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4 min read

There are those who would consider the Federation to be socialist at best, communistic at worst. But the simple reality is that the United Federation of Planets was born from Earth being forced to go it alone in 2155 when the Coalition of Planets collapsed in the face of the Romulan threat.

A lone wolf was forced to wage war against a dynamic, militaristic oppressive threat to everyone. But only United Earth and her Starfleet stepped up to the plate and waged the battles necessary to bring the Romulan threat to heal, with enough force to negotiate the treaty that ended the war on terms fairly positive for Earth following the Romulan defeat at the Battle of Charon.

The Federation may seem socialistic, but that's only because the need for capitalistic based incentives to push forward have been marginalized. Warp drive has opened up the asteroid belt to massive industrial exploitation. Anti-gravity has allowed easy and massive access to space for massive space-based power collectors to harness the sun's output. With the advent of transporters and replicators, basic needs can be provided for at a lower cost than the price of administering a system to control access.

Elimination of competition for resources has allowed Earth, Mars, the Terran colonies and the other members of the Federation to pursue the scientific, technological, artistic and philosophical advances that the individual's heart desires. When failure has no cost, advancement can be made with impunity because one does not need to balance the resource demands of a successful attempt with the resource depletion of failure.

My point? Don't look down on the Utopia us trekkers long for. Its not about socialism winning out over capitalism. Its about advancement winning out over limited resources.

From a philosophical point of view, Starfleet and the civilian research agencies still pursue a capitalistic approach, dealing in the currency of personal integrity, reputation and honor. Its a currency that the American soldiers have in great abundance.

And so my point is, at long last, made clear. With Memorial Day just around the corner, I want it made clear that my dreams and desires for a day when the Federation flag flies over the Presidential Offices in Paris, over Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy on the Presidio in San Fransisco, is not a dream of a world without American ideals. Ideas such as personal achievement, Freedom of Speech, Press, liberty, pursuit of happiness, the right to bare arms, the right to privacy and security of person and mind; all the rights and liberties we aspire to but fail to reach so often in this country.

Its a dream where those rights and liberties no longer need to compete with the need for power and resource control. When those rights and liberties can shine free with the support of the very universe itself supporting and nurturing them.

And that is why, in addition to the men and women of the United States armed forces over the last 240years, I also will be remembering the men and women of United Earth and the United Federation of Planets of the next 360yrs who have given their lives in defense of a dream when we can chose our own destiny, unbridled by the misinformation of those who would control us and the resource limitations of the ones who would hold us back.

God bless those who write a blank check to protect our freedoms; good for, up to and including, their very lives.


Post inspired by discussions held at the Center County hackerspace: The Make Space (of State College, PA - www.makespace.io) and this DeviantArt: Federation Flag

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3 min read
So by now many of you will be familiar with Grant Thompson, better known as "The King of Random" (Facebook: www.facebook.com/thekingofrand…; Youtube: www.youtube.com/thekingofrando… ).

If you haven't seen the video "Melting Cans With The Mini Metal Foundry", then you seriously need to jump through that link and spend the best 5 minutes of your life with your kid in your lap. Even my 3yo loves this movie and idea.

Okay, now that you are back and have seen the movie, you might realize this doesn't look that complicated. And with the video on how to make the foundry, it gets even easier. Yesterday I started my foundry, installing the industrial handles to the sides of my fairly large ~25gallon steel keg, and re-enforcing the sides where the bolts come through with three 1/16th plates of mild steel.

Today I began the next step.... pouring out a test cast of the recipe I designed for the cast-in-place firebrick. Grant's foundry uses sand & plaster. Another gent on youtube built a propane-fired forge out of a 5lb coffee can using Sodium Silicate as a binder with Perlite as the material. I decided to try a hybrid approach since I didn't want to deal with the chemicals to make the Sodium silicate. I have a small batch in a container right now (about 1 inch thick) curing to be tested. If right, this should have better thermal insulation properties over the pure plaster/sand version while also not requiring the Sodium Silicate.

Have rules class tomorrow, then off on Wed. We'll see what happens. I'm SO looking forward to having a metal melting capable furnace.

