David Kramer's high-entropy blog

Dwarf Tossing Is Out. Now There’s Robot Tossing.

No, alcohol isn’t involved this time.  These are military robots.  Lots of ’em.  All different kinds.  According to this article on Network World, the Marines are looking for, among other things, robots that weigh 10 pounds or less and can be litterally tossed into battle for reconnaissance or other support operations.  They’re looking to other types of robots (some of which already exist as prototypes) to carry gear, assist with communications, and actually fight.

Read on…


How I Will Make My Next Million Dollars

Why is it that answering machines, no matter how fancy, don’t have a feature to mark a message as unread?  I mean, most households have more than one person in them, and the odds are good if a message is for one person, another person in the house might play the message.  Being human, odds are good they will forget to tell the intended recipient there is a message for them.  And if one of the cats answers the phone, well they don’t care about anyone but themselves anyway (except at mealtime).

Almost all answering machines are digital these days, so there’s no technological reason.  There isn’t even extra information to store.  All it has to do is not clear the NewMessage bit if the listener presses that button.  What do you think?  Will you invest in my company?  Or should I just sell the idea to VTech or Panasonic then move to Bermuda with the million dollars?

P.S. Just to make it clear to those who will read this and be tempted to rob my house, my next million dollars will be my first million dollars.


Sticky Tape Found To Emit Terahertz Radiation

From Slashdot: Sticky Tape Found To Emit Terahertz Radiation.  Reading through the comments, this is more of an interesting curiosity than a practical discovery, but I find the explanation fascinating.  Terahertz-range radiation can be used for imaging, like C-rays.  Denser objects absorb more of the energy, so looking at the “shadow” from the other side of the object can show hidden weapons, etc.  Unlike C-rays, though, terahertz-range radiation does not harm the body.

Read on…


100 Essential Skills for Geeks

From Wired: 100 Essential Skills for Geeks.

I found this list fun, but a lot of the skills on their list are either too esoteric for even a mid-level geek (lock picking, bypassing passwords), or to specific to be be general geek knowledge (steganographics, robotics).  But it is fun.

I’ll update this post tonight with my score.  I welcome comments with yours.


Chicken Feathers May Hold Key To Hydrogen Storage

From Slashdot: Chicken Feathers May Hold Key To Hydrogen Storage. While what they say is plausible (in the MythBusters sense of the word), the original article is from Oregon Live.com, a source I know nothing about.A practical hydrogen car has been elusive for decades. Before the announcement this week by University of Delaware engineers, a nonstop trip from Portland to Eugene in a hydrogen car would need a tank bigger than 100 gallons to store liquid or gaseous fuel, even under high pressure.

Treated chicken feathers work like a sponge. They soak up large amounts of hydrogen and hold it in a small space so the tank can be a conventional size and the fuel won’t need to held under dangerously high pressures….

“It’s the most energy-rich material we have,” says Roger Ely, an Oregon State University professor who specializes in hydrogen, “It’s three times the energy content of gasoline on a pound-for-pound basis.”


Firewire Security Hole

This is not a new issue, but I just found out about it from this article on TechRepublic.com (yes, their URL is technrepublic.com.com).   They state that Firewire (IEEE 1394), unlike USB, was designed more as an external system bus connection, not just for external storage.  That allows Firewire devices to sneak in under the covers and do pretty much whatever they want, waving the “I’m with the band!” badge at any secuirty, including logging into the system.

Since this is part of the design of Firewire, it’s not a bug that can be fixed.  You cannot protect against security breach by firewire device and still adhere to the standard.  This isn’t to say it’s time to weld a metal plate over your laptop’s Firewire port and a tin foil hat on your head, because this isn’t something that you hear about happening in the wild, even though there’s a program out there to do it.

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