Saturday, November 14, 2009


All will remember and probably own VHS cassettes. Most remember Beta cassettes, some Beta Max, a few Betacam & probably only commercial operators would know Betacam Pro and that last great tape gasp Betacam Pro Digital. It was an interesting story of competing manufacturers and their licensing decisions that ended up with VHS ( in many ways the inferior format) taking global predominance. Look it up if you could be arsed. The nub of it was VHS became the Generic standard globally. It was only once this was established that video hire business became viable.

A sound & vision technician works with a fairly limited suite of plugs. 6 or 7 standard connectors can connect pretty much anything to anything across manufacturers. Except for Sony. Sony in many ways set the bar of technical reliability and performance to which other manufacturers struggled to match, but they had this stupid extended jack plug that no other manufacturer used. Same diameter, but with an extra sleeve. It may seem trivial, but believe me it's a grade A Piss me off. Nokia is obviously cleverer than the Rest of the World too and uses a 2.7 mm Headphone socket. Industry standard is a satisfactory 3.5 mm plug. Arse Clowns, the pair of them. Generic is good.

The PC VS Mac competition was good for consumers on a macro level, but gentlemen would have done it without whacky Mac peripheral connectors.

There is much talk & work being conducted on a range of renewable energy sources for industrial, domestic and transport use. Great cool & excellent. Having a crack at a variety of source options is probably smarter than putting all effort into one direction*. Here diversity is good. But I was thinking about the transport element. We need to find a way to transport in bulk and deliver a safe, non polluting, low mass, lots of ergs in a can or a fluid to allow vehicle refueling. It's gotta be the same from Cairns to Carlton. Roll up at a refuelling point and take on power for the next X00 kilometers of the journey It must be Generic. Without this the transition will be strangled - possibly deliberately so by those with interests to maintain the market for fossil fuels and control of the current refuelling marketplace.

I'm proposing that deviations from certain international industrial standards be punishable by 100% import tariffs and perhaps some unpleasantness for convenient board members of the offending company.

*As a side thought - my money is on a GM Algae that can eat coal fired power station exhaust and make natural gas. This is fed back into the system resulting in remarkable efficiency gains & reduction of emissions.
This then escapes from a power plant and goes rogue, over the course of months spreading to infection sites across the globe. A new engingeered form of unicellular biological pollution. It grows fastest in the most polluted areas of the earth - following it's food source. Perhaps it's temperature sensitive, so it affects equatorial areas more. It establishes reserves in deserts so is un-eradicable and spreads covering & discolouring everything but killing trees & shrubs causing mass carbon release and landscape degradation through soil loss. This run off sediment will "fill in" harbours & estuaries exacerbating the effect of sea level rise impact on those cities adjacent to waterways. But that's because I'm an optimist.


  1. I think the market will decide, as with VHS and Beta. Which probably means a suboptimal solution, as with VHS and Beta (I'm old enough to remember Beta was better quality and the tapes lasted longer).

    I reckon you should write up that rogue algae story as the treatment for a novel. The algae stuff is getting such unmitigated positive fluff right across the biotech sector, whether for pollution chewing or biofuel manufacture. Its worth considering the potential risks, cos the snake oil peddlers are legion at the moment.

  2. Gods I'm sick too of the engineers having to show their brilliance by doing it their way rather than follow a perfectally acceptable standard.

  3. "The PC VS Mac competition was good for consumers on a macro level, but gentlemen would have done it without whacky Mac peripheral connectors."

    To be fair there - Apple was an early adopter of SCSI, which did in fact become the most common standard at the higher end in server rooms and data centres. Most high-end scanners and external disks used SCSI, even in the PC world, and the parallel and serial ports on PCs were extremely unsuitable for these purposes. Getting SCSI to work under early versions of Windows (up to and including NT4.0) was problematic, and generally involved sacrificing a goat at midnight while burning black candles, especially if the OS was required to boot from the said SCSI devices.

    The Mac's serial port was largely interchangeable with a PC serial port - it just used a much smaller connector, admittedly one that was easy to confuse with the ADB connector. The really neat thing about it though, is that you could network any number of Macs together using AppleTalk over that serial port. This was a great boon back in the day when network interfaces were prohibitively expensive. The PC equivalent wasn't quite the same.

    The ADB port was a combination of mouse and keyboard, and yes the AT port keyboard plus serial mouse might have worked, but this was far more elegant and allowed chaining the mouse form the keyboard. PS/2 eventually was pretty much an incompatible copy of ADB.

    Apple was, as wth SCSI, an early adopter of USB. They took the brave decision that all peripherals would eventually be USB, and committed to providing only USB ports at a time when there were relatively few USB devices available, stimulating the market for USB devices in the process. In contrast, Windows 95 and NT4 had no native support for USB and were flaky with it even as an addon. It wasn't much better in 98, and really only solid under XP.

  4. Sorry D, the Mac bit was Trollery.
    I was expecting a "Well how does development take place if we are all bound by conventions?"

    I'm still working on an argument against that.

    I thought the black mass rituals disapeared back in 86. From what I heard from my electron pushing pals after that you had to make a deal with You Know Who for your soul to make it work, conveniant how He turns up in a puff of sulferous smoke if you say His name 3 times.

  5. Hydrogen has always seemed the solution to me, we just need to learn better ways to produce it.

  6. Bob - well progress marches on and all that. It was always storage devices in general and SCSI in particular that demanded goats - I expect the sort of compact you describe relates to fibre-channel, but I couldn't say... my Dark Master forbids it.

    Network devices usually demanded a chicken, but frankly by the late 90s this had lead to such an excess of poultry around the server room, especially where network concentrators were involved that mroe scalable development were spurred. See for an example. I still have a working RITA in my possession, though it needs a good wash to clear the coating of concrete dust in acquired during a 6 month stint absorbing network faults in a riser conduit.

    Interestingly storage and networking are beginning to merge, especially now the iSCSI standard exists. I expect this will eventualy demand a compact with Steve Jobs, carrying a chicken and leading a goat by a ribbon.

  7. Bob has hit the nail on the head with the difficulty of creating a universal replacement for power sources, particularly in transport. Its a 'chicken & egg' problem. Until there is a common infrastructure for refuelling vehicles will not adopt the new tech but without a market there first its difficult to roll out an infrastructure.


    Hydrogen is not that difficult to produce, all you need is electricity and water. It does have other significant drawbacks though. It is very difficult to store and to transport. A tank of hydrogen tends to boil off so if you leave it for any appreciable anount of time it will evaporate and require topping up. It also destroys most components it comes into contact with. Because H is the smallest element it works its way between other molecules and causes hydrogen embrittlement, causing materials in contact with it to become weak and shatter easily. Thus you cannot make pipelines for the stuff and its very difficult to store in tanks without cryogenic facilities which requires even more energy to maintain.

    I read about a pilot project for algae in (I think) Sth Africa where they used algae scrubbers in a coal power station to decarbonize the exhaust gases and they then used the algae as a '2nd round' fuel source. However at best you are just reusing it for one cycle and the emissions will still occur.

    Last I heard making algae from scratch was beset by difficulties as making it in ponds was just not efficient enough and it was not scalable in a closed system of photobioreactors (perspex tanks).



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I was the proud recipient of the worlds first monkeys ass to human face transplant. Friends of the donor monkey says it took well, I'm not so sure.