Archive for the ‘Geekery’ Category

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Strange sights

September 17, 2017

“Postcards from Saturn” is an NPR video about discoveries made by the Cassini probe.


And “How Not to Land an Orbital Rocket Booster” is a short tutorial from SpaceX.

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Spam fail

February 4, 2017

Since I registered some new TLDs recently (without hiding my contact info), I’ve been getting e-mail and text spam from people eager to help me put them to work.

But I had to LOL when I got the message below. It’s like watching a sharp-shooting competition where the shooter can’t load the gun. Or watching a ballet where the danseuse can’t get her slippers on. Smoove is the very word.

So here’s One Way To Tell Your Spam Campaign For E-commerce Clients won’t be going well…

Hi,
<!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–>
<!–[endif]–>
Hope you are doing well.

Apologized for cold outreach.

We are a Mobile App & Website Design/Development Company. We have delivered 100+ projects in last year and we have 40 designers & developers are working over projects. We provide below mentioned services according to your requirement.
<!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–>
<!–[endif]–>

Our services are:-

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1. <!–[endif]–>Website Development (Custom Website Development, PHP Programming, eCommerce, Joomla, Word Press, Dot Net, PHP etc.)

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2. <!–[endif]–>Website designing (HTML designing, corporate website design, Logo Designing, Java, PSD to XHTML/HTML, etc)

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3. <!–[endif]–>Mobile Apps Development (iPhone / iPad application, Android, Blackberry, Windows)
<!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–>
<!–[endif]–>

<!–[if !supportLists]–>4. <!–[endif]–>ORM (Negate the Negative, Regular Monitoring and Maintenance)
<!–[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]–>
<!–[endif]–>

<!–[if !supportLists]–>5. <!–[endif]–>Digital Marketing Services (SEO, SMO, SEM, Content Writing, Email Marketing etc.)

If interested please share your detailed requirement.

Please share your contact details so that we can have a quick 5 min call to get a better understanding.

I will be waiting for your response.

Check your message headers, dude.

"Content-Type: text/plain; charset=”iso-8859-1" is not the one you want.

You’re welcome. Write again after you finish Chapter 2.

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The engineering is settled (2)

January 17, 2017

Here’s an article from Manhattan Contrarian about the problems of making renewable energy financially feasible.

Or as I put it last April, the Engineering Is Settled.

A Dose Of Renewable Energy Realism

In the campaign to jettison fossil fuels as the main source of our energy and replace them with so-called “renewables,” a notable feature is the lack of discussion of the costs and practicalities of trying to make intermittent sources like wind and solar work to run a 24/7/365 electricity grid. Is there any problem here that deserves consideration? In Tuesday’s post I noted that in my home state of New York we are about to try to replace our big Indian Point nuclear power plant with mostly wind-generated power. Actually, we already have wind turbines with approximately the same “capacity” as Indian Point, but unfortunately over the course of a full year they only generate about one-quarter as much electricity as Indian Point. Still, can’t that problem be solved just by buying four times as many wind turbines? It may be a little pricey, but is there any reason why that won’t work?

In a publication called Energy Post on January 10, prominent German economist Heiner Flassbeck has a piece that addresses this question. The headline is “The End of the Energiewende?” Of course the problem is that the wind turbines don’t just run steadily and predictably at one-quarter of capacity; rather, they swing wildly and unpredictably back and forth between generating at near 100% of capacity and generating almost nothing. The “almost nothing” mode can persist for days or even weeks. In Germany under a program called Energiewende (“energy transition”), in effect since 2010, they have been pushing to raise the percentage of energy they obtain from wind and solar, and have gotten the percent of their electricity supply from those sources all the way up to 31%. But Flassbeck now looks at what just occurred during the month of December 2016:

This winter could go down in history as the event that proved the German energy transition to be unsubstantiated and incapable of becoming a success story. Electricity from wind and solar generation has been catastrophically low for several weeks. December brought new declines. A persistent winter high-pressure system with dense fog throughout Central Europe has been sufficient to unmask the fairy tale of a successful energy transition….

