2013-10-23

Hal 9000 will turn 16 soon, will he drive?

Something silly just occurred to me...

In "2001: A Space Odyssey", the ship was run by a computer called HAL 9000.  HAL, they said, was "born" in 1997, January 12th to be precise.   Yes, I'm one of those geeks that celebrates HAL's birthday.  So, HAL's 16th birthday is coming up.  Time to get a drivers license?

Yes, a fictitious computer in an old film that really has nothing to do with driving, except for the minor fact that autonomous cars are on the prowl.  Those cars, or rather their computer drivers, are pretty much at the "time to get a driver's license" stage, coincidentally.

Yes, it's not really a drivers license but rather the long, slow process of changing laws to deal with silly things like cars that drive themselves.  But, semantics aside, it really is time for HAL (or his cousins) to hit the road.  Somehow, even considering HAL's villain status, I find that more comforting than the idea of the kid down the street getting his license.  After all, I remember what I did on the road back when I was 16.

2013-09-09

NSA Was Here

what else can you say?

2012-12-17

Say NO to Privacy

Big Data is the new big thing. Data collection and mining and all that this entails. We have government ministries exploring data mining possibilities while other government ministries try to protect our privacy. The kids these days have no use for this formal kind of privacy and us older folk berate them for it. We show exactly how all this data they toss about can be used against them. But, you know, they’re right. In the end, their way will be the way it is. Our old private ways will be laughed at, and feared.

We are, of course, right too. Data will be mined and used against the people. There is great risk involved and very bad things can happen. However, there is also a solution. Information is power. If you have information about someone, you can use it against them. But, that’s only true if they don’t have information about you, particularly that you are using their information against them. While this sounds convoluted, it’s actually very simple. No privacy, none at all, and there’s no problem. This is where we’re heading. The problem is we’re not getting there fast enough.

We need privacy advocates because the information is uneven, because ‘they’ are collecting way more information about ‘us’ than we are about them. It’s not fair and the information imbalance can be used against the losing side. These privacy advocates can help, but they are not a real solution. For every obstacle put up to protect privacy there will be multiple paths around. For those of us on the losing side, there is a solution, a No Privacy Union.

How do we create a No Privacy Union? We take the same data mining techniques that government and big business are using and we put them up on a web service that we can all access. We have the advantage in numbers for this. We don’t need super-sophisticated data analysers and the like because we can crowdsource. But, we still need data to work with. So, we volunteer to input our data. Everything: all our financial transactions, where we work, where we go, what we do, everything. We scour the media, we input the leaks, we witness events and report what we see. These are inputs. Anyone can take any input and create a data stream; weighting truth, analysing, correlating, and aggregating; that produces an output. Any output can then be weighed and fed back into other streams. We can build data visualisations and patterns will emerge. Anyone can use the data. Yes, it can be used against us. But, we can use it against them too.

How can we use our data against those that hide their data from us? Simple. If they’re not in the No Privacy Union (NPU), we don’t do business with them. We don’t vote for them. We don’t include them in anything. It is a UNION. It is solidarity in numbers. When it’s only a few, the members mean nothing. When there are enough to sway an election, then politicians will take note. When a business bottom line is at stake, they will take note. There is no militancy required, no wars, no aggression. It is as peaceful a revolution as there could ever be. It is simply people sharing.

Imagine a politician that wants to get elected but there are a significant number of NPU voters. There are three choices: One, ignore them and pander to other groups. That works for a while, until the NPU gets too big. Two, villainize them, make them the bad people that other people should vote against. Not going to work too well when everything about these people is public knowledge. The third option will eventually be the only one left. Join them. When the NPU gets big enough then all politicians that want to get elected must join. Now, imagine trying to be a corrupt politician that freely posts all financial transactions. How will this politician be corrupt? When every decision is public, how will this politician make sleazy back-room deals that trade off one group against another? How will this politician use information about people as a weapon?

Imagine a business that wants to stay in business. To sell a product to NPU members, they must be part of the NPU, publishing everything about their company. All financial transactions, all the suppliers, everything. Yes, there are privacy regulations... employees must opt-in to having their payroll information included. Those that opt-out are anonymized; a black spot in the data. The black spots are okay because, like the Big Data being used against us, they will form patterns on their own. Like with the politicians, those sleazy deals and whatnot will become obvious. As data flows around the black spots, they will erode over time, especially when there are financial incentives involved.

The NPU will start out as tiny spots of light in a sea of black privacy. But, as it grows and grows, the light will spread until it is the black that is isolated into clumps. The more light there is, the harder it will be to hide in the dark. Those operating in the dark will be increasingly excluded from the light. This is citizen democracy and there is no stopping it. In the age of Big Data, there can be no privacy for citizens. The only real answer is for citizens to embrace this and demand the same for those that exercise power over us. It is time for us to exercise power over them.


In the future, our children’s future, privacy will be something socially granted. You won’t look at things that should be private because that’s the right thing to do. That, and the fact that you looked will be as much a public record as what you are looking at. Privacy only needs legal enforcement when there is a power imbalance. Where there is no privacy, there is no imbalance, and social limits will be all that are required. Our children can and will end privacy.

