Fortunately, there’s no possible way that…




Tesla driver stranded in the desert after smartphone app failure
A Tesla driver was stranded in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas after the car’s keyless control app suddenly stopped working.

Interested in testing a feature that lets Tesla owners unlock and power their car using their smartphone, Ryan Negri decided to leave his keys at home when he went for a drive around the canyon yesterday.

Nope. Not an app failure. Put the blame where it belongs: primarily with the idiot for using it, and then not realizing that a communication app would need… comm to reach the car. Secondarily with Tesla for making the “feature” available.

Not being in the Tesla set, I had no idea the company had done something as monumentally stpid as…

The keyless smartphone feature, which is available through Tesla’s iPhone and Android apps, lets users remotely monitor and control their Tesla Model S without their key. One of the main features of the app is the ability to “unlock and drive Model S without your key”.

I haven’t researched this, so I’m guessing and giving Tesla benefit of the doubt. You have to know the car’s phone number. It should only accept commands from the owner’s phone number. It’s probably an SMS system that sends a PIN code.

So now car thieves just need to figure out what number blocks Tesla uses in an area, look up the an owner’s phone number, and text random numbers until the car unlocks and starts. Is any other company doing this?

I fully expect to start getting weird text messages on my phone containg random strings and Tesla commands as folks start war-dialing for cars.

Discovering the “Oh, shit! The [Other] Party gets to use those powers now” argument

At least she recognized some degree of importance even during the Barrycade administration.

Protecting the Republic: Securing Communications is More Important than Ever
Protecting the privacy of speech is crucial for preserving our democracy. We live at a time when tracking an individual—a journalist, a member of the political opposition, a citizen engaged in peaceful protest—or listening to their communications is far easier than at any time in human history. Political leaders on both sides now have a responsibility to work for securing communications and devices. This means supporting not only the laws protecting free speech and the accompanying communications, but also the technologies to do so: end-to-end encryption and secured devices; it also means soundly rejecting all proposals for front-door exceptional access. Prior to the election there were strong, sound security arguments for rejecting such proposals. The privacy arguments have now, suddenly, become critically important as well. Threatened authoritarianism means that we need technological protections for our private communications every bit as much as we need the legal ones we presently have. (emphasis added- cb)

Let me give you a few brief reminders. Some of us warned about this with CALEA, PATRIOT, Patriot II, NDAA, CISPA, SOPA, HIPAA…

And pretty much every other extra-constitutional power that control freaks have handed the government over the last few decades. Oh, hell; centuries. And you never learn, except very temporarily when the opposition takes possession of the ball.

“Mature” Tech Test

Identify the following items. Be aware that successfully doing so — without using a search engine — may reveal your decrepitude.

  1. paper-tape
  2. punch-card
  3. mag-tape-reel
  4. 220px-dysanremovablediskpack-agr
  5. cassette
  6. 8-inch-floppy
  7. 525_floppy-300x300
  8. 3-5in-floppy

Obviously, this is not all encompassing. I couldn’t even find images of some of the older stuff I’ve encountered. And this is just computers. You don’t want me to get into telephonic stuff (I was depressed to discover an old rotary switch, of a model I’d worked on, in a museum; they were so proud that it actually worked).

For those who want to argue computer bragging rights, the first computer I owned came with 4K RAM. Permanent storage was a cassette tape. But know what’s been out there, I know that can be beaten.

You know, he almost has a point there*

How can we reduce US firearm suicide rates?
Smart gun technology, such as fingerprint recognition, limits use of a gun to the owner and permitted users. Mandating that new guns use the new technology and instituting trade-in programs to replace old guns with safer ones can prevent a household’s firearms from being used for suicide by family members or others with access to the firearm.

If the Armatix iP1 is indicative of smart guns, mandating its use might reduce firearms suicide by ten to twenty percent on failures alone.

* For new readers: sarcasm.

Are. You. Fucking. Nuts?

Via David Codrea

Mobile App Displays Location of Individuals with Concealed Handguns
Halos, a mobile application that allows citizens with concealed handgun permits or are legally entitled to carry a concealed weapon in their state of residence to anonymously and approximately represent themselves on a mobile device, has launched.

That’s right. They want you to pay to be entered into a giant database of people with weapons, and tracked 24/7 in real time. That would be a database subject to warrants and national security letters.

