Maybe Intel Isn’t As Bad As I Thought

“Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has become the third top business leader to step down from President Trump’s manufacturing council on Monday.
He follows the chiefs of Merck (MRK) and Under Armour (UA), who announced their decisions earlier Monday amid the fallout over Trump’s response to violence over the weekend at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.”
See Intel CEO is the latest to leave Trump’s manufacturing council
In the beginning, Intel wasn’t a bad company, but when they tied their wagon to M$’s to form the Wintel monopoly they certainly left the fold of humanity. At their low point in morality they paid folks not to buy competitor AMD’s products. This week they have partially redeemed themselves by speaking and acting out against the insanity of Trumpism.

Trump’s talk of lowering taxes and regulation should be good for businesses like Intel but when the package is wrapped up in incompetent management of government, both executive and legislative, blatant inhumanity and the face of a POTUS utterly incapable of moral behaviour, the potential benefit clearly does not match the real harm done to USA, the world and humanity. Businesses do understand that there’s no free lunch and there is a cost of having a government to regulate chaos. Unfortunately, Trumpism doesn’t balance budgets and its benefits are not obtainable by the force of the will of a tyrant.

I’m still not inclined to pay monopolistic prices for CPUs even if they are the best on the market. I’d rather have inferior equipment at reasonable prices and I don’t have any use for silicon hair-driers. Intel can choose to do the right thing from now on but they can’t undo history. They can fight Trumpism because it is the right thing to do and it’s not too late to be a positive influence on the world going forward. The solution to a lot of problems comes when people realize they are not alone and Trumpism can be defeated simply by doing your job to the best of your ability.

Posted in politics, technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Supply And Demand In The Electronic Era

It’s interesting how the wave of adoption of one technology affects another. The old Wintel monopoly acted as if it was an island and a single monopoly controlled the world. Things are more complicated today. The main sign of life in Wintel is the notebook computer which gives a desktop-like experience in a mobile package. It depends heavily on batteries for that mobility.

“Lithium pricing has also increased by 60% since 2016 and with electric vehicles expected to reach shipments of two million units by 2017 and 9-20 million by 2020, the lithium pricing is unlikely to see any decline for the next three years and may result in further hikes in notebook battery prices.”
See Notebook lithium battery prices rising
What else depends heavily on batteries these days? Electric vehicles. You can hide the price of an expensive battery in an expensive car but you can’t in a notebook. Guess who’s going to win this one? EV production/sales are ramping up and notebooks are languishing. Rising prices for batteries is another millstone around the neck of Wintel. Meanwhile small cheap computers running on ARM are less affected because we don’t need to haul around 2kg of battery to make them run.

I just hope I get my Solo EV before the price rises too far…

Posted in technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Brain Surgery

No, not on my brain, but on a couple of trees grown too long in the same pot. I don’t remember the history… Perhaps it was when I was short of pots. Perhaps Nature planted a seed. Perhaps I lost patience with a seed and re-used a pot. I just don’t know.

Anyway, something had to give:

  • I could kill one of the twins. That was not a good choice because one was a valuable hackberry and the other, I think, was a valuable black cherry, both rare around here.
  • I could do brain surgery and untangle the roots, dangerous to both trees.
  • Doing nothing likely would damage both trees eventually.

These I grew from seed so I felt responsible and I had invested a lot of labour and love in them. It was my fault they had grown so close, less than 5cm between stems and about 40cm tall.

So, I opted for surgery figuring there’s still enough growing season for them to recover and I could give them extra protection for winter.

The rootball filled the pot. I loosened it from the edges hoping they might be miraculously untangled in the interior. No, I did not win the lottery. Both trees used every cm3 of the pot. I used a screwdriver to loosen the outer soil making vertical gashes. Eventually I was down to a frizzy mess of roots and a tight ball about the size of my fist. I flexed it a bit and little by little soil fell away. Finally, I had a Gordian knot of roots at the centre. I pulled and wiggled steadily and it finally came apart. Each tree was left with a considerable mass of roots which I plunged into a bucket of water.

