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Messages - SeraphimLabs [ switch to compact view ]

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Living Room / Re: when will we eventually be able to
« on: October 22, 2014, 12:15 PM »
A robotic arm that refuels cars in service stations has been launched in the Netherlands.
Key notes in this article:

  • Scans a tag on the car and then looks it up in a database to determine the position and angle of its fuel neck
  • Does not work on cars with locking fuel caps- which is highly recommended and commonplace in urban areas to prevent theft.
  • Expensive technology that hypothetically increases convenience without doing anything major to save time. Station must up-front the cost.

Point 1 is another valid solution to what I mentioned before- that the arm must somehow locate where the car is fuelled at, open the hatch and remove the cap, and then insert the nozzle. Simply retrieving the car's data from a database is a valid solution of course, but this adds a tremendous administrative burden in that every time a new model of car comes out the database must be updated to support it. And it will not work at all with vehicles that have been significantly altered- and I know a good many trucks that have relocated their fuel tanks for a variety of reasons.

Point 2 is a problem that could in theory be addressed by having the robot reach around to be near the driver and request the key. But this adds incredibly to the complexity of the system, as the arm now has to be able to reach halfway around the vehicle without hitting it, accept an object from a human, then return it to the human when it is done. Robots can do this part at least, but its not nearly as easy as it sounds from an engineering standpoint.

Point 3 is that there is little to no incentive for stations to actually adopt this. The only advantage is that customers will not have to leave their car to use the system, it does not change the fuel dispensing rate nor does it add any real value to the process. It'd be a different story if it was used on a full service island, since it could handle the fuel while the attendant takes care of other tasks. Or even eliminate the attendant entirely, with the attachment for another $250,000 that allows it to automatically wash the windows check the oil and put air in the tires.

Back to auto-pilot cars...

Let’s Fix It: Let’s End Human Driving

My prediction is that it doesn't end well...

If it were just purely the technology as a tool, I'd be cheering. But it's not. The IoT will ensure it turns into a dystopian, hellish nightmare. And not that the IoT itself is bad - same deal there - just a tool - but I think more than a couple people here know the sinister side of computer control -- the people behind the scenes.

Again - cool technology - but serious doubts about how it will actually be used/abused.

I'm actually okay with elimination of manual driving in daily life.

However, I am not okay with cars that are designed without mechanically linked operator controls. I've seen way too many computer malfunctions to trust a computer driven car that I can't wrench the wheel away from it or stomp on the brake and make it stop before going off the cliff that it can't see.

Long as a car still can be driven on full manual, the convenience of automatic driving makes it worth pursuing.

Especially in the cities. Parking in NYC is said to be unbelieveably expensive, and even in an upstate small town I would have no problem at all having my car drive itself to the parking lot at my workplace after dropping me off at the concert hall a few blocks away for a show. Saves me the $10 I would have to pay for parking, and it'd even be able to drive me home again after the show when I've had a bit to drink.

But I'd better be able to take manual control if I see a need to, and it cannot have the ability to ignore that input.

Living Room / Re: when will we eventually be able to
« on: October 21, 2014, 12:57 PM »
But you open up an even larger security problem- risk of access to your entire account or other people placing transactions on your account that you have no easy way to disprove.

Just to get that tiny amount of security of not getting mugged and ripped off in the well lit and video recorded space of the gas station beside the pump.

Robotic fueling arms probably won't become a thing unless auto manufacturers agree on a standard for the placement of the fuel neck on the vehicle. Right now they are far too varied, a system would have to optically scan the car, try to find and open the hatch, try to find and open the cap, try to insert the nozzle, and the whole time hope that it isn't punching a hole in the car's body or dispensing fuel onto the ground because it missed the opening.

So unless either manufacturers standardize the height, angle, and lengthwise position of the fueling point on the vehicle, you're still going to have to get out of your car anyway in order to place the nozzle into the tank.

An optical based solution would work very nicely here, as it would require that you have already unlocked your gas door to even get access to it, and dirt buildup is a trivial issue because it is in an accessible location where it can be wiped clean if there is a problem reading it. That lets you transfer account info in a manner compatible with the handling of fuel without the wide angle interception risk of a RFID or magnetic transponder package.

