Monday, December 27, 2010

My Old Years resolutions for 2010

This should be the least interrupted workweek of the year thanks to the wrap-around holidays. I have 2 Old Years resolutions for 2010:

  • Get TryPod off the ground, with workable code, examples and some help
  • Get my office cleaned up
Let's see how I do... I have 4 work days.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The end of the internet as we knew it.

Cloud computing suddenly has a dark future, taking what may be a mortal blow thanks to the Wikileaks censorship by Amazon.

Yahoo is killing off delicious, a seriously good social bookmarking site.

Yahoo may next kill off Flickr, if their track record is any guide, they have no clue how to create value on the internet.

Facebook is just one big flytrap for personal information.

There was a big migration to hosted services on the internet.... and this was allowing everyone to ignore the asymmetric model of access being slide under our noses... but no longer.

If you want your kids and future generations to have a voice at all in the future... here are some things you need to learn about.


  • Net neutrality means that everyone should be able to host their own stuff, create new services, and have them equally accessible from anywhere on the net. It is not a communist plot to deprive ISPs from profit.
  • If you can't run your own servers, you don't have free speech... its worth a few bucks to have freedom.
  • Computing Security can be fixed... it requires a new model of security called Capability Based Security, or also known as the "principle of least privilege".  If you have this model in place, you'll never need a virus scanner ever again.
  • Wikileaks is not evil... they didn't break any laws... those who denounce them are the ones you have to worry about if you value your liberty.
  • If you want to share photos with your family... you should be able to do it with your own hardware and an internet connection.... nobody else should be required as middlemen.
Things are changing... power is being re-distributed back to the people who chose to take it back, one small piece at a time.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

On the need for real internet connections

Most of us don't have a real internet connection, and it limits our freedom in a subtle, but increasingly important way. We are NOT free to use the internet as it was originally intended... to allow anyone to make a program on their server freely available to others. We've slowly been migrated into a "consumer" version, where we are merely free to choose from selections handed down to us by others who know what's good for us.

This makes itself firmly felt when someone wants to tell the truth, and finds themselves unable to offer them hosting because one Senator (or any other "Elite") makes a subtle threat in a phone call to Amazon. Isn't technology great, you don't have to burn books any more, you can just cut off internet connections! Goebbles would drool at the power exercised by Mr Lieberman in the past week.

Free speech is an important check on the abuse of power by those in Government and other positions of authority. It has now been shown that freedom of speech on the Internet is fundamentally non-existent for most of us.

Net neutrality is important... if you don't understand what it means, find out.

"In Germany they first came for the Communists, 
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. 

Then they came for the Jews, 
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. 

Then they came for the trade unionists, 
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. 

Then they came for the Catholics, 
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. 

Then they came for me — 
and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Pastor Martin Niemöller

Please don't let history repeat itself.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Internet Licensing countdown

How long do YOU think it will be until we have to have a license to use the internet?

I suspect it'll take about 6 months from now.

I suspect everyone will go along with it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Crossing the wikileaks Rubicon.

It seems that Representative Pete King wants to have Wikileaks.org declared a Terrorist Organization. I can see how this might be a very appealing idea to someone who wants to wrap himself up in the flag, and doesn't believe we'll think too hard about it.

However, things are not as simple as King would like. Wikileaks has not committed any crimes, nor are they attempting to terrorize anyone. They exist because the mainstream media has been rendered useless by their corporate masters in the consolidation of the "news business" over the last 50 years. Had journalists been doing their jobs, the things being leaked might have been uncovered years ago, instead of being allowed to fester in the dark alleys of power in Washington.

If King gets his wish, the line in the sand couldn't be clearer... the State Department would in effect be declaring itself to be above the law, above reproach or redress from the citizens of this or any other nation. Wikileaks is a free association of people who are effectively The Press. The FREEDOM of the PRESS should never be violated.

Declaring Wikileaks to be an enemy of the state is a line over which the administration would be foolish to cross. Once this rubicon is crossed, it is obvious that no peaceful reforms can be accomplished within the existing framework handed down by our forefathers for peaceful change... leaving the other means of change they used so effectively against the previous administrations that ruled without regard to the citizens from distant shores.

We, the people, have a right to assemble, to speak and publish our views and facts as we find them. We will not stand for the destruction of our 1st amendment right of free speech.

To declare the majority of citizens as terrorists is to give up the consent of the governed.

To ban Wikileaks is the path of fools... lets hope calmer voices prevail.

Good night, and good luck.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

StumbleUpon breaks the rules a bit

In the "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not a Nazi" spirit.. I'd like to lodge this gentle complaint about StumbleUpon.

People like the photo I posted yesterday, which is fun to watch the reaction to... but one of the referers that Flickr showed was

http://stumbleupon.com/refer.php?url=http%3A//www.flickr.com/photos/--mike--/5198232631/sizes/l/in/photostream/


Unfortunately, this doesn't actually refer to a StumbleUpon page, and instead feeds me to a generic page about StumbleUpon.


I'd like to know who referred to my photo, and why. It's not unreasonable to want to know what is being said about my stuff.  Referrer fields exist to help give this feedback, and StumbleUpon breaks this social norm.

If the people at StumbleUpon could fix this, it would be appreciated.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day_Night_18mm_Overlay

Sometimes an experiment works out well... this is one of those times. I'm VERY pleased with this photo. It is a stack of day and night images composited into this view. You can see the lights on, and the reflections of the city lights in the water. It's a bit surrealist, and kind of fun.

I hope you like it as well.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the slow diffusion of technology

I've often wondered why it takes so long for new technologies to mix with others. We had the telephone for a very long time before we got answering machines, for example.  Today I think I've figured out a bit of it.

It's my theory that it's the young people who come up with innovations, but they generally don't get them built because they lack the technical and business chops to do so. They also don't know as well how to discriminate between really good ideas and the random thoughts that occur to us all.  So they sit on some of their ideas for a long time, tweaking them and getting to the essential core over time. As they grow in experience they also become more adept at gathering resources and navigating the world. It is at this point when they can take those ideas they have nurtured, and reify them.

The example that inspired this comes from Thom Robertson, who just released Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator for Windows. In his frequently asked questions...
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Artemis?
A: Long ago, when my buddies and I all had Commodore64s (like, 25 years ago), I had an idea. I could link our computers together and play a game like the Star Trek bridge. One machine would run the simulation and the "main screen". Each other machine would be a bridge station, like Helm, Science, or Weapons. That idea has lain dormant in my brain for a very long time, but recently my muse told me "Make it. Now." So I finally did.
This leads me to suspect a lot of middle aged hackers are going to be coming up with some really cool things over the next few years that they've been thinking about for a long time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Augsburg Svenska Skola


Augsburg Svenska Skola
Originally uploaded by --Mike--
A few years ago I stumbled across this building by accident. I've been trying to find it every chance I get when I'm in the area.

Today I managed to find a park ranger who knew of it, and gave me accurate directions.

Here's the text on the marker to the left of the building.

"This structure served as the first school for children of Swedish immigrants that settled in this area in the late 1840s.
In 1885 when the county public school was built nearby, the building was turned over to the Augsburg Evangelical Lutheran church whose members and friends have preserved this early landmark.
The building and its contents are in the national historic land site registry in Washington DC and in recognition of its value a record has been placed in the library of Congress."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The lesser evil can hit the road.

