Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "David Talbot writes at MIT Technology review that engineers on the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), an informal organization of engineers that changes Internet code and operates by rough consensus, have asked the architects of Tor to consider turning the technology into an Internet standard. If widely adopted, such a standard would make it easy to include the technology in consumer and business products ranging from routers to apps and would allow far more people to browse the Web without being identified by anyone who might be spying on Internet traffic. The IETF is already working to make encryption standard in all web traffic. Stephen Farrell believes that forging Tor into a standard that interoperates with other parts of the Internet could be better than leaving Tor as a separate tool that requires people to take special action to implement. 'I think there are benefits that might flow in both directions,' says Farrell. 'I think other IETF participants could learn useful things about protocol design from the Tor people, who've faced interesting challenges that aren't often seen in practice. And the Tor people might well get interest and involvement from IETF folks who've got a lot of experience with large-scale systems.' Andrew Lewman, executive director of Tor, says the group is considering it. 'We're basically at the stage of 'Do we even want to go on a date together?' It's not clear we are going to do it, but it's worth exploring to see what is involved. It adds legitimacy, it adds validation of all the research we've done.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Economist Edward Hadas writes in the NYT that developers of bitcoin are trying to show that money can be successfully privatized but money that is not issued by governments is always doomed to failure because money is inevitably a tool of the state. 'Bitcoin exemplifies some of the problems of private money,' says Hadas. 'Its value is uncertain, its legal status is unclear, and it could easily become valueless if users lose faith.' Besides, if bitcoin ever really started to take off, governments would either ban it or take over the system says Hadas. The authorities might be motivated by a genuine concern about the stability of a shadow monetary system or they might act out of self-preservation because tax evasion would be too easy in a parallel economy. 'Part of the interest in virtual currencies like bitcoin is that their anonymity can provide a convenient cloak for criminal activity. Part is technological — this is a cool idea. And part is speculative — gamblers bet that bitcoin's value will increase,' concludes Hadas. 'Truly private money is an inferior alternative to the money that comes with the backing of a political authority. After all, no bank or bitcoin-emitter can be as public-minded as a government, and no private power can raise taxes or pass laws to unwind monetary excesses.'" Could be there's something good about money that can't be manipulated by law. Some people at least think there's plenty of value in Bitcoin and similar currencies, despite the risks. And those risks at present probably aren't enough to comfort the unfortunate Welsh fellow who (HT to reader judgecorp) "has realised he threw out a hard drive containing 7500 bitcoins, worth £4 million at today's prices. It is now under four feet of garbage in a landfill site the size of a football pitch."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes, quoting USA Today "The NASDAQ has topped 4000 for the first time in 13 years, but much has changed since then. ... Tech investors in 2000 were right about the possibilities of the Internet and mobile computing. But they were dead wrong about which companies would be in the vanguard ... The recovery of the NASDAQ has been a complex tale of creative destruction, where old companies that once fueled the index have been pushed aside by new players. Back in 2000, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Intel, Oracle, and Sun accounted for 8.9%, 8.5%, 7.1%, 3.6% and 2.6%, respectively, of the value of the NASDAQ composite. Today, companies that were just starting out or didn't even exist — think Google, Amazon, and Facebook — are in the top 10, accounting for 4.7%, 2.7% and 1.5% of NASDAQ's value. Microsoft, Cisco and Intel's weight has fallen sharply. Apple, which wasn't in the top 10 in 2000, is a behemoth at 7.9%. So is the NASDAQ enjoying a long overdue catch-up with the rest of the market, or is the broad market overpriced, with the NASDAQ being pulled along for the ride? 'The reality is that the only thing that's the same from Nasdaq 4000 in 1999 and Nasdaq 4000 in 2013,' says Doug Sandler, 'is the number 4000.'"
Hehe. Anyway, no software means the Tesla Vampire problem wouldn't occur at all, which is a good Thing, I guess.
