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LAX To London Flight Delayed Over "Al-Quida" Wi-Fi Name

linuxwrangler Zero Tolerance (339 comments)

I have zero tolerance for zero-tolerance policies.

about 3 months ago

Battery Breakthrough: Researchers Claim 70% Charge In 2 Minutes, 20-Year Life

linuxwrangler Just moves a choke point (395 comments)

One need only calculate the size of substation needed to deliver the equivalent energy of, say, a 16-pump Costco gas station to see that the fact that a battery can be charged that fast doesn't mean there is any infrastructure anywhere that could support it. The Tesla has an 85kWh battery. In other words, a 70% charge in 2-minutes requires pumping over 1.7 million watts to the car. Think a 2,000-volt supply shoving nearly 900-amps. Per "pump." But that kind of capacity would allow for better capture of regenerative braking energy.

It could be great for things like cordless drills. At ~40-60 Wh the supply would not require more than a standard 120V/15A outlet.

about 4 months ago

The Flight of Gifted Engineers From NASA

linuxwrangler Re:Mad Men (160 comments)

I grew up at Naval Air Weapons Station (nee Naval Weapons Center nee Naval Ordnance Test Station - bureaucracy at work) China Lake where my father was a top engineer. The base in those days operated much like the private space companies of today. Much of that culture is captured in the book "Sidewinder: Creative Missile Development at China Lake" which describes the freedom to tinker, rebuild and test things from what would have been scrap (radar antenna motors would be resued as the proof-of-concept drive motors for prototype missile seekers, for instance) and to, er, "repurpose" new equipment as necessary. Engineers might not expect to have a desk, carpet or file-cabinet but every one had their own fully equipped workbench chock full of signal generators, scopes, meters and whatever else they needed and they attracted a group of incredible engineers from Cal, Stanford, MIT, CalTech and the like who developed weapons like the Sidewinder, Walleye, HARM, Shrike and more - many of which the top brass hadn't even conceived of but the engineers knew were needed. Sidewinder was originally described as a "local fuse project" and developed skunkworks-style in-house with a variety of volunteer efforts and budget shuffling. It didn't become an official program until 5-years after it was started and was mature enough to demonstrate to Admiral Parsons at the Bureau of Ordnance. Nowdays that would result in congressional investigations and charges instead of praise.

Sadly China Lake, too, has devolved into knee-deep carpeted program-management offices overseeing outsourced contractors and no longer has the same attraction for the freewheeling inventor that it once did. Fortunately there are still places where the workbench-first ethos still thrives.

about 5 months ago

Comcast Drops Spurious Fees When Customer Reveals Recording

linuxwrangler Re:What about Oregon and Washington? (368 comments)

I interpret this the same way. It doesn't say "recorded by us" or "recorded by us exclusively" but merely "may be recorded."

In fact the phrase "may be recorded" is open to interpretation and can mean both "we might record it" and "we give permission to record it."

  Still, I wouldn't put it past some company to try the "you recorded us illegaly" tactic.

about 6 months ago

For Half, Degrees In Computing, Math, Or Stats Lead To Other Jobs

linuxwrangler Re:Even higher for other degree fields. (174 comments)

Exactly what I was thinking even without tongue in cheek. Perhaps communications majors do communicate (as don't we all) but, unlike in technical fields, I haven't seen too many job postings requiring a degree in communications. But those people are by-and-large working in law, advertising, insurance, etc. yet nobody seems to feel the necessity to do a study on how many communication majors aren't working in communications.

about 6 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Anti-Theft Products For the Over-Equipped Household?

linuxwrangler Obligatory bear joke... (408 comments)

Having worked in the past in law enforcement and in security systems I would sometimes tell people this joke:

Two guys are camping when they hear a bear outside the tent. As one guy starts putting on and lacing up his shoes, the other says, "don't be silly, you can't outrun a bear."

The other guy responds, "I don't have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you."

Each little bit of security makes you just a tad "faster" then your tentmate. Lock your doors. Lock your windows. Get a dog. Get an alarm.

But realize the time delay with an alarm. Someone kicks for a while at your door and finally breaks it in at which point the alarm activates. They dash in and ransack the place and split - usually in a minute or two - sometimes less. Meanwhile the alarm system calls the alarm company who calls the police dispatch and gives them the info. You have probably passed 60 seconds already. Then the call goes out to the officers - assuming they are available and there aren't higher priority calls on the board. Car accidents, robberies, and many other events take precedence over alarm calls which are typically 95+% false. Unless the officer just happens to be right around the corner, it is another couple minutes till they arrive. And these are best-case numbers. The burglar is usually long-gone when the officers arrive.

