24May2015

World News

Europe

David Cameron to unveil new limits on extremists’ activities in Queen’s speech | UK news | The Guardian

Cameron will tell the NSC: “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. “

Charlie Stross has some thoughts on this.

Think about it for a moment. This is the leader of a nominally democratic country saying that merely obeying the law is not sufficient: and simultaneously moving to scrap the Human Rights Act and to bring in laws imposing prior restraint on freedom of political speech

Greece ‘can not afford’ to repay IMF on schedule – Al Jazeera English

“The installment to the IMF won’t be paid,” Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis told Mega TV on Sunday. “The installments for the IMF in June are $1.8bn. This money will not be given. There is not any to be given. This is a known fact.”

A failure to honour the repayments could result in default, raising the spectre of a possible exit from the euro.

Ireland says big ‘Yes’ to gay marriage in world first – Al Jazeera English

By an overwhelming 62%

Africa

 

Chad: At War With Boko Haram – Al Jazeera English

A quick overview of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon war with the group Boko Haram

Burundi

Thousands flee Burundi after failed coup attempt – Photo Galleries – World – CBC News

Also the election was postponed a bit.

Burundi opposition figure Zedi Feruzi shot dead – Al Jazeera English

North America

US

US to ban military-style equipment for the police – Al Jazeera English

Super good news. That was a not very good idea and a step backwards in the actual direction the police should be taking in a nation where crime has been steadily dropping. It was a maybe understandable reaction to fear, but it’s good to see it being reversed.

Canada

Canadian Piracy Rates Plummet As Industry Points To New Copyright Notice System – Slashdot

… And does this study take into account the meteoric rising popularity of legal streaming services like Netflix over a similar time period? Nope. So that’s open to some massive misattribution.

 

Middle East

Arab coalition jets renew strikes on Houthis in Yemen – Al Jazeera English

After a 5 day cease fire for humanitarian purposes

Science

ESA Satellite Shows Sudden Ice Loss In Southern Antarctic Peninsula – Slashdot

The ice loss in the region is so large that it has even caused small changes in Earth’s gravity field, detected by NASA’s GRACE mission.

When citizens disobey: New study suggests people use ‘constructive noncompliance’ to enact change

citizens who do not follow all the laws are engaging in “constructive noncompliance”—acts that are intended to prompt the government to alter its policies, without necessarily challenging its overall status… Roughly two-thirds of citizens surveyed think local officials take their views into account when making decisions, while only 15 percent say they would “always follow” a local policy decision they believed was not right.

Small scale change, non-compliance, over time to push small incremental change

‘Home-brew’ morphine from brewer’s yeast now possible – Technology & Science – CBC News

One of the infinite reasons the war on drugs is hopeless and we need to move on to education and support style approaches. This is just the next step in designer drugs, though realistically, we can already make horrible and cheap drugs (meth) so maybe this won’t see that much market?

Home-brew heroin: soon anyone will be able to make illegal drugs – health – 18 May 2015 – New Scientist

More

Space

Secret US X-37B plane takes to the skies to experiment in space – space – 19 May 2015 – New Scientist

So Boeing has a semi secret unmammed space plane that can stay up for a yea or two

Air Force mystery space plane poised for Wed. launch

More on the US Air Force’s secret space plane X-37B.

India Targets July/August To Test Its Space Shuttle – Slashdot

Scientists and ISRO engineers are hoping the shuttle program, when finished, will drop the cost of placing objects in orbit by a factor of 10.

Awesome if it works and regardless very good to see the space race heating up more. India’s huge success getting their orbiter to Mars orbit was a huge win for ISRO

Privacy

Australian Law Could Criminalize the Teaching of Encryption – Slashdot

Projected: the country can no longer make strong encryption, hackers pillage what local companies there are, and they have to import all crypto. Not actually hard I suppose given a lot of good open source crypto. Still, generally a disaster for the country.

Senate votes down USA Freedom Act

putting one of the legal bedrocks of the NSA’s bulk surveillance programs into jeopardy. The Patriot Act is set to expire at the end of the month, and the USA Freedom Act would have extended large portions of the act in modified form. Tonight’s failure to arrive at a vote makes it likely that many of those powers will automatically expire,

Adult Dating Site Hack Reveals Users’ Sexual Preference, Extramarital Affairs – Slashdot

RadioShack Sold Your Data to Pay Off Its Debts in Bankruptcy

For what it’s worth it seems the FTC is pretty concerned and is trying to intervene in the bankruptcy auction but it’s possible juicy data such as “names, addresses, email addresses, and purchase histories” of customers will just go to the highest bidder. Always something to consider when giving information to a company, even if you trust it, and loyalty purchase tracking cards. Kind of makes you just want to go back to paying for everything in cash.

Iris scanners can now identify us from 40 feet away

That allows camera’s that can do large scale large group/room people tracking. Pretty concerning. Response? glasses and contacts that spoof this. Even then though it can probably track the “anonymized” you in its area.

Factory Reset On Millions of Android Devices Doesn’t Wipe Storage – Slashdot

Nice work. So pretty much to securely dispose of your phone, physically destroy it.

NSA planned hack of Google app store

The US National Security Agency developed plans to hack into data links to app stores operated by Google and Samsung to plant spyware on smartphones, a media report said Thursday.

Meaning with any app you get through the store or possibly even software updates they could be appending their spyware. Beyond gross.

Technology

Guy hoverboards across a Canadian lake and into history

He recently piloted this prototype nearly 1000 feet across a Quebec lake to set the record. “The prototype can be used anywhere,” Duru explains in the video below. “But is usually tested over water because of how dangerously high it can fly

The attached video is pretty cool but also still shows this kind of device is still hilariously far from anything much practical.

