* Posts by Dan

28 publicly visible posts • joined 30 Mar 2007

Leaping sturgeon menace 'Swanee'


Revenge of the fish!

Its clear that the sturgeon are pissed off about how they were exploited by industrialists and poachers and they have finally organized enough to give some of it back.

Actually my theory is that the noise and disturbance of things like jet skis spooks the fish into evasive behavior- which sometimes turns out to be exactly the opposite.

Just ban jetskis and recreational speedboats from natural areas. People are not going to see much nature from a jetski anyway so they might as well do it out at sea, in designated areas, where its less likely stuff like this will happen. But this is coming from a diehard canoe enthusiast.

US Stingray style sub motherships test missiles


The IT angle

They have computers on the ship. And in the missiles. And I bet lots of the people on the ship own PCs as well or have family that do.

MIT eggheads build 'human-robot relationships'


Three words:

Useful... Commercial... Application.

Looks like the MIT people are missing about 2/3 of that. Maybe more.

I don't need a hug machine, I have a girlfriend. Of course that also means I don't need a robotic vacuum cleaner.

Online games turn British man into hero


Victimless? Yeah right.

There have been plenty armed robberies where the criminal- all 'logic' aside- shoots/assaults/kidnaps a fully complying victim who had just handed over cash/car keys/etc. It happens in enough of these cases to be considered uncommon but not exceptional.

Basically, trying what that dude in the story did was crazy. If he knew that the criminals had a gun, that makes him double-crazy. But since the people he was trying to protect lived, at some level it must have worked. For all we know his sudden appearance, or the criminals' fear that the shot fired may have been heard by the cops, spooked the bandits enough that they decided to flee rather than try to murder the other witnesses.

And that's why I like to carry gadgets like expandable batons on my commute. Enough stuff happens on the public transit here that its advantageous to have something that will put a troublemaker down five times faster than empty hands alone, but still not legally be considered "lethal force".

Mercury astronauts join al-Qaeda?


WTF with the title?

If thats all it takes to join the terrorists (looking scruffy, bearded, and in self-fashioned survival clothing) I'm going to spend less time outside and more time playing World of Warcraft before I get shipped off to Guatanamo.

Actually, I end up scruffy and bearded when I do that anyway, but also get fat enough that no one will mistake me for anything other than an American.

Seriously, you'd think there might have been a more descriptive title for this story.

US Army funds Prius-style hybrid battlewagon


Whats in a name

"Aggressor" seems like a fine name for a lightweight, longrange vehicle, at least as a codename for a prototype... whether the army even buys into this vehicle and still decides to keep that name is very much up for grabs. I bet they name it after someone famous, like the Bradley vehicle or the Patton tank (and both of those guys were pretty damn aggressive, I've heard). Aggression wins wars, there is no way around that, but it doesn't imply whether the war is just or not...

And the Crusader howitzer is more likely to have been named for the Allied liberation of Europe than the knights-and-horses version (assuming its named after any event at all, not just a cool term)- in the immortalized words of Gen. Eisenhower: "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade... ...The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you".

Dell deploys overclocked, liquid-cooled gaming PC



As a hobbyist modder, I'm going to say thats one of the ugliest cases I've ever seen.

But then again I've done a robin's-egg-blue-with-pokemon-decals theme to an iMac once so I should probably just STFU.

Shaken student recounts geese mugging ordeal


I hate geese

We have too many Canadian Geese here in New England. They stay year round because people feed them, and get quite aggressive if they think you have food. For kids in the park its scary when a dozen or so loud honking hissing things come at you.

Every time I see them I just wish I could legally take my sword and decap one or two to take home and cook.



The Bastard has backup plans

The BOFH can never be defeated because he always thinks a dozen steps ahead of everyone else.

For example, everything valuable that was stolen was probably insured.. or at least will be as soon as he get to a keyboard.. for three or four times its real value or so.

For all we know Dave and John are working with the BOFH for this very reason.

Or the BOFH set the whole thing up simply to steal the PFY's plasma TV.

The only thing we know for sure is a bastard always has a backup plan.