I noticed the hackberry actually had a tight spiral near the top of its root, likely a vestige of poor planting of the seedling.

It was clear that the one gallon pot would not do, so I placed a gallon of soil in each of two three gallon pots and made a little mound in the middle. The “cherry” went well. Its bush of roots spread nicely, and I filled the pot to within about 2cm of the rim. I tried to do the same with the hackberry but its roots were in three rather tight clumps which I could not sort out well so I just buried them with fine soil and hoped for the best. I watered both pots thoroughly until water drained from the bases.

So, it’s done. I could add another step and prune them back and give them some shade but instead I will water well and provide extra protection in winter because they are both rather tough trees. I think both will survive to be planted out next spring and continue to absorb CO2 to fight global warming. Both will grow to be large trees outside their native range, so they might not bear fruit.

Posted in food, horticulture | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Peaches In USA Hammered By Global Warming

“The fruit harvest has been decimated by a mild winter and a late freeze – with devastating consequences.”
See Where have all the peaches gone?
Global warming isn’t just about things getting too hot. Different places can feel the pain with higher sea-levels, wild swings in temperature, storms and living things tormented by changes more rapid than they can adapt.

Take peaches (Prunus persica), for instance. They love winter. A time to rest. A time to prepare for a burst of growth in spring. The trees store energy in the roots ready to pump up the buds in springtime. A mild winter can cause the trees to be less than ready. A cold snap in spring can cause blossoms and buds to be damaged. It’s not good.

Global warming has its greatest effect in the Arctic where we normally see a solid lock on cold air hovering around all winter making ice and giving the polar bears a chance to hunt seals. Warm the Arctic just a bit and that all changes. Less ice. Less cold. Less stability in the mass of cold air up there. In spring and fall, the air that’s supposed to dwell in the Arctic can slosh down into the agricultural belt of North America, wreaking havoc far and wide. That’s why it took me three tries to keep tomatoes alive outdoors. I didn’t have frosts but I had howling winds which literally ripped the leaves off the tomatoes. Only now am I getting fruit. I should have had fruit in July. The peaches don’t have a second chance. If the winter and spring are wrong, there may be little or no fruit at all. Too bad for the bees. Too bad for the migrant workers. Too bad for the growers. Too bad for consumers and service industries which use peaches. Too bad.

Wake up Trumpists! Global warming is real and it will hurt you where you live and hit you in the stomach.

On the other hand, I’ve had the most remarkable summer. Only once did we have anything that amounted to violent weather since May and it did not damage a single plant. Rains have been gentle, aiding the starting of a new lawn from seed. Mosquitoes have been few and far between. Oh, there were quite a few ticks in June but everything including the weeds are growing wonderfully well. Everywhere the weeds have been kept in check, yields are great. I had a nice crop of lettuce. Even a watermelon is trying to take over the yard. A couple of pumpkins already have. Tomatoes, peppers, onions and lots of wonderful trees and grapes are putting on huge weight of branches and roots. I just transplanted some Swiss Stone Pine and even though the trees are still tiny, the roots were filling their six-inch pots. There is promise of good times yet but we have to act now, not after global warming eviscerates our way of life.

Posted in food, horticulture, weather | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Failing USA

“Many anti-Trump Americans talked about leaving the US for Canada. This couple is actually doing it.”
See Fleeing Trump: Couple leaving the Carolinas for Canada
Although many USAians were horrified by the failure of USA to choose a sane POTUS and considered emigrating to Canada, most decided to hunker down and hope for the best or fight for a return to sanity in the near future. It’s good to see some young people stick to a reasonable path to freedom from Trump, moving to Canada. They are welcome and we are glad to share the best country on Earth with immigrants and refugees.

I think either choice is right for some people. Clearly Trump has done some damage but most of it is reversible and possibly as early as next year. Impeachment would help a lot… Perhaps the USAian democracy will be strengthened by getting so close to implosion but it hasn’t failed completely yet. Even though the GOP has control of everything federally except SCOTUS Congress is still capable of providing checks and balances to Trump. Let’s hope he doesn’t start too many wars in the meantime. He’s impeachable now but Congress has only had a few lips uttering the word so far. That could change any time. If I were running Congress, I’d hold an emergency joint session of Congress and impeach Trump today. There’s also the possibility that the cabinet could oust Trump as incompetent but there’s no consensus yet.

