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Comment Re:Time for a game of russian roulette ^ 2 (Score 1) 135

Actually, I'd give him a choice - ten identical doors. He gets to use an unmodified ADE651 to pick which one to open. Nine out of ten have real (big) bombs mounted under the door frame. The remaining one has nothing. We give him an option at sentencing - he can either do life in prison, or pick a door and possibly go free. If his device works, that shouldn't be an issue at all.

Should make great pay-per-view.

Comment Re:No one with a clue thought it would be illegal (Score 2) 85

Wish I had mod points, I'd bump you up. Nobody actually thought the FCC was going to make hacking your router illegal. It's outside their jurisdiction anyway as long as it doesn't change the electromagnetic emissions. The reality is that the easiest way for a manufacturer to assure compliance is to sign the firmware and lock the hardware to that signature, effectively preventing any firmware modification. If anybody thinks manufacturers are going to take the intentional hard road in the design just so a tiny subset of their customers can go in and modify things, you're nuts. Effectively the FCC is still boning us all.

Comment Re:This is the threat...? (Score 1) 213

Honestly, if somebody ever got annoyed at me for not fixing a bug on a schedule that conflicted with my priorities without even offering to compensate me, I'd tell them to shove it. That's not a threat, that's an opportunity to educate them on the value of my time and how little of a !#$% I give about their whining.

Sure, there's some nights I'm just sitting around watching TV and being useless, but those nights are much rarer than they used to be. If they'd like to re-prioritize an evening or two of my time, they can drag out the checkbook. Otherwise, I'll address their concern when I get around to it. My feelings aren't hurt if they want to switch to some other project as a result, because I understand the cost of converting and then hoping the guy over there is more agreeable than I am...

Comment Re:I'd do it (Score 3) 602

There's a line between intentional sabotage - aka telling them to delete the working filesystem - and induced incompetence.

I worked for a small company many years ago (as in about 20 years ago, during college). First there were pay cuts, then paychecks started to be late, and eventually creditors started showing up... So basically I knew I was screwed, but I figured if I quit, there was no chance at unemployment. Let's just say anything done in that last month wasn't exactly quick or robust. The firmware written in those last days pretty much skipped any error checking, met only the barest of requirements, had total crap for comments, etc. Plus, half the time I was sitting there, the programmer/debugger was hooked to one of my projects rather than theirs. As long as there was code on the screen and I was cursing at some board, nobody still there could tell if I was working on their stuff or mine.

Showed up one day to a locked door and the place cleaned out. My old boss - the owner - called me one day when he tried to sell the technology to another company. Couldn't make it work for the demo and wanted my help. Since I hadn't seen more than 25% of my pay in the last three months, I offered to help for some additional compensation up front. Went in, screwed around for two or three hours, and then declared that something must have gotten fried or jostled when they hastily packed up the place and fled in the night. Basically, unfixable, sorry, and if you want me to repair the hardware it's going to cost a lot more.

The real answer is that if you want code to run, you should probably burn it onto the EEPROMs before putting them in the product. But hey, with little financial incentives, there's virtually no end to the problems I can't solve.

Comment We're Officially Doomed (Score 4, Insightful) 956

I've actually been thinking about this quite a bit lately, and I've come to the conclusion that this is really how America ends. Wallowing in its own stupidity, locked down by the authorities because we're afraid of everything we don't understand (which is everything, due to ignorance), and decrying any interest in something other than pop culture as suspicious.

When I was a kid some forty years ago, it was still possible to learn, make, see, and do things without nine layers of security clearances and being met with "you can't do X because terrorists/drugs" at every turn. Now, the only reasonable explanation for why you're interested in something is because you do it for work. And because some company makes you do it for money, now it's suddenly okay. Building anything with wires sticking out that beeps? Terrorist.
  Learning chemistry at home? Terrorist or maybe the next Walter White. Interest in trucks/trains/planes and not a truck driver/engineer/pilot? Terrorist. Interested in power generation/distribution but not a power EE? Terrorist. Interested in computer security research? Cyberterrorist! Aiieeee! I could go on and on and on here...

Hey wait a minute - you know how most of the good people in those fields got there? Because it's what interested them before they did it as a job. In the past, there were always ways to learn about these things, particularly as a kid. Folks willing to show you around, show you what they did, explain how things worked, and sometimes let you help. I can't tell you the number of things I got to try out as a kid that would now get somebody fired and probably grilled by some three letter agency. But it's because of those experiences that I'm a successful electrical engineer today who loves it as both his profession and passion. I didn't just pick a job off the list, say "that looks good and pays well", and then decide to spend my life doing it. The folks I know who did that have already washed out and gone looking for something they enjoy more.

The next generation is boned. Their curiosity about things is being actively destroyed when its met with suspicion and investigation rather than encouragement or better - "Ssh, don't tell anybody, but put this hard hat on and come with me..." This is just one example.

Yeah, there's definitely a racist problem here as well (it *IS* Texas, folks...), but I think focusing on that is missing the real point. It's not just non-white kids. The powers that be have taught us to regard everything with suspicion rather than curiosity. Yet I ask you - how many kids have you seen today who are terrorists vs. how many have you seen who need to learn about the world and figure out what they want to do with their lives?

Comment Welcome to the hobby (Score 2) 149

First, I've been a model railroader and general railfan for most of my 38 years. I took a bit of a break from modeling myself during my 20s on account of wife / career / etc, but during the whole time I was working on other layouts. I dug back in with a passion about four years ago, ripped out the abortive start of a layout from a decade prior, and started construction of a new layout. I'm an N scaler myself, but most of the other layouts I work on or operate on are HO or O.

