Thursday, March 29, 2012

How we have inflicted Terrorism on ourselves:

Bruce Schneier has just published (in his blog) the conclusion of his dialog with Kip Hawley about the "value" of the TSA. This little essay is marvelous, and  I encourage you to read it.

Here's one of Schneier's chilling paragraphs. I'm quoting without permission, and I hope he doesn't mind:

The goal of terrorism is not to crash planes, or even to kill people; the goal of terrorism is to cause terror. Liquid bombs, PETN, planes as missiles: these are all tactics designed to cause terror by killing innocents. But terrorists can only do so much. They cannot take away our freedoms. They cannot reduce our liberties. They cannot, by themselves, cause that much terror. It’s our reaction to terrorism that determines whether or not their actions are ultimately successful. That we allow governments to do these things to us—to effectively do the terrorists’ job for them—is the greatest harm of all.

Words with Friends HD: A crashing sucker on my Pad:

I would like to write a review of Zynga's Words with Friends on the iPad2. I can't review it in the iunes store because the store says I have to buy it or download it in order to review it. The program IS on my iPad and in fact, it just crashed again for the tenth time, even though I restarted it and even reinstalled it. At first it worked, but now it crashes faster than I can try to think.

What's wrong with these guys? Anyway, WwF-hd started out just fine for me and I happily switched to it from the older WwF app. I liked the way you could see the whole board while playing your tiles. The arrangement of the command buttons is a little peculiar but I got used to it. And then it started to crash. I hope they figure out what the problem is and update the app. Meanwhile I've gone back to the older WwF.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

First, Printers could be identified. Now, Bits! Remember when we discovered that the major printer manufacturers were making every printer’s output unique? Printers now place a unique, discreet dot pattern on every page that can be used to identify the printer that printed it. In case you thought you could be anonymous, you know.
Well, it’s getting worse.

This web page explains how to identify anonymous authors from their writing, in a tradition that goes back to telegraphers: Just as individual telegraphers could be identified by other telegraphers from their 'fists,' Naryanan posits that an author's habitual choice of words, such as, for example, the frequency with which the author uses 'since' as opposed to 'because,' can be processed through an algorithm to identify the author's writing. ...

But wait! It gets even worse. We think of the “bits” that computers produce as nice clean ones and zeroes, but if you take a close look at the way they are stored in the substrate, you can see that they are all different. When we copy bits from one medium to another, their original shapes are partly retained, and imaginative researchers have announced success in tracing bits back to their source.

Be careful what you write!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Seriously, no one lives in our garage:

In a way, I sympathize with the phone companies. They have begged congress to let them stop publishing those thick, fat telephone directories. They know that most people don’t use them any more. Smart phones and the Internet have created better ways to find telephone numbers.

Congress has not obliged. Consequently, once a year, we watch an immigrant walk down the street, depositing a plastic bag pregnant with pages in front of each and every home.

I’m sure some people really appreciate these heavy tomes, but I throw mine out at once.


Because only the phone company, or its legitimate representatives, seem to think that both I and my garage require a full set of phone books.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Britannica Bows:

New technologies are uncompromisingly cruel to the old technologies they replace. It’s particularly painful to see computers doing things ten times better than print matter, and there’s no stopping them.

The Britannica company has bowed to the inevitable and given up on its printed edition. In the past, most printed encyclopedias gained important revenue from door-to-door hard-sell salesman who offered parents a dream of books that would raise them and their children to a new level. Most such families today expect their home computer or smart phone to do that, so I suspect this hard-sell market for books is gone.

But for Britannica, it gets worse. The Company inadvertently made its own excellent case for switching to an online format years ago. Do you remember the comparison between Britannica and Wikipedia, that claimed Wikipedia was as good or better an encyclopedia?

Britannica responded with a detailed rebuttal to show that the analysis was wrong. The most common theme in their rebuttal was that the analysis incorrectly asserted valuable information was missing from Britannica; in fact, the Britannica encyclopedia contained that information, but in a different place. In order to find such information, you needed to know where Britannica’s expert editors had decided to put it, or – and Britannica’s rebuttal did not mention this, but it screamed between the lines – you needed hyperlinks or a search engine to find what you needed to know.

Printed books do not handle hyperlinks and search engines very well. End of printed encylopedias.