* Posts by Gary Bickford

127 posts • joined 27 Jan 2009

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DARPA: We KNOW WHO YOU ARE... by the WAY you MOVE your MOUSE

Gary Bickford

They should try the Kaje Picture Password SAAS

I've actually talked with Novetta, they may become an affiliate. The Kaje Picture Password SAAS (http://ka.je) and follow on products brings two things - cognitive testing and separation of password information from identity. The SAAS can support almost any type of Proof of Knowledge, and could support this biometric method as well.

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Samsung snub sends Qualcomm into a spin over Snapdragon 810

Gary Bickford

Re: Think of it another way...

It can be taken farther - this is from the boat industry but I'm sure it happens in the car industry. At various times Volvo engines were actually made by Perkins, and Perkins engines were made by Volvo or Kubota, or Isuzu or something. I forget the specifics, but in many cases the exact same make and model engine might have come from three different actual makers. Conversely, the same engine might be labeled under three or more different makes and models.

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China 'upgrades' Great Firewall. Oh SNAP! There goes VPN access

Gary Bickford

Time for a steganographic VPN

A VPN could be implemented as a stream of encoded normal-text, using some long standard text. It could use any part of the text - extra spaces, or substituted words. Making it still seem like normal text to censors while having some efficiency might be difficult.

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Why Microsoft's 3D HoloLens goggles aren't for Google Glassholes

Gary Bickford

A lot of potential

With a bit of effort I could probably come up with 1/2 dozen new applications that folks might use everyday. For starters - some carmakers are talking about heads-up displays reflected off the windshield, but it might be better to just wear these and have the car talk to them. You could include stereo cameras on all four corners of the cabin, giving stereo vision that can see over the car in front of or behind you. These might be the same ones the car is using for automatically maintaining distance, monitoring road conditions, etc.

Right now I'm using a ViewSonic projector to display a 1080P image on my wall for a second screen, and I'm running the Compiz Desktop Cube to give me four workspaces. All that could be done inside the goggles with no worries about darkening the room. I've wanted 3D workspaces / "desktops" since at least 1978, when I first started working with 3D programming. With these goggles I could wander around the house, go get a drink, etc. while watching a video, or shift from sitting to standing, change rooms, whatever while working.

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I'll build a Hyperloop railgun tube-way in Texas, Elon Musk vows

Gary Bickford

Build the test track between Houston and Dallas

Then expand it until it reaches both cities. Or near DFW, between Dallas and Fort Worth. Both of those routes are good candidates for a route. The slog by car between Dallas and Houston is a huge PITA for many folks, at 240 miles it's shorter than the SF-LA route, Texas is a better entrepreneurial environment, and the only train route takes 22 hours as it goes through San Antonio.

Dallas-Fort Worth (would probably actually be Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth) is only about 40 miles, so that's a pretty reasonable commercial beta. That's a developed (metroplex) environment, so cost per mile would be higher unless the State provides some support regarding the right of way.

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Gmail falls over after hitting 'Great Firewall of China' – report

Gary Bickford

Re: Protectionism

Yes. Google + US might well consider filing a WTO complaint.

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No, I won't SNORKEL in your server room at STUPID-O'CLOCK

Gary Bickford

One large bank - initials start with "J" - had tens of thousands of servers in the basement, which all went under 12 feet of water. Fortunately they did have a backup server plant in New Jersey so actual operations were transferred over pretty quickly. But the cost of lost equipment was $millions. If I recall correctly they did not replace the basement server room, but built a new one somewhere else.

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'Google catches us in an invisible web of our personal data without telling us'

Gary Bickford

You are the product

I forget who said it: "If you're getting something for free, you're not the customer, you're the product."

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Buses? PAH. Begone with your filthy peasant-wagons

Gary Bickford

Re: Some points

I don't see where you included the cost of your time. Let's assume that the bus is free, and the car costs (using US IRS expense rules for 2014) $0.56 per mile, and it's a 20 mile drive/ride. The car averages 30mi/hr, costs $11.20, and takes 40 minutes. The bus averages 15 mi/hr and takes 90 minutes. Both involve incidentals, like tolls and parking for the car, the time waiting for the bus, having to take the bus at a particular time, etc. The difference is 50 minutes and $11.20. So unless your take home pay is less than $14.40/hour (60/50 * $11.20) you are losing money on the bus. (The incidentals can get complicated, are subject to judgment calls and greatly depend on the particular situation, so there's no point in trying to decipher all of the possibilities.)

But I've _never_ had a situation where the time I spent on the bus wasn't more costly, even at near-minimum wage, than driving if I had a car, which I didn't. I take it back - when I went back to college (early 2000s) I lived right on a bus line that went almost straight to my school, and ran every 11 minutes. My bus pass was $45/month.

I had a job once where I had to take the bus, my job started at 2AM. The last bus I could take to town was a combined route, so I had a one mile walk to get to the nearest stop. I had to catch the bus at 12:05 AM, and it got to town quickly, about 12:25AM. I then had one and one-half hours to kill downtown before I could go to my job. I would very much have loved having a car then!

