Scientists and philosophers have struggled for years to define our relation to reality, or even to decide what “reality” might be. The rest of us mostly muddle through the daily experience of our existence. For a writer, perceptions of reality are also important, as it’s easier to write about what we have perceived than what we have persuaded ourselves to imagine.
Man's ability to affect the land is all too evident in these times of climate change, pollution and habitat destruction. Happily, the landscape can change man as well.
The weather finally broke last night, dropping 30 degrees by dawn, and thanks be for that. The night before I had camped in the Sheyenne National Grasslands, heavy with heat and humidity. But the next day it was pleasantly cool (upper 60s), albeit overcast rather than sunny.
Nor was this the only change. It took over 2400 driving miles to finally leave the Eastern, and then Midwestern terrain behind, but today I reached the beginnings of what I think of as the West. More than anything else, in my mind that means “dry.” For the last 800 miles, the landscape had been primarily flat, lush - and transitionally post-glacial. That last factor means an area where the great ice sheets completed their periodic southward pulses, dumping rich, black earth born of thousands of miles of ice grinding down stone, some deposited by glacial steams, and other as windblown “loess” – very fine mineral particles.
In 2001, I took a one month solo cross country trip, driving from Massachusetts across the Northeast, the Midwest, and then the prairie states, until I reached what we generally think of as “the West” – the land of canyons and buttes, deserts and mesas. Once there, I spent the rest of the time backpacking in the canyonlands of Utah, and then meandering North on dirt roads until I reached Glacier National Park, in the Northwest corner of Montana. After that, I zigzagged back East until I reached the Mississippi. Then, it was just a straight highway shot till I arrived back home once again. It was during that trip that I began writing in earnest, although I haven’t (yet) posted anything from that journey to the Web.
It was an interesting trip, in all, providing a cascade of often starkly diverse images. How varied a range? On the natural grandeur list, I would add spectacular sunsets, wildernesses of soaring, broken redrock, and broad vistas of pristine desert.
And at the opposite end of the spectrum, I might begin with the sights that greeted me when I crossed the Colorado early in the trip, and threaded my way through the 27th Annual Laughlin River Run, a meet that draws over 40,000 leather-clad, mostly aging bikers to what Motorcycle-usa.com calls, “one of the more popular events on the West Coast rally scene, packing bikini contests, custom bike shows, demo rides, poker runs, freak shows and tattoo contests into four-days of 24/7 fun.” I can attest to the fact that it also packs in what is presumably one of the largest assemblages of multi-story, inflatable Jim Beam bottle and Budweiser can replicas to be found anywhere in one place.
The southwestern landscape hosts a variety of signature geologic forms, some of which have become iconic as the backdrops for countless western movies. If you should find yourself channel surfing late tonight, a single frame of a mesa, butte, spire or hoodoo will instantly lock you on to the genre, even before the dusty characters ride into view.
The desert rock garden is a less well known type, but it will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time knocking about the southwest, and around Arizona in particular. Unlike the angular, striated spires and hoodoos that erode out of sedimentary formations, rock gardens are more often volcanic in origin than not, usually granitic, and rounded in form, characteristically resembling enormous blowups of the sand dribbles that a child makes at the beach by allowing a slurry of water and sand to slip through her fingers.
Long-time readers will know that whenever I can, I disappear into the desert for as long as I can. Often, the opportunity arises to cadge a lift out west on the back of a business trip, and so it is that I write this in northwestern Arizona a couple days after spending a day in a conference room buried deep within the bowels of the raucus, random, blaring, unworldly nonsense that is otherwise known as the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Some of the nonsense worked to my favor, or at least amusement, as my $143.95 room was somehow traded up into a penthouse suite on the 62nd floor of the hotel – a suite that was bigger than the first floor of my admittedly small house, with 18 foot ceilings, a wall of glass behind motorized drapes, bar, living room, two bathrooms (one palatial), four flat screen TV sets (more than I have owned of any type in my entire life), and no coffee maker.
My first day back in the desert, a brisk wind was blowing.In the ordinary course, I would expect that its strength would decline with the sun.And so, rather than looking for a protected cove among the rocks to camp, I shopped for thebest view instead.The view delivered nicely, and I enjoyed watching the sunset fade into darkness until the rapidly falling temperature sent me to bed.True to form, the wind abated.
But only for a time.Around midnight, a front moved in from the west, and with it came the wind.Soon it was gusting 30 and 40 miles per hour, rushing by and rattling my ground cloth between the tent stakes I had driven to hold it down.On each downbeat, the edge of the ground cloth would scoop up a scatter of grit. And on each upbeat, it would rain those particles down like sleet on my head, causing me to pull the top of my mummy bag ever more tightly down over my face.But as the wind rose, the half moon set, and with the fading of its light the constellations blazed forth.Orion shone almost directly overhead, and was soon joined by the Pleiades, the Milky Way, and numberless points of light in between.
