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The Actuator – June 5th

Level 17

This week's Actuator comes to you from June, where the weather has turned for the better after what seems like an endless amount of rain. We were able to work in the yard and it reminded me that one of the best ways to reduce stress is some physical exercise. So wherever you are, get moving, even if it is a walk around the block.

As always, here are some links from the Intertubz that I hope will hold your interest. Enjoy!

The Vehicle of the Future Has Two Wheels, Handlebars, and Is a Bike

Regular readers of the Actuator know I have a fondness for autonomous vehicles. This article made me rethink that our future may best be served with bicycles, at least in more urban areas.

SpaceX Starlink satellites dazzle but pose big questions for astronomers

Is there any group of people Elon Musk hasn’t upset at this point?

How much does it cost to get an employee to steal workplace data? About $300

And for the low price of $1,200, you can get them to steal all the data. This is why security is hard: because humans are involved.

Real estate title insurance company exposed 885,000,000 customers' records, going back 16 years: ban...

Setting aside the nature of the data, much of which I believe is public record, I want you to understand how the breach happened: because of lousy code. Until we hold individuals, not just companies, responsible for avoiding common security practices, we will continue to suffer data breaches.

Bad metadata means billions in unpaid royalties from streaming music services

Each paragraph I read made me a little sadder than the one before.

Artificial Intelligence Isn’t Just About Cutting Costs. It’s Also About Growth.

Let the machines do the tasks for which they are able, freeing up humans to do tasks for which they are able. Yes, automation and AI is about growth, and about efficiency (i.e., cutting costs).

What 10,000 Steps Will Really Get You

I never knew why Fitbit chose 10,000 steps as a default goal, but this may explain why. I’m a huge advocate for finding ways to get extra steps into your day. I hope this article gets you thinking about how to get more steps for yourself each day.

Pictured here is six yards of gravel. Not pictured is another 12 yards of topsoil. All moved by hand. I need a nap.


Level 12

The more I see people waiting five minutes for a parking spot that avoids 45 seconds of additional walking, or people bunching up around an escalator entrance while ignoring stairs next to the escalator, the less confident I am that bicycles will become as heavily used as the author of that article thinks.

And $300 to steal data? That's a lot more than I thought it would cost. No amount of intrusion prevention security is going to prevent those with access from misusing data. And such a low number for all data, $1,200, is less than  1.5 weeks' median personal income for American workers. (The Census bureau said the median personal income was $865 per week in 2017). This suggests that people are either incredibly stupid, willing to risk their job over a pittiance, or they are not doing it for the money.

Driving a one wheeled truck (wheelbarrow) and using a manual drag line (shovel) makes everyone sleepy.

I ride a bicycle to work as often as I can. 

Using a sequential numbering system for web data systems has always been dumb.

Steps an stairs are all good!


Level 14

Thanks for the articles!  

Level 12

good articles, lots to think about this week. Mostly how much work my yard needs!

Level 13

As always, thanks for a bunch of interesting links.  I knew that the music industry is not particularly artist friendly, but I had no idea it was as bad as it is.  Truly depressing state of affairs made much worse by technology rather than better. 

Level 20

Hard labor isn't the same as riding on airplanes, sleeping in hotels, and eating in fancy restaurants.

Level 20

Seems the Japanese and Chinese figured out the bikes in urban areas things quite a long time ago...

Level 20

You're right about the mini satellites Thomas.

Level 20

Humans are the weak link in security period.

Level 20

I just bought a second house and title companies are kinda sketchy.

Level 12

I live in Wisconsin, if we get any more rain, we are going to become a new Great Lake. I haven't been able to mow my lawn yet because if it step into it, I will sink into it. Though the standing water is finally gone, so I might be able to by this weekend.

Level 12

The bike thing would be great, but having grown up in North East Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, I can assure you they are very limited in usefulness. The distance between cities with any decent amount of population around here can easily be over 100 miles one way. The United States is unfortunately far to large to support any type of system like that on a grand scale. A lot of the traffic inside cities come from outside of those cities. Most cities don't have bike paths or lanes, or even the infrastructure in place to park and secure a bike. I have 2 bikes and a motorcycle parked in my garage. I still use the car 90% of the time in the summer season, which is about 3 weeks here lol. And that brings up another point, weather. Riding a bike in the cold snowy winters of the Midwest, while it can be done, would be pretty insane.

I agree with the idea that bikes make a better solution in certain areas.  Not so much for me, living 18 miles from work, and a 700' change in elevation the last half mile.  I know a guy who used to make that commute on bicycle.  He was in exemplary physical condition, and I envied his lack of body fat.  Not enough to emulate him, but I DID envy him for all the exercise he put in.

"Round is a shape."

It's possible Elon Musk hasn't caused unhappiness for folks who love science fiction, and for those who design and build rockets and satellites.  Although if the Internet is to be believed, one would expect even his most ardent fans to not like at least some of his actions.  If his plans and hopes and dreams are beneficial to us, I'm for them.

$300 is the going rate?  Wow.  You couldn't pay me enough to destroy my reputation.

Shakespeare had it right:


I, too, read that story about the Title Insurance Company that exposed confidential information of many.

Prevent it:

  • Teach people how to write secure codes and build secure web sites
  • Require they do so
  • Follow up on their work frequently and randomly and regularly, checking to ensure their pages and code remain in compliance
  • Cause immediate remediation when poor practices are discovered.
  • Correct the problem--through training, certification, or firing them.  Other options don't exist, do they?  Outside of prosecuting them, fining them, requiring they serve time in prison, etc.  There can be no exceptions for following secure practices.
  • Stop doing business with companies who don't follow these ideas.

Cool article

The whole issue of people stealing the work of others, through easy methods like copy and paste, drag & drop, etc. is sad.

I've spoken with Millenials who do not believe this is theft--because it's simple and easy to do, and because there's no immediate arrest and fine or penalty for doing it, and because it's so wide-spread.

I'm a musician and I feel those who write and perform music deserve payment for their efforts each time the work is heard.  Similarly, I know multiple authors and artists, web page designers and software writers, all of whom have had their intellectual property stolen; they've received no compensation from those who enjoy using their creations without payment or permission.

It can't be easy to steal.  There can't be slow or no enforcement.  There must not be any cases where punishment (fines and jail time) does not happen for this crime.

I like the story about AI and automation.  As long as there are new jobs and new training created for people who are negatively impacted by the automation, we advance the race.  If there are not new and equally-paying opportunities for those who lose employment and payment when automation obsoletes their work, we do poorly.

I've enjoyed the web comic partly because some of its stories deal with AI and robots and obsoleting human works with automation.  I think much of it is spot on, despite its similarity to the 90's sitcom Friends.  It's not all appropriate for a work environment or for children or sensitive people, so surf it at your risk.

I asked my wife about her degree of satisfaction with her Fitbit.  She finds it guilts her into motivation for more steps.  She's very goal-oriented, while I'm happy to achieve the goal and be finished with the project.  It only means I must redefine my goal.

I live just NW of Superior, Wisconsin.  Tuesday evening at 4:30 p.m. my rain gauge was bone-dry.  By 5:15 p.m. it had 2.1" of new rain in it.  That was a juicy one!  Plenty of lightning, some stronger winds (that caused no damage of which I am aware).  Lake Superior is at an all-time high water level at the moment.  Back in the 90's it was at an all-time low water level.

Apparently all things are cyclic in Nature.  Ha!

All that dirt you're moving is a great reason for a toy that can handle it.  Buy/borrow/rent the right backhoe, excavator, tractor, or ATV-with-plow.  I've gotten to the age where I have less time & muscle than I have funds with which to pay someone else to help me get certain jobs done.  This looks like one!

Level 14

So close with the future has two wheels.  Then you left out the engine.  Motorcycles are so much better.  Faster than bicycles, much more fuel efficient than cars, take up much less space than cars, do less damage to road surfaces than cars and the emissions from my sports bike are significantly less harmful than all that excess CO2 being pumped out by cyclists.  Don't even get me started on all that unsightly lycra 

Level 14

Space might be very very big but the little bit around our planet is getting pretty congested.  It will soon get to the point that, IF we have to leave, we won't be able to.   

Level 14

There's a great way to stop people stealing corporate data.  Pay them a decent wage and treat them well.  It really isn't rocket science.

Level 14

As far as I can see, most companies will refuse to take data security seriously until forced.  Hopefully GDPR will help.  I'm not holding my breath though.

Level 14

Who would have thought it.  The music industry can't be trusted. 

Level 14

Of course AI isn't just about cutting costs.  Yes it is but it is also about dealing with all the menial, easy to automate stuff so the real people can get on with the more difficult stuff that will drive growth and get more stuff done.  I lose about 2 hours a day with trivial stuff.  It is slowly being automated which in turn allows me to focus on the difficult but more enjoyable stuff.  The stuff that leaves me with a good feeling at the end of the day and, if I feel good, I'm more productive.

Level 14

What will 10,000 steps get me.  Further away and in need of new shoes.

What I really need is for someone to "Gimme three steps".

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Gimme Three Steps (Live) - YouTube


Pictured here is six yards of gravel. Not pictured is another 12 yards of topsoil. All moved by hand. I need a nap. -


The Vehicle of the Future Has Two Wheels, Handlebars, and Is a Bike - Hoo hoo

Level 15

Thanks for the interesting bunch of links. 

Level 12

I appreciate the 10,000 steps article. With having a desk job it is good to know that I don't have to kill myself for 10,000 steps but 4000-7000 steps will have a positive affect. Well, maybe 4000 steps or moving a 6 yards of gravel.

Level 13

Thanks for the Articles

About the Author
Thomas LaRock is a Head Geek at SolarWinds and a Microsoft® Certified Master, SQL Server® MVP, VMware® vExpert, and a Microsoft Certified Trainer. He has over 20 years experience in the IT industry in roles including programmer, developer, analyst, and database administrator.