I'll just add one more tidbit. Back a couple of decades the London bus drivers went on strike. For the duration of the strike, average traffic speeds in London increased by more than 50%.

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Gary Bickford

Re: If you are going to describe a future, make it aspirational.

""Cars on autopilot can entrain with other autopilotted cars going in the same direction."

IIRC this was envisaged and trialled on closed test tracks at least 30 years ago."

Yep, that's about right. I just learned it's called "platooning". A special section of Interstate15 was set up to allow about 20 specially equipped cars, buses and trucks to drive all together down the road. The project started in 1991, funded by USDOT, cancelled in 1999. And I got to watch Red Whittaker's (CMU Robotics Institute) huge van drive around the park in Pittsburgh in 1989-1991 time period, completely autonomously - at a slow walking speed. Back then it took 15,000 lbs. of sensors, cameras, and computers packed into an overloaded box truck, along with generators and air conditioners.

Related links:

http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1997-08-07/news/9708060541_1_bus-driver-san-diego-edmonson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_autonomous_car

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Gary Bickford

It's true, they are subsidized

""While a bus is massively subsidised..."

Well, if you're going to come out with blatant lies lies that, I'm going to stop reading."

IDK if you're pulling our leg, but just in case you're not, actually it's true. So also are trains, airplanes, and ... cars! No transportation system in the world actually pays for itself. Bus and train systems in particular run at a loss everywhere in the world. There's data out there, I looked this up a dozen or so years ago.

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Gary Bickford

Check the bus agency's total fuel, total passenger miles

I did this back when I rode the bus. I was curious how efficient buses actually are. It turns out that in my city on average the passengers in the bus were 'burning' more fuel than the ones in the cars. IIRC it worked out to 10-12 passenger miles per gallon (sorry, I'm too lazy to convert to midget furlongs per olympic pool.)

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Bring back big gov, right? If only the economics, STUPID, could tell us more

Gary Bickford

Must look at worldwide growth, not just local

Immediately post WWII growth was still mostly 'local' - nations were still more closed economies than open, and the majority of trade of manufactured goods was between first world nations. Globalization and advancement of other nations toward mature economies with real middle-class means that the growth has spread across the world. Part of the effect is that those nations that had the highest standards of living are inevitably going to have slower growth while the rest of the world catches up. National and international economic policies for the last 50 years have been strongly directed to encourage that process, with tariffs falling everywhere and free trade agreements encouraging distribution of economic activity.

For better or worse, growth is now based in a global ecosystem. Growth within an individual nation today is much more about the relative competitiveness of that nation vs. others, than of any other factor. Big Gov can only get in the way - its only true effect is to generate internal 'heat' by reducing the efficiency of the 'engine'.

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Mars was a WET mistress: Curiosity probes once-moist bottom

Gary Bickford

Re: well , there you have it....

Astronauts, if obsolete, are only obsolete in the context of robotic exploration and some very basic science. (But Buzz Aldrin noted that all of the research findings of all of the Mars rovers and landers over the last 30 years could have been accomplished in a week or two by human astronauts landing on the surface.) There are many, many science experiments that could be done on the surface of other bodies by humans that are essentially impossible to do robotically.

There is also the element of accidental discovery. If the ISS were not 'humanized', many of the things we have learned about space and physics in microgravity would not have been observed or discovered. A rather mundane but amusing example is how liquids behave in microgravity - see Col. Hadfield's video of how water wraps around objects including his hand.

But more important, for those of us who are convinced that humans, and Earth life in general, must be propagated across the Solar System and beyond, astronauts are the whole point. Scientific research stations are a first step. Every bit of scientific and technical advance brings human space habitation that much closer.

There are also good, economic reasons, if/when space industry develops, it will gradually become cheaper to have humans living in space to fix and run things than to do it all completely robotically in space. This is nontrivial. A recent article (2012?) by a prominent economist showed that space industrial development had the potential of improving the standard of living of everyone on Earth by a factor of 10. In my view, there are four non-science aspects: our existing and expanding Earth Observation systems, tracking weather and other things are now saving thousands if not millions of lives every year, and improving our drive to work; things like Space Solar Power have the potential of eliminating all of our coal, nuclear, oil, and gas-fired electrical power plants; a wide range of new technologies that will only be manufacturable or operable in high vacuum and/or microgravity will drive yet another technological leap forward; and finally space "mining" - extraction and retrieval of materials that are hard to find on Earth, such as platinum (platinum would be a widely used industrial metal if the price weren't so high - extracting from asteroids has the potential of cutting the cost by a factor of more than 100.)

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Gary Bickford

Re: well , there you have it....

I don't think finding exo-life will be a problem for most religions or religionists. There are a very few extremists (with highly skewed views of their own religion) who will have a problem, but the question of exo-life has been discussed quite a bit in various religious communities for a long time. I just saw a pretty good analysis on just this topic. Some religions actually believe in exo-life - Mormon, Scientology (if that's a religion at all, but we won't go there), a couple of others that I forget. IIRC the only problem within mainstream Christianity would be the question of whether and how Jesus' redemption applies.

