All posts by cryptosmith

Writer, educator, and consultant in cybersecurity; author of three books.

Candidate Roads not Taken

The first Clinton-Trump debate was last night. I think both candidates did about as well as I expected. Here are two arguments the candidates could have made but didn’t:

  • Clinton: when Trump said “we should have taken the oil” while in Iraq, Clinton should have called him on it. Such “taking” would require war and long-term occupation with lots of our own troops.
  • Trump: when Clinton called for an “intelligence surge” in the context of ISIS-inspired domestic terrorism, Trump should have called her on it. Her surge requires expanded spying on American citizens and weakens national cybersecurity.

I could not have done a tenth as well in the debates as either of them, but these are arguments I wanted to see.

Continue reading Candidate Roads not Taken

Tech-choking Image of History

Excerpt of Adams SynchronologyThere’s something charming about Adam’s Synchronological Chart or Map of History, even if I am a secular scientific type. It shows the history of the world following (more or less) Ussher’s chronology which famously begins everything at 4004 BC. Adam’s chart begins in biblical times, and tracks the “flow of history” mostly in terms of prominent European rulers. The first edition ended in 1871. There are claimed to be editions updated through the 21st century.

I haven’t seen a version displaying dinosaurs.

Continue reading Tech-choking Image of History

Ecobee Air Conditioning Update

Ecobee 3 thermostatIn honor of the bouncing seasons, I turned on my air conditioner a couple of weeks ago. In Minnesota that means you remove the wintertime weather covers from outdoor compressors and then turn on the dusty circuit breakers.

Fortunately I had performed a best-effort wiring of the AC into my new thermostats. All I needed to do was tell the Ecobees to look for AC, and to turn it on. It worked.

AC and heat in our home are completely different systems: while all air conditioners use blowers, not all heating systems do. Our heat uses hot water radiators. I set up a separate “comfort setting” in the Ecobee so that heat sensors wouldn’t confuse the AC system.

Continue reading Ecobee Air Conditioning Update

My favorite meme from 2015

A neighbor has a variant of the Gadsden Flag flying under his American Flag. Instead of yellow, it’s black, but it has the snake and the “Don’t Tread On Me.”

I haven’t found anyone on the Internet who offers a Gadsden Flag with the “Send Snacks” motto. I’d buy one in a second.

This is also a “test posting” – WordPress has a “featured image” setting and “image post” format. I’m wondering what they do.

 

Trolley Misses Matildaville

Dickey's Tavern, Matildaville, VA

A previous post about the Great Falls and Old Dominion trolley line found discrepancies on early 20th century maps of it. The earliest maps routed the trolley through the old Prospect Hill village on Old Georgetown Pike, just west of today’s Madeira School. But today’s Old Dominion Drive follows the old trolley road bed, which intersects the Pike much farther west. This was either a map error, or the developers rerouted the trolley line in the early teens.

This early route would have run near the now-abandoned town of Matildaville, VA, the former site of Dickey’s Tavern (photo above, courtesy of DC Public Library). The expert on Matildaville seems to be Debbie Robison, so I looked her up and asked her opinion. She thinks it’s a map error. She noted a misspelling error that appeared on an early map and propagated to subsequent maps. She herself had seen no evidence of abandoned tracks or roadbed in the Matildaville area, though she didn’t search off-trail.

So the likely conclusion remains “map error.”

Continue reading Trolley Misses Matildaville

The Final Ecobee

Ecobee 3 thermostatLast night I installed my third and final Ecobee 3 thermostat in our home. My children will no longer need to freeze/boil in their bedrooms just because the thermostat doesn’t know any better. Like the first two thermostats, this one required an isolation relay. This post explains the wiring. I also added a “C” wire to power the thermostats.

The people at Ecobee recommend that you hire an HVAC contractor to do this wiring. Follow these instructions at your own risk. Continue reading The Final Ecobee

A Trolley Line Mystery

Trolley station at Great Falls Park, circa 1910While studying maps of western McLean, Va, where I grew up, I uncovered a mystery.

In 1902, magnate John McLean and politician Stephen Elkins started building a trolley line from Washington, DC, to Great Falls Park (photo at left; see Wikipedia). The tracks show up on maps from 1904 until their removal in the 1930s. The roadbed became Old Dominion Drive, one of the “main streets” of McLean, Va.

Here’s the mystery: The earliest maps showing the tracks between McLean and Great Falls route them differently from today’s Old Dominion Drive. The older maps show the tracks crossing Georgetown Pike near Madeira School, at a village called “Prospect Hill.” The tracks then cross Difficult Run next to the Pike’s bridge. Starting in about 1915, maps show the tracks following today’s Old Dominion Drive.

Why did it change? Was the first map wrong? That seems most likely to me, but still pretty surprising. I’m asking around for evidence that the tracks might have moved. I doubt there is any, but it’s worth investigating. [See update in a newer post]

Continue reading A Trolley Line Mystery