Articles, Page 23 of 207

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05 Jul 11

Advice To Yourself

If you had the ability to go back and spend only five minutes with your 18 year-old self, what would you advise? And do you think your younger counterpart would listen?

01 Jul 11

19 Most Hated Companies

Results from another American Customer Satisfaction Index are in. Not too surprisingly, the 19 most hated companies include banks, airlines, Internet providers and AT&T. What was rather interesting was that Facebook, with it’s 500 million active users, ranked number 10. For a company that produces and offers nothing, that’s an impressive feat to be despised more than some banks and the Internet smeared AT&T. It pretty much required being an airline to be worse than Facebook in customer’s eyes.

24 Jun 11

C++ Continues to Reign

C++ continues to reign as one of the fastest computer languages. A recent study performed by Google (pdf) benched C++, Java, Scala and its own programming language Go and came to the typical conclusion that C++ was the fastest although the most painful.

We find that in regards to performance, C++ wins out by a large margin. However, it also required the most extensive tuning efforts, many of which were done at a level of sophistication that would not be available to the average programmer.

Perhaps the newly accepted C++0x revisions by the ISO C++ Committee will address the implementation difficulties with the first major revision to the language in over a decade. C++0x is getting a substantial upgrade to incorporate the most popular of new paradigms such that it’s creator, Bjarne Stroustrup, described it as feeling like a new language.

21 Jun 11

Are Drones Hostile?

It’s been over 60 days since commencing the attacks on Libya in support of Resolution 1973. Skeptics were already wondering what the point of it all was when the operation began considering the same uprisings and violence were occurring in other states across the region. But now the skeptics can really begin bashing into the Obama Administration’s intent considering his decision to “opt out” of adhering to the 1973 War Powers Resolution. In a nutshell, “Section 4(a)(1) requires the President to report to Congress any introduction of U.S. forces into hostilities or imminent hostilities. When such a report is submitted, or is required to be submitted, section 5(b) requires that the use of forces must be terminated within 60 to 90 days unless Congress authorizes such use or extends the time period.” This little legal requirement was deftly sidestepped by determining that American drone activity was not hostile and therefore exempt from the rule. The President chose the White House legal team’s opinion over the legal recommendations from the Pentagon and Justice Department to continue operations in Libya.

14 Jun 11

Uniform Sanity ... No More Beret and Less Velcro

It only took a decade … but the Army has finally taken a common sense approach to some of it’s soldier’s loudest uniform grievances. With Army directive 2011-11, the regulation on uniform appearance has been modified such that the contested black berets are no longer part of the ACU (the camouflage uniform). Soldiers have been annoyed by the ridiculous tan-line across the forehead, the idiocy of carrying multiple pieces of headgear for dirty functions (motorpool, work details, etc) and its lack of utility use in rain, sunshine or heat. Furthermore, most of the annoying velcro patches and pin on badges from the ACU may be now replaced with sew on patches.

11 Jun 11

Wind Powered Car Outpaces Wind

I came across a pretty interesting article in Wired Magazine the other day. The crux of the story surrounds whether or not it is possible to construct a vehicle, powered only by the wind, that can outrun a balloon propelled by the same wind. It’s solution was based on the fact that a sail will generate thrust like an airplane wing (a fact alluded to by gnifyus in the Mythbusters: Self Propelled Sailboat discussion). Personally, I didn’t know that it was true that a sailboat tacking in the wind could actually go faster than the wind (so long as it’s travel vector is not parallel to the wind). Anyway, this guy Rick Cavallaro decided to adapt the tacking method onto a vehicle that could travel dead downwind, powered only by the wind and go faster than the wind. The key was visualizing the sail in a different way, until you realized the required motion was that of a propellor. The following images are described well in the original Wired story.

11 Jun 11

Sarah Palin Steps On Her Poncho ... Again

While it’s true that many people botch up their memory of history now and then, Sarah Palin’s historical gaffe in Boston went a little deeper. For those that don’t know, she essentially recounted the significance of Paul Revere’s ride:

He who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells, and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.

