* Posts by Stuart Dole

39 publicly visible posts • joined 7 Jul 2008

Man wins competition with AI-generated artwork – and some people aren't happy

Stuart Dole

It may be AI generated, but it's pretty good.

When I saw this image (full screen high res), I was (and still am) amazed. It's a very compelling piece. So I went out and looked at other images generated by MidJourney. They're mostly pretty lame. Somehow this one popped out - it's haunting. So, yes, it's art.

A photographer may take hundreds or thousands of pictures in a week - to get one worth framing. This is similar.

Scientists use supercritical carbon dioxide to power the grid

Stuart Dole

Cupercritical CO2 does weird things to rubber

For my thesis work - a very long time ago - I used supercritical CO2 to dry samples for electron microscopy. The samples were in an aqueous or solvent solution to start with. I ramped up the pressure to above the critical point of CO2, let the sample be rinsed thoroughly by the liquid CO2, then pull it around the critical point into the gas phase, then it was dry and intact. Beautiful samples!

One thing that really stood out to me - any rubber parts in the system - O-rings, gaskets, etc - would absorb huge amounts of CO2 and swell to obscene sizes. It was totally weird. I eventually found that putting them on a vacuum stage with mild heat would gradually degas them back to normal.

That said - they're just using CO2 as the working fluid. I bet ammonia would work well too.

Lastly, our house in California in the summer - no A/C, modest appliances, uses about 10 kWh/day. That's about 36Mj per day in SI land. I think.

Soviet-era tech could change the geothermal industry

Stuart Dole

Local hot rocks

We're fortunate to live in an area with lots of shallow hot rocks - the north part of the San Francisco Bay Area, particularly the Geysers Geothermal Field. Most of our electricity comes from the steam from those hot rocks - they injecting treated sewage (about 14 million gallons a day) into the rocks, and the steam turns lots of turbines. On still mornings you can see the columns of steam (vapor) over the hillsides where they do this. Unfortunately, the web of power lines that service all those generators sometimes fail and start nasty wildfires - but they're working on upgrades.

If you fire someone, don't let them hang around a month to finish code

Stuart Dole

Re: Comments are bugs, too

I think it was in the 70s, I was working with the source code to RT-11. (I was writing device drivers for lab data acquisition.) Whoever wrote that OS had the habit of a (sometimes) starting with a long comment - a quote from literature or poetry - at the head of each section - the essence of which hinted at the intent of the code.

I deepened my appreciation of literature... even now I remember "The Blue Guitar".

(Guess that isn't very common these days. Pint for anyone still doing that!)

The wild world of non-C operating systems

Stuart Dole

Re: Fortran

When I was working at a large teaching hospital, I managed a lab with a DEC ecosystem (started with RT-11, then some sort of multi-user version of RT, then RSX-11m), and did most of my coding in FORTRAN (and assembler). A friend ran a similar (larger) lab that ran UNIX on a VAX. His productivity was about 3x mine, writing mostly in C.

Then I found out about RATFOR, a C-like syntax, with a pre-compiler, for FORTRAN. I got a version at one of the many DECUS meetings (ah - the days before software patents!!) when we all shared code, and it greatly sped up my productivity - and code readability!

Google helps develop AI-driven lab machine to diagnose Parkinson's

Stuart Dole

Interesting, hopeful...

Well, like "fishy" said, diagnosis it hit-and-miss. My wife went to several specialists, until we finally got a "movement disorder specialist" who was able to nail it. Those who say "no big deal" haven't been there, I'm guessing. Each case of PD is different - and as of yet there aren't any reliable biomarkers. Once we get a good biomarker - a lab test of some sort - then that can become a way to dig deeper into the mechanisms of the disease. It's really complicated...

(Sherlock, because it's complicated.)

OK, boomer? Gen-X-ers, elder millennials most likely to name their cars, says DVLA

Stuart Dole

Some names...

My current ride, a 12-year old Prius, is "Beatrice". I asked, and that's what she said.

Before that - a while back actually - an old Volvo was the "Blue Lemon" - so many things wrong. (Mostly design errors.)

My wife named her current car, a 2002 Camry, "Jade" - because of the color.

We like to pretend that the license plate letters are acronyms for something - we play that game whenever we drive. In the mean time, at home, there's "Happy Orange Violin" and "Wild Jungle Tiger".

