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New Snowden Docs Show GCHQ Paid Telcos For Cable Taps

Thagg Why is encryption not standard? (90 comments)

It's astonishing that all communication is not encrypted. If you are sharing information over a common carrier, you should expect that somebody is going to be grabbing and examining the bytes.

So, somehow, it is just not the norm to encrypt communication. One reason might be that during the eighties and nineties as the internet was going wide, ITAR and patents on systems like RSA made people and companies nervous and unwilling to go there; that was definitely a missed opportunity.

Perhaps another problem is that there's no money to be made in encryption; and there are real (small, but real) costs in establishing it.

Still, though...

Why is there no encrypted "WhatsApp"? It would not be hard, it would be trivial to deliver through Google Play, and there would be a immediate market. If the connections were truly peer-to-peer, the infrastructure to support it would be almost zero.

How has the world convinced people not to encrypt all communication?

about three weeks ago
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After Four Days, Philae Team Gets to Rest

Thagg Re:the dire equations (88 comments)

Sadly, while the "weight" is very small on the comet, it's mass (and therefore inertia) is substantial. You're not going to blow it over.

It wouldn't surprise me if they land Rosetta on the comet toward the end of the mission.

about a month ago
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Comet Probe Philae To Deploy Drill As Battery Life Wanes

Thagg Re:two bounces (223 comments)

1) There is/was a significant risk that drilling would push Philae off the comet again. Still, it's a risk worth taking; without the solar recharging ESA has only until Saturday before the batteries run out.
2) The challenge is that either the lander is on its side, so the solar panels can't see the sun; or that the lander is up against a wall blocking the sun most of the time. They are considering possible ways of reorienting Philae; but it doesn't seem too likely. Also, without the harpoons or ice screws, it's likely that Philae will be pushed into space by gasses escaping the comet as it gets closer to the sun; so the extra sunlight is a double-edged sword.

about a month ago
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Comet Probe Philae To Deploy Drill As Battery Life Wanes

Thagg Re:two bounces (223 comments)

It is fascinating that you can see stars and the comet surface at the same time; it shows how far from the sun they are. In no pictures from the moon can you see any stars.

Right now the spacecraft is about 3x as far from the sun as the moon is from the sun, so the sun is only 1/9th as bright there. I suppose the cameras might have a bit more dynamic range than the film cameras of the late 60's. The comet nucleus might also be quite dark, but the moon is very dark as well (about 10% albedo.)

about a month ago
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Comet Probe Philae To Deploy Drill As Battery Life Wanes

Thagg two bounces (223 comments)

Philae bounced twice, the first bounce was about two hours, the second one 7 minutes. If the gravity on the comet is 1/200,000th that on earth (a reasonable estimate, it varies around the comet because it's *way* not round) then the first bounce was about 1,000 feet off the surface, but the second one was only about three feet. Seven minutes to fly up and down three feet; that's almost impossible to imagine.

about a month ago
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Will Lyft and Uber's Shared-Ride Service Hurt Public Transit?

Thagg Re:should be banned or regulated (237 comments)

In a city like NYC or perhaps London, I agree that the number of daily rides is a pie that will be subdivided differently. In a town like Los Angeles or even San Francisco; not so much. The number of Uber rides in LA will exceed the pre-Uber number of taxi rides soon, if it hasn't already -- it's a real game changer. Many more people are taking Uber rather than taxis, yes -- but even more people are taking Uber than used to drive.

In LA, the taxi service will suffer; but also (and maybe more so) the rental car business. It's cheaper to UberX around the city (especially if you use mass transit when you can) than renting a car; and more convenient too because you don't have to worry about parking.

about a month ago
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Will Lyft and Uber's Shared-Ride Service Hurt Public Transit?

Thagg Exactly the opposite! Enhances Public Transport! (237 comments)

I use Uber in Los Angeles; as many people do.

Los Angeles has very limited subway service. It exists, it's pretty quick, but it doesn't go too many places. So, I use Uber to get to and from the subway stops closest to where I want to go; and use the train for the bulk of the transport.

