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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Off the Beaten Path: Chess Cheats, OOPs no more, and Have You Seen OMG in the OED?

Posted by rjbiii on March 26, 2011

Would You Like to Play a Game?

Everyday we see how technology is used to better our lives. It allows us to do things we couldn’t do in the past. It helps us overcome our limitations. We’ve also seen how folks use it to game the system to their own advantage. Another example of the latter has surfaced in France, where three chess players were caught trying to…game the game:

The French chess federation has suspended three top players for violating sporting ethics at a chess olympiad in Siberia last September.

The trio are alleged to have used an elaborate scheme involving text messages and computer software to help beat opponents at Khanty-Mansiysk

How did the scheme work? Like so:

According to the French federation, while international grand master Sebastien Feller, 19, was involved in a game, Cyril Marzolo followed developments over the internet and used computer software to establish the best next move. The answer was then sent by means of a coded text message to the third member of the team, Arnaud Hauchard.

The third member would then sit himself at a particular table in the competition hall. Each table represented an agreed square on the chess board. This, according to French media reports, was the most delicate part of the operation.

Not sure how that third part worked. How one would do that without drawing attention to oneself is beyond me. All three players deny the accusation.

Carnegie Mellon Changes its CS Program

An interesting change at Carnegie Mellon is occurring. The school is eliminating OOP entirely from its basic curriculum, as stated by one of the CS Professors in his blog, Existential Type:

Object-oriented programming is eliminated entirely from the introductory curriculum, because it is both anti-modular and anti-parallel by its very nature, and hence unsuitable for a modern CS curriculum. A proposed new course on object-oriented design methodology will be offered at the sophomore level for those students who wish to study this topic.

A report from the Department’s Dean provides the following rationale:

The School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University is planning major revisions to its introductory course sequence in ways that will affect not just our own students, but also the many students from across campus who take computer science courses. Major changes include: 1) revising our introductory courses to promote the principles of computational thinking, for both majors and nonmajors, 2) increasing our emphasis on the need to make software systems highly reliable and the means to achieve this, and 3) preparing students for a future in which programs will achieve high performance by exploiting parallel execution.

I remember when object oriented programming was the cool kid on the block. Oy vey.

So can I use OMG in Scrabble?

So the OED is now adding acronyms esuch as OMG, LOL, and IMHO to the official lexicon:

OMG! The exclamatory online abbreviation has won the approval of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The term — short for “Oh my God” or “Oh my gosh” — is one of dozens of new entries in the authoritative reference book’s latest online update.

….

Editors publish updates to the online Oxford every three months. The Internet version of the dictionary, which launched in 2000, gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers and may eventually replace the mammoth 20-volume printed Oxford English Dictionary, last published in 1989.

By the time the lexicographers finish revising and updating a new edition — a gargantuan task that will take a decade or more — publishers doubt there will be a market for the printed form.

I think my old-school English teachers are probably wondering WTH.

Firefox 4 Essentials

Firefox 4 recently made its debut, to great fanfare. One pre-release article gave us 10 Things to Drool over in FF4.

One of my favorite websites, Web Worker Daily, has posted its list of 11 essential add-ons.

Eye in the Sky…or Ear that’s always Near

Finally, a disturbing report from Germany provides a glimpse into the data collected by telecoms. From the article:

But as a German Green party politician, Malte Spitz, recently learned, we are already continually being tracked whether we volunteer to be or not. Cellphone companies do not typically divulge how much information they collect, so Mr. Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts.

The results were astounding. In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times. It traced him from a train on the way to Erlangen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin.

“We are all walking around with little tags, and our tag has a phone number associated with it, who we called and what we do with the phone,” said Sarah E. Williams, an expert on graphic information at Columbia University’s architecture school. “We don’t even know we are giving up that data.”

The fabled “expectation of privacy” is getting narrowing all the time.

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Off the Beaten Path (Weekend musings, March 12, 2011):

Posted by rjbiii on March 13, 2011

Data is Beautiful

Flowing Data posts a its review of the latest book in the Beautiful Data series. From the article:

While visualization can get very technical, the authors do a good job of keeping things abstract enough so that you know what they’re talking about even if you’re not particularly experienced in the field. They provide enough detail though that it’s still interesting for others.

