Monday, October 29, 2007

Miniature projection display

Light Blue Optics has a minature projection display that works using holographic projection.

Looks like nanotech devices are really starting to come to market.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lt Col. Claims he is victim of spoof email

Glenn Greenwald reports receiving a bizare email message Col. Steven A. Boylan, the Public Affairs Officer and personal spokesman for Gen. David G. Petraeus.

The email message is the sort of thing you might expect Stephen Colbert to send if he was the press officer. Accusing a journalist of being 'lazy', 'providing purposeful misinformation', 'not a journalist' is exactly the wrong thing to do in that type of position.

So now the story gets intersting. When I pinged Boylan to ask him about this suprising email he responded claiming that he did not send it and that he is a victim of identity theft.

It must be pointed out at this point that Greenwald does not accept the claim and there is no inconsistency in the email headers that would conclusively demonstrate that it is a forgery. Unfortunately this proves only that the message was not forged by an incompetent.

Assuming that neither Greenwald or Boylan is lying, the only explanation is that someone forged the email. It is certainly not impossible that the email is a forgery, what is impossible at this stage is providing convincing proof that it is a forgery. The army can produce the server logs, but these could have been modified. We are back at accepting someone's word.

The worst case here is that the message is a forgery. Getting inside the communications loop of the enemy is something any intelligence service would like to achieve. Spreading fear and distrust between the military and reporters that cover them would certainly be counted as a major achievement by some.

We know that email is insecure, we know that we rely on email for sensitive communications. We have the technology to fix it. Why do we continue to allow this vulnerability to remain?

The military should sign all their email. They have certainly spent enough on email security infrastructure. Using S/MIME on every message creates compatibility issues but DKIM can certainly be used.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The dotCrime Manifesto: Available on Pre-Order

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Its official

Six months after acquiring a 30" monitor I have officially run out of screen space.

Nothin for it now, will have to tidy my desk for the new monitor.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Trash patent watch

It the USPTO grants this one its in even worse shape than imagined.

The latest graphics processor cards are essentialy general purpose SIMD processing units. nVidia releases a compiler for making use of the processors on general tasks. People start applying for patents for the blatantly obvious idea of using the general purpose SIMD computer for tasks that it is best suited for.

Lets see if the USPTO is stupid enough to grant this.

Password cracking is a pretty idiotic application to patent since the people most likely to use a password cracker are blackhats and they are not noted for paying license fees. On the other hand it might be purely defensive.

I know there are people who use password crackers to see if passwords are strong enough, I think its bogosity on bogosity, if you want to check password strength you can do it more usefully and much more easily when the user selects their password. There are also folk who use crackers to break lost passwords, which is OK so long as you don't mind bad guys being able to do the same.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Is Krugman an Economist?

The blogosphere reacts to the bizarre question asked by David Kennedy in his review of Krugman's book.

What is particularly bizarre about the question is the basis, "And yet maybe Krugman is not really an economist — at least not according to the definition offered more than a century ago by Francis Amasa Walker". While Kennedy might have intended this as a debating point, what academic field is defined by belief in a set of core doctrines rather than a subject of study? Even worse to decide on the set of core doctrines a century ago, before Keynes, Freedman, the depression or the digital computer.

The idea that economics is defined by core beliefs is of course an old one, the principal exponent of that approach being of course Karl Marx. Like many an early exponent of an undeveloped field, Marx got plenty wrong. Those mistakes would not have mattered half so much if Marx had not also claimed infallibility. As a result, like Freud he founded a pseudo-science that has obscured his genuine contributions to the field.

Like many a lay person using a quotation in a field which he is ignorant of, Kennedy misses his mark since Walker "wrote that laissez-faire “was not made the test of economic orthodoxy, merely. It was used to decide whether a man were an economist at all.” "

Oops, last I looked Krugman's view on laissez-faire was pretty much compatible with the 19th century understanding. He argues for free trade (mostly) he does not argue in favor of state granted monopolies, he argues against protectionism.

As Brad DeLong notes, Kennedy starts his review by noting that Krugman has "abundant accolades include the John Bates Clark Medal... a distinction... perhaps even more prestigious than... the Nobel.... ".

Does the Bates Clark medal rank with a Nobel? Well Krugman's office at MIT was in the Nobel Suite. And the story goes that when Krugman left for MIT the economists decided that rather than argue over which of them would inherit the prestige of his office that it would only go to postdocs - presumably until there was another MIT Nobel or Bates Clark laureate.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Its not a net-neutrality issue

People seem to be all a twitter in the Slashdot world about reports that Comcast is blocking some P-to-P traffic. This is then linked to the net neutrality debate.

I can see how some people would claim a connection but it is absolutely the last argument I would want people to make in support of net neutrality. File sharing networks are not considered a legitimate Internet use amongst lawmakers. While it is possible to use a network that is guerilla architectect in the manner of Gnuetella or BitTorrent, it is more than a stretch to claim that this is their principal use. And in any case it would be pretty easy to support the uses touted as legitimate in a peer to peer architecture that is not as aggressively designed to prevent copyright infrignements being detected.

