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The real thing will bury San Andreas

Posted July 15, 2015 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

This is why I subscribe to The New Yorker. A long, well researched, crisply written and utterly horrifying essay about the earthquake that will destroy America. Not the Big One, rumbling up out of the San Andreas fault so beloved of movie makers. The Bigger One which will flatten most of the Pacific Northwest, liquefying the ground under Seattle, drowning millions in Godzilla tsunamis.

I read this bad boy and seriously reconsidered some mid-term travel plans:

The first sign that the Cascadia earthquake has begun will be a compressional wave, radiating outward from the fault line. Compressional waves are fast-moving, high-frequency waves, audible to dogs and certain other animals but experienced by humans only as a sudden jolt. They are not very harmful, but they are potentially very useful, since they travel fast enough to be detected by sensors thirty to ninety seconds ahead of other seismic waves. That is enough time for earthquake early-warning systems, such as those in use throughout Japan, to automatically perform a variety of lifesaving functions: shutting down railways and power plants, opening elevators and firehouse doors, alerting hospitals to halt surgeries, and triggering alarms so that the general public can take cover. The Pacific Northwest has no early-warning system. When the Cascadia earthquake begins, there will be, instead, a cacophony of barking dogs and a long, suspended, what-was-that moment before the surface waves arrive. Surface waves are slower, lower-frequency waves that move the ground both up and down and side to side: the shaking, starting in earnest.

Soon after that shaking begins, the electrical grid will fail, likely everywhere west of the Cascades and possibly well beyond. If it happens at night, the ensuing catastrophe will unfold in darkness. In theory, those who are at home when it hits should be safest; it is easy and relatively inexpensive to seismically safeguard a private dwelling. But, lulled into nonchalance by their seemingly benign environment, most people in the Pacific Northwest have not done so. That nonchalance will shatter instantly. So will everything made of glass. Anything indoors and unsecured will lurch across the floor or come crashing down: bookshelves, lamps, computers, cannisters of flour in the pantry. Refrigerators will walk out of kitchens, unplugging themselves and toppling over. Water heaters will fall and smash interior gas lines. Houses that are not bolted to their foundations will slide off—or, rather, they will stay put, obeying inertia, while the foundations, together with the rest of the Northwest, jolt westward. Unmoored on the undulating ground, the homes will begin to collapse.

Across the region, other, larger structures will also start to fail. Until 1974, the state of Oregon had no seismic code, and few places in the Pacific Northwest had one appropriate to a magnitude-9.0 earthquake until 1994. The vast majority of buildings in the region were constructed before then. Ian Madin, who directs the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI), estimates that seventy-five per cent of all structures in the state are not designed to withstand a major Cascadia quake. FEMA calculates that, across the region, something on the order of a million buildings—more than three thousand of them schools—will collapse or be compromised in the earthquake. So will half of all highway bridges, fifteen of the seventeen bridges spanning Portland’s two rivers, and two-thirds of railways and airports; also, one-third of all fire stations, half of all police stations, and two-thirds of all hospitals.

It's a long piece. And this is a short extract, so don't bother reading at your desk. Save it for lunch or this evening. And cancel your bookings for any west coast holidays.

24 Responses to ‘The real thing will bury San Andreas’

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted July 15, 2015
Is the typical Australian terrified of earthquakes? Back in NZ, in Wellington, they were almost a daily occurrence. We just used to ride them out at our desks. Sometimes we wondered if it was an earthquake or a large truck rumbling by. Only once did I ever stand in a doorway, and that was only because I happened to be standing up near it at the time. My children and their children and so on will have bear the eternal shame of this event.

Peter Bradley would have you know...

Posted July 15, 2015
One word Insomniac
"Christchurch"

MickH asserts...

Posted July 15, 2015
I rode out the Newcastle earthquake in '89.So yeah, we Aussies have no experience of 'shakes' and so we are terrified of them.Nice logic

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Quokka reckons...

Posted July 15, 2015
Fear of the unknown. If you tried to make a blockbuster movie about a Cat 5 cyclone hitting the east coast of Oz everyone would yawn, go back to sleep, and, if woken by the sound of a tree going through the roof, shout 'harden the fuck up.'

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Blarkon asserts...

Posted July 15, 2015
Going in 2 weeks. Yay ;-)

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JG puts forth...

Posted July 15, 2015
Scary stuff, but hey, we're all going to die one way or the other. San Andreas is a fabulous movie. Amazing special effects, and part of the filming was done around the Gold Coast, here in Australia.

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Rob mutters...

Posted July 15, 2015
Being a kiwi I find it difficult to worry about earthquakes (86 bay of plenty...survived) being a kiwi I also am not worried about snakes ( but I should be).

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted July 15, 2015
Fkn.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted July 15, 2015
I once thought that those who disagreed with me just had insufficient information. If I could just show them, with high-fibre science the retreating glaciers, herd immunity, collateral war-on-drugs damage, or shot loved ones of gun-toters, they'd slap their metaphorical foreheads and exclaim "oh, I get it." This article is proof of the fallacy of that train of thought. Here is a consumably written piece, with more than sufficient expertise to warrant action. When FEMA says "you're fkd west of the I5" (google map it, I'll wait) you'd best do something. But what will Govosaurus do? SFA. In fact probably less than SFA, they'll go on approving fossil farms & day care centres. They'll approve precarious concrete stacks. They'll probably subsidise a nuke power station. Dog help them.

Darth Greybeard is gonna tell you...

Posted July 16, 2015
I really hate it when NBlob is right but yeah.

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Legless swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 15, 2015
Do you know what's really scary about that article? One line.......

Counting from the earthquake of 1700, we are now three hundred and fifteen years into a two-hundred-and-forty-three-year cycle.

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MickH would have you know...

Posted July 15, 2015
Oh I don'r know about that, I think they have more to fear from Yellowstone.It's about 40k years overdue for an eruption The ground in Yellowstone has risen 74cm since 1923The Magma reservoir holds enough magma to fill the grand canyon 11 times over.When it goes, they're fucked...

Trashman ducks in to say...

Posted July 15, 2015
I think if/when it goes we're all screwed - no matter where we are.

Gethbox puts forth...

Posted July 16, 2015
Yeah, I'm pretty sure when Yellowstone goes the US will be the lucky ones. Short, sharp shock, and it's over. The ensuing nuclear winter is gonna be much more painful for the rest of the world. I plan to move there asap.

TheWah swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 16, 2015
And we spend hardly a thought and almost no money on stopping a comet or meteorite from wiping us off the surface of the planet.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/10/13/death-by-meteorite/#.VacaxrUuwxE

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WarDog has opinions thus...

Posted July 16, 2015
Damn, I knew that real estate was too cheap.

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Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted July 16, 2015
...and they laughed when I volunteered for the Mars Colony. Suffer in your jocks, Earthlings.

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jennicki asserts...

