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Industrial Equipment Noise

Tech Wake-Up: Bunch o’ Cool Stuff Edition

By Mark Devlin

May 21, 2012

What Better Way to Start the Week than with…Tesla!

Nikola Tesla, that is—not that infuriatingly-named EV maker.


Thanks to one of the funniest and most cleverly-considered and -written sites on The Entire Internet, we now have verifiable proof of Nikola Tesla’s greatness.

Whether you’re an engineer, technologist, someone who’s wildly appreciative of alternating current, interested in revisionist history, or just a person who wants to know a little bit about who that Tesla guy was—and how he was considerably more important to contemporary life than even the late Steve Jobs—you’ve gotta check out what The Oatmeal did by clicking the above image. Wonderful stuff.

WARNING: Some of the above-linked material is NSFW. (No, there’s no porn. Not even close. There is, however, some colorful and opinionated—though accurate, to me anyway—language.

For more about Tesla and, more specifically, his ‘tension’ with Edison, check out a new ‘graphic novel’ called The Story of Tesla. The first chapter is free here. (For some very basic info, they’ll email a link to the first chapter’s PDF.) As fact-based comic books go, it’s not bad at a glance. Brilliant in some ways, ‘meh’ in others, but certainly a unique approach to telling the compelling story of a world-changing inventor—especially to pique the interest of a presumably young audience. However, you be the judge.)

“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine.” –Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)

Protectionism or Global Market?

Before we get too far away from electricity… last Thursday, the U.S. Commerce Department, according to this Bloomberg article (via Slashdot)…

…ruled that Chinese manufacturers sold cells in the U.S. at prices below the cost of production and announced preliminary antidumping duties ranging from 31 percent to 250 percent, depending on the manufacturer. China criticized the action, saying the U.S. is hurting itself and cooperation between the world’s two largest economies.

Are we helping or hurting ourselves?

Supervisory Control and Hacker Acquisition?

Over the past couple of years, I’ve really thrown a lot of security-related stuff at you, with the purpose of letting folks know that the security of industrial and manufacturing systems is not just as important as ‘consumer’ issues—but more important. I’m not sure how many people are getting it just yet, but I’ll keep trying.

Here’s another excellent article, at Government Security News, to stuff in your virtual security drawer, by Dave Kresse, CEO of Mu Dynamics, acquired just last month by Spirent.

Huge, all-encompassing, and complex SCADA systems have been around forever, even before industry recognized that PCs could actually run a lot things. They’re running everything from vast process systems to nuke plants, petrochem facilities to portions of the grid—and even water treatment.

Many have assumed that such large SCADA systems are highly proprietary and, thus, out of the realm of typical security concerns.

They’re not out of that realm.

Check out Kresse’s article kick-off…

Let’s face it—Active Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) attacks are going on right now against critical infrastructure. And the cyber security protection in place to protect it is so minimal that it is quite feasible for cyber criminals to cause chaos.

Here’s another juicy tidbit…

In short, we have a huge need to ensure that SCADA developers and the service providers who are deploying these industrial control systems focus on mitigating the risk of cyber security attacks.

Kresse goes on to present general but worthwhile guidelines involving people, processes, and tools.

I’m not sure what it’s going to take to wake-up folks in manufacturing. Maybe robots trying to weld glass to interior parts and assembly line workers to sheet metal?

It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when, not if.

Wow—What A Rack…

…in this case, the Dell Precision R5500 rack workstation.

Sure, rack-mounted stuff has, too, been around in industrial environs for decades, but not—to my post-mainframe knowledge, anyway—as a multi-engineer workstation solution. Dell calls it ‘true workstation performance, minus the workstation.’

IT people will love this. The R5500 can be used to support multiple engineers with only a single PC. It took someone 20+ years to think of this and build it? Thank you, Dell.


Here’re some specs to get you all warm and fuzzy first thing Monday morning over coffee:

—Up to six processor cores

—Dual graphics cards or dual GPGPU cards and up to 450W of available graphics power

—Support for four—count ‘em, four—NVIDIA Quadro 200 graphics cards

—Support for five full-length, full-height PCIe x16 cards

—Up to 196 GB of system memory

—Up to five SATA drives and six SAS drives

—Dual redundant power supplies

All running Win 7 Pro, of course.


Dude! You might be getting’ a Dell! With options, of course.

No, Dell doesn't advertise with IEN. It’s just impressive (and heartening) that a major computer company is—again—focusing on something that engineers can use.

Hat tip to Engadget for this one.

Those Whacky ‘n’ Wonderful Engineers, Part 1

According to this article at PopSci, an engineer who calls himself Dan—not to be confused with the Man Who Called Himself Dan in the Beatles’ story of Rocky Raccoon…


“We have the technological reach to build the first generation of the spaceship known as the USS Enterprise – so let’s do it,” BTE Dan writes. He even sifts through the federal budget and proposes tax hikes and spending cuts to cover the $1 trillion cost.

Methinks BTE Dan’s had a bit too much Romulan Ale but, apparently, he’s not the only engineer who wants to shoot for the moon with an enormous Enterprise…


Dan (BTE Dan, that is) even has his own website with considerable description, stats, and a lot of seemingly realistic figures.

According to PopSci…

DARPA's 100-Year Starship project is designed partly to foster ideas just like this one, from a project planning roadmap to a real ship.

I’m all for NASA and a re-energized space program, but The Enterprise?

Umm okay, Dan.


Those Whacky ‘n’ Wonderful Engineers, Part 2

This one’s been all over the Interwebs, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t cover it here for the edification of IEN readers.

For the life of me, I can’t begin to understand why someone would have magnets surgically implanted in their fingertips. Yes, a 24-year-old electrical engineer (‘and grad student’) actually did it, according to this article, also at PopSci. (Was there a healthcare policy involved? How’d that phone call go?)

The PopSci article’s author asked, well, what everyone would ask, of course…

Q: On a scale of 1 to sex in space, how ****ing awesome is it having magnets in your fingers?

A: I'd place it at a solid 15' Tesla coil hooked up to an electric guitar played by a bear.

Hey, I didn’t say it. You were thinking it, though.


Have a great week…

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