Smart autonomous vehicle suspension

September 27, 2022 at 9:52 pm (Transportation, Ideas)

Autonomous cars are almost here, like they have been for a few years now. Tesla is pursuing an all-camera strategy, but most other contestants are going with a sensor suite that includes multiple sensing technologies (camera, radar, lidar) and often high resolution maps.

High resolution maps are interesting because they can tell the cars where the smoothest part of the road is, giving you a comfortable ride. However, keeping them in sync with reality can be a chore, what happens as the road degrades, new potholes appear, or a road gets fixed?

One possible solution is to have sensors monitoring the suspension. If a car detects rough road it can save that information and try to avoid that spot in the future. It can also pass that along to other cars (most likely in the same fleet or from the same manufacturer) so that they too can avoid the issue.

Just having suspension sensors is only part of the solution though. If a car hits rough road, the car needs to know if moving over a little bit will make things better or make things worse. This is where camera data and machine learning (ML) comes in.

When rough road is detected, a short video clip of the road (taken the few seconds before the rough road was experienced so the video will have the rough patch) can be uploaded along with the sensor data. Machine learning models can be trained to recognize what rough road looks like. This is supervised learning since ground truth (the rough road) is known via the sensor data.

The map can also be updated directly to mark that area as rough, and, via the recorded video if the ML model predicts the road is smooth to the side of it that way, the car can plan on rough road and move to avoid it before it is even visible in the cameras, this prevents the need to make sharp adjustments which itself is negative the passengers. When this evasive maneuver is done, camera data can still be collected for the path the wheels would have been on to see if the road is now predicted to be smooth (ie, the road has been fixed).

The ML model can be run as the car is driving. If it predicts that the road is rough ahead and also that it can be avoided by moving to the right or left a little bit (because the road in that area is predicted to be smooth) action can be taken. If the car can’t move, speed can be adjusted appropriately, or, in the case of an active suspension that can be adjusted. This might not give as smooth a ride as the alternative of having it mapped because it may not be able to tel the road is rough until the car is quite close

This prediction and action has a built in feedback loop, since the roughness of the road without avoidance is known (via prior sensor data) and the outcome of the avoidance is soon recorded by the suspension sensors. The ML can be trained on how good it was at giving a smoother ride.

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Time Flies

September 5, 2022 at 6:10 pm (Ideas)

Groucho Marx joked “Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana”. But, what else do Time Flies like?

Imagine there was actually a creature called a “time fly” what would it eat? What would it do? In books and movies, the question of time travel often comes up. Specifically, what if you went back in time and changed it so that you no longer existed. Some movies, like Back to the Future only have a single timeline. Others, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have multiple branching timelines.

In single timeline scenarios, something has to happen to people and things that used to exist before the time discontinuity but no longer exist after it. Enter the time flies. These flies would buzz in to eat stuff that was orphaned in time, thus making the timeline only contain what is supposed to be there.

In a branching timeline scenario, every time there was a time discontinuity the timeline branched in to two identical worlds, then time flies would go into each branch and clean up the detritus that wasn’t supposed to exist in that timeline.

I could imagine that a person’s first indication that they were orphaned in time was that they hear the buzzing of the flies getting closer to them, and, by the time they see the flies it is too late for them. Other people who exist both before and after the time discontinuity would also hear the flies coming, so a person, upon hearing the buzz might not know if they were the victim or not. Imaging being in a business meeting and hearing the buzz of the time flies, then, they burst in, devour one (or more) of your co-workers then buzz off. The meeting would then continue as if nothing had happened, because, in the timeline, nothing did. Depending how active and careful the time travelers were, this could be a frequent occurrence.

How big are time flies? How many are required to enforce the timeline? Would you have a single fly come at you or a huge swarm? These are all up to the writer. I’d think that having 10 foot tall flies would be ludicrous and make the story a comedy, but having normal size flies would just require that you have billions of them. So I flies the size of a rat to a small dog is a good comprises. Big enough to do real damage and require a handful attacking, but no bigger.

Could these flies be distracted? Could you outrun them? Probably not forever, but maybe for a short time. Maybe you could keep away from them long enough to go back in time yourself and “fix” the timeline so that you survive. How to distract them? Maybe just run faster than they could fly, or maybe you could shoot arrows at them. We know from Groucho that time flies like arrows.

A thought movie: It opens with some variation of the joke where it is unclear that “time flies” are real flies. Maybe tradition is that right before someone goes back in time they give an arrow to the people staying behind and say “time flies like an arrow”. The next scene has us seeing what happens to someone pursued by time flies (but they’re probably no one we know/care about). Then our hero (or heroine) hears buzzing and gets visibly distressed, but it turns out it is some other buzzing contraption, like a drone, or cicadas. Finally a change happens and the time flies are really after our protagonist and they have to avoid them, find the time machine, go back in time, fix everything, and return to the present.

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Thoughts on Owning a PHEV

July 6, 2022 at 10:00 pm (Transportation) (, )

I’ve been driving a Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) for over a year now, here are my thoughts on it.

I have a Toyota RAV4 Prime, which has 40 miles of electric range. During the first year I didn’t commute to work but now I go in once a week. A round trip to work and back fits comfortably in my all electric range. I didn’t hit 10,000 miles until I had had it for a year and a quarter. I keep the car in EV-only mode, which makes it not accelerate as quickly but keeps the gas engine from coming on. I haven’t had any issues with acceleration, even when merging on to the highway.

