EM Drive; New Memory; and malaise at Chaos Manor

Chaos Manor View, Monday, August 03, 2015

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

“This is known as ‘bad luck’.”

– Robert A. Heinlein



After this great glaciation, a succession of smaller glaciations has followed, each separated by about 100,000 years from its predecessor, according to changes in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit (a fact first discovered by the astronomer Johannes Kepler, 1571-1630). These periods of time when large areas of the Earth are covered by ice sheets are called “ice ages.” The last of the ice ages in human experience (often referred to as the Ice Age) reached its maximum roughly 20,000 years ago, and then gave way to warming. Sea level rose in two major steps, one centered near 14,000 years and the other near 11,500 years. However, between these two periods of rapid melting there was a pause in melting and sea level rise, known as the “Younger Dryas” period. During the Younger Dryas the climate system went back into almost fully glacial conditions, after having offered balmy conditions for more than 1000 years. The reasons for these large swings in climate change are not yet well understood.


Generally on Sundays Larry and Marilyn Niven join us for brunch, but yesterday he called to say he wouldn’t make it: stomach flu. Then I got:

nothing important


My sympathy over the bug – I’m getting over what looks like the same thing – a couple days of mild fever, gut issues, and pervasive mental fog. I just now finished reconstructing the current SAS email list from the last backup, after accidentally deleting the whole list instead of just one entry in it the other day. Whatever this bug was, apparently working with critical data under its influence is contraindicated.

Anyway, I thought you might want to hear it’s not just you.



And began to realize that I didn’t have food poisoning, it was stomach flu, and my gut problems weren’t the only thing. My head wasn’t working either. I replied “Larry has it too, so it’s something recoverable; glad to hear it’s not just senility.” But this morning I have the same gut problems, and I now know my head isn’t working. This week is my birthday; I can hope this will all be gone by then, but fair warning, this is likely to be a fairly sparse week.

We have installed Swan, a relatively modern system, with Windows 10 in the back room I use as TV room and back bedroom. I’m learning and it isn’t easy, and my judgments are impaired enough that I suspect my opinions are worthless. Things that ought to be easy turn out to be impossible: such as installing Live Writer, which I haven’t been able to do, and won’t try again until my head’s working. I have no idea what’s wrong.



A report from Eric Pobirs:

What we did today 8-1-2015

    Nothing major but some notable items came up along the way.

    I brought with me a plastic mounting device that lets the Xbox One’s Kinect sensor live on top of the TV. It comes with a sleeve that can be slid over the Kinect’s camera for those who are actively paranoid about such things but I didn’t bother. The mount works pretty well but the angle of the Kinect is borderline for seeing the user due to the limited space in front of the bed. This was an issue for the first generation Kinect, which had a motor for adjusting it’s position but expected a fair amount of room depth. Several third party companies offered add-on lenses to go over the old Kinect’s camera to let it work in smaller spaces. The version Microsoft produced for use on Windows systems was also slightly different from the console version in a similar way, making it more suitable for a desktop system.

    I also brought a copy of Fantasia: Music Evolved (A bit of an Xbox in-joke: the first Halo game was subtitled Combat Evolved.) Best Buy had a nice blowout and it was something that might be more interesting than the typical console gaming fare.


    I then set out to find out why Bette had fallen off the network and to bring Swan downstairs for use in the back room. I went through some frustration as everything seemed to be working but it kept insisting there was no cable plugged into the port. The cable lead to the same Netgear 16-port gigabit switch Swan was using with no problems. I noticed the USB to Ethernet adapter from the swollen corpse of the Mac Book Air and tried to use it as a secondary NIC. Windows 7 didn’t have a driver and of course couldn’t connect to Windows Update’s larger library. I found hacked driver after a bit of searching and used Swan and a USB drive to bring it to Bette. The device installed fine but gave the exact same ‘cable is disconnected’ error message.

    Noticing a 5-port gigabit switch that wasn’t in use, I connected it to a known good port on the bigger switch and used that to get both Bette and Swan connected. It worked. Apparent;y ports have started dying on the Netgear in no particular order. Due to time constraints and a general inclination to move on,  I didn’t test to see if giving the Netgear some time off would fix the problem. Perhaps tomorrow. Bette was back on the network and accessible. My next task was to put the D-Link NAS box to rights.

    On my last visit we found the D-Link had lapsed into a coma and needed a full reset before it could be recovered. Fortunately, this left the content of the drives intact and it was back on the network but for its DLNA server function, which was needed if the Xbox was going to treat it as a video library. Because DLNA clients can terribly simple devices that need directories spoon fed to them, the D-Link needed to scan itself for all the files it contained. This was glacially slow and hadn’t concluded when we called it a day last week. Upon checking today it had finished and was still waiting for acknowledgement of that. I save the settings, which triggered another refresh but this one only took a couple of minutes. At least, I thought I save the settings.

