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Comment: Exactly why the Honor Harrington series is great (Score 1) 446

by jcrb (#48014547) Attached to: The Physics of Space Battles

It is both modeled on Napoleonic Navel Fiction while at the same time being physically accurate withing the constraints of its sci-fi universe. Accelerate at full speed for an hour in one direction, well then it will take you an hour to come to a stop. Long trips at high fractions of the speed of light have shorted subjective shipboard times. The light speed time lag in sensors and communication plays significant tactical and strategic roles in almost all the battles.

If you love space opera or Aubrey/Hornblower and you like accurate physics then you definitely want to read the Harrington series by David Weber http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H...

Comment: Search for me but not for thee (Score 5, Insightful) 207

Oh sure they have a wonderful system for searching what they want to search and can't be troubled to search what they should be able to but don't want to..

http://www.judicialwatch.org/p...
"Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search. "

The saying "Laws are for the little people" used to be funny, now, not so much.

Comment: Re:Moderately well prepared - Oakland, California (Score 1) 191

by Cliff Stoll (#47744875) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

Hi gang,

        Thanks for the reports of stale gasoline - I'm convinced. Tonight I'll head out & recycle my old gas. The problem isn't getting things together; it's keeping it all up to date & ready. Your comments hit me in the right place: be prepared.

        I'm associated with a ham radio emergency group; the rule is that the station's equipment must be immediately ready for action. In an emergency, you don't have the luxury of stringing a cable, or figuring out which power supply can work with which rig. If the transceivers aren't wired up, tested, and set to go, they might as well be underwater. Same's true for on-the-air skills. You gotta check into the 2-meter net at least every month, or you'll get rusty and screw up when things get hot.

      And so it is with earthquake readiness. It's not enough to put away a survival stash and let it molder. Gotta keep things fresh - gotta keep my skills sharp.

Best wishes,
-Cliff
        ps to ksmithderm ... sure, I've got Klein bottle hats (and Mobius scarves). They're on m'website.

Comment: Moderately well prepared - Oakland, California (Score 4, Informative) 191

by Cliff Stoll (#47743541) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

Background: I live on North Oakland, next to Berkeley, in the Rockridge section. Urban, detached 2 bedroom house about 100 years old.

We bolted down our house, fully reinforced the stemwalls, and installed shearwalls. For our little 2-bedroom bungalow in Oakland, this set us back around $20,000. Earthquake insurance seemed outrageous (around $2,500/year, with very limited benefits). Along with the earthquake retrofit, we set aside a few cases of food & twenty 5-gallon jugs of water. A 2Kw Honda generator. Radio, flashlights, FRS walkie-talkies, etc. Small amount of medical stuff.

Yes, I have onsite and offsite backups (that's easy); the real problem would be connectivity after a quake. There's probably a hundred telephone poles between my house and the central office.

Some challenges: Keeping food & water fresh is a problem - cans get rusty as water condenses on cold surfaces. Some camping food goes bad. MRI rations taste, well, horrible. We should replace water & food annually, and generally forget to. (We discovered diapers in our earthquake stash, left over from when our college kids were infants)

    Storing gasoline for the generator is a problem. I'm told that gasoline gets stale after a few months (is this true, or an urban legend?). It's a pain to lug a 3 gallon gas can around, and it's not something I want under my house. (I store it in a shed, where it's out of sight & out of mind - so I rarely refresh it. Is there a small, 5 or 10 gallon under-ground gasoline storage tank?). I should start and exercise the generator every month; it's more like every two years or so. Our experience in the 1989 quake was that gas stations can't pump after an earthquake (no power).

  Our neighborhood's quake group (the Oakland - Rockridge Shakers) meets every summer, and the earthquake drills have been quite useful - we've had several fun practice sessions, where we hunt for human dummies hidden around the neighborhood, search for downed wires, and practice using walkie-talkies. Afterwards, it's a block party, and we compare notes while sharing lunch.

    My home business, Acme Klein Bottles, lost two glass Klein bottles in last night's quake. Both fell off a shelf and shattered on the floor. Good lesson: keep my glassware stored down low, with holders to prevent boxes from shifting. Since most of my glass Klein bottles are stored under our house; a major local temblor that destroyed the house would also wipe out the business.

Comment: There is an upside to this (Score 1) 38

by jcrb (#47671407) Attached to: Ryan Lackey, Marc Rogers Reveal Inexpensive Tor Router Project At Def Con

Getting lots of people running Tor even if they don't need to, even if the implementation may not be the "best" possible, for various definitions of best, is that it dilutes the number of users using Tor for "bad" things.

I don't know what the percent of users of Tor are using it for the standard list of things the government needs to save us from, but you know that eventually the argument will get made, which owing to the nature of Tor will be almost impossible to disprove, that basically everyone using it is doing something illegal and thus running a node makes you an accomplice, and using Tor is probable cause for the government to come and search your stuff.

If that argument has not already been made in court you know it is only a matter of time before it is.

Comment: Not an apology (Score 5, Insightful) 59

They make no mention of having been clearly non-responsive to the FOI request. The FOI asked for "Acquisition documents" that they hadn't got one yet doesn't get them out from having been trying to get one. And the excuse of "well we didn't know what the other department was doing" fails, the whole point of a FOI request is for them to find out of someone has the documents in any of their departments. The real problem is that these FOI laws lack meaningful penalties for failure to properly respond so no one ever does.

