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+ - Big Brother Blinded - Smog blocks Survelliance Cameras->

Submitted by Cliff Stoll
Cliff Stoll (242915) writes "Perils of dystopia: To the Chinese central government, the smog that blankets the country is not just a health hazard, it's a threat to national security.

Last month visibility in Harbin dropped to below three metres because of heavy smog. On days like these, no surveillance camera can see through the thick layers of particles, say scientists and engineers.

Existing technology, such as infrared imaging, can help cameras see through fog or smoke at a certain level, but the smog in some Chinese cities is a different story. The particles are so many and so solid, they block light almost as effectively as a brick wall."

Link to Original Source

Comment: Well thought out dissertation! (Score 3, Informative) 204

by Cliff Stoll (#45121789) Attached to: Billion Year Storage Media

Excellent thesis and a most delightful dedication!

    A few salient points from this thesis, for the Slashdot crowd:
    - Accumulation: knowing what to keep and what to toss
    - Distribution: where/how to keep copies
    - Digital stewardship: maintaining objects isn't enough ... you must properly catalog things
    - Long term access means more than just saving bits ... they must be properly rendered

Convolved on this are problems with copyright, fair use, payment for archives, orphaned collections...

Then there's the cost of creating and maintaining a long term digital repository.
Librarians have done a terrific job with our printed archives. Who will become our digital librarians?


Bypassing US GPS Limits For Active Guided Rockets 126

Posted by timothy
from the use-for-good-not-for-evil dept.
Kristian von Bengtson writes with a link to a short guest post at Wired with an explanation of how his amateur rocket organization Copenhagen Suborbitals managed to obtain GPS receivers without U.S. military limits for getting accurate GPS information at altitude. Mostly, the answer is in recent relaxations of the rules themselves, but it was apparently still challenging to obtain non-limited GPS hardware. "I expect they only got the OK to create this software modification for us," von Bengston writes, "since we are clearly a peaceful organization with not sinister objectives – and also in a very limited number of units. Basically removing the limits is a matter of getting into the hardware changing the code or get the manufacturers to do it. Needless to say, diplomacy and trust is the key to unlock this."

Comment: Corn Grenade in 1989 (Score 1) 378

by Cliff Stoll (#44831221) Attached to: TSA Reminds You Not To Travel With Hand Grenades

Some 25 years ago, I was on booktour for Cuckoo's Egg. I visited Iowa City and spoke at Prairie Lights bookstore -- delightful people and a wonderful place! A haven for writers, readers, and hackers.

After my talk, I passed along a Klein bottle to an Iowa computer hacker who was fooling with unix. In turn, he gave me a Corn Grenade . I tossed it in my backpack, headed for my next stop, and next evening went to Ames Municipal Airport.

This was in pre-TSA days, but there was certainly airport security: the security guy at the Ames airport discovered the corn grenade in my carry on. Happily, he recognized what it was - a cool, brass, art sculpture which was completely inert. By that time into booktour, I was pretty inert. We chatted for a few minutes, and I took the commuter plane to Chicago.

I'd forgotten about my 3 pound brass friend when the plane landed at O'Hare. But the Chicago X-ray scanner found it, and all sorts of alarms went off. Natch, I was taken aside, given the third degree. Seems that corn grenades aren't recognized in the distant lands of northern Illinois. I had to explain all about corn grenades (and my book, and klein bottles...) Missed my flight, slept overnight in O'Hare, and wound up shipping the heavy lil' guy by UPS ground. Today, that brass ear of corn smiles at me from across my dining room, reminding me when I got hacked by a computer jock in Iowa City...

+ - Container ship breaks in two, sinks

Submitted by Cliff Stoll
Cliff Stoll (242915) writes "Along with 7000 containers, ship MOL Comfort broke in half in high seas in the Indian Ocean. The aft section floated for a week, then sank on June 27th. The forward section was towed most of the way to port, but burned and sank on July 10th. This post-panamax ship was 316 meters long and only 5 years old. With a typical value of $40,000 per container, this amounts to a quarter billion dollar loss. The cause is unknown, but may be structural or perhaps due to overfilled containers that are declared as underweight. Of course, the software used to calculate ship stability relies upon these incorrect physical parameters."

Comment: What's the meaning of the 2nd "T" in AT&T ? (Score 1) 205

by Cliff Stoll (#44019523) Attached to: India To Send World's Last Telegram

My first job was delivering telegrams (by bicycle) in downtown Buffalo during the 1960's.
My Western Union office had its hours posted on the door: "We Never Close". The building's been torn down, so, in a sense, the message turned out to be true.

Question: what'll happen to the American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation?

Here in Berkeley, one of the main drags is Telegraph Avenue and a cell-phone store is named "Telegraph Wireless"

Comment: Beauty of Math; Beauty of Computer Science (Score 4, Interesting) 656

by Cliff Stoll (#43877679) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Important Is Advanced Math In a CS Degree?

I work in computing; a meter away is a mathematician.

He knows real math: group theory, complex analysis, Lie algebras, topology, and, yes, differential equations. To him, math isn't about numbers ... it's about rigor, elegance, and beauty.

No surprise that his code is rigorous, elegant, and beautiful. When he showed me how to use Cheetah to build templates in Python, he explained things with an clarity and parsimony. In his world, clumsy coding is as bad as a clunky math; a clear mathematical proof is as fascinating as a tightly written function.

This man is the go-to guy for the 100 person business. Soft spoken and never argumentative, his advice and opinions carry weight. I'm honored to work alongside him; not a week goes by that I don't learn from him.