    When I went back downstairs and tried the Xbox One’s Media Player it saw the D-Link and the video files in the Media directory. This required an annoying amount of drilling down from the root directory but it worked. Videos played perfectly. Huzzah! Then I summoned Jerry to the back room to bask in the glory of his new toy and… it didn’t work. The media player app no longer saw the D-Link, just three PCs with active UPnP. I went back upstairs to view the D-Link’s configuration menu via Swan. After some UI confusion I got it to use the Media directory as the portion presented to DLNA clients. After some fiddling and yet more refreshes of the directory cache it appeared to do a more definite save of the settings. So now back downstairs to see what the Xbox thought. It now saw the D-Link again and required less drilling down to get to the videos, although still more than a newer NAS would require as they provide more of what common DLNA clients expect.

    Hopefully, it was a learning curve and not an ongoing fault of the D-Link, and the videos will be available to Jerry when he gets around to trying on his own. But wait, what do we watch with videos? MORE VIDEOS! Another item we hadn’t gotten done last time was access to streaming services. I noticed from a package on his desk that Jerry was an Amazon Prime subscriber. This meant he was also entitled to access the Amazon Prime video service. (Amazon Prime also offers free Kindle books starting this month.)


    The library is quite extensive, including a good amount of content exclusive to Amazon. My first choice to try it out was the first episode of ‘Orphan Black’ and I was soon dismayed. Not at the show but at the video quality. It was horrible. Like watching a postage stamp video from the dial-up era blown up to full screen. This couldn’t be right. The same machine had downloaded the 22 GB of ‘Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag’ over the same connection just a week ago and had made good time on that. I switched to an episode of ‘Under The Dome’ and it was perfect. Perhaps not Blu-ray quality but at least on par with the HD broadcast. ‘True Blood,’ also perfect. Well, not entirely perfect. I noted some decompression artifacts here and there but only because I was intently looking for them. There wasn’t anything I’d consider unacceptable for the nature and cost of the service.

    I called Jerry over to bask in yet another glory of his new toy. I brought up the HBO ‘John Adams’ as a demo. The animated montage of flags over the credits looked great but was going on interminably. I fast forwarded a bit and found that the image quality dropped substantially and never recovered in the two or three minutes we continued to watch. I also tried ‘Orphan Black’ again. It was better this time, making it almost two minute in before the quality dropped unacceptably. Perhaps Tatiana Maslany just doesn’t compress well.

    At some point I hope to do some more testing on that fast forwarding problem but for the most part having a client device like the Xbox One hugely ups the ante when it comes to weighing the value of buying Amazon Prime.

I’m looking forward to playing with the new Xbox One. It is certainly the best way to Skype if you have a group; the camera adjusts field size to accommodate all the human faces it can see, widening the view when there are several and focusing down when there’s only one. I’ve used a few other features. I’m finding more. This is a lot of computing power as well as a Blu Ray disk player. Ain’t Moore’s Law wonderful?


EmDrive peer reviewed article—

Hi, Jerry – finally, the EmDrive has been presented in a peer reviewed paper.  You can read the synopsis here:

There’s also a short slide presentation (3 minutes) which describes the high points of the article.  In it, Shawyer describes a much more powerful 2nd generation design, and the applications for such a design. 
One such application is the delivery of a 1 ton payload to LEO, using a pure electric thrust design; the other is the delivery of a 1 ton scientific payload to a target 4 light years distant.  Such a mission would take about 10 years, similar in length to the recent Pluto mission.  No mention is made of slowing down or achieving orbit around the target destination; it appears that the mission suggested would blow through another solar system at around 2/3rds light speed.  Achieving this would require an on board 200 Kilowatt nuclear power source.

The paper is significant in that it is the first peer reviewed paper on the topic.  The lack of a peer reviewed article is often used by critics to denounce the validity of the EmDrive concept.

So, progress is being made.  We appear to be moving past the ‘offhand condemnation’ of the technology, and entering into the more rigorous actual examination and experimental testing of the concept.

I’ve been ‘banging the drum’ on the EmDrive since perhaps 2006, and it gives me great gratification that actual experiments are being conducted.  These experiments should have been conducted 10 years ago, and that failure of the scientific community to do so reflects very poorly on the open minded, data driven approach that is consistent with modern science.

Even if the experiments reveal a subtle flaw which invalidates the concept, I will feel relieved.  Science will have done its job.  I just feel that it ought to have been done much more quickly.

