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Comment: Re:What it really says... (Score 1) 184

by dougmc (#49661979) Attached to: Enterprise SSDs, Powered Off, Potentially Lose Data In a Week

And no, I do not use spinning media as a backup. I use tapes. Using spinning media for proper backups is almost impossible. See http://www.taobackup.com/

Your link doesn't really seem to explain how using "spinning media for proper backups is almost impossible", so you'll either need to point to exactly where it says that, provide some other reference, or expand on that on your own.

Comment: Re:Found in small town, CA? (Score 3, Informative) 83

by dougmc (#49517387) Attached to: Baltimore Police Used Stingrays For Phone Tracking Over 25,000 Times

1x is digital too.

It does have longer range than 3G and 4G, and so it could very well be that you were simply getting a marginal signal and there was no Stingray involved at all -- your phone just used the best that was available, and that was 1x.

And once you left, the 4G signal got strong enough again to use, and your phone switched back.

Comment: Re:misdemeanor?? (Score 1) 271

by dougmc (#49502241) Attached to: Gyrocopter Pilot Appears In Court; Judge Bans Him From D.C.

Lots of misdemeanors can result in law enforcement using deadly force on you.

That said, I would expect his autogyro to be considered an ultralight and not require registration, though maybe it's too big to qualify? Also, if it is an ultralight, then he doesn't need a license to fly it.

It's also not equipped with a radio or transponder, though I don't know how required those are or what the penalties for not having them would be -- though a felony seems too strict.

Comment: Re:A Recognition Algorithm That Outperforms Humans (Score 1) 91

by dougmc (#49465875) Attached to: Killer Robots In Plato's Cave

Don't crash into anything while moving from point A to point B is a fairly unambiguous goal which computers should be able to handle, even if the details in reality are fairly complicated.

Given the number of computer games I've played with horrible pathfinding ... I'm guessing that this must be an even more complicated concept than we are aware of. (Scott Adams had something to say about that ...)

Comment: Re:Seems reasonable (Score 2) 53

by dougmc (#49444319) Attached to: FAA Allows AIG To Use Drones For Insurance Inspections

I wonder what restrictions the FAA put on these insurance companies ... like what sort of training do their pilots require?

I imagine they didn't just leave it up to the insurance company, but probably mandated a certain level of training. I know there was talk of requiring a full pilot's license, perhaps a commercial one, for such things.

I don't know if an FAA unmanned aircraft endorsement exists, or they might require a rotorcraft (helicopter) endorsement for your typical quadcopter. Not that all manned aircraft piloting skills apply directly to a model, but certainly a full scale pilot has a leg up on somebody with no experience at all.

And that said, requiring such a certification is way overkill, but it wouldn't surprise me at all.

Whatever the rules are, I'd expect the insurance companies to make sure that whomever operated these was sufficiently skilled to do so competently, either by teaching them to fly the old fashioned way or by providing aircraft that are automated enough that they don't really do much except tell it where to go.

Comment: Re:Seems reasonable (Score 1) 53

by dougmc (#49444297) Attached to: FAA Allows AIG To Use Drones For Insurance Inspections

The FAA doesn't really concern itself with "privacy", which is the primary problem that people have with these so called "drones" -- the FAA's concern is "safety".

And yet they also know that perfect safety is a pipe dream, and so they try to find a balance between safety and utility, and if they err, they try to err on the side of safety. And in the case of unmanned aircraft, they have erred *massively* on the side of safety so far.

The safety concerns of this are very small, and so there's really no reason for them not to do this, and I'm glad they're giving the permits -- it shows that they are finally relaxing their grip somewhat.

Now, if they had not permitted this, then the insurance company's other options are --

-- ladders (probably more dangerous than the R/C aircraft)
-- cameras on a long stick (probably works well enough for one story buildings, maybe not taller ones)
-- manned aircraft (expensive, probably more dangerous than the R/C aircraft)
-- camera on a kite (as dangerous as the R/C aircraft, often not practical, and the FCC may prohibit this as well)

Comment: Re:Pointing out the stark, bleeding obvious... (Score 1) 247

by dougmc (#49305445) Attached to: France Decrees New Rooftops Must Be Covered In Plants Or Solar Panels

Batteries aren't really cost effective for storing the amount of energy that we'd need to power the electrical grid from sunset to sunrise.

That said, even if we we ignore the possibility of storing energy or transporting it long distances to handle the moving (east to west) peak sunlight hours ... even if we can can only get half of our energy from the sun, that's still half of our energy that we didn't have to burn fossil fuels for.

We don't need batteries for that to be a false dilemma.

Comment: Re:APD doesn't have the authority to do this ... (Score 1) 46

by dougmc (#49257459) Attached to: Austin Declared a Drone-Free Zone During SXSW

Turns out I was wrong here -- the ordinance does already exist :

13-1-1 - DEFINITIONS. ...
(6) AIRCRAFT means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air.

13-1-11 - CERTIFICATION REQUIRED.
(A) This section does not apply to a person properly assigned to operate an aircraft by military authority.
(B) A person may not operate an aircraft in or over the corporate limits of the city unless:
(1)the person has an airman's certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration; and
(2)the aircraft the person is operating has received a certificate of air worthiness from the Federal Aviation Administration.
(C)The operator of an aircraft in the corporate limits of the city shall deliver the operator's airman's certificate and the aircraft's certificate of air worthiness to a police officer or airport official on demand.
Source: 2003 Code Section 13-1-4; 1992 Code Section 17-2-4; Ord. 040729-16.

Of course, that ordinance is so vague that it effectively bans all hobbyist R/C airplanes in the city -- including at the two R/C club fields in town -- all the time, not just just during SXSW. It also bans paper airplanes. And kites. And frisbees too. (Letting your bird fly is OK, however, as birds are not devices.)

And it's been this way since at least 2003, though I don't think anybody really thought that it might apply to all of these things until now. Selective enforcement of the laws is rarely a good thing, and now that the cat is out of the bag it'll be interesting to see how this will be selectively enforced after SXSW is over.

Comment: Re:APD doesn't have the authority to do this ... (Score 1) 46

by dougmc (#49247737) Attached to: Austin Declared a Drone-Free Zone During SXSW

423.003 likely did not apply there, because that's not really private property and I doubt the intent was to "conduct surveillance". (The term has a specific legal definition -- "Observation and collection of data to provide evidence for a purpose" -- and I'm not sure Texas has a more specific definition. Is looking for a cool picture "providing evidence"?)

Also note that APD's supposed ban says nothing of cameras, only of "drones". (No, contrary to what the media may tell us, R/C aircraft do not all have cameras or missiles.)

And of course "Reckless conduct" is vague enough that they could probably apply it to anything.

What probably did apply there is this NOTAM from the FAA which prohibits flying under 3000' over stadiums shortly before, during and shortly after events. State police don't normally enforce FAA regulations, but it's certainly possible.

That won't apply to the city of Austin during SXSW, and 423.003 probably won't apply to public spaces, but certainly, APD could try "reckless conduct" -- and even if the charges were eventually dropped because they don't really apply, that doesn't beat the ride downtown.

Comment: APD doesn't have the authority to do this ... (Score 1) 46

by dougmc (#49246057) Attached to: Austin Declared a Drone-Free Zone During SXSW

The city council could pass an ordinance, which APD could then enforce, but as it stands, unless the ordinance has been passed recently, no such ordinance exists.

That said, the parks and recreation department did recently decide to ban all R/C airplanes in all parks (page 11), with the only current exceptions being the HCAM and ARCA fields. That said, those rules only apply to parks -- if you fly from a street, or your driveway or a school or something, they don't apply.

(Oddly enough, I don't think anybody even knew about the ban. Based on the response I got from the city, I was the only person city wide to comment on it (and no, I was not in favor.)

In any event, if somebody is flying over a crowd, they might be able to find a law to charge somebody with. But if not over people and not over a park, not in a dangerous manner ... I don't see where they'd have any say in the matter.

Comment: Re:Emergency? (Score 1) 120

by dougmc (#49022997) Attached to: Arkansas Declares a High School CS Education State of Emergency

Something is very, very wrong if a state of 3 million people only has 6 CS teachers.

I doubt it's that bad.

What it probably means is that only six teachers have bothered to attain the needed certifications to teach CS in high school there so far, probably because there's been no demand for it.