We name a lot of things. For a while she was dealing with broken hips and Parkinson's: the wheelchair was "Charlie". As the hips healed, the outdoor walker (zipper?) was "Walter", and the two indoor walkers are "Willie" and "Wanda". We still have those - the Parkinson's didn't go away though the hips healed.

Hack-age delivery! Wardialing, wardriving... Now warshipping: Wi-Fi-spying gizmos may lurk in future parcels

Stuart Dole

Complicated way to do basic spy tech.

You could just walk into the lobby and leave something like this in the planter.

Stuart Dole

Complicated way to do basic spy tech.

Twist my Arm why don't you: Brit CPU behemoth latest biz to cease work with Huawei – report

Stuart Dole

Re: Definitely a surprise

My dad remembers working on a crew that was cutting up old gold dredges in California into 12-inch cubes of steel, which were loaded for shipment to Japan - to help build their navy. That would have been the late 30s.

What do sexy selfies, search warrants, tax files have in common? They've all been found on resold USB sticks

Stuart Dole

Wondering how many USB sticks come from estate sales - the people who handle this sort of thing probably don't care too much about erasing things. Though they probably shred paper records?

Microsoft yanks the document-destroying Windows 10 October 2018 Update

Stuart Dole

Re: Backup broken too.

OK, I *did* call Microsoft and spoke with "Mohammed". He assigned me a case number and said they'd get back to me. They did! And they knew the case number, and did NOT offer to "remote in", but made an appointment for me to bring my machine in to a Microsoft Store. So I did. Luckily, the nearest such store is only an hour's drive away (the Apple store is much closer - but I didn't go there).

The guy at the counter seemed to know what he was doing and booted up my box, and verified that indeed it was updated to 1809, but there was one more update pending. We talked a good deal about the chances of recovering the data, since I'd already done a restore - from the eight month old backup. We guessed it was about 0.01% chance of getting anything useful - his approach would have been to simply use some file recovery software. So we talked some more, and I left, with my box. The end.

Stuart Dole

Backup broken too.

Alas, I was hosed by this. I *thought* I had backups - the WIndows Backup program was turned ON with a frequency of one hour (the default) and aimed at my NAS. But, even across many reboots and updates, the most recent backup (on careful inspection) was eight months old. Too late for that now...

Funny how the security software will natter at you if you haven't done a scan in a while, but the backup program keeps it all to itself if it goes away.

2 + 2 = 4, er, 4.1, no, 4.3... Nvidia's Titan V GPUs spit out 'wrong answers' in scientific simulations

Stuart Dole

Shades of the Pentium floating point bug?

Not the first time this sort of thing has cropped up! Old-timers will remember the famous “Pentium floating point bug”.

Chinese smartphone cable-maker chucks sueball at Apple

Stuart Dole

Lots of chips...

As I recall, there are THREE (3) chips in the plug of the Lightning cable, plus various other components. A lot goes on in there, apparently - dynamic pin reassignment and all that. I had a knockoff cable burn my fingers once - and the plug part turned brown and smoked. Once burned, and all that. So yes, I get my cables from the Apple store now, even at the premium price.

.. ..-. / -.-- --- ..- / -.-. .- -. / .-. . .- -.. / - .... .. ... then a US Navy fondleslab just put you out of a job

Stuart Dole


I recall that the container ship that collided with the Fitzgerald was trying to contact them with the flashing light when radio didn't work. Apparently no one on the bridge knew Morse.

How HCI simplifies the data center

Stuart Dole

At first I thought it was "HCl", not "HCI"

Just dissolve your troubles with a nice low pH...

(A pint for other ways to dissolve your troubles...)

PDP-10 enthusiasts resurrect ancient MIT operating system

Stuart Dole

PDP-8, PDP-11...

Ah - memories. Booting OS/8 off the toggle switches and paper tape, then an actual hard drive! This was my first taste of assembler programming. I wrote a real time process scheduler, and integrated it with an FFT routine for brain wave analysis in real time. Then we graduated to 16 bits and RT-11. Our local DEC salesman would slip us the source code tape for RT-11 to help with writing device drivers for lab equipment - what a gem! Then bringing up TSX - a multi-user RT-11 emulator and running lots of Teco terminals and somehow we got a version of nroff/troff running under RT for creating and printing documents.

