Taking my hacking to a new level: the serial level

I void warranties. Showing off my custom-built CarolinaCon badge last year.

I spent some time over the long President’s Day weekend hacking some of my home devices with the goal of putting new firmware on them. Up until now this has consisted mostly of flashing custom firmware through the existing upgrade channels of whatever device I was working with. Other times I would flash the devices by having them download new firmware from a fileserver.

Sometimes, though, there is no other way to bend a device to your will than to tap into the device’s serial console. This is often done by using a special adapter to convert the low-level signals into the kind that a modem would use. Then you simply use any suitable terminal program to interact with the device. Even though most embedded devices do not come with real computer screens, one can use the serial console to read messages and type commands.

My new serial cable arrives this week which should allow me to unlock nearly any device in my home. I’m looking forward to voiding some more warranties!

Lessons on Aging Well, From a 105-Year-Old Cyclist – The New York Times

Monsieur Marchand is my new hero.

At the age of 105, the French amateur cyclist and world-record holder Robert Marchand is more aerobically fit than most 50-year-olds — and appears to be getting even fitter as he ages, according to a revelatory new study of his physiology.

The study, which appeared in December in The Journal of Applied Physiology, may help to rewrite scientific expectations of how our bodies age and what is possible for any of us athletically, no matter how old we are.Many people first heard of Mr. Marchand last month, when he set a world record in one-hour cycling, an event in which someone rides as many miles as possible on an indoor track in 60 minutes.

Mr. Marchand pedaled more than 14 miles, setting a global benchmark for cyclists age 105 and older. That classification had to be created specifically to accommodate him. No one his age previously had attempted the record.

Mr. Marchand, who was born in 1911, already owned the one-hour record for riders age 100 and older, which he had set in 2012.

It was as he prepared for that ride that he came to the attention of Veronique Billat, a professor of exercise science at the University of Evry-Val d’Essonne in France. At her lab, Dr. Billat and her colleagues study and train many professional and recreational athletes.
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Radiation Will Tear Elon Musk’s Rocket Car to Bits in a Year

Plastics expert Dr. William Carroll of Indiana University says Elon Musk’s Starman Tesla is no match for the rough-and-tumble environment of space.

The real forces that will tear the car apart over hundreds of millions of years in space, Carroll said, are solid objects and — most importantly — radiation.

Even if the car avoids any major collisions, over very long time horizons, it’s unlikely the vehicle could avoid the kind of collisions with micrometeorites that leave other space junk riddled with craters over time, Carroll said.

But assuming those collisions don’t completely tear the car apart, the radiation will.

Down on Earth, a powerful magnetic field and the atmosphere largely protect human beings (and Tesla Roadsters) from the harsh radiation of the sun and cosmic rays. But spacefaring objects have no such protections.

Source: Radiation Will Tear Elon Musk’s Rocket Car to Bits in a Year

There are two Americas, and one of them is stupid

Courtesy of TeeShopUSA.Com. Buy their stuff!

I was doing some online searching for a friend with whom I worked a long time ago, so I put her name into The Facebook to see if she was around. A woman with the same name came up in the search results. She was about the same age, listed as “retired,” and looked somewhat similar to how I imagined my friend to look now that twenty-five years have passed since I saw her last. Perusing this woman’s post soon convinced me this wasn’t the old friend I was looking for. In fact, there was this galling comment on this news story that made my jaw drop. It was on this BBC news story about the Lincoln Memorial being vandalized:

“What more do they want?”

“This is getting ridiculous,” she writes. “Lincoln freed the slaves – what more do they want? Oh I know – to erase America’s history!”

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“This Is Serious”: Facebook Begins Its Downward Spiral | Vanity Fair

Years ago, long before Mark Zuckerberg became Mark Zuckerberg, the young founder reached out to a friend of mine who had also started a company, albeit a considerably smaller one, in the social-media space, and suggested they get together. As Facebook has grown into a global colossus that connects about a third of the globe, Zuckerberg has subsequently assumed a reputation as an aloof megalomaniac deeply out of touch with the people who use his product. But back then, when he only had 100 million users on his platform, he wasn’t perceived that way. When he reached out to my friend, Zuckerberg was solicitous. He made overtures that suggested a possible acquisition—and once rebuffed, returned with the notion that perhaps Facebook could at least partner with my friend’s company. The chief of the little start-up was excited by the seemingly harmless, even humble, proposition from the growing hegemon. Zuckerberg suggested that the two guys take a walk.

Taking a walk, it should be noted, was Zuckerberg’s thing. He regularly took potential recruits and acquisition targets on long walks in the nearby woods to try to convince them to join his company. After the walk with my friend, Zuckerberg appeared to take the relationship to the next level. He initiated a series of conference calls with his underlings in Facebook’s product group. My friend’s small start-up shared their product road map with Facebook’s business-development team. It all seemed very collegial, and really exciting. And then, after some weeks passed, the C.E.O. of the little start-up saw the news break that Facebook had just launched a new product that competed with his own.

Source: “This Is Serious”: Facebook Begins Its Downward Spiral | Vanity Fair

Thirty years a sailor

It was thirty years ago this morning when I woke up before the crack of dawn and officially entered the United States Navy. My mom and dad drove us through the early morning DC traffic the long way from our house in Great Falls, VA to the Baltimore MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Center), then at Linthicum Heights. It was my dad’s 47th birthday. Coffee hadn’t kicked in so there wasn’t much conversation, I recall.

About the time the sun was rising we arrived, I said goodbye to my parents, and got my first taste of the “hurry up and wait” that the military is famous for. I would be poked and prodded for my medical examination, be drug screened, retake the ASVAB test, select the job I wanted in the Navy, and finally be sworn in: the point of no turning back.

It was a two-day ordeal. The government put us up in a nearby cheap hotel because our travel would begin in earnest early the next morning. I was assigned a roommate; a slight, probably gay, Navy-bound African-American kid named Bernard (pronounced BUH-nard, he took pains to remind me) who was more interested in going out for one last night of partying than sleeping. I chose to sleep (as I usually do) and boarded a plane with Bernard and others at BWI early the next morning, bound for Orlando.

Orders in hand, I stepped off the plane at the Orlando airport and was motioned over to a large group of somewhat nervous-looking young people milling around. The adventure the Navy had promised me was just beginning. It was as life-changing as I thought it would be.

Conservatives are blind to their own madness

A friend posted this account recently on their social media page:

A friend was standing in line at returns at Home Depot yesterday when the white man in front of him told another man, who was hispanic, he was going to call Trump to come get him. I was horrified and would not be able to keep my mouth shut if I had been confronted by that bigoted white man. Disgust!!!!!

Immediately, one of my friend’s friends, apparently a conservative, piped up with this:

What about freedom of speech? Please explain “HOW” this man is a bigot? It was probably not a nice thing to say, but we do have freedom of speech.

When several others on the thread pointed out how bigoted Conservative Person sounds, Conservative Person wilted from the controversy, claiming loudly “you don’t know me!”
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