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A response to Critical Thinking may make You Critical of the Covid Crisis
(HPR episode 3414, produced by CoGo and released on 2021-09-02)
What is Critical Thinking?
The Wikipedia definition begins: "Critical thinking is the analysis of facts to form a judgment."
It goes on to say: "The subject is complex, and several different definitions exist, which generally include the rational, skeptical, unbiased analysis, or evaluation of factual evidence."
See the references below.
Note the use of the terms fact, factual evidence and unbiased analysis. It is my contention that HPR episode 3414 fails in these regards in several places.
What is an "experiment"?
Wikipedia’s definition begins: "An experiment is a procedure carried out to support or refute a hypothesis. Experiments provide insight into cause-and-effect by demonstrating what outcome occurs when a particular factor is manipulated."
The term experiment is often used incorrectly in episode 3414. A better term would be observation or anecdote
The virus is a coronavirus. There are many viruses classified in this way.
The name of the virus is SARS-CoV-2. The SARS part stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, the type of disease caused by the virus. CoV signifies that it is a coronavirus and the 2 means it’s the second SARS-type corona virus to have caused problems in the recent past. The other one, just called SARS occurred in 2003.
The name of the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 is COVID-19. The letters COVID define it as a coronavirus disease. The 19 part is because it was first discovered in 2019.
Rho`n describes replacing the battery in his Neuton EM 4.1 electric lawn mower
Hosted by Rho`n on 2021-10-13 is flagged as Clean and released under a CC-BY-SA license. Tags:electric lawnmower,lawnmower,rechargeable battery.
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During the audio I repeatedly called it the Neutron mower instead of the Neuton mower. I was too lazy edit those mispronunciations.
After recently reclaiming my Neuton EM 4.1 electric lawn mower from my parents, I needed to replace the battery to make it operational. This mower was purchased in the early 2000s, and replacement batteries for it are no longer available from the manufacturer. Thankfully replacement 12V 10A batteries are available through third parties.
I faced two issues with finding replacement parts. The Neuton mowers run at 24V and need batteries that can provide 10 amps of current. They come with a battery case that holds two 12V 10A batteries connected in series. The case holds the batteries and provides a connector and circuitry for a 24V DC charger. When I received the mower back from my parents, it didn't have a battery case with it. While the Neuton website is still online, and looks like you can order some accessories still, they no longer carry replacement battery cases or batteries. I was able to find just the case on EBay. I then found replacement batteries on Amazon.
Installing the batteries in the case is simple. One side of the case has a lid. The lid is held in place by plastic notches on the bottom and two screws at the top. The screws have size 10 star heads. The batteries sit side by side in the case, with their terminals facing the lid. I connected the inner terminals (negative of one battery to positive of the other) with the jumper wire that came with the case. I then connected the outer terminals to the battery case terminal wires, slid the batteries all the way into case, closed, and fastened the lid.
The batteries are currently charging. The red charging light did come on when I plugged in the 24V DC charger, and nothing has exploded yet, so I am optimistic I will be able to use the mower again shortly.
Neuton CE5.4 24 volt rechargeable battery CASE ONLY - EBay item
Some time ago, I did some Hacker Public Radio episodes in which I ostensibly demonstrated how to create a PDF with Scribus. Secretly, I was actually demonstrating how unexpected payloads could be embedded into a PDF. Did the PDF I uploaded as part of that episode no longer contain a payload if the listener who downloaded it wasn't aware that the payload existed?
I've been diagnosed by educators as a "life long learner," which as far as I can tell is a buzzword referring to someone who takes pleasure in learning new things. In our world of technology, dear listener, I think this term is just "hacker." And that's appropriate, because this is Hacker Public Radio you're listening to now, and listeners of this show tend to be people who enjoy learning and exploring new ideas, taking apart gadgets to see what makes them tick, reverse engineering code and data to understand how it gets processed, and so on.
The thing about being a hacker or a life-long learner is that there's a lot of stuff out there that wants to be hacked, or learnt. And it turns out that it's just not possible to learn everything. Sometimes, you're out of your depth. It can be tricky to recognize when you're out of your depth, and I think there's a certain learn-able skill to knowing that you don't know something. There's a lot of value to this skill, because when you can recognize you don't have expertise on something, you're able to look around you and find someone who has. That's significant because you can learn from someone with expertise.
In my own humdrum life, before getting a full-time job at a tech company, I was commissioned on several occasions to build out infrastructure for a video game development project, an indie radio station, a few different multimedia projects, and so on. When I took on those roles, I became the resident expert. People turned to me for the authoritative word on what technological solutions should be used. When I told them, they were more or less obligated to listen, because that was the role I'd been hired for. If they were to ask me what a workstation should run, and I said Linux, but they bought a Mac instead, then my role would be unarguably redundant. They could just as easily type the question into a search engine on the Internet, and ignore the result. Or they could roll a die, or whatever.
