The Videographic Bubble

In Scandinavian television productions, the director has a subservient role to that of the screenwriters. Screenwriting is a team activity with the goal of developing a high-quality production. A series/ story typically takes ten episodes (eight to ten hours) to tell. In most episodes the director is a junior staff member learning film/ video as a trade. S/ he functions more as a co-ordinator than a leader. Photo: Kal Visuals/ Unsplash

The pandemic is having a detrimental effect on mental health, because people are being denied the opportunity to socialize. Single people, and single parents with children are some of those having the most difficult times. Yet, there are provisions for people in these categories to form support bubbles, at least in some communities. Once a bubble has formed, the main difficulty is finding something meaningful for the participants to do.

In this weblog post, the suggestion is to work on some form of video project. While it could involve the production of a documentary. Here, the focus is on fictional works. Plan B is to provide an opportunity to work together on a novel, or a derivative work such as a graphic novel. One reason for this focus, is at the end of the pandemic, the support bubble will have something concrete to show for their time together.

If there is any rule, it is to have fun! While doing so, learn patience. Don’t expect any early results. Allow creative energies to simmer, so the full flavour of dramatic energy emerges slowly. Savour it.

The videographic bubble regards filmmaking/ videography as a creative enterprise resulting in a work of art, rather than a commercial product. One of its aims, is to bring to life the scriptwriter in every filmmaker. Does the term screenwriter or filmmaker refer to a single individual? Perhaps in normal times, but in a pandemic it can be more fun to work collectively. Thus, the screenwriter is a collective, that morphs into a filmmaking and acting collective, if all goes well.

Previous weblog posts: In 2016, a more general Filmmaking with a social conscience was published. This was followed by a post on Institutional Cinema Theory. All of this was expected to be operationalized in Lost Tribes of Inderøy, with conceptual explanations in To Hell with Anne! These posts were followed up in 2018 with a Auteur vs Scriptwriting Team. The content of these remains valid. This current post is an attempt to relate it to the current pandemic.

The essence of the videographic bubble is to return filmmaking to small clusters of inspired, local, co-operative groups who make cinema/ film/ movies/ videos for fun, rather than profit. The idea for this weblog post emerged when I started to read an article about a major, commercial film production team, which involved anything but appropriate social distancing during the pandemic.

While, at the beginning of the millennium, there seemed an overabundance of books about digital filmmaking/ videography, far fewer emerge now. Many of those new(ish) books involves drones or weddings. One possibility is that potential guerrilla filmmakers are involved in making short documentaries for YouTube, and that they are less interested in making longer fictional content.

Canadian film producer Elliot Grove (? – ) has provided three useful books: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay (2001); Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-to-No Budget filmmaking (2004); 150 Workouts to Becoming a Filmmaker (2009). Another important writer about alternative filmmaking is the American Dan Rahmel (1969 – ) who has written Nuts and Bolts Filmmaking: Practical Techniques for the Guerilla Filmmaker (2004). Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe have also written, The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook, 3rd edition, (2004). The authors started writing this in 1991, and the first edition was published in 1996. There is also a pocketbook for digital film making, published in 2011. The DV Rebel’s Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (2006) was written by Stu Maschwitz.

Some of these books are now 20 years old. Thus, there is a disparity between the technology used today, and that suggested in the books. These books can be supplemented with more modern works. Even though Bryan Michael Stoller’s Filmmaking for Dummies (2020) is new, the author is looking at mainstream (read: Hollywood) production, so it is not a suitable resource for making budget videos. Fortunately, books are not the only source of information. New videos on the technical aspects of videomaking appear on YouTube every day, and may be the best way to keep up-to-date on technical issues.

A greater problem than technology involves changing attitudes to film making. Here other resources may be needed to discuss these challenges. Eva Novrup Redvall is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark. Her research focuses on film and media production, particularly screenwriting and creative collaboration. She has written, Writing and Producing Television Drama in Denmark: From The Kingdom to The Killing (2011) and with Anne Marit Waade and Pia Majbritt Jensen has edited, Danish Television Drama: Global Lessons from a Small Nation (2020). It latter explores the international appeal of Danish television drama and Nordic Noir in the 2010s. There are lessons that can be learned by videographic bubbles, even if they lack the budgets offered by the DR (formerly Danmarks Radio = Danish Broadcasting Corporation), a public broadcasting company, founded in 1925.

The most fundamental change in recent decades is to put screenwriting at the centre of the creative process, to use a screenwriting team, and to demote the film director role to that of an activity co-ordinator. For many Scandi-noir productions, director roles are given on an episode basis to junior staff members, as training exercises.

Screenwriting software

Before committing to write a manuscript, a support bubble may want to discuss engaging in many other, and very different activities. Some people keep notes in books, others prefer to use software. There are people who use both. Joplin is one. It describes itself as an open source note taking and to-do application. It is available for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android and iOS. Another similar app is RedNoteBook. It is available on Windows, Linux and macOS, but not on Android or iOS.

Screenwriting programs exist for many different platforms and environments. Desktop applications are commonly available for Macs, but also for Windows and Linux machines. So far, they are elusive for Chromebooks. However, there are web applications that run solely within a browser on any type of machine, and apps that run on handheld devises. Unfortunately, many of these programs are published on a commercial basis and are expensive.

Another approach is to use a markup language. Screenplay, developed by John Pate, is an open-source formatting package for LaTeX, a software system for document preparation that separates presentation from content. Fountain, an open-source plain text markup language, has its origins in two different and non-related projects: Scrippets, developed by John August (1950 – ) and Nima Yousefi, and Screenplay Markdown, developed by Stu Maschwitz.

While it is an exaggeration to say that I used Trelby, I did play around with it, before the project was discontinued in 2012. Today (2021-01-24), I have downloaded it again, and will start to use it once more. Osku Salerma, originally from Finland, developed the program.

It is oriented towards screenwriting with an emphasis on simplicity, elegance and speed. Its screenplay editor enforced correct screenplay formatting, including pagination. There are also some auto-completion and spell checking capabilities. There are Windows and Linux versions available. When version 2.2 was released in 2012, Windows 7 was the most dominant Windows version.

For something more modern there is the Russian KIT Scenarist, another program to create screenplays, formatted to international film standards. It is partially open-source. Collaboration requires the use of cloud (other people’s server) storage, and payments. I will not be using it at the present time, but it is a backup system if Trelby fails to live up to its promise.

A Novel Bubble

Novel can be used as a noun, as in a book length fictional story. It can also be used as an adjective, referring to something new. In this particular case it refers to both, a new bubble for writing a novel. For some groups this might be an easier starting point, than writing a screenplay. In addition, it could morph into different products: what used to be referred to as a radio play or a graphic novel or a ???.

