* Posts by Hawkmoth

38 publicly visible posts • joined 7 May 2009

French authorities take lead in grilling Google on 'Right to be Forgotten'


...told you so!

I believe I said this would happen in my response to news of the ruling itself. It's a dumb ruling that charters a dumb notion and attempting to implement it is raising about a bazillion interlinked, often contradictory issues. The whole situation makes the European bureaucracy sound like a flock of acephalous chickens.

Web firms, DON'T PANIC: The Euro Google 'right to be forgotten' isn't a problem


I read the ruling, did you?

I read the ruling, as recommended, and I don't see any reason not to panic. The basis for the decision is that the INTERNET is important in everyday life, not that Google is.

This is going to be a plain, straight-up, unmitigated weasel knot and no doubt about it. Everyone who can afford a data-cleaning company will have a squeaky clean internet profile and the rest of us will just have to live with our youthful indiscretions.

Gazillions will be spent on lawyers, which makes sense because the ruling was made by lawyers and no one is more concerned with the employment prospects of lawyers than other lawyers.

Europe's shock Google privacy ruling: The end of history? Don't be daft


I KNEW it, Google really is the Anti-christ

I know ranting about anti-Google rants won't do a thing in a Reg-iverse where Google invented war and the Black Death so I'll just pre-position my "I told you so" now for when, in a few years we discover all the things that people have had expunged from view (because you know there's no defensible line around Google that's going to prevent this ruling from being applied to any web search or scraping service). Business opportunity: be one in the legion of companies that will soon spring up to work what ever system gets set up to implement this ruling, all making money from rich people, politicians, and companies who will pay to bury their past, airbrush out any trouble. The negative press about our product? How dare you link to that! The suit my ex filed over my domestic violence? Out with that! Photo of corporate boss vacationing with politician? Piffle! The only people who will have to live with their past will be the rest of us who can't afford these services. I know I won't convince you now, but mark my words..., we will rue this decision and the google-noids will ask me to pass the gravy so they can choke down their big, feathery dish of crow.

Most Americans doubt Big Bang, not too sure about evolution, climate change – survey


bad questions

I don't think this survey is very good. People could be unsure about the age of the universe being 13.8 billion versus 16 billion. Same thing with the question about the earth being 4.5 billion years old. If you went to school a few decades ago you might think it's 5 billion.

I'm not saying Americans aren't as dumb as dishwater, because they are. Just that some of the lowest questions could be artificially low because of badly phrased questions.

Is it barge? Is it a data center? Mystery FLOATING 'Google thing'


tax and court dodgers

I like the idea that they're going off-shore to avoid court orders and taxes.

Shark-tooth war cutlery reveals tale of fishy extinction in Pacific

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work in historical museum collections

Work in historical museum collections lives and dies by the quality of the accession records and unfortunately the paper referenced here doesn't provide much information on their use of museum records for the sharktooth swords, just for the shark specimens themselves. These objects would have been tourist pieces from at least the 1920s on and that opens a host of problems for using them as records of species. On the other hand, it isn't impossible to control for the most obvious problems...by using only well provenanced pieces with indications of local use before collection, or at least by factoring in a history of local tourism. Regrettably, the authors don't provide much if any info on the circumstances of collection for the pieces analyzed, just the results of their physical observations. Regardless, it's a clever piece of scholarship that shows there is often good data sitting in plain sight if you're clever enough to spot the potential. It reminds me of the study of changing fish size using snapshots of the trophies of Caribbean sport fishermen.

Brits, Germans, French, Dutch, Spanish and Italians ALL to probe Google


Re: what did google ever do to you?

"And about another million ways of tracking where you are, who you know, what you're doing, what you're saying and who you're saying it too....but I think most people would like to have at least some semblance of privacy"

I strongly disagree that "most of us would rather have some privacy." I doubt whether 1 in 100 members of the general public could care less about the kind of privacy that google stands accused of violating.

I drive back and forth from my crackerbox house in the suburbs to my deskjob in an office park; my kids go to school down the road with all the other kids. I wear clothes I buy from catalogs that still get shoved through my mail slot, I read books I hear about on the radio. I take vacations in the same places everyone else does (witness the traffic getting to and from). I have interests and talk about them over beer with my friends. I hope I save enough money to retire and take up a hobby like stamps or model boats.