I will no longer vote for the lesser of two evils.

I'm done.

The only vote anyone is going to get from me from here on out is an affirmative one... either I like you, or you're not getting my vote. I'm not falling for the lie of "throwing my vote away".

We're now entering the Greater Depression... it's only a matter of time before The Union is seriously threatened... and there is no substantial difference between either of the incumbent political parties. I refuse to give them my support, ever again.

I hope that we can emerge from this with representative government... it might be nice if it's still called the United States, but I don't really care what it's called, as long as Freedom and Justice for all result.

The currency has been debased, and collapse of Federalism is imminent. Unfortunately, the States are not much better off, for the most part, though North Dakota does seem to have it's banking act together.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hunting for a photo

Ansel Adams would often revisit places, and a curator of one of his exhibitions stated that he "hunted" a photo across time. I feel myself doing the same thing.

A few days ago, on a whim I followed one of my friends off the train at the Van Buren exit in Chicago. I then took this photograph.

Garden02_Diagonal_Crop1

I've been revisiting the location as I can, looking for something, I'm not sure what....   Today I met Rachel on my quest, and she was kind enough to pose for this photograph, which still needs a bit of tweaking.

A Photographer in the Garden

I'm still not sure what it is I'm trying to find, but the quest continues.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fixing RSS with UDP

I like parts of Russ Nelson's idea about fixing RSS. I think it would be far better to use UDP packets instead, that would save everyone a lot of time and effort. The key would be to send a subscription packet, which would then get a current item index... if this was newer than the last observed item, there could be a request for more items. (Or... the request could be built into the subscription packet if things are efficiently stored)

New items after that would just be UDP broadcasts of packets to the subscribed hosts. UnACKnowledged packets could be retried a few times, then written off the list of subscriptions.

This would work through NAT if the timeouts don't get in the way, just like they would with a TCP connection.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Blame game... a bit of a rant

So I get an email making a joke and blaming our current administration for the mess we find ourselves in...

I shot this back in reply

Really?

Wasn't it the Bush Jr. administration who spent us into oblivion in two wars for what should have been an Interpol action, while simultaneously redistributing welfare to the richest 1% in our nation?

Wasn't it the Clinton administration who tore down the protections of the Glass-Stegal act which enshrined the hard won lessons of the Great Depression?

Wasn't it the Bush Sr. administration who needed to raise taxes after all, but didn't have the balls to do it directly, and so hid new taxes as fees everywhere?

Wasn't it the Regan administration and a compliant Congress that de-regulated everything, and incentivized offshoring all of our manufacturing capabilities?

Wasn't it the Carter administration who arbitrarily decided the nuclear fuel cycle should be snipped in the middle, and what would have been a valuable commodity ready for reuse should become one of our nations many headaches?

Wasn't it the Ford administration who covered up the crimes of the Nixon administration?

Wasn't it the Nixon administration who arbitrarily pulled us off the Gold standard instead of straightening out our finances?

Wasn't it the Johnson administration who debased our coins?

Wasn't it the Kennedy administration who got us involved in Vietnam?

Wasn't it the Eisenhower administration who let the Military Industrial Complex get out of hand?

Wasn't it the Truman administration who started the CIA on it's merry mis-adventures?

Wasn't it the Roosevelt administration who helped our country out of the Great Depression and did the grunt work of winning WWII? Oh... good place to stop.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

InterTubes as filtering mechanism

I'm still trying to figure out all of the details of my InterTubes idea. I was replying to one Doc Searls blog posts, and had this to say... and I think it applies to InterTubes

...imagine a world in which twitter isn’t a silo, and it’s possible to rate other users on any scales you wish. You could rate someone on how “corporate shill” or “honest” or “intelligent” or “funny” or how they lean ideologically… and share those ratings.
You’d be able to do it on a single piece of data, or a string of them, or on the person sending them.
This would be a tremendously useful filtering mechanism.
It could apply to almost anything, not just tweet streams.
This is, in fact one of the core features of a Tube, the ability to share metadata about objects in the tube. I think this is a new use case.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Mike's code of IT conduct

I was recently answering a question at a discussion site I frequent... and the question of person code of conduct arose... I put some time and thought into my answer, so I thought I'd repost it here.

My code for being an IT guy is pretty simple.

0. Computers are a tool to help people get real work done. That work pays the bills.

1. My job is to absorb uncertainty.

2. Backups are important, and should be tested often. 

3. When things go wrong, it's NOT YOUR FAULT. Example... drag an icon from one folder to another on the desktop... what happens? 3 different things depending on conditions you can't possibly know about. Don't worry... you won't break it.

4. The users lie, but they don't mean to... never assume they know the nuances, nor should you assume they know how to answer your precisely worded question correctly. It's a skill to be able to work through them and get things fixed over the phone... fortunately with UltraVNC-SC, that's not as necessary any more.

5. Computers do everything with high speed and great precision, even if it's stupid and wrong.

6. Always help people out with "personal" stuff... it's a fringe benefit of working for the company to get that kind of IT help.

7. Did you reboot yet? ;-)

8. Can you see CNN? Do you see the story about X? (Always test for internet connectivity before troubleshooting access problems)

9. We can do anything, if you can get a job # to bill it to.

10. I'm on call 24x7, call my cell if there is an emergency.

11. If you have any doubt, don't open the attachment, if you did... pull out the power cable, THEN call me. I'll NEVER yell at you about it... it's not your fault. (See #3 above)

12. I am NOT a network Nazi... I do not monitor your email, browsing, or other habits. You are an adult, and I'll treat you as one.

13. Save important stuff on the G: drive, it's backed up every night.

14. I'm getting paid... I'll gladly help out in any way I can, even if computers aren't involved.

So, I hope that all makes sense, and is sensible.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ageism and mis-tuned loops

According to TechCruch ageism is alive and well in Silicon Valley. As I've stated before... you have to be careful what you tune your feedback loops to optimize on, in that case it was the subject matter of blogs and conversations... in this case, it's the nature of the technology that gets developed.

When you optimize along the lines of youth and vigor, you lose experience as a lever in the bargain. You end up wasting a lot of time re-exploring parts of the design space that have already been explored, several times in some instances.

Example....

In the early 1970s, the problem was that an explosion of processor types meant that compiler writers found themselves overtaxed trying to keep up, so they came up with a virtual processor as a means to help contain the extent of code they had to write on each new system, and thus the UCSD Pascal  P-system was born.

However... it was slower than native code, and it had no separate process space to run applications on separate from the development environment, so it tended to crash a lot.


In the 1990s, the problem was that an explosion of web browsers meant that developers found themselves overtaxed trying to keep up, and so they latched on to Oak (now Java) as a means to help contain the extend of the code they had to write on each new system, and thus Java is run almost everywhere.

However... it is slower than native code, it has no separate process space to run applications, and it's security model sucks (again).



Meanwhile, Microsoft had a problem with security and applications. It chose to implement a new virtual machine platform in an attempt to isolate applications and ensure their security by clever design of compilers and runtime systems, this gave rise to the .NET platform.

