Monthly Archives: April 2011

Saving Google Video and other assorted gimmicks

Google Video is shutting down as of the end of this month. Video’s will be available for download for some time after that, but then it gets the big shift+delete over at the Goog. The Archive Team sprung into action once again to save this potential treasure trove of digital information that would bite the binary bullet if not saved in time. Currently, there is an effort to save all the material at Google Video before they pull the plug. I decided to join in on the fun, since i have a metric shitload of bandwidth and storage to the point of sheer irrelevance. The amount of material is estimated to be between 100 and 200 TB (or more if some sources are to be believed) There are some guestimates, but i’m not sure we can accurately say yet.

To help out, first read this page: http://archiveteam.org/index.php?title=Google_Video, and then decide how to help out. You can use almost any operating system imaginable, and there are people working on improved instructions and scripts all the time. Personally i’ve used both ubuntu and windows to do some downloading.

You can:

  • Help index videos (if you have lower bandwidth and/or storage
  • Help download videos and later upload them to archive.org
  • Help people out on IRC (#googlegargle #archiveteam and #boincgoogle on the EFNET network)
  • Help improve or test scripts and methods

It has been awesome watching the community at work. Within a matter of hours, multiple people were downloading videos, and we have hundreds of gigabytes down already. People were working day and night (thanks to timezones)  developing scripts and helping people out. Jason Scott of textfiles.com fame is also an active with Archive Team, and is on IRC helping out as well and organizing things on different levels. There are people buying time and storage from the Amazon cloud to help with the effort. The dedication and friendliness of the people is simply amazing. People just show up and help with the effort without any personal gain. On the contrary, people are willing to offer their own personal time, storage and bandwidth for such an altruistic cause. Sure, most of those videos are probably irrelevant, but then, who can say what is going to be interesting to see in 10, 20, 30 years? Local news from Malaysia? “Real life Mortal Combat” ? Who knows. That’s kind of the point behind all this. Saving stuff that would otherwise be lost forever.

The Archive Team have so far dished out like 140TB of storage, with more promised as we start filling that up.

So anyway, if you feel like this is something you could get into, go read the page and see how you can help out. Personally i’m downloading videos and putting them on my fileserver that has a (mostly) empty 1TB drive. And what the hell else would i use my 200/10 Mbit bandwidth for if not this? Sheesh.

In other more generic news, we think we may have found an apartment. A three room place, not far from here. It should be fully renovated, and the rent is cheaper than in our current (too large) apartment. We’re going to go look at it tomorrow, but it’s already reserved for us, if we choose to take it. I have a good feeling about this.

I’m still trying to get rid of the aquarium, and i’m also in the process of selling my 2003 Nissan Primera stationwagon. I need to clean it out a bit first, and get it checked out so it’s street-legal.

Work is busy as ever, and i am very thankful to all Christians who have kindly provided us with the four-day weekend this week. And all this because of the death of an imaginary jewish carpenter zombie. Imagine that.

Cleaning House

Let’s do a recap of the last few days, weeks, whatever.

Last week i was in the Czech Republic, in Prague. I was there for a conference, and stayed at the Hilton. In all it was a great conference, the hotel was superb, and the food, drinks etc. was totally awesome. The city was great. I had somehow connected what i saw in Poland last year to how it would be like in Prague, but oh boy was i wrong! I was confronted with a very modern city, not unlike Helsinki. The cars were modern (sometimes even luxurious), the infrastructure and the buildings were in good shape etc. I can’t speak for the country side, but Prague looked great!

Some notables was the Networking Dinner at Zofin Palace, a sort of mansion, maybe?, by the outskirts of downtown. A stately old building which had big ballrooms, stages and a great garden. The food was so-so, but the location was superb. There was a view of the river (Vltva i suppose?), and since there was no snow, everything was beautiful.

The hotel i stayed in saw some action on Thursday when the prime minister of Israel decided to drop by. This caused great commotion to the tune of armed gunmen, dogs, and an entire closed 8th floor (which was in use as the executive lounge during the conference). Local law enforcement were patrolling the outside of the building, mostly armed with MP5K’s and an alarming amount of spare magazines (also they had the taped magazines-deal going on, so you can just flip the mag and keep shooting), each guy carrying like 5 mags. I suppose the prime minister had his own security detail, because these guys were of an entirely different caliber. Huge refridgerator sized fuckers with translucent earbuds and black Pelican-cases, probably containing even more alarming weaponry and equipment.

The last evening we spent up in Cloud9 (i chuckled at the various pop-culture references), where i enjoyed an excellent Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill, along with a glass of fine Martell X.O. cognac. It had been a while since i last smoked, and even a longer while since i smoked inside, what with the new smoking laws in Finland. It was great looking over the city, the river and the nightlife while puffing my cigar and sipping my cognac. Felt luxurious. Then i noticed the sniper.

