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Fotopedia Is Shutting Down; Data Avallable Until August 10

Animats Re:Welcome to the world of the Cloud... (42 comments)

... where your data disappears and your apps stop working the moment the company goes under.


Last night I went to a panel in SF on the "House of the Future", which all participants interpreted to mean "hooking your appliances up to the Cloud for access via phone apps". When your cloud-based home control provider goes bust, (or just discontinues the "obsolete" interface your devices used) your gadgets will stop working.

People with cloud-based garage door openers, you have been warned.

12 hours ago

Is the App Store Broken?

Animats Too many apps, too much appcrap (235 comments)

There should be far fewer "apps". Any "app" that just displays content should be a web site. Once you get rid of the appcrap, there probably is no need for more apps than there were boxed software products.


More Quantum Strangeness: Particles Separated From Their Properties

Animats Quantum mechanics is real, like it or not. (135 comments)

That's a nice result. It's in accord with theory. It doesn't match human intuition based on large-scale objects, but it's the way the universe really works. The theory in this area is well understood; Feynman's "QED" has a good overview.

Ever since the double-slit experiment, it's been clear that this stuff is real. Over the last few decades, more of the weirder predictions of quantum electrodynamic theory have been confirmed experimentally. This is another predicted event confirmed. Nice work.


A Look At the Firepick Delta Circuit Board Assembler (Video)

Animats Re:$1000, not $300 (43 comments)

I guess you're supposed to stencil the paste in first and the put it in a heat oven as if you had done the pick and placing by hand.

Their FAQ contains:

  • TBD - Solder paste dispensing
  • TBD - Selective Reflow via custom ATC head

That's what would make the machine useful for prototyping. Printing a solder paste stencil can be done on a laser cutter, but you need access to one, or you must send the job out. Laying down solder paste by hand with a little syringe on each pad (probably under a microscope) takes longer than manually placing parts and is Not Fun.

Printing solder paste with an ink-jet printer type head has been done. If they can make that work, that will be a big win.


A Look At the Firepick Delta Circuit Board Assembler (Video)

Animats $1000, not $300 (43 comments)

Their presentation for investors quotes a sale price of $1000, not $300. At that price they might be able to do it. How well they'll do it remains to be seen.

Their presentation is all about their XY positioning mechanism. But that's not the problem. The hard problem is dispensing solder paste reliably and precisely, sticking the component down, and using hot air to solder it into place. As with low-end 3D printers, most of the problems are where the weld/soldering action takes place. They don't say much about how that's done.

The important thing is doing a consistently good soldering job. Nobody needs a machine that produces lots of reject boards.

2 days ago

Which Is Better, Adblock Or Adblock Plus?

Animats Should I do an ad blocker? (363 comments)

I'm behind Ad Limiter, which limits Google search ads to one per page, picking the best one based on SiteTruth ratings. You can set it for zero search ads if you like. It also puts SiteTruth ratings on Google search results. It's a demo for SiteTruth search spam filtering.

This Mozilla/Chrome add on has a general ad-blocking mechanism inside. Unlike most ad blockers, it's not based on regular expressions looking for specific HTML. It finds URLs known to lead to ads, works outward through the DOM to find the ad boundary, then deletes the ad. So it's relatively insensitive to changes in ad code, and doesn't require much maintenance. The same code processes search results from Google, Bing, Yahoo, Bleeko, DuckDuckGo, and Infoseek. (Coming soon, Yandex support, and better handling of Google ads within ads, where an ad has multiple links.)

So, if I wanted to do a better ad blocker, I could do so easily. Should I? Is another one really needed? Are the headaches of running one worth it?

2 days ago

Tesla and Panasonic Have Reached an Agreement On the Gigafactory

Animats Cell and battery production in same plant (93 comments)

The Tesla/Panasonic plan gets cell and battery production back into the same plant. The battery industry has, for a while, had a model where cells were made in one country (usually Japan, Taiwan or S. Korea, or at least with machinery from there) and assembled into device-specific battery packs near where the end device was produced (usually China or the US.) For the Chevy Volt, the cells come frm LG Chem in Korea, and the battery packs are assembled at the Brownstown, MI Battery Assembly plant.

There's no good reason to do it that way now that the era of cheap labor in China is over. As a rule of thumb, labor has to be 4x cheaper to justify offshoring. The coastal provinces in China have reached that level with respect to US/Japan wages.