However... they seem to also have chosen the wrong security model, and because they are trying to include the entire operating system in the .NET framework, there are a huge number of libraries involved, and the performance and maintenance of it has a very high cost.



So... as you can see... the same bad choices for building a VM keep cropping up... something an experienced programmer would know about and avoid, at least by the 3rd time. 8)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why slashdot sucks (for deep thoughts)

Slashdot is an interesting place to meet with fellow avid computer users, and share stories and comments of a social fraternal nature. It is not the place for deep thoughts... nor can it be due to its very nature. There are a number of possible moderation signals to give, insightful and funny being amongst them, but in the end it all comes down to points.

Funny, insightful, informative, troll, and other signals should be orthogonal to each other. It should be possible with the default UI to filter out funny messages, as they are often off topic, and distracting.  Sometimes that's all you want. Because it all comes down to points, all of that information is lost, and every comment is essentially an entry in a popularity contest.

Information is lost in the moderation system, and further information is lost in the hard limits up or down... nothing can ever go higher than +5 points, or below -1.  This means that a really popular story may have more than the default 50 replies shown reaching the +5 level of moderation... which cancels out the effect of moderation for those entries.

It would be an interesting exercise to redesign the moderation rules to accomodate tags or user-supplied dimensions of rating, such as "accurate", "bogus", "spam", etc, which I leave as an exercise to the reader.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bait?

We had functionally obsolete battleships as bait in Pearl Harbor, while most of the fleet was out.

Now we're parking functionally obsolete aircraft carriers as bait in the Straight of Hormuz.. meanwhile the drones and cruise missile launch capability is likely to remain out of range.

Who says history doesn't rhyme?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Bare Metal Hypervisors for the Desktop, why we really need them

A recent story in Network World brought my attention to the efforts to deliver a "Bare Metal" hypervisor to the users desktop machine. The obvious problem with getting anything to run bare metal is drivers. This is going to be a VERY hard nut to crack.

The operating systems we currently use are not secure enough, are prone to failure, and are hard to manage.  Virtualization would ease all of these concerns, thus the perceived need.

The real issue is one of the nature of operating systems. The operating system exists to manage the resources of the underlying hardware and to make it available to the programs that wish to use it. The current crop of desktop operating systems fail miserably in this role because of their flawed security model. The rush towards virtualization is actually all about security models.

In a VM environment, the system administrators explicitly define the resources to be given to a virtual system. This is a course grained capabilities system.

Eventually it will dawn on everyone that you could do this in a finer grained way, using Cabsec, but that may take another 20 years.

In the mean while, we'll keep on filtering the net, scanning for viruses, blocking spam, and moving virtual machines around.

The stock market should be batch processed

Apparently some programmers who write code to do High Frequency Trading aren't happy with their lot in life. There is a slashdot story about them.

My opinion is that High Frequency Trading (HFT) is almost impossible to differentiate from Front Running... which IS theft.

The markets should operate in batch mode, with a new batch every 5 minutes for markets with volume. Everyone puts in their bids and asks... and then they get their results after the run.  That single step would kill off most of the abuse.

If the frequency of the batches needs to be adjusted up or down, that should be the pervue of the regulators.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Delayed write failure - tracking down the cause

We're being forced to migrate to newer and "better" versions of Windows Server.  Our brand new spiffy Windows 2003 file server is making me miserable.  First the permissions work slightly differently... which caused 40 minutes of down time as I watched all of them get reset. Now we get "delayed write failure" messages on our XP workstations.

It turns out that Microsoft decided that any task can be completed in 15 minutes flat... and built that timeout into the file server.  There is an easy way to disable it..

net config server /autodisconnect:-1

This tells it never to disconnect a user... which is as it should be.

Whew!

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Pole Shift Theory" to reality in a few easy steps...

I was sent a link to this story which is being used as evidence on a site which promotes the theory of an upcoming pole shift. It doesn't say anything about where it happened.

So I found the original story, using Google. It happened in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Then I found this story from Milwaukee, from last year.. apparently it's not extraordinary after all. Note the cause:
”Thawing and traffic vibrations likely busted a sewer main. The void left by the broken pipe caused this slow underground erosion over days, possibly weeks. To repair the section of Locust, a road crew must bring down the street and build it up again. That means at least one noisy night for people who live in nearby apartment and condo towers. “I live right in the front, too,” said Katie Hobson. 
Either we can worry about an imaginary "Pole Shift" which is just an unsupported fairy tail, or we could spend that same emotional energy worrying about something that actually matters... how to make sure that our infrastructure is maintained. I strongly suggest we worry about keeping our infrastructure up to date... or civilization will literally collapse around us.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Google and open WiFi... political action

Here's what I wrote to my State Attorney General today in response to the news that there is a Witch-hunt in progress. You should write yours as well.


TO:

Office of the Indiana Attorney General
Indiana Government Center South
302 W. Washington St., 5th Floor
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: 317.232.6201
Fax: 317.232.7979

E-mail: Constituent@atg.in.gov

FROM: Mike Warot

Hi
I'm Mike Warot, from Hammond. I'm a network administrator working in Chicago.


I've recently learned that 37 states are joining in an investigation of Google's collection of WiFi data, as typified in this story from the LA Times

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2010/07/google-street-view.html



The issue at hand seems to be quite simple. They were trying to make a list of open (unencrypted) WiFi access points as a supplement to GPS to help in navigation. Because the software used to collect this data (Kismet) defaults to collecting entire packets instead of just the names of the access points, there is now an uproar that "passwords were stolen" and other Bull Shit. It was a simple technical oversight, not an evil plot.



Please DO NOT WASTE MY TAX DOLLARS on this wild goose chase. I'm sure you have plenty of other more important work to do.

Thanks for your time and attention.

Violence in the name of God

This is what happens when someone thinks they know the mind of God.

It's so wrong, it makes me so angry. Why do we put up with this bullshit?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cool hack - data through 3 inch thick solid steel

The folks at BAE have done what can only be described as a cool hack... sending data through a 3 inch thick steel wall, "wirelessly".

It's not radio, as you probably already guessed.... it uses acoustic transmission, which is a really neat idea.

More coverage at http://www.engadget.com/2010/07/21/uk-defense-firm-pumps-data-through-solid-submarine-walls

What keeps an IT guy up at night?

Recently I was asked what keeps me up at night, in view of my work in IT. Here's the reply I penned.

1. Our IT infrastructure rests on a bed of sand. The security model we all use right now is based on the idea of trusting the user, or not trusting them. This is great if you are talking about 1970's area college campuses prior to the internet, but falls far short of today's security needs. No amount of cybersecurity can fix bad design. It's going to take a series of total system collapses to get people to consider alternatives seriously, because it's a deep problem which very few people understand. If you want to understand it... read on...


When you run a program, you are essentially giving ALL of your rights to the program. It's like going to pay at the store and handing your wallet to the cashier when you need to pay.... and hoping that they don't just take everything from you. Actually... it's worse than that even.... because you can examine the actions of the cashier, computers are a box that just sits there.

When paying at the store, you don't give everything away... you decide what resources you wish to give to the cashier... and they can't get more without coercion. Paying for a gallon of milk with cash can never cause the cashier to be able to drain your bank accounts, because you didn't give them the CAPABILITY to access your bank account.