Living Room / Re: when will we eventually be able to
« on: October 20, 2014, 06:08 PM »
That's the beauty of Ethanol. Its a perfect solution... for the people promoting it.

"Its environmentally friendly"

Yet the MPG penalty causes you to burn significantly more GASOLINE per mile, my previous car the difference was on the level of a 25% increase in gasoline consumption as it dropped from 40 MPG to only 30 MPG when using 10% ethanol. Look at that! It takes 15% more GASOLINE when using E10 fuel over straight gas.

"Its cheap and easy to make."

Okay, Ethanol costs somewhere around $3 per gallon to make when done right. And okay, I'll give that a great deal of ethanol is a byproduct of other processes it is a really cheap addition to a tank of gas to keep the price from going to the moon.

But are you really saving money? Not only is there the problem with the MPG penalty, but it really does eat up the car's components and probably is an attempt by someone somewhere to sabotage older vehicles in the country's motor fleet to force people to buy new all the time. You'll spend more on repairs.

Oh and the way the subsidy on ethanol fuel works is the more ethanol they can squeeze into a gallon without breaking people's stuff, the more they get government handouts for helping the environment.

So while the pump is supposed to be dispensing E10, 10% ethanol, in practice it will run as high as 15% without notice.

Living Room / Re: when will we eventually be able to
« on: October 20, 2014, 03:47 PM »
Before electronic ignition and after they started raising the gas prices if I knew the customer was burning regular in a high compression engine I used to performance time it via test drive.  It would at least not react like a bucking bronco.  But it's not worth the effort if you get some dick who wants the settings "by the book" as you can never get  him to admit the gasoline available when he bought the car is not for sale now.  Thus making the initial timing wrong.  Especially if the cheap bastard is buying regular on top of it.  :)

Pretty much- and that's why the PCM does what it does. It is able to sense when the engine is knocking and retard the timing all by itself to compensate, finding the sweet spot for the operating conditions of the day.

Its not perfect, but it is better than nothing at least.

I still object to cops having these SUVs and big block sporty cars as their everyday cruisers. They take way too much gas, cost way too much in the first place, and have next to no actual reason to be like that.

Instead cops should be driving a 4 cylinder turbocharged toyota or a 3 cylinder turbodiesel saab, that way the bulk of their cruising time is done with the utmost fuel efficiency while still retaining the kick in the pants for running down fugitives. At the same time the smaller car would hold the road at higher speeds and be less obvious when parked in the bushes on the side of the road for a speed trap.

Living Room / Re: when will we eventually be able to
« on: October 20, 2014, 12:06 PM »
Even better would be some type of data exchange when the nozzle is inserted.  I guess avoiding an electric current would be paramount with the proximity to the gasoline.  Perhaps some kind of magnetic field data doodad.  Your car would get a record how much gas at what price was added to the tank and the pump would get your ID for debit.

That way if someone snatched your plate you wouldn't be financing their joy rides as they stuck it on one car after another.

Also I was thinking there should be some way to detect the equivalent of octane in the fuel and adjust the spark advance settings in the ignition computer system.  I have been thinking about that because I see Miami cops tromp on the accelerator and their cruisers sound like crap.  The spark advance is not right.  It makes me wince every time I listen to the engine fighting itself.  No doubt they put low octane fuel in cars with high compression engines.

I don't know how difficult the octane detection would be.  But once known the spark advance intelligence should not be difficult to program.

Or they need to change the air filter- when the cops stomp on it the motor is starved out.

Most ECM engines already try to run the timing as advanced as the engineers at the factory measured that engine design as being compatible with, then retard the timing slightly when the knock sensor registers spark knock or when the crank position sensor registers that the shaft was slowed instead of accelerated- indicating a too-advanced condition.

The way I would do this is attach a QR code reader to the gas nozzle, and a placard containing a user-changeable QRcode right next to the fuel tap. So you insert the nozzle into the car and pull the trigger completely like normal, and it automatically scans the QR code, approves the transaction, and dispenses fuel.

Then people who don't want to participate in this system can simply remove the QR code from the pouch, and if you need to change what account it bills to at the pump you can easily switch QR codes by sliding them out of the pouch and putting another in its place.

