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FBI Concerned About Criminals Using Driverless Cars

Above Re:Only because they're stupid. (435 comments)

Using it for bombings. What's so different from sending an autodrive vehicle to someplace with a bomb in it as opposed to sending a regular vehicle with a bomb and then leaving it before it blows, or even having some ignorant stooge drive it for you? After all, it's not like you can make the autodrive violate it's programming and plow through a crowd or into a mall. If you really wanted to do that, you could just rig a normal car up with remote controls. It's not that hard or expensive, they do it a lot on mythbusters, so it's not a strange concept to most people either.

I'm afraid you're not being very creative. The threat isn't one car with one bomb, because you can always find a single bomber. The threat here is fleets of cars, possibly hacked remotely, perhaps in coordination with other attacks. For instance many government buildings have strict security on which cars can get inside the perimeter. A latent trojan in the car firmware might not activate until after it was inside the security perimeter. Or if someone could find a way to take over a fleet of semi-trucks they may be able to convince them to all drive down a perfectly ordinary street -- at the same time a marathon is being held. It's the same tactics being used with botnets on the internet, but this time with real things that pose life-threatening dangers.

about two weeks ago

FAA Pressures Coldwell, Other Realtors To Stop Using Drone Footage

Above Re:Not a rule (199 comments)

Another reply has already pointed out the "navigable airspace" limitation. The specific FAA rule is FAR Part 91.119 Minimum Safe Altitudes. Basically 500 feet everywhere, and 1,000 feet over "populated areas".

Back in 1981 the FAA addressed RC operators with Advisory Circular 91-57. It requires RC operators stay under 400', remain in line of sight, and coordinate with an airport if they are within 3 miles of the airport (which is where planes may be under those minimums due to take offs and landings.

This set of rules basically insures vertical separation of RC operators and "real" planes. It's worked for over 30 years, quite nicely. In fact the FAA is quite happy with this for "drone" (really RC quadcopter) operators. Buy one, fly it over your house within the rules, take a video and post it on YouTube for your "hobby" and the FAA is perfectly ok with it, and won't give you a hard time.

Rather, the FAA is drawing a different line here. They have a long history of distinguishing between commercial and private operations, and have different regulations for both. They have generally held in the past that "all commercial operators must be licensed", which in the context of real planes makes perfect sense. But with these new quadcopters this rule has gone screwy. If you take the same video from the last paragraph and provide it to your realtor to help sell your house, suddenly you are a "commercial" operator and can't operate without an FAA License, and oh by the way they have no procedure to license RC operators right now so you can't get one, but you can ask for a one off waver, it may be approved in a few months.

And that's what is stupid here. If it's a RC device, operated by a human, under 400' and in line of site, they should stay out of it. Commercial or hobby shouldn't matter.

about two weeks ago

The First Person Ever To Die In a Tesla Is a Guy Who Stole One

Above Re:Unsafe at any speed (above 100 MPH)... (443 comments)

I think I can help you out.

It's actually a rather common, and well studied occurrence. For instance here's a 70 MPH into a tree car split in half. Many cars have had extremely weak side impact designs for years. It's also one of the hardest things to protect against since there is no crumple zone on the side to absorb energy, unlike the front and back.

I bet across the country there are multiple cars split in half every single day, many from hitting narrow objects like light poles at relatively modest speeds, like 45MPH.

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Do 4G World Phones Exist?

Above Not a phone, but... (259 comments)

The latest iPad Air made some news in the tech circles when it came out for it's 4G capabilities. It was the first time Apple was able to use 100% identical hardware for AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile. In fact, baring some stupidity in provisioning departments, it's possible to buy one, get SIM's from the other three, and have a 4-provider iPad in the US.