Honestly, I don't think most of us lead lives that are nearly as interesting as we think they are. I'm sure that google is directing corporation x towards me and not corporation y and I figure sometimes corporation x manages to trick me into buying something I wouldn't otherwise, but so it goes. Salesmen used to come to my door, now they come to my inbox...where google helps me filter them out. I think the scenarios where the gov't gets taken over by space aliens or socialists and begins to round up free thinkers using data coerced from google are fantasies of the overly self-important.


what did google ever do to you?

I'm still not getting why everyone's always hellbent on sticking it to Google. All they ever did to me was give me a simple way to surf the internet, personal email, email for my entire business, calendars that sync with all my friends', a contact book that syncs with my cell phone, powerful online office productivity software, maps of the entire world, sketch-up, and about a million other things...all for free. I suppose they might be selling information about my online habits to various people, but who isn't?! And those other companies don't give me any free stuff for the privilege. If you don't like Google, DON'T USE IT. I'm sure AOL's still got some of those introductory CD-ROMs still kicking around that they can send you so you can get on line.

Ten serious sci-fi films for the sentient fan


A lot of comments, not much variety

Just to change it up a little, how about "Idiocracy" (2006)? Okay, it's a comedy, but the main point is totally serious and in being so, a little alarming.

'Build us a Death Star, President Obama' demand thousands


death star economics

Interesting petition but hardly original. A number of us participated in an exhaustive discussion of the politico-economics of deathstars in http://www.overthinkingit.com/2011/04/25/star-wars-death-star-economics/. I came away from that with the feeling that whether death star construction was a good investment or not had more to do with the economic patterns and organization among star systems, not on the direct benefits of construction contracts and hiring all those storm troopers, even if you figure in construction of shield generators and garrisoning small forest moons. In fact, the discussion was such a smashup discussion that the readers of overthinkingit voted it the most popular discussion of 2011.

Fanboi beats 'e-trespassing' rap after using GPS to find stolen iPad

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common sense at last

Glad to hear someone finally acknowledge that the airwaves are public. It's why companies wanting to use them have to buy the right from the gov't. The way things have been going, if the theft-victim listening to the iPad from the sidewalk had instead been a neighbor using an unsecured wi-fi connection emitted into his house by the same device, the law would have arrested HIM! Ridiculous. I never understood why I'm forbidden to listen in (if I can) to electro-magnetic radiation that's propagating through me.

Ice core shows Antarctic Peninsula warming is nothing unusual

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Re: Evidence?

This is possibly the first sensible post in the whole bunch. What IF the anthropogenic global warming fans ARE right? Won't all you skeptics feel dumb. So what if they're wrong? At least we've curbed our ridiculous waste, which is something we should be doing anyway.

And one more question for all the skeptics out there...what's your end-game on all this fossil fuel-CO2 into the air thing? Even if I accept that the peak oil people are utterly crazy, I find it hard to believe there's INFINITE fossil fuel. Also, even if I accept that the CO2 causes warming people are utterly crazy, surely there's gotta be something that happens when you put infinite CO2 in the atmosphere? So let's say there's 2 orders of magnitude more fossil fuels than previously estimated and that CO2 is 2 orders of magnitude less likely to cause bad changes than previously thought...with fuel use increasing exponentially, even those limits will be hit pretty soon. So what's your plan? Come on...what's YOUR plan?

Zabulon Skipper: Butterfly harbinger of climate biodiversity doom?


Re: Electrical engineer tries hand at brain surgery

Again with the brain surgery...

F.A. Lutz, Field Book of Insects, Putnam's Sons, 1918. "Its (giant swallowtail's) normal range is from Virginia and Missouri to Florida and Texas."

Alexander B. Klots, Field Guide to the Butterflies of North America, East of the Rockies, Houghton, Mifflin, 1951. "Zabulon Skipper...More widespread southward than hobomok. As noted above, many old records and life history data cannot be trusted because the two species were confused."

You're just sore because the papers' results are inconvenient to your own theories.

