Airstream Travel Trailer Goes Airborne

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Back in the early 1990’s the United States Air Force (USAF) was tasked with a mission to develop an airborne mobile command center which could provide a long-range transportation and global communications capability for use by travelling VIP’s. This Distinguished Visitor (DV) program required that the USAF create a command and control module (CCM) that can quickly and easily be loaded on to a variety of different military transport aircraft – like the C-141, C-17, KC-10, KC-135 & C-130 – and be rapidly dispatched to any theatre of operations. Although a number of bespoke solutions were offered at the time, the provisional (and by far the cheapest) option was a palletized 36-foot Airstream travel trailer with an embedded communications suite. This asset package – designated as the “C2” in military parlance – came to be known as the “Silver Bullet.”

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An Airstream being loaded into a C-17

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Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in the airborne Airstream

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Inside Google’s Giant Data Centers

Inside the internet: Google allows first ever look at the eight vast data centres that power the online world

  • Data centres range from vast warehouses in Iowa to a converted paper mill in Finland
  • Buildings are so large Google even provides bicycles for engineers to get around them
  • Street View tour of North Carolina facility reveals Stormtrooper standing guard

Google has given a rare glimpse inside the vast data centres around the globe that power its services.

They reveal an intricate  maze of computers that process Internet search requests, show  YouTube video clips and distribute email for millions of people.

With hundreds of thousands of servers, colourful cables and even bicycles so engineers can get around quickly, they  range from a converted paper mill in Finland to custom made server farms in Iowa.

 

One of Google’s server farms in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which provides over 115,000 square feet of space for servers running services like Search and YouTube

‘Very few people have stepped inside Google’s  data centers, and for good reason: our first priority is the privacy and security of your data, and we go to great lengths to protect it, keeping our  sites under close guard,’ the firm said.

‘While we’ve shared many of our designs and best practices, and we’ve been publishing our efficiency data since 2008, only a small set of employees have access to the server floor itself.

‘Today, for the first time, you can see inside our data centers and pay them a virtual visit.

‘On Where the Internet lives, our new site featuring beautiful photographs by Connie Zhou, you’ll get a never-before-seen  look at the technology, the people and the places that keep Google running.’

The site features photos from inside some of the eight data centers that Google Inc. already has running in the U.S., Finland  and Belgium.

Google is also building data centers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Chile.

Virtual tours of a North Carolina data center also will be available through Google’s ‘Street View’ service, which is usually used to view photos of neighborhoods around the world.

The photographic access to Google’s data centers coincides with the publication of a Wired magazine article about how the  company builds and operates them.

The article is written by Steven Levy, a journalist who won Google’s trust while writing ‘In The Plex,’ a book published last year about the company’s philosophy and evolution.

Google colour codes its servers depending on their location, while piping in the  buildings is coded depending on what it carries – with cool water in blue tubes and warm in red

 

Google’s Douglas County data centre in Georgia is so large the firm provides Google branded bicycles for staff to get around on

The data centers represent Google’s  nerve  center, although none are located near the company’s headquarters  in Mountain View, Calif.

As Google blossomed from its roots in a Silicon Valley garage, company co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin worked  with other engineers to develop a system to connect low-cost computer servers  in a way that would help them realize their ambition to provide a digital roadmap to all of the world’s information.

Initially, Google just wanted enough  computing power to index all the websites on the Internet and deliver quick  responses to search requests. As Google’s tentacles extended into  other  markets, the company had to keep adding more computers to store videos, photos,  email and information about their users’ preferences.

 

A street view tour published by Google also reveals a hidden surprise – A Stormtrooper standing guard over a server in Google’s North Carolina server farm

The insights that Google gathers about the  more than 1 billion people that use its services has made the  company a frequent target of privacy complaints around the world.

The latest missive came Tuesday in  Europe, where regulators told Google to revise a 7-month-old change to  its privacy policy that enables the company to combine user data  collected from its different services.

Google studies Internet search requests and Web surfing habits in an effort to gain a better  understanding of what people like. The company does this in an effort to show ads of products and services to the people most likely to be  interested in buying them. Advertising accounts for virtually all of Google’s revenue, which totaled nearly $23 billion through the first  half of this year.