Souvenir coin sparked nano spy alert


Canada is closer

Canada is closer than Mexico because the border is longer.

So who exactly looks like an idiot here? A security contractor who is under instructions to report anything even the slightest bit worrisome? A person who sees composite layers and wire mesh on an unusual coin- that might resemble microelectronics? Administrators who would rather be faulted for being too careful, rather than too lazy?

Of course, hindsight is perfect. But spy devices have turned up in weirder ways before. Like the decorative carved wooden plaque the Soviets gave the US Embassy in the 1960's that had a passive listening device that was almost undetectable.

Cash-for-grade probe may result in felony charges for 84 students


Seen it before

I used to have that kind of access when I worked IT for the university at the same time that I was a student there, at least for one department. It seems like such a massive conflict of interest, but honestly no-one really could have bribed me to do something as blatently disgusting as faking grades when I worked hard for my own. But I know if I had been inclined to do that I could have found half a dozen people who would have paid me to do that.

We need to take back higher education and put the values back into it. Universal values, like honesty, hard work, and responsibility. Cheating, illegal drug use, alcohol poisoning and accidents caused by, reckless behavior and vandalism... I'm sure we've all seen too much of it. Schools should just throw out students guilty of such behavior- no "suspended for the semester" crap- and possibly join other colleges in blacklisting the worst offenders. I'm sure plenty of administrators agree with me on principle... but would rather keep "problem" students around as long as possible to keep recieving a few more tuition checks.

Incidents like this one don't just come out of nowhere. The dishonest student employees, and those who bribed them, most likely had a habit of dishonesty from the university letting them get away with all sorts of minor offenses- undetected or unpunished.

Student expelled for high school Counter-Strike map


Sword ownership

I just checked the Texas state law, which says its illegal to give, sell, or offer a sword to someone under 18, except with WRITTEN parental consent... so technically at least in this case the swords were evidence of a violation of law that may have taken place. Even though it defies common sense its still within the technical power and responsibility of the law.

Such a stupid incident... its not paranoia, just political correctness gone berserk. I'm sure no one in authority is literally scared by this kid, just worried that someone else (parent, teacher, other kid) might be *gasp* OFFENDED by his actions and threaten their job security. The first comment I invariably get from "non-sword" people who see my sword collection (of functional, historical reproductions) is something along the lines of "I can't believe you can have that stuff! You could scare people". The next thing I almost always hear though is "Can I hold one" : )

Chinese translation software blamed in racist sofa outrage


A toll on the family

Highway tollboth attendents constantly "take a toll on my family" that is both a financial and emotional burden.

Gimme some lawyers! In suits! And I want some laws passed to stop these road predators from taking a toll on my family!

Granted, its not a very LARGE financial or emotional burden, but here in the USA everyone has the right to be hyper-sensitive and if people can't respect our right to be that way its hypersensitivity-racist-discriminanation-prejudicism.

All satire aside, I wish people would stop using the "toll on the family" phrase so... indiscriminately.

Staff use of Web 2.0 is unseen threat, survey says


An unknown risk

The problem of informational leakage is basically the same as email. But I bet more companies are aware of the danger of leaks via email (and thus they monitor and retain emails) than are aware of the same risk through "social media" sites.

ISP ejects whistle-blowing student


Agreement with Andrew

It sounds like that kid wanted to make a name for himself with this and decided, rather unprofessionally, to show off in public- the whole overly cliched lone rogue 'hacker' against the large corporation bit, rather than the discreet professional type who works with the company not against it.

Speaking of restraint he's lucky not to get sued by the ISP.

Facial recognition 'proven' as airport crowd filter


Arrested? Hardly

Lets not get hysterical about this. Realistically, no one would be arrested on the spot by SWAT teams just because the automated system singled them out. Instead it would be layered with existing security- an innocent person falsely flagged by the system would have to, at worst, show a passport and get "wanded" by security- just like what happens when a guard randomly selects someone out of the line for the extended security proceeding.