I drive conservatively, without rapid acceleration, and slowing down early to maximize the regeneration during braking. I also drive most of my miles on low-speed roads. Because of this, I usually get 50-60 miles of electric range, well above the estimated 40 miles.

On the highway, the electric range is below 40 miles. I notice the electric range drops quite rapidly as you go faster. Going 75mph gives a significantly lower range than driving at 60mph. Staying in the right lane and drafting helps, also, the highways near me are usually crowded so driving at 60 or less is not hard. When I go on trips where the roads are 70mph, I just have to live with lower range.

I find that about 80% of my miles driven are on electric. Even though almost all my trips are full electric, the occasional road trip puts a bunch of hybrid mode miles on the car. If I went in to the office every day then I’d have a higher percent of electric miles (at a correspondingly higher total miles driven).

I generally charge overnight. I plug it in to a normal 120 volt outlet. The car charges at about 4 miles of range added an hour. A full charge takes about 11.5 hours (the last hour charges slower as it gets close to 100%). If I had a 240 volt 32 amp Level 2 charger at home I could charge it twice as fast, but it would require getting an electrician to install it and I haven’t done that. Most of the time the slower charging isn’t an issue.

Most days I drive less than 40 miles, so if I charge over night, I generally don’t need to charge during the day. If I’m going to drive more miles than my range allows I try and charge during the day, but it is hard to get a useful amount of charge during the day. At 4 miles of range added per hour, if I have two hours during the day that is only 8 miles of extra range, which isn’t all that far. If I had a level 2 charger at home I could charge twice as fast, which would help in these cases. Charging at a public charger goes at about 10 miles of range added an hour (4.5 hours for a full charge), but that means I have to find something to do near the charger for an hour or two, so I don’t do that very often.

My car has a 3.3 KW charger, most public chargers support at least 6 KW so I can use them but won’t get as quick a charge. There was an option on the car for a 6.6 KW charger but it was expensive and I didn’t get it. It also doesn’t support DC Fast Charging, so I can’t use those chargers at all. I would like it much better if the default option for PHEV was 6.6 KW AC charging and DC Fast Charging supported (even if it was relatively slow)

When I go on long trips charging is really hard and generally not worth it. It is hard to find a hotel with charging (although I keep looking and hope more hotels add charging) and other public chargers aren’t usually where I want to be. I do try to charge when I can, but often I really can’t. This means that after the first 40 miles I am in hybrid mode. That still gets me 38 MPG which is good, but I’d rather be using electric. A couple of times I have gone out of my way to charge and it generally isn’t worth the hassle, for example if I want to take a 20 minute break to grab lunch, that will only get me a little over 3 miles of range at a public charger. If I have to drive a mile and a half out of my way to get to the charger (then a mile and a half back) then I haven’t gained anything. I’ve also tried bringing a book and stretching the break out to an hour, but that is still only 10 miles of range (minus however miles out of the way I had to go to get to it). It is rare that it makes sense to do this. This is another case where having a 6.6KW onboard charger would make a difference.

Electricity at home costs me about 14 cents a kilowatt hour, a full charge costs about $1.75 and works out to the equivalent of gas costing $1.50, this is much cheaper than the current $4+ a gallon gas is going for. I only go to the gas station every couple of months. I don’t miss it at all. The convenience of charging at home and not going to a gas station is more important to me than I would have thought and I realize now that gas stations kind of suck.

In the summer, when the air conditioning is on, the electric range drops by a small amount. I generally don’t worry about it. In the winter, however, the hit for running the heater is much greater, 20%-30%. This is a significant and easily noticeable reduction in range. I’d like the car to have a more effective heat pump for winter use.

If you have the ability to plug in overnight, a PHEV is a great option, it saves a lot on gas, helps the environment, and is more convenient since you don’t have to go to a gas station as often.

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Thoughts on “The History of the Ancient World”

February 5, 2022 at 12:51 pm (History) (, )

The history of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer.

When I read a history book, I always start with the preface. This is where the author explains their approach to writing and how they decide the scope of the work.

“But for the historian who hopes not just to explain what people do, but in some measure why and how they do it, prehistory—the time before people began to write and tell stories about their kinds, their heroes, and themselves—remains opaque”

That is a certain type of historian, but for me, history encompass not just what was written, but what is known from archaeology and anthropology. History is interpreting all the known facts and coming up with a consistent story of the past. This is a fusion of many different disciplines. To ignore non-written history, especially when considering the ancient world, doesn’t tell you about the people who lived then, but only about certain very important individuals, kings and great warriors. The lives of the larger population remains opaque. This book, since it focuses almost exclusively on the written record has that problem. There are lots of descriptions of kings and how new kings came to power, and which kingdoms won battles against which other kingdoms, but very little to illuminate the lives of those outside the ratified 0.001%. And I am interested in this larger group.

Another issue I have with the book, is that it uses a lot of myth and epics without enough context. Myths and epics are important, and there is often a kernel of truth to them, so they shouldn’t be ignored, but it should be clear the source of different “facts” and the implied certainty that an event did indeed happen. I don’t think this book does a good job of consistently making these distinctions.

