Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I'm currently "retired until further notice".
This Forbes article came up again recently. My hometown, Louisville CO, is still struggling with how to incentivise redevelopment downtown, following the “collapse” of their parking garage initiative run for the city by the Louisville Revitalization Commission (LRC).
I even applied for a vacant seat on the LRC, which I didn’t get. Better that than being one of those people who just complain at every opportunity.
I’ve encouraged the Mayor and Councillors to do more to make it easy for people that could get downtown without using private cars, to do so. Disappointingly, nothing has happened in the 3-years I’ve been here. The trail connection underpass long promised for 2018, which doesn’t really help get people downtown, has even been delayed. It’s even allegedly in the mix for the cities new Transportation Master Plan prioritization. Which assumes it might not get priority?
Car drivers often operate under a car “driven” mindset/false dichotomy that they can drive somewhere else for “free”
Car drivers often operate under a car “driven” mindset/false dichotomy that they can drive somewhere else for “free” to get a cheaper deal, a different meal, a better choice etc. When the opposite is true, not only are they using their car, fuel, wear and tear, but they are also doing the same to the roads. Ten of thousands of journeys quickly add up.
Cyclists & pedestrians don’t have the same mindset. Even with good, frequent, easily accessible transport options, they are much less likely to think, “oh, I’ll pop to xyz to see what they have.”. I should be obvious that non-car drivers value their time more, and instead of spending it travelling to the mall, to the next city over, they take advantage of what’s close by.
There is though a symbiotic relationship between how people travel, and the what is there when they arrive. This is why a city believes they have to provide parking, otherwise people won’t arrive by car. In a small city like Louisville, with close-in neighborhoods that’s not the way it has to be.
Just because people don’t drive a car, doesn’t mean the place they are travelling to can be a take-it-or-leave-it, subpar destination. Start by prioritizing non-car travel. Make it easy, convenient, and safe to get to by foot, by bike, e-bike and yes. scooters, and then re-develop the properties to provide a first class destination.
That makes a ton more sense than building an expensive parking garage, that causes years of disruption during construction and then incentivise developers to re-develop. The more people you can get out of cars now, the less space for them you will need in the future and the less people will demand it.
As I continue to digitize my entire 2,000+ album collection, I’m constantly amazed by the quality and durability of Vinyl recordings.
It’s true that I have the really poor quality stuff yet to come, as part of a dj lot of 90’s trance/techno 12-inch singles, some without covers, and many that were sat in damp or wet conditions. The general usability of vinyl is amazing. Have a listen to this sample from Quincy Jones first album, the track is called: A Sleepin’ Bee
The album is “This is how I feel about jazz“. It was recorded in 1956 exactly 1-year before I was born. It’s a mono recording, and this sample was taken from the album I own, a first pressing. admittedly I’ve cleaned and digitally enhanced the recording I made of the album. You can see pictures of the album and the actual vinyl on the entry in discogs via the link above.
I have working players and readers for most media that I’ve ever worked with and owned. I don’t have working computer tape drives, the sort that we used on mainframes from the 60’s to the early 2000s, or the modern versions. Nor do I have an IBM Mass Storage System for a couple of the cartridges I own. Also missing from my collection is a Videocassette Player(VCR). Although I could get one, I have no interest in collecting video tapes. “Videos” as they became known are perhap the worst example of home tape use(more on this later).
I do have two working reel-to-reel tape decks; a working dual cassette recorder/player; an 8-track player/recorder; a diskette drive: numerous CD, DVD drives and players; heck I even have a videodisc. All those formats though have their problems. Anything based on magnetic media, which would include tapes, cassettes and 8-tracks, as well as diskettes, can easily be ruined by putting them near or on top of something with a strong motor which destroys the magnetic encoding.
They also suffer from read errors. Almost anything that uses tape, uses a rubber or silicone wheel to move the tape. They often usually need a form of tension to hold them in the right place to pass over the head in order to be read. The wheels are destined to either attract dirt, or worse, cleaning with the incorrect fluid, which causes the material on the wheel to become “sticky” or decompose, which causes the tape to stick to it and jam. Tape itself is also prone to decomposition, and wear. It’s not unusual to pick up old cassette or reel-to-reel tapes that have the magnetic material flaking off.
Early “floppy” discs if stored correctly, are still useable, but since they have such small amounts of digital storage, really have no practical use. Yes, you can still get 3.5-inch diskettes and a drive, and the drivers are still embedded in Windows 10. The same can’t be said for 5 1/4-inch and 8-inch floppy discs. Again, these have so little space they are of no practical use today.