So, USA is sputtering but it hasn’t entered the failed state yet. USAians can make up their mind sooner rather than later and pull back from the brink of disaster.

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

Evolution Of My Plan To ARM IT

The on-off-on status of the LeMaker Cello makes my original plan to replace my current energy-guzzler with that motherboard difficult to say the least. There isn’t a single ARMed motherboard on the market that matches my needs. In addition, I’ve done some maths. The energy consumption of Beast’s CPU over the last decade has almost certainly cost more than the hardware… Remember, some of that usage was off-grid, sucking in $1/kWh diesel-electric power. Oh, the pain…

So, my thinking has changed. There are a number of smaller/simpler boards that do just fine as clients like Odroid-C2 ($46 USD) and FireFly-RK3399 ($219 USD with 4gB RAM). They aren’t a problem. It’s the server end of things. I think I have a solution. The 96Boards people have a “set-top” offering, Poplar ($120 CDN, delivered), with a PCI-e slot that can hold some SATA device connections. It has gigabit/s Ethernet but also USB 3 connectors. I can use the Ethernet to do NFS, etc. to the clients and the USB 3 can be bridged to multiple boards to act as server. Unfortunately these boards are 28nm so the savings in energy is not great. The FireFly-RK3399 could be a decent server if the USB 3 bridge is solid. I’ve been testing a PCI-e SATA card and it’s solid. Total power consumption would be half what Beast uses but this could be a good placeholder until some better ARMed systems happen.

Posted in technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Canada’s A Winner

“Canada does not even really have a national education system, it is based on autonomous provinces and it is hard to think of a bigger contrast between a city state such as Singapore and a sprawling land mass such as Canada.
The OECD, trying to understand Canada’s success in education, described the role of the federal government as “limited and sometimes non-existent”.
Also not widely recognised is that Canada has a high level of migrants in its school population.
More than a third of young adults in Canada are from families where both parents are from another country.
But the children of newly-arrived, migrant families seem to integrate rapidly enough to perform at the same high level as their classmates.”
See How Canada became an education superpower
Canada is often seen by USAians as a loser where people pay high taxes and have little freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those taxes we pay? A lot of that goes to things that matter, like education and universal MediCare.

It’s about priorities. USA spends more on an election every few years than Canada does on stuff that matters. Canada spends less on education and healthcare (% of GDP) than USA for a better result. In USA, education and healthcare are all about commercial competition. That brings wasteful duplication and the wrong goals. In education, where I worked my last years, the goal is to offer every student a good education no matter where they live or who their families are. While USA is fretting immigration, Canada welcomes immigration, including refugees. It all goes to making education stronger and more diverse and more flexible.

Posted in politics, Teaching | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

LeMaker Cello Undead?

“The Cello was announced in early 2016 as a $299 USD developer board with the A1100 ARM 64-bit SoC with four Cortex-A57 cores @ 1.7GHz. The Cello features two DDR3 SO-DIMM slots capable of ECC RAM, two Serial ATA 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports, and one PCI Express x16 3.0 slot. There are no integrated graphics, but the PCI-E x16 slot can make for some interesting testing.This board was to begin shipping in Q2’2016, but it and the AMD HuskyBoard never materialized in 2016 and remain largely unavailable to this day. Last month we heard the LeMaker Cello finally shipping to some pre-order customers but on their web-site is listed as “no stock.””
See After Years Of Waiting, Hands On With The AMD ARM Board
Yes! After years of waiting, and many long delays, AMD has delivered some A1100-series chips to LeMaker. There is a trickle of “Cello” boards out there and Phoronix got one to test. Quad-core A57 may not sound that great but perhaps the consolation prize will be the chip is the A1170 with eight cores (maybe). It’s hopelessly out of date but it is ARMed and it’s not from Intel. It will have a socket for RAM and sufficient connectivity for my needs. Perhaps it will be a NAS rather than a general server. I still don’t understand why similar boards aren’t pouring forth using the new chips with decent caches…

