Robot ATV carries firefighters’ gear

❝ In the fall of 2018, the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting, along with wildland firefighters from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control worked with Honda in testing their Autonomous Work Vehicle in wildland firefighting support scenarios.

Located at the site of the Lake Christine fire, a destructive wildfire that took place the summer of 2018 in Eagle County, Colorado- CoE, DFPC and Honda tested the work vehicles using realistic scenarios that occur during a wildfire. The team focused on utilizing the vehicle to support wildland operations with the goal of enhancing safety and effectiveness. Three missions were tested including initial attack support for dismounted firefighters, support of active fireline development, and autonomous deployment of a communications repeater to a remote site. This evaluation was performed at the Lake Christine fire site after the fire was fully contained and controlled. The initial results of the tests were promising and the CoE looks forward to working with Honda to further this mission.

Yeah, the language is a little stilted, press release-English. The concept is smart and realistic, useful. Certainly, folks here in the Rockies concerned with wildfires would be pleased to see critters like this in use.

30th Birthday of the Engine That Powered the CGI Revolution

❝ When Pixar President and co-founder Ed Catmull announced his retirement earlier this year, people rightly saw his impending departure as a transitional moment for the animation studio. But it’s bigger than that. Catmull’s shadow looms large not just over groundbreaking films like Toy Story and Coco, his influence can be traced all the way back to the dawn of digital visual effects. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The Abyss. Terminator 2. Jurassic Park. All of these titles came out before Woody and Buzz Lightyear, yet all remain watershed moments for VFX—and all used the tool that Catmull and his colleagues helped create at George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic.

RenderMan, as it’s known, came out of ILM’s computer graphics team (the same one that would later spin off into its own company called Pixar). It started as a powerful algorithm, but then became something greater—a graphical interface. “Up until that point,” says Catmull, “the look, the lighting, essentially had to be done by programmers.” A movie like 1982’s Tron might have been mindblowing, but its digital sequences also necessitated an absolutely knee-buckling amount of work, creating its futuristic effects frame by frame. RenderMan, though, allowed effects artists to realize their visions without needing to write code.

CGI Rulez! Most sci-fi geeks would agree. Most would also understand how the threads and techniques reach out into many aspects of today’s film-making regardless of genre. RTFA!

Without context Google’s billion device “Assistant” claim is B.S.


ReBlogged from om.coNick Bilton photo

Google says its “Assistant” (the voice-based query service) is soon going to be on a billion devices –primarily phones, and a majority of them being on the Android phones. There are some obvious questions that the report should have covered. For instance:

  • Are these pre-installed on the OS as part of deals with handset makers or phone companies?
  • What some money involved to get these pre-installed if they were pre-installed?
  • What percentage of these were downloaded by end customers?
  • How many Google Assistant speaker-type devices has the company sold and not just given away as part of some promotion?
  • What is the number of daily active users of the Google Assistant?
  • How is the daily usage trending? Any data? Claiming global active users have grown four times over past one year is utterly meaningless!
  • What countries is the Assitant popular in?
  • And is it GDPR compliant?
  • How does it correlate with Google’s current business model of placing advertising against search results?

In other words, without the relevant context, Google’s claim is no better than old fashion bullshit. For whatever its worth, I find Google Assistant is very good at understanding my accent than Alexa and Siri. They are also much more accurate than those two. Unfortunately, I don’t trust Google to let them into my apartment on a device.

Ditto! I agree.

Keeping Sources Secure


Birgit Püve for The New York Times

How do you keep communications with sources secure?

❝ Before moving to Europe this summer, I spent about a decade covering national security and intelligence in cities like Washington, so I’m pretty security conscious. Before I left, a friend who works in intelligence offered a gentle reminder that most countries would probably consider me fair game for intelligence collection.

So I use a cheap Chromebook when traveling to places where curious eyes might be tempted to sneak a peek. I set it up with a burner account, and I never connect it to any personal or business accounts.

And all those note-taking apps? If I’m working on something particularly sensitive or talking to someone who is sticking his neck out by meeting with me, those notes often don’t get saved digitally. When the story is done, the notebook gets tossed and that’s the end of it.

RTFA and check out what Matt uses/does when he’s not in Total Invasive Security Fear Mode.

Intact shipwreck from ~400 B.C. found in the Black Sea

❝ Kevin Rawlinson at The Guardian reports that the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP) has discovered an Greek merchant vessel on the floor of the sea dating back to about 400 B.C., the oldest known intact shipwreck ever discovered.

The MAP team discovered the ship 50 miles off the coast of Bulgaria. Because the water in the lower reaches of the Black Sea is anoxic, or lacks oxygen, the wooden cargo vessel has not deteriorated much since it sunk to the bottom of the ocean all those centuries ago. Its mast, rudders, the cargo in its hold and even the benches where rowers sat are still well-preserved.

❝ There are no plans to salvage the Greek ship since it is extremely fragile, and the team has not released its exact location to preserve it from looters.

Acquiring other people’s property by hook or crook hasn’t changed, has it?

When English isn’t your first language…

A dealership in Rochester, NY had a brand-new, German-built Volkswagen arrive for its pre-sales inspection, and with it came a little message. A message that wasn’t exactly grammatically correct, but the meaning behind it was unmistakable. The message? “Welcome Fuck of USA.”

I’m pretty sure the message-enterer wanted to say “Fuck off USA” instead of “Fuck of USA,” but I think we get the gist either way…I’m pretty sure this message will be changed before any potential customers get a chance to even look at the car.

Unless it’s not the only one.

Har.

Polar Vortex…Here it comes…Maybe

❝ Winter got off to a fast start in the Lower 48 even before it was technically winter. Waves of cold gripped the eastern two-thirds of the United States and several winter storms tracked across the region…

The polar vortex, the roaring river of air winding around the North Pole, holds the cards. What they reveal could be very disturbing and a harbinger of extreme winter weather in the Eastern United States…

❝ But when the vortex is disrupted, an ordinary winter can suddenly turn severe and memorable for an extended duration. “[It] can affect the entire winter,” Judah Cohen said…

Last week, he tweeted: “Confidence is growing in a significant #PolarVortex disruption in the coming weeks. This could be the single most important determinant of the weather this #winter across the Northern Hemisphere…”

“The longer it takes to happen, the bigger chance we have of a warmer winter,” Cohen said.

Um, OK. We’ll stay in touch.