The Hackers’ Dirty Little Secret


Key Bank recently notified all of its current and recent mortgage loan customers that the customers’ personal data had been stolen. The stolen information included names, mortgage property addresses, mortgage account numbers and information, home insurance policy numbers and information, phone numbers, and the first eight digits of Social Security numbers. That’s pretty serious. Any…

How Eukaryotes Got Their Mojo


Warning: Serious biological technogeekery ahead. For much of earth’s history, the only form of life was single-cell, primitive bacteria. Those early primitive cells are called prokaryotes. Basically, they were small sacks of fluid with the contents mixed together, higgedly-piggedly. Sometime about 1.5 billion years ago, a few lucky prokaryotes ingested or otherwise acquired another cell…

Notes on Noise


We’re talking about camera noise here, and specifically digital camera noise. A reader recently asked what “color noise” is and why it was objectionable in photos. “Noise” – and there are various types of noise that can afflict a digital camera – is random data you don’t want in your photos. There are different things…

The Luddite Report: The Internet of Things


WC bows to no one in his fervor for technology and the latest and greatest. WC’s technogeekery credentials go back to the early 1970s, programming an HP-12C to generate mortgage repayment tables. But at the same time, WC recognizes that technology has its risks, its foibles and its disasters. Which is why there are irregular…

It’s Friday the 13th: Let’s Get Geeky


WC will celebrate this Friday the 13th, a day founded on superstition, by following up on a series of seriously geeky science subjects. Black holes, even galaxy-sized black holes, have magnetic fields. You can give yourself a headache thinking too long about that. Black holes, which are as real as an earthquake, have always felt…

Russia’s Other Undeclared War


The Russian invasion of Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis and the Russian army has demonstrated the very worst practices of an occupying force.1 The undeclared war and the attendant Russian atrocities and war crimes have made Vladimir Putin has made his nation pariahs. But the thing to remember is that Russia has long been…

Some Notes on HP


WC doesn’t want readers to think he is bashing HP, neé Hewlett Packard, in this post. After all, WC uses an elderly (2004) LaserJet 2055 laser printer for most printing, and a new HP Envoy 6458 color inkjet for his color printing needs. WC still owns and uses a truly ancient HP 12C calculator, manufactured…

Three Cheers for the Webb Space Telescope


In engineering, a “single point failure” is a term for any step in a multi-step process which, if it fails, craters the whole project. The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), from launch to deployment at Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 2 (L2) involved hundreds of single point failure risks. Hundreds of motors, cables, moving…

The End of Open Source Software?


One of the things that is very, very important to software developers that non-programmers don’t know anything about is the vast amount of open source software that is out there. Those libraries of pre-written code, available mostly for free, are indispensable to developing today’s computer and smart phone applications. Without them, software development would be…

The Malware Arms Race


Defendants force Apple to engage in a continual arms race: Even as Apple develops solutions and enhances the security of its devices, Defendants are constantly updating their malware and exploits to overcome Apple’s own security upgrades. Complaint, Apple, Inc. v. NSO Group Technologies, Ltd. et al., Par. 60 at page 16. WC was first involved…

A Few Words About Ingenuity


Ingenuity was an afterthought, at most an experiment approved by doubtful NASA brass, a proof of concept by a few smart NASA engineers. It’s become the little helicopter that could. An unqualified success that has exceeded even the most optimistic hopes of its designers by orders of magnitude. Ingenuity, of course, was the specially-designed helicopter…

Moore’s Law Still Rocks


Most of us have heard the tale in one form or another.1 WC first heard it in Joe Oden’s AP Calculus class, his senior year in high school. An Indian philosopher invents the game of chess, and demonstrates it to his emperor. The emperor is so impressed he tells the philosopher to name his own…

Infernal Engines


Boise, Idaho is officially classified as having the Køppen Climate Classification subtype “Csb,” Mediterranean Climate. That means there’s not a lot of rain, although it isn’t a desert landscape. In fact, it’s raining as WC writes this blog post. And one of the delights of rain here in the North End of Boise is that it…

The Shards of Personal Privacy


It’s more than a little scary. WC, along with 69% of his fellow Americans, is on Facebook. What that means, gentle readers, is that Facebook knows far more than you think about who you are, what you do and, especially what you do on the internet. If you think WC is overstating the case, here’s…

Rocket Science Is Hard!


Since Elon Musk’s SpaceX has succeeded in making money launching rockets, an entire battalion of rocketeer wannabes have sprung up in an effort to get some of that cheese. They are discovering that rocket science is hard. Some examples. Firefly Aerospace Inc. (“Firefly”) is headquartered in Austin, TX. Firefly launched its first Alpha rocket September…

When Does Corporate Negligence Become Criminal?


T-Mobile has suffered yet another massive “security breach,” the euphemism for being hacked by unknown persons. T-Mobile learned it had been robbed when The Motherboard reported T-Mobile’s customer data was for sale on the black web. Some 7.8 million T-Mobile customers had their personal information, including names, addresses, social security numbers and telephone numbers, stolen.…

Software Patent Troll (Not to Scale)

Judge Gilstrap Sinks a Submarine


It’s been a long time since WC directed a screed at a patent troll, but a real doozy has come along, and it’s too good not to share. Personalized Media Communications, LLC is a patent troll. It has never, in its existence, produced a real product. Instead, its business plan was to file patent applications…

Addressing the Problem of Malware


As usual, Pratchett got it exactly right. In Good Omens, Crowley, a demon,1 actually ready the warranty that came with his personal computer: Along with the standard computer warranty agreement which said that if the machine 1) didn’t work, 2) didn’t do what the expensive advertisement said, 3) electrocuted the immediate neighbourhood, 4) and in…

What Would Galileo Think?


In 1610, peering through his wretched, if state of the art, 8 to 10x handmade telescope, Galileo Galilei looked at Jupiter for the first time, and became the first human to see the Galileian moons. The inferences he drew from watching the motion of the four moons changed mankind’s place in the universe. And, of…

LIGO and Virgo Find an NSBH


Remember how excited everyone was when scientists detected the first gravity waves? It got the key players the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. Well, there are four different gravity wave detectors operating now, with a fifth scheduled to come on line in 2025. And gravity waves have been detected and tracked back to their source…

The Importance of Reading Fine Print


As usual, Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman got it exactly right. Crowley, a demon,1 actually read the fine print warranty that came with his personal computer: Along with the standard computer warranty agreement which said that if the machine 1) didn’t work, 2) didn’t do what the expensive advertisement said, 3) electrocuted the immediate…

Oracle v. Google: Why You Should Care


In a lot of ways, it’s hard to care about the seemingly endless fight between Oracle and Google over the Java software copyright claims. Two mega-corporations, slugging it out like two drunks playing Irish Stand Down outside a sleazy bar. Who cares who wins a drunken brawl? Who cares about who owns a software development…

A Photo of a Black Hole: An Update


(WC recognizes the mass media have picked up on the three astrophysics papers that are behind this story. But the mass media have gotten it stupidly, hopelessly wrong. WC makes an effort to clarify. Doubtless, real astrophysicists will sneer at this effort, but at least it distinguishes between the elliptical galaxy M87 and the black…

McAfee Sinks to Pump and Dump


Former software developer, would-be Libertarian presidential candidate and all-around sociopath John McAfee has been indicted by the United States for securities fraud. Don’t confuse this indictment with the earlier indictment of McAfee for federal income tax evasion. These are just the latest developments in John McAfee’s saga of crime, paranoia and stupidity. Why is WC…