We don't have operating systems that incorporate the idea of handing a limited set of capabilities to a program, instead of every capability the user possesses.

This means that ANY program running can be subverted to do anything, provided it has a bug.

It means that all computers hooked to the internet are vulnerable to attack, security is mostly a matter of luck.

Because the computers on the net aren't secure, this provides a rich environment for theft and fraud.

The criminal element has found this resource, and is now exploiting it, worldwide.


Most people don't even see the root cause, which I've just explained. Most people believe that firewalls and virus scanners can deliver adequate security. Most people don't even think the problem can be truly solved. If you've read this far, you might be one who thinks otherwise.


THAT is the FIRST thing that keeps me up and night.



2. We're at Peak oil, according the the Department of Energy world oil production peaked in 2005. This means that the foundation of our industrial infrastructure is going to be harder and harder to maintain at it's current level of complexity. This could lead to the end of the progress brought with Moore's law... and even a slide backwards in the future.

3. Computer security is a political issue, and not a technical one. When is the last time political decisions actually made rational sense for the general public?

Thanks for your time and attention...

Sweet Dreams

-
-Mike--

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Bitgrid project

I've got an idea I'm working on for a FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) architecture which may be just the thing needed to achieve the goal of 1 ExaFlop per second when put into a sufficiently large grid.

It's called the BitGrid, It's got a blog http://bitgrid.blogspot.com
It's a crazy idea because it goes against the grain of 30 years of FPGA design in that it has NO routing hardware, it's all logic. This removes many of the problems with trying to fit a design into a chip.
It's crazy because it wastes gates and power to route signals around.
It's crazy because you just can't program it in C++, or any other procedural language.

But....

It is fault tolerant
It's conceptually very simple and elegant
It should work to Exascale level challenges
It should be possible to make a small chip for $1.00 in quantity.
Gates not used would consume almost no power.
It's never been tried before. (I've spend a LOT of time trying to find a precedent)

I've been building simulation software as a step in getting to actually building one. The simulator is open source. http://code.google.com/p/bitgrid-sim/
So.. there it is.
What do you think?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Email replacement needed

Email is rapidly losing its utility as connectivity is being slowly killed by the need for ever more aggressive spam filtering. I'm looking for suggestions for something to replace it long term.

Could the simple addition of some authentication protocols pull us out of the spam trap, or is it too late?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Coding progress - bitgrid cell simulation

It took a bit of work, but I managed to refactor the code in Sim01 so that all of the computing of the bitcell is done within a tBitCell object, supplied by the BitGrid unit.  This means I can tweak the code a lot easier later, and potentially reuse it in the SimGrid project.

It took hours... and I'm tired.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Naming in the age of Google

Keyword search works best when a word has a single meaning. Google doesn't work well when something can be contextualized many different ways. A strategy to counter this is to make up a new word (a neologism) when you want to talk about a subject that is otherwise lacking in suitable keywords. I've done it twice so far, and I'm writing this to point to the other blogs where I talk about the subjects in detail. (On the theory that each blog should generally stick to a topic... which I'm starting to believe is a mistake, but I'm willing to wait a while (a few more years) to be certain about it)

A bitgrid is a computing fabric composed of the smallest practical computing element I could envision working when put into a grid. The individual cells consist of little more than a look up table with 4 address lines going in, and 4 data lines going out. The nearest Cartesian neighbors each get an input and output. This makes it possible to do computation on sources from up to 4 inputs having up to 4 output bits.  Most of the time it'll be partitioned differently, though.  It's a continuation of an idea I had back around 1981. The conceptual design space has been pretty much written off since that time by others, as local connectivity only is thought to be far to inefficient use of a chip.

Cabsec is a word coined for me by Doc Searls. It's meant to describe CApability Based SECurity, a concept wherein the user decides that resources from a computer should be given to a program at the time you run it. The nice thing about explicitly supplying the list is that it's almost trivial to enforce from an OS design point of view. It also makes it trivial to stop things like viruses and Trojan horses, because you would have to explicitly allow them to have access to your OS files.


So, a bit of linguistic pollution in the name of launching new memes... a fare trade-off, I think.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Tearing down fences

I was recently given a list of things as a guide to help chose which side of the Democrat/Republican fence I want to sit on. Here is my response:


Tear down the fence

Those are false choices... I refuse to pick a side... as the parties on both sides of it are corrupt and they work together to keep us down. The fence is a sheep pen, and we're expected to pay for it. I refuse to be a sheep.

As for Guns - 
Guns are meant to protect us from all enemies, Foreign and Domestic. They probably won't help you if you are being carjacked... but they will help you defend yourself and your family at home. Criminals and people with diminished mental capacity shouldn't have them.  Everyone should be licensed to use them, and have to prove they can safely operate their particular choice of weapon. (Just like cars).   People with kids, or guests with kids should keep them locked up when they are not carrying them.

As for Food -
Cows shouldn't be fed cow parts. Testing for mad cow should be done on a wide scale probe to see if it's really an issue or not. Proper regulation of our food supply is a good and just purpose of the US Department of Agriculture and the FDA.  Paying large corporations to consolidate megafarms and drive people off the land... is not.

As for Gays -
Some people think gays are born that way, others think its a sin. Either way, we're not God, we shouldn't judge them. Instead we should be on the lookout for abusive parents and others who do evil things to our children... and those people are usually straight.

As for Welfare - 
As for the down and out, they are trying to figure out how to get by...  they want work, honest work. It's the corrupt that spoil it for everyone... The corrupt at the bottom, and especially the corrupt at the top... who start wars for profit, who call the rest of us "little people", who will spend trillions to invade countries unrelated to the 9/11 attack... but don't want to pay unemployment benefits to those whose jobs have been shipped to China due to corporate greed.

As for Health Care - 
Modern medicine is wonderful, and expensive as hell. We pay far more for it than every other modern country in the world, with far worse results. We need to get everyone's records in a database. We need to get rid of the insurance industry. They have proven to be a parasite that delivers NEGATIVE VALUE by sucking in vast amounts of money, and preventing health care. This should be done by the States, who already have infrastructure for dealing with it, not the Feds.  (However, the Veterans Administration is now a model of how health care SHOULD be done, I'm amazed at how well it works)

As for The List - 
I found the whole list interesting... but as I said at the start... it's a false choice. The "bipartisan" way is one of ignoring the real wishes of the people, and of dividing and conquering us. We need to end it, and get some real democracy going.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Symantec has put me in a Skinner Box

Our "Premium Antispam" license from Symantec expired 2 days ago.  I was concerned that the delay in getting a new license installed might cause issues, but was reassured that there was a full month's grace period. So I relaxed a bit.... wrong answer.

I now find myself in a high-tech skinner box. The spam filter turns itself off at Midnight each day now... and will resume functioning if I log into the server and re-enable it.  I'm now doing battle with an evil cron job.  I'm pissed.

Symantec Sucks.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swan


Swan
Originally uploaded by --Mike--
This is one of the many photos I took last night at the Full Moon Fire Jam on Chicago's lake front. I look forward to returning with my family.

I think it looks like a swan, don't you?

