Friday, June 11, 2010

1W Blue Laser for less than $200! This is madness!

I'm really torn about this.

It's an incredibly powerful laser, twice as powerful as anything available for even 10 times as much money.

On the one hand, I think that in the proper hands, this could be a valuable tool for someone doing holography or other serious research.

On the other, it's being marketed as a "gee-whiz" nerd toy, and it is most definitely not a toy. This is an incredibly dangerous device if not handled EXTREMELY carefully. It can blind you in an instant, long before you can blink, and maybe even through your eyelids. Even exposure to diffuse blue laser light may be enough to permanently damage the ability to see some colors. There was a warning that it may be strong enough to cause melanoma if unprotected skin is exposed or even set skin on fire.

The barrier to entry is so low ($200!) and the difference between the perceived danger and the real danger so great that some jackass is going to buy one of these and show off somewhere and blind a lot of people. People know guns are dangerous, and they still manage to shoot themselves and others accidentally all the time. But with this, people are used to laser pointers and such, and they may not realize how incredibly fast something bad can happen with a laser of this power. It's like if you could buy an AK-47 for a couple of hundred dollars when all anybody had ever seen was a paintball gun. It really scares me.

But even more importantly, it's the harbinger of a trend - as tech gets cheaper, faster and more powerful, the kinds of technologies for which we have counted on cost and knowledge to create barriers to wide availability will instead become universally available. When any fool with access to Google and a few hundred bucks can build himself a microwave pain ray, or worse, what then? When somebody bent on terror buys three or four of these lasers, builds them into a housing that looks like a flashlight and blinds a few thousand people at a football game, what then? It's not hard to conjure a what-if scenario that's really plausible and genuinely frightening.

I don't have a good answer here. I'm someone who's always believed strongly in the free flow of information and the maker culture. But what do we do when somebody builds a gun that shoots blindness at the speed of light for $200?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

iPhone 4G design and reactions...

One thing about this whole iPhone 4G thing that I have found HILARIOUS is this: When the thing was shown on Engadget all the Apple cognoscenti were like, "no way this is anything but a cheap knockoff, it's not Apple-y enough, look at the gross buttons and the cheap seams!" Now that the thing has proven real, they're falling all over themselves to find the Dieter Rams lineage of the design vocabulary. They couldn't have snapped back to the Apple-Can-Do-No-Wrong line faster if they were on leashes.

I say ptui.

And also if that thing really does have a 960x640 screen, I want one. A lot.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Hello VM Zoo

So I wax a little nostalgic below, but the reason for all of that is the new machine now in residence here at Bitboy Command Center. I have built a new server of servers, actually. I'm calling it the "VM Zoo." It's a Supermicro X8SIL-F motherboard, Xeon 3450 CPU, and 16GB of ECC DDR3 RAM running Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V. I'm currently running 3 VMs on it - an SBS 2008 server, a Win 2003/BES server, and an Ubuntu 9.10 server. This one machine I built for about $1300 has replaced 2 physical servers and allowed me to add a few more if I want, and taught me an awful lot about Hyper-V, P2V conversions, and virtualization. I recommend it highly - it's simplified my living room a lot already.

Goodbye Bitbox...

This is what 10 years of faithful service looks like. Supermicro P6SBS motherboard, Pentium II 300MHz SL2W8 stepping, 512MB SDRAM, a 4GB and a 9GB Wide SCSI Hard Disk, all in an Inwin A500 midtower ATX case and hand assembled at the Bitboy Command Center. Booted Red Hat Linux 7.2 in 2001, rebooted maybe twice a year since then, mostly for moves or long power outages. If you sent me e-mail in the last 10 years, it ended up on this machine, humming quietly in my living room. Remote mail access via ssh and pine, the way God intended. Apache serving web pages you edited in vi, like men did when the web was young.

I learned much at your shell prompt, old friend. Your lessons made me strong in the ways of Unix, and kept me humble in the face of misplaced semicolons. No e-wasting for you, no recycler will tease the gold from your traces. A frame on the wall for your motherboard, a place of honor for your drives. Bitbox, you leave a fine legacy, and you will be remembered when nerds gather to tell tales of the servers they have known.