Okay, so let’s assume it was an honest mistake that most third graders could identify and correct. She goes on to insist she wasn’t wrong and her fanatical fan base even went so far as to edit Wikipedia to alter history in order to make her appear correct. Uh huh. [Embedded videos below]:

07 Jun 11

Exploding Cupcakes

The terrorists at large have been teaching each other tradecraft through a quarterly magazine published on-line called Inspire. Kudos to the British GCHQ for managing to replace an article on bomb making techniques with a recipe for cupcakes. James Brandon of the Quilliam Foundation against extremism posits, “A recipe for cupcakes is better than a recipe for bombs, but it would been more productive if they had put up counter-arguments to al-Qaida.” It is somewhat curious that they chose cupcakes instead of altering the bomb procedure to blow up the maker or render them completely inert.

06 Jun 11

GPU Password Cracking

Many of the OmniNerds here remember subverting every password the USMA Goldcoats ever put on the network a decade ago in the era of weak LanMan hashes. Overtime, I’m assuming they finally got smart and started using at least NTLMv2 hashes or did whenever Microsoft stopped supported LanMan by default. Anyway, I digress. Just as tools used to target the easily broken LanMan hashes, the NTLM hashes are falling quickly thanks to cracking tools employing the power of GPUs. Standard video card GPUs can now break 7 character, mixed-case, random-character passwords in as little as 7 hours and increasing to 9 characters extends the break time to still manageable 48 days. It gets even faster if you’re willing to spend a few bucks and feed a GPU cluster in the cloud.

02 Jun 11

Should Smallpox Traces Be Destroyed

Smallpox was officially eradicated in its naturally occurring form three decades ago. Since then, requests by the WHO to destroy remaining stockpiles have gone unheeded. Scientists have declared that eliminating the stockpiles would hinder future research if new strains were to develop. Others fear those stockpiles are being saved for use as biological weapons since the only two countries maintaining them are the United States and Russia. Is the total destruction of carefully maintained stocks a worthy endeavor?

01 Jun 11

Does the OpenOffice Debacle Reveal Danger in Open Source

Roughly two years ago, database giant Oracle purchased Sun and inherited a number of open source projects widely used across the community. Many folks within the community were immediately afraid of what would happen to open source projects like MySQL, Solaris, VirtualBox, OpenOffice and Java. Although Oracle did kill OpenSolaris, the others remained free and continued their development. There were, however, friction points between Oracle and the OpenOffice development community to the point the project was forked into LibreOffice. Apparently, the name OpenOffice will be lost because Oracle wouldn’t give the name back until they realized nobody cared about their stale unforked codebase.

01 Jun 11

Productivity Lost

iD Software released the source code to it’s popular ’90s game Doom back in 1997 and the first person shooter has been ported to numerous platforms ever since. Now you can play at work with nothing more than your web browser thanks to a javascript port. I think I already wasted a good 30 minutes playing at a whopping 9fps killing old-school demons and monsters. Good times.

31 May 11

Raised Stakes in State Sponsored Cyber Activity

The stakes are always changing in the state sponsored CNO (computer network operations) field. China has recently admitted to having built a dedicated military unit known as the Blue Army for defensive operations. A retired PLA general spoke to their skills by allusion, “It is just like ping-pong. We have more people playing it, so we are very good at it.” Despite the claims on defense, it is generally assumed to be related to their offensive operations which continue to be less and less clandestine (pdf). Symantec research indicates that nearly 30% of malware cases originate from within China

27 May 11

Obama & Congress Extends Patriot Act

The Patriot Act has certainly stirred the pot of controversy since it’s passing nearly a decade ago under the Bush Administration. From the Department of Justice (pdf):

Since its passage following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Patriot Act has played a key part – and often the leading role – in a number of successful operations to protect innocent Americans from the deadly plans of terrorists dedicated to destroying America and our way of life. While the results have been important, in passing the Patriot Act, Congress provided for only modest, incremental changes in the law. Congress simply took existing legal principles and retrofitted them to preserve the lives and liberty of the American people from the challenges posed by a global terrorist network.

27 May 11

Electrons Are Spherical

Imperial College London scientists have recently unveiled the most accurate measurements taken of a single electron. Their analysis showed the electron is within 0.000000000000000000000000001 cm of being perfectly round. The measurements required precise ytterbium fluoride laser work to analyze the electron for wobble and movement.

Personally, my first thought was, “annnnnd this is important why?” but the article indicates understanding the exact shape of an electron is useful in the study of anti-matter when dealing with positrons.

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