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Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

sillivalley Bird 43, Simpson 240/260 (702 comments)

As another commenter mentioned, old test equipment -- the design of the Bird 43 wattmeter hasn't changed in over 50 years (and mine is over 30 years old). Similar story with the Simpson 240 series of multimeters (VOMs). I inherited a set of Starrett micrometers that are wonderful, even the ones my son used as C-clamps as he was growing up...

I also have a stack of old HP and Tektronix test equipment -- stuff that has service manuals and more-or-less replaceable parts (except for things like 'scope front ends, which are custom assemblies made of pure unobtanium).

about 9 months ago

Nat Geo Writer: Science Is Running Out of "Great" Things To Discover

sillivalley A little over a hundred years ago... (292 comments)

Students were advised not to go into Physics as a career, as there were only two unsolved problems in Classical Physics -- that of the photoelectric effect, and the advance of the perihelion of Mercury.

Einstein addressed both problems in 1905, and changed the world.

What will the current set of "little problems" and inconsistencies in Physics lead to?

about 10 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Mitigating DoS Attacks On Home Network?

sillivalley So what? (319 comments)

Executive summary: Welcome to the real world. Everybody with an "always on" connection is getting this kind of crap, it's just that most people don't realize it.

Discussion: We have a cable modem for internet service. I run a SSH honeypot (Kippo) to collect information on folks knocking on our door.

Friday morning, my Kippo honeypot recorded a dictionary attack run of 291 SSH login attempts (against root) in 12 minutes (from, look it up if you want). I don't even bother to record to record the crap coming against port 80.

This isn't unusual, not even for an IP address in a residential cable block! And the more you look for this kind of activity, like running a honeypot, or even reviewing your router logs, the more bewildered you'll become, particularly about how "normal" people's computers survive under these continuous attacks.

The answer, of course, is that so many do not, their home computers rooted within minutes of being connected to the net, or when a child in the household (using a Windows account with admin privileges) clicks on some enticing link in IE... Their computer gets added to one or more botnets, an eventually they toss it out because it's too slow.

Suggestions: Make sure your network is as secure as you can make it, then ask for help to make it better. Help those you care about do the same. Friends don't let friends use IE (or windows) is a good start.

about a year ago

Cell Phones As a Dirty Bomb Detection Network

sillivalley Which assumes... (103 comments)

That the data from all those cameras, location+image, is constantly being streamed to a secure government facility where the data will only be used for good, right?

And people are concerned about Google Glass?

Yes, it's an interesting idea, but it has some problems!

But the carriers would probably love it, as someone would have to pay for all the bandwidth used -- certainly not gonna be a freebie on the carrier -- an opportunity for a government mandated fee, perhaps?

Idea -- check sources (e.g. 137Cs) are pretty cheap. Attach them to the outsides of public transit, pigeons, anything that moves around. The more the merrier.

about a year and a half ago

Bill Gates: iPad Users Are Frustrated They Can't Type Or Create Documents

sillivalley Bill, I don't have problems creating documents (618 comments)

Bill, I don't have any problems creating documents using my iPad, or working on those documents on my Macbook Pro or MacPro desktop
Things just work. I update a document on one platform, and it appears on the others.

What I do have problems with is Visio under Windows -- damn, that's a hostile program! Even when trying to integrate Visio content with Office documents. Look on the bright side -- it's like opening Christmas presents -- you never know what you're going to get! But most of the time with Windows, it's not what you expected (or wanted).

But I guess that's because I don't understand, and haven't accepted the Windows hegemony and world-view.

Not that I'm singularly focused on Apple -- I do a lot of work on Linux-based platforms, and OSX plays nice with those as well.

No problems creating and editing documents using my iPad... I hear the shrill cry that the iPad tools don't have the "richness" of MS Word, or Excel, or Visio...
About that "richness" -- my guess is probably 80% of the "features" in those programs go unused. Most of the time when I run into one of those "features" it's because something popped up and now I'm searching for how to turn it the hell off.
And what apps such as Pages and Numbers don't offer, apps such as Evernote and Skitch do -- and they work, across platforms (even Windows).

