Archive for July, 2009

Save Teh Sewers

Consider, if you would, the humble sewer. It’s small (generally), dark (mostly), and damp (usually). Unless you’re an urban explorer, a wastewater-management engineer, or a student of urban planning, you probably rarely give sewers a second thought. They’re there, they serve a valuable purpose, and they’re pretty often overlooked and unloved.

That, however, could change.

See, the State of Iowa thinks some sewers might qualify as historic structures which not only deserve but require preservation.
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Published in: General, History, Urban Exploration | on July 30th, 2009 | No Comments »

Welcome “The Usual Suspects”

The Saint Paul Pioneer Press, the Twin Cities’ smaller but evidently more financially sound daily newspaper, has – gasp! – decided to embrace that whole social-media thingy, by letting (making?) the staff blog. Good idea? Bad idea? Too early to tell.

Of most interest to me is the paper’s “police, courts, and public safety” blog, The Usual Suspects. While it’s a bit light on content thus far, it’s not without value. To be fair, some of the value might be unintentional – this post by Ruben Rosario, for example, shows that you don’t need to be a great speller – or even know how to use a spell-checker – to be a popular journalist. (That’s what they pay editors the big bucks for, apparently.)

Today’s post demonstrates the idea of “criminal stupidity” fairly nicely, but, alas, fails to note that the suspect – wanted in connection with a burglary where a handgun was stolen – has two prior convictions in MN (as an adult, anyway):
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on July 29th, 2009 | No Comments »

Air and Space Power: Got ANGELS?

I missed it when it came out earlier this year, but the Spring 2009 edition of the Air and Space Power Journal (4.7MB PDF!) is so chocked full of awesomeness I can’t quite figure out where to begin. I’m most taken by the article “Soft Power and Space Weaponization”, which gives us a Most Awesomely Bad Military Acronym – the Autonomous Nanosatellite Guardian for Evaluating Local Space – a/k/a ANGELS. Please groan, now.

Published in: Geekiness, General | on July 29th, 2009 | No Comments »

Windows 7 Predictions, Two Years Later

Back in February 2007, I made some predictions about the then-unnamed “next version of Windows” that had just been announced for release in 2009. At the time, I was grossly unenthused, believing that the short development lead time meant Microsoft would prove unable to learn any substantial and meaningful lessons from the epic failure that was – and is – Vista.

How’d I do? So-so…
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Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General | on July 27th, 2009 | No Comments »

Deterring Auto Theft: Time For a Public Hotlist?

Would making details of motor-vehicle thefts readily available to the public have any impact on auto theft? My gut feeling is that it just might.

Consider: Here in Saint Paul, a motor vehicle is stolen roughly every four-and-a-half hours – right about five-and-a-half thefts per day. The majority of stolen vehicles recovered are done so by law enforcement, with no public involvement (aside from the owner reporting it stolen, of course).

As it stands, if a member of the public thinks they’ve identified a stolen vehicle, at worst they have to call the police and have officers respond, which is a waste of resources. The best-case scenario, you call the police and social-engineer them into telling you if the vehicle is reported stolen; while this can certainly be effective, it’s still labor-intensive, and I have to admit I’m not positive about the absolute legality of this ploy. (Top tip: It helps if you use the right lingo – a license plate is a “tag”, in police parlance, and you want it checked against the “hot sheet”, a regularly-updated list of vehicles reported stolen.)

That system was workable in the 1990s, but here in the 21st Century, surely we can do better?
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Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on July 27th, 2009 | No Comments »