Oh, and which exactly were the ad hominem remarks? Knocking Ron Paul supporters? He's a public figure who gets worse walking to the mailbox. A quippy remark connoting that I think climate change skeptics are in the same category of conspiracy theorists that wear tinfoil hats? El Reg uses that trope all the time. What else you got?


Electrical engineer tries hand at brain surgery

Lewis Page writes great biting commentary on the achievements and excesses of the military industrial complex. He should leave the climate change conspiracy paranoia to the experts...the religious far right, Ron Paul supporters, and other junior high dropouts.

I've been involved in collecting and processing the aforementioned data on zabulon skippers and giant swallowtails in southern New England and I can say that they tend to be more southern species and that they are much more common than they used to be. I don't think this proves or disproves the theory that the globe is warming. But it is consistent with that theory. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the article and it doesn't contradict the conclusions of the other articles as described. Certainly there is nothing here that justifies Page going off on the science in the articles. Pull your tin-foil hat down snug and get back to writing articles on IT.

'Apple is corrupting App Store downloads', warn angry devs

Black Helicopters

surprised? I don't think so

Sounds like apple got caught adding their own little packages within the apps. "I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you access that app...until Steve Jobs gets done tinkering with it." I wonder how long before someone reverse engineers the mods and we find out why apple won't talk.

World+dog discovers hi-res aerial maps, thanks to Google and Apple


get over it already

The only people to whom this is a news story are people who've only just discovered that high resolution imagery has been publicly available through your state government for at least 40 years. In the northeast US at least, Google itself often uses imagery taken by state government for resource management and emergency preparedness, offering us all a great convenience. States have been taking this imagery for decades. The ONLY things new are now:

a) you don't have to sit in the basement office of the state EMA going blind looking through a stereoscope

b) pay $100/square mile for prints of orthophotos

c) train for months in GIS and then shell out a couple thousand bucks to ESRI for software that can open files that have been publicly available states' websites for at least a dozen years

d) get a private pilot's license or charter a plane and take your own imagery.

I say "you go Google, thanks for democratizing aerial imagery." And to the privacy paranoids, if you don't like what your yard looks like from above, tough. Who says you have a right to invisibility when viewed from higher than street level?

Google Street View Wi-Fi data slurper named


would somebody please explain why this is bad?

Okay, I give up. I've followed this whole google slurping thing and I'm sure I'm missing something. Aren't the airwaves public? At least in the U.S.? Wasn't that why part of broadcast license fees went to pay for the Public Broadcasting Service? To recompense the public for use of its airwaves for private commerce? Isn't that why the courts okayed the sale of police scanners? So why can't google drive around listening to broadcasts that make it out into the public street? We won't even get into why I can't use my neighbor's Wi-Fi if it trespasses into my house. Well, okay, lets. In some towns I can sue my neighbor for light trespass if his driveway light shines on my bedroom window. Why is his Wi-Fi okay? Or if its okay, why can't I use it in recompense for having to put up with it? Am I missing something?

'Seas will rise, flood millions of homes' warns Eric Schmidt ecologist


Re: ostrich, ostrich

Sorry folks, 88 years ain't so far away when you're talking about buildings and infrastructure. The built capital upon which the economy of my present city (once a port in the colonies, now a medium-small city on the U.S. Atlantic coast) depends is probably roughly 40% post-1970, 30% 1870-1970, and 20% pre-1870 (by either square footage or current value), to say nothing about the 200 year old sewer system and street grid. This charming metro area is fortunate to be situated between hills that make a hurricane barrier economically and ecologically feasible and such a thing was build decades ago. Assuming it keeps working, we're probably all set for just the additional cost of a few extra pumps to handle the river flow when the barrier has to close on most high tides instead of just when storms approach. But if we were one of our nearby sister cities without such an advantage, how do you figure 2100 is so far in the future? Almost half the buildings are older than the 88 years you think is forever. And old buildings must not be entirely disposable because people keep paying good money to gut them to the walls and completely rebuild the interiors. I think SOME people live in crappy pre-fab cities and are sore about others who live in nice historic ones and the former wish the latter to have their smugness be washed away by divine wrath but please to do it quietly.


ostrich, ostrich

Lewis Page is being a ridiculous demagogue. So what if it's 1 meter of sea level rise that inundates 2.3 million homes or 60 cm of rise that inundates 1.7 million homes? It'll be a huge disruption. And he talks about it like it's in the distant future. Kids born today will live to see it. If you live in south Florida, don't bother willing your house to the baby you're looking at in his crib today. Why so skeptical? What have you got to lose by hedging your bets and working energy sustainability into the economy over the coming years. "Oh no! Driving my F-350 to the mall is costing me too much in gas, someone save me by denying anything even remotely like consequences for a hydrocarbon economy!"