Spring, of course, is the premier time to be in the desert.That’s when all that lives and was grey begins to blush with green, and when the cactus blooms.It’swhen the normally drab as dishwater creosote bushes that stretch on for entire states at a time become enpixalated with tiny yellow flowers nestled amid new green leaves no larger than a bee's wing.And most memorably, that’s when the seeds of annuals sprout throw rugs of purple, white, orange and yellow in washes, sandy bottom lands, and other places moist enough to germinate seeds deposited a year, a decade, even twenty-five years before.
When to arrive at a given part of the desesrt depends on many things.Altitude will play its part, as will, most crucially, how much rain has fallen over how long a period during the winter months.And also on what you wish to see, as different types of plants have their respective seasons to flower, and not all of these overlap. As a generality, for annuals, come early.For cactus, come late.
Life and the exigencies of earning a living being what they are, my arrival in the Colorado and Mohave deserts of southern California had all to do with opportunity and little to do with floral optimization.I had agreed to speak at a couple of open source conferences in San Francisco that conveniently fell about a week apart, and that provided a reasonable excuse to hold over and head out.
There is a 100 mile long, unpaved track that circles the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, called the White Rim Road. That circuit has become a favorite of mountain bikers, who noticed some years back that it was conveniently located not for from Moab, Utah, which is a popular jumping off point for such activities. But previous to their discovery, and still for all but a few months of the year, the White Rim Road is a largely deserted dirt and slickrock, four-wheel drive track with consistently world-class scenery, and plenty of privacy.
It's also long, slow, bumpy and monotonous driving, when you're not looking at that scenery, but more on that later.
I'm currently hiking and camping in Utah, which explains this off-topic post. I'll continue to cover big news when I'm able to access email, and will also upload and time-phase these entries for posting when I come into town for gas and supplies. To find more of this type of writing based on past trips, look to the folder link at left titled Not Here but There: A Wilderness Journal.
As I took my morning walk today and watched the canyons fill with sunlight and shadow, it occurred to me: If I ever become deaf, I would move to the desert.
Not so surprising, when you think about it. The desert is a place of great stillness, and a place that silence suits well. And after all, sound is the most evanescent of all sensations – here and then gone in an instant, leaving no trace. To be deaf in the desert would be to become more a part of it - a place that displays time and timelessness in its every ancient feature. The events or sensations of an instant – or indeed of a lifetime - don't cut much mustard in such a place as this.
But let me not mislead you: soundless does not equate to lifeless. The desert is a vibrant place, especially at night, as the tracks in the morning sand make clear. Even during the day, any walk through a brushy area will flush cottontails and jackrabbits, the former hopping tentatively away, the latter moving on with greater determination, though both noiselessly. Lizards, large and small, are ever present, and freeze or silently scamper off, depending on what you do. And birds, while scarce, are often in view if you look for them, if not in earshot.
Nor is the desert really silent, actually, though it certainly is in contrast to the rest of the world. So it must especially seem to those that visit the desert briefly in air-conditioned cars to snap a few pictures and then move on. Which is to say almost everyone, including most that move to the rapidly growing cities of the southwest, looking for inexpensive real estate and winter sun, and not for the desert itself.
Quote of the Day
“Now is the time to resource and implement open data throughout the world”
-Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the Open Web Foundation
Xiamen Introduces IPR Support Policy USITO.org Weekly May 5, 2016 - On April 26, Xiamen launched the first nationwide "Full Coverage" IPR Support and Incentive Policy, within the scope of patents, trademarks, copyrights, integrated circuit design, geographic indication and new plant varieties.
The main policy components include:
- Expanding the scope of overseas IPR registration subsidies to include the EU, US, and Japan as well as South Korea and Australia
- Establishing an IPR finance center to encourage IP financing
- Creating a risk compensation system for IPR ventures
- Creating a subsidy system for overseas IPR protection ...Full Story
Sir Tim Berners-Lee: data poverty is the next frontier of inequality Ben Rossi InformationAge May 5, 2016 - The lack of free access to government data – or ‘data poverty’ – is contributing to widening inequality around the world, according to Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
The inventor of the World Wide Web has called out governments for not doing enough to publish their data online, which can help combat corruption and result in vital new services for citizens....Fewer than 10% of the datasets surveyed were open, and most of these are in the rich world. Almost none are in African countries....According to the study, this ‘data divide’ is depriving developing countries of the information tools they need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on education, health, environment, and rule of law.... ...Full Story
Audit: DOT needs to act on vehicle cybersecurity Grayson Ullman FedScoop May 4, 2016 - The Department of Transportation needs a clearer idea of what its responsibilities would be in a real-world cyberattack on connected cars or other vehicles, according to a new Government Accountability Office study.
