Tagged with technology

Dumpster Dive


I work in a large university building that hosts physics, chemistry and some more applied technical research, which means that it is great fun to occasionally go down to the cellar where the trash is being collected. Usually there is not much interesting in the electronics bin, but over the years I have brought home, for example, a fully functional TV (720p) and a few magnetic stir plates that are useful for yeast propagation.

Some while ago I picked up the power supply that is pictured above. It looked useful for some home automation project or whatever, and I hoped it would be low-voltage DC, which is most useful in this context. I could not have been more wrong: It turns out it is AC, adjustable up to 5 kV! While I took enough care to not electrocute myself, the multimeter that I used got fried for good.

A look inside reveals some nice manually assembled circuits and the ID of central unit is searchable, confirming this is a high-voltage AC power supply. I have no idea what to do with it now, but I have not brought it back to the bin either. Ideas welcome!

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Our Leaf

Since I just mentioned it, maybe it's time to comment on how well, or not, we like our electric Nissan Leaf, now that we have had it for 15 months, going into the second Swedish winter with it.

We bought it used, very reasonably priced, since it's the base model with no frills, from 2013, still the early days of electric cars. Plus, it has a quirky history, being imported from California. This brings a few minor annoyances with it, like the AC temperature setting in Fahrenheit, or that the car cannot be convinced to recognize the European tire-pressure sensors in our winter tires.

But overall we're very happy with it. It's a comfortable ride and covers my commute (2x20km) plus the occasional detour without causing "range anxiety". In summer, a full charge would last for two trips to town and back, so I mostly charge to 80% only then. In winter, the number of charge percentage points needed for a single trip increases from ~20% to ~30%, which still leaves a comfortable margin.

I use the app LeafSpy to read the car's internal information and it tells me that the battery is at 82%, which after more than five years lifetime seems to be slightly above average, when comparing to statistics.

But all the numbers are not what's important. I found driving to work became more relaxing with the Leaf. Stop-and-go traffic is much less stressful than with a stick-shift and the lack of combustion engine decreases the noise-level, which in turn means that I can listen to my podcasts or audiobooks at lover volume - again preventing stress.

In addition, mileage is cheaper (less than half the cost) and less polluting than a fossil car. So we can feel smug about that, too.

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Car Troubles

Last spring, during one of our long drives I was stupid enough to bump into the car in front of us, at low speed. Luckily, there was not much damage, but our car's front was compressed a centimeter or two, such that the left headlight no longer was properly attached.

Since it's an older car and not the kind of damage that affected operation, I just let it be and did nothing much. But now it was time for an inspection so I had another look yesterday. After thinking for a few minutes, I found a spot on the light casing that could hold a screw, such that it works as an attachment for a strong zip tie. This, in turn, now pulls the light into place and secures it. I love zip ties.

This morning, the car (2009 Toyota Yaris) passed the inspection with flying colours - yay! Now it is ready to be sold. The replacement will be a Nissan Note, which is the right compromise between a city-traffic and long trips, that our electric is not meant for.

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Call me old-fashioned. but I prefer RSS-feeds to any other way of reading the web. An open, de-centralized and automatic way of gathering the latest things from various sources, and presenting them in a consistent, ad-free and readable formatting of my own choice, without generating a shit-load of metadata for some platform - what more is there to want?

In recent years, I've been running Tiny Tiny RSS on a small rented v-server and it does the job. There is an App as well.

The one area where RSS has not fallen out of fashion yet, are podcasts. I sure hope that the diverse landscape of content and players (I use DoggCatcher) does not fall prey to the lures of platformization any time soon.

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I happened to be in Brussels for this year's installement of FOSDEM and it sure is an amazing free event, pulled off by a lot of voluntary work.

The plan was to have a short writeup and comment on the talks I listened to, but I rather spent the time watching some more talks in their recorded form. So I recommend you pick by your interests and do the same: Saturday, Sunday

At least I got around to showing a few tidbits to fellow astronomers. Slides

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Why social media are manipulative


I'm listening through the back-log of Sam Harris' podcast for a while and today it was time for Episode #71 on the fight for time and attention, which I found very enlightening.

We've all had mixed feelings about social media and other technologies that are optimized to gain and keep our attention, so I found it helpful to get some vocabulary for thinking better about this topic. I won't summarize it here, go listen to it!

If not, then one take-away message certainly is:

Technology is not neutral!

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