How Cool is This? Warp Drive May Be Possible!

USS Enterprise NCC-1701I am a HUGE Star Trek fan, as you may know. And, Star Trek has been very “prophetic” already, predicting hand-held “cell phone” like communicators, pad computers, diagnostic beds in healthcare, etc. Well, how about warp drive? Scientists now believe that warp drive may, indeed, be possible as well! Way to go, Gene Roddenberry!

Star Trek warp drive is a possibility, say scientists

“Two physicists have boldly gone where no reputable scientists should go and devised a new scheme to travel faster than the speed of light. The advance could mean that Star Trek fantasies of interstellar civilizations and voyages powered by warp drive are now no longer the exclusive domain of science fiction writers. In the long running television series created by Gene Roddenberry, the warp drive was invented by Zefram Cochrane, who began his epic project in 2053 in Bozeman, Montana. Now Dr. Gerald Cleaver, associate professor of physics at Baylor, and Richard Obousy have come up with a new twist on an existing idea to produce a warp drive that they believe can travel faster than the speed of light, without breaking the laws of physics. In their scheme, in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, a starship could “warp” space so that it shrinks ahead of the vessel and expands behind it. By pushing the departure point many light years backwards while simultaneously bringing distant stars and other destinations closer, the warp drive effectively transports the starship from place to place at faster-than-light speeds. All this extraordinary feat requires, says the new study, is for scientists to harness a mysterious and poorly understood cosmic antigravity force, called dark energy. Dark energy is thought responsible for speeding up the expansion rate of our universe as time moves on, just like it did after the Big Bang, when the universe expanded much faster than the speed of light for a very brief time. This may come as a surprise since, according to relativity theory, matter cannot move through space faster than the speed of light, which is almost 300,000,000 meters per second. But that theory applies only to unwarped ‘flat’ space. And there is no limit on the speed with which space itself can move: the spaceship can sit at rest in a small bubble of space that flows at “superluminal” – faster than light – velocities through normal space because the fabric of space and time itself (scientists refer to spacetime) is stretching. In the scheme outlined by Dr. Cleaver dark energy would be used to create the bubble: if dark energy can be made negative in front of the ship, then that patch of space would contract in response. ‘Think of it like a surfer riding a wave,’ said Dr Cleaver. ‘The ship would be pushed by the spatial bubble and the bubble would be traveling faster than the speed of light.'”

What is amazing is that this is EXACTLY the way Star Trek described how warp speed travel was possible… a “warp bubble.” How totally weird is that!!?!?

To be fair, I have heard noted physicist and string theorist, Michio Kaku, talk about this on the Discovery Channel before this… but it was cool that is made news this week!

PodcastStation Discontinued!

As you know, when I got my new laptop, I had to switch to PodcastStation from PodProducer because I needed a system that supported a USB microphone (PodProducer doesn’t unfortunately.) Now, the makers of PodcastStation are “throwing in the towel” due to development costs. That’s a shame! Here’s the e-mail owner’s of the software received:

“Dear Friends of PodcastStation:

Sales, development and support of PodcastStation has been discontinued and PodcastStation software is no longer available.

We appreciate the loyalty of our fans and hardcore users, but the simple fact is that the cost of maintaining the product far exceeded its ability to generate income.

For our registered users, we will be posting technical support FAQs on our PodcastStation site soon, including instructions for re-registration.

You’ll want to take down your links to PCS at the soonest opportunity.

We appreciate your support over the past two years with PodcastStation and helping us to get into the hands of those who really enjoy using it.

If you wish to contact us directly please send inquiries to info@audionlabs.com.

Best regards,

Kimberly Brown
Audion Laboratories, Inc.
206-842-5202 x 203”

It is awesome software, and they are an excellent company… it is a shame to see a product “die” like this. But, I understand that sometimes you have to make hard business decisions.

Netflix Experiencing Problems

DVD shipments were curtailed at it’s distribution plants due to a computer problem… but they are working on it! I heard on NPR this morning that Netflix will return some of the monthly fee for this month back to customers due to this problem as a credit.

