Technology- gadgets, gizmos, etc.

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New entries at top…

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If it LOOKS good…

Worth watching anyway, but the following also illustrates the old engineering saying that if something "just looks good", it will sometimes BE good…

www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4l7B5Sp5d4

… a clip with a nice soundtrack about the "Swiftlet", a flapping flying machine. Note how beautifully "bird-like" the flight at 00:06 onward, in particular the moment at 00:14, is.

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HOW big? HOW fast??

Sounds far fetched, I know, unless you're completely desensitized to the wonder of such things, but the person who said this seemed reliable…

She claimed that recently she was using a free utility to convert her CDs to .mp3s… speaking of which, a big shout-out to Amazon for offering "Auto-rip" (with many purchases of a physical CD, they give you .mp3 of the music copies as a bonus. You do NOT have to be a subscriber to their music service, no matter what the help pages may lead you to fear. I think you DO have to pay for Amazon Prime, but that may be worth it for the delivery charges you save if you use Amazon much, or for their "Prime" TV.)… but to get back to the first story…

She took 15 CDs, converted them to .MP3s. Let the utility have its way in respect of folders. It always created at least one folder per CD. Sometimes a folder for artist or composer, and then a sub-folder for the files the album had resulted in.

She then copied them, by a not-fancy USB adapter, to a microSD card to go into her Android.

15 CDs worth of music.. so what? At least 15 hours of music. Even at only 15 hours, that's 54,000 seconds. (Bear with me here!)

Time to transfer to the uSD card: 80 seconds. 11 minutes of music transferred per //second of transfer time!

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Tenvis TH661 ipcam

Lots of shortcomings… no way I can see to reload the firmware, if you could even get the image from Tenvis.com (I couldn't find one)… so how do you know the firmware in the cam you bought on eBay is uncorrupted?

Documentation… vague, incomplete. Good English, at least, and good for the rank IP Cam user, perhaps.

Snapshot command: To fetch a still image (1280x pixels, at least), the command is… (IP Address):(port)/tmpfs/auto.jpg
… but you need to be logged in to the camera to use that. And there is no way (that I could find) to set up a user with limited powers. So if you send the UserID and Password as part of the URL… if your browser even allows the old, unsafe, trick for doing that, you have to expose the master admin user name and password.

Nice clean image, though. Maybe I can learn to love it for use within its limitations?

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Neat way to search from Firefox browser…

Go to a page you search FROM frequently.

Right-click in any search box there. Invoke "Add a keyword for this search".

I was setting up one of these for Abebooks.co.uk, the author search, so used abeuk (details for me: In rem).

Finish the "created new bookmark" process which will arise… but that bookmark doesn't need to be where you can find it quickly, everyday. (Maybe start a bookmarks folder for such things.)

After I was done, I now could type "abecouk milne" (without quotes) in the address bar, and I'd go straight to the results of an Abebooks.co.uk for books by Milne! Too cool!

Details at…

https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/how-search-from-address-bar

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I'm in love…

Website management: My web presence has just "grown and grown". I tend to write a new page, rather than polishing the old. And while there's SOME "order" to my sites, a fear has been growing that I need to be a little more on top of things.

Enter https://www.xml-sitemaps.com ! WONDERFUL! Spidered my sites, reasonably quickly (minutes, or in one case 3 seconds to scan/ index 314 pages!), and returned the information in 5 formats… including a page of .HTML and one of .XML. (Anyone can manage the former, and I know I should learn to love the latter.)

Free… you don't even have to register.

So… in love with XLM-Sitemaps… but a little infidelity on the side with Google, in spite of all the invasion of my privacy, for the search engine that took me via a single hop to XML-Sitemaps for nothing more than "application to list pages at a domain". (Thank you http://www.makeuseof.com/answers/list-pages-belong-domain/ too!)

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Dangerous fraud email

Well, you learn something new every day. And "thank you", Eset and Windows 7.

I'm pretty careful with my email. I only "do" plain text email. Rarely open unexpected attachments. But I must admit, I got fooled by one purportedly from ku.oc.kcirrawdrahcir|xaf#ku.oc.kcirrawdrahcir|xaf. (Remember: What "the system" tells you the source of an email is not always what the source of the email is.)

