Archive for March, 2009

Weekend photos

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I got around to processing some pics from last weekend of Nate playing in the very light snow we received.

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For contrast, here are some very warm sunny pictures at Critz Farms this morning. We went for the annual maple syrup festivities including the tractor rides and all-you-can-eat-breakfast-soaked-in-maple-syrup yummy excess. We’re trying not to get too used to it, because snow is predicted for Monday… Nate really enjoyed the tractor ride (he was so excited he was shaking), and the extra large slides. You can see the uncertainty in his face on some of them, but he always gets to the bottom and asks for more. He’s also getting more and more used to walking/running in the open… in that distinctly unstable but very enthusiastic new runner sort-of way.

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Fizzle Piff.

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

So pretty much the Model S unveiling went fizzle. The life video feed lasted for about 5 minutes, showed only two covered up cars and Elon Musk talking. Except he wasn’t really, because there was no sound. Then the video died and that was it.

The Tesla Motors site still doesn’t have any pictures posted, or a video of the unveiling or pretty much any information at all beyond what they had yesterday. Piff.

There was a new post on their blog which has a tantalizing link labeled “Model S” that goes to http://www.teslamotors.com/s which loads…. nothing.[1]
Update again 27MAR 8AM: This link works now. Haven’t had a chance to read though.

However, there are supposed leaked pictures of what is purported to be the Tesla Model S all over the internet (here, here and Dugg here).

UPDATE even as I write this: Jalopnik has the goods. This car looks sleek and the silver one especially shiny. The quote specifications of unknown source of:

Tesla Model S Sedan Concept: $49,900 Seven-Seater Electric To Hit Streets In 2011
Here are all the details. The Tesla Model S Sedan will have a 300-mile range, 45-minute fast charge capability, a 0-to-60 time of 5.5-seconds and seat seven. Production supposedly starts 3rd quarter of 2011.

I especially like this one (from Jalopnik but locally hosted to avoid bandwidth theft).
Tesla Motors Model S

  1. Technically, it loads a ‘the page you are looking for is gone’ page… []

Unveiling live on uStream.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Watch the Model S unveiling live on Leftlane. Scheduled for 3:30 PM ET.

Twitching for Tesla

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that I am fascinated by (and somewhat fanatical about) the progress Of Tesla Motors to develop real, honest-to-goodness, practical electric vehicles.
A few years back they started to produce and sell their Roadster: a $100k electric rocket ship with specs to make the world’s best fuel burning cars take notice.

Now, we sit on the verge of their next release. They call it the Model S,[1] and it will be their first sedan. Now this isn’t the first electric sedan, but it will (if predictions hold true) have more range, power and comforts than any before. There are, essentially, no competitors: no cars that really look like cars rather than golf carts.

The reveal is scheduled for the 26th, and will be of a prototype. [2] Production isn’t expected for at least a year, but I’m sure you’ll be able to reserve one soon. The price and features are expected to be in the same class as the BMW-5 series.

Those of us with slightly tighter budgets may have to wait for “Blue Star” which is another few years down the road. [3] For now, at least, we can watch in pride as an American car company proves that the joy of driving and energy efficiency are not at odds.

  1. Formerly known as “White Star”. []
  2. A few teaser glimpses are already available on various websites. []
  3. The plan is to build a conventional ‘mass-market’ electric sedan based on the continuing technology (and cost) improvements expected from the previous two products. []

Office madness.

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009
Old computer stuff anyone?

Old computer stuff anyone?

I’ve been inspired for the last week or so to finally clear out the office. All of the stuff you see piled in the hallway is leaving our house. Some will be recycled, some trashed, and the electronics will be disposed of appropriately.

A reasonable portion of the electronics may actually be functional, but are so old or abused that they have essentially zero useful value (at least to me).

A well spent Saturday morning.

ISS out of sight.

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

After a fantastic week of visible ISS passes for the east coast, we’ll be cooling our jets for a while. If you’re desparate to get a glimpse in the next few days and you have ideal horizon conditions, you might be able to catch a glimpse. The station won’t get much above 20 degrees or so from my viewing area, but yours might be a bit better.

To hold you over until later in the week, here is a image I took 7:30PM on the 15th. The station is moving from right to left in this view to the south. This is a 49 second exposure, so you can get a sense of how quickly the station is moving. Unfortunately I was about 30 seconds late starting the exposure so we don’t get a full pass. You can see from the image that the station is VERY bright. Consider how easy Orion is to pick out, and that star in the lower left is Sirius, magnitude -1.47 (the brightest star in the night sky). When you realize that the stars are essentially stationary, there are 49 seconds worth of photons burned into that spot, yet the space station is moving! You can also see the relative yellow-ish color of the reflected sunlight compared to the bright blue of Sirius.