Netflix admits it’s experiencing shipping delays

“Netflix is currently experiencing “significant shipping issues” that are preventing the popular movie rental service from delivering discs. Affected customers have been notified by e-mail. The initial shipping delay was reported on Tuesday and reported in the company’s blog to have been mostly resolved on Wednesday.”

This has apparently NOT effected their “on-demand” streaming service, however.

Geek Software of the Week: fwbuilder

fwbuilderConfiguring a firewall in Linux with iptables can be daunting for a new user… that’s where the graphical application “fwbuilder” comes in! This app will step you through defining your firewall, with helpful comments along the way!

Set up your firewall with Firewall Builder

“Firewall Builder (fwbuilder) is a graphical application that can help you to configure IP traffic filtering. It can compile the filtering policy you define into many specifications, including iptables and various languages used by Cisco and Linksys routers. Separating the actual policy you define and the implementation in this way should let you change what hardware is running your firewall without having to redefine your policy for that platform. Packages for fwbuilder are available in the Ubuntu Hardy and Fedora 9 repositories. fwbuilder is packaged as a 1-Click install for openSUSE 10.3, but not for version 11 as yet.”

“Patch Tuesday” Update – More Patches and Fixes

This last “Patch Tuesday” brought some important fixes for Microsoft users. Especially Word and Vista IPsec users, take note!

Eleven major soft spots addressed by latest Patch Tuesday

“The full effect of yesterday’s round of patches from Microsoft is just now being felt. This time, it’s not the worldwide DNS flaw that’s the big issue, but the typical stuff that afflicts Microsoft products, including and especially Office. One of the ‘critical’ vulnerabilities addressed yesterday affects older versions of Microsoft Word, and was acknowledged by the company last month. It involves intentionally malformed documents that, when parsed by Word, cause it to crash but also leave memory corrupted. Within that corrupt memory can lurk remnant code that could then be executed to give a remote, malicious user unauthorized privileges. You’d think that perhaps an Office 2003 Service Pack would be the answer to this problem, as systems with that service pack loaded were reportedly unaffected, as were systems with Office 2007 with or without SP1. But this week, Microsoft did elect to address the issue with a separate fix. Another of the 11 issues addressed with this round includes a bizarre problem, rated just ‘important’ rather than ‘critical,’ having to do with IPsec: In Windows Vista, IPsec is a component that enables a fully encrypted connection, but with other systems that can host it (for instance, Windows Server 2008). It enables businesses to avoid having to deploy sophisticated, and often entangled, VPNs to secure their connections and open up file system access to privileged users. In Vista, IPsec is closely tied with the group policy system, which is also part of its Advanced Firewall. These group policy objects determine how and whether certain security features are employed; and in the case of this particular security hole, the policy system can be fooled, and network traffic that’s supposed to be encrypted, won’t be. This fix affects both Vista and WS2K8, both 32- and 64-bit versions. In a clear indication that no Windows component is, by design, safe if it can communicate with other systems, it was discovered that an old-style heap-based buffer overflow could be triggered by, of all things, the Internal Color Management (ICM) system. This is the part of Windows that manages color profiles for displays and printers, translating hues from image files into true representations for the screen, and in turn into equally true representations in print.”

Licensing Bug Hits VMware Users Hard!

Ouch! It seems that a licensing bug that causes a cluster to lose its VMware ESX license after August 12th hit VMware customers… VMware has released a patch.