2012-01-31

CyberNav Mini Review

This is a review of the CyberNav Mini 5" Android-powered GPS tablet.  Why am I writing this?  Well, because I just bought one even though there were no reviews out on the web.  Every page I found simply had the same sales brochure text on it, word for word.  Very annoying.  I decided to fix that for the next person.  I'm going to break this review up into 3 parts.  The first part will be my first-day impressions.  Next, I'll write a 2-week synopsis.  Finally, sometime when I've decided I've got all I'm going to get out of this thing, I'll write a wrap-up.


Caveats:  First off, I'm no tablet expert.  I use GPS quite a bit but for very specific purposes.  I also have a Nokia N810 Internet Tablet, which I love.  In fact, I love it so much I realized that if it ever broke, there would be a lot of things that I wouldn't be able to do.  I realized that I needed a backup.  There's nothing that will directly replace the N810 for me, but I thought this CyberNav Mini might replace some of the functions at least.  Besides, it might make a decent cheap GPS to mount on my dual-purpose motorcycle and it will also allow me to explore the Android ecosystem, which I've been curious about.  What this means is that I'm biased and my review is going to basically amount to a comparison with the N810.  Take what you will from it.  Nobody is paying me to do this, not even through the site adverts which, at the present rate, should net me my first $100 check in about 2018.

I'll not bother describing the published spec's as they're easy to find.  Here are the points I first noticed:
  • It does have a tilt sensor.  Actually, the level app I installed needed it switched to 'accelerometer' rather than tilt sensor.  The level app seems to work okay, so I'm guessing the resolution isn't that bad.  Nothing to compare it to, though, other than real levels.  I certainly won't be using it to replace my precision machinist's level.  It would be more than enough to hang a shelf with.
  • The little cap on the top-right (opposite the power button) that looks like a stylus cap is not a stylus.  The first thing I did was rip that off in the hopes that it was... had to glue it back on.  Oh well.
  • The resistive touch screen really works better with a stylus.  The GPS mount comes with a tiny one... I've been using my spare N810.  Overall, it seems quite precise.  It is not multi-touch.
  • The GPS is pretty good.  I had to go outside for its very first fix, and that took a few minutes.  But, overall, it seems to be reasonably sensitive.  Not quite as good as my Garmin Dakota 20, but a lot better than the N810.
  • I bought mine from an E-Bay reseller and it came with iGo maps.  No idea if that's legit or not, so I'm not going to say exactly who I bought it from, but I appreciate the maps.  The iGo app is pretty much a "get me to where I want to go" city navigator.  Not much use for the likes of me that want to build custom maps, record tracks, and similar activities. OruxMaps, on the other hand, looks promising.
  • Battery life, so far, seems to be about the published 2 hours of playing.  With the N810, I can get 3 days standby, 6 hours of play, or about 3 hours of GPS.  With the CyberNav, running the GPS doesn't seem to make that big a difference.  However, this is still very tentative.  I'll know better in a couple of weeks.
  • Android, at least version 2.2, is not much to scream about compared to the N810's Maemo (debian Linux) OS.  I've still not really got into it that far, but it seems to obfuscate rather than just give me control.  Then again, I don't really know how to do anything in Android yet, so this too will have to wait for later reviews.
  • The Android Market is both amazing and frustrating.  Amazing, because it has many more apps than what is available for the N810.  Frustrating, because most of them want internet access so they can deliver advertising.  However, eventually I got smart and searched for 'opensource'.  That gave about 20 pages of goodness.
So far,  it's crashed on me 3 times.  I don't know exactly what's going on because I've never seen it crash.  Basically, I go to unlock the screen and it's off rather than blanked.  Twice, it was while being charged on a particular USB adaptor.  The other time, I was walking around.  Again, I should have a better handle on this in a couple of weeks.

That's it for now... stay tuned for part 2 mid February.

If you have any specific questions about it, leave a comment.

Update 1:  just answering some comment questions

On my first trip to the woods, I fired up the CyberNav and it took it's sweet time getting a lock while I was walking around.  Dense forest cover, stuff that would kill my older Garmins, but easily dealt with by the Dakota 20 I have (had - it died).    So, good chip but the small antenna limits it a bit.  It did lock; it did work.  Overall, I'd say it's not bad.  Once it gets a lock it seems quite good, very tenacious.

As for mapping apps:

The installed iGo with vector maps takes a bit of getting used to - drove my wife nuts while we were driving home as she couldn't figure out how to do anything.  It does route, and auto-route again when you ignore it's directions.  The speaker was loud enough to hear over a quiet stereo and the directions were understandable, unlike the N810 audio helper (my impression of the N810 voice was "kidnap victim in trunk of car with socks stuffed in mouth" - useless).  No idea yet how the FM transmitter works, but I suppose that would negate listening to music... or maybe not... it's possible it's smart enough to do both but I'm not holding my breath on that.  Android, at least v2.2, seems pretty anti-multitasking.  I'll make a point of playing with the FM transmitter before the next review.

