Upgrading Detroit

The last time we checked in on Detroit’s computer system, we were snorting at the demand for $800k in Bitcoin by some hackish types who’d hoisted a city database; Detroit clearly didn’t have $800k to spare, in Bitcoin or any other currency you can name, but they didn’t need the database anyway, so they blithely blew off the extortionists.

This welcome bit of redundancy notwithstanding, we can’t really say that Detroit’s in good shape, computing-wise. Chief Information Officer Beth Niblock certainly won’t:

More than 80 percent of the city’s 5,500 computers are more than five years old, and 85 percent are equipped with Windows XP, an operating system that “by virtue of its age, is far from top of the line,” she wrote. Microsoft doesn’t even support XP anymore, and the city has been using a version of Microsoft Office that’s a decade old.

On top of that, the city has “serious” problems with the “resilience of its network,” she wrote, saying Detroit’s deficient network connections don’t allow employees to complete basic daily functions, such as accessing email. Employees can’t sync daily calendars to their smartphones.

I’m guessing it’s Office 2003 deployed to those Detroit computers, and support was pulled for that version about the same time support was pulled for XP.

Still, this isn’t the worst tech failure in Hockeytown, not by a long shot:

Chuck Moore, a consultant for the city, described one fire station’s Rube Goldberg machine in September during testimony in Detroit’s bankruptcy trial: When an emergency alert comes in, a fax machine is triggered. This shoots out a piece of paper, which knocks over a soda can full of change, notifying those at the station of the situation. At another station, a fax comes in and bumps a door hinge, which pulls a wire and rings a doorbell.

On the upside, they’re at least getting some use out of those fax machines, which are probably older than Windows XP.

(Via Hit Coffee.)

Comments off




Accounting crows

They learn fast, they do:

[Researchers] trained two hooded crows (Corvus cornix) to identify items by color, shape, and number in what’s called “identity matching-to-sample” (IMTS). The birds were placed in a wire mesh cage with a plastic tray containing three cards and two cups. The card in the middle served as the sample card. The cups on either side were covered with the other two cards: One matched the sample (in the color, shape, or number of items pictured), while the other didn’t. The cup with the card that matched the sample card contained two mealworms as a reward.

Once the birds mastered this scheme, the researchers stepped up the game:

In the second part of the experiment, the birds were tested with relational matching pairs. A sample card with two same-sized circles, for example, means they should pick the test card with two same-sized squares — and not two different-sized circles.

How did they do?

The birds picked the correct card more than three-quarters of the time.

There are humanoids out there who can’t pick the correct card more than three quarters of the time; it’s been many years since I’ve seen a ballot that didn’t mention at least one such.

(Tweeted in my general direction by GLHancock.)

Comments off




Two steps below the script kiddie

Is there a good reason why this guy shouldn’t be taken out behind the woodshed and put out of his misery?

Yahoo Answers screenshot: So I am pinging an IP Address but it seems like the site won't crash

Get this:

I am pinging a website to crash it, not a big website. But a small one. I opened 4 CMD windows using a batch file then sent a ping request like this: ping [IP ADDRESS] -t -l 65500

It is sending and responding. It has been 15 minutes and it seems to me like the site has not crashed yet. It is working fine with the same speed. The time ranges between 64ms and 167ms, and it is very random. Do I have to wait longer, can someone teach me another way to crash this website (my friends website). How long will it take, Help! Lol!

A ping constitutes a whole 32 bytes; it’s going to take a whole lot more than 2,620,000 pings (8.3 MB) to bring down his soon-to-be-ex-friend’s website.

I suggest we dig up his IP address and turn it over to the North Koreans.

Comments off




Everybody knows that the bird has the word

However well our Weather Guys do at locating tornadoes, they’ve got a long way to go to catch up with these birds:

US scientists say tracking data shows that five golden-winged warblers “evacuated” their nesting site one day before the April 2014 tornado outbreak.