Oh, as an aside, unlike Grant's furnace which uses a single 1" pipe to provide combustion air, I developed a means to provide two opposing streams of air into the furnace. Once I get the last elbows, the piping arrangement will fit perfectly into the foundry (by pure chance there) and will be submerged and buried by the cast-in-place firebrick. This should provide the ability to get a hotter fire with a lower temperature differential in the "cold spots" furthest from the air streams. I was stuck on a bellows device, trying to figure that out nearly derailed the plan, however a stop at the local salvage dealer provided a vintage steel-bodied hand-help vacuum cleaner. I'll remove the bag and vacuuming fixture to provide a constant flow "air-pump".

-Lite the fires & melt the tires! :-D

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5 min read
Okay, first off, an update.

In my last post you will remember that I reported the death of my external 2terabyte Western Digital USB3.0 "MyPassport" data drive with ALL my data being completely destroyed. More than twenty years of creative arts lost and more than two thousand pictures of my kids over the years gone. As you will recall, I reported that the actual hard drive's motherboard did NOT include a SATA port, but "featured" the USB3.0 (micro) port natively on the drive controller board. When the USB controller failed, there was no way to get around that to recover the data. That happened in early-to-mid January. With my annual engineer's bonus coming, I new I had the money to rebuild. But I had a decision to make.

My AMD Phenom II CPU/Gigabyte motherboard combination had served me well for 4years, 8months. If it hadn't been for the death of the motherboard's USB controller as well, I would still be using it even now. But with its death, I had to make a choice: spend a couple hundred on a new motherboard with technology already 5+ years old, or shell out even more to buy a new flagship Intel Core i7, motherboard & DDR4 ram. I agonized over the decision for weeks, but ultimately decided to just buy the new AMD motherboard. I would get to recycle my RAM, CPU, power supply, and chip cooler. The decision was made much simpler by the fact I found a nice Asus "Sabertooth" board pulling the 990FX chipset, allowing me to eventually upgrade to a whopping total of 32 gigabytes of ram!

During this, I decided since I had to break the system down and to a full rebuild, I might as well get a new chassis. This was justified by the fact the case was already damaged before any of this went down. Ended up with the gorgeous & feature-full Corsair Obsidian 650D chassis. Even managed to snag a better than 60% off the street price by buying a refurb unit direct from Corsair. I wasn't fully satisfied by the unit I received because it was obviously used and not factory reconditioned. However, nothing was damaged, just stuff out of their normal bags & other details not right for a new unit. For the price I certainly could not complain.

The system parts began arriving and as soon as the Obsidian occupied my residence the build commenced. With the new motherboard came native USB3.0. While researching this new (to me) technology, I realized that while USB3 is touted as being backward compatible with USB2, it isn't really. At least not physically. The standard "A" plug is... but only because it features both the USB2.0 4-pin hardware contacts AND the USB3.0 5-pin hardware contacts. It occurred to me during this research, that just perhaps, if the physical plug was in fact a hybrid and not truly backward compatible, then just maybe the systems were in fact separate all the way to the controller chip. If that were true, then it was possible that the USB2 controller in my drive was dead, but since it had never been brought online from the motherboard end, perhaps the USB3.0 controller lived... even if only just long enough to pull some or maybe even all of my data off the drive platters.

But since the death of the drive had precipitated the death of the motherboard's controller, (whether this was the cause, a coincidence, or the controller dieing killed the drive, I'll never know) I was terrified of nuking my brand new motherboard's very expensive controller; (while the technology was old, this board was two chipset generations (9** versus the original 7** chipset) newer and featured a host of more advanced technologies and capabilities, it still cost me $75 more than the original board). I decided to provide a bit of insurance and decided to purchase a new USB 3.0 hub. Since I would choose one with its own power supply, the ports SHOULD be electrically isolated (power-wise) with only the data ports actually making a circuit with the computer. This also had two additional benefits: 1) because the tower would sit above, on top of the computer desk my wife & I share, the distance from the motherboard's USB ports and the desk surface was rather large, especially with cables routed to provide a clean appearance. 2) The hub would also protect the ports from the tortures of constant connections being made & unmade, made & unmade. I selected a seven-port USB3.0 hub with external power supply from the AmazonBasics line. This hub arrived in a brushed aluminum housing and while costing $44.99, has proven to be worth every penny.