Comment: Re:How did this get modded up (Score 1) 187

by jcrb (#47389807) Attached to: Train Derailment Dumps Two 737 Fuselages Into Clark Fork River

You can't prove a negative

It's called proof by contradiction.

No you have it backwards, proof by contradiction is a method of showing something is true by showing that if it were false it would be a contradiction with something known to be true. An example in this case would be to say,

"assume there are purple unicorns, that would imply through a chain of logic that there can not be pink spotted elephants, since we know that pink spotted elephants do exist then purple unicorns can not exist, QED"

since you are likely to have difficulty finding a contradiction that results by assuming that purple unicorns do exist this method of proof it unlikely to helpful in this case.

Comment: Re:Warranty (Score 2) 187

by jcrb (#47389725) Attached to: Train Derailment Dumps Two 737 Fuselages Into Clark Fork River

What the fuck?

The illegibility that you find so shocking would seem to come from the terminal the poster is using (based on their previous comments) the content would seem to come from the fact that all they appear to want to do is assert that various political view points are bad along with those who hold them regardless of how relevant it might be to the discussion at hand.

Or their views on the world may just be the result of living in Seattle and not having sex for 20 years, can't tell which is the cause and which is the effect.

Comment: Important work - gives handle on earth's dynamo (Score 4, Insightful) 80

by Cliff Stoll (#47298935) Attached to: Satellite Swarm Spots North Pole Drift

This is important work, which compliments terrestial geomagnetic measurements and space based observations.

The earth's magnetic field results from a planetary dynamo. Magnetic field lines get frozen into the electrically conductive fluid core. Then, differential motions in the fluid causes the magnetic field to get twisted up -- it's no longer is the simple dipole (like those bar magnets that you played with as a kid). Instead, the earth's magnetic field develops high order moments (sorta like bumps and dips). These shapes evolve as the conductive core moves. Eventually, the magnetic field gets so tangled up, that it unravels. At that time, the earth's field reverses. These magnetic field reversals show up in the geologic record ... every 10,000 to 100,000 years, there's a flipover.

Measurements like the ESA Swarm satellite give us a handle on the evoloution of the Earth's magnetic field, as well as showing how that field interacts with the magnetic and particle environment of the solar wind.

(disclaimer - most of what I just posted is from a terrific graduate class that I took at the Lunar & Planetary Labs way back in 1979, and when I worked with Charles Sonett, who studied the solar wind. Likely, much of this is way out of date!)

Comment: Re:Well, yes, I was there... (Score 1) 120

by Cliff Stoll (#47182183) Attached to: Whom Must You Trust?

And my thanks back to you, oh Anonymous Coward: The 15 cents in royalties from your purchase of m'book is now helping my kids attend college. Uh, it'll last about 1.3 minutes.

You say that you're managing firewalls - all sorts of possibilities! I had the honor of working with Van Jacobson at LBL when he first researched TCP/IP traffic jams and compression. I was amazed at how much could be done by looking at traffic and thinking about the interaction of traffic, buffers, routers, and network congestion. Wonderful stuff - what looks like a boring problem may be an opportunity for research.

With that in mind, here's my encouragement to you: Go and sharpen your tcpdump & wireshark tools. Figure out what's really happening to those packets. Who knows what you'll uncover?

Comment: Re:IF you are the REAL Cliff Stoll? (Score 1) 120

by Cliff Stoll (#47182047) Attached to: Whom Must You Trust?

(blush). Thanks!

Now it's your turn: Go forth and make our networked community friendlier, stronger, more trustworthy, and more useful.

Best wishes,
-Cliff

PS: Of course, you raise a fascinating, self-referential question. How can you tell if this posting is from the real Cliff Stoll? I know it's me - and it's easy to prove in person, but difficult online. For the best proof, well, stop by for coffee. Way more fun than posting online.

Comment: Well, yes, I was there... (Score 5, Interesting) 120

by Cliff Stoll (#47181593) Attached to: Whom Must You Trust?

It's been a quarter century since I chased down those hackers. Hard to think back that far: 2400 baud modems were rarities, BSD Unix was uncommon, and almost nobody had a pocket pager. As an astronomy postdoc (not a grad student), I ran a few Unix boxes at Lawrence Berkeley Labs. When the accounting system crashed, my reaction was curiosity: How come this isn't working? It's an attitude you get from physics -- when you don't understand something, it's a chance to do research. And oh, where it led...

Today, of course, everything's changed: Almost nobody has a pocket pager, 2400 baud modems are a rarity, and Berkeley Unix is, uh, uncommon. What started out as a weirdness hiding in our etc/passwd file has become a multi-billion dollar business. So many stories to tell ...

I've since tiptoed away from computer security; I now make Klein bottles and work alongside some amazing programmers at Newfield Wireless in Berkeley. Much fun debugging code and occasionally uncorking stories from when Unix was young.

Warm cheers to m'slashdot friends,
-Cliff

The first Rotarian was the first man to call John the Baptist "Jack." -- H.L. Mencken

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