Don't forget that the bad-guys don't respect life or property. They rip earrings out of ears. They smash windows and wreck dashboards to get a $150 stereo they can fence for $10 (if that). Or, in the case of a good friend who had upgraded his alarm, added security locks on the windows, installed lights and more, they simply backed their pickup across his front lawn and through the french-doors and proceeded to throw whatever they could get in 30-seconds (hundreds of CDs, stereo, TV and other easy to move stuff) into the truck and sped away.

In that vein, a safe may protect your goods but put you at risk for a home invasion (http://xkcd.com/538/).

As others have said, insure, encrypt and archive (off-site).

BTW, good neighbors are great. I ended up following two of the four burglars that hit my neighbor's house. Cops surrounded the block they ran into and eventually let the dog bring one out when he refused to come out on his own. Recovered all the property as well. When our friend's car down the block was damaged in a hit-and-run it was a neighbor who provided the plate and description. We are organizing a neighborhood watch and working to catalog the available security cameras on the block at which point we will probably get the city to put up a "video monitoring in force" sign at the ends of the block.

about 8 months ago

One-a-Day-Compiles: Good Enough For Government Work In 1983

linuxwrangler Compliers?!? You got compliers? (230 comments)

I remember my first assembly class when we toggled in our initial few programs directly at the front panel of a PDP-11. (Not even really assembly at that point but direct machine instructions.) The paddle switches were in colored groups of three leading to the only really use for octal I have ever encountered: you could get very fast at reading octal and setting the switches with your index/middle/ring fingers.

about 9 months ago

Nanodot-Based Smartphone Battery Recharges In 30 Seconds

linuxwrangler Re:Phones yeah (227 comments)

For cars any fast-charge battery doesn't remove the *ahem* "current" stumbling block but rather *moves* it.

Tesla's fast-charger claims a 4-hour recharge on a charger pulling 16.8kW and a charge will get you rougly halfway from San Francisco to LA - a trip easily made on a tank of gas.

To match a gas-station fillup you would need to transfer that amount of energy in about 5 minutes requiring a supply of a touch over 800kW. At 600VDC - the voltage used by BART - your cables would *only* need to carry about 1,300A to the car. By my reading, this means approximately six "strands" of 0000 wire per conductor or a dozen for a two-conductor cable. That cable will weigh approximately 6-pounds/foot plus an undoubtedly hefty plug and it will still get pretty warm during charging as well as being enormously attractive to copper thieves.

But since the fuel-powered vehicle gets 2-3 times the range on that refueling a more realistic comparison requires you to at least double the above numbers to reach refuel-time/driving-range parity. If they don't double the range on the electric vehicles then you need double the refuling stops with the attendent increase in number of "pumps" or stations. The required energy needs to get to the vehicle somehow.

When I pulled into Costco to fill up there were 20 pumps all with cars at them. Even if only half were actually fueling, the station would need an 8,000kW feed before even factoring in burst and safety-factor requirements.

To make matters worse, most people refuel in the daytime when electric loads are highest. Of course this is offset somewhat by the fact that daytime is when solar is available.

Overall, high-speed recharge for cars may bring as many or more problems than it solves, especially when the battery-swap alternative allows for load-leveling, for leveraging the ability to purchase at the cheapest or most environmentally friendly times, for eliminating the need for an owner to worry about large battery-replacement costs and potentially even for returning power to the utilities at peak-demand times.

about 10 months ago

IE Drops To Single-Digit Market Share

linuxwrangler Serious sample bias (390 comments)

The statistics are "collected from W3Schools' log-files..." So an English-language site for people interested in web development is now considered an accurate proxy for browser usage? I think not. Predictably, the results are way out of line with, well, pretty much everyone:


1 year,19 hours

EV Owner Arrested Over 5 Cents Worth of Electricity From School's Outlet

linuxwrangler The law is vague (1010 comments)

At least the current law in California. Most of section 498 deals with diverting from "utilities" though it may be considered "personal property" and fall under another theft section.

I remember a couple decades back the University Police in Berkeley were beset by complaints about loud late-night music constantly blairing from a boom-box operated by a homeless guy in one of the parking structures. "Disturbing the peace" is a tough sell and he didn't ever get the clue till they started arresting him for stealing electricty from the university since he was plugged into an outlet there.