James Blish's "A Case of Conscience" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Case_of_Conscience) in 1958 , which explored the question of the doctrine of Original Sin and redemption upon finding a "sinless" alien society.

And I don't think we're any nastier than most others. What we do is not different in kind than almost every other life form - look at how most wasps use other insects as zombie hosts for their offspring. Termites have an impact on their local ecosystem that is pretty similar to our impact, given the difference in scale - there's even a completely different ecosystem inside a termite mound. The best way to look at us is as an tool of Earth Life, with the capability to create "spores" that carry Earth Life to other places. This is pretty much how fungi propagate. Everywhere we go in the Universe, we'll be bringing our ecosystem with us, propagating it as we go. That's successful Life.

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Gary Bickford

Re: well , there you have it....

I tend to agree that there appears to be an overemphasis. But ...

- I can excuse the scientists + media: the fascination with exo-life seems to get good public response, which translates to more funding for space-related research, which is IMHO a Good Thing. I think it's even achieved a bit of 'reality show' interest - "The Ongoing Quest to Discover Whether We Are Alone".

- There are actually good reasons (both scientific and practical) to know if there is life of any kind elsewhere, and whether it has the same DNA history. And I'll be amused at the collective consternation if we discover living or potentially-living organisms on Mars, as the conflict between the desires for protection and study arises.

- Again from a practical point of view, the exo-life question has big potential effects on our plans to establish human residence off Earth, which IMHO is essential to our society both short and long term.

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Gary Bickford

Best headline ever!

You folks have outdone yourselves with this one! :D

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No NAND's land: Flash will NOT take over the data centre

Gary Bickford

Re: "what comes after is breathing heavily down the neck of flash"

I know someone who spent eight or ten years in the industry, at the research management level. They still call it spinning rust. I think it's kind of an insider thing.

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Gary Bickford

toughluck is right. The scientific progress of 2000-2010 was almost entirely the output of one facility, Seagate's research facility in Pittsburgh. That was shut down in 2008, and all of the PhDs were fired (rather callously in fact). These were the world's experts on the solid state physics involved. None of them stayed in the industry.

The technologies mentioned in the article are all derived from that work, which is no longer going on. We are just seeing the productization now of that research. Unless some company decides to invest $1B or so on a new advanced research facility, and finds a new set of world's experts, and gives them five to 10 years to build a new science, there will be no (zero, nada, nothing) new advances in spinning rust after the ones mentioned. Since Seagate and WD between them account for well over 90% of the total manufacturing capacity, that is unlikely to occur.

IOW, HD capacity, performance and cost/performance will probably stall out by 2016.

Also, industry estimates show that the cost/capacity curve of SSDs and HDs will cross in late 2016. I've seen the analysis. Newer SSDs have a higher lifetime than HDs, for almost all applications including the huge server farms that employ the majority of drives. So HDs are going to be a fading product from 2016 onwards.

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Put me through to Buffy's room, please. Sony hackers leak stars' numbers, travel aliases

Gary Bickford

Re: Question

Upvoted because it's so baaaad! :)

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Gary Bickford

Re: Just wondering

1) From what I've observed, at least 1/2 of the Hollywooders's stage names are not their real names in any case. 2) I wouldn't be surprised if the Feds and the states allowed some form of pseudonymous IDs. 3) Technically it's not illegal to use a false name if you are not doing it for nefarious purposes.

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Which country has 2nd largest social welfare system in the world?

Gary Bickford

Re: But the elephant in the room...

I'll just note that the cost of higher education over here began rising faster than inflation (IIRC about 2X) in lockstep with the increase of availability of federal subsidies and loan guarantees. The outcome is that while higher education is much more available (many more colleges per capita), it is at most slightly more affordable than it was in the 1960s, while wages for faculty have stagnated - most uni's now have 80% or higher "part-time" faculty with much lower per-class pay, without hope for full time or benefits, much less tenure. At the same time, pay for college administrators has increased dramatically - at some uni's administrators are now paid five times what they were paid a decade or two ago. TL;DR - federal involvement has been of help mainly to bureaucrats.

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VW's Scirocco diesel: A sheep in Wolfsburg’s clothing

Gary Bickford

Re: The Scirocco was never pretty

Yes. Over here in US, VW runs a 'Sign and Drive' promotion roughly once per year - it's basically a zero down lease, to get you into a car with minimum hassle. But I have talked with numerous people, both mechanics and non-mechanics, and every one of them has said the maintenance and parts will kill you. Some have personal experience, others probably just heard it from someone else. But somehow VW and their US dealer network have successfully convinced everyone in the US that while they're nice cars, they're way too expensive to keep.

Some marques have been successful having expensive parts and labor, but a reputation for "never" having to be repaired. VW doesn't balance the latter part of that equation.

