top Ask Slashdot: Where Do You Stand on Daylight Saving Time?
... is Daylight Savings Time longer than any other country in the world. That's because our politicians just HAD to screw around with it.
Instead of starting like everyone else, going from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October, the US politicians (who were more afraid of their kids walking in the dark on Halloween) decided to implement an 8-month DST, starting with the first Sunday in March and ending on the first Sunday in November. This throws a wrench into a lot of things (such as financial systems, shipments, schedules, etc.). It would be fine if we'd use the same dates as everyone else, but no, America's gotta be different, all because a few Congressmen think they can dictate time.
Me? I'm happy with straight normal time.
about a month and a half ago
top Air Force To Take Over Two Ex-Shuttle Hangers In Florida For Its X-37B Program
Those plans were for the X-37C, which would have been a version of the X-37B that would be nearly twice as large. And yes, the plans would include a pressurized compartment that would hold up to six occupants.
Mind you, the Air Force has always had plans of putting up some kind of orbiting platform ever since the 1960's. The Manned Orbiting Laboratory (using Gemini capsules and the Titan II) was actually going to be launched and occupied by a group of USAF-trained astronauts, but it was eventually killed. Meanwhile, the Russians went ahead with their plans, culminating in the Almaz/Salyut space station which led into Mir, then finally the International Space Station.
top Expedition 42 ISS Crew Embraces Douglas Adams
What makes it so much fun is that they did a great parody of the movie poster, got the actual costumes and props, and kudos to Samantha Cristoforetti for not only coming up with it, but the little mini-patches that have the image of the ISS, the number 42, a thumb, and the words "Don't Panic" on it.
And working at a contractor for NASA just outside the JSC, I'll see a few of these posters show up. And try to creatively snag a few of them.
top NASA's Manned Rocket Contract: $4.2 Billion To Boeing, $2.6 Billion To SpaceX
Unimaginative? Both are capsules, that's about as unimaginative as you can get. As for SpaceX, I suspect reality will hit them when they realize that building a manned capsule isn't as easy as they think it is. A cargo capsule was easy, even with the issues they've had since their first cargo mission (the last one involving a lot of seawater getting into the capsule).
And if you think that Falcon 9 is going to get man-rated anytime soon, well... think again. SpaceX is going to have to launch on the same *Lockheed* Atlas V initially as Boeing is, and Boeing does have the Delta IV that could just as easily be used (without the RD-180 Russian engine, by the way...)
top Inside Boeing's New Self-Destructing Smartphone
[Disclaimer: I do not work for Apple]
Pure FUD. Go to the Apple website, do a bit of searching around, until you find the document describing the iPhone security features. At this point in time, there is no police force that can read email from a confiscated iPhone unless the user unlocks it.
Care to try again? From Forbes:
But even when those login safeguards are set up in other cases, law enforcement have still often been able to use tools to bypass or brute-force a phone’s security measures. Google in some cases helps law enforcement to get past Android phones’ lockscreens, and if law enforcement can’t crack a seized iPhone, officers will in some cases mail the phone to Apple, who extract the data and return it stored on a DVD along with the locked phone.
top Inside Boeing's New Self-Destructing Smartphone
You can be sure that the first customers will be the very people/agencies that will be trying to circumvent the security. Whoever breaks the security first gains a huge advantage.
Good luck, since the target purchasers are going to be government agencies and companies with stringent security requirements. This isn't something you're going to find on eBay.
top Inside Boeing's New Self-Destructing Smartphone
[Disclaimer: I work for The Boeing Company, buy my comments are my own and do not reflect the position of the company.]
Let me state that this is probably a very good idea, even through this is the first that I've heard about the device. Often the biggest problem when dealing with smartphones is protecting sensitive data, be it emails or documents being stored on the device. Commercial solutions are often lacking in security, which is why Blackberry still exists as a company. Their offerings are much more secure 'out-o-the-box' than any iPhone or Android device and doesn't have to resort to third party add-on software to improve the security.
