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Comment Known problem, known solutions (Score 4, Interesting) 82

There's already a whole subfield of machine learning which concern itself with these problems. It's called "adversarial machine learning".
The approaches are very different from usual software security. Instead of busying oneself with patching holes in software or setting up firewalls, adversarial machine learning re-design the algorithms completely, using game theory and other techniques. The premise is "How can we make an algorithm that works in an environment full of enemies that try to mislead it?" It's a refreshing change from the usual software-security paradigm, which is all about fencing the code into some supposedly 'safe' environment.

Comment Still an open research question (Score 1) 150

you want to virtualize a computer, run the program and then check that:
* the computations have not been hampered with
* nobody has been snooping in your computations
This goal is currently out of reach. It is an open problem in computer science if it's even possible!

The exact term is "encrypted computation". Imagine if you could not only encrypt a file, but run it after it's been encrypted! You could send the file to some cloud and run it there, without revealing _what_ is being computed or what data you use. You get the result back and safely decrypt it on your own PC.
Now if someone in the cloud tried to attack your computer program, with a buffer overflow say, or the hardware it ran on was faulty, the encrypted result would be garbage and you wouldn't be able to decrypt it. That's actually great, because it gives you a way to check if the program ran correctly or not. Just like how checksums assure you that a file has been transmitted correctly. If we had this capability, we could run any program on fast, cheap, but error-prone hardware. We could run anything on graphic cards, which make a mistake now and then, overclock CPUs far more than today, or maybe even run faster and cheaper hardware that nobody has yet built, because it would be too error prone.

Comment Hit and run approach (Score 4, Insightful) 130

Negroponte tried a "PC in the wall" experiment in a poor district some years ago. This is being used as an argument for the airdrop strategy, but the experiment was in fact not successfull. The kids in the neighbourhood did learn to use the PC, but to little or no use. They played games but did not learn marketable skills or otherwise improve their quality of life.

In aid and development, To airdrop aid is the very image of a failed strategy. You bring in a celebrity and a tv-team, you throw money at the village, build a well or a lavatory, then write a report and pull out. Your funders want to see results quickly, but development doesn't work that way.
For someone in aid and development it is then obvious that Negroponte does not focus on actually improving things for the kids. Like many caricatured IT developers, he is focused on the product, not the user. He wants to prove that the user interface is so intuitive that you don't have to teach the kids to use it. He wants to show that the laptop is very robust and water proof so he drops it from a helicopter. He is using one of the vilest tricks in the IT-salesman's repertoire: That if you just buy my hardware, everything will be up and running with no extra cost. No running costs on training people to use it, no need to organize the use or for teachers to follow this up. No need to have anything centralized and government-like working for these villages to reap the benefits of IT.

It is a vile mix of PR stunts, naive IT optimism sold to supposedly uninformed savages and an appeal to prevailing ideologies among the western funders. All combined just to sell hardware.

Comment Emulation of TV screen or PC CRT often forgotten (Score 1) 227

If you take an old game that ran on a TV screen and emulate it in fullscreen on a modern PC, you will see every pixel clearly.
You never saw those on the TV. The pixellated Super Mario character was designed with the signal to noise ratio of an old TV in mind. When a modern emulator does not blend these pixels together like old blurry TVs did, the graphics look more blocky than they ever did originally. I can still see this in emulated computer games as recent as monkey island 2, which I originally played with a CRT monitor.

AFAIK, the resolution and post-processing needed to emulate the old screens faithfully is actually a bit demanding.

Comment But has it increased by 25%? (Score 5, Insightful) 317

Does this mean that the number of car accidents has increased by 25? If not, what improvements have cancelled out the increase in accidents caused by cellphones and other gadgets? Are there fewer accidents caused by people fiddling for CDs in the glove compartment or trying to find a good AM channel? Are there fewer accidents caused by frustrated people trying to find their way on a fold-out map?

Comment A good strategy for whistleblowers (Score 2) 96

A whistleblower who wants to make certain documents of his/her employer public faces a problem:
How do I stop the leak being traced back to me?
This is especially relevant when you'r employed with the government, which in theory is very capable of tracing the origin of leaks, but every whistleblower runs this risk.
But isn't it a great strategy to then tip off outsiders and make them retrieve and distribute the documents instead? letting the version number of old software at the office slip, or maybe a file path or two, could be enough. Maybe a USB stick could be "stolen" ? Even if your name gets implied, you can feign innocence in the court.


Journal Journal: Are we pwned by bitcoin?

Bitcoins are a digital currency or "cryptocoin" which has seen its share of enthusiastic coverage in hacking and anti-censorship circles. These digital money are apparently un-hackable, untraceable and voted "most likely to be outlawed" [1]. Google added to the publicity when one of their engineers released an open-source client for the bitcoin economy [2] and EFF lauded it as "a step towards censorship-resistant digital currency"[3] and accept donations in bitcoins.

Comment A US thing (Score 1) 323

Patenting software is a US thing. I'm under the impression that under most European laws, you cannot patent a software algorithm nor the code implementing it. Sure, you can work around this limitation in some cases, but the patent lawyers in the european company I work in do not push us to patent algorithms, for this very reason.

Comment The best minds of his generation? (Score 4, Insightful) 388

The best minds of my generation are creating bio-tech startups in Bangalore
The best minds of my generation design oil rigs for the Santos basin offshore Brazil
The best minds of my generation can't afford education in Nairobi
The best minds of my generation divert rivers in China to power cities not yet built
The best minds of my generation uncover the workings of the brain in a town near the pole
The best minds of my generation overthrew a dictator in Kairo
The best minds of my generation enrolled in a militia in Afghanistan
The best minds of my generation does not read


All Languages Linked To Common Source 318

Old Wolf writes "A New Zealand evolutionary psychologist, Quentin Atkinson, has created a scientific sensation by claiming to have discovered the mother of all mother tongues. 'Dr Atkinson took 504 languages and plotted the number of phonemes in each (corrected for recent population growth, when significant) against the distance between the place where the language is spoken and 2,500 putative points of origin, scattered across the world (abstract). The relationship that emerges suggests the actual point of origin is in central or southern Africa, and that all modern languages do, indeed, have a common root." Reader NotSanguine points out another study which challenges the idea that the brain is more important to the structure of language than cultural evolution.

Comment Trends (Score 1) 112

Intel wants to buy McAfee, HP and Microsoft cooperates. Is this hardware + software cooperation a trend? Is this because growth seems to happen on all other arenas than the traditional PC?

In the mid 90's Microsoft and Intel relied on each other to drive one another's sales, a symbiosis they formalized for a while, but "parted as friends" in the late 90's if I recall correctly.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...