Writing a novel does not need the extensive set of tools required by a screenplay. Manuskript is an open-source toolset for novelists. It offers two writing modes. Simple mode offers only the most basic features. Fiction mode provides additional tools: summary, characters, plot, context, etc. There is also an outliner, that allows incomplete thoughts and suggestions to be organized hierarchically.

There are also some features that may be used less than others. These include the Distraction-fee mode. Then there is the Snowflake novel assistant, that encourages a single idea to grow into a complex whole with complex characters, intricate plots.

Perhaps the most important feature of this is the ability to store files in a folder that encourages collaborative editing, and allows versioning. Index cards are also available to organize thoughts, scenes, chapters, notes, etc.

Ruralization

While there is nothing in this post that restricts videography to specific geographical areas, people living in rural communities have more opportunities to videograph.

First, rural environments provide more locations where one can videograph without disturbance, than in more urban environments. This works both ways. Videographers will disturb fewer people, and other people will disturb the videographers, less frequently. In addition, it is easier to find quiet locations to avoid sound pollution, infecting scenes being recorded.

Second, ruralists have a greater opportunity to work less. One reason for this is that their housing costs relatively less, so they don’t have to work more to pay higher rents or mortgage payments. The videographic skills they learn can also be applied to more commercial uses, such as making advertisements for local companies.

Humans are frail creatures. People need to take breaks. Research has shown that taking a lunch break actually makes a person more productive. A 6 hours work day, and a 4 day work week is probably optimal. It results in a 24 hour work week, something that will soon be implemented in Finland. Work more than that, and major mistakes will be made. In another approach, Travis Bradberry contends that working 52 minutes, then taking a 17 minute break is optimal in terms of productivity. This is similar to the academic hour, that starts at 15 minutes past the hour, to accommodate people running late. It lasted 45 minutes, and provided a 15 minute break. Six of these in a day, optionally divided in two after three hours, with a 75 minute break, should be more than enough work to satisfy anyone.

Third, ruralists have a greater opportunity to play more with others. When people work extensively, there are fewer hours available for social interaction. When they work less, these opportunities expand. Play is necessary to maintain sanity.

Arcimoto

The Arcimoto Deliverator, is a last-mile battery electric delivery vehicle, made in Eugene, Oregon, USA. (Photo: Arcimoto)

Arcimoto describes itself as a manufacturer of ultra-efficient electric vehicles. These are (relatively) low cost and low environmental impact vehicles.

The Fun Utility Vehicle (FUV) is a three-wheeled, two-passenger tandem = seated one behind the other, vehicle. This vehicle uses a platform that forms the basis for other models. Specifications for the FUV are shown in the table below. All values are converted and approximate. American units are available from the Wikipedia article on Arcimoto, or the company website.

Acceleration0-100 km/h in 7.5 s
Top Speed120 km/h
Turning Circle8 840 mm
Power57 kW
Range160 km city
ca 100 km @ 90 km/h
ca 50 @ 110 km/h
Overall Length2 870 mm
Overall Width1 549 mm
Max Height1 651 mm
Ground Clearance140 mm (unladen)
Wheelbase2 032 mm
Shipping Weight590 kg
GVWR816 kg
Specifications for the Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle, converted to conventional metric units.

Munro & Associates, is providing engineering advice to Arcimoto. Some of this work is related to product engineering, such as reducing vehicle weight to 500 kg. Others aspects relate to expanding production capacity and profitability. Arcimoto has two strategic directions: It can focus on expanding production to 50 000 units/year, or it can concentrate on higher profit margin products (Deliverator/ Rapid Responder) at its current 3 – 5 000 unit/year rate, or some combination of both. On 2021-01-06, Agreed to purchase a larger, 17 000 square meter manufacturing facility, a few blocks away from its previous/ current location in Eugene.

An aside: Sandy Munro (? – ) is a Canadian automotive engineer, who started his working life as a tool and die maker. He worked for Ford, starting in 1977, but left in 1988 to start his own consultancy. His work incorporates design for assembly (DFA)/ design for manufacturability (DFM) principles. His focus is on lean design, which is also the name of his website. His tear-down reports critically examine quality issues of specific vehicle models. They are most often used by assorted Asian start-ups. As the wise, old man of the automotive industry, he begins his YouTube videos with, “Hey, Boys and Girls …” Munro is also assisting Aptera with a relaunch of their vehicle, abandoned ca. 2009.

The FUV platform uses pouch cells from Farasis Energy, a Chinese battery manufacturer, providing a total of 19.2 kWh. While the battery is capable of accepting level 2 charging, Arcimoto plans on making fleet vehicles capable of handle higher charging rates.

Arcimoto is not developing in-house autonomous driving capabilities, but provide a foundation for third party hardware and software that will integrate into the vehicle platform. For example, steering is drive by wire allowing software to control wheel direction without additional hardware. Advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) features will be gradually added up to level 5 (Eyes off) autonomous driving.

The Rapid Responder™ is an emergency response vehicle that retains the two passenger configuration, but has equipment found on emergency vehicles. It is inexpensive (US$ 25 000), easily manoeuvrable through traffic, and capable of reaching places inaccessible to large trucks.

The Deliverator® replaces the rear seat with a large cargo area accessible by a door on the starboard side (right side facing forward) for last-mile delivery. Because of its small footprint, it can park in places unavailable to larger vehicles.

In development is the Cameo™. The passenger seat and storage compartment is replaced with a rear-facing seat, for a camera person to film various activities. It is aimed at the “film and influencer industry”. Also in development is a flat-bed pickup variant, and the Roadster, “Anticipated to be released in the first half of 2021, the Roadster is designed to be the ultimate on-road fun machine. Built on our patented three-wheel all-electric platform, … [it] features an incredibly low and forward center of gravity, twin-motor front wheel drive, instant torque, and a fully-connected seating stance.”

On 2021-01-26, it was anounced that Arcimoto will be buying Tilting Motor Works’ assets for around US$10 million, along with Arcimoto shares. Arcimoto want to integrate these into future products. TRiO, which is the most popular three-wheel conversion kit for touring motorcycles, provides a comfortable and stable ride, but with the riding characteristics of a motorcycle. This means that the rider/ driver can drive/ pilot their vehicle as if it were a two-wheeled motorcycle, yet eliminate the need to put their feet down while at a stop, or riding in slow traffic.

Tilting Motor Works’ technology in operation. Photo: Tilting Motor Works.

Upcoming electric vehicle posts

With so much time spent researching and writing about computing, there has been less time available to research and write about electric vehicles. Currently, five drafts of weblog posts are either scheduled or pending. These are:

Aptera will be the subject of the next weblog post on electric vehicles. It is a three-wheeled streamlined (enclosed) vehicle. Originally scheduled to be launched ca. 2010, this vehicle was a focus during my teaching career. The project was abandoned, but has since been revised.