So if you want to have a smartphone that is more state-of-the-art and be more compatible with today's services and offerings, then the only way may be to design your own device, make certain that it'll meet security requirements to protect data (your own and the government's), and add in a feature that allows for the device to be rendered inoperative if lost, stolen or tampered with. And there is going to be a market for these devices, believe it.
top BlackBerry Reportedly Prepping To Slash Workforce By 40 Percent
And it's statements like this that show why the end user is oblivious as to the purpose of the phone, and who owns it. If you're given a company phone, then yes, the company is wanting to reach you pretty much whenever. But it is a COMPANY phone,not a personal phone, and no, you don't have the right to use it for your personal reasons. The same is true for your company-issued computer, you do not have the right to install whatever software you want on it or to use it to surf Facebook and/or Twitter, even if you're doing nothing during working hours. The purpose of the hardware, smartphone and computer, is to do company business with. If you want to do Facebook or Twitter or play games, do that on your personal device.
As for wiping data off the phone, that's another plus for the Blackberry, as all I have to do is call one number in the company and state that the phone was lost or stolen, and within 30 minutes it'll be a brick.
top BlackBerry Reportedly Prepping To Slash Workforce By 40 Percent
At the company I work for, we've tested iPhones, Androids and other smartphone variations, but stay on the Blackberry for now. The main reason? Security. No smartphone can touch the level of security that a Blackberry possesses, especially for companies in which the security of data is essential. The iPhone initially was allowed, but when folks found out that they were locked down and that they had to use only the software the company mandated for security reasons, the iPhones were returned and Blackberry devices issued instead.
Part of the complaints came because users can't understand that these are COMPANY devices, not personal devices. And the company has a stake in maintaining the security of the device and the data that resides on it. But people wanted to download whatever apps they wanted, a major security threat, or access whatever network they wanted (again, a security threat).
BYOD may be nice for small companies, but not major ones. Especially if the major companies want to stay major companies, device security and data security will remain essential... which is why Blackberry devices will still be around for a while.
Personally? I have a work-provided Blackberry. My personal device is a cellphone, and will remain so as long as it can.
top Why Everyone Gets It Wrong About BYOD
At the company I work for, the idea of BYOD for smartphones and laptops was tested and evaluated. The result was that the BYOD pilot programs were totally shut down and that BYOD was declared DOA. The reasons were many:
Problem #1: Our company requires a high level of security on our network, as we work with data from a wide variety of customers. US Government, Foreign governments and commercial customers all expect us to protect it. Any leak, any potential breach of data could be a disaster for both the company and the owner of the data. Yes, there are ways that the data can be protected, but that runs into problem #2.
Problem #2: People don't want to have the use of their personal equipment dictated to. A good example was the short-term availability of the iPhone within the company. The devices were locked down so that only approved applications could be installed, security measures needed to be used, passwords were required and that caused resentment by the users that they couldn't use the device in the manner they wanted to use it for: as a personal device, installing whatever software applications they wanted and no security requirements. The complaints were so many that the company decided instead of trying to get the users to treat the devices as company devices, that they would simply no longer offer the device and go back to Blackberry devices, since it was understood that they were more secure than the iPhone.
Many of these issues could probably be mitigated through training, but users have a habit of not wanting to follow the requirements put in place by Information Security. It's not IT driving these requirements, it's the need to secure the data and maintain network integrity with the devices that connect to it. Even with company equipment, we know the users won't do what's necessary which is why there's a lot of security scripts that run to ensure things like anti-virus is up to date, firewall is active and the latest rules are running, whitelisting software is running, etc. ad nauseum. And that means that IS and IT would have to control the personal device in order to make sure it's properly hardened... at which point it's not the user's device any more.
about a year and a half ago
top How the Smartphone Killed the Three-day Weekend
Unlike many folks, my workphone is sitting on a table some distance away from my personal computer. It sits there quietly, and I ignore any of the bloops that come from it when mail arrives. The only times I pay attention to it is either if there's a EAM (Emergency Action Message) or if it's a phone call from one of my three executives I support 24/7. But since they're engineering-type folks, I rarely get bothered by them on the weekends or holidays, so the phone sits there. As for my work-issued laptop, it sits at work, the only times I'll bring it home is if there is an absolute need for me to support folks (usually over an extended holiday, and even then it may be just one call at most.)
