Monday, July 30, 2007

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Ball Screw

This isn't a post about porn...well sort of -- metal machining porn perhaps. Every so often I come across some bit of technology that is so perfectly suited to a particular task its worth mentioning. The notion of the ball screw is one of those.

One of the problems with high precision machining operations is play in the machine tool itself. Things like threads are used to advance cutters and such, but ordinary cut thread screws have a certain amount of slop in them and can wear over time resulting in imprecision creeping into the machine. For a lot of run of the mill machining operations, this slop may not be a big deal, but for some things that need to be precise to say 1/10,000th of an inch (ex tiny internal combustion motors like the old Cox .010 cubic inch model engine which isn't much bigger than a $.25 cent piece), slops of any amount make producing the part virtually impossible.

Enter the ball screw. The interposed between the male/female "threads" of the ball screw are small ball bearings -- the male and female ride on those miniature ball bearings and remove virtually all the mechanical slop in the feed screw mechanism and reduce friction during traverse operations.

A wonderful thing the "ball screw idea" is -- much of the high precision small components of today's world would be almost impossible to make without it.


Jose's machining info
The screw itself uses a special spherical thread. That is, it is not made with a pointed angular cutter, but it appears to be made by rolling. The surface is very smooth as you can easily see in the photo[...]

eBay's patent problems with "Buy It Now"

As much as I despise eBay (for a host of reasons), SCOTUS got this one wrong. The MercExchange patent should have been voided. There are very real problems at the USPTO these days when it comes to "technology" type patents. There's a vast amount of crap being awarded patents falling under the category of "obvious" or when there is prior art the patent filer failed to disclose or direct real world analogs making a technological implementation of same trivial and obvious.

I had two software patents awarded while at IBM. Neither of which was obvious, and neither of which had meat world analogs.

Seriously, "buy it now" is pretty much the same thing as the listing price on a house where several buyers will be making offers (i.e. bids). The first guy who offers the seller's listing price is going to take it. To patent something as obvious as this, that has clear real world analogs, that have been in practice for thousands of years in fact, is a travesty.

Next we'll find out that some jackass has patented "the idea" of a door knob.

AP
A federal judge Friday denied a request from a small Virginia company to stop the online auction powerhouse eBay Inc. from using a feature that allows shoppers to purchase items at a fixed price[...]

[...]Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that although eBay infringed upon MercExchange's patent for the service, it was up to the lower court to decide whether eBay had to stop using it[...]

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cox/Estes PRC made model airplanes recalled

Bogus lithium batteries. IMO, lithium batteries are bad news and I won't buy anything using them. The CPSC is one of the few Federal government services we pay for that is actually worth something.

CPSC
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

Name of Product: Sky Rangers Park Flyer Radio Control Airplanes

Units: About 21,000

Distributor
: Estes-Cox Corp., of Penrose, Colo.

Hazard
: The airplanes are launched by hand and can explode near the consumer’s head, posing a risk of temporary hearing loss and injuries to eyes, face and hands.

Incidents/Injuries: Estes-Cox has received 45 reports of airplanes exploding, including 22 reports of consumers experiencing temporary ear pain or hearing being affected; five reports of minor burns to hands, faces or eyes; two reports of chest impact from debris; two reports of eye injuries; and one report of a cut hand. One consumer sought medical attention for burning eyes.

Description: This recall involves Model 4116 Sky Rangers Park Flyer radio control airplanes, which come with a black battery charger. The airplanes have a wingspan of about 14 inches, a light blue, white and orange polystyrene foam fuselage, and a copper coil on the rudder. Airplanes with a warning sticker on the fuselage near the on/off switch are not included in the recall.

Sold at: Hobby stores and other retailers nationwide from September 2005 through December 2006 for between $20 and $40.

Manufactured in
: China


Remedy: Consumers should stop using the recalled airplanes immediately and contact Estes-Cox to verify that their plane is being recalled and for instructions on returning the airplane for a replacement product[...]

