About Charlie

Charlie was born small, noisy, and ineffectual. After a great deal of foolishness, he became large and inconsequential. He hopes to become fertilizer at an appropriate time in the future.

Associated Press jumps the shark

Everybody has been saying that the Internet is killing journalism, but I see it as more of a suicide.

The argument for lowercasing Internet is that it has become wholly generic, like electricity and the telephone. It never was trademarked and is not based on any proper noun,” Tom Kent, AP Standards Editor, said in a statement. “The best reason for capitalizing it in the past may have been that the term was new. At one point, we understand, ‘Phonograph’ was capitalized.”

Mr. Kent has become an arbiter of journalistic composition despite being apparently unfamiliar with the concept called “research.” Which explains the death of journalism better than the Internet, or indeed any number of internets.

What 100 year flood means

“And this is where you first start getting a sense that maybe engineering hydrology isn’t the most exact of sciences. …none of the Imperial units for these values agree, but if you do the math, the conversion factor is just about one, so we ignore it. We just leave it off! This is not something we take out to the fifth decimal place.”

SpaceX does it again

Another Falcon9 successfully landed on a moving barge this morning.

In order to make the economics work, these birds do a ballistic reentry, essentially falling out of the sky and making a corrective landing burn at the last possible minute. Since this Falcon was delivering a Japanese communications satellite to high orbit, the lifter fell a lot further than the last one did, ending up going twice as fast and requiring a 12-G final burn before touching down softly on the recovery vessel Of Course I Still Love You.

Congratulations to Elon Musk and the SpaceX team, who are among the many people who don’t read this blog.

Human microbiome transplant

Responses to Josiah Zayner’s attempt to replace his body’s bacteria are almost as interesting as the experiment itself. It seems like most of the medical community believe professional approval of one’s theory and practice is what determines therapeutic success, and not the actual measurement of physical outcomes.

Anyway, as is usual in gut flora replacement therapy, Mr. Zayner has successfully remediated his long standing intestinal problems. Genetic tests show that he is now host to a new, healthier mix of internal bacteria harvested from a friend’s feces. The rest of his homemade treatment was less successful; he was not able to completely eradicate his skin bacteria, nor was he able to prevent re-infection from his surroundings. The article is sort of simultaneously horrifying and illuminating; scientists who self-experiment are strange birds more often than not.

Radioactivity Art

Greenpeace photographer Greg McNevin has created a beautiful series of photographs based on walking around areas formerly contaminated by the ongoing Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters with an LED stick connected to a geiger counter. It’s unfortunate that most people won’t be able to see the art past the politics, but I think it has value in both spheres.

UD cop doesn’t like having to investigate beachballs

Officer Slater is aggrieved because he knows he’ll be asked to investigate whether the giant penis drawn on the “free speech beachball” is a hate crime. It’s true it’s bound to be reported as one, but you know what officer? That’s your job. You’re a campus cop, OK? You are not protecting Gotham City from evildoers, you are investigating complaints of hate graffiti, some of which are going to turn out to be bogus. Somebody’s got to do it, and that’s why we pay you to do it.

SpaceX lands at sea

A little late with the news, but anyway the SpaceX’s Falcon-9 has successfully landed on the drone barge “Of Course I Still Love You”. The landing deck is 170 by 300 feet long, and the Falcon’s legs stand 60 feet apart. As you can see by the whitecaps, the sea was very rough with high altitude crosswinds of 50 mph and low altitude winds of 25 mph.

For true space geeks, the beautifully produced full 18 minute video:

aye brooks nae tangledness

Twenty years ago I worked out the words to this song. You’ll note that Andy doesn’t get them perfect in this performance! I originally misspelled the name as “MacGilavry” but I’ve fixed that here.

Donald gane up the hill hard and hungry,
Donald's come doon the hill wild and angry;
Donald will clear the gouk's nest cleverly,
Here's to the king and Donald McGillavry.
          Come like a weighbauk, Donald McGillavry,
          Come like a weighbauk, Donald McGillavry,
          Balance them fair, and balance them cleverly:
          Off wi' the counterfeit, Donald McGillavry.

Donald's run o'er the hill but his tether man,
As he were wud, or stang'd wi' an ether, man;
When he comes back, there's some will look merrily:
Here's to King James and Donald McGillavry.
          Come like a weaver, Donald McGillavry,
          Come like a weaver, Donald McGillavry,
          Pack on your back, and elwand sae cleverly;
          Gie them full measure, my Donald McGillavry.

Donald has foughten wi' rief and roguery;
Donald has dinner'd wi' banes and beggary,
Better it were for Whigs and Whiggery
Meeting the devil than Donald McGillavry.
          Come like a tailor, Donald McGillavry,
          Come like a tailor, Donald McGillavry,
          Push about, in and out, thimble them cleverly,
          Here's to King James and Donald McGillavry.

Donald's the callan that brooks nae tangleness;
Whigging and prigging and a' newfangleness,
They maun be gane:  he winna be baukit, man;
He maun hae justice, or faith he'll tak it, man.
          Come like a cobbler, Donald McGillavry,
          Come like a cobbler, Donald McGillavry,
          Beat them, and bore them, and lingel them cleverly,
          Up wi' King James and Donald McGillavry.