The same is true for my personal cellphone. Yes, if it's from one of the two people who have my number (good friends) then I'll reply, otherwise I ignore the phone. When I'm at home, I don't care to deal with work issues, this is the time where I relax from work and enjoy some quiet time. As for vacation, *nothing* from work is brought with me, and the rule of thumb is that the building had better be burning down and I don't smell smoke, so it has to be that level of importance before I'll answer the phone.
I work for a very large company, so when it comes to vacation time, the management wants you to use it. They at least recognize the value of an employee who is rested and relaxed, although I often see management taking their work equipment with them on vacations. If that's what they want to do, that's fine... just understand that when I have my time off, it's *MY* time off, and I am going to savor it.
about a year and a half ago
top Internet Poker Could Make a Comeback By Going Brick-and-Mortar
The Nevada Gaming Commission has already issued a license to run an online poker site to the American Casino & Entertainment Properties. The site is called AcePlay Poker, and is branded with the Stratosphere Casino. For now, it's only a free play site, but they are working on getting agreements with other states to allow actual pay games.
top Does 2012 Mark the End of the Netbook?
I prefer a netbook over a tablet for a wide variety of reasons. One, I don't like Apple all that much and find their products fairly overpriced for what you get. I have a small Android tablet I tend to use more as a toy, as I don't see it being useful for productivity. And since tablets have no keyboard to speak of (yes, I know you can get a USB keyboard for them) I don't ever see me using a tablet for anything other than the occasional eBook or game.
Now, my Samsung netbook has been upgraded with extra memory, a solid state drive, has a SD slot for still more memory storage, runs Windows 7 Home, and I have absolutely no qualms about it. It does what I want, how I want it, and does so far more efficiently than a smartphone or a tablet would. Mine is about 5 years old now, and I love it for what it provides, a good working environment that's small and extremely portable. And the battery life is around 6-8 hours, even with the screen set to a moderately high brightness level.
Now I realize that folks have bought into the tablet craze (and that's really what it is, a craze in my view) just as they've bought into the smartphone craze. But it's what people want... it's not what I want, nor would I want it pushed on me. I'll take a netbook that's easily configured and upgradable over a tablet that's a fixed device any day.
top Lockheed, SpaceX Trade Barbs
Fundamentally what SpaceX seems to do is produce their systems in an integrated environment and not worry about a lot of the things the traditional players do. No clean rooms, production designed to scale, things like that. They use a startup mentality and
...more theatrical lighting truss than I would have thought practical. They buy things that make sense now with an eye to the future, but they don't keep idle capacity around.
The Russian Soyuz rocket is very much similar in this respect. Consider them the assembly line version of the rocket industry, almost literally thrown together in a factory and hauled out to launch whatever they need launched. Considering that they've launched over 700 Soyuz-U rockets with only 19 failures, that's a 97% success rate since 1973. Yes, the Atlas series has a better record, but much fewer launches. As for the Delta, it's slightly lower at 95% success rate, again with fewer launches than the Soyuz.
top Ask Slashdot: Do You Still Need a Phone At Your Desk?
Landlines also have an interesting benefit... cost. Let me give you an example, using the company I work for. A landline (actually a VoIP phone but is a physical phone) runs roughly $20 a month, no matter how often you use it. On the phone for five minutes a day or five hours, it's the same flat rate, all of $20.
Now, take that cellphone. The way the cellphone companies handle their contracts, you have a base monthly charge for the device (basic cellphone may be less than $10 a month, an iPhone/Android/Blackberry may run you $25-30 a month). Now, calls to company numbers, company mobile devices and 1-800/866/888 numbers aren't billed... but anything outside of that is billed at a per-minute rate. So suddenly that nice shiny iPhone that you use 4 hours a day is racking up a $100 a month charge to your company. Multiply it by the number of employees all doing the same... and suddenly the landline phone looks like a financial bargain to the company.
