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Current Topic: Technology

IP Addresses Are Personal Data, E.U. Regulator Says -
Topic: Technology 4:51 pm EST, Jan 23, 2008

IP addresses, strings of numbers that identify computers on the Internet, should generally be regarded as personal information, the head of the European Union's group of data privacy regulators said Monday.

hear hear...

IP Addresses Are Personal Data, E.U. Regulator Says -

Visualizing Data, by Ben Fry
Topic: Technology 10:32 am EST, Jan  7, 2008

Enormous quantities of data go unused or underused today, simply because people can't visualize the quantities and relationships in it. Using a downloadable programming environment developed by the author, Visualizing Data demonstrates methods for representing data accurately on the Web and elsewhere, complete with user interaction, animation, and more.
Visualizing Data teaches you how to answer questions, not simply display information.

Looks like a damn cool book...

I've played around with the Processing language and tools a bit and found them really cool. I've been particularly impressed with Jared Tabell's work on generative art using Processing...

Very worth checking out.

Visualizing Data, by Ben Fry

Topic: Technology 5:15 pm EST, Dec 10, 2007

The 6.370 BattleCode programming competition is a unique challenge that combines battle strategy, software engineering and artificial intelligence. In short, the objective is to write the best player program for the computer game BattleCode.

Simulated robot destruction. Now w/ lasers!


[ Team memestreams? ]


Reading between the lines with Kindle
Topic: Technology 1:49 pm EST, Dec 10, 2007

I've written on this topic myself a number of times, both here and at home, so this is right up my alley, so to speak.

I'm sympathetic to "fetishizing ink and paper", and absolutely believe there's a meaningful experiential difference between reading a well made book and reading something on a screen made of plastic. I think it's largely aesthetic, not fully integral to the meaning or validity of the work, but that's not at all to say it's not important. Aesthetic considerations allow function to transcend and create pleasure. A teapot is merely a metal container for boiling water, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the experience of having tea far more when using a well designed one. So for books.

I suppose my main concern with some of the views expressed here is the notion that the advent of electronic readers must necessarily see the demise of the paper novel. Technology doesn't typically cause the outright eradication of older forms. What it does is relegate them to niches... it places them into the category of collectors items, of art pieces. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that's necessarily a fabulous solution. Nonetheless I have hope that where a market for paper-bound books exists, then so the books will exist as well. Perhaps in the future all such will be custom made, works of skill by independent bookbinders (where the content license has already been purchased as a separate item). Of course, this removes them from the hands of the general public, for the most part; this represents a loss, no doubt, perhaps a grievous one. Still, I've read dozens of books that I felt no particular attachment to, physically. These (which aren't literature, as one of the quoted authors suggests) are better suited for eBooks. Of course, there are a couple hundred volumes that I feel very strongly about, arrayed on my shelves in a way that, I admit, brings me a great deal of comfort and perhaps even happiness thereby. But do I really need them *all*? Not really.

The proposition made by this author, that distaste for the Kindle and it's ilk is a proxy for a feeling of loss of a "solid reading culture" may be accurate, but if so I think it's also misguided. Firstly, I reject the argument that reading Shakespeare on a well designed (read, not yet created, and definitely not a blackberry) eBook reader necessarily robs it of it's "truth" or "integrity" even if it does rob it of some of it's pleasure. Meanwhile I do think that such a device (characteristics of which are discussed at more length in my link above) could offer a lot of people -- people without access to scholars, for example -- far better access to literature and a greater understanding of what they're reading than they could otherwise expect. In that sense, this technology trend may well lead to a revitalized culture of literacy.

Of cour... [ Read More (0.3k in body) ]

Reading between the lines with Kindle

Walk Score - Helping homebuyers, renters, and real estate agents find houses and apartments in great neighborhoods.
Topic: Technology 11:04 am EST, Nov 29, 2007

What is Walk Score?

We help homebuyers, renters, and real estate agents find houses and apartments in great neighborhoods. Walk Score shows you a map of what's nearby and calculates a Walk Score for any property. Buying a house in a walkable neighborhood is good for your health and good for the environment.

Killer app. Gold star.

[ Well, it will get one from me eventually perhaps... they need to find a way (hard, no doubt) to incorporate other information.

For example, my address scores a 57/100, which, granted, isn't very good, but I still think is too high. They count the Tara as walkable from my place. I won't deny that it's physically possible to walk there - I've walked to the diner down there before - but there aren't sidewalks for a large portion of the walk, and it'd be (er, was) scary as hell at night, if sober (and if not, it'd be just plain dangerous).

Perhaps my metrics are too strict, but I say if there aren't sidewalks along a road as major as Briarcliff or La Vista, it's not effing walkable, even if there's a pile of good restaurants and stuff along the way.

Also, it calculates things under 1 mile away, AS THE CROW FLIES. Using Google Maps directly to get distances along actual roads, a place shown as .5 miles away on WalkScore is in fact 1.4 miles away. That's a pretty major oversight, even if you leave out the lack of usable sidewalks.