Chicago's gun control, explained

The Gangs run parts of Chicago, it's almost a failed City...   but to keep confidence up, the City has used the gun control ordinance to set up a straw man. If violence goes up... the administration gets to site the lack of similar legislation elsewhere as an excuse... and if it goes down... obviously it was good administration.

Actual enforcement of prohibition didn't work here in the 1920s... it's not working now... but real solutions are off the table as long as the public is distracted by the gun rights hysteria.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Why people tweet instead of blogging

Doc Searls is on a well deserved vacation in France. He was unable to tweet because of the fail whale, but noted that he could still blog. This got me to thinking about why people put up with the stovepipe system that is twitter.

Marketing folks love twitter because they can use it as a way to broadcast without being accused of spamming. It's hard to criticize a tweet, because they are only 140 characters, and viewed as throw away. They also get picked up based on keywords, and thus avoid the reputation filtering that people get when choosing blogs.

This is yet another place where the application of Gresham's law is appropriate. When you search by keyword, you get spammed, because the good tweets get drowned out by the bad.

I think twitter is best used with a carefully selected list of people to follow. This reputation based system is further enhanced when the people you wish to follow can re-tweet something, and thus spread good ideas faster. The hashtag and saved searches, on the other hand... are only good for flash use, as they will eventually become spambait.

That's my take on it... now back to my sickbed. Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why Doc Searls is on my Blogroll

I've been a fan of Doc Searls since I first heard of him via the Cluetrain. He is a marketing person who defected to our side... that of the public, who don't care to be shouted at. You'll find a deep vein of insight and wisdom, some of which is his, and the balance of which is from the conversations he starts. He doesn't post with the regularity we are all told to have, but I don't care... when he does post it's pretty good stuff.

You'll also get a nice dose of slice of life stuff, family history, current events affecting the area he lives in, and other things that are both entertaining and instructive. You can learn a lot about how to tell stories in this new medium from Doc.

Doc's quest is to invert the power relationships that dominated the previous century. He's tired of being a consumer, and wants us to all be free people, in control of our destiny. He sees the internet as a medium for positive social change. His pet project is VRM, which intends to provide the opposite of CRM.

I check Doc's blog every day.

Spring cleaning

It's spring cleaning time... I've trimmed up the tags used on this blog, and I'm planning to get everything in the archives into proper categories. This should make it easier to discover stuff one is interested in reading.

I also plan to put a blogroll back in place, with a small twist... I'll provide a post about each entry, why I link to them, and the value they provide. I'll add a link to that post as well in the blogroll.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Windows Live Writer – First post

I didn’t even know I had it installed on my laptop, but here it is… Windows Live Writer.

I’m seeing what it can do.

Here’s a photo I took yesterday.

Bull01

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lion03


Lion03
Originally uploaded by --Mike--
Synthetic focus (aka the "Warot Method") continues to be fun. Here is a nice shot of the Lion with a Blackhawks helmet.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Flickr App on the iPad - don't bother

I tried the Yahoo Flickr App for the iPhone and iPad, and it sucks. There's no way to get it to take the whole screen on the iPad, for starters.

It doesn't recognize orientation, nor does it have any way to save photos locally.

It lasted about 2 minutes, now it's gone.

iPad - Connecting to my XP desktop

I got Remote Desktop Lite for free via the App store on the iPad. It was able to connect to my desktop (XP) across the internet just fine. It doesn't support servers, so it has limited use.

IPad post #2, How to use blogger on an iPad

If you go to the edit HTML option, you can directly type in text, which is how I made this post.

The onscreen keyboard is a drag, but as you can see it does work.

iPad experience so far... it REALLY sucks

So, you can see my first iPad based post below, and read all about my experience.... NOT.

The f*cking keyboard app doesn't work in the WYSIWYG portion of blogger... talk about stupid!

iPad post #1

iPad experience so far.... it sucks!

I got the iPad today, all set up, connected to our WiFi, and was happy... until I tried to resize a video playing inside a web page (in safari)... now safari only shows a black screen....

power off doesn't help

off to visit Aunt Google for help.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hay as a way to capture floating oil.... some quick math

Today, an email linking to this youtube video suggests using hay to adsorb floating oil. I was curious to see if it might work out, supply wise... so here is the math.

US total hay production.... approx 150 million tons, according to the US EPA

Total amount of oil spill, per year

25000 barrels per day using the highest estimate
365 days
42 gallons/barrel
6 pounds / gallon of oil (my estimate)
1 ton / 2000 pounds
---------------------

191,625 tons of oil and assorted goo per annum

Assuming a 1:1 relationship weight wise, it could work. It would take far less than 1% of the US hay output.

--Mike--

Monday, June 07, 2010

Idea - trade in program for lead solder

After learning that corporations actually listen to tweets and blog posts... here is a suggestion for Indium corporation, and any others that make lead-free solder.

Those of us who are electronics hobbyists will hang on to our stocks of lead-tin solder for a very long time, unless we are given a reason to switch. Perhaps someone who makes a lead-free solder might offer a trade-in program as an incentive? Either outright swap if the economics are right (I have no idea how much indium costs)... or some discount.

Samples would be ok as well, of course.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lost: Summarized in 3 minutes

Not being a fan or follower of lost, I can now relate to it once it comes out on DVD, or iTunes.



Thursday, May 13, 2010

Diaspora does NOT have an idea problem.

Alex Wilhelm says that the Diaspora project already has an idea problem. He figures that the reliance on people setting up servers is a fatal flaw, it's need for servers to run on.
Not to say that hosting a personal FriendFeed and attempting to link it to my friends and their own FriendFeeds does not sound like fun, but it would be mind-numbingly tedious for most. The friction to get started is far too high for this project to ever gain real traction.
He goes on to make several variations of this argument. I think he overestimates the complexity and cost of getting servers up and running on the internet. He also underestimates the ability that people have to automate the process.

Depending on how the Diaspora project is done, it might be possible to host it on a regular web hosting site that supports PHP or some other scripting language. It could also probably be wedged into a Google Appspot instance. VMware and or Amazon EC2 could also come into play.

For any given popular web platform, eventually a number of providers of that service arise and will take care of the details for you. I'd imagine that Robert Scoble is already talking to his coworkers at Rackspace about making it happen for Diaspora once they get all the details.

If the guys get it done, I expect to be able to rent an instance for about $5/month, if not less. (10 instances in a family plan for $10/month wouldn't be too much of a stretch). For commercial free social networking, it would be well worth it.

I could also imagine the larger ISPs bundling it in, or making special provisions for it in their traffic management, because local ip traffic costs them far less than packets that traverse the backbones.

I hope that Diaspora and other projects get off the ground. It'll be good to open up the web again.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Window of Opprotunity

The diaspora from Facebook is beginning. It's now apparent to me that there is a window of opportunity to get the message of Cabsec embedded into whatever replaces it.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Bye Bye Facebook

I've decided to kill my Facebook account. It's too much evil in one spot.

I'll miss it... like I miss all of the stupid things I used to do in my youth, but now know better than to do.


Friday, May 07, 2010

How I gave up on x-ray vision, and ended up taking pretty pictures instead.

