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Wired Profiles John Brooks, the Programmer Behind Ricochet 14

Posted by timothy
from the bouncy-bouncy dept.
wabrandsma writes with this excerpt from Wired: John Brooks, who is just 22 and a self-taught coder who dropped out of school at 13, was always concerned about privacy and civil liberties. Four years ago he began work on a program for encrypted instant messaging that uses Tor hidden services for the protected transmission of communications. The program, which he dubbed Ricochet, began as a hobby. But by the time he finished, he had a full-fledged desktop client that was easy to use, offered anonymity and encryption, and even resolved the issue of metadata—the "to" and "from" headers and IP addresses spy agencies use to identify and track communications—long before the public was aware that the NSA was routinely collecting metadata in bulk for its spy programs. The only problem Brooks had with the program was that few people were interested in using it. Although he'd made Ricochet's code open source, Brooks never had it formally audited for security and did nothing to promote it, so few people even knew about it.

Then the Snowden leaks happened and metadata made headlines. Brooks realized he already had a solution that resolved a problem everyone else was suddenly scrambling to fix. Though ordinary encrypted email and instant messaging protect the contents of communications, metadata allows authorities to map relationships between communicants and subpoena service providers for subscriber information that can help unmask whistleblowers, journalists's sources and others.

Comment: Re:Please describe exactly (Score 1) 299

The same thing happened to me. I'd been buying my own health insurance since I sold my company in 2011. It cost me $83 per month. I'm in my early 30's and healthy. Only time I used it was for a sinus infection and annual check ups. Deductible was $3500 with max out of pocket of $11,000. Office co-pay's were $30, $50 for urgent care and drug coverage worked well enough for me. My last antibiotics cost me $20 co-pay. Then I was informed last fall my plan was not "ACA" compliant and would be cancelled at the end of last year.

So I went shopping on the exchange. The closest plan to what I had was a silver package. It was $280 a month. 3x what I was paying. That was more than I wanted to pay. So I looked at a "Bronze" plan. Still $156 a month and eventually what I selected. It had a $6000 a year deductible and $17,000 max out of pocket per year.

Then I actually had to use it for an Urgent care visit. Under my old plan, Urgent care was a $50 visit. Well it was $90 co-pay under my new plan. I was prescribed the same antibiotics as the previous time. Cost: $45 co-pay instead of $20.

Fortunately I got married and now on my Wife's company plan (although they're likely to pay the fine as it will be cheaper than providing insurance so not sure for how much longer). It was about the same as my bronze plan (~$180 per month to add me). But coverage is a hell of a lot better.

Comment: Re: only manual lenses? (Score 1) 45

by dgatwood (#47956915) Attached to: Video Released, Crowdfunding Underway For Axiom Open Source Cinema Camera

...the connection between the manual focusing ring and the lens part is electronic rather than mechanical...

Just because a lens has electronic focus doesn't mean that it doesn't have mechanical manual focus. At least on the Canon side of things, focus-by-wire lenses are rare. Most of the focus-by-wire lenses are old, discontinued models like the 50mm f/1.0. The only current focus-by-wire lenses I'm aware of are their STM lenses (mostly low end) and the 85mm f/1.2L II. The rest of their L line is mechanical, including the 50mm f/1.2 L (popular for movie work), the 135 L II, their various zooms, etc.

The big advantage that fully manual lenses have over autofocus lenses when it comes to manual focusing is that most manual lenses have a longer throw. This makes it easier to get a more precise focus when focusing manually. They don't do that on autofocus lenses because it would make focusing slower.

With that said, I think the industry's obsession with manual focus is badly misplaced. When you're dealing with 4K video, you want the focus to be right, not just close, and autofocus is a lot more precise than any human can possibly be, even with static subjects, with the best long-throw lenses, and with a separate person doing nothing but handling the focusing. The only thing holding back autofocus for video use was the slowness of contrast-based autofocus (and its tendency to seek). With the advent of on-die phase-detect autofocus capabilities, that limitation is rapidly disappearing. Add a bit of eye tracking into the mix, and I think you'll find that within the next ten years, nobody in their right minds will still be focusing manually, particularly when they're shooting 4K.

it is often better if the aperture can be set in a step-less fashion

AFAIK, that's fairly rare even in fully mechanical lenses unless they've been modified. Perhaps dedicated cinema lenses are different in that regard. I'm not sure. But even some of my old screw-mount lenses from back in the black-and-white TV days had mechanical stops, so I'm guessing stopless lenses aren't exactly common.

