Andalucia Steve the dream

The right to bare plastic arms

In the land of the free you don't have the right to bare arms that aren't made by a corporation

The US Department of Defense Trade Controls has just forced Cody Wilson to remove the plans for a firearm made of plastic from his website.

Wilson, a law student from Texas, caused a storm in the US recently when he fired a gun made by a 3D printer. The plans for the gun, a CAD file were put in the public domain by Wilson on the Defence Distributed website, giving anyone the opportunity to download and print their own weapon.

This act was met with criticism from many but in some quarters, it was seen as a victory for those supporting the right to bare arms.

Now the government has stepped in and tried to take the plans offline, however they have been downloaded over 100,000 times and now exist in peer to peer torrent sites.

It does seem very strange that only a month ago, Obama's attempt to introduce background checks for firearms purchases was thwarted by the huge a powerful anti-gun control lobby and yet as soon as it becomes possible for anyone to print a gun the legal action is instant and the lobby are silent.

The reason is clear - gun sales. They didn't want back ground checks introduced because guns sales would have fallen. They don't want Cody Wilson upsetting the apple cart by making it possible to print guns at home because this will also cause the sales to fall.

So much for the land of the free.

[Originally published 5 October 21013]

Dropbox file deletion

How to recover space on a full Dropbox account

In case you don't know Dropbox, it is a company offering online storage. Sign up and you can download an app that monitors a folder on your connected device, be it a computer, tablet or phone. Anything you copy into the monitored folder gets copied up to the cloud server and is then available to any other devices you have that are connected via your account.

I've been using Dropbox for a couple of years now and it has saved my bacon several times when I've deleted files and been able to recover them. The service provides an amount of free space and if you need more you can pay for the premium service. 

I try hard to avoid paying for anything so I'm pretty disiplined about staying within the limit of my free allocation. Yesterday however, an ominous red cross appeared in the Dropbox icon on my system tray. When I moused over it told me the worst. My Dropbox account was full and I needed to upgrade to a paid account.

I knew I was only using 3.5Gb of my  5Gb Dropbox allocation a few days earlier. The Dropbox icon had been busier than usually over the last couple of days but I'd not checked why. Clearly I must have inadvertantly copied something onto dropbox which was bigger than I thought.

I started trying to delete things from Dropbox but after ten minutes I was still over the limit. Also the message said I was over the limit by half a gigabyte - this same amount as it was when the icon first turned red. I wondered at that point that the inability to delete files was a feature of the way Dropbox worked. After a quick search I discovered what was wrong. When you delete files from your Dropbox dashboard, they are merely hidden from you. There is a button on the top menu which allows the deleted files to be shown in the list. If you click on any of the deleted files an option appears that lets you delete them permanently. After that the file's space will be deducted from your overall allocation. This is somewhat unintuitive, epsecially when you're in panic mode!

I was able to deleted sufficient space and soon the red cross disappeared from the Dropbox icon. I found later that I'd tried to copy a software installation file that I'd thought was 15Mb and was mistaken - it was 15Gb. Fortunately I deleted that just in time too, else Dropbox would have continued to try and upload it and I would have been in the red again!

Dropbox dashboard



The preciousness of sci-fi

I always hated Star Wars and here's why...

Toulouse Game Show - 501th legion Starwars - 2011-11-26- P1290162OK I'm going to upset a lot of people here, some of whom are friends who I really respect, but I HATE STAR WARS! There - I've said it!.

I spent most of the late sixties and early seventies reading PROPER science fiction, everything from Wells to Asimov. What distinguished those authors was that they were prescient, they looking into the future to warn us of forcoming problems. Even the first generation of Star Trek did a great job asking questions about what would happen to 'race' in the future or how the earth would go about the diplomatic issues of dealing with aliens.

Star Wars did none of this. There was no new science and no concept of the nature of the issues our 'afterbares' may have to deal with. Star Wars was just good guys versus bad guys, or as someone said, cowboys and indians in space.

So much was the publicity before Star Wars was released, that I formed much of this opinion before the movie even opened, and as such declined to part with a penny to go and see it or even even rent it on video. It was many years later before the film finally appeared on TV one christmas that I got a 'free' viewing. Perhaps because I had preconceptions but I found it as boring as watching the proverbial paint drying.

To this day I've not parted a penny watching any of the franchise, and I think perhaps franchise is the key to why. Looking back on it, Star Trek the original series was an important, seminal influence on me when I was growing up. Despite the cheesey sets and costumes, the message of the stories was always noble, constructive and kind - the science always asked questions, and you only have to google the science of star trek to determine how influencial Gene Rodenberry's notions were. But what happened to Star Trek later on is that it turned into a franchise, someone turned a wheel and out rolled films, spin-offs etc all of which had the look and feel of the original but not the spark of creativity. What we saw in American film and TV through the 70's and 80's is a devotion to the formula. Anything other than reproducing past success became a risk for the studios hence Rocky 24 etc, so the creativity was slowly ironed out of Sci-Fi as it was everything else.

In this environment , in order to get made Star Wars had to dumb down and stick to traditional Hollywood naratives and as such became very bland from the Sci-Fi point of view. I've nearly come to blows to people before about the relevance of Star Wars to Sci-Fi but I usually win the argument by asking what novel concept appeared in Star Wars that had not been seen before. I usually get a stream of well, robots, light sabres and hover bikes, but come on, we'ed seen it all before.


I had to amend this page on 9 Jan 2015 because the original Wiki Commons picture of the Star Wars characters had been removed for copyright reason. I hate intellectual property and the way it is used as a hammer by big studios to quash an grassroots creativity (such as the crowd-funded Stark Trek movie 'Axanar'

Google returning less results.

Has Google's effort to remove spam from it's index gone to far?

Someone gave me a PC to repair and at boot it made a few beeps and died. I thought the first thing to try was to reset the motherboard, but couldn't see any jumpers so I searched Google with the model number of the motherboard and the single word 'reset' which seemed reasonable enough, and I know in the past would have found what I was looking for.

Here is a screen-shot of the result returned by Google:

Google search result for msp73vt reset

I was unimpressed with the result (one item found - in French!!!) and suspicious that Google was ignoring a lot of useful web pages. I did exactly the same search in Bing and got over 5000 results:

Bing search results for msp73vt

Now that's more like it! What I would expect to see are links to Yahoo Answers, Fixya, Stackoverflow, Experts Exchange. None of that with Google.

Over the years Google has been trying to limit the amount of what it considers to be spam, low quality pages with little useful information. It has changed its seach engine algorithm many times in an effort to achieve this but in so doing has made the results it has returned in this instance to be completely valueless, whereas the results returned by Bing are full of links to pages with useful information.

From now on I'm not going to Google it, I'm going to BING IT!!