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Comment: Encryption chips? (Score 2) 346

by Dan East (#48930875) Attached to: Why ATM Bombs May Be Coming Soon To the United States

What do encryption chips have to do with anything? If a card is stolen and known stolen, the owner can report the theft and the card is deactivated, whether or not it contains an "encryption chip". If the card is stolen and the owner does not know it was stolen, and the thief also has the pin, then they can use the card, whether or not it has an "encryption chip". Or am I totally understanding what this "encryption chip" does?

Comment: Brightness (Score 2) 67

by Dan East (#48918397) Attached to: Kepler Discovers Solar System's Ancient 'Twin'

They calculated that there are 5 planets orbiting the star by the way the intensity of the star dips very, very slightly in a pattern. Are we sure there are no other mechanisms that can cause the star's intensity to vary in a pattern? We only know about our own star's sunspots, and the longer term cycle (11 years) in which the sunspots change the intensity at which it emits. How do we know that a smaller, much older star doesn't have a sunspot type cycle that is shorter or more complex, and that is what is causing this star's intensity to change?

Comment: Not quite (Score 5, Interesting) 392

we are likely to end up in an ethically worse position than we were before.

Actually, no. In order to do the more involved things, "physical observation, bugging rooms, and breaking into phones or computers", they have to get a warrant. This ups the ante and they must present a convincing argument to the judge for the need to surveil the people in question. This increases oversight, expense, and the human resources required. That means less shotgun approach and more focused surveillance only where needed.

With digital communication they felt entitled to capture any information they wanted, since there wasn't an obvious physical intrusion. Obviously they could not handle this in a responsible manner, and thus our free society is making the necessary adjustments. So that's just too bad for the spies. Sorry.

Comment: Re:Hold your horses (Score 4, Interesting) 211

by Dan East (#48890799) Attached to: At Oxford, a Battery That's Lasted 175 Years -- So Far

Actually I have to correct myself. I assumed it was low voltage, like a single cell battery, and thus around 1-2 volts. That's not the case - the voltage is around 2,000 volts:

That means my calculations were off by a factor of 1333. So if you divide the times I stated for AA and D batteries by 1,333 and you'll get a more accurate figure. So even a deep cell 12 V battery, which is around 120 watt-hours, could only run the bell for 9.5 years. Guess that makes it more impressive than I thought.

Or my calculations are still way off.

Comment: Hold your horses (Score 1, Informative) 211

by Dan East (#48890727) Attached to: At Oxford, a Battery That's Lasted 175 Years -- So Far

Let's put this in perspective. The only "amazing" thing here is simply that the chemicals used in the battery are very stable. The amount of energy we're talking about is very, very low.

FTA, it takes around 1 nanoampere to ring the bell once. It rings around around 2 Hz. Thus it takes 2 nanoampere a second, which works out to 7200 nanoampere-hours.

So let's see how long a AA battery could run that bell. The better AAs produce 3 amp-hour of power. That is 3000000000 nanoamperes. 3000000000 / 7200 gives us 416,666 hours, which is 47.56 years. So if we could somehow spread the power of a AA out over time so the chemicals didn't break down, it could power that bell for 47.56 years. A single D battery has 12 amp-hours of power (4 times that of a AA), thus it could run the bell for 190 years.

We're not talking about much power whatsoever - simply that the chemicals and construction of the battery are such that it has not degraded that much just through time alone.

Comment: Re:Good news (Score 5, Interesting) 420

by Dan East (#48886691) Attached to: Disney Turned Down George Lucas's Star Wars Scripts

His plots aren't all that bad. His screenplay (especially dialog) is weak, and his directing is of a very specific style that only works with certain kinds of actors. It is both those things that hurt the prequels.

As far as directing, Lucas is a hands-off director. He doesn't give the actors feedback or direction - he expects them to bring the characters to life and flush out the nuances on his own. So what he'd do is shoot a scene over and over, even though the actors thought they got it perfectly right, until some nuance or personality came out that seemed more natural and unique. He always said he did his directing in the editing room - but to do that he needed a big pool of material to work with to pull the good stuff out of. With Hamill, Fisher and Ford, they had the talent, energy and personality to simply bring the characters to life. Do you think we liked Han Solo so well because Lucas directed Ford to be that exact character? Or Princess Leia being such a strong female lead and showing playful disdain in the harsh tone of her voice towards Solo? Lucus just stepped back and let them create.

That directorial style worked well in American Graffiti too. Like the liquor store scene. The robber leaves the store and throws the bottle of liquor to Terry. They shot it over and over, and every time he caught it perfectly. Until finally, he turned around too late and just barely caught it with the tips of his fingers. That was what Lucas was waiting for, and that's what made it in the movie. At the very beginning, where Terry runs his Vespa over the curb and hit the wall - total accident, but Lucas kept the cameras rolling and that made it into the movie.