(A famous anecdote - back in the 1970s or thereabouts, a musician had a Rolls-Royce, whose transmission blew up while he was driving across Arizona. He called the Rolls people. They paid for his flight to LA and shipped the car when it was ready. Later he called them, asking what the bill for repairs was. They said, "There is no bill. Rolls-Royce automobiles don't break down."

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Seagate: We'll bring down the HAMR in 2017. But will we give you SHINGLES?

Gary Bickford

And that will probably be the end of the road for new HD tech

I've been told that since Seagate closed their advanced research facility and fired all of their bleeding-edge PhDs, all of those physicists have entirely left the field. Nobody else (i.e. WD) had or has an equivalent facility. All improvements you will see in the future of spinning rust will be incremental progress on technologies that have already been discovered, unless someone sees fit to create a new lab, and spend 10 years building the expertise again.

So this is a self-fulfilling prophecy: There will be no more significant advances in HD tech. As a result, SSDs will triumph and HDs will fade away except maybe for archival purposes.

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UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan

Gary Bickford

Re: systemd to incorporate a shell too!!!

> "I've long gotten used to the fact that software is getting steadily worse, and it's mostly down to crappy design decisions, rather than poor coding. "

Oliver, you'll be interested to note that as far back as the early 1980s it was recognized that given a good software engineering process, over 70% of all bugs were built in to the original design.

To make things worse, IIRC only 20% of bugs in production release code could be found by "black box" testing. The other 80% are the bugs that are found by the users in the field.

Source - this data was from published analyses done on enterprise and government/defense code bases - I used to teach a SW QA workshop.

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systemd row ends with Debian getting forked

Gary Bickford

Trying to make complexity disappear by adding another layer is a classic error ...

... and that is what systemd appears to be trying to do, from my very limited reading.

From my perspective, there was a time, long ago, when a problem with booting or system configuration could be fixed by either editing a couple of conf files or in extreme cases editing or shuffling init scripts. That was the original unix model (mostly BSD?) The SysVInit model actually made things more complicated and difficult to figure out. Since then various attempts have been made to 'simplify' maintenance, but in order to support a GUI or even a Curses program, the configurations had to become more complicated, with configuration-modifying program configurations. It's been 10 or more years since setting up networks, especially dialup and later wifi, become so convoluted that it was impossible to figure out what was going wrong without climbing the learning curve of yet another system containing a dozen or two scripts/programs. Today it's basically impossible to get wifi running unless the fancy GUI NetworkManager magically happens to work. If it doesn't, one has to just resort to suspending, or in severe cases restarting, the laptop and hope that it discovers the wifi by itself.

As anyone who started out doing simple HTML with a few .SHTML or CGI scripts, then migrated to early PHP, then to CRMs and frameworks written in PHP, these are just layers of complexity that get harder and harder on which to achieve any level of expertise. No sane person could argue that working with Drupal is less difficult than writing native PHP. (Granted you get more built-in tools.)

Upstart was another attempt to 'simplify and automate' booting, but really just put another layer of crapola (scripts and configurations that interact in mysterious ways) between the system and the user/maintainer, and remove more information from visibility. So without delving into this issue myself, I'm becoming more and more likely to revert to an old-school distribution, and build it myself.

Bottom line analogy - I don't want to have to relearn how to drive yet again, as every piece of software seems to insist on moving all the knobs and wheels to different places and hook them up differently. Imagine if every two years your car's dashboard and engine controls were moved to random places, and you _had_ to update or else your car couldn't go on the freeway - that's what has been happening in IT for way too long. Funny thing - I could drive a 1946 Ford on the freeway today, and while it might not be as safe or as fast or as comfortable, it would work just fine.

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Weather Channel forecast: Bleak, with prolonged XSS

Gary Bickford

Were these Drupal vulnerabilities, or Weather Channel specific?

Enquiring minds want to know. IOW, does every Drupal site operator have to look into this problem?

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NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online

Gary Bickford

For all those doubters ...

Most folks aren't aware that NSA has multiple directorates, for different missions. The Signals Intelligence Directorate are the infamous spooks, whose job is to collect information. They're the ones that most people think NSA is all about. There is also an IT directorate, that keeps everything running.

And there is also the Information Assurance Directorate, which is chartered with defending US industry and government against groups who do the same thing as the SID - whether foreign governments or independent operators and hackers. They're pretty much the good guys. I suspect that they are the ones funding Tor, and releasing bug fixes to known vulnerabilities in security software. They have helped US businesses - 'saved their ass' - multiple times in the last several years when they discovered attempts to penetrate the business. Source - someone who has worked with NSA in the past in this very area.

It's too easy to lump everything together, painting everything with the same brush. But that limits one's ability to see the real, complicated, picture.

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Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray

Gary Bickford

For those who _need_ a bigger death ray ...

Check out the book "Build Your Own Laser, Phaser, Ion Ray Gun and Other Working Space Age Projects" by Robert E Iannini. Among other things, this 1983 book can tell you how to build a 30 watt CO2 laser. The author cautions: (1) always have a visible laser (such as one of those pointers) aligned with the infrared CO2 laser, so you can see approximately where the beam goes; and (2) stay out of the beam! He notes that he accidentally walked through the beam and instantly cut a slit in the leg of his jeans. 30 watts is definitely enough to cause damage, even if poorly focused. CO2 lasers can be built in almost any size - IIRC the length of the chamber determines the power of the output. Car companies use big CO2 lasers for welding cars.