I've always thought back to that case and wondered if I'm at risk when I charge my laptop from a wall outlet at an airport or coffee shop.

about a year ago

NSA's New Utah Data Center Suffering Meltdowns

linuxwrangler Re:Let's see. . . Data Center in Dry Climate. .. (241 comments)

Works for Switch in Las Vegas. Cold in winter and cools off at night so 70% of annual hours they can pull in ambient air through filters. Evaporative cooling, whether direct or to cool the hot-side of a refrigerated system, works best in dry climates but it's only used to improve efficiency as they can run fine with air-cooling albeit at much higher power costs.

I'm still surprised at the number of places that think cooling is optional. We had equipment in a Sacramento data-center that had plenty of backup electricity for servers but couldn't run the AC in a power outage. The SLA only had provisions for exceeding 80-degrees for more than something like 90 or 120 minutes. *Ahem*, cold-comfort when a dense data-center can blow through 100 in minutes without AC.

UC Berkeley had a widespread power outage about a week ago. The main campus data center had power but, you guessed it, couldn't run cooling and had to "gracefully" shut down most of the core systems while watching the center breach 100F.

But I agree with your base assumption - really bad planning and/or execution on the power systems.

about a year ago

Ask Slashdot: Time To Regulate Domestic Drones?

linuxwrangler Responsible use (190 comments)

As with many activities, people who break the already existing rules mess things up for everyone.

I was at the exciting finale of the America's Cup out on the pier with something like 10,000+ people watching the boats race to the finish line shadowed by three helicopters providing video coverage. So what does some dope do? Launches his quadcopter from the middle of an outdoor crowd and flys it out over the finish area. What part of "away from populated areas" and "away from aircraft operations" did this idiot not understand?

about a year ago

It Takes 2.99 Gigajoules To Vaporize a Human Body

linuxwrangler Suspiciously accurate (272 comments)

It is ridiculous to use "roughly" and "2.99" in the same measurement. Seriously?!? A professor informed my engineering class that adding extra decimal places implied that that level of precision was known and/or required. It is at all plausible that the variability in the "average" human body is less than a one part per thousand?

Sounds a lot like Karl Marx when he took material costs in "round numbers", "assumed" costs for spindles and rates of waste, arbitrarily "put" wear and tear at 10% and "supposed" a value for rent then somehow, miraculously, calculated that surplus value equaled 153-11/13%

Kudos to Scientific American for being sensible enough to say "about three."

about a year ago

Team Oracle Penalized For America's Cup Rules Violations

linuxwrangler Excessive penalty for the team (190 comments)

I've been watching almost every race and photographing them as well (http://www.flickr.com/photos/97903173@N03/collections/72157634780455306/).

The technology is amazing. Not only the boats but also the stuff that Stan Honey has cooked up for the live-view on TV (http://spectrum.ieee.org/consumer-electronics/audiovideo/the-augmented-reality-americas-cup)

Banning/penalizing the actual participants in the cheating is fine. But the America's Cup World Series was a warm-up for the real events and designed primarily to give the crews experience and to promote the sport throughout the world so the 2-race penalty makes no sense to me. It's sort of like finding a couple baseball players used a corked bat in the pre-season so you nullify the teams first 20 wins in the regular season.

about a year ago

San Francisco Fire Chief Bans Helmet-Mounted Cameras For Firefighters

linuxwrangler It's not so simple... (209 comments)

As others have pointed out, the original story is very out-of-date and ignores the fact that the policy has been in-place for a long time.

Privacy vs. public access is not completely black and white. Just a few issues that could be reasonably debated (not on the Interwebs, of course, where no reasonable debate occurs) are:

Should firefighters be rescuing people and fighting fires or d*cking around with their GoPro to get cool Youtube videos?

As medical responders, what about HIPPA? Does a person have the right to call for help secure in the knowledge that the rescuer won't be spreading helmet-cam footage of their nude mangled body across the Internet or news?

I see some similar issues with radio traffic and release of 911 recordings. While I enjoy checking the local goings-on with a scanner I wonder if "...respond to 1234 Main Apartment 3 for a 34 year old female suicide attempt via overdose..." is broadcasting just a bit too much personal medical info.

And don't get me started on search-warrants. The cops *love* to issue press-releases about all the stuff they have recovered even though nobody has been charged or convicted. A couple bricks of .22, a Playboy and the pills from your doctor are "drugs, pornography and thousands of rounds of ammunition" by the time it hits the blotter. It just a bit too much power to smear someone's reputation without trial for my taste.

about a year and a half ago

As AOL Prepares To Downsize Patch, CEO Fires Employee During Meeting

linuxwrangler Patch is already dead (248 comments)

They killed it months ago. Now they are just dragging the corpse through the streets instead of giving it a proper burial.