Here is a chart from Flassbeck’s piece showing German electricity demand through the first half of the month of December, against the sources of the electricity that supplied that demand. Among the sources, solar, on-shore wind, and off-shore wind are broken out separately:

power-demand-germany-dec-2016

As you can see, at some times wind and solar sources supplied as much as half or more of the demand for electricity, but at other times they supplied almost nothing. Flassbeck: […]

I would dearly love to install solar panels and go off the grid. And I’ve been watching the prices and the expected equipment lifetimes for a couple of decades now to decide when it will make financial sense.

But the problem of storing the energy aside, there are periods of weather like our current one. Today was the sixth gloomy, sunless day in a row in Missouri. That’s not unusual in January or February in the center of the US; it’s more common than not, I believe.

On the other hand, if I still lived in Tucson I’d probably have done it by now. (Check your insolation.)

H.T. Jeff G

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You’re on your own. Act accordingly.

December 16, 2016

This post originally appeared October 5th, 2016. (My emphasis.)

surveillance, whistleblowing, and security engineering

[Update (12/14/16): Reuters has specified that the rootkit was implemented as a Linux kernel module. Wow.]

Yesterday morning, Reuters dropped a news story revealing that Yahoo installed a backdoor on their own infrastructure in 2015 in compliance with a secret order from either the FBI or the NSA. While we all know that the US government routinely asks tech companies for surveillance help, a couple aspects of the Yahoo story stand out:

1. The backdoor was installed in such a way that it was intercepting and querying all Yahoo Mail users’ emails, not just emails of investigation targets.

2. The program was implemented so carelessly that it could have allowed hackers to read all incoming Yahoo mail. Of course this also means FBI/NSA could have been reading all incoming Yahoo mail.

3. Yahoo execs deliberately bypassed review from the security team when installing the backdoor. In fact, when members of the security team found it within weeks of its installation, they immediately assumed it had been installed by malicious hackers, rather than Yahoo’s own mail team. (This says something about what the backdoor code may have looked like.)

4. Yahoo apparently made no effort to challenge this overly-broad surveillance order which needlessly put hundreds of millions of users at risk.

At the time this was happening, I was on the Yahoo Security team leading development on the End-to-End project. According to the Reuters report, the mail backdoor was installed at almost the exact same time that Alex Stamos and I announced the open-source launch of a Chrome extension for easy-to-use end-to-end encryption in Yahoo Mail at SXSW 2015. Ironically, if only we had been able to actually ship E2E, we would have given users a way to protect themselves from the exact backdoor scenario that they ended up in! […]

Most of all, keep pushing for end-to-end encryption.

H.T. Paul B

Since you can’t generally verify your e-mail provider’s security, you can’t trust their security. The only alternative is to provide your own security.

And the bigger lesson is that the U.S. government is relentless in its secret surveillance.

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Infinite loop

December 9, 2016

I found this pretty amusing.

Years ago, a partner of mine wrote a very simple BASIC program he called Kneel.

10 GOTO 10

He ran it on a client’s DEC VAX (with admin privilege) and it brought the machine to its figurative knees. In fact, the machine operators had to cycle power on the VAX to recover. That was sort of a big deal because it was a time-share system and all its users were locked out of the system until it had been restarted.

I’m guessing he was pretty bored that day.

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Radioactive diamond "batteries"

December 4, 2016

This is an unexpected twist on an old problem based on research done at the University of Bristol (in the UK).

Via NewAtlas

Naturally I have to wonder how scalable this technology is. How much energy can be extracted from one of these diamond generators at a steady rate. Are we talking microwatt-hours, milliwatt-hours, watt-hours, or kilowatt-hours?

And, second, I have to wonder how many’eternal batteries we want out in the wild. How would you ever disable one of these if that were necessary?


Update 12/18/16:

Here’s an AMA session at Reddit about these batteries.

We are physicists from the University of Bristol, ask us anything about our ‘Diamond Battery’ made from nuclear waste & can last for 5k years

H.T. Paul B

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Nice

November 21, 2016

Here’s a clip called Memories of Paintings from Thomas Blanchard. Full screen and high definition are recommended for this one.

The visual compositions have been created out of paint, oil, Oat milk and soap liquid.

If you’re interested in how this was done, see Making of ‘Memories of Paintings’

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