The 50-ampere circuit breaker shown in the photograph at right is a very cleverly designed device called a “quad two-pole common-trip” circuit breaker. It is actually four circuit breakers that have been squeezed into the physical space that would normally house two circuit breakers. The two circuit breakers in the middle are mechanically linked by a cylindrical bar so that if one of them trips, they both turn off. The outer two circuit breakers are linked by a stainless steel frame that, remarkably, accomplishes the same “common trip” function for the outer two breakers. Why, today’s blog article asks, is this circuit breaker nearly impossible to find right now in September of 2021? Continue reading
A colleague of mine was wrestling with a homework problem that had been given to her schoolchild:
Jan has 35 teaspoons of chocolate cocoa mix and 45 teaspoons of french vanilla cocoa mix. She wants to put the same amount of mix into each jar, and she only wants one flavor of mix in each jar. She wants to fill as many jars as possible. how many jars of french vanilla cocoa mix will Jan fill?
A recent column in the New York Times started with a math word problem, which I will oversimplify slightly here:
Sarah takes six hours to paint a fence, and John takes twelve hours to paint the same fence. How long will it take them to paint the same fence if they work together?
One thing that is really fun about this problem, I think, is that it turns out this is exactly like asking “what resistance do you get if you put a six-ohm resistor and a twelve-ohm resistor in parallel?” Continue reading
Here is an example of a poorly designed shower control valve. Continue reading
The other day I was baffled to hear a report from a friend who had recently purchased something called a Ranger EV. (A Ranger EV is an electrically powered ATV, shown at right.) My friend described that she found she has no choice but to charge her Ranger EV outdoors, because if she charges it in her garage, it sets off her carbon monoxide detectors. She is thinking about purchasing one of those new Ford F-150 Lightning EVs and was worried whether this means she would have to charge it outdoors too.
As I say, I was baffled by this. Eventually I figured out what was probably going on. Continue reading
Yesterday our firm came face-to-face with one of the ways that email system administrators fight spam — a very interesting guilt-by-association system called UCEProtect-Network. This system collects spam reports and carries out a “cluster analysis” (Wikipedia article), aggregating the reports by groups of IP addresses from which the spam emails originated. The practical result is that everybody who uses Microsoft to host their inbound email has stopped receiving any email from our firm (“oppedahl.com”) or from our listservs (“oppedahl-lists.com”). This is not because either of our IP addresses has ever been the source of spam (neither IP address has ever been a source of spam) but because other IP addresses that are “nearby” to our IP addresses have been the source of spam. Continue reading
For decades now, we all have gotten used to the idea that of course our computer or any other small consumer electronic device should not be plugged directly into an electrical outlet but should be instead be plugged into a surge protection power strip which is in turn plugged into the electrical outlet. We do this because for decades now we have had hammered into our brains that all sorts of bad things like lightning can somehow enter our electrical wires and if we fail to use a surge protection power strip, the bad things will travel through the electrical wires into our computers and other consumer electronic devices and damage them.
This blog article tells you that now “whole-house” surge protection is a thing. Yes if you don’t mind throwing money at the problem, you can add an extra layer of protection from electrical surges at the place where your electrical power enters your house, and it protects the whole house. Not only is this a thing, but the 2020 national electrical code actually requires this kind of protection in newly constructed homes. I’ll talk about this kind of protection in this blog article. Continue reading
In seven years writing this blog, I have not spoken about social or political issues. Now I speak. President Biden is right. “We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out.”
There is no place for hate against Asian-Americans. There is no place for hate against people because of the color of their skin. There is no place for hate against people because of their religion, or because of their non-belief. There is no place for hate against people because of the country they came from or the country their ancestors came from.
My daily world is the world of intellectual property. One of the oldest international agreements relating to intellectual property is the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, a treaty that was adopted exactly 138 years ago on March 20, 1883. One of the purposes of the Paris Convention was to bring an end to laws and policies by which some nations had treated people from other nations poorly in the particular areas of obtaining patent protection, trademark protection, and design protection.
The treaty is composed of thirty numbered Articles, the first of which names and defines the treaty. Most of the numbered articles are rather dry legal language spelling out procedures for (for example) filing a first patent application in a first country, and a second patent application in a second country, and linking the two patent applications together in a particular way. The dry Articles start at Article 3 and continue to Article 30.
Which brings us to Article 2 of this treaty that was adopted exactly 138 years ago. The drafters of this treaty, after doing the throat-clearing of Article 1, and before proceeding with the dry legalize of Articles 3 through 30, wrote Article 2:
Nationals of any country of the Union shall, as regards the protection of industrial property, enjoy in all the other countries of the Union the advantages that their respective laws now grant, or may hereafter grant, to nationals; all without prejudice to the rights specially provided for by this Convention. Consequently, they shall have the same protection as the latter, and the same legal remedy against any infringement of their rights, provided that the conditions and formalities imposed upon nationals are complied with.
Translated into plain language, this says:
[So far as applying for patents and registering trademarks and protecting designs is concerned,] we promise to treat people from other countries as well as we would treat people from our own country.
Among the first countries to join this treaty were Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, France, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Each of these countries promised to treat nationals of other countries as well as they would treat their own nationals (in the specific area of patents, trademarks, and design protection). In the years that have passed since then, 160 more countries have joined this treaty and have made this promise to treat nationals of other countries as well as they would treat their own nationals, in this area.
I was not there to see it in 1883 but I’d guess the roomful of people who negotiated the language of that treaty included few if any women and few if any people of color. Having said this, you can see that on this narrow question of of treating people from other countries the way you would want people from your own country to be treated, they got the right answer.
Now it is 2021 and we see things that happen in the world around us. Hate against Asian-American people. Hate against people because of the color of their skin. Hate against people because of their religion, or because of their non-belief. Hate against people because of the country they came from, or because of the country their ancestors came from.
Every one of us must speak out.
If you have a platform that permits you to speak, please use your platform to speak.
If a march or gathering happens near you to support Asian-Americans, or other groups that are targets of hate these days, please join the march or the gathering.
There are many ways that each of us can communicate our support to those around us. We must communicate our support.
Just now I was checking the configuration of one of the routers in my firm’s network. I was struck to see the “uptime” report. This particular router has been up for 195 days.
I’d call that a rock-steady router.
I told you so. Four months ago I told you so. I told you to drop Whatsapp and switch to Signal in my article It is time to switch to a new end-to-end encrypted messaging app. Now in January of 2021 lots of people are finally realizing they should switch to Signal.
Please recall this article (August 23, 2020) in which I explain how to be smart about what kind of phone number to use as your user ID for Signal.
If you’d like to try messaging me with Signal, drop me a note at my email address with your Signal identifier telephone number and I will fire off a Signal message to you.