Done right, this isn't labor-intensive. Brownstown has only 100 workers in a 400,000 square foot plant, and they're doing battery assembly, which is the more labor-intensive part of the operation. Tesla claims to need 6,500 employees for their 10 million square foot plant, but they're probably counting construction-phase employees.

2 days ago

3-D Printing Comes To Amazon

Animats "Beginning of mainstream 3D printing" (62 comments)

But this could be the beginning of mainstream 3D printing.

We heard that when Staples did it.

Amazon's 3D printed product offerings are rather lame. They're not offering any of the more advanced 3D printing processes; for that you have to go to Shapeways. All you can get from Amazon is plastic junk.

2 days ago

Put Your Code in the SWAMP: DHS Sponsors Online Open Source Code Testing

Animats No new tools. Low-budget operation (61 comments)

All they're offering are some existing tools, ones you can get for free. The main ones are the Clang static analyzer and Cppcheck. They're not offering free access to some of the better, and expensive, commercial tools.

Cppcheck is basically a list of common errors, expressed as rules with regular expressions. Clang is a little more advanced, but it's still looking for a short list of local bugs. Neither will detect all, or even most, buffer overflows. They'll detect the use of "strcpy", but not a wrong size to "strncpy".

2 days ago

Lots Of People Really Want Slideout-Keyboard Phones: Where Are They?

Animats You're the product, not the customer. (540 comments)

It doesn't matter what the users want. It matters what the advertisers want. They want a big screen with room for ads.

This is especially true of Android, since Google gets their revenue from ads, not phones or phone software.

3 days ago

US States Edge Toward Cryptocoin Regulation

Animats The scammer's dream. (167 comments)

Over half the Bitcoin exchanges have gone bust. Entire Bitcoin "stock exchanges" disappeared with the money. Bitcoin "investments" promising substantial returns each month were, of course, Ponzi schemes.

Bitcoin is a scam magnet. Irrevocable, remote, anonymous money transfers are the scammer's dream. (Yes, there are people talking about cryptographic escrow schemes so you can buy something with Bitcoins and have some recourse if it doesn't show up. So far, that hasn't reached usability.)

That's why Bitcoin needs regulation. If you're going to hold other people's money, you have to be regulated. Deal with it.

3 days ago

Popular Android Apps Full of Bugs: Researchers Blame Recycling of Code

Animats Let's see the list of spyware (145 comments)

Let's see this list of spyware. Will Google kick them out of the Android store? Will the FBI prosecute the developers for "exceeding authorized access" under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act? If not, why not?

4 days ago

Off the Florida Coast, Astronauts Train For Asteroid Mission

Animats Send a robot (84 comments)

When it's time for an asteroid mission, it will probably be robotic.

It's amazing how much money NASA can spend not going into space.

4 days ago

A Router-Based Dev Board That Isn't a Router

Animats It's a "flexible scamming" project. (53 comments)

It's one of those "flexible funding" Indiegogo projects, where they get to keep the money even if they don't get enough money to make anything. Great scam; just come up with some popular idea, overprice the project, and keep the money.

4 days ago

Ask Slashdot: What Would You Do With Half a Rack of Server Space?

Animats Each server is worth $189 or less. (206 comments)

If you want more servers like that, Wierd Stuff Warehouse in Sunnyvale, CA, has the same HP series G Xeon servers for $189. (2 3GHz quad-core Xeons per server! Hard drives are extra, but cheap.) Wierd Stuff has huge supplies of previous-generation data center equipment.

It's amazing how cheap computer hardware is now.

4 days ago

SpaceX Executive Calls For $22-25 Billion NASA Budget

Animats Space travel isn't feasible. (114 comments)

Reality check: space travel with chemical fuels just barely works. It takes huge rockets to launch dinky payloads, and that hasn't improved in 45 years. Satellites and probes are useful. Man in space has just been a boondoggle.

If fusion ever works, this may change, but with chemical rockets, it's not getting much better.

4 days ago

Bad "Buss Duct" Causes Week-long Closure of 5,000 Employee Federal Complex

Animats Built in 1997 (124 comments)

That building complex was overhauled in 1997 by Inglett & Stubbs electrical contractors, who did $14 million of electrical work. This failure may or may not be their fault, but it's not because of neglected infrastructure.

