Tech Ramblings

I want to see something. I want to see a Microsoft Surface-like phone or phablet come into existence. have the cover be the keyboard, if desired. MS has the upper hand, they already have the tech, hardware and software. it may even be possible to have a universal dock, something like a surface RT, a phone, and a desktop, could all use the same connector, immediately creating a modular hardware assembly for many different vendors. If Windows 8 can deploy well across platforms, this would be awesome. and since the Galaxy S4 has a cover, it may be only a matter of time before MS plays catch-up in an massive, important market… again. I must qualify all of this, I have never owned an Apple product. I admire the company, love the design, efficiency and innovation. Circumstance has been the most deciding factor, not particular preference. I sincerely just want to see the hardware idea. if MS doesn’t, and Samsung doesn’t evolve to the next step of their flip-cover, perhaps Apple will make the iThumb or something, and it will plug into a universal connector across all their handheld devices, and offer screen protection. This is only a small idea, i think it would be fantastic. There could be other forms, like game controllers, kickstands for the phone bodies, all sorts of stuff, and all while allowing for the continuing trend of bigger screens, gaming on phones, all of the media editing could be done on a custom input pad. With the growing amount of things done, having unobtrusive, but new and novel, means of data entry into the devices, the more that will keep getting done with them. Just my humble opinion. I think it has merit over the next few product cycles though.

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Africa, Poop, Waste, and Common Needs

If you have seen my blog before, or are looking at it now, (ahem, as you should be if you are reading this) you can see my previous posting about biogas and waste in a small-scale business model with a cartridge or small receptacle style collection paradigm. Here is a paper I recently wrote that expands on that, and can include a traditional sewer and solid waste treatment type, as well as normal waste with mechanical separation. It is brief, because of the necessity of the forum I was using, but here is the whole paper…