I thought I'd done the necessary checks, thought I'd determined that the attachment was safe to look at. I was wrong. Somehow what was supposed to be nothing more than "fax_6D6971B085526A8368E8.zip" managed to carry a payload. An .exe file tried to run when I tried to merely check the contents of the supposed zip.

The reason I'm writing this? To warn you to take extra care if you receive an email "with a fax". The supposed "fax" was a blank booking form for "Barbati" apartments.

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Making our world more secure

Ethereum.org: Looks really cool! Not "an app" for users, but another implementation of one of the Next Big Things.

"When I was a boy", our computer things resided on strips of punched tape. If you wanted a backup, you punched a second copy.

Fast forward… 2000: We had things on hard drives. And RAID arrays were invented.

Ethereum uses the technology I first became aware of in connection with bitcoins. Very cool. And very hard to get head around! But "real", and here to stay.

Go to the Ethereum page. A little way down, below a pretty, and for once meaningful graphic (five cubes made of colored cubes) you will find "On traditional server architectures, every application has to set up its own servers…" Try to grasp what that is saying.

The Big Deal here is not that a server is mirrored, to bring the benefits of redundancy, but it is mirrored with a system of checksums and "self-healing" algorithms which make it hard to corrupt the integrity of the mirrors.

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Eye of newt

Well, not of newt, but of many arthropods, and related to the eye of other organisms…

I was working to identify plankton as part of a Zooniverse project, and was wondering which was the front end of an arrow worm. That led me to Wikipedia's article about ommatidia, the main building block of a compound eye.

What a lot we know! Take a little time to fully digest everything in that one article about one small part of one small part of insects, etc. How do we know just that much? Now multiply that out by all the other things we know about…

And isn't the vision system cool? If we didn't already have better digital imaging systems, wouldn't it be fun to try to build an electronic eye out of ommatidia?

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A few "cheer inducing" (not) factiods…

At http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/today/ssbn.html, at least on 12 Sep 2013, we learn that the US has 18 Ohio class nuclear subs.

Each can carry 24 Trident missiles.

Each missile can have 8 warheads.

Wikipedia says that the warhead of which a Trident can carry 8 weighs 362 pounds/ 164 kg, and has a yield of 100 kilotons.

Trident range: More than 4,600 statute miles. (London to Nepal, Mid- South- Atlantic to anywhere in Africa, Bay of Bengal to Moscow, and easily to any point in China. You get the idea.)

Within about two minutes of launch, the missile is traveling in excess of 3.8 miles (6,100 meters) per second.

(Still Wikipedia: "Extensions to the service lives for… [2,000] warheads was approved by the US government [sometime after 2000]… ")

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 16kt, directly ( i.e. in the initial blast) killed about 80,000 people. (Also Wikipedia.)

To recap…
"Hiroshimas" per modern warhead: 6 (and a quarter)
Warheads per missile: 8 (If START is broken)
Missiles per boat: 24
Boats… US alone, forgetting the UK and other fleets: 18

"Hiroshimas" in US navy, remembering that one bomb cannot be divided between cities, but also remembering that the devastation there will be six times as bad as Hiroshima: 3456.

Can you name 300 cities, let alone 3456?

Turning to something lighter, consider the use of English at the navy.mil site. They said…

"Ohio class SSBN is capable of carrying up to 24 long-range Trident missiles with up to 8 warheads per missile."

Why is that better than my "Ohio class SSBN can carry 24 Trident missiles with 8 warheads per missile". Is there a "short-range" Trident? (no). Is it likely that either sub or missile must always carry the maximum number of missiles or warheads? No? So… why use 21 words where 13 will do?

Curious: (Also from a navy.mil page): The Trident, when launched, has a fairly blunt front end. Early in its travels, a small telescopic spike it extended from the nose. The spike reduces frontal drag by about 50 percent. Who'd have thought it?

Final factoids relating to Trident…

Within about two minutes, the missile is traveling in excess of 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) per second.