The report, completed last month but only released on Monday, concludes that numerous interfaces standard in modern vehicles are susceptible to exploits that would allow hackers to gain control of safety-critical systems, including braking and steering.
The study surveyed 32 stakeholders in the automotive industry, including eight automakers, three vehicle cybersecurity firms and seven vehicle cybersecurity researchers. A chief concern among experts was that although the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has established a vehicle cybersecurity program, the DOT at large has not determined a response method in the case of a catastrophic vehicle hack.... ...Full Story
Let's Encrypt Reaches 2,000,000 Certificates Seth Schoen Electronic Frontier Foundation May 3, 2016 - The Let's Encrypt certificate authority issued its two millionth certificate on Thursday, less than two months after the millionth certificate....each certificate can cover several web sites, so the certificates Let's Encrypt has issued are already protecting millions and millions of sites.
This rapid adoption has made Let's Encrypt one of the world's largest public certificate authorities by number of certificates issued, and almost all of them are protecting domains that never supported HTTPS before. The Internet needs to migrate away from the insecure HTTP protocol, and we're very pleased to be helping to make that possible....EFF co-founded the Let's Encrypt CA with Mozilla and researchers from the University of Michigan. Akamai and Cisco joined the project as founding sponsors, and many other organizations have stepped up to sponsor the project since launch.... ...Full Story
Web Storage (Second Edition) is a W3C Recommendation Press Release W3C.org May 2, 2016 - The Web Platform Working Group has published a W3C Recommendation of "Web Storage (Second Edition)." This specification defines an API for persistent data storage of key-value pair data in Web clients. It introduces two related mechanisms, similar to HTTP session cookies, for storing name-value pairs on the client side. The first mechanism is designed for scenarios where the user is carrying out a single transaction, but could be carrying out multiple transactions in different windows at the same time. The second mechanism is designed for storage that spans multiple windows, and lasts beyond the current session.... ...Full Story
Survey Highlights Security Concern Among IoT Developers Patricio Robles Programmable Web April 29, 2016 - According to the second annual IoT Developer Survey, security is the top concern of IoT developers. The survey, which polled 528 IoT developers, was conducted by the Eclipse IoT Working Group in partnership with the IEEE IoT and the AGILE-IoT research project.
Of developers working in organizations that have deployed IoT solutions, nearly half (48.3%) identified security as their leading concern. In the same group of respondents, interoperability and performance were the second and third biggest concerns, with 31.9% and 21%, respectively....
Not only can vulnerabilities in IoT applications be the source of privacy breaches, as the IoT extends its reach to things like cars, security vulnerabilities could theoretically put lives in danger....In this year's IoT Developer Survey, nearly half (46%) of those polled indicated that their company is developing and deploying IoT solutions, and 29% indicated that their company plans to within the next 18 months, suggesting that adoption of IoT technologies is accelerating.... ...Full Story
The advantages of open source in Internet of Things design Jennifer Calhoon DesignWorldOnline April 28, 2016 - The Internet of Things is booming and with millions of devices to be connected over the coming years, many developers are focusing on the IoT opportunity....There are many commonalities between IoT solutions across different applications—the need for wireless connections, communication between devices and back-end systems, and data collection/interpretation are a few examples. But the proliferation of proprietary systems that are often in silos makes developing and building these solutions more complex and time consuming than needed. In a fast-moving, fragmented industry, open source technologies will play an increasingly fundamental role in mitigating these challenges and enabling seamless systems to further fuel innovation.
One way to circumvent the interoperability challenge is by establishing and using standards. Thoughtful and collaborative standardization improves choice and flexibility. As a result, developers can use devices from multiple vendors to build a solution that is innovative and meets their specific needs. We’ve outlined a few key channels that are essential to unlocking the potential of open source in IoT development.
Standards are necessary across the whole ecosystem and are being addressed by the industry in multiple ways. For example, industry standards organizations, like oneM2M (a consortium of industry stakeholders), has developed technical specifications to address the need for a common M2M Service Layer that can be embedded within various hardware and software and relied on to connect a wide range of devices to M2M application servers.
Another complementary approach to standards development is the release of designs and specifications into the open source community as open hardware and interface standards for others to adopt. Examples include Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Beaglebone, which enable quick prototyping, as well as the mangOH open hardware reference design, an open source design that is more easily scalable in commercial settings and is built specifically for IoT cellular connectivity.