With the hub installed, it was time for the moment of truth. With great trepidation, I connected the WD "MyPassport" to the cable and carefully, fearfully slide it into the hub's port. A couple of seconds later the familiar chime of USB being connected issued from my speakers. A couple seconds there-after an Explorer window popped into view and there were all the files I had thought lost for several months! My theory about the separate controllers had been proven... well, maybe right is too strong, but certainly plausible. I of course immediately copied ALL data off the drive to the other drives in the tower, securing access should the drive die again. I think I'll send it to WD to get it repaired before the warranty runs out. A third backup is never a bad idea.... a point certainly made by the drive's long term hiatus!
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9 min read
Life is the ultimate long road. Often times, you don't see the fork in the road until you are long past the point of being able to go back and take the other path.

On thursday, my long road began. I completed a full spinrite scan on my external drive, doing everything I could to try and ensure that my data would be safe. Though a USB scan is obviously less thorough than a direct hardware interface, I believed a scan would confirm the safety (or let me know it wasn't safe) to hold all my data on one drive. It wasn't a long term thing. It wasn't even for a short term. I just needed it off my other drive long enough to format and reinstall windows.

In that time, the USB connector/controller on the drive's circuitboard died. Unlike older drives where the case provided a conversion from IDE or SATA to the USB interface, these drives actually have a native USB interface from the drive itself. The problem is that unlike the version that converts to USB, the native version has no way for the user to "bare metal" connect to the drive. You have to go through the USB interface, controller, drivers, the operating system to get to the drive.

I'm praying that the recovery company will be able to get around the USB failure. If they have to remove the platters and get at the data the "hard" way (no pun intended) I'm looking at thousands of dollars to get my data back.

I lost twenty years of graphics, logos drawings and story-writing revolving around my fictitious world of the Freedom Central Corporation. In this universe, my ideas on how to run a railroad have been borne to fruition. Steam locomotives, dedication to excellent customer service, advanced technology and innovation provide a superb way for me to escape the realities of the real world and de-stress from the rigors of being a locomotive engineer on a major freight railroad. In this case, I can come home and run the company the way I think it should be run. Besides, my paint schemes are much more colorful and cheery than my employer's. With it all, I lost all teh drawings of trains I had done over the last twenty years as well. All that remains is what currently resides on the DA servers.

I lost my entire multimedia collection. This was extensive, much collected before the iTunes revolution began. This includes all the movies I'd taken of trains over the years. I'll start over, but it will take time and money. Until then, all that remains is that which I had uploaded to Youtube.

Not quite the biggest loss, but one I feel almost as critically as the next one, was the loss of my entire photography database. decades of pictures of sunsets, bees, deer, leaves, and more critically, my archeological records. Most people won't care, but there are those of us who realize the importance of recording our technological & industrial history as possible before it decays into rust streaks on the ground. Massive temples to Zeus and Gaia, the steel mills of our nation represent mankinds' ability to literally reshape the very earth we live on through the controlled application of fire. These relics of a bygone era when America stood proud as a nation of people who worked hard to build a better future for ourselves and our posterity.

Crumbling railroad control towers which guard long-since computer controlled and remotely dispatched interlockings and long ripped up diamonds and tracks that are nothing but memories in the minds of the oldest historians. Buildings which provided vital service the men and women who moved America before she even realized she needed moving. Artifacts of a long gone age of royal travel by train all across the continent in luxurious passenger cars that make the presidential suites in modern hotels look stark and so-so in comparison. Much of the history I had recorded has long been destroyed, even in the last ten years since I recorded it in pixels and bytes.

The thousands of pictures of trains... both those I'd taken and many which I'd archived off the net. The net ones were recorded as research material for stories, drawings or other processes. The ones I'd taken recorded as much history of the Iron Horse as I could pull off in the last twenty years. As a railroader myself, the day to day events of trains don't interest me much. Its the obscure, unique or different that caught my attention. As a result, much of my loss is a loss for history just as much. Cabooses which passed through the Altoona are on their final trips to the scrappers' torches. Long since converted to strips of scrap steel, these were rolling homes for train crews for the last hundred years. Lives and fortunes were made in the caboose. Lives were lost in them when accidents occurred. The caboose, a technology itself long made obsolete by the advancement of technology, is a rolling tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in dedicated service to the companies that kept American rolling. The movement of equipment and troops for every war since the Great Rebellion in 1861, the railroads have been the nations' arm of rapid deployment. We kept the coke ovens and power plants fed with coal, the steel mills fed with coke and iron ore. The naval yards fed with steel to build the warships that patrol Earth Oceans. Not only as a wartime fighting force, but also as a peacetime peacekeeping mission. Not only for America, but for all humans.