Model Railroader is good for beginners. Also be sure to check out Model Railroad Hobbyist, which is a free (er, advertiser-funded) online model railroad magazine. It's aimed a bit more at experienced modelers, but there's still lots of layout tours and the like in there that will be of interest and inspiration. Besides, the price is right to try it out.

One thing you'll start to figure out fairly quickly is what interests you and what doesn't, and that will start to steer you towards certain things. Some of us are interested in exactly replicating some prototype area and railroad down to the most minute detail, whereas some are more interested in just running trains through fantastic scenery that is purely a work of imagination. There are segments of the hobby who enjoy scenery, others that are fascinated with equipment or structure modeling, some that like to create accurate operating practices, and some that really like control systems.

My starting recommendations would be:
  - Just get something running so that you can start figuring out what you like and what you don't, with the full anticipation that it'll be temporary. If you start too big of a project on your first try, you'll lose interest before you get enough of the pieces together to make it run smoothly.
  - Go find a local show and see what others are doing
  - Talk to your relative and learn from him, particularly if he's a relative you like. (And, well, skip this if he's equivalent to my weird uncle Gary.)

If you're interested in the controls side, there's a decent DIY electronics community within the hobby. Two Yahoo email groups I'd recommend are mrrelectronics (general MRR electronics) and Arduini (focused on Arduinos in model railroading). There's Digitrax's Loconet, CMRI, the NMRA's new LCC standard, and a couple dozen other ways to connect a layout to the computer. Then there's things like JMRI, which you've already found, which are great for linking everything together.

Comment Re:Is there a browser that doesn't try to be a nan (Score 1) 199

I'm okay with the warning/enable system in FF, but I really wish they'd add a global button of "yeah yeah, fuck off and enable it because I said so and I'll take the risk" for when I really need to get stuff done and I'm tired of having to click on the flash box on every damned site.

Comment Re:Keep it simple (Score 5, Funny) 479

Honestly, as a last resort, it's not a bad idea. I have a fair amount of ESD test gear at work, including a bunch of static discharge guns and the like that can be dialed up to some crazy levels. I was once stuck in a situation much as you - they controlled the modem/router and it was crapping out every few hours, and they were the only game in town for non-dialup access (this was 15ish years ago). I'd already replaced it with a spare that did not have the issue, but since it wasn't provisioned, the only place I could go was their internal pages.

I spent probably two hours going through L1 support, L2 support, and then had them tell me that "oh, sometimes the boxes just do that". So I took the box to work, fried the shit out of it, plugged it back in to let it power up and do real damage to itself now that half the fet gates were probably cooked, and then called them back to tell them that the box had finally crapped out and started smoking. They promptly sent me a new one, and told me "must have been lightning or some sort of power surge."

Yup, a power surge indeed.

Comment Re:It's just joule thief (Score 3, Informative) 243

Leaks and corrosion isn't "fail catastrophically", and typically happens after the battery has been dead for some time and the seals fail. Taking them to zero wasn't the problem - not removing them after they were dead was where the problems started. Many rechargable lithium chemistries, however, will generate oxygen and/or pure metal in bad places if excessively discharged (or charged), which then can translate into burning and toxic gases. Now that's catastrophic.

Comment Re:1.5V alkaline vs 1.2v NiMH (Score 1) 243

Yeah, the 1.35 or 1.4 number is total bull$#@!. Almost everything these days will run on the 1.1-1.2 of NiMH, as you point out. Even at that point, the remaining energy in a common alkaline (manganese dioxide) AA cell is nowhere near 80%. Alkaline goes "over the cliff" - the sharp point at the end of the discharge curve where there's no energy left and the voltage plummets - at about 0.8-0.9V. Even at 1.1V, there's only about 10% of the energy capacity left for a typical alkaline.

Look up "alkaline discharge curve" pretty much anywhere. Typically these will plot output voltage on the Y axis and amp-hours on the X axis. The energy remaining is the area under the curve to the right of where you're looking (because energy is measured in watt-hours, and voltage * amp-hours remaining is watt-hours). As you extract more energy (move right on the X), your voltage drops. When you hit a certain point... boom! straight to the floor.

Most battery powered devices these days either have a switching regulator that deals with this issue, or they use a low quiescent current, low dropout regulator and a big enough battery stack that can keep the supply rail where it needs to be until the batteries hit their dead point. While not strictly a scam, it won't do much good in most modern devices (and will actually decrease performance in well-designed ones, as I'm sure the switcher in these has a non-zero quiescent current, and an efficiency below 100%).

Comment Re:It's just joule thief (Score 4, Informative) 243

Carbon-zinc and alkaline (MnO2) batteries will go to complete discharge without any danger. You're thinking of various rechargeable chemistries that either suffer loss of capacity from excess discharge (Pb Acid, NiCd, NiMH, etc.) or have the potential to fail horribly (lithium chemistries).

Lithium AAs, while they exist, are fairly rare and not the same chemistry as the rechargables. As far as I know, there's no danger in taking them all the way to dead either.

Comment I actually agree, but not to what he meant (Score 1) 2

I couldn't agree more - we've traded off a great deal of liberty and gotten jack shit in return.

Are there bad guys who want to cause death and destruction in the US? Yup. That's neither new nor interesting. Just because the bad guys got one high impact win, we've uprooted every damn principle this country was founded on. Apparently we don't believe in those principles enough to trust they can get us through the trials and tribulations. It's truly sad.

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus