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Comment: Re:There's already a Tesla museum, in Belgrade. (Score 1) 74

It wouldn't have done what he envisioned, but it could well have proven to be the worlds' first VLF radio station.

Marconi already had VLF working, sort of, before Wardenclyffe was built. Marconi's R&D approach was to transmit across short distances, test and improve the hardware, then try longer distances. Over a few years, he slowly worked up from across the room to across the ocean. Less grandiose than Tesla, but more successful.

Tesla is said to have assisted in the construction of the 1913 Telefunken VLF station on Long Island, but the IRE Journal article doesn't mention him. Telefunken built a VLF antenna much the way one would be built today - a simple guyed tower resting on an insulator base, with wires spreading outward to a circle of poles. They only used 35KW, instead of Tesla's 200KW. The station communicated with a similar station in Germany.

Comment: There's already a Tesla museum, in Belgrade. (Score 4, Informative) 74

by Animats (#47428151) Attached to: The Oatmeal Convinces Elon Musk To Donate $1 Million To Tesla Museum

The Tesla Museum already exists.

Tesla did great work with AC generators and motors. Most common AC motors today still use approaches he invented. That's his legacy.

Wardenclyffe, though, is a monument to failure. From his patents, you can read how he thought it would work. He thought the ionosphere was a conductive layer. The Wardenclyffe tower was supposed to punch power through the atmosphere to that conductive layer, so that signals and maybe power could be received elsewhere.

The ionosphere does not work that way. Tesla's tower would have done nothing useful, although with 200KW at 20KHz going in, it probably could have lit up fluorescent lamps and gas tubes for some distance around. Since the location is now surrounded by a housing subdivision, rebuilding the tower and powering it up would annoy the neighbors.

Comment: Self-reported data will never work. (Score 1) 128

by Animats (#47427143) Attached to: How Google Map Hackers Can Destroy a Business

See my 2010 paper "'Places' spam - the new front in the spam wars." As I wrote back then, "The two phases of spamming Google Places are the insertion of fake business locations and the creation of fake reviews. Both are embarrassingly easy." That hasn't changed.

Google doesn't fix this 4-year-old problem because Google makes money from bad search results. If search results take you directly to the business selling whatever it is you want, Google makes no money. If you're detoured through some Demand Media content farm, Google makes ad revenue. If you get fed up with being sent to ad-choked sites and click on a Google ad, Google makes money. Organic search that sucks is a fundamental part of Google's business model.

Technically, it's straightforward to fix this. Business data has to be checked against sources businesses can't easily manipulate, such as business credit rating companies. A business that reports fake store locations to Dun & Bradstreet or Experian will soon have a very low credit rating.

Bing or Yahoo could beat Google at search quality. They have the same spam problem, but it doesn't make them money. That's because Google has most of the third-party advertising market. Web spam on Bing drives traffic mostly to sites with Google ads, not Bing ads.

The real search engines are Google, Bing, Baidu (China) and Yandex (Russia). Everybody else, including Yahoo, is a reseller. Yandex has been doing some interesting stuff lately with linkless search ranking, and Baidu just opened a Silicon Valley office.

Yahoo's Marissa Mayer announced last January that Yahoo was getting back into search. (They've been reselling Bing since 2009.) That appears to have been a bluff to get a better deal from Microsoft. There's no indication of Yahoo actually building a search engine. No relevant job ads, no data center buildout, no increased crawling by Yahoo bots, no high-profile hires, no buzz in Silicon Valley.

Bing ought to be doing better than it is, but they're reported to have management problems. Every year, there's new top management at Bing, and it doesn't help.

Comment: Jurisdiction (Score 3, Informative) 295

I'm listening to the recording of the radio communications. The drone was over 2000' altitude. At first, the cops in the helicopter aren't sure what they're seeing, and they first think it's a fast-moving aircraft in a vertical climb, over the East River. It has red and green lights, like aircraft do. They ask La Guardia ATC radar what they're seeing. ATC isn't seeing it on radar. Then they get closer and see it's a drone of some kind. In a few minutes it's over the George Washington Bridge, miles from the East River.