Trojanized, Info-Stealing PuTTY Version Lurking Online – Slashdot

To my mind there is a big difference between package management as we see in the Linux world and App Stores that Mac and Windows are trying to push, but this is a good reason why we should start looking at at least App stores and more package management or those platforms, as key pieces of software for your system have to be fetched dangerously from the internet otherwise.

Ocumetics Bionic Lens could give you vision 3x better than 20/20 – Technology & Science – CBC News

Interesting start but with lots more eye tech probably coming I’m not sure about too early committing to something not super reversible. Still, a promising development

After a Year of Secret Field-Testing, Brain-Controlled Bionic Legs Are Here – Slashdot

Very cool

Tiny palm-top UAV folds itself up like an origami quadcopter

Pocketable drone. Attach camera and perfect stealth surveillance/tracking device that’s rapidly deployable in the field

Security

UK Criminals Use Drones To Case Burglary Prospects – Slashdot

Obviously, and probably not actually limited to the UK

IPsec Vulnerabilities and Software Security Prediction

IPsec 0-day and challenge that the software is also unmaintained and not good. Suggestion to look at alternatives

‘Logjam’ Vulnerability Threatens Encrypted Connections – Slashdot

In other news all encryption is broken again, thanks to not well thought out 90s era laws. I can’t wait till even more of the economy is electronic and relying on even more hobbled security by more recent laws.

. “Attackers with the ability to monitor the connection between an end user and a Diffie-Hellman-enabled server that supports the export cipher can inject a special payload into the traffic that downgrades encrypted connections to use extremely weak 512-bit key material. Using precomputed data prepared ahead of time, the attackers can then deduce the encryption key negotiated between the two parties.”

IE patched, the rest not yet, pending presumably.

“Breaking the single, most common 1024-bit prime used by web servers would allow passive eavesdropping on connections to 18% of the Top 1 Million HTTPS domains. A second prime would allow passive decryption of connections to 66% of VPN servers and 26% of SSH servers. A close reading of published NSA leaks shows that the agency’s attacks on VPNs are consistent with having achieved such a break.”

Oh good, so the NSA discovered this a while ago and weaponized it for their use leaving everyone vulnerable until it was discovered by security researchers. Obviously no data on how many blackhat third parties also independently discovered this over the last decade and also used it to steal data. So the NSA kept the government weak to forgien hacking and all companies.

Staggeringly awesome from so many angles

How 1990s Encryption Backdoors Put Today’s Internet In Jeopardy – Slashdot

Great, more coverage over how politically and technologically ancient legislation is causing havoc now in security. One would hope this could be used as evidence that extreme caution should be required now when draft new future laws (like backdoors in everything…) but it will probably be ignore and the problem will magnify and intensify over the next decade or two.

US Proposes Tighter Export Rules For Computer Security Tools – Slashdot

Aren’t we just this week furnished with evidence in the form of LogJam why the 90s era version of this law was so harmful to everyone. And we’re in a much more internet age. You can’t have it both ways, which means no one gets good security. Why do people still think this can work. It’s an appalling idea damaging to all society.

Medical

Nerve Cells Made From Blood Cells – Slashdot

“We can actually take a patient’s blood sample, as routinely performed in a doctor’s office, and with it we can produce one million sensory neurons. We can also make central nervous system cells.” They’re working on turning the neural stem cells into motor neurons for treatment of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Notes

Accelerando

“But it’s true: Since the 1980s, it has been possible – in principle – to resolve resource allocation problems algorithmically, by computer, instead of needing a market. Markets are wasteful: They allow competition, much of which is thrown on the scrap heap. So why do they persist?”

Manfred shrugs. “You tell me. Conservativism?”

Gianni closes the book and puts it back on the shelf. “Markets afford their participants the illusion of free will, my friend. You will find that human beings do not like being forced into doing something, even if it is in their best interests. Of necessity, a command economy must be coercive – it does, after all, command.”

We can afford a little wastage, my friend, if that is the price of keeping people happy until the marginal value of money withers away completely.”

Realization dawns. “You want to abolish scarcity, not just money!”

“Indeed.” Gianni grins. “There’s more to that than mere economic performance; you have to consider abundance as a factor. Don’t plan the economy; take things out of the economy. Do you pay for the air you breathe? Should uploaded minds – who will be the backbone of our economy, by and by – have to pay for processor cycles? No and no.”

Everytime, this part gets me. Silly people. From my nearly yearly reread of Accelerando.

We’re finally starting to catch up to it and surpass it’s opening in little bits, or go down obviously different paths.

Existential Threats

The Singularity is Further Than it Appears | Ramez Naam

Rehash and reupdate of a few previous posts by Ramez on the topic of the singularity.

tl;dr: Not anytime soon. Lack of incentives means very little strong AI work is happening. And even if we did develop one, it’s unlikely to have a hard takeoff.

Rants

Poor crypto/security infrastructue could really make future war weird. Maybe we need a new policy.

Things like Logjam with some part of it possibly related to 90s politics about crypto, it might look like things are getting better now and fixed, but what happens if new NSA/FBI laws pass requiring backdoors in everything. Also it highlights how they are still playing offensive at the cost of defensive in that it seems the NSA independently discovered logjam a few years ago and weaponized it for personal use rather than get the word out and secure the tech behind the US economy. Anyone want to bet on the odds a blackhat third party also independently discovered this in the intervening time and could have used it for hacks from credit-card/identify theft hacks to government/corporate espionage? The US is already flirting with being an “old world” power in some ways, having a harder time adapting to guerrilla war of the later 20th century, what about digital war? China has weaponized the Great Firewall into the Great Cannon a feat the US will already have a hard time matching, what if they continue to hurt their tech security infrastructure? Imagine in a decade where with all their military might in metal and human mass they declare war on a small nation, and minutes later that small nation’s crack team of hackers from one room shut down the US economy and power grid.