Geolocators showed the birds left the Appalachians and flew 700km (400 miles) south to the Gulf of Mexico. The next day, devastating storms swept across the south and central US.

In 2013, researchers tagged 20 of the birds; after flying to Colombia for the winter, ten of them showed up the next spring, and after the storms broke, five were recaptured and their tracking devices opened up.

In this case, all five indicated that the birds had taken unprecedented evasive action, beginning one to two days ahead of the storm’s arrival.

“The warblers in our study flew at least 1,500km (932 miles) in total,” Dr [Henry] Streby said.

They escaped just south of the tornadoes’ path — and then went straight home again. By 2 May, all five were back in their nesting area.

Dr Streby and his team suspect infrasound:

The most likely tip-off was the deep rumble that tornadoes produce, well below what humans can hear.

Noise in this “infrasound” range travels thousands of kilometres, and may serve as something of an early warning system for animals that can pick it up.

“It’s very unlikely that this species is the only group doing this,” Dr Streby said.

Now to find a species that (1) can utilize infrasound and (2) can exhibit some serious TV presence.

Comments off




Fark blurb of the week

Comments off




Havana wild weekend

The argument in favor of normalizing relations with Cuba:

Some people say we shouldn’t be dealing with a police state like Cuba. I say that’s a little like the pot calling the kettle black. We have the biggest security organization in the world. OK, China’s is probably bigger in terms of manpower, but ours is no slouch. Future wars are going to be cyber-wars fought by secret security organizations. Terrorists just serve to keep people distracted while the king monkeys steal all the monkey biscuits.

Or, to borrow the words of a security expert:

Comments off




The cram factor

The first CDs for musical use were specified as 74 minutes/650 megabytes; eventually these discs were supplanted by 80-minute/700-MB discs, and there are techniques to squeeze in a couple more minutes, at the risk of possibly making the disc unreadable in some players. (Bear Family’s compilation of tobacco-related tunes, Smoke That Cigarette, reportedly crams 87:34 onto a single disc.)

This is a boon for the archivist, except of course when it isn’t. Roger explains a couple of instances where it isn’t:

One of the things I’ve realized is that because the artist, or the record company, CAN put more music on a CD, they DO. And some 14-song, 70-minute albums are just TOO LONG. It’s even more true on rereleases. I was listening to Who’s Next one morning — my family was obviously away — and I LOVE that album, but the rest of the “Lighthouse” project, save for “Pure and Easy” I could have done without. Lots of albums have alternative versions, which are historically interesting but do not enhance the listening enjoyment of the album; the second The Band album, which I also love, falls in that category.

The rule with alternative versions is that there’s a reason they weren’t released as the original. The Band runs a peppy 43:50 or so, and there’s a reason “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” is parked at the end of side two; I can see the reason for adding “Get Up Jake,” which was pulled from the original album before release, but you don’t need half an album’s worth of outtakes.

Incidentally, Who’s Next in its original form runs 43:38. Is this some sort of Golden Mean for the LP? I note for, um, record that Smoke That Cigarette is as long as two 43:47 albums.

Comments (1)




Put one in your garage

Well, it won’t fit in my garage, not at 85 inches wide. (My Infiniti sedan is a tight-ish squeeze at just over 70 inches. Then again, my garage was built in the tall-car era, back in 1951.) That said, the Defense Logistics Agency has turned loose 25 genuine military HMMWVs from their stash of about 4,000, and they sold for an average of just under $30,000 each at auction.

Presumably you won’t be able to tag them for on-road use, so you’ll have to tow it (all 5900 lb worth) to whatever rocks you want to crush with it. Don’t even ask about fuel economy. (Actually, it’s probably in double digits, but the lowest double digits possible; Northrop Grumman has offered a chassis upgrade for Humvees that brings them up to a theoretical 18 mpg, but it costs six figures all by itself.)

A new batch of Humvees is expected to come to market after the first of the year.