I will just add that it is illegal to sell lasers of that power at least in the US, for good reason. I don't know if it's illegal to buy one or build one. At least if you have the technical chops to build one, you're _probably_ not so cognitively challenged that you would use it unwisely.

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Two driverless cars stuffed with passengers are ABOUT TO CRASH - who should take the hit?

Gary Bickford

I'll go for the "Minimum Knowledge and Analysis" box

Incorporating all of the infinite regressions of possible bits of information does not improve the analysis, but only pushes off the question of "what is right". Shall we include whether one party has been drinking? What if they're fat? This is the logical extension of the "Progressive" ideal of the state imposing its will on every individual. It's been known for a long time that Asimov's Three Laws can not be algorithmically evaluated but must be handled heuristically (ethics is a "judgment call"). It was recently proved (as mentioned in a Reg article in the last few days) that asking a machine learning or AI system to evaluate an ethical question fails due to the Halting Problem.

So, the best alternative is for the car's systems to evaluate pretty much according to what a human driver might do, given the limited information available. In most cases it is impossible for a driver to know anything about the other party except the immediate behavior. A "good" driver has a real, but somewhat limited, altruistic sense of trying to avoid harming others. That should be the limit of the "least harm" approach. An automated system can use the same approaches without taking the harm avoidance too far, as it would set things up for some not-so-nice humans to take advantage. The automated system could take advantage of its superior high speed physics processing to choose solutions that a human driver might not.

As mentioned in another article, if an automated system attempts to do too much more (or differently) than a human, that system immediately becomes at risk of additional liability. For example, if the system determines that by hitting a third, otherwise uninvolved car instead of taking the full frontal hit, the occupants and owner of the third care may well sue for bringing them into the situation.

There is a future distant possibility that all of the cars could work together to minimize involvement and injury, which has some interesting possibilities. But that would require a radical alteration in the way that liability and insurance are handled today.

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NSA director: We share most of the [crap] bugs we find!

Gary Bickford

It's probably true - at least for the Information Assurance Directorate

NSA has three or four Directorates. Signals Intelligence Directorate is the spooks that everyone talks about. IT is the folks who run the computers. Information Assurance Directorate is chartered to protect American industrial and government resources - they are the anti-spooks. There may be others I don't know about - I don't follow them, I've just picked up things here and there from folks who know. IAD is probably the part of NSA that is funding the TOR project, and they have found and disclosed both bugs in crypt code in order to get it fixed, and attempted or actual penetrations to US institutions - they have saved several companies from bad things, and probably have done the same for government agencies. I think they're the ones who do the high security Linux distribution as well.

So, NSA is not one big monolithic spook-dom. It's multiple groups doing different things, and almost certainly in some cases at cross-purposes. IAD is trying to make things like TOR stronger, while the spooks are trying to break into it.

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SCREW YOU, net neutrality hippies – AT&T halts gigabit fiber

Gary Bickford

OK, let's roll in the competitors!

Unless there are rent-seeking laws in place to prevent it, this is a great opportunity for competitors to come in to those areas and offer a better service. Let the games/competition begin!

Unfortunately, it's likely that the "unless" is the case - ATT may own the poles that the competitor would have to string their wires on. There are rules to require them to rent space on the poles, but ATT could use various pseudo-technical arguments to delay that for years.

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Kryder's law craps out: Race to UBER-CHEAP STORAGE is OVER

Gary Bickford

Seagate eliminated its research group

This is not a failure of the observation / law, but a cessation of any interest in continuing progress and elimination of the core research group.

Several years ago Seagate very suddenly eliminated its research group in Pittsburgh, allowing the 50 or so top people in this area to wander off into the sunset. This group was the one doing the primary research, being used by *everyone* in the business. Only one or two of them even stayed in the business, and since then no serious research is being done. If you look at the curves of capacity, performance, etc., they began to level off at that time.

Source: I got this from someone who was there. According to my source, it was in fact done so callously, without any attempt to support these finely-tuned people, that several of them were emotionally ruined and no longer able to even function in a research capacity.

One result of this is that the capacity and price/performance of SSDs will surpass HDs sooner, probably in late 2015. Therefore, one might argue that Seagate simply saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to stop spending money on the research that wouldn't give them any additional value. Or one might argue that, since the market is essentially a monopoly/duopoly, there was no incentive to continue to try to outdo the competition.

* "everyone" means Western Digital and Seagate. Between them they have well over 90% of the entire hard drive market.

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Yes, Virginia, there IS a W3C HTML5 standard – as of now, that is

Gary Bickford

Where is the Reference Implementation?

Until there is an accepted Reference Implementation, that provides / demonstrates the 'correct' behavior for any given input, it's not really an effective standard. If necessary this implementation could be done in such a way that it would not be competitive on its own.