17May2015

World News

World population-food supply balance is becoming increasingly unstable, study finds

Certainly not the lead up to increased social tensions and rioting

Asia

Sedition returns to Malaysia’s legal toolbox – Al Jazeera English

Third Bangladeshi blogger hacked to death – Al Jazeera English

Reminder how lucky I am.

Europe

Macedonian protesters demand government’s resignation – World – CBC News

Additional coverage.

Seems like the PM was caught admitting to be behind the mass wiretapping of over 20,000 citizens (of the 2M people in the country). and now mass protests are breaking out.

Africa

Mohammed Morsi, ousted Egyptian president, sentenced to death – World – CBC News

Burundi

Army general dismisses Burundi president – Al Jazeera English

Celebrations have broken out in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura following a coup against the government of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

UN Security Council condemns Burundi coup – Al Jazeera English

On the other hand, the UN is less impressed, though, with both the coup and the president.

President ‘back in Burundi’ after army says coup failed – Al Jazeera English

That was… short

Doctors: Burundi police shoot fighters on hospital beds – Al Jazeera English

To worse

Burundian president says country at peace after failed coup – World – CBC News

Predictably

 

Middle East

 

Q&A: ‘Yemen has gone 100 years back in time’ – Al Jazeera English

Pretty bleak.

Yemen humanitarian pause comes into effect – Al Jazeera English

just for 5 days. Let’s hope even that can hold.

Scores killed in arms-depot blasts in Yemen’s Sanaa [capital]

Article includes good graph of who is involved and in what role

 

Finance & Markets

Self-Driving Trucks Are Going to Hit Us Like a Human-Driven Truck — Basic income — Medium

More in depth rehash. The economy and a lot of people are facing problems as self driving trucks are already starting to launch in states like Nevada. Second order effects to gas stations, motels and restaurants etc as well.

 

Science

 

42% of honeybee hives killed off in U.S. last year – Technology & Science – CBC News

Concerning

Team demonstrates first large-scale graphene fabrication

Preparation for mass production of material stronger than carbon fiber

The Ultimate Tech Frontier: Your Brain – Charlie’s Diary

Ramez Naam via Charlie Stross’s blog discusses the feasibility, current state of, and timeline for neural implants and some of their effects.

In evolution, ‘house of cards’ model wins – Yale

the “house of cards” model—which holds that mutations with large effects effectively reshuffle the genomic deck—explains evolutionary processes better than the theory that species undergo the accumulation of many mutations with small effects.

 

Space

LightSail: A Revolutionary Solar Sailing Spacecraft by Bill Nye, CEO, The Planetary Society — Kickstarter

Planetary Socety succesfully kickstarts a Solar Sail project for 2016

ISS Crew Stuck In Orbit While Russia Assesses Rocket – Slashdot

Old world launch technology is continuing to fall apart. We need the new generation of launch tech to get human approved pretty soon.

Arab Mars Probe Planned For 2020 – Slashdot

UAE wants to join the space race and is aiming for a Mars Orbiter to start. Seems ambitious, but good luck to them!

Privacy

Google admits Hangouts doesn’t use end-to-end encryption

Sad but not really shocking

Technology

Testable Examples in Go – The Go Blog

For later reference

Oculus Rift Hardware Requirements Revealed, Linux and OS X Development Halted – Slashdot

Possibly looking to double down on Windows now the Hololens has been announced, but still bad news for Linux and MacOS with dev for the platforms “paused” with no timeline.

Baidu’s Supercomputer Beats Google At Image Recognition – Slashdot

AI super power companies duke it out. Recall Google’s Andrew Ng’s “defection” to Baidu

Graphene holds key to unlocking creation of wearable electronic devices

Ground-breaking research has successfully created the world’s first truly electronic textile, using the wonder material Graphene.

Looking For Maturity In The Internet Of Things | MORNING, COMPUTER

Warren Ellis on why you might not want to do an Internet of Things company and generally that society is already wrong about how we view them (we barely bat an eye when one fails for hours or ever). This and more is exactly why things like Roger’s home monitoring make me laugh

Productivity

Microsoft study shows that tech is shortening your attention span

I can feel this at times too.

While tech is hurting attention spans overall, it also appears to improve your abilities to both multitask and concentrate in short bursts. You not only get a better sense of what deserves your attention, but do a better job of committing useful things to memory

Also presumably engaging in long form focus activities like reading books etc might help combat or balance this out.

Media

Taylor Swift – Bad Blood ft. Kendrick Lamar – YouTube

What more needs to be said, it’s picked up 15M view on youtube in about a day, a star studded cast across generations and a lot of people having fun.


11May2015

Continuing to process my news backlog.

 

World News

Cuba’s Raul Castro meets Pope Francis, says he might return to the Church – World – CBC News

Cuban President Raul Castro on Sunday thanked Pope Francis for brokering the thaw between Havana and Washington

I had no idea the Pope had a hand in that. Good for him. Interesting to see him playing at some politics and being effective.

Australia

Top Advisor To Australian Gov’t Says Climate Change is a UN Conspiracy – Slashdot

Australia has had some pretty horrific droughts in the last few years, which some people might say climate change may have hand a hand in. But the Australian government understands what’s really going on… This bazaar governance system that promotes this kind of behaviour is going to have some dangerous long term effects on us as a species.

US

Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership – Slashdot

Members of Congress can read the bill if they want, but they need to be located in a single room within the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center, and they can’t have their staff with them. They can’t have a copy, they can’t take notes, and they can only view one section at a time. And they’re monitored while they read it.

That’s not sketchy. This is a secret document that the government is negotiating and wants to become law.

Europe

Greece says it faces bankruptcy in weeks – Al Jazeera English

Drama. The US also was “close” to defaulting recently. Seems like drama drummed up to help close a better deal. Not that it’s not scary or they aren’t in a tough place, I’d just be surprised if it was let to happen.

