Category Archives: Sufficiently Advanced Technology

‘Fusion Power Just Ten Years Away!’

So suggests the New York Times in Compact Nuclear Fusion Reactor Is ‘Very Likely to Work,’ Studies Suggest,

Scientists developing a compact version of a nuclear fusion reactor have shown in a series of research papers that it should work, renewing hopes that the long-elusive goal of mimicking the way the sun produces energy might be achieved and eventually contribute to the fight against climate change.

Construction of a reactor, called Sparc, which is being developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a spinoff company, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, is expected to begin next spring and take three or four years, the researchers and company officials said.

Although many significant challenges remain, the company said construction would be followed by testing and, if successful, building of a power plant that could use fusion energy to generate electricity, beginning in the next decade.

Before you get too excited, however, consider my previous post on this topic — in 2018, under the headline Fusion Allegedly Just Five Years Away — BBC:

I’ve written before on how fusion power is always coming, never here. About a year and a half ago I posted this:

Fusion Power is Only 15 Years Away, we’re told. I guess that’s progress since in just the last few years people have said its Always 50 Years Away, or maybe Always 30 Years Away, or maybe formely 30 years away, now its more like 50 years away, or maybe just forever 20 years away, or 13 Years Away.

So ten years away is progress, right? Then again three years ago it ten years away so maybe we’re going backwards?

Or maybe we’re looking at the wrong scientific advance here: what we really have is an odd form of time travel?

But comes now the BBC to tell us that according to some startups, maybe fusion power is just five years away, which certainly seems like the frontier is getting closer…or some startups have at least got fusion going on their hype…

I’m sure someday one of these predictions will be right. Someday. Meanwhile, however, the hype frontier has moved back to ten years from five…

Posted in Science/Medicine, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

Three Facts That Caught My Eye

Teardown of pregnancy test (from BBC)

Three not-quite-random facts that caught my eye recently, two about COVID, one about computers.

Posted in COVID-19, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 3 Comments

In America TV Watches You

I find this creepy:

First came product placement. In exchange for a payment, whether in cash, supplies or services, a TV show or a film would prominently display a brand-name product.

Then there was virtual product placement. Products or logos would be inserted into a show during editing, thanks to computer-generated imagery.

Now, with the rise of Netflix and other streaming platforms, the practice of working brands into shows and films is likely to get more sophisticated. In the near future, according to marketing executives who have had discussions with streaming companies, the products that appear onscreen may depend on who is watching.

Tiffany Hsu, You See Pepsi, I See Coke: New Tricks for Product Placement (NYT)

It is creepy, right? I’m not just being cranky?

Posted in Law: Privacy, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

‘Smart Referer’ Firefox Extension Blocks Google Two-Factor Authentication

The other day I echoed recommendations on Hardening Firefox that I got from an article by Keith Axline. Since then, however, I’ve learned two things.

First, Axline has changed his recommendations from HTTPS Everywhere to Smart HTTPS for the reasons given in this thread.

Second, I discovered that when I had Smart Referer on, I wasn’t able to use Google two-factor authentication.  Instead,  when google asked me to authenticate via my phone, I got timeouts instantly.

Disabling the Smart Referer extension temporarily (which is easy as it creates a button on the toolbar) allowed me to log in, and things seem to work fine if I re-enable Smart Referer immediately after I log in to my Gmail.  But that may be more annoyance than most people want, especially given that Google two factor authentication is more annoyance than most people want.

Posted in Software, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 1 Comment

Memo to Self re: Hardening Firefox (Updated)

Make sure all of the following extensions are installed on all my computers

Also use 1.1.1.1 for DNS and change default search engine to Duck Duck Go or to Startpage. Full manual DNS settings are:

 1.1.1.1
 1.0.0.1 
 2606:4700:4700::1111 
 2606:4700:4700::1001

As per A Few Simple Steps to Vastly Increase Your Privacy Online.

Note that I already have a VPN, or I’d be suggesting that too.

Posted in Software, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

Pixel One Battery Replacement is Possible!

One of the more annoying things about the Pixel 1, aside from the Google Assistant that I had to disable on privacy grounds, is that it’s a sealed case — so no way to replace the battery. This started to become an issue a few weeks ago. It wasn’t just that battery life had gotten noticeably worse, you expect that after a couple of years, it was that the battery would go from c.20% to dead without any warning.

It turns out, however, that there’s an entire chain of Google-certified phone repair joints with the silly name of ubreakifix that will replace the battery in a Pixel in a couple of hours for about $80. That’s a lot cheaper than buying a new phone. I was afraid the thing would have horrible scars from being pried open, but no. “We have tools” the tech told me smugly, and it indeed there’s no sign the case has been opened, but battery life is 50% greater than it was last week.

So now I’m likely good until Google orpahans the phone, which could come as soon as in October, at which point supposedly they’ll stop doing patches for it. The idea of course is to make me buy a new phone. Sadly, it will probably work. I hope the Pixel 4 is better than the Pixel 3 or I may to switch to Samsung.

Posted in Shopping, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 4 Comments