Last year there was an actual reporter posting actual news relevant to and about our town. Readers posted comments - sometimes hundreds on a single article. There were lively discussions about school issues, traffic safety and other local issues with generally one to three new articles every day.

Then they announced "exciting upgrades." The look and feel of the site went from OK to awful. Our local reporter has been "reassigned to a regional area." The local news is an irregularly updated mish-mash of cut 'n' paste police blotter info posted well after it has already been available on Nixle, reposts from other news sources (and not very local), and "reporting" consisting of things like a brief listing of the city-council agenda followed by an "article" saying "Were you at the meeting? What are your comments?" And still they sometimes can't get any news posted for days. Really?

They have added lots of "sponsored" Patch localities advertising Planes, Smurfs and the like.

The "local" reporters are now, if you look at their profiles, all over the country and making errors in articles that just make them look like idiots to anyone actually living here. Reviews and articles about places that closed a year or two ago do not make for credibility.

Much of the supposedly local news is just repackaged national stats. "How is unemployment in YourLocalTown compared to the rest of the country?" and the like. Other stuff is somewhat local looking blog stuff that turns out to be identical on all the sites.

It's sad. The site used to be fun and interesting. Too bad they couldn't make it a successful business.

about a year and a half ago

Compared to my 1st computer's memory ...

linuxwrangler Video card (587 comments)

This could have as easily been phased as "my current video card has X times the RAM of my first computer" (about 10000) or "my current computer has X times the RAM of my first hard drive" (about 1000).

about a year and a half ago

UnGrounded: British Airways Attempts to Bottle Some Startup Spirit

linuxwrangler The B-Ark? (128 comments)

Obligatory Hitchhiker's reference aside, who thinks it's a good idea to stick a bunch of the professed best and brightest together on the same trans-Atlantic plane? Apparantly they are ignoring the lessons learned by corporations that have had their entire leadership killed in a single crash and therefore forbid members of upper management from taking the same flight.

about a year and a half ago



MBRI develops modular open-source underwater camera

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  3 days ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "In an effort to "monitor the depths without sinking the budget", the Monterey Bay Research Institute has developed the See Star modular underwater camera system. Using a GoPro camera along with support batteries and lights encased in housings made from PVC pipe, the design was conceived as open-source from the start with all hardware and software available on bitbucket. They are already working on new versions and plan to demonstrate it at various Maker Faires."

United and Orbitz sure 22-year-old programmer for telling the truth

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  about a month ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "Aktarer Zaman, a young computer scientist, started a "side project" called Skiplagged to compile a relatively well-known method of finding inexpensive airfares. But organizing fully public information into a user-friendly form has gotten him sued by United and Orbitz who are less than enthralled by his activities and are accusing his not-for-profit site of "unfair competition" and promotion of "strictly prohibited" travel. Sounds like some large corporations need to brush up on the first amendment to the United States Constitution."

LAX to London flight delayed over WiFi name

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  about 3 months ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "A flight from LAX to London was delayed after a passenger reported seeing "Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork" as an available hotspot name and reported it to a flight attendant. The flight was taken to a remote part of the airport and delayed for several hours but "after further investigation, it was determined that no crime was committed and no further action will be taken.""

Passport database outage leaves thousands stranded.

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  about 5 months ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "Job interviews missed, work and wedding plans disrupted, children unable to fly home with their adoptive parents. All this disruption is due to a outage involving the passport and visa processing database at the U.S. State Department. The problems have been ongoing since July 19 and the best estimate for repair is "soon.""

Failed software upgrade halts transit service

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  about a year ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "San Francisco Bay Area commuters awoke this morning to the news that BART, the major regional transit system which carries hundreds of thousands of daily riders, was entirely shut down due to a computer failure. Commuters stood stranded at stations and traffic backed up as residents took to the roads. The system has returned to service and BART says the outage resulted from a botched software upgrade."

NSA's new Utah Data Center Suffering Meltdowns

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  about a year ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "NSA's new Utah data-center has been sufferering numerous power-surges that have caused as much as $100,000 damage per event. The root cause is "not yet sufficiently understood" but may is suspected to relate to the site's "inability to simultaneously run computers and keep them cool." Frustrating the analysis and repair are "incomplete information about the design of the electrical system" and the fact that "regular quality controls in design and construction were bypassed in an effort to fast track the Utah project.""