Africa and the World, an Energy and Agriculture necessity
Africa is on a cusp of a revolution in how it lives. What that revolution is will depend heavily on how it comes to fruition. Africa has many problems, and none will be solved quickly, but ideas are the currency of the future, and so, here is mine. There is a push for biodiesel produced and farmed in Africa, but destined to make profits, and be used, mostly in foreign markets. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/31/biofuel-plantations-africa-british-firms)  Even the local governments push that the revenue will be mostly tax generated to improve the standards of living through social programs. (http://www.africabiofuel.com/Benefits.aspx) Yet the report on Africa’s problems concerning irrigation and mechanization show a distinct need for diesel-engined equipment to further the mechanization and agricultural development of Africa to maintain standards for the population, economies, and governments of Africa sustainably. I have another suggestion: poop. Or, more accurately, waste. Disposal of garbage, human, and livestock waste all have massive potential in a continent with the varied geography, natural resources, and cultures that Africa has. They all share problems common to the world however, which is to say that mechanization and progress almost inevitably lead to more waste.
Biogas generators have been around for awhile, but only in recent years have the efficiency and multi-use capabilities really been looked at, and developed. The most efficient design is a CHP (Combined Heat and Power) design that not only gets energy from the Methane produced, but uses the exhaust gasses to drive a steam turbine. And let us not forget that the exhaust from burning Methane is about 60% water (clean water) and 30% carbon dioxide, with a few impurities making up the remainder. (CHP and municipal solid waste designs here: http://www.clarke-energy.com/gas-type/sewage-gas/ and http://www.clarke-energy.com/gas-type/biogas/mbt-ad-energy/ best diagrammatics I found were from this companies’ website, but the principle is the same everywhere) the same principles and basic designs apply across a range of waste sources: the leftover material from fermentation, for alcohol or biodiesel production, the organic waste from agriculture including livestock waste and unused plant material, solid waste from landfill-type facilities, and my favorite, seaweed. One of the ideas not discussed in any website, but the technology is sound, is to use the exhaust gases from a methane burner to power desalination. Distillery methods of desalination are old, well-proven, and of extreme utility to the parched regions of Africa, and the Sea Salt leftover from the process is a valuable commercial commodity worldwide as well as locally. There is some concern for a major impurity known as siloxanes, which leave a silicate residue from the generation. This is also a commodity, as the silicate can be smelted same as with any silicates mined. Also, the sludge left after anaerobic digestion is a high quality fertilizer that enriches the soil, and slows or eliminates the erosion and strip-farming techniques used without high-quality fertilizers.
To recap, there is a renewable resource for electricity production, and it’s waste products are: heat, to be used for generating steam electricity, creating nearly 90% efficiency, or to be used to desalinate water for drinking or irrigation; its exhaust is mostly water vapor, again usable for drinking or irrigation; and carbon dioxide, a useful commodity itself for petroleum production, or even soft-drinks; and high quality organic fertilizers. The byproducts are almost completely usable, either for the direct good of the populace, or as commercially salable commodities. With village-based digesters, it can scale down for remote areas to produce their own intermittently, or with village size collectors, the waste can be transported to larger collection facilities to maximize constant running and efficiency and to make up for the extra transportation costs. Also, the by products of biodiesel production make excellent biogas seed materials. (http://www.clarke-energy.com/gas-type/biogas/agricultural-biogas/)
With a trinity of needs; mechanization, fertilization, and irrigation, driving the agriculture, and a solid electrical infrastructure to co-develop the industrial and commercial sectors along with that agricultural growth, waste is a serious resource for regions that are used to subsisting on less than human or direct livestock power, as well as industrialized regions transitioning to a more sustainable future. And as a bonus, all the wonderful fauna in Africa can help: think of all the electricity that can be made from elephant dung and other large animals. I focus on Africa for this, but the ideas can be implemented anywhere, from Africa, to Central America, to developed regions. San Diego, CA already has biogas electrical generation supplementing other municipal electricity sources, and is one of the largest users of desalinated water. Future designs for electricity could incorporate both. Central American, or Carribean nations with coastlines could benefit from this also. But Africa has the greatest potential gain, both in the short term, and in the long run. It is a sustainable energy source for now, and the future.
Other sources: http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/24176 , http://emispec.ca/en/internal-combustion-engine-powered-by-biogas.php , http://askville.amazon.com/combustion-byproducts-methane-natural-gas-Comparasons-ethanol-pump-help/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=2747357 , http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/drinkseawater.html , http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544206003033 , http://www.biocycle.net/2012/12/biogas-production-and-potential-from-u-s-wastewater-treatment/ , http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/17591/InTech-Biomass_waste_as_a_renewable_source_of_biogas_production_experiments.pdf

Bullet Control, not Gun Control

Bullet control. It is a term used by some to describe good marksmanship, and a rallying cry for responsible gun ownership and use. I do not disagree, I do, however, believe it has not gone far enough. A gun without bullets is pretty much just a club. It isn’t intelligent, responsible, “good guys” with guns that we need to worry about, it is the the others, the irresponsible, the uninformed, and the overly scared and overly funded gun “nuts” that are worrisome. Which brings me to the crux of what I am saying: Keep the large stockpiling of ammunition at Gun Clubs and Shooting Ranges. Make them get licensed, and register with, at the very least, local authorities, and preferably, a national registry. Limit the amount of new ammo purchasable by individual citizens. There are holes in this, for sure, but there is no foolproof plan, and we have a guaranteed right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. However, we have no guaranteed right to a personal arsenal large enough, and supplied enough, to massacre dozens, or worse, hundreds of people. A well armed civilian militia is NOT a lone gunman with body armor holed up in a cabin with a personal arsenal. If our civil system, or if we are militarily invaded, our regulations of civilized life will be null and void, and ammunition stockpiles would be as close as a local gun range.