We keep the grain from the midwest moving to the bakeries for bread and cakes. We keep that same grain moving to the coast ports for export to hungry children world wide. We kept animal stock moving to the stockyards and meat processing plants in Chicago, the dressed meat to markets across the nation. Today, a daily train from Florida provides fresh orange juice to the northeast. Its the Tropicana Juice Train, and its just one way we continue to feed America. And even though the movement of tanks and other wartime vehicles is the most obvious way rails help keep America safe, its not the only one. A single 18,000ton coal train keeps 400plus trucks off the roads. Thats ONE TRAIN. figure 100 such trains a day moving all across the country, maybe more? Think the price of gas is bad now? (Yes, I know its dropped in the last few days) Add 40,000 trucks to the highways a day moving coal to power plants, steel mills, home heating distributers, and the ports for export. Now factor in grain trains during the harvest season. A single intermodal doublestack train can carry as many as 400 containers on one train. So it blocks you at the crossing for 5 minutes. Would your rather contend with those 400 containers on trucks jockeying for position with you on the interstates?

Yes, railroading is still alive and very important to American and the other nations of earth. My loss is an insult to all those who have given their lives over the last hundred plus years of railroading.

Finally, the greatest loss of all. Eight wonderful years of pictures of my children. Amelia, Logan, Elizabeth, Aiden and Gabriel. Thousands of memories which now are just that. Memories. No more pictures of smiling faces on christmas. No more pictures of these first birthdays where each received their own litttle 4" "smash" cake. Their first days of school. Their first days in the pool. Here, I got lucky. A few weeks ago I uploaded over 300 pictures of the kids to my Google plus account to make a photo show for my Chromecast. I get to watch these events cycle on the big screen TV. But 300 is all of those pictures, and only the absolute best got chosen. There was still massive loss here.

I know that all this doesn't hold a candle to the losses people suffer every day with all the madness in the world. But learn something from my mistake.

Please, follow the 3-2-1 backup rules.

3 copies of any file you want to keep. This is in addition to the copies of the files you are using.
2 copies should be on different types of media. Hard drives, SSDs and flash drives all count as one type. HDDs can be erased by strong magnetic fields. SSD and flash can be corrupted by strong radiation and electrostatic pulses in the atmosphere. All three could be damaged by a strong solar flare impacting the Earth's magnetic shields which protect our fragile ecosystem. You need to include DVD/CD or BluRay backups to account for electromagnetic corruption of data.
1 copy NEEDS to be off site. If your house is destroyed by flood, fire, tornado, hurricane or crushed by blizzard, you need at least one copy off site that will hopefully survive the destruction of your loss.

3-2-1. And some people agree that the saying should be modified to be 3-2-1-C - With the final C being a cloud storage option. The C becomes a great backup because teh companies backup their own data and have it geographically duplicated in multiple datacenters around the globe. But you still need to have your own backups because what happens if the company you chose gets hit with a virus like Sony? What happens when they go bankrupt?

Learn from my mistake. DONT put all your digital eggs in one rotating basket. Backup, 3-2-1-Cloud.

Good luck securing your own memories, God bless you in this new year.

Who knows when I'll be back with a new submission to my DA Gallery. Its a long road back from the destruction of your life's work. But you can't keep a creative person down long.

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1 min read

Whereas some artisans work in Copper or iron, brass or gold, my mediums of choice are the word and the electron.

In days of old, I'd have been known as a wordsmith; but in the world of the Internet, I find me Identifying myself as a BitSmith.

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Memorial Day, 2016... 2375? by jgallaway81, journal

Bitsmith? Nah, but I am getting a foundry going! by jgallaway81, journal

The long road... of torture and recovery! by jgallaway81, journal

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Bitsmith? Or Bytesmith? by jgallaway81, journal