It was a tough decision to part with my laptop, PDA and mobile but I decided to take my chances. It only really then dawned on me the extent to which I depend on these items when I was waiting for hours to clear security ... While I could have found a public pay phone, all my phone numbers are stored in my mobile & PDA and I actually remember very few of them. I could speak to people, after somehow getting their numbers, but they could not call me back. All the usual channels that are normally available to me to get information about a delay were unavailable to me - no web access or even SMS messages to friends with access. You just have to stand in a queue like a sheep.
As has been reported, items allowed were limited to wallets/travel documents and baby/health-specific products. However, many of us brought books and papers with us also. Interestingly, Duty Free shops were open airside - although I didn't see if any electronics shops were. The focus this morning was really on what can be brought from landside to airside and they didn't seem to have thought about what you buy airside so much (although I would speculate that electronic items bought airside do not pose such a threat in that terrorists would use pre-modified devices to detonate explosives). The search at security was a remove shoes, belts etc. job - rather like being in the US :)
"First, congratulations to the Security Services for foiling this plot," writes reader ettlz, before raising a few relevant questions:
Did they need to detain someone for 90 days without trial to prevent this disaster? Would ID cards have helped?
And how long before I can travel with my notebook onto an aeroplane again, as we all know a cargo hold is no place for a lithium ion battery?
Is anyone else more angry about the hassle this causes, than anything else? Terrorists spread terror, so they've hit their mark. By being foiled the plot does an amazing amount of damage on its own, spreading FUD.
I don't feel any safer by having my liquids/toenail clippers/pocket vibe/ipod/laptop taken away from me, when there are plenty of other ways to kill/be killed that airlines have no control over. I am more angry at terrorists for making American privacy close(er) to extinction than anything else. With a "war" on "terror" there are going to be casualties, my water consumption/music listening/laptop using/game playing/phone usage habits shouldn't be at the top of the list.
Why does the scapegoat have to be the common citizen?
Reader v1 left one of hundreds of comments on the missing original recordings of the first moon walk, which NASA would like to recover and safely archive before their inevitable deterioration past the point of rescue.
It would not surprise me if these tapes have been in some very rich person's "personal museum" for the last several years, the result of a quiet and large payoff to someone that had access to the archives. Things like this don't just "disappear," they "grow legs."
Ninwa questions the significance of the claim made in the linked article that "The only known equipment on which the original analogue tapes can be decoded is at a Goddard centre set to close in October, raising fears that even if they are found before they deteriorate, copying them may be impossible.":
Is the article honestly trying to suggest that NASA couldn't reverse engineer a format and design a player for it if the original player was lost? I personally find that a little hard to believe. It just sounds like a convenience excuse to create a "give-up searching" date. In my opinion these tapes are very important to our country's history. It's almost shameful to me to think they could have lost them so easily.
According to reader Detritus, "The format isn't a big mystery, it's IRIG 106 if anyone cares" -- but that's not the problem, he says:
The problem is that as part of the continuing budget crunch at NASA, made worse by the need to scrounge money from the existing budget for new tasks like a Shuttle replacement and going to Mars, many activities and facilities are being cut or eliminated. The lab that can handle these old tapes, the Data Evaluation Lab at Goddard, has lost its funding. That means that it will be closed at the end of this fiscal year. The equipment goes into storage or is surplused. The people have to find other jobs or be laid off or retire.
Building a recorder from scratch would be insanely expensive. These recorders cost anywhere from $50-100K when they were new and being manufactured in quantity.
It's easy to say that "they" should keep and maintain the hardware, catalog and store the tapes in climate controlled warehouses, and do all the other things needed to preserve the data for future generations. That doesn't pay the bills. Just storing a tape can cost a dollar or more a year. That doesn't sound too bad until you realize that a single spacecraft can easily generate tens of thousands of tapes. Another problem is that at $100-200 for a new reel of tape, there has always been a large incentive to recycle and reuse tapes for current missions.