I've also been playing with the Orux mapping app.  It's tile-based, a lot like the old Ozi Explorer that I used before the Garmin vector map editors got useful, before I started using Google Earth to view my tracks.  In fact, I just converted my old Ozi maps into Orux format and uploaded them to the CyberNav.  They seem to work quite well.  So, now I have topo maps of Vancouver Island.  Orux does have the ability to download and cache offline map tiles from a variety of sources, but they limit the download to 250MB per map.  That's good for hiking in a park but not so great for off-roading.  There is a utility call MOBAC (Mobile Atlas Creator, or something like that) which does allow as many tiles as you want per map, but the current version only supports Open Street Map (OSM).  The previous version (1.8.x) supported a lot more sources, Google Maps etc., but they got shut down for license violation.  You can still find the 1.8 version if you look for it.  I'm using it now, as in right now, to cache from Microsoft Maps.  Not sure if it will work yet.  In any event, with the tile approach, there will always be a way to get decent maps - it's just a lot of work.  Right now, I'm just bouncing around between things.  It will take a while to find an effective work-flow for what I want to do.  I know that, it's not really a CyberNav issue.  Well, it would be nice if I could use the custom Garmin-format maps I've built.  Haven't found a way to do that yet.  Being a tablet rather than a dedicated GPS, it's entirely possible that this functionality will happen at some point.  There are apps out there that do support Garmin vector maps.

One real CyberNav issue is that it is most definitely crashing, or something.  It's not mechanical, no amount of twisting or tapping will make it shut down.  It does seem to be something about the screen-lock or power-save mode.  Very often, when I've left it on, with the USB charger connected or not, when I go to use it again by hitting the power button, the only way to get it out of it's blank-screen mode (the power button is the only button on this thing) it will reboot.  It's never actually done this while I'm using it - so it's not an issue I'm fretting about.  On vehicle-power while running a mapping app that keeps it awake, I don't see this reboot issue as causing any problems.  I could be wrong though.  I'll update when I know more.

(mini update:  I turned off the screen blank and it ran on the USB charger for a couple of days straight.  So, yeah, something to do with the power-save mode.  It could be something as stupid as me not knowing the magic Android wakeup spell... it's only got that one button though)

(another mini update:   Yeah, the "crashing" is just me being an Android newbee.  First, returning from powersave mode involves hitting the power button and then WAITING for it.  It takes a second or 2.  If you don't wait and hold the power button down, it resets.  Also, by design, Android shuts down after a defined period of time in powersave mode, 30 minutes by default with the CyberNav.  Thus, it isn't crashing, it's just turning off.  Nothing to see here, move along folks.)

Oh, battery life, so far, seems pretty consistent. 2 hours off the charger.  That's about it.  No idea how much standby time it gets as, as I've noted above, it's always off when I go to use it again.  Unlike the N810, it doesn't take that long, or that much power, to boot back up though.

One more thing: the guy I bought it off of (if you can assume a masculine identity with "pumpkin_coolstore") says it's fine to link to his store.  Thus, I'll assume the iGo maps are somewhat legit, or he doesn't care.  I'm not saying this is the best place to buy but it worked well for me.  The guy is very customs-savvy, if you know what I mean.  Your results may vary.

Update 2: Sunlight and the Screen

I tried it today: Yay! Sun!  ...for a few minutes anyway.  Outside, the screen washed out completely in direct sunlight.  In a side-by-side comparison between it and the N810, the N810 was clearly better.  On the dash, the CyberNav was fine and the map always visible while driving around.  On the dash, it also appeared brighter than the N810.  Likely, the CyberNav has a stronger backlight but is missing that special something that makes the N810 screen better in direct sunlight.  You do get what you pay for.

The screen washout might prove an issue with my plans to mount the CyberNav on my motorcycle.  However, it shouldn't be that big a deal to shield it for a moment when necessary.  Time will tell.

(mini update:  Screen glare and washout in sunlight is significant and I nearly gave up trying to figure out how to deal with it.  Even a sun-shade wasn't enough to make the map visible while riding.  The final answer was, surprisingly, custom high-contrast maps.  With those, the maps are visible while riding, even on a sunny day.  The sun-shade makes them even better.)

Update 3: Two Weeks In

As a car GPS, unless you need the on-the-fly traffic updates that some dedicated units offer, I'd go with the CyberNav.  The GPS is plenty good enough for car stuff, it comes with mounting hardware and power adaptors, and being an Android tablet the mapping options really are amazing.  You have choice: see the OSM Mapping Apps list for a start, and that's just the ones that support Open Street Maps.  I can't say I'm a fan of iGO, the app my CyberNav came with, but considering the options available I really don't care.  I like options.  Now, I've never owned or even used one of those dedicated car navigators so please take that into account when reading this review.  I'm a back-country GPS user.  On the road, well, I managed to circumnavigate North America on a road trip using a world map I got out of a cereal box, seriously.  How good does a car GPS have to be? 