Even as it allows anyone with a Web browser  to peer into its data centers, Google intends to closely guard  physical access to its buildings. The company also remains cagey about how many computers are in its data centers, saying only that they house  hundreds of thousands of machines to run Google’s services.

Google’s need for so many computers has turned the company a major electricity user, although management says it’s constantly looking for ways to reduce power consumption to  protect the  environment and lower its expenses.

 

Here hundreds of fans funnel hot air from the server racks into a cooling unit to be recirculated in Oklahoma. The green lights are the server status LEDs reflecting from the front of the servers

 

The Iowa campus network room, where routers and switches allow data centers to talk to each other. The fiber cables run along the yellow cable trays near the ceiling.

 

Even the water pipes reflect Google’s brand: These colorful pipes are responsible for carrying water in and out of an Oregon data center. The blue pipes supply cold water and the red pipes return the warm water back to be cooled.

 

Google’s server farm in Douglas County, Iowa

 

Denise Harwood, a Google Engineer, diagnoses an overheated CPU. For more than a  decade, Google has built some of the world’s most efficient servers.

 

Each server rack has four switches, connected by a different colored cable.  Colors are kept the same throughout data centers so staff know which one to  replace in case of failure.

Google Street View Protects Cows Privacy by Blurring its Face

At least Google’s face-blurring technology takes privacy seriously — even for non-humans.

The photo was captured in Cambridge, England and shows a cow grazing by a river with a blurred-out face — something Google usually only does for the humans it captures as it drives about photographing cities for its Street View service.

In a statement to the BBC, Google said, “we thought you were pulling the udder one when we herd the moos, but it’s clear that our automatic face-blurring technology has been a little overzealous. Of course, we don’t begrudge this cow milking its five minutes of fame.”

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Here is the real intention. West End Winnipeggers partying on the street.

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Cartoons of the Day

Thousands of Previously Unseen JFK Assassination Files to Be Released This Week

Experts expect the documents will reveal new info on a trip Lee Harvey Oswald took to Mexico, where he met with Cuban and Russian spies.

While the news might excite people who believe that the assassination was an elaborate government conspiracy, experts on the November 1963 assassination say we probably won’t get any explosive new information that would rewrite the history books. According to Philip Shenon and Larry J. Sabato—two historians who have researched the assassination extensively—the documents could shed light on a trip Lee Harvey Oswald took to Mexico weeks before killing JFK, where he met with Cuban and Russian spies. In a piece for Politico, Shenon and Sabato said that “many” of the previously unseen files center on the trip, during which Oswald “came under intense surveillance” by the FBI and purportedly “spoke openly” about wanting to kill JFK.

 

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The Marijuana Nuns of Merced, California

Cannabis-growing ‘nuns’ grapple with California law: ‘We are illegal’

The Sisters of the Valley’s “abbey” is a modest three-bedroom house on the outskirts of Merced, in a cul-de-sac next to the railroad tracks. (Sister Kate calls the frequent noise from passing trains “part of our penance”.) When visitors come to the door, Sister Kate asks them to wait outside until she can “sage” them with the smoke from a piece of wood from a Russian tree given to her by a shaman.

Sister Kate lives here with her “second sister”, Sister Darcy, and her youngest son.

But these aren’t your average nuns. The women grow marijuana in the garage, produce cannabidiol tinctures and salves in crockpots in the kitchen, and sell the merchandise through an Etsy store. (Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the active ingredients in marijuana that is prized for medicinal qualities and is not psychoactive.) The women perform their tasks wearing long denim skirts, white collared shirts and nun’s habits. And while their “order” is small – last week they ordained their third member, a marijuana grower in Mendocino County known as Sister Rose.

 

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But their ambitions have been thwarted by legislation that was passed last year – 19 years after medical marijuana was first legalized in the state – to regulate the billion-dollar industry through the Medical Marijuana Safety and Regulation Act.  An error in the final text of the law has resulted in scores of cities across the state passing local bans on the cultivation, distribution, and sale of the drug, including Merced, a small city in California’s Central Valley where the Sisters live.

The legislation accidentally established a 1 March 2016 deadline for cities to impose their own bans or regulations on medical marijuana or be subject to state rules, a deadline that assembly member Jim Wood, who authored that section of the bill, said was included by complete accident.

Wood has drafted fix-it legislation, which he’s optimistic will pass in the legislature by the end of next week and be signed by the governor immediately after. But next week is too late for the Sisters of the Valley.

“If it was a typo, that’s great. If it wasn’t, who knows,” said John M Bramble, the city manager of Merced, the morning after Merced’s city council passed its medical marijuana ban. Either way, “it’s too late,” he said. “We’re banning it for now because if we don’t, we’ll have no local control.”

That leaves the Sisters of the Valley in a precarious position. “We are completely illegal, banned through commerce and banned through growing,” said Sister Kate. “They made criminals out of us overnight.”

 

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Despite Sister Kate’s Catholic upbringing, the Sisters “are not affiliated with any traditional earthly religion”. The order’s principles are a potent blend of new age spirituality (they time their harvests and medicine making to the cycles of the moon, and pray while they cook to “infuse healing and intent to our medicine”), environmentalism (“We think the plant is divine the way Mother Earth gave it to us”), progressive politics (asked whether she’s offended if someone drops her title and calls her “Kate”, Sister Kate responds: “It’s offensive that no banksters went to jail”), feminism (“Women can change this industry and make it a healing industry instead of a stoner industry”), and savvy business practices.

Sister Kate was looking for a “second sister” when a mutual friend arranged a phone call with Darcy Johnson. After just a thirty minute conversation, the 24-year-old from Washington state was ready to move to Merced and join the order. Sister Darcy had spent time in New Zealand working on an organic farm, and now, back in the States, was looking for a better way of life.

“This is my better,” Sister Darcy said.

The day after Merced’s ban on medical marijuana was passed, the sisters were preparing for battle. Sister Kate is planning to start a call-in campaigns across the Central Valley, urging growers and customers to flood city council members with phone calls every Friday until they come up with reasonable regulations.

Whatever happens, though, the Sisters of the Valley are answering to a higher authority. “We’re not accepting their ban,” said Sister Kate. “It’s against the will of the people, and that makes it unnatural and immoral.”

 

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Los Angeles: the freeway capital of the universe

 

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Postcard from the 1960’s.

The Southern California freeways are a network of interconnected freeways in the megaregion of Southern California, serving a population of 22 million people. A comprehensive freeway plan was produced in 1947 and with construction beginning in the 1950s. The plan hit opposition and funding limitations in the 1970s and by 2004 some 61% of the original planned network had been completed.

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The Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange is a stack interchange near the Athens and Watts communities of Los Angeles, California.

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The Inland Empire (I.E.) is a region in Southern California. The term may be used to refer to the cities of western Riverside County and southwestern San Bernardino County. A generally broader definition will include eastern Los Angeles County cities in the Pomona Valley, and/or the desert community of Palm Springs as well as its surrounding area; a much larger definition will include all of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

The term “Inland Empire” is documented to have been used by the Riverside Enterprise newspaper (now The Press-Enterprise) as early as April 1914. Developers in the area likely introduced the term to promote the region and to highlight the area’s unique features. The “Inland” part of the name is derived from the region’s location, about 60 miles (97 km) inland from Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. The area has a population of approximately 4.2 million people.

 

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Amazing Park in New Zealand with a Dormant Volcano

Mount Taranaki, also known as Mount Egmont, on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, is said to be one of the most symmetrical volcanic cone in the world (another candidate is Mavon Volcano). The volcano was born 120,000 years ago and erupted last in 1775, but it’s not done yet. Volcanologists agree that Taranaki is only lying dormant, waiting, biding its time.

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The volcano is located at the center of the nearly circular Egmont National Park, whose boundary appears as a dark green circle in satellite and other high-altitude pictures, because of the difference in vegetation between inside and outside the park. The dark shade represents native forest while the light green areas are pasture land that butts right up to the park’s circular boundary. Most of New Zealand’s lowland forests have been cleared for agriculture, leaving only small fragmented pockets of native forest filled with old growth trees. The circle of Egmont National Park is about 19 km across.

 

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