Archive for category Technology

Is AI, or Artificial Intelligence, a meaningless term?

Several times now I have been confronted with the proposition that AI — artificial intelligence — is so squishy a word that we just can’t say what it means. The implication apparently being that it can be legitimately used for just about anything. I disagree. Strongly. While there may be room for plenty of “squishyness” on this road, the problem right now is that no one has even gotten on the road.
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Consciousness: on the Nature of the Inherently Inexplicable

In this essay I will describe my take on what consciousness is, and by process of elimination, what it is not. To further an understanding of my ideas on the matter, I’m going to briefly describe the nature of some software to you. It is not artificial intelligence software. Even so, there is a notable, relevant thing that happens to the user’s perception of this software when it is being executed by a computer. I very strongly suspect that this parallel points precisely to the absolute nature of consciousness.
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Good news: Ultracaps are coming right along.

As of today, October 15th, 2015, commercially available ultracaps have obtained an energy density of 10.1 wh/kg. A standard lead-acid battery, such as the one you almost certainly use to start your car, offers an energy density of 40 wh/kg.

This means that within about four times the weight (and probably the volume) of said battery, you could use ultracaps (and the appropriate control electronics), you could completely — and permanently, as the ultracaps have multi-million charge/discharge cycle capability — replace your vehicle’s starter / power battery. This capability is considerably further along the development and commercial availability road for ultracaps; the last time I really paid close attention, ultracap energy density was down in the 2.5 wh/kg range, and so it would have taken sixteen times the weight (and volume!) of them to do the same job. That’s a lot tougher to justify.
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Headless Raspberry Pi B+ via Ethernet – from zero to success

R.Pi B+ BoadSo (somewhat late to the party, but anyway), I came up with a project I could use a Raspberry Pi for. Off to Amazon I went, and purchased this starter package (select the ULTIMATE kit), which I highly recommend. Everything you need, all in one place. I’m assuming you either bought this kit, or have the things you need, which I will also call out in case you’re a masochist and plan to try to assemble all this stuff by yourself.

Take note that I’ll be updating this post as I discover more stuff about the Raspberry Pi I think is worth sharing; so you might want to bookmark it and come back again from time to time. I’ll try and make it worth your while.

To start, you will require the Pi B+, a storage card with NOOBS on it, a power supply, a wired USB keyboard, a wired USB mouse, an ethernet cable, a free port on your network router or network switch, an HDMI cable and an HDMI capable monitor.

No, there’s no other way. You need the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Sorry. Not my fault. Everything I listed except the network cable, keyboard, monitor and mouse is supplied in the kit I linked to just above. As well as a lot of other really cool stuff. Hint. Hint.
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Review: E-Flite Blade 350 QX Quadcopter

The Blade 350 QX quadcopter is an almost-perfect example of its class. Three flight modes provide almost the perfect range from well behaved and safe to crazily agreeable to any insane set of control inputs you supply.

Blade 350 QX

Blade 350 QX

It is light, provides a reasonable flight time with the supplied battery, and you’re pretty well guaranteed to have more fun than you expect fooling around with it.

But that’s not all. The 350 is powerful enough, and stable enough, to carry a Go Pro camera and take awesome HD movies and stills from the air. You can spin the quadcopter in place and create a fabulous pan, or fly right up to something you otherwise can’t get to and take a closeup. Or just fly around and take a look at the countryside.

Everything you need is supplied in the package; the quadcopter, the hand controller, batteries, a charger (12 vdc… meant to hook to your car’s electrical system so you can recharge in the field), and you even get a set of extra blades. Which you are unlikely to need if you are even just a little bit careful. The manual is a little dense, and because of that you’ll have to read it carefully, but everything you need to know is actually in there within twelve pages.
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Kenwood TS-990S Review

ts990sI’ve been operating the Kenwood TS-990S for some months now, so it’s about time I actually review it. This review reflects operation under firmware 1.05 as downloaded from the Kenwood website.

Because there have been a number of reviews that have done an excellent job of enumerating the radio’s features, I’m going to come at this differently. I’m going to first give you an overview of how well I think it operates and how comfortable I’ve become (or not) with its features, along with an assessment of its value with regard to its capabilities. I’ll note a few things that seem unique to me, standout features that are really special from the operations standpoint.

Then I’m going to lay out, in detail, the critiques I have of the radio from an operating point of view — that’s something no one has really gone into as far as I know, and I hope you’ll find it useful. I even nurse a vague hope that Kenwood will, via Google-fu or some kind soul, find this and take some of my ideas to heart, because I really do think the radio could be significantly improved with just a firmware upgrade (or several.)
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Something for you CW types

You know, I have to confess: CW isn’t my favorite operating mode. It’s ok; sometimes I tune down to the CW portions of the ham bands and copy it for a while just to keep my hand in, but not too often. Consequently, another confession: I’ve not looked really hard into SdrDx’s CW handling until today. When I did, I found there were improvements that could be made, and, because I’m somewhat compulsive, I went ahead and made them, and you’ll find them in the 2.12r OSX beta that’s available for download as of right now. But don’t stop reading yet, please.

My old J-38 straight key

The first thing I did was some work on the high and low adjustment ranges of the CW mode demodulator envelope; CWL now allows from -10 to -1500 Hz, CWU allows from 10 to 1500 Hz. These are sane ranges; previously, it was a little weird, and I apologize for that.

The second thing was change the demodulator envelope adjustment from 100 Hz/step to 50 Hz/step. This allows you to create a properly centered demodulator envelope of an odd width, such as 300 Hz, or to cut the bandwidth all the way down to 50 Hz — a little extreme perhaps, but amazingly usable if the received station is stable.

Lastly, I experimented a bit with the audio notches to see how to best tailor the audio, and I found that with the Q of a notch set to about the third hashmark from the right of the Q scale, the notch was narrow enough to sit right on the upper edge of the demodulator envelope. I’ll give a detailed example:
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