Paxster has much in common with the Arcimoto Deliverator, but is a four-wheeled vehicle. It used for urban mail distribution by the Norwegian postal service, Posten.

Frikar is a pod bike, made in Sandnes, Norway.

Eav from Electric Assisted Vehicles Limited, of Bicester, England, is an eCargo bike with electric power assistance for last-mile transport solutions.

e-Cub is about Shanghai Custom’s electric conversion of the world’s most popular vehicle, the Honda (Super) Cub, with over 100 million units having been produced since 1958.

Mobilize is the name of Renault’s new mobility division. This division will offer car-sharing, energy and data-related services to help make transportation more sustainable. Their first prototype, the EZ-1, was presented 2021-01-15. A production model could be a replacement for the Renault Twizzy.

Additional electric vehicles will be discussed in Downsizing the Garage, scheduled for 2021-10-29, the fourth anniversary of Stuffing a 10-car garage, which appeared 2017-10-29.

Mari Boine: A tidbit

Mari Boine, the Nordic Council’s music prize winner, performing at the award ceremony in Oslo, 2003. Photo: Mikael Risedal/norden.org

Mari Boine (1956-11-08 – )

One Track: Goaskinviellja / Eagle Brother (Oslo Opera House, 2009)

One Quotation: Et menneske som må skjule sin opprinnelse er bare et halvt menneske. Jeg er i ferd med å bli hel. Nå mangler jeg bare vingene. Og det må et menneske ha. Vi må kunne fly. = A human being who has to hide his/ her origins is only half a human being. I’m about to be healed. Now I’m just missing the wings. And a human being must have that. We must be able to fly.

One Comment: “Mari Boine is one of Norway’s most important artists. With her background in Sami culture and tradition, she has developed new and cross-genre musical expressions. The prize winner’s great communication ability through music and language makes her an international artist of large format.” Justification of the Arts Council Norway when it awarded Mari Boine the 2009 Honorary Award.

The Charm of Soft Synths

LMMS originally stood for Linux MultiMedia Studio. Now those initials don’t stand for anything, in part because the system has been ported to Windows as well as to MacOS. It is a perfectly adequate soft synth, for anything but the most advanced professional uses. Screenshot: lmms.io

In the previous century, electronic musical instruments often contained inferior electronic components. I discovered this working in an electronic repair shop during the early 1970s. It was here I met a pair of (for lack of a better term) electric-organ enhancers who had come in to buy used components. Their business plan involved two related activities. Plan A: They would encourage churches to replace pipe organs with their custom built electric organs. If a church already had gone over to someone else’s electric-organ, they would resort to Plan B, and offer to fine-tune it. With either plan, they would typically begin with an off-the-shelf electric-organ console, and then replace electronic components (such as resistors) with ones that were closer to the needed values, using variable resistors if necessary.

Their work held very little appeal. It was tedious and time consuming, and not particularly well paid. Fast forward almost 50 years, and the question that needs answering is: Why struggle with hardware, when one can use software? If one starts with a reasonably powerful computer, software programs can be written to take advantage of the existing hardware. Of course, regardless of the approach there will be a need for some music related audio hardware, especially microphones, speakers (or at least headphones), an audio interface and – perhaps – a musical keyboard.

Initially, Rosegarden had been considered as the underlying program for the soft synth. This was mainly because of its built-in scorewriter, that writes musical natation. Rosegarden was started in 1993 at the University of Bath. Rosegarden 2.1 (X11 Rosegarden) was released under the Gnu Public Licence (GPL) in 1997. Rosegarden 4 began in 2000 with Version 1.0 being released in 2005. The current release is Version 20.12 Altissimo, which was released 2020-12-09. The main challenge with Rosegarden is that it only works with Linux and related BDS operating systems (OS). This could restrict colaboration with people using Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac OSs. In the end it was decided to use LMMS for the synth. Since scorewriting is not a feature found in LMMS, MuseScore was selected as a scorewriter. Both of these work on Linux, Windows and Mac OS.

LMMS originally stood for Linux MultiMedia Studio, and was used exclusively on Linux OSs. Now those initials don’t stand for anything, because the system has been ported to Windows as well as to MacOS. While there are many commercial and open-source software synthesizers available, LMMS is a perfectly adequate soft synth, for anything but the most advanced professional uses. As an open-source product, it is available at no cost.

LMMS is not perfect. It is gudenuf = good enough, for most amateurs. There are flaws, especially with respect to the windowing. However, these can be worked around. The main problem with any soft synth, including LMMS, is latency or lag time, which is often caused by sound being routed through a sound-server program, such as PulseAudio, an open-source program. This arises even if the audio interface to set to ALSA = Advanced Linux Sound Architecture. To correct this problem, LMMS needs to directly access the sound card. This can be done by writing and applying three lines of code.

A software synthesizer such as LMMS, will come with multiple editors, synthesizers and samplers.

  • Song Editor – arranges instruments and samples.
  • Beat+Bassline Editor – sequences rhythms.
  • FX mixer – sends audio inputs through effects and to other mixer channels.
  • Piano Roll – edit patterns and melodies
  • Automation Editor –dynamic adjustment of knob/ widget settings
  • BitInvader – wavetable-lookup synthesis
  • FreeBoy – emulator of Game Boy audio processing unit (APU)
  • Kicker – bass drum synthesizer
  • LB302 – imitation of the Roland TB-303
  • Mallets – tuned-percussion synthesizer
  • Monstro – 3-oscillator synthesizer with modulation matrix
  • Nescaline – NES-like synthesizer
  • OpulenZ – 2-operator FM synthesizer
  • Organic – organ-like synthesizer
  • Sf2 Player – a Fluidsynth-based Soundfont player
  • SID – emulates Commodore 64 chips
  • TripleOscillator – 3-oscillator synthesizer with 5 modulation modes: MIX, SYNC, PM, FM, and AM
  • Vibed – vibrating string modeller
  • Watsyn – 4-oscillator wave-table synthesizer
  • ZynAddSubFX
  • AudioFileProcessor (AFP) – sampler with trimming/ looping capabilities

LMMS supports many audio plugin standards, as do most other major modern software synthesizers and sound editors. Here, three will be discussed. Virtual Studio Technology (VST) was developed by Steinberg Media Technologies in 1996. It is used extensively in the Windows universe. VST plugins work in LMMS most of the time. However, since VSTs are written to be Windows compatible, VSTs tend to work better on Windows LMMS installations. Linux LMMS installations require Wine to be installed before these plugins can be used.

