Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!

  • View

  • Discuss

  • Share

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).


Comment: Dear NSA (Score 1) 212

Dear NSA,

I would love to design the phone that you are asking for. please pay the sum of $USD 30 million into my bank account and i will organise it straight away. also, please sign a contract that you will subsidise the cost of every single phone sold because in order to add the extra encryption that you are expecting it will push up the price, and in a competitive business world nobody would buy it without subsidies.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Signed, Luke Leighton
(Libre and FSF-Endorseable Hardware Design Engineer)

Comment: Re:The BBC doesn't have much latitude here. (Score 1) 662

by lkcl (#49346231) Attached to: Jeremy Clarkson Dismissed From Top Gear

Once the organization confirmed that unprovoked verbal and physical abuse had occurred,

... actually... my understanding is that it was *not* unprovoked, but not possibly in the way that involves "direct provocation". james may explained that the team had been out the entire day, since early morning through to extremely late in the evening. by all accounts that would be well beyond a standard working day: without decent food it's fairly safe to conclude that their blood sugar levels and many other indicators would have been pushed well past normal acceptable limits.

  i've seen this happen before (both in myself and in other people). you get tired, then shaky, you feel pretty close to exhaustion, due to lack of sleep and rest your body's building up toxins it can't cope with, you're utterly stressed but are simply too tired even to express that, you can't sleep yet which would be the normal way for your body to recover and clear itself of toxins.... and then someone does something unexpected (or doesn't do something that you know will help, that you were counting on)... it's not *their* fault... but they're just the trigger for an outpouring of quite literally uncontrollable but perfectly forseeable emotion.

  my point is: the BBC should *never* have allowed these circumstances to occur. they should have had a full-time nutritionist on the team, advising them when to take breaks, when the exertion that the team is going through is beyond acceptable levels, what the consequences are and so on. this is a team that's been to some of the most hostile places in the world, so it should be a no-brainer that they'd need an expert consultant on nutrition.

so expecting someone to work 16 hours without proper food, running them well beyond their physical limits, then firing them as a direct result of them being put under far too much stress and pressure... *that* sounds like a recipe for a lawsuit.

Comment: Re:electricity only (Score 1) 317

by lkcl (#49319383) Attached to: Costa Rica Goes 75 Days Powering Itself Using Only Renewable Energy

the difference is that costa rica is not considered to be a first world country, it's part of the emerging markets. also, all the other examples given (USA, Canada) are still using non-clean energy sources. the story is that this is an *entire country* running on *renewable energy*, 100%. that's a big hairy deal.

Comment: Re:Battery tech on 2500 and 3500 pickups? (Score 1) 229

First, electric motors provide their best torque at near 0 RPM, which is quite useful.

electric motors provide their best torque at 0 RPM because that's called "stall torque". the penalty for doing so is a whopping EIGHTY FIVE PERCENT energy loss in the form of heat. to even remotely consider that as a practical option would involve some serious heavy-duty water-cooling.

Third, for farms, it might be economical to have the trucks charge and run on batteries, as it saves on fuel.

unfortunately, like many people, you misunderstand the nature of EVs. batteries are a *storage* mechanism, not a fuel. the energy has to come from somewhere, and you (usually - unless you have on-site wind, solar or hydro power independent infrastructure) have to pay for it.

many people also believe that moving the charging out to the national grid is a "good thing": this is not true, either, because of the logistics of power generation. the oil, coal and nuclear plants may only operate efficiently once up to temperature, and they *may not* be shut down... if they are it can take weeks for them to get back up to cost-effective optimal efficiency. that means that all the lovely wind and solar systems, which are critically dependent on nature.... these are the ones that have to be shut down during off-peak hours! i know for a fact that the companies who run the wind turbines in the area of scotland i used to live in are PAID to NOT provide electricity! they make sure that the turbines still turn, so as to deceive people into thinking that they're generating electricity: they're not. one or more of the turbines is run as a brake for the others, it's why you see them running at different speeds and blade angles.

other than that, the idea of allowing farmers to plug in to an on-board generator is a fantastic idea.

Comment: Re:Ergo! (Score 5, Insightful) 452

by lkcl (#49273549) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Good Keyboard?

irony isn't it: we don't like what microsoft has done in the software world, but the microsoft natural keyboard is absolutely awesome. *but*, butbutbut, you *have* to get the right one! the one i find is amazing has a tip-up at the *front* not the back, allowing the hands to droop downwards onto the keys rather than being stressfully pulled upwards, and also you want the one with full-sized cursor keys. there was a while when microsoft foolishly tried to make one with half-sized cursor keys: it's utter rubbish.

other than that: the keyboard i have seen which people absolutely swear by is - don't laugh - the old IBM AT keyboard! apparently you can still get them. they're noisy, but people who use them don't care. that tactile response - the click - appears to be crucial to ast and wrist-stress-free long-term usage.

