* Posts by Stuart Dole

13 posts • joined 7 Jul 2008

Apple's iWatch to appear in 2014, will RULE your home – new claim

Stuart Dole

Apple already controls lights and heat and smoke...

Interesting comments. Remember that there are already iPhone-controlled lightbulbs in the Apple stores, and Nest (thermostats, smoke alarms) is an Apple spin-off.

Personally, I stopped wearing a watch about a decade ago - I don't like the feel of something on my wrist. And our home is simple - a thermostat that's used maybe half the year (the cold half), and we know where the light switches are. But - maybe that remote controlled blender would be useful...

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HALF of air passengers leave phones on ... yet STILL no DEATH PLUNGE

Stuart Dole

Re: Not just radio signal safety

@SP - the Asiana crash in SFO knocked open the overhead bins - carry-on luggage came raining down on everyone. I'd wager that if someone recognized their own rolly in the rubble, it'd be a service to everyone else to pick it up and carry it out, clearing the aisle a bit.

Also, the "professional crew" at the controls couldn't cope with a visual approach and landing, on a bright sunny day.

I fly into ABQ (Albuquerque, New Mexico) a good bit. The airport is quite high - around 7,000 ft (~2,100 m), so you hit the magic 10,000 ft point a lot sooner on takeoff and can start using your "devices" (and on approach you can use them a lot longer). They apparently only care about altitude from sea level, not height above the ground. It sort of feels like as soon as the wheels are up you're good to go. Curious...

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Chinese police probe iPhone user's death by electrocution

Stuart Dole

Wall voltage in China is 220. One report said she was in the bath (steamy bathroom?). If there was a moisture-caused short from 220V mains to the 5V USB side of the isolation transformer the whole unit would be floating at 220, And she picks up the phone with wet hands while grounded to the wet floor, ZAP! Easy to do with any chargeable device. So folks, don't use your portable device in the tub while it's charging.

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Big Data bites back: How to handle those unwieldy digits

Stuart Dole

Big Data?

I supervised a project that stored images as BLOBs - that went pretty well (except that Java doesn't like unsigned bytes). Where we got hammered was trying to store numbers with a large dynamic range. For instance, how about a database of physical constants? You'd need to be able to have very large numbers (Avogadro's number), and very small (the Plank constant), maybe throw in "c", the mass of the electron, etc. SQL seems very poorly designed for scientific work - that is, BIG (and small) numbers... One of the roots of this problem is that everything needs to be converted to text to store or retrieve it (at least for the TCP/IP part of the journey), and I've seen floating point values mangled badly in this process.

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Scribe's mobe, MacBook pwned after hacker 'fast-talked Apple support'

Stuart Dole
Thumb Down

backups...

There is always risk. Fire is a big one - even if you have a week-old HD in a fire-proof, is it really fire-proof? Will it really read after a couple of hours of cooking, then marinating in the water used to try to put the fire out? Offsite mirroring of some sort - Mozy, Memopal, Carbonite, iCloud - helps with this, but yes, you can't rely on it either. Even without fire, I once came to work (small consulting company) and the building was surrounded with yellow tape - crime scene, no access for a week. All the computers were stolen, from all the businesses in the building. Fortunately we had some old 386 and 486 machines as file servers and the thieves knew they weren't valuable and left them. So we had the current source trees and archives for most of our projects - but we did lose a lot.

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NT daddy turns his hand to Xbox

Stuart Dole

Anyone remember RSX-11M?

Fairly early on I was writing device drivers for RSX-11M for medical imaging and lab automation. The RSX distro came with the complete source files to the OS - you had to recompile the whole thing to add a driver (!). Browsing through the OS sources and looking at the change logs was incredible - Cutler wrote practically the whole thing himself, in a very short period of time. And the code quality and real time design was even more incredible. It was so lean and interrupt-aware - I had data logging at 10kHz (we never missed a clock), with a lab full of people on terminals doing (very early) word processing. Cutler's legacy was clouded by the strange beast that VMS became, IMO.

A friend in another department ran UNIX on a much faster machine, but it couldn't even keep up with the line clock at 60Hz - the system clock drifted. In those days at least, the UNIX kernel pretty much ignored interrupts. So, the UNIX machine was a bust for real time lab work, but their productivity in other areas was a lot better than ours - while I wrote in MACRO-11 assembler and Fortran, they had this fancy new language called "C"...

