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Comment Re:How shit like this starts (Score 1) 468 468

Years ago I worked in the lab in a small company that addressed that very easily - we just put everybody in the lab in lab coats. Once you put on the lab coat, it doesn't really matter what you're wearing as long as you have closed toed shoes (which we had anyway). The type of lab work we were requiring didn't really need lab coats, but they also weren't particularly inconvenient or uncomfortable, either.

Where I am now, I can pretty much wear plain t-shirts and jeans every day, and shorts when it's warm, but I keep jeans around in case I have to go into a smock-only cleanroom (you have to have long pants, or else find a full bunny suit).

Comment Re:In other news (Score 1) 429 429

If only there were some type of a device that could provide unlimited communication wirelessly over a large area with only a small initial investment...

That would be great if I only ever needed to talk to co-workers, and there were only a few other roaming people on the site, rather than 5000+. I need to talk to a lot of external people (can't give them radios) and giving everybody who travels around the site a 2 way radio would make for some awfully busy radio traffic. Not to mention that it would be easy for anybody to listen in on all that as well.

Comment Re:In other news (Score 1) 429 429

There was a group of employees who managed to get company issued cellphones. These employees never took them off premises and were never on call. They left them at their desks to charge every night.

There are legitimate use cases for cell phones in the case you describe. I work on a 500+ acre work site with hundreds of buildings and my work takes me all over the site to the extent that there are days when I don't even see my desk. If I didn't have a company issued cell, it could be days before people got ahold of me by phone. It would still be perfectly reasonable to have a company issued phone, even if I never took it home.

Comment Re:100 million quest to waste 100 million (Score 1) 208 208

All this adds up to a very very slim chance of this effort being successful, which is my point. They are not going to find alien life this way or any other way. Not in 10 years, not in 100. The odds are just so not in their favor...

Yes, I agree that the radio search for signals is extremely unlikely to be successful, but your posts so far have been referring to "life in general", not the specific "radio search for transmitters," which is entirely different.

The lack of known habitable exoplanets is very likely a selection effect resulting from techniques used so far to search. Rocky planets in the habitable zone are a lot harder to find than big gas giants that are either close in (so the transit a lot and wiggle the star) or far out (so you can actually isolate their photons from those of the star). Given where we find life on Earth, there are certainly many other habitable (in the microbial sense at least) environments off Earth in our solar system, and we've really barely checked them for anything, let alone microbes or the like.

Comment Re:100 million quest to waste 100 million (Score 1) 208 208

You need to carefully distinguish "life", "intelligent life", and "habitable", as they're not interchangeable.

Only one experiment has explicitly looked for life on Mars: Viking. No other experiments have been successfully flown to other bodies in the solar system to detect microbial life. A number of the places proposed as possible places for life have never actually been investigated in detail (e.g. Europa, Enceladus). Venus could easily have had life in the past and we'd never detect it with anything we've done (the environment there is admittedly much harder to explore than the icy moons of the outer planets)

The types of things that people use to "look for life" on other planets would in many cases have trouble finding life on earth-- there's a great deal of debate about virtually all "fossil" evidence of the origins of life on earth.

Comment Re:Suggesting the uniqueness of life (Score 1) 208 208

A big moon so water life can spread to land. 1/100 (having a moon is a biggie).

Why do you need to spread life to land? There were probably a billion years or more of life on earth that was nothing but archaea, and it's still life and if things hadn't changed they would have kept on living as happily as archaea can be.

Comment Re:100 million quest to waste 100 million (Score 1) 208 208

You're awfully confident in the uniqueness of life on earth, given that we really haven't even made much effort to determine its presence or absence in other potentially habitable places in our own solar system (and there are at least a few, and they aren't all planets in their own right), and that we've only had confirmation of the existence of extrasolar planets for less than 20 years. The statistics on extrasolar planets are still skewed by selection effects of the methods we use to look for them, despite the large numbers that we've discovered. When people did start discovering real extrasolar planetary systems, the existing models for planetary system formation did a terrible job of predicting the systems that were discovered. The jury is still very much out on how common life is in the universe, and even whether life could exist elsewhere in our own solar system.

Comment Re:Names and actual idenities of spies (Score 1) 67 67

NSA doesn't need to do any of that. Their budget is made up of money laundered through programs with boring names so nobody can tell what they get anyway.