RIP: Peak Oil - we won't be running out any time soon


Oh for pete's sake people, put down the hyperbole; you're all right

So peak oil has been rescheduled to a slightly later time. So what? Unless you come equipped with a tinfoil hat and a penchant for abiotic oil theories (AND don't believe in anthropogenic global warming) peak oil's going to happen some time. I don't think it's newsworthy that Citibank has decided the oil industry can hang on a little longer. Jeez, I can't imagine why Citibank would want to tamp down instability in the bluechip equity market unless they had a lot of money invested in big, oil-driven companies... ...duh

Even if we use those magically refilling oil wells, toxic frack gas, sinfully inefficient renewables, and nuke plants on every street corner that hasn't already be rendered uninhabitable by a nuclear accident, we'd still need plenty of luck to avoid the collapse of civilization once all those Chinese start to consume like Americans. Hey what do you know...everyone's right. Now go home and do something useful.

1TB USB stick shoved into Swiss Army knife


really dumb

My first thought was the same as many others', that this will last until your first trip through airport security. My second thought is why not just tape a micro-SD to a regular mini-swiss army knife and save about $1,900?

Latest El Reg project: Rise of the Robot Sheep


Re-consider Sheep

You know, you might reconsider the sheep. You could use sheep to do the mowing and build the robot to pick up their poo. You know, something with a dustpan and broom on the front...it'd be cute!


of sheep and mowers

I was thinking a reel mower would be safest until I read Dan Paul's idea for a hedge clipper. Either could work and you'd want to go with whichever is easiest to keep at the right height given your lawn's micro-topography and the mower's wheels/suspension. Everyone knows that lawns need less fertilizer if you leave the clippings on them rather than bag and remove them, so that should be your goal. Reel mowers work best if you mow frequently and that would be best for mulching. If you find yourself building up thatch, you'll have to invent a robot aerator/de-thatcher, which could be a lot of fun in and of itself. As to guidance, my first thought was to use a system that triangulates using those mirror balls people put in their gardens. If the robot had a bright light on it, the spherical mirror would reflect it at a very precise point, no matter where the robot was. Use three different color balls and lenses with three different filters to allow the robot to distinguish among them. If the cameras were at the top of the robot pointed up and there were rotating 45 degree mirrors mounted above them, then the camera would get a flash whenever the mirror pointed at its ball. The bearing to that ball could be read from the rotor on the mirror and a computer should be able quickly to determine the mowers location every full mirror rotation. I believe that early IR seeking anti-aircraft missiles used similar devices.

Intellectual Ventures wages patent war on Motorola


Carp. Carp on toast.

This story is part of the whole messed up system the Wall Street occupiers are aggravated by. We've been told not to worry that the country doesn't actually MAKE anything any more because we'll all be employed in higher paid "knowledge" jobs, like designing things. When a country made STUFF, the ruling class had cops to defend bricks and mortar factories. Now that the country makes nothing but designs for things, the rulers have lawyers to defend them from the revolution. Maybe it will work...or maybe it won't and the patent lawyers will be the first ones against the wall.

LOHAN to suck mighty thruster as it goes off, in a shed


terrific plan!

I think this all looks terrific (taking into account the suggestions to reverse the thrust arrow on the diagram, include an internal temperature sensor, bring it to "altitude" slowly, and tether the lid to the rig).

Remember folks it isn't the burn profile your testing, but the ability to ignite at all. And ignition is probably controlled by pressure at the reaction face, not the "air" in the rocket or the interstices of the propellant, as some people seem to think. The only reason it's rocket propellant in the first place is because it has oxidizer built right in (like the intel ad...oxidizer-inside).

