October Musings: What’s Been of Importance to Me in 2013

 

As anyone can probably tell, I have been extremely late in finishing the post series on the files that DefCad had been hosting which the State Department took issue with. Part II is just about done, and part III will come up shortly in November. But given that I haven’t been updating this site very much for the past several months, I think it might be worth it to maybe explain myself for a bit, and of course make a record of what will take up my time from here on out.

 

1. To start with: I have spent some time here and there coming up with a stopgap measure against a potential doomsday scenario for 3D-printing restrictions that may very well never come to pass. Still, it never hurts to be prepared, and anything that helps destroy the morale of nanny-state politicians who wish they could implement such measures is a plus regardless of how the legal regime plays out. Shortly after the massive publicity put towards Defense Distributed’s successful testing and release of the Liberator pistol in CAD file form (along with the State Department’s somewhat futile request that Defense Distributed take down their DefCad files), there was some short-lived talk from California senator (you knew it had to be that or New York state) Leland Yee about all these oh-so-necessary registration rules that would need to apply to 3D printers.

 

Yes, this is the same Leland Yee that wanted to treat M-rated video games the same way alcohol is treated by forbidding their sale to children.   Falsely claiming that the Liberator suddenly gave criminals some kind of magical ability to kill someone “scott-free” (which to him is somehow impossible to do with a regular gun) Yee insisted that legislative action was necessary to address this great big one-shot pistol threat. These included background checks, serialization of printers, and last but not least: possible restrictions on what they’re allowed to print.

 

The first two of those suggestions are damn-near impossible to implement effectively. If someone buys a printer for family and friends to use, is that considered a “straw purchase” if someone else uses it to help make a gun? And if printers are serialized, well… How the hell is that supposed to achieve anything? Is this something on the printer itself that can just be removed outright the way serial numbers are filed off of firearms? Or is some type of watermarking of printed parts supposed to apply? All these are anyone’s guess at this point.   It is the third one (shape restrictions) however that *might* have some degree of potency.

 

The good news is that Yee has so far backed down from much if not all of his initial proposals, so shape restrictions may very well turn out to be a non-issue. But this only applies to Yee, less so for the whole US, and certainly not at all for other countries with more authoritarian governments. Restrictions on what printers are able to print would no doubt be a 21st century step forward in the gun control regime wishes.  So despite the fact that no software existed at the time to implement such a proposal, I began pondering ways in which you could get around such measures. Thus, a thread on the DefCad forums was born devoted exclusively to this very task. In it I noted that the simply way of defeating any shape restrictions is to simply alter how you print it so the firmware in question can’t tell what you’re making. How important this information could potentially be didn’t become clear until a month later…

 

It's not like I actually made a guide on defeating such measures a month earlier. Oh wait...

It’s not like I made a guide on defeating such measures a month earlier!!! Oh wait…

 

Suddenly a thread that wasn’t getting too much attention to begin with was now getting an influx of hits. How flattering. Ever since all that took place I have decided to turn that thread into a cleaned-up PDF guide. Anyone who wants to know how to bypass shape restrictions without having to jailbreak the printer will be able to do so without any knowledge of software exploitation. Hooray!

 

In addition to shape restrictions, I have since decided to also include means of getting past DRM restrictions placed on CAD files themselves. Rather than changing how you print something, the focus turns to how you generate a DRM-free file of the object you want to print. Some back and forth discussion between me and a few other people on Twitter led me to start including material on that problem as well.

 

So this PDF guide has been one thing taking up much of my time over the past several months. I hope to have it done on the anniversary of when Thingiverse decided to take down printable gun parts, maybe.

 

 

2. In addition, I have been working on my book. Yes, that book. The one this site is named after. The one I thought I was going to finish in 2010, and would be under 200 pages long. The one that is now looking to possibly be twice as long as that, with tinier font. The one I decided to start putting notes together for almost four years ago. Yes, “State Exempt: Guide to a Voluntary Society.”

 

Rather than rant on about the pathetic reasons why it won’t be done until early 2015, allow me to show some progress that actually has been made on the whole thing.

 

Several months ago, I was searching Google Images for some possible cover designs that were likely in the public domain. Looking for pictures of cities was of prime focus; any major center of commerce would do. So low and behold, I came across an image of Hong Kong:

 

One of the most *economically* free parts of the world.

One of the most *economically* free parts of the world.

 

Wow, pretty image! So I thought, “Hey, why not try to make a cover design out of it?” After messing around in Paint.Net (a favorite open-source alternative to paint for anyone who happens to be stuck on Windows), this is what I came up with:

 

Cover Concept 2.0 - The final won't be as dark.

