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Comment Re:Keep one in space (Score 3, Interesting) 244

I'm no expert here, but it's my understanding that the shuttles really aren't intended for such long-duration use. Even the Soyuz capsules have a limited shelf-life. You've got cryogenic liquids powering the fuel cells, corrosive propellants in the thrusters, and who knows what else that won't keep. And I'd assume that you have to keep the temperature inside regulated to some degree, which might take a significant amount of power.

In short, that's a whole lot of complex hardware to maintain for a task that could be accomplished by something much simpler - like the existing Soyuz capsules.

Comment Re:When will you be able to buy kits on Think Geek (Score 1) 162

I can't speak for Think Geek, but I'm quietly selling balloon payload computers now. The current board rev was intended for internal testing only, but there was enough demand that we built some extras and sold them. The next version will be more flexible and will let the user run their own code on an Arduino and maintain separation from the critical tracking tasks. For now, it's really almost too simple for educational uses. With the callsign pre-set, you only have to pop in a couple of lithium batteries, plug in the antenna, and switch it on. You get position, velocity, altitude, temperature, battery voltage, and barometric pressure, and a radio range of maybe 100 miles at altitude. It's about the size and weight of a deck of cards.

You'll still need a ham radio license, though. And you'll need to scrounge up a balloon and helium. I'd like to be able to put together a kit that would use disposable helium tanks from Wal-Mart, but even with two tanks you could only lift a very light payload.

I've got another prototype on my bench that has slow-scan TV capability to send back pictures over the air (in old-school analog modes) but I haven't had time to set up a proper ground station to test it.

Comment Re:Easy solution (Score 2, Informative) 738

"Most favored nation" makes it sound like we're awarding them BFF status or something. Go look it up:

"In international trade, MFN status (or treatment) is awarded by one nation to another. It means that the receiving nation will be granted all trade advantages -- such as low tariffs -- that any other nation also receives. In effect, a nation with MFN status will not be discriminated against and will not be treated worse than any other nation with MFN status."

Comment Re:Easy solution (Score 5, Insightful) 738

Do you have ANY idea what this would mean? It's not just the Walmarts of the world that deal with China.

I run a very small company - just a couple of geeks in a little office/warehouse. We do enough business for both of us to pay the rent and put food on the table, with the occasional mention in Make or hackaday as a side benefit. We take pride in doing as much of our work domestically as we can and sourcing locally whenever possible, but I can tell you we wouldn't last 3 months without trade with China.

Global supply chains are far too interconnected for something so drastic. When the economy tanked in 2008, despite the fact that we still had plenty of orders coming in we almost went under when we couldn't get the parts we needed. Even when *our* suppliers were OK, if one of *their* suppliers was in trouble we felt it.

People seem to have this weird idea that there's some sort of China, Inc. that just sits over there on the other side of the Pacific building plastic widgets to cram down our throats via Walmart. That's not how it works. China's far from blameless, but "close our markets to Chinese exports" is right up there with "nuke Baghdad" for brilliant foreign policy.

Comment Re:Should they make a deal (Score 1) 452

"They need to use him for breaking into stuff, it's what he's good at apparently."

But he's NOT good at keeping his mouth shut and not getting caught, which is a bigger requirement for that sort of work. He might find work for a private firm, but no sensible government agency would hire him.

Comment Re:So... (Score 2, Funny) 647

"Maybe the guy who pushed this rule is actually addicted to porn and wants to create a giant archive of it all, print it out and then roll around in the pages."

Dude... all you need for that is Usenet and a printer.

And on a completely unrelated note, make sure you wear gloves while refilling your printer's continuous ink supply system. Looks like I murdered a freakin' clown...

Comment Misleading statistics? (Score 1) 368

I don't have the figures for the US, but check out this graph of the number of licensed hams in Japan from 1953 to 2006:


So yes, maybe up a bit from the early 1980s, but down by more than half from 1995. I suspect you'd see the same trend elsewhere.

I don't mean to be discouraging about the hobby - in fact, I make a living in large part from designing and producing ham related equipment. And really, I think it's possible that the hobby as a whole is getting more technical and more experimentation-oriented again. Short-range VHF/UHF voice communications and long-range HF voice and Morse code were the main reasons many people got into the hobby in the past, and now ubiquitous cell phones, email, and cheap long distance calling have eliminated most of the draw for the sort of ham who might be pejoratively described as an 'appliance operator'. Those who bother to get licensed these days are more likely to be geeks and DIYers.

If you use the FCC spectrum auctions of recent years as a yardstick, then the spectrum hams have available to them for free is worth billions of dollars. If you have any interest at all in hardware hacking or emergency preparedness, it's well worth the trouble to get your ham license.

Comment Re:They already did, and it made things worse (Score 2, Interesting) 122

I'd always assumed the idea of "NSA agents" was a myth, too. But if you visit the National Cryptologic Museum, there's a memorial there - apparently a duplicate of the one at Fort Meade - honoring fallen cryptologists. I seem to remember that a bunch of the names were actually just stars, because their identities were still secret. From the museum's website:

"The Memorial Wall was designed by an NSA employee and is 12 feet wide and eight feet high, centered with a triangle. The words "They Served in Silence," etched into the polished stone at the cap of the triangle, recognize that cryptologic service has always been a silent service - secretive by its very nature. Below these words, the NSA seal and the names of 153 military and civilian cryptologists who have given their lives in service to their country are engraved in the granite. The names are at the base of the triangle because these cryptologists and their ideals - dedication to mission, dedication to workmate, and dedication to country - form the foundation for cryptologic service."

I have to say that 153 sounds like an awfully high death toll if we're talking about desk workers.

Comment Re:Modern Fingerprint Scanners dont keep prints (Score 1) 578

It's a stand-alone time clock. You can buy them at Office Depot. I've never seen one with a mechanism for getting any sort of hash or minutiae data from it. It's certainly conceivable, but why would anyone go to that trouble? Anyone that intent on violating your privacy could pick up a latent print from some other object much easier. It doesn't take much imagination to come up with some very innocent-seeming task that would let you get a full set of prints from a job candidate without them ever suspecting anything.

Personally, I'd trust an employer less with my social security number - at least with the time clock I could be reasonably certain no one was going to accidentally release that information.

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