There were a couple of commentators who worried that the rig wouldn't test ignition correctly because it's so small and the vacuum would be lost so quickly; they were worried that there would be a slow start with the burn coming up to regular pressure more slowly than at sea-level and that this wouldn't be detected but the test. I think that might not be so bad a result. If you look at the thrust graphs provided in an earlier post, they all start with a dramatic spike. Anything that levels that spike out will be kinder to the air frame and other components and give the control system a bit of time to get stabilized as the craft accelerates. Just sayin'...

LOHAN eyes hardcore partner's impressive girth


DIY is indicated, you bet!

This is definitely a case for a diy vacuum chamber. I like the 10 m pipe idea, but a 10 m high column of water's going to weigh a ton and be pretty unwieldy, leading to its own problems before you even get to evaluate the rocket's. I think you can get enough information by using a compressor tank and pulling as much air out of it as you can with a hoover or a hand pump of some sort. Cold is also important but you just need to ice down the motor with dry ice before you install it.

To the person who commented about plugging the motor being dangerous, unfortunately, pressure is important for proper ignition of gun powder (which is what the propellant is). Pressure is why gun powder just goes WOOF if you light a pile of it on a table but does BANG if you light the same pile while it is bottle up in the chamber of a firearm. Once the motor is burning, the back pressure from the nozzle will sustain the reaction, but it might be difficult to get going in a near vacuum.

LOHAN team buried under ballockets

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Holy hardware, Batman!

Nice discussion. There are a couple of failure modes that seem likely enough to warrant fool proof avoidance plans. A vertical launch through the center of a cluster of balloons seems sensible given the craziness of schemes to launch from below the rocket. A system that retards or accounts for the swing of the balloon should be paramount. Look at how much PARIS was swinging. Regarding thrust vectoring, I read the Armadillo Aerospace blog for years as they developed their attitude-maintaining, thrust-vectoring vehicle. An alarming number of sensors fed into a remarkably complex amount of code and it took scores of tries to work it all out. I don't believe for a minute that you'll be able to get software and hardware to work well enough to use vectored thrust, especially as all the sensor inputs, calculations, commands, and reactions have to be done in milliseconds if you're going to get through any significant number of cycles before a black powder model rocket motor burns out. I also think you should use the popping of the balloon(s) as the trigger to launch because if you trigger before the pop by even a little, you'll be throwing away far more altitude than you'll get from any normal sized rocket motor.

Reg readers ponder LOHAN's substantial globes


use a long string

I like the idea, mentioned earlier, of using a long line to dangle the payload well below the balloon. This will allow a rocket launched at 45 degrees to clear the balloon easily without any additional silliness (or any latex scraps from a burst balloon) and also stabilize the balloon from swinging. As I recall, wasn't there quite a swing developed by PARIS? Also I believe that a swing was a problem for the kid who launched an iPhone powered stratospheric balloon in NY state a couple of years ago. If your payload is separated from the balloon by a long string, you wouldn't have to launch at some preset altitude that was conservatively low (thus costing you ultimate mission height). Just let it go up until the balloon bursts and let the burst itself or the tension coming off the tether trigger the rocket launch.

Acoustic trauma: How wind farms make you sick


there's noise and then there's worrying yourself sick about noise

There was an interesting paper given last year by a doctor from Mass. General and Harvard Med. about the cause of health problems associated with wind turbines. There was a story on it in the Falmouth [Mass.] Enterprise newspaper in 2010. Dr. McCunney suggested that it isn't the sound that causes the problems but the stress that people give themselves when listening to the sound and worrying about it. This affect has been put forward before for other sorts of environmental "health" concerns: people are making themselves sick worrying about getting sick...sort of a reverse placebo effect, I guess.

LOHAN spaceplane project starting to shape up nicely



I think stabilization and attitude control at altitude (where almost no aerodynamic forces will be available) will be one of the biggest challenges. I like spin stabilization because of its simplicity.

Photography on spin-stabilized space probes is accomplished either with a stable photography platform, which won't be possible on LOHAN but also by using the spin itself as to move the camera's narrow field of view across the subject in successive strips, building up a photo through a raster-type system.