Wine HQ explains, “Wine (originally an acronym for “Wine Is Not an Emulator”) is a compatibility layer capable of running Windows applications on several POSIX-compliant operating systems, such as Linux, macOS, & BSD. Instead of simulating internal Windows logic like a virtual machine or emulator, Wine translates Windows API calls into POSIX calls on-the-fly, eliminating the performance and memory penalties of other methods and allowing you to cleanly integrate Windows applications into your desktop.”

Audio Units (AU) is an equivalent system used with Apple’s macOS and iOS. LV2 stands for LADSPA Version 2. It is open-source software, used with Linux as well as other systems.

While Linux Audio Developer’s Simple Plugin API (LADSPA) still exists and is operative, it is probably best to refer to it in the past tense. Thus, it was an application programming interface (API) standard for handling audio filters and audio signal processing effects. It was open-source, licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). It was used in many free audio software projects and there were a wide range of LADSPA plugins available. It was written in the C programming language. Because of its simplicity many plugins were written using it, that were easily embedded into many other programs.

Disposable Soft Synth Interface (DSSI) was a virtual instrument (software synthesizer) plugin architecture for use by music sequencer applications. It was designed for applications running under Linux DSSI extended LADSPA to cover instrument plugins.

LV2 is a successor to both LADSPA and DSSI, but permitting easy extensibility, allowing custom user interfaces, musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) messages, and custom extensions.

All of these APIs integrate software synthesizers and effects units into a computer. They use digital signal processing to simulate traditional recording studio hardware in software. Such an interface can work with almost any modern desktop or laptop computer, a dedicated digital audio workstation (DAW), and/or other dedicated equipment. Software programs can also emulate other types of hardware, including compressors, equalizers, expanders and maximizers. Many plugins emulate specific hardware models.Thus, such an API can be an affordable ways to make a spare room/ attic/ basement studio sound like a commercial operation.

It can be appropriate to distinguish between three different types of API. Software instruments generate sound in one of two ways. They either synthesize = construct or they sample = record. These APIs may produce their own distinctive sound, or imitate that of a specific hardware synthesizer.

Effects process audio rather than generating it. They act like hardware audio processors, including reverbs and phasers.

The quality of plugins can vary from outrageously poor to acceptable, depending on system resources qualities (Read: RAM, SSD capacity, processing capacity). Another challenge with samplers has to do with the quantity and quality of the samples.

There are thousands of plugins available. Some only take a few hours to produce and are free, but the quality is terrible. Some are made by huge companies and sound amazing, but are expensive. Many plugin developers try to recreate a sound that is as close as possible to that of an instrument, but the original instrument is probably always going to sound better than the plugin.

Electronic musicians/ composers may have a concept in their mind of the sound they are trying to produce. Often, it might be of an existing instrument, familiar from a particular situation. One example might be try to produce a rich, full-bodied church organ sound. While there are numerous such organs in existence, it may not be possible for that composer to access one, or a sufficiently talented organist. No one has access to every type of instrument, or every type of musician, so a plugin will have to do. The good news is that as computers evolve, plugin technology is able to take advantage of these evolutionary improvements, so that their quality improves with time.

Users will often say that a scorewriter engraves sheet music. This implies a higher order operation that creates, edits and prints a score. A scorewriter is to music notation what a word processor is to text, providing flexible editing, automatic layout and high-quality output.

One of the main values of a modern scorewriter is its ability to record notes played on a MIDI keyboard. Here it will also be used to play music back on the synth. Of course, it is possible to input data for a composition using a tablet, or touch-screen based computer. MIDI is most often a more appropriate solution for a softsynth. MIDI controllers produce MIDI effects that create MIDI messages that send MIDI data to the softsynth, or to other instruments and hardware, including speakers.

Donald Lewes Hings (1907 – 2004)

Don Hings (1942-03-09)

Donald Lewes Hings (1907-11-06 – 2004–02-24) was born in Leicester, England, but moved to western Canada with his parents when he was three. He grew up in Rossland, in the Kootenays, halfway between Vancouver and Calgary, and 10 km north of the Canada/ United States border.

He was a pioneer in the field of telecommunications, and best known for his invention of the Walkie-Talkie. Previously, mobile radios were mounted on vehicles and transmitted in Morse code. Hings’ model, developed in 1937 while working at Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company (CM&S) now, Cominco) in Trail, British Columbia, was portable and could transmit the human voice over long distances. He called his invention the packset.

During the Second World War (1940-1945) Hings worked for the National Research Council, on loan from CM&S, working with the Signal Corps to develop military communications, including the military walkie-talkie. From 1946-1985, he worked for Electronic Laboratories of Canada as President & Chief Engineer. The company was started 1942-11-02 as a subsidiary of Electronic Laboratories, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. It was dissolved 1998-09-21.

Between 1975 and 1993, he devoted his time to developing instrumentation for measurements of the causes and effects of long-range air pollution vectors.

In 1946 he was awarded the Member of the British Empire by King George VI. In 2001 he was presented with the Order of Canada by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. In 2006 he was inducted into the Telecommunications Hall of Fame because “his modifications of the two-way radio … which he evolved into the world’s first functional and operational walkie-talkie, saved the lives of thousands of British, Canadian and American troops during the Second World War and helped to usher modern telecommunications technologies into the military”.

Despite being a lifetime member of the Professional Engineers Associations of British Columbia and Ontario, the American Geophysical Union and the Canadian Signal Corps, his professional education was self-taught. He had no university education.

His life work includes a wide-range of antenna, radio technologies and geophysical exploration techniques using electromagnetic instrumentation that he developed. He has more than 55 patents to his name in both Canada and the US.

On 2000-02-13 Roger Chaisson, Bruce Waugh and David Billings were awarded the People’s Choice Award at the Ottawa Winterlude Festival for their 4 m tall ice sculpture dedicated to Don Hings. It depicted a Red Cross soldier in the Second World War, speaking into a C-48 walkie-talkie.

Hings was adept at Morse code, and was an amateur radio operator, with call sign VE7BH. His obituary notes that he talked to “HAM boys” well into his 90s.

Hings lived in Burnaby, a municipality immediately east of Vancouver, at the summit of the 203 m high Capitol Hill, a neighbourhood north of Hastings Street, east of Willingdon Avenue, and west of Fell Avenue, known for its Italian, Portuguese and Croatian immigrant communities. He first saw Capitol Hill on a Scout outing in 1918, and decided then and there that he wanted to live there. He bought ca. 2.5 city blocks of the area, built his house there in the late 1940s. This is where he lived and worked for the rest of his life.

He located his business on a compound at this site. Seven of the staff members that worked for him in Ottawa, relocated to Capitol Hill when the company was established. Ultimately, he sold building lots to a staff of 15 at the same price he had paid for them, so they could live close by their place of work.