Monday, July 23, 2007

Al-Qaeda dropping dimes on...Al-Qaeda

Heh, they're losing the general populace, and now they're losing themselves as well. Harry and Nancy of course are desperate to put a stop to these treasonous AQ defections before it causes irreparable damage to democrat electoral aspirations in 08'.

I suspect general Petraeus is a lot smarter than Harry and Nancy though and will have undeniably shaped up the Iraq situation before the democrats can turn it into a loss. It will be shaped up so undeniably that even the MSM won't be able to carry democrat water anymore. The only ones at the end of this year who will still be denying this obvious progress are going to be the hard core deadender oblivions who can't stand to see an American success.

Times Online
Fed up with being part of a group that cuts off a person’s face with piano wire to teach others a lesson, dozens of low-level members of al-Qaeda in Iraq are daring to become informants for the US military in a hostile Baghdad neighbourhood.

The ground-breaking move in Doura is part of a wider trend that has started in other al-Qaeda hotspots across the country and in which Sunni insurgent groups and tribal sheikhs have stood together with the coalition against the extremist movement.

They are turning. We are talking to people who we believe have worked for al-Qaeda in Iraq and want to reconcile and have peace,” said Colonel Ricky Gibbs, commander of the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, which oversees the area[...]
More here at TigerHawk

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter takes United Arab Emirates by storm

I can't even imagine a book like Harry Potter even being allowed in an Islamic country 30 years ago. The west's "secret weapon" is blue jeans, McDonald's, Sony's, and now...Harry Potter.

Khaleej Times
[...]Hundreds of fans began lining up outside bookshops across the UAE from early Friday evening with some dedicated fans, like 13-year-old Abdulla Moaswes, travelling from Sharjah to Ibn Battuta Mall where some of the biggest celebrations were held.

As Potter aficionados joined the serpentine queues, a magician conjured card tricks and stilt walkers amused the visitors, while at other malls, coffee after coffee was served, wizard quizzes completed and wands and witches' hats created[...]

July 22 2007 Yankees: 21 Rays: 3

Game isn't even over yet...

Gotta be the worst drubbing I've listened to in quite a while. At least Shields, who gave up 10 of them can't be blamed for giving up the majority of the runs anymore ;->

Thursday, July 19, 2007

$1,000 cash reward for witnesses who will step forward

Let it be known I'm officially offering a $1,000 cash reward for any soldier who will step forward, authenticate these stories, and testify under oath at a court martial of the offenders.

I really don't think I'll have to pay off as the stories the New Republic is pimping sound like bullshit.

Mark Foley -- "lawyered up" for $450,000 in 6 months

Paid for of course out of unspent campaign funds he had laying around. Doing the math, that works out to roughly one high powered $500/hr mouthpiece for 40 hours a week, every week, during the period reported.

Since I can't imagine how someone who has NOT been charged, and likely won't be, could possible need that much lawyering up, I have to conclude Foley is using payment of "legal fees" to wash "campaign cash" such that a significant percentage eventually kicks back to him in a form he legally keeps for himself.

For example -- high priced "no-show consulting" on some hokey project that law firm has going.

First Coast News
[...]According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, Foley spent more than $250,000 on legal fees from February to April. That's on top of the $200,000 in campaign cash he spent on attorneys from last November to January[...]

Missing honey bees NOT caused by "global warming"

I am however pretty sure I can blame global warming for my jock itch and a flat tire I got yesterday.

Planet Ark
MADRID - A parasite common in Asian bees has spread to Europe and the Americas and is behind the mass disappearance of honeybees in many countries, says a Spanish scientist who has been studying the phenomenon for years[...]

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The story of the General Lee

Michael Yon

Go read it all, you won't be disappointed.

Oh look -- another Spitfire!


This is a free flight rubber powered one that I built from a kit a few years ago. It is covered with tissue paper and was given a couple of thinned coats of aircraft dope. The problem with buying a kit is you don't get to choose the balsa contained in the kit. The weight of balsa wood can vary widely from a low of 3lb per cubic foot to as high as 20lb per cubic foot for the hardest densest. The lighter stuff is of course not as strong as the densest -- but it is lighter -- a big factor in how well any airplane built with it will fly. The wood in this particular kit was more like ironwood, so this one came out a tad too heavy to be a good flyer, so it hangs on the wall for the most part.


