Tuesday, February 11. 2014
There's been a bit of talk about how Sochi might be the worst Olympics ever. I've been half jokingly saying that this is impossible, while thinking about the 1936 olympics.
But the more I think about it, the more I have come to understand that there are two Olympic games that stand out, and the reasons they stand out are geo-political in nature, and no matter how many defective toilets and nonexistent hotel rooms turn up in Sochi, Sochi will never be able to match up to the awfulness of 1936 in Berlin and 1972 in Munich.
In 1936, of course, the Olympics had Hitler. Do I need to say more?
In 1972, Munich had the tragic "Munich Massacre".
So a bunch of broken and incomplete facilities make the worst ever? Not even close. I hope that we never again see an Olympics so bad as 1936 or 1972.
Thursday, December 12. 2013
Tuesday, December 10. 2013
While I appreciate all the tributes to Rear Admiral Hopper on what would have been her 107th birthday, I'm disappointed in the superficiality of most of them. Usually they mention her naval career and COBOL, but that's about it. She was actually quite a bit more than that.
Before WWII, she earned a PHD in Mathematics from Yale and became a faculty member at Vassar.
During the war, she joined the Naval Reserves and found herself assigned to work at Harvard on the Mark I, where she became one of the first programmers.
After the war, she wished to remain in the Navy, but they declined because she was too old (38). She remained at Harvard until 1949, when she joined the team developing the UNIVAC I. It was while she was there that she developed the concepts of higher level languages and compilers (the first actual compiler was developed by Hopper, 1952.)
She returned to active duty with the Navy in the 60s, and retired and unretired several times until her final retirement in 1986. She was a strong advocate in the Navy for a move to smaller, distributed, networked computers instead of large centralized ones.
Her career spanned academic, commercial and military worlds, and she was very accomplished in all of them. Just referring to her involvement in COBOL isn't giving her nearly enough credit.
And I think she really liked being in the Navy.
Sunday, December 1. 2013
...aren't necessarily useless after the contract is over and you've acquired the new one...
i have recently repurposed an old iPhone 3GS as an iPod touch, something it does pretty well. and my wife's retired HTC Android is now serving as a GPS, thanks to OsmAnd, an OpenSource GPS program for Androids that uses OpenSreetMap data. so don't assume that the old phones don't have a purpose any more, they can still slurp up and export data via wifi, and can run useful programs.
what i have learned, though, is that usually they won't come up unless they have a sim. the good news is that any sim will do, even old ones that have been deactivated by the carrier. put the sim in, "activate" the phone, take the sim out and put it in airplane mode. this works similarly on iphones and on androids in my experience.
Wednesday, November 20. 2013
this spammer does not appear to have fully mastered their comment generation scripts:
can we get some better quality spammers please?
Jimapco is kind of a legend in the Capital District of New York. For the longest time, they have been a notable supplier of maps of very good accuracy (not perfect, but very good). They are under copyright, of course, and so are not acceptable sources for OpenStreetMap, but I have always respected the quality and when I used to put on TSD rallies I would always buy a couple of the relevant county maps each year and hand them out to my checkpoint crews so that they'd get to the right places.
So last night I was at Tech Valley High School for a chain of meetings involving various combinations of parents and students, and opted out of the social committee meeting (as that was really my daughter's gig). I found myself looking at a 2008 version of the Jimapco greater capital region map which happened to be posted on the wall, and decided to look at one or two spots where I knew where there might be issues. I was more than a little surprised.
There were three specific areas where I caught things that were significantly out of date. The first has to do with a cluster of town roads at the Sand Lake/Nassau town border on the east side of Burden Lake. If you look at this link (http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=14/42.5916/-73.5414&layers=N) to OpenStreetMap, you can see CR 20 and CR 47 just kind of end, connecting to town roads. At some time in the past they certainly extended further, but today they just end. The 2008 Jimapco map shows them continuing - but I've lived in the area since 2000 and I'm quite sure that it's been a bit longer than that since these county routes were through. Being an OSMer and a local, of course, I've visited these roads and taken GPS coordinates at the exact spots where county maintenance ends; there is no doubt about this.
The second is the routing of NY 338. Originally NY 338 was a very short highway in Saratoga County, a bypass around Schuylerville. In 1980 it was turned over to the county and was redesignated Saratoga County CR 338. NYS then reused the designation across the river in Washington County for a short state route that passed through the hamlet of Cossayuna on Cossayuna Lake, connecting with NY 29 on one end and NY 40 on the other. The 2008 Jimapco map shows this alignment. The problem that NY turned the road back over to Washington County in 1996 and it's been Washington County Route 49 since then: http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=13/43.1635/-73.4490&layers=N. So that's an update that's 12 years overdue in 2008. I was putting on Road Rallies in this area back in the '80s and I certainly remember when this was NY 338 - but I've been back since and it's definitely not NY 338 today.
