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The Tech Deck

Archive for January 2014

Test driving a Tesla Model S

I got to drive a Tesla Model S P85 today, and it was awesome. It's a serious driving machine, and did I mention it was awesome?
 

 

Every NES start screen. All of them.

I saw this on Wired and had to share it here. YouTube user NicksplosionFX compiled a video made up of every NES/Famicom start screen ever made. No big deal, right?

It's 2 hours, 50 minutes and 12 seconds long.

THAT's *kinda* a big deal. Can't even imagine the insane amount of time it must have taken to find all the ROMs, load them into an emulator, screen cap the title screen, rinse lather repeat, then edit it all together.

You sir, are both a gentleman and a scholar.

 

 

Windows XP antivirus update

Well slap my face and call me Sally.

Yesterday I posted an article about ditching XP because Microsoft was ending all support, including antivirus support, for that old and aged behemoth. I'll just go ahead and assume that they read my article, because that very same day they announced they will continue to support their security software for both enterprise and consumers through July 14, 2015.

So granny's machine won't turn into a botnet just yet (if it hasn't already). But that doesn't mean you're off the hook.

Update your Windows XP antivirus software

I'm sorry, that title is a bit misleading, but please continue reading.

Because I'm a “computer guy,” people always ask me about what anti-virus software to use, even though I'm avowedly a Mac user and haven't regularly used a PC in almost a decade. What's funny is that the people who ask me those questions are still using the same operating system that I was using all the way back then, Windows XP.

So the thing about protecting your XP box from viruses is:

STOP USING XP.

I mean, seriously. Microsoft is dropping it stone cold dead on April 8, including XP support for my former AV goto Microsoft Security Essentials. There is absolutely no excuse for you to be on XP anymore, even if you're super poor and can't afford a new machine. (In that case, I suggest installing Linux, which is both free as in “free beer” and free as in “freedom”, and is as secure as you want it to be.)

If your IT department requires you to use XP, fire your IT department. If you're neither poor nor have a poor IT department, just pony up for a new PC, install security essentials and be done with it.

If, for some reason I simply wouldn't comprehend, you really insist on keeping XP, you do still need an up-to-date anti-virus, because *I* don't want *your* machine to be turned into a node on a giant spam botnet. I don't really have an official recommendation for what that AV would be, since I would probably just Google it, but Softpedia has a good list of Security Essentials alternatives that you could try.

Attack of the deadly helicopter drone

All of this discussion of drone photography in the paper reminded me with my close encounter with an unmanned aerial vehicle. Terrified I was, as you can see from the video below.
 

Terrible!

New Godzilla movie

Aren't we used to Hollywood churning out remakes of old movies? I suppose.

But I will tell you this, there is no such thing as a bad Godzilla movie. Even the bad ones are great. And the first, the original? It is greatness defined. (Interestingly, it came out of the same studio on the same year as Seven Samurai, and includes almost all of SS's actors, sans-Toshiro Mifune.)

With that, this new Godzilla movie looks great. Watch this:

I don't know how many big budget Hollywood Godzilla movies can be made, but I'm not worried about that. They could make a new one every year, and it would still be awesome. Because Godzilla.

What is Bitcoin?

Now that we have at least one brick-and-mortar establishment (the Volstead Act bar) in Spokane that accepts bitcoin as currency, it's probably a good time to explain what it is and how you use it.

 

Short answer:

Bitcoin is magic internet money that you use like PayPal.

Long answer:

Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency that enables secure peer-to-peer transactions over the internet. Think of it as similar to PayPal, but much more secure and independent of institutional oversight.

All official government currency runs through a centralized bank such as the US Federal Reserve or the Bank of England, giving those institutions the power to control the flow and valuation of money by adding or removing it from circulation and setting other financial regulations regarding it.

Being a decentralized currency means that there is no single source of control over bitcoins or the Bitcoin network. No government, corporation or entity has the power to regulate or control it, for good or for bad. Instead, bitcoins are controlled through a globally distributed computer network that processes and regulates the flow of bitcoins, based on an open-source protocol and software that is freely available for anyone to review or modify.

This means that a bitcoin “here” in the US is worth the same to you as it is to someone in Argentina, Iran or Greece, and isn't subject to the instability or authoritarian nature of those country's governments. Bitcoin isn't guaranteed to be a stable currency — in fact it fluctuates wildly all the time — it is simply independent of central governmental controls.

Being a cryptocurrency means that Bitcoin is a digital currency based on secure cryptographic science. A person gets a public key, or “wallet,” which is a really long unique id number like

13Sb4FnsYHQoQiYdkWBRQfNULFMVbbARAz

that is the public address used for transactions. Matched with that public key is an even longer unique private key, like a person's unique signature, that is used to verify transactions.

Just like an email address, anyone can transfer money to a public address, but only the person with the private key is capable of transferring money out from it. Without the exact public/private key pair, the funds can never be compromised or retrieved, and unlike email, there is no password reset.

Every transaction with on the Bitcoin network is permanently recorded in a public ledger called the “block chain,” which keeps track of all transactions associated with a public key, and is the network's method of preventing fraud or counterfeiting.

Because transactions are only recorded as being between two or more public addresses, and addresses can't be directly linked to an individual (unless they have published it somewhere or otherwise created a record of it), the Bitcoin marketplace itself is considered anonymous. However, the transactions themselves are subject to the same limitations inherent to all secure internet traffic, including network tracing and IP address logging.

Bitcoins and the Bitcoin network aren't illegal in the US or elsewhere (for now), but the transactions themselves might be. For example, bitcoins have been used to illicitly purchase drugs or firearms and have been used to keep financial transactions off of the IRS' radar, but the same could be said of Federally issued money also.

There undoubtedly will be legislation that attempts to govern it here in the US and abroad, but it seems unlikely that it will be made completely illegal.

For more information about Bitcoin, check out http://bitcoin.org/.

If you want to see the exchange rate of BTC to USD, Mt. Gox is the largest and most reputable exchange marketplace on the internet.

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Online developer Dan Gayle's musings about all things in the world of 1s and 0s.

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