Still its a good example of a classic "stick and tissue" type rubber powered model. Models using this type construction data back to the early 1900's and remain popular today. They're quiet, can be flown in a schoolyard, and are very inexpensive when built from scratch rather than buying a kit.

These sort of models are great for people living in an apartment where space is at a premium and you don't have a garage full of tools like band saws, drill presses, and belt sanders. All you really need to build a model like this is a flat board about 12" x 36", some single edge razor blades, a tube of wood cement, a small jar of aircraft dope, a little brush, and maybe a cheap needle nose plier from the dollar store.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Spitfire starts to take shape

As a young child, as far back as kindergarten I've always been enthusiastic about things that fly. In the first grade my mother got complaints from the teacher that I was always making engine noises and looking out the window at the sky. This interest in flying things recently motivated me to start building a control line stunt model of the Supermarine Spitfire.


This one will have a wingspan of about 48" and be powered by a Fox .35 Stunt engine (an engine design that has remained virtually unchanged for almost 60 years!). The pic is an in progress shot of the wing. This isn't a kit, this one is 100% scratch built from a set of age yellowed plans I've had laying around for about 30 years.

My current plan is to cover this airplane with a traditional doped silk finish. Doped silk has largely fallen by the wayside in favor of heat shrinkable plastic coverings, but the plastics really are a poor substitute. They simply don't have the feel and look of the classic doped silk finish. This whole airplane is being built using "old school" methods, and will be running an old school engine, so it should be finished using old school methods as well.

Any fool can breeze into a hobby shop and plunk down a few hundred bucks on some almost ready to fly R/C model that's been prebuilt and precovered with plastic (and built by some starving wretch in China or Vietnam with dubious methods and materials.

To do it yourself, from scratch, using traditional methods is a whole different thing. Opening a wallet isn't an accomplishment. Completing this model will be.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Pennies are worth over $0.02

Want to know what your money is worth? Check out this site - they track the value of various coinage in terms of its metal content.

Of course, that's the old copper pennies. The government has been quietly counterfeiting its own pennies since around 82' when they became mostly zinc and are just copper plated. The new pennies are worth less than a penny in scrap value.

Just in case you get any clever ideas about sending a pail of old copper pennies to the scrap yard, read this article first. The government recently made scrapping coins a crime that can get you 5 years and a $10,000 fine.

Quite frankly, you'd be better off doing something utterly treasonous -- like selling F-14 fighter parts to the Iranians. Doing that will only get you 2 years at club fed.

There's a lesson here people. Do not scrap a hand full of rolled pennies. Stick to treason, gun running, etc and the feds won't take it too seriously.

Stealing Canada -- literally

I did a job last year where about $500 worth of wire got stolen on us.

CanWestNews
Aluminum billboards disappearing in Vancouver, stainless steel tanker trucks reported stolen in Quebec, a copper wire theft in New Brunswick resulting in a death, beer kegs in Nova Scotia and a two-tonne bronze statue snagged from an Ontario park[...]

[...]The phenomenon is nationwide, but British Columbia has seen the most frequent incidents, says Len Shaw, executive director of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries, while Ontario takes the cake in terms of the volume of metal stolen.

In January, thieves made off with aluminum bleachers at a baseball diamond in Ucluelet, B.C. The province has been dealing for months with the theft of scrap metal from Vancouver billboards and memorial plaques removed from park benches in Nanaimo, among other targets[...]

[...]The metals that are getting the most attention from thieves are bronze, stainless steel, copper and aluminum[...]


They're stealing America too - Colorado Springs has an ongoing problem with wiring going missing in its street lights.