Then RSX-11M, which came with the source code. I remember reading through it and thinking - here are the tracks of a mighty elephant. Indeed, David Cutler went on to create VMS and then NT. But I think RSX-11M was the high point. On a smallish PDP-11 we ran a dozen video terminals (ADM-3a's, I think) for document processing, as well as millisecond data collection in the lab on dozens of A/D channels, all without a hiccough. A friend who was running an early Unix on an 11/70 (a big machine) was losing time because it fell behind on the 60Hz clock ticks - it turned off interrupts every time it had to think about memory mapping, which was often and long.. But Unix was a lot better for getting a program up and running - it had this strange language called "C". And yeah - these were megaherz machines.

There were a few PDP-10s around, but I never did much with them. 36-bit words?

Brilliant phishing attack probes sent mail, sends fake attachments

Stuart Dole

Re: Sigh. Not again.

What the commenters miss here is that AC is a *blind person*. So yes, screen reading software for the visually impaired can choke badly on PDFs. Many of the PDFs I receive are actually pictures of a printed page, say captured with a scanner or phone camera. So they're really not editable... Find a visually impaired friend with a Braille computer or screen reader and ask them about PDFs.

Baffled Scots cops call in priest to deal with unruly spirits

Stuart Dole

Really need a shaman...

The Church is actually kind of inept here - going by tradition alone. They usually screw things up. What you need is a good shaman. They work with this stuff on a regular basis. Shamans are really like engineers or technicians - they "have a look-see", experiment and see what works and what doesn't, and why.

I've run across this sort of thing from time to time, and usually it's a clueless spirit that's just confused - hard to "get a clue" when you don't have a body anymore. The energy to move stuff usually comes from nearby teenagers. But YMMV.

Fan belts only exist, briefly, in the intervals between stars

Stuart Dole


I greatly enjoyed Ken Brower's book about George Dyson "The Starship and the Canoe" - so I'm inspired to read this one! Thanks...

Work on world's largest star-gazing 'scope stopped after religious protests

Stuart Dole

This is not Pele's mountain...

This is Poli'ahu's mountain - the Snow Goddess. She and Pele never got along well. (I love them both...)

Stuart Dole

Ever built a telescope?

Bet (a pint) none of the protestors - either the green or the traditional ones - ever built a telescope themselves. If you build your own telescope, you really appreciate their beauty.This is an incredibly beautiful telescope we're talking about - a crown jewel on a beautiful mountain. Somehow I don't think Poli'ahu would mind the scope being there...

You can hack a PC just by looking at it, say 3M and HP

Stuart Dole


I was in Costco (USA - California) last week and stopped at the "Wireless" kiosk to ask about phone upgrades. The tech guy went to his computer to lookup my account - indeed, the screen had that kind of shield, but you could see it OK if you were close enough to be on-axis - easy to do in the retail store the way they had the PC set up - the monitor faced the aisle.

But then during his logon process, he turned the monitor OFF. Black. He typed his login and password, and some other stuff, then switched the monitor back on. His motions were so smooth and practiced, it was like he did it hundreds of times a day and just didn't think about it. You could still see his fingers on the keyboard, but I didn't pay attention to that part - he was fast and smooth - hard to follow - sort of like trying to get Benny Goodman's clarinet fingering by watching an old Video...

Is this the most puzzling DEF CON attendee badge yet on record?

Stuart Dole

Androcles and the Lion

Hint about the script.

Oi. APPLE fanboi! You with the $10k and pocket on fire! Fancy a WATCH?

Stuart Dole

Charge it daily?

My original Omega needed to be wound every day - it worked better if you did it at the same time every day. And you needed to clean and lube it every year - remember that? Eventually, after several bands wore out, I had the jeweler cut the band lugs off and solder on a little ring, and used it as a pocket watch for many years.

And our original iPhone is still working beautifully as an iPod - remember the nice stand they came with? And it still retains a fair resale value, should we ever decide we don't need a music player...

I'm not anxious to buy an Apple Watch for myself, but I'm really curious to see where the technology goes.

Apple's iWatch to appear in 2014, will RULE your home – new claim

Stuart Dole

Apple already controls lights and heat and smoke...