Middle East

Saudi Arabia assembles ‘massive force’ on Yemen border – Al Jazeera English

Totally not suspicious. But with the unrest in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia already I believe doing some air raids… Looks like they are preping to move in on ground. Weather just for “stabilization” or…

Saudi Arabia says king’s Camp David absence not snub to US – Al Jazeera English

There have been a couple of articles about Saudi Arabia missing a Middle East conference in the US. Maybe he’s busy dealing with the Yemen situation?

Fighting rages along Syria’s Lebanon border – Al Jazeera English

Syrian opposition fighters are caught in a hard place with their backs to the Lebanese border with Lebanese Hezbollah troops and Syrian government attacking them.

Science

First baby born with IVF that uses stem cells to pep up old eggs – health – 11 May 2015 – New Scientist

Exciting new baby step in the direction of designer babies, but also one a lot of aging women who want kids might be interested in

Bright spots on Ceres get closer look from Dawn spacecraft – Technology & Science – CBC News

Spots caused by reflection off shiny surface such as ice, scientists confirm

Not the most useful contribution, but still interesting to follow

Researchers Make Spiders Produce Silk Strengthened With Graphene – Slashdot

Researchers dosed spiders with carbon nanotube filled water and the spiders produced silk infused with it that is as strong as kevlar.

Shape of the Universe Determined To Be Really, Really Flat – Slashdot

The Universe’s topology has many important implications for physics and it looks like we’re getting a handle on it and surprisingly, rather than positively or negatively curved, we seem to be in a perfectly flat universe.

Privacy

James Comey, the man who aims to outlaw encryption

The head of the FBI is still pushing for encryption “with a backdoor for the good guys” which isn’t encryption and presumably would then outlaw real encryption. I get that they are frustrated in their pursuits but making everyone weaker and more vulnerable to help them do their job of protecting people is contradictory.

Dropbox Moves Accounts Outside North America To Ireland – Slashdot

Following in Twitter’s footsteps, Dropbox has move accounts outside of North America to Ireland. Tough luck Canadians. Presumably performance was traded for security.

Technology

Tesla To Unveil Its $35,000 Model 3 In March 2016 – Slashdot

Still 10 months away, but that is a much more affordable price.

AMD Outlines Plans For Zen-Based Processors, First Due In 2016 – Slashdot

Reported as being x86 compatible and giving a 40% performance gain but still 10 months away. “Revolutionary” or just another step in Moore’s Law. Still, maybe interesting. And might be a boon for AMD CPUs.

Ubuntu May Beat Windows 10 To Phone-PC Convergence After All – Slashdot

‘While I enjoy the race, I also like to win,’ Ubuntu Foundation founder Mark Shuttleworth said, before announcing that Canonical will partner with a hardware manufacturer to release a Ubuntu Phone with smartphone-PC convergence features this year.

So the race is still on. Question though: then this “desktop” will be based on Ubuntu phone? So either like Ubuntu 15.04 or 15.10 or completely different than any actually current Ubuntu desktop experience? We shall see. I still have doubts, but a little competition is probably better than none…

Mono 4.0 released

This is the first Mono release that contains code from Microsoft’s open sourced .NET code. We are only getting started with this work

This is also the first version with C# 6.0 enabled by default.

Redacted for Mac Launch

Mac’s paid app stores isn’t doing too well.

Redacted was #8 top paid in the US and #1 top paid in Graphics at the end of launch day… Later that evening, I was having drinks with some friends and Matthew Bischoff said he thought I made $10,000 or $20,000…. . I tweeted asking people to guess how much I made yesterday (after Apple’s cut)…. The average guess was $12,460.67…

Please click through to see how much he made. It’s a bit tragic.

Uber Wants To Buy Nokia’s Mapping Services – Slashdot

Unshocking. Their dependence on Google maps is a big Achilles heel if Google launches a competing self driving car and boots them off Google Maps. Rumors are they have been working on an in house solution, but as we learned from AppleMaps, this is not as simple a problem as some people think.

Enterprise SSDs, Powered Off, Potentially Lose Data In a Week – Slashdot

This is pretty important if true. And pretty terrible.

Vensmile (TM) iPC002 Wintel Mini PC Compute Stick Atom BayTrail CR, Z3735F Quad-core (4C/4T) SoC CPU Windows 8.1 Pocket Mini Computer with Memory 2G EMMC 32G Bluetooth 4.0 Built-in Battery 2.4G/5G Dual Band WiFi : Computers & Accessories

Some might look at this and see another, yet small tv box, but what I see is the phone form factor and most importantly the battery in a non phone device. The battery is the game changer. Given more advanced input or even just lugging around a keyboard and mouse, and more advanced display, or maybe now some kind projector or plugging into a screen where ever you go, you have a full portable computer that fits into your pocket. Couple with a Holo Lens? or other head mounted displays and better portable input tech and neat things could happen that don’t have to be tied to a mobile OS.

Security

Netflix open-sources security incident management tool | Network World

Maritime Cybersecurity Firm: 37% of Microsoft Servers On Ships Are Vulnerable

including one case in which “drug gangs were able to smuggle entire container loads of cocaine through Antwerp, one of Belgium’s largest ports, after its hackers breached the port’s IT network”

Hackers are draining bank accounts via the Starbucks app – May. 13, 2015

Trust is one of the most precious commodities, especially when you are dealing with other people’s money, and Starbucks just blew a bunch of it,

Hackers can steal fingerprints from a Galaxy S5 | Android | Geek.com

Biometrics are problematic and this is just another symptom of that. Also though it probably really comes down to sloppy insecure storage. When storing PII and especially stuff for passwords, always encrypt or hash it strongly.