A further problem is that the book focuses most on cultures who have the most written history that survives, and not on cultures that had the largest impact in the world at the time. There is a significant number of pages written about Greece, for instance, even though it is clear from the book that the were bit players on the world stage most of the time, notable mostly because they were regularly making deals with the kings of important kingdoms to get access to their military might.

That is not to say that the book doesn’t have it’s good parts. Where there is multiple sources for an event, the author does a good job of pulling them all together and making sense of them. A notable example is on page 386, where she ties in a story from the bible where the Assyrian king attacks Jerusalem but fails because “an angel of the Lord struck 185,000 of Sennacherib’s [the Assyrian king] men dead in the night” with Sennacherib’s description of the battle “I leveled the cities around him with battering rams…I took off two hundred thousand of his people” but somehow decided not to destroy Jerusalem, hmm, not compelling. Yet a third version comes out of Egypt, that Sennacherib was suffering from an invasion of rodents many soldiers died in their tents. Says Bauer: “The combination suggests that the plague had arrived outside Jerusalem’s walls, and that the king of Assyria retreated in the face of mounting deaths.”

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Thoughts on future Nikon cameras (2021)

December 21, 2021 at 1:14 pm (photography, The Future)

Nikon recently released (and is about to start shipping) it’s new Z9 mirrorless camera. This is an incredible step forward for Nikon and puts it back at the top of the camera heap. It is hard to stress how important this camera is for Nikon, prior to it, they were in the worst position of the big 3 (Sony, Canon, Nikon).

Let’s take a moment to review.

Sony has been in the full-frame modern mirrorless buisiness for the longest with the release of the Sony A7 in 2013 and has the most different cameras and the most lenses, both through their own development and through third parties. They came out with a really strong professional camera earlier this year, the Sony Alpha 1. It has 50 Mpix, up to 30 fps stills, 8k30p 10 bit and 4k120p video recording as well as excellent autofocus

Canon released it’s first full-frame mirrorless camera , the Canon EOS R in 2018, significantly behind Sony, however last year, it released the Canon EOS R5. This is not a flagship camera, but the specs are non-the-less impressive, 45 Mpix, up to 20 fps stills, 8k30p 10 bit and 4k120p video recording. It to is considered to have excellent autofocus. There were notable issues with overheating when taking 8k video, but, it was the first of the big 3 to have an 8k capable full-frame mirrorless camera. It’s build is a step down from some of the others, but the price is lower too, so it offers a reasonable tradeoff.

This leaves Nikon as the laggard. Like Canon, Nikon released it’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras in 2018 with the Z6 and Z7. It followed up with a new version of both of these, the Z6II, Z7II and brought out a cheaper Z5 in 2020. The Z7II, being the most expensive and with the most features, is most relevant to this discussion. It is a 45 Mpix camera, up to 10 fps, and 4k60p video recording. The autofocus of this camera is considered to be worse than the equivalent Sony and Canon cameras. Despite these shortcomings, the stills image quality is arguably the best.

Now let’s talk about the Z9. Just a few months ago Nikon released it’s newest mirrorless camera, it has 45 Mpix camera, 8k30p 10 bit and 4k120p as well as a promised future 8k60p mode for video recording. Reviews have shown the autofocus to be every bit as good as the Sony and Canon cameras due largely to their new Expeed7 processing engine. The sensor is also a brand new stacked CMOS sensor that has a much faster readout than older sensors, this allowed for the removal of the mechanical shutter entirely. Nikon is finally out with a top-of-the-line product after trailing the competition.

These cameras are not cheap, the Sony Alpha 1 is $6,500, the Canon R5 is $4,000, and the Nikon Z9 is $5,500, most people will not be buying these cameras. So, why is everyone excited? New features come out on higher end cameras then trickle down to lower priced ones. Even if you won’t be buying the most expensive camera of your chosen camera system, you know over the next few years there will be new, cheaper cameras that you can afford and that will have at least some of these features. You can consider it a preview of what is to come.

This isn’t a review, or even a comprehensive list of features, there are plenty of other articles available if you want that, I have just touched on a few of the features that I think will be important in the future. This leads us to the main point of the article, what do I see happening in the future. Note that I have no inside information, this is pure speculation on my part, I’m sharing it so that I can look back in a couple of years and see how close I was.

And now….The Future

Be aware, I am focusing on features the Z9 has that can trickle down to lower priced bodies, not other features that could be added.

Nikon Z5

This is the entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera. It is still competitive in its price range so I don’t see features from the Z9 trickling down to this camera in the next couple of years.

Nikon Z6iii

Same as the Z6II but with Expeed 7 and thus, better AF. The processor might be running at a lower clock speed than the Z9 which would let Nikon use chips that would otherwise be wasted. Other than than the autofocus the Z6II is pretty competitive, so not much is needed. Hopefully the price can remain the same. The Z6II has two Expeed 6 processors so as long as the Expeed 7 isn’t more than twice as expensive it should work, and, higher volumes usually mean lower pricess.

Release: Fall 2022. This would make the Z6III be two years after the Z6II, which itself was two years after the original Z6. There also aren’t many changes needed.