In those cases, though, it's a question of my opinion compared to someone else's opinion. Both are valid. Because I was the architect, my opinion mattered more to the long-term plan, but if the long-term plan were to change from having a highly-available cluster for fast 3d model rendering to having workstations with a familiar desktop, then my opinion would be less valid.
But there are some areas in life where opinions don't matter. Specifically, that area is science. But what is science, anyway? People talk about science a lot, but it took me a long time, especially as someone who largely came from an artistic background, to comprehend the significance of the term, much less how it worked.
Forget about all the high school classes and pop dietitians and physicists. Science is a framework. It's a set of principles designed to help our human brains hack the world around us in a methodical and precise way. Instead of letting our opinions, which may or may not be relevant, influence conclusions and decisions we make, science looks at the results of controlled input and output. Wait a minute. "Input and output"? Those are words I understand. Those are computer terms!
Yeah it turns out that computers are the product of science, and in fact building computers and programming computers is a form of Computer Science. Those are just words we made up, but they reveal a lot about what we computer hackers do all day. Computers don't understand the influence of opinion, or your force of will, or the power of faith. They just take input and produce output. They do this very reliably.
I don't know whether you've ever tried, but it's really hard to make a computer. Comprehending how a CPU processes rudimentary electrical pulses to transform them into complex instruction sets is mind-bending, at least to me. I've sat down and thought about it critically. I've set up a few experiments, too. There's one you can do with dominoes, believe it or not, that can somewhat help you design a logic circuit. There's a Turing Machine you can build with Magic The Gathering cards. And an electronics kit that'll help you build an 8bit CPU. But even with all of those experiments, the open RISC-V CPU still eludes my comprehension.
And just to be clear: back in 2008 or so, I was hired to stress test a RISC CPU to determine whether it was efficient at rendering massive amounts of video. I designed tests in an attempt to prove that a RISC CPU could not out-perform the latest Intel Core2duo, and could not achieve the goal (RISC is better, what can I say?) So my affinity for RISC is far from just a passing interest. But I can't build a RISC-V or even really explain how a CPU works.
For that, I understand that there are experts. These aren't just people I call experts because they're labeled that way on their shirt pocket. They're experts because they're building the RISC-V, and it works. I met some of them back at OSS Con in 2019. I recognize their expertise, because they're proving their knowledge.
Let's say I approached the RISC-V booth with the preconception that x86 was superior. After all, why would most consumer computers be running x86 if it weren't the best? I might be skeptical if I were told that RISC-V is superior for some tasks. Could they have ulterior motives? Could they have been paid off by Big Silicon to lie about RISC's performance in order to hurt x86's marketshare? Sure, it could happen. And that skepticism is important. It's arguably part of the scientific process. Look at the results of an experiment, replicate the input and ensure that the output is reliably the same.
But you can't be sure until you've duplicated the experiments that make the claim in the first place. Unfortunately, this often requires some pretty controlled environments, and possibly some pretty high end equipment.
The bottom line is that I'm never going to get around to doing that, I'm never going to have access to those resources, and I'm never going to have the understanding I'd need to comprehend all the potential variables involved. In short, I just don't have the expertise. But I'm willing to trust the expertise of a lot of people from all over the world working on this project. I'm going to trust that because they all agree on similar findings, that what they're saying about the design and architecture of their CPU, that there's a high likelihood that their findings are correct.
The same goes, as it turns out, for biological sciences. No matter how many one-off experiments discover that cigarette smoking is beneficial to your health, the wider scientific consensus is that it's harmful. No matter how man "free-thinkers" on the Internet discover that Covid-19 is actually no worse than the common cold, the worldwide scientific community asserts that it's actually harmful, and medical staffs across the globe assert that increased cases of Covid-19 cause bed and healthcare shortages for everyone else. Somebody online may assert that it's an impossibly unified globe-spanning political plot, but that relies on a bunch of untest-able opinions and interpretations of reality that fall well outside any scientific framework.
It seems to me that this line of speculation makes about as much sense as asking whether your computer can really still add numbers accurately. Couldn't it occasionally be lying to you? The device you're using to listen to my voice right now not to scramble what I'm saying and accurately play what I recorded in the first place is based on the same scientific principles used by those in biological sciences. We're feeding data into functions, whether the function is written in code, forged in silicon, or written on paper as a math formula, and we're observing the results. When every expert in their field, across the entire globe, agrees on the output, I think we do too. It's either that, or we'd better all go build our own 8bit circuits out of chickens and batteries and just start to rebuild.
