on 18 January 2013
I wasn't able to quickly find the answer to this question, so I thought I'd just figure out the answer and post it here for anyone else who is ever curious.

Question: How much bandwidth is consumed if a 56kbps connection is left open (and used to maximum capacity) for a month.
Answer: 17.3 MB

The easiest way to do the arithmetic is by making the numbers as small as possible right off the bat. Since 8 bits make a byte, a dial-up modem is able to push 7 bytes a second. And since there are 86,400 seconds in a day, we have a maximum of 604,800 bytes in a day, or 0.576782 MB. Multiply that by 30 and we find that the maximum capacity of a dial-up connection is 17.3 MB per month. Wow. That's nothing.

The reason I was thinking about this is because I just received a new Huawei cellphone for $15. It's a backup phone in case I ever lose my main one. For that price, you just can't go wrong. I'm surprised at how cheap and relatively full-featured it is, for a basic phone (though it does feel a bit like a toy). Since I don't make many calls at all, I was wondering what else could be done with something like this. Well, how about an always-on dial-up connection for a stop-motion camera?

But based on the math above, this wouldn't make much sense. The cheapest unlimited voice-only plans I've come across are $20 a month, which equates to over $20 per MB in this case. That's higher than roaming data rates in Russia. Nuts to that. I'll stick with a 4G connection, especially since there are at least a couple of new providers offering free data of up to 500 MB per month.
on 13 January 2013
You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.
-Winston Churchill-

I'm not sure if the attribution is correct (it may be--I just haven't checked). Regardless of whose words these are, the point is sound. Change is friction and friction is pain. Those who move cheese and rock boats are bound to piss at least a few people off--it just comes with the territory. But so what? Why is it so important to a nice person? I'd rather be an effective asshole than a pleasant bystander.
on 06 January 2013
I sometimes felt angry about how we were treated until one day I realized that they made a great parental sacrifice, exchanging their own popularity for our potential.
--edw519 on Hacker News
on 05 January 2013
I'm not sure how I came across the topic, but I'm a new fan of high altitude balloons. Actually, I do know why I'm interested in them, but I'll save that for a later post. High altitude balloons are generally used for measuring the weather, but there are also amateur radio enthusiasts (HAM radio operators and the sort) interested in this type of aircraft. Anyone curious about this subject should check out Amateur Radio High Altitude Ballooning

The amazing thing about these specialized balloons is that they can reach altitudes upwards of 10 miles--and they usually stay airborne for about 90 minutes. I would have thought they stay up for a longer period of time, but the balloons expand and pop at altitude. There are, however, some balloons that have much longer durations--I think they're referred to as long-duration high altitude balloons. I haven't read much about these high pressure balloons yet, but I seem to recall that they can stay aloft for days. If the normal weather balloons can travel a distance of 150 miles in just 90 minutes, then I wonder what kind of distance a balloon can cover over a few days worth of drifting? And this train of though led me to the question I've been researching for the last hour: 

What happens when a balloon crosses international borders into the airspace of another country?

I assumed that the answer would have something to do with the altitudes associated with sovereign airspace, but based on this paper published by the Space and Telecommunications Law Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, there is no universally agreed upon altitude limit for sovereign airspace (though 100km is starting to look like the going rate). But even if the figure is much lower and high altitude balloons are technically sailing in unregulated/unowned airspace, they still come back to Earth at some point. So the next question is: 

What if I launch a balloon that ends up landing in China? Is there some kind of international treaty that covers this scenario, as is the case with FAA regulations and domestic weather balloons? Or is this something that long-duration ballooners need to be constantly aware of?