The third is the routing of NY 66 in the vicinity of the hamlet of Averill Park. This link to OpenStreetMap shows the modern routing, which passes east of Averill Park, through the hamlet of Sand Lake (all of this is contained within the Town of Sand Lake): http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=14/42.6403/-73.5544&layers=N. This particular routing dates from 1980. The 2008 Jimapco map, however, shows the pre-1980 route, where NY 66 passes through the center of Averill Park. The modern CR 45 is Old Route 66, which meets NY 43 in the center of the hamlet. In the old routing, 66 and 43 overlapped from this point east to Sand Lake, where both then turned south (right). So in 2008, this update is 28 years over due.
So this is really a very disappointing performance from a highly regarded map provider. I suppose I should run up to their retail map store and see if the current version of their map still has these problems, and maybe look at some of their more detailed maps (say, the county maps) to see if they share the problems.
Friday, October 11. 2013
i've decided to start using my OSM diary for a lot of the mappy stuff. When I post new articles there, i'll provide links here.
My latest, on the progress of Highway Shields in NY, is Shields Up. a list of all diary entries may be found here
Tuesday, September 17. 2013
(boy, i seem to be blogging a lot today)
the relationship between drivers and tech can be a touchy one. lots of drivers really don't like interacting with tech inspectors, they just kind of assume that it means trouble. and i have, at times over the years, seen incidents that would seem to justify this sort of reaction. but there's another type of driver and tech interaction that i'm blogging about today.
giving tech a heads up
from time to time, drivers will tell a tech inspector what they think is going on in their class. this can be pretty interesting, and usually happens at the beer party after the day's activities. i kind of like hearing this stuff - but drivers need to understand certain things about how i might (or might not) respond to their information. and it's rarely personal, unless something comes up that spins it that way. and the spin usually comes when the driver is being disingenuous about something.
years ago, an ITS driver who is no longer active came up to me at the beer party and told me about all the stuff that he was sure the RX-7 ITS drivers were doing. i listened carefully, but didn't commit to a response (i generally don't). the funny part was that when i did impound ITS to check for the (mandatory) window glass and ride height later that season, this very driver had substituted plastic windows for glass windows in his doors - which is not permitted. this driver was clearly trying to use tech to go after other drivers in his class, and this is the sort of situation where if that is discovered, i might just take it personally - because i feel like someone is trying to play me for a fool.
more recently i recall a National race where two drivers in showroom stock kept showing up in tech to describe bad things the other driver was doing that we should check. Really Guys? if you think he's cheating, file the protest and post the bond. or maybe get a room - either way, just leave tech out of it. we are not going to respond to this.
what may happen
If you do come up to me and suggest something that might be going on, I will probably not do anything right away. I may want to research, and may want to talk to other drivers in the class to get their take on things. I may need to take steps to get certain tools to the track. Even bringing something up a couple of days before a race is likely to not get anything done promptly. Tools may not be easily accessible. Two weeks is way more time than 3 or 4 days if you need something shipped or have to buy something. And I need to be careful about appearances; tech should not be perceived as responding to any particular driver's agenda, unless the agenda is clean racing. If you do contact me 2 weeks before a race to arrange equipment, you should be planning to file the mechanical protest, and not be trying to get me to impound someone you don't like.
Also, if you do decide to actually file a mechanical protest, a couple of suggestions:
1) file it early in the race weekend. that gives us time to decide how we're going to approach it. once the protest is filed, we can take steps to secure the vehicle and prepare for whatever is needed. for intrusive things, we might seal the engine and plan for disassembly after the race. and by the way, be aware that mechanical protests filed in the last hour before the race are not timely and won't go anywhere.
2) don't offer us tools. the protested party will use their own tools for any disassembly, under supervision of a tech inspector. after disassembly, tech can't use measurement tools supplied by a party to the protest. on one occasion, a bunch of drivers got together to file a protest of one of their competitors, and since they'd planned well in advance, they brought some very nice tools to the track for the needed measurements. they were very offended when we told them we couldn't use them - but if we had, there would have been nothing but trouble down the line. i seriously doubt we would have made it past the committee at the track if we'd used the protestor's tools to measure the protested engine.
what's in the toolbox
There are some useful things in NEDiv that can be at the track, but they won't necessarily spontaneously appear.
1) bore and stroke gauges for center plug engines. yes, we can bore and stroke some cars without pulling heads, but not all of them. but we won't necessarily have these tools at every race.
2) there is a whistler which can be used to measure compression without pulling a head
3) some regions have puff testers, which can be used to measure displacement in some motors - in particular, american pushrod v-8s are candidates for this measurement.
If I knew in advance I might need this stuff, it can certainly be at the track.
updated - got the unsubscribe link wrong
i just got a spam in the inbox that doesn't look like any i've seen before.
Subject: Your Neighborhood Is On Lockdown Due To Child Predator Alert
It's trying to panic you into visiting the site (which I will not link to here, i suspect it's a malware site that will only be live for a short period of time). But the "unsubscribe" link is pretty funny:
I do not care to know when predators are in my neighborhood here
Where the trailing here is a link to, perhaps, another malware site.
To the guys still running the old tires
Guys, the old Spec Racer Ford rain tires haven't been permitted for a year now. The numbers are right on the side, and they're faster than the new tires, so if you think you can get away with it, you're fooling yourselves. If a competitor files a protest, you will lose.
