Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Stalling Aircraft

Modern passenger planes cruise at very high altitude and very close to their stall speed, flying on a knife edge, in order to minimize fuel consumption.  The problem is that when a plane encounters turbulent air due to a storm or a side wind, it can stall unexpectedly, while still traveling at high speed.

It appears to me, that in the relentless pursuit of lower drag and lower fuel consumption, the designers have compromised aircraft stability and safety. 

The situation now, that a passenger plane can stall at 30,000 feet and then fall out of the sky, with the total loss of aircraft, crew and passengers, unable to recover despite the best efforts of an experienced flight crew, because the plane was designed to save every last drop of fuel, is inexcusable.

Aircraft designers should always put stability and safety first and should not be driven by marketing only.

In October 2018, a brand new Boeing 737 Max crashed in Indonesia with great loss of life, because it had a new anti-stall feature that the pilots were not informed of.  The plane was forced down by the automatic system, due to a faulty AOA sensor and crashed into the sea, while the pilots were fighting the system for control - but the manual trim control wheel required super human strength to turn, as it was made smaller a few years prior in another unintentional bungle.

Maybe airlines should consider buying more conservatively designed Ukrainian and Russian planes, instead of badly engineered American ones.

This is not good at all.  Another 737 Max 8 went down in early March 2019, with very serious loss of life.

Of course, Boeing maintains that their planes are perfectly safe, while a writer at Tech Republic called the Max the world's first Self Highjacking Plane - for its propensity to deliberately fly itself into the ground.

Even Prez Trump weighed in that planes should be simpler and easier to fly.  I think plane designers should take note - not only Boeing, everyone.

The result is that Boeing has hundreds of planes, that nobody wants to fly in and every month they add another 42 coming off the production line (From the Douglas Adams Book of Bistro Management), so their employee parking lots are now filling up with the unloved planes and by the end of 2019 they will have to park another 300 new planes somewhere in the desert, while all the employees will have to bicycle to work since there would be nowhere to park their cars.

Airlines have the Max 8s stuffed at out of the way airports all over the world:

Boeing may go bankrupt because of the lost sales and law suits.

Just for future refrence, the 737-Max is now called 737-8 and 737-10 - maybe you want to check your boarding pass...


Wednesday, December 24, 2014


I've been playing with FreeCAD for a few hours, since I need to make little Nylon brackets and things at Shapeways.

The program is absolutely amazing for its price - Zero Dollars - which is a nice way to say that there are a few hiccups, but once one knows how to avoid the hiccups, then it works perfectly... :)

Antique Radio Ham Speaker Mic, circa 2015

To aid with error checking of CAD files before uploading them to Shapeways, also install the free Meshlab.  Note that uploading a file to Shapeways takes a while, because they also do a conversion and error check, so be patient.  If you checked it with Meshlab, then it should work.

I made the above widget by drawing four cubes, resizing them and subtracting  three from the other, then subtracting four cylinders for the mounting holes and finally applying fillets to the edges.  That's all there is to it.  Made out of Nylon, it makes a strong base for a little step motor.

In general, I would say that FreeCAD is almost as good as Solidworks.   It is certainly good for hobby use and it may even be good enough in a small business for simple things.

The nice thing about FreeCAD, is that it is cross platform and it works exactly the same way on Windows, Linux and Mac - it even has the same bugs too...

Here are a few pointers on FreeCAD version 0.14:

The smallest features that Shapeways can produce is about 1 mm.  Widgets may also be somewhat uneven and may require sanding/polishing, but the resulting whatchammacallits are generally fine for prototype and hobby use as is.

If you keep the thickness at 1 mm, then the cost is about 50c per 10 square cm for the cheapest Nylon.  This schtuff is very strong and slightly flexible.  If you need it to be stiff - make curved surfaces or add some ribs.

