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User Journal

Journal Journal: Eyebrow-raising job post

Lol Job!!!

Cryptography project bids sought, 13 May 2013
Project Description:
I need a preimage for a specific MD5 hash (will be revealed in private message). Length or content of the image doesn't matter (however I would pay more if I could choose a prefix). The submitted image will be verified by the *nix standard md5sum application, the first one who submits a valid image will be accepted and be paid.

Posted by user md5guy.


Journal Journal: Microsoft Developer Network Identity Confusion

Microsoft Developer Network Blog
This is the most bizarre thing I've seen yet from Microsoft. They acknowledge, on the Developer blog, that the sign-in process for using MSDN communities, resources, forums, tutorials, API etc has confused so many DEVELOPERS that they will consider redesign. That's of some comfort to me, as I was feeling a bit confused too. This blog post was dated May 2010, I'm going to check to see how it all turned out, and if I'm fortunate, I'll be able to create a second MS Live profile (apparently one isn't sufficient) and actually access the site!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Digital identities in 2010

Yes, this is about web analytics but statisticians (like me) do segmentation analyses too. For the month of May 2010, Gigya's Identity Study reports which sign-on's and ISPs were used for major traffic sites, stratified by category. Category types are more varied than just social networking, although Facebook and Twitter are included. I haven't checked the methodology. I did see that the sample sizes were sufficient, and that comparisons are provided in percentage terms and absolute values. There's the requisite infographic, of course.

Social Relations and the Internet

For more trend following, see Pew Research's 2010 update about the future of social relations online.

The Courts

Journal Journal: Second Amendment applies to states AND localities. Maybe

Most U.S. federal-level laws are applied at the state and local level by "Due Process", which exists as a clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Second Amendment applies to gun control. The phrase, "the right to bear arms", is applicable only at the Federal level according to the Constitution. On 29 June 2010, the US Supreme Court issued a much-anticipated ruling on restrictive City of Chicago gun control measures, effectively banning citizen possession of firearms. (The City of Chicago is not alone in doing this sort of thing. Washington D.C. has a similar gun control law. Does it have any discernibly positive impact? Maybe. I don't know. )

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the the Second Amendment was applicable to the City of Chicago under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process instead of a stronger measure, known as Privileges and Immunities. Actually, Justice Clarence Thomas based his opinion on Privileges and Immunities, but was the only Justice who did so.

What are the implications of this case ruling? Well, it could mean increased legislation, or "open season" on existing possession of firearms-related laws for all U.S. states and localities. I wonder if it will affect the gun control laws in the five Boroughs of Manhattan.

Journal Journal: The mysterious RT Leuchtkafer and HFT

Leuchtkafer means firefly in German.

Who is Leuchtkafer?

In April 2010, RT Leuchtkafer sent a particularly articulate letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in response to an SEC concept release inviting public comment on the structure of the stock market. His greatest ire was directed at the electronic data feeds that exchanges provide to high-frequency trading (HFT) firms. These feeds contain real-time market information, including details about any massive orders placed by institutional firms, such as mutual funds. Having access to this data and flow gives a huge advantage over all other stock market participants who don't have the same level of access to these feeds. Among other things, Leuchtkafer observed in his first communique to the SEC:

A classic short-term strategy is to sniff out an elephant and trade ahead of it. That is front-running if you are a fiduciary to the elephant but just good trading if you are not, or so we suppose.

The sad fate of Kirilenko's research article
Leuchtkafer's second comment was on 31 October 2010, following release of "Findings Regarding the Market Events of May 6, 2010", a joint report by the SEC and CFTC. Leuchtkafer's third comment was in February 2011. It focused on a highly anticipated research study by CFTC economist Andrei Kirilenko, whose purpose was to quantitatively examine the impact of high frequency market makers. Kirilenko found that HFT was causally related to structural instability, crashes and liquidity crises, toxic quotes, impaired price discovery in public markets and greater uncertainty about any given order's likely effect on prices. Neoliberal economist Bradford Delong's blog readers included the following reaction after reading Leuchtkafer's third comment to the SEC on the adverse effect of positive feedback trading on financial markets:

Among the good reasons for reform was that innovation was being strangled by entrenched interests. The assumption is that innovation is good in finance too. I think the weight of evidence is overwhelming that we need to strangle further financial innovation. What good has it done in the past 30 years? Leuchtkafer thinks that no one wants to go back to the old days. I do. I would be glad to give brokers and market makers rents in exchange for more stable markets.