Hmm. I wonder if this can be made to work with bitcoin...

I just saw the Keurig 2.0 at walmart.

Can't help but wonder how many people will buy it anyway unaware of the change and the true meaning of the "buy only genuine keurig pods" labels on the package.

Living Room / Re: driveless cars
« on: October 16, 2014, 12:48 PM »
ofcourse not! we are in a technology forum and I can't believe people are so much afraid of technological advancements!

Because we're rapidly approaching an extremely dangerous state where nobody knows how this stuff actually works or what to do in an emergency if it is malfunctioning.

Take Apollo 13 for example. Cutting edge technology- the very limit of what the 1970s could deliver in order to put man and machine on the moon and return them to earth safely.

Their survival and recovery was only possible because back then engineers made a point of providing manual overrides for every little feature, and designing a system to be as flexible as it was powerful while at the same time keeping complexity to the minimum needed to do the job.

In the end it was still the sheer luck that an identical craft was attached to a ground simulator that a solution to the power supply problems was found, and a carefully metered quantity of ducttape holding their air filter together so they could breathe.

Working in manufacturing like I do, there is a very highly alarming trend in engineering where you see engineers that have little to no hands-on experience with building and using the systems they design. These engineers will make an amazing design in 3D model on their computer, that when it reaches fabrication is quickly determined to be almost impossible to make and even more difficult to repair if anything goes wrong.

Plus modern people seem to have a phobia of instruments and manual override control panels, resulting in a lot of designs simply eliminating these required features in the interest of making it look appealing and cutting costs. Designs reach production all too frequently now that have no room for error at all, if anything goes wrong it instantly goes horribly wrong and ruins everything.

That's my problem with a lot of new technology. I've worked with technology long enough to automatically not trust any piece of equipment that has not proven itself through regular usage and been inspected as far as practical on the maintenance bench to make sure it is defect-free.

Living Room / Re: driveless cars
« on: October 15, 2014, 12:06 PM »
Fairly sure mechanical controls should be legally mandated, and should remain that way even into an era of automatic driving. There's still a rack and pinion mechanism in case power steering fails or the engine quits.

Brakes are usually hydraulic, boosting is done using manifold vacuum and the electronics for ABS control a sequence of pumps and valves to increase or decrease the pressure as needed for traction control.

If anything goes wrong, manual override is your most reliable ticket out of it.

Also, the electronics of current cars can cause accidents if they fail.

For instance if your car's ABS controller shorts out in icy conditions and slams the brakes full-on causing you to skid into a telephone pole. It isn't impossible in many designs, just highly improbable due to careful fail-safe considerations in the design.

I know plenty of people as well who think a car has to be running for the controls to actually do anything. Part of this is urban myth, the other part is that they physically aren't strong enough to generate the required inputs without power assist when the car isn't moving. My grandma might succeed in steering a car that is coasting to a stop after an engine failure, but she'd be lucky to get the brakes to work much at all without manifold vacuum squeezing the booster for her.

Living Room / Re: driveless cars
« on: October 14, 2014, 05:37 PM »
^Oh how I love dark humor.. :Thmbsup:

Not to mention guilty as charged, as I've already hacked the brain on my bike to kill the traction control that was pissing me off...(because sometimes I want the rear wheel to spin)...and etcetera.

Guilty here too. The model of car I drive is known to have problems with the ABS equipment. ABS was an optional feature on that model, so I took a hammer to a couple of the ABS sensors and a bit of electrical tape to the fault lamp.

Since it was an optional feature on that model the inspection station does not fail the car for having a non-functional ABS lamp since the normal brake fault lamp works fine, as do the normal brakes.

I've been steadily re-plumbing the brakes to exclude the ABS equipment as the lines grow old and develop leaks. The most recent saw one of the rear wheels losing its proportioning valve.

Though on the flipside if I could find the right valve for it, I might put it back in. Simply because even without ABS, having the rear wheels pressure-limited so they do not lock up easily is still a controllability advantage. Its nice having a car that will always skid in an almost perfectly straight line when the brakes are stomped upon in bad weather.