Nikon Z7III

This is probably the most critical camera for them to update, it is much higher volume than the Z9 and it is the camera that is furthest behind the competition. Same size as the Z7II, but with the same sensor as the Z9 and with the Expeed 7 processor instead of dual Expeed 6 so it has the same auto-focus abilities. It also won’t have a mechanical shutter. It will be able to record 8k30p video but probably with a time limit, since the body is smaller, it may not be able to dissipate heat fast enough for unlimited 8k recording. I’d expect pricing to be around where the Z7II is, maybe a few hundred higher.

The cost savings from removing the mechanical shutter should offset the higher cost of the sensor, and re-using the sensor saves a lot of development and production costs. Nikon will have also paid back most of the sensor development costs via Z9 sales and higher volume will further reduce the per-unit cost. 8K has recording limits (say 30 minutes) because with a smaller body there will be more problems with heat dissipation.

No need to change other features, so the Z7III wouldn’t have a lot of features the z9 has, like LAN, big battery, full sized HDMI, top-notch weatherproofing, etc. All the things that pros need but enthusiasts don’t.

Many people think that these features that are moving down from the Z9 will be put into a camera called a Z8, but I disagree. I think that would basically make the Z7II uncompetitive and impossible to have a meaningful update that didn’t make it equal to this hypothetical Z8. I also think Nikon will use the Z8 name for a higher resolution body in the future.

Release: Fall 2022. This would make the Z7III be two years after the Z7II, which itself was two years after the original Z7. Even though this is a pretty big change, it is using well known components, and, it is really important for Nikon to get a competitive body in this price range. They also have a history of releasing the Z6 and Z7 bodies together so we know that it is possible.

Nikon Z8

The next-generation successor to the D850. Great for studio and landscape, high resolution, but slower than z9 and no build-in vertical grip. Sensor ~80 Mpix (60 Mpix isn’t a big enough jump from 45 IMHO), stacked sensor (I expect Nikon to transition to stacked sensor as fast as it can. Not having a mechanical shutter saves a lot of money), Same Expeed 7 processor, No mechanical shutter

8k 30p, but limits since it has to deal with many more pixels (like recording time, maybe crop or line-skipping or a crop). Price: between the Z7III and Z9.

Release: Late 2023 or early 2024. 2022 would be great, but I have doubts that Nikon can produce a Z7III, Z6III and a Z8 all in the same year. It is also unclear what sensor they would use if it came out in 2022, sensors take a while to design and there doesn’t seem to be a good off-the-shelf candidate. If Nikon is designing one itself, well, the people who would do that have up until recently been busy with the Z9 sensor

No Nikon z9x

no need for vertical grip on a landscape oriented camera. Build quality doesn’t have to be quite as high since you don’t have to worry about a football linebacker hitting you so the Z8 will suffice, just like there was no D5X or D6X, the D800 series was fine

Even More Pure speculation

I think Canon totally misjudged the market with the R3 and although current pro Canon DSLR shooters that need to move to mirrorless will buy it, it won’t sell well outside that market. I can’t claim to have come up with this, but the best explanation I have heard was that this camera was supposed to be the R1, with the expectation that Nikon and Sony would come up with a sports/action camera in the 30ish Mpix range and were surprised when Sony came out with the A1. Canon quickly renamed their camera the R3 and started working on an R1. I think it could come out (at least for select canon pros) in time for the next winter Olympics, early 2023. Notice how much marketing Nikon has been doing for the Z9 and how little Canon has been doing for the R3. They know this isn’t a home run and will only appeal to Canon DSLR holdouts who really need a new camera. How can I tell if I’m wrong? Look at when the camera ships (not when it is announced) If it ships before November 2022, then they probably started working on before the A1 announcement (and thus, I’m wrong), if it ships in 2023 (or later) then I think I’m right. (Notice that leaves a two-month gray area, November and December 2022, if it ships then, things are two hazy to conclude if I am right or wrong.)

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Living with monopolies and dumping

July 7, 2021 at 9:07 pm (Uncategorized)

I ran across a reference to Herbert Henry Dow who started Dow chemical and a very interesting story about him and bromine. Dow invented a new process for extracting it that was much cheaper than anyone elses. Not surprisingly, competitors (specifically the German Bromine Cartel) were not amused. I don’t think I can put it any better than wikipedia can, so here is a direct cut and paste:

With his new company and new technology, Dow produced bromine very cheaply, and began selling it in the United States for 36 cents per pound. At the time, the German government supported a bromine cartel, Bromkonvention, which had a near-monopoly on the supply of bromine, which they sold in the US for 49 cents per pound. The Germans had made it clear that they would dump the market with cheap bromine if Dow attempted to sell his product abroad. In 1904 Dow defied the cartel by beginning to export his bromine at its cheaper price to England. A few months later, an angry Bromkonvention representative visited Dow in his office and reminded him to cease exporting his bromine.[6]

Unafraid, Dow continued exporting to England and Japan. The German cartel retaliated by dumping the US market with bromine at 15 cents a pound in an effort to put him out of business. Unable to compete with this predatory pricing in the U.S., Dow instructed his agents to buy up hundreds of thousands of pounds of the German bromine locally at the low price. The Dow company repackaged the bromine and exported it to Europe, selling it even to German companies at 27 cents a pound. The cartel, having expected Dow to go out of business, was unable to comprehend what was driving the enormous demand for bromine in the U.S., and where all the cheap imported bromine dumping their market was coming from. They suspected their own members of violating their price-fixing agreement and selling in Germany below the cartel’s fixed cost. The cartel continued to slash prices on their bromine in the U.S., first to 12 cents a pound, and then to 10.5 cents per pound. The cartel finally caught on to Dow’s tactic and realized that they could not keep selling below cost. They then increased their prices worldwide.[6]

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Using NFTs for charitable contributions

April 7, 2021 at 2:33 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

People often donate money to charities. If you donate enough they will sometimes put your name in their newsletter or on their website. This recognition usually only lasts a brief period of time or, even if it is printed, gets lost and forgotten. What if you could collect proof of all your donations in one spot, regardless of what charity you donated to or when you donated it. What if you could have a single place that you could show people that listed all your good donations and who you support? With NFTs you can!