5 days ago

Google Looking To Define a Healthy Human

Animats Google People(tm) (125 comments)

Now, at last! Google People! In cooperation with the Venter Institute.

about a week ago

Amazon's Ambitious Bets Pile Up, and Its Losses Swell

Animats Amazon isn't out of expansion area (168 comments)

Amazon isn't out of expansion area. Their target is all of retail, and there's still a lot of non-Amazon retail. Most other big US companies with lots of cash have hit their natural limits.

Trying to go beyond those limits is tough. Google has not been successful in expanding beyond ads. (Android only makes money as an ad platform; Google's phone revenue is small.) Apple has a lot of cash, but can't find any way to use it that will yield the kind of margins Apple is used to. Facebook is still growing, but again, it's all ads.

There's only so much ad spending in the world, and the ad-based companies are all fighting over the same pot. There's more room to grow when your business model is "sell everything".

about a week ago



Facebook is down, again

Animats Animats writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Animats writes "Not just the stock. The Facebook site itself is having problems this weekend.
Facebook has had intermittent outages since Friday, the Huffington Post reports. Right now, DownRightNow reports a "likely service disruption." The symptom is very slow, but valid responses from the site. So far, Facebook hasn't made any public statements."

Link to Original Source

Sprint discontinues phone camera support, loses pictures

Animats Animats writes  |  about 2 years ago

Animats (122034) writes "On April 30, Sprint discontinued their "Picture Mail" site, where pictures uploaded from Sprint phones are stored. Some users report the loss of years of pictures. Sprint didn't provide a bulk download feature that worked, so some users struggled during the last hours to get pictures off the site before it went down.

Sprint's plan was that users would switch from their system to Flickr, Facebook, or some other photo uploading site. Unfortunately, the tools for doing that were on the site they just took down. The main Sprint web site now has dead links. The old system was taken down before the new system came up. So they've left their non-smart phones in limbo.

There's a privacy issue. Pictures uploaded to Sprint's site were private. Pictures uploaded to "sharing" sites tend to get "shared"."

Link to Original Source

CPanel installs back door into Linux servers

Animats Animats writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Animats writes "I recently leased a new dedicated server from a well-known hosting company. The server came with CPanel, a popular system administration tool, installed, and on first log-in, I was presented with a CPanel EULA, something that wasn't present on older servers. The EULA indicates that CPanel, Inc. has a back door into the server for "authentication", and can not only "copy, access, store, disclose and use cPanel Data indefinitely in its sole discretion", but can disable the server remotely. This is like CarrierIQ's back door — something that has no business being there.

This is for a fully dedicated server, not shared, not virtual, and not managed by the hosting company. I'm leasing a bare CentOS machine in a rack here. This isn't something to give a hosting company access. It allows access by a third party company that just sells system administration software. They have no need for that access whatsoever.

Here are the actual EULA terms:

*Authentication System*. The Software contains technological measures that, working in conjunction with cPanel computer servers, are designed to prevent unlicensed or illegal use of the Software (collectively, the "Authentication System"). You acknowledge and agree that such Authentication System allows cPanel to (among other things) (a) monitor use of the Software by you and Third Party Users as set forth in Section 2.5.4 (cPanel Data); (b) verify that the Software is only used on the Licensed Server; (c) suspend or disable access to the Software in whole or in part in the event of a breach of this Agreement or in the event of a breach by a Third Party User of cPanel-related provisions of a Third Party Agreement; and (d) terminate use of the Software upon the expiration or termination of this Agreement. You agree not to thwart, interfere with, circumvent or block the operation of any aspect of the Authentication System, including any communications between the Software and cPanelâ's computer servers. For the avoidance of doubt, the Software will not operate unless cPanel from time to time verifies the Software using the Authentication System which requires the exchange of information between the Licensed Server and cPanel over the Internet.

*cPanel Data*. You agree that, without further notice to you or any Third Party User, cPanel may use technological means, including the Authentication System, to (a) monitor use of the Software as may be necessary to monitor for compliance with the terms of this Agreement; (b) collect language file modifications as provided in Section 3.6 (License to Language File Modifications); and (c) collect cPanel Data. cPanel reserves the right to copy, access, store, disclose and use cPanel Data indefinitely in its sole discretion; provided, however, that in the event that cPanel collects information concerning which features of the Software are most often used by you or Third Party Users, cPanel will remove personally identifiable information (if any) from such data and copy, access, store, disclose and use such data solely for the purpose of improving the Software.


Link to Original Source

Facebook settles with FTC, admits privacy violatio

Animats Animats writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Animats writes "The social networking service Facebook has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public. The settlement is soft on Facebook; there are no fines or criminal penalties.