And don't worry, Bill -- these things are just fads anyway. Don't RIM and Dell say so?

about a year and a half ago

DARPA Develops Non-GPS Navigation Chip

sillivalley Inertial Nav + Kalman Filter (84 comments)

As others have posted, intertial nav platforms have been around for decades -- in military aircraft, and then in commercial aircraft.

The break throughs are not only in getting the platform sensors, the gyros, accelerometers, and magnetometers, onto a single chip, but also in being able to provide the computer horsepower to do the Kalman filtering to integrate all these sensors to come out with a nav/position solution, in a few cubic centimeters of processed sand, and for a few Watts.

It's not just the sensors, it's the processing as well. The sensors just throw data at you (data with all sorts of errors); the Kalman filter lets you bring everything together for your nav/position solution. As a prof long ago said it, "Kalman filtering -- how to stop worrying and learn to love matrix inversion."

about 2 years ago

Iranians, Russians, and Chinese Hackers Are After You, Says Lawmaker

sillivalley ISP Egress Filtering... (211 comments)

How much of the crap we put up with would go away if ISPs instituted egress filtering?

Oh, that's not a panacea; it's not going to cure all the interweb's problems overnight, but it would sure as hell eliminate a lot of the low-level crap that goes on.

(grumble grumble grumble)

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: What Is a Reasonable Way To Deter Piracy?

sillivalley Really tough -- (687 comments)

Your first challenge is fitting "reasonable" and "piracy" into the same mental model...

Maritime nations through history have sought to deter piracy by displaying the miscreant's remains at harbor entrances.

Think of that as a way to show increased risk.

But software piracy? What's the risk? If you look at eliminating the gain from piracy, then you need to ask, what's the "gain?" To some, the gain is saving a few bucks. Pricing your software low works to eliminate that gain. Or providing support and/or upgrades to legitimate users. But to some, the "gain" in piracy is playing the game, and that gets back to a rational relationship between your goals and a pirate's: there may not be one. Someone engaging in piracy as a way to get their rocks off isn't likely to be motivated by pricing, support, upgrades, or much of anything else, even the lack of a technological challenge.

Is piracy something you can more or less ignore in your target market?

But "fighting" piracy? Old adage: never wrestle with a pig; you'll get filthy and the pig will love it.

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: How Would You Feel About Recording Your Entire Life?

sillivalley Good Grief! (379 comments)

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." -- Cardinal RIchelieu

So how long would it take going through those recordings to find something...

But don't worry, our technological society is evolving to that point asymptotically -- you probably already carry a tracking device in your pocket that also can be used to make phone calls; if you drive a recently manufactured car it has a rat box in it that your insurance company can use to try to avoid any liability, and there are proposals for future model years to make that rat box collect even more information. Sound and pictures will get there eventually.

about 2 years ago

LG Acquires WebOS Source Code and Patents From HP

sillivalley About all those patents... (80 comments)

Yeah, LG just acquired all those patents from HP/Palm...
But what did it get? If you imagine each of those patents to be a pie, did LG get the whole pie on each one it got?

Hell no.

First, HP undoubtedly retained a license to practice under each of the patents, to make, use, sell, have made, have customers use, yada, yada, yada.
Next, LG took those patents under whatever licenses and cross-licenses HP (and Palm) had entered into with other companies.
So while LG acquired a bunch of patents, each of those patents has a chunk or two taken out of it. LG undoubtedly didn't get the whole pie.

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Dealing With an Advanced Wi-Fi Leech?

sillivalley Multiple approaches-- (884 comments)

If this person is in it for the game, putting up technical barriers is just going to encourage them. You want them to decide to leech off someone else.
Make a corner reflector using aluminum foil and cardboard -- figure out where in general the leech is, and keep the signal away from them.
If you have a spare box, don't do the Upside-Down-Ternet, let them connect and throttle the *&!# out of their connection -- encourage them to go away.
And yeah, going to PSK-2 with long keys changed every few days will be a pain to you, but more of a pain to someone else.

