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Comment: Re:Hints (Score 1) 58

by mcgrew (#48642319) Attached to: Boeing and BlackBerry Making a Self-Destructing Phone

They've been working on it for over 12 years; I wrote the following for my web site in 2002. It will be in an upcoming book. Apologies for the mangled unicode, but slashdot's preview is worthless, since "preview" shows the unicode but the submission displays garbage. Here is the article:

McCoy: He's dead, Jim
        Several years ago, before PCs were not nearly as com-mon in the home as they are now, a friend of mine asked of my computer, âoebut aren't you afraid it will explode?â
        He was a Star Trek fan, and in the old 1950s and 1960s science fiction and spy shows, computers all had a nasty habit of blowing up. All one had to do to these TV or movie computers to make them explode was shoot them, with either a ray gun or a police revolver. Some TV and movie computers would blow up if you âoepressed the wrong buttonâ; one episode of the 1960s TV show The Prisoner (âoeI am not a number! I am a free man!â) had a computer that could answer any question. The bad guys, who had imprisoned the hero, a spy who had resigned his post, wanted to know why he resigned. Of course, before the bad guys could ask the computer âoeWhy did number six resign his post?â the intrepid number six offered that he had a question the computer could not answer.
        He typed in to the Remington electric typewriter and fed the paper into the computer, which, of course, promptly started smoking, sparking, and ultimately blew up. The question was simply âoewhy?â
        Similarly, in an episode of Star Trek, Spock makes a computer explode by asking it to figure the value of pi to the last decimal place. Of course, any time a Star Trek computer was fired on, whether by a Klingon or Federation phaser, and no matter what civilization designed and built the computer, it would explode in a grand display of fireworks.
        I had to explain to my friend that this was all nonsense, that early computers from the early 1950s used thousands of vacuum tubes, requiring high voltages, which could throw showers of sparks and bright purple flashes with the characteristic âoepop!â if there was a short circuit in its 120-240 volt circuitry but would not actually explode, and that modern computers ran on three to twelve volts and wouldn't even get a spark from a short.
        I had to explain to my friend that the only explosions were in my games; that the computer itself here in the analog world was safe.
        Along with the matter transporter and faster than light travel, the exploding computer was one of those things relegated to science fiction.
        Until now.
        New Scientist reports that they have found a way to make silicon explode on demand, either by shock, as with that .38 caliber police special or by electrical signal.
        âoeThis machine is stolen and will self-destruct in ten seconds.â
        New Scientist says âoeFor instance, the American spy plane impounded by China last year could have used it to destroy its secret electronics systems.â
        They add âoeIn a stolen mobile phone, the network would send a trigger signal to the part of the chip containing the gadolinium nitrate âdetonatorâ(TM), triggering the explosion... and detonate it at will.â
        So not only is Star Trek's computer to blow up, its communicators will too! I can see in five years when these bozos have the anti theft circuits in phones. Drop your phone now and it might break. Drop it in five years and it might take your leg off!
        Of course, the new viruses in ten years will not just reformat your hard drive; the kids will be writing viruses to make people's computers explode in their homes!
        Doncha just love science... Personally, I'm hoping someone with a little common sense will have a talk with these educated morons and explain that just maybe, exploding computers ain't such a good idea after all. Just maybe the US Government might be more concerned with bringing its spy plane crew home alive than exploding its electronics; they could have blown the plane up with conventional explosives, or even driven the thing into the ground, but they didn't.
        When my cell phone explodes the manufacturer better hope it takes my head off, because if it doesn't I'm suing the shit out of the morons!
        Beam me up, Scotty.
1/18/2002

Comment: Re:Good news, bad news (Score 4, Interesting) 352

by mcgrew (#48642285) Attached to: What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

Maybe folks will make art for art's sake, program for the love of code, etc. I love the freedom of being able to write and publish anything I want without making compromises with money issues. Like Rush (the band) sang in Spirit of Radio,

It's really just a question of your honesty, yeah
Your honesty.
One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity.