Donald was mumpit wi' mirds and mockery;
Donald was blinded wi' blads o' property;
Arles ran high, but makings were naething, man,
Lord, how Donald is flyting and fretting, man.
          Come like the devil, Donald McGillavry,
          Come like the devil, Donald McGillavry,
          Skelp them and scaud them that proved sae unbritherly,
          Up wi' King James and Donald McGillavry!

Orbital ATK Cygnus 6 space truck

The unmanned Cygnus cargo mission OA-6 went up Saturday on a Russian/American Atlas V, successfully delivering a new 3d printer to the International Space station. The ISS crew snagged the Cygnus today with their robotic arm.

Interesting side note on this mission, before Cygnus 6 plunges to its fiery reentry doom it’s going to test artificial gecko feet and be used for a fire-in-space experiment.

Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War

Somebody (possibly Henson himself) posted Evolutionary Psychology, Memes and the Origin of War over at Kuro5hin in 2006. I had no idea Kuro5hin still existed, and Henson’s paper could use some consideration of group selection, but anyway it’s a worthwhile and controversial read.

It seems to me that if Henson’s basic thesis is right, our current global political situation is not just eerily similar to that of the mid-1930s, it’s actually the same phenomenon – so we better get it under control.

$1 million Google Tiny Box prize won

Belgian contenders The Red Electrical Devils have won the $1,000,000 Google Tiny Box prize.

There’s a .pdf of the paper describing their design here, but don’t bother trying to read it if the word “schematic” means nothing to you.

Google’s challenge was for a tiny, lightweight device that converts DC (the type of electricity that batteries and solar panels put out) to AC (the type of electricity that is most useful for doing work). Such devices are called “inverters” and improvements in inverter technology would obviously be useful for electric cars, home solar power systems, and many another thing.

The winning team exceeded Google’s minimum requirements to win by three times, creating a device that is ten times smaller than existing technologies while meeting all of Google’s other restrictions (such as 95% or better efficiency, air cooling, &etc.) It’s extremely impressive work.

Don’t be a .local yokel

Wikipedia has a nice technical write up that explains why you should never, ever use the .local suffix the way Microsoft has frequently recommended.

But I like this politically incorrect version better:

Microsoft: “Gee, nobody is using the .local piece of the globally shared Internet namespace, so let’s tell all our customers that it’s best practice to use it for our totally super cool version of Kerberized LDAP service called Active Directory!”

Novell: “Oh noes, Microsoft has made an inferior competitor to our flagship technology! It’ll probably destroy our market advantage just like their inferior networking stack did!”

Linux/Unix: “Oh noes, when somebody attaches the new Microsoft technology to an existing mature standards-based network, Kerberos breaks!”

Microsoft: “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA we are totally following the standard, lusers!”

Linux/Unix: “grumble whine we will patch Kerberos even though we don’t agree.”

Microsoft: “whatevs. Did you notice we broke your DNS too? :)”

Apple: “Hey, IETF, we have this cool new zeroconf technology. We want to reserve the .local namespace for it.”

IETF: “OK, sure, you’ve filled out all the forms and attended all the meetings and there’s two independent implementations so you’ve done everything correctly. We have no valid reason to deny this allocation.”

Novell: “Hey, we were using SLP already, what did you just do?”

Apple: “Oh, whoopsie, did we just eat your lunch? HA HA HA HA HA”

Microsoft: “Hey, what just happened?”

Apple: “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA RFC6762, lusers!”

Linux/Unix: “grumble mumble whatevs. We can do mDNS.”

Microsoft customers: “OH NOES WE ARE SCREWZ0RRED”

Microsoft: “Meh, you didn’t really want Apple products on your networks anyway.”

:TEN YEARS LATER:

Microsoft customers: “How much would it cost to fix this network?”

Microsoft: “What, were you talking to us? Everything’s fine here. Windows 10 forever!”

Licenses, Poetic and Other

Which do you prefer:

Jeb Bush’s license for the engraved gun he tweeted with the title “America”

– OR –

Bernie Sanders’ licensed use of Simon and Garfunkel’s song “America”

I stole nearly this entire post without permission.

I wish Sanders wasn’t so damn old.

Comodo up to more tricks

People occasionally ask me who they should buy security certificates from. I absolutely will not recommend anyone in particular – even the most honest and honorable Certificate Authorities are inherently swindlers, because the trade itself is pretty much a legalized extortion scheme – but I am willing to say who I don’t recommend – Comodo is the worst CA, hands down. Witness their latest hijinks:

When you install Comodo Internet Security, by default a new browser called Chromodo is installed and set as the default browser. Additionally, all shortcuts are replaced with Chromodo links and all settings, cookies, etc are imported from Chrome. They also hijack DNS settings, among other shady practices.
[Link to Chromodo download elided]
Chromodo is described as “highest levels of speed, security and privacy”, but actually disables all web security. Let me repeat that, they ***disable the same origin policy***…. ?!?..

This certainly isn’t the first time Comodo’s been caught doing things they shouldn’t, but somehow they still control around a third of the world’s certificate issuance. People need to stop giving business to known bad actors, even when it’s unclear whether the actions stem from malice or incompetence.