Twentysomething Jeff on JATO rockets

Watching the 10th anniversary episode of Mythbusters, and in honor of that landmark I’m reposting what I had to say about the JATO rocket urban myth in The Twentysomething Guide to Creative Self-Employment, eight years pre-Mythbusters:

A story was going around the Internet a while ago about some total schmuck in Arizona who had no idea what he was getting himself into. Apparently, this Einstein decided that he wanted to drive really fast. So he somehow laid his hands on a solid-fuel Jet-Assist Takeoff (JATO) booster rocket, which he then soldered onto the underside of his Chevy. Then he found himself a really long, straight road, and set the rocket off.

Now, this guy was smart enough to smuggle military hardware. He was smart enough to attach the rocket to his car so that it didn’t blow apart the car when it went off. And he knew to do this out in Arizona, which is basically just long expanses of sand broken up by the occasional retirement community—the inhabitants of which must have been very amused to see a Chevy blow by at three hundred miles per hour.

This guy was clueless, however, on two key factors. One, the JATO rocket has no off switch. Two, Chevys aren’t supposed to go much over sixty, and their brakes and steering wheels tend to fail at ICBM cruising velocities. Which is why the guy was scraped off the side of a small hill with a putty knife.
The moral of the story? Hell, it doesn’t really need one. But if I had to say, it’s a case of classic half-assed burnout.”

I’m realizing that after a few modifications to this site, I haven’t checked to see if any of the PDF links to The Twentysomething Guide still work. So if you want to read the whole book, here it is again (8.5 megabyte PDF).

This article includes, IMO, the best one-liner I’ve written in… well, maybe ever. Let’s see if anyone agrees with me on which one it is. TidBITS CES 2013: Showstoppers from Useful to Insane

Always a good day when I can quote Monty Python

Macworld: MacMate offers replacement service for MobileMe

MacAce unveiled a new MobileMe replacement service called MacMate on Wednesday—an all-in-one service designed to replace the Apple-hosted MobileMe that is scheduled to pine for the fjords on June 30. While services like Gmail and the new Google Drive offer a partial replacement of MobileMe services (and DIY methods can be used to set up cloud hosting), MacMate is the first one-stop shop that replaces all MobileMe features, including iWeb hosting.

Jeff @ Macworld: the Rapid Fire session

My write-up of the Rapid Fire session at Macworld | iWorld:

How much can you teach in five minutes? That was the challenge for ten speakers at Thursday nights’s Rapid Fire session at Macworld | iWorld. Borrowing the format from the Ignite conference series, the wide-ranging, two-hour session gave every speaker five minutes to engage the audience and say something memorable.

I call bullshit on Intego

Intego thinks that 2011 was a very bad year for Mac security:

2011“was the most active year for Mac malware since the release of Mac OS X.” Much of the stepped-up activity can be blamed on the emergence of MAC Defender malware and the Flashback program that masqueraded as an Adobe Flash installer. Intego estimated that “ several hundred thousand Mac users” were affected by the year’s “bumper crop” of malware.

I called bullshit on this a year in advance, and I call bullshit on this now. Sure, there are always possible attacks: I can write an AppleScript application that will fool you into giving up a password, then erase your hard drive. That would take me 10 minutes. But “several hundred thousand people” is a small percentage of all Mac users (even smaller now than in 2010), and frankly, you have to be fairly self-selecting to trip across many of the extant malware. It might be out there, but it’s no so much “in the wild” as it is festering in a swamp on the outskirts.

A primer on new Internet domains

The new top-level domains are making the news again, and based on the mass media I’ve been sampling, they’re coming with a great deal of sturm und drang about how this will ruin the Internet, make everyone’s lives miserable, or force you to watch porn while Russian mobsters raid your bank account.

I think that’s all more than silly, so I’m linking to an article I wrote for TidBITS last February. Shorter version: top-level domains are mostly as important as your area code in determining how worthwhile you are.

Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2011 Day 1: Teens and Data Retention

After the debate over the Do Not Track header (see “Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2011 Day 1: “Do Not Track” Debate,” 14 June 2011), I managed to sit in on two other talks at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2011 conference. The first, about teen attitudes toward privacy, was refreshing in that it’s clear that teenagers aren’t just clueless; they have significant — if different — beliefs about maintaining a public/private split in their lives. The second, about data retention policies, is one of those CFP conference topics that can make the most rational of us start lining our hats with tinfoil.

How to Buy Superman’s Ears

My latest foray into Borgifying myself, on TidBITS.

I tried this out for the first time while standing outside of a Starbucks, and suddenly I could hear the footsteps of anyone walking by. Snatches of a conversation at a 20-foot distance. I heard a siren, and then was shocked to see an ambulance pass by three blocks away. Traffic or ambient noise is also amplified, of course, but our brains have had a quarter-million years to learn how to separate out important sound frequencies, and that plus my lip-reading abilities turned me into a rather powerful eavesdropper. Walk into my Starbucks and observe me with my earphones in, and my iPhone with the screen turned off; you’ll probably assume I can’t hear a thing. But I can probably hear you place your order as well as the barista can.

Macworld: Army gives Jeff a reason to enlist

Army tests iPhone, Android deployment to every soldier

U.S. soldiers may be issued an iPhone alongside their MREs as part of their standard pack in the near future. A program spearheaded by the Army Capabilities Integration Center aims to improve fighting capability, as well as general efficiency, by making smartphones standard issue among both deployed troops and soldiers garrisoned on home bases.

Editorializing: this program impresses me in a number of ways. First, I’m glad to hear that they’re using off-the-shelf tech instead of spending $100 million on private contractors to replicate the wheel. Second, I can only imagine how useful things like virtual overlays and geolocation would be in a combat environment, considering how useful they are to civilians. And third, this strikes me as a genuine way of signaling younger folks that the Army might be their kind of gig.

Macworld: Will 2011 signal a Mac virus onslaught? Not so fast

I’m very chuffed that this article has already been retweeted over 100 times in the last few hours. It’d be nice if it made some headway against the Common Wisdom that I see quoted so often.

Is it really true that it’s only a matter of time before Macintosh users are under siege by a flood of viruses and malware? McAfee announced recently that 2011 would be a bad year for people using Apple computers, as hackers will be increasingly attracted by growing Mac market share. It’s not at all hard to find experts who agree.

The thing is, they also agreed back on July 18, 2010, June 17, 2010, April 9, 2008, and October 20, 2006, among many other dates in the past which I didn’t bother excavating from Google. Remember that horrible Christmas of 2006, when all of your Macs broke simultaneously?

Me neither.