting Triode Radio Vacuum Tube. For $22 I will receive a working triode, with the birght prosepct of lighting its filaments again perhaps not to transmit but at least to show its colors on the oscilloscope. EIMAC operated in nearby San Bruno this was not an accident, as the San Francisco Bay Area was an early center of ham radio with about 10% of the operators in the United States in the early 30's. Incidentally in a new sense San Bruno is still a ham radio hub today. Except the radio has been replaced by the internet, and the communications device is YouTube, based in San Bruno. There's are some more interesting technical bits. The EITEL company was a spin-off from Heintz & Kaufman with the purpose to produce tubes that worked on lower voltages than those available to the amateur market at the time. In 1932 two radio amateurs, Jack McCullough (W6CHE) and Bill Eitel (W

What's in a month? (As far as email goes).

Just in the past month @Google.(4/13-5/13/2013). And that's a bit lower than usual as I took a one day vacation and was two days on an offsite and a week in NYC (note the flatter second week on the sent side). Information overload? The good news is we have great internal systems that help us cope with information. So in actuality this doesn't feel much more different than my private Gmail account which sees only moderate usage (now that I have moved many of the conversations to G+).

Today Was a Good Day for Surgery

I have this beautiful great sounding Kurzweil K2600X. Loaded with all the extra ROMs available; Orchestral, Contemporary, Triple strike piano, Vintage keyboards. Its a great instrument and its been part of our family for a long time now. Here's Filip at the time not quite 4 yet, composing on the imposing machine . Well a couple of months ago I spotted on eBay a SCSI memory card interface which fits the Kurzweil. I bought it a couple of weeks ago and decided that today was a good day to perform the surgery. Out with the 1.44 Mb floppy and in with the CF reader and an 8 Gb CF card. The card is partitoned into 4 x 2 Gb partitions. Two of them are loaded with samples, programs and setups. Expanding even more the machine's already impressive sound producing capabilities. A photo album illustrates part of the process . Dr. Kurzweil recently joined Google, where he is working on transforming search . His latest book How to Create a Mind is a very insightful work. I rec

‎3000 lumens, that's a lot of photons

Waiting for darkness to set to test the new torch. It draws 2.8 amps from the Lithium batteries. Perfect for night navigation in tight quarters . "The LEDs are being driven direct drive, from 14.4v, using four 18650 batteries. The brightness is fairly constant until the batteries are fully discharged. This flashlight does get very warm, but not so hot you cannot hold it. The head is massive, and the body is also massive, being 1/4" thick (.75 ID, 1.25" OD). Both the head and body are integral part of the heat sinking, and also your hand (if ungloved)." "On max power, it is almost too bright to be usable!" I have it on max power, the only way to use it at home is to bounce it off the ceiling at which point it lights the whole room in very bright light (mine is 20 ft., regular ones could work but don't look at the ceiling). Its real use is for the outside, I did tests last night after warning neighbors that its not an alien landing. Its perfect for the o

Pixel Overlord

Home Page Overload. Wednesday, June 9th, 2010. An instant centithread has emerged on eng-misc following the radical insurgent change of our home page. "Oh, wow. That's hideous." "The tech blogs are going to lose their sh*t over this, but the regular users are going to love it." "I don't like it." "Shut up, nerd!" "It kind of feels like the 90s called, and they want their website back." "WTF?" New Coke didn't last long, this won't either... Update: Indeed gone fast ... phew... good ridance.

Behind the Scenes - Production Pushes

And another busy morning coordinating with engineers and product marketing folks who are anxious to see their feature live. Is it done? Is it done yet? Its the end of a long process for many of the people involved, months of planning and designing, weeks of coding and testing back and forth. And then an hour or so to see it become live in front of many users. People often ask, what exactly do release engineers do. The short answer is, we help make software development an engineering grade industrial strength activity. In all aspects of it, from the design and planning through the execution and finally in days like this pushing all the right switches to make things come to life in front of an audience in a smooth way. Without interruption. Without downtime. Today's push - AdSense UI for interest-based advertising. This is a feature which is covered with wide interest and, as I flip the bits, has already received coverage in The New York Times and other news organizations. Here in sh