Its much like security people picking out travellers that look suspicious, just automated. Me, I always get picked out of the line at the airport. It must be the hair, or that I look just vaguely middle eastern enough to trigger a response from the paranoid.

US nailguns itself towards extinction


Stupidity is universal.

Does the American System inherently encourage the kind of dumbness that causes nailgun accidents? Probably, but I've seen and heard of people doing plenty of equivalently stupid things in the UK... like a British biology PhD student slicing his hand open with the folding knife I brought with me from the USA on a trip. He was holding it too gingerly and fumbled it because he was scared it was going to bite him or something, not having had any experience working with knives or tools growing up apparently.

Really, I wish someone would explain to kids in school that every time they get hurt by not reading the manual or asking for help with something, an angel falls from heaven and burns up in the atmosphere. And causes global warming.

P.S. I'm not going to get a letter from the British Government asking me to pay a fine now that I've admitted to bringing a savage, deadly pocketknife into their peaceful country, right?


Never underestimate the lengths stupid people will go to

Mr. Holmes is basically correct, a proper nailgun has a catch on the front that has to be pressed against a solid surface before one can pull the trigger to fire a nail. However, in the two years or so when I built theater sets, I've seen and heard of many people endangering themselves and others through stupidity.

Some nailguns will let you pull the trigger back even when the gun is not pressed against a surface- and if the trigger is back the gun will fire whenever the tip presses against something. This is popular with some contractors because you just hold down the trigger and tap the front of the gun against whatever you need to nail, over and over again. Its fast, but dangerous- one stumble on the job, and the tip of the gun hits a human body instead of the intended target.

Its also not hard to imagine how a technically skilled (but otherwise stupid) person could jam or modify the catch on the front so the nailgun will fire any time the trigger is pulled.

Finally, I once saw a kid with a nailgun horsing around and pointing it at his co-worker like he was going to shoot him. It doesn't matter that its not connected to the compressor, it doesn't matter that it has a safety, it doesn't matter that there are no nails in it.

I don't think its a DIY problem, I think its a lack of sense problem. Read the user guide, know your equipment, and know your limitations, and no one gets hurt.

Swiss turn Titanic into timepieces



Why do they call it the "Titanic-DNA" series?

Are they implying that traces of the passengers are on the steel from the ship now in the watch?

Since neither ships nor watches normally are built with DNA.

Or maybe its a stupid attempt to make the whole thing sound sophisticated.

Wanna copy of Windows XP next year? Forget it


another Mac comment

I have to agree, based on my experiences in support, with what Clay Garland says about trying to get OSX/XP running on old yet operational hardware.

OSX does, XP doesn't.

Right now I'm running the latest OSX on a six year old Powerbook, alongside OS 9 for a few very specific legacy applications. When 10.5 comes out ( and even 10.6 in a few years) I have no doubt I will be able to run them on this laptop. Could XP run on an equivalent Dell laptop this old? Maybe. Could Vista, two years from now? I'm willing to bet the answer is no.

And I've been able to still get support for Mac OS 9 out of Apple, even though its been officially binned for the last few years?

Given that hardware seems to have been getting not only faster but more reliable over the last decade, I'd like to see Microsoft be a little more proactive at not only maintaining support for older versions of Windows, but also optimizing new versions to be more inclusive of older equipment.

China cracks down on net porn


Ever get this feeling...

...that eventually the Chinese government is going to be like, "#$!^ this, lets just make the Internet illegal in China for everyone but top party officials and intellectual property pirates that we say we hate but operate with our tacit approval"?

How much do security breaches cost anyway?


The cost to who?

"Information security breaches cost anywhere between $90 to $305 per lost record"

I wonder what the cost to the CUSTOMER is when this happens... but I can guess the likely range is from "nil" to "life altering".

"TJX costs would only exceed $1bn if widespread incidents of identity theft associated with the breach forced the retail giant to slash costs and mount a costly marketing drive in a bid to woo punters back into stores."

Isn't it comforting to know that nowhere in that plan is the compensation of hypothetical victims of corporate blundering?

