What is the Dakota Access Pipeline?

While I’ve seen quite a bit of coverage of the Dakota Access pipeline project, none of the reports provided any specifics about the pipeline.

So I decided to satisfy my curiosity with a little research.

After sifting through the multitudes of non-substantive news articles and even more thinkpieces, I eventually landed on some primary materials. Along the way I also found out the alternatives that were considered and discarded.

What became clear is that this pipeline and others like it are needed as long as crude oil production continues. The other transport options, truck and rail, simple do not have the capacity to carry the amount of crude oil being produced. Oil transport has been causing significant delays in the shipment of grain and other foodstuffs for several years.

Without a major economic shift away from fossil fuels or the elination of domestic oil production, pipelines like this will be here to stay.

The Dakota Access Pipeline Project

The pipeline, known as DAPL, is a way to transport at least 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken and Three Forks oil fields in North Dakota to an oil storage facility near Patoka, Illinois.1

The route of the DAPL from North Dakota to Illinois. The counties affected by the pipeline are highlighted in purple.
The route of the DAPL from North Dakota to Illinois. The counties affected by the pipeline are highlighted in purple.

In North Dakota, DAPL runs from the oil-rich northwestern corner of the state and exits from the middle of the state’s southern border into South Dakota.

The path of DAPL through North Dakota, with affected counties highlited in purple. The magnified section at bottom center shows the area where the pipeline was planned to cross the Missouri River.
The path of DAPL through North Dakota, with affected counties highlited in purple. The magnified section at bottom center shows the area where the pipeline was planned to cross the Missouri River.

During the planning stage, the Army Corp of Engineers evaluated where DAPL could cross the Missouri River. Two locations were evaluated. One crossed upstream of North Dakota’s capital, Bismarck, and was considered an alternative route.2

The second route was the crossing at Lake Oahe, south of Bismarck but upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This crossing was preferred because it would make the pipeline:

  • 10.6 miles shorter
  • cross 11 less floodplains
  • cross 24 less freshwater wetlands
  • cross 27 less roads
Table 2-1, extracted from Army CoE environmental assessment of DAPL.
Table 2-1, extracted from Army CoE environmental assessment of DAPL.
Table 2-1 (con't), extracted from Army CoE environmental assessment of DAPL.
Table 2-1 (con’t), extracted from Army CoE environmental assessment of DAPL.

The estimated cost would be also be $22.5 million less than the North Bismarck crossing.

Table 2-2, extracted from Army CoE environmental assessment of DAPL.
Table 2-2, extracted from Army CoE environmental assessment of DAPL.

During the environmental assessment, the ACoE also looked at the need for a pipeline as compared to other forms of oil transport. As there is no existing pipeline, there was no option expand capacity. Both trucking and rail transport were also considered.

Trucking was ruled out for several reasons.

Factors such as road safety, roadway capacity, and a lack of reliability due to seasonal constraints, in addition to other logistical issues involving availability of labor force, trailer truck capacity, and economics, all contribute to truck transportation not being a realistic alternative.

— Environmental Assessment, Dakota Access Pipeline Project, July 2016, §2.1.2

Railroad transport was also found to not be a viable option for a multitude of reasons.

Negative impacts from the growth in popularity of rail as a method of long-distance transportation of crude oil include delays that disrupt the agricultural sector, reductions in coal-fired power plant inventories, and significant production issues in the food production industry.

— Environmental Assessment, Dakota Access Pipeline Project, July 2016, §2.1.3

The report goes onto cite exactly how much backlog currently exists in the US rail system.

In August 2014, reports filed with the federal government indicated that the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway had a backlog of 1,336 rail cars waiting to ship grain and other products, while Canadian Pacific Railway had a backlog of nearly 1,000 cars (Nixon, 2014).

— Environmental Assessment, Dakota Access Pipeline Project, July 2016, §2.1.3

The ACoE also considered the option of not taking any action at all.

Although the “no action” alternative itself would not incur direct environmental impacts, it would also not address the existing demand to transport crude oil to refining facilities. Market demands would likely compel shippers to rely on alternative methods of crude oil transport such as truck or rail.

— Environmental Assessment, Dakota Access Pipeline Project, July 2016, §2.2

Based on these factors, the alternative route north of Bismarck was discarded in favor of the Lake Oahe crossing.