The specs:

UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1900 MHz)
LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26)

Based on my reading at the time, due to the power and antenna requirements there were no phones that had the same laundry list of 4G bands. Of course that was ~1 year ago now, and time moves pretty fast in the mobile world. The reason I post this though is the iPad Air makes a killer 4G hotspot, 24 hours of battery life with the screen off. Maybe a 3G world phone and an iPad Air for high speed data are a viable solution? The iPad also is sold unlocked from Apple, no extra charge. Phones will likely have carrier locking issues.

about 2 months ago

Reading Rainbow Kickstarter Earns One Million Dollars In Less Than a Day

Above Let's see why... (164 comments)

  1. Well known Celebrity, check.
  2. Celebrity actually cares about, and is involved in the cause, check.
  3. The cause is to help children, puppies, or other small cute things everyone likes, check.
  4. The cause promises to make the future a better place, check.
  5. Makes a large group of people sentimental for the past, check.
  6. Rewards appeal to people with money, check. [Come on, geeks like Star Trek, geeks make good money.]
  7. Kick off carefully coordinated to multiple popular internet web sites, check.
  8. Asked for a modest amount of money compared to what they actually want to accomplish, check.

It was a kick-starter wet dream. When I saw the initial post I said "He'll have the money in 48 hours tops". Apparently I overestimated by about 4x!

about 2 months ago

OpenSSL: the New Face of Technology Monoculture

Above Re:OpenBSD's Fork Is The Answer (113 comments)

We need a GNU/SSL fork too. GPL forever!

It exists, and is called GnuTLS. All the developers I've worked with who've looked at it and OpenSSL say it is worse than OpenSSL, although I don't remember the particulars of why. Feel free to support it if you prefer a GNU alternative.

about 3 months ago

Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Above Re:Militia, then vs now (1633 comments)

See my other reply, but largely your rights are only absolute in to the extent they don't infringe on others rights. For instance your free speech rights can't come at the expense of someone else's free speech rights. The movie theatre example is the classic one from law school, it's illegal, and not free speech to yell "fire" in a movie theatre because it causes a panic and injures others. If the theater is empty, go right ahead.

In the case of the FCC, their jurisdiction is only over "the commons", that is the broadcast spectrum. If a station wants to use the commons, that is send a radio signal out that everyone can listen to, they have to get a license to use that spectrum and because it goes to "everyone" they have to abide by a common set of rules. It's a Tragedy of the Commons situation, one person/company/entity can't take more than their fare share of a common resource.

By contrast, "cable TV" is a private enterprise, not using the common broadcast spectrum, and paid for by individual subscribers. That's why you can get PPV porn, HBO can swear all they want, and so on. The FCC can't control what they do, because they are not using the commons.

about 3 months ago

Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Above Re:Militia, then vs now (1633 comments)

Your state level issue is largely handled by the Federal Preemption clause in Article VI, clause 2. So no, the states can't preempt the constitution, by joining the union they signed on to agreeing. Fun fact, "Congress" in this usage almost certainly includes state legislatures, just as it includes the house and senate. It's a generic term meaning a gathering of the people's representatives.

Personally, I find the phrase "shall not be infringed" to be stronger than "Congress shall make no laws", especially given the number of groups besides Congress that make laws in this country (every city, county, state government, as examples).

I'm afraid the standard definitions do not support your interpretation of infringe:

to wrongly limit or restrict (something, such as another person's rights)

It is in fact possible to "correctly" limit someone else's rights. Oddly enough, most people understand this in a first amendment context, where the "no laws" prohibition makes it more dicy. Yell "fire" in a crowed movie theatre and you can be prosecuted for "inciting a panic" or "causing a disturbance". As a society we recognize that while you have a right to free speech, that right is only absolute in so much as it does not infringe on others rights, in this case not being trampled as people panic trying to leave the not on fire theater. Most people find this relatively uncontroversial.

Apply the same logic to the second though, for instance that you have to take a gun safety class before being allowed a fire arm so you don't accidentally shoot someone else and people go bonkers. It's the same logic, an individuals rights are only absolute to the point where they do not trample another's rights. Your right to a gun does not allow you to (accidentally) take the life of another person.

about 3 months ago

Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Above Re:It's crap (1633 comments)

Let me assume for the moment that your view is correct.

Given our government owns, in no particular order, M1A1 tanks, drones, tomahawk missiles, nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, rail guns, and even (in Austin Powers voice) fricken' lasers doesn't that mean that for the people to defend themselves they need similar weaponry?