“With Halos, one can now post a giant warning sign for those contemplating violence. Halos’ maps illustrate not only where the good guys are (or are not) but how many are present. We believe that this will create a ‘halo’ effect of safety for our users and deter criminals where there are high concentrations of gun-carrying citizens.”

Um. No. The the halo effect of concealed carry is that they bad guys never know who is carrying when or where. So it prompts the less-stupid to be wary. Halos gives them a service that tells them where they’re more likely to find unarmed targets.

Is Cook an idiot, or a stooge for the Feds? I’d love to ask him, but there’s no contact data on their web site, and they domain registration is proxied with a semi-bogus contact email. I’ll try it.

I suspect I wasn’t the only one ridiculing the Global Cooling Skyscraper

When last we saw architect Venturella’s “Global Cooling Skyscraper,” Sr. V was mumbling vaguely threatening requests that I delete all discussion of his physics-warping Onion bait.

And that was the last we saw it. Yep, it’s gone. 404’d into oblivion. In fact, his entire site seems to be MIA. No loss.

Happily, captured it for posterity and future giggles.

Perhaps Venturella will demand that Google recognize his dubious right to be forgotten, while he pursues a new career in comedic literature. Oh. Wait. That’s what he was doing. I think.

UPDATED 3: Censorship Request – When I win the lottery, my new house will be designed by an engineer

Update 3: Venturella wants this post gone. See below for original post.

I received a second reply from Mister Venturella (or someone using his sig-line).

My response: “No.” And I referred him to this post again.

So? why do you think you can call me “ignorant a*****”?
It is just a concept idea. If you don’t like I can accept the fact that you don’t like.
But now please just remove your post and your link and let’s solve this friendly and the story will end here. ok?

[previous quoted emails snipped. See below for originals.]


Paolo Venturella Architecture

Via Arturo Colautti, 5
00152 – Roma

PN: +39 06 9 784 06 71
MP: +39 339 75 46 342

I’ll take those one at a time.

  • I suggested that Venturella is scientifically ignorant because his concept appears to be physically impossible without Star Drek force fields and antigravity. See below talking points. Even the idea that it can be “cantilevered” for support is simplistic. Simple cantilevering would only apply for the portions close to the Earth’s surface. Extended “arms” would require reinforcement in the opposite direction to deal with centrifugal forces.
  • “Asshole” is hyberbole to emphasize disdain for the concept and for the person who demonstrated such ignorance.
  • I absolutely will not remove a public discussion of a publicly published concept. If Venturella wanted no discussion, he should not have made his concept public in the first place.
  • It is not “friendly” to demand criticism of your public work be deleted.
  • It would be better that “story will end” by Venturella accepting that the law and common sense allow discussion of public material, and withdraw his ridiculous self-censorship request.

Sr. Venturella, if you think my comments — based on some basic scientific and engineering knowledge — are bad, you should see what other people are saying. One of the kinder comments compares your concept to a “high school science fair project.”

I live in America. Under our laws, I can criticize other people’s work. I can point out flaws. I can speculate that a person demonstrating apparent ignorance may well actually be ignorant. I can even use derogatory hyperbole to do so. Italian law — which for all I know might disallow all that — does not apply here. You can’t even enforce an Italian court judgement here if it is based on laws that conflict with American law.

And should you be thinking about abusing copyright by whining that I used your diagram, please note that copyright law allows for fair use. A single significantly down-sized graphic, out of many, used to illustrate what I am discussing, is allowed fair use.

A penultimate point, sir. Please familiarize yourself with the Streisand Effect. If you wish to minimize the attention paid to criticism of your concept, drawing more attention to it with unreasonable requests or demands isn’t going to help you.

What would be reasonable would be for you to reply, in comments below, to the points I’ve raised. If you find one valid, admit it and explain how you would address the issue now that you know. If you believe I’m wrong, explain why (i.e.- have you found something in materials literature that leads you to believe that materials of the necessary strength and low mass can be produced?).

Engage productively with your critics instead of trying silence them.

Original post (and previous updates):

No architects need apply.

Global Cooling Skyscraper
This works according the same principle of the “solar tower”. Thanks to the accumulation of heat in the glazed structure, air flows naturally from hot to cold generating rapid and strong flows. These flows bring hot air far from the Earth cooling down the temperature of the whole globe.


I’m not even sure how many ways that’s… wrong.