Now, if I was going with a group of people instead of by myself, I'd Uber the whole way; the subway charges per person and Uber per car. But for traveling by yourself; Uber and mass transit is a great combo.

about a month ago
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Elon Musk's Next Mission: Internet Satellites

Thagg Re:A global network of high-latency torrent server (74 comments)

These will not be high latency. If you have 700 satellites more-or-less evenly distributed around the globe (say from 60S to 60N latitude) and you want a minimum of 45 degree elevation to the nearest satellite, they can be lower than 400 miles altitude, or 600 miles away. Assuming that the system will bounce signals from the satellites to a distributed network of fiber connected ground stations, latency should only be 10ms more than a pure cable transmissions.

Previous satellite internet to geosynchronous satellites are nothing like this.

I agree with other commenters that this is pretty unlikely, but SpaceX and Tesla were quite unlikely to succeed as well.

about a month ago
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Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Crashes

Thagg Re:Brutally sad day (445 comments)

It's all carbon composites, no sheet metal involved :)

about a month and a half ago
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Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Crashes

Thagg Brutally sad day (445 comments)

Burt Rutan, the designer of the Spaceship One and Two, has been a hero, perhaps the hero, of my life. A passionate, innovative aircraft designer; unbelievably aggressive in trying new things, pushing boundaries that nobody even knew existed.

His first plane design, the VariViggen was an astonishingly different design than anything out there before; designed while a student at Cal Poly and built in his garage. And it flew beautifully. I saw that plane, his later VariEze and LongEz flying in formation at the Oshkosh Fly-in in 1980.

He set up a shop at the Mojave Airport, called Rutan Aircraft Factory (RAF). In the middle of nowhere, nothing there but space to build new planes, and he built many. Each one more exotic than the last. His Boomerang, his last personal plane, is so far from the standard boring airplane designs that most people wouldn't believe it could fly; but it does fly, efficiently, safely, and every apparently crazy design idea has absolutely solid engineering and aerodynamic backing.

I took my 14-year-old daughter to see the first flight into space of Spaceship One in 2004. Burt's long-time co-worker and chief test pilot, Mike Melville, flew it that day. As it was climbing to space, it started to spin, pretty fast (about 60 rpm.) Melville said that he was scared for a second, but then decided to wait until he was "in the safety of space" to arrest the spin. A test pilot, flying an experimental winged spaceship, who has never flown to space before, in a plane spinning at Mach 3, decides in a second to wait until he was in the safety of space. And of course, it worked out; he was able to use the reaction control system to arrest the spin; took out some candy to float around the cockpit, took some photos out the windows, and enjoyed the five minutes of weightlessness. Just one of a thousand, maybe ten thousand adventures in Burt's long career.

I've wondered my whole life about how Burt responds when people die flying planes of his design. In 1983, while at Oshkosh, a VariEze crashed approaching the airport (it looks as if the linkage between the control stick and the elevator failed.) Burt, up on stage, described his trip out to the crash site. As professional as he could be, but I felt it must have been tearing him up inside. He gave the gift of flight to thousands of enthusiasts, but those great planes took the lives of some of those people. How do you reconcile that? I'm not sure I could have, or can today.

Burt got out of the homebuilt airplane business after being sued too many times by the survivors of crashes. In the last suit, the guy built the plane incredibly wrong, instead of using the 10 layers of fiberglass to attack the fins to the wing, he just glued them on. Astonishingly, it held up for years, but finally broke during a low-high-speed pass. Burt won all the lawsuits, but it was clear that he would spend years defending himself instead of doing what he loved, so he closed the shop.

Burt retired a few years ago, and lives up in Idaho instead of Mojave. Sadly, for all the innovation he created over the years, there were no commercial successes. This looked like it might be the one, but it's never going to happen.

This is not the first death in the program; sadly. While testing a previous engine about 5 years ago, the nitrous oxide detonated, killing three of his engineers. I mourned for them, and for the pilot today. My joy over my whole adult life in seeing the achievements of Rutan and his team are about evenly matched by the heartache I feel for them today. They haven't announced the name of the pilot who died today, but may he rest in peace.

about a month and a half ago
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iFixit Tears Apart Apple's Shiny New Retina iMac

Thagg Re:how do SSD's compare to HD's? (109 comments)

It depends on how you use it. You could wear-out a SSD in six months if you're continuously writing and re-writing to it; but for 99.9% of people the SSD will probably last longer.

about 2 months ago
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HBO To Offer Online Streaming Without TV Subscription

Thagg Re:Total Isolation? (139 comments)

HBO announced some time ago that some of their shows would be available without a cable subscription, but they would be delayed three years. Even that was enough to get the cable companies nickers in a twist.