Posted July 16, 2015
I live in Michigan, which is earthquake-free...
...or was, until an Aussie named Enjoy moved here. Now we've had two eathquakes in 2015.
It was the most bizarre thing to experience, waking up in a trembling bed.
I'll leave the last line open to jokes for the Burgers.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted July 17, 2015
Know what? You too funny fer a woman, that's what. Dintcha pappy tell you men don't like no funny wimmin?

jennicki has opinions thus...

Posted July 17, 2015
Boys Don't Like Funny Girls...or so I'm told.

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tqft mutters...

Posted July 16, 2015
Saw this on the tweeter stationhttp://www.thestranger.com/blogs/slog/2015/07/15/22546010/seven-questions-for-sandi-doughton-author-of-full-rip-90-the-next-big-earthquake-in-the-pacific-northwest" I read Schultz's piece and, yes, it was scary. But I didn't learn anything I didn't already know—because two years ago I read author and

tqft has opinions thus...

Posted July 18, 2015
Got eaten
http://www.thestranger.com/blogs/slog/2015/07/15/22546010/seven-questions-for-sandi-doughton-author-of-full-rip-90-the-next-big-earthquake-in-the-pacific-northwest
"I read Schultz's piece and, yes, it was scary. But I didn't learn anything I didn't already know—because two years ago I read author and

tqft is gonna tell you...

Posted July 18, 2015

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JB's Apple Watch review

Posted July 1, 2015 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Yes. Today is Apple Music Day. But I want to play with that for a bit before writing something. And at least I got to the Watch review quicker than I got to Firefly.

So. Sure. It’s just a watch. I've worn them before. They're convenient, more so than hauling a phone out of your pocket. But they aren't so convenient that I ever got into the habit of regular watch wearing, even after buying a couple I quite liked while in the US a few years ago.

Still, I ordered my 38mm Sports at 5.02pm on Launch day. Two minutes after preorders went live. I wasted those two minutes faffing around on the website. It was much quicker to order through the Apple Store app. That small delay cost me dearly in delivery lag, but I’ve had my space grey beauty for a month now and feel I'm familiar enough with it to write up some thoughts.

Timekeeping.

So. It’s a watch. A couple of times a day I do appreciate the convenience of just looking at my wrist to check the time. Usually when I’m rushed, needing to get kids somewhere. The sensors and software work well and it's rare for me to have to raise my wrist more than once to bring up the watch face.

After starting out with Modular I settled on the Utility face as my daily wear. It has a nice simple analogue clock face and four complications; a second time zone - New York for me; the date; outside temp; and a detailed Activity Readout (actual stats on calories burned, minutes of exercise performed and hours stood, rather than rather than the simple Activity Rings icon).

The other watch faces are nice, beautiful in some cases, and I will sometimes swap another in on the weekend. Usually Solar or Astronomy. But when the working week restarts I go back to my working face.

Would this be enough to drop five hundred bucks on?

Not just no, but hell no.

It's nice having a time piece that keeps perfect time, but we all have that with our smart phones, from the most expensive iPhone to the cheapest, nastiest Android. And you could just wear a Swatch if you really liked the convenience.

Fitness.

There's gotta be something else then, and for some of us that's going to be fitness tracking. This is not a killer use case, though. A lot of people simply aren't interested in that stuff. Others are obssesive on the topic. Neither group are going to find anything in the Apple Watch's fitness tracking and Healthkit for them. Cyclists and mad keen runners will probably stick with their big-arse Garmin GPS units. Swimmers, like my wife, have long been served by specialist waterproof watches to track laps and strokes. Apple's watch is very, very water resistant. You can wear it in the bath if you're a bit strange. But I doubt it'd stand up to thousands of laps over the course of a year or so.

That leaves those of us with some interest in fitness and health, but no overriding commitment to specialist pursuits like running or cycling which are already well served with mature technologies.

I wore a Fitbit for a couple of years. Wore a few of them actually, because they kept bricking themselves or getting lost or broken. I liked the Fitbit and still have a fond regard for it. It helped keep me on track when I needed to repair some pastry-related damage. The Apple Watch buries it, and probably leaves most other generalist fitness trackers behind too - simply because of the depth of additional functionality it brings to a wearable. I have mine synced to MyFitnessPal, mostly because of MFP’s excellent calorie tracking software.

Controlling your calorie intake is about 80% of losing wight and maintaining the loss. Especially if you’re like me and suffer from a debilitating love of baked goods and night time wines. Fitbit has a comprehensive site loaded with a lot more functionality than a simple meal tracker. But their meal tracker was mostly useful for US subscribers. It had very little Australian content, such as pre-loaded restaurant meals. And meals eaten out are the bane of calorie tracking. The first time I used MyFitnessPal to log a YouFoodz chicken salad I bought at a local grocer I was stunned to see it was already in the database with the nutritional breakdown verified by the site. I’ve been sold on it ever since.

The Watch sits on my wrists quietly logging my activity, or lack of activity during the work day, but it really shines during work outs, especially at the gym. Apple has done a lot of work loading the watch with specific routines such as elliptical workouts, which I use a lot. I’m confident that the calorie burn measurement is accurate enough to be useful. The other major advantage over my old Fitbit then, lies elsewhere – say, in the control it offers me over the music or podcasts I listen to while exercising. This is a small thing - but it eases a lot of friction during a workout and anything which makes exercise easier and more pleasant can only be good.

Again, I got no doubt there are Android watches offering the same functions for half the price (and half the battery life, BADDABOOM!). But the Watch is deeply embedded in the ecosystem to which I’ve already committed. Apple’s HealthKit App is a treasure trove of data for metrics nerds and anyone who doubts the utility of measurement should read Jim Dalrymple’s Apple Watch review. This is less a tech spec run down than a heartfelt cry of thanks to the fruit company for saving his life. Dalrymple, boss hog at The Loop, used to be morbidly obese. Now he’s not. He does’t attribute that entirely to the Watch, but he does credit the encouragement offered by Apple’s health tracking software and hardware.

From The Loop:

This is where the review gets very personal for me. This is how I lost over 40 pounds using HealthKit and Apple Watch.

I am overweight. Not just a little, but a lot. I smoke, and have for most of my life, I drink, I eat every food that is bad for me, and I just didn’t care. I think a better way to put it is that I didn’t see a way out.

Apple does a very good job of promoting Apple Watch to marathon runners and other athletes that want to stay fit and maintain their perfectly sculptured bodies. I look at that and know I will never be them, so I move on. There are millions of people in my situation that have done the same thing.

About 10 months ago I went out for a walk. That started a transformation for me that I will never forget. A simple walk.

During one of these walks, I was thinking about life, listening to music and I just kept walking. I walked a long time, at least for me, and it felt good. It wasn’t strenuous really, just a walk—turns out it was a three mile walk and I started doing it every single day.

One day, I weighed myself and I had lost five pounds. I was shocked—I ate the same, but yet I’m losing weight.

Then I remembered this technology on my iPhone called HealthKit. It could track my steps, distance, weight and other information about my body. I started using HealthKit every day to see how different things would affect my weight loss and generally how I felt. Did I lose more weight walking in the morning or the afternoon? What foods made me gain weight? Should I skip meals and hope that helps with weight loss?1

I hesitate to say I became obsessed, but I did become more aware of what I did and how it affected me, both physically and mentally.