6may2015

So I’ve been quiet these last few weeks working on a new tool to help me store and collate news and generate these blogs posts. I’m glad to report that after about 3 weeks I’ve gotten it into a working state and the following blog post is the first result of me using the tool. I’m very happy with the results so far, it plugged into my work flow as designed, as I read news I could easily pop it open with an interesting link, tag it with a category and add notes and save it and when I had “enough” it spat out the blog post below which needed only the minimalist of tweaking.

 

World News

Wondermark » Archive » #1122; In which a Man Drowns

Less news and more an argument to add to your arsenal on why we need “welfare states”

US

Indiana town relents, gives addicts needles to stop disease outbreak – Health – CBC News

Canada

Canada pushes through controversial anti-terror bill – Al Jazeera English

Contested bill will allow spy-agencies to operate overseas for first time and conduct “online counter-messaging”.

CBC coverage.
Sad for me was the Liberal party going all in supporting the bill.

Alberta election 2015: NDP win a different kind of ‘miracle on the Prairies’ – Calgary – CBC News

After 44 years of conservative rule, this is a big change for the province. Also in a federal election year it makes an interesting note. Meanwhile the federal Conservatives waste no time coining the term Alberastan which probably is not a way to open a dialogue to win some votes from one of their traditional power houses.

Asia

Jailed Malaysian opposition leader’s wife wins his seat – Al Jazeera English

With other much more covered elections, this one was also interesting and noteworthy.

Wan Azizah Wan Ismail – a medical doctor and mother of six – took the seat in the northern state of Penan… Anwar was imprisoned for five years on charges that he sodomised a former male aide, a case he says was fabricated by the government.

Europe

U.K. election 2015: Conservatives defy polls, win slim majority – World – CBC News

UK election results are in in a heavily watched and surprising election with the Conservatives getting a majority, and the LibDems getting routed by SNP which got record highs (like 5x more than ever before). And after it was all said and done 3 party leaders resigned: Labour, LibDem, and UKIP

France under surveillance – Al Jazeera English

A new French bill gives sweeping powers to intelligence services, while bypassing the judiciary.

Science

Study: Beijing babies born heavier during Olympics – Al Jazeera English

Where baby birth weight is being used as a proxy variable for mother/population health. Not exactly news that mass smog makes people unhealthy, but just another fascinating symptom and example.

Space Radiation May Alter Astronauts’ Neurons – Slashdot

a study in mice suggests these particles could alter the shape of neurons, impairing astronauts’ memories and other cognitive abilities. In the prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with executive function, a range of high-level cognitive tasks such as reasoning, short-term memory, and problem-solving, neurons had 30% to 40% fewer branches

Russian Cargo Mission To ISS Spinning Out of Control – Slashdot
Russian Cargo Spacehip Declared Lost – Slashdot

Follow up :(

The Russians are now considering delaying the next manned launch, scheduled for May 26, while they investigate this failure.

Finance & Markets

Millionaires just as stressed as the rest of us – Business – CBC News

Article says $1 million no longer enough. A study on stress levels says that not until $5M achieved did people start relaxing. Quick math backs this assertion. Also means everyone has a lot of saving to be doing.

Privacy

NSA Reform Bill Backed By Both Parties Set To Pass House of Representatives – Slashdot

Although as someone pointed out, this is just curtailing their surveillance of American citizens, so all the rest of us are still protectionless. And any communication with someone that could be classified as a non-America is still “fair game”.

Technology

Microsoft launches Visual Studio Code, cross-platform code editor for OS X, Linux and Windows

It’s pretty amazing to see how far MS has come from their ~2002 “Linux is a cancer” stance to Ubuntu taking centre stage at their Build 2015 conference as we see their new truly cross platform IDE. They continue to surprise post Balmer.

Crowdfunded Android Console Ouya Reportedly Seeking Buyout – Slashdot

As an Ouya owner I’m sad to hear this but not surprised. Seems like things aren’t going well over there. I recall in it’s pre launch hayday there was talks of a yearly hardware refresh which hasn’t come through either.

Tattoos Found To Interfere With Apple Watch Sensors – Slashdot

Hopefully just first gen issues.

Microsoft turns Windows 10 phones into desktops

This has the potential to be pretty cool. Also sad that Canonical had and advertised this idea a few years ago but still seem to be the same “a few years” away from delivering it. 16.04 at the earliest but I wouldn’t bet on that. MS is stealing their thunder. One might argue they should have been less ambitious etc but it’s probably a conversation for a different time.

A Light-Powered Retina Implant For the Blind – Slashdot

the Argus II only produces vision of about 20/1200. A new implant in the pipeline from Stanford University has already achieved 20/250 vision in rats, and is aiming at 20/120, which would be below the legal threshold for blindness.

Keurig backs down on K-Cup coffee pod strategy – Business – CBC News

CEO says on earnings call they will back off on DRM and allow 3rd party cups and that they had “no idea” how much people liked them. I’d say they really tried hard not to know that, but at least in this case the market gave them a swift kick. Wish we’d see this more often.

Security

Unnoticed For Years, Malware Turned Linux Servers Into Spamming Machines – Slashdot

Concerning.

Notes

The Psychology of Computer Programming

Reading this book I came across an interesting discussion on “training” vs “education” whereby he termed “education” as the “acquisition of general principals and skill” and training as the “acquisition of specific skills”. Think of terms like “driver training”, “military training” vs “collage education”. Further he went on to hypothesis that “education may be impossible without certain training as perquisite” (especially in the context of computer programming). I found e interesting food for thought when thinking about the different education available for programmers and what makes different programmers and careers. Also the idea that students should ever get out of an education “ready to work” is unreasonable as that is where they have gone to get general principals and some minor training, but any work place will require additional training.


In lieu of…

So instead of keeping up with the news and writing a new post I’ve been pouring what spare time I have into this new project I spun up last week: transmet. It’s got a good start, hoping it won’t take too long, and when do should make the act of saving links a lot more effective for spitting out blog posts as it will spit out saved links for a give time range into an html template with tree-d headers by category. Ideally, just proof and maybe add a little more commentary.