Linking the net neutrality supporters to the supporters of illegal file sharing is exactly what I would want to do if I wanted to discredit the case for net neutrality in Congress.

As far as Congress is concerned there is a huge difference between blocking an infrastructure designed to promote piracy and blocking competing VOIP services such as Vonage or attempting to shakedown major content providers such as Google for bandwidth the customer has already paid the customer for.

There is also a huge difference between charging the customer for bandwidth they have already paid for and allowing the customer to pay extra to receive a short term premium service on a one-time basis. If the customer has already paid for 10 Mb/s they should get it. If on the other hand they have only paid for a 1 Mb/s connection and they need 10 to watch just one movie I don't see why a mechanism that allows them to pay a premium for a short term boost would be a bad thing.

But thats just my opinion.

NZ brewery offers beer for laptop

Well thats one way to deal with a data breach, [BBC NEWS] The Emergent Chaos folk will be happy.

It is not clear if the issue here is confidentiality or loss of the data. Since the information is almost certainly only useful to another brewer, if then I would guess the issue is that the files were not backed up.

Not exactly a security concern but a major concern for pretty much every computer user. Hard drives are cheap but reliable backup mechanisms are difficult to configure, tedious to use and expensive to maintain.

Microsoft and Apple keep missing the ball here. They are still stuck in the era of nightly backups to tapes held on site. Thats a 30 year old obsolete model.

Much better is active mirroring. At this point the only practical backup medium for a hard drive is another hard drive. Tape storage capacity has not moved since the mid 90s. A 500 Gb disk drive selling for $150 would cost five times that amount to back up to tape.

If you are using another hard drive you don't have to do backups in batch. Make the updates in realtime and do it transparently. The backup system should never be more than a few minutes behind the master. If the user needs to recover a lost file they use versioning (which Vista does support).

And this should be sold at commodity prices to consumers. Consumers need RAID5 as well. They just don't know what it is, nor should they, consumers don't really know how plumbing works either.

The user experience should be as follows. The consumer buys a home storage center at a store. They take it to their brother's house and plug it into his network. The storage system gives them an activation code. They then go home and log into the machine they want to back up, they start the storage wizard (perhaps this was distributed on a CD with the storage box) and enter the activation code. From now on their photographs are safe even if the house burns down.

If they run out of backup space they go round to their brother's house and slot in an extra drive. The RAID array rebalances itself transparently and automatically. If the brother gets nosey or the array is stollen the data cannot be read because its also transparently encrypted.

In a slicker version, the consumer and brother buy a box each for use as a local file store. Each box is used as a local NAS device and mirrors itself transparently to the other.

I now a LOT of consumers who would happily pay $500 to $1,000 for a box of that sort if the user experience was as simple as I describe. If however they have to grovell round configuring their NAT box or configuring drives then they won't buy it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wingnuts only

One of the questions that has been puzzling me for a while is how an open discussion forum in the Slashdot mould such as Little Green Footballs can maintain its ideological direction over time. Now I think I have the answer: LGF registration is temporarily closed. Please try again later. (We occasionally open registration during weekend afternoons, Pacific time.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Blogosphere takes on Rush Limbaugh

One of the peculiarities of American politics is the fact that preposterous blowhards such as Rush Limbaugh can attract a huge following and spout nonsense for decades without being treated as the hate mongering thugs that they are. Or at least thats the way that things used to work before the blogosphere came along.

Now you don't have to be a Rush Limbaugh to spew idiocy into the ether, but you do have to be a Limbaugh or a Coulter or on the left a Michael Moore to get large numbers of people to take notice of you. The typical Wingnut blogger has to be more economical with the idiocy, reserving it for special occasions such as the all important defense of Rush Limbaugh as Ed Morrisey does at Captain's Quarters.

The captains quarters on a ship are of course its rear end as any devotee of Spongebob Squarepants is aware. Morrisey does not disappoint. Complaining that Limbaughs remarks about 'phony soldiers' were taken out of context. Well what was the context?

LIMBAUGH: "Save the -- keep the troops safe" or whatever. I -- it's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people.

CALLER 2: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.

LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.

[Transcript via Media Matters]

Maybe its just me but I see absolutely no ambiguity in the transcript. The people that Limbaugh was referring to as 'phony soldiers' were any soldier who disagreed with Limbaugh's point of view. Moreover the reason that Limbaugh's comments were notable were not because they were particularly unusual, he had spent over a year denigrating Kerry's military service history, but the fact that they came a few days after Limbaugh and right wing talk radio had worked itself up into a lather over MoveOn's attack on Petraeus.