And if they want the data all they have to do is ask OPM. Or offer to store backups for them. The privacy act protections are almost nonexistent and completely worthless.

Comment Re: Multiple multi-million dollar satellites. (Score 2) 377 377

I talked to someone recently who lost a day of science data from a UAV because the Windows system driving the instrument decided to auto update while in the air with something like a 56kbps data rate.

I recently built a field instrument and made it Linux based specifically to prevent things like that, as well as to keep power and latency down by being able to kill unnecessary background tasks.

Comment Re:So don't put warnings on the windshield. (Score 1) 195 195

Same in a car, or fighter jet for that matter: Want to see the time? Look at where the clock is. Want to see what radio station you're listening to? Look at where the tuner is. Want to see how much gas you've got? Look at where the fuel gauge is. This is constant-time lookup. If you have multifunction displays that *change* where these basic things are, now you've upped the cognitive load on the driver in that he now has to keep track of what state the display is in rather than just glancing in a well-remembered spot.

Ford did a pretty good job of this in the Cmax hybrids. The things you need to know to drive the car don't change location, and are the way they've been on cars forever. The speedometer is a big analog rotating needle, so you just have to glance at the needle position-- you don't have to evaluate numbers. The hybrid details are also displayed as analog dial information (using the LCD) to minimize mental processing. They're also in an unobtrusive side display of the driver's side triptych and you can choose from several default sets of details that all are consistent with showing the same information in the same way, but add new information if you pick the more detailed ones. The center console is for phone, entertainment system, climate, and nav, and can be controlled via the touchscreen, traditional controls that would be familiar if all you ever drove before is a car out of the 60s, or voice controls interchangeably. The more common things to adjust also have steering wheel controls, but it's all set up so the learning curve is easy and you can operate everything just fine with all the traditional controls.

But yeah. If you've got bells and whistles and distractions in your field of vision, of course it's unsafe. Most people are probably smart enough to ignore the popup message crap polluting automotive mutlifunction displays, by keeping their eyes up. If the crap follows them there, that's not an usafe display mechanism, that's unsafe human interface design. </rant>

that's what bugs me whenever I drive a prius- they decided to get creative and put things in non-standard positions, used digital displays where analog is faster to evaluate, put a whole bunch of distractive stuff in the driver's field of view, and made the front window small with huge pillars so it's hard to see out. It's a car that encourages people to drive badly.

Comment Re:Head-Desk. (Score 1) 142 142

No, at least parts of the government require full disk encryption of all laptops, as well as fully encrypted, two-factor auth remote access. NASA implemented full disk encryption in a rush after a similar personnel data set was stolen from an unencrypted laptop in a car in DC.

Comment Re:This (Score 4, Informative) 142 142

Two-factor authentication only means that in order to access the system you need two components, for example a Debit card and PIN, it doesn't necessarily limit access if you have those two components.

Other parts of the government already use more appropriate forms of two-factor authentication, generally smartcard badge+password, pin+rolling RSA key, or in some cases pin+password+rolling RSA key (not really more secure, and easier to forget pin+password). The badges and RSA keys have to be issued by the agency (and sometimes department) and synchronized-- I have a bag full of them from various agencies and aerospace companies and they're hard to keep track of. The badges are issued as a result of the whole background check process that was compromised and contain a hash of your fingerprints as well (some, though very few, computers have fingerprint readers). If they had implemented any of those, it's likely that the breach wouldn't have occurred. If, as you suggest, they had included access limits or almost any kind of access log checking, they could likely have detected and stopped a breach that was traceable to a forged/stolen credential as well.

Comment Re:Just use OpenBSD, for crying out loud! (Score 1) 91 91

Is it possible to separate the fields of the SF-86 form so after they get OCR-ed, the physical documents (if any) go to a secure site [1], and if electronic, it gets printed out. Hard copies are useful for long term archiving.

If you're going through OPM you fill out the SF86 online on a system called eQIP-- you get a pdf at the end that you can print and keep, but they collect all the data electronically. No OCR involved.

eQIP has its own problems-- the default passwords for entry are based on data that anybody can look up about you. You're supposed to change them so that when you submit your stuff for reinvestigation you use passwords that you made up, but given that they have specific password requirements (3 passwords) and reinvestigation is every 5+ years, you might as well just bang on they keyboard and then ask for a password reset when it's time to do it again.

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde