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Comment Re:Frightning photocopier (Score 1) 163

I'm not sure he should lose the tinfoil. Perhaps still crinkle it in his hands. People are retrieving documents from the copier storage. Considering how often security holes are found in networked devices, it isn't outside the bounds of believability that someone could read copied documents.


Comment Re:Disposable cell phone (Score 1) 364

I almost brought up the same point about the cameras, but then I realized that if the goal is to keep broad surveillance from tracking him, cycling through disposable phones will do this unless Staples is turning over security camera footage to the NSA for facial recognition.

That's true. He's going through some amount of pain and expense to do so though.

We don't really know how much information is being correlated together from what sources. We do know that technology is getting ever more capable and even commercial companies are experimenting with facial recognition. Though there probably aren't large scale facial recognition projects running today, the spook agencies are filled with some pretty smart people who spend all day with big budgets thinking about how to get useful data. I wouldn't be surprised at some future revelation along those lines.

I'm not sure there are easy technical solutions to this Ask Slashdot question.

Comment Re:Disposable cell phone (Score 5, Insightful) 364

Brian, I assume you paid in cash.

Do you know how much information the Staples inventory system has? Does it store things like the phone's Mobile Identification Number? It certainly logged the time the phone was sold and the location, perhaps flagging your cash transaction. Hopefully you smiled at the various cameras in-store and in the parking lot that recorded you driving up and buying the phone. ;-)

Comment Comcast plans rate hikes to pay for this (Score 1) 149

So not only will they reduce the quality and variety of TV programming, they'll make you pay for it.

"Comcast executives warned analysts in the call that TV programming costs could increase in the "low double digits" in 2013 -- inflation that likely will passed to Comcast's TV customers -- after increasing about 7 percent in 2012.";CMCSA&ticker=CMCSA

Comment HP workstations in the 1970s (Score 1) 181

Arguably these may be considered a predecessor to visual development environments but HP workstations starting in the 1970s had integrated editing and compiling including fairly sophisticated graphics and built-in IO support for the entire range of HP peripherals from disks, printers and plotters to HP instruments. HP started with a proprietary language, HPL, but they also supported a BASIC dialect in the 80 series and a super-fast Pascal development environment in the 200 series. These systems were not cheap but they were amazingly capable.

Comment Re:computers are like cars (Score 5, Insightful) 291

This. At least for the general public. The whole idea of a "computer" is simply a result of how primitive they are. That the software that controls them requires the user to understand concepts such as operating system and application, networking and device drivers. People don't really ever want to know they are "running a word processor" or "launching a web browser". They want to accomplish specific things, like writing a note (or video chatting) with a friend, looking something up or watching a movie.

The technical crowd loves to complain about Apple's walled garden, but this is exactly the genius of Apple. They get that. They get that they have to evolve the thing called a computer into a thing that people don't ever have to fiddle with. That simply exists to provide useful services for their life. The other computer manufacturers understand that to a smaller degree and then wonder why their tablets aren't as successful.

The personal computer, as technical people know it, is going away. It's growing up into what the vast majority of people really want. And thank God. I'm glad I don't have to stand in front of my car turning a crank to get it running.

But all is not lost for technical people. There will always be ways to have your own device. The free software and maker movements will ensure that. In some ways things are better today than ever. In the 1980s (some consider the heyday of the open personal computer) we had the 8-bit IBM PC. Today we have a gamut of programmable devices ranging from Arduinos to $35 linux computers to set top boxes to multi-core, multi-cpu computers more powerful that super computers of the last century. All totally accessible.

Comment Re:Maker culture is overrated (Score 5, Insightful) 32

Experiences must vary. Maker culture isn't overrated in my experience. A project at my local hackerspace just got some NASA funding. Other projects there include some pretty amazing art installations with heavy-duty FPGA-based circuitry and algorithms. The sharing of expertise is really useful and helpful. And it's heartening to see those with a lot of experience as engineers mentoring those who are new to electronics or mechanical design.

I've found 3d printers useful for prototyping plastic parts. One just needs to understand their limitations. Many people are just playing around with them now but they will continue to evolve and just like the evolution of the PC a wider and wider group of people will find the technology useful for solving real-world problems.

Sparkfun has created a fantastically successful business encapsulating electronic technology in a way that is useful for people to design their own custom electronic systems. The boom in inexpensive or free easy-to-use IDEs and cheap dev boards is bringing embedded computing to a huge audience. I still use expensive dev tools and environments for some jobs but it's really easy and fast to program an Arduino to do something simple. Spend some time looking at a site like hackaday or even instructables and you'll see a wide breadth of very creative maker creations.

Comment Re:The actual article (Score 1) 270

From the article, the read-only registers may be configured to be written:

"At this point we went back to those JTAG registers which were non-updatable as well as FROW to check whether we could change their values. Once the backdoor feature was unlocked, many of these registers became volatile and the FROW was reprogrammable as a normal Flash memory. Actel has a strong claim that 'configuration files cannot be read back via JTAG or any other method' in the PA3 and in their other latest generation Flash FPGAs [18]. Hence, they claim, they are extremely secure because the readback access is not implemented. We discovered that in fact Actel did implement such an access, with a special key used for activation."

Comment Re:The actual article (Score 1) 270

After reading the article, I'd bet that this "feature" of the FPGA is either for some manufacturing reason or was requested by customers (e.g. the US government) so that they can access/reprogram certain supposed read-only parts of the FPGA. I see nothing about any correlation with the Chinese using it as a backdoor.

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