So when it comes to most kids, like Jake Lloyd, they NEED coaching and prompting and directed. I strongly believe that Jake Lloyd was awful in Phantom Menace because of Lucas' directing style. When I watch him in other movies, like Jingle All the Way, I'm reminded that he was pretty talented for his age - Lucas just didn't bring that out because he just sits back and watches with no obvious emotion or constructive feedback.

Comment: Re:What an idiot (Score 4, Interesting) 180

by Dan East (#48879385) Attached to: Silk Road Journal Found On Ulbricht's Laptop: "Everyone Knows Too Much"

A skilled hacker / engineer could create a system for under $40 that would circumvent this.

Use two microcontrollers (a raspberry pi would be overkill - I'd use a $10 STM32 Nucleo board), one hidden somewhere in your house that has a small coil around a power line which introduces a signal into the power wires, and another in the case of the PC that monitors the signal generated by the first microcontroller. As soon as the device inside the PC detected loss of the signal it could then shut the PC down. Or trip a relay connected to a servo that allows acid to flow into the HDD. It could also have light sensors (covering the largest spectrum possible) to detect the case opening, which would also trigger the destruct mechanism. It would be powered by 4 AA batteries when external power is removed. I would also add a trivial voltage divider circuit to an ADC line on the microcontroller to monitor battery power, and if it got down close to 5V it would destroy the device.

There are dozens of things you could do along those lines. Place a magnet in whatever the PC is setting on and then have a magnetometer sensor in the buttom of the case connected to the microcontroller. If the PC is moved then it destroys the media. Etc, etc.

Comment: Re:Or another interpretation (Score 2) 570

by Dan East (#48867507) Attached to: Microsoft Reveals Windows 10 Will Be a Free Upgrade

Mashable has misinterpreted the "Free upgrade within a year".
More info from ars technica:

Microsoft has just announced the first pricing information for Windows 10 at its preview event today. The biggest news is that the new OS will be completely free for current Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 users for its first year of availability—after that time period has expired, OS upgrades will presumably need to be paid for as they are currently (though Microsoft was less than clear on this point, it made no mention of a paid, Office 365-style subscription for Windows upgrades). The Windows 10 upgrade for Windows Phone 8.1 users will also be free.

Comment: Wha??? (Score 1) 570

by Dan East (#48867433) Attached to: Microsoft Reveals Windows 10 Will Be a Free Upgrade

Microsoft just took another big step toward the release of Windows 10 and revealed it will be free for many current Windows users.

Alright, it's about time...

Microsoft specified it would only be free for the first year, indicating Windows would be software that users subscribe to, rather than buy outright.

Are you kidding me? Seriously. Are you kidding me? I have half a dozen old computers running XP that are a decade old. You really expect the future model is that I would have had to pay for these machines YEARLY all this time? Is this the only payment model they have, or is that just a free-upgrade-scheme thing?

I'll stick with Windows 8.1 if that's the case.

Comment: Not about mobile (Score 5, Interesting) 489

by Dan East (#48850255) Attached to: Windows 10: Can Microsoft Get It Right This Time?

It's not about mobile. Windows 8, as a purely mobile, touchscreen OS, was okay. No major complaints there. The problem was that Windows 8 on Desktops, or even laptops with a touchscreen, tried to enforce an extremely oversimplified interface onto desktop users. Then to add insult to that, they had two parallel paradigms (Windows and Metro) and half the settings are in one place and half in the other. The solution is simple: they have to support both. The reason is just as simple. Right now I'm using my Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro as a laptop. So I want it to behave as a full featured desktop OS with all the power, control, widgets, bells and whistles I need to do all the things I need to do. As soon as I flip the screen around into a tablet mode, I need to be able to use it as a tablet.

I pretty much am at that state now with some 3rd party software, although again, half the settings are in Metro and half in classic Windows. So it's not like it would be all that hard for MS to get this right. They've just done the same thing they've done over, and over, and over. They take a paradigm or design philosophy, and push one or two steps too far.

The other big issue with Windows 8 is it had to bridge the divide between classic laptops, and the next generation laptops that have touchsreens. Metro with only a mouse? Awful. They force that on people, and the users hated it. Personally, I've only ever ran Windows 8.1 on my own machine that also had a touchscreen, so it wasn't nearly as bad.

Comment: I've stayed there (Score 2) 179

by Dan East (#48820785) Attached to: Marriot Back-Pedals On Wireless Blocking

I stayed at that Marriot 6 or 7 years ago. They wanted an exorbitant amount for their wifi (I believe it was $9, and I only needed it for less than an hour). I was able to sit next to a window and access a neighboring hotel's wifi to do my quick email check. Maybe someday they will grasp the concept that by charging a reasonable price they would get more sales, and thus overall make more money off of their wifi.

Factorials were someone's attempt to make math LOOK exciting.