Comments off




Lakers sloughed off

ESPN’s Royce Young observed inside the 6:00 mark: “Lakers on a 13-2 run to go up three. This is the part where Kevin Durant would be hitting a cold-blooded 3 to calm everything back down.” But Kevin Durant wasn’t there, awaiting further inspection of his ankle sprain from last night in Oakland; Kendrick Perkins wasn’t there, either, hobbled by some sort of contusion. The only saving grace: Nick Young, who’d been a pain in the first half, was tossed in the third quarter with a Flagrant Two against Steven Adams. (Then again, Adams bricked the free throws.) Still, Adams provided a very nice pick for Russell Westbrook with 38 seconds left to put OKC up 104-101. Jeremy Lin came back with a bucket, the Thunder came up empty, and Kobe Bryant (who else?) went for the last shot. Andre Roberson wasn’t buying, and that’s the final: 104-103. Roberson was on Kobe pretty much all night, and Bryant finished with 9 points on 3-14 shooting. (Roberson, not known for his offense, dropped in 10 and secured 7 boards.)

Contributing factors: Reggie Jackson, who’d had a few rough outings, smoothed it out tonight, going 9-15 for 25 points. Westbrook had an almost-routine 31 with 10 assists; Adams finished with 9 points and 10 rebounds. Serge Ibaka checked in with 16 points and five blocks. And Nick Collison, who got the minutes Perk would have, wound up with a Perkesque four points and seven boards.

Ed Davis led the Lakers with 18; Ronnie Price and Carlos Boozer added 14 each; Young had 10 before being thumbed. That last shot of Lin’s gave him 12. And give Kobe credit: he was working the ball as much as he could, grabbing eight rebounds and serving up eight assists. Your Number Three All-Time Scorer is still plenty viable, thank you very much.

So 2-1 on the road trip. It could have been worse. The Pelicans, one game ahead of the Thunder for 8th in the East, will be coming to the ‘Peake Sunday evening; the Trail Blazers, way out front in the Northwest, arrive Tuesday; and then a Christmas matinee in San Antonio. Interesting week, and not in an easy-peasy way.

Comments off




A mildly wild child

The first child of Wayne Gretzky and Janet Jones was christened Paulina Mary Jean, and she’s 26 today. I wouldn’t say that controversy exactly follows her around, but it certainly knows where to find her. A couple of years ago there was a grainy photo of her flipping the bird at a Barack Obama marionette for reasons I know not. And apparently there was some acrimony in the LPGA ranks after she appeared in a Golf Digest pictorial (May 2014), inasmuch as she doesn’t play the game to any great extent:

Paulina Gretzky for Golf Digest

Her engagement to PGA pro Dustin Johnson, which probably got her the gig in the first place, did not mollify her detractors. Meanwhile, Wayne Gretzky himself reportedly complained to Johnson that perhaps the young man ought to clean up his act.

Paulina’s had a life outside Johnson’s orbit for some time, of course. In this shot, she’s modeling a Jill Stuart dress for the Canadian magazine Flare:

Paulina Gretzky for Flare

And she sort of had a career as a singer. Her 2006 single “Collecting Dust” appeared in an episode of the MTV series Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. It’s not bad.

But for now, she’s looking towards a new title: Mom.

Comments off




Wisdom of the ages

A memory from Irving Kahn, chairman of Kahn Brothers Group on Wall Street (well, actually, they’re on Madison Avenue north of 55th, but they’re in a proper Wall Street business):

“One of my clearest memories is of my first trade, a short sale in a mining company, Magma Copper. I borrowed money from an in-law who was certain I would lose it but was still kind enough to lend it. He said only a fool would bet against the bull market.”

Magma survived long enough to be bought out by an Australian firm in 1995 — 66 years after Kahn sold them short in the summer of 1929, just before the Biggest Stock Market Crash Ever.

And Kahn remains a player in the investment market today, at the age of 109.

