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Absolutely Juvenile July 26, 2017

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Toys, Uncategorizable, Video.
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I enjoyed this immensely, but it is about one in the morning and I have been up since about five cleaning house and preparing for my next Great Adventure.


I am probably punchy.


Training Neural Networks to Write Bach in a Day! March 24, 2017

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Geek Stuff, Toys, Video.
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Fascinating bit of video here as Our Hero (not me, in this case) takes Bach (and later Mozart) MIDI files, creates an 88-character ASCII-character alphabet from them and trains a Recurrent Neural Network to output similar sequences.

The results (and a lot of the process) is shown in the video above.  Take your time and watch the whole thing; I wonder how long he would have to train the RNN to start outputting Baroque Muzak continually?

Amazon Moto G Play Phone January 19, 2017

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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People in the know (i. e., my readers) are aware that I take my phones seriously, and have for three smart phones now. Well, smart-enough phones, I guess.  I mean I had an HTC 8125 ancient creaking phone with one of Microsoft’s many, many failed phone operating systems (are they really up to FOUR commercially-failed systems, and about to go for FIVE?), which did some things I needed in a phone: calculator (never used it, but could have), texting (would have used it but did not…not sure that it could, now that I think on it), took [execrable] photographs (look back in this blog far enough and you will find them, along with scathing reviews of the image quality) but at least ran the flash card app I wrote for it, among others (my writing them would not have been necessary if MS has anything like an app store.  Just sayin’), and played my beloved audio books during my [endless] commute.1

Still, it was not the optimum device.  My next phone (Samsung Galaxy S3 i9250) was a considerable improvement, in that the camera focused closely enough to copy text.  It ran Android apps mostly without complaint (even ones I had written myself), texted my children and played Bluetooth music and audio books without complaint, even after having survived several cracked glass incidents (to be fair, I never did repair the glass.  It looked like a vandalized cathedral when it finally died). It was a vast improvement, and I cried bitter tears indeed2 when it suddenly stopped letting me make telephone calls.

Now I have the aforementioned Amazon Moto G Play phone, and I must say it is an improvement on my previous experiences (except for the annoying notifications.  How the #$%^&* do I turn them off?) in speed, in reception and in sound clarity (although not volume).  The camera is much better (see recent postings about the weather, blue jay invasion, etc.) and the Android version is 6.0, which is 1.7 better than previous.  And it was cheap: $99 for the phone with advertising, $149 without.  I have been unable to figure out how to replace the bootloader to get rid of the advertisements (which would violate my agreement and would be Bad And Wrong), but it works so well I don’t care at all.

EXCITING, HORRIBLE UPDATE: can’t root the phone to use adb wireless.  This is totally bogus.

1Not sure that’s the longest run-on sentence I have ever written, but Baron Bulwer-Lytton must feel somewhat threatened in his cozy grave.

2Mostly because I had spent a fortune on it.  Don’t fear; this story DOES have a happy ending.

As Reported Previously, the Ice Caps Are Gone November 28, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Mutants, Science, Toys.
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Each BigDog(tm) has 8/3 reindeer power.

Brain-Computer Interface Now in Use at Home!!! November 15, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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A 58-year-old woman (“HB”) with ALS has had a functioning brain-computer interface (BCI) for a while now, and is able to communicate (slowly) with the outside world. She was facing total lock-in Real Soon Now, so any device which offers communication ability is welcome.

What it is:

A diagram illustrating the setup and use of the ECoG implant.

Electrode strips at the top laid across her brain like band-aids read faint electrical signals.  With training HB was able to “type” fairly quickly (words per minute, but still).  More work remains to be done on the interfacing software (I am imagining more inputs and a neural network to interpret her thoughts more and more efficiently), and HB is ecstatic to have a way t live in the world.  She would like to use the interface to control a wheelchair, for example, but that is a ways off.


Homework:  Vansteensel, Mariska J. et. al., Fully Implanted Brain–Computer Interface in a Locked-In Patient with ALS, New England Journal of Medicine November 12, 2016 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1608085

Update: New Scientist has an excellent writeup as well.