In addition to other patents, he has one for an electric piano. It consists of tuned steel bars that set up a moving magnetic field that creates pure tones, minus the harmonics, It is small, compact and never needs to be tuned. In addition it is equipped with a speaker and volume control.

Much of the information for the Weblog post is sourced from the D. L. Hings website.

The C-58 Walkie Talkie is less portable than today’s hand-held devices.


Buffy Saint-Marie: A tidbit

Buffy Sainte- Marie at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concert, Ottawa, Canada, 2015-06-15. Photo: Drpeterstockdale/ Wikimedia Commons

Buffy Sainte-Marie (1941-02-21 – )

One track: Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Universal Soldier

One quotation: “Language and culture cannot be separated. Language is vital to understanding our unique cultural perspectives. Language is a tool that is used to explore and experience our cultures and the perspectives that are embedded in our cultures.”

One comment: Today, Buffy Sainte-Marie celebrates her 80th birthday. My appreciation of her is in large part based on one song, The Universal Soldier. It points a finger at each and every person for the perpetration of war. At one time, I also owned a version of this song by the 1960s Wesleyan College folk group, The Highwaymen, on their One More Time (1964) album. Covers of the song have been made in 1965 by both Glen Campbell (1936 – 2017) in as well as Donovan (1946).

Wind turbines in cold weather

The two major and three minor North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) interconnections, and the nine NERC Regional Reliability Councils. The Regional Reliability Councils are: Eastern Interconnection with Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC); Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO); Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC); ReliabilityFirst Corporation (RFC); SERC Reliability Corporation (SERC); and Southwest Power Pool (SPP). Western Interconnection with Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). Texas Interconnection with Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Mapwork: Claude Boucher (1964-)

This weblog post started off as a response to several fake news posts in various media, alleging that the recent power outages in Texas were due to wind turbine issues. While some wind turbines have failed, there are other, more important reasons for electrical power supply failures, resulting in the inability of Texas to provide water, food and energy to state residents, during – and after – winter storm Uri. Many of these are related to a toxic political environment, where the standard answer to any political question is privatization, where many other jurisdictions have found more nuanced solutions, often involving government participation.

In addition, the post has expanded into new areas, including the use of electric vehicle batteries and household power-walls to provide emergency power. If power utilities (corporations) cannot provide inexpensive and reliable supplies of energy, people will have to take energy production and storage into their own hands. It is noted, but not further discussed, that spot pricing of electrical power in Texas, has not led to a more equitable distribution, but to price gouging, despite this being illegal during an emergency.

Wikipedia states: “The electrical power grid that powers Northern America is not a single grid, but is instead divided into multiple wide area synchronous grids. The Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection are the largest. Three other regions include the Texas Interconnection, the Quebec Interconnection, and the Alaska Interconnection. Each region delivers power at a nominal 60 Hz frequency. The regions are not usually directly connected or synchronized to each other, but there are some high voltage direct current] HVDC Interconnectors.” Direct current is used to avoid any synchronizing issues between interconnections.

The American federal government regulated electrical power in the Federal Water Power Act of 1920-06-10. Its name was changed to the Federal Power Act in 1935. The content of the act has been changed at irregular intervals over the past century. Expressed less than rigorously, there are three electrical grids in the United States of America: The eastern grid, the western grid and the Texas grid, established so that the Lone-Star state/ Republic of Texas, could avoid regulation by the American federal government.

North American electrical energy production is coordinated by Regional Reliability Councils. These are: Eastern Interconnection with Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC); Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO); Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC); ReliabilityFirst Corporation (RFC); SERC Reliability Corporation (SERC); and Southwest Power Pool (SPP). Western Interconnection with Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). Texas Interconnection with Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Winter Storm Uri, has an official starting date of 2021-02-13, caused temperatures in Texas to drop to -20 C, in some locations. This caused serious water, energy and hunger problems, and a significant loss of human life. Accessing adequate supplies of water, food and gasoline has been difficult/ impossible for many/ some.

In Texas, wrath was initially directed at wind turbines. Many of the people criticising them are staunch members of the Republican party, and fossil fuel supporters. Fortunately, as will be shown below, many of these criticisms were regarded as fake news, resulting in a significant backlash.

Sid Miller, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, stated in a Facebook post 2021-02-16: “We should never build another wind turbine in Texas. The experiment failed big time. Governor Abbott’s Public Utility Commission appointees need to be fired and more gas, coal and oil infrastructure built.”

The same day Governor Greg Abbott told  Fox News’ Sean Hannity: “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America. Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10% of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis.”

Fortunately, there are wiser voices. Princeton engineering professor Jesse Jenkins tweeted: “Those of you who have heard that frozen wind turbines are to blame for this, think again. The extreme demand and thermal power plant outages are the principle cause.” PolitiFact reported: “Of the power shortfall that hit Texas, over 80% was due to problems at coal- and gas-fired plants.” Daniel Cohan, associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston, Texas stated: “By far the biggest outages have come from our natural gas plants, a portion were down for scheduled maintenance. Others weren’t designed to operate reliably in extreme cold weather and others haven’t been able to get enough natural gas supply.” Even rapper Bun B (Bernard James Freeman) criticized Texas Governor Greg Abbott for falsely blaming blackouts on renewable energy.

Benjamin Sovacool, University of Sussex, professor of energy policy, stated: “In Northern Europe, wind power operates very reliably in even colder temperatures, including the upper Arctic regions of Finland, Norway, and Sweden. As long as wind turbines are properly maintained and serviced, they can operate reliably in temperatures well below zero [0 F = ca. -18 C]. Humans, to carry out servicing and maintenance and operation, are the most important factor, not the weather.”

Various sources state that the operating temperature range of a wind turbine is between -20 C and +40 C. Admittedly steel alloys suitable for cold-temperature environments are typically used in wind turbines located in colder climates. Lubricants are used that retain appropriate viscosity for the climate where they are operating. Wind turbines are equipped with cold-weather packages that ensure cold-weather operation.

Active anti-icing systems are installed on most Nordic wind turbines. These can fail during a power outage on the grid, because they are dependent on external power sources. In a worst case scenario, cold, ice and older technology could result in a 10 percent reduction in annual energy production. With newer and larger turbines equipped with appropriate anti icing systems this loss would be significantly lower.

Blades without an ice-prevention system installed may need to be stopped temporarily in cold weather because falling ice could present a hazard. However, icing can be managed. Current anti-icing options allow wind turbines to be effective sources of power in cold climates.

It is interesting to see that in Texas, thermal energy sources, including natural gas, coal and nuclear energy did not receive the same criticism. Excuses were made that thermal energy failings were due to frozen instruments. The main culprit had nothing to do with instrumentation, but freeze-off, a situation where liquids inside wells, pipes and valves freeze, forming ice that blocks gas flow, clogging pipes. It disrupts gas production across the US every winter.