26Apr2015

Ok so I didn’t make the midweek post I’d hoped to so I accumulated quite a lot. Also I think I need to write a quick tool to help with this so here’s a quick set of curated links with the light comments.

World News

US

U.S. presidential candidates: Who’s in so far
Good initial run down of what will be the next year’s worth of US political news

US court to hear case on chimpanzees’ right to freedom

Update: No Personhood for Chimps Yet

Science has updated their article with news that the court has released an amended order (PDF) with the words “writ of habeas corpus” removed, no longer implying that chimps have legal personhood. The order still allows the litigation to go forward, but we’ll have to wait for resolution.

I think these cases are important for a lot of reasons, because we need to start looking at intelligence and “person-hood” as a spectrum, from highly intelligent animals like our ancestors and dolphins to more hypothetical intelligences like future AIs and uploads.

Petraeus handed probation and fine for leaking secrets

two years probation and handed a $100,000 fine for leaking secrets to a mistress who was writing his biography.

It’s interesting, one of the more popular and successful generals in the US’s recent history felled because of emotion based poor choices. If any one says emotional intelligence isn’t important this is a good case. He had good analytical ability but other human instincts clouded his judgement and he fell hard.

‘Release cards’ turn inmates and their families into profit stream

For profit jails find more ways to gouge poor inmates, even after they leave. Pretty sad.

1.5 Million Missing Black Men
The radically higher incarceration rate of blacks in most communities is creating really strange social dynamics.

Middle East

Lebanon to get first Saudi-funded French weapons

ISIS video purports to show killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya
ISIS is spreading now to the middle of North Africa.

Egypt

Egypt’s Morsi sentenced to 20 years in jail
Complicated situation. Morsi was very unpopular with a lot of people for a lot of reasons, how ever, he was the only elected president of Egypt for a good while and now the Army led government which over threw him in a coup is sending him to jail.

Morsi’s punishment is a crime
Al Jazeera has some more things to say.

Mohamed Fahmy cautiously optimistic about retrial verdict

The Canadian Al-Jazeera English journalist awaiting a new trial in Egypt says he has hope he’ll be returning to Canada soon, but believes his “nightmare is not over yet.”

Retrial of Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt postponed

Yemen

Blog: Why is the US sending its warships to Yemen?

Analysis: Yemen’s crisis – the beginning of the end?

Humanitarian crisis of immense magnitude looms in Yemen

This pretty much sums it up, Yemen has been having trouble for a while and it looks like it’s going to keep getting messier and worse.

EU

The impact of Spain’s ‘gag law’
Spain is looking to severely limit protest in the country.

Asia

Mysterious drone lands on roof of Japanese PM’s office
Drone laced with radiation lands on Japan PM’s office

Drone use is continuing to lead to strange and interesting situations. It seems like maybe in the future more places are going to have micro anti air automated defences or drones are going to get a lot more regulated.

South America

Thousands evacuated as Chile volcano erupts
It’s pretty huge

Science

Sam Cristoforetti, the ESA astronaut currently on ISS has an excellent sense of humor
“There’s coffee in that nebula”… ehm, I mean… in that #Dragon.

Super excellent Voyager shout out from the ESA astronaut.

Resistance To Antibiotics Found In Isolated Amazonian Tribe

Chinese Scientists Claim To Have Genetically Modified Human Embryos
Scientists in China Just Edited Genes in Human Embryos for the First Time
Step towards GATACA and super kids and lots of exciting moral/legal/ethical dilemmas.

Bees

Bees may get hooked on neonicotinoid pesticides
Tainted love: Bees prefer food laced with harmful pesticides
Bees Prefer Nectar Laced With Neonicotinoids

So more is unravelling about the Bee deaths over the last years. Looks like they might love delicious pesticide and poison and the rest is sadly obvious. If true it’s good-ish news because we might be able to fix this problem.

Hubble

How the Hubble space telescope changed our view of the universe
Hubble Space Telescope celebrated 25 years on
Hubble Turns 25

A lot of places noted the Hubble is old and has had a long important life.

Hubble Spots Star Explosion Astronomers Can’t Explain

And that it’s not done giving us astronomical mysteries.

Privacy

Facebook says it doesn’t save your unpublished posts

Researched did detect they are sent to FB but they (legitly) say it’s just for analysis for insertion of thinks like links to friend’s names and autocomplete. They say they aren’t storing it, so, take it as you will. It’s par for the course for all online services

Except For Millennials, Most Americans Dislike Snowden
“The broad support for Edward Snowden among Millennials around the world should be a message to democratic countries that change is coming”

Allegation: Philly Cops Leaned Suspect Over Balcony To Obtain Password
Concerning. Presumably all evidence collected was ruled inadmissible in court?

Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law

Tor Exit Node Operator Issued Subpoena
HN commentary
And a good top post about a subpoena as well. Big problems for privacy and freedom.

Dice Loaded Against Public in Canada’s Copyright Term Extension
Interesting to see the forces of corporations and the US gov pushing others around and how difficult resisting is. Big pre-emptive concessions given just to avoid potentially bigger ones later. HN discussion

Tech

New Dark Web Market Is Selling Zero-Day Exploits

AMD reveals Windows 10 will launch in late July

Tor Is Building the Next Generation Dark Net With Funding From DARPA

It’s just entertaining to see the US gov still investing in TOR on one side and fighting against it on others. Still, super great news.

‘Aaron’s Law’ Introduced To Curb Overzealous Prosecutions For Computer Crimes
Hope

Twitter details new measures to combat abuse
Really needed, we’ll see how it works. The abuse on twitter is legendary right now which is not good.