If the demand appeared, there's probably quite a few more teachers who have the needed skills already (perhaps they have a degree in CS but they're teaching math or science now, or they don't have a degree in CS proper but have one in a similar field that would also work, etc.) but they aren't certified to teach it because there was no need to get certified -- but they could get certified fairly quickly if the demand appeared.

This "only six qualified teachers in the state" sounds scary, but it probably just means that the call has never gone out for qualified teachers before.

Comment: Re:kinda illegal already, by a rule referring to a (Score 2) 165

by dougmc (#48932431) Attached to: Drone Maker Enforces No-Fly Zone Over DC, Hijacking Malware Demonstrated

To expand on the other post I just made, it's quite interesting the dangers that the R/C hobby has encountered lately.

A few decades ago, young people stopped getting into the hobby largely due to video games and so the average modeller was getting older and older.

R/C sites have always been at risk from encroachment by new neighbors who don't like the noise. This effect has nearly decimated general avaition airports over the last many decades and it continues.

But then electric planes came, greatly improving the noise situation. Still, fields are always being lost and created.

Then the park flier came ... this helped bring the casual flier into the fold and many youth. It also meant that people were often flying in parks and baseball fields rather than formal fields -- not really a risk to the hobby (but a big risk to the AMA itself, as these flyers don't need the AMA!), but a pretty big change.

But now it's the rise of the FPV plane (well, they're still relatively rare) and especially the semi-autonomous (sometimes, usually not) quadcopters with cameras. These things are bringing all sorts of people to the hobby, interested in flying and photography, but people are all riled up by the idea of these being used to take pictures of them, and so the models are being banned all over the place, laws enacted, etc.

And people fly them in places where models generally weren't normally flown in the past (to take pictures) and then something happens and it's all over the news and lawmakers have knee jerk reactions and ban things.

It's a good time for the hobby -- lots of new things to do, new technologies to play with -- but it's a bad time for the hobby, with the hammer coming down and lots of new regulations appearing. The AMA is fighting the good fight, but I think they're going to ultimately lose, and the FAA and local governments will continue to greatly restrict the hobby -- it'll be done in the name of safety, but the reality is that it'll mostly be about preventing photography.

On the bright side, they will probably open some ways for commercial use of unmanned aircraft with lots of red tape associated with that -- so that's good that they allow that, as it wasn't allowed at all before, but the red tape is likely to be as heavy or even heavier than that associated with full scale manned aircraft.

Comment: Re:kinda illegal already, by a rule referring to a (Score 3, Informative) 165

by dougmc (#48932277) Attached to: Drone Maker Enforces No-Fly Zone Over DC, Hijacking Malware Demonstrated

As I recall, for model aircraft the FAA rules reference (or incorporate verbatim?) the rules of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, the primary hobbyist association

Not true, though they are pretty similar in some respects.

Also note that the current FAA "rules" (FAA Advisory circular 91-57 - Model Aircraft Operating Standards) is *advisory* -- it's not mandatory. It's not a set of rules at all, just guidelines. It encourages "voluntary compliance".

The AMA bars flight over populated areas, encouraging people to find a cow pasture IR something.

The AMA rules (not binding, but they can refuse to pay insurance claims if you violate them) say that you will not fly RC planes "directly over unprotected people, vessels, vehicles or structures". Not quite the same as you put it -- flying in a populated area is fine, as long as you aren't flying directly over people and aren't flying in a careless or reckless manner.

It may seem odd that a private club has effectively been given authority to make law

Again, it has not. The AMA rules are even *less* restrictive than the FAA circular in one way -- the AMA rules say not to fly over 400 feet near an airport without notifying the airport, and the FAA suggestions say not to fly over 400 feet above the surface, period. And note that R/C pilots, especially those flying gliders, fly over 400 feet quite often.

any doctor violating these generally accepted standards is likely to lose any court case.

Now, that part rings true ... the AMA safety code is basically the industry standard and if you're sued for hurting somebody, not following those standards will hurt you in court.

And indeed, it seems that whatever new *mandatory* standards the FAA comes up with be largely influenced by the AMA safety code ... but we are not there yet.

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated. -- Poul Anderson

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