Monday, May 28, 2012


Without intention, I've been on hiatus from a topic of personal interest. To wit: computer-centric security, privacy, and hacking. Diverted by other topics of note -- among which: yea, Dragon! -- I see I haven't written a post dedicated to (in)security since January ("Viruses: not just for PCs anymore").

Let's get caught up ...

Bad fortune ...
Google has been caught with their hand in the, ahem, cookie jar. As in, slipping in cookies despite users' do-not-track settings. From Computerworld last February, see "Google's tracking of Safari users could lead to FTC investigation."

Apple has long had the reputation of offering secure platforms -- if only because until Apple products began to get a decent market share, malware writers couldn't be bother to attack Apple products. Enter the Flashback Trojan, which quickly infected 600K Macs. As Cnet noted last April, "Apple's security code of silence: A big problem."
Apple has cultivated a myth about security on the Mac platform. The myth goes like this: Apple users don't need antivirus software. We're more secure than anything out there. Security worries are overblown.
In reality, Apple practiced security by obscurity with the Mac.
 But wait! Sadly, there's much more!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dinosaurs in the news

Yup ... they are in the news.  Some truly saurian.  Some metaphorical. And in a fancifully look-alike category, also dragons.

We'll cover dragons first.  Last week (in "Beyond this point (hopefully) be Dragons") I posted about the then imminent launch of the private Dragon space capsule to the ISS. After yet another postponement, the Dragon has launched ("SpaceX Launches Private Capsule on Historic Trip to Space Station.") We now await several days of precision maneuvers to convince the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the ISS that Dragon is safe to dock. Stay tuned.

Artist's conception, methinks
A line of descent from dinosaurs to birds has become well established. But how and when, exactly, did that come about? That's still up in the air (heh) but at least we now know that "T. rex relative is biggest ever feathered animal."

And speaking of which, "Nebraska man changes name to Tyrannosaurus Rex." It sounds rather birdbrained to me. Of course, as some say, birds of feather flock together.

If climate change keeps you up at night, be glad the dinos are gone. According to a recent calculation/simulation, "It's a gas: dinosaur flatulence may have warmed Earth." What gas? Methane, which is many times more potent as a greenhouse gas than the customary media villain, carbon dioxide (see Greenhouse gases).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Beyond this point (hopefully) be Dragons

In the post-Shuttle era, as you will recall, the US has no way to deliver cargo or astronauts to the International Space Station (which, despite its name, was mostly designed and paid for by NASA). I've vented in this blog more than once (as in "Move 'em on. Head 'em out. Rawhide!" and "Crocodile cheers") about retiring the Shuttle before a replacement spacecraft was at hand.

How does stuff get to the ISS? Some cargo arrives on the soon-to-be-discontinued EU automated transfer vehicle. The remaining cargo and all crew reaches the ISS by writing large checks to the Russians.  More than a half century after America first put a man in orbit. It's just sad.

In a museum near you.
(Not that the shuttle was perfect. See "5 Horrifying Facts You Didn't Know About the Space Shuttle."

At long last -- with, to be fair, encouragement and seed money from NASA -- partial US capability may be restored. After several delays, "NASA Greenlights SpaceX ISS Visit for May 19" (SpaceX's cargo capsule being the Dragon of today's subject line). By week's end (if all goes well), Dragon will have made an uneventful delivery and returned to Earth.

Even before the first attempt at a private cargo delivery to the ISS, Congress is second-guessing the competition to develop a crew-rated capability. See "House bill directs NASA to scrap commercial crew competition." As in pick the winner now, before any company has flown a crew-rated spacecraft.

Even as more companies move forward into space ...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tech dispatches from the Department of "D'oh"

As Japan slowly recovers from last year's natural disaster ("It's the tsunami, stupid"), that country -- by popular demand -- is about to inflict more hardship on itself.

Nothing but a bit of steam ...
How so? Via the shutdown of all nuclear power in the country. That's fifty reactors, which not long ago provided almost thirty percent of the nation's electrical power. IMO, that's quite the overreaction to the (unprecedented) earthquake-plus-tsunami damage to a cluster of four reactors.

Oddly enough, it happens that choices have consequences. And so "Nuclear-free Japan braces for severe power shortages" (a Reuters report) and "As Japan shuts down nuclear power, emissions rise" (from Yahoo News).

Speaking of Yahoo ...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Dunno that that's a real word, but it should be. If enough of you pass it on, it will be.

Buy a Kindle (Beauty not included)
All of today's eclectic topics are writing-centric. We'll start with "Sci-fi publisher announces Tor and Forge will go DRM-free with all e-book titles." Tor has published the majority of my titles, so if DRM is an issue for you ... hang in there.

And in other breaking news: "Microsoft buys stake in Barnes and Noble’s Nook e-reader." Maybe there will be longterm competition in ereaders despite the DoJ's best efforts.

Last October, I posted (see "Inspiration") on the question most often directed at authors. Colleague Michael Flynn recently interviewed a host of SF authors -- including Yr. Humble Blogger -- on that very question. For Mike's take, see "Where Do You Get Your Ideas?"