I first became interested when they photos showed the magic ability to see through objects, like the fabled x-ray glasses that populated the backs of comic books in the old days. The researchers at Stanford had actually shown the ability to look through things, though not totally opaque, but close enough. I wanted to learn how it was done, and once I read enough, I resolved to do it myself.

I didn't have the budget, nor the staff, nor the gear... I did have a willingness to experiment, willingness to give it a try, just to see what happened. The first results were interesting, but not what I had hoped for. The focus was on the wrong items, and I learned that it was going to be a fairly manual operation to get things to work right. But with time and practice, my technique improved, and I was able to slowly replicate what took hundreds of cameras and and the work of a few graduate students.

Here is my first result... I managed to see through the trees!

Manual04

Over time, the ability to see through things lost it's attraction, because it was far easier to just look around something, rather than spend hours after the fact, not knowing if it would even pan out. The experimentation continued, however... and I got some interesting results along the way.

I kept discovering new effects, and new ways of looking at things, including time itself. My interests moved and transformed into something else, the ability to create photographs that would showcase a single object in a frame, with that nice soft focus only achievable in practice with a very large and heavy camera that I could never afford, nor successfully carry.


I wrote about my work on my blog, and posted photos on Flickr, and got some attention. It was enough to keep plugging away at it, learning the tradeoffs involved in order to get the creamy soft focus I really wanted.


North01
I'm now at the point where I think I've got the technical part of it all set, and the artistic choices are going to be the main influencer at this point. I've demonstrated and experimented enough... now I just want pretty photos.

If you find yourself impressed with something, be like me... see if you can figure out how to do it within the limitations you have... you might achieve your goal, or you might just invent something interesting and beautiful along the way.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Knowledge and the Internet

There's a service called HARO - Help A Reporter Out, which is pretty cool. Today one of the queries asked for opinions about the value of "real knowledge" in the internet age. I'd post it here, but there is no clear policy about what kind of privacy they expect for the queries that go out.

First, it's important to understand that there are categories of knowledge, and they are nested.
  1. Stuff you don't even know you don't know
  2. Stuff you know that you don't know
  3. Stuff you actually know
  4. Stuff you do all the time and can apply practically
People think that the purpose of Education is to increase to the necessary size the area of practical knowledge (#4), but this is a false assumption. The real purpose of education is to increase the size of #2, thus decreasing slightly the size of #1.

Category 1 stuff is the most dangerous stuff. It's the reason we parent children. They are naive to the dangers around them, having no idea of the tremendous potential energy surround them in the form of stairs, shelves, cars, trucks, trains, etc. Parenting is first of all about reducing the size of #1 stuff to the point where you don't get killed just going about your day. It then moves to #2 over time.

The problem with teenagers, fundamentalists, and younger versions of myself is that they don't really know about #1 at this point, because they have deluded themselves into the false and dangerous belief that they have reduced its size and scope to zero. This leads them to undervalue any skills or products that depend on knowledge that they didn't even know existed.

Through reflection and life experience, wisdom comes when you are fully aware of the vast size and scope of the stuff you know you don't know. It humbles you, and makes you more likely to consider fairly the opinions of others who do know the domain in question.

Now... how does the Internet and Google come into play here?

The internet helps you to explore stuff you don't know anything about, and get the basics. By makes you aware of all of the details of that stuff, and increases your awareness of the stuff you didn't know you didn't know... and makes it stuff you now know you don't know. This allows you to have a much better sense of an area.

So, if you are wise, and open you can both greatly decrease the size of #1 for a subject of interest by moving it into #2, and possibly increase #3 along the way.

Now... this does not help you become an expert instantly. That continues to take practice and work, but it does help you become more well rounded. The internet and Google play an incredible role in making it possible to learn about things that would otherwise be opaque. They are an immense positive asset.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thoughts on Thoughts on Flash

Steve Jobs has made his case against flash on the iPad. It's interesting, and I kept reminding myself about the presence of the well known reality distortion field that permeates his being.

As a programmer, and person, I hate reality distortion fields. This blog post is meant as an exercise in building skills to see through it.

First, the post was not just Steve, sitting in his office, jotting down a few notes. He's thought about it, long and hard, carefully avoiding certain areas that might cost him points, while pushing the strengths of his position. Lots of my stuff here is off the cuff, and might qualify as a jot... his definitely is not something quick and dirty.

First, there is "open", as Steve said. Just how do you send code to someone who owns an iPad? It appears to this observer that the way is definitely not open, but only goes through the Apple toll both. Open ports like USB would be nice too.

The there is the "full web"... Flash sucks because it's a layer between the web and the browser. It's a shim at best. However, it's the best shim out there for most cases. Allowing flash, with some disclaimers would be far better than denying the use of this shim.

Then there is security. If you can't protect your iPad from bugs in Flash, you certainly can't protect it from any other rogue applications either. It's just a matter of time before the holes start showing up. Steve - read up on Capability Based Security.

Battery life - good point. Hardware acceleration is good. It would be nice if I could replace the battery at some point as well.

Then there is Touch - If you don't allow cross compatibility, how are others going to figure out how to deal with touch? You'll always be a special case, and never mainstream.



Conclusion - Steve is good at distorting reality, but it's a near field effect with limited range.



Friday, April 16, 2010

Humor: How to give a cat a pill

How to Give a Cat a Pill
1. Pick up cat and cradle it in the crook of your left arm as if holding a baby.
Cat01
Position right forefinger and thumb on either side of cat's mouth and gently apply pressure to cheeks while holding pill in right hand. As cat opens mouth, pop pill into mouth.
Allow cat to close mouth and swallow.

2. Retrieve pill from floor and cat from behind sofa.
Cat02

Cradle cat in left arm and repeat process.
3. Retrieve cat from bedroom, and throw soggy pill away.


Cat03

4. Take new pill from foil wrap, cradle cat in left arm, holding rear paws tightly with left hand.


Cat04

Force jaws open and push pill to back of mouth with right forefinger. Hold mouth shut for a count of ten.
5. Retrieve pill from goldfish bowl and cat from top of wardrobe.

Fish01

Call spouse in from the garden.

Cat05
6. Kneel on floor with cat wedged firmly between knees, hold front and rear paws.


Cat06

Ignore low growls emitted by cat. Get spouse to hold head firmly with one hand while forcing wooden ruler into mouth. Drop pill down ruler and rub cat's throat vigorously.


7. Retrieve cat from curtain rail.


Cat07

Get another pill from foil wrap. Make note to buy new ruler and repair curtains. Carefully sweep shattered figurines and vases from hearth and set to one side for gluing later.
8. Wrap cat in large towel and get spouse to lie on cat with head just visible from below armpit.


Cat08

Put pill in end of drinking straw, force mouth open with pencil and blow down drinking straw
9. Check label to make sure pill not harmful to humans and drink one beer to take taste away. Apply band-aid to spouse's forearm and remove blood from carpet with cold water and soap.


Cat09

10. Retrieve cat from neighbor's shed.


Cat10

Get another pill. Open another beer. Place cat in cupboard, and close door onto neck, to leave head showing. Force mouth open with dessert spoon. Flick pill down throat with elastic band.
11. Fetch screwdriver from garage and put cupboard door back on hinges. Drink beer. Fetch bottle of scotch. Pour shot, drink.