Another challenge, not generally cited, was that cold weather increased demand for natural gas for residential heating. There simply wasn’t enough fuel available to power the state’s electricity needs. Natural gas production was halved at the Texas Permian Basin during the storm. It fell from 635 million cubic meters of gas produced per day in 2020-12 to about 300 million cubic meters of gas per day during the storm period. This means that gas production was at a four-year low. It could take several weeks to restore supplies fully, due to equipment damage.

There are pragmatic reasons why a reduction in natural-gas supply could result in a reduction of gas to electrical power plants. Texas Gas Services, a public utility, explained it when requesting help from the public to reduce the number of people who could potentially lose the delivery of gas to residences during these extremely cold conditions. They said that conservation (whatever that is, in this context) is critical to avoid widespread outages. If an outage occurs, it will take time and effort to restore service. In part, because each residence will have to be checked for leaks before gas service can be re-established. If only electricity is lost, gas-furnaces should be turned off. When electrical power is restored, consumers are advised to wait 10 minutes before restarting gas furnaces to allow the natural gas system to adjust to increased demand and to avoid further disruptions. In other words, a residential gas outage could result in weeks of delay in getting service restored, while a residential electrical outage would allow an immediate restoration of power.

Many Texans have expressed relief that their state has few electric vehicles. Plugin Texas states that there were 8 397 EVs registered in the state in 2016. Statista estimates that in 2016, there were a total of 8.3 million registered vehicles in the state, indicating that about 0.1% of vehicles in the state are EVs. About 13 million people live in Texas.

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) power flows, enhanced with two-way advanced meters, would give power utilities an ability to flexibly manage charging. The combined capacity of EV batteries could dampen demand responses and prevent brownouts = an intentional or unintentional drop in voltage in the grid, or worse, blackouts = a loss of the electrical power network supply.

Normally, there should be limitations placed on the use of smart technologies to manage power consumption. Power utilities are keen to flatten electrical consumption throughout the day, so they want consumers to heat their water, wash their dishes and their clothes at night. Yet, insurance companies are concerned the use of dishwashers, washing machines and other appliances at night may increase the number of residential fires.

A more appropriate response may be to charge EV batteries during off-peak periods, then to use them during peak periods. This may be managed on a household basis, or involve large parts of a grid. This is one way to reduce the need for supplementary power stations. In one study, using power in this way may actually increase the life-span of EV battery packs.

In Europe, the ISO 15118-20 standard, comes into effect this year (2021). The standard covers everything from electric bikes, cars, buses and trucks to ships and airplanes. It can control AC and DC changing, as well as wireless power transfer (WPT) and bi-directional power transfer (BPT).

During exceptional times, such as winter storm Uri, electric vehicle batteries, with appropriate charging technology, can function as emergency power sources. They would turn the energy in their battery packs into alternating current (AC) power to provide emergency backup power.

Most EV manufacturers are now recycling used battery packs into second-life storage devices. One of these is Tesla’s Power Wall, but many others are coming onto the market. Power transistors are becoming much more efficient and compact, which has resulted in more efficient and compact domestic power inverters.

Micro power generation in the form of photovoltaic cells, miniature wind turbines or even concentrated solar (thermal) power units will also help make electrical supply more robust.

Some solutions encourage the prepper in everyone, including do-it-yourself (DIY) manufacturing of powerwalls, suitable for talented amateurs.

An Aside: At Cliff Cottage, we removed our main living room wood-burning stove. At one point we had intended on replacing it with a more modern stove, but this has met with opposition/ procrastination from all of the residents. They comment that every time a new log is put on a fire, smoke/ toxins enter the room. Thus, what we are considering now is a battery pack that will provide electricity when there is a blackout. In addition, it should be able to provide extra power during peak periods, and charge itself off-peak. A related project (Turtle Power) is to build a 1 kW miniature wind turbine, with no visible, unintentionally accessible moving parts, and occupying a volume of less than 1 m3. Anyone wanting further information, or an opportunity to participate, is invited to take contact.

Fossil fuels cause significant environmental and health problems. They are also a non-renewable resource. Relying on them is not a wise long-term energy strategy. Texans, and almost everyone else, will have to learn to do wind energy better, to install micro power generation equipment, and to use battery power at home and on the road.

Panel Vans

A 1961 Hillman Husky panel van in Christchurch, New Zealand. This is an Audax design from Raymond Loewy (1893 – 1986), who also designed vehicles for Studebaker and International Harvester. (Photo: Riley, 2011-10-23)

A panel van is a cargo vehicle with (up to) three distinguishing characteristics. First, it is based on a passenger car chassis. Second, there is typically only one row of seats for a driver and either one or two passengers. The area behind this row is for cargo/ goods/ freight. Third, (optionally,)there are no side windows behind the B-pillar, which is the roof support for the vehicle immediately behind the front doors.

In the past, some panel vans were almost identical to station wagons, but with glass side-windows replaced with steel, and rear seats removed. In the above photo, the windows are still in place, but painted with signage. Others featured a raised cargo area, behind the B-pillar. British panel vans, especially the Hillman Husky and Commer Cob, with their Audax design from 1960 to 1965, by Raymond Loewy (1893 – 1986), appealed most to me in the 1960s.

An aside: In part, this preference for British vehicles came from spending most summers in Kelowna, British Columbia, where my mother grew up. The community seemed to have a split personality: Half of the population drove British cars, the other half American. The first vehicle I ever drove was a Chevrolet pickup, in a farm field. I also spent a lot of time driving to beaches in the back of my aunt’s 1939 Plymouth. However, most of my mother’s friends had their own Austin A40s, Morris Minors, and even a Mini, bought in 1960.

By the 1970s, station wagons such as the Volkswagen Squareback and Volvo Amazon station wagon/ 125 and, later, Volvo 145 were also favourably viewed. This position was overtaken by the Saab 95 panel van in the 1980s and early 1990s. Our landlord in Aukra, Norway, had such a vehicle. Sometimes he would take us into Molde, about 30 km away, with Trish sitting in the passenger seat, while I lounged in the back. At the time, this was all perfectly legal. With the introduction of the Citroën Berlingo and Renault Kangoo in 1996, these two models dominated my thoughts. They no longer featured the front end, and lower seating height of a small car, but had a distinctive cockpit that improved visibility.

Part of the appeal of a panel van is that both sides and, potentially, the back, can be used to display artwork. This is part of their charm, and I have spent considerable time contemplating what I would paint on these surfaces. This characteristic does not extend to the panel van’s passenger vehicle cousin, the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). Despite their inferiority in displaying artwork, they also have one major advantage. When they aren’t busy carrying cargo, they can also haul up to five, and sometimes even seven people. This group of vehicles also includes the Kia Soul.