Interesting comments. Remember that there are already iPhone-controlled lightbulbs in the Apple stores, and Nest (thermostats, smoke alarms) is an Apple spin-off.

Personally, I stopped wearing a watch about a decade ago - I don't like the feel of something on my wrist. And our home is simple - a thermostat that's used maybe half the year (the cold half), and we know where the light switches are. But - maybe that remote controlled blender would be useful...

HALF of air passengers leave phones on ... yet STILL no DEATH PLUNGE

Stuart Dole

Re: Not just radio signal safety

@SP - the Asiana crash in SFO knocked open the overhead bins - carry-on luggage came raining down on everyone. I'd wager that if someone recognized their own rolly in the rubble, it'd be a service to everyone else to pick it up and carry it out, clearing the aisle a bit.

Also, the "professional crew" at the controls couldn't cope with a visual approach and landing, on a bright sunny day.

I fly into ABQ (Albuquerque, New Mexico) a good bit. The airport is quite high - around 7,000 ft (~2,100 m), so you hit the magic 10,000 ft point a lot sooner on takeoff and can start using your "devices" (and on approach you can use them a lot longer). They apparently only care about altitude from sea level, not height above the ground. It sort of feels like as soon as the wheels are up you're good to go. Curious...

Chinese police probe iPhone user's death by electrocution

Stuart Dole

Wall voltage in China is 220. One report said she was in the bath (steamy bathroom?). If there was a moisture-caused short from 220V mains to the 5V USB side of the isolation transformer the whole unit would be floating at 220, And she picks up the phone with wet hands while grounded to the wet floor, ZAP! Easy to do with any chargeable device. So folks, don't use your portable device in the tub while it's charging.

Big Data bites back: How to handle those unwieldy digits

Stuart Dole

Big Data?

I supervised a project that stored images as BLOBs - that went pretty well (except that Java doesn't like unsigned bytes). Where we got hammered was trying to store numbers with a large dynamic range. For instance, how about a database of physical constants? You'd need to be able to have very large numbers (Avogadro's number), and very small (the Plank constant), maybe throw in "c", the mass of the electron, etc. SQL seems very poorly designed for scientific work - that is, BIG (and small) numbers... One of the roots of this problem is that everything needs to be converted to text to store or retrieve it (at least for the TCP/IP part of the journey), and I've seen floating point values mangled badly in this process.

Scribe's mobe, MacBook pwned after hacker 'fast-talked Apple support'

Stuart Dole
Thumb Down


There is always risk. Fire is a big one - even if you have a week-old HD in a fire-proof, is it really fire-proof? Will it really read after a couple of hours of cooking, then marinating in the water used to try to put the fire out? Offsite mirroring of some sort - Mozy, Memopal, Carbonite, iCloud - helps with this, but yes, you can't rely on it either. Even without fire, I once came to work (small consulting company) and the building was surrounded with yellow tape - crime scene, no access for a week. All the computers were stolen, from all the businesses in the building. Fortunately we had some old 386 and 486 machines as file servers and the thieves knew they weren't valuable and left them. So we had the current source trees and archives for most of our projects - but we did lose a lot.

NT daddy turns his hand to Xbox

Stuart Dole

Anyone remember RSX-11M?

Fairly early on I was writing device drivers for RSX-11M for medical imaging and lab automation. The RSX distro came with the complete source files to the OS - you had to recompile the whole thing to add a driver (!). Browsing through the OS sources and looking at the change logs was incredible - Cutler wrote practically the whole thing himself, in a very short period of time. And the code quality and real time design was even more incredible. It was so lean and interrupt-aware - I had data logging at 10kHz (we never missed a clock), with a lab full of people on terminals doing (very early) word processing. Cutler's legacy was clouded by the strange beast that VMS became, IMO.

A friend in another department ran UNIX on a much faster machine, but it couldn't even keep up with the line clock at 60Hz - the system clock drifted. In those days at least, the UNIX kernel pretty much ignored interrupts. So, the UNIX machine was a bust for real time lab work, but their productivity in other areas was a lot better than ours - while I wrote in MACRO-11 assembler and Fortran, they had this fancy new language called "C"...

HP throws WebOS to open source community

Stuart Dole
Thumb Up

I remember HP releasing STL

HP released STL, perhaps one of the best things they ever did (well, aside from some very nice calculators and 'scopes).

