Copyright ©1997-2011 Glenn Fleishman except as noted otherwise. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact Glenn Fleishman at glenn at glennf.com. Photo © 2008 Laurence Chen; used with permission.
Turning technology from mumbo-jumbo into rich tasty gumbo
Mommy: Someday, your little brother [due in just over two weeks] will sleep in your room with you.
Daddy: In a separate bed.
Mommy: Will you like it when your little brother sleeps in the same room with you?
Ben [quietly]: Yes.
Ben: Want him to sleep in a little tiny room. [All laugh.]
Mommy: We don’t have a little tiny room!
Daddy: Where’s our little tiny room?
Ben: There! [points wildly]
Ben: In the living room! Over there! [points to behind a chair]
Mommy: In the television cabinet?
Mommy: The baby is going to sleep in the TV cabinet?
Daddy: And the baby can watch as much TV as he wants.
Ben: The baby is going to watch videos! [laughs and laughs; all laugh.]
Ben: Ben is 5.
Daddy: Ben is 2 1/2
Ben: Ben is 2 1/2 and Daddy is 16 1/2
Daddy: Daddy is thhhhhhhirty-nine
Ben: Daddy is fffffforty-nine
So much for kids keeping you young.
Interesting reading from Make magazine, the magazine for people who want to create something with their hands, from crafts to electronics: They killed an article because they worried the article might kill (or at least severely injure) readers. The editors published the emailed conversation that they had with their technical advisory board about a piece that would explain how to create an “anti-gravity” device that uses high-voltage, but relatively low-amperage power to produce a lifter. The problem is that the design requires exposed conductive parts, and that the combination of voltage and amperage could be fatal under a variety of circumstances—even if those circumstances were just a subset.
What’s great in reading this back and forth isn’t that they were cautious and killed the article to avoid a lawsuit, or idiots following directions badly, or underestimating their readers, or pure lack of fun. Rather, the advisory board is full of daring people, many of whom have worked with high voltages and high amperages, and they were a little freaked out about the unknowns. That’s the kind of caution that often keeps you from falling off a mountain (you don’t climb on the days that are likely to go against you, when you can predict it, which isn’t always).
It’s fascinating to see that people with lots of experience and knowledge are still freaked out about the capacitance in cathode-ray tubes (CRTs). I have heard a lot about how difficult it is to drain residual power from these tubes practically from when I was a boy and interested in electronics. (I used to do a lot of soldering when I was age 11 or 12.)
The article might still run, but it looks like the publication is trying to figure out if there’s a way that they can educate people enough and frame the project in such a way as to provide safeguards—and perhaps a level of difficulty—that would preclude true danger.
Note my comment below the article: One advisor brings up the bugbear of the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit as proof that we live in a litigious society. This lawsuit has legs: The woman in question sued and won not because McDonald’s was engaged in reasonable behavior. Rather, McDonald’s was serving coffee far hotter than was safe. They knew it. And they’d settled many previous lawsuits. In fact, McDonald’s knowledge of and lack of response prior to that defining lawsuit is precisely the opposite of how Make arrived at its decision not to publish. Free and opening airing of ideas led to a well-judged conclusion.
There are a lot of reasons why I have several servers co-located at digital forest. First, they have a long history as a reliable co-lo facility. Second, I know the CTO, and trust him. Third, they charge a reasonable price relative to service. (Some people have tried to convince me to switch to Brand X, often a major national hosting company, but when I’ve investigated out of curiosity, I find there’s no real savings, and they nickel and dime you over every last thing.) Fourth, they’re local, so I can run down and work on servers in a pinch.
But there’s another very important reason. They communicate. They had a small failure in their cooling system last night, and redundancy saved the day. However, they need to do some system work, and rather than just do the right thing technically—pictures here!—to ensure temperatures stay low, they also did the right thing for their customers, and informed us via email and their support blog about precisely what’s happening, what might happen, and how they plan to deal with Plan B, Plan C, etc. We could use them in high governmental office right now. “Plan A has to work!” (It helps that it’s 39 degrees outside their offices right now in terms of fixing the problem!)
Sunday morning, I wake up and find that one of my main Web/email servers has gone nonresponsive, probably at about 7.30 am. I check to make sure it’s really down, page the on-site fellow at about 8.30 for help. He checks console and the machine is truly non-responsive. Reboots, calls me to check that I want him to proceed, and runs fschk (a Unix disk repair utility), and gets the thing back up online. Now this is typical NOC (network operation center) stuff, but I don’t pay a fee for this. It’s included in the co-lo charges, because they charge the right amount to allow me to get a machine rebooted every six months or so and to know that if I need help, they are there to provide it.
I have recommended them in the past, but I’ll just repeat that recommendation again. d.f. has also hosted TidBITS for many years.
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