Cat11

Apply cold compress to cheek and check records for date of last tetanus shot. Apply whiskey compress to cheek to disinfect. Toss back another shot. Throw tee-shirt away and fetch new one from bedroom.
12. Call fire department to retrieve the damn cat from the top of the tree across the road. Apologize to neighbor who crashed into fence while swerving to avoid cat.


Cat12

Take last pill from foil wrap.
13. Using heavy-duty pruning gloves from shed, tie the little *&#%^'s front paws to rear paws with garden twine and bind tightly to leg of dining table. Push pill into mouth followed by large piece of filet steak. Be rough about it. Hold head vertically and pour two pints of water down throat to wash pill down.


Cat13

14. Consume remainder of scotch. Get spouse to drive you to the emergency room. Sit quietly while doctor stitches fingers and forearm and removes pill remnants from right eye. Call furniture shop on way home to order new table.


Cat14

15. Arrange for ASPCA to collect mutant cat from hell and call local pet shop to see if they have any hamsters.


Hamster01

How To Give A Dog A Pill
1. Wrap it in bacon.


Dog01

2. Toss it in the air.


Dog02


I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did reading it. The photos and text came to me in an email, author and photographers unknown.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Looks like Twitter has managed to upset some of their vendors to the point of taking action to offsource it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

20 minutes of down time due to updates

I spent 20 minutes without computing resources, because both Adobe Acrobat, and Java needed to be updated. I could spend an hour or so figuring out why, but I strongly suspect they had security patches as the lead cause, not functionality increases.

Once again, time lost because we don't have cabsec.

I have several important ideas to express

Like most bloggers, I have ideas I think are really important. These are deep, very meta ideas. Ideas which can make a huge difference in the world, if I can effectively communicate them to others, but alas, I wasn't taught rhetoric. This is making things far less efficient than they could have been.

I will list some of them below:

  • Computer security can be fixed using cabsec
  • Because computers aren't secure, people don't really own their own computers
  • Because we're not the true owners of our computers, we can't really own our data
  • We can't run our own networks because we can't keep them secure, we have to pay others
  • This invites censorship and government intervention because we can't keep them private
  • We're not taught the skills necessary to be citizens in the US these days, perhaps deliberately.
  • The US economy is imploding because we don't manufacture things anymore.
  • The civil war was about grabbing power, it did not end slavery, but transformed it.
  • The Federal reserve caused the Great Depression, and is causing the Second as well.
  • Peak oil happened already, Thanksgiving 2005
  • It's impossible to find the truth about global warming for the average citizen. It seems to be happening, but it could also be the basis for yet another power grab.

See, that's quite a list... and I'm sure there are more things to add to it. I might have effectively communicated 10 of these ideas to 10 people in the last 10 years, if I'm lucky. I need to do far, far better if I'm to make any kind of dent in this world before I pass on.

There are some things I'd also like to know

  • Who really killed JFK?
  • Who runs the US, really?
  • Where did all of the bailout money go?
  • Where did the Trillion dollars the DOD lost go to?
  • Is our current lack of computer security a historical accident, or was it deliberate?
  • Why didn't we learn that prohibition doesn't work?
  • What would it take to restore our country to a true democracy of informed citizens? Can it still be done?
  • What's up with global warming?
  • How do we effectively discuss non-trivial concepts when Google is the tool to find the conversations? Keyword search only works well for popular subjects, and hides alternative meanings.
Ok... tangents and time sinks and really deep questions... comments and conversations welcome.

The importance of Rhetoric and the Trivium

It is now apparent that the US educational system has failed me. I was never taught Rhetoric, and it's causing me to be very frustrated. I have a deep hole to dig out of.

The classical education movement is interested in the Trivium. This is an educational system that teaches children in three age-appropriate steps.

  • Grammar is the words we speak, what they mean, and the rules for putting them together.
  • Logic is how to think about those words and concepts, and the rules of critical thinking skills.
  • Rhetoric is the means and rules for communicating those concepts clearly to others.
The education system I was brought up in did teach Grammar fairly well. It taught a little bit of logic, but not enough of it. Most of my cohort lack were not given the critical thinking skills necessary to be good citizens at the time we graduated, myself included. Rhetoric was right out.

It's possible to learn logic and critical thinking skills given sufficient life experience. When it doesn't happen, you either end up naive, or cynical. We seem to have an overabundance of both of those in the US at this time.

Where things really fall apart is the lack of proper education in Rhetoric. We don't know how to properly convey our thoughts and transmit them to others. The lack of proper rhetorical skills is really frustrating me at this point. I'm going to spend quite a bit of effort to catch up to speed in the next few years. Its sad that I wasn't taught this stuff 30 years ago.

Blogging has helped, as have various life experiences, including my current job as IT manager at a small marketing firm. It really opened my eyes when I learned the behind the scenes reasons for the way things work. I never thought about having to distill a message down before that point. I just assumed you just start talking until you've said the what they need to know. It's far more nuanced and requires a much higher level of skill than I could have even thought possible 12 years ago.

It is my hope that I can successfully help my daughter, Virginia, make it through all of the Trivium by the time she leaves our nest. I want her to have all the skills I have, as well as the ones I aspire to, when she starts her adult life. I want her to be a fully empowered citizen.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Offsourcing Web 2.0

I believe that the silos are winning the war, and we need a new strategy.

In the Electronics industry, there has traditionally been a strong preference for choosing components which have a second source, that is an provider who can independently deliver functionally identical and interchangeable parts. Businesses prefer this as it helps to protect against supply side disruption, and the need to change designs because a part can no longer be purchased.

A second source for Twitter, for example... would be API equivalent, and would hopefully be able to perform the same functions should Twitter close up shop. However, this is not an attractive option, because Twitter is not a component, it is a complete service and infrastructure.

A better way to provide second sourcing for Twitter would be to provide the tools to build a Twitter equivalent ourselves, so that we maintain the infrastructure (or pay a hosting provider to do so). If any part of the system goes down, we could route around the nodes that have failed.

I'd like to call this idea offsourcing, for lack of a better Google tag.

We should start figuring out ways to offsource the main things we all depend upon daily. To figure out components and services that could be used as replacements. Then we need to start offsourcing to these new systems and networks.

Merely replicating an existing system is not enough, however. There needs to be an through analysis of what the benefits are of a system, and how it really interacts with things. For example, twitter has evolved into a notification platform. When you post a blog entry, you can tweet it. But it's more than that... it's also a voting platform, because you can retweet someone's notification about a blog post, in effect giving it your endorsement, and a vote.

The downside of twitter is that it's a big stream, and people tend to piss in it. As pointed out by Merlin Mann in his post, Better, we need to be more mindful of what we put out there, and we need to add value. It's impossible to edit your posts once they are out there, so they are biased towards low value, high flow sewage.

An ideal Twitter replacement would allow notification, but would be more nuanced. It would allow better curation, and support editors. it wouldn't be Twitter anymore, but would keep the best features.

I believe it will take a while to find the necessary components to build a useful, decentralized slower but more useful Twitter replacement. I don't have a quick fix to offer here. I just want to get the idea of doing it into play.