Cordless batteries - "Do Not Overcharge"


OK, so you see some interesting cordless tool, buy it, get it home, then find the instructions say something like "do not overcharge battery". Of course the battery charger that came with the tool is a very slow "dumb" one that won't shut itself off when the battery is charged.

Of course the recommended charging time is something like 4-6 hours which is just long enough that you always forget to unplug the damn thing and don't remember that its still charging until a day or two later.

Sound familiar?

I finally decided to do something about this odious situation. Places like Home Depot and Lowes sell a little settable timer device made by Intermatic. The Intermatic timers come in several different maximum time settings. I picked one that runs from 0-6 hours. The Intermatic timer works just like a standard 2-pole switch from an electrical point of view.

I came out of an existing GFCI receptacle (on its line-side so that the Intermatic and downstream receptacle are protected by the GFCI), into a box with the Intermatic timer that switches the hot, and into another box that contains an ordinary receptacle.

Now I can plug a cheap dumb charger into that receptacle to the right of the Intermatic timer, set it for whatever charging time I want, and walk away knowing the battery pack won't be overcharged.

This whole project took under a half hour and maybe $20 worth of materials. I already had the boxes, covers, receptacle and some short lengths of EMT and wire on hand, so all I really had to buy was the Intermatic timer. Even if you had to pay an electrician to do this, I would expect the cost to be in the $100 range.

The nice thing about this approach is it doesn't block an existing receptacle with one of those hokey plug in timers (which aren't very robust, and often don't support having a ground prong). The Intermatic handles higher current, and all the downstream receptacles will be fully functioning 3-prong ones.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The role of useful idiots

Interview, circa 83'. Ex-Soviet official talks of "useful idiots" in the west and their role in destabilizing countries preparing for tyrants.


H/T Cassandra Page

More here on the big lie

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

iPhone in a blender

Good stuff. An iPhone gets "carbon neutralized". Wretched gizmos deserve all they get.



H/T Infinite Monkeys

OPLAN 5029 -- paralysys in DPRK collapse

Here's the joint "plan" we have with the ROK if the DPRK were to collapse for whatever reason. Its a pretty simply plan -- the plan is that there is no agreed upon plan.

If the ROK thinks they can handle that situation on their own, I'm more than willing to let'em do it. I'm also more than willing to let'em do it without any subsequent US aid. 50 years worth of training wheels should be quite enough, particularly for a "partner" who seems ready to get cozy with the PRC.

Global Security
OPLAN 5029 [also designated Con Plan 5029] is the US-ROK Combined Forces Command to prepare for the collapse of North Korea. The plan is reported to feature preparations by the South Korean and US forces to manage an inflow of North Korean refugees and other unusual situations if the North Korean regime collapses[...]

[...]The United States had asked that the plan be approved in 2004. It would have given the United States command over South Korean military assets in the event of rioting, mass defections or a government collapse in the impoverished North. US officials reportedly had argued that the contingency plan was necessary to secure sensitive nuclear and military facilities, and for overall public safety.

In April 2005 South Korean Defense Authorities rejected a contingency plan that would give command authority to the United States military in the event of a North Korean collapse. South Korea's National Security Council on 15 April 2005 said it had vetoed a joint military plan with the United States on how to handle serious turmoil in North Korea, should it arise. South Korean officials said they were dropping the plan because it could limit "South Korea's exercise of its sovereignty." [...]
H/T DPRK Studies

'Let me run home and get another million'

Some of you may have heard that Zimbabwe has a bit of a problem. Zimbabwe's "leader" of a few decades, Robert Mugabe (known psychopathic murderer, flagrant commie dictator, and all around very very bad guy), has finally screwed the pooch in a major way managing the nations finances.

Mugabe has allowed the nation, probably intentionally, to slip into a Wiemar Germany style hyper inflation mode of some several thousand percent a year. Of course this has always been the problem with fiat money -- its intrinsic value is near zero -- the value of the paper pulp. Its value is "faith based". When people lose faith, you have to pay for stuff with ever increasing poundage of notes.

