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Current Topic: Technology

Its inevitable release might be harmful
Topic: Technology 6:52 am EST, Mar  5, 2012

Adrian Chen:

With Martin's system, each crewmember gets a cell phone that operates using a prepaid SIM card; they also get a two-week plastic pill organizer filled with 14 SIM cards where the pills should be. Each SIM card, loaded with $50 worth of airtime, is attached to a different phone number and stores all contacts, text messages and call histories associated with that number, like a removable hard drive. This makes a new SIM card effectively a new phone. Every morning, each crewmember swaps out his phone's card for the card in next day's compartment in the pill organizers. After all 14 cards are used, they start over at the first one.

Of course, it would be hugely annoying for a crewmember to have to remember the others' constantly changing numbers. But he doesn't have to, thanks to the pill organizers. Martin preprograms each day's SIM card with the phone numbers the other members have that day. As long they all swap out their cards every day, the contacts in the phones stay in sync. (They never call anyone but each other on the phones.) Crewmembers will remind each other to "take their medicine," Martin said.

William J. H. Andrewes:

The schemes that divided the day into 24 equal parts varied according to the start of the count: Italian hours began at sunset, Babylonian hours at sunrise, astronomical hours at midday and "great clock" hours (used for some large public clocks in Germany) at midnight. Eventually these and competing systems were superseded by "small clock," or French, hours, which split the day, as we currently do, into two 12-hour periods commencing at midnight.

Mike Loukides:

The small town culture (which may never have really existed) in which everyone knew everything about everyone disappeared as we moved into suburbs, where nobody knew anything about anyone. And that's really where our notions of "privacy" arose. The local pharmacies started disappearing, to be replaced by big chains like CVS and Walgreens. As Douden's and Jolly's disappeared from local culture, so did the local pharmacist who knew and remembered who you were and what you bought, and who was able to put two and two together without the help of a Hadoop cluster.

Laurie Garrett:

Rather than trying to censor research because its inevitable release might be harmful, we ought to be having a frank, open discussion about its implications.

Thomas Rid:

Cybersecurity has a broader meaning in non-democracies: For them, the worst-case scenario is not collapsing power plants, but collapsing political power. Russia and China are ahead of the United States, but mostly in defining cybersecurity as the fight against subversive behavior. This is the true cyberwar they are fighting.

The Product Of Your Choosing
Topic: Technology 7:51 am EST, Mar  1, 2012

Kamala Harris:

The majority of mobile apps sold today do not contain a privacy policy.

Metafilter Wisdom:

If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.

Nick Bilton:

The private photos on your phone may not be as private as you think.

After a user allows an application on an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to have access to location information, the app can copy the user's entire photo library, without any further notification or warning.

Patrick Haggard:

We feel we choose, but we don't.


If you are given a choice, you believe you have acted freely. This is one of the darkest of all psychological secrets.

Barack Obama:

For businesses to succeed online, consumers must feel secure.

Jean-Luc Godard:

It's not where you take things from -- it's where you take them to.

David Foster Wallace:

If anybody feels like perspiring, I'd advise you to go ahead, because I'm sure going to.

An Undomesticated, Unpredictable Wilderness
Topic: Technology 7:53 am EST, Feb 27, 2012

Tom Vanderbilt:

Maybe the problem is not that texting and Facebook are distracting us from driving. Maybe the problem is that driving distracts us from our digital lives.

Simson Garfinkel:

It's impossible for a program to evaluate a previously unseen piece of software and determine whether it is malicious without actually running it.

Michel de Montaigne:

When I am playing with my cat, how do I know she is not playing with me?

Marco Arment:

Everyone has their bullshit. You can simply decide whose you're willing to tolerate.

Christopher Christenson:

Like most other websites popular among strange liberal druggies, at its core, Tumblr is a cult. You can't have a moral website with cats, that's an inherent contradiction. However, cats are extremely persuasive and have turned many people to the dark side.

George Dyson:

There will always be codes that do unpredictable things. This is why the digital universe will never be a national park; it will always be an undomesticated, unpredictable wilderness.

Computers are idle 99 percent of the time, just waiting for the next instruction. While they're waiting for us to come up with instructions, more and more computation is happening without us, as computers write instructions for each other. And as Turing showed mathematically, this space can't be supervised. As the digital universe expands, so does this wild, undomesticated side.

Steven at Panic:

Trying to make applications free of vulnerabilities (while still an important goal) is to lose the overall cat-and-mouse race.

Undersecretary of Commerce Mark Foulon:

It has become clear that Internet access in itself is a vulnerability that we cannot mitigate. We have tried incremental steps and they have proven insufficient.

