"col·lu·sion \kə-´lü-zhən\ Noun: Secret
or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, esp. in order to cheat or deceive others"
By now everyone knows that unless you take extreme measures to prevent it, almost
all websites contain elements that have the ability to track some or all of your
movements around the Internet. Not every method of tracking is nefarious, and some
is even welcome by Web surfers. In fact, it is unreasonable to expect that any website
which provides subscription-free access to its contents not be permitted to serve
revenue generating advertisements to pay for the overhead costs and even allow the
purveyor to make a profit. However, there are scads of stories about companies that
set cookies on your computer that allow them to track your every movement even if
it is not related to your mission. Mozilla recently came out with an AddOn for their
Firefox browser named "Collusion," that allows you to see exactly how many external sites
are tracking your activity and even displays the names of the websites doing so.
As I was snooping around for technical headlines today, I took the time to plug
many of websites into the Collusion application to see what they looked like. The
resulting Collusion maps are shown below. The target websites are displayed in green
and the "tracker" website names are in yellow. Lines interconnect websites according
to their relationships with other websites. Note that for many sites, trackers go
on to send your information to other tracker websites...
There has been a headlong rush by companies
to set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social websites and services.
The thumbnail to the left shows 100+ such entities managed by the
AddThis website (for the Engineer website).
I have visited the Facebook pages of quite a few high-tech companies that offer
circuit components, equipment racks, software, design services, books, etc. All
of these companies also have very nice and useful traditional websites. From what
I see, Facebook in particular seems to be a colossal waste of time and effort since
most of what appears there is self-promotion, with almost no interaction by anyone
else. I won't cite specific companies' Facebook pages, but pick five or six for
yourself and see if my claim is valid. There are a handful of exceptions, as always,
but in general it is true. When there is any activity at all, it is usually when
a contest or a special pricing deal is being offered when a visitor clicks the "Like"
button for them. When you do click the "Like" button, that company's postings then
begin to show up on your Facebook page, so you either need to hide everything they
post or "Unlike" them. I set up a Facebook page for RF Cafe mainly to prevent anyone
else from usurping and exploiting the name. ...OK, also because I felt obligated
to participate in the fad. There is almost no activity on the page, but at least...
Another "Top n" list
has been published, this time by
CNN Money for the top 100 best companies to work for. The list
never includes the plethora of great locally-owned companies that employ the majority
of people in the country. However, if you prefer to work for megacorps, then it
might be time to pull out the resume and update it with keywords that will bubble
to the top in HR's candidate selection software. Looking at the top salary list, you might be inclined to go to med school since
average physician pay at S. Ohio Med Center (#36) is $490k. Not so
fast, though. Engineers at Devon Energy (#28) average $178k, and at
AutoDesk (#52) they make $150k on average. Intel comes in at $134k
and Qualcomm (#18) doles out $132k.
* we shop there - great place
||Boston Consulting (who?)
||Booz Allen Hamilton
It has been a while since I reported salary
data for chieftains in the electronics industry. With all the violence being threatened
against achievers in the corporate world these days, I was a bit reluctant to throw
fuel on the fire by pointing out what long hours and hard work can achieve. No,
not every one can get there, but the promise of a higher goal motivates people to
apply themselves to a greater degree than others. Natural-born intelligence and
drive, plus a helping of luck, can and often is the discriminator between who becomes
king of the hill; however, there are lots of prince and knight positions available
for the rest of us (I'm more of a court jester in the regal line of ascension).
Fierce Wireless' 2011 list shows Apple CEO Tim Cook reaping $1/3B (up
from $1/20B in 2010), with the #2 slot earning less than 1/10th of that.
The #10 position in
2010 yielded $5.9M for U.S. Cellular CEO Mary Dillon, whereas
#10 in 2011 only netted $5.0M. 2011 had a 75:1 ratio between the #1 and #10 position
(x=$52M, std dev=$115M).
2010's spread was only 10:1 (x=$17M,
||Ralph de la Vega
For the last week, we have been inundated
with stories on the 100-year anniversary of the "unsinkable" RMS Titanic. Even after
a century of research and exploration, no definitive cause has been determined relating
to how the ship's crew managed to hit a gigantic iceberg on a star-lit, glass-smooth
sea. The prevailing theory seems to be that an optical illusion due to an atmospheric
inversion caused the crew to misjudge the position of the iceberg. An article in
the March 2012
Smithsonian magazine lays out the scenario, complete
with diagrams. The same edition has a story titled, "They Missed the Boat," discussing some of the famous people who
were originally scheduled to make the voyage, but decided not to before it departed.