According to the FTC, in December 2009, Facebook changed its website so certain information that users may have designated as private – such as their Friends List – was made public. Facebook didn't warn users that this change was coming, or get their approval in advance.

Facebook represented that third-party apps that users' installed would have access only to user information that they needed to operate. In fact, the apps could access nearly all of users' personal data – data the apps didn't need.

        Facebook told users they could restrict sharing of data to limited audiences – for example with "Friends Only." In fact, selecting "Friends Only" did not prevent their information from being shared with third-party applications their friends used.

        Facebook had a "Verified Apps" program & claimed it certified the security of participating apps. It didn't.

        Facebook promised users that it would not share their personal information with advertisers. It did.

        Facebook claimed that when users deactivated or deleted their accounts, their photos and videos would be inaccessible. But Facebook allowed access to the content, even after users had deactivated or deleted their accounts.

        Facebook claimed that it complied with the U.S.- EU Safe Harbor Framework that governs data transfer between the U.S. and the European Union. It didn't."

Link to Original Source

John McCarthy, founder of AI, dead at 84

Animats Animats writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Animats writes "John McCarthy, who established artificial intelligence as a field and created the LISP programming language, died yesterday at age 84.

(I took his "Epistemological Problems in Artificial Intelligence" class at Stanford, almost 30 years ago.)"

Link to Original Source

Google fined $500 million over drug ads

Animats Animats writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Animats writes "The Wall Street Journal reports: "Google Inc. is close to settling a U.S. criminal investigation into allegations it made hundreds of millions of dollars by accepting ads from online pharmacies that break U.S. laws." Google's acceptance of ads from unlicensed "online pharmacies" is considered profiting from illegal activity. The Washington Post writes the inquiry could draw more attention to how vulnerable Google's automated system has been to the machinations of shady operators."
Link to Original Source

Major outage at Codero

Animats Animats writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Animats (122034) writes "Codero, which is a large dedicated hosting provider, is down today due to what they claim is a distributed denial of service attack against their routing. Their main IP block for their Phoenix data center has dropped out of routing.

Their phone system is dropping calls, and their support chat system is reporting "An online representative will be with you shortly. You are number 194 in queue. Your wait time will be approximately 806 minute(s). Thank you for waiting. ""

Link to Original Source

SourceForge down after attack

Animats Animats writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Animats (122034) writes "SourceForge, a hosting site for many open source projects is down today. management claims they were attacked: "We detected a direct targeted attack that resulted in an exploit of several servers, and have proactively shut down a handful of developer centric services to safeguard data and protect the majority of our services." Currently, CVS and SVN access to source code, even for reading, is unavailable, and there is no announced restoration time."
Link to Original Source

How Google uses Chrome to boost ad revenue

Animats Animats writes  |  about 5 years ago

Animats (122034) writes "Harvard Business School professor Benjamin Edelman has published a paper, How Google and Its Partners Inflate Measured Conversion Rates and Increase Advertiser Costs. The trick is that Google has interactive URL completion in its URL input box, but, unlike Firefox, interactive completion doesn't take you to the real URL. It takes you through Google Search, and through Google's pay-per-click system.

As an example, Edelman typed "expedia" into Chrome. "" appears as a suggestion, and pressing "Enter" accepts that default. But that doesn't take you to directly. There's a side trip through Google Search and a Google ad. The advertiser is then charged for an unnecessary ad click.

As Edelman puts it, "As users type web addresses into Google's Chrome web browser, Chrome's "Omnibox" address bar suggests that users run searches instead of direct navigation. If a user accepts Chrome's suggestion — the user is taken to a page of Google search results for the specified term. ... As usual, Google's most prominent search result is an advertisement. If the user clicks the ad, the advertiser pays a pay-per-click fee — even though the user was nearly at the advertiser's site, for free, before Chrome interceded with its 'Search for...' suggestion."

Explosion at Scaled Composites kills 2, injures 4

Animats Animats writes  |  about 7 years ago

Animats (122034) writes "Details are scant at this time, but a explosion at the Scaled Composites rocket test facility has killed two people and seriously injured four more. The Los Angeles Times reports that the explosion was "ignited by a tank of nitrous oxide".

This is Burt Rutan's facility, and the home of SpaceShip One and Virgin Galactic spacecraft development."

Link to Original Source


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