So, here are details of my idea, in a generalized manner. Limit personal ammunition, is first and foremost. There are several ways to do this, and Colorado has started (link here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/colorado-senate-gives-final-ok-to-gun-bills-including-magazine-limits-and-background-checks/2013/03/11/01ac55dc-8aac-11e2-a88e-461ffa2e34e4_story.html ) and I like the idea. Limit large capacity magazines, and to slightly address the other part of this, expanded background checks. I will come back to the expanded background checks. Limiting the amount of ammunition available for personal purchase has a few logistical snags, not the least of which is keeping track of who has bought what, and how often. However, just as the weapons themselves are registered, a centralized database of ammunition purchases, and a “soft” limit on how often (I will come back to this) individual citizens can purchase ammunition will encompass most of private  citizens, and nearly 100% of responsible gun owners. I know of very few responsible gun owners that would need more than 2-5 clips, magazines, or the equivalent amount of ammo, and/or the materials needed for reloading that equivalent amount. There are a small number of, mostly high profile (read Nugent) gun owners who would disagree, but they are the minority, and, if I may say, possibly borderline sane. (Ted, I like your hunting show and your music, but you are the full version of fan, you are a fanatic…) While limiting ammunition in this way will present some issues, most can be controlled by manner of implementation, proper time of that implementation, and adoption of the commercial opportunities the regulations will present.

First, limiting personal ammunition will garner some pushback, which is to be expected. Some will be in the form of lobbying, but most will really be a purchasing rush by individual citizens. Businesses will not need to make a rush, as the regulations would preclude that. This is to be expected, and implementing the national registry BEFORE the regulations (i.e. upon passing, or even prior, a national database will have been setup and the bugs worked out) will allow for tracking of individual stockpiles. We should not be concerned with people who have 50 guns, but only 10 bullets per gun, but 1 person with an assault rifle, and 1000 rounds is possibly a threat, and by the nature of their stockpiling, possibly a mild sociopath. either way, registering the ammo type, and amount, and being able to correlate with registered firearms, will be the first major step. Claiming your weapons, and your responsibility, should not be an issue with educated, responsible gun owners. While I do not know for certain, I am sure that any massive purchase of ammunition is already somewhat tracked, but once purchased it is no longer regulated, and tracked or correlated. This should be changed, and explicit when purchased. Any person that has that much ammunition and weapons should be registered, I would, and I am sure many others would, like to know if I and my children are living next to a small arsenal that could be turned against us at anytime, with devastating effect. And, conversely, any person that is responsible, registered, and known in the community, I would want to know, as they would be a valuable asset to any neighborhood watch program. With expanded background checks, both for violent charges, mental health history, and other violations of law, as well as historical violence, we can ensure responsible gun owners can continue exercising their Constitutional rights, and those who present the most clear and present danger are prohibited from taking as many people with them as they can.

Secondly, by allowing Gun Clubs and shooting ranges the ability to buy wholesale ammunition, as well as other regulated weapons to be available for rent, a whole new commercial opportunity, and still regulating while also educating, will be offered. Rather than expound on this in a linear, logical manner, I will attempt to present a picture not unlike an advertisement. Imagine for a moment, if you will, a family of gun enthusiasts who are also responsible gun owners. They wish to enjoy their passion, which they are constitutionally entitled to. So they do what any responsible family would do, they go to their local gun range. Nothing new there, it would be the standard way to do such things. No changes, still what people would do. The change? They do not bring ammo with them, they purchase it at the gun range, much like golf balls at a driving range. Also, for those who are so inclined, and have taken courses in safety, as well as proper use, can rent weapons that would otherwise be unavailable to everyday citizens. You can’t buy a Barrett .50 cal, but you can rent one for a day, and with proper construction and preparation of the range, you can fire one, and enjoy a rare thrill for anyone not involved with military or law enforcement. You want to fire a grenade launcher? Come on down to Guns-R-Us and fire off a few! Just purchase our complete package of safety class, ammunition, and you can make use of the Grenade and Rocket range. You wouldn’t necessarily need to even pack your own weapon around, but education and practice with your own weapon would be the main reason for going in my mind, but commercial possibilities abound. Competitive shooting, recreational shooting, and educational practice are all regulated, contained, and monitored. Also, with all the weaponry, private security has a whole new market with which to provide a needed, and valuable service. While there will always be a fringe amount of people that facetiously take advantage of the system, this layout limits that, and also allows for massive tracking, and easier pinpointing, of those likely to, or already engaged in such activity. Increased gun education, safety, commercial opportunity, and access to safe areas for enjoyment of these things, are all benefits to this idea, while there are no real practical detriments. No Constitutional rights infringed, general public safety is increased, and law enforcement would have a more effective and comprehensive tool when dealing with armed citizens, and their mental makeup, and personal arsenal. While it would not be perfect, after time, and enough ammo has gone past its shelf life, the regulations would be effective, and unintrusive. And an increase of commercial Gun Ranges would be likely, which would need significantly greater regulation, but that SHOULD be so. Any large depot of weapons and ammunition should be registered publicly. The general public has a right to know whether it is guns, ammo, nuclear missiles  napalm, or any other weaponry that has a potential for causing massive public harm. Individual rights, as well as the public interests are maintained with this plan.