Comment: history of electrocution (Score 1) 1081

by lkcl (#49258561) Attached to: How To Execute People In the 21st Century

the reason why electrocution exists is because tesla's competition - when he invented AC electricity - wanted to demonstrate that it was "unsafe". so they electrocuted cows and other animals in front of various influential people. when demonstrated in front of a texas governor, the individual concerned considered the method of killing to be sufficiently effective as to warrant its deployment for the murder of people who had committed crimes

although i do not specifically know, one way or the other, i would be very surprised if, at the time, an evaluation as to whether this murderous method was considered to be too barbaric or not. unfortunately however humans have a habit of using past decisions as a means to justify current and future ones, regardless of overwhelming evidence or opinions. honestly: much of humanity still has a lot to learn.

Comment: experiment with an arduino (or other suitable) (Score 1) 100

by lkcl (#49258167) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Mouse/Pointer For a Person With Poor Motor Control

right. let's assume that you need to actually do some programming, here. first thing: get hold of an arduino, or something with an STM32F (waveshare have something). one of the examples in the source code for the waveshare STM32F102 board that i bought is: guess what: a mouse HID emulator.

basically what it does is program the USB port to (a) be a client (b) pretend that it's a mouse HID device. then, it just runs through a sequence creating "mouse move left" events 100 times followed by "mouse move right" events 100 times.

you can probably see where this is going, but basically for around 50 GBP including wires, big buttons and a programmable board of some description) you should be able to put together:

* a simple program
* some large buttons (an up button, a down button, a left, a right, two mouse buttons and a "i want to activate double-click on the next thing i press" button)

and basically quite literally MAKE a mouse that suits the abilities of your friend.

the reason i recommend having a "i want to activate double-click please" button is because she will be able to hold that button down at her own leisure and THEN press the button of her choice. the same button could probably double-up as a "please move a bit faster on the arrows" button.

using the waveshare example source code you should probably be able to code this up in around 400 lines i.e. about 2 days worth of work.

but the *important* thing about this solution is that you can ADAPT it. if her symptoms get worse, or it turns out that she needs something beyond what the commercial offerings provide, or neither you nor her thought "hmm, we should have done that", you can reprogram it. or get bigger or better buttons. or go a bit more advanced and create your own analog joystick to mouse converter with some Industrial PID (proportional integration and differentiation) control to dampen down any loss of motor coordination.

and the other important thing is: it'll be platform-independent. it'll act like... a mouse.

if you don't have the programming skills yourself, btw, contact me and i should be able to help. i think i still have the waveshare STM32F board i bought a couple of years back.


Mass Surveillance: Can We Blame It All On the Government? 123

Posted by timothy
from the moral-amoral-immoral dept.
Nicola Hahn writes Yet another news report has emerged detailing how the CIA is actively subverting low-level encryption features in mainstream hi-tech products. Responding to the story, an unnamed intelligence official essentially shrugged his shoulders and commented that "there's a whole world of devices out there, and that's what we're going to do." Perhaps this sort of cavalier dismissal isn't surprising given that leaked classified documents indicate that government intelligence officers view iPhone users as 'Zombies' who pay for their own surveillance.

The past year or so of revelations paints a pretty damning portrait of the NSA and CIA. But if you read the Intercept's coverage of the CIA's subversion projects carefully you'll notice mention of Lockheed Martin. And this raises a question that hasn't received much attention: what role does corporate America play in all of this? Are American companies simply hapless pawns of a runaway national security state? Ed Snowden has stated that mass surveillance is "about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power." A sentiment which has been echoed by others. Who, then, stands to gain from mass surveillance?