It doesn't matter if you look at small scale skirmishes like Waco, where the government brought to bear 9 APC's, 3 helicopters, and a variety of medium arms, or large scale skirmishes like Desert Storm, the military took on a million man, trained army and rolled over them in 21 days.

Honestly, if your view is correct, then you should support rewriting the second amendment. Owning a AR-15 is not going to protect you from the Government. Having a million of your friends own an AR-15 will not protect you from the government. The world has changed, you can be blown up by a drone at 60,000 feet you'll never see. If you want citizens to be able to defend themselves from the government, we need some entirely new mechanism for that, because small arms won't do the job any longer.

I won't guess what the founding fathers really had in mind with the second amendment. However, I will argue that they did not imagine the world of today might exist, and thus did not consider the situations that might arise today. I wish we could stop arguing about what they intended a few hundred years ago, and instead focus on something sane and rational that works in today's world. The constitution was intended to be a living document, with an amendment process.

about 3 months ago

Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Above Re:Militia, then vs now (1633 comments)

Your argument is popular, but incomplete. Let's look a the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The second amendment could easily have been constructed in a similar fashion, I'll write my own "what if":

Congress shall make no law prohibiting the ownership of arms.

Nice, simple, and would support your interpretation. However that's not in the historical record. In fact, the Second Amendment was not only written differently but was passed with different text by congress than the states used to ratify! Here are the two versions:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

So where the first amendment is an absolute prohibition "no laws", the second amendment uses an arguably gentler "shall not be infringed". To put that in a frame of mind, consider something like having to get a license. Under the first amendment a license to be part of the press would clearly be no good under the "no laws" clause. Under the second amendment, is having to get a license infringement or not? To a lot of the public it is not.

It is also interesting that they saw it necessary to include the concept of a militia. I won't attempt to guess what they really intended there (although plenty of others have), I will just point out the language is a marked departure from the absolute, unabridged nature of the first amendment.

In short, assertion would require that there be striking similarity between the two causes, such that a limit on "arms" would have the same parameters as a limit on "freedom of the press". But the two clauses are not only dissimilar, but completely different. I think based on text alone it is entirely reasonable to make the general statement that "the founders viewed the ownership of arms differently than freedom of the press", otherwise the much simpler text of the first amendment, or indeed adding "arms" to the first amendment, would have been far, far simpler.

about 3 months ago

Engine Data Reveals That Flight 370 Flew On For Hours After It "Disappeared"

Above Re:It wasn't the engines sending data (382 comments)

OP has it right, but we can add more information. I've been following the discussion over at where some people know more about this plane's electronics.

First some back story. The SATCOM system is sort of like your cable modem, or more accurately a cell data stick for a laptop. It's a sort of modem that knows how to connect to the satellites. Like a unprovisioned cell phone it still reaches out and says "can I have service", and then gets no answer. ACARS is an application that runs on another computer in the plane. It's sort of like a "twitter feed" for a plane. Short messages can be placed on it and routed off to other places. Boeing offers a service where the plane reports its health back to boeing using this application. Rolls Royce offers a service where the engines report back to them using this service. Pilots can even send short text messages over the service back to their HQ. The GPS system can send a message with its position. ACARS knows how to transmit over HF, VHF, and SATCOM. It also goes through a cleaning house (think twitter again) who routes the individual messages to the right party.

Mayalsia Airlines apparently bought the "limited" package of monitoring. As such ACARS was programmed to send no information to Boeing, and only limited information to Rolls Royce. Compare with the Air France crash in the Atlantic where they subscribed to the "full" suite of monitoring and 29 messages were generated. Further, Mayalsia apparently didn't pay for SATCOM airtime, instead letting it report over HF and VHF. If it was far enough out over water these methods would not be within reach of the radios.

However, the plane still had a SATCOM system on it (comes standard), and it was still like an unprovisioned cell phone saying "can I have service", apparently once per hour. Further the satellites in orbit have directional antennas that cover a particular section of the ground. It appears in this case ACARS was disabled (either intentionally, a small switch in the cockpit) or via failure (fire, or whatever).