When you donate to a charity, they create an NFT showing you donated, if it was earmarked for a specific purpose, what you donated (cash or goods/services), and how much you donated (you could choose if it just said you donated, or if it gave a range of donation amounts (ie, between 100 and 500 dollars, between 500-1000 dollars), or if it gave the exact amount you donated (ie $420.69), they then send this NFT to you.

Charities such as the Red Cross often have disasters that require immediate aid, then they have to fund-raise after the fact to refill their funds. With NFTs you could donate money to a specific disaster, they could recognize it and apply it to money they may have already spent for that disaster.

Charities such as the United Way take money in and redirect it to other charities. This could be done with NFTs as well where you donate to the United Way, they create the NFT, then send the money to the charity you specified, even if that charity didn’t know how to use NFTs.

You could give money in memory of or in honor of another person and get an NFT from that charity saying that. You might then want to transfer that NFT to the person you were honoring. “PERSON1 gave a donation to CHARITY in memory of PERSON2”

You could also give on behalf of someone “PERSON1 gave a donation to CHARITY on behalf of PERSON2 in memory of PERSON3” as a concrete example “Joe gave a donation to Save the Quadrupeds on behalf of Fluffy and in memory of Fluffy’s loving guardian Jasmine”.

For periodic donations, the charity can send an NFT for each donation. They could also (either instead, or in addition) send an NFT when you start donating then send another NFT when you stop donating. If you change your donation amount or any other field, they could either send a “stop donating NFT” then send a new “start donating” NFT with the new amount or they could send a “donation change” NFT. A periodic donation NFT, like all others, could hide any field you don’t want publicly known.

Example: Joe donates $20 a month to “Save the Quadrupeds” and gets a “start donation” NFT that indicates “Joe started donating $20 a month to Save the Quadrupeds!” He then changes it to $15 semi-monthly and a new NFT get sent that indicates “Joe started changed his donation to Save the Quadrupeds to $15 semi-monthly”. Then, at some point in the future, if Joe stopped the periodic donations, an NFT would be sent saying “Joe has stopped donating to Save the Quadrupeds”.

People often want to let others know what causes are important to them and to show off who they donate to (and possibly how much they donate). Sometimes charities will have a way for you to tweet or post to facebook about your donations, but that ends up being quickly lost in the hubbub of your feed. You could log your donations on your social media profile but it is easy to forget, and tedious to update, especially if you are active on multiple social media platforms. With NFTs this can be automatic, you could record your NFT address(es) with your social media platform and it could automatically display all the NFTs associated with that address. There is nothing for you to forget to update, everything would be automatic.

Having your donations recorded as NFT’s can help at tax time too. If all your charitable contribution NFTs are stored in address(es) that different than the ones that your non-charitable contribution NFTs, or if the NFTs identify the charity in a way that signifies if it is the type of charity who’s donation is tax advantaged then your tax software could import it directly and use it to prepare your tax return.

There are websites where you can set up memory pages, primarily this is targeted towards memorializing people who have died, but there is no requirement that they are dead. ( An example of this is ). You could incorporate a giving campaign into this by having an address that NFT’s could be sent to and they would automatically show up on the person’s page. (have to be careful about spam, hate speech, etc. This could be done by letting the page maintainer hide offensive/unwanted NFTs, or making them approve the NFT before it shows up, or by only showing NFTs from a list of approved charities, or sending unwanted NFTs to a different account.)

If you are automatically displaying information about the NFTs in an address but don’t have control over who sends them, there exists the possibility for people to send NFTs that you haven’t requested. This could result in NFT appearing at the address that are spam, offensive, illegal, harassing, or otherwise unwanted. There are several ways to mitigate this issue:

  • You could have a way to approve individual NFTs
  • you could send unwanted NFTs to a different address
  • You could have an “include list” and only NFTs, people/organizations, or content/concepts relating to the NFT you have on the include list would show for the address (you would be able to add or remove from the include list)
  • You could have an “exclude list” and NFTs, people/organizations, or content/concepts relating to the NFT you have on the exclude list would not show for the address (you would be able to add or remove from the include list)
  • The organization or site/application displaying the NFT’s to humans or other programs/processes could maintain one or more include or exclude list that applies, this could be automatic, or you could decide which include/exclude lists to use (for example there may be separate lists for OFAC entities, offensive speech, etc that you could opt in to or opt out of)
  • You could delegate the decision about which NFTs to show to a third party that maintains it’s own criteria for determining what to include or exclude. This delegation could be recorded on an external site or included in data associated with the address, such as in another NFT.
  • You could create one or more NFTs that express your wishes about what should be included in or excluded from the display. These NFTs could be modified or removed whenever you want.

