Manchurian Apricots Will Take Over The World

Or, perhaps not, but it won’t be for lack of trying. I bought a bunch of tree seed this winter and “stratified” (soaked in moist earth in the refrigerator) it for 2-3months. Recently, I planted them all in trays and large pots. The Manchurian apricots (Prunus armeniaca var. mandshurica) lead the way in sprouting a long taproot and primitive stem with leaves. These are very rugged trees that can tolerate any soil if it’s not waterlogged and much colder climates than mine (USDA zone 3) while still producing an abundance of delicious fruit.

I’ll leave them in pots this summer and plant them in the ground at my leisure. The only question is “Can a man have too many apricots?”… I count 15 in 6” pots looking lively and a few which may yet sprout. I have two that I started last year out in the garden. These will grow into small trees and TLW might notice. 😉

Posted in family, food, horticulture | Tagged | 2 Comments

M$: If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em…

“Windows Phone is still dying. Android is the most popular mobile operating system by a wide margin. Microsoft has bought a company that can help its developers easily write apps for Android. And, last but not least, it has partnered with an Android vendor that wants to replace Android’s Google services and that also happens to be working on integrating Microsoft services with Android.
Maybe we won’t see Microsoft Android by 2017. But I’m certain we’ll see Cyanogenmod with Windows services locked in. For all practical purposes, it will be Microsoft’s Android.”
See Don’t be surprised when Microsoft Android shows up
M$ has come a long way. Finally, reality is creeping in. M$ has tried to beat Linux on x86 and ARM but when it comes to small cheap computers/smartphones, it was no contest. Linux won. Despite $billions invested, M$ could not take much share away from Android/Linux on smartphones. There are all kinds of reasons for that besides price. I suspect from the consumer’s viewpoint is was mostly about apps and keeping up with the Jones family.

So, why was Google able to succeed and M$ failed? It was all about control. Google allowed the ecosystem to innovate and not be locked into M$’s way of doing things. Android and Linux are both Free/Libre Open Source Software so there’s no lock-in built in to the licence. It’s all about sharing. Now, ironically, M$ finally sees the advantages of sharing and not doing everything in house. That’s good. That’s M$ becoming more like a real business instead of a monopoly. I expect when shareholders see margins and volume improve for smartphones, they will demand that M$ loosen its grasp of the desktop as well. That would be the right way to sell desktop operating systems. Not reinventing the wheel but sharing the load for software development is a much more efficient model of business. When that happens, GNU/Linux will be ready to help.

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The Netherlands Going Electric

“The lower house of the Dutch parliament passed a motion recently that would ban the sales of non-electric cars in the country by 2025. The motion still needs to pass the Senate to become binding, but if it does, it would mean that the only non-electric cars allowed in the Netherlands would be those already on the road today: anyone in the country looking to buy a new car would have to buy electric.”
See The Netherlands Could Soon Ban The Sale Of Non-Electric Cars
Banning automobiles powered by fossil fuels would be a bit extreme in Canada. Except in towns/cities, the country’s just too damned large. I know people who commute year round ~100 miles each way. Having a range of ~200 miles would be dangerous, particularly in winter. Itinerant workers would be out of a job. You’d need to cover the country with a bus-system that worked. Try that in a country heavily populated in a strip 3000miles X 300 miles.

I’ve suggested several times TLW should go electric or at least diesel to reduce fuel-consumption but she won’t hear of it. Imagine the resistance millions of such drivers/owners could raise. It could be done, of course, in heavily populated regions by spending $billions on charging/battery-swapping stations all over the country. We already have thousands of gasoline/service stations. They could be converted with enough $billions expended.

Of course, Netherlands doesn’t have an abundance of hydro-electricity as we do here, but they can just burn the oil they don’t want to burn in cars somewhere else…

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Munich, Revisited

“The consultants report no problems or criticism with the use of open source on servers, for development and for enterprise solutions. Here, the situation is very comparable to what is common in many other public administrations and in the private sector, they note.
Commenting on the interim report, Florian Roth, leader of the city’s Green Party wrote on his Facebook page that the report confirms that the use of open source is not the issue here.”
See Munich publishes interim report on IT performance
News of the death of GNU/Linux in Munich’s local government is exaggerated, apparently. A thorough review of the global IT-system finds nothing to report. What it does find is that Munich is still using too many applications even after pruning them back severely in the migration to GNU/Linux.

Perhaps this will finally cause the nattering nabobs of negativism to shut up. GNU/Linux does work for people.

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South Tyrol Takes The Bait

“Our decision was not a choice between open source or not – we took a strategic decision to transfer basic services to cloud, with the aim of fostering a more efficient and up-to-date way of working. We are not about to buy licenses, but a service”
See South Tyrol makes U-turn, drops LibreOffice project
A change of government can undo a rational step towards adoption of Free/Libre Open Source Software. South Tyrol now plans to pay M$ for a service rather than pay themselves for LibreOffice. It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s government-policy.

