Articles, Page 23 of 213
Do you use all your vacation days? Or do you end up forfeiting them to your company’s policy at the end of the year. Apparently, most Americans simply give up an average of two vacation days a year, giving their employers free labor. To put those numbers into a little more perspective, estimates indicate that given present day labor figures, Americans give up 226 million vacation days valued at approximately $34.3 billion in man hours.
Matters continue to shake up in the Middle East following the recent IAEA report on the Iranian’s current nuclear program before the fallout was largely amongst political figureheads in discussing new or increased international sanctions against Iran, various countries proceeded with their own actions to include Britain cutting all financial ties with Iranian banks. A week later, Iranians stormed the British embassy after a rally escalated toward violence where the protesters replaced the flag, threw around office equipment and set parts of the embassy on fire. British Foreign Secretary William Hague admonished Iran in his statement, “the idea that the Iranian authorities could not have protected our embassy or that this assault could have taken place without some degree of regime consent is fanciful.” Following the actions, the UK has ordered all Iranian diplomats out of their country within 48 hours.
Simple question – how do you test your software?
There are, of course, many levels to a question like that. There are unit tests in order to flex individual functions within a program, test harnesses designed to feed situations to larger chunks of a program, manual debugging sessions and alpha releases with corresponding bug tracking measures. I’m really looking for that intermediate step between where test harnesses have confirmed that modules within a program are functional and an alpha release where the users tell you how broken it is. Maybe my Google-fu is just poor this week, but for example, I’d like to know how a team working on MySQL, LibreOffice or something of that significance can go from the step where they know “my-SQL-parser-works” or “my-atomic-transaction-logging-works” to knowing “I-just-compiled-MySQL-and-the-whole-shebang-works.”
Routers are the ubiquitous network devices operating quickly behind the scenes making Internet traffic possible. The recently published Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage report that called out Russia and China has caused lawmakers to begin an investigation into Chinese ZTE and Huawei network devices. According to the report, “Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage. US private sector firms and cybersecurity specialists have reported an onslaught of computer network intrusions that have originated in China, but the intelligence community cannot confirm who was responsible.” The Chinese companies have responded, essentially calling the report baseless and irresponsible without investigation. Considering the level of overt intrusion attempts already documented from the Chinese (and that’s six years ago), the risk is whether or not the devices contain covert, embedded firmware backdoors allowing the Chinese government (and state-sponsored industry) limitless access to the networks where their equipment is installed or even the possibility of crippling targeted infrastructure on demand.
Everybody has a somewhat different “house-rules” twist on Thanksgiving. Whether it’s food gluttony, football or both … what interesting add-on traditions are worthy of an OmniNerd thanksgiving?
Siri has been the talk of the iPhone 4s with it’s fancy responses to amusing questions. But, the app is entirely restricted to 4s owners which naturally irritates all the have-nots. Some French reverse engineers at Applidium has succeeded at figuring out how to talk to Apple’s Siri servers … without Siri. Their procedure was a matter of setting up a proxy to decrypt the SSL data sent between the phone and the server. Then they replayed the data to Apple while capturing the traffic in the middle whereupon they discovered the extensions to the HTTP header, the Speex codec for compressing the voice and the compressed plist data returned by the server to the device. Technically, with their discoveries, nothing is really preventing independent users from becoming Siri enabled other than a little programming know how.
Earlier this year, it was discovered the fear mongering over vaccines as the cause for autism was a complete sham. Fraud or not, the increasing autism rate is still a reality requiring attention. Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen has a new proposal for the table that essentially the increasing acceptance of geek chic enables a broader scope of scientists and engineers to breed with one another without shame which is more likely to produce a child with autism. His words were not quite as tongue-in-cheek as mine, but the essence was that increasingly intelligent people with hints of autistic traits are pooling their genes resulting in a statistical increase in the likelihood of those genes coming to fruition as genuine autism. There are, of course, challenges to his theory, but other clinical psychologists dealing with child autism do support the notion, “I see deep geeks of all sorts. They don’t make great eye contact, all their clothing is from the Intel shop, they don’t have a lot of social understanding. I do think that when these geeks marry each other, that’s bad news for the offspring.”