However, we’re getting there now.  And it appears that the keys to the solar system, and the exploration of the nearest stars, may soon be within our grasp.  As you have said, we can hope.

Regards, Charlie

I can only repeat, if thrust without loss of mass is demonstrable and repeatable, the world is a different place; but so far that does not seem to be certain. I’d love to be part of a testing group. It’s the data, not the theory, that matters. Aether or no aether.

I’ve followed it since 2006 or so myself, and I haven’t seen a crucial experiment; extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But it seems to be getting closer. I’d love that.


And yet another game changer as Moore’s Law shifts from chip size to power


Intel’s New Memory Chips Are Faster, Store Way More Data

Intel and Micron say they have designed a new class of memory chip that could radically improve the performance of smartphones, desktops, laptops, and other computing devices.

Revealed during a press event in San Francisco on Tuesday morning, the technology is called 3D XPoint. According to Intel and Micron, these chips are “non-volatile,” meaning they can store data even without power; they’re up to 1,000 faster than NAND flash memory chips used in most mobile devices; and they can store 10 times more data than the DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips used in PCs.

Traditional computers—including PCs and laptops as well as the data center servers that drive the world’s Internet services—are built around a processor, some DRAM, and a hard drive. The DRAM holds the short-term data that the processor needs to drive the machine at any given moment, while the hard drive holds applications and long-term data.

However, many machines now use faster flash drives in lieu of hard drives. Smartphones and tablets did away with hard drives and use flash for storage. Intel and Micron’s new technology, 3D XPoint, is a potential alternative to flash as well as DRAM.

3D XPoint doesn’t match the speed of DRAM chips. But since it is non-volatile, the new chips will have the ability, like NAND flash, to preserve data even when a device is powered down.

“One of the most significant hurdles in modern computing is the time it takes the processor to reach data on long-term storage,” Mark Adams, president of Micron, said in a statement. “This new class of non-volatile memory is a revolutionary technology that allows for quick access to enormous data sets and enables entirely new applications.”

Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, says the technology could prove important—if it works as advertised. “This technology could enable a rethinking where and how analytics can be done. Analytics and Big Data today are done in either large monolithic data centers or scale-out data centers,” he says. “This technology enables ‘edge analytics,’ meaning Big Data could be done outside of these kinds of data centers, closer to the data. So instead of doing your processing at an Amazon or Google, you do it in the field.”

Intel and Micron declined to describe the materials they used in creating 3D XPoint, saying that for the moment, those details are proprietary. The two companies didn’t reveal the pricing of their initial chips, either. But they said they expect to start production at a jointly owned factory in Utah this year.

The two companies call this the first new mainstream memory chip to come to market in 25 years. But it follows other recent advances in memory technology. Companies such as Crossbar and Everspin Technologies say that have built technology similar to 3D XPoint, and a few years ago, HP revealed hardware that used memristors, a new fundamental component of computing that could be used to build both processors and long-term storage. HP is now building a system using this technology, called The Machine, which it says it will ship by the end of the decade.

3D XPoint technology may still be a long way from market. But Intel and Micron are among the few companies in a position to widely manufacture such chips. And the stakes could be big. According to research outfit IDC, the memory chips market is worth about $78.5 billion.

These little beasts keep getting better and better; now if the user interface could keep pace.


“Frederick R. Ewing? It’s about time people began noticing his work.

I’ve long felt he hasn’t received the recognition he deserves.”



Roland Dobbins


Regarding Cecil the Lion

The dentist’s mistake was that he killed the wrong cat. You should never shoot a lion with a tracking collar, a name, two prides of his own, and lots of human friends. You should only shoot lions that are mateless, nameless and friendless. That’s just common sense.

No luring out of sanctuary, no spotlighting, and no slow kills; that’s cheating, punishable by doxing. And dammit, eat what you kill!
So it turns out that hunting, despite its glamorous aura of lawless freedom, is as hide-bound by tiresome custom as is civilization. It’s human nature to both make limits, and chafe at them.


I don’t hunt, although at one time I was a contributor to Ducks Unlimited. We had Game Wardens in Tennessee when I was growing up, and I was brought up to respect them. It was not a big bureaucracy, and the Iron Law was not at work – at least as far as I noticed at the time. I suspect Cecil would have been a lot safer under the protection of guards with a financial interest in keeping him alive; I doubt he was lured without some cooperation. But my head’s not working.

It certainly seems a less than intelligent thing to do: to shoot a lion with a collar.

“Why are the Americans more concerned than us? We never hear them speak out when villagers are killed by lions and elephants in Hwange.”



Roland Dobbins







Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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