Comment: Re:LOL@ Use-case (Score 1) 45

by lkcl (#49214401) Attached to: Fujitsu Tech Can Track Heavily Blurred People In Security Videos

Even if the time resolution is 5 minutes, and the spacial resolution is only enough to identify which stores I visit, that is enough to identify me. If I go to the mall, stop by and get a coffee, wander around for a while, then make another purchase in another store, using my credit card both times, I may very well be the only person who made purchases at those two stores within a 5 minute window at each store. Each purchase makes it more likely to be unique. Now if I put on dark glasses and a baseball cap and stop by Victoria's Secret to buy some lingerie for my mistress, with cash, it's possible to link that to me via your path data.

you had me concerned for a minute! but then i thought about it, and i realised that if you take a venn diagram of the set of credit card purchases (assuming a subpoena has obtained full details), and a venn diagram of the set of paths (from WIFI or other method), what you get if you take the AND of those is no more than what was obtained from the credit card details.

  in other words, your privacy has already been violated by a subpoena for the *credit card* details in ways that a subpoena for the path details could not possibly hope to match or add any information to that is *not already known* from the credit card subpoena. except for some outliers... discussed below:

what you get if you *remove* the set of location/time-cross-referenced credit card purchases from the set of "paths" is actually much more interesting. scenarios where the two data sets do not match would include where someone borrowed your credit card (with or without permission), or cloned it.

we're beginning to get into quite complex territory here, but let's say that someone stole your credit card. let's assume that the thief also has a mobile phone. let's say that they (rather stupidly) use the credit card in the same store to make multiple purchases. *then* you have a situation where it woud sort-of be possible to narrow down the numbers from *maybe* 10,000 possible candidates down to say 2,000 possible candidates, down to maybe 100, with each extra piece of information (assuming WIFI / GSM not say camera tracking) ... and at the end of that, what you would have would be a set of anonymised pieces of information, all of which you *still* could not identify the thief - based purely on the path information (even if you add the credit card details) - because of the salted hash. (if you actually caught them then it's still dicey but you *might* be able to provide some "statistically-dubious" circumstantial evidence but it would require an additional subpoena to the mobile phone company to get them to provide the TMSIs... it's complicated, but TMSI stands for *TEMPORARY* mobile subscriber identity - it's 32-bit and it changes something like once every 24-72 hours. i do not know if mobile phone operators keep records of the TMSIs allocated to phones, but it would be unlikely that they bother, as it's something that the base station cell towers allocate locally. WIFI on the other hand would be a different matter, as MAC addresses typically do not change).

so about the only thing you _could_ do was to notice that the credit card was no longer "in proximity" with the mobile phone "path" information and perhaps report it to the credit card company. *but*, bear in mind that it's on a 20 metre radius and on a 5-15 minute "ping" and it's pretty touch-and-go as to whether the information would be in time to stop fraudulent purchases... or even if it would be correct (not a false positive).

now, with this visual tracking stuff, you *might* have better luck (assuming it's ok to run a beowulf cluster on-site within the shopping mall premises), but i have serious doubts that it's within reasonable cost for deployment.

the only thing i can think of, if you are genuinely genuinely concerned about privacy:

(a) take the battery out of your phone or better leave it behind entirely
(b) use cash as long as it's not an attention-seeking amount
(c) if you can't use cash get prepaid credit cards (plural) and use one per purchase.

but, bottom line: really, if a court has access to the credit card details (times, stores and purchases) they *genuinely* have access to far more accurate information than what may be obtained from such sparse and positionally-broad GSM / WIFI tracking, and in the majority of cases i think you'll find that the addition of that information as a dataset to what can be obtained from credit card subpoenas really _really_ isn't hugely useful.

Comment: Re:LOL@ Use-case (Score 2) 45

by lkcl (#49208903) Attached to: Fujitsu Tech Can Track Heavily Blurred People In Security Videos

I think it would still be possible to deanonymize that path data. If you make a credit card purchase, the information about time and place of the credit transaction can be associated with whatever id you use hashed or not.

you're assuming that the data collection rate is of the order of seconds. if you check the GSM spec for cell tower ping times, make some educated guesses on average phone usage including SMS, GPRS and call usage, and so on - bear in mind that this is a *passive* system as it is illegal to interfere with mobile phone operation - and also bear in mind that the positional accuracy is somewhere around a 20 metre radius - and then think about the number of people in any one store i think you'll find that statistically speaking the argument that you present falls completely flat.

the technology that the company i worked for is pretty cutting edge for innovation, but it is definitely pushing the limits of reasonably affordable off-the-shelf equipment that a shopping mall retail centre is prepared to pay, in order to obtain access to the kind of reports that it provides.

sure you could put in equipment that costs $250,000 per monitoring station, you could then have accuracy of 0.5 metres, you could get cell tower operator licenses (or other agreements) and do man-in-the-middle attacks which would get you the information presented in the argument that you give, but aside from the fact that no retail centre would ever pay for such ultra-expensive equipment in the first place the very fact that it *was* capable of getting them involved in court cases would actually *deter* them from buying it!

think, please. _why_ would a shopping centre manager make the *deliberate* decision to spend money that could cost them both retailers and shoppers if there was a disastrously-bad publicity report (either in the news or from another Snowden-style leak) which implicated them in privacy invasions?? it just doesn't add up, does it?

so ironically the inaccuracy of the off-the-shelf (GNURadio-based) equipment is a selling point (insufficient accuracy and data collection rates to be used to violate individual privacy) whilst at the same time being just sufficient to provide the kinds of large-scale statistical reports that the retailers need... and no more.

