Another telemarketer’s foot in the door

This is clever: Telemarketers know we don’t want to talk to them. Their latest trick is to spoof the caller ID to make it look like they’re calling from a phone number with the same prefix/exchange and area code as yours. They could be calling from anywhere, but you’re more likely to answer if you think it might be a neighbor. And once they have you, you’re more likely to buy. As with spammers, this is a never-ending fight.

I once had an idea for a device that would pick up the telephone on the first ring. It would put the caller on the speaker, but not connect the microphone until you actually pick it up. You’d get to listen to sounds and voices on the other end, but the caller would continue to hear fake ringing as though you hadn’t answered yet. It’s a safe bet that somebody’s already done this.

Yes, this is a mean trick. I never bothered with the idea, although I’ve had modems in the past that could have done it if I’d written the right software. It’s a privacy violation of sorts that I wouldn’t do to a friend. Of course, telemarketers are fair game, but not everyone is.

James Holland reviews Dunkirk

History writer (fiction and non-fiction) James Holland reviews Dunkirk, and asks, does historical accuracy matter? This is a great piece, although long. In reality, the “Little Ships” that were the heroes of Dunkirk were a big part of the legend, but only a small part of the actual rescue effort. But still, at least it happened. Hollywood has done a lot worse with history.

I haven’t seen the movie yet. From this review, I am both intrigued and disappointed to learn that the size of the spectacle was limited because director Christopher Nolan has an aversion to CGI. It’s funny when you realize that the movie was still converted to digital for distribution.

A minor nit:

Tom Hardy’s pilot also seems to have an inexhaustible supply of ammunition – I counted around 70 seconds’ worth in all – when in reality Spitfires and Hurricanes both had 14.7 seconds in which to shoot down enemy aircraft.

This is very common in nearly all action movies. The typical machine gun doesn’t have nearly as much ammunition as you’d think. This should be less forgivable in historical movies, in that much of the audience expects to learn what it was actually like.

Another smoking font

Some readers may recall the 2004 “Rathergate” scandal when CBS News ran a story about President George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard during the late ’60s/early ’70s. Dan Rather was given a letter supposedly from Bush’s commanding officer with various gripes about his service. It went on the air with insufficient scrutiny.

As I remember the story, somebody commented on a message board that the letter looked like it was written with a modern-day word processor instead of an old typewriter. Someone else then went through the trouble of printing one out and it turned out to be an exact match for the default settings of Microsoft Word. The story went viral, and that was that. Dan Rather fought on, but the truth was too funny to ignore.

A similar problem is now getting the Prime Minister of Pakistan in hot water. His three kids had been named in last year’s Panama Papers leak. As a way of explanation, they denied it, showing paperwork dated 2006.

The trouble is, the documents were printed in a Calibri font, which was not sold until 2007.

This isn’t as obvious a slip-up as the one that got Dan Rather. It depends on how hard they can press this. The truth doesn’t always matter in politics or the media. We’ll have to see.

It’s interesting to think that Dan Rather and his forger may have pulled it off if only the perp had thought of switching to a Courier font with left-justified text. Someone might still have figured out the deception, just as now in Pakistan, but the truth might not have gotten as far.

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation coming to TV (maybe)

That is, if we’re lucky. Contracts have not yet been signed.

Via David Brin, linking to an article on SyFy (which is not necessarly where the show would appear):

Screenwriter/showrunner David S. Goyer (the Dark Knight films and the upcoming Krypton TV series) will work with Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) to attempt to wrangle Foundation into something filmable — a task at which a number of others have failed.

Let’s hope this one works.

BBC Radio did a radio version of Foundation in 1973, now available here. I don’t remember ever having listened to it, but it’s now on my list. It should go without saying that I’ve read the books.

Field Marshal von Rundstedt on the Invasion of Normandy

Another anniversary: This time it’s the 73rd anniversary of D-Day — the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

It’s no surprise that the German army would have produced a report on the invasion. And it’s no surprise that the Allies would get their hands on a copy, and translate it into English. What’s neat is that the Navy has one on their website. It is dated June 20, 1944, and from the office of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, then Commander-in-Chief in the west.

I—Four facts which must be emphasized:
(1) The enemy’s complete mastery in the air.
(2) The skillful and large-scale employment of enemy parachute and airborne troops,
(3) The flexible and well-directed support of the land troops by ships’ artillery of strong English naval units ranging from battleship to gunboat.
(4) The rehearsal of the enemy invasion units for their task; most precise knowledge of the coast, of its obstacles and defense establishments, swift building up of superiority in numbers and material on the bridgehead after just a few days.

Opposed to this stands the quality of the German soldier, his steadfastness and his unqualified will to fight to the fast with army, navy and air force.

All three branches of the service have given their best and will continue to give it.

There is, of course, a lot more at the link. No major surprises in the report, but it’s always interesting to see source documents.

As for von Rundstedt, he was dismissed in July but recalled a few months later.

Next level of editing audio

Via KurzweilAI:

Imagine you are in post-production of a podcast. As in this video, the speaker says:

“We leave the eventuality to time and law.”

You can edit that — in text — to this:

“We leave the eventuality to time and belief.”

It plays it back in audio, mimicking the speaker’s voice for the changes.

You might then point out that some words may need to sound different, depending on the circumstances. They’ve got that covered.

This is astounding, but not surprising, given where we’re at.

Expect hijinks in the 2020 campaign by nearly anyone with a computer and a YouTube account. With luck, we’ll have gotten used to this by then.

In a side issue, some jobs in TV and film production may take a hit.

Podkayne of Mars

Christopher Nuttall reviews Robert A. Heinlein’s Podkayne Of Mars. He goes into the story behind the story, where the original publisher required that Heinlein revise the ending. Baen later included both endings in its reprint. (Do read the review: There’s a lot more to it.)

I’ve read most of Heinlein’s works, and probably all of his short stories. I know this book to be in one of the few gaps. I will need to revisit Heinlein at some point. After reading this review, I expect to start with this one.

Nice cars finish last

From 1944:

Grin and Bear It — Feb 15, 1944*

Civilian car production stopped within two months after December 7, 1941. But this joke works even better today with self-driving cars on the horizon.

John C. Dvorak writes that self-driving cars will be too polite. They’ll be programmed to obey the rules while pedestrians and regular drivers will take advantage. It’ll be like an American driving in Sicily, not really understanding the nuances. Dvorak doesn’t say this, but I could imagine somebody hacking an aggressiveness into their own computer.

But maybe not: These cars will also be recording everything. Memory storage will be cheap. They might very well call the cops automatically.

* There was once a time when it was permissible to make fun of women drivers. Nowadays, they can only make fun of men drivers.

Two Eras

Via Rand Simberg (from whom I snagged this title) and StrategyPage, a USAF F-22 Raptor flying beside a restored P-51 Mustang painted in Tuskegee Airmen colors:

USAF F-22 Raptor aircraft assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base flies in formation with a WWII-era P-51 Mustang, April 22, 2017 over Panama City Beach, Fla. The aircraft flew in support of the opening ceremony of the Gulf Coast Salute Airshow at Tyndall. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Couillard)

If you’re expecting the P-51 to have a bubble canopy, this was the original design. Glass-making needed more improvement before they could have shapes that were still distortion-free. They added the bubble canopy with the P-51D.

The F-22 is actually further back than it appears. It’s about twice the length of the P-51.

Notice the golden tint in the F-22’s canopy. While this is similar to the EA-6 Prowler’s gold canopy, which protects its crew from electromagnetic waves, here it also adds to the F-22’s stealth by scattering any radar reflection.