Kirilenko's paper could have been acted on by regulators, and used as an irrefutable empirical justification for reforming the activity of high frequency market makers. Instead, the paper was suppressed following protest to the SEC and a lawsuit filed by a futures industry trade group and affiliated lobbyists.

Red herrings
In 2012, Wall Street Journal reporter and author Scott Patterson objected to speed and/or program trading because it involved:

complex multi-legged orders called bracketed orders or conditional orders with odd names like long condor, short iron butterfly, and married call, with complex sentence structures, such as to buy this and to sell that, but only if this other thing happens, and also to cancel a certain part of the order otherwise.

In fact, these sort of trades, which describe synthetic or hedged options positions, have been in use for decades prior to the arrival of HFT in 2006. They are not the problem. They would remain even if HFT were banned tomorrow, e.g. by returning to fractional rather than current standards decimal pricing for listed and exchange traded equities!

More recently, debate about IEX, the start-up trading venue operator that promised to protect investors from predatory trading activity and mentioned by Michael Lewis in his new book, has been caught up in trade counting problems of its own:

Even trading volume on the IEX exchange, which is trumpeted as creating institutional fairness in the Michael Lewis book, Flash Boys about the topic, is now made up of roughly 50 percent high-frequency traders.

User Journal

Journal Journal: White House seeks comment on trusted ID plan, 25 June 2010

Computer World reports on Public Input for Trusted ID Plan

I went to the site National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace last Friday afternoon, June 25. That was a few hours after the site was opened to comments. There were a dozen posts at that time, suggesting, or commenting, in each of the various categories provided. I was pleased to an see OpenID-related suggestion, as also referenced in ComputerWorld's article

"One person suggested the White House take advantage of existing open-source trusted ID efforts, including OpenID"

I happen to be an advocate of OpenID, from what I know to-date. I also read some other rational-sounding observations, further comments, and more new ideas to address the problem of protecting individual and corporate electronic security. There were maybe 10 duplicate or substantively similar submissions at that time.

Approx 36 hours later, I checked the site. It had devolved into a mess of off-topic rants and paranoid comments about the evils of Big Government (ignoring the fact that Big Government was providing this venue for citizens to express their thoughts!). I continued reading.

Oddly enough, I read many sensible and well-written posts that were duplicates of the original 10 or 15 ideas submitted. I find the latter the most annoying in many respects. Why? Because I assume it is a matter of ego that so many individuals cannot vote up an idea they like or also had been contemplating, then using the commenting feature following each idea, should there be variations or refinements, or corrections of some part to be considered. No, apparently it is far more important to get your name in there, even if it merely displays as "Community Member", the auto assigned name for those who wish to remain anonymous, than to add one's vote to an already-posted idea you endorse. What a frustrating thing it will be for whomever has the job of moderating this morass of entries!

Failure to solicit public input is a very common complaint about government. In some cases that is valid. However, one look at this site is enough to make one think the public should be able to behave itself better if it wants to be taken seriously.
That is a rhetorical suggestion, I am merely remarking on collective behavior. I am not a government employee nor contracted or funded by government, minor disclaimer.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Definitive guide to Keyboard Shortcuts

EDIT: Website is offline now.

This is a good reference for keyboard shortcuts. Why? What's so special about it?

