Friday, May 10, 2019

Gee, this feels familiar...

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The Register:
Techie with outdated documentation gets his step count in searching for non-existent cabinet
By Team Register. 10 May 2019 at 07:03

5-minute job? We've heard that old chestnut before

Have you got that Friday feeling? El Reg does, mainly because we're bringing you the latest instalment of On Call.

Every week, we trawl through emails recounting the times readers have been faced with a particularly tricky call-out, searching for the best one to take you into the weekend.

This time, we meet "Wayne", who got rather more exercise than he'd bargained for when asked to do a "five-minute" extra job after finishing an upgrade to a pair of network routers. ...

You definitely need to click through the article's link and read the whole story.

And remember it the next time I say I'm coming home late from work because I needed to fix "one last bug before leaving the office".

Thursday, May 09, 2019

ECN Magazine: Radical Desalination Approach May Disrupt the Water Industry

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Radical Desalination Approach May Disrupt the Water Industry
Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science - Tue, 05/07/2019 - 1:50pm

Hypersaline brines—water that contains high concentrations of dissolved salts and whose saline levels are higher than ocean water—are a growing environmental concern around the world. Very challenging and costly to treat, they result from water produced during oil and gas production, inland desalination concentrate, landfill leachate (a major problem for municipal solid waste landfills), flue gas desulfurization wastewater from fossil-fuel power plants, and effluent from industrial processes.
...
A Columbia Engineering team led by Ngai Yin Yip, assistant professor of earth and environmental engineering, reports that they have developed a radically different desalination approach—"temperature swing solvent extraction (TSSE)"—for hypersaline brines. The study, published online in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, demonstrates that TSSE can desalinate very high-salinity brines, up to seven times the concentration of seawater. This is a good deal more than reverse osmosis, the gold-standard for , and can hold handle approximately twice seawater salt concentrations.

This is incredible news. Now that we have seen the process in a lab, hopefully it can be scaled up for use in a commercial desalinization plant. A cheap and low-energy technology would pretty much solve the world's fresh water supply problems.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Register: It's time to list the five biggest lies about 5G

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It's time to list the five biggest lies about 5G
By Kieren McCarthy in San Francisco, 25 Apr 2019 at 20:12

Let's cut the crap, El Reg style

Comment We thought the hype over next-generation mobile broadband networks couldn't get much thicker, but we were wrong. So let's just jump into the five biggest lies about 5G.

  1. China is using the tech to spy on God-fearing Western nations
  2. There is a "race to 5G"
  3. 5G is ready to go now
  4. 5G is the answer to all our broadband / fast internet needs
  5. Spectrum auctions will solve all the issues

I've been saying some of this for some time now. Especially the first two. I listen to a lot of political news podcasts and people can't stop making insane claims that if Huawei sells a cell tower to Verizon that they will be able to listen in on every conversation and intercept every web session that crosses the tower (or in some more paranoid versions, over Verizon's entire network).

Even if they built in a "send all packets to China" feature, and somehow managed to turn it on without Verizon's NOC noticing that the amount of traffic has instantly doubled, how is this any less secure than using public Wi-Fi in a restaurant? The answer is that it isn't. Which is why every web site and Internet service that cares about security (including your banks, e-mail services and social media sites) use encryption - that little "s" in https: isn't just for decoration.

Sure, maybe the Chinese want to fill their servers with thousands of terabytes of encrypted spam so they can spend the next decade decrypting it in order to learn a secret that, by the time they decode it, will have been all over the New York Times for several years. But I think they have better things to do.

Those people who are likely targets of espionage already need advanced security, with or without 5G. The fact that Huawei makes some equipment used by your cell carrier doesn't magically give them the ability to decrypt all the traffic flowing through that equipment.

That having been said, I am opposed to Huawei selling equipment to the US or anyone else. Not because they're going to take over the world, but simply because they should be allowed to profit from decades of intellectual property theft and massive government subsidies. Level the playing field by taking those away and I'll be happy to let them (try and) compete against Ericsson and Nokia.

All of that now having been said, there actually is a national security threat from Chinese network equipment like that from Huawei and ZTE. Not that they can intercept the world's communications, but that they could turn it off. They could build a hidden kill switch into their products that would probably not be detected. If a war should break out between China and some other nation, they could trigger that switch, disabling their enemy's entire communication network. I think that threat is plausible and should be taken seriously.

Could Ericsson or Nokia build in a kill switch? Sure they could, but since they are not owned by any government, the odds of them doing it on their own or in response to a government request is far lower than products built by companies that are subject to control by a foreign and hostile government.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Hello World on the Qualcomm QCA4020 developer board

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I have recently started working on an IoT project involving the use of a Qualcomm QCA4020 Development Kit prototype board. The board has many useful features for IoT prototyping, but a clear set of "getting started" instructions is not one of them.

Qualcomm's developer network has published a Hello World demo application, but the procedure is for Windows PCs and I want to use Linux for my development platform. Qualcomm's SDK says that Linux and macOS are supported platforms, but any documentation resembling a tutorial is strictly Windows-based.