So I can conclude that while having a powered mount is very much desirable on Axiom cameras (and so it will come just a bit later) it is also true that the old lenses are in fact more suitable to the task of shooting movies and so the decision to deliver a fully manual Nikon-F mount first is justified

The problem with old lenses is that they're designed for a world where cameras had relatively poor spatial resolution, and for much less reflective sensor material (film). I enjoy playing with old lenses on a 6D, and they create an interesting artistic feel, but they don't even approach the level of flare resistance, sharpness, etc. that you'd want for a digital 4K cinema camera. So if you're limiting yourself to mostly old lenses, you might as well limit yourself to 720p as well, because you'll be lucky to out-resolve that with most lenses designed more than about a decade or so back.

And if you have the money for modern, full-manual cinema lenses, chances are you aren't in the market for anything less than a highly polished, turnkey camera system.

So I really think that they need to at least lay the groundwork (in hardware) by making the plastic plates in front of the sensor removable and by including USB and DC connectors near the back side of that plate so that the system will be readily extensible in the future. That small change shouldn't require a huge amount of effort, and it will future-proof the design in a way that nothing else will.

Or, if USB isn't feasible, a high-speed serial port capable of at least 230 kbps would probably be good enough.

Just my $0.02.

Comment: Re:"compared to consumer grade cameras" (Score 1) 45

by dgatwood (#47956721) Attached to: Video Released, Crowdfunding Underway For Axiom Open Source Cinema Camera

I think you missed my point. If they don't provide an electrical interface near the front of the hardware as part of the core design, there's no way that users can develop any electronic mount hardware, because there's no way to communicate with said mount hardware... or at least none that doesn't involve a box fastened to the back of the camera with a wire wrapped all the way around the camera to the front.

That said, so long as they provide a multipin connector with full-voltage DC and USB pins on the interior of the body, just inside the mount, that's good enough to make it possible to add electronic mount hardware by replacing the mount with a redesigned mount. That's the minimum that the core developers must do. If they don't, first-generation hardware users will be stuck with that limitation forever, and folks will try to work around the lack of that hardware with disgusting workarounds, which future hardware users will then get stuck with... probably forever. :-)


Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Rollout 299

Posted by timothy
from the wanna-be-absolutely-clear dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this report from The Verge linking to and excerpting from a newly released report created for a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, including portions of eight "damning emails" that offer an unflattering look at the rollout of the Obamacare website. The Government Office of Accountability released a report earlier this week detailing the security flaws in the site, but a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released yesterday is even more damning. Titled, "Behind the Curtain of the Rollout," the report fingers the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the development of the site, and its parent Department of Health and Human Services. "Officials at CMS and HHS refused to admit to the public that the website was not on track to launch without significant functionality problems and substantial security risks," the report says. "There is also evidence that the Administration, to this day, is continuing its efforts to shield ongoing problems with the website from public view." Writes the submitter: "The evidence includes emails that show Obamacare officials more interested in keeping their problems from leaking to the press than working to fix them. This is both both a coverup and incompetence."

Comment: Re:"compared to consumer grade cameras" (Score 2) 45

by dgatwood (#47955691) Attached to: Video Released, Crowdfunding Underway For Axiom Open Source Cinema Camera

The biggest problem I see with this is that the lens mount system appears to be purely manual. This seriously limits the lenses you can use, because these days, 99% of lenses don't have mechanical aperture control. They really need to have some sort of adaptable lens electronics in this thing, so that people can design adapters that actually support modern lenses, similar to the Metabones adapters for NEX. The absolute minimum requirement for such things is a set of electronic contacts inside the lens mount that are controllable through software.

