Archive for September, 2010

Fixin’ Stuff Because You Could

They just don’t make stuff anymore like they used to. Not that old stuff was perfect, or anything, but repair on older appliances and things like that usually aren’t too difficult at all, on the rare occasion they’re needed.

Case in point: last week, our (twenty-year-old) dehumidifier quit working. Some disassembly later, it turned out one of the main power wires had burned through. Why? Because the fan had seized. I stripped down the motor, cleaned out the hardened oil, re-lubricated it, re-assembled the fan, then soldered the burnt wire, and hey presto, it works again, good as new.

Repair was greatly simplified by the owner’s manual, which thoughtfully includes a wiring diagram.

On the other hand…
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Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General | on September 30th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

China Bunnies

One of my favorite blogs, which I thought was long overdue a plug, is Bunnie’s Blog, written by Andrew Huang. Mostly. I think. He’s a benevolenty evil genius who probably never met, saw, or heard of an electronic device he couldn’t hack. (I also greatly admire his PCB layout skills.)

Even if you aren’t so much into electronics geekery, he’s got a lot of very interesting stuff about the electronics (and other stuff) manufacturing business in China. There’s the sordid story of counterfeit (or are they?) MicroSD cards, for example. Or very counterfeit integrated circuits. (Another story from a different source about this problem, with lots and lots of cool photos, is here.)

Or there’s cool stories about cultural values (and culture clashes). Or the care and feeding of factory workers.

His archives are a trove of awesomeness, whatever your interests, so… go read. You know you want to.

Published in: General | on September 29th, 2010 | No Comments »

ACH, Cognitive Bias, and Politics

On Friday I got wiped out by the ‘flu, to the extent that I spent much of the last five days sleeping, or trying to. Fun, fun.

Somewhere along the way, though, I read an interesting paper on ACH – the Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, which I’ve probably written about at some point in the past. Specifically, it’s a thesis paper by Drew Brasfield, a (former) student of Mercyhurst professor Kristan Wheaton, which attempted to determine both how objectively effective ACH is as an analytic tool, and how effective it is at mitigating cognitive bias.

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Published in: Geekiness, General | on September 28th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

Persecuted Minorities

There have been a lot of news stories in the past couple of days here in the States that Arab-Americans are facing heightened – I think the word usually used is “unprecedented” – levels of discrimination.

It’s not hard to figure out why, unfortunately. For too many people, brown equals terrorist. That’s wrong, and it bothers me rather a lot.

What I also find bothersome is the way that people – including journalists – try to spin the current, reactionary wave of bigotry as special or unique or, indeed, unprecedented.

Does nobody remember history, anymore?
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Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General, History | on September 24th, 2010 | No Comments »

Meet the STM32 Primer2

Obligatory disclaimer: I’m a “hardware guy”, not a software guy. I learned – taught myself, actually – BASIC in… 1984, or so, on a Commodore VIC-20. I learned PASCAL years later, on an Apple II. Many years after that – we’re talking 1994 or so, maybe – I learned a little bit of LPC. In about 1995, I learned HTML, and that was pretty much the end of my development as a coder or scripter. I understand the basics, but as far as actually writing code in anything other than (X)HTML, I’m rustier than the Lusitania.

Anyway.

Way back in the day when men were men and women were women and “microcontrollers” were arcane, obscure, and expensive, there were pretty much two and a half flavors of the things: the venerable BASIC stamp, the equally venerable PIC, and the good old 8051 family of microprocessors, which were used by Real, Serious Programmers and hardly accessible to the amateur.

If you were going to become a microcontroller programmer, you could advance from one platform to the next as you went on, gaining access to slightly more impressive hardware along the way.

But why bother?
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on September 22nd, 2010 | 2 Comments »