There is no reason to limit this to charities or non-profits, any person or organization could set this up for themselves, or on behalf of another person or organization.

  • you could have something similar to gofundme but with donations acknowledge by an NFT instead of, or in addition to, current acknowledgements.
  • you could have a process where people set up a donation page and accept donations directly, without an intermediary like gofundme.
  • you could back a new product or project, in a way similar to kickstarter, but acknowledge funding by an NFT instead of, or in addition to, current acknowledgements
  • a company could allow you to back a new product or project through their own website or technology, like kickstarter, but just for that company (or even part of a company)
  • you could support a local (or not local) business by donating money to get them through a tough time.
  • you could fund a startup and receive tokens acknowledging support (these tokens may, or may not, also represent ownership in the company or shares)
  • you could fund a creative project (such as a movie, book, sculpture, photograph(s), etc) and receive tokens acknowledging support. These tokens may, or may not also represent ownership in project or entitle you to any revenue or other benefits resulting from the project.
  • you could have one-time or periodic donations to an artist or creator who you are a fan of, similar to what Patreon does. The person/organization receiving it could send the NFT, or, if there is an intermediary site (such as Patreon) that site could send the NFT on the person/organization behalf.
  • You could have NFT’s for purchases, every time you purchased something you may be given an option to receive an NFT stating that. This could be done instead of, or in addition to, any current purchase recognition a company has (such as posting to facebook) and could be decided at a per-purchase level or at the store’s account level. This could go to the same address or to a different address as your donations.

All of these possibilities are referred to as donating or giving or a donation. You could have the same address to receive all of these NFTs, or you could have a different address for each, or group them into addresses in any manner you desire.

There is also no reason to limit this to people doing the giving, organizations could also give, as could animals, pets or even inanimate objects. Likewise “money” should be read as anything of monetary or sentimental value including, but not limited to cash, stocks, goods, services, publicity, or other items).

There are several ways the acknowledgement of a donation in an NFT could be formated/structured.

  • entirely free form (“Yo! this dude John just donated some scratch to us.”)
  • Free text that has enough rules to be machine parsable
  • text that follows one of multiple templates (“PERSON1( and PERSON1A)* gave a donation to CHARITY in (memory|honor) of PERSON2( and PERSON1A)*” or “PERSON donated $DOLLARS to CHARITY)”
  • as free text with a controlled vocabulary for certain parts of the information (to acknowledge a donation you must use “donated” or “gave a donation”, if it was for another person you must use “in memory of” or “in honor of” or “out of respect for”)
  • As structured text (such as yaml, xml, json, protocol buffers, etc)
  • As structured text (such as yaml, xml, json, protocol buffers, etc) with an arbitrary schema
  • As structured text with a specific structure using a specific schema
  • as an image, video, 3d model, audio or any other digital object (a digital object is anything that can be represented as a byte stream)

You could make it so it allowed one or more of the above to be used, you could have for example, and entirely free form text, plus structured text, plus an image.

In addition to the above, you could also allow the sender to include a personalized message (like “You rock dad!”), include a link or reference to an external location (examples: any URN such as URL, URI, http link, mailto email address, physical address, geographic coordinates, reference to published material (book, magazine, newspaper, poster, photograph, etc) or a particular page in a publication, place name, etc) or an image, video, 3d model, or any other digital object.

In addition to the above, you could have information about the charity/organization this could be included in the NFT directly or known by looking at who controls the smart contract that issued the NFT.

In addition to the above, you could have information about the person or organization that donated. This might be their name, image or other digital object, contact information, relationship to the honoree, identifier for that person (unique or not) link or other reference to them.

As an illustrative example you could have:

<nft name="xyz" type="donation">
  <name>Joe Smith</name>
  <location>Anytown, USA</location>
  <contact type="qwert">@jsmith007</contact>
  <name>Save the Quadrupeds</name>
  <description>Dedicated to saving all quadrupeds, everywhere.</description>
   <name>Fluffy Smith</name>
   <digitalObject type="audio" name="Fluffy barking">ENCODEDBYTESTREAM</digitalObject>
 <honoree type="memoryof">
  <name>Jasmine Smith</name>
  <relationship>loving guardian</relationship>
 <quote>She always remembered to feed me</quote>
 <textAcknowlegement>Joe Smith gave a donation to Save the Quadrupeds on behalf of Fluffy and in memory of Fluffy's loving guardian Jasmine</textAcknowlegement>

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Using NFTs for sponsorships

April 4, 2021 at 10:14 pm (computers) (, )

Large companies often sponsor well-known individuals for long periods of time for a significant amount of money. Why is this? because sponsorship is hard to organize, it takes time, and often includes contract negotiation. What if you could make sponsorship so easy that you could do it in just a flew clicks? What if you, the sponsor, could get your sponsorship recorded in the blockchain as a lasting reminder of what you did? If so, you could sponsor for shorter time periods and for less money. What if you could sponsor your favorite artist for a day, or even an hour? This is pretty much just donating money to them, but with a permanent record and bragging rights of what you did. A fan probably couldn’t sponsor their favorite music group’s tour, but they could sponsor a specific show, or a meaningful day. What if you could sponsor a day of your favorite influencer’s travels or a day of your favorite painters’ time? Do you want to sponsor a specific blog post of your favorite blogger? With Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs), now you can! You could even give these sponsorships to friends for birthdays/graduations/anniversaries/etc, imagine sponsoring your friends favorite singer for their birthday and giving them the token that proves it.