Since retirement in 2017, I have been unable to justify buying a panel van. We are reduced to one vehicle in the household. Even if that one vehicle is used mainly by a single person at a time, and sometimes even two people, it has to be capable of carrying at least four people. Unfortunately, the premise of owning a panel van was dependent on having more than one vehicle in the household. Any new vehicle means that it won’t be a panel van, but could be an MPV.

Why an MPV? Apart from driving to the local store, or SpirenTEK, the local hacker space, which could be done with any vehicle, the answer is to transform it into a primitive mini-camper, that could be used to explore Trøndelag/ Norway/ Scandinavia/ Europe at a leisurely pace. There are companies that make removable camper conversions, but it is also something that could be made in almost any woodworking workshop. Thus, the MPV is the most relevant type of vehicle to consider.

There are smaller contenders: a Fiat 500 Giardiniera (if it ever makes it into production, hopefully with a side opening tailgate), a Hyundai Kona, or a Kia e-Niro, all vehicles that have suitable range! If worse comes to worse and price becomes an important consideration, there is always a Dacia Spring, or a Renault Zöe. Renault has also said it will reduce the number of platforms it builds on, which probably means it will discontinue its Renault Twingo EV. They have also said that they will introduce a Renault 5 hatchback EV in 2023 or 2024 (probably a replacement for the Zöe), and a Renault 4 retrostyled mini-SUV EV in 2025. These would both use a new CMF-B EV platform, designed for electric compact vehicles, and be built at the Douai plant near Lille, France. None of these vehicles would make a suitable mini-camper. Apart from power, torque and sufficient battery capacity, which determines range, liquid battery cooling is imperative.

EV variant vans prior to 2021 were better suited to flat, slow moving urban landscapes, than to the mountainous terrain of Norway. Fortunately, both Renault and Citroën have updated their smaller vans. Soon these will be available with improved motors and batteries, so that they provide sufficient range and power. Are they once again fit for purpose? The availability of liquid battery cooling will provide the answer. If not, the Kia Soul EV does.

A 2021 Renault Kangoo, a multi-purpose vehicle, available in ICE and EV (called ZE in Renault-speak) varieties. Buying one is dependent on it coming with liquid cooled batteries. Photo: Renault.

Update: On 2021-02-14 some minor changes were made to improve the text, and to help people better understand locations in Canada and Norway.

Heat

The U.S. consumes about 100 EJ = 100 Exajoules = 100 x 1018 Joules of energy, annually. Americans, being Americans don’t often express energy in Joules. Rather, they prefer to use British Thermal Units (BTUs), where 1 BTU = 1055 J. Another way of expressing this is to say that Americans use about 100 quads of energy, where 1 quad = 1015 BTUs. If one is willing to accept a 5.5% error, one can say that 1 EJ is about equal to 1 quad.

Only about one third of energy consumed is used for productive work. The above Sankey diagram shows energy inputs and outputs, productive work is clumped together as energy services, in a dark gray box. The other 2/3 is wasted as heat, which in the above diagram is referred to as rejected energy, which is clumped together in a light gray box.

Renewable energy comes from solar (1.04 quads), hydro (2.5 quads), winds (2.75 quads) and geothermal (0.21 quads) sources, for a total of 6.5 quads. Thermal energy systems burn fuel or split atoms, and accounted for about 93.5% of American energy inputs in 2019. Most of this fuel come from fossil sources, that is responsible for most of the carbon emissions associated with climate change. Wasted/ rejected energy is a proxy/ surrogate/ substitute for the damage being done to the planet. The exception is the energy provided by nuclear power, although it also has issues of its own. In contrast, renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal) capture energy, without creating heat. While there are some transmission loses, most of that energy provides energy services.

A modern electric vehicle (EV) with regenerative braking is about 95% energy effective. Even the most efficient internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, can only achieve about 30% energy efficiency. This means that an EV only needs about 1/3 of the energy inputs that an ICE vehicle needs.

The United States transportation sector uses 28% of the total energy. Of this, cars, light trucks, and motorcycles use about 58%, while 23% is used in heavy duty trucks, 8% is for aircraft, 4% is for boats and ships, 3% is for trains and buses, while the last 4% is for pipelines (according to 2013 figures). This means that road transportation accounts for over 80% of the total. From the Sankey diagram, one can see that the transportation sector has 28.2 quads of input of (mostly) fossil-fuel energy, which means that 22.5 quads are road related. This results in 5.93 quads of transportation services, of which 4.75 quads are road related. These figures show about a 21% efficiency, because transportation related engines are considerably less efficient than other engines, including those used for electrical power generation.

If one uses renewable energy for road transportation, 4.75 quads of transportation services could be produced from about 5.0 quads of renewable (wind/ solar/ hydro/ geothermal) energy. At the same time, 22.5 quads of oil production would be eliminated, without any negative energy-related consequences. In fact, there would be benefits in terms of improved health, and less pressure on the environment.

A shift to renewable sources in other sectors would also have benefits. Natural gas and coal currently make a large contribution to inputs for electricity generation used elsewhere, 11.7 and 10.2 quads each, respectively, for a total of 21.9 quads. However, using the 1/3 service, 2/3 rejected formula, this means that these fossil-fuel inputs only produce 7.3 quads of electrical services. This contribution could be replaced by 7.5 quads of renewable energy.

Gasoline has an energy density of about 45 MJ/kg, which can provide about 15 MJ/kg of energy services, and 30 MJ/kg of rejected energy, as discussed above. A litre of gasoline has a mass of 0.76 kg and produces 2.356 kg of CO2 and 11.4 MJ of energy.

For American readers: The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that “About 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) are produced from burning a gallon of gasoline that does not contain ethanol. About 22.38 pounds of CO2 are produced by burning a gallon of diesel fuel. U.S. gasoline and diesel fuel consumption for transportation in 2013 resulted in the emission of about 1 095 and 427 million metric tons of CO2 respectively, for a total of 1 522 million metric tons of CO2. This total was equivalent to 83% of total CO2 emissions by the U.S. transportation sector and 28% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions.Under international agreement, CO2 from the combustion of biomass or biofuels are not included in national greenhouse gas emissions inventories.”

Since 1 MJ = 0.2778 Kilowatt hours (kWh), 11.4 MJ is the equivalent of 3.17 kWh. According to Electric Choice, the average price a residential customer in the United States pays for electricity is 13.31 cents per kWh in December 2020. This means that gasoline would have to sell for 42.19 cents per litre to be cost effective. Since there are 3.785 litres per American gallon, a gallon would have to sell for about $1.60 to provide an equivalent price. According to Global Petrol Prices, the average price of mid-grade/ 95-octane gasoline was $2.752 per gallon, the equivalent of $0.727 per litre, as of 2021-02-01.