This blog post is the procedure I worked out for getting their Hello World demo working using a Linux PC to cross-compile the code and flash the Qualcomm developer board

Monday, April 01, 2019

Interpreting Verizon's contract buzzwords

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I recently upgraded my phone to a new iPhone 6+. It's great, but that's not the point of this article. In reading through the contract information, both before and after signing, I became aware of the fact that my contract has a lot of buzzwords that are not clearly defined.

In Googling for the definitions, I found that it is very hard to find definitions for most of these. As a service to my readers, here are all the line items from my contract, and the best explanation I've found so far for them. Some come from Verizon or from user-forum discussions I ran across. Some are based on my own intuition and understanding of wireless technology.

Corrections are welcome and will help to make the list more complete. I don't promise that it's all correct, but I hope people with specific knowledge will be able to help me improve it and make it correct.

Updated on June 4, 2015, based on reader comments. Thanks much!

Updated on April 1, 2019, based on the receipt we got when we upgraded one of our phones last July.

Friday, March 29, 2019

New invention: the phone booth!

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T-Mobile installs phone-charging purple booths on city streets
by Linda Hardesty |

Every Phone BoothE comes with power for smartphone charging along with a compatible cord. And the booth features a large vertical screen that connects to the customer’s T-Mobile smartphone to use with video calls or just to enjoy a big screen for better internet browsing. The large screen can also be set as a background for customers to take selfies.

The booth offers a quiet, temperature-controlled space complete with walls and windows. If they could fit a couch in the booth, people may never leave.

Phone BoothE is reserved just for T-Mobile customers, who can unlock the booths with a smartphone app. They can download the T-Mobile Phone BoothE App from the App Store or Google Play (coming soon). They can also use the app to find and reserve a BoothE nearest them.

It's about time. Ever since the demise of public phone booths, we've needed a way to make a private call without renting office space.

Of course, now T-Mobile is going to have to deal with the problems that AT&T had with the classic phone booths - of homeless people living in them, drug addicts shooting up in them, etc. But maybe they have a solution in place for all this.

Update: It appears that the "Phone BoothE" was an April 1st joke, even though they announced it on March 29th. It still sounds like a good idea, though.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Dry Bones: No big deal

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DryBonesBlog. March 27, 2019

Hamas Rockets From Gaza Hit Israel ...again!!

Sadly, this seems to be the absolute truth. Terrorists can bomb Israel and nobody cares, but if Israel fires even one bullet in retaliation, then they are condemned by the entire world.

You would think that after 60 years of this, Israel would stop caring what the world thinks. If everything you do makes the world hate you, then why should you even listen to them?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Verge: An exclusive look at an original iPhone prototype

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An exclusive look at an original iPhone prototype
Apple's red iPhone M68 in all its glory
By Tom Warren | @tomwarren |

Apple had developed the iPhone in secret over those two and a half years, and for many inside the company, the device had only been known by the codenames “M68” and “Purple 2.” Apple was focused on surprising everyone with the iPhone, and that meant that many of the engineers working on the original handset didn’t even know what it would eventually look like.

To achieve that level of secrecy, Apple created special prototype development boards that contained nearly all of the iPhone’s parts, spread out across a large circuit board. The Verge has obtained exclusive access to the original iPhone M68 prototype board from 2006 / 2007, thanks to Red M Sixty, a source that asked to remain anonymous. It’s the first time this board has been pictured publicly, and it provides a rare historical look at an important part of computing history, showing how Apple developed the original iPhone.

Awesome bit of history.

Get well soon, Yaakov Kirschen

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Yaakov Kirschen, author of the famous Dry Bones comic has been sick with pneumonia for over a week. Please include him in your prayers for a speedy recovery.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Washington Free Beacon: California Gov. to Go Against Voters, Institute Death Penalty Moratorium

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California Gov. to Go Against Voters, Institute Death Penalty Moratorium
By: Charles Fain Lehman,

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D., Calif.) will on Wednesday announce a moratorium on his state's death penalty, placing an indefinite pause on executions on the largest death row in the United States.

... "The intentional killing of another person is wrong. And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual," Newsom is expected to say.

... In 2016, California voters approved a ballot measure to fix the state's death penalty system, limiting the length of death penalty appeals to five years after conviction. That same year, they voted by a wider margin against a ballot measure to abolish the death penalty in the state altogether. Newsom's moratorium will therefore fly in the face of the most recent expression of the views of the people of California.

Come and see the Democrats' total lack of principles. In addition to flat-out defying the wishes of his constituency, Newsom shows a total disregard for humanity.

He says that it is wrong to kill another person. But he clearly doesn't believe what he said.

He and his party have no problem killing the unborn (abortion), the just-born (late-term abortions and children who survive botched abortions), the elderly and the terminally ill (demanding only palliative care and by supporting assisted suicide).

It would seem that the only class of person Newsom and the Democrats don't want to see killed are convicted serial killers.

There's an old saying: If you are kind to the cruel, then you are being cruel to the kind. And Mr. Newsom is a perfect example.