Ubuntu Desktop To Eventually Switch To Snappy Packages By Default ~ Web Upd8: Ubuntu / Linux blog
15.10 looking to have snappy default packages and Canonical is still looking to have Mir/Unity 8 for 16.04

Productivity

Crib sheet: Accelerando
So apparently Charlie estimated part 1 to land in 2013 so we’re already 2 years late. I’d estimate now about 2020 which is what I’m gearing up for.

Prof. Sussman’s Reading List
Reading list to harvest

How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson?
Super excellent and interesting response by ex wife Justine Musk, with rare perspective.


Trawl 18Apr2015

World News

Sadly it seems El Salvador’s gang truce has collapsed and sent the countries homicide rate soaring.

Bizarrely there was a death at Disney World in a car racing accident.

In Kenya 3 men who were convicted of a brutal gang-rape of a 16 y.o. girl were initially handed sentences to cut grass  but after protests and international outrage the men have seen their sentences raised to 15 years in prison.

China’s figures show economy slowing down, with a growth rate somewhere between 6.9% to 7.3%. This is still a great and high growth rate compared the US’s 2.4% for 2014 but it is definitely on the low end for China given its recent amazing economic growth coming into the 90s and 2000s.

Existential Threats

Great post by Charlie Stross on The Great Filter and the Fermi Paradox. Never heard of either? This article has all the ground work and background material you will need. As to why would some one worry about these potential future existential threats? Because it’s an exercise in planning and stretches back to now and how we (as a people) plan what we do now to not fall into these traps that are hinted at.

Following in the vein, scientists have declared that Ocean acidification from CO2 (from 252 million y.a. volcano eruptions) was the cause of the worst mass extinction the world has ever seen. Which is pretty concerning because we seem to be acidifying the ocean at a similar pace with our CO2 output: “The Last Time Oceans Got This Acidic This Fast, 96% of Marine Life Went Extinct“. [abstract Ocean acidification and the Permo-Triassic mass extinction]

Another component of the Great Filter might be that we really only get one chance. In his article Out of the Ashes Lewis Dartnell asks

It took a lot of fossil fuels to forge our industrial world. Now they’re almost gone. Could we do it again without them?

Online Privacy

Facebook chats are being handed off to a 3rd party company and being scanned and analysed, oh, and it also seems this company is a front for the CIA, as it’s funded by them. [HN follow up discussion]. The DEA is running disinformation campaign’s to hide their surveillance techniques and capabilities.

In a game of cat and mouse Twitter moves all their Non-US accounts to Ireland both in storage and ownership (SanFran based Twitter Inc and Twitter International Company in Dublin, Ireland). However Microsoft is sounding the alarm that the US government is ‘rewriting’ the law to obtain emails overseas.

Meanwhile a study in Canada showed that Police asked telcos for client data in over 80% of criminal probes.  Now to start with, naturally they got it all, but what’s more concerning, this is just for investigations, when in theory the target is still presumed innocent.  From the article:

“When a tool is unregulated in this way, it becomes a matter of standard practice, no assessment is made as to the invasiveness of the tool, whether it’s justified in a particular context or not. It’s easy to do. It’s low cost, so you just do it.”​

“A lot of those are going to be innocent people,” said Israel. “A lot of privacy gets violated to find the one person who is the actual criminal.”

For what it’s worth, apparently Rogers has stopped providing some data without a warrant and found that with that small safety mechanism in place, requests dropped in 2014.

Finally, a lawyer finds malware on a hardrive supplied by the police in discovery in a rather aggressive move by that police department.

Tech

Great Cannon

How can we not lead but with more discussion on China’s new Great Cannon which they weapons tested recently against github. It is a horribly ingenious weapon turning the Great Firewall inside out. Now that analysis is mostly done [more] we can discuss how it works: basically any traffic in China and any traffic from the world going into China pass through the Great Firewall. All they did was target foreign traffic and for 1% of it going to one specific site, modify the site response a bit injecting a little malicious payload that just asks the target (github) for some content. At Internet scale this >1% weapons test caused massive havoc for github, possibly the largest source code storage and sharing site on the internet.

This who story is fascinating because of the how, but also the “what next”. The US may have a harder time coming up with a response to turning a piece of widespread censorship tech into a tool to weaponize the internet itself. But you will certainly see this adding more urgency to forces who want to roll out censorship tech elsewhere in the world so that they can they also utilize it in this new way.

Sadness for the rest of us though.

Misc Tech

Ramez Naam wrote a think piece about how much land it would take to power the entire US via Solar.

An article Keeping Your Car Safe From Electronic Thieves seems to have a theory on the wave of high tech keyless car stealing going around. The gangs which rang from kids to more organized adult gangs, all seem to be using what appears to be cheap ($30-$100) black boxes of some tech to gain access to the cars. The theory is they are “power amplifiers”:

In a normal scenario, when you walk up to a car with a keyless entry and try the door handle, the car wirelessly calls out for your key so you don’t have to press any buttons to get inside. If the key calls back, the door unlocks. But the keyless system is capable of searching for a key only within a couple of feet.

Mr. Danev said that when the teenage girl turned on her device, it amplified the distance that the car can search, which then allowed my car to talk to my key, which happened to be sitting about 50 feet away, on the kitchen counter. And just like that, open sesame.

In a beautiful and strange case of worlds colliding a video is going around of a Chimpanzee in a Zoo taking down a camera drone from the drone’s POV.

Microsoft have started working on an LLVM based compiler for .Net. The last year has really seen a lot of surprising (historically speaking) announcements from MS, especially around .Net. This is another welcome piece of it. Hopefully some interesting results.

If you run a Windows web server however, patch it now, a new remote kernel code exploit has been found in http.sys which already has server crashing examples floating around, and server rooting ones surely exist. It again raises the debate about what should and should not be a Kernel component. Someone raised to me the hypothesis http.sys was rolled into the Windows kernel as a response to Tux, a not in mainline kernel module that is a static http server.

