History’s worst software bugs

“Last month automaker Toyota announced a recall of 160,000 of its Prius hybrid vehicles following reports of vehicle warning lights illuminating for no reason, and cars’ gasoline engines stalling unexpectedly. But unlike the large-scale auto recalls of years past, the root of the Prius issue wasn’t a hardware problem — it was a programming error in the smart car’s embedded code. The Prius had a software bug.Moth found trapped between points at Relay # 70, Panel F, of the Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator while it was being tested at Harvard University, 9 September 1945 (or 1947).

“With that recall, the Prius joined the ranks of the buggy computer — a club that began in 1945 when engineers found a moth in Panel F, Relay #70 of the Harvard Mark II system. The computer was running a test of its multiplier and adder when the engineers noticed something was wrong. The moth was trapped, removed and taped into the computer’s logbook with the words: ‘first actual case of a bug being found.’

“Sixty years later, computer bugs are still with us, and show no sign of going extinct… But which are the worst?… Here, in chronological order, is the Wired News list of the 10 worst software bugs of all time … so far.”

click here to see the list at “wired.com” | digg story

“On the Effectiveness of Aluminum Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study”

An MIT student study on the protective nature of aluminum foil helmets.

“It has long been suspected that the government has been using satellites to read and control the minds of certain citizens. The use of aluminum helmets has been a common guerrilla tactic against the government’s invasive tactics [1]. Surprisingly, these helmets can in fact help the government spy on citizens by amplifying certain key frequency ranges reserved for government use. In addition, none of the three helmets we analyzed provided significant attenuation to most frequency bands…

“The helmets amplify frequency bands that coincide with those allocated to the US government between 1.2 Ghz and 1.4 Ghz. According to the FCC, These bands are supposedly reserved for ‘radio location’ (ie, GPS), and other communications with satellites. The 2.6 Ghz band coincides with mobile phone technology. Though not affiliated by government, these bands are at the hands of multinational corporations.

“It requires no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the current helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC. We hope this report will encourage the paranoid community to develop improved helmet designs to avoid falling prey to these shortcomings.”

click here to read more at “people.csail.mit.edu” | digg story

Woman crashes into power station, killed by bees

A woman in Johannesburg, South Africa smashed her car into an electricity substation that was home to a massive bee hive. She was killed. Her husband was injured.

From Reuters:
(The hive) was 10 years old and had in excess of a million bees and they just went wild,” said Paul Nel, spokesman for Netcare 911, a private paramedic and ambulance service…

“The people managed to stumble out of the car but they were just overcome by bees,” he said.

Link [BoingBoing]

Mysteriously malfunctioning garage doors

About ten days ago, a mysterious radio signal around Ottawa, Canada began blocking the operation of hundreds of garage door openers. (Background here.) On Thursday, the garage doors began working again. From CBC News:
The powerful radio signal causing the problem stopped transmitting on Thursday afternoon, around the time CBC News contacted the U.S. Embassy to ask if it knew anything about it.

The embassy categorically denies that it had anything to do with it.

The signal was being transmitted at 390 megahertz, a U.S. military frequency used by the Pentagon’s new Land Mobile Radio System. The same frequency is used by garage doors openers, which started to malfunction around the city about almost two weeks ago. A similar problem has popped up around military bases in the States.

Link [BoingBoing]

Handheld laser gun available for purchase

“Oh boy, a Laser Ray Gun is now available for purchase from a company called Information Unlimited. This $1750 handheld shooter comes fully assembled, runs on standard AA batteries, and packs enough focused energy to blast a hole in the ‘hardest of metals.’ A set of Alkalines loads about a hundred-fifty 6,000 Watt shots with a 20 to 30 second recharge lag between blasts. Oh sure, they’ll tell you that the product is intended as an ‘advanced science project’ after digging into the details, and you’ll have to sign the ‘hazardous equipment affidavit’ before purchasing since this is a Class IV (read: highly dangerous) laser. Oh, well, we feel better now.”

click here to read more at “engadget.com” | digg story

Computer squishes into wall-socket

“How ‘thin’ can a thin client get? How about one that fits into an existing wall-mount LAN jack box? The Jack-PC from Chip PC Technologies takes ‘zero desk space’ by converting existing enterprise LAN jacks into full-function Windows CE-powered thin client computers, without requiring additional cabling, according to the company.

“The Jack-PC runs Windows CE on an AMD Au1550 Alchemy processor with up to 128 MB of DDR RAM and 64 MB of DiskOnChip (DoC) Flash storage (the internal Jack-PC embedded computer is shown on the right). Three versions are available: two supporting analog displays up to 1280 x 1024, and the third supporting DVI up to 1600 x 1200.

“Two of the three models are powered via a Power over Ethernet (PoE) capability. If PoE is not available, the model 6700 can use an external 5 VDC supply.”

The company’s web page for the product is here: http://www.chippc.com/products/thinclients/jackpc/index.asp

click here to read more at “windowsfordevices.com” | digg story

The Snark – the meanest UAV on the planet

“Meet the Snark – an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle of immense capability that demonstrates just how far the breed has come in such a short period of time. Constructed mainly of Carbon Fibre and Kevlar, the Snark is light and fast (280 km/h), quiet (special rotor blades make it extremely quiet), virtually invisible to radar or infrared detetection (it recycles its exhaust gases and emits little heat) and can carry a payload of 680kg, offering the ability to pack both massive firepower (enough to sink a ship) and surveillance equipment (such as high res infrared cameras with a magnification of 7500). But wait, there’s more, and this is the clincher. The Snark is the first UAV that runs on diesel fuel, which means it can be easily integrated into any military force – current UAVs require their own special fuel supply to be transported with them whereas the entire US Army plans to run on a single one fuel – diesel. Last and probably most importantly, the Snark can stay airborne for 24 hours at a time, offering an unprecedented loiter time for a machine of this capability.”

click here to read more at “www.gizmag.co.uk” | digg story