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Comment Re:Don't even try (Score 1) 120

The arguments for Nick being Satoshi, other than the fact that he's one of the few dozen people with the skills and interests to do the design right, came down to

  • "he uses this set of technical terms, and so does Satoshi" and
  • "he also uses a few other sets of phrasing in his academic papers that Satoshi uses" and
  • "pay no attention to the US-vs-UK spelling differences."

But the technical terms that the current speculation mentions are all standard terms in the field, like "trusted third party" (which was probably used more 5-10 years ago than today), "timestamp" used as a verb (common), "timestamp service" (there have been some done by crypto people like Stu Haber, and it's a well-understood concept.) The general language choices are mostly using passive phrasing like lots of academic papers do; you could argue that Satoshi is probably either an academic now, or has been one once, or learned English in an academic environment (i.e. learned it in college if he's actually Japanese.)

It's more likely that Satoshi is really Nick than that he's really David Chaum, but unless Nick admits to it in public or suddenly starts using his billions of dollars worth of bitcoins to build an Evil Genius Secret Headquarters, it'd be rude to hassle him about it even if you think it's true. (Also, in the latter case, you'd be saying that Nick isn't capable of maintaining his disguise as a mild-mannered academic while also secretly building his Secret Headquarters, and saying that "We can't tell who's really building this Secret Headquarters so it must be Nick!" doesn't really cut it.)

Comment Form Follows Function; or use Raised Floors (Score 1) 250

If you get the core of the wiring done in a way that supports the actual work that needs to be done, the additional wiring that evolves over time is going to be relatively simple, neat, and save time and money.

If you build the core of the wiring in a way that doesn't fit with the actual communication patterns, you'll quickly end up with a jerry-rigged mess that'll look worse and waste time doing the wiring, plus you'll waste more time arguing with the idiot who forced you to do it wrong.

If neither of those options appeals to you, spend the money on a raised floor, which will not only handle your cooling needs but let you hide the wires.

Comment Statis Spreadsheets, *office, and LAMP (Score 1) 275

Most of the early load on the system was people trying to find out what was available. Instead of building fancy dynamic web pages loading database-generated content, that's really a job for a big static spreadsheet that can be cached (or one spreadsheet per state, or maybe a few per state if they have different plans in different regions.) Sure, the Republicans didn't help this by insisting that everybody's income had to be verified before they could sign up (which complicates the database linkages), but you don't need that for browsing and comparing plans.

And yes, not everybody has a spreadsheet; put OpenOffice or SomeGNUSpreadsheet or whatever out for people to download as well.

The actual sign-up load is under 100 million forms filled out. That's a day or so of processing on a medium-sized server if you implement it well, or several months of never finishing if you do it badly.


RF Safe-Stop Shuts Down Car Engines With Radio Pulse 549

An anonymous reader writes with news of a device built by a company in the U.K. which uses pulses of electromagnetic energy to disrupt the electronic systems of modern cars, causing them to shut down and cut the engine. Here's a description of how it works: "At one end of a disused runway, E2V assembled a varied collection of second-hand cars and motorbikes in order to test the prototype against a range of vehicles. In demonstrations seen by the BBC a car drove towards the device at about 15mph (24km/h). As the vehicle entered the range of the RF Safe-stop, its dashboard warning lights and dials behaved erratically, the engine stopped and the car rolled gently to a halt. Digital audio and video recording devices in the vehicle were also affected.''It's a small radar transmitter,' said Andy Wood, product manager for the machine. 'The RF [radio frequency] is pulsed from the unit just as it would be in radar, it couples into the wiring in the car and that disrupts and confuses the electronics in the car causing the engine to stall.'"

Comment Bad Digital vs. Bad Analog (Score 1) 192

How much range you get depends on how much power the broadcaster is using. Maybe it's that way for you in Australia, but not generally in the US. My mom had a weak analog signal for the channels she cared most about (US public broadcasting), but the sound was ok and if the pictures were fuzzy, most of the programs were just talking heads anyway. When they switched to digital, they were probably putting out less power, but the important problem was that the audio would cut in and out; the pictures were also blocky, but the parts that didn't change actually looked better some times.

Comment Cable can be analog or digital (Score 1) 192

Broadcast TV went to digital a few years ago in the US, but for cable TV it's on a system-by-system basis. My town's Comcast cable went digital a year or so ago; it gave them room to squeeze more channels onto the cable than analog. I didn't have a digital-capable TV at the time, so for me the difference was that I now had to make room for a cable box, which fed analog to my TiVo, and program the TiVo to talk to that cable box. More recently I got an HDTV, so until I do something about the cable box, I've got a choice between getting all the channels on non-HD through the TiVo, or getting a subset of the channels directly from the cable into the TV (but not all of them, and the TV guide information knows about the regular channel numbers, not the digital ones.