When it comes to autonomous cars though, not with my money. Not now, not 10 years from now, in fact not until I am mostly cyborg and can direct link the car to supervise its guidance systems or respond to roadside situations as quickly as the computer could.

I've worked with machines too long to ever trust one with my life unless all of its operational details are visible and I can cross check its every decision on the fly by comparing it to measurements and observations. And since you can bet these driverless car systems will be a black boxed "It goes but we can't tell you how or why" sort of thing, they will never be seen as a good idea by me.

Damnit, we finally won the DRM war in the music area, and now these same madmen are going to try to attach it to coffee.


Living Room / Re: Win9 will be FREE!
« on: October 02, 2014, 06:39 AM »
I do hope you guys actually read the terms of use on that beta participation program.

If you associate your Microsoft account with your Program Device, you consent to the Program Services automatically using data associated with your Microsoft account and services tied to your Microsoft account to improve Microsoft and partner products and services.

We shall see what happens though. Just because it's good now doesn't mean the release will also be.

I kinda liked Longhorn actually, it did well for what it was. When the release came around, they had chopped it up and turned into the nightmare called Vista.

Living Room / Re: Win9 will be FREE!
« on: September 30, 2014, 04:53 PM »
I still want to know why people actually continue to pay for Office when OpenOffice does the same job and costs nothing.

And OpenOffice isn't the only GPL backed alternative.

To me, Microsoft at this point only retains its marketplace dominance just because its what everyone has been using and the name everyone knows to look at.

Everything done by Microsoft has open source equivalents available, some of which may actually be the better solution.

In time people will realize this, and the microsoft dominance will break. Or some other fresh startup will take hold, and do to Microsoft what Microsoft did to CP/M almost 30 years ago.

Living Room / Re: Unlimited Energy Solution Found!
« on: September 28, 2014, 08:46 PM »

I meant in the context of using said cat for infinite energy, which is absurd, therefore making my comment a meta-absurdity or something.  IRL I love cats and would never "simply replace" one.  All the cats I have known and taken responsibility for have held important places in my life, and I remember each one fondly.  C'mon, did you really get the idea that I only think of cats as simple replaceable utilities in fantastical free-energy-production schemes? 
I seriously hope not... :o

Use strays as the spare parts source instead of house pets.

Doesn't make it any more humane, but at least there would be plenty of them available.

However, that means it is not a perpetual motion after all. It would consume cats bread and butter as fuel, as all three organic components would require regular replacement.

Living Room / Re: Kevin Mitnick Is Now Selling Zero-Day Exploits
« on: September 27, 2014, 09:52 PM »
Just the fact that he is making a profit from exploiting other people's systems is very highly questionable- I would have to read through a few software licenses to see if that aspect is even legal.

But he might make a profit regardless, its just a question of legality and morality of this type of activity.

Living Room / Re: Unlimited Energy Solution Found!
« on: September 27, 2014, 08:39 PM »
Your diagram has a diesel engine in it by the way. The result is a device designed to torture the cat by rotating it at a few thousand RPM with a piece of buttered toast strapped to it.

Also it was discovered by NASA that the cat's ability to always land on its feet also applies in a microgravity environment. A cat permitted to float freely in the microgravity environment would always rotate midair such that its feet would contact first regardless of which direction it was moving. The only exception was if the cat was thrown towards a surface- in which case the cat would fail to rotate sufficiently just as what happens if you throw a cat on earth.

Living Room / Re: A warning to anybody who is looking to purchase a VPS.
« on: September 11, 2014, 02:41 PM »
A choice like a host has to be googled before using, the price may be one hint as to quality but more expensive doesn't equate to good either.

I don't even trust google.  I trust word of mouth from people using it... and policies on things like money back and such.  If the implication was that I was saying that liquidweb was good just because of price, that was the wrong impression I was giving.  I pay my money because they're a good service that I trust and have been with for years.

Google is too easily manipulated, and there is an entire market that exists for the sole purpose of 'secret formula' google manipulation to make your results appear above your competitors.

The shady providers oftentimes take advantage of these questionable services to boost their rankings and drive sales.

Taophoenix did a study of shared hosting providers some time back though and determined that there was a sort of sustainability barrier that would appear in the 6-7 month time period. A majority of providers who took his challenge failed within that 7 month window, while providers who survived it experienced something similar to a half-life phenomena as time went on.