Today's announcement is a revolution, if that one was an evolution.

about 2 months ago
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Why the Trolls Will Always Win

Thagg not-completely-off-topic (728 comments)

Listen the the podcast on 5x5 called "overtired". In episode 15, the incredible Christina Warren describes the shit that she gets every day, and how she deals with it. I have some hope that a younger generation of women like Ms Warren will be able to react to attacking idiots without disappearing from the 'net.

about 2 months ago
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Why You Can't Manufacture Like Apple

Thagg Re:I question the author's knowledge. (408 comments)

He meant 10 thousand CNC machines...not that they were $10K. That's an almost unbelievable number; and array of 100 x 100 CNC machines.

about 3 months ago
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SpaceX Challenges Blue Origin Patents Over Sea-Landing Rocket Tech

Thagg Re:Interesting problem with water landing -- wind (75 comments)

I had forgotten about the gridded fins...you're right, that should provide substantial cross-range capability.

about 4 months ago
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SpaceX Challenges Blue Origin Patents Over Sea-Landing Rocket Tech

Thagg Interesting problem with water landing -- wind (75 comments)

A big challenge for water landing will be wind during the descent of the rocket. If the wind is blowing 100 miles an hour for a minute as the rocket is falling, then it's going to be dragged a mile from the ballistic landing point. (When things move quickly through the air, the lift generated by wind is extremely high; bullets move with the wind.) I don't believe that the booster will have the capacity to fly horizontally too far, and it won't be firing at all for the bulk of the descent.

If the wind could be predicted accurately, it would be easy enough to steer the rocket to the right place -- or move the landing platform to the right place.

If you're landing back at the launch pad; there will have been a rocket that could have sampled the wind speed just a few minutes previously, so you could have very precise wind speed vs. altitude data.

about 4 months ago
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Feds Want Nuclear Waste Train, But Don't Know Where It Would Go

Thagg Re:Where there is a wil.. (258 comments)

It's harder than you think, unfortunately. Nuclear weapons have a few kilograms of radioactive material, reactors have more than a few tons. The Yucca Mountain repository, the best that nuclear engineers could come up with, had to be certified to be safe for 10,000 years...but literally after 10,000 years things could have gotten out of control. It's a tough problem.

That said, it means that we have to try harder. The problem is not going to go away; we have to pursue better approaches.

about 4 months ago
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Google Buys Zync Cloud Graphics Rendering Service

Thagg Re:I don't understand this... (20 comments)

It turns out that the software used in VFX rendering is pretty darn expensive. Licenses of RenderMan, for example, were several thousand dollars a node (RenderMan just lowered their prices, it's true). Nuke, Maya, and other tools were similarly expensive.

The companies that created the software typically wouldn't consider licensing on shorter terms than six months; which made scaling up for a big movie very expensive. Zync managed to negotiate deals that would allow them to license software on an hourly basis. That is their real innovation.

about 4 months ago
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Seagate Ships First 8 Terabyte Hard Drive

Thagg Re: Switched double speed half capacity, realistic (316 comments)

Curious. Back in the stone ages (12 years ago) we had a 53 GB 12-platter drive (The box said "Solve your disk space storage problems forever!") that had a head fail. I was able to recover 22/23rds of the data, but it was clear that the data was recorded from one platter to the next all the way through the stack, and then the heads moved. Back in that day (I don't know if it's still true) one side of one of the platters just contained alignment information.

about 4 months ago
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Is Dolby Atmos a Flop For Home Theater Like 3DTV Was?

Thagg Re:You only have two ears. (197 comments)

We have two ears, but you might notice that the ears have fairly complicated geometry. Why would that be? Well, it turns out that the various parts of the ear bounce sound, and sound coming from different directions, both azimuth and elevation, bounces differently. Your brain is very good at figuring this out. This wikipedia page on Sound Localization is quite informative.

It turns out that humans have among the best direction-sensing hearing of any animal.

[disclaimer -- I work for Dolby, but in their imaging group]

about 4 months ago

Submissions

Thagg hasn't submitted any stories.

Journals

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Late 07 update

Thagg Thagg writes  |  more than 7 years ago

In Catholic Confession, you start out by saying how long it's been since your last confession -- fortunately, I gave up being a strict Catholic some time ago, so I don't have to say how long since my last journal entry.