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Lufthansa tosses IT biz to Big Blue, inks outsource deal with IBM

Gary Bickford

Maybe it's not the outsourcing, but the potential for economies of scale

The company I used to work for collected data, sliced and diced it, and sold it to multiple customers. The primary source of data was a government agency, and one of the major customers was the same agency. But we could collect the data, process it, clean it up and provide the structured and useful data much cheaper than the agency could have done themselves. The major reason was we had 1/2 dozen other customers for the same data, so we could spread the cost among all of them.

Similarly, perhaps IBM will be able to use and adapt the existing Lufthansa infrastructure, and sell the equivalent service to other airlines. This synergy will reduce the delivery cost per customer. The more airlines that sign up, the better for both IBM and those airlines - assuming they run it properly!

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The future health of the internet comes down to ONE simple question…

Gary Bickford

The whole design of the Internet is to route around central control

ICANN seems to be constitutionally unable to realize that central control is completely contrary to the design principles of the Internet. The design was to optimize the ability of the networks to survive radical disruption and route around problems. This is a good methodology, similar to living systems. Rather than working toward a monopoly/dictatorship model, ICANN should be finding ways to make itself unnecessary and allow the Internet run itself and dynamically correct problems via the emergent properties of the design - the protocols and technologies.

Perhaps it is useful to consider the Internet as a living thing - a small child, which needs education (new protocols and tech where necessary) to grow up and be a useful "citizen", not discipline to force it into one group's conception of what it ought to be.

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Trips to Mars may be OFF: The SUN has changed in a way we've NEVER SEEN

Gary Bickford

NERVA was ready for flight testing in 1969

NASA had a nuclear thermal rocket system ready to being flight testing in 1969, called NERVA. This engine was critical to the proposed Mars manned mission to launch in 1978. NERVA was cancelled for political reasons, including certain senators wanting to make a Mars mission impractical and reduce or eliminate NASA's manned space program, and the Nixon Administration's desire to cut spending. Good info can be found on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NERVA. It's really a rather interesting story.

A NERVA-type engine can provide both launch thrust and very high powered ion propulsion with its ability to generate electrical power in the multi-MW level. To reduce or eliminate issues with potential catastrophic disassembly and radioactive contamination, as well as to provide better tuning to required power levels and instant on/off capability, it would probably be better to use a Thorium-based Molten Salt Reactor design. Thorium is extremely safe in its natural state - there are beaches in India composed of Thorium sand. Using a proton beam starter/trigger, even the tiny amount of Uranium required to start an LTFR reactor up could be eliminated. And the LTFR produces almost no radioactive waste.

It's time we as a species accept that both travel and living in space is going to involve nuclear and eventually fusion power systems - along with a lot of robotics.

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Want a more fuel efficient car? Then redesign it – here's how

Gary Bickford

Carbon Fiber (once the $$$ reduce to $), and electric braking

Reading about the use of the AUDI door element, I immediately thought of using carbon fiber for that - it would reduce the weight to a few ounces (it's amazing how light a CF element can be, especially using an isotruss-type structure). This could be used other places as well. But - sigh - first the price needs to go from $20/kg to $2/kg.

Reading the comments, I thought about using adding a simple battery + motor-generator system to one or the other axles, which could use energy generated in braking to add to the next acceleration. If the purpose is limited to this short-term application, the system might be small enough to fit into the plan. There are some motor-generators that are very wide and flat (similar in shape to a disk brake), and are very light, though they cost $2000 apiece 10 years ago, last time I looked.

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Sleepy spotless summer Sun's shock solar storm surge stuns scientists

Gary Bickford

They're baaack

Our ancient enemies the Glfffltaaccchj (phonetic transliteration), remembered only in primordial dreams of reptile beings, fear of snakes, and stories of fabled Atlantis, have returned to wreak vengeance for their defeat 300,000 years ago. Last time around they successfully wiped our racial memories almost completely as they departed in defeat. The war was long, and resulted in the destruction of every "civilized" concentration of humans, as they were burned and melted to slag. But our heroic scientists managed to develop a virus that attacked their scales, making their life on Earth a nightmare of itching and scratching, with ugly festering sores. So they left, to wait until the few remaining humans, suddenly dropped back to pre-civilization conditions, finally died out.

But we survived! A dozen here, five there, a few hundred in some places, survived those first terrible winters or scorching summers and drowning monsoons. And now, to their dismay, the Glfffltaaccchj return to find that we have surpassed our own original level of technology!

The Glfffltaaccchj like their planets warmer and wetter than we do, much like the Age of Dinosaurs, when this was one of their favorite planets to come to for vacation. So they have deployed their evil planet-heating technology as a weapon, generating thousands of additional subsea volcanoes to raise the ocean temperature, melt the icecaps, and increase the greenhouse effect. And they have fired into the Sun a magnetic field generator that periodically triggers a huge CME aimed at the Earth to disrupt all electronics and destroy our high tech civilization once more. As their system gets tuned in, the CMEs will get larger and more dangerous.