I think if I were designing a camera system to be extensible, I'd make the lens contacts speak USB 2.0, with appropriate short-circuit protection for when the lens is being attached to the mount. That way, the adapters could be very basic USB controllers that speak a particular lens protocol, rather than having to convert one arbitrary lens protocol to another (potentially incompatible) protocol.

There is one caveat to using USB, though. You'd need to also provide a 7.2VDC pin on the lens mount. Many camera lens systems require that much voltage to drive the focus motors, and it would suck to have to boost the voltage from a 5VDC USB supply in an adapter, particularly given that you probably already have the higher-voltage DC supply floating around inside the camera.

Comment: Re:If this works, then Microsoft is doomed. (Score 2, Insightful) 101

by BitZtream (#47953263) Attached to: Android Apps Now Unofficially Able To Run On Any Major Desktop OS


If this technology matures to the point that it's stable on every desktop OS, then the OS is reduced is reduced to simply being a platform for the chrome browser to run on to run Android Apps. That means

That means instead of the apps being written for the Win32/MFC/.NET runtime, they are written for the Android runtime ... how is that any different? Please explain how its different other than you're a fanboy for Chrome/Android rather than Microsoft.

1. Developers gear their software to run on Android since that's where all the software and market is.

Right, except no its not. If you want ad-ladened crap, Android is where its at. The 'market' is everywhere else. There may be a lot of apps there, but that doesn't mean anyone cares, which the stats have shown by the number of apps with exactly no downloads.

2. Microsoft becomes irrelevant as the things consumers want are the Android Apps, not the OS.

So basically, just like Windows now. People don't want 'windows' they want an environment they are used to and works well, and more importantly the apps they've been using for years. You've given no actual reason why people would want new android apps that work entirely differently over what they already have and are used to. On top of that, the end result for those people would be exactly the same as they already have, except now Google would be in Microsofts place.

Thats just stupid. With Microsoft, at least you are the customer and your data is yours. With Google, you're the product and your data is their data. The whole point is to push more advertising on you and manipulate you into spending more money. Awesome.

I don't think that means Microsoft will die completely, but I do think it means they become just another small player as there is no longer any vendor lock-in to their platform.

Awesome, so instead of being locked into desktop apps with 30 years of evolution and growing, we're locked into phone and tablet apps ... on the desktop ... which are still infants made mostly by random people who think installing Eclipse makes them a developer, awesome. Thats my favorite lock-in right there. Lock in and shitty apps made for tiny screens ... on my 27" inch displays.

There is nothing that magically makes this better than just using an OS and skipping the extra layer of crap added by running your tablet app on your desktop. Have you really thought about how silly this actually is? Turn off your fanboy for 15 minutes and think about it. Its a stupid idea that no one is actually going to use for anything other than some very rare instances.

Never before has someones OS runtime layer been a real product on someone elses OS. Java hasn't ruled the world, Android isn't going to magically make that so just because people use it on their phones. Adding another standard on top of existing standards never results in this magical silver bullet that revolutionizes the world and changes everything. Proper design from the bottom up does that.

Comment: Re:ICANN sell to the highest bidder (Score 1) 64

by BitZtream (#47951187) Attached to: Amazon Purchases<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.buy TLD For $4.6 Million

We should expect more from people who post on slashdot ... sadly, its silly to have expectations.

TLDs have certain requirements associated with them, unless Amazon magically also has some super special secret deal that Google hasn't told the world about after losing ... then Amazon won't be able to monopolize or otherwise use the TLD to an unfair advantage.

They can set certain things related to how the TLD operates, but they don't get it all to themselves. They didn't buy a TLD for themselves, they bought the right to run a TLD under ICANNs guidelines.

