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A* Episode 32 
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sunphoenix wrote:
That John Byrne Wonder Woman must be fun... love the way he draws her! "SMOKIN HOT!"

You know, I read his Superman stuff, but I only ever read an issue or two of Wonder Woman by him--one in a weird 3D maze with Superman and Darkseid or something, anyway. I think! So I'm looking forward to that one. : )


Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:47 am
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Security vulnerabilities in popular PC CPU chips--especially ones by Intel--were announced today, and patches rolled out to many systems. My new-ish Windows 10 laptop--I got that so I could stream my daily A* art-making : )--got a surprise update today. Supposedly the fixes--by design, apparently--can slow the system down, so uh hopefully I won't have to lower the detail setting of my streams or something, ew.

It's all a bad and apparently pretty thorny problem, and at least one vulnerability in many Intel CPUs remains. (That's "Spectre"; the "Meltdown" vulnerability is apparently easier for hardware and software makers to address.)

I was worried that my old, Windows XP-running desktop machine would remain a problem, since Microsoft doesn't seem to be in any hurry to put out a fix on that ancient operating system. Almost every article on the problem said pretty much any Intel CPU was vulnerable, with many saying "any made in the last 20 years" or something like that, but after some hunting around, I finally found a PCWorld article giving Intel's list of the affected CPUs...and apparently mine is so old and crusty (2006! woot) that its venerable architecture does not have the problem--if I'm deciphering that list correctly, anyway ("Intel Core 2" is different (and older) than "2nd generation Intel Core processors," as far as I can tell from the internet).

And to think, my friends made fun of me for running such an ancient machine and operating system. Haha! Er. And heck, even my free antivirus program raising a fuss about not being able to renew its authentication (in a free version? : o) yesterday, and apparently no longer officially supporting Windows XP, doesn't actually seem to have stopped it from functioning. So yeah, no problems here, no sirree! : D o_o

Update 1/6/18: Nevertheless, some important notes on XP security and Meltdown and Spectre in my next blog article.


Fri Jan 05, 2018 1:00 am
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Regarding my blog yesterday about my PC being too old for newly uncovered CPU vulnerabilities, reader Walter Milliken rightly pointed out to me that my old Windows XP OS is nevertheless not the most secure these days, since Microsoft no longer supports it--and that I should change antivirus programs, since the one I've been using, having dropped its XP support, will no longer receive program updates. He also pointed me to this Ars Technica article, which does a great job of describing what the Meltdown and Spectre CPU vulnerabilities are. As to the threat they pose,
Quote:
"The most vulnerable users are probably cloud service providers; Meltdown and Spectre can both in principle be used to further attacks against hypervisors, making it easier for malicious users to break out of their virtual machines. For typical desktop users, the risk is arguably less significant. While both Meltdown and Spectre can have value in expanding the scope of an existing flaw, neither one is sufficient on its own to, for example, break out of a Web browser."

~~~~~~~

And thanks to readers for keeping this comic clicking along by supporting my work on it directly through the A* Patreon campaign! : D They can get themselves little monthly rewards in the process; for instance, here's a sketch I sent to a reader for their support:

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Thank you very much! : D I couldn't make this comic without you!


Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:16 pm
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If you guessed that the oceanic pole of inaccessibility is the spot in the ocean furthest from land, you are correct! And because of that remoteness, space agencies not wanting to hit anyone with their de-orbiting spacecraft have turned that spot on Earth, in the southern Pacific Ocean (also known as "Point Nemo," "nemo" being Latin for "no one") into our planet's spacecraft cemetery: "more than 263 spacecraft were disposed of in this area between 1971 and 2016."

China, whose Tiangong-1 ("Heavenly Palace 1") prototype space station has in recent months been reported to be out of control and destined to crash down in an uncontrolled manner somewhere on Earth, now says that the station is *not* out of control, and that they delayed the scheduled September 2017 re-entry "in order to ensure that the wreckage would fall into an area of the South Pacific ocean where debris from Russian and U.S. space stations had previously landed"--which is the oceanic pole of inaccessibility, as we all now know. : ) Some western analysts are skeptical of China's claim of having the station under control; in this case, let's hope they can hit the bullseye! : o


Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:51 pm
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There was an article today by the BBC about a Japanese astronaut on the International Space Station who is worried about having grown 3.5 inches (9 cm) since arriving on the station three weeks ago. (Update 1/10/18: He actually grew only 2 cm.) The article explains that astronauts typically grow (temporarily) 2-5 cm in space, due to the spine expanding in the nearly weightless environment.

Even on Earth, you may be about a half-inch or so taller when you get up in the morning than when you went to bed, due to the spine being able to expand while you were lying down!


Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:24 am
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Hey I've done one of these before but it's late so let's do another (new) spectacular enhanced-color view of Jupiter's clouds assembled by citizen scientists using data from the Juno probe:

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image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran (source)


Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:31 am
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I didn't really get anything else done today. : P


Fri Jan 12, 2018 12:51 am
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I'll be off on Monday as here in the United States we take a day to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who was brave enough to speak out against racism, hatred, and bigotry.


Sat Jan 13, 2018 9:03 pm
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I've been reading old Superman comics lately, and stumbled across a reference to an artist named Paul Cassidy, who ghost-drew for Superman co-creator Joe Shuster in many of the early comics. Turns out Cassidy is also the author of the first graduate-level American research paper on comic books, and his 1942 thesis paper cites a Gallup poll (or anyway, a poll by Dr. George Gallup : D) that examined how many people read the news and/or the "funnies" in the newspaper: 68% of men read the comics, and 47% read the news, while 71% of women read the comics, and 36% read the news.

... Which makes me wonder if writing a blog attached to a comic is a bit of a waste of time. ; ) Ah well, keeps me out of trouble. : P


Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:25 pm
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Let's do a Wednesday special A* original art archive sale! Been a while : o but this is where I fish out a piece of original A* art that I think is particularly keen, and put it up for auction at a special sale price. : D This week it's the 16" x 6.75" watercolor painting I made for episode 32, page 44, when Selenis had just entered that den of aquatic iniquity, the Falquarium, and a big fishy was looming up in a fish tank behind her! It is the most fish (or robo-fish?) by volume we've had in the comic, I got to play around with more watery effects in the paint, and it is for sale for just the next seven days--starting at just $16.99!--right over here on eBay.

The auction listing has hi-res images; here are some lo-res ones to wet (see what I did there? : P) your appetite:

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Image

Thanks for checking it out! The most recent week's worth of new A* page paintings are also up for sale on eBay--you can find all my A* art sales through my eBay profile.


Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:12 pm
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