Once we moved to laser based read/write heads and optical discs, a whole new era of problems opened-up. CD’s sold as the perfect solution and virtually indestructible, but in practise, they were so convenient they are used everywhere, and the surface quickly became scratched. While they can be re-polished and even re-surfaced, the problem with anything digital is that you depend on the error recovery built into the drive, and if it cannot read the data, and as explained in this video, be error corrected, the optical disc data just can’t be read. If the drive won’t read it, you can’t get at the data in order to correct it.
I have a eight professionally produced and manufactured DVD’s from the early 2000’s that are on triathlon training. I decided it was time to see if they could be sold on ebay. Before listing them, I decided to play each one and ensure it was OK. The oldest of the DVD’s wouldn’t read on the external drive I use for my laptop, no matter what I tried, including simple repairs. It does play in a dedicated blu-ray DVD player. Frustrating.
However, vinyl records always play, even if only poorly. Records suffer from four types of problems, each of which can be corrected, either digitally, or physically.
The first is surface noise and clicks. Basic surface noise is easily removed provided you can find a section of the record that has noise and no music or sound. You simply sample the noise and tell the software, in my case, the excellent open source Audacity, to remove all noise as sampled. Clicks can also be removed, sometime just by software, other times by digitally editing the wave form, for the very small time period, reducing the amplification to the point where the click isn’t heard.
Second, jumps. Where a record is scratched, if the scratch is deep enough, instead of the stylus gliding along the track, the scratch causes the stylus to jump one more more tracks. You can’t physically correct these, but given a digital copy, you can replace the bits. Small, identical sections, for example a few seconds from a chorus and can be cut and pasted over the original jump section. If that’s not possible, again, you can adjust the amplification to make the jump almost unnoticeable.
When listening to music tracks, unlike processing digital data, or watching digital TV, at least in my experience, the faint sound of a jump is often missed as you are immediately processing/hearing the sound that follows.
Third are warps. A significant warp or bend in a record requires careful heat treatment. I’ve had hit and miss with this, but on the couple of albums I’ve tried, I was able to heat and flatten the vinyl to the point where it was playable, and then required time to digitally correct the sound defects. Given the availability of cheap vinyl records on @discogs and ebay, it’s often worth just buying another copy.
If you do decide to go down this route, you’ll need to carefully heat with a hairdryer, and then be prepared to weight in down with a heavy weight that is totally flat, like gym weights. Also it requires only very little heat and a lot of weight and, and time. I’ve taken two plus hours and yes, I’ve ruined a few by overheating, which causes the grooves to collapse. The warp will be gone, but so is the groove.
The final form of damage is a crack in the vinyl. Success here depends on the original type of record. Shellac 78’s are easily glueable these days. It requires care and any seepage above the surface must be removed. It’s common the hear a loud pop as the needle passes over the crack on each revolution. The pops can be removed digitally. And, yes, I do have a number of 78’s.
Repairing singles/45’s if they have one crack, is often not necessary. 45’s tend to be thinner vinyl, you can place the record on the turntable, and assuming you have a felt or cork matt, gently push down on both sides of the crack and then play it and remove the pops digitally. Albums and singles can be glued. It’s better if you can, to glue just the edges and allow the capillary effect to get some of the glue into the actual crack.
And that’s it. Apart from a couple of records that I failed to fix the warp on, I’ve never had a vinyl record I couldn’t make a passable digital copy of. If you are interested in some ideas of how to physically recover, restore, rescue vinyl records, John Manship from the UK has some great tips.
I have no plan to sell my vinyl when finished. They’ll just sit there in the corner of the living room, looking great, and a perfect archive. You can follow my vinyl to digital journey here, on twitter.
Oh, one more thing. The ease of use and creation of CD’s also lead to massive counterfeit operations, and so while you might have thought that all the piracy action was online in digital files, it wasn’t. This case from 2018 year shows, one of the top sellers of CD’s on Amazon, was in fact selling fakes. You can read about it here or watch the news report here. So CD’s are easy to use, perhaps a little too easy!
And yes, there was a period where bootleg vinyl records were common, less so today but still worth taking great care if you are buying rare records.
Review of Don Winslow @donwinslow article in the current issue of Vanity Fair.
I know next to nothing about Mexican Drug cartels, so this was a fascinating read.