I don't know how well the CyberNav will operate mounted on the handlebars of my Dual-sport bike, won't really know until spring.  However, I've already identified a few mapping apps that look really good, Androzic being one of them as I'm an old OziExplorer users.  I dumped my .ozf2 maps into the CyberNav and I'm already set to go, though I will remake these maps with my new routes edited into them.  I'm hoping Maperitive will let me do that easily.  For those that don't know, the Ozi .ozf2 format does zoom levels very, very well.  While Orux supports Ozi maps, it doesn't support the .ozf2 image file format, which is too bad because it's great.  Like I said, going with an Android tablet over a dedicated GPS offers a lot of choice, though choice does involve effort and compromise.  If you don't like playing and just want directions to a hotel, the extra work might not be worth the effort.

As a walking GPS, I'd say the CyberNav is near useless and even the N810 is a significant improvement.  With 2 hours of battery life and not being able to run the GPS while the screen is blanked, you're not going to get very far.  If you wanted to mark your position in the parking lot, turn it off, and dump it in your pocket just in case, then it would be okay.  It does fire up and find it's location fairly quickly and having that position might prove very, very useful.  That's something my N810 fails at miserably as getting a fix can prove an exercise in patience.  Then again, it's easy to swap batteries in the N810 and I carry a spare, something the CyberNav just can't do.  I've needed that spare battery enough times to realize how much a problem not being able to swap would be.  Power is the CyberNav's weakest point.  Good in a car, okay to fire up for a quick fix, but if you want the CyberNav to keep the track of your hike, well, you better walk fast.  It might be different if there was some secret power-save mode that doesn't reset the CyberNav just to wake up from.  If I ever find that, I'll let you know.

Hardware-wise, the CyberNav is nothing to scream at, either way.  The resistive screen works very well with a stylus but not so great with fingers.  Funny thing was, it came with a shipping protector over the screen and I found fingers weren't that bad.  Taking it off actually made finger-swipes harder.  If I were a finger-swiping kind of guy, I think I'd be using screen protectors with it just to make the screen a little slipperier.  On the other hand, being resistive, I'm hoping I can toss the thing in clear plastic on the bike to keep out the water.  Can't do that with capacitive.  I doubt fat-finger gloves will get me far so I'll likely have to rig up a stylus holder as well.  I have no idea how well the hardware will hold up to the pounding and vibration on the bike.  I've already killed 2 Garmin Etrex Legends  that way.  It's a pretty hostile environment; I don't ride slow and easy.  The CyberNav has a much bigger screen and is a whole lot cheaper than the typical hiking GPS units I've used, so I'm willing to see how well it does.  The only other hardware issue I've noticed is the CyberNav actually runs a little hot, even when off the USB charger, though it doesn't seem to be a problem.  I don't think they worried too much about power management when they designed this thing.

I've done an at-home test with the FM transmitter and it does work.  More surprising, Android allows the music player and the iGO app to run at the same time.  Thus, it is possible that it will voice-over navigation directions while playing music from the device.  I've not actually tried this yet.  I'll update when I have.  Please don't ask me to rate the audio quality... it's just not my thing.  As far as I'm concerned, a car stereo is a device that drowns out the noise from things I haven't got around to fixing yet.  A cheesy tablet transmitting FM over the power cable is fine by me.

(mini-update: Yes, it can play music and voice-over navigation from iGO while using the FM transmitter.  It actually works quite well.  I also found out this thing has a vibrator in it.  It buzzes when the battery gets low.  I can't think of any use for it, but it's there.)

This last part is more about Android 2.2 than the CyberNav itself.  Then again, unless you're going to install something else, Android 2.2 is what you get.  First off, I hate on-screen keyboards.  The N810 blows the CyberNav out of the water for this very reason.  Well, that and the other hardware keys.  The lack of any real keys on the CyberNav makes a lot of things oddly difficult.  No full-screen button, no zoom in/out, no screen lock.  I never realized how useful those buttons were until I didn't have them.  Then again, a decent operating system would make the lack of these buttons easier.  Android 2.2 is not a decent operating system.  Actually entering in text drove me nuts on the CyberNav until I figured out that I could add the Hackers Keyboard that actually had arrow keys. I mean, trying to put the cursor in the exact right position on a 5" screen with no recourse to moving it afterwards was very frustrating.  Why anyone would ship a device OS without arrow keys stock?  With the Hacker's Keyboard, life is a little easier, but I much prefer working with the N810 in this regard.

The CyberNav comes with a microSD card slot and I happened to have a spare.  So, I threw it in.  It didn't work, didn't recognize it at all, nothing.  No format option either.  So, I took it out and re-formatted it in my Linux desktop computer, formatted ext3 (Linux) because I'm that kind of guy.  Nothing showed in the CyberNav, again.  So, I reformatted it fat32 (DOS) and the CyberNav tried to mount it (mount being a Linux thing) and it just went straight to "safe to remove."  That was helpful...  I went around in circles for a while until I got the bright idea to format the SD card in an actual Windows machine.  It worked fine in the CyberNav after that.  So, while Android may have Linux roots, it's lost it's way.  I mean, yes, Linux is down there somewhere, but it's buried under something that is not in the spirit of GNU/Linux.