Open source platforms like these enable developers that may have limited hardware, wireless or low-level software expertise to start developing IoT applications in days—rather than months. If executed properly, these can significantly reduce the time and effort to get prototypes from paper to production by ensuring that various connectors and sensors work together automatically with no additional coding required. With industrial-grade specifications, these next-generation platforms not only allow quick prototyping, but also rapid industrialization of IoT applications.
On the software side, using widely supported open source software application frameworks and development environments, such as Linux—itself an open source solution—can be extremely helpful by providing developers the head start that is required to get a product to market faster. When it comes to proprietary solutions, support for its development framework tends to rest on the original vendor, whose agenda may not align with the needs of the community. Open source solutions ensure a future-proof investment and longevity, so that resources and tools are available and continually enhanced for years to come....
To further advance the industry, we must commit to a standards-based and open-source strategy. Not only will it continue to be critical to the health of IoT innovation, but it will lay the groundwork for real innovation. Just as it supported many other areas of technology development—including nothing less than the Internet itself—open standards are the key to realizing the unforeseen benefits of a more connected world. ...Full Story
ANSI Energy Efficiency Standardization Coordination Collaborative (EESCC) Releases Roadmap Progress Report Press Release ANSI.org April 27, 2016 - The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Energy Efficiency Standardization Coordination Collaborative (EESCC) announced today the publication of a Progress Report detailing the standardization community’s activity to advance recommendations outlined in the EESCC’s Standardization Roadmap: Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment. Published in June 2014 to serve as a national framework for action and coordination, the roadmap identified gaps where standards and codes were needed to improve energy and water efficiency in the built environment.
Available as a free resource, the Progress Report features updates on 71 of the 109 standards-based gaps identified in the roadmap, demonstrating significant progress within the standardization community to advance energy and water efficiency through standards-based solutions. The report also includes a summary of all of the standards-based roadmap gaps, including those for which there is no known progress at this time, so that readers may easily identify opportunities to take action on closing the gaps.... ...Full Story
Anti-innovation: EU excludes open source from new tech standards Glyn Moody Ars Technica April 27, 2016 - As part of its Digital Single Market strategy, the European Commission has unveiled "plans to help European industry, SMEs, researchers and public authorities make the most of new technologies." In order to "boost innovation," the Commission wants to accelerate the creation of new standards for five buzzconcepts: 5G, cloud computing, internet of things, data technologies, and cybersecurity.
The key document is one entitled "ICT Standardisation Priorities for the Digital Single Market," which says: "Open standards ensure ... interoperability, and foster innovation and low market entry barriers in the Digital Single Market, including for access to media, cultural and educational content." The word "open" occurs 26 times in the document, and is also frequently found in the other "communications" just released by the European Commission: on digitising European industry (9 times), and on the European Cloud Initiative (50 times).
"Open" is generally used in the documents to denote "open standards," as in the quotation above. But the European Commission is surprisingly coy about what exactly that phrase means in this context. It is only on the penultimate page of the ICT Standardisation Priorities document that we finally read the following key piece of information: "ICT standardisation requires a balanced IPR [intellectual property rights] policy, based on FRAND licensing terms."...
The problem for open source is that standard licensing can be perfectly fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory, but would nonetheless be impossible for open source code to implement. Typically, FRAND licensing requires a per-copy payment, but for free software, which can be shared any number of times, there's no way to keep tabs on just how many copies are out there. Even if the per-copy payment is tiny, it's still a licensing requirement that open source code cannot meet....Ars has asked the European Commission for comment on its decision to use FRAND, rather than a royalty-free approach. We'll update this story when the EC responds.... ...Full Story
Open Data Barometer 2015: 5 European countries in the Top 10 Cyrille Chausson EU Joinup April 26, 2016 - Five European countries ranked in the top 10 of the 2015 Open Data Barometer, recently published by the World Wide Web Foundation.
The UK is still at the top of the barometer, but is now followed by the USA and France, both ranked second. France, which was third in 2014, received good marks in three criteria: government action, political impact and, citizens and civil rights.
Denmark ranked 5th and moved up by four positions. The Netherlands ranked 7th and Sweden 9th, with both losing ground (-1 for the former, -6 for the latter)....Other conclusions from 2015 include the fact that “Open Data is entering the mainstream”, with 55% of the 92 countries listed in the survey now having an open data initiative in place. However, almost 90% of data are still locked, the report said. Only 10% of the published data are open (following the open data definition) but are also of poor quality, “making it difficult for potential data users to access, process, and work with it effectively”.
Lastly, this Open Data Barometer warns about “open-washing” behavior, which is “jeopardizing progress”. “Open data initiatives cannot be effective if not supported by a culture of openness where citizens are encouraged to ask questions and engage, and are supported by a legal framework”, the report said. “Disturbingly, in this edition we saw a backslide on freedom of information, transparency, accountability, and privacy indicators in some countries.” ...Full Story