Comment: Re:LOL@ Use-case (Score 5, Informative) 45

by lkcl (#49206941) Attached to: Fujitsu Tech Can Track Heavily Blurred People In Security Videos

actually i worked for a company that provided path information (it's really really important) and privacy was absolutely key. they went to a lot of trouble in the design of the software so that, if they were ever compelled, even by a court order, to "identify individual X", they would LITERALLY be unable to comply and, to avoid contempt of court, would need to go to some technical lengths to explain why. they didn't use images (because they don't work) - instead they used GNURadio to do GSM passive decoding and signal-strength detection. and no, you *can't* track the person themselves, nor can you get their telephone number, nor can you decode their phone conversations, nor can you decode their SMS messages (not "and track 1000s of phones on affordable commodity off-the-shelf hardware at the same time"). they also track bluetooth and wifi, but again, the mac addresses are hashed (with salting) *before* being stored on disk. the reason for this kind of paranoia is really really simple: they ABSOLUTELY DO **NOT** wish to be involved in privacy and identification issues. it would destroy their reputation. so they made damn sure it simply could not happen, even if they were compelled by a court order.

anyway - first important thing: the definition of a "path" (and why it's critical). a "path" is, as the word suggests, the places that an individual goes to, and how they got there, how long it took, and how long and where they were stationary. key factors critical for shopping mall owners to be able to provide to their retailers: (1) how many unique shoppers went into *their* store (broken down by time and date is also helpful). (2) how long each unique shopper spent in their store. (3) also useful to know is where they went *before* going to another store. it's therefore necessary to weed out "passers-by", and duplicates (losing the path then picking it up as a *separate* person, repeatedly) is *especially* bad as it completely mucks up this all-important information that the retailers, it turns out, really really like to have once they know it's available.

think about it: this information is really, really important. in attracting retailers, without this equipment (or anything like it), the conversation is "come to our retail park, we have 6 million visitors a year". the retailer isn't interested in that. *with* the equipment (or anything like it), the conversation goes further, "and the unit we would like to interest you in gets 15,000 unique visitors per day if occupied by someone with your type of retail profile, especially because there's a macdonalds / starbucks within 100 / 50 metres and we know that that gets better numbers for you". *that's* powerful stuff, and it allows the shopping mall management to pick (and test, and research) interesting combinations of retailers that will make the whole mall a lively and attractive place to be, instead of being boring, half-empty of both retailers and customers (the other half being tired, stressed and exhausted), and doing a dis-service to everyone who bothers to go there.

so anyway i had to be up on the "competition" so to speak, because we frequently got questions coming in from clients being pitched the "visual tracking" technology.

first flaw in visual tracking technology: balloons, signs, pigeons, dogs, baby strollers - anything that moves in uncontrollable ways that is big enough to block people: you're hosed. pigeons etc. are fun because they randomly block out huge areas directly in front of the camera if they get close enough. even "other people" is enough to block "other people". even identifying "people" from children, babies, animals - this is hard enough as it is and requires enormous CPU resources... the number of people in some of these malls is *enormous* - tens to hundreds of thousands.

second flaw in visual tracking technology: it's intrusive. put a camera in a shopping mall and people automatically get edgy. it changes their "behaviour", which is precisely what you do not want. the last thing you want in a shopping mall is "edgy customers". some shopping centre managers *specifically* request suppliers of this kind of equipment *not* to walk around the store in clothing that is identified with "worker" or "engineer", and they prohibit the carrying clipboards, toolboxes and other stuff that said "annoying person to get away from immediately or be concerned about that they might be carrying a bomb etc. etc". they _really_ have to be careful about this kind of stuff. so: lots of big expensive high-resolution, high contrast ratio cameras with big zoom lenses: Baaaad.