Once the guys who were operating them were caught, the cops are on the air discussing what to charge them with. The cops on the ground call them "tiny little toys". There's some discussion of "if it's over 1000', it's reckless". The cops aren't quite sure what to charge them with.

The FAA can certainly have them prosecuted. They were operating a drone in class B controlled airspace. That's serious, and dumb. Here's the New York City airspace chart. (Yes, there's actually a VFR corridor over the Hudson River; it's permitted to fly along the river at up to 1300' altitude. There used to be one over the East River, too, but after some jock slammed a light plane into a Manhattan apartment building by going too fast there, it was closed to VFR traffic. These drone operators didn't stay in the VFR corridor, and probably had no clue where it was anyway.)

The drone guys were lucky. LGA has two intersecting runways, 4-22 and 13-31. The one in use depends on wind direction. The approach to 13 and the departure from 31 are over where the drones were operating. LGA happened to be using 4-22 that day. If the other runway had been in use, there would have been a large plane in the area ever 45 seconds or so.

Comment: Re:The Internet Needs More Random Data (Score 1) 336

by TheLink (#47423071) Attached to: UK Computing Student Jailed After Failing To Hand Over Crypto Keys
Or Ubuntu and other popular distro to do something like this:

Then it's normal for people to have encrypted stuff on their drives that they can't decrypt. And thus a "reasonable man" could not be expected to be able to decrypt such stuff even if he cooperated fully. They could be using full disk crypto with an encrypted container file that they can't decrypt. They can decrypt the first but not the second (or maybe they can - it becomes harder to tell :) ).

But once a popular OS has stuff like this by default, it's much easier for the defence to argue that you can't do it.

Of course in this case - the guy has been supplying wrong passwords, so unless you can show it was out of desperation and/or due to duress, he'd still be in trouble.

Comment: Re:Forget reading, GET AN IMPLANT! (Score 1) 83

by TheLink (#47422603) Attached to: A Brain Implant For Synthetic Memory
It's the wrong approach if you just want a prosthetic memory to help people remember stuff.

To have a prosthetic memory what you need is a computer that can remember stuff - video, audio, photos, text etc. Preferably wearable. Then what you need is to attach a device to appropriate parts of your brain that reads thought patterns that are distinctive depending on what you are thinking (elephants, purple etc). The device does NOT have to decipher or understand what you are thinking. All it needs to do is associate the stuff to be stored/recalled or even _commands_ with the thought pattern(s) you choose for it. I call these thought macros. See also:

So you capture a video/audio/picture then you assign it a thought, or "current state" of mind. If you even have difficulty rethinking[1] a thought pattern, you could search by context and time (what I stored some time ago while at home).

There may need to be training phases like in speech recognition, and it's likely to work better with some people than others.

[1] The approach the military is taking would still have problems if people can't even remember that they are supposed to remember something- so whichever approach you'd need the ability to set up "prompts" based on time and context (and brain patterns).

I believe our technology is very very far from the state where you can drop in a memory device with memories already preloaded in, and which people can use to "remember that they are to remember something" (and even if we did, it would be scary and I won't want to have it).

Because there's evidence that memories are stored differently on different people's brains - some people have a halle berry neuron:
Seems to me to be a bit like a Bingo hall where a neuron yells bingo when it recognizes what the "announcer reads out". And the thing is those neurons aren't in the same place for everyone, they might not even be present for everyone, and one neuron might yell bingo for slightly different things (in one person they might have a neuron that goes bingo for Jennifer Aniston when it sees Jennifer Aniston + Brad Pitt, in another person it might not go bingo for the couple).

Which is also why I think that it's delusional for people to believe we'd soon be able to transfer our minds to other machines. You can transfer something, but it'll be far from everything.