But since companies today want 24/7 access to their employees, it's the price you pay for requiring your employees to carry those ball-and-chain devices on their hips or in their purses.
top Shuttle Endeavour Embarking to Los Angeles Museum
Unless the weather between Kennedy Space Center and Houston improves (which the forecast is not looking good), the shuttle may end up bypassing all of the planned overflights and visits and end up going directly to Los Angeles. This includes overflights at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi (originally planned for this morning, cancelled), Michoud Space Facility in New Orleans east (cancelled due to weather) and the overflight of the Johnson Space Center and overnight visits at Ellington Field in Houston (also cancelled due to weather.)
NASA is hoping that tomorrow they can fly the shuttle to Houston at least, but the weather doesn't look to cooperate at all.
top Calculating the Cost of Full Disk Encryption
Let me state that the company I work for had not one, but two instances where the loss of a non-encrypted device could have potentially led to a data breach. In this case the data was personnel data for the company, some 100,000+ employees. *THIS* is what forced the company to do a company-wide encryption of all computers, including servers. Yes, it meant a slight slowdown when data was being accessed and decrypted, but it was better in the long run for protection of company information.
The use of full disk encryption is just one layer of security the company has installed. By itself it gives a measure of protection, but in combination with others (such as disabling user name/password login for Windows 7 and making people use a card and a PIN to log into the computer) minimizes the chances of another loss of data. It doesn't fully eliminate it, but it reduces it significantly.
As for recovery of data on an encrypted drive, we have to send that drive to a group within the company, who are the only folks allowed to have the necessary keys for decrypting a drive. The previous software (which was used on Windows XP) had a challenge/response code that needed to be entered before decryption, but the new software under Windows 7 is locked down so that local IT support cannot decrypt a drive. Yes, it's an expensive package, but the company is willing to spend the money considering how much in proprietary and government information they have to keep controlled at all times.
top Could a Category 5 Hurricane Take Down East Coast Data Centers?
First off, a Category 5 hurricane is highly unlikely striking that region of the country. Historically, there have been only three confirmed Category 5 landfalls, two of them in Florida and one in Mississippi (the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in Florida, Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.) There has been Category 4 storms that have struck the Cape Hatteras area, and South Carolina did have Hurricane Hugo in 1989. But the odds of a Category 5 hitting that specific region of the US is extremely low.
Additionally, these data centers are not located along the coastline, but a significant distance inland. Facebook's is west of Charlotte, while Amazon's located west of Washington DC. Of the list, the Amazon one that could... and I mean could be impacted by a hurricane, but there really hasn't been a good strike in the Chesapeake Bay area in a while. They were taken down by the derechos that rolled through last month, and a derecho could happen pretty much anywhere west of the Rockies.
So while the chances of a hurricane taking down one of the datacenters is low, it could happen. It's one reason you don't see data centers built anywhere within 150 miles of the Gulf Coast or in Florida as a whole, the entire region is a target zone for Mother Nature. (Disclaimer: I've lived along the Gulf Coast now for over 30+ years and have been through a Category 5, two Category 4 and a host of other hurricanes over my time.)
top NASA Gets Two Military Spy Telescopes For Astronomy
A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Being involved peripherally in the space program, here's what took me two minutes to find:
Syracuse, NY - Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors facility. There is also a facility in Liverpool, NY, but I suspect Syracuse. Why? Well, Corning Glass is right down the road, what you'd need for building optical sensor systems based on the KH-11 which bears a remarkable appearance to the Hubble Space Telescope. Now, add in a few years of upgrades and modifications, and you've got yourself one heck of a box Brownie camera...
top IT Desktop Support To Be Wiped Out Thanks To Cloud Computing
I don't see our company ever moving into "cloud computing", if simply for the fact that there is no effective security. We deal with data from governments, other companies as well as our own data, much of which must be protected at all times from accidental disclosure. Not only do we have to protect that data, we have to additionally add an additional layer of security to ensure that employees are only able to access data they need for their work duties and not have carte blanche access to anything in the cloud. So while there may be pilot programs to investigate cloud computing, anything would have to be kept internal to the company and not be allowed external access.
In some ways this is no different than distributed computing, thin-client computing and all the other variations of trying to move people away from the desktop and to some virtualized environment. I don't see it happening, as people want their data to be local, their applications to be local and their access to be local.