I've used the N810 for several years and I've come to expect certain things from a mobile operating system, and Android doesn't have them.  Android 2.2 is a little icky and I don't really like it.  Power management is poor, the whole menu system is poor, notifications are poor, it's just clunky and everything -- as in the whole thing -- seems like an afterthought.  I can sort of see why: it's designed to allow the screen to rotate, which makes either mode a compromise.  It's designed to fit on much smaller screens than the 5" CyberNav, which is a compromise, and, well, it's all a compromise.  I mean, on the N810 there's an app you can install that replaces the volume and backlight controls with a single tiny status icon, one that does screen rotation too.  Tapping the wireless icon brings up all the wireless controls, like it should.  The status bar in Android 2.2 has a bunch of icons that show status but do nothing when you tap them.  Why do I have to dig down into the setup menu to find out the battery status?  In Maemo, tapping the power status icon says "3 days standby, 7 hours use." You know, something useful.  In Android, the volume controls take up half the bar, and then there's this big Media Refresh button, like that's something you need 20 times a day.  It's just a big ugly waste of very precious space.  I won't even get into multitasking and all the other things that an operating system should do, that Maemo does well and that Android just doesn't.  I don't know, maybe the latest version of Android is a lot better.  I hope so, because Maemo has been abandoned by Nokia and it's only chance for survival is a dedicated group of volunteer developers, and it blows Android 2.2 out of the water - there's no comparison.

Then, there's the Android Market.  No doubt about it, there's an amazing selection of apps there.  Finding them is an issue as the whole search function in the market seems designed to irritate the hell out of a person.  I mean, who would design a search pane that shows previous searches but doesn't let you edit them before redoing them?  What's the point?  I search for "mapping" and get way too many hits.  So, I hit the search button again and the search box is clear.  Below it is a list of previous searches.  At that point, you can type your search in again, "mapping vector" for example, or you can hit "mapping" below, and redo your search on mapping.  Remember, this is all on a horrible virtual keyboard, no cnrl-c/v.  The very notion of having a search box that lets you re-run previous searches without the ability to edit them pretty much sums up Android.  It's just not finished, anywhere.

The N810 has a standard set of debian Linux package repositories.  If you know Linux, these make perfect sense.  They work via GUI or via terminal, like all things Linux. Maemo is Linux, not some obfuscated kernel buried under a half-baked GUI menu.  These package repositories have a useful number of applications, mostly ones that have been ported from the standard Linux repositories.  However, the choices are very limited in comparison to the Android market.  Yes, near any Linux application could be ported to the N810, but it would have to be "hildonized," to work properly.  Hildon being the actual desktop interface used by Maemo.  This is possible to do but requires quite a skill-set.  The result is that the applications that developer-type people want are all in the Maemo repositories, but other things can be scarce.  So, yes, there's a certain amount of app-envy going on, even if Maemo is better overall.  If I could get an Android emulator for Maemo, I'd re-install the CyberNav straight away; no second thoughts.  In part, I bought the CyberNav to see what Android was all about.  I've seen... not impressed, but still want the apps so I'll use Android and deal with the lousy market to get them.

Another mini-update:  Speaking of apps... the music player that the CyberNav comes with is absurdly frustrating, almost bizarrely frustrating.  In the Android Market there are a lot of replacements.  I picked "the Android Music Player" from JRTStudio.  No idea if that's the best but it sure beats the stock one.  Supposedly, it's a back-port of the OpenSource one that came with Honeycome.

Update 4: The Wrap-Up

I quite like having the CyberNav mounted on the handlebars of my dualsport motorcycle.  It was not without issues in the beginning, but it's great now that I've worked out the kinks.

The biggest problem is the screen.  At first, it was impossible to see in daylight.  Nothing, nadda, just washed out glare.  I tried not using any screen protector, I tried a sun screen, and I tried a lot of swearing.  I almost gave up on the thing and relegated it to kid-toy status.  But, in all my trials, I did notice one odd thing.  While I couldn't see anything on the map, I could see the white application border.  Ah, I thought, maybe high-contrast maps would help a little.  Actually, they helped significantly, much more than expected, and more than enough to make the CyberNav useful in daylight.  My kid's not happy that he lost his new toy but I have something I can play with.

Yes, with custom high-contrast mostly black and white maps with nice thick lines for roads and very little other details, the CyberNav screen is readable while mounted on the handlebars.   At a glance, I can see the trail I'm on, I can see when the intersections are coming up, and, well, it's great.  More than great, really, with that 5" screen it's the best I've ever had for riding.


I'm running it off a dollar-store cig-lighter to USB charger, basically the same as what the CyberNav came with.  The intent, someday, is to wire the adapter right into the bike wiring harness, thus I didn't want to cut up the original, but I've not actually got there yet.  It's just sitting there taped in place.  Works fine.