A Seemingly Infinite Prairie of Possibility
Topic: Technology 8:16 am EST, Feb 24, 2012

Jesse Darling:

If you want to know about the halcyon years of the World Wide Web, ask one of the elders and they'll tell you that the wild frontier once consisted of a few scrappy settlements, pitched in rickety code, on a seemingly infinite prairie of possibility. "Not like now," they'll tell you, sadly, and shake their heads at what became of it all: the great digital dream of libertarian net-autonomy replaced by a monopoly of mall-like social-media platforms, where the kids all hang out in their outlandish avatars, talking to one another in a broken argot of phonetics and hieroglyphs. A generation of users, whose addiction mutates and proliferates each day anew. Seeking novel strains of viral data with which to feed its own sickness, it chews on itself for days before regurgitating its own guts in a feedback loop of 24-bit RGB rainbows.

David Cronenberg:

A lot of filmmaking in America is nostalgia filmmaking, trying to recapture what you loved as a kid.

Tom Cheshire:

Tumblr is growing up, fast: the site expanded its user base by 900 per cent in the year to June 2011. In 2010, it served under two billion monthly page views; now, it generates about 14 billion, more than Wikipedia or Twitter.

On average, a Tumblr post gets reblogged nine times.

John Donovan:

Over the past five years, AT&T's wireless data traffic has grown 20,000%.

Plan UK:

The advert uses facial recognition software with an HD camera to determine whether a man or woman is standing in front of the screen, and shows different content accordingly.

Men and boys are denied the choice to view the full content in order to highlight the fact that women and girls across the world are denied choices and opportunities on a daily basis due to poverty and discrimination.

Patrick Haggard:

We feel we choose, but we don't.

Ed Fletcher:

Burning Man Struggles With Immigration Reform

Richard Thaler:

In using lotteries to motivate it is important to get the details right.

'I don't have to spell out the implications of this'
Topic: Technology 6:46 am EST, Feb 22, 2012

Freeman Dyson:

Grab every opportunity to take responsibility and do things for which you are unqualified.

Francis Fukuyama:

It is extremely easy to build a drone now that can do not just surveillance but can carry rather large payloads. If you want to see how large some of these planes get, check out this video of a model Airbus A380. I don't have to spell out the implications of this. I want to have my drone before the government makes them illegal.

Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Mark Hanis:

If human rights organizations can spy on evil, they should.

Tom Junod:

It's amazing whom we're arresting as terrorists these days.

Pico Iyer:

It's only by having some distance from the world that you can see it whole, and understand what you should be doing with it.

NASA, via Decius:

Behold one of the more detailed images of the Earth yet created.

Your Permanent Record
Topic: Technology 8:21 am EDT, Oct 11, 2011

Adrienne Porter Felt:

We reviewed 100 Chrome extensions and found that 27 of the 100 extensions leak all of their privileges to a web or WiFi attacker.

Stevens Le Blond, et al:

In this paper, we show how to exploit real-time communication applications to determine the IP address of a targeted user.

(This paper was posted by error. It was withdrawn by the author and will be posted again after the termination of a responsible disclosure process.)

Do the authors not realize that "version 1" of the paper is still available for download, only a link away?

Jonathan Zdziarski:

I canceled the OnStar subscription on my new GMC vehicle today after receiving an email from the company about their new terms and conditions. While most people, I imagine, would hit the delete button when receiving something as exciting as new terms and conditions, being the nerd sort, I decided to have a personal drooling session and read it instead. I'm glad I did. OnStar's latest T&C has some very unsettling updates to it, which include the ability to sell your personal GPS location information, speed, safety belt usage, and other information to third parties, including law enforcement. To add insult to a slap in the face, the company insists they will continue collecting and selling this personal information even after you cancel your service, unless you specifically shut down the data connection to the vehicle after canceling.

Kashmir Hill:

Facebook keeps track of every person who has ever poked you.

All your pokes are going into a permanent record.

David Kravets:

AT&T permanently retains information detailing a phone's movement history via its connections to mobile phone towers while it's traveling.

Jenna Wortham:

Facebook still dominates the majority of the time Americans spend on the Web, occupying more than 53 billion minutes each month.

Metafilter Wisdom:

If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.

David Kravets:

Verizon keeps a list of everyone you've exchanged text messages with for the past year. T-... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]

Hyper-Local, Directions-Based Ranking of Places
Topic: Technology 6:26 am EDT, May 10, 2011

Petros Venetis, Hector Gonzalez, Christian S. Jensen, and Alon Halevy:

Studies find that at least 20% of web queries have local intent; and the fraction of queries with local intent that originate from mobile properties may be twice as high. The emergence of standardized support for location providers in web browsers, as well as of providers of accurate locations, enables so-called hyper-local web querying where the location of a user is accurate at a much finer granularity than with IP-based positioning.

