Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2007-02-06
  Pushing the universe through a tiny straw.
Back in November I was thinking about getting a new distro for replacing my way aging linux box with something more modern (upgrading from a P2 333 to a P3 800 — very exciting), so I went hunting for new distros. I downloaded Ubuntu, the new Fedora Core 6, and a couple others. Actually I torrented the distributions which is a great way to push around large 5GB files like this, and since FC6 was just out there was a lot of demand for seeders, so I started seeding. (There was also people sending out corrupt packets trying to disrupt downloads. Who does that to alinux distro? Microsoft?)

At first I just seeded until I had pushed up the same amount of data as I had downloaded, because that's just good manners. But then I got to wondering how long it would take to push up a truly large amount of data, so I kept it going on and off for the next couple of weeks; then the next month; then the month after that.

Well, almost 3 months later; I finally hit my original target: 100 GB. I'm sure my ISP is really happy with me now.

But it really demonstrates a problem with internet service: there really isn't sufficient bandwidth out there to do interesting things. Like if I created a HDDVD master, it just wouldn't make any sense to spend 1-2 months trying to upload it to the pressing house. You'd use fedex overnight (or fedex ground if you weren't in a hurry, but who are we kidding, the client always wants it tomorrow) and you'd have it there 40 times faster.

Another impossibility still is backing up your computer over the internet. You might backup a few files to a network repository, or maybe some photos to Flickr, but by and large, the files on your computer will die with your computer. Its not for a lack of want either. There are a hundred post bubble companies that would love to backup your harddrive over the internet if there was enough bandwidth. Heck, even I started a network storage company and we wanted to do the same thing. Individuals, small businesses, big businesses; it didn't matter; we'd take the files if we could get them. At the end of the day, though, about the only thing we could make work was to put big clusters of boxes at datacenters and sell near-line services to other tenants in the same center. There you could get a 1Gbit link for free, just run the wire across. On the network? Forgetaboutit.

And that was before Terabyte drives. I don't have one of those yet, but I do have two 300s and a 500. By the time I got those backed up over the net, I'd probably have 2TB more. Gads.

 
2007-02-04
  A random path.
Tonight I was watching the last of the three PBS science show pilots (you can watch them online if you want). Science Investigators was terrible, 22nd century was ok, and Wired Science was turning out to be all fluff and not much useful science; but the last part was on rocket backpacks which is cool. I've seen shows about rocket backpacks before, and besides them being rather limited in use (15-20second total flight time), they seem to be rather expensive to fly, so I thought I'd check out how expensive.

They use the monopropellent Hydrogen Peroxide, so I jumped over to wikipedia to find out more about it. Sure you can buy it at your local pharmacy, but the good stuff is far more concentrated and a lot harder to come by. Handling stuff over 70% concentrated turns out to be really dangerous and so they tend not to sell it to people trying to build their own backyard rocket packs. This has led to people trying to concentrate the stuff themselves, usually to the detriment of anyone in the immediate vicinity. There are also other ways to hurt yourself with it and apparently spilling it on your clothes can cause them to spontaneously combust after a period of evaporation of the water.

Anyways, one of the big dangers from Hydrogen Peroxide is BLEVE which I know all about from reading about steam. That's when a bunch of stuff that should be a vapor but is a liquid because its under pressure, rips apart the container its in when a leak forms allowing the entire contents to vaporize instantly. (Translation: very big boom)

Because of the thousands dead in numerous accidents the 1800s when steam vessels failed, you're basically not allowed to run a steam engine without certification & annual inspections. Tanker cars for propane had to be redesigned in the 1960s after numerous fires turned into massive explosions, killing or wounding everyone in the vicinity.

While a picture is pretty impressive of one of these, I figured a video would be even better, so I went browsing around on You Tube.

Didn't get to the explosions of fuel tanks, but this science teacher sure looks like he was putting his life on the line just to try and blast some interest in science into his class. Go see the entire series, starting with Mr. Smiths Liquid Nitrogen Demo (vid 1).

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Life in the middle of nowhere, remote programming to try and support it, startups, children, and some tinkering when I get a chance.

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Blogroll
Paul Graham's Essays
You may not want to write in Lisp, but his advise on software, life and business is always worth listening to.
How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
SnowDeal
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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