Mad Scientist Tutorial October 13, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Geek Stuff, Science, Toys.
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An Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) generator can overload various kinds of circuitry, causing all sorts of merry havoc among the pinks.  You can make a little baby one and overload poorly-protected circuits up close, although a hammer is more certain to succeed.

Housewife Replacement June 23, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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This is SpotMini from Boston Dynamics.  Usually BD makes enormous, noisy hulking robot mules to haul stuff around for the military…but the military said they were too loud and nixed the program.  So, here’s Spot, tidying up after breakfast.  All Spot needs now is the correct voice-activated response to “Get me a beer, will ya?” I see an enormous market for that.

Exciting update:

Told you so.

Why 3D Printing Exists November 6, 2015

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OctoTranslator May 11, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Star Trek Technology.
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is my latest app in the Google Play store (in fact my second). It is intended to help language learners create custom flash cards for use with Anki, which is possibly the best free flashcard program for Android phones (also available on iPhones, but who has those?).

Octotranslator - screenshot

OctoTranslator can take input from your microphone in any language your phone recognizes and can translate it to any language your phone can pronounce (this is called OctoTranslator because I used to have seven languages choices other than English…but I got upgrades, and so did OctoTranslator), by sending it to Microsoft Bing for translation (the same algorithm used in Skype).  It can return a text-only translation or it can read it to you using your Android phone’s TTS, which is pretty robust these days.  The real fun is saving to a data card to be mailed to you all zipped up in a single file, suitable for importing into Anki.

This is free. I would like reviews and testing, so feel free to take it and play with it, especially you Anki users, and lovers of foreign tongues (“My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father. Prepare to die.”).

I must say I had fun testing this (I seem to have a macabre sense of humor when it comes to test phrases.  People overhearing me say things like “Spanish eyes is not really a casserole” and “Is your Mexican food made with real Mexicans?” make for real head-turning fun in line at the bank.  Takes the shine off it when they realize I’m joking, more’s the pity).

Get it here. (Offer not good after curfew in sectors R or M).



Octotranslator has died; "ArgumentException: Invalid authentication token. Microsoft DataMarket is retired. Please subscribe to Microsoft Translator, in the Cognitive Services section at https://portal.azure.com. Please visit https://cognitive.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/articles/1128340-announcements-action-required-before-april-30-20 to find detailed instructions. :" is the result.

I knew I should have paid Google instead.

This is the Virtual Keyboard/Monitor I Want March 19, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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The Singularity Started With the Wheel March 16, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Mutants, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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As difficult as it may be to comprehend, the wheel is the basic unit of technology. It made the repetitive business of carrying stuff easier. When tasks can be easily repeated (preferably automated), they can also be tweaked to do them better, maybe each time.

With computer controls, these tweaking steps can be automated, and the results don’t even have to be seen by a human.  These results can be used to produce new methods to experiment, ad infinitum. This is precisely why we should not allow AIs any autonomy whatever in creating new AIs.

But I digress.

The tools of automation are now cheaply available, giving everyone who wants it access to finely-controlled stepper motors which can be used in the trial and error methods heretofore mentioned.  Cheap microcontroller systems to run them combined with said stepper motors give us robotic assemblers, 3D printers and molecular assemblers.

Yeah, you heard me.

Usually, small-molecule synthesis usually relies on procedures that are highly customized for each target. Martin Burke, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) early career scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, used a single, fully-automated process to synthesize fourteen distinct classes of small molecules from a common set of building blocks.

A broadly applicable automated process could greatly increase the accessibility of [this class of compounds] to enable investigations of their practical potential. More broadly, these findings illuminate an actionable roadmap to a more general and automated approach for small-molecule synthesis (he used Csp3-rich polycyclic natural product frameworks and developed a catch-and-release chromatographic purification method).

As a former chemist, I must say this is plenty difficult and detailed…but it only has to be done once and this genie is not going back into the bottle.  This will step up the pace of novel moiety experimentation, especially now that we have computational chemistry on a sound footing.  Picture this: computer cranks out theoretical molecule families for research.  Magic chemistry machine makes them.  Another automated machine tests them.  Potential drug candidates can be screened without human intervention, for conditions that currently have no treatment, but do have a good theoretical model.

Honestly, I have been thinking of this for thirty-five years, when one of my classmates described the room-temperature chemistry that was just being used for automated peptide synthesis, a hot subject in my college years1.

