mtrachtenberg writes: I just received an email from Amazon. It reads, "easyChoice: Amazon is taking the guesswork out of choosing the electronics to fit your needs."
I clicked on their "learn more" button, expecting an explanation, but landed directly at "easyChoice." The UI walks you down a short tree — "laptop", "home", done! — at which you are shown what you should buy. Nowhere does Amazon indicate what criteria they use for discovering what appears at "done!" — for all I know it could be Amazon's best profit margin. For laptops -> home, I was taken directly to a single product, a sub $500 laptop built around an Intel i3.
At that product, there is a "similar items" area after the first screen. For "laptops", "home", it compares a $500 i3 laptop with two laptops in the same price range, one builot around a Celeron and one an i5. It also shows a $750 i5 machine. I don't know if this "similar items" is an existing feature, or one added specifically for easyChoice.
Given Amazon's power in the market, I find it remarkable that they appear to be moving in the direction of taking advantage of the "default effect," without indicating in any way the criteria they use for selecting their (your) default.
mtrachtenberg writes: Seriously, folks. This competition to develop the tiniest compute thing that can be plugged into a power brick and an HDMI port is a little ridiculous.
Can we please have HDMI monitors that include power and HDMI connectors to an internal pocket for compute units that will go inside their shells. Fans, too, that can be set on or off to cool the pocket. The companies can get together with a standard form factor or, if a company was Apple, it could do up proprietary shapes so only their "compute units" will fit in their monitors, and let the best approach win (or lose, as the case may be).
But seriously, if you need a screen that is 12" to 96" diagonal, and you are paying thousands for it, why are you worried about shrinking the thing that costs hundreds and generates images for that screen.
mtrachtenberg writes: I've decided I'm only going to pay $5 in federal taxes this year, following Apple's "we'll pay what we want to pay" strategy. The strategy is outlined in this article from the always excellent Guardian newspaper.
mtrachtenberg writes: M E M O R A N D U M ================== TOP SECRET ================== Sponsored by Office 365, your newest Office aid and best friend. Office! ==================
United States Department of Justice
Division for Intellectual Property Rights and Maintenance of the Faith
Office for the Preservation of Microsoft
As per prior memoranda from this office, all points are alerted that uncooperative elements are still attempting to authorize non-Microsoft software (Linux, BSD, Z80 assembler) to run on US and Microsoft approved computing equipment.
It has been clearly established that Microsoft's financial survival is of code mauve importance to the American economy, at an equal level to that of Goldman Sachs and Citicorp. Therefore, this office is implementing Code Swartz immediately.
Drones shall lock and load on the GPS coordinates of abusers, and shall fire at will. Open source computing is like fluoridation — an assault on American values and freedom.
(P.S.: Nothing in this memorandum is to be construed as authorizing any activity illegal under the Constitution as interpreted by the Roberts court. If uncertain, contact the authorities at Guantanamo Bay.)
mtrachtenberg writes: "A California company working with Argonne National Labs is talking about a new anode for lithium ion batteries; it claims a 300%+ increase in energy density and is talking about volume manufacturing by 2014.
The company, California Lithium Battery, is talking about a potential 70% price drop in the cost of EV battery packs. If this happens, EVs suddenly begin to make sense."
mtrachtenberg writes: University of Michigan Professor J Alex Halderman and his team actually had two completely separate successful attacks on Washington, DC's internet voting experiment. The second path in was revealed by Halderman during testimony before the District of Columbia's Board of Elections and Ethics on Friday.
Apparently, a router's master password had been left at the default setting, enabling Halderman to access the system by a completely different method than SQL injection. He presented photographs of a video stream from the voting offices.
In addition, he found a file that had apparently been left on the test system contained the PINs of the 900+ voters who would have used the system in November.
Others on the panel joined Halderman in pointing out that it was not just this specific implementation of internet voting that was insecure, but the entire concept of using today's internet for voting at all. When a DC official asked why internet voting could not be made secure when top government secrets were secure on the internet, Halderman responded that a big part of keeping government secrets secret was NOT allowing them to be stored on internet-connected computers.
When a DC official asked the panel whether public key infrastructure couldn't allow secure internet voting, a panel member pointed out that the inventor of public key cryptography, MIT professor Ronald Rivest, was a signatory to the letter that had been sent to DC, urging officials there not to proceed with internet voting.
Clips from the testimony are available on youtube at these links.
mtrachtenberg writes: Microsoft has suspended a new internet messaging service in China, after it emerged that the site was partially based on code stolen from a rival startup.
The site, Juku, launched in November is similar in concept to other online messaging systems like Twitter. But earlier this week the team behind Plurk, a young internet company based in Canada and popular with users across Asia, accused Microsoft of directly copying as much as 80% of the code to run the program.