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HP throws WebOS to open source community

Stuart Dole
Thumb Up

I remember HP releasing STL

HP released STL, perhaps one of the best things they ever did (well, aside from some very nice calculators and 'scopes).

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HP's beloved 12c calculator turns 30

Stuart Dole

HP-25

I still have my red LED HP-25, second battery. When I got it, friends were hacking theirs (adding magnetic stick readers, etc.). I programmed it to run simulations of cancer cell migration for my thesis - a run would go all weekend. The feel of the keys is still wonderful. Old? yep. I also still have a wonderful circular sliderule in my top drawer that sees occasional use.

RPN vs. Algebraic: anyone remember the tee shirts that said "ENTER > EQUAL"?

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Cops raid Gizmodo editor in pursuit of iPhone 4G 'felony'

Stuart Dole
Gates Horns

Jobs wins!

Hey everybody - no one gets it yet: all this fuss just continues to generate buzz for the 4G iPhone! Free publicity! And it goes on for weeks! Jobs is a genius.

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Toyota Prius fourth-generation e-car

Stuart Dole

Other uses of Priuses

Locally here in northern California someone hooked an inverter to their Prius and ran their house off it during a power failure - when the batteries ran down the engine would start and charge it up again.

Also, about battery disposal, our local electrical utility, PG&E, has a contract to buy ALL the used Prius battery packs from Toyota for load leveling as we try to make more of out electricity out of wind and sun. The power controllers on the batteries are so conservative that there's lots of life left in them.

For what it's worth... I don't drive a Prius - keeping an older car ('95 Accord) running as long as I can.

Happy trails

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Power grid takedown: A new how-to

Stuart Dole
FAIL

Smart power meters and the flu

There was an El Reg article a few months back that the new "smart meters" on individual homes and businesses were easily hackable. Combine that with this...

Then, I was thinking, what percentage of grid utility and infrastructure workers can you take out (with the flu, for example) and still keep the grid up? (Also, for how long?) This includes the coal miners, coal train operators, power station crews, oil and gas field workers and pipeline crews, etc. I'm guessing that (within an order of magnitude, as a SWAG) if over half of your people are out (home in bed with 106F, 41C fevers, or dead) the grid becomes very fragile. If the grid goes down, pretty much everything else goes down too.

Happy trails!

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Webcams, printers, gizmos - the untold net threats

Stuart Dole
FAIL

Actually it's a browser vuln

OK, the nuts of this vuln is that your browser will aggressively execute ANY suitable script it finds, even inside a file name or log entry! I know we've all benefited from the extensibility of HTML from embedded magic strings that signal "script ahead!", but this is really a massive security hole. This is the elephant in the room. This is *the* big HTML fail, the fundamental design flaw.

Back to the issue of embedded servers - we've certainly seen it in our LAN - when we turned on WiFi for the house sitter while we went on holiday, she could easily see our NAS - so we unplugged it before we left, but did leave the network printer up for her benefit. Normally the WiFi is off. Fortunately we did a checkout before leaving! We're in a tight neighborhood, and about a dozen houses must be able to see out WAP, based on how many WAPs we can see.

Happy trails...

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Prius hybrid to get rooftop solar panel

Stuart Dole

California sunshine

I greatly enjoyed driving a small diesel while on vacation in the UK recently, but they are still too dirty for California - though strangely enough the big pickups and SUVs can run diesel engines because they're legally "trucks". The car got over 60mpg, though that was probably IMPERIAL gallons, not US gallons - be careful of units! Also, that was the car's own opinion of itself.

So, in California we're stuck with the Prius as the best current alternative, besides bicycles and feet.

OK, if the solar-powered racers can do better than 60mph in the race across Australia, there is interesting energy (and technology) here! In California almost all cars sit outside in the sun 360 days a year. No one uses garages here, either at home or at work. That sunshine is turning into heat anyway, either on the pavement, the roof paint, or heating the car. Using even 10% of it is a win. And there is a lot of interesting new solar technology coming on line - flexible panels, more efficient panels, and cheaper (less efficient) panels.

interesting fact about the Prius is that it has TWO batteries - one for starting the engine and normal automotive-electrical stuff, and the big battery pack for the hybrid stuff. I had to jump-start a friend's Prius after a party then the little battery was dead (lights left on?), while there was plenty of charge in the hybrid pack, which was somehow inaccessible. Here's an IT angle - the control software hasn't been debugged into all the corner cases yet!

Happy trails...

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