  • How the ever-lovin’-fuck do we mine and process enough materials for a structure that size?
  • That’s a cantilevered structure suspended from a single point; apparently one roughly FIFTEEN THOUSAND MILES LONG. The mass will be enough to affect tides. A lot. I don’t care if you build the SOB from aerogel and carbon nanotubes.
  • Lunar/Solar tidal effects are going to warp it.
  • If you build it anywhere but the ocean, the shadow over arable land is going to adversely affect crops. Hell, it’s still going to.
  • Taking the diagram and artist conceptions at face value, the thing is at least a thousand miles thick. You’d have to totally clear everything from Low Earth Orbit (and some of MEO, depending on the real scale) of every bloody satellite. You’d never be able to launch another satellite because even geosynchronous birds start in LEO and boost up. Say goodbye to satphones, satellite Internet, GPS, polar commsats, the ISS, our space telescopes…
  • That diagram shows air being sucked out of the atmosphere into space by thermosiphoning. I’m pretty sure Earth needs an atmosphere to support life.

This is what happens when you leave your laptop with Adobe Illustrator unattended with an innumerate, scientifically-ignorant architect.

Added: Damn, this monstrosity is stuck in my head.

Assume he caps the ends and recirculates the atmosphere instead of blowing it into space.

  • The wind gennies in the uptake part could partially power fans in the return duct. It would still require power input unless someone has invented perpetual motion.
  • But now you have a permanent colossal hurricane. I figure if this sucker is in the mid-Atlantic, the storm bands would extend well into Europe and Africa, and into the Americas. Forever.
  • Aside from the megaGIGA-hurricane, the structure would be a wall blocking global air circulation. That might have some effect on global climate, ya think?
  • Forget transoceanic air travel: there’s a wall in the way.
  • And the never-ending, thousand-mile hurricane isn’t exactly going to help surface shipping either.
  • Depending on how much light is blocked, this will impair photosynthesis — possibly shut it down — for thousands of miles. (Hint to Venturella: photosynthesis is what takes carbon dioxide out of the air and turns it into oxygen.)
  • You could make up some of the loss of satellites by mounting comm relays on the structure, but that also requires making the structure stronger. More freaking mass.
  • Trying to visualize this, I think a mid-Atlantic structure a thousand miles high is going to be visible in the Midwest. And those Cape Cod assholes thought wind gennies in their view sucked.

I assumed Venturella is just an ignorant asshole with mad Photoshop skills, but it’s been suggested that he’s actually just trolling everybody. Maybe even making fun of the AGW climate alarmists.

Perhaps, but I’ve seen enough honest dumbfuckery (particularly from architects) that I’m not ready to write this off as a joke.

Update 2: I thought it only fair to share this with Venturella. I just got an email back.


Yeah, all-caps. My response:


I’m not a hater, I just passed my high school and college physics courses.


(Hat tip to Watts Up With That.)

Obama’s “smart” gun initiative: Fuck you, Barry

Barrycade’s final proposal (PDF) for “smart” gun development is out.

On the bright side, he wants to start testing on cops, so this shit ain’t hitting the streets.

And shit it is. It breaks down to three basic elements:

  • User Authorization. Standard “smart” gun allowing only the right people to use the gun. These idiots actually think the Armatix iP1 is a mature, effective technology.
  • Tracking. Yeah, they want to Lojack your gun, so it can be located remotely if “stolen.” Or if some cop on night shift gets bored. Or if a fed/state fusion center decides you’re a bad person.
  • Telemetry. Did you draw your gun from the holster? Your gun will file a real-time report. Shoot? It’ll tattle that, too, and how many times.

They have allowed that this stuff is hard to do. It seems the feds have pumped over $12 million dollars into smart gun development over twenty years, and no one was able to deliver acceptable prototypes.

They don’t address the difficulty of retrofitting the electronics into 320-750 million existing guns, held mostly by people with a distinct lack of interest in the being cattle-tagged.

I hate to tell them this…

Hackers use Congressman’s iPhone to demo ability to listen into calls, monitor texts, track location [Updated]
Apple may take iOS security so seriously that it’s willing to do battle with the FBI over it, but German hackers have demonstrated that all phones – even iPhones – are susceptible to a mobile network vulnerability that requires nothing more than knowing your phone number. Armed with just that, hackers can listen to your calls, read your texts and track your position.