A lot of people who are interested in visualization think that’s it’s a matter of learning a bunch of tools, but there’s a lot more to it than that. You’re also learning about data, and learning what questions to ask, and if you don’t know what questions to ask, you just end up with visualization that doesn’t really mean anything. Design also plays a role in in conveying the message you want. So it’s great that there’s a resource that can help you get into the experts’ heads.

If anything, it’s just fun to read about the process of how a graphic or tool gets made. For example, Jonathan Feinberg, who designed the ever popular Wordle, explains what went into the work. Some people like to knock it, but he knows plenty well that the stylized word clouds aren’t the best way to visualize data or extract information, or whatever.

Dude…where’s my car?

You may have seen the news that UCSD researchers had engaged in experiments to take control of your car’s computer using various methods, including this one:

But their most interesting attack focused on the car stereo. By adding extra code to a digital music file, they were able to turn a song burned to CD into a Trojan horse. When played on the car’s stereo, this song could alter the firmware of the car’s stereo system, giving attackers an entry point to change other components on the car. This type of attack could be spread on file-sharing networks without arousing suspicion, they believe. “It’s hard to think of something more innocuous than a song,” said Stefan Savage, a professor at the University of California.

Tagging without permission is…permissible Facebook

Evan Brown, the lawyer behind the blog Internet Cases, posts a summary of the issue of “tagging” information on Facebook. From the article:

The court rejected the mother’s assertion that the photos should not be considered as evidence. She argued that because Facebook allows anyone to post pictures and then “tag” or identify the people in the pictures, she never gave permission for the photographs to be published in this manner. The court held that “[t]here is nothing within the law that requires [one’s] permission when someone takes a picture and posts it on a Facebook page. There is nothing that requires [one’s] permission when she [is] “tagged” or identified as a person in those pictures.”

Linking to Trouble

Well, I’m glad Homeland Security is on top of things like this. I feel much safer now.

In a case against a New York website owner, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is claiming that merely linking to copyrighted material is a crime.

DHS, along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), seized Brian McCarthy’s domain, channelsurfing.net, in late January. The site has now been replaced with a government warning: “This domain has been seized by ICE – Homeland Security Investigations, Special Agent in Charge, New York Office.”

“It is unlawful to reproduce copyrighted material, such as movies, music, software or games, without authorization… First-time offenders convicted of a criminal felony copyright law will face up to five years in federal prison, restitution, forfeiture and fine.”

The advocacy group Demand Progress has claimed that McCarthy never reproduced copyrighted material, and that his website simply linked to other sites.

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How your Computer Calculates just like the Ancient Egyptians and Chinese

Posted by rjbiii on December 16, 2010

As demonstrated by Michael S. Schneider

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Science Daily: New Approach to Generating Truly Random Numbers May Improve Internet Security, Weather Forecasts

Posted by rjbiii on February 22, 2010

You read correctly: weather forecasts. The article says this with respect to the importance of randomness:

According to Bernhard Fechner of the University of Hagen, and Andre Osterloh of BTC AG, in Germany, the “quality” of a random number is a measure of how truly random the number is. This quality affects significantly any security or simulation in which it is used. If a so-called random number is not truly random, then someone could predict a security key and crack the Internet encryption on bank accounts, e-commerce sites or secure government websites, for instance. Similarly, if the random numbers used in scientific models of the weather, climate, or the spread of disease and economic boom and bust are predictable, then systematic errors will creep into the models and make the predictions unreliable.

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DIY Cybercrime Kits Cause Surge in Phishing Attacks

Posted by rjbiii on January 20, 2010

USA Today posts the news on that an increase in phishing attacks has been driven by cheap, easy-to-use cybercrime kits:

DIY kits have been a staple in the cyberunderground for some time. But now they’ve dropped in price and become more user-friendly.

“If you know how to download music or a movie you have the necessary experience to begin using one of these kits,” says Gunter Ollman, senior researcher at security firm Damballa.

