smellsofbikes writes: I have a friend who has a vandal problem: someone is routinely and repeatedly damaging her car. Over the last year, someone has scratched the paint and windows, dented every body panel, deflated and slashed tires, bent and stolen window wipers. She parks in a garage that is locked, so only other apartment residents have access. The garage is well-lighted, but has only one electrical outlet, near her car, and no easy way to attach stuff to walls. She thinks she knows who is doing it, and her apartment manager agrees and is willing to back her up, but without some evidence, nobody can do much. It only happens once every couple of weeks, so hiring a kid to sleep in the car is probably not viable. The garage is too far from her apartment to set up a wireless video camera. I'm looking for suggestions to help her out, that could include building hardware for this project. Thoughts?
smellsofbikes writes: This week's New Yorker magazine has an investigative essay by Seymour Hersh about the USA and its part in cyber-warfare that makes for interesting reading. Hersh talks about the financial incentives behind many of the people currently pushing for increased US spending on supposed solutions to network vulnerabilities and the fine and largely ignored distinction between espionage and warfare. Two quotes that particularly stood out: one interviewee said "Current Chinese officials have told me that [they're] not going to attack Wall streat, because [they] basically own it", and Whitfield Diffie, on encryption, "I'm not convinced that lack of encryption is the primary problem [of vulnerability to network attack]. The problem with the Internet is that it's meant for communication among non-friends." The article also has some interesting details on the Chinese disassembly and reverse-engineering of a Lockheed P-3 Orion filled with espionage and eavesdropping hardware that was forced to land in China after a midair collision.
smellsofbikes writes: The Wall Street Journal is running an aggressive interview with IBM Chief Executive Samuel J. Palmisano, in which he says that HP has no choice but to pay $1.5 billion for ArcSight and $2.4 billion for 3Par because "Hurd cut out all the research and development." “I’m never worried about a competitor that doesn’t invest in R&D,” Palmisano said. “They’ve had to buy. They have no choice.” The WSJ is running this as a section lead article, where anyone who glances at the paper will see it. However, other analysts characterize Hurd's behavior in cutting R&D down to 2.5% of total revenue and shunning acquisitions as "fiscal restraint".
smellsofbikes writes: Glaxo Smith Klein, the world's second-largest pharmaceutical company, is putting thousands of possible malaria-treating drugs into the public domain in a move that the Wall Street Journal calls a "linux approach" to pharmaceutical screening. Andrew Witty, who is described as the boss of GSK, says the company thinks it is "imperative to earn the trust of society, not just by meeting expectations but by exceeding them". Of course, synthesis or discovery of new chemicals is cheap compared to efficacy and qualification studies, but this is a refreshing change from not handing out *any* information until after everything is patented.
smellsofbikes writes: Today's Wall Street Journal had an article about California's restriction of the First Sale doctrine as regards fine artwork. The state requires that any piece of artwork resold for more than $1000 have 5% of the purchase price returned to the artist. There's a full-time State employee whose job it is to track down artists to present them with their money.
On the one hand, I like the idea that the artist who created something is getting the money directly, in contrast to most musicians and their pimp-like labels. On the other, the basic idea behind this seems fundamentally horrible. Imagine the chaos if this were extended to used music? or electronics? or the electrician who wired your house getting paid a percentage of the house value every time it sold? I was surprised to read that this law has existed since 1977 and wonder if it's unique to California and fine art.
smellsofbikes writes: Multiple companies are developing glider submarines, designed for multiple-week or -month autonomous voyages. The subs have very few moving components, relying on deriving thrust from airfoils as they change their buoyancy. As a result, they're extremely quiet and efficient, albeit very slow. I have this great vision of the future of sub warfare, where almost perfectly silent robot subs hunt each other, firing supersonic supercavitating torpedoes.
smellsofbikes writes: This week's New Yorker magazine has a financial article, "The Permission Problem", discussing the hidden cost of patent, trademark and copyright laws. It's a subject anyone here already knows well, but he brings up two interesting points.
1. He uses the term "tragedy of the anticommons". Instead of depletion of a shared resource, this describes under-use of hoarded resources: areas that can't be explored because they're encumbered by patent/copyright issues. As he points out, the result of this is an invisible loss: drugs not made, software not written. The loss is impossible to quantify and difficult to see. I like the term 'tragedy of the anticommons' because it encapsulates a long-winded explanation into a pithy, memorable phrase that will stick with people unfamiliar with the topic.
2. He also cites a study by Ben Depoorter and Sven Vanneste that discusses why anticommons effects are seen, beyond mere competition. Individual right holders value their contribution to the overall project as a significant fraction of the project value, so if there are more than three or four right holders, their perceived value can far exceed the total value of the project, making it uneconomical.
smellsofbikes writes: The FAA is attempting to develop a legal process that will allow them to release data about vintage aircraft designs that have obviously been abandoned. But existing laws restrict the FAA's ability to release this data because it is deemed to be intellectual property even though the owner of record has long since ceased to exist. This is fundamentally the same problem with copyright that people looking for books out of print have to deal with, but in the case of vintage aircraft, the owners are legally required to maintain them to manufacturer specifications that the owners cannot legally obtain: an expensive and potentially lethal dilemma. An obscure situation for this solution to be applied, but if the FAA, notoriously slow and conservative, is willing to do this, maybe the idea will catch on in other places.
smellsofbikes writes: New Scientist is reporting a motor designed by aeronautical engineer Roger Shawyer, that fires microwave radiation into closed, conic tubes, yielding thrust with no emissions whatsoever, not even radiation, relying on unequal force distribution within the conic section. He reports current incarnations produce thrust similar to solar wind but proposed supercooled varieties would yield orders of magnitude more. Spacecraft wouldn't have to carry any propellant, just solar cells. Can this possibly work?