third flaw in visual tracking technology: unless you have a hell of a lot of cameras and some extremely expensive CPUs, tracking upwards of 100,000 people in a single shopping centre means that moving from one camera to the next you lose continuity. once you lose continuity, that's it: it's "Game Over" for the whole concept of "one person". person goes into a toilet? you *really* don't want to go down that kind of tracking route. *but*.... person comes *out* of toilet, now you have a problem: you've lost continuity, and that means "oops, system thinks there's 2 people when there's actually only 1". now you're into lying about the number of people actually in the shopping centre. walk into a shop that has a complex layout (or doesn't want its customers intrusively tracked by cameras?), you lost the path. shops where people change their clothing? you lost the path. corridors with double fire-doors where you don't want people to have a camera staring them in the face no matter where they look? you lost the path. even that "80% success" figure is... it's just nowhere near enough: it genuinely has to be close to 100% to be useful. lose the path, you just lied to the retailer about the number of unique visitors, and you *can't do that*. "blur the face"?? wtf!! you just lost all the unique information needed to recover the path down the line, if it ever gets lost.

fourth flaw in visual tracking technology: drastic changes in lighting conditions. it turns out that to cope with sunlight changes at windows and doorways is drastically beyond both current camera technology *and* the CPU requirements of today's modern cluster computing, it's that CPU-intensive. and doorways are exactly where you really, really need to know about, because that's where the "path" of a unique shopper both begins and ends.

now the irony is that the subtleties of this are completely lost on many shopping mall managers. they *want* to be able to lie to the retailers that there are more people coming to the centre than there actually are, so the "whoops the reported numbers of unique shoppers are 6x higher than reality" is not a problem for such management, but for where it matters and you have retailers and mall management intelligent enough to understand, you *need* something different, and that's where the technology of the company i worked for comes into play, in a non-intrusive, non-privacy-invading fashion. and yes, it can be used for exactly the benefits described: emergency route planning and congestion reduction. just... without the privacy-invasion, thank you.

bottom line is: i really don't see how visual tracking is going to work out any time soon, especially given that face-blurring helps destroy critical information needed to rejoin paths if the tracking is ever lost, and especially given that the CPU usage is so enormous that you would need a supercomputer in the back office and a massively-upgraded power line to run it. no - don't expect visual tracking to be hitting a shopping mall near you in the immediate future.

Comment: criticality is.. well... critical (Score 1) 188

by lkcl (#49205259) Attached to: The Origin of Life and the Hidden Role of Quantum Criticality

my friend dr alex hankey - someone who is himself slightly err critically stable shall we say - has written several papers on exactly this subject, well ahead of their time. from my understanding of conversations with him, criticality of biological systems is critical to life as well as consciousness. from his training which includes two PhDs, one in mathematics and one in physics (MIT and Cambridge), dr hankey actually had to invent a new form of quantum mechanics in order to properly do this justice: one which he calls "self-referral" i.e. it has a feedback loop on the quantum equation itself (just like in neural networks). yes i have asked him if he could write it up as a separate paper (just the QM enhancements) and he is in the process of doing that, but it is going to take time (yes i have told him it's really really important because his work could open up so many different areas: he knows already! it's complicated, and he has a lot going on).

but in a nutshell, if you think of the difference between "normal" math and "chaos" math, the difference is the same between QM and QM-enhanced that he had to invent in order to deal mathematically with critical-instability systems. so for example where normally if you go down in the number of dimensions you are dealing with, when you get to zero dimensions, "normal" math and "normal" QM goes haywire because you get 0/0 or possibly infinity/infinity and it's impossible to determine which and even guessing what the hell is going on is completely out of the question: QM-enhanced is, from what i can gather, actually able to still operate under these insane type of conditions - conditions which are part and parcel every day in dealing with critical instability points.

i believe there was a paper published (and announced here on slashdot) which said that in a neural network (or other system) which is at "criticality", you only need to change *one* bit of information in *one* entity anywhere within the system and the *entire state* of the system may change (i.e. react). now if you think about it, for cells this is really *really* important. think of a cell being attacked by a virus, or going cancerous. you'd, obviously, want the *entire* immune system to react to that, instantly, wouldn't you? otherwise it could well be far too late by the time the virus spreads to more than one cell. so it would make sense from an evolutionary perspective that any system of cells which did *not* react as a whole, instantly, if even a single cell was attacked, would be penalised in terms of successful survival compared to those systems of cells which did.

the next phase will be that the "regular" scientific community begins to catch up with the work on consciousness, the effect of homeopathic medicine and more, and dr hankey's work will be much more widely understood and respected beyond the very small community that currently even understands it. i do have to point out that it is very unfortunate that the language that he uses makes even a highly renowned traditionally-trained physicist's mind freeze and lock up, but, honestly, that's just how it is: if people don't want to be open to new ideas, you just have to be patient....

Always try to do things in chronological order; it's less confusing that way.