January 14, 2005. The Huygens probe was falling to Titan(yt). Released after a seven year trip on Cassini, the tiny lander was mankind's first attempt to land on a moon of another world - and nobody knew what would happen next. Its signals, no more powerful than a walkie-talkie, were to be gathered by the mothership and the science relayed back to Earth. More than a light-hour away back at home planet, radio telescopes were also listening not to decode data - far too weak at that distance, even for the most powerful receivers - but to see whether they could hear Huygens at all. A job for radio engineers, not for heroes. Sometimes, though, you have to be both. [more inside]
Christopher Tarnovsky, smartcard programmer, gives a fascinating insider account of his years in the cloak-and-dagger world of satellite TV piracy. Tarnovsky began as a satellite pirate himself before being hired by a DirecTV contractor to develop anti-piracy electronic countermeasures; he was allegedly responsible for the "Black Sunday" attack on DirecTV pirates. [more inside]
What'll you find at rum.com, van.com, war.com or cat.com? A more-fun-than-most web quiz from the Mental Flossers about some of the best domain names and who owns them. [more inside]
Dish Network drops Viacom. Dish Network dropped Viacom-distributed channels last night, and CBS channels in 16 metropolitan areas. I can't see how alienating 1.6 million subscribers is going to be good for business, no matter what it does to their bottom line.
The Dish [official site/trailer] is the thoroughly charming, (mostly) true story of the crew at Australia's Parkes Observatory and their unique role in relaying telemetry, biometrics and -- most importantly for posterity -- television pictures from the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. [more inside]