Plants may be red and yellow in galactic boonies


Any color

Plants are basically the result of an ancient symbiotic relationship between heterotrophic eukaryotes and the photosynthetic autotrophs that were their prey. Its a little bit of a stretch to assume that extraterrestrial bodies would even have organisms that are like plants in form as well as function.

In our lakes and oceans we see plenty of single-celled organisms not too dissimilar from the ancient precursors to green chloroplasts, that come in every color you can imagine. Was it just the throw of the dice that the first plants were green, rather than using a more effective pigment with a different color? Some plants, such as the Azolla water fern, even form a secondary level of symbiosis with organisms that have different pigments than the plant itself, in order to capture an even greater slice of the spectrum.

Additionally, in many environments light energy is not the most important limiting factor for plant growth. Rather, nutrient supply, water availability, and growth space are frequently more restricted than light, suggesting that a more efficient pigment may not give a selective advantage after all. In fact, most plants have red and brown pigments to protect them from the bleaching effects of excess sunlight, such as copper beeches.

Light energy is so available in the universe that it seems almost inevitable that any planet with life on its surface (as opposed to chemotrophs in sea vents and the like) will have life forms that can harness that energy. But as we see on Earth, they most likely will exhibit a wide range of forms and colors.

Shuttle debuts firey hued, liquid cooled gaming PC


No cred

One mod I never get bored of doing is painting my computers. This takes all the fun out of it.

I bet we are going to see a lot of these in college dorm rooms of kids who took 1 intro to comp sci course as a requirement for their liberal arts major and now consider themselves "leet supa haxor masters".

Avoiding the 'rogue power user' problem


Power User :(

In every job I've ever worked at in the science and medical fields where I was NOT hired as a computer person, I end up being the local "power user" that everyone brings their problems to first (I have a background in IT support). I get asked to look at things because since I am already there, it is cheaper and quicker than making a proper request to IT or wherever.

Like Mr. Glynn says, it sucks. People even bring in their own, personal, computers to work and expect me to take a look at them. When I need to call IT, they brush me off then return the same conclusion to a technical problem that I do- three weeks later. If I try to make a request to buy a replacement part to keep our equipment working, management tells me that I was not hired to do support and I need to wait two months for IT to do it. The reason I put up with this stuff? Because keeping my own gear running is faster and easier than trusting the official people to do it for me. And I'm too nice not to help other people in the same situation if I can.

As I was typing this I just got a call on my cell phone. I am not kidding. Someone with a "dead laptop" issued to them by the University. The solution was to make sure it was plugged in and the power button was pushed. It would be inconsiderate to have thrown this poor clueless user to the mercy of the Helpdesk, but really can we get some IT training opportunities for people like this?

Intelligent machines expert heads for the hills



Cool, a knife comment. Kabars are for the most part inexpensive and not very durable in my experience. At least here in the USA there are so many other kinds of knives available that are far better for the same price.

And what are you doing with just ONE knife anyway? In a civil emergency or collapse it would be better to have two or three good ones (and maybe a couple more for your friends who forgot theirs).


Collapse or change?

"In terms of the collapse of civilization a better skill set could be acquired spending a summer homeless and without resources in a major city."

I met a philosophy professor at a scientific conference once that did this to her graduate students.

OK, on with the comment. IMO it seems unlikely that every oil supply on the planet will simply go "poof" and dry up overnight at some point in the future. Instead, as fields deplete over time, the cost of crude oil will rise, thus allowing the exploitation of reserves that currently are not economical to tap. As things made of oil (like petrol/gasoline and plastics) also become more expensive, market pressure will drive research into things like higher fuel economy cars, alternative fuels, and organic polymers.

But just in case civilization does collapse I'm going to keep the rifle, knife, first aid supplies, and lighter ready for action.

US military tests ground-penetrating monster bomb


If you need to blow up a bunker...

...better to do it with a high-tech conventional explosive, than a small nuclear device.

Easier on the environment, easier on the people who might want to live in that area again someday. Of course it would be better to not have to blow up stuff at all, but as long as its necessary we might as well do it as cleanly as possible.