Thirdly, background checks, as well as violent crimes, especially domestic violence or a history of using weapons while committing crimes, should be a deterrent to owning your own. I do not believe that it should always preclude someone from going to a gun range. I believe in second chances, and given enough time, education, and some other factors, i believe that gun ownership could be reinstated. That is my opinion, but my reasoning is thus: if someone commits a violent crime with a weapon when young, but after 20 years, they have been through  gun education, have no other offenses, violent or otherwise, and have a clean record and possibly even required recommendations from certain people involved in commercial gun use, they may be able to be granted provisional, and leading to full reinstatement of, their gun rights. They may be in a minority, but if they can do all those things, they may have done enough to show they are not a danger to society at large, and with the regulations I present, any lapse of such, by a singular individual, or small group thereof, would be limited in the damage they can do.

My ideas are not perfect, no attempt to regulate the behavior of people is. However, it presents, at least to me, the best balance of regulation in the name of public safety, while still allowing individual rights to continue with the least amount of infringement, and providing an expanded commercial sector that will only continue to grow. As I said in the beginning, a gun without bullets is just a club, and with this type of regulation, it would also be a Club. I would want to become a member, and i would still be unlikely to actually own a firearm, but I can tell you what, I would be one hell of a good shot. And judicious marksmanship, along with proper regulation, my friends, is bullet control, not gun control.

Sanitation for the Developing World

I have thought of the problems you often see in developing countries that tend to be extremely repulsive to western societies, and for good reason: poor sanitation. Human waste problems are rampant in developing nations. I always think of the movie Slumdog Millionaire and the outhouse scene. Far too many people live in this barely-worth-the-name sanitation solution. i have had some ideas, but the best variation on the theme i have seen yet is from Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) Unilever, and Clean Team Ghana. (article here: http://skollworldforum.org/2013/02/23/building-a-scalable-business-in-ghana-because-every-family-deserves-a-toilet/ ) The model this goes upon may seem archaic to people used to living with the modern equivalent of the Roman Aqueduct system; we tend to think of it like an outhouse, or a portable potty. But please, stop for a moment, there are advantages to this system, and they are many.

First: The cartridge system keeps the traditional stink to a minimum. They are basically sealed until the flush happens. This is a HUGE improvement over standard dug outhouses, and less harmful than the chemical fragrances used by portable toilets at outdoor concerts and such. it also allows for easier pickup, it is basically a switch-and-presto system. no muss, no fuss. The collection would be cheap, and there is benefits to the collection company(ies) that would perform the service to help keep costs low, or nonexistent. Which brings me to…