HP's beloved 12c calculator turns 30

Stuart Dole


I still have my red LED HP-25, second battery. When I got it, friends were hacking theirs (adding magnetic stick readers, etc.). I programmed it to run simulations of cancer cell migration for my thesis - a run would go all weekend. The feel of the keys is still wonderful. Old? yep. I also still have a wonderful circular sliderule in my top drawer that sees occasional use.

RPN vs. Algebraic: anyone remember the tee shirts that said "ENTER > EQUAL"?

Cops raid Gizmodo editor in pursuit of iPhone 4G 'felony'

Stuart Dole
Gates Horns

Jobs wins!

Hey everybody - no one gets it yet: all this fuss just continues to generate buzz for the 4G iPhone! Free publicity! And it goes on for weeks! Jobs is a genius.

Toyota Prius fourth-generation e-car

Stuart Dole

Other uses of Priuses

Locally here in northern California someone hooked an inverter to their Prius and ran their house off it during a power failure - when the batteries ran down the engine would start and charge it up again.

Also, about battery disposal, our local electrical utility, PG&E, has a contract to buy ALL the used Prius battery packs from Toyota for load leveling as we try to make more of out electricity out of wind and sun. The power controllers on the batteries are so conservative that there's lots of life left in them.

For what it's worth... I don't drive a Prius - keeping an older car ('95 Accord) running as long as I can.

Happy trails

Power grid takedown: A new how-to

Stuart Dole

Smart power meters and the flu

There was an El Reg article a few months back that the new "smart meters" on individual homes and businesses were easily hackable. Combine that with this...

Then, I was thinking, what percentage of grid utility and infrastructure workers can you take out (with the flu, for example) and still keep the grid up? (Also, for how long?) This includes the coal miners, coal train operators, power station crews, oil and gas field workers and pipeline crews, etc. I'm guessing that (within an order of magnitude, as a SWAG) if over half of your people are out (home in bed with 106F, 41C fevers, or dead) the grid becomes very fragile. If the grid goes down, pretty much everything else goes down too.

Happy trails!

Webcams, printers, gizmos - the untold net threats

Stuart Dole

Actually it's a browser vuln

OK, the nuts of this vuln is that your browser will aggressively execute ANY suitable script it finds, even inside a file name or log entry! I know we've all benefited from the extensibility of HTML from embedded magic strings that signal "script ahead!", but this is really a massive security hole. This is the elephant in the room. This is *the* big HTML fail, the fundamental design flaw.

Back to the issue of embedded servers - we've certainly seen it in our LAN - when we turned on WiFi for the house sitter while we went on holiday, she could easily see our NAS - so we unplugged it before we left, but did leave the network printer up for her benefit. Normally the WiFi is off. Fortunately we did a checkout before leaving! We're in a tight neighborhood, and about a dozen houses must be able to see out WAP, based on how many WAPs we can see.

Happy trails...

Prius hybrid to get rooftop solar panel

Stuart Dole

California sunshine

I greatly enjoyed driving a small diesel while on vacation in the UK recently, but they are still too dirty for California - though strangely enough the big pickups and SUVs can run diesel engines because they're legally "trucks". The car got over 60mpg, though that was probably IMPERIAL gallons, not US gallons - be careful of units! Also, that was the car's own opinion of itself.

So, in California we're stuck with the Prius as the best current alternative, besides bicycles and feet.

OK, if the solar-powered racers can do better than 60mph in the race across Australia, there is interesting energy (and technology) here! In California almost all cars sit outside in the sun 360 days a year. No one uses garages here, either at home or at work. That sunshine is turning into heat anyway, either on the pavement, the roof paint, or heating the car. Using even 10% of it is a win. And there is a lot of interesting new solar technology coming on line - flexible panels, more efficient panels, and cheaper (less efficient) panels.

interesting fact about the Prius is that it has TWO batteries - one for starting the engine and normal automotive-electrical stuff, and the big battery pack for the hybrid stuff. I had to jump-start a friend's Prius after a party then the little battery was dead (lights left on?), while there was plenty of charge in the hybrid pack, which was somehow inaccessible. Here's an IT angle - the control software hasn't been debugged into all the corner cases yet!

Happy trails...