Citizens should ask how the government plans to use M$’s cloudy office without paying for M$’s and Intel’s desktop licensing/highway robbery.

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Intel intel

“Intel is preparing a significant round of job cuts across business units this spring, according to multiple sources inside the company familiar with its plans.”
See Intel planning for thousands of job cuts, internal sources say
I wouldn’t normally repeat rumours but this one is in line with my thesis that Wintel is being replaced with polytheism in IT. This cut or non-cut in employment is significant because if true, it would be an indicator that those at the helm do see the writing on the wall and are heading it off long before there is a serious cut in margins, growth or profitability. The problem is not necessarily with their technology but with the corporate structure which has built up layers of inefficiency as the world bought product it didn’t need at whatever price Intel demanded.

All the steps in Moore’s Law and releases of TOOS have Intel fighting medieval wars with bigger walls and heavier stones rather than with agile technology good enough to do the jobs people have. Intel’s stuff certainly works well enough on servers where the cost of labour is low and all that matters is the cost per transaction, millions of them per second. You can pay just about any price for a machine-gun if it wins your battles. It’s rifles that the world’s IT uses and because there are so many more rifles in use than machine-guns the price matters in every budget. Intel has been part of the slowdown of Wintel, charging last decade’s prices per CPU rather than 21st century prices. At the same time, an army really doesn’t need a different rifle every three years or 12 types of rifle when one or two will do. Reality is creeping in.

Shortly, we should have Intel’s announcements of financial performance and perhaps clarification of the extent and nature of cuts. There wasn’t much of a clue in Intel’s latest announcement about reorganization. It’s about time Intel used its licence to make ARMed devices if they are competing with others along that line. x86 certainly doesn’t compete well against billions of devices that are good enough instead of being whatever comes down the pipe. Stay tuned.

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Spring is definitely in the air. We’ve probably had the last snowfalls replaced by April’s showers. I’ve started hundreds of tree seeds sprouting indoors. A bunch of trees from nurseries and other perishable stock are being queued up to ship my way from several suppliers. I’ve already voted in the provincial election. It will soon be time to cultivate and plant for the growing season.

I’ve already taken a couple of tours of the yard to see what trees bear healthy buds and which don’t. There are a few in both categories. It wasn’t a harsh winter but tiny plants still suffered. I spotted one that was severely chewed by rodents but most are looking promising. Combined with improved drainage, all this planting should bear fruit in a few years. May I be there to enjoy that? Perhaps. Almost certainly I’ll have a taste of a few grapes, raspberries and Saskatoon/serviceberries this summer.

This week, I’ll tune up the Chinese rototiller. The charging circuit is not working. With my new multimeter I should be able to diagnose and fix that. I never did get a proper circuit diagram from the manufacturer. I’ll figure it out. I’m trickle charging the battery now.

I’ll also finish welding the frame for the new alternator heading east across the Pacific. I’ve contacted the outfit who shipped me the tractor to arrange the shipping of the alternator. We’ll also get on with signing up with two rifle clubs, so that I can keep my hand in and even return to the St. Charles Rifle Range where I last shot decades ago…

Anticipation can be a good thing at my age. It gives me yet another reason to keep blogging and to get out of bed each day. It’s all good.

Posted in food, horticulture, hunting, technology | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

TSMC, The Spider

“Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company – it continues to ramp up production of 16nm chips with further improvements in yield rates. The foundry reiterated 16nm will account for more than 20% of its total wafer revenues in 2016.”
See TSMC reiterates revenue target for 2016
I once read a book wherein the authour opined that baby tarantulas may live and grow on sunlight alone… This was one of the books I distributed all over the North in schools. I expect he was not paying enough attention but when it comes to integrated circuits and Moore’s Law, we are getting very close to the point where silly things happen, like energy consumption scarcely mattering at all, even for mobile devices.

My Beast has a CPU that consumes 95W going flat out. It uses 45nm details. At 7nm, where TSMC expects to be producing two years from now and at 10nm where they will be producing next year, we are approaching the point where atoms are just too large to draw the lines… and even 1W would be excessive energy consumption. I remember the old days when a television or radio might have used 1W in a single passive component. We are approaching the point where body heat, random motion, even sound might generate enough power to run things except perhaps for the display. Most adults/teenagers produce about 100W of heat just sitting around. Walkers/joggers could well run a small data-centre.