Second: the local storage solution can be  used as a local business model. Currently, this model with WSUP  is taking the collected waste to a municipal treatment site. This requires constant maintenance, governmental personnel, and is a drain on taxes and the working poor. If these smaller, localized collection drop-off locations can be planned correctly, there are several benefits to be realized. One benefit is the fertilizer from the fermentation and decay by bacterial means of the waste. In developing countries, this is a multiplicity of benefits. The reduction of public defecation and urination cleans up disease carrying waste, and the fertilizer is a concentrated form that can either be bought and distributed by the government as a free benefit for using the system, or it can be sold by the collection companies as a means to offset the cost of collection, either way it benefits the agricultural societies that tend to be the ones with the greatest sanitation problems, and it provides a lowering of costs for the working poor, and for those who have no money, while also providing an increased job market, and thereby an increased economic flow within a localized geographic area. Secondly, the gases that are released by the breakdown process are collectible, and saleable. Methane is the most  productive of these gases, as a cooking gas, and possibly heating as well. But the Carbon Dioxide, and Hydrogen Sulfide gases have industrial uses, and would create a localized supply for, what would be at least in the beginning, a small industrial complex. the sale of these gases would also offset the cost of collection. For developing countries, or at least areas, foreign aid, investment, or just local government investment, would be able to provide free sanitation to the most remote, and poor, constituents of their population. The poorest and most remote of the population brings me to the third benefit, one not realized by the capitalist side, but one for the governments, and the population itself.

Thirdly: By concentrating collections into smaller, economically feasible collection points, another benefit is created; Health and pollutant monitoring. If 2 or 3 villages have their waste collected into a local collection facility, one that breaks it down into fertilizer and gases, it will naturally concentrate an important means of monitoring what is going into the people in the even of a health crisis: their very own waste. For the very rural, very poor parts of the world, this is a very important piece. for the developing world, it provides local clustering for outbreak scenarios that is incredibly easy to monitor. Sampling small nodules of waste can identify sources of disease and pollution quickly, and accurately. This is important in countries where developing industries have the potential to do great, and irreparable harm. Also, for outbreaks of diseases that occur in the tropics, and other places, where on person coming from a trip to the country before hopping on a plane, can infect the world, this is a major benefit to the world that is worth monitoring. Small, accurately labeled samples, can be taken for governmental or other health agency collection and monitoring. The last benefit on my list is a bit more intangible too those used to the aqueduct system.

Fourth: The lack of centralized municipal plumbing and treatment facilities. This does several things; one, it either massively limits, or completely eliminates, public burden of sanitation. This is a striking contrast to the western world where the sewer piping, waste treatment facilities, and personnel are all publicly paid for. It also eliminates another public burden: digging and laying those large pipelines. Not having to massively engineer slopes, flow, and also eliminating the need for electrical pumps, never creates a public cost, while still providing jobs for the populace, but in a more scalable, and sustainable way. It creates businesses, and careers, not just 1-time work that mostly benefits large, foreign companies. Another subsidiary eddy in this economic flow is the fuel the collection vehicles would use: since most vehicles that would do this would be diesel powered, biodiesel can be used instead, thereby creating a demand, and supply, for high-yield, low value crops. Small rural farmers can not only farm for subsistence, many root vegetables that are not edible, or are less nutritionally dense for people, can be farmed more easily, and sold for creating biodiesel. This gives the farmers a constant market, allows for betterment of living conditions in areas that may not grow all food crops well, and provides another local industry by which local governments can sustainably tax.

While large foreign companies can, and likely will, supply the raw things like the vehicles, and many of the farm tools and implements, not to mention the huge market for designing and developing the smaller, more modular collection-site facilities, it provides local people with a sustainable base industry on which many others can build, as well as creating an atmosphere that allows foreign aid and investment to flourish. Immediate benefits to the education, industry, and health of local people will not only raise the standard of living, but provide the local governments with a strong base of public support, and a legacy of humanitarian industry that could serve to model the rest of the world. Not just Africa, also India, Island nations, and South and Central America can all benefit from this business model. (Latin America has a humanitarian streak that continues, and would lend itself to this model well, link here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/19/no-alternative-latin-america-has-a-few ) Let us hope, for all the wonderful poor, but hard-working and independent people of the world, that this will be adopted, and invested in, by the rich nations of the world. it is an investment in a future market and economy, it is an investment in independent business, and lastly, it is an investment in the welfare of people, and the world. there is NO long-term downside to this. There is an inherent flexibility to new technology, a much easier method of deployment of such technology, and a lower cost of maintenance, and a lowered cost and impact of any disaster. The modularity, local and global commercial opportunities with their associated tax revenue, and the multi-fold  health benefits to almost half of the world’s population makes this a model the world, and western industry, cannot afford to lose. This is how the world will continue to improve, this is one step of many, but it is a huge one.