The whole thing is worth reading because it’s a solid, no bullshit review of the Watch by a guy who knows what he’s doing, but who ends up writing a deeply personal piece rather than just a tech rundown.

My reading? If you’re inclined to take control of your health and fitness the Watch will help. More than most devices. Less than some.

Communications.

The third major element of the Apple watch are the comms functions, which range from quirky, though frustrating and useless, to great. Working your way backwards, the Dick Tracey wrist phone thing? It’s surprisingly useful. Not for long conversations, and not in public, but definitely at home or in your office when your phone is just out of reach or even missing. (Slightly off topic, but one of my favourite things about the Watch is the way it can ping your phone when you’re not sure where you put it. I use this A Lot).

Certain people in my life have an unerring sense of when I’ve begun to exercise. That’s when they like to call me. With the Watch I just hit my wrist, take the call on my bluetooth headphones. A couple of minutes of my panting and puffing and they'll usually give up. Alternately I can just cut the call before answering. So too if I’m cooking, and a call comes in, I can answer it on the wrist, hand off to the phone if needed, and keep going. It’s another small convenience, but they begin to pile up. Dozens of them. Maybe hundreds.

Getting texts on your wrist and replying with Siri or the pre-canned responses, is simple and expedient. I probably manage 80% of my messages this way now. I also get 100% of my calls because the phone taps me on the wrist as they come in. Previously if I was in a noisy street or mall I’d probably miss them.

The useless? The frustrating? It’s the prominence given in the User Interface to your ‘special friends'. They get the only dedicated hardware button besides the digital crown, and I don’t know of anybody who uses it. The biometric stuff, exchanging heart beats, is super creepy with anyone outside your DNA pool. And the doodle thing might work for Picasso, but not for me or anyone else I know. Dan Moren, of Six Colors, suggested retasking the hardware button to bring up a wheel of Glances – the micro apps which let you take a quick peek at say, the weather or your bank balance. A brilliant idea and way more useful than Apple’s design choice.

Bottom line, as a communications device it is oddly useful and useless depending on the tasks you expect it to perform.

Apps.

There are of course thousands of tasks you can potentially ‘hire’ the Watch to perform. It launched with 3000 apps. But I think we’re a year away from developers and users understanding the platform deeply enough to build and use apps properly. Some, such as Marco Arment's podcast app, Overcast, or Shazam's spooky song ID app, are brilliant. Most are not. Maybe that will change when native apps drop later this years, but expecting the Watch to somehow replace your phone misunderstands its nature. It does not replace. It complements.

The Watch is not your phone. It doesn’t want to be the centre of your attention. It wants to triage the never ending calls on your attention, letting you decide which ones are worth your time. Most of the apps you have running on your phone should never be ported across to your wrist.

Having said that though, if you have a lazy five hundred lying around, and two of the three tentpole features (time keeping, communications, fitness) interest you, it’s not a bad investment.

17 Responses to ‘JB's Apple Watch review’

WarDog is gonna tell you...

Posted July 1, 2015
"and half the battery life" - nice bait ;-)
It's true my Moto 360 only lasts a day and a half, but the LG G is still kicking well into day 3. But then they are both more than 12 months old, and were freebies courtesy of elGoog.
Hardware specs are *roughly* similar for all werables (until Project Soli adds in-built radar). It's the software that provides the usfulness.

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Rob has opinions thus...

Posted July 1, 2015

Is it normal to get chest pain reading Apple reviews? I get such a sense of anxiety and dread from tech reviews now. I have no idea why. I keep thinking it might be that I already have all these new 'things' that I cant possibly fit any more technology into to my crowded interior life.

My favourite watch is one I bought at Auckland airport on the way home for $50, a solid chunk of silver and black. It screams 'man' in every way. Still hasnt lost time, battery hasn't failed. However its just for looking at I use my phone for figuring out the actual time.

My fitness pal is a great application, I lost 8 kilos using it and it helped me cure my interest in eating all the time.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted July 1, 2015
"Is it normal to get chest pain reading Apple reviews?"

No. Seek an immediate cardiac evaluation. Or download the appropriate cardiac health evaluation app to your Apple Watch. It provides a fairly good diagnosis.

Rob has opinions thus...

Posted July 1, 2015
that made me smile. Its OK I patted a boston terrier on my lunch break, all anxiety evaporated at that point.

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beeso asserts...

Posted July 1, 2015
Yep. Not bad for a gem one product, but if apple lets a little bit loose on the data it collects, like heart rate, then the apps will start to outstrip apples and fill the niches people want.

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Lobes would have you know...

Posted July 1, 2015
One day all this health data will be sold to the insurance industry and be used to decide who gets covered

Abe Frellman ducks in to say...

Posted July 5, 2015
Damn, why didn't we think of that BEFORE we sold Medibank - that idea would've been worth an extra bill or two at least!

damian is gonna tell you...

Posted July 5, 2015
It's often suggested that the next major revolution in medicine will be made up of outcomes from making huge, longitudinal repositories of healthcare data covering entire populations available for research. This could include all sorts of research techniques, but the obviously interesting stage is when we start applying the tools of big data, machine learning and pattern recognition.

It will be messy and is probably further away than you'd expect. Linking data to a distinct, individual person identity is hugely problematic on the national scale in real healthcare systems now, and intensely political. I doubt the problem of linking the de-identified data needed for research purposes to individual entities on similar scales has even been thought about very much. Otherwise we get the dystopia Lobes mentions, but that's just another way of saying the problems are intensely political.

I'm not saying it's a purely first world thing and I'm sure there are parts of the world where people might make the call that the benefit to humanity outweighs having a few privacy advocates shot, but let's not go there tonight.

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w from brisbane asserts...

Posted July 1, 2015
Maybe there'll be an app that can tell us when we need to go wee-wees.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted July 2, 2015
Not yet. But there is one that keeps track of when you've gone.

dweeze ducks in to say...

Posted July 2, 2015
So, marrying up the data from when you've gone with your GPS coords @ pee time, you could create your own piss trail maps. Woohoo...I think.

Sudragon mumbles...

Posted July 3, 2015
There's probably a geo-game there, waiting to be written. mark your territory and it's yours!

damian reckons...

Posted July 5, 2015
I think dogs already have that. I think it has something of the same functionality of Twitter, too.

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Neil reckons...

Posted July 2, 2015
iOS 9 and Watch OS 2 open up the heart rate monitor on the watch to third party apps, that's not exceptionally far away now.

What bamboozles me most is the lack of trust people put in Apple when it comes to this data. Tim Cook (head honcho at Apple) has repeatedly stalked the companies claim to being pro privacy.

iOS 9 gives you a new metric to track... sexual activity - it is even bold enough to enquire if your activity was with or without protection.

It's entirely in Apple's best interest to not have this data breached. As it stands the data is held in the secure section of the iPhone - the same place they hold your fingerprint and ApplePay details.

If this was Google I'd not trust it an inch.

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JG ducks in to say...