The original Media Matters article that started the controversy can hardly be characterized as quoting Limbaugh out of context, the quotation goes on for several pages. But as has been subsequently demonstrated, Limbaugh's own 'entire transcript, in context, that led to this so-called controversy' did in fact have 1 minute and 35 seconds removed allowing Limbaugh to falsely assert that his 'Phony Soldiers' remark referred to Jesse MacBeth.

Morissey sees things differently "No one in their right mind would believe that Rush didn't support the military or the right of troops to express their opinions on the war". On the contrary, I think that it is abundantly clear that this is exactly the type of thing that Limbaugh does repeatedly and what he intended to do on this particular occasion. I suspect but cannot of course prove that the mention of Jesse MacBeth was only made after the producer listening to the show realized how Limbaugh had just put his foot in it and might well be in need of some cover.

So what is the point here? Why bother with the rantings of the blogosphere? The point is that the Web was originally intended to be an antidote to this type of reporting. How do we distinguish real reporting from agitprop from the likes of Rush and co?

The first point is providing references to back the key points that are in dispute. Media Matters does this, Morissey does not. The only links in his article are to his previous article a report in the Hill on the Republican action in defense of Limbaugh, a link to a Republican audio conference and a blog post by a Republican House member. Nowhere does Morissey think it necessary to provide any form of evidence to substantiate his central claim that Limbaugh's position is worth supporting.

References are important but they can be manipulated. I have not checked to see that the Media Matters transcript is in fact an accurate account of what was said. It is possible that Media Matters could fake the entire article, faking evidence is after all what the founder of Media Matters admits having done for many years while he was a Republican party operative. What is very unlikely however is that Media Matters could have presented a fake transcript on the 27th of September without someone having noticed by now, three weeks later. It is accountable. If Morissey in particular or the right wing blogosphere in general could expose the claim as faudulent they would do so rather than merely asserting that the report had been discredited in unspecified ways.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Edwards ahead of Giuliani

in terms of cash on hand, at any rate. According to Opensecrets Edwards had $13 million on hand at the end of Q2, latest reports from the Giuliani campaign indicate $16 mil on hand after Q3 but only $11 mil of that is available for spending in the primary race. Assuming Edwards took in more money than he spent this quarter and that almost all of the Edwards money is for the primary he should be well ahead of Giuliani at this point.

More ominously for the Republicans, Obama at second place in the Democrat money race has more cash on hand than the entire Republican field and Clinton outpaces Obama by a Giuliani.

These figures would be bleak enough for the Republicans, but consider the very different nature of the races.

An early retirement would be unthinkable for Romney or Giuliani, its all or nothing for both men. Neither shows the slightest interest in the second place on the ticket and it isn't likely to be on offer in any case. Its going to go all the way to the end leaving the eventual nominee with nothing in reserve.

The democratic race on the other hand is much less symmetric. The Clinton camp holds a commanding lead in the polls, both nationally and in the early states. Florida's decision to buck the party and hold its poll early may well be decisive. If Clinton wins Florida, Ohio and New Hampshire decisively, Obama may be forced to conclude this is not his year. Unless the Democratic race has turned unexpectedly nasty by that point the number two slot is almost certain to be offered to him and he is almost certain to accept.

The net result is that the Republican nominee is almost certain to end the primary season in debt while the Democrat might emerge with the bulk of the Clinton/Obama stash intact. At current fundraising rates that could easily top $100 million. Enough to buy one heck of a lot of advertising before the convention.

Its not only the Presidential race that may be affected. With a purse that size there will be more than enough to defend any swiftboating attacks and the opportunity to forgo time fundraising for the Presidential election to support the House and Senate campaigns.

Friday, October 12, 2007

End of the road for shock punditry?

The blogosphere is all atwitter at Ann Coulter's nakedly anti-semitic blast. But more significant is the fact that Coulter had to loose a second attention grabbing zinger less than a week after lamenting votes for Women.

After a while the shock pundit has little left to shock with. Having attempted to rehabilitate Hoover and McCarthy and attacked the families of 9/11 victims, Coulter's creativity gave out and she was forced to rely on traditional bigotries. Having done race and gays it was only a matter of time before she got round to anti-semitism.

The establishment media will continue to book her as a 'controvertial' guest. Sontag and Maher were instantly banished for merely critcising the use of the term 'cowardly' to describe suicide bombers. But Coulter's politics being considered favorable to the party of the boardroom she will probably continue to be booked, albeit with diminishing frequency as her ability to shock continues to dwindle.

Eventually the only way Coulter will be able to grab attention is to run for President in a series of LaRouche like campaigns for the Republican nomination.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ron Paul has sussed us

There I was thinking we were going to get away with it but Ron Paul has worked it out.

As a card carrying member of the world elite, I was hoping to get a big UN contract to provide portable gun collection stations through my elite friends.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

mengwong - Post a comment

Meng Wong's new Six Ws

Old Media: Journalism

New Media: YouTube
Ow, that’s gotta hurt
Eww, that's gross
Whoa, I’d hit that
Woot, I want one
Wow, that’s cool
Aww, how cute