Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SOPA and the Casio keyboard of mystery

You may have heard of a new law called SOPA that our esteemed rulers leaders currently have in development.

SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, which it will not do.  What it will do is require ISPs to block access to content which allegedly infringes upon copyrights when requested to do so by the holder of said copyright.  It will also require Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, et al to block fund transfers to individuals or groups trading in content which they allegedly do not own.

The real non-technical problem here is that these blockages won't require a court order or a warrant.  The copyright holder simply has to make a claim of infringement.

Also, if this wasn't bad enough, it'd make streaming copyrighted material a felony.

There are a lot of technical problems with this too.  The ISP will probably just poison their DNS servers to prevent the site in question from resolving.  There isn't a lot to keep someone from just using a DNS server located outside the United States, or just turning up their own resolver for the matter.  If actual routes were blocked, proxy servers aren't exactly hard to find.

As far as blocking financial access, this is yet another reason why I like Bitcoin. 
There is no third party intermediary, you just send money and be done with it.
In conclusion, SOPA is a bad law that will make it hard for ISPs to do business. Lamar Smith (the bill's sponsor) should go fuck himself with a garden rake, and I do not mean with the handle.

On a more pleasant note, despite my better judgment I decided to dig around on the CB band (27 mhz) tonight.  Someone is playing a little Casio keyboard tune on CB channel 17.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Optical theremin

Another subject I've always meant to learn more about is electronics.  When I was a kid I remember some of my father's friends building various interesting contraptions in their garages and basements, hunched over circuit boards with a soldering iron in one hand and a stubby bottle of Lucky Lager in the other.
When I was old enough to learn what actually went on with electronic components (instead of just blindly connecting things to other things) I downloaded the floppy disk images for Slackware from a BBS and immediately lost interest.

Every now and then I have thought about trying to get back into the hobby.  When the new issue of Make showed up at the house early last week there were plans for a light-controlled theremin.  It looked easy enough, so I sat down and gave it a try.

It was indeed easy enough.  I have now built my own  electronic annoyance device.

I'm going to try and hunt down a case for it in the next few days.  If I stick with this I will need to get the supplies needed to drill and etch circuit boards as well.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Home brewing

Another one of my hobbies is home brewing.  I got into it because I am extremely fond of beer (I'd drink it even if it wasn't an alcoholic beverage, however, the fact that it does contain alcohol is a nice bonus).  I also like making my own because beer, even craft beer, is usually a mass produced thing that people buy. 
Also, making your own beer is a small act of control, not unlike rooting your cell phone, choosing to use open source software, growing a portion of your own food, or learning to fix your own car.
Five gallons of homemade porter.
Making alcohol is not very hard.  You simply get yeast and sugar together in a liquid environment and wait.  You DO want to have a nice, clean environment so the only microbe that grows in your fermenter is the yeast.  You also need to control the temperature of the stuff to a certain extent, but as long as you stick to making ale you have a fair amount of wiggle room.  I'm not going to sit down and write a homebrewing tutorial, but if you're the slightest bit curious I assure you that it is not hard.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Emergency Activation Message (EAM)

I am no longer as young as I once was (and I have homework) so I stayed in tonight.  After while I decided to start messing around with the radio, and I came across an emergency activation message.

Emergency activation messages are coded messages of high importance sent by the military.  I end up picking them up the loudest on 6740 KHz, upper sideband.  I have picked them up on 8992, but the signal isn't as strong.
When I came across my first one I mistakenly believed it to be a numbers station.  While it is not quite as exciting, this is an example of the weird shit that I look for on the radio.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

DIY(ish) tablet

Tablet computers are all the rage these days.  The iPad is of course the media darling, there are a variety of Android tablets out there, and then there are of course oddities running Windows and Web OS.
When the iPad came out my response was "this is cool, but what the fuck will I do with it?".  It seemed a bit big to me.  Then 7 inch tablets started coming out.
Since those were the size of a book they suddenly seemed more interesting.
Not too long after that I learned that Cyanogen would run on the Nook Color.  This provided the delightful combination of full control of the operating system (I am a nerd, my computers need to be mine), a bunch of apps, a convenient size, and a very low price.
There is the issue of no 3g/4g.  I don't really feel that I need those particular features.  Wifi is pretty ubiquitous these days, and frankly if I'm someplace without it I probably am not interested in being online anyway.
I picked up a refurbished Nook on eBay.  I followed the directions on Cyanogen's site, and the install worked without a hitch. 
I can see it being a wonderful device for reading, listening to music, and watching videos.  However, it is NOT a good tool for doing much actual work, even writing a humble blog entry such as this one.  Virtual keyboards are universally terrible.  I can't imagine using one to write more than a few sentences, let alone some code.