Comment: My Dad's 30 year old radio glowed in the dark (Score 2) 674

by Cliff Stoll (#36911404) Attached to: Why Your Dad's 30-Year-Old Stereo Sounds Better Than Yours

Sure - I remember my Dad's 30 year old radio, a Philco model 60 from 1936. Those thirty years were the the golden age of radio I caught just the tail end in the late1950's.

His cathedral radio glowed in the dark, thanks to 5 vacuum tubes and an incandescent dial lamp. Took a minute to warm up (boot?) thanks to the 6 volt filaments and sagging line voltage (the thing drew 60 watts just idling). Superhetrodyne tuning of the AM broadcast band gave it a response from perhaps 50 to 2000 Hz, give or take 10 db. Stereo? Naw it didn't even have FM (though you could tune in shortwave broadcasts from Moscow)

Fidelity? Well, the Lone Ranger theme came boomed in just fine, as did Jack Benny, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Nothing like staying up late to tune the latest releases from WKBW, CKLW, or WABCs Cousin Brucie. Or joining the Night People to catch Jean Shepherd on WOR after midnight.

I've heard plenty of music since then, on vinyl, cassette, 8-track, CD's and mp3 -- great stuff! But I miss the excitement of stalking the elusive Rock and Roll station...

Comment: Re:Stoll's "Cuckoo's Egg" has some great anecdotes (Score 5, Informative) 90

by Cliff Stoll (#36628518) Attached to: Early UNIX Contributor Robert Morris Dead at 78

Yes, I met and worked with Robert T. Morris in the late 1980's.

During 1986 and 1987, I had tracked a computer intruder from our systems in Berkeley California, through a complex trail, into Hannover, Germany. Using a honeypot, we were able to show the involvement of the E. German Stassi and a rather mysterious Bulgarian connection. I testified at the intruders' trial in Germany.

As the investigation wound up, I visited the National Computer Security Center (a part of the NSA), and met Robert T. Morris. Of course, I'd known him from his Unix/Bell Labs days. With a cigarette in his hand, we talked extensively about password security and the need to go beyond simple encryption of the Unix etc/passwd file. (At this time, salts & rainbow files were in the experimental stage). He was convinced that encryption was needed for many more processes than just logging into a system.

Later, Bob Morris encouraged me to write up my experiences in a paper, "Stalking the Wily Hacker", which was published in the April 1988 CACM.

Robert T. Morris was one of the computer pioneers who foresaw the troubles of unsecured computers and networks. He recognized that it wasn't possible to simply isolate a computer from the network -- that a computer's power was multiplied when connected to others. And his work in applying cryptographic protection to data foreshadowed much of today's efforts in computer security.

All of us owe Robert T. Morris a debt: our systems and networks work better and more securely because of his work.

May he rest in peace.


Comment: Don't grumble, Volunteer ! (Score 2) 414

by Cliff Stoll (#35112450) Attached to: Sputnik Moment Or No, Science Fairs Are Lagging

Two mornings each week, I volunteer to teach physics to local 12 & 13 year old kids.

They're homeschooled kids; we meet at one of their homes for 4 hours a week. I'm teaching the science class that I wish I'd received when I was in 8th grade.

3 months of Newtonian physics, then a month on wave mechanics (made a glass wave tank!), we're now finishing thermodynamics and will soon start E&M. Heavy on experiments: bicycle wheel gyroscope, conservation of momentum when throwing a football while standing on a skateboard, entropy & heat of crystallization using Sodium Acetate. We use the physics apparatus that I've collected over the years ... some professional equipment and a lot of homebrew demos. An oscilloscope that cost $25 at a yardsale.

This past Tuesday, we measured the distance to the sun by comparing the warmth of sunlight on the kids hands to the warmth from a 100 watt incandescent lamp. By adjusting the distance from hand to lamp, they found the distance from the light where it was "just about as warm as sunlight". Then they looked up the solar luminosity and used the inverse square law to deteremine the astronomical unit. Got it to with 30 percent of the canonical value. (of course, Slashdot people will see the circular reasoning here, but letting the kids figure that out is part of the fun).

No tests - it's immediately apparent when someone doesn't get something, and when to take a different approach. Occasional homework (always an experiment: for instance, determine the vertical distance (in meters) from the sidewalk outside your house to your bed. Knowing your mass in Kg and the gravitational constant, find the amount of work it takes to walk into your house and go to bed. Notice that there's no "right" answer to this question, and it's unlikely that two kids will get the same answer)

Parents often bring muffins & goodies; the kids are curious, enthusiastic, and motivated. Best part: I take home a broad smile ... it's the high point of my week.

A friend of mine - a PhD chemical engineer - volunteers at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Another friend works as a docent at a nearby bird sanctuary.

All of us are busy, yet each of has something to contribute. Mix your interests with enthusiasm, toss in some creativity, then get out there and volunteer. You'll never know how much fun it'll be!

-Cliff on a sunny Saturday morning in Oakland, California


China's Nine-Day Traffic Jam Tops 62 Miles 198 Screenshot-sm

Posted by samzenpus
from the living-on-the-road dept.
A traffic jam on the Beijing-Tibet expressway has now entered its ninth day and has grown to over 62 miles in length. This mother-of-all delays has even spawned its own micro-economy of local merchants selling water and food at inflated prices to stranded drivers. Can you imagine how infuriating it must be to see someone leave their blinker on for 9 days?

First Halophile Potatoes Harvested 117

Posted by timothy
from the integrated-dill-is-the-next-step dept.
Razgorov Prikazka writes "A Dutch-based company from Groningen is trying to create a potato race that is able to survive in a saline environment. The first test-batch was just harvested (English translation of Dutch original) on the island Texel and seem to be in good shape. The company states that rising sea-levels will create a demand for halophile crops. I do wonder if one still has to put salt on ones potatoes when they are grown in salt water."

"Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished." -- Goethe