In Norway, the price is about NOK 1 per kWh for electricity, but with wide variations. The price of 95-octane gasoline is about NOK 16.33 per litre, once again according to Global Petrol Prices. This helps explain why EVs are so popular. To be price equivalent, gasoline would have to sell for about NOK 3.17 per litre. Currently, Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, is debating increasing the CO2 tax by NOK 5 per litre, which would bring the price to over NOK 21 per litre. Not all political parties are in agreement, with this proposal.

There is a great deal of discussion about consumption figures for electric vehicles in Norway. In part, this is because the terrain varies greatly. Some people drive in urban landscapes, others out in the country. Some people are flatlanders, while others have more mountainous environments. However many consumers have experienced real-world energy consumption levels of about 15 kWh/100 km for vehicles such as a Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul and Tesla Model 3. This gives a fuel cost of about NOK 15/ 100 km. In American terms, this would be about 24 kWh/ 100 miles, or $3.20/ 100 miles, with the electrical costs noted above.

Fanboy

A badly behaving Apple Macintosh Performa 5200, owned between 1995 and about 2000, was the main reason why I never became a fanboy of Apple. I feel more comfortable with computers made by Asus, with Linux operating systems. Photo: Beavis.

A fanboy is a boy or man who is an extreme or overt enthusiast of someone or something. It very specifically excludes half of the population. Yes, those people who frequently become mothers, and who excel at multi-tasking. If there are complaints about the sexist nature of the title, I will graciously allow fanperson, or even fanchild, to be used. However, I wonder if there is a good reason why this description applies to one gender, and not the other?

Some definitions of fanboy use ardently devoted, or even obsessed. While some restrict this obsession to a more general “single hobby or interest”, another specifies categories and includes comic books, science fiction, video games, music or electronic devices and mentions Apple and the iPhone specifically.

While the number of fanboy sites checked is limited, none of them mentioned vehicles either generally (cars, locomotives and other forms of railcar, aircraft, vessels), or road machines more specifically in the form of motorcycles, muscle cars or sports cars. Here, I admit an unnatural attraction to panel vans and multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs), most specifically, the Citroën Berlingo more than any other vehicle, although if Citroën doesn’t soon produce an EV version with a ca. 300 km range, it may be dumped for another E-MPV: a Renault Kangoo or even a Kia Soul.

In terms of clothing, there were a number of products that I purchased because of their fit. These included McGregor Weekend socks and Ecco shoes, especially. Unfortunately, once McGregor started acquiring socks from China, they just didn’t last, so I stopped buying them. Instead, I have relied on Trish to make most of my socks. She also produces all of my shirts and pajamas. Ecco started using narrower lasts, which meant that their shoes no longer fit. Fortunately, my daughter, Shelagh, introduced me to Allbirds, which have now become my preferred shoe brand.

Owning a large number of products produced by the same manufacturer does not make one a fanboy. Take Jula’s Meek range of battery tools. While I own a large number of them, it is primarily because the tools are good enough, and they have battery compatibility. Similarly, the Scheppach woodworking power tools I have were purchased because of their low cost. Some are being replaced with Bosch (and other brand-name) equivalents. I want tools that do the job. I am a hobbyist, not a woodworking professional.

Where I am a fanboy relates to computing equipment, hardware more than software. Yet, because of my education, software is important. In terms of programming languages, I describe myself as a member of the Algol tribe, with Simula the closest to my heart. Unfortunately, it has been 35 years since I last programmed in it. One of the most important clans of the Algol tribe is Pascal. Outside of this tribe there is Smalltalk, which is appreciated more for its origins at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) than its utility. I am also attracted to Forth, Lua, Node-Red, Processing and Prolog, each for specific purposes. Yet, in the real world, if I have to program, I stick to C and C++. More modern languages, such as Python, arrived too late for me to work in, although it is a language I have played with, and recommend younger people to learn.

When it comes to desktop/ laptop operating systems, I will probably stick to Linux Mint with a Cinnamon desktop. This is not because I have mastered it. Rather, it allows me to muddle though. Other operating systems such as LibreELEC, FreeBSD, Robot operating system (ROS) and FreeRTOS = free real-time operating system, will be used to meet specific needs. Yet, I have an emotional attachment to another Linux distribution, Mandrake, the first Linux distribution I used, or at least its descendent, Mageia. The first family computer we owned was an Amiga, with Amiga OS still finding a place in my heart.

Most of the software listed above, is either unavailable (Simula, being the best example) or freely available without cost (most other products). Thus, if there is a specific need, most of the above operating systems can be put on a memory stick, and be running on a computer within a few minutes. Then I can spend an hour or two indulging my (software) desires.

This is not the case with hardware. Most of the time, real money has to be spent buying gear. I have already wasted sufficient money buying computer components that break down far too early. Thus, the primary reason for being a fanboy is to secure reliable products.

In alphabetical order, some products are:.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD): microprocessors, currently Ryzen models

Asus: computers, motherboards

Canon: printers

Logitech: keyboards, mice, headphones

Noctua: fans, cooling systems

Raspberry Pi: single board computers, and peripheral interfaces (HATS)

Wacom: graphic tablets

Some products have almost attained fanboy status. One is Native Instruments for its musical/ sound equipment. A change in status is dependent on support for Linux operating systems, something currently lacking. Similarly, I am awaiting for RISC V reduced instruction set computers (RISC) to arrive at some point in the near future. Hopefully, this open-source microprocessor system will improve security, reliability and durability.

There are a number of products that at one time had fanboy status, but lost it. Western Digital is the best example. Before, almost all hard disk drives (HDD) in use here were made by the company. Now, Toshiba is the most popular brand, although I did purchase a Samsung solid-state drive (SSD) for my latest system. I also buy a number of Kingston products, in the form of memory sticks.

The opposite of a fanboy is a h8er, an adversary of particular products. While others may be h8ers out of prejudice, the term here is restricted to unreliable products. Printers often fall into this category with those provided by HP and Epson particularly notable.

The one other manufacturer that should be commented upon is Apple. Their Macintosh Performa series was a disaster, but countless times they make decisions that negatively impact users. This may be fine for the class of user that can upgrade regularly without thinking of the cost, but Apple products are not for people in the lower echelons of society. I have previously commented on my experiences with Apple products.

Final comment: Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, in a YouTube video, on her Transport Evolved channel, 2020-11-25 at 20:32, used the term fangirl to describe what she wasn’t. This is the first time, I have been exposed to a gendered variant of the term. Admittedly, I lead a sheltered life.