You, the sponsor get a permanent record of your sponsorship with an NFT (that is possibly non-transferable) you could show off how often you sponsored the person, or how many people you have sponsored. This becomes a brag wall of what you have done.

NFT Sponsorships don’t have to be only for sponsoring people or groups, you could also sponsor specific events, actions or to pay for things to happen

  • be a sponsor of a conference or convention
  • sponsor the planting of one or more trees or other plants (the NFT could include where the thing was planted)
  • sponsor the scanning of a book, movie, or artifact (The NFT could include which item you sponsored)
  • sponsor the restoration or conservation of a book, movie, artifact, building, or item of historical interest
  • sponsor a building or the renovation or improvements of a building (or part of a building) Many organizations allow for benefactors to have this type of sponsorship. Often a plaque listing the names of sponsors/contributors is erected. This is the NFT equivalent of that plaque.
  • sponsor an animal at a zoo or animal park

Should you be able to sell a NFT sponsorship that you have bought? In other words, should there be a secondary market for sponsorships. In some cases you may not want a secondary market, but in other cases it is beneficial, and, in yet other cases, you may want to allow resale but tightly control who it gets resold to, so all options should be available (this is not to say every NFT platform must allow all types of sponsorship, there could easily be an NFT platform that only allowed non-resellable NFT sponsorships, another NFT platform that only allowed resellable NFT sponsorships, and a third that allowed non-resellable, resellable, and permissioned-resellable NFT sponsorships and yet others that provide different combinations).The case for non-resellable NFTs.

The case for non-resellable NFTs.

In some cases, the parties involved in the original NFT sponsorship want to make a firm commitment to each other. This could also be useful when the NFT creator is very sensitive about who sponsors them.

The case for permissioned-resellable NFTs.

Some times who sponsors you is just as important as how much money you get from the sponsorship. If you have a brand that carefully curates who it associates with then you might not want to allow just anyone to sponsor you, and likewise, you wouldn’t want to have sponsorship of your brand be sold on a secondary market to someone who would tarnish your brand. This is like when large brand advertisers refuse to let their ads run on certain websites or when websites don’t allow certain brands to advertise on the site. The transfer of the NFT sponsorship could only occur if all parties involved in the transaction approve of it.

Another type of permissioning could be time based, transfers are allowed until a certain date (or block height) then disallowed after that. This is particularly useful for sponsoring events that happen on a certain day, you could allow transfers up until the actual event (or even cut off the transfers some time before the event so you could finalize the program), then disallow it after. This gives a permanent record of who sponsored the event without the possibility of ‘rewriting history’.

The case for resellable NFTs.

This is an interesting option because it allows a robust secondary market in sponsorship NFTs. This is conceptually similar to how the stock market operates today. A company creates and sells shares and these shares can be resold by whomever buys them. The company doesn’t get any money on the resale of the shares but it still benefits from allowing the resale because it encourages early investors (who buy low and sell high) and later investors (who buy high and hope to sell higher). Unlike with stocks, with NFTs you could enforce the original creator gets a percentage of any resale.

This type of NFT allows for effectively venture capital in sponsorships. You could have investors (or venture sponsors) buying a wide variety of sponsorships early, before success of whatever was being sponsored was assured. That venture sponsor could then sell the sponsorships with successful outcomes (whatever the definition of success happens to be) at a profit, while selling the unsuccessful (or even less successful) at a loss, if they can sell them at all.

Why would someone buy a NFT sponsorship on the secondary market (generally for more money) instead of just buying the NFT sponsorship directly from the creator (generally for less money)? Mostly because of risk. If they sponsor, for instance, a book expecting to get publicity from it in return and the book never gets finished they don’t get value for what they payed. If however some venture sponsor bought the sponsorship early and took the risk of the book not being written, they could profit and the final sponsor would know the value of the sponsorship they are buying (they always know the price, they don’t know the value until after the book is written and published and they see how it is received). There is also brand risk, if a brand bought a sponsorship of the book early then the book ended up containing offensive content, their brand could be tarnished by ever having been associated with it.

Why would someone create and sell an NFT sponsorship opportunity and allow it to be resold? Selling an NFT sponsorship early for resale will probably result in less money for the original seller. That seller benefits however because they get the money earlier, before the work is done and can use the money to complete the work. Again, using an author as an example, if the author wants to write a book, how does he survive while it is being written? Often authors who are not well known will need to have another job that pays the bills. That leaves less time to write the book. Selling an early NFT sponsorship can provide enough money for them to live and write full time.

I’ve used books as an example because it is straightforward to understand, but this concept is in no way limited to books, it equally applies to all the sponsorship options.