This paper addresses the problem of determining the importance of points of interest, or places, in local-search results. In doing so, the paper proposes techniques that exploit logged directions queries. A query that asks for directions from a location a to a location b is taken to suggest that a user is interested in traveling to b and thus is a vote that location b is interesting. Such user-generated directions queries are particularly interesting because they are numerous and contain precise locations.

Specifically, the paper proposes a framework that takes a user location and a collection of near-by places as arguments, producing a ranking of the places. The framework enables a range of aspects of directions queries to be exploited for the ranking of places, including the frequency with which places have been referred to in directions queries. Next, the paper proposes an algorithm and accompanying data structures capable of ranking places in response to hyper-local web queries. Finally, an empirical study with very large directions query logs offers insight into the potential of directions queries for the ranking of places and suggests that the proposed algorithm is suitable for use in real web search engines.

Sandy Pentland:

Phones can know.

Eric Schmidt:

We don't need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less know what you're thinking about.

D'Angelo Barksdale:

It ain't about right. It's about money.

Straw Man:

Don't worry about the consequences ... there's no consequences. If you give me money, everything's going to be cool, okay? It's gonna be cool. Give me money. No consequences, no whammies, money.

Hyper-Local, Directions-Based Ranking of Places

The Only Way Out Is To Change The Architecture
Topic: Technology 11:04 am EST, Dec 23, 2010

T. H. Breen:

Insurgencies are not movements for the faint of heart.

Jesse Walker:

The larger the institution with secrets to keep, the more opportunities for leaking there will be.

Paul Graham:

It will always suck to work for large organizations, and the larger the organization, the more it will suck.

Christopher Hitchens:

There is an old Republican saying that "a government strong enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take away everything you have." This statement contains an essential truth that liberals have no right to overlook.

Evgeny Morozov:

As far as long-term developments are concerned, I think that much depends on whether the WikiLeaks saga would continue being a debate about freedom of expression, government transparency or whistle-blowing or whether it would become a nearly-paranoid debate about the risks to national security. Anonymous is playing with fire, for they risk tipping the balance towards the latter interpretation -- and all the policy levers that come with it.

Miguel Helft:

With Facebook's prominence on the Web -- its more than 500 million members upload more than one billion pieces of content a day -- the site's role as an arbiter of free speech is likely to become even more pronounced.


The primary consequence of Wikileaks will be the tools, process, and laws that will be used in the future to suppress other leaks.

Tamara Mellon:

People who are over-educated become risk-averse.

Jaron Lanier:

If the political world becomes a mirror of the Internet as we know it today, then the world will be restructured around opaque, digitally delineated power centers surrounded by a sea of chaotic, underachieving openness. Wikileaks is one prototype of a digital power center, but others include hedge funds and social networking sites.

This is the world we are headed to, it seems, since people are unable to resist becoming organized according to the digital architectures that connect us. The only way out is to change the architecture.

If there's one lesson of history, it is that seeking power doesn't change the world. You need to change yourself along with the world.


It's important to understand that it isn't Congress that must change -- it is us.

Daniel Kennedy:

What Could Gawker Have Done Differently?


Mitsuba - physically based renderer
Topic: Technology 10:58 am EST, Nov 13, 2010

Mitsuba is an extensible rendering framework written in portable C++. It implements unbiased as well as biased techniques and contains heavy optimizations targeted towards current CPU architectures.

The program currently runs on Linux, MacOS X and Microsoft Windows and makes use of SSE2 optimizations on x86 and x86_64 platforms. So far, its main use has been as a testbed for algorithm development in computer graphics, but there are many other interesting applications.

Mitsuba comes with a command-line interface as well as a graphical frontend to interactively explore scenes. While navigating, a rough preview is shown that becomes increasingly accurate as soon as all movements are stopped. Once a viewpoint has been chosen, a wide range of rendering techniques can be used to generate images, and their parameters can be tuned from within the program.

Mitsuba - physically based renderer

Adobe Audition for Mac
Topic: Technology 10:58 am EST, Nov 13, 2010

Welcome to the public beta release of Adobe(R) Audition(R) for Mac. Adobe Audition for Mac brings modern audio post-production to the Mac platform. Familiar tools for audio editing, multitrack mixing and recording meet improved performance, greater workflow flexibility, and new features such as native 5.1 surround support and new effects. Plus, the best-of-breed audio sweetening and restoration tools in Audition make it easy to clean up production audio. With essential tools you can rely on for quick-completion projects, Audition for the Mac brings a fresh face to audio post-production.

Adobe Audition for Mac

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