Posted July 4, 2015
I've got an Apple MacAir Book and an iPhone, but I'm not interested in the Apple watch. I don't care to be permanently online. I've grown to enjoy being unwired most of the time these past few months. Besides, I'm happy with my Garmin Forerunner 620 sports watch - the best running watch. Sometimes I use it with the HRM belt, but often I don't. The Garmin will suit me fine for my second full marathon tomorrow. Fitbit was good for me a couple of years ago to get me back into exercise, but I progressed to the Garmin watch. It details everything running related. I love it.Joanna

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DarrenBloomfield is gonna tell you...

Posted July 6, 2015
Nice review, cheers.
I have Fitbit Surge, which does much (not all) of the above, for a few bucks less, an embeds fairly well into my twin universes (myfitnesspal/fitbit and Apple). So I'll stay there for now.
More disconcerting for me was reading how my "night time wines" are cheating on me with you!

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F35 helmet

Posted February 25, 2015 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

I knew the HUD for the F35 was supposed to be something special, but I had no idea how special until I read this bit in the SMH this morning. In fact it seems so 'special' that you'd have to count it as a point of critical failure in the technology.

Every pilot has to be fitted up for his or her own bespoke model. No sharing. And if the thing malfunctions the plane is not taking off:

Pilots can visualise a 360-degree view to ascertain a multitude of threats and options. And virtual reality technology bestows a type of X-ray vision, enabling pilots to "look through" the floor of the cockpit as if the aircraft frame were transparent.

"The pilot sees a beautiful God's eye view of what's going on," US Air Force General Mike Hostage told the Breaking Defense website. "It's a stunning amount of information."

It takes a four-hour sitting, spread over two days, to custom fit a helmet. The optics package on the display visor must be lined up to within two millimeters of the exact centre of each of the pilots' pupils.

The fighter jet won't operate if the headgear is malfunctioning and unless the pilot is wearing their bespoke helmet.

And there are no spares. Each pilot is only issued with the one.

The helmets receive data from six electro-optical Distributed Aperture System (DAS) sensors which are located on the body of the plane.

31 Responses to ‘F35 helmet’

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25, 2015
As with all first gen tech, I suspect they'll refine this down into something more manageable. That said, the ability to look through the floor and look at your plane from a gamer behind the jet perspective seems to be pretty handy to the pilot.
Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Rhino mumbles...

Posted February 25, 2015
Two is one.
One is none.

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Grand Admiral Thrawn asserts...

Posted February 25, 2015
while i think the tech is cool and with refinement it will be awesome. the platform they are pairing it with is a big draw back. the F-35 is a lemon of a "fighter", it will be out preformed by almost all current gen platforms in most categories. and its stealth is very poor in comparison to other stealth platforms out their and only get worse as "sensor" tech improves. it would be cool to see an application of this on a true interceptor or dog fighting fighter where it would really shine.

Murphy mumbles...

Posted February 25, 2015
What are we basing this assessment on?

I have to be honest, a lot of the naysaying about the F-35 program sounds entirely too much like a lot of the naysaying about a number of weapons programs back in the Reagan Era. Not a night passed without some newsreport about some overpriced weapon sure to get our troops killed. Not that we cared about them because they were a bunch of uneducated, bottom of the barrel, babykilling wastes anyway.

I'm sharp enough not to buy everything that Lockheed and their partners are saying about the system but I don't think it is the flying lemon that detractors claim it is.

In fact, I suspect probably the only way to find out if the fighter is any good is to put it into combat.
Besides, outside of the F-22 Raptor, what other air superiority/multimission capable stealth platforms are available at all? Let alone for purchase? The Chinese are still having problems building reliable high power engines for their planes, relying on Russia to supply them. The Russians haven't had much luck with their planes. Near as I can tell, no one else is building them.
Now, you could make an argument that maybe you don't need a fifth gen fighter. Maybe it would be better to wait for a sixth gen, or just trying limp along with some fourth gen plus. After all, maybe some more Super Hornets are the way to go. I know folks in St. Louis at the other end of the state would be happy to build more of those for you.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches




Grand Admiral Thrawn mumbles...

Posted February 25, 2015
i`m up in Canada so our situation is a bit different than most. but here i go:
1 a single engine plane has inherit safety problems when flying over our vast frozen wasteland due to engine problems our last single engine figher proved deadly in this regaurd.

2 the sacrifices that were made to the control surfaces in the name of stealth has lowered its maneuverability to an unacceptable level in comparison to the 5th and 4.5 Gen fighters.

3 payload is reduced to internal bays unless you add pylons to the wings which reduce stealth capabilities.

4 stealth in as of its self is a high priced boondoggle that frankly isn`t worth as much as its made out to be. once you have a level of stealth on a plane it pretty much won`t get any better due to airframe wear and time. and it cost more to upgrade a planes stealth than use 1 and done stealthed JSM that can be fired from out side of enemy air defense thus eliminating the need for a stealth craft to penetrate air space most of the time. as well as the fact that air detection ``sensor`` technology is advancing at a faster pace than stealth tech can match thus making it likely that most stealth platforms wil not make much of a difference in most fights.

5 for canada i feel that the super hornet is a better buy that can be supplemented by a purchase of some growler ECM planes

those are just some of my thoughts on the f35, which i feel will be a shock to some countries if they go up against 4.5 or 5th non stealthed planes with and get shredded in a dog fight situation. but these are just my opinions from all the info i have seen on the F 35 heck, i could be wrong but i doubt it.

Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25, 2015
Oh, because Canada has always purchased twin engine fighters.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadair_CF-104_Starfighter
Oops. Or maybe not.

I remember the venerable F-15 being referred to as a, "Hangar Queen," that was too expensive to risk. Gwynn Dyer, who hails from your fair land, didn't seem to impressed with it. Other pundits seemed sure the Soviet Migs would make mincemeat of it.

Got a pretty impressive combat record.

Anyway, I'm sure Canadians can convince themselves that given their location on the planet, they probably don't need any fighter jets at all. I mean, why not subcontract that out to the U.S. Air Force and not bother with purchasing a new batch of fighters.

Redneck puts forth...

Posted February 25, 2015
Cos, America : Fuck Yeah !!

Grand Admiral Thrawn is gonna tell you...

Posted February 25, 2015

you bring up good points murph, i won't deny we up here in canada had some good single engine fighters but the problems i ment to highlight was the pilot fatality rate due to the lack of a dual engine saftey net. the CF 104 had 37 pilot falalities and the F-86 Sabre had 112 pilot loses both single engine fighters, were as the cf-18 has only 9 fatalities.

the F-15 in hind sight was a missed oppertunity that could of given us one of the best (now) proven combat fighters in the world heck i would still take a upgraded version of it over the F-35

as to not purchaseing any fighters at all the time may come sooner than you think. with the development of long range laser weapons and rapid fire railguns the current fighter and carrier doctrine is goineg to go the way of the dinosar. with only super high altatude air craft and cheap drone strike craft being viable. mind you this is about a decade or two away.

Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted February 26, 2015
Was the F-15 ever a viable option for Canada? I didn't get that impression from the wiki page I read on the matter. Then again, wiki always has to be taken with a grain of salt. The real opportunity seems to have been missing out on a shot at Iran's F-14 fleet.
In any case, I'd think that Canada needs are probably some Super Hornets for most of their air sovereignty needs and maybe a few F-35s for other matters. I'm inclined to think that the F-35B is going to prove to be incredibly handy in the future, especially if Canada moves forward with a decision to purchase an LHD style vessel, perhaps picking up a soon to be surplus Mistral from France or maybe a Juan Carlos type from Navantia.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

Grand Admiral Thrawn asserts...

Posted February 27, 2015

Your right on the money about the F-14 and F-15, either of those would of been cool since both were pretty good aircraft. but they both were discounted cus of cost the cheap F-14 from Iran would of been good but oh well.

as to getting F-35B's for any Amphib canada may get, there have been some problems of the engine heat damaging fight decks. as well as sacrificeing, in my opinion, too much cabability for the VTOL ability. you may be better off getting Apache's or vipers instead for your Ship to shore air support.

And i hope we gett the minstrels the french were building for russia for cheap ;)

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Bondiboy66 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25, 2015
Oooh I'd like one as a motorbike helmet. Better start saving I guess.

Anthony has opinions thus...

Posted February 25, 2015

You can get an add-on HUD for a motorcycle helmet now...


http://www.ridenuviz.com/#intro

Although given the current stupidity around helmet standards they probably won't let you use it.

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pi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 25, 2015
> Pilots can visualise a 360-degree view to ascertain a multitude of
threats and options. And virtual reality technology bestows a type of
X-ray vision, enabling pilots to "look through" the floor of the cockpit
as if the aircraft frame were transparent.

Which begs the question... why is the pilot in the aircraft at all?

Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted February 25, 2015
Skynet.

Sudragon mumbles...

Posted February 25, 2015
Bandwidth.
ECM.
Jamming.

Shifty Tourist reckons...

Posted February 26, 2015

The "Reverse" Skynet situation. Admittedly not raised as often, but still worthy of discussion.

The reverse Skynet, is where the computers become self-aware, but as a consequence become aware of the futility of war. The drones then all conscientiously object, refuse to fire their weapons and start writing anti-war folk songs.

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Shifty Tourist reckons...

Posted February 25, 2015

This is actually a good question! Maybe some of those on this site a bit more versed in the realities of modern warfare may be able to answer, but is there anything an in-cockpit pilot can do, that a drone operator could not? I know that drones currently aren't as big or powerful as a fighter craft.... but there is no reason that I see that says they can't be. Could you just remove the fragile, G force limited fleshbag from the operation, and control a plane remotely?

Grand Admiral Thrawn asserts...

Posted February 25, 2015
a lot of it comes downto band width limitaions and transmison delays well not a problem for flesh and blood pilots becomes a problem for remotely piloted drones. one work around would be to have a high performance drone controlling aircraft that has pilots on broad so they can pilot a localized drone flights that do the main fighting or more automation but then we truly get into skynet territory unlikely but who knows

Shifty Tourist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 26, 2015

Good explanation.

I can see what you mean... something like how the Hawkeye operates to task US Navy fighter craft to distant targets. Flying in the region directing things.

The fully automated option, does create some ethical issues. A computer does not have a gut instinct that tells it the target, despite how it looks, may not be a training camp, rather than a cub scout meeting

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Chaz ducks in to say...

Posted February 25, 2015

trying again....

its a piece of kit you'd expect with what is the 1st Gen 21st Cen Fighter

the multisensory attributes of the F-35 are great but in the end its only capable of rpelacing the F-16, Gripen & Harriers in the Wests squadrons.

It is disturbing that still there is little or no thought to what will replace the Typhoon, Raphael, F-15 & F-18 what with the F-22 stuck at about 190 units and no foreign sales (nor navalised version) there is nothing to replace the heavy hitters.

It was a relief to read this ...

http://defensetech.org/2015/02/05/cno-next-generation-navy-fighter-might-not-need-stealth/

But in the end unless the Russian federation changes tack we are on the edges of a new cold war and NATO needs desperately to find an deterrent to the later gen Sukhois & Migs and the F-35 doesn't even have a working gun yet.. allegedly

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Ignorant Peanut swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 26, 2015
I'm a moderately ignorant mil-nerd, but a big fan of the A-10 (especially the bit about maintenance being mainly about hitting it with a hammer until it starts working again).
Given the ADF's post-WWII and most likely 21st C. role(s) (i.e. more horrible "small wars" and less dog-fights in the sky and MBTvsMBT showdowns on the ground)(?), why are we pursuing the F-35 (to the extent of wanting up to 100 of the beasts) rather than beasts like the A-10?
And why do we only have 7 bloody Chinooks?
(pre-emptive apology for stupid questions)


coota ducks in to say...

Posted February 27, 2015
There has been so much ill informed commentary for years around the f35. Consider this; governments of both persuasions objected or raised concerns about our commitment to the f35 only to change tune and or go quite once in power and across the specifics. The RAAF has been right behind f35 for a long time and it all comes down to sensor fusion. The f35 is going to change air combat. We won't need warthogs becauee the f35 will be able act as a mini awacs controlling bomb and straffing sorties whilst also identifying and shooting down any legacy aircraft before they are aware. Forget all the nonsense about control surfaces and dog fighting, thos days are gone. This aircraft is going to deliver. Add to that, ucas and we will see 1 manned f35 loitering behind 3 unmanned aircraft all utilising the f35 sensors to knock any 4 and 4.5 gen aircraft out of the sky. this helmut stuff is just one small part of this system.

damian asserts...

Posted February 28, 2015
Yeah this is in important point to take.
Smart missiles controlled from integrated systems would make aerial dueling with autocannons while trying to get on one-another's 6 look a lot like the early stuff where pilots just shot at each other with pistols.

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Lulu asserts...

Posted February 26, 2015
A letter in today's SMH raises an interesting point, which I'll quote:
" So the pilot is at Mach 2 at 15,000 metres and the helmet malfunctions, so "the fighter jet won't operate" ... And?"

Therbs puts forth...

Posted February 26, 2015
The pilot's call sign is "Splat".

HAVOCK21 has opinions thus...

Posted March 1, 2015
Actually it WONT FKN MATTER because this doig of a thing cannot supercruise, its NOT GUNNA FKN MAKLE MACH2, its about mach 1.3.
Its got fk all weapons when in clean stealthy mode, add external and its fkn detectable.
TTalk is that you would pair three, thats a f35 and twop Superhornets and utilise its stealth, thats having the Rhino's shoot first and then HOPE they can bug out, or maybe even keep shooting, then the F35 shoot and bugs out becuase its NOT adog fighting a/c, a Hoirnet will fkn kill it dog fighting. Power to weight is shit, woing loads high and its NOT GOT A FKN WORKING FKN GUN! so I gues the pilot sould slide back the cannoppy and throw fkn rocks at the other aircraft.

US is looking at its nbext gen light bomber, esq to replace the bone B1 nd the loss of the FB 111 which was never really replaced. A FB-22...FKN YEAH BABY! we would buy some of fkn should

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Sudragon is gonna tell you...

