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Comment Human evolutionary niches (Score 1) 159

Actually there's been some research suggesting we had a niche for a while scavenging leopard kills, back when we were just apes. Leopards tend to cache their kills in trees so they can eat some now and save the rest for later, and we could steal some of that, especially since opposable thumbs were good for cracking open skulls to get the yummy braaainzzz. So when your cat's begging for scraps from your dinner, give him some, his ancestors earned it.

Comment Finding the troll! (Score 1) 159

Patent trolls can't hide quite as well as spammers can, because somebody has to actually own the patent, though they can wrap their trolling in a shell corporation that doesn't have any assets because it passes any winnings on to its owners or parent corporation or something.

I once tracked a spammer to an address in Greenville Delaware, which is the office of The Company Corporation, the canonical place to get $99 Delaware corporations, so I figured it was a lost cause; their only assets would be a file folder in a lawyer's office, and if I sued them they'd just go bankrupt and have to spend another $99 getting a new shell corp.

Comment Con-men and the poker rule (Score 2) 173

The poker rule says that when you sit down at the table, you look for the sucker. If you can't find them, it's probably you.*

If Carreon's a con man, he's spectacularly bad at it, failed the poker rule from the beginning, and deserves any education he's gotten, which unfortunately seems to be "not much".

(* The Questionable Content version of the sucker rule is to look for the drunkest person at the party, and if you can't tell, it's you, and you should stop for now.)

Comment Weak reception - Bad Digital Fails Badly (Score 1) 410

Mom lives in an area where the signals from the TV stations she cares about are pretty weak.

Bad analog TV isn't good, the sound's a bit noisy and the picture's a bit fuzzy, but you can still use it, especially to listen to talking heads on PBS.

Bad digital fails badly - the sound cuts out for long periods, and the pictures start going blocky then pretty much BSOD on you.

She could get a few stations, but not the ones she wanted, and we tried rabbit ears, then antenna inside, then an antenna outside, and it wasn't improving things enough to be worth the trouble, so she got low-end cable.

Comment Out of Band Modems for router monitoring (Score 2) 410

I do managed security services, and we use modems to manage routers, firewalls, intrusion detection, and similar devices. It's not the primary management mechanism, but you need to be able to talk to the console when the Internet connection's not working, or when your box wasn't staged correctly so it doesn't have the right IP address, or when the box has gotten too hosed to do anything other than power-cycle it. At more permanent locations we'll install networks of terminal servers so we can get serial connections to the console ports without dealing with POTS lines, but usually at customer sites it's dial. And getting customers to connect the "line" side of a modem to the wall and the "phone" side to the router's console port has gotten a lot tougher the last few years.

I doubt it's still done this way, but for a long time the 4ESS phone switches had 56 kbps X.25 satellite connections as backup management. 56k was still tolerably fast, X.25 wasn't obsolete yet, and satellite was a way to get a connection when backhoes or floods had taken out land-based connections.

Comment Re:Mother-In-Law (Score 1) 410

My mom still uses dialup. Her vision's not good enough to do anything with the web, and dialup's plenty to collect her email, just as it always has been. Drives my siblings crazy when they go visit; they occasionally have to go out to Starbucks for their wifi fix. (My wife has a cellular wireless frob, so she's ok not having wifi.) Mom could get low-end cable modem wireless service without too much trouble, because she had to break down and get cable after the digital TV transition happened.

Comment 300-1200 transition was early-mid-1980s (Score 2) 410

At least for CRT terminals and Unix-capable computers (PDP-11s, Vaxen, and most of the Motorola-based machines), 1200 baud took over from 300 baud pretty quickly. We still had 300 baud paper terminals like the TI Silent 700, and people with Commodore 64s or TRS-80s might be using 300 baud, but otherwise 300 was mostly gone by the mid-80s. I last used a Silent 700 around 1991, dug out from the storage closet at the lab because I was working on a project with a company that wouldn't let us connect to the outside world from their LAN, but their security people were ok with a Silent 700 on their phone network, figuring it couldn't compromise anything. It was an old and clunky way to read mail, but it sort of worked.

There were exceptions - the Visa credit-card protocols ran at 300 baud, because it was much faster to sync up at 300 (3-4 seconds) and send less than 100 characters of data than to spend 45-60 seconds syncing up 1200/9600/14400 and send anything.

Comment Shoe Bomber isn't why you have to take shoes off (Score 1) 325

Sure, the TSA's "be afraid, be very afraid" and "be compliant sheep" commercials while you're waiting in line tell you that, but they were making people take their shoes off at lots of airports before the shoe bomber. Why? Because lots of mens' dress shoes have metal shanks in them, and they set off metal detectors a lot, so they were slowing down lines dealing with them. By making everybody take their shoes off before that, they could avoid the problem, just like making people take their belts off avoids the delays from large belt buckles setting off metal detectors. The shoe bomber was just an excuse to expand the rule to everybody.

Before they started doing it, I tended to wear Teva sandals, which are all non-metallic, and I've lived in places where lots of people wear flipflops, but the airports that had randomly started doing the "it's always been the rule" rule about taking shoes off would sometimes make us take our shoes off anyway, even before the shoe bomber.

Comment Alarm-B-Gone! (Score 1) 153

It's not much different from one of those TV-B-Gone remote controls that turn of TVs, except they're programmed to run through all the common TV shutoff codes and he figured out which one he needed for his particular device. (They're basically just a microcontroller, IR LED, battery, and switch.)

As far as "there's an app for that" goes, most of the TV remote control apps I've seen cost a few dollars, just because they can, and because Apple encourages you to charge money to use their app store.

Comment False Positives and Dogs (Score 1) 153

My downstairs apartment neighbor has a dog. Always barks when I'm going up or down the stairs, sometimes before.

I used to live in a house with a driveway that was right next to my neighbor's, separated only by a low fence and a few feet of grass. The dog was usually outside, and considered my driveway to be part of his territory, so he'd bark if I went out to the car or drove up and got out of it.

Comment Evil Things RDRAND Could Do (Score 3, Informative) 566

Yes, RDRAND could do evil things. It could go play Towers of Hanoi when you execute it. It could Halt and Catch Fire. It could email your MAC address to the KGB. So could any other instruction, if Intel wanted to be malicious, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the register pool.

If the NSA has convinced Intel to do evil things with RDRAND, the most likely one would be to hand out low-quality entropy when claiming that it's high-quality. It's still useful, and like any entropy source, it shouldn't be the only entropy source you use, and you shouldn't use it without hashing it together with a bunch of other hopefully-not-broken entropy. But it's still useful, and as somebody said, the NSA isn't your only enemy.

Especially when you're starting up a machine (physical or virtual), you really need good entropy and you don't have a lot of sources available yet. If you don't trust RDRAND, or even if you do, hash it together with some secret password and the clock and whatever else you've got.

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