I've got around 1000km of fairly aggressive trail riding on it and it seems to be holding up well.  I fabricated a mount for it using rubber grommets to isolate vibration but I'm not entirely happy with the results - still too much buzzing.  So far, the CyberNav has handled that without complaint but I expect there are internal connections that will have issues at some point.  I may fab a better mount... maybe for the next tablet. 

The screen seems to be holding up well even when being coated with dust then jabbed at and swiped by gloved hands while riding.  I figured it would be a mess of scratches by now, what with no screen protector, but it still looks pretty good.  I was concerned about using a resistive display rather than the tougher capacitive ones.  But, the resistive display means that I don't have to futz around with trying to make conductive fingers on my gloves and it seems to be holding up well enough.  My next tablet might just be resistive too.

I've been lucky so far in not having major rain events while riding.  For the drizzle and soaked branches I've run into, the sun screen has provided more than adequate coverage.  I figure, if it really, really starts to pour... the CyberNav can go in my pocket and I'll head home.  I know where home is... don't need a navigator for that one.  It's been splashed with mud while crashing through the bush behind other riders in a dualsport event.  It's been pounded through the rough sections to the point where I was bottoming my suspension so hard I had to back off.  It's lived the life of a dirtbiker, and it's been tough like one too.  I am impressed.

The CyberNav can have issues while trying to get a location fix while under heavy tree cover and moving quickly.  Being under heavy tree cover and moving quickly is a dirtbiker's natural habitat so that has caused a few missed sections on recorded tracks.  Once it has a lock, it generally keeps it.  But, there have been a few times where I had to stop in a clearing to let it find it's way.  It's better than my old Garmin Etrek Legend was, but not as good as my Dakota 20.  It's also cheaper than both by far so I can live with it's current performance.

It has crashed on me while riding a few times. (I've crashed on it a couple of times, so all's fair )  I don't know if it's the hardware, the OS, or the mapping application.  I'm running Orux Maps and it's still rather fresh, so I'm not going to scream about stability problems. I've settled on Orux Maps after a lot of searching.  Orux is very, very customizable.  It is so customizable that, out of the box, it really doesn't come across that good.  But, if you dig down and experiment, you can set it up to do amazing things.  Stuff like hiding all the controls to give you a full screen of map, with the controls just a tap away.  Nice big buttons if you want, or small.  Everything seems to be adjustable... I'm even running my very own custom cursor.  Orux rocks when you set it up right.

Orux is using a custom set of map tiles I've created from OSM data.  That was a huge ordeal to get figured out.  Editing OSM data via JOSM, to Maperitive with a custom rule-set to create the tiles, to MOBAC to make the Orux maps.  Each program has a significant learning curve and everything has to be right to get what I wanted.  However, that is now history.  I've got it figured and I can make any kind of map I want with anything on it.  I now have the maps I dreamed of while fighting in the Garmin world.  All my data, all my regular routes, all the areas I've found on Google Earth and have marked for exploration.  They're all there on the CyberNav screen as I crash through overgrown trails others have long forgotten about.   That's the whole point of riding with a GPS mounted on the handlebars.

I am completely sold on using an Android tablet as a handlebar mounted GPS.  There are issues with cheap hardware, the screen is not what I would prefer, but with the right maps it's more than good enough.  It's better than anything I've run before.  It's also very cheap.  At this point, I don't really care if I kill the CyberNav in a year or so of riding.  I'm so happy with the approach that I've already decided I'll be buying a new Android tablet every winter for the next few years.  The old ones will get relegated to backup status, and eventually be that toy for my kid.  The tablets are improving so fast that a yearly replacement seems the way to go.  Rather than paying for the latest and greatest, just keep buying the current cheap model (last year's latest and greatest).  If they die on the bike... oh well.  If they live, like the CyberNav has, then I'll be even happier than I am now.

Update:  Pictures!

2012-01-14

How to Replace Copyright

How can artists earn a living when people can copy their work for free?

That's the basic question everyone's asking.  Here's the answer.   You make a website with a forum structure.  In this structure, you have producers of content putting up their work and you have consumers of this content donating to the producers.   "Ah..." you say, "this has been done and it doesn't work very well."  Right you are.  To make this system work, you need to organize the consumers by rank, those contributing more getting a higher rank, and you need to privilege the higher ranks.  Why will this work where other donation-based systems have failed?  It's simply a quirk of human nature.

The quirk in question is that humans value status, a lot.  Humans will go to great lengths to acquire and maintain status.  A great deal of human activity can be defined as a quest for status.  However, something so sought after must be difficult to achieve, and thus we have all manner of social constructs that limit our ability to buy status.  You can't go to a party with your bank account balance pinned to your shirt.  That is simply far too crass.  You can, instead, drive up in an expensive car, wearing an expensive suit, checking to see how fashionably late you are on your expensive watch, etc..  While you cannot simply announce your net worth, you can indicate it by displaying things that only someone of your net worth can afford.  We are awash in luxury goods for this very reason.  "But," you say, "the car is amazing to drive and worth every penny, the suit is oh so comfortable, and the watch is simply gorgeous."  Yes, items of status must be at least mildly justifiable, or they simply become the pinned bank account balance.  But, that's not the real reason people buy them.

