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Comment: Re:Theft (Score 1) 1010

by esampson (#45599745) Attached to: EV Owner Arrested Over 5 Cents Worth of Electricity From School's Outlet

No. Laws may be employed to control the populace, but they originated to prevent harm.

Kind of like how contracts originated so that both parties would fully know and understand their responsibilities and what they were agreeing to (and so third parties would have evidence of what the first two had agreed to). The fact that they are sometimes (or often) employed to trick or trap people doesn't change what the were originally intended to do.

Comment: Re:Extraordinary claims? extraordinary evidence pl (Score 1) 265

by esampson (#45301983) Attached to: Airgap-Jumping Malware May Use Ultrasonic Networking To Communicate

Except that's not what the article is saying. The article doesn't claim that the system's bios was remotely compromised using audio. What it is saying is that a system that _has been compromised_ is using its sound equipment to communicate with other systems that have likewise been compromised, allowing infected systems to maintain communication with one another despite an airgap.

This could be viewed as 'extraordinary' in the sense of 'something that does not ordinarily happen', but it is not 'extraordinary' in the sense of 'something that defies conventional belief'. As many people have pointed out this is the same basic principle that modems use, merely in a somewhat different 'packaging'.

In that sense it is no more extraordinary than claiming that someone has painted an elephant blue. It is not something which commonly happens yet the possibility of its existence hardly defy belief.

Comment: Re:312 km coast to coast (Score 4, Informative) 355

by esampson (#43666489) Attached to: Mars One Has 78,000 Applicants

Mercifully it looks like the math error might be on the part of the poster rather than the article. I did a quick skim of the article and didn't see anywhere were they mentioned anything like how far apart people would be if stretched from coast to coast.

Of course it is always possible that the article was edited by the time I saw it but since the post doesn't appear to be a quote ripped from the site Occam's Razor is that the poster wrote up the post, did the math, and got it wrong.

Comment: Re:speed limit (Score 1) 892

by esampson (#39105003) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Would Real Space Combat Look Like?

Because everything is so far apart.

Seriously. Ignore for a moment any questions about energy or mass. The distance to the moon is 384,403,000 meters, give or take. At 1G you accelerate at 9.8 m/s. This means if you fly straight to the moon (or to where the moon will be when you arrive) under 1G of acceleration you're looking at about 2 1/2 hours to get there, at which point you plow into the moon at some god awful speed because there's no way to slow down in time. Assuming you only accelerate half the time then turn around and decelerate the remaining half so that you arrive at something approaching a sane velocity it would take about 3 1/2 hours.

That's an awful long time in terms of combat and the moon is incredibly close (if you are considering targets like Mars). Sure, it is incredibly fast in comparison to our current technology but a lifetime when people are shooting at you.

(N.B. The numbers provided are 'back of the envelope' calculations. The actual time would be quite a bit different because you could accelerate faster as you clear Earth's gravity well since a 1G acceleration would mean the astronauts would be subjected to 2G's on the ground. Assuming you were staying at a constant 2G's of force on the passengers your acceleration would increase the further you got from Earth until you reached your halfway point. However the math to deal with all of that is way, way to ugly for me to even consider right now).

Comment: A bit broad (Score 1) 892

by esampson (#39104887) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Would Real Space Combat Look Like?

Not sure if anyone else has posted this since a 'space combat' thread on Slashdot generates so much traffic it seems as if it should crash the servers (Dude, I heard you liked Slashdot....)

Anyway, it's kind of hard to talk about what 'space combat' will look like since 'space' is simply the theater for the conflict to occur in. Its like asking what 'land combat' looks like. When? 2012? 2025? 1942? 550 A.D.?

You probably need to start of with some assumptions concerning your technology. Lasers are a big one. I am not a laser physicist but as I understand it there's certain maximums of focal range that are related to the size of the lens. As I understand it in order to focus a laser at a spot about half a light second away you would need an absolutely gargantuan lens, one so big as to be impractical for combat. Now maybe I am wrong on this but this is an example as to why using lasers over such long distances might not be as easy as some people think.

Of course that assumes we don't find 'loopholes' around the problem such as somehow creating a synthetic lens through spatial warpage or some other technology. On the other hand if you've got some kind of technology that allows spatial warping then you quite possibly have much more effective weapons than photons.

My guess, in shorthand, is that combat in space will bear a certain resemblance to current combat. I suspect you will see guns for a long time (when jets were first becoming widely used by the military a lot of theorists thought that guns were going to go away because of the ranges and speeds jets would be engaging at. You'll notice they are still there because it turns out that at short ranges a missile often isn't the best option). I suspect you will have lots of your 'cheap' units (infantry, drones, spearmen, etc.) backed up with heavier units (tanks, fighter planes, knights on horseback, etc.) often employed along with small numbers of 'heavy hitters' (bombers, battleships, catapults, etc.).

The exact form these all take will be dependent upon the technology of the day.

Comment: Math seems wrong (Score 4, Interesting) 169

by esampson (#39070505) Attached to: Man Digs Out Basement Using Radio Controlled Toy Tractors

Average rate of 9 cubic feet per year X 7 years = 63 cubic feet.

That's a cube of dirt 4' x 4' x 4'.

Hardly sounds like 'excavating a basement'.

I'm guessing that the 9 cubic feet number is wrong. Maybe 9 square feet (with an undisclosed height of about 8'-10') for an annual average of 72-90 cubic feet and a final excavation of a room about 8' x 8'?

Comment: Re:TFA doesn't answer the relevant question (Score 1) 99

by esampson (#36564032) Attached to: Lawsuit Claims Sony Canned Security Staff Just Before Data Breach

There's a reason the article doesn't answer that question; because the answer is really, really dull.

At least that is what I'm assuming. The truth of the matter is that two weeks prior to the company's servers being hacked (March 30th) Sony Online Entertainment was forced to lay off a large amount of staff (I believe the number I read was 1/3) due to financial reasons. This layoff included programmers, designers, artists, administrative staff, and yes, people involved in the network security division.

I for one seriously doubt that there is really a causal relationship between the reduced network security staff and the breach. Two weeks just isn't long enough for things like that to fall apart. Just because people left the security they set up doesn't immediately shut down.

And for anyone who suspects that the employees who were let go caused the breach themselves, technically all those employees were still employed (there's a legal requirement that employees affected by large scale layoffs like this be given 60 days warning before being laid off, however because of reasons of security once people were given their warning they were sent home and paid for the next 60 days even though they didn't do anything). That would mean those employees would have been endangering six weeks of 'free' pay, their severance, and being paid for unused PTO.

While that doesn't absolutely rule out the possibility it does make it much less likely in my mind.


Designing Wireless Sensors To Be Dropped Into Volcanoes 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the appeasing-the-spectrum-gods dept. writes with this quote from El Reg: "Topflight engineers based in Newcastle have hit upon a radical plan for warning of volcanic eruptions. They intend to build a heatproof sensor unit which can be dropped into a volcano's caldera and wirelessly transmit data to monitoring stations despite being possibly immersed in molten rock. 'At the moment we have no way of accurately monitoring the situation inside a volcano and in fact most data collection actually goes on post-eruption. With an estimated 500 million people living in the shadow of a volcano this is clearly not ideal,' explains Dr. Alton Horsfall of Newcastle Uni's Centre for Extreme Environment Technology. 'We still have some way to go but using silicon carbide technology we hope to develop a wireless communication system that could accurately collect and transmit chemical data from the very depths of a volcano.'"

Comment: Re:Anyone else see the problem with this? (Score 1) 563

by esampson (#32966558) Attached to: Passwords That Are Simple — and Safe(?)

Yes, but in most of those cases the hacker could already reasonably assume that the password is in existence. As an example use the password "123456". On over 290,000 accounts used that password. That meant that out of 32 million accounts the odds that any given account used the password "123456" was about .9%. Even without feedback informing a hacker that "123456" is overused it is going to be one of the first passwords that they try on any system that will accept a 6 character password composed entirely of digits.

Compare this to a system in which the hacker receives confirmation that "123456" has reached its limit and he knows that 100 accounts are using it. In the first system he doesn't receive any feedback but he can very safely assume that well over 100 accounts are using that password. In the second system even though he receives the feedback the system is more secure against that particular form off attack because there are far fewer accounts using that particular password.

Comment: Re:Seems to Be Some Confusion (Score 1) 563

by esampson (#32966300) Attached to: Passwords That Are Simple — and Safe(?)

...The final piece of the puzzle is building in protection so that attackers cannot "query" the Oracle to find out what are popular passwords in your system that have reached their max...

Actually that isn't a problem. If a hacker finds out that "passw@rd" has been used 10 times and reached the limits of use they still have to figure out which of the 1,000,000+ accounts use it. Randomly trying accounts means that they have less than a 1 in 100,000 chance of hitting one that accepts it.

This is as opposed to the hacker simply trying "123456" on a system of 1,000,000+ accounts without limits where there will probably be over 9,000 accounts using that particular password (based on the analysis of's passwords back in January).

The problem with this approach is that it fails if the password file itself becomes compromised. If that occurs the hacker can simply hash "passw@rd" and then look for any accounts using that hash. If strong passwords are enforced the hacker would have to launch a brute-force attack to find out that accounts have the hash of passwords such as "i1492,Cstob".


Dinosaur Feather Color Discovered 219

Posted by timothy
from the horsefeathers-still-a-mystery dept.
anzha writes "Do you remember being a kid and told we'd never know what colors the dinosaurs were? For at least some, that's no longer true. Scientists working in the UK and China have closely examined the fossils of multiple theropods and actually found the colors and patterns that were present in the fossilized proto-feathers. So far, the answer is orange, black and white in banded and other patterns. The work also thoroughly thrashes the idea that fossils might not be feathers, but collagen fibers instead. If this holds up, Birds Are Dinosaurs. Period. And colorful!"

"There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum." --Arthur C. Clarke