This is what that happens when owners of Things can't change the software running on them.
cartechboy writes "The Tesla Model S, for all its technical and design wizardry, has a dirty little secret: Its a vampire. The car has an odd and substantial appetite for kilowatt-hours even when turned off and parked. This phenomenon has been dubbed the 'vampire' draw, and Tesla promised long ago to fix this issue with a software update. Well, a few software updates have come and gone since then, and the Model S is still a vampire sucking down energy when it's shut down. While this is a concern for many Model S owners and would be owners, the larger question becomes: After nine months, and multiple software updates,why can't Tesla fix this known issue? Tesla has recognized the issue and said a fix would come, yet the latest fix is only a tiny improvement — and the problem remains unsolved. Is Tesla stumped? Can the issue be fixed?"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Vint Cerf, widely considered one of the 'founders of the Internet,' told an audience at the Federal Trade Commission's Internet of Things workshop that privacy could be considered 'an anomaly.' That workshop, held Nov. 19 in Washington, DC, explored (via speeches and panel discussions) how the proliferation of sensors on everything from cars to household devices is fundamentally changing how people live and work—while raising questions of how to best maintain privacy and security in an environment where more and more things are 'watchers.' 'The technology that we use today has far outraced our social intuition, our headlights,' he added. '[There's a] need to develop social conventions that are more respectful of people's privacy.' Current social behaviors, such as instantly posting images from smartphones to social networks, can result in a whole lot of embarrassment—and maybe even penalties, if data and media happens to catch someone in the act of doing something illegal. Cerf currently works at Google as chief Internet evangelist, which would make him uniquely positioned to comment on these sorts of issues even if he hadn't co-created the TCP/IP backbone that supports the modern Web. (Back in April, he told an audience that, if he had to do it all over again, he'd construct the Internet in the mold of Software-Defined Networking — but that's a whole different, tangled discussion.)"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "On May 13, an obscure mathematician garnered worldwide attention and accolades from the mathematics community for settling a long-standing open question about prime numbers. Yitang Zhang showed that even though primes get increasingly rare as you go further out along the number line, you will never stop finding pairs of primes separated by at most 70 million. His finding was the first time anyone had managed to put a finite bound on the gaps between prime numbers, representing a major leap toward proving the centuries-old twin primes conjecture, which posits that there are infinitely many pairs of primes separated by only two (such as 11 and 13). Now Erica Klarreich reports at Quanta Magazine that other mathematicians quickly realized that it should be possible to push this separation bound quite a bit lower. By the end of May, mathematicians had uncovered simple tweaks to Zhang's argument that brought the bound below 60 million. Then Terence Tao, a winner of the Fields Medal, mathematics' highest honor, created a 'Polymath project,' an open, online collaboration to improve the bound that attracted dozens of participants. By July 27, the team had succeeded in reducing the proven bound on prime gaps from 70 million to 4,680. Now James Maynard has upped the ante by presenting an independent proof that pushes the gap down to 600. A new Polymath project is in the planning stages, to try to combine the collaboration's techniques with Maynard's approach to push this bound even lower. Zhang's work and, to a lesser degree, Maynard's fits the archetype of the solitary mathematical genius, working for years in the proverbial garret until he is ready to dazzle the world with a great discovery. The Polymath project couldn't be more different — fast and furious, massively collaborative, fueled by the instant gratification of setting a new world record. 'It's important to have people who are willing to work in isolation and buck the conventional wisdom,' says Tao. Polymath, by contrast, is 'entirely groupthink.' Not every math problem would lend itself to such collaboration, but this one did."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Stephen Wolfram, the chief designer of the Mathematica software platform and the Wolfram Alpha 'computation knowledge engine,' has another massive project in the works—although he's remaining somewhat vague about details for the time being. In simplest terms, the project is a new programming language—which he's dubbing the 'Wolfram Language'—which will allow developers and software engineers to program a wide variety of complex functions in a streamlined fashion, for pretty much every single type of hardware from PCs and smartphones all the way up to datacenters and embedded systems. The Language will leverage automation to cut out much of the nitpicking complexity that dominates current programming. 'The Wolfram Language does things automatically whenever you want it to,' he wrote in a recent blog posting. 'Whether it's selecting an optimal algorithm for something. Or picking the most aesthetic layout. Or parallelizing a computation efficiently. Or figuring out the semantic meaning of a piece of data. Or, for that matter, predicting what you might want to do next. Or understanding input you've given in natural language.' In other words, he's proposing a general-purpose programming language with a mind-boggling amount of functions built right in. At this year's SXSW, Wolfram alluded to his decades of work coming together in 'a very nice way,' and this is clearly what he meant. And while it's tempting to dismiss anyone who makes sweeping statements about radically changing the existing paradigm, he does have a record of launching very big projects (Wolfram Alpha contains more than 10 trillion pieces of data cultivated from primary sources, along with tens of thousands of algorithms and equations) that function reliably. At many points over the past few years, he's also expressed a belief that simple equations and programming can converge to create and support enormously complicated systems. Combine all those factors together, and it's clear that Wolfram's pronouncements—no matter how grandiose—can't simply be dismissed. But it remains to be seen how much of an impact he actually has on programming as an art and science."