Now, with  automated synthesis producing testable quantities of continuously-varying drugs, we can start continuously comparing them with standard drugs for, say, antibiotic activity in a Petri-like environment (I hope it is no surprise that this technology exists already, although it is not in concert with the aforementioned molecular assembler), quickly finding optimal candidates in what could be an entirely automated process.  Promising candidates’ structures can be continuously varied by the molecular assembler under the watchful eye of an expert system (it is fun to imagine the expert system eventually deciding that chlorine bleach is the optimal antibiotic; obviously safety trials against mammalian cell lines need to run in parallel).

Aha, I hear you cry, what about diagnosis?  I’m pretty sure I covered this already2, when I  talked about brute-force cracking the human medical condition through big data: thousands of tests administered cheaply, regularly through millions of peoples’ lifetimes.  This data would be trawled for correlations between medical conditions and test results, telling us things clinicians would miss just because human heads can’t hold that kind of data well enough to draw statistical conclusions, or even reasonable inferences…but computers can.  Frustratingly, the legal problems here are beyond human comprehension as well; the intellectual property costs to create this many tests would be astronomical, although once acquired it could be quite cheap to administer (this is already possible, just not done for greed’s sake).  This will require a revolution in thinking which is not, alas, forthcoming soon3.

Other science can be brute-forced in a similar fashion by automation in other chemical reactions; I picked drug discovery for illustration since that’s where the most money can be found currently.

These are delightful speculations and become even more possible as long as things continue the way they are going, at least in terms of physical possibility.  Cheaper, faster processors make it possible to control all manner of laboratory  and industrial devices, not just your toaster, son.

It all makes me wish I were a better writer, because these ideas deserve better advocacy than I can bring to bear.



Synthesis of many different types of organic small molecules using one automated process Junqi Li, Steven G. Ballmer, Eric P. Gillis, Seiko Fujii, Michael J. Schmidt, Andrea M. E. Palazzolo, Jonathan W. Lehmann, Greg F. Morehouse, Martin D. Burke


1 We’re getting there, fellas.  Keep up the good work.

2 Please try to keep up.

3 If ever.

The Power of Habit February 9, 2015

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Books, Brilliant words.
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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business certainly does provide insight to the unthinking actions which make up much of daily life. Cue, response, reward: that seems to be it.  There’s a LOT of detail about how these three things create a lot of the unconscious activities of people, institutions and nation  This kind of thinking leads me into interesting ideas, like building an app to create or correct habits by providing frequent cues and rewards to match.  Food for thought, and my brain is currently satisfied—but usually that just means more is needed Real Soon Now.

TDCS Device Prototype January 19, 2015

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tdcs device

tDCS is the practice of passing mA currents through one’s brain in order to enhance or retard neural excitability between the electrodes placed on the skull (read the link for better grokking of the concept; I’m at lunch and time is short).  It is used in research primarily to understand if it is any use at all in Parkinson’s disease, tinnitus, amblyopia, fibromyalgia, and post-stroke motor deficits.

The gizmo above is the constant-current  supply circuit rendered by my colleague Noel, with 0.5, 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 mA selectable switches.  I think it beautifully done; only the 12V battery and the electrodes are not shown.  There is testing to be done, but it is heartening to see it looking so nice

Therapeutic Headgear December 25, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Uncategorizable.
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I have alluded to traumatic brain injury treatments in this space before, but more reputable journals can now be cited regarding the use of red LEDs to stimulate cognitive function by exciting cytochrome C and thereby enhancing the various reactions that use ATP—which is nearly all of them.  Apparently simply irradiating patients with red LEDs is enough to gain some cognitive enhancement.

Who would have imagined it (besides Star Trek, of course)?

As a citizen scientist I felt the urge to test this myself and made a LED hat for my sainted, white-haired mother to treat herself with.  The 300 red LEDs (LE Lampux 12V Flexible LED Strip Lights) are meant for blinging out autos, so they take a 12V wall wart and about 24watts.  I made a quick frame of insulated wire and hot glued the 5 meters of LED strip to it, like this:


Note the festive holiday placemat.  This is what I did waiting for Newtonmas dinner.  Here it is in therapeutic mode:


And in a non-blinded study:


So, if you want one of these, leave a comment and reply info.  I could build you one (for a fee).



Spycam File Transfer December 14, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Toys.
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Here’s a scary little proof of concept: an Android smart phone (HTC One XL) with the ThruGlassXfer app on it is held facing the laptop screen so that the phone’s primary camera can clearly read the displayed QR codes.  The codes change rapidly, since they reflect  an encoded file being transferred by light—no connection required.

Displaying binary data as a QR code required encoding the file using ThruKeyboardXfer (TKXf) which in turn required a USB HID keyboard, attached to this theoretically non-connected computer by emulating a keyboard.

Going Wireless on Samsung i9250 December 13, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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The worst thing in the cell phone world is having a smart phone and no way to charge it or get data to and from it.  It’s worse if you develop apps for it and can’t load them.  I had a Windows CE phone and it eventually died at the USB connection…never again.

My now two-year-old Samsung Galaxy S3 i9250 phone can be made wireless with a wireless charging hack and ADB Wireless.  Android Device Bridge is a piece of software that allows several operations to be run from one’s PC keyboard, like loading new software…but usually it requires a USB connection. Enter ADB Wireless…which requires the phone be rooted.  Rooting a phone is a slightly risky procedure, if you are under warranty—I’m not.  I rooted it with Kingo ROOT software, and then ran ADB Wireless.  I can now load my self-developed apps without a USB cable.

Additionally, I use WiFi File Transfer Pro to move files to and from my phone, so that’s one more source of non-wired interface (it uses your PC’s browser to connect to your phone via a web server on the phone; an elegant solution I feel).

The wireless charging hack is a little trickier, but only because you have to take apart the phone, install the Palm Pre Touchstone Charging Kit induction coil, copper tape the charging coil to the cover so it matches the copper tape you install on the the pogo pins on the inside and put that sucker back together (and get the polarity right; 5V+ is the lowest of the three pins, GND is the highest).

Another nice addition which can amaze and confuse is the Tasker app, which can allow you to automate quite a few little things, depending on your focus and obsession (“Tasker is a rabbit hole that brings opportunity to focus and obsess.”), like turning on WiFi when home, turning it off when leaving, turning on Bluetooth when driving and charging..none of which I have done yet.

But I’ll get to it, Real Soon Now. Honest.

Cheap, Non-toxic Printed Circuits November 23, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU) have successfully printed complex electronic circuits using a t-shirt printer. They were printed using in layers on flexible stuff like paper or plastic and included resistors, transistors and capacitors. All were printed using non-toxic organic materials like silver nanoparticles, carbon and plastics.

The types of complex circuits the team has successfully printed include a 4-bit DAC, and an RFID. Not all that complex, sure, but a great proof-of-concept.

Associate Professor Joseph Chang is the leader of the NTU Singapore research group behind this. I couldn’t find the relevant paper for homework, but I did find this photo.circuit on a sheet

small circuit

3D Printing Tiny Complex, Multi-material Devices November 23, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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3D printers are, at this stage of their march through the Singularity, largely confined to printing with only on material, probably due to cost constraints.  But, what if all the materials needed to produce some specialized bit of kit were available in one printer?  Just how complex a device could be manufactured?  Princeton scientists have just manufactured a 2 x 2 x 2 matrix of quantum-dot LEDs as a demonstration of their 3D printer, which can manage five different print materials, including (1) emissive semiconducting inorganic nanoparticles, (2) an elastomeric matrix, (3) organic polymers as charge transport layers, (4) solid and liquid metal leads, and (5) a UV-adhesive transparent substrate layer.

That’s right; five.  And complex; here’s the matrix and a picture of a single LED on a suggestively curved substrate.  I think we are meant to be reminded of a contact lens.

Homework: It’s published in NanoLetters, right here.

Air Harp Using Leap Motion Controller June 24, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brilliant words, Mutants, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Video.
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Brilliant guy makes the Leap Motion controller into an actually useful music triggering device.  Interesting demo (!!!) begins at 3:20.

Portable PrintrBot May 19, 2014

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Applications, Toys.
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In case you break some small, cheap, worthless item during your extended camping trip.