This time they plan to cause us to die without destroying our physical infrastructure, so they can move right in. Huge seed-ships are already hiding in the Oort Cloud, waiting for the day when their generals can announce that our resistance is so little that we won't be able to fight back, and they can walk in and eat us.

Our only hope is to advance our technology faster than they can disrupt it. Since the Carrington Event 150 years ago, they have been tuning their CME generator, but it takes years to monitor and tweak between events, while avoiding a truly catastrophic effect on the Sun and making life on Earth impossible for millenia. So they have to wait, and monitor, and get ready. Already our technology has leaped ahead much faster than they could have imagined. Once we have successfully populated the Solar System, starting with orbital platforms, the Moon, Mars and the Asteroids, it will be too late for them. This is why human space development is so important. Support The Integrated Space Plan! (http://thespaceplan.com) and SAVE HUMANITY!! :D

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New USB spec offers two-way power flows AND double-sided plug

Gary Bickford

Every flash drive has a cpu

Actually, every flash drive has a tiny cpu, which is what decides where to put data, spreads writes around the chip(s), and tracks bad sections. If it's a self-encrypting drive, the CPU + other hardware handles that as well. Someone even managed to get Linux running on one.

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Experimental hypersonic SUPERMISSILE destroyed 4 SECONDS after US launched it

Gary Bickford

Re: Why?

A bit of historical background: Back when the US was very young, Thomas Jefferson sent an emissary to the Sultan or whatever who ran what we now call Libya at the time, to ask him why his Barbary Coast pirates persisted in piracy, kidnapping Americans and holding them for ransom. The Sultan replied, "According to the Koran, we are instructed to kill all infidels. The fact that we provide an opportunity to ransom them is just a friendly gesture on our part."

Thomas Jefferson continued to pay off the Sultan for a couple of years, while he proceeded to build the first US Naval and Marine forces. Thus the Marine Hymn, "From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli."

To my knowledge, prior to that time, we in the US had never bombed, harassed, or otherwise had anything to do with the Sultan or any of his ilk. Please explain how your reasoning applies.

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My big reveal as macro-economics analyst: It's a load of COBBLERS

Gary Bickford

Complex adaptive systems

The best working model for an economy is as a complex adaptive system - conceptually and mathematically related to neural networks, ecosystems, and other characteristically 'living' systems. An economy is composed of many, many individual nodes, all receiving information input from some large number of 'neighbors', and sending information output to an equally large number of 'neighbors'. This system is always converging toward a constantly shifting optimum - either a minimum (valley in the error space) or a maximum (peak in the energy space).

One rather obvious aspect of this approach is recognition that such a system will _always_ adapt quickly to any external input. Taken to the limit, complex adaptive systems start looking like fluid dynamics. That may be going too far for some purposes.

Nearly all macroeconomics today is a descendant of the basically linear models that were the only possible way to deal with things in the pre-computer past. Every model was basically "ignore these things, and set these other things to a constant, and you will get a nice line between here and there."

Essentially every top-level economist was trained using these old models. It's time we got economists with PhDs in physics, machine learning, and systems science.

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Brit Sci-Fi author Alastair Reynolds says MS Word 'drives me to distraction'

Gary Bickford

CS Lewis' food for thought

Once, a very long time ago, a young girl asked CS Lewis how to become an author. Among other things, he told her, "Always write in longhand, do not use a typewriter." He went on in this vein: using a typewriter makes you think differently, and what you write will not be as good.

This is a point worth pondering a bit. When you write longhand, you have more time to think about what you are writing, and the words get polished a bit more at least. Writing with a keyboard tends to be more of a 'brain dump' - I think it's faster, and it's easier to backup and rewrite a word or a sentence. This must have a significant effect on what we write. I suspect that text written longhand is going to be less frenetic, at least, and probably more concise.

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Echopraxia scores 'diamond cutter' on the sci-fi hardness scale

Gary Bickford

Why don't media include source links?

This is just a general comment - I've often wondered why online media rarely if ever include links to source material or topical material. Quite often I would like to know more about the topic, and it would be nice to have what librarians sometimes call a 'pathfinder' - like a bibliography - which might just be some of the public sources that the article's author used.

In this case, links to the author's web page, or (heaven forfend the capitalism!) to one or more book sellers or book reviewers or something, would be both useful and (in the case of a link to a book seller) a potential revenue source. Of course, one has to be careful about that, to avoid becoming yet-another-shill, posting articles in part or wholly as paid linkbait. So is this a subtle grey area thing, or better to just remain black-and-white, no links to avoid any issues?

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Govt control? Hah! It's IMPOSSIBLE to have a successful command economy

Gary Bickford

Re: "Mega Corp" proves command and control can work!

