Monday, April 24, 2006

Big Brother

It's not too late to start encrypting comms:
"According to Deep Packet ATT maintains numerous facilities that host very expensive Juniper routers for this project. As far as he knows there is no direct contract with the NSA. In other words ATT is paying for all of this. He feels that the reward is favorable treatment when ATT is bidding on less clandestine government contracts.

According to Deep Packet these Juniper routers have specially designed cards in them to shunt ALL OF THE TRAFFIC from ATT peering points to NSA analysis centers around the country. Peering traffic means not just traffic that begins and ends on ATT’s network but any traffic from networks that ATT has peering arrangements with. A quick look here indicates that is just about… everything."

Lifehouse - Blind

Major props to Angie for pointing me to this song. Lovely.

Breaking Kryptos

Mountains are not climbed nor marathons run merely to reach a geographical location—there are much easier ways to accomplish these feats—but as personal and spiritual challenges to the participants.

When confronted with a puzzle or problem, we sometimes can lose sight of the fact that we have issued a challenge to ourselves, not to our tools.
In the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, stands a sculpture that contains encrypted messages. It is called Kryptos, which means "hidden" in Greek. Up till now, only 3 out of 4 parts have been decoded. The quote above is derived from David Stein, the CIA analyst who was the first to partially decrypt the ciphertext.

Read about how he managed to accomplish this feat, where he explains his methods.

There's also a great website dedicated to Kryptos.

The twist in the tale is that the artist responsible for the sculpture has remained silent, and broke the silence recently only to correct a "typo" in one part of the solution!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Back in October I wrote about the acrimony between iTMS and the music labels. Guess the latter are ready to wave the white flag, as predicted.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Cars stolen in Johor

Singapore Kopi Tok makes a case that Singapore cars are 10 times more likely to be stolen in JB. "In 2005, of the 1,394 cars reported stolen, 52 (3.7 per cent) were Singapore-registered cars."

According to the Singapore Police Force, there were 1058 cases of motor vehicle thefts in 2005; "more than two-thirds were motorcycles (756 cases), while cars and lorries made up 103 cases and 78 cases of the vehicles stolen respectively."

So let's see here. 52 in Johor vs 103 in Singapore. Almost exactly half. Does that mean that Singapore-registered cars are half as likely to be stolen in Johor as compared to Singapore? Obviously not! It is pertinent to take into consideration the population of the cars. Since half of Singapore cars are not in Johor all the time, it would suffice to state that the risk of getting your Singapore-registered car stolen is much higher than in having it stolen in Singapore. Counterpoint: has anyone ever heard of a Johor-registered car being stolen in Singapore?

HDTV Facts and Fiction

What is better, 720p or 1080i? This has been a topic of discussion for a long time. If only taking into account the technical aspects, the answer is simple. 720p is better than 1080i.

Sounds counter-intuitive doesn't it? Read on to get the full scoop on HDTV standards.

Via Teamxbox

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Trackday tips #2

  • Pit entry is near T15.
  • Pit lane is one-way only. Do not drive against traffic flow.
  • Speed limit in pit lane is 30 km/h.
  • No umbrellas allowed beside the front straight (trackside).
  • Children are not allowed trackside.
  • No smoking at any time in paddock or pit area.
  • Do not breach the white line coming out of the pit exit.
  • Yellow: caution. No overtaking. Slow down.
  • Red: no overtaking. Slow down and return to pit.
  • Blue: you are obstructing faster traffic. Move over.
  • Black: congratulations... pit in immediately and report to course steward.
General track safety
  • Helmets must be worn for both driver and passenger
  • No rear seat passengers at any time
  • Remove all unsecured items from the cabin e.g. loose change, canned drinks before heading out onto track
  • Be predictable and observant at all times!
  • To allow an oncoming vehicle to overtake, keep to the right if possible and just lift off the throttle.
  • If possible overtake only in the straights.
  • Vehicle with half car-length ahead has the right to the corner. Do not T-bone the car ahead when it turns into the apex. When in doubt, just stay behind.
  • Do not attempt to fight the car when going into runoff. Keep the steering straight and keep the brakes on.
  • Stay in the vehicle if the vehicle has gone off the track.
  • Do not stop to assist any vehicle that has stopped on the track. Return to pit to inform the marshalls.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Trackday tips

Here are some tips that I would like to share for improving one's driving. Some of them have been passed on to me by more experienced folks, others I found through observation or experience, so I cannot claim full credit for everything here. Hope they are of some use to the reader as well.

The driver's job is no more complex than that of traction management. The ultimate driver is one who can commandeer the vehicle at its traction limits, and be skillful enough to bring it back under control should it go beyond.

In order to achieve this goal, we must start with a plan:

1) Find the correct driving line. Wet weather can significantly change the optimal lines.
2) Find optimal acceleration point. This will be dependent on vehicle drivetrain layout, course layout, tire compound/condition, weather, so on and so forth.
3) Find optimal braking point. Start conservative, and work slowly, closer to the limit. Always leave room for errors in judgment. You are driving for enjoyment, not to seek an end to your life (or others').

While pursuing this plan, keep the vehicle in control at all times. This is where risk management comes in. Contrary to popular belief, it is very rare to completely lose control of the vehicle suddenly, except under uncommon circumstances e.g. oil spill, someone crashing right in front with no chance of avoiding etc. To minimize the risk of losing control there are some things one can do, namely: planning ahead (anticipation), knowing what to do and being decisive in a timely fashion about it, and finally, practice.

Equipment checklist:

1) Tire pressure gauge. Tires are the only contact surface with the road and thus are one of the most, if not the most, important part of the car. Use a suitable pressure range to match your skill level and preference.

2) Video recording and/or datalogging equipment. Sometimes it's not possible to see any mistakes until after the trackday. Being able to review past performances and making conscious efforts to not repeat mistakes is a basic step in improving any process.

3) Transponder or other timing equipment. How do you know your performance without a time sheet? In the worst case timecode information from videos is better than nothing.

Driving checklist:

1) If at all possible, get a reasonably experienced person to ride shotgun with you. Frequently the driver is actively driving and may miss some things which would be apparent to the passenger.

2) When going for "hot laps", concentrate on driving the lines instead of the vehicle ahead of you. Otherwise, you will subconsciously mirror his mistakes. This invaluable tip was offered by Shaun and it has helped me countless times.

3) Get on the throttle as early as possible, for as long as possible.

4) Get on the brake as late as possible without unsettling the balance of the car. Be firm on the pedal, but do not lock up the brakes. Be smooth. Always.

5) The fast corners have the highest priority, the slow corners, lowest.

6) Corner entry speed and cornering speed are highly overrated. A lot of drivers have tried to prove their mettle by turning in too early, only to allow another car to overtake them on the corner exit because the car was too unbalanced or too far off the line to get on the throttle early enough. On slow corners, this is not an issue. On fast sweepers like T5 and T6 on Sepang, this could quickly develop into a dangerous situation.

7) Speaking of the fast sweepers, Scott Speed was quoted to say that T5 and T6 are taken flat out. Always understand the context of the quote. Scott happens to drive a Formula 1 car. It is highly improbable that a mildly modified, full weight production street car can take those sweepers with increasing speed.

MB Inaugural Trackday

Friday was MB's inaugural trackday, marking the first of many events that will allow its customers to use Sepang as a safe environment to drive their cars to the max. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the event and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Besides the usual bunch of Evos, there was an R34 GTT Skyline, a Golf GTI, a Subaru WRX, a DC5 Type-R face-lifted Integra, and Eve's own DC5.

Even though I didn't drive my own car up, I had the opportunity to drive or hitch taxi-rides in others', including a pretty fast Evo 9 RS. Also sat in the DC5 Type-R and got a much better appreciation of what this car can do. Pleasantly surprised that it could exit T15 at around 90 kmh-1, although there's still a lack of raw power. Nicely balanced and drama-free.

Most interesting ride of the day was a relatively stock Evo 8 MR. It was really entertaining, requiring 100% concentration, and made me work the hardest. The rear was eager to step out under moderate braking, and power oversteer was a mere flex of the ankle away. Don't recall my car being anywhere near this twitchy. With so much feedback, this car should absolutely fly when driven at the limit. Awesome.

Overall everything went well and was incident-free. Definitely ranks as one of the best trackdays ever.