Amongst the notables was none other than 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics honoree Guglielmo
Marconi. Instead, he left for America on the Lusitania three days earlier. Interestingly,
he also made the Atlantic passage on the Lusitania three years later on the trip
immediately before a German U-Boat sunk it. Talk about a charmed life! Marconi played
a critical role in the Titanic drama without actually being aboard, since his company,
Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, Ltd, owned the radio equipment aboard the Titanic
and also employed the two radio operators. The April 2012 edition of the ARRL's
Our president and other pontificating politicians,
particularly, it seems, those who hold college degrees in non-science realms, have
recently taken to referring to anyone who does not hold their points of view as
"Flat Earthers" and anti-science. BTW, these are the same people who regularly chastise
their opponents for name-calling and uncivil discourse. Right out of the box they
are hypocrites on that point alone. So, if to them others are anti-science, then
they obviously deem themselves to be pro-science. Would you consider a person who
laments the invention of the ATM machine because it replaces bank tellers or a ticket
kiosk at the airport for robbing counter clerks pro- or anti-science? What about
people who prefer to cripple society with a blinders-on approach to energy production
by insisting on using "renewable" sources while ignoring advances in fossil and
nuclear power sources? Excuse me for getting all sciency[sic] on them, but how is
any form of energy production "renewable?" Once energy is extracted from wind, sunlight,
or water, can that spent energy be used again for something else? Of course not;
that energy is converted into electrical energy so it NOT RENEWABLE!!! Unless a
wind generator has 0% efficiency (i.e., no electricity produced), its blades slow
the air by robbing it of kinetic energy. Air exits the blades at a lower speed.
Yes, you might be able to argue that the energy in the wind is "renewed" in...
The old adage "flattery will get you everywhere"
might not be a universal truism, but at least for Jonathan Soroko at the
Popular Logistics website/blog, and at
least for this one time, flattery gets him somewhere - a highly coveted appearance
on the RF Cafe homepage. Even though he spelled my name "Kirk" rather than
"Kirt," I still appreciate the unsolicited plug on his website recognizing
all the wonderful things that are RF Cafe (see "Popular Logistics proudly
adds link to
Kirk Blattenberger and RF Cafe"). What exactly
is Popular Logistics? From the website, "On Popular Logistics we explore the long
term national security and community security ramifications of energy, environmental,
economic, emergency preparedness, and public health policy, and the interrelationships
between the people, the companies and the various systems involved in implementing
or holding back the paradigm shift to sustainable models." Jon and PL
co-founder Lawrence Furman ("with assistance of Jenny Gage, and other persons
named and not named") address a variety of topics with a good combination
of wit, humor, and facts to analyze various topics - often contemporary headlines.
It appears to be a fair treatment from the authors' viewpoints without interjecting
insulting political or social dogma (well, not too much, anyway). I
like reading articles that contain information that I should have known but didn't.
E.g., do you know what Pascal's Wager (aka Pascal's Gambit) is? What
about the Precautionary Principle? Me neither (assuming you answered
"no"). Thanks to Popular Logistics and Wikipedia though, now I do. Were you
aware of the relationship between a particular emergency whistle and a subsystem
in the F-16 Fighting Falcon? I wasn't...
Sometime around 2006, Celestron introduced
the NexStar series of telescopes that offered a relatively low cost introduction
to its renown line of high quality catadioptric scopes. Computerized "GoTo" controllers
were incorporated to allow even entry level amateur astronomers an opportunity to
learn his/her way around the night sky. In order to keep prices down, the 30-plus-year
tradition of using a dual arm fork type mount for holding the optical tube assembly
(OTA) was replaced with a single arm that produces a cantilevered support. Heavy
duty worm gears were replaced with standard spur gears. The ramifications of those
two changes will be addressed as I discuss the photographs taken in preparation
of this teardown report. A picture of my NexStar 8SE telescope is shown to the right.
Note that in the following series of photos, the NexStar 8SE is
mounted to a Celestron CPC heavy duty equatorial wedge, sitting atop the standard
tripod. A picture of it in the standard alt-az configuration can be seen here. My
guess is that the mount for the NexStar 6 SE uses all of the same components. Click
on the thumbnail images for large versions.
The built-in GoTo system for the two axes consists of a microcontroller
and driver PCB assembly (two boards), stepper motors driving gears on each axis,
and the pushbutton hand controller seen in the picture above. A 40,000-objet database
allows the user to command the telescope to automatically "go to" a particular star,
galaxy, nebula, or planetary object once an acceptable alignment is obtained. My
experience has been...