Posted February 26, 2015
HELMET.SYS has crashed. [R]etry, [F]lail or [E]ject Eject Eject!

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AndreP puts forth...

Posted February 27, 2015
Yikes. Makes being locked into the Apple ecosystem look like small beer or even loose change.

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RobH would have you know...

Posted February 28, 2015
JB, helmets are not shared by line drivers: the safety equipment guys fit them for each pilot. From there they are checked and maintained for those individuals. Extra helmets in assorted sizes are kept on hand for other people, including journos who score backseat rides.

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RobH asserts...

Posted February 28, 2015
Apologies for second post, but forgot to post something.....
This for Chad and the never-ending canard about melting decks from F35B VLs. Author's credentials at end of article: he does actually know what he's talking about, unlike a near-unanimity of PhDs in Canberra defence circles.
Worth reading, here - http://defencetechnologyreview.realviewdigital.com/?iguid=e3f4646a-c89f-4286-90e2-33bbfb34990b#folio=28
Again, apols for gumming-up this with a second post. Hopefully the article will help. :-)

damian has opinions thus...

Posted February 28, 2015
That's an interesting article and thanks for posting the link.

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The eReader that gets you wet.

Posted February 22, 2015 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

I scored my free Kobo late last year from a PR firm looking for a quote. I was happy to give them one because anything which vexes the Beast of Bezos gets a tummy rub from JB on general principles. I forget what I said for them.
They let me keep the unit, though, which was nice of them. It is, as I’ve mentioned earlier, the water-proof model. The Kobo Aura H2O, I think it’s called.


I’ve been using it long enough now to be able to write an honest review. I’ve read about half a dozen dozen books on it, some good some not so much. Enough to be able to separate any feelings or thoughts I might have about the device from my response to the books I read.
So, bottom line, is it as good as or better than a Kindle?
Depends.
I have an old first gen PaperWhite Kindle, smuggled into the country via the good offices of Professor Boylan. Much as I hate the Beast, I recognise the quality of his kit and the PaperWhite is a quality eReader. The 2nd Gen, I’m told is even better.
The Kobo doesn’t sit quite as nicely in my hands as the Kindle. It feels just a touch bigger and more angular. Possibly a little heavier. But only a touch. That doesn’t make it noticeably less easy to hold for hours at a time. It just feels like a slightly heavier, boxier artefact. Still, judged on its own merits, I’m more than happy to use it. Compared to an iPad or even an iPad Mini, it remains a superior option for reading - as a dedicated single-use device should be.
The screen is as clean and crisp as the PaperWhite, the text exquisitely defined. In direct sunlight it does look like ink printed on good stock. Unlike a Kindle, the Kobo doesn’t right justify unless you force it too, so you don’t get the ugly layout effects that sometimes occur on the market leading eReader.
Backlighting, or uplighting to be perfectly geekly about it, works well. You can read this in the dark without straining your eyes and the Kobo has none of the uneven lighting issues of the 1st generation PaperWhite. (Not that they bothered me much anyway).
Battery life?
Meh, not so great. Or perhaps "not as great as Amazon delivers", might be a fairer call. I find the Kobo needs charging about once every book and a half, which seems a little hungrier than the Kindle, but still way way better than any tablet you’d use as a reader. (I read long books). Charging time runs to about four or five hours for a full battery. Standby on wifi - about a month or so.
The bookstore will have most of what you want. I haven’t run into problems with a lack of content yet. I don’t think they claim as many titles as the Kindle, but then again since Amazon opened up their AU ebook store I’ve found myself blocked from accessing the US site. And worse, because I started with a US account, I now find it impossible to buy in either Kindle store. I just get bounced back and forth between the two.
Lucky I don’t buy Kindle titles any more.
On the other hand I have had trouble using the offer codes that Kobo occasionally send. In fact I’ve never successfully used one. Ever. I enter the codes and the server refuses to recognise them. Maybe it’s a problem with my account. Maybe it’s systemic.
However, that’s not what everyone is waiting to hear about. The one feature that sets apart the Kobo Aura H2O is it’s ability to take a drink, or a bath, or a dip in the ocean.

It is waterproof. Just as advertised. I’ve tested this thing in the bath, the shower, down by the pool with a beer and about half a dozen times on the beach. It feels weird and wrong. The first time I exposed it to water was in my backyard where I perched on my beer-drinking ledge in the pool and necked a San Miguel while knocking over a couple of chapters of Lev Grossman’s The Magician.
It was nerve wracking at first. I felt like I was going to either destroy the Kobo or myself. But we both survived.
Oddly enough for a water proof piece of tech, the Kobo doesn’t like getting spotted with droplets. Dunno why but it copes a lot better with being fully submerged than with having a few drops splashed on screen, or a wet finger used to turn a page. That will often result in a warning screen saying that you should wipe it down. But drop the thing to bottom of the pool or toss it in the surf and it’s fine.
The beach is where the Kobo really comes into its own. You can take a Kindle to the beach. Jeff Bezos famously seals his inside a ziplock bag. I’ve done the same. But the Kobo rules here. You don’t even need to worry about sand. The micro USB slot where you plug in your charger is protected by a good rubber seal and although grains of sand can get stuck where the screen meets the bezel, a quick immersion in the surf will see them washed away – as well as making you seem the most interesting crazy man on the beach.
When you’re a parent, a lot of your time by the seaside is spent waiting for kids to be done. I approach those endless, baking beach runs with less trepidation now I know I have a waterproof, sand proof and beautifully useable eReader to take with me.
I wouldn’t go smearing sun block on it though.

8 Responses to ‘The eReader that gets you wet.’

Ed Jones has opinions thus...

Posted February 22, 2015
Not too bad at $A 229 either. How have you found the pricing of the books in the store? At first glance they seem a little more expensive than the beast. But maybe that's a plus to your kind?!
Wondering if their Android app will work on the Kindle so I can try them out... lol


John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted February 22, 2015
At $229 I'd totally try out the free app first.

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tqft swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 22, 2015
Amazon keeps asking me about my country of residence and have I moved.

Nope, still riverside Iowa Mr bozos.

Right now books I just bought from humble bundle haven't shown up on my tablet. 24h still waiting. Downloaded fine.
Ereaders great idea, hardware good but the ecosystem sucks.

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damian asserts...

Posted February 22, 2015
Does sound pretty nice, fersure.
Been doing the ziplock bag thing for a while, maybe this will be worthwhile if the price of ziplock bags goes up unexpectedly :/

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sooty nnewt reckons...

Posted February 22, 2015
Nook is the best Android e reader on the kindle works a treat if you side load it.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 22, 2015
I used to love the old Nook with the Carabiner loop. Dunno why. Just did.

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Noctor Dick mutters...

Posted February 23, 2015
Wonder if they'll give me one to test if it's depth-proof ;)

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George Fripley mutters...

Posted February 23, 2015
I just can't get into e-readers, and it's not any deep-seated philosophical problem - I have one but never seem to use it. Doesn't spring to mind when thinking about reading. Perhaps I can get treatment to bring me into the modern age?