Notes on permissioned resellable NFT sponsorships

  • when a sale is proposed, the generator of the NFT sponsorship (the person or entitie being sponsored must approve
  • this approval could be a ‘hard’ approval where the NFT generator has to accept or reject the transfer otherwise the transfer stays pending unless canceled by the current owner
  • this approval could be a ‘soft’ approval where NFT generator has a certain amount of time to accept or reject the transfer and if neither option is selected in the given time then the default action happens
  • the default action could be to accept the transfer
  • the default action could be to reject the transfer

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NFT Art thoughts

April 4, 2021 at 12:27 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Recently NFT (Non Fungible Token) based art (and other copyrighted works of authorship) has made the news and I must say, when someone buys NFT art, I’m not sure what they bought besides the token itself. Non Fungible Tokens are easy to make, so the value isn’t purely in the existence of the token, so what was sold? What rights does the new owner have?

Generally, the art you make is copyright to you, and the NFT sale isn’t selling the copyright (Mintable does allow, but not require, transfer of the copyright as part of the sale). So you don’t get the copyright. You also don’t get a physical copy of whatever the NFT represents (again, there are exceptions). Likewise you don’t get any licensing rights. You don’t get any standard ownership rights in the art, so I conclude you don’t actually own the artwork. You do own the right to say you own the NFT version of the artwork, and maybe you own the right to say you own the artwork (even though you don’t actually own it). Is that worth something? I’m unconvinced. In the future, the rules of what you own will get worked out more clearly (perhaps by the courts), and, once those rules are clear, it will become easier to assign value to the NFTs, but until then, it is hard to see real value.

et’s take a specific recent example of an NFT sale. On March 22, 2021, Jack Dorsey (the founder of Twitter) sold his first tweet as an NFT for over 2.9 million dollars. What does the buyer own? Can he claim the tweet is his? (No, it is still Jack Dorsey’s.) Can he sent a DMCA request to Twitter and force them to take it down? (No, he doesn’t own the copyright.) Can he sue Jack and make him remove it himself? I doubt it, but if he were successful, that would show real ownership. An owner gets to decide how and where his possessions are displayed.

When you buy a physical painting, you don’t get copyright of it either, the creator can still make copies and sell those too. But you do get to decide how and where (and even if) it gets displayed. In some countries the creator may have some rights to veto your choice (no you can’t allow my painting to be displayed at $(museum of something I strongly object to) ), but they also can’t force you to display it somewhere. That is crucial to ownership and it doesn’t seem to apply to NFT creations, without that I don’t see a transfer of ownership to have occurred.

Just because I don’t fully understand what is being sold doesn’t mean I won’t try and get some first hand experience though. Maybe I’ll learn something. I have created an NFT for sale on Mintable to try and understand the process and the value proposition. Who knows, maybe someone will like it enough to buy it.

Aside from this current infatuation with NFT art, I see a huge potential for NFTs and I’ll talk about some of that potential in the future. NFT’s are very similar to “colored coins” but a much cleaner implementation. Colored coins were a way to encode information into a cryptocoin (or transaction) so that it could represent something else. Usually what it represented was ownership of a physical thing.

Imagine if all the property records were stored on a blockchain as NFT’s it would be trivial to look up who owned a piece of property and if anyone else had any rights to it (such as a mortgage, lien, or mineral rights) This would make it so much easier than it is today to find this information and it would make title searches be trivial. It would greatly improve the current paper based process. This type of NFT would represent true ownership, not the weird thing art NFTs call ownership.

It is also a great way to record the sale of certain rights that are done with one-off contracts today. Want to sell the right to license a photo of yours? create an NFT representing that right and sell it. Want the right to just be the right to license a photo for advertising, or just for use on calendars? you can make the rights you sell as narrow or broad as you want. That would be a useful NFT.

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Shenandoah and Potomac Streets, Harpers Ferry, Then and Now

October 2, 2020 at 12:01 am (History, photography) (, , , , )

Starting in 1933 the Historic American Buildings Survey started photographing important old buildings. I’m not sure when they got to Harpers Ferry West Virginia, but it was before the buildings there were restored. I found some photos at the Library of Congress from there and decided to do a “then and now” comparison for a couple.

Shenandoah and Potomac Streets, Harpers Ferry, WV, on the left, before restoration, on the right, in 2020

Here is the building on the corner of Shenandoah Street (on the left) and Potomac Street (on the right), at first it looks pretty similar, chimneys, dormers, but you quickly notice that this building is very different than the old one.

Lets start at the Potomac St side and work our way around. The top of the chimney is very different, with the old building having a tapered top. Also, the windows at the attic level on the side have suddenly become the window. One disappeared. While we are on the topic of side windows, look how in the old picture the brick top of the window was arched. Take a look at the extension on the back of the building. In the old picture it isn’t very deep, only enough for one window and the brick work is a bit different between it and the main part of the building. Now look at the new photo, the extension is easily twice as deep, and it got two chimneys of its own. Making our way down to the foundation, the new photo has a nice stone foundation, but the old photo has bricks right to ground level. What happened there?

Lets take a close look at the front of the building, starting at the roof line. That is a nice cornice there on the old building, but it is nowhere to be found on the new on. Then windows, old photo: three across, four large panes of glass, nice brick arch at the top of each window. New photo: four across, twelve panes of glass each, flat top. Wow, that’s a big difference.

There also was a nice retail front with large display windows and a corner door that is entirely gone, it is now a flat front with a small door and a few small windows.

Summary: This “restored” building looks vaguely like the old one, but it is entirely different, and, missing so many details that it is not nearly as interesting.

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