Comments off




Quote of the week

The left of the Sixties and Seventies is not quite the left of today, speculates the Z Man:

Back then the radicals were building a coalition in order to take control of the Democratic Party and then the country. Today, they run the country. The reason Washington looks like a high school cafeteria is because it is an adult version of what these people experienced as kids. The cool kids were the ones smoking weed and freaking out the squares, while the dorks publicly resented the fact they couldn’t join them, but privately wish they could. Those kids grew up and became Democrats and Republicans, respectively.

It’s why liberal hectoring sounds suicidal. The people in charge are railing about the people in charge. The people in charge are raising a mob from the dispossessed to assault the people in charge. The radicals of forty years ago at least had a rational aim in mind. Today it is an aging street fighter looking for a fight when there’s no one left to fight. It is both irrational and ridiculous.

But is it dead, Jim? I still hear the screams:

It’s also why this may be the end of the Left and radical politics in America. It has burned itself out like we have seen with every Marxist-Leninist state. It’s ironic that Obama is normalizing relations with Cuba. Just as the American Radicals who were inspired by Castro are heading into an absurd decline, the end of the Castro brothers will be Walmart selling Che t-shirts in Havana.

Yeah, that ought to do it. The commodification of ideology. Another twenty years and it will be fashionable to own what North Korea thinks is a car.

Comments off




Grammy approves

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the folks who bring you the Grammy Awards each year, makes up for that in December with inductions into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and this year’s selections are a diverse bunch indeed, though two of the singles nominated are in fact the same song.

The fifteen individual tracks:

  • “Big Girls Don’t Cry” — Four Seasons (1962)
  • “Dancing Queen” — ABBA (1976)
  • “Honky Tonkin'” — Hank Williams & His Drifting Cowboys (1947)
  • “I Fought the Law” — Bobby Fuller Four (1965)
  • “Jitterbug Waltz” — Fats Waller, His Rhythm and His Orchestra (1942)
  • “Le Freak” — Chic (1978)
  • “Rescue Me” — Fontella Bass (1965)
  • “San Antonio Rose” — Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (1939)
  • “School’s Out” — Alice Cooper (1972)
  • “Sixty Minute Man” — Dominoes (1951)
  • “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” — Fisk Jubilee Singers (1909)
  • “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” — Paul Robeson (1926)
  • “Tell it Like It Is” — Aaron Neville (1966)
  • “Try a Little Tenderness” — Otis Redding (1966)
  • “Walk on the Wild Side” — Lou Reed (1972)

Definitely appeals to my sense of eclecticism. In the case of “Swing Low,” the Jubilee Singers from Fisk University put out the first known recording of the song, which dates back to the 1840s; Robeson cut it twice, in 1926 for Victor, and during his British sojourn in 1939. And there are two different Otis Redding takes on “Try a Little Tenderness,” as noted here.

The newly anointed albums:

  • Autobahn — Kraftwerk (1974)
  • Blood on the Tracks — Bob Dylan (1975)
  • The Bridge — Sonny Rollins (1962)
  • Calypso — Harry Belafonte (1956)
  • Harvest — Neil Young (1972)
  • John Prine — John Prine (1971)
  • Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols — Sex Pistols (1977)
  • Nick of Time — Bonnie Raitt (1989)
  • The Shape of Jazz to Come — Ornette Coleman (1959)
  • Songs of Leonard Cohen — Leonard Cohen (1967)
  • Stand! — Sly and the Family Stone (1969)
  • Stardust — Willie Nelson (1978)

All of these are eminently defensible — even Calypso, which was just one of the genres Belafonte mastered — though I have been known to wonder if anyone has ever played Side Two of Autobahn.