theodp writes "In June, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg blasted 'outrageous press reports' about the PRISM surveillance program, denying that Facebook was ever 'part of any program to give the U.S. or any other government direct access to our servers.' What Zuckerberg didn't mention, and what the press overlooked, is that the USPTO granted Facebook a patent in May for its Automated Writ Response System. Like the NSA-enabling systems described by the NY Times on the same day Zuckerberg cried foul, the patent covers technical methods to more efficiently share the personal data of users with law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in response to lawful government requests via APIs and secured portals installed at company-controlled locations. 'While handing over data in response to a legitimate FISA request is a legal requirement,' the Times noted, 'making it easier for the government to get the information is not, which is why Twitter could decline to do so.'"
First time accepted submitter SlongNY writes in with a story that journalists may be banned from taking photos or videos with smartphones at the 2014 Olympics. "'Journalists using mobile phones to film athletes or spectators will be considered a serious violation and will result in cancellation of accreditation,' said Vasily Konov, head of the state-run R-Sport news agency, which controls accreditation at the games. According to Buzzfeed, Mr. Konov later denied that he had said the ban was in place. Radio Free Europe, however, also reported him as saying the same thing."
An anonymous reader writes "Paedophiles may escape detection because highly-classified material about Britain's surveillance capabilities have been published by the Guardian newspaper, the UK government has claimed. A senior Whitehall official said data stolen by Edward Snowden, a former contractor to the US National Security Agency, could be exploited by child abusers and other cyber criminals. It could also put lives at risk by disclosing secrets to terrorists, insurgents and hostile foreign governments, he said."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Security agencies in Europe have found a whole new way to identify and approach bombmakers and other potentially dangerous radicals. The only problem with the approach is that it stinks. Literally. Researchers in a European-Union funded project called Emphasis are developing chemical sensors that can be embedded in networks of underground sewage tunnels to sniff the air and phone home at the first hint of chemical residue from the manufacture of bombs. Using remote sensors might be effective because the liquid- and gas byproducts of bomb production – and manufacture of many drugs as well – leak, seep or are poured into sinks and toilets to get rid of the evidence, according to Hans Onnerud, an analytical chemist with the Swedish Defense Research Agency. With such a catchall underneath the city streets, and the chemical wherewithal to identify which smells belong to bombs or drugs and which belong to other things, it should be possible to keep a close watch on development of dangerous materials in a city without invading the homes of residents, Onnerud added. In fact, if sewer-sniffing technology had been in place in 2005, British authorities might have had a much easier time tracing the location of the bombers, or even detecting them ahead of time and stopping the London subway bomb attack that killed 54 people. Fumes from the bombs used in those attacks, which were assembled in a house in Leeds that had been turned into a compact bomb factory, were strong enough to kill plants in the garden. It's extremely likely they would have been detectable from the sewer as well, Onnerud said in a statement announcing Emphasis. The sensors developed for Emphasis are designed to detect chemical reagents produced by the breakdown of chemicals in bombs. Each sensor is a 10-centimeter-long electrode that can be submersed in sewer wastewater to look for ions of the right configuration."