Comment Recharging cell phones is easy (Score 1) 582

First of all, even that smartphone has a few hours of talk time, if you stop playing games and doing other battery-burning stuff, though they're not as reliable as old dumb phones were. If you can safely get out of the house, you can charge the phone in your car; if you can't safely get out, you should have called the emergency folks already.

Power for the cell towers is an issue, if the roads are down and the phone company can't refill the generators, but usually they're designed with enough slack to handle that.

Comment POTS is dying (Score 1) 582

I started working for The Phone Company before divestiture, but after the first Electronic Switching Systems, though crossbar and step-by-step were still around for a long time (and may still be, in some rural areas.) Heard on the radio recently that only 30% of households have POTS lines these days; mobile phones and cable TV companies have displaced most of the rest. As far as "civil unrest" goes, your kitchen phone's only useful if you're at home, and you could just as well use your cell phone. Power failures don't bother my cell phone (widespread power system outages can, if the cell towers don't have adequate backup power, but these days that's only a problem if the power and roads are out long enough that refueling generators is a problem, or if somebody's stolen the generator.)

If you really need emergency backup communications, get a CB radio and a 2-meter ham set, and nobody's going to mind too much that you don't have a ham license if you're using it for legitimate emergencies.

Comment Re: Communication isn't stupid. Telephones are. (Score 1) 582

If somebody's on your phone, somebody or something is at your house. In the case of incoming calls at my house, it's usually an answering machine (and most of the calls are either spammers, or robocalls from the pharmacy saying a prescription's ready, or recently robocalls from the electric company saying they're doing street construction and the electricity will be down for an hour, or oops, down for another hour.) Outbound calls are usually Tivo phoning home to get the program data or one of us calling a cellphone to find it.

But the NSA can still tap your POTS line, if you're talking to somebody who's previously gotten a call from somebody who's previously gotten a call from a foreigner.

Comment Video is why RPi, not PogoPlug (Score 1) 95

RPi and BeagleBoneBlack have HDMI video built in (though BBB won't do 1080p and RPi will, because the graphics chip is heftier even though the CPU's a bit slower.) None of the Pogoplugs I've seen have video; they're headless only.

But yeah, if this x86 thing has SATA, that does make some extra applications possible.

Comment A Microcontroller IS a computer (Score 1) 95

No, it's not a blazingly fast computer, but both the Arduino and RPi are computers. If you want a built-in graphics chip, no, Arduino doesn't have one of those, but you can still drive simple displays. If you want to listen to sensor wires and turn on LEDs, either one will work, though the Arduino and BeagleBoneBlack have a lot more connector pins than the RPi, but you can do microcontroller jobs with either one. If you want an operating system, yeah, Arduino isn't going to run anything very sophisticated, but it's still more powerful than the 8-bit computers my friends were using in the late 70s and early 80s. (Not me - I was using PDP-11s, VAXes, and mainframes back then, or vacuum tubes; I'm only now catching up with this retro integrated circuit stuff :-)

Comment Much slower than Beaglebone Black (Score 2) 95

The main problem with Raspberry Pi is that it's an earlier ARM spec; the new Beaglebone Black is ~$45 and has a newer ARM version so you get more choice of operating systems (I've read that RPi can't do Ubuntu, but BBB can, though reviewers differ on whether RPi can also.) On the other hand, the RPi has a more powerful graphics chip, so it can do full 1080p, which the BBB can't (which answers the question of which one I'm going to get to put next to my TV.) BBB has a 1 GHz CPU and a lot more I/O pins than RPi, but so far I haven't been doing anything where that matters, and I can use the Arduino to play with sensors.

Comment All the Fiating was done Up Front (Score 1) 537

Yes, it's a fiat currency, called into being by somebody, not backed by anything, only tradeable for what other people will offer you. But the important difference from government fiat currencies is that it's designed so there's a limit on how much of it can be made, unlike traditional fiat currencies which were limited by the amount of cheap metal available for coinage, or modern fiat currencies which are limited by the number of zeroes you can fit on a piece of paper, i.e. limited only by the greed of the government and the people's unwillingness to overthrow them. It's not like Zimbabwe dollars which have had at least 30 zeroes dropped of them, leaving what a friend of mine referred to as "homeopathic quantities of money". Sure, Satoshi acquired a bunch of the coins for himself up front, and potentially he could still be mining more, but the number of them is never going to get above 22 million or whatever.

Bitcoins could still lose most of their value, like those once-valuable Beanie Babies, but they can't hyperinflate.

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A fail-safe circuit will destroy others. -- Klipstein