  1. http://www.energytransfer.com/documents/DAPL_States_Counties.pdf
  2. http://cdm16021.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16021coll7/id/2801

Election 2016: The Difference in the Crowds

In March, for the first time in a long time, Arizona mattered in a presidential primary. The 2016 campaigns descended on the state with all the candidates but John Kasich making an appearance.

The Trump rally in Fountain Hills made the national news because of the protesters that closed the roads into the small suburb. I passed a few of them on the way in. The road was still open at the time.

Fountain Hills, AZ. 19th March 2016. Donald Trump protesters gather on Shea Blvd. prior to blockading the road into Fountain Hills.
Fountain Hills, AZ. 19th March 2016. Donald Trump protesters gather on Shea Blvd. prior to blockading the road into Fountain Hills.

Continue reading “Election 2016: The Difference in the Crowds”

ISO 3200—Not So Bad After All

The one constant about indoor events is the poor lighting. It’s not usually bad lighting. The people that set up the stage want the event to look good. There’s usually plenty of light from the audience’s perspective. What the camera sees is a different story.

When Hillary Clinton campaigned in Phoenix the event was held in a high school gym. I’ll wait while you finish shaking your head. So you can imagine the base lighting. Overhead lighting was the basic fluorescent tubes. The event lights were two towers holding a couple of lights each which faced the stage.

Since none of my lenses are stabilized, I also have to keep the shutter speed up to get sharp photos. Usually 1/320 is the minimum speed to keep the 70-200mm sharp. So between the low light and need for shutter speed, I was looking at ISO 3200 for decent exposure. Starting off I used ISO 1600, knowing that I’d have to bump up the exposure in Lightroom. About halfway through the event I figured I had enough safety shots. Then I decided to try out ISO 3200 to see if the images would be salvageable.

Continue reading “ISO 3200—Not So Bad After All”

The End of Protesting

Today protesters in Minneapolis shut down the airport and the largest mall in America. Of all the protests so far, I think these two events are the most high profile yet. I also don’t know if they are as effective as they were a year ago. City governments don’t seem to be any more responsive than they were before the protests started.

In reading today’s news I had to wonder, will the protests ever get so big that the city decides clearing the streets is more important than not hurting people while they do so?

Continue reading “The End of Protesting”

NFL and the Extra Point: will it stay?

The NFL owners spent an hour talking about extra points today. The current rules make the PAT boring. Most of the time the TV broadcast doesn’t even show it.

The discussion was just that, talk. But there are plans for the Competition Committee to come back with a proposal for a May vote. The general consensus seems to be the extra point should be made into a football play.

This will be interesting on how it shakes out for the kickers. I would suspect the punter and place kicker might be combined into a single role.

Among the variations discussed:

» A team could go for two points from the 1 1/2-yard line or kick an extra point from the 15.

» Eliminate the extra point altogether and just place the ball at the 2-yard line, making it a two-point play.

» Narrow the goal posts.

» A college-type rule where a defense could score a touchdown on a blocked kick or interception or fumble return on a two-point conversion. §.

Google to close Google Code open source project hosting

Google Code is to join the long list of Google projects that have been consigned to the dustbin of history. The open source project hosting service will no longer be accepting new project submissions as of today, will no longer be accepting updates to existing projects from August 24, and will be closed entirely on January 25, 2016. §

Killed by spam. But not just closing, everything will be deleted.

Thousands Have Already Signed Up for Apple’s ResearchKit

Stanford University researchers were stunned when they awoke Tuesday to find that 11,000 people had signed up for a cardiovascular study using Apple Inc.’s ResearchKit, less than 24 hours after the iPhone tool was introduced.
“To get 10,000 people enrolled in a medical study normally, it would take a year and 50 medical centers around the country,” said Alan Yeung, medical director of Stanford Cardiovascular Health. “That’s the power of the phone.” §

That didn’t take long. This will be Apple’s legacy.

Hacking Apple

The security researchers also claimed they had created a modified version of Apple’s proprietary software development tool, Xcode, which could sneak surveillance backdoors into any apps or programs created using the tool. Xcode, which is distributed by Apple to hundreds of thousands of developers, is used to create apps that are sold through Apple’s App Store. §

The article goes onto say, “It remains unclear how intelligence agencies would get developers to use the poisoned version of Xcode.”