The key detail is that while ACARS and many other functions can be turned off from the cockpit, the only circuit breaker for the SATCOM systems are NOT in the cockpit according to experts. It would require going to the electronics room on the plane which is not easy to reach in flight, and more importantly would not be possible to reach if a individual had taken over the plane.

So the stories line up. Boeing received no messages as the plane was not programmed to send them any. Rolls Royce received two during the normal part of flight, and then nothing as the system was turned off or disabled. However that SATCOM modem apparently continued, once per hour, to look for service. I guess the US authorities were able to talk to the satellite provider and get logs of it making those requests, and perhaps even narrowing it down to a specific antenna on the satellite.

On power; the experts say the plane has ~30 minutes of battery in the case of total electrical failure. In flight it also has a ram air turbine (think mini-windmill) that can generate enough power. If it did a "miracle on the hudson" style landing in water and it somehow stayed afloat (being under water even 1' makes the sat signal too week) batteries would only last ~30 minutes.

One of the most bizarre incidents ever recorded. The outcome of this is going to be very interesting.

about 4 months ago

Mt. Gox Knew It Was Selling Phantom Bitcoin 2 Weeks Before Collapse

Above Re:Bitcoin (263 comments)

Perhaps "money" is more than just the coins, paper, or bits that represent some units, and actually only has value when it is in a predictable and stable system. Who knew!

about 4 months ago

70% of U.S. Government Spending Is Writing Checks To Individuals

Above Re:Come and get it, stupid future generations! (676 comments)

I don't want to tax the rich, I want to tax the rich corporations. The share paid by corporations has dropped from about 30% in 1940, to about 12% today, see source. Individual taxes have stayed, overall at about the same level, and the gap in corporate taxes has been made up in payroll taxes, which largely come out of someone's (potential) salary.

So while taxing Bill Gates a bit more only helps a little, the real crime here is that many of the richest Americans hide their money in corporations, tax shelters, and move it through tax-exempt organizations in ways that over time have deprived the Treasury of revenue.

But TubeSteak is also right. This problem was created over 20-30 years, it may take 20-30 years to run the deficit to zero should we chose to, I would argue some deficit is good.

about 5 months ago

70% of U.S. Government Spending Is Writing Checks To Individuals

Above Re:And... (676 comments)

Here's a fun fact the right doesn't often talk about. I've spoken to a number of actual illegals over the years about how much they fear being captured. Several of them appear to have what are "above board" jobs, having gotten identification numbers on a temporary work via and then continued to use them, or on various other methods. They overstayed, and are now illegal.

The general response was interesting. INS doesn't have enough resources to do anything unless you're a felon. Even getting arrested for a misdemeanor is unlikely to get INS involved unless your in a few border areas. They really didn't fear INS at all. However, each said they very carefully paid their taxes to the IRS each year, often omitting some questionable deductions to which they might be entitled. Why? The IRS will audit them. And while the IRS is forbidden by law to share information with other federal agencies so a return won't get you arrested, if the IRS choses to arrest you then you're in the federal system, automatically handed over to INS, and deported in short order.

The result is in fact many illegals pay taxes, but are not entitled to receive many of the benefits that other tax payers could receive. They are in fact the opposite of takers, but are rather over contributors.

I wish I had a citation, but I don't.

about 5 months ago

NASA Admits It Gave Jet Fuel Discounts To Google Execs' Company

Above Red Herring (126 comments)

The issue here is that Google got to keep their jets at AMES at all, not that they got fuel subsidies. NASA sold them fuel the only way NASA knew how, and probably in full compliance with regulations. The issue is not with the fuel sales, but with Google being able to keep their jets their at all.

Anyone familiar with the area knows that AMES is much more convenient for a private plane of the size the Google Execs own than pretty much any other option. SFO, OAK, and SJC are all busy, and have various red-tape on them. Airports like SQL are too small for the google jets. Normally no non-NASA flights can be at AMES. There are no Apple Jets, no Cisco Jets, no Facebook Jets at this airport. Google attempted to get around this by offering free instrumentation on their jets to NASA.