Multiple sources are reporting that Cyangoenmod, who make a free Android version you can flash onto most popular phone is partnering with Microsoft to bundle their software instead of some of Google’s (like Bing).

Personal and Productivity

This pleasant piece encouraging reading and purportedly showing a snippet of Elon Musk’s reading list entitled The Transformative Effects of Reading.

I stumbled upon Waytools’ Textblade which looks like an amazing portable keyboard for Cells and Tablets and the only reason I haven’t already ordered one is the slight tingle I’m getting in my hoax sense. No one has yet received one and the delivery date has been pushed back several times so I’ll just wait until some people have received them (or not…).

Finally, on a more personal note: I’m still playing with this writing/filtering component I’m trying to add to my news consumption. I do think it’s good and helpful for many reasons, just writing more is good for all of us, it helps with focus, and w.r.t. to my news reading it focuses that and helps with recall. As for the method and format, as from today’s massive weekly summary you can see I’m trying a new approach

Previously I was trying to write short summaries as I read but this had a few limiting and poor factors in which I never could get much done, and it meant I was practically confining my consumption only to periods where I had more time and one device (my laptop). I’m trying now to separate them and use a few tools to save articles, links and thoughts and then at a separate time write them all up. The results for this week was  bit huge and time consuming as any new thing is (a bit over 2 hours) but I’ll probably get more into the groove of it and maybe split it into twice a week, or find another approach to try.


Some of this week

Listening to Baby Metal and The Glitch Mob (thanks amazing sound guy from Person of Interest) after a quiet week of Phillip Glass. First week I’ve ever listened to something low energy and more classical. Not bad. I caught him from BSG reruns, where in the show Starbuck’s father took credit for that song. But felt like something more high energy for the weekend. So, the week:

The LHC is back on. Exciting new experiments to ensue. They hope to get it’s new revitalized self up to double the power of the previous run that resulted in the discovery of the Higgs Boson. But it’s going to take around a month to ramp up.

Caught this Rogers “Smart Home Monitoring” ad on Youtube today. Not scary at all. Wire up your home with cameras and trust your Canadian ISP who has a happy relationship with local law and spook enforcement, not to mention the general security of the infrastructure in light of more talks with Snowden this week. This delightful piece by Quinn Norton handles that well. But as to Rogers’ new service? Yeah, um no thanks. We worry enough about hackers alone taking our webcam and phone pics, now we have the home “security” network too… Celeb nude photo leaks will be a thing of the past replace by Celeb videos of everything from eating and watching tv to you guessed it, full sex. Plus the rest of us.

“At least 30″ Indian farmers have commited suicide after rains destroyed their crops. This is why I’m in favour of a more socialized state with safety nets. Because libertarianism and just bloody minded right wing-ism leads to a lot of people living right on the edge and one bad day or week can wipe them out with no means of recovery. We need to treat people better than that. And if we all have to invest in those safety nets, in basically insurance, via taxes, that oks, because as insurance for us all, you never know when or if you too might need to partake in it.

An 8 year old boy “caught” a severe peanut and fish allergy following a blood transfusion. So that’s something to be aware of. Caught isn’t really the right word, he now just has some blood in him that is allergic to it so when the food started being processed it started reacting with some of his blood. As the foreign blood naturally dissipates, so does the allergy.

There was a protest in Kenya over police and the military’s delayed response to the massacre of 148 students at Garissa University College. Response took 12 hours. Morning till evening. In the mean time the gunmen held the campus and killed people all day.

Been reading The Psychology of Computer Programming. For an older book on a what we think of as rapidly evolving industry it’s still quite interesting and relevant. Also gives me some better angles at thinking about why one day I might like getting into management (if I’m about production, productivity, being solo won’t get me very far, but a team will).

A “popular” Android security app is discovered to be dangerously worthless doing essentially nothing but covering it up providing a false sense of security. App markets have a long way to go until they can be trusted to reliably provide good software for money and yet they are probably still better than the free for all that pre-dated them.

Microsoft (finally some might say) following just about everyone else, looks to be moving to a faster release cadence and have announced the codename of the post Windows 10 project, “Redstone”.

A French network was hacked after exposing it’s password during a TV interview where the camera showed some passwords that had been written down and stored on paper on a wall. So, um, don’t do that.


LHC is back, and we still don’t think about programming right

The Large Hadron Collider is finally back online after two year maintenance break.

Google, who try to apply machine learning to everything including hiring, recently discovered that Being good at programming competitions correlates negatively with being good on the job. And even with ut watching the video, the headline just resonates with me. It relates to a tweet I saw recently:

Brian Degenhardt @bmdhacks
How to be a 10x engineer: Incur technical debt fast enough to appear 10x as productive as the ten engineers tasked with cleaning it up.

Finally, this resonates with the book I’m reading The Psychology of Computer Programming. I’m only 4 chapters in but it’s already brought up how much more social an activity programming is than it is often portrayed. The best programmers are often social and communicate a lot learning new things, techniques, and tools and staying up to date. Also on large projects you need to all work together to establish a shared style so that maintenance is that much easier. I can easily see the “good at competitions” programmer being the more typical “rockstar’ solo programmer who doesn’t integrate as well into group and therefore turns out code that integrates poorly, is less maintainable, and therefore worth less in the long run. They are different skill sets. And from school to competitions we under emphasize what is most important in the workforce.

Seriously though, if you program or manage programmers, the book, while a bit old, has been updated, and is absolutely worth a read.


Peter Watts PoI review

Peter Watts has finally caught up on Person of Interest to see what it’s all about. Pretty much inline with what I’ve felt about the show. “The BUG may have put it best when she described it as a kind of idiot-savante among TV shows: it may lack certain social skills, but you can’t deny the smarts.” It slowly works up to some good concept work and plays with it, which is uncommon. Read the review tho.