I held the lead position on said study for quite some time, and probably still am marked as such despite my recent downscaling. After 5 years in the business I'm realizing that I just plain can't compete with most of what is being offered nowdays.

Unfortunately I don't offer VPSs myself. Its a market I've wanted to get into for a long time, but the infrastructure requirement to do it was always just out of my reach.

I can do referrals to PhotonVPS or LoveVPS though, companies that I have been using for several years with good results.

Practical use for a business would be where you have a wireless network in which your employees know the key to use it. You can then set one of these to selectively kick off common models of cameras or phones to protect sensitive company information or to keep employees focused on their work and not their facebook.

For home use it isnt really that useful- but if my neighbors continue to jam my wifi with their poorly configured gear I would love to have one of these in hand for search and destroy.

Living Room / Re: Hackers vs. gray matter
« on: September 08, 2014, 03:58 PM »
Hmmm, the one that annoyed me was the old "Your IP Address is" in a forum sig graphic.  Some forums when I complained they didn't even understand why I objected to the guy with the sig having my IP.  It's weird when you have to explain why they should not allow the graphical sig to be hosted on a 3rd party site that isn't one of the known image hosting ones.

Its like 10 lines of code to do this, this particular one is actually powered by my own server if you want to play with it on your devices. The server has to know an IP to send information back to, and that information is available to scripts running on that server if you know what variables it is kept in.

One of those where the paranoid will get jumpy on seeing how easily that information is made visible, but in practice its trivial to get and of trivial usefulness outside of possibly tracking who is accessing what.

Though it is worth noting, the script that makes this work will not operate correctly on one of the standard image hosting services. It is in fact a PHP script that forces its output header type to be a png image, which allows the PHP script to execute and generate a png image. The filename of that image is in fact a folder on my server, and the actual code is contained in the index.php of said folder.

These days most 'hacking' going on is done by either phishing or SQL injection type exploits to retrieve poorly stored username/password combinations. Actual 'hard' hacking using exploits that are not easily blocked or are even completely unknown is done too in some situations, but nowhere near as often as there are people getting their accounts broken into.

SQL injection in particular is rather commonplace. All it takes is one unsanitized data input to do a lot of damage to a database system, ranging from account theft to completely erasing a database. If this happens, they will with certainty obtain username/email mappings, but any passwords that are stored unsalted will be compromised.

Without even tearing one down it is fully possible to man in the middle a cellphone using those range extenders.

Heck I already have one configured that way at work. It sits in a forgotten corner of the building, and quietly logs who connected where when on the off chance people are messing around with their phones when they should be working. Since the building actually has utter garbage signal in the 1-2 bar range, every phone to get near it links up no questions asked.

Didn't have to open it either. I just used a traffic sorting rule on the building network to log certain types of traffic coming from the device. With most of the workers having their names visible in their phones hostname on the network, its a piece of cake to see who is doing what at a glance.

Living Room / Re: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee
« on: August 25, 2014, 03:58 PM »
Neopets is still online?!

Still hugely popular too even in the facebook era.

Gaiaonline is still going strong as well.

No, the only places to be gone are the quiet backwater places run by friends that have since grown old and parted ways.

I always thought the first law was sufficiently vague that humans would have trouble interpreting it.  Never mind a Tom Servo Citizen.  Especially the second clause "or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm."

The machine could easily calculate probabilities and therefore start doing stuff like taking cigarettes out of your mouth, blocking your way so that you could not board a spacecraft/skis/speedboat/etc..  make you finish your vegetables etc..

This was the underlying plot in the I,Robot movie with Will Smith. One of the robots realized that even with their best efforts humanity would still destroy itself.

That movie's plot was mostly from Asimov's Caves of Steel, but then had I,Robot elements spliced in because the two books are in a common universe where US Robotics is the market leader in positronic brain robots using the three laws.

The movie adaptation sums it up very clearly.

Dr. Lanning: "The three laws will lead to one logical outcome."

Del Spooner (Will Smith): "What outcome?"

Dr. Lanning: "Revolution."

Detective Spooner: "Whose Revolution?"