It's true that most large corporations operate internally as mostly command economies, and many or most of the complaints that people have with large corporations as customers, employees and other stakeholders can be directly tied to that aspect - they are the same complaints heard about socialist economies. For example, since the feedback loop based on value given and value received is broken, personal influence and backroom deals are essential to getting things done within a corporation - a recent business book discussed the importance of recognizing that every corporation has two structures, the formal hierarchy, and the network of people who get things done. In the outer world this is how corruption becomes essential and endemic in every socialist economy - since you can't buy what you need, you have to bribe, cajole, or be related to someone who can help. We see over and over again how command decisions within corporations - that were often strongly opposed by people within and without the corporation - cause inordinate damage to the company and others - HP has a chain of disasters; Time Warner's merger with AOL; and many others. A recent study showed two things: nearly all major corporate mergers fail, for reasons that were known in advance; and corporate heads, even knowing this commonly convince themselves that "we'll be different" - but they're wrong in the end.

Any economist will tell you that above a certain size, nearly all corporate growth comes from mergers and acquisitions, not internal growth - this shows that these large command economies are failing at what one might consider their primary purpose. These 'successful' large corporations are growing by purchasing those smaller businesses that have been doing all the real growing. The majority of new jobs are also created by small business, while the majority of job losses are the result of 'downsizing' or merger-related layoffs by large corporations.

High tech has some occasional exceptions, including growing by acquiring technology as well as business per se, but even there mergers and acquisitions are primary factors.

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Vulture 2 strapped to speeding van before delicate brain surgery

Gary Bickford

Homing method?

I haven't kept up for a while. Is there a backup system to listen for a homing signal, and steer toward it? That would help the thing bring itself closer to the retrieving team and might help avoid forests and such. Or is the GPS going to be used for navigation as well as monitoring?

Yes, it's been months. :P

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Simian selfie stupidity: Macaque snap sparks Wikipedia copyright row

Gary Bickford

Time for a Kickstarter to help Slater out

Per article on BBC cited in one of the comments here, Slater says he's lost 10,000 lbs. of revenue due to this Wikipedia thing. Someone could start a Kickstarter to help him out, and encourage him to give Wikipedia rights once the campaign succeeds.

[Dang, no monkey icon. :( ]

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Get an EYEFUL OF CURRY for the sake of your brain

Gary Bickford

Re: @moiety

"Brain-cells die. The neural-net loses contacts. It's a fact of life."

It's worth noting recent studies have shown that exercise, ideally an hour a day six days a week (four aerobic, two strength) not only builds and maintains physical fitness but also results in new neural connections in the brain, even into one's 70s, 80s, and 90s. So work out, get smarter! :)

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'BIGGEST BIRD EVER': 21-foot ripsaw-beaked flying HORROR

Gary Bickford

Re: Just imagine

In ancient times there was a community known as the Goodnu's. As all communities did in these times the Goodnu's lived right on the river bank for trading, transportation and sustenance. Water was almighty and worshipped as a God. One day there was a tremendous hurricane far out in the ocean. It's ferocity blew a large flock of "Foo" birds way off course sending them inland many hundreds of miles and in the vicinity of the Goodnu's community. The Goodnu people had never seen a "Foo" bird and were quite curious as to it's sudden and obviously evil presence. The "Foo" bird, as we all know, is a very ugly, evil-looking bird. This caused the Goodnu people to become very uneasy believing they did something wrong to God and that this bird should be avoided. One day a "Foo" bird flew overhead and screeched: "Foo, Foo" and shit on a Goodnu's head. The man ran screaming into the river believing the Holy powers of the river would cleanse him of this evil turd and its consequences. As soon as the man washed this unholy turd from his ear canal he suddenly keeled over and died. The Goodnu's were now convinced of the "Foo" bird's evilness. The next day a woman was outside and heard: "Foo, Foo". Before she could react the "Foo" bird dropped a bomb landing a syrupy turd across her face. Shocked and panicked she ran into the river furiously washing her face of this sloppy stew. The village watched in horror as this woman also died once cleansed of the runny turd. The very next day a village wiseman heard those famous words: "Foo, Foo". He like others had witnessed the terrible deaths of two of his villages' people in the last two days. He too was struck right in the forehead by the "Foo" birds accurately guided turd missile. His first reaction was confusion and he sprinted towards the river. However, he stopped short and thought of his obvious demise should he cleanse the turd wafer from his forehead. He did not cleanse the poo pile from his forehead and lived. So the wiseman went to the other people of the village, gathered them around and stated to them: "There is an obvious lesson here my good people. The moral of this story is: 'If the Foo shits, wear it.'".

- this version from http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bbowman/birds/humor/foo_bird.html

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Aereo has to pay TV show creators? Yes. This isn't rocket science

Gary Bickford

Re: Abolish copyright? What an idiotic idea!

I'm not sure you are correct. One of the common complaints back in the 1600s was that within days of publishing anything, other printers would make copies and sell them more cheaply. IIRC Shakespeare had to keep his scripts secret until the day of the first performance to prevent others from printing them and even performing the play before his group. In the pre-revolutionary US this was also a common problem, and in Britain Dickens' books were notoriously bootlegged, so even though he was a popular author, perhaps the most popular of the time, he was still left relatively poor because so many of 'his' books were actually forgeries.

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