The only CAD export format that I can get to work consistently with Shapeways, is STL, but FreeCAD cannot export to STL.  So, I Select All, then export to WRL, import that file into Meshlab and export it again to STL, then upload that to Shapeways. (Update: The 2018 version of FreeCAD can export to STL binary format.  If you need ASCII, then convert it with Meshlab by unselecting 'Binary' when you save the file to STL)

To save a model in WRL, Click Part Workbench, Edit, Select All, Ctrl-E, then type filename.wrl, SaveThere is more information down below on how to make holy or unholy shapes...

I wanted to make an old fashioned Radio Ham handheld/standing Microphone/Speaker/PTT gadget, that looks like it was stamped out of brass, circa 1920 or so.  Here is the base:

It is also recommended to check the final file with Meshlab before sending it to Shapeways.  If the file is full of holes, or if the Shapeways uploader complains about the file being unusable, change the maximum mesh edge length to something smaller and try again as explained down below.

If you make a drawing using the 3D add/subtract method in the Part Workbench, then the whole hoosammawatzit seems to remain fully constrained all by itself.  This is a wonderful way to make a little wazzisname consisting of rectangular shapes and cylindrical holes very quickly and is the drafting method that I can recommend to occasional users.  Follow this tutorial: http://www.freecadweb.org/wiki/index.php?title=Basic_modeling_tutorial

If you make a watchammacallit using the 2D drawing and extrusion process in the Part Design WorkBench, then you have to keep an eye on the constraints box and ensure that every single line or shape is fully constrained before moving on to the next line or shape.  It is almost impossible to fix missing constraints later, but you may be able to find a loose end by clicking and dragging lines with the mouse - if it moves, then it isn't fully constrained.

The best way to draw a fully constrained line in the Part Design Workbench, is to draw the line close to where you want it to be, but not exactly.  Then click the end point and the point where you want it to be and apply a constraint (a dot 'coincident', or 'fix point to object' or some such), to make the line end point jump to the right spot.  You typically need to apply two to three constraints to get it exactly where it should be.  Watch the Constraints box on the left.

Here is the Speaker front and the tiny little hole at the top is for the Mic (The backside looks similar but without the rose of holes):

So now I can put my $20 of amplifier electronics inside a seemingly century old custom plastic enclosure costing $80 - ouch.  It is not a cheap hobby...

When making plastic/metal nurgles, it is important that you fillet/chamfer the edges.  Stress build up at edges can cause a plastic mcgafter to crack and metal thingammajigs may cut your fingers if you don't.  The fillet tool is a little unreliable, so save oftenDo this step last.

Sometimes (not very often!) FreeCAD exits, or the drawing disappears from view, leaving you rubbing your eyes and reaching for your mug of coffee in frustration.  The only solution is to restart it and get yet more coffee.  It is therefore important to save your work regularly and use an incrementing number for simple version control (filename-1, filename-2), so that you can go back to the last thingammabob that worked.

Manufacturing Issues At Shapeways

I ordered the above parts in black plastic and what I got, was white plastic, painted/dyed black.  That is not the same thing at all.

The problem being that if you have to rework a part then you need to repaint everything, so you can just as well order the parts in white plastic to begin with.

Some features that were supposed to be hollow, turned out solid.  All the carefully designed mountings for potentiometers and the speaker grill, came out solid.

So, be prepared to do some rework with a drill/dremel/rasp to get things into shape.  The white plastic of course melts if you use too much speed, but if you take it slowly, then you can drill holes and cut pieces to shape.

Even with rework, the final result should be much more satisfying than housing a project in a traditional tobacco tin or soap box!

Holy Shapes

I finally figured out how to make holy shapes.  The problem is that Shapeways uses mesh files, which are very simple things.  When you convert a CAD drawing to a mesh, much information is lost.  If the mesh is 'too coarse', then some legitimate holes in your object may get filled in by the automatic hole filling software that Shapeways uses and the object then becomes rather unholy...