Please, titans of industry, Giants of philanthropy, angel investors, and officials of government, hear this plea: Implement this program, everywhere you can, as much as possible, challenge our existing commercial industries to rise, and meet this unanswered demand. the children who die every day from something simple like diarrhea need it, the farmers who have to continually deforest land because their crops take too much nutrition out of the soil need it, the impoverished people in countries that have all the good land, but none of the needed help need it, and most of all, we that live in the developed world need this. We need to believe in the Soul of industry again, like when the motor car changed transportation, when refrigeration staved off food poisoning, and we eradicated smallpox. We have lost the Soul of industry, and we need it back. Let’s start here, shall we?

 

 

North Korea’s Bratty Emperor

Maybe you haven’t heard, or read anything about North Korea lately. You know, that militarily despotic country that has oppressed its people since the 70’s? The one that was made fun of (brilliantly I might add)  in the movie America: World Police, we had M.A.S.H. on TV about (for longer than the actual police action) and recently had its dictator die and hand power over to his bratty and despotic progeny? If you have not, try reading this recent article, http://www.asianewsnet.net/N-Korea-seeks-nuclear-power-status-43303.html and here is my take on the recent developments. While I take a sarcastic tone, please understand, the talking points i bring up are quite real, and I keep it light to offset the gravity of the situation. This is a country that would starve its people in order to gain nuclear capability. That is a terrible misuse of scientific resources and intellectual resources. the scientists that make it out of there are fortunate, and the people that stay to try to make it better face the threat of torture, imprisonment, and death, just to help their people. The courage of those people, and the common people that keep the country together should not be ignored by China, Russia, or the world. THIS is what the U.N. was made for. Kim Jong Un… your 15 minutes are ticking away quickly sir.

So, a country that has a food shortage of 800,000 TONS, and 500,000 TONS of crude oil, spends its money and talent on nuclear capability? And not only that, it then wants to use that to leverage its ONLY friendly trade partner? Y’know, sometimes, some kids, just need to get spanked. Hit them while they haven’t weaponized their ballistic missles yet. We have sizeable drones, hey China, wanna borrow some of our cool remote-controlled toys? We have been keeping Pakistan down so they can’t keep trading nuclear parts to N. Korea, or do ya just wanna roll tanks and planes into their backyard and destroy their sandbox? Either way, they don’t have the nuclear capability yet, and if they use nuclear, the collateral damage of glassing the capital where the bratty kid (Kim Jong Un) hides out, is worth the security and peace to the rest of the world. The lesser of 2 evils, sometimes is the greater of 2 goods. This is an easier strategy than Iraq, or Pakistan. The people in N. Korea are not motivated for fighting, they need food. Between a massive humanitarian effort to relieve them of their hunger, a military effort to depose the jackass in power, and a worldwide effort (Read mostly China, and hopefully Europe, since they have the wind and other green-tech on ready, and we should be working with S. America) to provide simple,  efficient, and sustainable power, farming methods, and waste disposal. N. Korea can maintain its alliance with China, and Russia could even get in on it by becoming a major source of raw material trade, and a close source of foodstuffs from N. Korea. Between the lift of trade sanctions, the tying up of foreign capital in the local areas, and freeing the United States from military costs and deployment, as well as strengthening our ties to our hemisphere, a conglomeration from the U.N. defense council could ensure and secure a greater peace in the region, and the world. Please, if there is to be military expenditures and deployments, and the U.N. is to convene, let this be an issue, the U.N. security council is made up of every country that stands to benefit, and has the philosophical reasoning to justify, stopping this madness. Screw the oil places, stop the nuclear proliferation into the hands of madness.

Your little Dose of Andrew…