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Breached hulls, swamped hulls, and bilge pumps

You see them at just about every boat show. Sometimes it's a six-metre fishing boat, sometimes it's a luxury cruiser with a six-figure price tag. But there are always a few boats with something terrifying lurking under a hidden access hatch in the stern: a "bilge pump" that would barely suffice for aquarium duty in my wife's Red Oscar tank. Sure, it'll get rid of rain water and the occasional bit of spray that seeps down there, but that's not what a bilge pump is for. Its main function is to keep you afloat if everything goes to pot, and frankly, most pumps just aren't up to the job.

Situational awareness and electronics overload

It's hard not to be impressed by the latest round of navigation electronics. This is 2010, after all, an era in which the average desktop computer has the computing power to calculate the airflow around a Space Shuttle during re-entry, and we can't tell the difference between live and CGI actors on the cinema screen. I'm not convinced, though, that all this computing power is a good thing to be throwing at navigation systems- at least, not in the ways we see in some of the current crop of nav systems.

Security at sea: encrypted email

Is there really such a thing as private communications anymore? By long-standing convention, radio traffic (except emergency and "all ships" calls) is supposed to be kept confidential, but these days, I wouldn't put too much faith in that. Public 802.11 wi-fi is also remarkably easy to hack, unless you're on one of the rare networks that use WPA2 encryption and rotate the access codes frequently.

Virtual machines at home: tinkering without the risk

If your computer use and skills fall into the home or work user category, all the hype over "virtualization" has probably gone mostly unnoticed. If you've heard the term at all, it's likely been in the context of something your company is doing with their servers, or perhaps something that a geek friend was fiddling around with. But virtual machines- essentially, complete and independent virtual computers existing within the operating system you're familiar with- can be an incredibly useful tool for home users as well.

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