Reader Aufero has no trouble believing that if NASA did have to reverse engineer the format, it would run into more than a bit of bureaucratic barbed wire:
If NASA did it, it would require five years, fifteen administrators, and fifty million dollars. The quarterly funding reviews alone (much less the reviews of the reviews) would take up more time than the project, and the funding would be proxmired halfway through to pay for a bridge to an island owned by a friend of some congressman. If they ever find the tapes they should hand them over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, which would probably have them transferred to more durable media in six months at a cost of $30,000.
The problem of preservation sure isn't one confined to NASA, though: reader drDugan writes with an insightful comment on long-term storage of historically important but voluminous data:
I was recently at a meeting in Bethesda at the NIH and heard Don Lindberg, the director of the national library of medicine talk about long term information storage.
After going through all the normal stuff about media degrading and backups, etc -- he made a really interesting point: The only way to really ensure REALLY LONG storage - like tens of thousands of years is to keep having people accessing information. The point he made is that all the storage technology will continue to evolve, and it's only the information we stop accessing that will fall into danger of getting lost.
I thought it was a good point.
Why on earth do we not have access to the original data from the Moon landings? If we did, lots of people would have a copy around. Silly secretive state.
On the announcement that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had issued a strongly worded recommendation that Windows users update their computers with the latest security patches from Microsoft, tholomyes writes that the suggestion is a good one:
This update is as important as it gets. There are vulnerabilities in every major MS program which allow remote code execution, which means that as soon as the exploit is discovered, it can take advantage of holes all over your system.
Affected programs and services:
- MS Server Services (TCP 139 and 445)
- DNS servers
- Internet Explorer
- Outlook Express
- Microsoft Management Console
- HTML Help
- Visual Basic
- Microsoft Office
- Windows kernel
I'm not too surprised that they're trying to push awareness of this patch. It was the lack of patching several weeks beforehand that allowed Code Red to do as much damage as it did.
Many comments suggested that the Department of Homeland Security's motives for issuing its urgent suggestion to patch systems were less than admirable, if not not downright conspiratorial; in response to by ExE122's suggestion that "monitoring 10 million computers to find out what porn sites people like to visit isn't [a government priority]," Shaper_pmp offered a level-headed reason not to discount such suspicions:
How about monitoring 10 million phone calls?
And with a handy backdoor installed monitoring computers would be even easier to automate.
I'm not saying they have, merely that your pooh-poohing of the whole idea is a bit baseless when they've already been caught doing essentially the same thing in a different medium.
[...] The only way this makes sense to me is if you're saying conspiracy theories shouldn't attract tinfoil hat accusations any more... because everyone knows they're watching you, lying to you and breaking the law all the damn time?
Reader twofidyKidd outlines the tension that makes it hard to decide between tempting conspiracies and comforting trust:
The real problem is that our cynicism makes viewing realistic possibilities hard to imagine, and our tools [of] logical deduction sort of seem to fail. Occam's razor can't be used in a situation like this because time has proved over and again that the interests of people at the government level aren't always in the interest of people at the constituency level. This is one of those times that we (the Slashdot conflux) would like to imagine that someone (like Lawrence Lessig or Brad Templeton) has finally said something to an official that he finally understood and as a result has taken this action, but since we often have a hard time getting our own management to listen to the good ideas we put forth, we're hesitant to believe such a thing has happened. In fact, given the recent history of our government, we're much more inclined to consider a sinister purpose. The DHS press release has many of the "hidden agenda" trappings, like specifically indicating which patch to apply, as well as the call of immediacy. ...
Just to put things in perspective; right now, Britons are unloading all liquids and gels into trash cans prior to boarding U.S.-bound planes, while we're wondering if the U.S. government is acting in our best interest by adamantly suggesting we patch our Windows computers.
Many thanks to the readers (especially those quoted above) whose comments went into each of these conversations.