SpaceX at Google's Zeitgeist 2008

A capsule from SpaceX appeared at the Googleplex today. Here's a couple of pictures. Rumor has it that SpaceX founder Elon Musk will show up at Zeitgeist and talk about private initiative and space exploration. Given the company boasts the world's lowest cost flight to orbit he'll likely receive some attention from the audience. The capsule on these pictures is codenamed Dragon. At first glance the hatch hinges and rubber rings seem a bit weak, but this being a prototype, I am sure it'll change eventually. Here are some of the highlights of the capsule: Fully autonomous rendezvous and docking with manual override capability in crewed configuration Pressurized Cargo/Crew capacity of >2500 kg and 14 cubic meters Down-cargo capability (equal to up-cargo) Supports up to 7 passengers in Crew configuration Two-fault tolerant avionics system with extensive heritage Reaction control system with 18 MMH/NTO thrusters designed and built in-house; these thrusters are used for


A compelling way to interact with information available on the Internet was released yesterday by Mozilla developers - Ubiquity . Removing clunkiness is laudable but more than that I hope this further steers developers into leaving the immediate interface issues and starts them on thinking structurally about the information they process or/and publish. I expect plenty of privacy and security concerns to arise soon. It's one thing to email ascii and its another to send rich markup over unencrypted links.

Gmail on Mobile Clients Communication Issue

If you decide to switch your Gmail preferences to always use https for all connections to Google servers, do not forget to do the same on your mobile devices, with the mobile client. Note: Yes, you should be using https, its a bad idea to let attackers close to your cookies sent unencrypted over your sessions - any sessions - not just Google ones. For the time being things can get out of sync and your mobile client will get server errors when trying to access your account. Here's a read from the Gmail google group. I noticed this after my blackberry stopped sending emails, or performing searches on my Gmail account. After a fresh install it pretty much stopped doing anything.

Mashing up and where do I work

The coming year promises to bring a new face to many web apps, mashing up content from different sources is becoming easier by the day. I am going to test some of these ideas on this blog and file it under Mashups. The idea behind mashups is simple leave the lifting to those who do it best, and concentrate on where you add value to the chain, be it your friends or your customers. Here's an example, the Google Maps team just announced adding 8 new cities to the street view layer on What's interesting to me is not the eight new cities but the ability to add the street view snippet into my own, in this case, blog post. So here, today I'll share the street where I work and point visiting friends to it. Note one little but important detail, to get the right html snippet you have to use the URL to navigate to the right place and not, this will change in the future but right now you have to be aware of

Why Web 2.0 and how I started to move off the server

I have to admit, being a computer hack for 25+ years I really love to meddle with software on my own. I have my own servers plugged to the Internet and I have ways and ways to make them useful to myself. It started way back in the Andresen days with pics my family could peek at and then it went more and more complex with more and more stuff running on them. But I am fed up now, the tipping point for me was wordpress. Not because it's a bad piece of software, I just grew tired of moderating a whole pile of comments whose content was just a pile of spam. I loved the geeky aspect of being able to grep through log files or setup cron jobs to move files between raid servers. However, at the end of the day. It's not cutting it. I spend too much time worrying over those details where I could be writing about a good book I read and how it changed my perspective (Steve thank you for the comment). I moved to blogger though anything similar will do. No more fuss and more time to do creat

Visit to the SETI Institute and CMU West

Shortly after our NASA visit we had a tour of SETI and a demo of the Senseta robotics platform we are considering for the NASA / Mars Society project. More on this with images from both places are posted now here . Moreover, I am hosting Dr. Shostak for a tech talk at Google in April. I’ll post a link to the video of the talk in due time. For the time being here’s a short summary. “The scientific hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence is now into its fifth decade, and we still haven’t uncovered a confirmed peep from any cosmic company. Could this mean that finding aliens, even if they exist, is a project for the ages — one that might take centuries or longer? New technologies for use in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) suggest that, despite the continued dearth of signals from other societies, there is good reason to expect that success might not be far off — that we might find evidence of sophisticated civilizations within a few decades. Why this is so, what cont

A visit to the NASA Ames Research Center

Scientists from NASA Ames started a robotics research project with the Northern California chapter of the Mars Society. The goal of the project is to extend available commercial hardware by developing a software platform that will field test several augmenting concepts for human exploration of Mars. The hardware and guidance system field trials will take place in the Mojave desert. Teleoperation, autonomous capability and research simulations will be conducted at the Society’s Mars Desert Research Station where NASA will operate the robotic facility during several crew rotations. Dr. Chris McKay, the NASA lead on this project arranged for us a tour of the facilities and explained the various research projects and spaceflight preparations that take place there - very, very, interesting. I am not a big fan of large pics in this blog, but I had to make an exception for the one above. There’s a more extensive collection of photos on my photography blog. You can reach it here .