Finally, and this is more blue sky than bottom line, I guess, but still would make a big difference to me, is some way to rate the quality of various road segments for walkability (perhaps collaboratively). Let's face it, the walk from a condo in midtown to a nearby bar is distinct from walking in Decatur and is definitely distinct from me walking across the 85 Bridge on N. Druid Hills Road to get to a little grocery store. -k]

Walk Score - Helping homebuyers, renters, and real estate agents find houses and apartments in great neighborhoods.

Holding a Program in One's Head
Topic: Technology 9:55 am EDT, Aug 24, 2007

Even more striking are the number of officially sanctioned projects that manage to do all eight things wrong. In fact, if you look at the way software gets written in most organizations, it's almost as if they were deliberately trying to do things wrong. In a sense, they are. One of the defining qualities of organizations since there have been such a thing is to treat individuals as interchangeable parts. This works well for more parallelizable tasks, like fighting wars. For most of history a well-drilled army of professional soldiers could be counted on to beat an army of individual warriors, no matter how valorous. But having ideas is not very parallelizable. And that's what programs are: ideas.

I feel like I understand this far, far too well. *sigh*

Holding a Program in One's Head - Multifunction task chairs for your desk, floor, home, or office.
Topic: Technology 12:32 am EDT, Aug 21, 2007

Saw this today on Ars. Not sure how great it would be as an office chair (at least if you attempt to use it with a desk). But as a gamer/laptop chair, looks fairly cool.

[ Perhaps... a lot of money for that though.

"It's a chair! But you can make it into a much SHORTER chair that rocks back and forth, you know, if you want."

Meh. -k] - Multifunction task chairs for your desk, floor, home, or office.

RE: iPhone + XSS = All your cell networks are belong to Acidus
Topic: Technology 2:36 pm EDT, Jun 12, 2007

Acidus wrote:
Ok, I'm not sure what this means exactly (and granted this is 2 steps removed from the source). Its a browser with a JavaScript interpreter. Of course it can run Ajax apps. I wonder if this referes to Adobe's Apollo apps which can run external of a browser.

No, i don't think so. It's kind of a cop out for apple, and, truthfully, I'm surprised. Apple's initial nonsense answer to "Will 3rd party devs be allowed?" talked about them not wanting to overload the cell data networks. This announcement belies that statement since now ALL 3rd party software REQUIRES network activity. Want to write a game? Network based. A todo list? Network based. Don't get me wrong, I see a lot of value in this paradigm, and most apps can benefit (e.g. see your todo list anywhere), but at the same time, I think it's silly to not have any avenue for entirely local apps.

And I do worry about security, with either paradigm. I have no doubt that Acidus (and therefore 10 or 20 other people who are far less scrupulous) will find a way to pwn people's iPhones within about 45 seconds. This is going to be Apple's biggest problem with the iPhone, i think.

RE: iPhone + XSS = All your cell networks are belong to Acidus

Bots on The Ground -
Topic: Technology 12:30 pm EDT, May 10, 2007

The most effective way to find and destroy a land mine is to step on it.

This has bad results, of course, if you're a human. But not so much if you're a robot and have as many legs as a centipede sticking out from your body. That's why Mark Tilden, a robotics physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, built something like that. At the Yuma Test Grounds in Arizona, the autonomous robot, 5 feet long and modeled on a stick-insect, strutted out for a live-fire test and worked beautifully, he says. Every time it found a mine, blew it up and lost a limb, it picked itself up and readjusted to move forward on its remaining legs, continuing to clear a path through the minefield.

Finally it was down to one leg. Still, it pulled itself forward. Tilden was ecstatic. The machine was working splendidly.

The human in command of the exercise, however -- an Army colonel -- blew a fuse.

The colonel ordered the test stopped.

Why? asked Tilden. What's wrong?

The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg.

This test, he charged, was inhumane.

Interesting article...

Bots on The Ground -

Student suspended for bypassing network security - News
Topic: Technology 12:41 pm EDT, Apr 30, 2007

The University of Portland handed a one-year suspension to engineering major and Air Force ROTC member Michael Maass after he wrote a computer program designed to replace and improve Cisco Clean Access (CCA).

Maass noticed flaws in CCA that would allow it to be bypassed in "antivirus and operating system check." Essentially, a program could be written that fooled CCA into thinking it was receiving correct information identifying a computer's operating system and antivirus as current and up to date.

According to Information Services Director Bryon Fessler, a fundamental purpose of CCA is that it "evaluates whether computers are compliant with security policies (i.e., specific antivirus software, operating system updates, patches, etc.)."

In the design of his computer program, Maass looked at the functions CCA provides and identified vulnerabilities where it could be bypassed. He wrote a program that emulated the same functions as CCA and eliminated some security issues.

He says that the method he chose is "one of six that I came up with."

Maass says his intent was not malicious. Rather, the sophomore says he was examining vulnerabilities so that they could be fixed.

"I was planning on going to Cisco with the vulnerability this summer," Maass says.

[ On it's face, this is definitely the university's response, for better or for worse... it doesn't look like Cisco had any hand in it. Plus, handing his software around might not have been the best idea in the world.

Nonetheless, Cisco shares some responsibility, together with a lot of other companies, for setting the tone that security research is dangerous and that doing it outside of their strict and private rules should be met with sanctions. I think the whole idea that security problems can be responded to by silencing their discovery is the fault of a lot of people and it's a damn shame.

Student suspended for bypassing network security - News

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