So did the PDF I uploaded as part of the Scribus episode no longer contain a payload if the listener who downloaded it wasn't aware that the payload existed? Obviously not. If the listener lacked the foresight or expertise to investigate the PDF for a hidden file, then they could have posted an episode of their own about how my PDF was completely normal. They'd have been confident in their findings. But you and I know that whatever experiments they might have used to come to the conclusion that Klaatu was NOT a liar was, in the end, insufficient. The payload did exist, but it was just outside this imaginary listener's detection or comprehension.
Critical thinking is important. But at the same time, the scientific framework requires more than just critical thinking, just as building a RISC-V CPU requires more than just being a fan of reduced instruction sets. And solving the Covid-19 crisis takes a lot more than just critical thinking and a couple of backyard "experiments." We're not in the Dark Ages any more, folks. Get vaccinated. Stay safe, and I'll talk to you next time.
We continue our look at the Layer Modes in GIMP with the Lighten Modes
Hosted by Ahuka on 2021-10-08 is flagged as Clean and released under a CC-BY-SA license. Tags:GIMP, Layer Modes, Blending Modes, Lighten.
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Series: GIMP | Comments (0)
Layer Modes, sometimes called Blending Modes, allow you to combine layers in a variety of ways. We continue with the Lighten Modes, except for Dodge which we will cover in the next tutorial along with Burn. These are the Layer Modes available on the latest (at the time I write this) version of GIMP, 2.10.24.
Hosted by monochromec on 2021-10-07 is flagged as Explicit and released under a CC-BY-SA license. Tags:Berkeley Software Distribution, library operating systems, Android, Copyleft, BSD License, Usenet.
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Series: Linux Inlaws | Comments (2)
In this episode, Martin and Chris host an eclectic panel of contributors to
the *other* major FLOSS operating system family - you guessed it: the
flavours of the Berkeley Software Distribution (aka BSD among friends).
Disclaimer: you may be tempted to diverge from the Path of the
Righteousness also known as Linux and give this alternative a spin. So
this episode is *not* for the faint-hearted - listen at your own
discretion! Also: the true defective nature of our beloved (?) hosts' past
will be revealed - an episode not be missed despite the caveat! Plus
a refresher on spaced-out operating system concepts including library
operating systems and a rant on Android and friends. In addition to some
cool BSD trolling...
Google search is monopolistic here are some alternatives
Hosted by hakerdefo on 2021-10-06 is flagged as Clean and released under a CC-BY-SA license. Tags:searx, whoogle, metager, gigablast, private.sh, ecosia, startpage, qwant, brave, duckduckgo.
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Series: Privacy and Security | Comments (1)
Here are links to all the search engines and related stuff discussed during this podcast,
Dave Morriss on 2021-09-29:
Mailing List discussions
Policy decisions surrounding HPR are taken by the community as a whole. This
discussion takes place on the Mail List which is open to all HPR listeners and
contributors. The discussions are open and available on the HPR server under
The threaded discussions this month can be found here:
This is the LWN.net community event calendar, where we track
events of interest to people using and developing Linux and free software.
Clicking on individual events will take you to the appropriate web
Any other business
Older HPR shows on archive.org
This month 5 additional shows in the range 1-870 have been uploaded.
Since we don't want to upload shows without summaries or tags the old shows and tag and summary projects are now tied together. So we will be all the more welcoming of tag and summary updates submitted as described on the summary page.
Tags and Summaries
Thanks to the following contributors for sending in updates in the past month: Archer72, Rho`n
Over the period tags and/or summaries have been added to 76 shows which were without them.
There are currently 38 shows which need a summary and/or tags.
Released: 2021-09-27. Duration: 00:46:03. Flag: Explicit. Series:Lightweight Apps. Tags:cli, terminal, nox, linux, technology, tty.
BlacKernel shows you some programs you'll need for living life without X org
Released: 2021-09-09. Duration: 01:02:28. Flag: Explicit. Series:Linux Inlaws. Tags:Operating systems, kernels, Usenet wars, Linus Torvalds, Andrew Tanenbaum, Minix, trainspotting.
All you ever wanted to hear and more about micro kernels and other operating system war stories
Released: 2021-08-26. Duration: 01:35:38. Flag: Explicit. Series:Linux Inlaws. Tags:HPR, cleaning, janitoring, having a good time, Richard M. Stallman, stats.
An interview with Ken Fallon, Janitor at Hacker Public Radio
Released: 2021-08-17. Duration: 00:14:37. Flag: Explicit. Tags:manifesto, community, free software, open source, politics, philosophy, digital autonomy.
Reading and brief commentary and background on Molly DeBlanc's and Karen Sandler's techautonomy.org
Released: 2021-08-12. Duration: 00:56:01. Flag: Explicit. Series:Linux Inlaws. Tags:Licensing, GNU, BSD, MIT, Taking Lives, MI6, Clarkson's Farm, Open Source Initiative.
The ultimate show on open source licenses or how to fall asleep without chemicals