Woman sued for texting driver

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  more than 2 years ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "After mowing down a motorcycling couple while distracted by texting, Kyle Best received a slap on the wrist. The couple's attorney then sued girlfriend Shannon Colonna for sending him messages when he was driving arguing that while she was not physically present, she was "electronically present." In good news for anyone who sends server-status, account-alerts or originates a call, text or email of any type that could be received by a mobile device the judge dismissed the plantiff's claims against the woman."

Dick "Danger Will Robinson" Tufeld Dead at 85

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  about 3 years ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "Actor Dick Tufeld died this week at age 85. Tufeld started as the announcer in "Space Patrol" and voiced characters in several "Simpsons" episodes but was best known as the voice of The Robot in "Lost in Space" making "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!" a household phrase."
Link to Original Source

Mythbusters misses target, hits house with cannonb

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  more than 3 years ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "A Mythbusters experiment went seriously wrong today when the team missed the intended target and fired a cannonball through a nearby home. After missing the target, the projectile took some "unfortunate bounces", ripped through the front door of and out the opposite wall of an East Dublin home waking the sleeping residents then bounced across a 4-lane road before smashing into a minivan that had just been parked."

Nobel winning physicist Norman Ramsey dies at age

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  more than 3 years ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "Nobel winning physicist Norman Ramsey died Saturday at age 96. It was Ramsey's research that led to the atomic clock which moved mankind beyond astronomical observations and mechanical timepieces and provided the accuracy necessary for physicists to test the theory of relativity and engineers to develop the global positioning system. The same research led to development of magnetic-resonance imaging.

Ramsey also helped create Brookhaven National Laboratory where he served as the first Chairman of its Physics Department and was instrumental in the founding of Fermilab."

Timezone Maintainer Retiring

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  more than 3 years ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "It's used in Java. It's used in nearly every flavor of UNIX/Linux. In PostgreSQL, Oracle and other databases. Several RFCs refer to it. But where does the timezone database come from? I never gave it much thought but would have assumed that it was under the purview of some standards body somewhere. It's not. Since the inception of the database Arthur David Olson has maintained the database, coordinated the mailing list and volunteers and provided a release platform and now he is retiring. IANA is developing a transition strategy. Jon Udell has an interesting literary appreciation of the timezone database."
Link to Original Source

Apple store refuses payment by cash

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  more than 4 years ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "Diane Campbell, who is disabled, on a fixed income, and has no credit-cards saved enough to buy an iPad. But when she took her cash to the local Apple store they refused to sell one to her. It turns out that Apple policies prohibit cash purchases of iPads. Even the involvement of the media consumer advocates hasn't swayed Apple."

AT&T seeks termination of plain old phone serv

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  about 5 years ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "In a filing (PDF) with the FCC, AT&T seeks to unburden itself of continued support of the public switch telephone network by recommending that, as it did with analog TV, the FCC also set a firm date to terminate POTS. In the document they recommend that "...perhaps the single most important feature of Commission action at this time is the establishment of a firm deadline at which point the transition will be complete..." They also claim that, "Phaseout of circuit-switched POTS service and the PSTN is essential to achieving universal access to broadband"."

Francis Rogallo dead at 97

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  more than 5 years ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "Francis Rogallo, inventor of the flexible wing that spawned sports from hang-gliding to kite-boarding died September 1 at age 97. Rogallo is considered the father of popular personal flight and flew hang-gliders himself until he was 80. I remember building and flying my first Rogallo wing out of irrigation pipe, conduit, plastic sheeting and double-stick tape back in the mid 1970s. It is amazing both that the high-school hang-gliding club allowed this and that I'm still alive afterward suffering only a hairline arm fracture during my time flying."

Twitter post leads to libel suit

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  more than 5 years ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "In the latest example of the Streisand Effect, Chicago apartment management company Horizon Realty Group has sued a Twitter user for a post regarding alleged mold in her apartment. Predictably, this has generated publicity reaching far beyond the poster's original 15 followers. Explaining their actions, Horizon spokesman Jeffrey Michael stated, "We're a sue-first, ask-questions-later kind of an organization." Later, in an official press release (PDF) regarding the "Twitter Controversy", Horizon apologized for what they claim was a "tongue in cheek" statement."

Two century old cipher solved

linuxwrangler linuxwrangler writes  |  more than 5 years ago

linuxwrangler (582055) writes "In 1801, Robert Patterson, a mathematics professor at the University of Pennsylvania sent President Jefferson a letter containing a message coded in what he called a nearly flawless cipher. The puzzle intrigued mathematician and cryptanalyst Lawren Smithline who has now solved the cipher and published his results over 200 years after the letter was originally sent."


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