Orphaned and EOL’d Software: A Screed


Computer software is an investment. Not just the purchase price. We invest time and sometimes money for classes and reference books learning to use the software. Sometimes we buy hardware to specifically run one kind of software. And then the software company simply abandons the product, leaving the user in the lurch. Don’t try to…

30 Doradus in the X-Ray Spectrum (a/k/a The Tarantula Nebula)

What’s Going On in 30 Doradus?


For astronomers, the Milky Way, our local galaxy, can be a bit of a disappointment. Most of the stars it currently produces are red M-dwarfs. With masses less than half that of the Sun, these stars will burn fuel contentedly for a couple of trillion years and then gradually fade. Boring. Really massive stars, with…

A typical ten-inch student slide rule (Pickett N902-T simplex trig) (via Wikipedia)

Annals of High Tech: The Slide Rule


At the risk of being characterized as an old fart, WC introduces a sometime feature describing various items of technology that were state of the art in his lifetime, but have also vanished in his lifetime. Think of it as a chronicle of change. We’ll start with the slide rule. Invented by Reverend William Oughtred in…

More Proof WC Is Hopelessly Geeky


There’s more proof (if it was needed) that WC is hopelessly geeky. Randall Munroe’s excellent webcomic, XKCD, describes itself as “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” He sometimes builds wonderful cartoons around arcane physics and chemistry principles. A recent example: Unless you know a little bit about interferometry, this cartoon will go completely over your…

Wray speaks at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Balsamo)

Smartphones and the FBI’s Whinge


The new FBI Director, Christopher Wray, announced recently that the FBI had been “unable to retrieve data” from as many as 6,900 iPhones in the last eleven months. Wray told the International Association of Chiefs of Police: To put it mildly, this is a huge, huge problem. It impacts investigations across the board — narcotics,…