Among the things I learnt was
Unlike the Mafia, the Mexican cartels encourage their members who have been arrested to tell everything they know if they can cut a deal for a shorter sentence—all they are obliged to do is relay what they’ve given up to defense attorneys, who then pass the information on so the cartels can make the necessary adjustments.
For more on the operation of the Sinaloa cartel; and how relatively unimportant El Chapo’s bust was; and how little difference it will makes to drugs coming into the US, this is a great read.
It ends with a great summary and question.
What is the corruption of the American soul that makes us want the drugs in the first place? Opioids—which are killing more Americans now than either car crashes or guns—are a response to pain. We have to ask the question: what is the pain?
Until we ask and answer that question, the drug problem will always be with us.
Among other reasons, Klein points out that people who are unfortunate enough to have their bank account balance at or near zero, deserve better. They need to know how long a check will take to process, how long before the deposit is final, and when they can plan payments for bills based on availability of funds. It’s well worth a listen. You can hear it below, or take the link over to the American Banker.
I have to admit I really like the new Microsoft To-DO app for Windows and Android. You can create lists of to-do’s, it has a My Day function and lots of useful detail.
Once I’d created my first set of serious to-do’s I suddenly realized how much sensitive data there was in my to-do’s. While I’m ok with Microsoft collecting and analyzing usage data, how many times I use the app, what platforms, where was I when I used them etc. I’m totally against them reading, copying or sharing the to-do’s with anyone that I have not explicitly authorized.
I checked a vast swathe of Microsoft web pages to see if I can find anything specific to To-Do, no luck. These included the following:
I couldn’t find a definitive answer anywhere. Does Microsoft scan the data inside of TO-DO’s, or for that matter DOC files, XLS files shared and in the “cloud” in order to harvest trends, ad targeting etc.
For me this will be an absolute deal killer. I’ve submitted a question to the privacy team via this form, this will be interesting to follow-up on. For me, my TO-DO’s are much more sensitive, private than anything I ever posted on facebook. My support ticket number: 1463236572. Here is the text of my question.
Microsoft TO-DO is a new app for Windows and Android etc. I’ve searched the various privacy and trust dashboards and cannot find anywhere that allows me to be sure that the CONTENT of my TO-DO’s which could be highly sensitive, is not shared or read by Microsoft for any purpose except back-up and sharing among systems I choose.
For example, I may have a TO-DO that includes make bank payment to Jeff and includes his bank routing code and account number. How can I be sure you will never scan and retain or copy such data for purposes I have not explicitly authorised?
| Update 5th March 2019: Microsoft were actually pretty good at replying, and pretty concise. Their reply came in less than 24-hours and said:
Except as described in our Microsoft Privacy Statement, we won’t disclose your personal information to a third party without your consent. We do not use what you say in email, chat, video calls, or voicemail. Nor do we use your documents, photos, or other personal files. As of its longstanding commitment to privacy, Microsoft provides resources to help you protect your part online information. Please find additional guidance at the Privacy at Microsoft page.
Which I read as they never process your actual data files, and sell the information contained in them. Which includes .doc, .xls, etc. So, that’s carry on with Microsoft To-Do.
Sadly, this New York Times Editorial op-ed is factually wrong in a material way that I had to write a letter. I also ripped into Dan Gorenstein on twitter(1) for linking to the article and “guessing” he didn’t think Americans would tolerate #MedicareForAll.
Here is the text I sent to the Times, who knows if they will publish it. My track record of getting corrections to editorial op-eds published is close to zero. It’s like they don’t want to be wrong.
The editorial board seems both confused, and factually inaccurate when it comes to how insurance works in government funded, single payer healthcare systems. It is common place in such systems to have an option of top-up insurance. I was lucky to have had such insurance when I needed serious surgery in the UK, in 1992. It was employer provided insurance.
One of the constraints in the many government single payer systems is the supply of buildings and doctors to treat a patient “on demand”. Urgent cases are as always seen as soon as they can be. Non-urgent cases, not so much. But then, medically, they are non-urgent. Top-up insurance allows patients to schedule both dates and locations, specialists for non-urgent treatment. The single payer system, pays an agreed amount for the treatment or surgery, much like Americas current insurance based system.
The difference is, that in America today there is massive over supply of both facilities and staff, specialists etc. That over supply is costing every one, both the insured and the uninsured, money for nothing. Yes, it’s great if you can walk into your local Dr’s today and get a referral to a specialist this afternoon for that annoying toe bunion that has bothered you for the past 6-months. Should our healthcare system be based on the costs of carrying that burden? Absolutely not.