If you were to create a forum-based website where people were allowed to contribute money, and then ranked those people based on their contributions, no one would be stupid enough to join.  It would be too crass.  The highest ranking person there, assuming there was anyone, would simply be "King shit of Turd Hill."  It wouldn't work.  But, if you instead have producers of content on the site then everything changes.  The status achieved by contributing to those producers would be incidental.  "I didn't want to be the top-ranked person on this forum, it's just that John's music is so good and I want him to release more."  This is, of course, just another way of saying "I don't drive an expensive car to show off how much money I have, I drive it because it handles so well."  It's a quirk of human nature.  It's how the world works.

I have designed such a system but have not built it.  I did try, a few times, but it appears I'm not the entrepreneurial type.  I came up with this idea quite a few years ago and the original idea has been refined significantly since then.  My design has an immediate cash-flow for the person that builds it.  It has detailed mechanisms that allow the forums to be completely self-moderating.  It has a solid mechanism to deal with illegal content, as sites like this will certainly be plagued with.  You, of course, don't need my design.  The above concept is all that you need to build a site.  You could refine it over time, dealing with the problems that come up.  Or, you could hire me as a consultant and jump a few years ahead of the competition.  It's your choice.  Someone is going to build a site like this; the world is waiting.

Over the next while, I'll be moving older posts over from my Keliso blog to here, consolidating everything.  I'll be posting more and more detail until someone actually takes notice and builds the system.  Once built, I'll probably register myself and start putting up content... maybe then I'll earn a little money for my ideas, rather than giving them away for free.

Stay tuned.

What is Keliso?

2011-12-16

SOPA Clause

The SOPA legislation is worming its way through the US lawmakers.  Yes, I'm Canadian, but I know that if this law is passed our government, no matter which one we elect, will be bludgeoned into passing "harmonized" legislation.  It sucks, but that's just the way it is.  So, everyone needs to help the US citizens fight this thing.

Short of a bidding war for US lawmakers, which I doubt anyone besides RIAA and MPAA are willing to afford, the only thing I can think of is a meme that goes so viral that it gets picked up by mainstream news.  Something so big that it gets in the face of people that are still trying to figure out that new "E-mail" thing.  Something so popular that it will scare said lawmakers more than reduced campaign funds for the next election.

I think I've got it... "SOPA Clause!  He knows when you've been naughty, he knows when you've been nice..."  Fitting for the season, don't you think?  All we need to do is build a meme around this.  That's not too hard; the topic certainly supports it.  We need cartoons, songs, videos, photo-shopped pictures, and we need them quick.  I can't sing, I can't draw, but I can write, so here's what I'm talking about.  This is the script/layout for a short cartoon.  I hereby release this script as public domain.  Take it, re-post it, re-write it, claim it as yours, I don't care.  Just do something.

The script:

Background music is the Santa Claus song, "He knows when you've been naught, he knows when..." Words changed to Sopa Clause, etc.  Fades in and out through whole video.

Scene 1: 8 year old girl on computer - Barbie-type site.  Asks in forum (speaking as typing) "Where can I buy the Happy Girl song?.  Up pops an answer from Tinkerbell.... "Here's a copy..."

Scene 2:  Sopa Clause in his office, leafing through paychecks from RIAA et.all.  Alarm goes off - horns, big red "copyright violation" flashing sign.  Sopa whips his chair around, half second of frenzied typing, hits big red "Censored" button.

Scene 3:  Little girl's site replaced by SOPA warning.  She types/says "What's Sopa?"

Scene 4:  Long-haired 60's style hacker-type dude.  Short rant on evil Sopa... says "Download this to bypass the evil empire... but don't forget to hide your IP."

Scene 5:  Little girl says "What's an IP?"  Shrugs, goes back to original website, via Sopa bypass.

Scene 6:  Sopa Clause office.  Alarm goes off.  Big red "Terrorism Alert" sign.   He whips chair around and picks up the old-style rotary phone - yells distorted words.

Scene 7:  Swat team burst into little girls room, throws Abu Ghraib hood on her, zip-ties hands, and carts her off past parents, cowering behind the pepper-spray cop.  Parents ask "What did she do.... where are you taking her... how long before she can come home?"  All questions answered with dead-pan "Classified... National Security."

fade to Scene 8: Wizard Of Oz stlye room with Sopa Clause sitting on throne.  Array of pepper-spray cops, and all manner of "non-lethel" weapons on either side.  Parents cowering on floor below, asking same questions.  Sopa answers "Clasified, National security" to all.  Protestors break in... big fight.  Sopa loses.

Scene 9:  Sopa Clause and pepper-spray cops being led to airplane.  Route lined with protestors holding signs.  Signs say stuff like "We the people are the nation.  We're taking our security back!".  Sopa is put on an exile-flight to North Pole.

Scene 10: Cut to hacker dude, with best "Uncle Sam Wants You" pose.  Says "Hey Sopa, this is the Information Age.  The kids know when you're being naughty too."

Theme song picks up... "We know when you've been naught, we know when..."

