Thursday, July 24, 2014

Heat, not light, "finds" the Lois Lerner emails

To find something, you can turn on the lights or turn up the heat.  In the case of Lerner's missing emails, heat seems to have been more effective than light.  Under extreme heat IRS has just admitted that maybe Lois' emails might be available after all. 
   In actual fact, the IRS excuses about crashed hard drives are BS, even though the newsies have fallen for them.  The emails all travel over the office local area network (LAN) and thru central email server computers.  Which are probably running Microsoft Exchange  Those servers can keep a complete record of every email ever sent, neatly sorted by sender, receivers and date.  In the IRS, which might need an old email to either prosecute tax payers or defend itself in court or in front of Congress, it is inconceivable not to have central archiving of email.  Any IT guy will tell you that you cannot depend upon users to kept decent (or any) records.  IT has to do the achieving centrally.  
   Keep the heat on.  Tell that smarmy new bald headed IRS chief to produce Lois' emails or go to jail for contempt of Congress. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Do they have the votes? Now?

Vast excitement on the TV news about the Obamacare court cases.  The DC circuit court held that the plain language of the Obamacare law is binding.  Even though the plain language, citizens in states without state run exchanges (most citizens) don't get government subsidy, seems wrong.  Probably is not what the Congresscritters intended.
  Later that day, another Federal circuit court held the other way.  All the TV newsies are talking about taking it to the Supremes and that will take a year.  All the talk is about resolving things in the courts.
   Little to no talk about having Congress fix it.  Congress could pass a law saying that section yadda-yadda of the Obamacare law is hereby amended to read as follows...."  Would only take a day or two.
  But, does anyone have the votes to pass something like that?  Would Narry Reid allow a vote on it? Polls show that by 55% to 45% the voters want Obamacare to go away.  They think Obamacare is causing Great Depression 2.0, jacking up medical costs, making jobs harder to get, and preventing them from going to the doctor and hospital that they have always gone to.  Clearly there is reason to worry that opening up an amendment to Obamacare might give its opponents a chance to kill it for good.
   So, right now,  the newsies (all in favor of Obamacare) are trying to steer the matter to the Supremes, where they think there is a better chance for it than in the Congress.
   Real believers in democracy, those newsies. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flight Examiner SAM

At Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base (Thailand) one would see pilots wearing a shoulder patch with that logo.  That was 1968 and we were flying F105 fighter bombers up to Hanoi twice a day, every day.  SAM in those days was SA-2, a not very mobile system.  A SAM battery consisted of several launchers, a couple of radar trailers, some hootches and "stuff".  The Russians had provided the more up to date tracked vehicle mobile SA-6 to the Egyptians in time for the 1967 war with Israel, but the North Viet Nam comrades didn't have it yet. 
   SA-2 was the SAM designed to get U-2 photo recon flights operating above 70,000 feet.  This resulted in a big rocket, about the size and dimensions of a telephone pole.  It took the rocket motor quite some time to boost this heavy missile up to real speed.  At low altitude, the F105 could out fly SAM.  Pilots who survived this feat of airmanship got to wear the patch. 
Once SAM was at altitude, with much of his fuel burned off, he was deadly fast, cannon shell fast, too fast to dodge, almost too fast to see.  So the effect of SAM was to force us down, into the ground fire.  Instead of going in at 25,000 feet, well above any kind of ground fire, we had to fly at  5000 feet.  One pilot put it thusly  "Even the kids have slingshots." 
  SAM was a radar guided beast.  No heat seekers for him.  We carried electronic countermeasures pods to confuse Mr. SAM.  The early ones were straight noise jammers.  The later QRC 160 pods attempted to spoof SAM by picking up his radar pulses, amplifying them, messing with them, and squirting them back at SAM's radar.   A weakness in QRC-160 was the occasional pod that started talking to itself.  The receiver would pick up a bit of noise, it would amplify the noise and transmit it.  The transmit antenna wasn't far from the receive antenna (how far away can you be when the whole pod was only ten feet long?)  The receiver would pick up the transmissions, amplify them again, transmit them again, and within seconds the pod transmitters would be blasting a full power signal.  This worried the aircrew, who feared that the comrades could track them and launch at them.  So the talkative pods were sent to my ECM shop to shut them up.  There was nothing in the technical order about loud mouth pods, fix there fore.  So after a lot of trouble shooting and testing, we resorted to ordering some parts that we knew base supply didn't have.  After waiting about 30 days for parts, we were allowed to ship the talkative pods back to depot, which got them out of our hair. 
   The SAM that took out the airliner is a descendent of  SA-2.  About third or fourth generation.  SA-2 was followed by SA-6.  SA-6 managed to pack 3 missiles and the radar into a single tracked vehicle.  SA-11, the one suspected of airliner shooting,  carried six missiles and must have had a new electronics and radar suite, came after SA-6.  I have heard of an SA-17, but know little about it.  SA-2 fifty years ago would hit airliners at 33,000 feet, no sweat.  The later models must be just as effective. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Israeli Travelog, Bebi gets favorable TV coverage

Public television ran a nice "travel in Israel" piece on Sunday.  It had boating down the Jordan, views of Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall, Masada, and spectacular scenery.  For extra points, they had Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, acting as host.  Bebi knew the history and the archeology of all the places, told  interesting stories, and he came across as a well educated and thoughtful man.  In fact, I was impressed at how nice the TV coverage was for Bebi.  Dunno just who set up this TV deal, but it did Bebi a lot of good.  It was probably filmed before the current Gaze dustup, but it was nice coverage.  Good travel log too.

