March 31st, 2013
Modern dice tend to have rounded corners (as shown in the image here) and indented pips. Apparently this greatly reduces the amount of plastic required to manufacture the dice, and thus makes them less expensive. Turns out there’s a problem, though, this style breaks the randomness of the dice. They tend to come up as ones about 29% of the time (versus 16.7% if it was truly random). Think about that for a moment. The dice produce ones nearly a third of the time.
The main problem is the rounded corners. When that was fixed, the percentage of ones rolled dropped to 19%. Still too high, but much better. The indented pips were the cause of the remaining difference. When the tester used casino dice (square corners with non-indented pips), the percentage of ones rolled was “dead on” correct. And he also learned that casinos had researched this same issue and their results were similar to his.
So if you use dice for games and such, I’d suggest using a pair with square corners. And if you’re a hard-core purist, get a set of casino dice. (Unless you’re playing Axis & Allies, in which case you want a lot of ones.)
March 30th, 2013
You may already have heard about the massive DDoS attack against Spamhaus—an attack so big that it may have slowed down the entire Internet. So what is Spamhaus, and what did it do to incur such wrath?
The linked article has an overview of the spam-blocking services provided by Spamhaus. It also describes the tactics used by Spamhaus that many consider to be akin to extortion or blackmail. Are their methods heavy-handed? I would have to say “yes”. Are they effective? Indeed they are. Does the end (less spam) justify the means? I’m somewhat ambivalent on that one. Let me know what you think, in the comments.
March 23rd, 2013
Solid-state hard drives (SSDs) are quite different from regular, platter-based hard drives. And many of the techniques that optimize normal drives, such as defragmentation, are either unnecessary on SSDs or can actually decrease performance or reduce the drive’s lifespan. The linked article has several tips on optimizing the performance of your SSD under Windows.
Thanks to John from Boulder for this link.
February 28th, 2013
Having just set up a new install of Windows 7 two days earlier, I learned that Internet Explorer 10 was now available for that OS. So I downloaded and installed it, only to find that it didn’t work. Every URL gave the same error message: “This page can’t be displayed.” My other browsers worked, so it wasn’t the network or the connection. After searching for a while, I found the answer from the linked article. To summarize:
- Click the cog wheel towards the upper right part of the IE10 window. This will open a menu.
- Select “Internet Options” from the menu. This will open the options window.
- Select the “Advanced” tab.
- Scroll down to the “Security” section.
- Check the “Enhanced Protection Mode” option.
- Save the options and restart the computer. Problem fixed!
February 26th, 2013
If you get an email from Apple talking about a $5 settlement, don’t dismiss it as spam—there’s a good chance it’s legitimate. The settlement is for people who made purchases within an app (say for game aids). See the linked articles for more information.
Link #1: http://www.komando.com/…
Link #2: http://www.businessweek.com/…
(via Kim Komando)
February 20th, 2013
Researchers at Ohio State University have found a way to release the energy in coal without producing greenhouse gases or pollution. The process is called coal-direct chemical looping, and it looks very promising. This could be big, very big.
Link #1: http://www.osu.edu/…
Link #2: http://www.foxnews.com/…
(via Kim Komando)
February 19th, 2013
Earth is doomed, and there’s nothing we can do about it. The Andromeda galaxy is about to smash into the Milky Way. (It’s currently heading towards us at 250,000 mph, and that speed will increase as it gets closer.) Earth will be torn from its galactic orbit and flung elsewhere. Fortunately this will happen in about 4 billion years, so I for one will be quite happy to see it in person.
Thanks to Josh for this link.
February 18th, 2013
The United States recently replaced its old telephone-based Emergency Alert System with a web-based one. And of course this opened the system to hackers, who broke in and broadcast an alert about zombies rising from the grave (“Local authorities in your area have reported the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living.”). Various television and radio stations in California, Michigan, Montana, and New Mexico actually broadcast the alert. It appears the main problem was that those stations didn’t change the default password for the new system. Oops.
(via Bureau 42)
February 14th, 2013
Ever wondered about the difference between a virus, a trojan, and a worm? And just what is a drive-by download? And if my computer is a zombie, will it try to eat my brain? Kim Komando uses everyday language to explain these terms and more, in the linked article.
February 4th, 2013
This year’s crop of Superbowl commercials was definitely lacking. But Hulu has all of them available online. Here are my favorites:
- [Tide] Miracle Stain
- [Coca-Cola] Mirage
- [Century 21] Wedding Day
- [Toyota Rav4] Wish Granted
Note: if your Internet browser has an ad-blocking extension, you will need to disable it to view the videos.
February 2nd, 2013
There are multiple security issues with Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) implementations, some of which have been known for years. (For those who aren’t familiar with UPnP, it’s a protocol that makes it easier to set up network devices. For example, it allows a PC to seamlessly connect with a new network printer.) Security researchers at Rapid7 performed tests to determine just how many Internet-connected systems were vulnerable, and the results were staggering—they found 81 million unique IP addresses that had at least one of the vulnerabilities, which comes out to about 40-50 million devices.
The vulnerabilities allow hackers to either crash the device or run arbitrary code. At first this may not seem like a big issue—I mean, who really cares if someone manages to hack your network scanner? But then if you think about it, what if they make copies of everything you scan and send them to a central server in Russia? Or what if your printer is hacked and they start printing spam? Or if they just decide to see how many devices they can bring down across the world?
You may be wondering, what does this mean for people like you and me? Most home users can safely ignore UPnP vulnerabilities on every network device except the Internet router/modem, provided the router’s firewall is enabled. But you will need to lock down the router. I was able to access my Actiontec router and quickly disable UPnP in the advanced settings. If you don’t know how to do this, I suggest contacting your ISP for help, or, if you purchased the router from a store, contact the manufacturer.
This web page will test your router and determine if it’s vulnerable. There’s also a free Windows program, ScanNow, that will check your local network to see which devices are affected. If you find one, the best thing to do is check the manufacturer’s website for firmware updates, although this may not fix the problem.
The linked white paper has technical details, as well as links to documents that list every vulnerable device. (These links are on the last page.)
Link #1: http://arstechnica.com/…
Link #2 (white paper): https://community.rapid7.com/…
February 1st, 2013
The linked article is a firsthand account by Air Force pilot Brian Shul of what it’s like to fly an SR-71 in combat conditions—in his case, over Libya in 1986. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the SR-71 is the fastest plane ever built, reaching speeds well above Mach 3. Shul also provides some background information on the plane, which was retired in 1989 (then reactivated in a limited capacity and retired again in 1998).
Thanks to Mike Primm for this link.