Quantum Computing Demo at the Computer History Museum

The CHM is a block away from Google headquarters. I took the opportunity today to attend the demonstration of the first commercial quantum computer. The computer, designed by a collaborating network of scientists from several countries under leadership from Dr. Geordie Rose, was built by D-Wave and features 16 qubits or quantum bits. The hardware for a quantum computer (QC) can be one of the following: assemblies of individual atoms trapped by lasers; optical circuits, for example using photonic crystals; semiconductor-based designs, usually including atomic-scale control of dopant atom distribution or quantum dots; and superconducting electronics. Dr. Rose chooses superconducting electronics as the basis of this computer since the fabrication is a known and it scales well. The qubits themselves are not atomic sized but macroscopic features as they use a property of superconducting materials named Cooper pairs. Cooper pairs are bosons, which have no restrictions into how many can occup

Distributed Search and Rescue

It’s late and my eyes are a bit strained so I’ll keep this short. Computer scientist and Turing award laureate Jim Gray was reported missing on January 28th. The Coast Guard and also many of his friends immediately started a search operation. The Guard with C-130s, helicopters and patrol boats his friends with smaller private planes. He was sailing from San Francisco bay to the nearby Farallon islands when reported missing. On February 1, 2007, the DigitalGlobe satellite did a scan of the area, generating thousands of images, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is used to distribute the imagery among Internet users everywhere in order to shard the effort of searching for Jim’s boat. Being a sailor myself, I just reported on over 200+ pieces of imagery and quick scanned about the same number. We’ll see in the coming days if this changes anything for his family and friends, it’s certainly an inspired merge between satellite imagery and Internet technology. Pitch into the image analysis effort

Recent Water Flows on Mars?

New observations just came in from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, areas imaged in 1999 and 2000 were recently re imaged. Comparing the two sets of images revealed new features in the more recent set of images hinting strongly at the presence of liquid water on the red planet. This is not the only data indicating the possible presence of subsurface water on Mars. But as it was said at the press conference held at JPL, “There are basically several lines of evidence. The first is the.morphology of the features that we see suggests that they were emplaced by a afluidized material, as opposed to a liquid material, something that was dirt mixed in with something that gave it mobility. The attributes that we see, it moved very slowly on a steep slope, which means that it was changing its properties as it was moving down slope. But it’s easily diverted around very, very subtle topography and it has very long, finger-like terminations at the ends of these flows. Those are all attributes of someth

The Google

This video came by email a couple of minutes ago. And a story that ran on CNN. “HOST: I’m curious, have you ever googled anybody? Do you use Google? BUSH: Occasionally. One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps. It’s very interesting to see — I’ve forgot the name of the program — but you get the satellite, and you can — like, I kinda like to look at the ranch. It remind me of where I wanna be sometimes.”


I was at a lecture a couple of days ago given by Hisashi Taniguchi, David Aliaga of ZMP and saw a demo of a robot called Miuro. Miuro is a network music player that moves freely around a house. The user with the touch of a button, can record his favourite places for listening music and Miuro is able to move to those places by itself and let its owner enjoy his/her favourite music. It does so in two ways, by an inertial guidance system and also by means of a camera that over a time period constructs a map of a house or apartment. The reasoning for this, what if a kid picks up Miuro and moves it to a different location. This in effect resets the inertial navigation system. Here’s more from the authors themselves: “We would like that Miuro can learn the user patterns of music listening, so that it can naturally adapt its own behavior to the user tastes. This through the use of a large size database and methods of musical information search in the Internet for example. In Mountain View for

Added link to the sailing blog

It’s on the left. So in the past I had two blogs, the pic one which is being maintained, though I still have to plug in images from Regensburg, Amsterdam and Death Valley. However the pacific blog was lost, not indexed by any search engine as I have not linked it anywhere. People who needed to read it at the time, to keep track of my wanderings, knew the address. Well it’s time to plug in in some keywords for search engines. The pacific blog was maintained using bloggar over an inmarsat data link during a sailing trip from Hawaii to Tahiti with friends Greg and David. Bloggar worked quite well because it’s not web based but you work offline and send chunks of text over xml-rpc once done editing or once you have an available connection. This is also less bandwidth hungry than traditional browser based clients which in addition require an open Internet connection. It took two weeks to sail the distance and get to Rangiroa and later the atoll Fakarava. The pictures taken during the sai