I'm starting now at Visual Effects Supervisor for Fast and Furious 4, we're bringing back Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and a bunch of the other characters from the first three movies for one more run around the track. I've been involved in the first three as a VFX supervisor for my own company, this time I'm involved from the production side, and it's a whole different deal. Very exciting, a lot more responsibility, a million more things to keep straight. Fortunately, I have a good producer, Lori Nelson, and the work is similar to what I've done in the previous three movies, so I've got a bit of a running start.

I'm finally going to go over to the white side (as opposed to the dark side) and am getting a Macbook Pro to help with this movie. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Linux zealot, but at some point you just want to share information and movies and databases with the world of Mac users...and it's difficult to do that legally under Linux. So, we'll see how it goes! OSX has become closer to Linux over the years, so it's not such a radical a leap as it was.

In other news, my daughter's off to college at Washington University in St Louis, and my boy is in fourth grade, still struggling with autism, but having a pretty good time while doing it. We're still persuing the ABA therapy paradigm, it really seems to be the best program out there. He's taking Lexapro as well, in a very small dose, and it just seems to make everything in his life 100% better, so if you're a parent of a kid with autism, you might try it out.

I promise to update this journal sooner next time. Really.

Thad

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Every 2 years, whether I need it or not, I update my journal

Thagg Thagg writes  |  more than 10 years ago It's been a wild couple of years. We've done a lot of work on some big films, but the biggest one was The Chronicles of Riddick. For that film, we had to grow the company to 60 people, and some 150 computers. It was by far the best work we'd ever done, but it was also by far the hardest project we've ever done.

We're now looking at a bunch of new projects, some big and some small. It's a pretty quiet time in the FX industry right now.

I'm excited about the new 2.6 kernel and all that comes with it -- it seems to address many performance issues we've had with Linux in the past -- especially in terms of disk and filesystem performance. Right new we're using Fedora Core 2, which has its good and bad points. It is very cutting edge, and has all the latest whiz-bang features -- but it also changes very quickly which can be scary in production.

Thad

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Thagg Thagg writes  |  more than 12 years ago

Well, we've finished work on Blue Crush, the surfing movie. The challenge here was to replace the face of the world-class surfer Rochelle Ballard with the face of the actress Katie Bosworth; the star of the movie. It was one of the biggest risks that I have taken in FX, as I have never seen face-replacement done well in these kind of challenging action situations.

Now we begin work on The Core and The Fast and The Furious 2. The former presents artistic rather than technical challenges, and the second has the primary challenge being the acquisition of the photographic material without killing the stunt people.

I'm looking forward to building a small gyro system to track the rotations of the cameras for tFatF2. The Systron Donner GyroChipII seems like the best sensor for this application, although it has been suggested to me that there are new gyros being used in the underwater ROV market that I should look at.

Because it's such a big part of my life, and because journals should reflect that, I'll add a short bit about my son with autism, Thomas. He's almost five, and it's been an interesting three years since his diagnosis. For the first nine months we had him in speech therapy plus preschool, thinking that speech was the primary problem. In July two years ago, we were fortunate enough to have Thomas accepted into the program at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) program; through which he gets about 35 hours a week of behavior-modification type therapy. We've also tried various biomedical interventions, on the chance that they'd work; primarily a gluten-free, casien-free (GFCF) diet and a moderate course of chelation for possible heavy-metal poisoning. For some unknown combination of reasons, he's become remarkably better over the last three months or so, becoming more verbal and socially apt. We're desparately hoping (and planning, and working) to keep him in preschool one more year at the spectacularly good program that he has been in for the last year. Another year of therapy and preschool very well might allow him to go to kindergarten a year from now with minimal assistance.

Aside from work, and taking care of Thomas, there's not all that much more going on -- althogh taking care of Thomas is becoming more and more delightful as he shows signs of recovery.

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Academy award for visual effects

Thagg Thagg writes  |  more than 12 years ago

Well, I've got another week to get our packet together for the visual effects bakeoff. I think that I'm going to write mostly about the shot fx6, the 'hinge shot', going across the street to then into Paul Walker's car. The whole idea of course is to show that we can do a bunch of really cool stuff, quickly, inexpensively.

We'll see!

Of course, I have my real work to do in the meantime, on Showtime, Surf Girls, White Oleander, The Tuxedo, Final Destination 2, ...

Hmm.

thad

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