On the rooftop was a sniper, maybe police, maybe Israeli security, no idea. He was peering through a rather powerful scope, probably looking at other buildings, doing counter-sniper duties. That kind of freaked me out at first, but then it became cool.

Any time the prime minister left the Hilton, he was followed by a huge entourage, consisting of a dozen cars or more. You could probably see that convoy from fucking space. I guess he is not the most popular man on the planet, and as i understood, no Israeli prime minister has visited the Czech Republic since 1948. But i guess all was well.

One of the Israeli guys had a Pelican 1510, which is a carry-on sized Pelican case, which was tested on Tekzilla a few episodes ago. It took 8 hits from an 8 pound sledge-hammer to trash the contents inside, and even then the case itself sustained only minor damage. The case retails at over 200 euro here, (it’s sold by Verkkokauppa at least under the “Peli” brand), but i’m thinking of getting one. You can get it with- or without the foam padding inside. If you get it with the foam padding, it comes in small cubes, so you can put in just the amount you need for your gear, and keep everything in place. The fact that Israeli (probably) security trusts the thing makes me even more eager to get one..

Other mentionables from the trip include the Airbus A321 that Finnair used to fly us back on friday. The plane looked fairly new, and the 321 is basically an extended 320. Anyway, the pilot announced the plane was experiencing “minor” avionics issues, and that our takeoff would be delayed. A moment later he announced that he had to “take down the electrical system and then put it back on”, but the inner geek in me started laughing, because i could imagine the situation in the cockpit:

  • This god damn diagnostic check will not complete!
    • Well just reboot it, that usually works!
  • Okay, i’ll do the anouncement…

Shortly thereafter we were able to taxi and take off, our issues apparently resolved by the reboot. Another cool new feature i haven’t seen on any plane before was the nose camera. During taxi, take off and landing, they showed video from a camera, mounted somewhere in the nose-cone, or beneath it. This was very cool, seeing the acceleration on the runway etc.

On the home-front…

We’re considering moving to a smaller place with H. S moved out due to some internal conflicts of personalities, and the 100 sq. meter apartment is simply too big (and therefore too expensive) to keep for the two (sometimes three) of us.  We’re looking at 60-70m² apartments, but the outlook isn’t good at the moment. Either it’s a shitty location ont he east side of Helsinki (basically this is mostly shitty ghetto), or it’s too expensive. But something will happen on this front in the coming months. I’ve begun giving out hardware and throwing out shit that i don’t need. I’m probably going to keep doing that in the coming weeks to trim down the amount of crap that we have to move.

We are selling our 250 liter aquarium, so if you know anyone who would be interested, give me a heads up. It’s in good shape, but the filter makes an annoying sound, so you may want to replace it at some point. It’s not a nice thing to move around, and the current apartment is the last one i will have moved it to. Even when emptied, the fucker is heavy as hell and clunky to move, because you have to watch the glass everywhere you go. You can get it cheap if you want it.

Ah, this is getting long. And i’m getting tired, so i’ll continue in a later post. Maybe.

Nuclear Rage!

I’ve ranted about a number of things, and you might think i’m quite the cynical bastard. And you’d be right! Today’s target is the big boogey-man of the month: Nuclear Power! Yes! Good old Mr. Atom!

The events in Japan following the M9.0 earthquake and the consequent tsunami caused major issues at the Fukushima nuclear powerplant. Radiation has been released. Water and soil in the local area has been contaminated. Meltdown has occurred. So should this be the end for nuclear power? Not if you ask me.

First of all, all of these words sound really scary to Joe-Average. Radiation! Meltdown! I’ll add the echo effect in post-production. But if one has even a cursory concept of how nuclear power, or radiation works, it should calm you down somewhat. Meltdown is simply the process in which the fuel in the reactor is overheating, and causing the fuel to literally melt. This releases radiation. Radiation on the other hand comes in many different shapes and sizes. Elements that are radioactive are not stable and they have a half-life. For instance, the isotope of Iodine released from the reactor core  was 131 if i’m not mistaken. This isotope of Iodine is very dangerous to humans because it gets stored up in the thyroid gland and causes issues. But this particular isotope also has a very short half life; 8 days. Which means that the isotope will not stay dangerous for long. That’s not to say it can’t cause damage, but it is to say that people on the other side of the fucking globe will not be affected.

What people can do if there is a release of Iodine-131 is to eat iodine supplements. The thyroid gland in the human body can fit an x-amount of iodine, be it of a stable or a (dangerous) unstable isotope. “Filling up” your thyroid gland makes sense if you are in the area that has a high chance of getting elevated doses of dangerous Iodine isotopes. It does not make sense to eat them in say Finland, or most other place in the world. Yet, we had people stocking up on iodine pills “just in case”. And i’m willing to bet a number of people started eating them too, as soon as the news of the accident broke.

I’m not belittling the accident at Fukushima. I am belittling once again the idiots of our world. But i dunno.. does stupidity based on ignorance count? I vote yes.