+ - Microsoft Kills Off Its Trustworthy Computing Group

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group is headed for the axe, and its responsibilities will be taken over either by the company's Cloud & Enterprise Division or its Legal & Corporate Affairs group. Microsoft’s disbanding of the group represents a punctuation mark in the industry’s decades-long conversation around trusted computing as a concept. The security center of gravity is moving away from enterprise desktops to cloud and mobile and 'things', so it makes sense for this security leadership role to shift as well. According to a company spokesman, an unspecified number of jobs from the group will be cut. Also today, Microsoft has announced the closure of its Silicon Valley lab. Its research labs in Redmond, New York, and Cambridge (in Massachusetts) will pick up some of the closed lab's operations."
The Internet

Amazon Purchases .buy TLD For $4.6 Million 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the totall-just-short-of-free-shipping dept.
onproton writes: Amazon outbid Google at the ICANN auction this week for the top-level domain .buy , to which it now has exclusive rights, paying around $4.6 million for the privilege. Google was also reportedly outbid for the .tech domain, which went for around $6.7 million. No word yet on Amazon's plans for the new domain suffix, but it's probably safe to say will be added to Amazon's collection of reserved anti-Amazon URLs.
Open Source

Dropbox and Google Want To Make Open Source Security Tools Easy To Use 24

Posted by Soulskill
from the bang-your-head-on-the-screen-to-unlock-your-forehead-profile dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Dropbox, Google, and the Open Technology Fund have announced a new organization focused on making open source security tools easier to use. Called Simply Secure, the initiative brings together security researchers with experts in user interaction and design to boost adoption rates for consumer-facing security solutions. The companies point out that various security options already do exist, and are technically effective. Features like two-factor authentication remain useless, however, because users don't adopt them due to inconvenience or technical difficulty.

+ - Dropbox And Google Want To Make Open Source Security Tools Easy To Use

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Dropbox, Google, and the Open Technology Fund today announced a new organization focused on making open source security tools easier to use. Called Simply Secure, the initiative brings together security researchers with experts in user interaction and design to boost adoption rates for consumer-facing security solutions. The companies point out that various security options already do exist, and are technically effective. Features like two-factor authentication remain useless, however, because users don’t adopt them due to inconvenience or technical difficulty."

SteadyServ Helps Keep the Draft Beer Flowing (Video) 48

Posted by Roblimo
from the software-and-beer-are-a-natural-partnership dept.
"With iKeg's Technology We Guarantee You Will Never Run Out of Beer," boasts the SteadyServ website. As you listen to interviewee Mike Flockenhaus, though, you'll realize almost immediately that SteadyServ isn't making equipment for home use, but for bars and taverns that serve draft beer. Here's another good line from their site: "With the new iKeg® system, we aim to ensure that you get your beer, in the right place, at the right time. We also want to simplify the lives of all the hard-working people in the beer industry. After all, wanting and having your beer are not the same thing." Even better, it looks like they're hiring. Wouldn't it be wonderful to help keep America from running out of draft beer? (Alternate Video Link)

Ask Slashdot: How To Avoid Becoming a Complacent Software Developer? 254

Posted by Soulskill
from the become-a-complacent-manager-instead dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Next year will be the start of my 10th year as a software developer. For the last nice years I've worked for a variety of companies, large and small, on projects of varying sizes. During my career, I have noticed that many of the older software developers are burnt out. They would rather do their 9-5, get paid, and go home. They have little, if any, passion left, and I constantly wonder how they became this way. This contradicts my way of thinking; I consider myself to have some level of passion for what I do, and I enjoy going home knowing I made some kind of difference.

Needless to say, I think I am starting to see the effects of complacency. In my current job, I have a development manager who is difficult to deal with on a technical level. He possesses little technical knowledge of basic JavaEE concepts, nor has kept up on any programming in the last 10 years. There is a push from the upper echelon of the business to develop a new, more scalable system, but they don't realize that my manager is the bottleneck. Our team is constantly trying to get him to agree on software industry standards/best practices, but he doesn't get it and often times won't budge. I'm starting to feel the effects of becoming complacent. What is your advice?

Intel Putting 3D Scanners In Consumer Tablets Next Year, Phones To Follow 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the make-me-a-tricorder dept.
Zothecula writes: Intel has been working on a 3D scanner small enough to fit in the bezel of even the thinnest tablets. The company aims to have the technology in tablets from 2015, with CEO Brian Krzanich telling the crowd at MakerCon in New York on Thursday that he hopes to put the technology in phones as well.

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.