Archive for June, 2011

Navy Pseudo-random Noise Generator, 1986

Back in 1986, the United States Navy applied for and received U.S. Patent 4,617,530 for a pseudo-random noise generator, or PRNG.

It was a relatively simple electronic circuit, as shown below:

Two (by now long-obsolete) noise generator ICs, four opamp stages, and a transistor, plus some resistors, and that’s basically it. How it differs from what had come before is its “arbitrarily long repetition rate”… where “arbitrarily long” is apparently “on the order of minutes”.

If that sounds suspiciously vague to you, it’s because this PRNG was not intended for cryptographic use, but to drive a jet-noise simulator. Why?

“…to trigger anti-aircraft bombs planted on runways and for deception of sensors used for simulators.”

This immediately caught my attention, because I couldn’t think of a cold-war era (or any, really) anti-aircraft weapon that was triggered by jet noise. A couple hours of Google searches later… I still don’t know of any such weapon, made by any country.

That’s where I hope you, dear reader, come in. Does such a thing exist? It seems a relatively logical idea, when you think about it, but perhaps everyone dismissed it as too obvious? There are numerous patents for the audible detection of aircraft, but none (that I can find) anywhere around 1986, and none that (IMO) seem obviously adaptable to integration into a weapon. We may well never know…

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on June 29th, 2011 | No Comments »

Kwik Hits

Random observations from Minnesota, the “if you don’t like the weather, wait an hour, and it’ll change” state:

So, the other day we bought a package of “fresh” boneless chicken breasts from the grocery store. As I was opening it up to make dinner, I had two observations:

One, the package was marked “Sell by 7/5/2011″, more than two weeks in the future. Now, part of the reason we buy “fresh” chicken is because the frozen stuff (“may contain 15% by weight [random chemicals] to enhance appearance, texture, smell, or taste”) is kind of scary, when you stop and think about it. This “fresh” chicken has a shelf-life of, what, eighteen, twenty, twenty-one days? Maybe more? You can’t tell me that’s natural.

Two, the package was also marked very prominently “Use or freeze within 48 hours of purchase”. Let’s think about this for a moment. It can sit in the cooler at the grocery store for three weeks or more, but the manufacturer wants you to use it or lose it at home within two days? Holy FUD, Batman!

On an unrelated note, we’ve been eating a lot of fish on the grill lately. Mmm, grilled fish. Some of the Asian markets here in Saint Paul have really good deals on fish, so it’s hard to say no. Only catch is it’s mostly fish varieties which midwestern white folk have never heard of. “Swai”? “Basa”?

If you ever have the opportunity to buy Swai, I suggest you do so. It’s often described as “kind of like catfish”, which is pretty damned absurd. It’s nothing like catfish; it’s a firm, flaky white fish that’s fairly mild in smell and taste, and reminds me a lot of Northern Pike. It’s also, depending on the store, from $2-4/pound (i.e. right around the price of pork, the traditional cheap protein source), which you can hardly complain about.

Good stuff, if you’re willing to broaden your horizons a bit.

Completely unrelated to anything else, but this is just awesome. A government agency with a sense of humor? Who knew?

In Cypress, Texas, 28 people searched for hours for a teenager climbing into a storm drain. Way to horribly react to an urban explorer, Cypress.

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General, Urban Exploration | on June 22nd, 2011 | No Comments »

M*A*S*H, The Audio Book

Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel MASH – which was the source for the movie that was the source for the long-running television show – remains one of my favorite war novels ever, right up there with Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. As such I was surprised and delighted to recently stumble across the BBC’s 2004 radio adaptation, read by Tim Flavin, on a certain bittorrent website.

I didn’t know it existed. Not many people do, apparently; I believe it’s never been rebroadcast since. It’s not the best audio book production ever, but it’s still quite good, and is quite faithful to the original novel.

Anyway, if you’d like to experience this unique bundle of audio joy, you can download the audio files right here; six 15-minute episodes of right around 14MB each, in an 80MB rar file.

Enjoy.

Published in: Geekiness, General | on June 21st, 2011 | No Comments »

Church Vandal Caught, Lost

Almost exactly a year ago, seven suburban churches here in Minnesota were vandalized with cryptic graffiti.

Well, have no fear, the police finally got their man – Malcolm Eric Johns, a 36-year-old anarchist who admits to hating religion.

Johns – who has previous convictions in Minnesota for damage to property and careless driving – apparently decided that court wasn’t worth showing up for today, meaning he can add “failure to appear” to his growing list of charges.

Not that he’s trying terribly hard to hide, mind; the Star Tribune apparently reached him without difficulty at his parents’ home, where he stated his disgust with the planet, and expressed a desire for law enforcement to kill him.

I eagerly anticipate the local anarchist community’s response to this, and their convoluted explanations about how Mr. Johns was framed/entrapped/railroaded/beaten into confessing his involvement in what should, inevitably, be a protected first-amendment activity. Dude, solidarity and stuff, amirite?

It looks like Johns might have lived in Atlanta for a couple years, which makes me wonder if there are any unsolved church graffiti cases down there…

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb' | on June 16th, 2011 | No Comments »

The Only Good Reader is One That’s Dead

Found by chance on page six of the June 16th, 1980 issue of the Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Journal, the city’s former afternoon newspaper, is this little gem, which I find amusing and fascinating in several ways:

(Note that this was a decade before Jack Kevorkian’s first “assisted suicide”, and several years before he became interested in euthanasia.)

Published in: History | on June 9th, 2011 | No Comments »