Unit Cost: $30.9 million.
Length: 44 feet (13.41 meters).
Diameter: 83 inches (2.11 meters).
Weight: 130,000 pounds (58,500 kg).
(Those numbers from navy.mil page which says it was updated January 2009.)

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_START
Highlights:

The treaty limits the number of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) to 288, and the number of deployed SLBM warheads to a total of 1,152.

It does not limit the number of operationally inactive stockpiled nuclear warheads, that remain in the high thousands in both the Russian and American inventories.

Sleep well.

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Too Much Information…

I was researching investment ideas in the realm of RFID. From a page… http://tinyurl.com/3f37ug8… at SeekingAlpha, I encountered…

NFC stands for near field communication. It is a set of short-range wireless technologies operating at 13.56 MHz. NFC includes an initiating device such as a phone and a target such as a sticker.

RFID stands for radio frequency identification. RFID uses radio waves to exchange data between a tag and a reader. There are two kinds of tags: Active (with a battery) and passive (with no battery). Here we are dealing with passive RFID. RFID tags are semiconductors.

A majority of the phones today are not NFC equipped, but it is anticipated that NFC will become a standard feature of smartphones in the future.

The objective of the Hotpot program is to deliver information to the consumers on the sidewalk at the moment they are making the decision to enter the store. The store owner attaches an RFID tag embedded in a sticker or a poster to the front of the store. A unique ID number is encoded in the tag that instructs the phone with an NFC feature to display the appropriate Place Page from a Google server on the phone.

Life is bad enough today, with people walking and driving with their noses in their techno-pacifiers doing Twitter, Facebook, etc. And next, you tell me, that as they walk (drive) down the street, they can be immersed in web pages about "the great shop/ show/ silliness just ahead"??? Noooo…..

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OTT? ("Over The Top", i.e. excessive!)

I've known people who've worked for the emergency services. And I can see that the following is a "good idea" in theory… but to me it smacks of the sort of thing that led to policemen standing on the side of a pond into which a child had disappeared, "unable" to jump in, pull the child out because they hadn't done the "appropriate" training. The following is not a joke… in several ways. Taken, somewhat adapted, to let you understand the context, (and reduce market-speak!) from http://tinyurl.com/6x25lqb, a SeekingAlpha article.

// Identive Group has produced a solution for use at emergencies for the North Central All-Hazards Region (NCR) of Colorado. Based on the Colorado First Responder Access Card (CoFRAC) credential, the solution allows the region to validate the identity of and track personnel responding to an incident, manage resources at the site, and produce incident report documentation needed for state and federal reimbursement following an event.

The NCR is responsible for over 50% of Colorado's population and… covers… jurisdictions including mountainous, urban, and rural communities… including Denver and Boulder. The goal of the NCR CoFRAC program is to create a standard procedure for responder identification and incident management throughout the region…. Multicard's solution must comply with federal Homeland Security Presidential Directive HSPD-12, which standardizes the validation process of responder credentials, and HSPD-5, which defines processes for management of an incident. For emergency management situations, the use of an identity credential that is interoperable across local, state and federal agencies ensures that first responders showing up at an incident such as an earthquake, fire or flood can be quickly and accurately identified, assigned to appropriate tasks and tracked as to their hours and activities.

Under the identity management component of Multicard's solution, a rugged, handheld card reader is used to validate the CoFRAC and other government-issued credentials of federal, state, and local emergency response officials showing up at an incident. Under HSPD-12, the credentials of first responders must be verified under Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 201. To accomplish this, Multicard's handheld device compares the information stored on the CoFRAC and other FIPS 201-based cards against the Colorado Certificate Revocation List (CRL), which confirms that the card certificates are still valid. Upon validation, the first responder is asked to enter a pin number, and subsequently a fingerprint for comparison with the stored template on the card. If all three match, the responder is granted access to the secured incident site.