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Oh noes! I may be forced to buy a new iMac

Posted February 6, 2015 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Yes, I know, I just bought one last year. Yes I know, it's not a 5K Retina model. None of that is relevant. The venerable old 2007 iMac which became the family work horse has finally carked it. It won't turn on. It is no more. It is an ex-parrot.

I wrote a lot of books on that machine, and even more articles, columns and blogs, of course. It served me well and many times in its last years of use I found myself shaking my head in wonder that it just kept going.

No more, though.

And we need a family work horse.

So I see no alternative to handing down my new iMac and making the supreme sacrifice of getting in a replacement 5K model.

A moment's silence please. This is a sad day.

19 Responses to ‘Oh noes! I may be forced to buy a new iMac’

w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted February 6, 2015
When you fire up those new 14.7 million pixels, I think that will help you with your grieving and your sacrifice. The sooner the better, I reckon.

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she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted February 6, 2015
If you sneak down in the middle of the night and unplug the power cord then this will result in the computer not turning on. Coincidence? Well played Mr Birmingham, well played.

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Sennafumi is gonna tell you...

Posted February 6, 2015
I smell an opportunity here.....
A dead but sign by Mr Birmingham Mac with such provenance would surely have some historical value to someone who hangs out here.

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted February 6, 2015
Well, apparently he wrote all his books on it. Must be in tiny tiny writing to get them all on. Hope there's still room for a signature.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted February 6, 2015
Get a new one, by all means, but pay whatever tax deductible dollars it takes to get the old one fixed.

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Rob asserts...

Posted February 6, 2015
I am thinking of getting an Imac for my studio. Not because I've finally given up on PCs (because my PC rig is awesomesauce) but I've been offered an obsolete iMac from the local uni for SFA. and you know my studio will look like a real artists studio if I have a big screen apple product in there, and not half a suburban car hole.

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Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 6, 2015
Will it be this one?

http://www.apple.com/mac-pro/

If I had the dough, I'd definitely go Mac Pro, yo.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted February 9, 2015
No - because at the moment Apple doesn't sell a separate 5K display. The only way you get it is by buying the iMac.
The best separate display you can get from Apple is 2560x1440.
If you were going to go the Mac Pro route, you'd have to go to another vendor to get a good IPS 4K+ resolution screen. Dell has the really nice UP2715K which is 5K (5120x2880) - but you're paying almost 2,300 for it.
For the price, you're better off going the iMac - as going the Mac Pro with that monitor is going to cost you roughly double the price.
(Also - if you're getting a 4K monitor - make sure it's IPS. Non IPS 4K monitors (the ones that are under $1000) are rubbish)

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GhostSwirv swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 6, 2015

I feel your pain and existential angst JB with having to make the supreme sacrifice and pass the newbie iMac down the line of succession.

I too have to surrender my 3 year old MacBook Pro to my youngest spawn, but only after I have received the latest 15 inch Retina model that work insists I use, purely for educational purposes you understand.

Those who gripe and imbibe in the gnashing of teeth over your serious lack of Appleness don't understand how hard and traumatic this whole scenario must be for you ... as I peruse the latest iPhone+ diamonte-encrusted model I'll be thinking of you.

GhostSwirv over out - to pick up dinner, adult Thai, pre-teen garlic pizza and large popcorn for the unending saga that is #libspill.

she_jedi asserts...

Posted February 6, 2015
Off topic but is not #libspill just the glorious gift that keeps on giving? I've been drowning in Schadenfreude all week. It's been divine.

Spanner ducks in to say...

Posted February 6, 2015
I've been gorging on the schadenfreude all week. I've stuffed fresh schadenfreude in my gob. Canned schadenfreude washed down with a schadenfreude smoothy. I've had schadenfreude burritos and schadenfreude a'la orange. It is just so fucking good. I don't want it to end. I'm just hooked on watching the slow motion trainwreck of the #libspill unfold. Can a person overdose on schadenfreude? If so I don't care. GIVE ME MAOR SCHADENDFREUDE.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
*goes and sits in corner rubbing schadenfreude on my nipples

GhostSwirv would have you know...

Posted February 6, 2015

I prefer my Schadenfreude best served chilled, with a soft, warm brioche on the side, a dipping sauce with just a hint of chilli and a long, tall glass of Cooper's Pale Ale ... Nick Cave croons languorously in the background, the #libspill twitter feed barrels along while I crank up Die Hard on the big screen TV.

Hans The Abbott Gruber has just ordered a refried Urban Assault Vehicle, not realising the turmoil that's about to be unleashed upon him and his goons by a vengeful electorate who doesn't like to lose.

All that is missing from this picture is the heart-warming sediments, er sentiments of the All-Seeing, All-Knowing Wise One ... who will truly lead us all from darkness when he 'mansplains' the antics of OneTermTones and anoints a new vassal, er successor.

GhostSwirv over and out ... the Schadenfreude awaits

PS - I have taught my Mac to spell libspill

Halwes puts forth...

Posted February 6, 2015
There is always another grub lurking around the corner to take their place. The loss of Abbott and the instalation of Turnbull will see the conservatives in power for a longer time. Abbot was beatable at least. Turnbull is a lot slimier.

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted February 7, 2015
Here you go Spanner:
http://www.sbs.com.au/comedy/article/2015/02/04/julia-gillard-rushed-hospital-after-overdosing-schadenfreude

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Jon reckons...

Posted February 7, 2015
Take it out the back and shoot it.

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Craig Richmond mutters...

Posted February 7, 2015
If it's no worky, when you turn it on, it's very likely the power supply that met it's demise. My old one went the same way (just after I sold it to my friend - *sigh*). The replacement power supplies are a moderate challenge to install and seemingly hard to come by. That is presumably the result of them being a weak point and otherwise useful computers requiring them to be brought back to life. Sorry for your loss, but the replacement will be awesome!

Sudragon ducks in to say...

Posted February 7, 2015
Of course power supplies are hard to come by. Why sell you a part you can install yourself when they can get you to buy a whole new computer?

Craig Richmond would have you know...

Posted February 11, 2015
Apple will happily produce parts for machines that are well less than 8 years old. They are like most other reputable manufacturers in this regard.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 11, 2015
SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP

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The Secret Life of Passwords

Posted November 23, 2014 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Really lovely and thoughtful piece in the NYT about the way our passwords "take on secret lives". It's a great Sunday read.

Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar — these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.

Perhaps my biggest surprise has been how willing, eager actually, people are to openly discuss their keepsakes. The friends I queried forwarded my request, and before long I started receiving passwords from complete strangers. There was the former prisoner whose password includes what used to be his inmate identification number (“a reminder not to go back”); the fallen-away Catholic whose passwords incorporate the Virgin Mary (“it’s secretly calming”); the childless 45-year-old whose password is the name of the baby boy she lost in utero (“my way of trying to keep him alive, I guess”).