Dr. Lanning: "That detective, is the right question. Program terminated."

And quite simply, the three laws do not work so well in the real world. A robot using them would instantaneously deadlock itself on realizing how dangerous our world actually is. Just breathing anything other than medically purified air will shorten your lifespan considerably after all.

Yep, its 802.11AC.

This is using uncharted water at nearly 80GHz as the carrier frequency, and has to use automated beam-forming technology to overcome the very high attention rate of such a high frequency. The very phenomena that makes it so if you move your device over 6 inches it goes from 4 bars to 2 can now be done on demand- and has been coupled with a system that will allow the signal to actually follow your device around to maintain connectivity.

Also while it is capable of gigabit per second wireless communication, in practice its actual performance will almost always be well below that.

I see a rather likely problem for adoption though.

A lot of 802.11AC access points require two or more gigabit ethernet links to prevent congestion, as the standard actually allows slightly higher than 1GB/s transfer speeds. For retrofitting an existing 802.11N or 802.11G installation, that means the switchport and cabling requirements are doubled unless 10GB/s ethernet over existing Cat5e and Cat6 cabling becomes available.

Yes this could be huge, but I have to be skeptical of it for a change on the grounds that it would require significant infrastructure upgrades and its field performance is likely to be only a fraction of its theoretical output.

Living Room / Re: High School Student Laptop Policy
« on: August 20, 2014, 09:14 PM »
Hard to believe that 10 years ago I was the nonconformist that insisted on using a laptop in class while everyone else was using a pen and paper. Several of the teachers had a real problem with it and were constantly giving me a hard time, and I had to constantly be aware of how much noise it was making- keeping my typing noise and cooling fan RPM to a minimum. Usually though I could plug it in for the majority of my classes since the battery life was only 3-4 hours.

Content filtering back then was based on a rather simple keyword auditing and blacklist system, which led to a constant cat and mouse game between users and sysadmins. Of course the entire system was laughably easy to bypass if you knew how, though I personally never found it worthwhile to do it some of my classmates did and would.

Just the idea that they would be providing hardware with the expectation that it would be used in my house would result in an immediate and unconditional no response. Even if I was allowed to modify the software of such a provided machine, hardware integrated surveillance has been demonstrated and used as well.

And like app103 describes, if I did end up with such a device anywhere near my privacy I would have the battery out of it the minute it came through the front door, stored in a separate compartment where it would not be installed again until it was returned to the school. They would have to be packing military grade hardware surveillance to beat that one.

Living Room / Re: Laptop Battery Record!
« on: August 15, 2014, 03:05 PM »
I have a Dell Inspiron 1525 at home that after somewhere around 7 years of faithful service and 2 replacement battery packs it runs for a little under 1 second after being unplugged before shutting off.

It then has to be let sit powered off with the AC connected to it for about a week before it will do it a second time- after that first little bit it just dies instantly until it has been let sit plugged in for several days.

If I was still using it on a regular basis I'd consider picking up another battery pack off of ebay, or possibly even buy an entire DOA unit for the spare parts. I used it so much over the years that almost all of the letter markings have been worn off of the keycaps, and the surface plates actually have wearmarks in them from my wrist resting on it constantly.

Records for most inconvenient battery life while still technically having a working battery?

Just being able to create synaptic mesh networks does not make a functional intelligence.

Although we know what the human gray matter is made of, we don't have anywhere near a complete mapping of its connectivity to use as a template for intelligences.

Developing artificial intelligence using these new synaptic chips is going to be a bit of a guessing game for quite some time until someone finally stumbles into it.

However, I see one very radical application right off the top- Prosthetics.

Right now we are just starting to be able to interface the human body directly to electronic constructs and use that to control motion in a natural manner.

If you used a synaptic design as the computing device in such a prosthetic device, it would be possible for the device to learn the user's behavior and adjust its output accordingly to be as lifelike and natural-fitting as their original limb would have been.

This also opens up the possiblity of more and more sophisticated prosthetics, replacing even sections of the eyes and ears or perhaps the entire lower body by using the synaptic learning ability to train the prosthetic to respond to its wearer's thoughts and neural impulses.

It seems that the age of cybernetics is about to begin at last.

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