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Buzz Out Loud 666: Tickle me and die

The Elmo from hell makes a timely appearance for the devil's episode, while Microsoft's SP1 accidentally possesses some machines.

Just in time for the devil's episode, the Elmo doll from hell makes the news today. Also, Microsoft's SP1 accidentally possesses some PCs, the UK is threatening to bring Satan's hammer down on ISPs, and yeah, we know they changed the number from 666 to 616, but at this point, we just can't stop ourselves.


Listen now: Download today's podcast



Marc from New Jersey
Digital TV transition.

Tyler from California
What I want from Google health info.

Zune games!

Steve Jobs' shoe (still)

While listening to the podcast in front of my computer the other day I heard a caller speak of going to the Apple store and asking for Steve Jobs' shoe. I was kind of surprised the employee did not point the caller to The Nike+iPod system. On a lark I googled Steve Jobs' shoe and found this story, which speak of Nike's upgrade of the product no longer needing the iPod and speculates that maybe Apple will create a replacement for the Nike+ part, AKA, Steve Jobs' shoe. You guys may be better at predicting the future better then you even realize.

Love the show!

Mike from Albany, New York

Radio controlled shark is real!
The glowing red eyes are a clear indication of evil (and hatred for all cables).


Valuable advice for Tom
Hey Tom,

Don't throw out that Xbox 360 HD DVD player! It's not *quite* useless just yet. Team Xbox provides some valuable insight into ways to extend its life.

It makes a great cup holder! Or a bookend! Anyway, keep up the good work!

~Chris, the engineer from Virginia

Cell phone phishing
Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening Buzz-out-louders, Buzz-on- the-insiders, Tom, Molly, and...ummm...oh yeah, Jason:

Just wanted to give some quick input on an e-mail that was sent in a couple of episodes ago (663 maybe?) regarding cell phone phishing. T- mobile customers should use the STOP message in response to SMS/MMS messages that you are receiving only when there is a recurring subscription that is being charged to your cell phone bill, such as a ringtone or game download subscription. For spam and phishing, filters can be set up on the Web site to block unwanted/unsolicted cell numbers and short codes for your phone. In addition, true phishing messages can be reported to customer care and added to a blacklist so that you never receive over-air messages from those numbers in the future.

Hope this is helpful for folks who might be confused on what to do when they are receiving spam/phishing messages on their cell phones.

Love the show, listen in the car every day on the way to and/or from work.

Take care,

Phony aroma
Hey guys,

Just wondering how anyone would know that hydrazine has an ammonia-like odor, because apparently by the time you smell it, it's too late. Possibly the last words uttered by the only known death were "it smells like ammonia...(dies)." It could smell like that sweet 'new' smell from brand new items. Anyway.

The engineer from Australia

Balloon-based Wi-Fi
Interesting story, especially Google's involvement. Balloon tech seems a bit unreliable for paid Wi-Fi access. Also, this was forwarded by a sea turtle friend of mine because of the dangers discarded balloons pose to sea turtles and other wildlife. I wonder if Space Data Corp retrieves the balloons or just the equipment? Could be killing animals that ingest the leftover bits mistaken as food, not to mention littering.

Michael (via mobile)

Today's podcast length (or distance) with a map!
Hello Buzz crew,

It's an honor to have an episode named after me! (Thank God, it was not 665+1!) Maybe you should name one episode after yourselves, just to know how it feels. :D

If you are curious, I drew on a map the exact distance I ran today while listening to your podcast, and I have to apologize myself for being so slow. Maybe I should follow Molly's goals and run three miles in 30 minutes...

Thanks for your attention and keep up the good work.

Alexandre from Brazil

All you need to know about balloons
Hey Buzz crew (including Jason whom I forgot last time. BTW, great work on the CoverFlow Show Notes!),

Amazing!! This is the second time in so many days that I feel compelled to write in regarding the show. Once for an errant satellite and the trigger-happy Navy, and now this time for Google-themed balloons for world communication domination !!!! I promise not to make this a habit, seeing how Molly aptly pointed out that humans are an addictive bunch.

So there I was, kicking back enjoying the show, and I hear Molly (or was it Tom) mention Space Data Corp.! I couldn't believe my ears. First because of who you mentioned, and second because Google is interested in them!

My shock comes from the fact that I worked closely with the SDC guys at a military exercise two years ago called JEFX-06 (Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment) as part of a project called Combat SkySat.

That's an amazing capability for radios that barely have enough power to reach 2--3 miles or so on the ground, and it's all because of line-of- sight. If you're separated on the ground by 3-4 miles, the curvature of the earth and any hills in between you will block the line-of-sight link between the radios. If, however, you stick one of these radio-repeaters at around 85,000 ft, your line of sight between each radio is not that far, and certainly not affected by hills, valleys, or the curvature of the earth. Just as a comparison, airliners typically fly at around 30,000-35,000 ft., and these things hover at almost twice that height.

The project has since turned into the very cool StarFighter product: with obvious uses by both military and emergency responders alike.

Now Molly pointed out that since these are balloons, you'd think that they would tend to drift all over the place. That's kinda true between the surface and up to around 35,000 ft., but above that the winds become much more stable. In fact, with an ingenious system developed by SDC to control the balloon's altitude by venting gas or ballast, the operators can actually control the direction of the balloon by picking an altitude where the wind is going in the right direction. Want to move south? Release some gas in a series of "mouse farts" and drop down a few hundred feet to pick up the right wind. Drop some ballast to rise back up to catch a different wind direction. This "station-keeping" is what gives them the edge over just using something like a weather balloon that just heads up until it bursts. These things actually "hover".

Now, for your geek edification: here is some trivia worth spewing out (that amazed me when I learned it):

  • At 85,000 ft., the biggest problem for a radio is not the cold (which you might expect), but rather the heat that the radio generates not being dispersed because there's very little air to move the heat away.
  • During Hurricane Katrina, Space Data Corp supposedly flew a balloon over the hurricane in a pro-bono offer to provide emergency responders with a radio link that wasn't damaged by the storm. Like during days after 9/11, emergency responders had a nightmare communicating because the ground radio infrastructure was all but destroyed. Unfortunately it wasn't used because the folks on the ground had absolutely no idea what the SDC guys were talking about. Nobody had heard of the system and didn't think that something so simple could be so valuable. It wasn't until the military showed up with all their gear that radio communication got better.
  • The average time-on-station for one balloon is about 12 hours. It's when you pass the day-night transition that your ballast-to-gas ratio gets all whacked. So you simply fly all day with one, and all night with another. Incidentally, the limiting factor for our flights at JEFX were battery life. We hammered so much data through the link that we cooked the batteries before even venting most of the lifting gas. Kinda like the MacBook Air--light as Helium, but with no user- serviceable battery. ;-)
So, I'm very interested in what the guys at Google could do with the innovative folks at SDC. Thanks for reporting on this.

As a future milestone, I'd love to hear a report on the first twitter message to be passed across these balloon-radios. ;-)

Love the show !!

Frank (again)