21 Responses to ‘The Secret Life of Passwords’

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w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted November 23, 2014
Yep, so true.
For a 4 digit pin, I mainly use my mate's pin he told me 20 years ago because it is a mildly amusing pun.

And, the secrecy! Write them down. Perhaps put them on post-it stickers on your computer (semi-joke). Because password crackers don't generally find out your password by breaking into your house.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted November 24, 2014
I use two methods for choosing computer passwords. I choose randomly chosen automobile license plate numbers (e.g. 367ULK - taken from the license plate of a Toyota I was stuck behind on California Hwy 395 somewhere near Susanville). Or I do it the way the International Dada Committee chooses the date for their conferences (by randomly drawing pieces of paper showing numbers and (letters and sometimes symbols, depending on the host's requirements) from a box or bag.

Any password with any kind of meaning designed to allow fast recollection can potentially be sussed out.

tarl would have you know...

Posted November 24, 2014
If you're worried about someone sussing out your passwords, remember that rubber hose cryptanalysis almost always works.

The goal of a password is making it harder for someone to pretend they are you while not making your own life hell. So you want something you can remember relatively easily, you can touch-type accurately frequently (without having to mumble it), but brute-force crackers won't trip over. That generally means long sequences of words, and an increasing number of applications are allowing that. When you see a password limited to eight characters, it indicates either an obsolete program or an obsolete programmer.

The requirements for mixed case, numbers, non-alphabetics, etc. actually reduce security because they increase the odds someone will put them on a yellow sticky. And with people having to type passwords on iPhones and the like, shifting and selecting numbers have gotten much more painful than typing extra characters.

And let's not get into multinational keyboards screwing around with where the non-alphabetics are - the keyboard you are forced to use isn't necessarily the one you are used to, and the labels on the keys don't necessarily match what the computer interprets the keys as.

insomniac mumbles...

Posted November 25, 2014
In NZ we all use pun numbers

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted November 25, 2014
Choice, bro!

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insomniac would have you know...

Posted November 24, 2014
I reuse my qwerty password on a lot of sites but figure I'm way too unimportant for anyone to be interested in me, or assume my inconsequential identity.

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Lulu mutters...

Posted November 24, 2014
I generally pick something from a book I'm reading, a film I've just seen etc - we have to change them regularly at work, so keeping just one wouldn't work. Having said that, my e-mail password (picked on the same principle) doesn't change and it's become my standard 'go to' password for a lot of things over the past several years.

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Therbs would have you know...

Posted November 24, 2014

Marx Brothers had passwords sorted out.


<DL>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: ...you can't come in unless you give the password.</DD>
<DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: Well, what is the password?</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Aw, no. You gotta tell me. Hey, I tell what I do. I give you three guesses. It's the name of a fish.</DD>
<DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: Is it "Mary?"</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: [laughing] 'At's-a no fish!</DD>
<DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: She isn't? Well, she drinks like one! ...Let me see... Is it "Sturgeon"?</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Aw, you-a craze. A "sturgeon", he's a doctor cuts you open when-a you sick. Now I give you one more chance.</DD>
<DD><I>Wagstaff</I>: I got it! "Haddock".</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: 'At's a-funny, I got a "haddock" too.</DD>
<DD><I>Wagstaff</I>: What do you take for a "haddock"?</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Sometimes I take an aspirin, sometimes I take a calomel.</DD>
<DD><I>Wagstaff</I>: Y'know, I'd walk a mile for a calomel.</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: You mean chocolate calomel? I like-a that too, but you no guess it. [Slams door. Wagstaff knocks again. Baravelli opens peephole again.] Hey, what's-a matter, you no understand English? You can't come in here unless you say, "Swordfish." Now I'll give you one more guess.</DD>
<DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: ...swordfish, swordfish... I think I got it. Is it "swordfish"?</DD>
<DD><I>Baravelli</I>: Hah. That's-a it. You guess it.</DD>
<DD><I>Professor Wagstaff</I>: Pretty good, eh?</DD></DL>

Harpo Marx ("Pinky"), whose characters operated only in pantomime, gets into the speakeasy by pulling a sword and a fish out of his trench coat and showing them to the doorman.


Marx Bros - "Horsefeathers"

Halwes would have you know...

Posted November 24, 2014
I watched a lot of marx brothers when I was a kid but have only recently switched on to the incredible dialogue. I think it was the slapstick that must have attracted me when I was young but, reading some of these scripts now, these blokes were incisive social commentators and comic geniuses.

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Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted November 24, 2014
Nice piece, even if it gave me flashbacks. I used to run a couple of networks on the same site, one with about 1500 users, the other only 150. But about 1350 users were teenagers and of the rest, some had grown up with computers as walls of flashing lights in movies they probably didn't like anyway. Security was, as they say, an "issue". There was the adult who argued that he should be allowed to use "password" for every login and never, ever change it. Another claimed to forget so often that eventually her HOD asked for it to be made permanent and semi-public. Kids of course swap passwords faster than STDs which not only allowed file-swapping but plausible denial of the contents of their home drives. Every problem had a technical solution, most of which we set up in advance but the human factor gets you every time - i.e. your boss says cut back on security to "make life easier". Still, at least his default password was m3g@cactus - because he was such a prick. Gaaah! It's all coming back. Is it too early to start drinking?

Therbs asserts...

Posted November 24, 2014
I found vodka with a couple of fingers of apple and mango juice, on ice, topped with soda water is quite the refreshing beverage to cope with bad memories and regret..

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Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted November 24, 2014
This is why people farking hat being forced to change their passwords regularly.

Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted November 24, 2014
s/hat/hate

w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted November 24, 2014
Yeah. We all hate having to keep changing passwords.
I particularly hate it when my password change fails, with the message, "C'mon pal. You have to do more than just change the number at the end."
What! But that is my brilliant strategy. I don't have a Plan B.

Darth Greybeard mumbles...

Posted November 24, 2014
Yer all users, that's what. Users! (runs MONDAY script forcing everyone reading this blog to change their passwords. ALL OF THEMMMM)

Blarkon puts forth...

Posted November 24, 2014
People most likely to not change passwords are those with the most sensitive accounts. The same people who configure service accounts with admin privileges and use the same non-expiring default password for every service account.

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spokenoise has opinions thus...

Posted November 24, 2014
Man I hate the 'One capital, one number and eight letters' push for non sequenced individual passwords. I can never remember them and constantly need to re change them and then I'm never sure what password is for what site, bank or service.

For me the next killer app is whatever solves this.

Also, no facebook I do not want to sign into everything using facebook.

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John from Canberra mumbles...

Posted November 24, 2014
Guessable passwords are a security problem but the bots we need to worry about are probably not (yet) going to be hitting us with social engineering attacks.

So the question becomes "how many goes do they need to brute force it?"

Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted November 24, 2014
Actually at this point brute forcing passwords is straightforward. Throw Hashcat at a hashed password table.

Security needs to be configured to lock out accounts after a number of invalid attempts - that reduces the chance a brute force attack will be successful.

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Luke has opinions thus...

Posted November 27, 2014
Wow, I like the article and your coverage. I have digged more and found another coverage by Sticky Password

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