Well, it is very carefully illustrated and sized well for printing then taping to a shelf or lamp near one's workstation. Of course, this would be even more useful to anyone new to the World of Windows and PC's, particularly if they want a document written in Spanish. (I don't know if the same keyboard shortcuts are applicable for Mac OS, though). There's a nice explanation about the Alt-Gr key, otherwise known to me as Alt- |, and a bit of history about the different key placement for European versus North American market. The Gr in Alt-Gr meant "Graphics", fyi.

The post covers these combo's, and don't give me a hard time for my choice of notation!
Alt + x
Windows symbol + x
Shift + x
Alt-Gr + x , or Alt-Shift -\ + x
for West of the Atlantic users Function keys
F1 ... F12
Ctrl + x

Personally, I try to avoid keyboard shortcuts, as they remind me of Emacs and WordPerfect, neither of which were bad, just indicate that I'm getting a little long in the tooth. However it is good to have the info handy, as one sometimes gets stuck in an application where an expected function is not offered on the pull down menus, and use of the keyboard shortcut is the only choice.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Floppy Diskettes from IBM: Formatted 10pk

Verbatim 3.5 inch Floppy Diskettes

Yes, this means that there's at least one seller of new 3.5 inch floppy diskettes! I saw these on Verbatim's online site, available in an unnervingly elaborate variety of color combinations.

The site is worth having a quick look at. There are also some new tech and innovative household/ consumer items. I want a four pack of Verbatim-branded batteries: NiMH and 2,500Au (not sure about that unit of measurement...). Very good quality batteries, for rechargables, and affordable too. Don't forget the computing storage devices, including super high-end secure USB's, $400+ for 16 GB. Preview the future PCI replacement storage device, a.k.a. known as Express cards.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Unconventional Computing: The Future is Hot Air

Google's massive computing facilities use 12V auto batteries as back-up power source! Is it true? Yes, per David Kanter, editor-in-chief of Real World Technologies in his Exectweets post from May 7, 2010. Google, much like Amazon, Yahoo! or Facebook relies on aggregate computing processing power. Cost remains an issue, despite increased hardware affordability and performance advantages from better systems architecture. This might be old news at Slashdot, as it was based on events of perhaps mid-year 2009. It was new to me though:

"Google shared some of its Borg hardware with the world... a 12V car battery was used for backup, rather than an UPS. Why? Modern UPS designs improve reliability in exactly the same way, but the conversion efficiency is not perfectâ"a good UPS might convert power at 90% efficiency. For a company with a dozen servers, a 10% inefficiency power is unfortunate, but may not be worth chasing after... [Google's] car battery approach achieves 99.9% efficiency, and with hundreds of thousands of servers, that can make a big difference."

Hmmm.... I'd like to see the numbers. Reliability is based on expected failure rates. Without knowing more about the probability distribution for 12V car battery failure, and how multiple 12V batteries are configured for back-up power, I don't have sufficient info to make even a rough estimate.... Other considerations would be: Exactly how many 12V batteries does Google use? How much space do they require and isn't there some trade-off due to the enormous footprint of a vast 12V battery farm?

David described another aspect of Google's energy efficient operations:

"Google simplifies their designs to only use 12V power rails. A modern motherboard requires several voltage planes: 3.3V, 5V and 12V. To provide each voltage, the power supply needs to convert 115V AC to the appropriate level. Instead, Google's power supplies only output 12V and use high efficiency voltage conversion on the motherboard to go from 12V to other voltage levels"

The macro-benefits of data center optimization are very green-friendly, and not exclusive to Google. Any large corporate data center consumes a great amount of electricity, and outputs waste heat. Locating a data center near cheap power sources is sensible, and is presumably why Amazon and Google, amongst others have chosen the Pacific Northwest due to the region's plentiful hydroelectric power. However, the most pleasing idea was to recycle the heat and warm air generated by server rooms and data centers, and using it for temperature control, to heat buildings, swimming pools or maybe industrial purposes. The article concludes with a real-world example; Telehouse, a U.K. colocation provider, specifically designed its London data center with an exhaust pipe to move heat to third parties in the Docklands.

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