On the other hand, the notion of fiat money is great when you owe a big debt denominated in that scrip. You simply print up as much as you need to pay the debt and call it a day. You're off the hook, and the guy who just got a truck load of worthless paper gets screwed. Good deal eh? Other than the induced inflation and lack of faith it induces of course...

Sydney Morning Herald
[...]"My sister went to buy some groceries at a shop. They told her that the groceries she had seen the day before at closing time had just gone up, so she said let me just run home and get another million [Zimbabwean dollars].

"When she came back the prices had gone up again and the million she was carrying could not cover that. And that was within the space of two hours
."[...]


Add to this poisonous fiscal brew a recent decree of price controls (everyone must cut prices in half and keep them down) and heavy penalties for any merchant who violates it, roving gangs of government enforcers, and you have a situation where the store shelves have become empty and will STAY EMPTY. What merchant is going to lose money stocking stuff he's mandated to sell at less than replacement cost? None, so this is what grocery stores in Zimbabwe look like now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

PRC executes corrupt FDA chief

The only way to prevent this sort of crime is to treat it seriously -- something we don't do in the USA. Betrayal of the public trust SHOULD be a death penalty crime. Of course we might have to execute 90% of congress, but I got no problem with that.

China Daily
China's former drug and food safety watchdog chief was executed on Tuesday after being found guilty of corruption and dereliction of duty, Xinhua news agency said...

...China has been under pressure domestically and internationally to improve its quality controls after a series of health scares attributed to substandard Chinese products, including exported tainted food and fake drugs.

Zheng was sentenced to death in May for taking bribes to approve an antibiotic blamed for at least 10 deaths and other substandard medicines...


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

This is how the modern world ends.

(pic courtesy of Jay Brusse/Henning Leidecker at NASA)

All manner of freaks and lunatics have been claiming the end of the world for quite a while now. Apocalyptic visions, natural disasters, disease, etc. The whole four horsemen scenario in gory technicolor with 3D Lucas DTS™ Sound.

In reality, the end will be much more subtle and is already upon us. I'm not talking about goofy biblical predictions, Nostradamus, or any of that nonsense. No, I'm not talking about some super computer virus or worm -- that sort of thing we can deal with.

What I'm talking about is something so fundamental that it rocks the foundations of how we understand metals. What I'm talking about is a kind of "metallurgical disease" that is infesting and wreaking havoc on all of our modern systems from GPS satellites to ordinary PC's to heart pacemakers.

Think about metal for a moment. The modern world, and its electronic and power infrastructure, depends heavily on the exploitation of various metals to build our technology transmit power, and construct all the myriad controls, computers, airplanes, etc we rely on.

Some metals appear to not be as well understood as we thought. They're not the inert lumps of metal stuff we imagined them to be. Some critical metals appear to behave almost like living organisms sometimes. They move around, they do things previously considered very "un-metal" like. They grow "whiskers". Whiskers that can conduct electricity, break off and raise havoc in electrical systems as they float around, or grow to a length where they short out components.

Check this shit out! (links to NASA)

Satellites disabled.
Computer centers crashed.
Military systems failing.
Medical systems failing.
A nuclear reactor shutdown.

All due to these metal "whiskers" -- which NOBODY understands the dynamics of. To date, we can't explain why this phenomenon happens.

More here(gold whiskers), here(zinc whiskers), blown apart avionics relays, failed circuit breakers, electric utility failure, NASA video of impact on space shuttle, and Australian Tax Office data center crashed.

So this is how it will all end - not with a bang, but with a whisker.

BTW, the Eurpoean Union recently banned lead based solders, so heavily tin based stuff will be mandated for anything to be used in Europe. Expect a wave of electronics failures in Europe in the next few years. California has also foolishly legislated against lead solders and will be cranking out problem products very soon as well.

Nano tech? DOA baby, DOA until this whisker issue is understood and beaten.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

SR-71/RPV crash video

Pilot punched out, but unfortunately died later. Project to use SR-71 as a RPV launch platform was subsequently canceled.

Amazing that we were trying this sort of thing over 40 years ago.