Posted in technology | Tagged , , , , , | 131 Comments

Production Rates Of EMV Solo

“The company employs only 25 people. Their focus is on building a high-quality product on par with other competitive performance three-wheelers such as the Morgan Three-Wheeler, and most recently, the Polaris Slingshot.
Together, this team of passionate engineers, designers, mechanics, and welders produce, on average, 150 vehicles per year. Each T-Rex and V13R is built on demand, and customers must go through a five to six week gestation process before they can light that rear-wheel into a big fat burnout for themselves.”
See One Of The Craziest Things On Three Wheels Comes From This Canadian Factory
For a while, many people have been grumbling that Electra Meccanica Vehicles could not possibly ramp up production sufficiently to meet demand. Here’s a counter-example, and it’s also building a Three Wheeled Vehicle in Canada. Their assembly line and staff are similar except they have 20+ stations on the assembly line. If they can produce 150 vehicles a year, EMV with it’s simpler Solo (electric, not gasoline, single seat), should also be able to do that. QED

So, I expect to get my Solo in 2018, not next decade. It will also be street-legal in Canada as is the T-Rex. EMV still doesn’t have a National Safety Mark registration as far as I can tell but neither did Campagna last year. I still prefer Solo because it’s smarter to drive electrically, and I don’t like to ride a motorcycle and Solo costs about ⅓ as much money to buy.

UPDATE A recent article quotes CEO of EMV, Jerry Kroll: “Electra Meccanica is squarely focused on the global market, and Kroll says the Solo is already being manufactured in China for the Chinese market. His general manager just arranged the same for the Indian market. In June, the Solo passed U.S. compliance regulations. But in Canada, the compliance process is still under way.
“We’re looking at manufacturing in Mexico and Europe as well,” Kroll says. “If we get the Canadian government to wake up to the fact that the American government helped Tesla with $500 million, we could establish a North American manufacturing facility somewhere in Canada too.””

See Electric vehicles are coming. Is Canada ready to capture the opportunities?

Posted in technology | Tagged , , , | 29 Comments


We’ve had a bunch of plagues here this year: hares and deer chewing young trees, tent-caterpillars, weeds, heat, drought, rain, and now hail. One apricot and one apple that were chewed badly have sprouted new growth. Power was knocked out briefly and there were quite a few hailstones hitting our windows in the wee hours last night. This morning I can see most of our plants are just fine. We must have been near the edge of it. TLW reports that streets nearby are covered in shredded leaves. So, we’ve been lucky. Despite a little damage, it could have been much worse. The caterpillars, drought and rains weren’t too bad either. A few leaves got eaten but I was able to pluck off most of the caterpillars that found my trees sooner rather than later. I’ve whacked a lot of the weeds. The ones that got to be very large actually were sheared off and shaded the smaller ones so we won tactical victory there. Several of our vegetables are competing well against the weeds: lettuce, pumpkin and asparagus just won’t quit. With the kind of rains we’ve been having, our soil is ready for seeding grass so that will happen this week most likely.

It’s not so bad. A taste of plague keeps us humble and thankful, unlike Trumpists.

UPDATE – The folks WSW of us were in the bull’s eye of last night’s storm.

Posted in horticulture, politics | Tagged , , , | 51 Comments

PV Solar Panels

I want to charge my Solo EV from Sun rather than using Manitoba Hydro. Hydro works. It’s reliable. It’s renewable. However it costs a bit of money, perhaps $300 per annum to charge my Solo (15000 miles X 2 per mile). I can do a little better by charging from Sun, plus I get some shade.

A major expense is the solar panels each about 1m X 2m in size giving nearly 300W each in peak insolation. They do deteriorate a bit over time but can be replaced as needed. Many manufacturers guarantee 80% of the rated output for 25 years. Good. My Solo might not last as long. Me neither.