Cover Concept 2.0 – The final won’t be as dark and heavily contrasted.

 

Yeah, it does look a little gloom and doom. My next version will be an attempt to correct this (probably by lowering the dark florescence caused by heavy contrast), but for now this is just a sample to give readers of this blog an idea of what I might end up doing, and to put everyone at ease who thinks I am neglecting to work on the darn thing.

 

Along with new cover designs, I also finally scanned all the composition notes I’ve made that are so valuable that losing them would mean the end of this project altogether. Fortunately I now have 200 DPI high-def ultra-realism scans are now backed up in almost a half-dozen locations, so that risk is no longer an issue. At this point it’s just a matter of making a bullet-point outline of every specific topic that will be discussed in each segment of each part of each section of each chapter of the book. Yep, I have it whittled down to the specifics, and soon it will be just a matter of actually writing the first draft.

 

This draft won’t take too long to do since I already have a clear idea of what I intend to write. Stringing together sentences is really half the task of writing a book. Or at least that’s the way it plays out for me. From there I just need to format it, make sure all the citations are accurate, make an index (easy to do: just search every letter with Ctrl+F and find any key words from there), finalize the cover, submit it, get a proof copy, and wash rinse repeat a couple times until the result looks good.

 

Until then, one of the bigger tasks I have is to get some reading done. The series I started on the selected bibliography for “State Exempt” will continue soon as well, and I do plan comprehend every last tidbit of wisdom from those works to hopefully enhance my own. However I think about 66-75% or so of the final draft of “State Exempt” will remain the same regardless of what I read until it gets done.

 

 

3. And for autodidacts… Speaking of reading necessary works that I find relevant to anything political I might write about, I have teamed up with a few people online to make what could be considered a Libertarian reading syllabus. Included will be study outlines for many of the most basic or necessary reads. The final result will be posted on a site called FreedomFiles.Info that appears to still be under construction. As the site makes clear, it does not cover anarchist topics. Free market anarchy is not relevant there because the site will deal with *government* policy, so far as I know.

 

In the process of this, I downloaded dozens (literally) of books off of Mises.org, and I recently bartered for a tablet that makes it way easier to finally read through them all. I can say it’s been a thrill to finally have countless books that can easily be read on the go while commuting. Wasted time is no longer as much of an issue.

 

Along with self-education through books, I have word that a group of people will soon be working on a software application that takes OpenCourseWare to a whole new level…

 

Ron Paul (or someone writing in his name) now has a new book out entitled, “The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System” which is basically a critique of government’s role in education. I can already tell I will enjoy it when I finally get a copy, and in addition to it, there is yet another book in the works by an economist I admire deeply that treads similar ground.

 

Bryan Caplan, probably best known as being the author who wrote the work of genius that is “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies” has another book in the works. The working title so far appears to be “The Case Against Education” with a subtitle of some kind that (rightfully) implies that the cost of schooling in the US is vastly overpriced compared to what you get in return. If this book turns out to be half as good as any of his prior books, then this is something I refuse to miss. School choice has been gaining some headway over the past couple decades and I do get the feeling that it will only continue to grow.

 

That being said, I cannot ignore the fact that there have been some setbacks from time to time under the Obama administration:

 

 

And not to mention the DOJ’s absurd lawsuit over the Louisiana voucher program. But despite these setbacks, the trend as a whole seems to be in favor of greater school choice. One successful program in Arizona has been getting some excellent legal headway in terms of whether or not the program is constitutional (of course it is, no religion is forced on anyone). And I could go on about the growth of charter schools and of course, homeschooling (which is growing seven times faster than traditional public schooling).

 

It’s that last trend that has me especially giddy as hell, for reasons that warrant a whole new post (maybe even a series) altogether. In short, the annual cost of homeschooling is typically around $500 for curricular materials. If such information could be delivered for free, than that would annihilate one of the biggest objections that teacher’s unions and the misinformed people who support them have towards any school choice measure: “OMG! Privatization meanz profit which is teh most evulzist thang eva cuz they get compensashun in raturn fo edjucating peoplez!!!”

 

Honestly, I feel somewhat optimistic about the future. In no way am I in any Pollyanna state of mind, but I do think the collapse of higher and lower education as we know it will be a key catalyst for other political reforms in the long run. More on that in a future post…

 

Until then I need to finish the shape restriction guide,  as well as that damn Defcad object series that never got done. And of course, the book this site was set up for in the first place. If procrastination paid well, then I think Occupy Wall Street would’ve hung me by now.