2016 looks like the year of ARM here. I’m leaning to the Odroid-C2 as a general client but I still haven’t picked out a server even though AMD A1100 is available for ~$300 on Lemaker Cello. I know, in a year or two these both will be sadly out of date, being just halfway there, but it’s a giant step forward compared to whirling fans, dust-collection and heating. The question is, “How long do I have to wait for modern ARMed designs to make it onto modern desktop/server motherboards that are affordable.?” My patience or Beast will likely run out before Christmas.

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It Took A Decade And A Few Thousand Images, But TLW Finally Sees The Light

TLW, The Little Woman, loves pictures, as long as there are people, houses or landscaping in them… She has thousands all dropped into directories named after events and dates. Her management of that resource is so ‘9x… Well, finally, she asked whether it would be possible to annotate images just like on FaceBook etc. so she could find and use images more effectively. At first I thought she wanted to write on the images so I suggested GIMP but she cleared that up. She wanted screens full of images with notes below them, what I’ve been suggesting for a decade or longer.

Of course, one uses computers to do things that folks have been doing for centuries with paper, annotating, filing, retrieving, sorting… stuff. Computers are faster and capable of huge tasks in an instant compared to the human mind as long as the task is well defined. With a database of images, she can avoid having to open dozens of likely-named folders looking for the one. Instead she can ask an application for what she seeks and get it in an instant, complete with notes, comments, and related images. This makes hours of human work scanning a few screens at most as the data can be categorized and ordered a dozen different ways with a few clicks.

Her first reaction? “That’s a lot of work”… I demonstrated the advantages of sorting images of trees, flowers and vegetables and searching for them based on key words in file-names, titles, comments, and categories. I set up Coppermine Photo Gallery, the latest version, in place of an old version I had spinning around on Beast. I’ve used it for many years to collect the images I took all over Canada’s North. The system has improved greatly since the early days. Importing files in bulk is lightning fast (uses Flash… and ImageMagick). Adding notes/comments is pretty smooth. I did have one minor problem with the new version: I zoom the screen pretty hard and the bigger you make everything else, the smaller the text-box for comments gets… I chose a compromise for zoom and it’s beautiful now.

TLW will play with it today. Welcome to the 21st century, TLW.

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Opening Minds As Well As Government With FLOSS

“There is a serious lack of understanding of these two topics in the government”, the MP says. The centre should remedy this, and Ms Oosenburg has started studying possibilities and options.
The Dutch MP is concerned about the limited grasp of open source displayed by the country’s Minister for the Central Government Sector, Stef Blok. On 7 April, in a discussion with members of parliament, the minister argued that changing to open source alternatives to proprietary software would lock the government in to service providers, instead of software vendors.”
See Dutch MP calls for open source resource centre
The chief leverage that some suppliers of non-Free software use to lock in users comes from closed source code and sometimes, locked data. Using Free/Libre Open Source software eliminates both fulcrums. Users retain the option of taking data and leaving a relationship or finding another maintainer at any time. Some people still don’t get that. Their eyes are still not open even after the coffin in which they were buried alive has been opened. It takes a little time to get used to the light. It may take members of the organization a little education to shed that light. Good for a Dutch MP trying to set that up.

Posted in politics, Teaching, technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

OMG! Solar PV Panels Around $0.50 USD/W

It’s been a while since I considered solar energy. Then it was becoming competitive. Now it surely is competitive with oil companies investing in it just to hedge their bets. Thanks to global markets, Chinese industry and some other factors, prices have plunged.

Think of it. Here, we often have cold windy winters but lots of sunshine. If I had a south-facing roof full of these things, I could easily get ~10KW of power during a few hours most days, enough to heat my house. When it’s -30-40C and 40km/h winds, that’s a valuable aid to the budget. Say, 40kwh daily at 10 cents per kwh, that’s $4/d. These things would easily pay for themselves in 10 years and last 25 years. I could even spring for some NiFe batteries or something else to store energy for the rest of the day. It’s all good. I could add some wind to this as well. I sense a project for next year, another reason to keep on living. Imagine if I lived in a tiny shack in the bush… I could easily be self-sufficient.

See High Quality Low Price 300w Solar Modules

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More Love From China

See Yang Ming MovementMy new alternator is on the way, by ship, of course. It should arrive in my yard in May just in time for the first summer storm to deal with local flooding or power outages.

This time, the supplier actually called me up by phone at ~5am one day to clarify shipping details and specs. The accent was very thickly Chinese and we had a hard time understanding each other but it worked out in the end. Such deals are all the adventure this old man can stand… except of course for the huge growth in my pension’s stock portfolio. Had another good day yesterday. One stock grew by more than 10%, enough to pay for the alternator and shipping) on no news. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. I don’t have any explanation for the good times upon me. The weather is another matter. Spring fled a week ago and will return next week. Meanwhile, Beast reminds me to start planting everything indoors in pots.

Posted in horticulture, technology | Tagged , | 6 Comments