Comments (3)




Of course you know this means war

Nobody expected this to be easy. Somehow, the Thunder were up 30-13 on the Warriors seven minutes in; this was approximately the point where Golden State remembered that they had a defense, and a damned good one. Right before the halftime horn, the Warriors were up 65-63, and Kevin Durant was down: sprained his right ankle against some part of Marreese Speights. Durant did not return, and suddenly half the OKC offense was gone — just about literally, since KD scored 30 points in the 18:44 he played. With one less assignment to worry about, the Warriors took off, finding holes in the Thunder defense. With six minutes left, the Thunder started getting stops; inside the 3:00 mark, OKC got its first lead since the second quarter, 105-104. It didn’t last, with the Dubs scoring the next six; going into the last OKC possession, the Warriors were up 114-109, and that was the way it ended. (In the meantime, the Pelicans were beating Houston, so the Thunder slide to a game and a half behind the eighth-place Sea Birds.)

This is the Telltale Statistic for the night: Golden State had 32 assists and only ten turnovers. (OKC: 17-16.) The Thunder were a tick under 50 percent shooting, the Warriors a point over. Ultimately, I suppose, it boiled down to “How do you replace a guy who had 30 points in 19 minutes?” The bench couldn’t handle it: the five reserves scored 18 total — four from everyone except Kendrick Perkins, who was held to two. It remained, therefore, to Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson to play hero ball. Westbrook, who’s known for this sort of thing, ground out 33 points on 11-30 shooting; Roberson, who is not, collected his first double-double ever, with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

This is, however, not the way of the Warriors, who can come at you from several directions at once. Stephen Curry went 14-24 for 34 points; fellow wingman Klay Thompson picked up 19 more; Draymond Green was good for 16, and Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston and the aforementioned Mr. Speights also hit double figures. With David Lee and Andre Bogut down for the moment, Steve Kerr played only nine guys; it was apparently all he needed.

The road trip ends Friday night against the struggling but not entirely daft Lakers, who have been idle since being thrashed by the Pacers on Monday.

Comments off




Well, puck you guys

The current Oklahoma City Barons season will be the team’s last:

The Barons have made the playoffs all four seasons in Oklahoma City and this year’s roster appears capable of making a deep run in the American Hockey League playoffs.

But when the Barons’ season ends, whether it’s hoisting the Calder Cup trophy in early June, or if they’re eliminated in the playoffs in May, it will be the end of professional hockey in Oklahoma City for the foreseeable future.

Citing a business decision, Prodigal CEO Bob Funk, Jr. announced Thursday Prodigal will be ceasing operations after a five-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers expires at the end of this season.

The problem? Insufficient butt-to-seat ratio:

Ranked in the bottom five of the 30-team American Hockey League in attendance the past four seasons, the Barons failed to gain a stronghold in a highly competitive market with a lot of entertainment options.

In addition to playing across Reno Avenue from the highly successful Oklahoma City Thunder, college football is huge in Oklahoma. There have been additional factors like high school events and a huge increase in casinos targeting disposable income.

Prodigal hired a marketing firm that indicated an estimated 200,000 people claimed to show some interest in hockey. But after drawing 4,155 fans a game the inaugural season attendance dropped to 3,684 and has ranged from 3,200 to 3,500 the past three years.

In other news, Oklahoma City is now considered a highly competitive market with a lot of entertainment options.

Still, this baffles me. The now-defunct Central Hockey League was clearly a step below the AHL, and the likewise-defunct Oklahoma City Blazers consistently led the CHL in attendance: for instance, in the 2006-07 season, the CHL averaged 4,388 per game, and the Blazers drew 8,902 — in a year when the NBA was actually here, the New Orleans Pelicans (then Hornets) being temporarily based in OKC, what with all that hurricane stuff. So I’m not convinced the Thunder have sucked all the fandom out of the room.

Comments (1)




Basket cases

Some of us saw Green Day’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as being, well, so much dookie:

{American] Idiot combined the band’s new inability to take itself unseriously with a penchant for swiping lyrical images and music from everywhere under the sun to make a record just like the ones that had made the original punk bands throw up their hands in disgust at the music industry: Dumb, grandiose, and saturated with self-important artsy pretentiousness.

Hmmm … maybe they’re a good fit for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after all.

Of course, the real objection to this year’s list was that Stevie Ray Vaughan wasn’t already in.

Comments (2)