Solar panels are made from small modules about 72 in each panel in a rectangular array 6 X 12 in shape. Each module delivers about 0.6V, the silicon band-gap energy making about 48V output at ~8A, less under shade or failed modules or less than normal incidence. By connecting panels in series with standard weatherproof connectors a high DC voltage can be obtained to charge batteries through a charge controller or to run an inverter. The circuitry is isolated from the frame up to about 1000 volts. Fuses and diodes protect the system by opening circuits and jumping failed modules. Panels weigh about 23kg.

By pointing the panels to Sun, one can get closer to peak performance for much of the day. Where I live, clouds are absent for ~2300h on average and the usual cloud is a high cirrus, allowing lots of light through. In “cloudy” weather, light is cut back quite a bit and it can get nearly twilight under an eclipse or a cumulonimbus cloud. We get those only a few times a year. So, a PV array charging a battery and running an inverter is quite a reliable source of power for a day or so. Typically, Solo will need only a partial charge after some errand so a matching battery might actually last several days of charging. Even cloudy days might keep up.

Prices for panels in China are about 50 USD per watt or a bit less in quantity. About 26 panels fit on a pallet which is far more than I need for my project. I could store the surplus for spare parts or to shade TLW’s patio in the future… or get like-minded DIY types to share in the purchase. I could store them on the roof of our house to generate even more power but that would be much more complicated than a shade over my picnic table… and TLW has stated she is against such a move…

The advantages of using solar panels to run my car are obvious:

  • I get to save a bit more money,
  • I get some shade instantly,
  • I get to make something, which I enjoy, and
  • I can show the neighbours possibilities…

The costs are obvious too:

  • I get to spend $thousands which might take a decade or more to recover,
  • I get some “eye-sore” in the backyard,
  • I have to put in a lot of effort to avoid adding even more cost for fabrication and installation, and
  • I have to keep explaining myself to doubters… 😉
Posted in family, technology, weather | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

John McCain Versus Trumpism

“The attacks on John McCain’s personal sacrifice were roundly condemned then – and millions of Americans will be praying for his recovery now.
Glioblastoma is a particularly aggressive brain tumour, and increases in frequency with age, affecting more men than women.
Mr McCain, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, was in “good spirits as he continues to recover at home with his family””
See John McCain has brain cancer, his office says
Senator John McCain is a tough cookie but he has his hands full with Trumpism rampant in the land and a serious case of cancer.

McCain has always stood up to Trump’s nonsense although he’s not particularly fond of my favourite variation on MediCare, “single payer”. However, he’s now on the front line of the battle over health care. If he resigns to fight cancer, the slim margin of the GOP in the Senate will be cut in half almost certainly blocking the draconian measures being contemplated. If he tries to retain his seat while fighting cancer, he may well lose his life. This cancer is very aggressive and it’s probably already spread or soon to spread. There can be no delay in treatment unless death is considered inevitable and acceptable. If McCain resigns his successor will be torn by Arizona’s Medicaid Expansion.

If McCain does resign another possibility will grow, that of impeachment. The odds of finding one or two GOP senators willing to impeach are much better than finding two or three. With the latest news that Trump is contemplating firing his current investigator about Russia, a majority of senators may be willing to impeach sooner or later. For a reputed deal-maker, Trump is nailing his own coffin shut from the inside by pointing Mueller at Trump Inc. finances. Meanwhile Manafort’s situation screams “money laundering” with Russian interests. You can bet Mueller will try to follow the money right to Trump and associates.

If McCain resigns his successor will be appointed by Governor Ducey who wants ObamaCare gone but wants to keep hundreds of thousands of Arizona’s citizens insured. All Ducey has to do to protect his people is delay the appointment indefinitely or appoint someone who sees Trumpism for what it is. Trump’s base is eroding. It was made of sand.

UPDATE McCain did return to the Senate rather promptly and was instrumental in killing Trump’s last hope of “repealing and replacing” ObamaCare. See US healthcare: Senate ‘skinny repeal’ bill fails. So much for the idea that the Trumpists control the US government. So much for the idea that Trump is a leader, a uniter and a deal-maker.

Posted in politics | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments