What I found in the main power panel…

•January 28, 2014 • 1 Comment

ImageFor the past week or two, I noticed that my spouse’s EV hasn’t had the battery levels that I normally expect to see, later in the day. Two days ago, I noticed the house lights brighten a bit, as usual, between 1 and 2 am, and quickly checked the charge level, and saw that it was at least 50 miles short of a usual charge.

I didn’t think much of it, assuming that I had to change the settings to have the car charge itself more fully (it lets you set a max charge level, and the manufacturer recommends a setting that is not too close to a full charge as that would shorten the battery life).

Last night, by the time I remembered to make those changes, the car had already finished charging (it is set to start charging at midnight, at a current of 80 amps). This time it was closer to 100 miles short of a regular charge. I tried to get the car to start the charging process again, using its iPhone app. The car acted as though it wasn’t plugged in. I walked to the car in the garage, and shortly realized that the wall-charger was not powered. I went to our house’s main panel, and the charger’s circuit breaker hadn’t tripped. I tried to toggle it on and off and it wouldn’t budge. And that’s when I noticed that telltale stench of burnt electronics. (what exactly is that?)

Later, in daylight, I opened the panel and saw the mess. Although I don’t have a picture of the panel as it was this morning, I do have the circuit breaker, which was replaced, and I am sharing some photos:


This is what I think happened. Due to the heat generated when 80 amps flows through this circuit breaker, the contacts on one side would expand enough so that an arc would occur between it and the panel’s power bus. This arc is what burned the circuit breaker. It’s either a defect in the circuit breaker, or the breaker isn’t fully compatible with the power panel ( I don’t think that the power panel and the circuit breaker are made by the same manufacturer – but who knows, they may have been built in the same Chinese factory).

I am not sure how long this was going on, but one thing I do know is that the charging unit, or the car, most probably noticed the erratic flow of electricity. And it did an admirable job of filtering out the problem and even ending the charging process when it detected some disturbance. But what it really should have done was to send me a little notice that, due to power fluctuations, it interrupted the charging cycle, and recommend that an inspection be performed. No?

Daring Fireball: Shawn Blancs Grandpa’s iPad

•January 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Daring Fireball: Shawn Blancs Grandpa’s iPad.

John Gruber makes two great points here:

1. Apple really should supply the iPad with the same great camera as has been in the iPhone 4s and later iPhones. I’ve seen people with iPads at their kids’ sports events, using them as cameras. I’ve seen people at the Chinese New Year’s parade, at night, using the iPad to take pictures of the floats. I’ve seen people at conferences, holding up iPads – blocking people behind – and taking pictures of the presentation. (I’ve even seen developers at the WWDC take pictures of the Thursday night band, using iPads). The people have spoken: the iPad’s not just for consumption.

2. Too many iOS (and likely Android) users, are woefully unprepared for photo loss.  Many assume that their iCloud backup does an adequate job, and they are wrong; even those who are using PhotoStream don’t realize the shortcomings.  One thing Apple could do is to make it more clear exactly what is being backed up, how much and for how long.  (As others have suggested before, PhotoStream should back up all images, not just 1,000, and perhaps it should only keep 1,000 images on each device).

Back to the use case that was being referred to, an important question these days should be, how do you ensure that the photos you take today will have the same longevity as printed photos in albums or shoeboxes have had. 10, 20, 30 years from now, how do you get your photos off of an old iPad, iPhone, iCloud account, or your Facebook, Flickr or Dropbox accounts? Will formats be so different that if you have not been updating those images you wouldn’t be able to view them? Would any of those online services be around? Will they have faithfully maintained your images – or did they delete them when you stopped logging into the site? And what if you’re dead? Will they provide your next of kin with access to the site? And who exactly will notify your next of kin and let them know that a photo archive is being maintained somewhere on your behalf?

If we care to pass these images along to the next generation, it is up to us individually to:

– maintain the images in two, three or more safe locations (whether at your home, in a safe deposit box, or on some service’s servers)

– document where these images are stored, along with user ids and passwords, and include this information in your will to those whom you’d like to grant access or ownership to. You may also wish to provide a power of attorney that gives your heirs access to your online accounts in case the services don’t wish to allow a deceased person’s user id to continue to log into those accounts.

– you may even wish to print some of your favorite photos and place them in a shoe box 🙂

Of course, in this digital age, you may wish to do the same for more than just your photos. You may have email correspondence you wish to pass on to your children. Or a Word document that contains your autobiography. Or an OmniGraffle chart of your family tree. I’m going to stop here as I have just opened a large can of worms (make sure you save these documents in multiple formats in case Word, OmniGraffle or your email app’s file formats are no longer supported in the future).

Oh, and keep in mind that when you you first pass away, there may be circumstances, such as grief, shock, or the young age of your heirs, that makes them unable to immediately think about preserving your digital creations. It maybe a decade or two before they start asking questions and wanting answers and your plans should include protecting those creations for some number of years after you’ve departed.

Sorry to be such a downer.


Ali A. Rizvi: An Atheist Muslims Perspective on the Root Causes of Islamist Jihadism and the Politics of Islamophobia

•May 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Instead of judging these religions by the actions of a few, we judge them more objectively: by the contents of their sacred texts revered by fundamentalists and moderates alike. To us, a simple reading of the Abrahamic holy books reveals endorsements of virtually all the oppressive and discriminatory systems that civil and human rights movements have tried to dismantle over time: patriarchy, misogyny, slavery, tribalism, xenophobia, totalitarianism and homophobia, all rolled into one

via Ali A. Rizvi: An Atheist Muslims Perspective on the Root Causes of Islamist Jihadism and the Politics of Islamophobia.

The One-way Trip

•January 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment
After flying from Tehran to Zahedan, early in the morning of 12/12/82, I walked out the Zahedan airport, on foot (not sure why that was a good idea, but it wasn’t mine) and took a right at the first major street. After half a mile, a pickup truck passed me, turned around, passed by again, did another u-turn, and picked me up. I could barely understand his dialect, and I was hopeful that he was was part of the plan. The drive was circuitous and repetitive, I could tell I wasn’t supposed to figure out where we were headed and we also did not want to be followed. In one neighborhood, the car made a sharp turn, right into an open garage door, which quickly closed behind us.There, I eventually met the rest of group I was to travel with. Besides the guide leader and the guides, there was another boy a year older, who was trying this for a second time, a young couple and their six month-old, leaving because the husband was wanted for his ties to the Islamo-Marxists, and an older man and woman who didn’t say much.
A day later, we embarked along the roads outlined on this map, except for the part between point A and B; that we did by going on a more scenic, and less road-y route not depicted on this map. We had left Zahedan on the road, but immediately outside of the city limits, we drove off the road and stopped behind a small ridge, where we met some more of our guides and left the comfortable suburban car and mounted motorcycles. Each of us “travelers” were assigned a guide/driver and a motorcycle. We rode those motorcycles in a more easterly direction into the rocky desert, up a mountain ridge, back down to a vast sandy desert, over a huge sand dune built up around and cradling a railroad track, and back into the mountains. When not in the desert, the route we took was only wide enough to be a mule path.
The Triphttp://goo.gl/maps/S8TSj

On the first day, after lunch, we rode out to the vast desert and then dismounted the motorcycles and lay low to the ground. In the far distance we could see a series of tall watchtowers, spaced miles apart. One of the guides rode his motorcycle out to see who was manning one watchtower and to grease some palms. We waited a few hours until his return, and he assured us that all was taken care of. We rode across the desert quickly, to the sand dune on one side of the train tracks. We accelerated, climbed the dune and flew over the tracks, landing beautifully and softly on the other side, while others either got stuck in the sand or fell as they landed on the other side. After regrouping, we then headed up into the mountains, until it was too dark to ride. Needless to say, we had to keep our lights off, and being December, we had to call it a day early and find a place to wait and sleep.

We spent the first night in a cave, built out with river rock, guests to a darvish – a spiritual man living a hermetic life – who had welcomed us and shared his feast of bread, a bland form of feta or goat cheese, dates and black tea. The next day we had more of the same. Again, we rode around the mountains, and then would stop and wait while a guide or two went ahead to “pave the way” with any border patrols.

Despite having left early that day, it wasn’t until after dark that we crested the bigger ridge. As we entered a flat open area, strong lights suddenly illuminated us. My heart skipped a beat or ten. We had been caught, I thought.

We had crossed into Pakistan! These were the headlights of the small pickup trucks which would take us the rest of the way. The short, bare, cold, hard, heaving and quaking bed of these trucks initially looked so much more beckoning than the back half of the motorcycle saddle had felt. Hours later, anything seemed more comfortable than being in the pickups – even the cold hard gravel road shoulder that I wished I could stretch out on on to sleep.

We were now en-route to C from point B.

We stopped for our first real meal a few hours later, at a large caravansara (caravanserai) where hundreds of Afghan refugees escaping the Soviets from the north had sought shelter (most were clothed the way you picture Bin Ladin). The soupy, plain, rice bowl we ate with our bare hands, to me, tasted like a great risotto or a savory rice pudding (since we left Zahedan two days earlier, we hadn’t had a real meal and had snacked on bread, stale feta, raisins, dates and tea).

Soon we clambered back into the back of the pickups. By now, it was becoming clear that while fall clothes had been adequate for the other side of the ridges we passed, here, the temperature was closer to freezing, and the truck bed did not make for an enjoyable ride. The road was another issue. Not wide enough to allow cars to travel in both directions at once, we were constantly pulling off the road, into the loose gravel, to let buses get by. Which sometimes meant having to get out and push the pickup back on to the road.

Twelve hours, many “security” checkpoints and bribes later (you could call it a toll road), we arrived in Quetta. Dinner: Chicken(?) curry and rice! Another memorable meal.

We flew from Quetta to Karachi, where my aunt and my cousins, who themselves had come the same way and were awaiting my uncle’s departure from Iran, were immensely helpful in cutting through the bureaucracy and the palm-greasing. Within a few days, I was dropped off at the airport, where I boarded a plane destined for Paris.

I think I held my breath while we flew over my old homeland’s airspace. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if the plane had to divert there.

I have not been back since. I used to think that the world would change, things would calm down, and I’d be able to make the same trip in reverse, with my family, reminiscing about the trip, and laughing about how different it things were. Alas, thirty years later and the area is more unrestful today.

I was very fortunate for my story to have a happy ending, with little sacrifice¹. There were many like me who were not fortunate. Some were detained at the Tehran airport, some in Zahedan, and they were usually imprisoned in Iran, and some politically tainted ones were never heard from again. There were also some who were lost or imprisoned in Pakistan, usually because they could not, or did not, bribe the right person or did so at the wrong moment.

For every story you hear like this one, there are probably hundreds or more that had a more painful account, some ending badly, and some that eventually turned out as well as mine did. And there are those who did not have the means or situation to make such a monumental journey.
Life isn’t easy. I’ve been fortunate.
¹My parents were the ones who made the big sacrifice, for which I will forever be grateful.

Guns, laws and the reality

•July 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Virtually every adult in the Aurora, CO, in the theater had the same gun-owning rights or privileges as James Holmes, the shooter.  On that tragic night, each of those adults could have been armed and used his or her gun in self-defense.  Not a single one did.  Whether it is because they didn’t own a gun, they didn’t have the gun with them, or they never had a chance to pull it – the reality is that owning guns for self-defense is an NRA fueled myth aimed to sell more guns.  Society gets little or no self-defense benefit from guns.

For every grandmother who scares off an intruder by waving a gun, there is another who loses their gun to theft, a child who shoots himself or a friend with dad’s gun, an angry argument that ends in a shooting, …

Two Web Pet Peeves

•March 1, 2012 • Leave a Comment

How often have you seen the following, at the end of webzines or articles, usually on news sites?


Maybe you see the problem already.  By the time you’ve read a page full of the article, and at the moment that you realize that the article is multipaged, it is rather unnecessary to use the “single page” button.  Good design would dictate that the reader be given the option of reading the article as a single page, without having to read one page of the article before even knowing they had or needed the option.

While this issue is a little different were the number of pages 3 or more, I still think that before the reader begins to read the article, they should have the option then to combine the pages into one, making the user merely have to scroll, and also knowing approximately how long the article will be (based on the scroll bars), or to read to choose to read it in single pages.

My other pet peeve (of the day) revolves around sites, and sadly, Amazon is one, which show you images, with the promise of “Click to enlarge” or “See larger image” if you click or rollover the image.  However, and quite often, the “larger” image isn’t.  It is the same size.  In many cases, the larger image is only 10-15% larger.  That isn’t what people expect.  If you can’t double or triple the size of the image, then don’t bother promising a larger image!

Here are two examples.  These aren’t so bad.  I’ve even seen websites which use the same image for both!


Is Samsung the new Sony? (Samsung’s definition of “Refurbished”)

•January 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I purchased a Samsung sound bar from BestBuy.com, because of a ridiculously low price-tag. I ordered on or before Dec. 1, and around Dec. 12th (when I was supposed to have received it) I found that I would not be getting it anytime soon. At that point I realized that I had ordered a refurbished unit and that BestBuy didn’t have any more and would ship me one as soon as they did. (I’m sure the Oompa-Loompa that took my order didn’t get a chance to ask the Oompa-Loompa in charge of inventory whether they had one to sell me – I won’t comment on BestBuy’s downward spiral http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2012/01/02/why-best-buy-is-going-out-of-business-gradually/)

I would have canceled my order, but my recent experiences with DirecTV and Apple refurbished products has been surprisingly good, and once I read that this sound bar was “Manufacturer Refurbished” and Samsung ensured that they all meet or exceed their strict standards, etc., I decided to let the order ride.

I got the sound bar two days ago, on January 3. As I pulled each piece out of the box, I was dismayed by how badly the glossy, black lacquer finish was marred with scratches and scuff marks – I can only suspect that this unit must have been a demo in a store and was moved around quite a bit. As I pulled the subwoofer out, I noticed heat damage to two areas, possibly from being too close to a source of heat (other devices?).

I was already going to return that unit based on what I found, but I was curious how well a sound bar actually worked so I set it up. No luck. The bar itself worked, but it could not make a wireless connection to the subwoofer. Instead the subwoofer would sit there and periodically it would emit a loud low frequency hum or rumble for about five minutes or so. I tried a dozen or more times, and the next day, magically, while I was on the phone waiting for a Samsung tech support person, it finally made the connection. Now the subwoofer was playing low frequency sound from the TV, but mixing it with that oh-so-pleasant rumbling sound I mentioned before.

The two Samsung technicians were useless. They both were reading scripts – starting with the steps in the same manual I had in front of me – making me repeatedly power down, reset, power up, mute, reset, power down, … Finally, 37 minutes later, the second technician offers to “get this problem resolved”, if only I go through the steps one more time to make sure we had tried everything (everything being a repeat of the same thing). When we got the same result, and he declares, “thank you for being patient, I apologize that you received a faulty unit, I am going to make sure we resolve this quickly”. He started asking me for my address info, and, hoping they might send me a new unit, or a better refurbished unit, I asked him if they would send me the replacement overnight. He said he could look into doing that, as soon as they got this unit back from me and repaired. I probably snorted at that point. “Are you telling me that after what I told you about the physical damage to this unit, and the trouble we are having, and the fact I already waited a month to get this, you want me to wait while you fix this piece of crap? No thanks.” I asked to speak to a manager, and he transferred me to a line that rang and rang until I gave up and hung up.

I took the unit back to the local BestBuy. I still would like a Samsung sound bar, but I am now wary of Samsung. Their customer service was pathetic. I recall my experiences with Sony products and their subpar support.

Be warned: Samsung’s “refurbished” products are not reliable, nor unblemished.

Also, I have to wonder about all those companies out there who sell refurbished units with warranties with only a fraction of the term of the new product warranty. It doesn’t make me feel very secure knowing that they themselves don’t have faith that their refurbished product will last as long as a new unit.

Samsung 39, Apple 3

•December 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

As of right now, Samsung offers 39 different TVs on their US website.

  • 10 are 60″ or greater
  • 11 are in the 50″s.
  • 9 are in the 40″s.
  • 9 are 32″ or 22″.
  • 21 are LED.
  • 9 are Plasma.
  • 9 are LCD.
  • 14 are 3D.
  • Some have WiFi, some have Skype, some run apps…

(LG offers 64 TVs on their US website.)

Next year Apple will probably start selling three TVs.  Worldwide.

  • a 23 inch model
  • a 32 inch model
  • a 46 inch model
  • They all have everything.
If Apple doesn’t run out of TVs to sell, there is no question who will outsell the others. 

A Jobs Agenda – By Kevin D. Williamson – The Corner – National Review Online

•October 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

A Jobs Agenda – By Kevin D. Williamson – The Corner – National Review Online.


In response to a commenter (Marc Schriftman) who wrote, “Everyone here seems entirely to have conflated Wall Street with Capitalism“, I replied:


Right on.  Pure Capitalism doesn’t rely on lobbyists and bribing politicians.  Companies don’t have to shirk their social responsibilities, so that they don’t have to pick up and go elsewhere looking for new employees and new customers.


People like Mr. Williamson love to criticize the performance of services that they’ve spent a lifetime trying to weaken and tear down.  A better public education system, helps Capitalism by providing better employees.  Surely he’s still lucid enough to remember how our own educated Americans created the computer and Internet revolutions, before being cast aside and their jobs given to better educated Indians and Chinese.


Similarly, as an employer, I would love to see the government pick up and do things that are not core to my business.  I shouldn’t be in the business of providing health care, nor retirement.  Chinese companies don’t because China does.  Chinese companies pass that savings along in their pricing.  Does it not serve Capitalism well to have companies do things that they are “insanely great” at, rather than spend time and resources on providing a retirement plan that won’t go down with the next Wall Street scandal?

£50m boost for graphene research (The University of Manchester)

•October 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

After the Solyndra debacle here in the US, should we curtail all government investments in technology (and science)?  Of course not.  (Let me point out that the investment in Solyndra was minuscule in comparison to the pallets of money that just “disappeared” in Iraq – not spent, just disappeared – without hardly any outrage).

Graphene could be the next big boost in CPU speeds, RAM density, flexible circuitry, …


£50m boost for graphene research (The University of Manchester).