Some store brands work out, other's don't

Sears Roebuck had store brands Craftsman (tools) and Diehard (batteries).  They achieved fame and fortune.  Professional mechanics would use Craftsman wrenches, and Diehard commanded a premium price.  Then Sears had Kenmore appliances(respected but considered cheap) and J.C. Higgins (sporting goods)  considered a joke by sportsmen,  and Silvertone, (consumer electronics) considered cheap.  Heathkit had more class than Silvertone.   
   Branding is marketing pure and simple.  Somehow the Sears organization was able to market Craftsman and Diehard and failed to market J.C. Higgins and Silvertone.  With Craftsman, the unlimited guarantee had a lot to do with brand acceptance.  "You break it, bring it back and we will replace it, no questions asked."  added to a line of tools that was nearly impossible to break, and well finished was helpful.  Diehard prospered from some really effective TV ads, and a reputation for starting cars at 40 below.   I don't remember any effective marketing for the not so successful Sears house brands.
   Then of course, Sears gave up on house brand appliances back in the 1980's and started selling national brands.  Which put them in head to head competition with the discount houses like Lechmere Sales and Kmart.  Wanna bet Sears margin on house brand Kenmore was better than the margin on say RCA Whirlpool?
  Of course this is all ancient history, going back to when Sears was a power to be reckoned with, before Walmart swept all before it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Cyber Security according to the Economist

The Economist ran a 10 page special suppliment on cyber security, mostly hand wringing about how little security we have.
   They have a point there.  Most computers run Windows and Windows is like swiss cheese, full of holes.  Any Windows computer on the internet can be hacked, from the net, and quickly.  Bill Gates has hung all our dirty laundry out to dry in the sunlight, where anyone can see it.
  For instance, those electronic medical records that Obama stuck us with.  They are all visible on the net to any competent hacker.  For instance, when you apply for a job, HR can access your medical records and put the kibosh on hiring you if they see you as a high cost patient on the company medical plan.  And there is nothing you can do about it,  your doctor puts your medical records on the computer whether you like it or not, and there you are, hung out to dry.  Note: Don't tell your doctor about suicidal feelings, mental problems, anything that might be used against you, either at trial or at a hiring decision.
  Things you can do.  Use good passwords.  Avoid passwords found in dictionaries, they have all been cracked.  Passwords like sunlight, tornado, U.S.Grant, hunter, rapids, bulldozer are all precracked.  Use long passwords, longer is better.  Use mixed case (some caps, some lower case) and digits.  For instance Torino69 is stronger than just plain torino.   ByTheRocketsRedGlare is stronger than usemgr.
   The experts will tell you to use different passwords for each thing (account) that you log into.  Good advice, but tough to follow.  No way can I remember and keep straight 20 odd passwords for the 20 odd accounts I own. I do use strong passwords and that's about it. 
  Avoid Windows.  Use Linux, or Mac or even MS-DOS.  By the way, there is a market opening here, for an OS as user friendly as Windows without Windows uncounted security holes. 
   Never click on an email attachment. Even on email from a well known friend.  The friend's machine may have been hacked, and the hackers  always take away the address book.  Attachments, ESPECIALLY .doc and .xls (Word and Excel files) can contain hostile code that infects your machine with all sorts of horrible stuff.
   Keep your machine off the internet as much as you can.  Powering down takes it off the net, and saves electricity.  Powering down at night might save you a nasty virus or invasion by a botnet.
  Run an antivirus program at least once a month. 
  Don't let anyone stick strange thumb drives in your machine.  They can contain virii or worse that will infect you machine within seconds of plugging the thumb drive into a USB port. 

Electric motor horsepower

Detroit marketers over many many years have sensitized us consumers to the merits of horsepower in a car engine.  More is better.  And for an internal combustion engine, horsepower can actually be measured, with real test equipment, although there are a few fudge factors in the measurement process, like with mufflers or just straight pipes. 
   Given the success horsepower has been selling cars, makers of all sorts of stuff now advertise their product's horsepower.  More is better.  And some fairly unbelievable results have been marketed, like the all plastic six horsepower shop vac. 
   Electric motors carry the wildest claims.  Electric motors will put out more and more mechanical power (shaft horsepower) as the load upon them is increased.  As the motor works harder, it draws more current, and the current heats the motor up.  Somewhere along the line, the motor will burst into flames.  As a practical matter, the amount of shaft horsepower you can extract from a motor depends upon how hot you dare run it. 
   It also depends upon how long you run it.  Motors have a lot of iron in them, and it takes real time for the electricity to warm up several pounds of cold iron.  For a load that only lasts a few seconds the motor won't heat up much.  This principle allows the electric starter in cars.  The starter motor only has to crank a few seconds until the engine starts. Then it can rest and cool off. 
   National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has a conservative system for rating electric motor horsepower.  The horsepower rating is for continuous duty, such as you get turning a fan, or a water pump.  For this you get a pretty beefy motor.  A NEMA quarter horse motor is the size of a five pound sack of potatoes and weights two or three times as much.  NEMA ratings are customary on stand alone electric motors. 
   For appliances with built in motors, blenders, vacuums, skil saws, and the like, the maker is under no compulsion to use the NEMA rating system.  The marketing guys demand the highest possible advertised horsepower, which is the power the motor can deliver in a very short burst.  This can be ten or twenty times the conservative NEMA rating.  This is how you get a six horsepower shop vac.  It's also kinda useless for us consumers when shopping for appliances.  In the shop vac case, the highest horsepower rating goes to the machine whose marketing department tells the biggest whoppers.  It doesn't go to the machine that sucks the best.