Friday, April 29, 2011

(Old) Geek Links of the Week - 29APR2011

News Roundup for January 2011, something I have also put off for too long.  I found a bunch of bookmarks that I forgot about until recently...

Star Wars is coming to Blu-Ray

You would think that, as a self-respecting Star Wars fan, that I would be super excited to run out and buy the Blu-Ray edition of the best movie series ever (yes, that includes Eps. 1-3). My reaction? YAWN. During the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray debate many people asked "what will be the next disc format?" The answer was clear: nothing. Blu-ray sales have not been beaten DVD players. Am I excited to see Star Wars in HD? Sure but I'll wait until I can download it rather than pay $140 for the set. The only reason I have a Blu-ray player (I have 2) is that it came with my computer.

New Cars Vulnerable to Wireless Theft

Now seriously, who didn't see this one coming? Keyless entry systems rely on rolling numeric keys to unlock your car, roll down the windows, open the sunroof, and even start the engine. GM first added keyless entry systems to their luxury car lines in 1989. Now, 22 years later, even new cars with the latest technology are being hacked in new and creative ways. Now someone can do things like lock/unlock doors, start the engine (i.e. drive off), or even kill the engine while you are driving. Fun stuff. They can even do it using your car's antenna.

Android Phone Gets Driver Out of Ticket

This one caught my attention since it blends technology and the law, specifically that someone got out of a ticket using their smartphone's GPS (or any GPS for that matter). A guy supposedly used the GPS data from his smartphone to get a speeding ticket dismissed because his GPS said he wasn't doing 40 in a 25 zone but was actually doing no more than 26 MPH (highest speed recorded by the GPS software). And then I investigated further and actually went to the source...
The judge took a moment and declared that I was not guilty, but he had an unusual statement that followed. To avoid any misinterpretations about his ruling, he chose to clarify his decision by citing the lack of evidence on the officer’s part. He mentioned that he was not familiar enough with GPS technology to make a decision based on my evidence, but I can’t help but imagine that it was an important factor.

So the Droid didn’t clear his name: lack of appropriate evidence on the part of the officer was the reason the case was dismissed. The questions he asked are standard questions that should be asked by any ticket defendant if you go to court to contest a ticket. THIS IS A NON-STORY. The fact that he tried to use his GPS data to prove innocence is interesting but not relevant. GPS devices are not accurate enough to provide convincing data for contesting a traffic ticket in a court of law. A radar gun (properly used, calibrated, etc) provides an instantaneous data point that is very accurate. Unless you have a corresponding data point at or very near the same timestamp then you probably don’t have enough data to provide a defense. He would have had better luck with his car’s telemetry data, assuming it is equipped with this feature (lots of luxury and sports cars already have this feature although you need a mechanic who can download the data for you or hardware/knowledge to do it yourself). The jury is still out on this topic, so to speak. Someday there will be legal precedent but this isn't it.

Microsoft Puts a Datacenter in a Barn.

As an IT geek this immediately caught my eye. Most "modern" datacenters are engineering marvels with a lot of fixed costs: virtually sealed buildings with hardened walls, raised floors, and forced air cooling. Microsoft designers used a wholly different strategy to build the new DC that utilizes outside air (virtually unfiltered, at least at the micron level) and much less structural integrity. The GM of DC R&D at MSFT recently referred the "disappearing datacenter." I have to say I like it. The DCs of even 5 years ago were patterned after the old-school building methods that started with mainframe datacenters where you had to have constant temperatures, usually in the 62-65F range, with very low tolerances for dust and humidity. Not anymore. They even ran a test where the servers were literally in the parking lot of the datacenter covered by only a tent for 8 months. Seriously. It's a brave new world in the datacenters these days.


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