While single payer systems are not perfect, nor is the current US Insurance based model. Almost everyone of the people that are involved in charging, finance, billing, negotiating, handling disputes, etc. is overhead. That overhead has to get paid for. So called “death panels” are more common in the US based insurance system than they are in single payer systems. In a single payer system there is no out of network, drug prices are controlled, and there is much more transparency. For everything else there is top-up insurance.
The editorial board overlooking this important fact, does a major dis-service to it’s readers and to Americans who continue to pay too much for healthcare.
On a BBC politics, current affairs program, Question time last week had another of it’s heavily #brexit based episodes. This one featured UK Government and Conservative prig, William Rees-Mogg. Mogg is infamous for his lowkey, I’m holier than thou, silver spoon accent. He makes statements with such supposed authority you’d be hard pressed to doubt there were 12 commandments.
This time in a pseudo-educated way, he prognosticated over William Churchill and took other members of the panel to task, “from the comfort of 2019”. “You’ve got to understand the history”. Turns out, as often, Moggs dictats were, as they frequently are, a mix of details and claims pulled literally out of thin air.
Actual historian, Robert Saunders, took Moggs claims to task.
First, some figures. From 1899 to 1902, roughly 48,000 people died in British concentration camps in South Africa. Of the 28,000 white deaths, 22,000 were children under the age of 16. More than 4,000 were women. The 20,000 Black deaths were less clearly recorded – a mark of official indifference – but most estimates suggest that about 80% were children.
If there is a betrayal of that trust [in public organizations], there is a crime. The opposite of truth is not just a lie, the opposite of truth is chaos.
The chaos that is in danger of bringing down the institutions we depend on, to deliver justice.
The final words of fictional character, Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox), in the finale of Season 22 of the BBC Series Silent Witness. Writers Virginia Gilbert and Michael Crompton have come up with one of those most memorable of TV moments. This is right up there with ACN ‘News Night’ anchor Will McAvoys speech of why America is not the greatest country in the world, written by Aaron Sorkin.
Trump, #BREXIT, et al. All seem to be creating chaos, by undermining the institutions, through the opposite of truth.
Tonight the President will address the nation in his second state of the nation. It’s unclear if he’ll say anything about Afghanistan, he’d be wise not to. Equally, given the President is prone to tackling sacred cows, maybe he should.
President Trump sent more troops and in his words America would stay until the “war is won”. While not as notorious as Vietnam, Afghanistan is Americas longest war, all Presidents from Roosevelt are complicit. America had been involved in/with Afghanistan from 1946 until the late 1970’s, as the Americans left, the Soviets arrived.
Afghanistan is a country that is at the center of the world, almost exactly 10,000 miles from either coast of America. Long before the War on Terror, long before the Russians invaded Afghanistan, the Americans were there. Buoyed by their success in WWII and in an effort to counter the Soviet Union threats of expansion, in 1946 American Engineers, their wives and families started to arrive in Helmand province in unprecedented numbers, they lived in a campus that became known as “Little America“.
They worked for the worlds biggest construction company at the time, Morrison Knutson. The King of Afghanistan had bought them in to replicate what had been done in Nevada, roads, dams, canals and even a new model city. The Kings plan had been to harness the power of the giant Helmand River and turn Afghanistan into a modern society like the west. Thats when everything started to go wrong.
In an era that is long forgotten and projects that were ultimately doomed to fail, it was the first, and possibly the best example of “too big to fail”. It did, we are still paying that price today, even before the Russians invaded, America had sunk $80-million into Afghanistan.
It’s the forever war, will President Trump actually succeed, no.
The New York Times “The Daily” covered Afghanistan yesterday(Feb 4th), disappointingly they never included anything about the whole “Little America” project. It is still one of the best summaries of what happened since the Russians invaded.
BBC NEWS has a great infographic style documentary on Helmands Golden Age from 2014 by Monica Whitlock. It is a good read and contains many pictures from Morrison Knutson engineer Glenn Fosters films. It also includes many clips of his color films, sadly they are geo-locked and not available in the US. You can though find much of the same material on Youtube. As an accompanying piece, Monica Whitlock also recorded an episode of the BBC World Service “The Documentary Podcast“, also from 2014. In an episode called “Damming Afghanistan: Lost Stories from Helmand” you can download and hear it here.
The US Agency for International Development, bureaus for Program and Policy Coordination, Bureau for the Near East, have a great detail report on Afghanistan, it can be read here, in its original 1983 form.