That said, I wonder if there's some fiendishly clever way to build a really crazy simple reaction control system using reaction wheels or set of simple thrusters. The X-15, an early fore-runner of LOHAN had reaction control thrusters to maintain attitude when it was flying too high to use aerodynamic control surfaces. You know, something made out of toy cars with their tyres replaced with metal flywheels or with aerosol cans pointed different directions and tiny actuators.

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Rocketry to the MOOON!

I agree with the earlier posts about simultaneous ignition, whether in use in a tractor configuration or any other off-centerline multiple motor configuration. Don't forget, not only do the engines have to ignite simultaneously, they also have to come up to the same thrust along the same curve. Even small asymmetries will TOAST the mission. I like the short, fat configurations of several of the X-Prize entries that put the thrust above the CG by putting it in a hole in the middle of the craft.

I agree that deploying the wings as illustrated in the Pearson model will be difficult. As with the rocket motors, keeping all the forces simultaneous and symmetric would be tough. I'm very familiar with the Estes sissorwing model mentioned by Charles E as I have a finished but never flown example in my attic. I'd be willing to mail it to the LOHAN fab bunker if it would help the mission.

El Reg to unleash rocket-powered spaceplane

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Revell called, they want credit for the design

First, I vote for Low Orbit Helium Aided Navigator.

Second, your LOHAN concept illustration, for illustration purposes only, no doubt, nevertheless bears an uncanny resemblance to the stealth fighter plastic model that was being sold (here in the U.S. at least) after the plane's existence was known but before anyone in the public had seen one (must have been in the mid-80s). A co-incidence? I bet not.

Psychology graduates remain poor for life, study shows


validates one of my employability axioms

If you want a job that pays, pursue a discipline with answers that can be checked. If your answer is as good as my answer, or if there's no easy way to assess the difference between your answer and mine, why should I pay you for yours?

How to build your own Watson Jeopardy! supermachine


lost but not forgotten

What about Dr. Theopolis? Surely it is now time to recognize the writers of the great 70's sci-fi extravaganza "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" for the visionaries they were!

US Airforce secret spaceplane launched successfully


X-51 plan B?

Couldn't this be another approach to the X-51 mission?...global response FAST!? So it has wings because after it's blasted into orbit, it deorbits and flies to its target where it unloads its payload of bombs, starship troopers, or whatever?

NASA flying car engineer shoots down Reg coverage


Propeller beanies all around!

Oh for crying out loud, Doc, you've just got to get it together. You can't rant back at English people like that, it just show us (Americans) as the unsophisticated louts they already think we are. You've got to keep your composure while you deliver some biting yet witty comeback. See the Oxford SCR scene in the movie Shadowlands for how this is done.

Vulture Central plans Brit-Yank dictionary

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tips, skips, punters, tah, cheers, and all that

Great topic, although after living three years in Britain, I'm mostly bilingual now, nonetheless I am sure others will benefit. My list of interesting britishisms that yanks could learn?

"tip" (dump) including in expressions like "your room is a tip!"

"skip" (dumpster, what you send "rubbish" to the "tip" in)

"lay by" (rest area)

"punters" (I'm still not sure about this one but could be somewhere between "booster", "promoter", and "schill" which is itself a borrowing from Yiddish).

"tah" and "cheers" (largely untranslatable but something like "thanks, have a nice day")

"O-levels" and "A-levels" (no US equivalent though we're getting there with the no-child-left-behind mess)

"free-hold" at term of estate agents (real estate agents) which I believe means you have what in the U.S. is called fee ownership, and there are other property ownership types that are possibly relevant and definitely untranslatable.

"bespoke" (custom, custom made)

"engineer" which in Britain means a blue-collar technician who fixes your washing machine, but in the U.S. is someone with a wall full of diplomas who invents new kinds of washing machines

"washing up liquid" also "fairy liquid" which gave me great pause the first time I heard it

"pudding" (any dessert among the classes to whom pudding (US usage) would appeal)

"quid" (a blob of chewing tobacco...no, not that one, you mean "buck" as in slang for a dollar)

UK spectrum map uncovers mysterious emissions in Cumbria

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interesting and logical

Actually, I thought this was quite interesting and a logical step. Why wouldn't you want a map of spectrum use? And I love the idea of google spectrum view, when can I start using it?