Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Headphones Catch Fire During Flight

NBC News reports here on an incident in which a pair of headphones caught on fire while a woman was wearing them during a flight.

Article on Aircraft Display Systems

Aviationweek posts here a very interesting article on an incident involving, among other factors, the synthetic vision system of an aircraft.  This is a long article that clearly describes a complex situation. It bears careful reading.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

WikiLeaks Release on Hacking

NBC News reports here on a release by WikiLeaks, which claims that the released document describe CIA hacking techniques.   According to the NBC News report, these techniques include a variety of techniques for hacking IoT and consumer electronics devices.

A Global Industry

I recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong where I met with several friends and colleagues.  A great many computer systems designers and researchers in Hong Kong trained in the United States; many also lived and worked in the U. S. after their education.  My friends continue to express and exhibit their appreciation and fondness for the United States. Many confess to have been changed by their experience living here.  America continues to be a beacon of hope for the world.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

IoT Shoes That Order Pizza

AV Club reports here on special Pizza Hut shoes with a pizza ordering button.  The report does not the wireless protocol used or the power consumption of the device.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Hypothetical Analog vs. Digital Scenario

I have concocted a hypothetical situation in which analog beats out digital.  And it doesn't even require a zombie apocalypse.<p>
DPReview reports here on Nikon's significant financial problems.  They reported earlier that Sony's image sensor sales for smartphones are up but their camera sales are down.  So let's imagine a world in which the only cameras manufactured are smartphones---no large-sensor cameras.  We have a long way to go before we get to that point, but there is some small chance of that eventuality occurring.<p>
Smartphone cameras are quite good these days.  They now use high-quality sensors and optics coupled with sophisticated cameras running on the smartphone's high-performance embedded platform.  But small sensors have their limitations and for some applications, bigger is better.  We can expect some demand for large sensor cameras for the forseeable future.<p>
But how do you maintain these cameras?  Even ignoring firmware and driver updates, the hardware will fail eventually.  Both the image sensors and image processors are specific to the camera.  Once those chips go out of production, we are reduced to relying on a store of old chips stored in liquid nitrogen for replacement.<p>
Analog cameras, meanwhile are much easier to maintain.  Shutters are probably the hardest item to rebuild, but even those can be manufactured in a modest machine shop so long as the machinist understands how shutters work.  Otherwise, a camera is a box with a hole on one end. <p>
And although I can't make my own image sensor (even though I have access to a semiconductor fab line, it would be a very difficult and expensive process), I could make my own glass plates.  If Matthew Brady can make glass plates in a tent on a Civil War battlefield, I think that I can manage to make some for myself.
<p>
Digital systems have a lot of advantages.  Long-term maintenance is not one of them.  Specialized parts eventually fail.  The manufacturing systems used to build them also go out of service.  When we use computers to build long-lived systems, we need to think carefully about the future.