Indeed, newbie cybercrooks and veterans alike are using DIY kits to carry out phishing campaigns at an accelerated rate, security researchers say. They’ve been blasting out fake e-mail messages crafted to look like official notices from UPS (UPS), FedEx (FDX) or the IRS; or account updates from Vonage, Facebook or Microsoft Outlook (MSFT); or medical alerts about the H1N1 flu virus.

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Around the Block: Jan. 7, 2010

Posted by rjbiii on January 7, 2010

A look at some interesting recent articles and posts about law and technology:

New York case law on litigation holds is discussed by Attorney Mark Berman. From the article:

It is well established that the “utter failure to establish any form of litigation hold at the outset of litigation is grossly negligent.” A showing of gross negligence is “plainly enough to justify sanctions at least as serious as an adverse inference.”

BUT…

On the other hand, not every matter is ripe for e-discovery, and the decision in Kaiser v. Raoul’s Rest. Corp.,is illustrative of the fact that one still needs to sufficiently justify a request for e-discovery, and that overbroad demands will not be countenanced.

The Fulton County Daily Reporter posts the news that a Georgia Judge has voluntarily stepped down, apparently because of an investigation into his relationship with a defendant that began on Facebook. From the article:

Woods’ departure from the bench effectively ends inquiries being made in the circuit from the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates complaints against judges. The JQC, whose workings are confidential by law, has made no public statement of any investigation regarding Woods.

From Ryley, Carlock, and Applewhite:

In Vagenos v. LDG Financial Services, LLC, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 121490 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 31, 2009), District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan denied defendant’s in limine motion to preclude plaintiff from offering at trial an alleged duplicate recording of an electronically-stored telephone message, but ordered an adverse inference instruction for plaintiff and his counsel’s failure to preserve the message.

From Law Technology News, an article examining how to Mine Web 2.0 for Evidence:

On Oct. 17, 2009, an armed assailant robbed two men outside a housing project in Brooklyn, N.Y. Almost immediately, the police focused their investigation on Rodney Bradford, a 19-year-old resident of the housing project who had been indicted a year earlier for a similar robbery. After one of the victims positively identified Bradford in a police lineup, the police arrested him and charged him with first-degree robbery.

Open-and-shut case, right? Wrong. It turns out Bradford was innocent and he had an airtight alibi to prove it. At the time of the crime, he was 12 miles away at his father’s house in Harlem, updating his Facebook status. After the district attorney subpoenaed Facebook and received the exculpatory evidence, Bradford was cleared of all charges and released.

Computerworld contributor Richard Power discusses how the Information Age has transformed the world the of the Private Investigator, with a Q&A with former FBI Agent (and current PI) Ed Stroz:

Stroz had served for 16 distinguished years in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), during which he established the New York City FBI computer crime squad, one of the first two in the country, and directed several significant FBI investigations, including the high-profile international case of Vladimir Levin, a Russian hacker who broke into Citibank. In 2000, Stroz founded a private investigation (PI) firm in 2000, and has assisted his corporate clients in responding to Internet-extortions, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, hacks and unauthorized access, and theft of trade secrets. He has also pioneered the concept of incorporating behavioral science into the methodology for addressing computer crime and abuse.

Marica Coyle posts an article for the National Law Journal noting that the Supreme Court will hear a case to resolve a circuit split concerning the work-product doctrine.

Textron Inc. v. U.S. stems from a long-running legal battle between the corporation and the Internal Revenue Service over the government’s demand for Textron’s tax-accrual work papers. Those papers generally are prepared with the assistance of in-house and external counsel and relied upon by independent auditors to determine the accuracy of financial statements. They often contain legal analyses and evaluations of potential litigation risks associated with particular tax transactions.

Last August, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 3-2 en banc ruling, held that the papers were not protected by the work-product doctrine and had to be turned over to the IRS in a tax shelter investigation.

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The Right to Broadband

Posted by rjbiii on November 22, 2009

Spain and Finland are implementing laws that will guarantee a citizen’s right to purchase broadband of at least one megabyte per second. The article on Finland notes that France has made internet access a human right. Of course, France has also passed the controversial three-strikes law, which would forcibly disconnect users from internet access without legal resource.