This is the first step in calling bullshit. This should have never happened. A few instruments does not make it a NASA project. Google should have never been there in the first place. Someone gave them preferential treatment using the instruments as an excuse.

about 5 months ago

Walmart Unveils Turbine-Powered WAVE Concept Truck

Above Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (242 comments)

In the vast majority of cases (in fact I would suggest > 90% of all rail miles) the railroad owns a 50 foot wide strip of land. This is due to the history of how railroads procured land when the routes were selected. You would own the property on both sides, and the railroad pays property tax on that 50 foot wide strip in the middle.

There are some cases where the railroad does not own the land, but has an easement for the use of the land. Railroads hated that arrangement for a number of reasons, but could in fact be the arrangement where you own property. In that case it's like any other easement (for a pipeline, electric line, or even a driveway to a landlocked property) they have a right of use for the purpose of running a railroad, but do not own any property and would not pay property tax as a result.

about 5 months ago

Walmart Unveils Turbine-Powered WAVE Concept Truck

Above Re:Why so many trucks? Why not railroads (242 comments)

It's actually worse than that, and only begins to look at the problem.

Railroads own their own right of way, which means property, which means they pay property tax! They are also required by mandate to upgrade to any new safety standards the government dictates.

Neither apply to roads. The government owns the land the roads are built on, and exempts itself from tax. If a road safety standard is updated, existing roads are grandfathered in until they next time they are rebuilt.

Add in the fact that state and local government subsidize roads out of general tax revenue coffers, and use tax-free government bonds to finance them and railroads are at a significant financial disadvantage in the US. That's why they can only compete on large volume, bulk commodities. Want millions of tons of coal for a power plant? Well, even though they have to eat all those costs it's more efficient. Want to stock a Walmart? The cost of the spur to it would never be made back.

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Software Can You Not Live Without?

Above Re:GCC etc. (531 comments)

I would never write a script in tcsh, however I consider it's configuration flexibility and command line behavior to be much better for interactive use. Scripts should be in /bin/sh or perl, or similar.

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: What Software Can You Not Live Without?

Above Re:GCC etc. (531 comments)

Uh, it has better tab completion than bash, and home/end works just fine. I think your Solaris install was broken.

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Sort?

Above How about Administrative Assistant sort? (195 comments)

They don't let us call them secretaries anymore, but I agree with stevegee58. Let an administrative assistant sort, or better yet run them through a Fujitsu SnapScan and then let the computer do the sorting.

about 5 months ago



Above Above writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Above (100351) writes "At my previous house I purchased a number of motion sensor lights to replace the standard flood lights. I simply went to the nearest Home Depot and bought a mid range model, and they worked great.

Since then I moved. In the new house I did the same, and got some Heath-Zenith units from Home Depot. They were junk. Came on all the time for no reason. I adjusted two different units to no end, they simply didn't work. Since that was basically all Home Depot carried, I went to Lowes. I got a Regent Lighting unit. It was better, but not by much.

All of them seem ok on a clear day. Add mist, rain, fog, well, pretty much any bad weather and they bounce on and off continuously. On the lowest sensitivity setting. I've adjusted the sensors, moved from 270 degree (on corner) to 180 degree sensors to reduce reflections off the walls, all to no luck.

Where can I get a good motion sensor flood light? What are the secrets to aiming and adjusting them so they work right? I want my back yard to be relatively sensitive, triggered by the dogs when we let them out, but the front yard to be insensitive, triggered by a car or close person only.


Above Above writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Above (100351) writes "I have a data set that turns into the number of users per ZIP code. I would like to plot this on a map, with circles of various sizes centered on the ZIP codes sized to the number of users in that location. I can generate the sizes, and I see a large number of databases that translate ZIP codes to Lat/Long. What I don't see is an easy tool that allows me to feed in the number (relative size) and ZIP and generate a plot.

I believe enough people do this sort of plot that there must be a good tool available. Is there an easy way, or do I have to reinvent the wheel?"


Above has no journal entries.

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