The end.

There you go... could probably use improvement - go ahead, improve it.  Draw some cartoons if you can, re-write the Santa Claus song, record the voices and upload them... where?  Everywhere!  Spread the word, make a Youtube video, whatever.  Just do what you can to stop this stupid legislation now, before it's too late.

2011-11-22

Pepper Wars

Like many people these days, I'm laughing my guts out looking at the Lt Pike mashups from the UC Davis pepper spray videos.  Even the Amazon customer reviews are hilarious.  It seems a fitting rebuke to the callous nature of his actions.  People like this need to understand that "following orders" is not an excuse for immoral behaviour and, these days, there is no hiding from public view.  Everyone has a camera, anyone can edit video or stills if they want, and everyone is going to laugh at them.

However, this doesn't really help the poor people at the receiving end of the pepper spray.  On the other hand, this will:  UDAP Rescue Pepper Spray Reliever.  At less than $10 per can, it's way cheaper than police-grade pepper spray.  It's not illegal to carry, it's not a weapon, it's not illegal to use.  Imagine what the next protest will look like when all the protesters are carrying these.  It would look like a water fight: imagine protester spraying each other before the cops even had a chance to spray their non-lethal-force product of choice, imagine riot squads being doused with reliever.  Let the arms race begin.  Everyone should buy a can of this stuff.  It should be considered an essential accessory for any college education - don't let your children leave home without it.

No, I don't own stocks in the company.  I don't even know if the stuff works, and I have no intention of finding out.  On the other hand, just having the can, and a video camera, at the ready when some jerk like Lt Pike comes along would be enough to make the guy think twice... okay, maybe once - for a change.

2011-06-16

Just Wacky Enough

As always, the news is full of religious people doing silly things. Some predict the end of the world, then say they got their sums wrong when it doesn't happen when it should. Others report imaginary crimes to police and get the media in a silly frenzy. Around and around we go.

Why do people believe such nonsense, when things go right off the silly-scale? Why are people so hard to turn when their beliefs go so stupidly wrong that everyone is laughing at them. For that matter, why do people believe your run of the mill religious statements when they are obviously wrong? If you look at it as a pattern, then something pops out. As a general observation, the larger the leap of faith a person makes, the more they'll stick to that belief in the face of contradictory evidence. I suspect this is a quirk of human nature, a quirk exploited by religion. It explains a lot.

Religions have evolved to include a certain amount of internal inconsistency. People that choose to believe need to make a leap of faith and this leap is directly related to the amount of base inconsistency. For example, some religious people make really large leaps, maybe that when they kill themselves they will go to the UFO in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet. Others believe in the literal truth of a bible that contradicts itself in the opening paragraphs by giving two different stories of genesis. Why? Because, the leap of faith required to believe in anything is directly related to the staying power of that belief. Make a small leap and contradictory evidence will change your mind. Make a big leap and no amount of fact will sway you. It's a quirk.

Sensible religions don't exist. Why? Because, those people that are inclined to leaps of faith will leap farther. Those disinclined will be swayed by fact to more sensible things, like reality. Thus, religions that last must have some internal inconsistencies that their adherents must work to rationalise. This effort keeps their faith when confronted with contradictory evidence. Those inclined to wild leaps wind up in wild religions, average to average religions, in a standard bell-curve fashion.

What does this mean? Not much, other than arguing that people should give up their faith because it has obvious flaws will not work. The flaws exist specifically to thwart the very argument against them. On the other hand, using science to catagorise and explain a person's choice might have some useful effect. Going "ah, you're right here on the bell-curve... see the MRI, this part of your brain is over-developed... good thing it isn't any bigger or you would have joined that suicide cult making the rounds last year." Tell people they're wrong and you'll get a fight. Help explain why they believe exactly what they belief and you might get a conversation out of it. Human nature is what it is.

2011-06-01

I Write For Me

Sometimes, I just have to write things down. I really have no choice as they just spin around in my head until I flush them out on paper. Usually, it's because I'm learning about something new and writing it down is my way of figuring things out. This results in a couple of odd things.

First, I don't generally write about things I'm an expert in. I write about things I'm learning. For example, I'm an expert in Microsoft operating systems... paid professional, 25 years experience, yada, yada... I don't have any desire to write about that. None at all. I don't write under some profound sense of duty to share my wealth of experience, even if it sometimes sounds that way.

Second, I write for an audience of 1, me. Most of the stuff I write never gets to a blog and the stuff that does is just a "why not?" I went through all that effort to write, maybe somebody will find it useful. Because of this, the tone is often a little odd. I write down the bits that I think I've figured out, straight and direct. A "this is what I know" tone of voice. I'm not trying to convince anyone else that I know something so I'm not writing in a subdued tone, trying to lead people along to the conclusion I want. These aren't persuasive essays or paid work, they are my study notes. They are organised thoughts pulled out of the jumble that's rattling around in my head, pulled out to make sense of things and stop the damn rattling so I can sleep. Sorry about the tone; it's not deliberate. I just couldn't be bothered to re-write everything to make it more friendly.