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Comment: The solution for all this government intrusion (Score 2) 65

by jcrb (#49536619) Attached to: New Privacy Concerns About US Program That Can Track Snail Mail

Is for the Supreme Court to find that information that can only be collected by the government under the mosaic theory of information and that could not be gathered by an individual actor is covered by a right of privacy, they manage to find all sorts of rights that we hadn't noticed before, it's time for them to find this one.

Comment: Pretorian Technologies - Joystick, Trackball (Score 2) 100

by Cliff Stoll (#49257901) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Mouse/Pointer For a Person With Poor Motor Control

Pretorian Technologies of Lincolnshire, UK http://www.pretorianuk.com/ specializes in computer devices for disabled, and semi-disabled users. They make a wide variety of trackballs, joysticks, mouse alternatives, big switches that can be activated by your elbow or knee, iPad switches, bluetooth linked switches etc.

Their devices are aimed at those with "limited hand control, fine and gross motor skill difficulties, poor hand-eye coordination, limited manual dexterity, repetitive strain injury, involuntary muscle spasms, spastic and flaccid paralysis, cerebral movement disorder or central neuromuscular disability and inflammatory or degenerative change"

  From their website, http://www.pretorianuk.com/n-a...

The n-ABLER Trackball is the most adaptable Mouse Alternative on the market specifically designed to address the needs of computer users with limited hand control, motor skill difficulties, poor hand-eye co-ordination, lack of manual dexterity and involuntary muscle spasms.

In the USA, their products are available through InclusiveTLC.com .... not cheap (the anti-tremor joystick costs $440) but they look excellent for the application. a giant 3 inch diameter bright red switch that talks bluetooth (for the iPad, I think) runs about $150. see http://www.inclusivetlc.com/is...

Comment: Early analog work from the 1960's (Score 5, Informative) 33

From 1964 through around 1975, planetary astronomers at Tucson's Lunar & Planetary Laboratory used physical models to project and remap the moon's surface. They took high resolution photos through an earth based telescope, and then projected the images onto a spherical, white plaster globe. By carefully controlling the geometry, and knowing distances, angles, and (yes) lunar libation, they created detailed maps of the moon's near side, taking into account geometric distortion around the limbs. In this way, they could rephotograph parts of the lunar far-side.

The rectified lunar atlas can now be seen at https://www.lpl.arizona.edu/si...

This was all done using telescopes, photographs, and optical projection ... all analog, earth-based work. (the main telescope was the 61" reflector at Mt. Bigelow in Tucson; the films were Kodak 3-AJ 10x10inch glass plates)

It was my honor to work with several of these astronomers, including Ewen Whitaker, Gerard Kuiper, Bill Hartmann, and Bob Strom. Brilliant scientists who would be astounded and impressed to see those NASA/Goddard videos. What we take for granted today, once required several years of detailed work.

Comment: Glenn Seaborg - a great man (Score 4, Informative) 85

by Cliff Stoll (#48783809) Attached to: The Mystery of Glenn Seaborg's Missing Plutonium: Solved

I was honored to know Glenn Seaborg while working at Lawrence Berkeley Labs in the 1980's. By then, Manhattan Project was long behind him, as was his Nobel prize, the Atomic Energy Commission work, and his chancellorship of the University of California. Yet he was still a kind and supportive scientist who was deeply interested in any research - whether in physics, astronomy, chemistry, or biology. He recognized the need to teach music and art alongside science and math, and would visit local high schools to encourage students.

I once met him at the Lawrence Hall of Science, walking around the old cyclotron. When I asked him about it, he said that he'd been wondering how the field magnets had been mounted (it was perhaps 40 years after the Manhattan Project). After a short chat he invited a few 12 year old kids over, and told stories about using the beast to create new elements. Amazing guy.

Comment: Fresh out of college with 20 years experience (Score 5, Funny) 574

by Cliff Stoll (#48307277) Attached to: The Great IT Hiring He-Said / She-Said

Can't resist tooting my own horn. These are from my Klein bottle website:

    TOPOLOGY CONSULTANT Part-time design of low-dimensional manifolds in glass, wool, plastic, titanium, niobium, pentium, and unobtanium. Ideal candidate is fresh out of college with 20 years experience in applied topology; and can solve Poincare's, Heawood's, and Hodge's conjectures. Pay & benefits are epsilon above unemployment. Compensation package includes trillions in worthless stock options.

    GLASSBLOWER Construct borosilicate manifolds using lampwork. Handy with glass lathe, oxy-hydrogen torch, and bandaids. Must know the usual cuss words to describe breaks & cracks. Experienced in minor burn treatment. Special bonus if you know the difference between inside and outside.

    MANIFOLD OPERATOR. Curvaceous, conformal Riemannian vector field desires normalized Ricci tensor with nice eigenvalues. Will relocate within proper metric space. No polymorphic permutations, please.

    From http://www.kleinbottle.com/job...

Comment: Maybe good, maybe bad. (Score 1) 168

by jcrb (#48213983) Attached to: Austin Airport Tracks Cell Phones To Measure Security Line Wait

While it certainly saves the average traveler from having to guess the queue length and service rate for themselves so they can estimate the wait via Little's Law ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... )
It is hard to see how it manages to not be confused by people standing around the entrance and then walking away rather than in, or separate those speeding through the Priority or Pre-Check lines from the regular lines.

It would seem a simple electric eye counter or just giving the guy who sorts you into lines a clicker might do just as good a job. So while I don't like hopping into the tin foil hat explanations too quickly it is hard not to suspect that maybe this is just a cover story for the fact that they are indeed using it for surveillance purposes.

But then they already know everything I am doing in the airport tracking my phone doesn't personally make me any more under their eye than I already am. Not that I like them gathering all this data and lying about what they keep, I'm just not sure this actually adds to the degree I have already had my privacy compromised by the government.

Comment: Re:The end somehow is always 30 years away (Score 1) 652

by jcrb (#48077175) Attached to: Living On a Carbon Budget: The End of Recreation As We Know It?
Except the article said we run out in 30 years

Earth’s carbon budget—the remaining amount of fossil fuels that scientists calculate can be burned without destroying the climate—will last only about 30 years at the rate we’re going.

The 2035 date had to do with bringing everyone to the US standard of living.

Comment: The end somehow is always 30 years away (Score 5, Interesting) 652

by jcrb (#48075095) Attached to: Living On a Carbon Budget: The End of Recreation As We Know It?

Close enough that we have to DO SOMETHING NOW!, but far enough that no one will ever be called to account for being wrong, but not so far away that it's not in our life time and can be ignored. Having lost track of the number of such deadlines for the point of no return that have already passed in my life time let me just say I am a little skeptical.

And you know the Indians, the Chinese, and many others could care less and are going right on growing their populations and carbon production and there is no chance they will do anything but grow for the next 30 years. So if the author is right and we have only that long before we have irrevocably ruined our environment, then the choice for those of us in the industrial world is clear.

Enjoy all the vacations and recreational activities you can now. No seriously, if they are right then we are doomed, so you might as well enjoy it while you can, and they are wrong then you will have the last laugh while they sit around entertaining themselves doing the crossword puzzles, while they suffer without air conditioning.

Comment: Exactly why the Honor Harrington series is great (Score 1) 470

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.

As of next Tuesday, C will be flushed in favor of COBOL. Please update your programs.

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