Becoming an astronaut has always been a difficult process. (Having an affiliation to OmniNerd can certainly help as our alumni have been at the helm of the official NASA Space Shuttle simulator). With the space shuttle’s retirement, however, NASA is ushering in an entirely new era of requirements for it’s space program and hence it’s astronauts. According to a recent NASA press release, the next generation of astronauts can apply into the program through the standard government job-hunting site USAjobs.gov <— actual application link.
Awhile back, the Obama administration began a program called We The People where the American public could petition the government for information electronically given enough signatures. Well, the UFO fans out there petitioned_ to find out if there were in fact known aliens or a historical cover-up. The petition gained the requisite number of signatures and received an official response:
The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public’s eye. However, that doesn’t mean the subject of life outside our planet isn’t being discussed or explored.
Imagine a coating that makes surfaces so slippery that nothing can stick to it, not even water or oily film. Inspired by the Nepenthes carnivorous plant whose slippery surfaces cause insects to slip into its planty belly, scientists have mimicked the properties to create the Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surface Of course, they tout all sorts of useful functions like surfaces that never need to be cleaned again or ketchup bottles that can expel all of the condiment. But we all know where this substance is really going to end up … pranksters will coat hallways with it and the sex industry will market all kinds of new products. Thanks science!
Just the other day a friend of mine had a nice idea for a website, and like many descriptive names, the website was taken. It’s one of those fake looking websites with some ads links, and of course a page where you can submit an offer to buy the site for an excessive amount of money. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use the legal system to deal with this?
This problem is quite prevalent. If you look into the domain name owner, you find out he owns about 1000 of these. These people provide no real service to the world, but merely try to anticipate a successful business and try to leech their own bit. Like with spam, a low hit percentage results in a profit. The domain name registration business itself even supports this peripheral industry. Note that Godaddy can help you buy scriptguru.com (link might be broken) for over $3k. Domaintools will help you buy scripthub.com (so despite their legal disclaimer, they do in fact list the domain for sale).
Riddle me this, basketball fans … what’s going on in the NBA?
I was always a baseball fan back in the day, but the 1994 strike pretty much ended my interest in professional sports. I didn’t really pay much attention to the football fiasco just a year or two ago but am now inundated by news reports of the NBA player strike. I finally broke down and read the article from CNN about disbanding some kind of player’s union and this little block caught my attention:
Getting caught on an open mic seems to be a right of passage for many US Presidents. Some prior incidents include Bush’s four minute rant on Hezbollah and other world leaders, Reagan joking about bombing the Soviets and Clinton berating an aide. Recently, at the G20 summit, President Obama joined the club while talking privately with French President Sarkozy. The conversation between them turned to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu where Sarkozy commented to the effect, “I can’t look at him [Netanyahu] anymore, he’s a liar.” Obama in turn replied, “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!” The anecdotes were ignored by the press after they agreed to remain mum until the French publication Arret Sur Images decided to run with it.
Quasars, actually quasi-stellar objects (QSO), are amongst the brightest space objects we know of. A quasar accretion disc is formed as the object circles a black hole and is slowly torn apart. According to the lead scientist in imaging one, “a quasar accretion disc has a typical size of a few light-days, or around 100 billion kilometres across, but they lie billions of light-years away. This means their apparent size when viewed from Earth is so small that we will probably never have a telescope powerful enough to see their structure directly.” NASA and ESA astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope in conjunction with gravitational lensing (see the embedded QuickTime object below for an example) to produce a highly detailed image of a quasar and its accretion disc in order to accurately measure it’s size, shape and temperature. Using this technique, the team was able to determine (and image) a distant, faint object only 4-11 light days across.