Links August 2010

Urban Honking has an insightful article about the Arduino and suggests that it is one of the most important factors for the development of the computer industry in the near future [1]. It compares the Arduino to the Altair.

Wired has an interesting article about a company that provides a satellite kit and a launch into low Earth orbit for $8000 [2]. Arduino in space?

Linux Journal has an interesting article by David Rowe about the “Mesh Potato” which is a Wifi mesh router that also runs VOIP [3]. One particularly interesting aspect of this article is the explanation of the way they designed and tested it.

Susan Shaw gave an informative TED talk about the toxic effects of the attempts to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico [4]. It seems that trying to disperse the oil just makes it worse, and the chemical companies are refusing to disclose the chemicals that are being used.

The New York Times has an interesting article by David Leonhardt about the value of pre-school teachers [5]. Some research on the difference that good teachers can make in economic terms suggests that the make an economic difference to the children to the value of $320,000 per annum (IE a class of 16 children who were taught for a year would on average each receive a benefit of $20,000 over their lifetime). Also there are social benefits which aren’t counted by that study. While I can’t imagine pre-school teachers getting paid $320,000 any time soon, it does seem obvious that good teachers deserve significantly better pay. Of course one problem is how to determine which teachers are good, better test results are not a reliable indication.

Paul Krugman describes America as being “on the unlit, unpaved road to nowhere” due to the policies of saving money by cutting funding for schools, street-lights, and roads [6].

The Chive has an amusing post about how to quit a bad job [7]. It would be good if someone really did this, I’m sure that there are enough creative people who don’t like their job.

Hell Pizza in New Zealand published a zombie themed choose your own adventure on Youtube [8]. Unfortunately the options to choose the next segment don’t work on HTML5 with Chromium so if you don’t have flash you miss out. has an informative essay about airline security written by a commercial pilot [9]. The anecdote about the pilot not being allowed to take the type of knife that is issued to first and business class passengers is rather amusing. has an interesting analysis of Wikileaks and why the Pentagon and Fox News hate it [10]. Fred is a very skillful writer, while he’s not the first person to say some of these things he may have said it best.

The Wikipedia page on Borosilicate glass (which is best known under the trademark Pyrex) is really interesting [11]. Borsilicate glass was formerly known as “Duran” and it’s main characteristic that makes it suitable for lab use is resistance to Thermal Shock, but it’s also harder and has a higher melting point. Apparently you can get Pyrex drinking glasses, I want some!

Eben Moglen gave an interesting talk “Freedom in the Cloud” about the development of free servers to manage personal data and replace Facebook etc (among many other things) [12]. The Debian Wiki has an articla about designing such a system [13].

The APNIC published an interesting paper on IPv4 background radiation [14]. Apparently some /24’s receive so much random traffic (from broken applications and viruses) that they can’t be delegated. IPv6 will solve this problem by making it infeasible to scan all IP addresses. Also it’s interesting to note the excessive amounts of traffic to which is from applications too broken to correctly send data to which have been installed by sysadmins who are too incompetent to watch what is being sent out of their network.

4 comments to Links August 2010

  • Nathan Myers

    Sorry, the “Pyrex” trademark has been sold to a Chinese company, and nowadays means “soda glass”, which is much less resistant to thermal shock. To get real borosilicate glass, you have to buy it by that name. Anything labeled Pyrex isn’t, any more, unless it’s good and old.

    Soda glass will accumulate microscopic cracks with use, which may fill with moisture and explode in the oven.

  • Brendan

    Learnt something from Nathan re soda glass.
    Plus, the downside of pyrex is that when it breaks its shards are extremely sharp.

  • etbe

    Nathan: Now I hate China even more!

    Brendan: Do you have a reference for that? Glass knives are used for preparing samples for electron microscope scanning because they are so sharp. I wasn’t able to find any reference for borosilicate glass being any sharper when broken.

    Also there are some references to obsidian scalpels being used in modern surgery because they are sharper than steel ones.

  • According to Wikipedia’s “Pyrex” article, “Pyrex products for the European Union continue to be made of borosilicate glass in France.” (And if you’re in the USA and you want original American Coca-Cola without HFCS, you have to get the version bottled in Mexico. What’s next, to get original cotton Levi’s jeans you have to order them from Uzbekistan?)