In the last decade many news reports have
highlighted instances of academic fraud. It comes in many forms including plagiarism:
copying someone's work and claiming it as your own, data fabrication: presenting
results of work that never occurred, deception: implying facts without
outright lying, cheating: think crib notes, bribery: accepting
or offering remuneration for illegal or unethical favors, sabotage: harming
people's work, professional misconduct: altering a student's grade, and
impersonation: taking a test for someone else. The Wikileaks people recently
released e-mails and other research data from the global warming players that exposed
much fraud and coordinated deception on the part of both universities and governments
(gw is a $$$multibillion business). For some recent notables, see
10 Academic Frauds Who Had Everyone Fooled. In order to help combat
the problem, the folks who brought us the $5 trillion deficit, the Branch Dividian
inferno, and the Fast and Furious gun running scandal are here to help - yes, the
U.S. Government. The Department of Health and Human Services has prepared a role-playing
scenario titled "The Lab,"
centering around a video of a fictitious case of academic fraud. You get to make
decisions for various actors and see if your innate behaviors are acceptable. If
you are a student or researcher, you might, however, consider playing on a library
computer or one with a masked IP address because you can bet you're being monitored
along with most other online activity. If the guys wearing dark glasses and having
curly wires coming out of their ears show up at the lab shortly after you make a
bad decision in The Lab, don't worry - it's probably just a coincidence.
We have all seen news reports about the often
exorbitant salaries of government employees as compared to the earnings of folks
in equivalent private sector jobs. According to a March 2012 report by the
Bureau of Labor
Statistics, the average total compensation for the average private industry
worker was $28.57 per hour worked whereas for the federal government worker it was
$40.90 per hour - a 43% difference! When you look at the ranges of job titles and
pay for government workers as compared to equivalent private industry workers there
seems to be no logical correlation between which jobs pay more with the government
versus private industry. There are currently about 22 million U.S. government employees
- a staggering number indeed.
Asbury Park Press (APP.com)
recently made available a database of year-2011 earnings for government employees,
searchable by department/agency, division, job title, location, and even employee
name. If you know someone who works for the government, this is your chance to find
out how much they make. I wanted to find out what people in technical agencies were
making, so I concentrated on organizations like the Federal Communications Commission
(FCC), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Institute
of Standards (NIST), etc. The results are in the table below where I counted people
whose base salaries are at or above $100,000 per year. It took a lot more time than
I really had to spend on it, but after a while it gets addictive.
One thing to keep in mind is that government agencies are notoriously top-heavy
in management, which tends to push the pay scale upward. Looking at the filtered
results bears out that fact since it reveals that most top earners are in management
A couple weeks ago, my local newspaper, Erie
Times-News, printed this letter that I submitted:
"As an electrical engineer,
I have always embraced the technology behind wind, hydro, solar and other forms
of 'alternative' energy production. It is undoubtedly cool. What I despise is an
agenda by special interest groups to mislead the public regarding the maturity and
efficiency of those systems in an effort to destroy the nuclear and fossil fuel
industries that drive our economy. The recent failure of the 5-year-old wind turbine
at Tom Ridge Environmental Center is a good example. Numbers were not provided for
that turbine, but were for the one on Barracks Beach, also offline (Erie Times-News,
March 31). The turbine and tower cost about $36,000 in 2004 dollars, when
installed. The stated best-case energy generation for it is 15,000 kwh/ year. Electricity
rates around here are about 13 cents/kwh, but I'll use 15 cents for best-case analysis.
That multiplies to $2,250 worth of electricity per year. So, it would take 16 years
to recover the cost of replacement at that rate. The turbine has lasted 8 years,
yielding an amortized cost of $4,500 per year. Installation would include expensive
cost for cables and equipment for interfacing the wind generator power to the commercial
power, which are not figured into my calculations. Similar numbers dominate for
solar power as well since installation costs are high and the cells lose efficiency
over time. Yes, we must continue pursuing other forms of energy generation to supplement
fossil fuels. No, we must not punish and cripple the country's economic well-being
in mindless obeisance to groups that are making billions of dollars pushing their
About a week later, I received a telephone call (my letters
on various topics often invoke phone calls) from Mr. John Droz, Jr., stating...
you have a project planned or in the works that you would like to try to get someone
else to fund, you might want to visit the Kickstarter website. Unlike having to
swallow your pride and grope before relatives and or venture capitalists, Kickstarter
is an online venue where you present your plan to the world and hope that it is
compelling enough to convince people to donate. You are obligated to deliver if
successful. Here, I'll let the Kickstarter folks explain it: "Kickstarter is the
world's largest funding platform for creative projects. Every week, tens of thousands
of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music,
film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields. A new
form of commerce and patronage. This is not about investment or lending. Project
creators keep 100% ownership and control over their work. Instead, they offer products
and experiences that are unique to each project. All or nothing funding. On Kickstarter,
a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands.
Why? It protects everyone involved. Creators aren't expected to develop their project
without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk. Each
and every project is the independent creation of someone like you. Projects are
big and small, serious and whimsical, traditional and experimental. They're inspiring,
entertaining and unbelievably diverse. We hope you agree. Welcome to Kickstarter!"...