Parable #1: Never wrestle with a pig. You'll get dirty, and the pig will love it.
Parable #2: Two guys out camping. One asks the other, "What would you do if a bear came into the camp?" "Run like hell!" "But you can't outrun a bear!" "I don't have to outrun the bear..."

about 2 years ago

On the end of USPS 1st Class Saturday delivery:

sillivalley Stalking Horse-- (564 comments)

SO they're proposing to take all the sh*t they'd normally deliver on Saturday, remove the first-class stuff, and deliver the rest? This is more efficient and will save money?
Sounds like a stalking horse to me, to make their plight more visible, hamstrung between unions on one side and politicians on the other, and not allowed to make business decisions on their own.

about 2 years ago

Turning the Belkin WeMo Into a Deathtrap

sillivalley Thoughtful design-- (146 comments)

I've been using home automation since the 80's (damn, that's a long time ago) in the dark ages of X10.
As with many systems, there are some important questions to keep in mind:
Does this system or particular controlled device have benign failure modes? The answer better be "Yes!"
How do I secure access to the system? (Hint: don't connect it directly to the Internet!)
Does this system have a master OFF switch and easily useable manual controls? (Think COLOSSUS Forbin Project - again, the answer better be "Yes!")
Is automating this going to piss off someone I don't want to piss off? (E.g. I like motion-controlled lighting in some rooms; my wife hates motion controlled lighting.)
How can this whole thing go sideways at 3AM and give me a cheap thrill?

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: How To Stay Fit In the Office?

sillivalley build in exercise, mobility (372 comments)

If you have a printer in your cube, get rid of it -- use one that makes you get up and walk.

Use stairs rather than elevators -- use a loo on a different floor to get more use of stairs,

If you drive to work, don't park next to the building, park where you get to walk some.

Rather than eating lunch one or more days during the week, take a walk locally instead.

about 2 years ago

Autonomy Chief Says Whitman Is Watering Down HP Fraud Claims

sillivalley The simple explanation-- (117 comments)

"Nobody with half a brain would have paid that much for this pile of shite; therefore, we must have been defrauded."

See? It's simple. Blame someone else.

about 2 years ago

Pirate Radio Station In Florida Jams Automotive Electronics

sillivalley Class C, no filters-- (315 comments)

Yep, 3rd harmonic, probably from an unfiltered Class C power amp -- and it will desense those silly little receivers if it doesn't block them completely. The more modern ones have some front-end filtering, but not a lot.

A lot of automotive stuff in that frequency range -- keyless entry, TPM (tire pressure monitoring), and garage door openers.

I'm surprised nobody has gone after the protocols to see how many low tire pressure warnings they can set off at once...

more than 2 years ago

I can juggle ...

sillivalley A lifetime skill-- (111 comments)

I learned to juggle many, many moons ago. Thank you, Larry, and thank you, Frank!

I've taught many folks how to juggle since that time. Taught my son. He's getting damn good with five, which I never completely mastered.

He's also taught others, passing it on. It's easy to learn, and addicting -- you go through a phase where you'll try to juggle anything that won't fight back (hints: tape the paws together; shake frogs and other small animals first to make sure they're empty before throwing them over your head).

Juggling helps you relax; it helps you concentrate. It helps you realize what's important. There are always new things to learn, and interested people to teach. Keep practicing, keep teaching others, and keep having fun.

more than 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: The Search For the Ultimate Engineer's Pen

sillivalley multiple choices-- (712 comments)

(1) Old school drafting pens, with 00 or 000 size tips -- Rapidograph, Kohinoor, Faber, and others
Pros -- fine lines, don't need to press, with film inks you can write on glass, or just about anything
Cons -- need special ink, cranky, leak if you take them on planes, drop them and you're out $20 for a new tip
got to wait for the ink to dry or it smears, getting harder and harder to find

(2) Fountain pen with XF nib
Pros -- fine lines, don't need to press, lots of ink colours and you can blend your own
Cons -- at least $60 - $80 for a good one, you can't let anyone else use it once you have it broken in

(3) Pentel Precise V5 and V7
Pros -- cheap! fine lines, reliable
Cons -- not as good as (1) or (2), but not as expensive, either

more than 2 years ago

Disney to Acquire Lucasfilm, Star Wars Episode 7 Due In 2015

sillivalley JIHAD! (816 comments)

...the return of Jar-Jar and everything else we loved...

and of course the

of all the previous films.

about 2 years ago


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