…but that’s essentially the same thing as the mandated CALEA phone tapping capability that they forced on the industry. The only difference is that the Feds are provided their own channel into the network. This “hack” (which isn’t a hack) just uses a standard SS7 channel for access.

Sid Scriptkiddy isn’t going to sit in his mom’s basement and tap President Barrycade’s phone (unfortunately). This requires direct access to the SS7 network. You have to be part of the network. So you either build an SS7 server and get a contract with a common carrier to connect, or you have to find some open line into the SS7 system; the latter would be a hack.

SS7 providers should make sure access to their network is secure; no open dialups (believe me, it happens), no unsecured SCADA links. But “fixing” this “flaw” in the SS7 protocol itself…

…is impossible without either 1) eliminating much of the functionality that allows cell networks to operate, or 2) breaking CALEA. I’m all for the second option.

BTW, the articles make a big deal about this affecting iPhones, but read the fine print and you’ll realize that it affects all phones. Not all smartphones, but all telephones including that dinosaur wired to the wall in your kitchen. They won’t get the location data that a cell network has, but everything else is a go. They’re exploiting standard SS7 functions like Caller ID and call forwarding.

[Updated] Breakthrough Starshot


Internet Investor and Science Philanthropist Yuri Milner & Physicist Stephen Hawking Announce Breakthrough Starshot Project to Develop 100 Million Mile per Hour Mission to the Stars within a Generation
Breakthrough Starshot is a $100 million research and engineering program aiming to demonstrate proof of concept for light-propelled nanocrafts. These could fly at 20 percent of light speed and capture images of possible planets and other scientific data in our nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, just over 20 years after their launch.

Generally, the idea is nothing new: micro-probes with little lightsails propelled by a laser that stays behind. They describe the probe proper as “postage stamp-size,” with a 1 square meter sail. Where this differs from other proposals (like Forward’s “Starwisp”) is that Starshot consists of a lot of individual probes launched in a swarm.

Technical detail remains unpublished (and clearly needs a lot of development), but I’d guess that the individuals in the swarm will network together, so thay they can combine multiple low-resolution sensor data into a more detailed composite.

Getting the data back to Earth is tricky. The press release says the data will be transmitted “back to Earth using a compact on-board laser communications system.” The only way that can possibly work is if a large number of probes survive to reach Alpha Centauri so that they can synchronize a bunch of in-phase laser transmitters. That may be an iffy proposition for postage stamp-sized probes moving at 20% of lightspeed.

I’m not exactly sure what they mean by this: “Using the same light beamer that launched the nanocrafts to receive data from them over 4 years later.” Lasers aren’t receivers, but it may refer to using the collimation and adaptive optics part as a giant antenna.

Here’s the diceyist part of the job: a 100 gigawatt laser array. Not 100GW peak, but continuous power output. Though briefly; depending on the probe mass, they may get up to speed in hours. And the laser power would start much lower than 100GW, since full power aimed at those probes in orbit would vaporize them. Power will increase as the swarm gets farther away

Why’s that dicey? Read The Mote in God’s Eye. You’ll want to note the part where aliens fought wars to control the interstellar laser arrays to use as weapons. Granted, the Moties’ array was far larger, since it launched a manned Motied colony ship. But consider Navy tests in the mere 10-20 kilowatt range.

Imagine the Fourth of July fun you could have with an array 5,000,000 times more powerful. In CW mode. A lot more in peak pulse mode.

Weapons applications aside, they’re going to have fun putting a 100+ GW generator on that mountaintop. Or develop some astonishing storage systems.

More -ahem- power to them. It would be interesting to watch the development, the data gained just in interstellar space (much less at Alpha Centauri) would be invaluable, and spin-off tech would be almost unbelievably useful. And they’re doing it with private money, not your tax dollars.

Added, 4/13/16: Graphics and a little more detail. I’m pretty dubious of cramming cramming a camera, computer, laser transmitter, and a nuclear battery into a 1 gram package. Given the size, the battery would have to be betavoltaic, but which isotope? Tritium is a beta emitter, but has a half-life of just over 12 years, which I’d expect to be too short for an interstellar mission that requires sufficient power to beam a laser 4.3 lightyears after 20 years. Seriously, in such a small package, you need max output, but that typically means a short half-life.

That graphic claims the probes would get up to speed in 2 minutes. I’ll need to check the math, but I think that assumes full launching laser output from the start, which would mean vaporizing the probes.