ISS Pass

Enjoy.

Just when you thought it was safe…

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Although this is old news[1] in the cryptography/security community, I find the topic interesting enough to spend a few minutes on. I got word of this issue from someone at work[2], who said basically “Did you hear that somebody cracked the MD5 algorithm for SSL using a hash collision and used it to sign a certificate?”

Although that sounds like gibberish to most of us, it translates roughly as “Did you know the little lock icon in the corner of your web browser can no longer guarantee that you’re talking to who you think you are?”

Wait… don’t panic. It’s probably not as bad as it sounds, but there is reason for legitimate concern. Reputable signature authorities will quickly be revoking any signatures based on MD5, and replacing them with other more secure algorithms. In all likelihood, ‘bad’ certificates will be quickly detected and purged, but that could still put a lot of data at risk.

If all of that was gibberish, read on.

So what do corned beef and potatoes have to do with security anyhow?

A hash is a sequence of data that represents a larger chunk of data but is smaller. (more…)

  1. The creation of a false certificate was presented at the end of 2008. []
  2. thanks Mark! []

Completely True.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

If you haven’t already read today’s XKCD cartoon, do it now. (For my readers with sensitive eyes, I should warn that there is some profanity.)

Ok. Good.

This is one of my persistent recurring dreams that I recently complained to K about.
I’ve been having this one since my Freshman year at RPI.

Is this one of yours?

Yes, you can see it!

Monday, March 16th, 2009

In the last week or so I have discovered that there are a lot of people in the world who don’t know how easy the ISS is to see!

If you didn’t know, or you knew but just haven’t bothered, why not!?

If I told you you could just step into your backyard and witness one of the most complex technical achievements of mankind… wouldn’t you do it!?

If you’re along the east coast of North America, the viewing conditions are almost ideal right now and tonight you can see the shuttle and ISS playing tag overhead! Many nights have two visible passes, one just after sundown, and one an orbit later (about 90 minutes). The space station is easy to see because it’s in a relatively low orbit and because it’s HUGE. After this week’s shuttle mission it will be bigger yet. There will be no debating that it is the brightest thing in the sky except for the Sun and Moon.[1]

Want to see it? Great! For a simple set of information on where (and more importantly WHEN) to look, I recommend SpaceWeather.
On the right hand side of their main website is a link for “Satellite Flybys“. Put in your zip code and Shazam! A convenient list of readily observable satellites, times and places appears.

Go! Look! You’ll be impressed that the brilliant yellow light is really a distant outpost of humanity in space. There are real people up there and who knows, maybe they’re looking at you too.

  1. And I suppose some aircraft landing lights if they’re pointed right at you. []

Double barreled astro-photography

Friday, March 13th, 2009

The optical tube assembly of my ‘scope is attached to the mount (and tripod) by a pair of clamps. Each clamp consists of two identical halves which bolt together on the sides forming a ring around the tube. A nice feature of this construction is that the bolt holes which are used to attach the clamps to the mount are mirrored on the top of the assembly.[1]

So on my way home from work today, I picked up a couple of bolts and built a fairly simple jig to mount my camera ‘piggy-back’ on my telescope. What’s nice about this is the ‘scope and camera are reasonably well aligned, and the scope can easily be used for guiding the camera. You may recall the suffering I went through a while back trying to actually mount my camera to the business end of the telescope. Instead, I can use the high-powered eye-piece for my scope and manually track the star with the scope.

Obviously this is still far from ideal, but I wanted to get a sense for the effectiveness before I invested in any actual hardware (beyond a few bucks at True Value).

So I mounted the 70x200mm and opened it all the way up. Here was one of my first four shots which got lucky with a meteor.
M42, Orion Nebula

It’s actually amazing how many of my shots caught a random meteor, or satellite or other random bit of space junk moving somewhere in the frame.

Kicking the lens up to 200mm adds quite a bit of detail.
M42, Orion Nebula

Then I re-framed to pick up the Horsehead and Flame Nebulas to the left end of Orion’s belt.
M42, Orion Nebula

In this heavily enhanced version, you can just make out the namesake features above the noise… but you wouldn’t know that was a horse if I hadn’t told you.[2]
Horsehead and Flame Nebula

Then finally, a gratuitous Pleiades shot.[3]
M45, Pleiades

  1. Of course, the camera was occupied when assembled, so I didn’t think to get a snapshot with my phone or something. []
  2. I’ll try stacking these later to see if I can pull any more information out of them. []
  3. This was fairly low in the west, which lead to some pretty poor haze and Syracuse light pollution. []