To the guys running the new tires
Let's try that self policing thing. The numbers are on the side of the tires, out where you can see them, and if you protest someone running the old tires, you will win. There's no tear down bond involved, just a protest fee, which, if memory serves, you get back.
updated below - 2013-09-17
What is a Certificate and what is a Certificate Authority?
How does a web site prove who they say they are?
The short answer is they go to a Certificate Authority and purchase, after supplying some proofs, a certificate that says who they are.
The long answer is that much of the cryptography infrastructure of the internet depends on the Public Key Infrastructure (PK), which is based on the X.509 standard for digital certificates. These certificates provide a framework for "proving" that an actor is who they represent themselves to be, and for negotiating the encryption to be used for a secure connection. There are two groupings of certificates, self-signed certificates and certificates derived from Certificate Authorities (CAs). CAs can be public entities (you can get "store bought" certificates from Verisign, Geotrust, or whoever) or private ones. if the latter, they aren't much different from self-signed certificates.
Network applications that use certificates typically have a list of CAs for whom they will accept certificates, and you can add CAs or individual certificates in some cases if you decide to trust them. When your browser sets up an https: connection to an online store, these certificates are in play. this is how you, at least in theory, know that sears.com is really Sears and not some joker playing at being Sears in the interest of stealing credit card numbers.
This makes CAs a target and a very attractive one, at that. If you can compromise a CA, you may be in a position to create certificates that allow you to pretend to be someone else, which permits all sorts of nasty attacks. And CAs have indeed been compromised, and at least one that i'm aware of has had to shut down because of the extent of the compromise. You see, once a CA has been compromised, the trust relationship is broken - you cannot distinguish between the "real" and the "fake" certificates, and the game is over.
This is where it gets terrifying
We know that the government, under the cover of various and sundry security provisions, has sent orders to outfits like Lavabit, essentially ordering them to operate fraudulently by continuing to sell a secure service while secretly supplying "secured" data back to the government. This is a huge ethical dilemma, which the owner of Lavabit dealt with ethically by simply shutting down his business. The ethics of any ensuing government prosecution are left for the reader's consideration.
Should we assume that we know about all the orders in play? Of course not, for every ethical business owner there are no doubt other corporate entities who have chosen differently. So at this moment, can we trust any US based Certificate Authorities? I think the answer is a resounding no. And this means that anything that depends on certificates from any US based CA, whether it's a secure website or an IPSec based Virtual Private Network, is no longer trustworthy. And that should terrify us all.
So what can we trust?
We can trust private/public key systems that don't depend on X.509, like PGP/GPG. These work using the concept of web-of-trust, where you agree that you know that someone is who they say they are and accept their key. In theory, self-signed certificates are now more reliable if you can verify the identity of the signer. This is in essence a variation on web-of-trust.
The problem with endpoints
This still doesn't mean much if the security end points are compromised. The NSA can do that, but it's expensive so they're more likely to do things like attack the Certificate Infrastructure. But your PGP/GPG key won't mean much once they hack into your PC or Mac and install a keylogger. But I've depressed everyone enough for one day.
Update - 2013-09-17
FYI, I am now using OpenPGP to sign everything sent from my primary email account. The fingerprint is 3133 3F6D AB20 AC3F 9C88 DC61 0F2C 74F4 7012 C7FA, short id is 7012C7FA, keyserver is hkp://keys.gnupg.net. it's a 4096 bit RSA key. cheers!
Thursday, September 12. 2013
I have gotten a lot of good use out of entry level Garmin Nuvis. What i haven't gotten is long life. Typically i get maybe 2-3 years out of one before either the slider switch on the top fails or the USB connector fails. These failures are generally out of warranty and the only thing Garmin offers is an exchange for a refurb unit that is close to the cost of a new unit.
I don't recommend paying for lifetime maps on Nuvis. The lifetime of a well used Nuvi is simply not that long.
Having said that, i will probably replace the current Nuvi (failed slider switch) with another Garmin when the time comes, but i may consider going a little upmarket next time out.
Friday, July 5. 2013
Prior postings on the subject are Here and Here.
It turns out I know someone who works in the corporate complex that owns prweb who is well versed in network abuse issues, and the situation is getting looked into. So I plan to stop stirring up trouble for the time being.
after the link spam incident discussed here i sent a polite inquiry to prweb asking whether link spamming using links to their service was a ToS violation. They have responded:
This is of course, fundamentally unsatisfactory. They have Terms of Service which their customers must agree to and the ToS can of course contain limitations on how they use the links.
Now to ask the person whose name is on the release about the link spamming incident.
Someone just tried to link spam a blog I manage. It got kicked into automoderation. I found it somewhat entertaining, as the link was to a press release on www.prweb.com plugging an online reputation management service. It appears that they are not worried about having an online reputation for link spamming.
I'm not revealing the details just yet, as it is a possibility that this is a Joe-Job. But more than likely it's someone setting up as a reputation consultant who isn't really very competent or knowledgeable about what they're doing.
In the meantime, I have submitted a inquiry to prweb as to whether or not link spamming is a violation of their Terms of Service. I'll be very interested to hear their response.
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