H/T: Slashdot

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What happens when the Review Application is Smarter than we are?

Posted by rjbiii on July 27, 2009

According to an article in the Science section of the NY Times, scientists have become concerned that machines may one day outsmart us.

Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone.

Their concern is that further advances could create profound social disruptions and even have dangerous consequences.

I think that there is no doubt that a profound change is occurring here, and that we need to (at least attempt to) proactively manage the change. In our industry, we have seen some displacement of attorneys reviewing documents due to outsourcing. What happens when the review application not only stores the review data, but also actually conducts the review for relevance as well? Yet trying to install limits on the growth of technology is a difficult, and perhaps ill-advised, effort.

The article continues by mentioning scenarios which have machines taking over…or at least foresee the ending of the “human era.” Interestingly, the final passages look at an interesting occurrence in these times:
Despite his concerns, Dr. Horvitz said he was hopeful that artificial intelligence research would benefit humans, and perhaps even compensate for human failings. He recently demonstrated a voice-based system that he designed to ask patients about their symptoms and to respond with empathy. When a mother said her child was having diarrhea, the face on the screen said, “Oh no, sorry to hear that.”

A physician told him afterward that it was wonderful that the system responded to human emotion. “That’s a great idea,” Dr. Horvitz said he was told. “I have no time for that.”

So here, we program a machine to simulate human emotion, alleviating the need for a real human to be supportive. Of all the ways the future can go, I would say that humans attempting to emulate machine-like behavior for the sake of efficiency is the worst choice. We cannot be better machines than machines…we can only maintain a true course in all of this chaos by embracing our own humanity. The doctor above who “had no time” to be supportive needs (ahem) to be re-programmed.

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This post will self-destruct in 5…4…3…

Posted by rjbiii on July 22, 2009

If you’re hearing the Mission Impossible theme, then we are on the same page. Science Daily has an article discussing a method allowing content to expire and self destruct. Developed by University of Washington computer scientists, the technology would make it so that even the content’s original sender couldn’t retrieve the data beyond the “expiration date.” Why do this?

“If you care about privacy, the Internet today is a very scary place,” said UW computer scientist Tadayoshi Kohno. “If people understood the implications of where and how their e-mail is stored, they might be more careful or not use it as often.”

Nothing there a surprise to people in this industry. How does it work?

The Vanish prototype washes away data using the natural turnover, called “churn,” on large file-sharing systems known as peer-to-peer networks. For each message that it sends, Vanish creates a secret key, which it never reveals to the user, and then encrypts the message with that key. It then divides the key into dozens of pieces and sprinkles those pieces on random computers that belong to worldwide file-sharing networks, the same ones often used to share music or movie files. The file-sharing system constantly changes as computers join or leave the network, meaning that over time parts of the key become permanently inaccessible. Once enough key parts are lost, the original message can no longer be deciphered.

[…]

Unlike existing commercial encryption services, a message sent using Vanish is kept private by an inherent property of the decentralized file-sharing networks it uses.

A big advantage to the system, is that the user has no need to trust an administrator or service provider. The system takes personal action and discretion out of the equation.

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Preview of MS Office 2010

Posted by rjbiii on July 13, 2009

Microsoft has announced details of upgrades to its office suite, and PC Pro Posts a preview here. Among other things, the article discusses changes to Outlook:

As far as the desktop applications are concerned, the Ribbon interface first introduced with Office 2007 has now been rolled out across every application, including Outlook.

Outlook also sees the introduction of two new email features for office workers drowning under a deluge of email. The Conversation Clean-Up tool will condense long email chains into summaries of the conversation, allowing you to catch up with all the key information without having to open dozens of different messages individually.

Outlook will also have a new Ignore Conversation feature that allows users to opt-out of round-robin emails that don’t concern them. Adams gives the example of a long email discussion about a dinner engagement that you know you won’t be able to attend. One click of the Ignore Conversation button will junk any further emails on that topic.

Other changes include an entire line of web-based apps, a la Google; better image editing within Word and PowerPoint; and fewer licensing categories (reducing the number of ‘versions’ of the suite from its current eight to five).

H/T: Slashdot

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