National PACER Download Day

Do you like any of the following three things?
  1. Government transparency
  2. Aaron Swartz' work to improve the Internet (like RSS)
  3. Convenient access to public documents
If any of these are important to you, please consider participating in the National Day of PACER Protest.

PACER is the acronym for Public Access to Electronic Court Records, the computerized system that publishes U.S. Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy court records and documents. Techdirt had a post about the national PACER download day earlier this month that explained a bit of the background for the event.
"...Carl Malamud, the leading champion of freeing up public documents and laws, has announced a National Day of PACER Protest...PACER...is the horrific, antiquated paywall system by which the federal courts lock up tons of public documents and only make them available at 10 cents per page (with some exceptions)...PACER, itself, is of dubious legality. The law that established PACER says that the fees collected can only be used for the system itself, yet the system is so profitable that the money flows back into other areas of the judicial system, and the Administrative Office of the US Courts doesn't want to give up on its cash cow...Malamud has proposed May 1st as a day when he wants lots and lots of people to use PACER accounts to download documents (and RECAP them)..."
Tonight I met with another person interested in participating in the National Day of PACER Protest. We agreed to work together on organizing and promoting a northeast Wisconsin event which participates in this national effort to make public documents more accessible.

Over the next couple months this blog will have more information about the national download day -- although our plan is actually to organize a two day event, May 1 - 2, 2015. May 1 is a Friday, and some people may be available to participate on a Saturday but not on a Friday.

If you feel this is a worthwhile cause, please take the time right now to put an item on your schedule for May 1 or May 2 to help with this initiative. You can help make government more transparent and make these public documents conveniently accessible.

If you're interested in working with us to organize or help host the event, please contact me at bwaldron {att} gmail [dot] com.

See you on May 1st or May 2nd, if not before then!



SpaceX Rocket Lands On Ocean Spaceport Ship!

SpaceX achieved another first on 10 Jan 2015 for Earth's emerging civilian aerospace industry -- they landed a rocket on their ocean spaceport ship!

SpaceX Ocean Spaceport Drone Ship
Although most media and space enthusiast coverage of the event called it a 'failure,' IMHO
BusinessInsider had a much better perspective on the SpaceX landing. The BI headline read, "SUCCESS: Elon Musk Landed A Rocket On A Platform In The Ocean." Their article says:
"...While other outlets are saying the test was a failure, because the hard landing means that the rocket is probably too damaged to be reused, we think it's still a win. It took a crazy amount of precision to guide the rocket from 50 miles above Earth's surface to a football field-sized platform in the ocean, and then actually land on it. No one else has even thought to do this, let alone succeed..."
Jon Ross' Concept Image Of Ocean Spaceport Landing
The 'rocket' that landed on the SpaceX ocean spaceport was the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket from the fifth resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule from this fifth mission successfully reached orbit today and is schedule to reach the ISS about 6 AM on Monday.

Above on the left is Jon Ross' conceptual image of what the Falcon 9 first stage will look like when it lands on the ocean spaceport. He has an excellent "Illustrated Guide To SpaceX's Launch Vehicle Reusability Plans" page on his website. If this topic is of interest to you, check out his guide.

SpaceX has become a victim of its own success. They were the first US 'newspace' civilian aerospace company to resupply the ISS after the NASA space shuttles stopped flying, and all four of their previous resupply missions to the ISS previous to today's effort succeeded. They have also had successful Falcon 9 reusable rocket vertical test landings as shown in this SpaceX video in a recent TechNewsWorld article about landing on the ocean spaceport. The TechNewsWorld article also mentions the first stage has done "two successful soft water landings." SpaceX has had so many amazing aerospace accomplishments in such a short time that the general public and the media have come to expect success on every attempt.

A SpaceX competitor, Orbital Sciences, publicly illustrated in 2104 that there are no guarantees of success on every newspace company mission, per a recent Space.com article:
"...Dragon is loaded with more than 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) of food, scientific experiments and spare parts on this journey. Some of the parts are replacements for objects lost when Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket exploded just after liftoff in late October, destroying the company's Cygnus cargo craft. Both SpaceX and Orbital hold billion-dollar deals to fly robotic supply missions to the space station for NASA; Orbital had completed two successful flights before the October accident..."
It will take a few years and a few more 'success-failures,' but I have no doubt that SpaceX (and others) will one day be doing vertical rocket landings on a regular basis. At that point, young people will wonder why spaceship launch rockets used to be one-use, in the same way that today's teenagers can't really grok hardwired landline phones with a circular dial.

Then we can start wondering why spaceships have to use first stage booster rockets instead of just having integral long-term-use propulsion systems...



Gongkai, Shanzhai and Electronics Innovation

A recent post by bunnie huang about gongkai and a related post from frog design about shanzhai highlight why Shenzhen is the best place to be if you're a hacker who wants to ride the leading of electronics, wearable computing and the IoT (Internet of Things).

bunnie explains gongkai this way in his 29 Dec 2014 post:
"...Gongkai is more a reference to the fact that copyrighted documents, sometimes labeled “confidential” and “proprietary”, are made known to the public and shared overtly...this copying isn’t a one-way flow of value, as it would be in the case of copied movies or music. Rather, these documents are the knowledge base needed to build a phone using the copyright owner’s chips, and as such, this sharing of documents helps to promote the sales of their chips...This fuzzy, gray relationship between companies and entrepreneurs...has a “network” view of IP and ownership: the far-sight necessary to create good ideas and innovations is attained by standing on the shoulders of others, and as such there is a network of people who trade these ideas as favors among each other. In a system with such a loose attitude toward IP, sharing with the network is necessary as tomorrow it could be your friend standing on your shoulders, and you’ll be looking to them for favors..."
frog design, in an older but undated post, explains shanzhai thusly:
"The term “Shanzhai” refers to a part of China’s informal industry that is known for fast product cycles as well as its tendency to seek inspiration in...successful products...we see many of our international and Chinese clients intimidated by the speed of Shanzhai and bewildered by the apparent ruthlessness with which they imitate, alter, and remix features, designs, and even entire products. Shanzhai manufacturers can design, build, and take mobile phones to market in as little as 40 days, while “legitimate” manufacturers take longer to merely secure and approve their budgets for similar initiatives...By not committing to established industry alliances and regulations, Shanzhai manufacturers can afford to focus on the actual customer to meet the demands the “regular” players leave unmet...quite a few Chinese Tier 1 and 2 OEMs have evolved from Shanzhai and are now successful legitimate businesses...the Shanzhai industry...might very well be a hotbed of young businesses that are learning, growing, and experimenting “in confined water” so to speak—sanctioned only by the customers they serve..."
When gongkai and shanzhai are combined with reasonable cost advanced personal manufacturing equipment, components and services, it allows the concentrated populations of Steven Levy and Paul Graham’s hackers in the the unparalleled regional electronics ecosystem of Joi Ito and bunnie’s Shenzhen to become Schumpeter’s swarming creative-destructive innovators of Christensen’s ‘Innovator’s Dilemma’ who shorten the development cycle by leveraging any relevant and recent components, products applications, tools and technologies to deliver low-cost and low-to-medium-volume new products whose success can be strongly or primarily influenced by how well the product meets consumer needs and desires.

Electronics hackers and makers can build amazing things anywhere in the world, but Shenzhen appears to be the 2015 electronics innovation equivalent what the Silicon Valley was for personal computing innovation in the 1970s and 1980s.