A meltdown does not equal a nuclear explosion either. A meltdown sounds really bad, but all it really is, is elevated temperatures in the fuel rods which cause the fuel containers and finally the fissile material to melt, and  release radioactive isotopes into the surrounding areas (usually still inside the core containment structure). The elevated temperatures were caused by failure of the cooling and redundant cooling systems due to the tsunami and earth-quake. The Fukushima plant was designed to handle up to 18 foot ( 6 meter ) waves, and the tsunami of the M9.0 earth quake exceeded this, thereby causing the facility to fail. Failure of the cooling system prevented water from cycling in the system, thereby increasing temperatures, melting zircaloy surrounding the actual fuel, creating hydrogen gas, and thereby pressure (which resulted in some spectacular releases of that pressure in the form of smokey puffs, partially destroying the building). Correcting this was accomplished using seawater pumped in with hoses and dropped from various aircraft.

But again, it’s easy to also blame the media. Fear sells. Nuclear fear sells better. In this video (thanks BoingBoing for the link), a CNN news anchor goes apeshit on a meteorologist (who goes “oh boy here we go again..”), when the weatherman firmly asserts that no harmful levels of radiation are or will reach the US West-Coast. The news anchor tries desperately to keep the atmosphere of fear going. Sure, measurable increases in radiation are reaching the continental US, but measurable does not mean dangerous. Measurable means that you can detect if a fucking radioactive mosquito farted on the south pacific and the wind carried it to the general direction of the US. The type of technology used is so incredibly sensitive, and because of this fact we have good time to move people out of affected areas, when the increase in radiation is upcoming. It does not just happen. It’s physics. There are rules for such things. No matter how afraid you are, the magical radiation will not enter your home, unless there are conditions that warrant that. There are distances, half-lives, dissipation, weather, and countless other factors that are all of critical importance. This is not guesswork.

Although, shit-points also go to Tepco, the power company responsible for Fukushima. In one report of radiation levels, they apparently misplaced a comma somewhere, and ended up reporting ass-crazy results. People who have problems dealing with numbers should not be involved with nuclear reactors. Media outlets who are speaking out of their assholes should not be on the air spreading fear. I don’t want to suppress freedom of speech, but this kind of fear-mongering is fucking rediculous.

Should we stop using nuclear power because a power company failed to put in adequate measures of protection for their stuff? Hell no!

Out of the viable methods of producing power, nuclear power is still the safest, and provides us with the most power to fill the needs of industry and increasing urbanisation. Sure we can go back to coal only, but do you want to have a look at the number of people who died of fossil-fuel based pollution world wide last year for instance? While i don’t have the numbers with me, coal production, logistics, handling and combustion is a major cause for concern world wide. Sure, no radiation, but killing people? Oh hell yes.

Ok, so the alternatives then. We have wind, which is cool. But to provide the amounts of energy that even a small western country such as Finland needs (we have a lot of industry, in proportion), we would need to fill up a vast space with wind power. Wind is also not predictable, and the initial costs vs. the amount of power derived from the finished product is not a happy number to look at.

Solar power then? Ok, let’s just pick a state and fill that with panels and we’ll be all done. Oh wait, that will cost insane amounts, and is not nearly suited for every place on the planet. Take Finland for instance. We have maybe three actual months of real summer and sunshine, and while new solar panels are better att charging from ambient light even when it is filtered through clouds, it does not make it effective by any stretch of the imagination. I think current solar panels are able to get a 20-25% conversion ratio of sunshine hitting the panel -> power. When we can up that just a bit, and make it suitable for places that do not have fucking sunshine, then we’ll talk again.

Other alternatives include tidal- and other water based power generation methods, geothermal, even looking at making power out of magma (Iceland i think was looking at this), the fact is that at the current state, we do not have the technology and/or the money to just magically switch off our nuclear power plants and move to something green. It’s just not feasible.

I’m not saying we should stop looking at alternative power, infact i encourage it. But what we can’t do is make a five year phased plan and just shut all our reactors down, because 5 years is not enough time to do jack shit in terms of widespread development and deployment of alternative, renewable power sources. Period. 20-40 years, perhaps. But tomorrow? Keep dreaming. We keep using the still safe nuclear power, focus on securing our reactors against possible risks (everything can’t be accounted for in any system, but we can at least try (I’m looking at you Tecpo!), and also focus on better ways to handle nuclear waste. On the side, energy companies commit to researching and developing *feasible* solutions for producing the amount of power that a country needs. Either that, or we shut down 50% of our industry, and then make a law that you can watch TV for one hour a day, no dishwashers and laundry can be done once a week. See how that feels for the average voter, who spends most of his life in front of the fucking televison. I’m not arguing that we can’t make power using alternative techniques, but i’m saying we’re just not there for the kind of large scale deployments that we need to support our industry and residential power usage.

End of rant.