User Journal

Journal: Three Irons Burning: Progress Report 2

Journal by mcgrew

When I was in college, I often took workshops in the summer. Two weeks of eight hour days equaled a normal class for a quarter. It would allow me a couple months vacation.

One was a blacksmithing workshop, where I learned to fashion stuff out of steel, learned a little metallurgy, and learned where a lot of the "old sayings" came from: blacksmithing. One is "too many irons in the fire", which is where this journal's title comes from. I'm working on three books right now.

Comment: Re:Gawd, I love that man (Score 1) 89

by mcgrew (#48634665) Attached to: Dick "Smitty" Cheney

Your experience was much different than mine. I was in college when Carter was President, and he stopped food stamp benefits for poor college kids. I often went hungry. I'd voted for him, voted against his reelection.

Under Reagan I worked for Disney. Reagan slashed the capital gains tax, which unleashed an orgy of hostile corporate takeovers, one of which was unleashed on my employer, who took a big financial hit from its defense and cut everyone's hours. I had trouble paying my bills for a while. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these hostile takeovers and takeover attempts. Of course, a recession followed this but none of the pundits connected the dots and they treated Reagan like a demigod.

We moved back to Illinois when Leila was born, and it took well over a year to find a job. Thanks for the recession, Ronnie.

I got a job finally, in 1987, but half the people I knew were looking for work until the nineties. That was Reagan's fault, but Bush did nothing to alleviate the situation.

There was something about Clinton I just didn't like; he came across as a sleaze and I think I voted Libertarian that election, I don't really remember, but it wasn't a vote for Clinton.

I was wrong about him; he put 100,000 new cops on the street, and my crime-ridden neighborhood got a neighborhood cop and crime plummeted. He signed PWORA which ended generational welfare. I voted for his reelection.

As to Bush II, can you name a single positive thing he accomplished? I can't.

As to Obama, my opinion of his mediocre President went up a little when he started opening Cuba; it's long overdue. We've had relations with China and Russia for years, it should have happened when the Berlin Wall came down and the USSR split up.

Comment: Are You Joking? (Score 3, Interesting) 182

by eldavojohn (#48625017) Attached to: US Links North Korea To Sony Hacking

> It is not known how the US government has determined that North Korea is the culprit

Of course it's known. The same way they established that Iraq had chemical weapons. The method is known as "because we say so".

Are you joking? I thought it was well established that there were chemical weapons in Iraq we just only found weapons designed by us, built by Europeans in factories in Iraq. And therefore the US didn't trumpet their achievements. In the case of Iraqi chemical weapons, the US established that Iraq had chemical weapons not because they said so but because Western countries had all the receipts.

Comment: My pet peeve about modern software (Score 1) 1

by mcgrew (#48624715) Attached to: 0.38 Seconds of Hate

Today's programmers suck. Why in the HELL should holding a mouse over a control for a few seconds activate it? The mouse shouldn't do anything but move the pointer unless I click. And when I click the "file" menu, that's the menu I want. Why does the "edit" menu open if the pointer strays off of "file" after I click "file"?

Is it stupidity of maliciousness? Are today's programmers just trying to piss us off or are they all idiots?

Comment: Re:Wildly premature question (Score 1) 81

by Bruce Perens (#48620117) Attached to: SpaceX To Attempt Falcon 9 Landing On Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship

If we look at jet aircraft, wear depends on the airframe and the engines, and the airframe seems to be the number of pressurize/depressurize cycles as well as the running hours. Engines get swapped out routinely but when the airframe has enough stress it's time to retire the aircraft lest it suffer catastrophic failure. Rockets are different in scale (much greater stresses) but we can expect the failure points due to age to be those two, with the addition of one main rocket-specific failure point: cryogenic tanks.

How long each will be reliable can be established using ground-based environmental testing. Nobody has the numbers for Falcon 9R yet.

Weight vs. reusable life will become a design decision in rocket design.

Loose bits sink chips.

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