The solution is to go to the Mesh Workbench in FreeCAD, select the whole object, then go to Mesh, Convert Object to Mesh and select a maximum mesh edge length of 1.5 to 2 mm, instead of the default 7.8 mm.  Then when you export the file to a mesh (Export as WRL file, then load that into Meshlab and export as STL file) the resulting object should be holy.  If FreeCAD quits unexpectedly, it is because it ran out of RAM while meshing - then you need to get a better computer.


I finally got the Speaker Mic together and stuck a pic at the top of this page.  I burned out my Dremel in the process.  I have found that Dremels are really pathetic, having burned out two of them in 5 years working on plastic and balsa wood - need to find something better.

Shapeways offer many different materials apart from cheap 20c per cm3 plastic.  If you need something strong, then you could use steel at $5 per cm3, but reworking a steel part is difficult, while brass and bronze are expensive at $16 per cm3, but they now offer Aluminium at $7 per cm3, which is better.

Note that if your object quoted price turns out to be eye wateringly expensive, then the automatic hole filling software probably made some parts solid that should have been hollow.  In that case, go back and remesh with a smaller side length.

La voila!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Tor Exit Nodes Compromised


ExcludeExitNodes node,node,…
A list of identity fingerprints, nicknames, country codes and address patterns of nodes to never use when picking an exit node---that is, a node that delivers traffic for you outside the Tor network. Note that any node listed in ExcludeNodes is automatically considered to be part of this list too. See also the caveats on the "ExitNodes" option below. 

Tor users should note and temporarily avoid the affected mirrors below:


Saturday, December 20, 2014


Sony, the company that distributed millions of MS Windows root kits on CD in 2005 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_BMG_copy_protection_rootkit_scandal, has now been hacked through a Windows SMB exploit https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA14-353A.

I don't have much sympathy with this crowd, since they cost the IT world an enormous amount of money to clean up their root kit mess and blaming their current disaster on North Korea just doesn't fly with me.  I don't see how someone can download terabytes of data over the North Korean antiquated  internet link.
Clearly the Sony IT staff and management were stupid in 2005 and they are still
stupid today. They haven't learned anything.

On November 4, 2005. Thomas Hesse, Sony BMG's Global Digital Business President, told reporter Neda Ulaby, "Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"

Now suddenly, they care deeply...

If I apply Occam's Razor, then one of their clueless IT Administrators likely left SMB ports 135 to 139 open on a router and used WORKGROUP and Admin/admin as user name and password, on one or more old and unpatched Windows 2000 server(s), thus handing a gang of script kiddies access on a silver platter.

We shall see...

SSH Daemon on a Mac

A Mac is a weird thing that doesn't always know whether it wants to be BSD or Linux.

Enable Remote Login
You should only need to enable remote login:
$ sudo systemsetup -setremotelogin on

If the above doesn't work, here is the magical incantation to start a SSH Server:
$ sudo launchctl start /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist

One can then check it with a Telnet client:
$ telnet localhost ssh 
 Trying ::1... 
 Connected to localhost. Escape character is '^]'. 
 SSH-2.0-OpenSSH_6.2 ^] 
 telnet> q 
 Connection closed. 

Now you can use scp and ssh from another machine on the LAN, but one needs to know what the IP address is:
$ ifconfig en0 | grep inet 
inet6 fe80::5626:96ff:fece:371f%en0 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x4 
inet netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast

Run SSHD On A Different Port

If you want to allow internet access to your Mac and don't want to be bothered by script kiddies all the time, then you need to change sshd to a different port. 

The Mac launchctl system seems to ignore the /etc/sshd_conf file.  The only way that I could convince it to run on a different port, was by editing the /etc/services file and then reloading sshd with launchctl.

$ sudo launchctl unload /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist
$ sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist

This will automatically change the firewall port also.  

SSHD Won't Run After Reboot
Verify that /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist exist and make sure <key>Disabled</key> is not set to <true/>. Also make sure it starts on boot every time with <key>RunAtLoad</key> set to <true/>:

Then run the following to make sure the new settings stick:

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist

La voila!