Comment: Mysterious "Aurora" attack not so mysterious. (Score 1) 50

by Animats (#47417787) Attached to: DHS Mistakenly Releases 840 Pages of Critical Infrastructure Documents

There's nothing mysterious about this. The problem is that if someone gets control of circuit breakers for large rotating equipment, they may be able to disconnect it, let it get out of sync, and reconnect it. This causes huge stresses on motor and generator windings and may damage larger equipment. This is a classic problem in AC electrical systems. A more technical analysis of the Aurora vulnerability is here.

The attack involves taking over control of a power breaker in the transmission system, one that isn't protected by a device that checks for an in-phase condition. Breakers that are intended to be used during synchronization (such as the ones nearest generators) have such protections, but not all breakers do.

Protective relaying in power systems is complicated, because big transient events occur now and then. A lightning strike is a normal event in transmission systems. The system can tolerate many disruptive events, and you don't want to shut everything down and go to full blackout because the fault detection is overly sensitive. A big inductive load joining the grid looks much like an Aurora attack for the first few cycle or two.

There's a problem with someone reprogramming the setpoints on protective relays. This is the classic "let's make it remotely updatable" problem. It's so much easier today to make things remotely updatable than to send someone to adjust a setting. The Aurora attack requires some of this. There's a lot to be said for hard-wired limits that can't be updated remotely, such as "reclosing beyond 20 degrees of phase error is not allowed, no matter what parameters are downloaded."

Comment: Web programming sucks. (Score 1) 580

by Animats (#47417227) Attached to: Normal Humans Effectively Excluded From Developing Software

Ignoring the racist whining, he has a point. Web programming really sucks. Even web design sucks.

HTML started as a straightforward declarative layout language. Remember Dreamweaver? Macromedia's WYSIWYG editor for web pages. It was like using a word processor. You laid out a page, and it generated the page in HTML. It understood HTML, and you could read the page back in and edit it. Very straightforward. You didn't even have to look at the HTML. Back then, Netscape Navigator came with an HTML editor, too.

Then came CSS. DIV with float and clear as a primary formatting tool (a 1D concept and a huge step backwards from 2D tables), Javascript to patch the formatting problems of CSS, absolute positioning, Javascript to manage absolute positioning... The reaction to this mess was to layer "content management systems" on top of HTML, introducing another level of complexity and security holes. (Wordpress template attacks...)

It's as bad, if not worse, on the back end. No need to go into the details.

All this is being dumped on programmers, with the demand for "full-stack developers" who understand all the layers. Cheap full-stack developers. Usually for rather banal web sites.

Not only is this stuff unreasonably hard, it's boring. It's a turn-off for anyone with a life.

Comment: Being a quant in the early years. (Score 4, Interesting) 90

by Animats (#47413241) Attached to: The Billionaire Mathematician

His fund has an impressive trading record. He had the big advantage of starting early, in 1982, when almost nobody was doing automated trading or using advanced statistical methods. Their best years were 1982-1999. Now everybody grinds on vast amounts of data, and it's much tougher to find an edge. Performance for the last few years has been very poor, below the S&P 500. That's before fees.

The fees on his funds are insane. 5% of capital each year, and 45% of profits. Most hedge funds charge 2% and 20%, and even that's starting to slip due to competitive pressure.

Simons retired in 2009. You have to know when to quit.

Comment: Re:What happened to Scheme? (Score 1) 411

by Animats (#47411269) Attached to: Python Bumps Off Java As Top Learning Language

Abelson and Sussman is a delightful book for programming theorists. Scheme is a big improvement over Common LISP. Learning Scheme from Abelson and Sussman is straightforward for people who can get into MIT.

This is not most of the programming population. As someone else pointed out, programming today is mostly the creation of glue code to tie together a number of (usually buggy) components. Neither the webcrap crowd nor the appcrap crowd needs Scheme. In fact, if you have that strong a theoretical background, you tend to overdesign simple programs.

For every bloke who makes his mark, there's half a dozen waiting to rub it out. -- Andy Capp