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Comment: Asphalt is only used because it's cheap. (Score 1) 362

by Ungrounded Lightning (#49473389) Attached to: Can Civilization Reboot Without Fossil Fuels?

Asphalt gets worn down by [all sorts of stuff] ...

Like fossil fuels in general, Asphalt is used for road surfaces currently solely because it's overall cheaper (better price-performance) than many alternatives that we know damn well how to use. Restart a crashed civilization without cheap oil and one or more of these other alternatives will be used.

Asphalt is cheap because it's one of the side-effects of oil refining - a product that is valuable enough as a paving material that it's more profitable to sell it as-is than to "crack" it into lighter stuff and boost the fuel output (or other products) by a couple percent.

Comment: Re: No, the program didn't fail (Score 1) 238

Mr. Kennedy is not a credible source. You know that, right?

I'm not concerned with whether he's credible. I just responded to the question about where the 3 months bit was coming from. It's poor form to imply people are pulling it out of a dark orifice when it's right there in TFA.

Another thing though that no one else is bringing up; how much tax revenue have they given up for 10 years?

The "lost tax revenue" I could care even less about. Governments habitually operate at a higher tax rate than the peak of the Laffer Curve. (Raising taxes further brings in more in the short term, though it ends up costing more than it brought in later. That's why they go far past the peak rather than zeroing in on it and maximizing the amount they suck out of the people's pockets.) So, on the average, every million dollars they DON'T tax now is MORE than a million dollars they'll eventually get in taxes later, once the transient has worked itself out. It's also SEVERAL million dollars more that people will earn in "generating" that added tax.

What concerns me more is including the wages and jobs LOST thanks to taxing the people to get those millions to spend "promoting" the plan, when comparing it to the pay for the jobs "generated" by the plan.

Comment: Re:No mention of getting data out (Score 1) 71

by Ungrounded Lightning (#49465473) Attached to: Chinese Hacker Group Targets Air-Gapped Networks

It can do bursts of computation, memory access, or anything else that varies the amount you wiggle voltages or currents on wires in a way that emits radio waves. You can do it without even trying (which is one way some smartcards exposed private keys ...).

In the days of CRTs that applied especially well: Graphics output could modulate the beam and generate a LOT of radio. (Doing gray scales by making shifting fine patters would be an especially "in your face but you can't see it" approach.) A fast photocell could read it from the light, as well.

Preventing / shielding against things like this is what "Tempest" is about.

I recall, back in the late '60s / early '70s, when I was doing software on a machine at a classified site. It had a music program that worked by wiggling the lines on three console display lamps that were also connected, by three resistors (forming a cheap D2A converter) to a volume control T-pad and a loudspeaker. Turns out it also modulated the memory access and/or other signals - a lot. I had left it playing "moon river" overnight, drove up to the building, and heard it on my A.M. radio.

I realized it would have been trivial to exfiltrate a small amount of data, even on my starving student budget, by emulating an FSK modem and hooking a transistor radio to a battery-powered tape recorder (about the size of a briefcase in those days) left in the trunk of my car. (Not that I'd have needed to, since I could carry mag tapes in and out, but as a "white hat", how could it be done, exercise.)

The security guys figured that out, too. A bit later I got a ping from management: Some guys from Washington had also driven up, noticed the arcade-quality "music", and given them grief about it.

Comment: Re: No, the program didn't fail (Score 1) 238


From TFA, as quoted in the story post:

The low numbers didn't stop some state officials from defending the initiative. "Given the program was only up and running for basically one quarter of a year," Andrew Kennedy, a senior economic development aide to Governor Cuomo, told Capital New York,

Did you try actually reading it all before posting?

Comment: "ONLY" 76? Holy COW! (Score 1) 238

Wait a second -- this program has only been running for one quarter of a year? 76 jobs doesn't sound that bad, on such a short time frame.

Damn right!

It takes a substantial time to set up a company. (The startup I just helped start up took over five months before I was actually "employed" (and over 6 before the payroll was in place to pay me as an employee with a W2 rather than a consultant with a 1099).)

Three months and they ALREADY have 76 new jobs? It sounds like there are some bats exiting hell!

Come back in a year and see how many there are, and how fast more are being added.

And when counting the cost of the program versus the benefits of it, don't forget to take into account that investments provide their payback over time - so count those costs against the paybacks from several years.

Comment: Re: Energy storage in the grid is 100% efficient! (Score 1) 279

by Ungrounded Lightning (#49450977) Attached to: The Myth of Going Off the Power Grid

Modern Li-ion batteries have a round-trip efficiency of about 85%.

And some of the high-power, super-fast-charge Li-* batteries coming into production have efficiencies in the high 90s.

They have to. One of the limits on the charging and discharging rate of the batteries is the inefficiency. That lost energy doesn't just disappear. It turns into HEAT, INSIDE the battery. If you can dump 3/4 of a high-capacity battery's capacity into it in a couple minutes, without melting it down or setting it on fire, it's because the battery didn't turn much of the energy into heat. (Ditto on pulling it back out quickly.) That means it went into chemical storage, rather than loss.

Comment: Also the THIRD amendment! (Score 1) 46

The next topic is "general warrant". One of the reason US revolution took place is because of unhappiness due to King George's general warrants, allowing to search everyone without reason. The outcome was 4th amendment which clearly defined that persons and their private life are untouchable, unless there is suspicion, affirmed by the government servant and approved by the judge.

Spying on the population was also a big driver behind the THIRD amendment:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

While forcing the colonists to provide housing and upkeep for the soldiers sent to oppress them was an economic issue, there was more to it than that.

A soldier "quartered" in a colonist's house also served as a spy for the crown and its army. He eavesdropped on the conversations of the family and visiting friends. He had the opportunity to view their records when they weren't home (or even if they were). He reported anything suspicious to his unit. His presence inhibited getting together with others to hold private discussions, especially about opposing (by protest or otherwise) anything the government was doing. He was a continuous walking search, fed and housed by the people he was investigating.

It seems to me that law-enforcement and intelligence agency spyware, such as keyloggers and various data exfiltration tools, is EXACTLY the digital equivalent: It is a digital agent that "lives" in the home or office of the target. It consums the target's resources (disk space, CPU cycles network bandwidth) to support itself. It spies spying on the activities and "papers" of the target, reporting anything suspicious (or anything, actually) back to its commander, to be used as evidence and/or to trigger an arrest or other attack. It is ready, at a moment's notice, to forcefully interfere with, destroy, or corrupt the target's facilities or send forged messages from him.

Spyware is EXACTLY one of the most egregious acts (one of the "Intolerable Acts") that sparked the American Revolution. I'd love to see the Third brought back out of the doldrums and used against these "digital soldiers" the government is "quartering" inside our personal and private computing devices.

Comment: Bill the Galactic Hero. (Score 1) 290

by Ungrounded Lightning (#49407933) Attached to: Is This the Death of the Easter Egg?

A multispectral data processing program I wrote back in my college days: Part of launching it was giving it the date the data was collected. This was sanity checked against the system clock. Dates like before the construction of the scanners we usually used had a reasonable error message, asking if you were sure and giving a chance to reenter.

The message for a data collection date later than the data processing date was: "WONKITY! [name of institute] processes TOMORROW'S data TODAY!"

This was a reference to an incident in a humorous science fiction novel: _Bill the Galactic Hero_. The protagonists are sneaking around and are discovered by a cleaning robot and challenged as security breaching interlopers. One of them "bashes the robot on the braincase with a spanner", causing it to say "WONKITY!" and stagger away, rather than reporting them to security.

= = = =

When I was working on a typesetting system for newspaper publication, I heroically refrained from having it very occasionally insert "fnord" into the text. (See _The Illuminatus Trilogy_ for the joke, which is FAR to complex to explain here.)

Comment: "It's a feature!" (Score 2) 290

by Ungrounded Lightning (#49407813) Attached to: Is This the Death of the Easter Egg?

Or you could look at it as your employees doing [long list]

Tell management it's a "watermark" to detect copied code. (It's obviously not an open-source project. B-) )

Seriously: Suppressing easter-egg hiding means the best programmers are likely to look for a happier shop and move on, leaving the anal manager with the cream skimmed off his pool of talent.

On the other hand, a professional programmer will not spend substantial time on such things.

(An easy way to do it without substantial cost is to build it initially as part of a scaffold or a test suite component - with the easter-eggyness being a way to make it obviously a side issue and not corrupt the mission-critical output. Then the incremental labor cost of building it in as an easter egg is small - or may even be negative, by not taking it OUT of the version to be shipped as the product. B-) )

Comment: Enabling for off-grid h ouses, too. (Score 1) 330

by Ungrounded Lightning (#49406529) Attached to: Inexpensive Electric Cars May Arrive Sooner Than You Think

Solar generation can be had, for reasonably sunny sites, for abut $/kW, which puts it ahead of grid. Wind, since the advent of neodymium permanent-magnet alternators in kWish sizes, is also becoming competitive (and a solar/wind combo tends to balance nicely against available load. Alternators are electronics and the Moore's Law improvements are also bringing them down (though the economy of scale isn't there, yet.)

The big missing piece has been a high-capacity, long-lived, low-toxicity energy storage system, to cover calm nights and other weather variations. (Thee days of storage, in halfway-decent renewable energy sites, means you only have to run the backup generator a couple times a year - which you have to do, anyhow, to keep it from rotting internally.)

So these battery improvements should be enabling for off-grid housing, as well.

Won't kill the grid, though. Because all these electric cars will need charging - at several times the consumption of a house. Even in the good sites, adding an electric car to the load bumps the generation's capital cost up again, big time. Win some, lose some.

Comment: Re: Sen. Feinstein (Score 1) 538

Tell the people who lead the California Republican Party to pick candidates who are closer to the center.

They did. They still do. That's most of why they keep losing.

If they pick a "centerist" (alias "democrat lite") why would anybody on the right bother to vote?

Comment: Re:Dying big companies, too - clarifying typo (Score 1) 42

Companies - at least in the US - try to keep their engineers from looking at other patents, because knowing you're infringing triples the damage awards.

I hate the keyboard and trackpad on this Toshiba Satellite S75. (It's just as bad as the ones on the Lenovo Z710, too.) Overly-wide, ultra-thin, chicklets, with no clearance for fingernails. Brush the trackpad while typing and half a sentence is highlighted and instantly overwritten by the next keystroke, making it disappear. Typos up the wazoo. In nearly a year I haven't been able to get used to these designs.

Put your best foot forward. Or just call in and say you're sick.