Getting the hacked Xcode package out in the wild would not be that hard. Before the creation of the Mac App Store, Xcode was a direct download from Apple.com. As with anything that’s served out on to the Internet, it’s possible that it could have been intercepted and replaced with the hacked copy. The CIA and it’s friends have showed remarkable competence and hacking, diverting, and collecting web traffic.

The one thing that the article doesn’t discuss is how this was done. How exactly did Xcode get hacked?

I can think of a few ways:

  • The Xcode source code was hacked, and the program recompiled.
  • The <include> files were tampered with.
  • Helper programs were compromised.

Of the three, the first is the most problematic. It would mean the CIA had obtained the source code to Xcode. This would be a direct breech of the internal Apple servers holding that code. Either by network penetration or by an Apple employee who worked for the CIA.

Created a hacked Xcode version would be simple using the source code. The hacks could be written directly into the program. An app made with the hacked version would work normally. It would only be detectable by directly by comparing it to an app made with a non-hacked version of Xcode.

If the CIA did recompile Xcode with backdoors, it wouldn’t even need to be distributed. It would be a simple matter to set up a small independent software/games studio and hire unsuspecting programers. The programmers wound’t even need to use the hacked Xcode. Only the final version released would need to be compiled by it. The hacked Xcode would only need to be the last step in the automated build chain.

In fact, the CIA wouldn’t even need to setup it’s own shell company. Simply hacking the build system of popular apps would be enough to create the backdoor. Then the app from a respected developer with solid sales would turn into a spy tool. Hacking the build chain of an app after it’s reached a certain installed base would be even more productive.

Attacking a popular app after it has been adopted by millions of users would be devastating. Those people would have no idea the last update just started sending a copy of their messages to the CIA and friends.

A new app on the market might get the attention of security researchers. They would analyze it, check for suspicious connections it might make, and otherwise test it for leaks. Would they do the same for version 4.1.4?

With a hacked version of Xcode the possible attack vectors multiply.

Microsoft Pi

Is a BSOD without a sceen still a crash?
Is a BSOD without a sceen still a crash?

I’ve been thinking about this for the last day or so. Is having Windows on an embedded board something the world needs?

We’re excited to announce that we are expanding our Windows Developer Program for IoT by delivering a version of Windows 10 that supports Raspberry Pi 2. This release of Windows 10 will be free for the Maker community through the Windows Developer Program for IoT.

The announcement doesn’t have much in the way of specifics. It’s more of a landing page, with the focus being on signing up for the program, and getting “more details about our Windows 10 plans for IoT in the coming months.”

The announcement is geared towards the “Maker community”1. I have to wonder if this is a push for inroads into the larger companies who already have a substantial around of Windows developers on staff.

Partnering with Raspberry Pi is quick way to gain goodwill and trust. Everybody loves the Pi. The boards were feel-good story from the beginning. The creators noticed that children were learning apps2 and not computing. They wanted something that would encourage experimentation. They didn’t find anything commercially available. So they set out to make their own.

…a platform that, like those old home computers, could boot into a programming environment.

The last two words of that quote are the reason the Raspberry Pi exists. Programming environment. It is related to the Arduino. They are both small inexpensive boards for learning electronics and programming. They both have I/O pins that can be connected to larger world.

The difference is in the intended audience. The Arduino is for hardware hackers. It adds a BASIC-like3 command language to a traditional microcontroller4 platform. The Pi is a fully-operational general purpose computer.

A computer that runs Linux.

The creators needed an operating system which was freely available. Linux fit the bill. It let the creators work on the hardware. The open-source community that formed around the PI took care of the software.

The Microsoft announcement comes with the release of the second version of the Pi — Pi 2. It’s updated with a new CPU and more RAM. The original CPU architecture (ARMv6) wasn’t powerful enough to run a graphical OS5. The Pi 2 with a ARM Cortex-M7 can.

And this is where Microsoft comes in. The last group of low-priced computers running Linux were the netbooks. Microsoft took notice when netbooks began to sell in quantity. Sales of Windows XP Home Edition ended in 2008. But Microsoft brought XP back just for netbooks. This prevented non-Windows OSs from gaining a foothold.

Now Microsoft wants a piece of the Pi.6


  1. Capitalization in original.
  2. This was 10+ years ago. The apps they were concerned with were Word and Excel.
  3. Plain AVR C works too.
  4. Specifically in that it doesn’t run user-interactive programs.
  5. Like Windows or MacOS. A window manager like MATE or OpenBox is not a full OS.
  6. Yeah. I said it.