In addition to providing critical information to improve future emergency response, the incident command software aids in producing documentation of resource usage for state and federal reimbursement. Chain-of-custody documents for incident victims can also be accessed through the reporting functions. //

So… the next time you see firemen and paramedics waiting for the PIRM Personnel Identification and Resource Management truck to arrive and process their participation the dealing with the housefire which is blazing merrily while the right forms are filled in, you will understand.

I have a neat idea! Couldn't the PIRM work be outsourced to a call center? "Your call is very important to us. Please note that calls may be recorded. If we are good guys you don't need to worry, and if we are bad guys or incompetent or our system gets compromised we will lie through our teeth and still say "You don't need to worry". Why don't you try www.WeDontWantToHearFromyou.com before using our phone service? Still here? Oh well. Press one if you are a firefighter, press two if…"

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Cyberdrive

Paranoid? Careful?

As cars become ever more sophisticated, including, of course, more "connected" new issues arise. Monitoring and even control of more and more things are being built into cars. You may have heard of a now- old aspect of the OneStar service? If the car's airbag is deployed, a call comes in from the OneStar service center. "Are you okay"? If the call isn't answered, ambulances and fire engines can be dispatched to the car's GPS-detected location. It seems like a pretty good idea. But what about the following two scenarios which came to mind as I read the short article I cite at the end.

a) The modern car thief has a great deal. With the right access, he (or she!… must remain PC, of course!) can ask a car to unlock itself and turn on the engine via the internet.

b) Want to shut down a major city and cause millions of dollars/ pounds/ drachmas in losses, and probably even some deaths? Highjack maybe five medium to large vehicles, take them to strategic points around the city roads, slew them across a few lanes of the traffic and disable them. (I don't feel bad about "suggesting" this, as it has appeared in many novels.) With the "improved" features in cars, how about just turning off the engine of dozens of them down remotely?

From and inspired by: SciAm Jun11 Hack My Ride pg.18

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"Bad"?? Google…

In a BBC web news report, we are told the Privacy International (PI) is upset with Google for collecting data from unencrypted broadcasts across wi-fi networks.

PI claims, and I don't think Google disputes, that…

"(Google) intentionally separated out unencrypted content (payload data) of communications and systematically wrote this data to hard drives."

… but they then go on to say…

"This is equivalent to placing a hard tap and a digital recorder onto a phone wire without consent or authorization".

… which I would say is not true. If a user is foolish or ignorant enough to BROADCAST data in an unencrypted form, then why does the user have some right feel outraged that someone "heard" what THE USER broadcast?

Tapping a phone requires a "violation" of a system which is clearly protected in law. If you say that "listening" to unencrypted wi-fi broadcasts is punishable, then you might as well say that eavesdropping on a cell phone conversation someone chooses to inflict on the neighborhood in a train or other public place is punishable.

What makes the attack on Google particularly annoying is the fact that it is so easy to encrypt wi-fi broadcasts. If you want to use technical toys, you should have a duty to use them intelligently. We do not need a world where the government ties everyone's hands at every turn, to "protect" us from things that "might" happen… even when there are alternative ways to avoid those things.

The BBC report goes on to say….

"the German Information Commissioner (is demanding that Google hand) over a hard-disk so it could examine exactly what it had collected."

Ah! So this precious private data (that Google shouldn't see) SHOULD be seen by various government functionaries? Google has already admitted that it collected the data… why should the information in it be disclosed to more eyes than necessary for the purposes of prosecution, even if you believe prosecution is necessary?

While I concede that Google's actions were perhaps injudicious, if you stifle all technological experimentation, you will deny society the progress we have enjoyed until now.

If you leave a $10 bill on the sidewalk, you can't be too surprised if someone picks it up. In any case… think about the sort of drivel that is likely to be passing over un-encrypted networks. If the Google engineers "peeked" at it, isn't that punishment enough?

BBC report is at:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/10278068.stm

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Traffic flow monitoring

Once upon a time, the sensing of traffic flow depended on dedicated sensors and cameras. Now a new "sensor" has been added to the traffic control engineer's toolbox: Computers track cell-phones and can filter out a selected group to monitor traffic flow on specific sections of the road. //SciAm Jan08 Fastest Way, pg. 37

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