Licensing bug brings down VMware ESX data clusters

“Could everyone’s VMware licenses really have expired on August 12? That’s the question hundreds of major data centers found themselves asking, right after midnight when they realized they weren’t rebooting or resuming. In what appears to be a fault with its license validation, virtualized data clusters worldwide running on VMware’s ESX hypervisor found themselves unable to boot yesterday. Admins received messages saying their licenses had expired, whether or not they actually had. ‘http://msg.License.product.expired This product has expired,’ reads a cut-and-paste from a message posted to VMware’s support forum. ‘Be sure that your host machine’s date and time are set correctly.’ The problem appears limited to the VMware ESX 3.5 and ESXi 3.5 Update 2 hypervisors, and that includes clusters where VMotion is installed. VMotion is a dynamic tool that performs automatic maintenance on virtual servers — which should presumably include license updates — and which moves the physical location of virtual servers to better performing systems when necessary. Not only could virtual machines not be restarted after midnight on August 12, but once suspended, they couldn’t be resumed. And though VMotion was relied upon to provide the solution in some cases, it didn’t. Late yesterday, the company released express patches for both hypervisors. And no less than VMware’s President, Paul Maritz, publicly acknowledged the bug in a blog post last night.”

“The Kick-a-Nerd Edition” of Dr. Bill Podcast #148

Dr. Bill Podcast – 148 – (08/09/08)
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This year’s ConvergeSouth Bloggers and New Media Conference, USB 3.0 and the new FireWire standard from the IEEE, Firefox 3.1 may directly support OGG, Geek Software of the Week: On-Line MD5 Hash Calculator, and my 20th Wedding Anniversary!

Geek Software of the Week: On-Line MD5 Hash Calculator

This week’s GSoTW is a bit esoteric! If you NEED an MD5 Hash calculator, you will say, “Whoa! Cool!” If not, you will say, “Huh?” So it goes!

On-Line MD5 Hash Calculator

“In Cryptography, MD5 (Message-Digest algorithm 5) is a widely-used cryptographic hash function with a 128-bit hash value. As an Internet standard (RFC 1321), MD5 has been employed in a wide variety of security applications, and is also commonly used to check the integrity of files. MD5 was designed by Ronald Rivest in 1991 to replace an earlier hash function, MD4. In 1996, a flaw was found with the design; while it was not a clearly fatal weakness, cryptographers began to recommend using other algorithms, such as SHA-1 (recent claims suggest that SHA-1 was broken, however). In 2004, more serious flaws were discovered making further use of the algorithm for security purposes questionable. It is now known how to, with a few hours’ work, generate an MD5 collision. That is, to generate two byte strings with the same hash. Since there are a finite number of MD5 outputs (2128), but an infinite number of possible inputs, it has long been known that such collisions must exist, but it had been previously believed to be impractically difficult to find one. The result is that the MD5 hash of some information no longer uniquely identifies it. If I present you with information such as a public key, its MD5 hash might not uniquely identify it; I may have a second public key with the same MD5 hash. However, the present attacks require the ability to choose both messages of the collision. They do not make it easy to perform a pre-image attack, finding a message with a specified MD5 hash, or a second pre-image attack, finding a message with the same MD5 hash as a given message. Thus, old MD5 hashes, made before these attacks were known, are safe for now. In particular, old digital signatures can still be considered reliable. A user might not wish to generate or trust any new signatures using MD5 if there is any possibility that a small change to the text (the collisions being constructed involve flipping a few bits in a 128-byte section of hash input) would constitute a meaningful change. This assurance is based on the current state of cryptanalysis. The situation may change suddenly, but finding a collision with some pre-existing data is a much more difficult problem, and there should be time for an orderly transition.”

Firefox 3.1 May Have Built-In Support for Ogg

Even though it may tick off the W3C, Mozilla is experimenting with direct Ogg audio and video support as the default for the new HTML 5.0 Audio and Video tags.

Firefox 3.1 will try native Ogg video and audio, despite W3C

“Should a Web browser be capable of decoding audio and video for itself? Mozilla is seriously experimenting with the notion, despite a turn of events in the open source community that may mean its experiment won’t be a standard. For years, one of the most significant debates in the field of Web browser development concerns the issue of openness versus choice. Specifically, should a Web browser support an open standard for embedding audio and video elements by default, or should it continue to enable Web site developers to include the formats of their choice, thus compelling users to download the appropriate, corresponding plug-ins? The debate turned a corner last December, when the World-Wide Web Consortium apparently backed down from its plan to enable default codecs for its planned

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