Maybe I'm getting too tied to creating a new term... but I think this type of analysis needs to be done for a lot of things, and I'd like to be able to find those ideas with google, so it needs a new term to help.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Cabsec work continues

I've now got TortoiseHg, Google App Engine SDK for Python, Python 2.5.4, and the source code for myfs on my laptop. I hope to be able to cobble together some basic capabilities demos to get the ball rolling.

It looks like I'll need to define all of the basic mechanisms necessary to build what would eventually be the basis of the internet operating system as defined by me... not the Tim O'Reilly version.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ugh

It's one of those days.... have infected machines to deal with at work.

Forgot something important for my beautiful bride

And the medications aren't strong enough to deal with today's kidney stone pain...

pray for me

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Collection - Curation = junk, Collection + Curation = Value

I've got too much collection, and not enough curation.

160,000 photos that I've taken in the last 13 years.

1832 Bookmarks according to Delicious

I need to increase the signal to noise ratio in each case. Adding metadata, weeding out the junk... lots of work ahead.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The need for better slicing

We need a way to commit a fraction of a server to a task, specifically, it would be nice to devote slices of 1/1000000th of a server to a task, which would be 1.0 microServer. This would allow for the allocation of just enough CPU power to accomplish something usable, which might have taken a whole PC 10 or 20 years ago. Things like blog servers, etc.

One approach to doing this is through virtualization, like VMware, Xen, VirtualBox, etc. This provides a nice safe sandbox in which to run an OS, which ultimately runs the package one is interested in.

That's a lot of overhead to put towards running what might be a 10 microserver task. Wouldn't it be better if we could simply trust the operating system to do its job and to isolate tasks and resources in a secure manner?

If someone were to boil down a virtual machine to its minimum, I suspect you could do a lot with a machine that had 1 gigabyte of storage, 100 mhz of CPU, and 100 mb of RAM. I'd be willing to fork over some cash ($20) to help set up a contest to this end.

It should be possible to narrow down the run time environment to less than the size of damn small linux, and still be very useful.

Imagining the freedom box

I just watched the video of Eben Moglen's presentation Freedom in the Cloud where he discusses a great many things, and has a great number of insights... and he ends with a call to build a "freedom box" which would allow the owner to have their own server, and their own logs, and to move control of privacy back out into the ends of internet.

I think this is a worthwhile endeavor, and I will support it.

I want to make sure one thing is right... security. For if the security is done wrong, the whole enterprise is likely to remain the province of geeks, and the public won't accept it. If the public doesn't accept the idea, then these boxes can eventually be filtered off the net in the long term.

Security for me means that choices about what is to be done need to be fine grained for the user, easily modified and transparent in their effects, and reliably enforced by the system. Cabsec is the only architecture that I believe can meet those goals.

I look forward to this new toolkit to use to promote computers as a safe and effective tool.

The origins of video editing

I've always been impressed at the technical feats of our forbearers... here are two examples of early editing which I found on Youtube.

Direct editing of video tape, as well as using copies to make edits


And later in time, this capabilities demo from KTTV in 1961.




Wow... they really knew their stuff back then. You can read the backstory here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The chain of insecurity... an exercise in tangents

This is an exercise in linking concepts, which you might find interesting. I welcome any corrections or suggestions, and all conversation.

Cabsec - Capability Based Security was invented in the 1960s, and perfected for mainframes.

PCs came along in the late 1970s and brought users unaware of the lessons learned with mainframes.

PCs grew up a bit, and the Internet came along

With the rise in connectivity, the stage was set for the first wave of computer viruses.

Eventually anti-virus vendors started to show up, to patch the problem. Once again... the mainframe lessons still remain ignored.

Now phones are smart, and connected 24/7... and once again, the mainframe lessons still remain ignored.

It's not possible to secure a pc, because they lack the well known features which made it possible to secure mainframes since the 1960s.

Our phones are now in the same boat.

Because PCs and phones aren't secure... viruses became vectors for infection by Trojan horse programs.

PCs running these Trojan horse programs eventually were networked into "botnets"

Botnets are very useful because they can be used for all manner of criminal enterprise.

Criminal enterprises profit from botnets, and fund development of newer virus and other code, to help keep a new stream of botnets coming.

Antivirus vendors are separate from the operating system vendors, thus have almost no influence where it counts.

OS vendors push the hassle of dealing with all of this malware, botnets, etc... back out to the users, the antivirus vendors, etc.

A great deal of finger pointing ensues, and the truth of the matter gets lost in all of the fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Insecure computers mean you can't trust them to perform tasks on unknown input.

This requires trusting the sources of input.

This requires the management of the sources of input.

This leads to the rise of "silos" of sources of input.

This centralizes the means of communication in a few places.

This provides a target for government intervention

This provides a possible choke point for censorship

This will eventually lead to communication as a privilege, for those favored by the powers that be.



All of this because we forgot the lessons learned in the 1960s. Well.... not all of us forgot them.

Code has bugs

Because code has bugs, you should never trust it.

Because you can't trust the code, the operating system should limit the actions of software.

These limits became known as "capabilities"

Capability based security has been in active use since the 1960s, but not in areas most consumers or geeks for that matter are aware of. Mostly in places where there are large budgets, and lots of secrecy.

Capability based security can be done any PC that supports memory management. Such as the Intel 286 and later.

The latest round of hardware tweaks for VMware and other virtualization systems make it even more efficient.

Capability based systems don't trust code.

This means the user doesn't have to trust code.

This means that computers can be secure.

Computers can be as reliable and easy to use as refrigerators.

This means that the user can make intelligent choices.

This means the user doesn't have to worry about computer viruses.

This means the source of resources for botnets can be eliminated.

This means we can stop needing silos.

This means computing doesn't have to be a privilege.

This will help freedom for all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Toshiba DVD Player - Win7 and Aero theme

It started with this message. I turned off the Aero theme for performance reasons when setting up a machine for someone. Then I tried to run the Toshiba DVD Player and got this error message:


After some investigation I've determined that for some reason (IMHO probably related to slush funds and kickbacks) you must have an Aero theme running in order for the DVD player to function.

However, I've taken the time to figure out the bare minimum features necessary to still have everything work, inspite of the insipid insistence on an Aero theme. I'm sharing this with you so you too can work around this as best as possible.

First right-click on "computer" and select "properties"



Then click on Advanced system settings on the left:



Then click on Performance Settings:



The ONLY options you need to have checked are as shown:
  • Enable desktop composition
  • Use visual styles on windows and buttons
One you have this, and an Aero theme, you should be ready to go.

Virtual Focus photography on the Blue Line

I took some photos yesterday of the CTA Blue Line station at Division and Milwaukee in Chicago, Illinois yesterday afternoon. Later in the day, and this morning, I decided where the focus of those photos should be, thanks to synthetic focus.

You can see a brief slideshow showing the 5 different results here. This is one of them.



BlueLine_F3

Since the focus can be determined post exposure, it's interesting to see what new things I can pick out that might have been missed while I was busy managing the camera.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Google and Language - version 1

Google works best when you have a unique set of search terms to describe a concept.

It's handy to have many definitions clustered around a single word in a human vocabulary.

The ability to fork a new definition from an existing term is a very powerful feature of human languages. They help provide a conceptual anchor, something you can stick a fork in, while providing room to move the word into new applications.

This cluster of similar usages is great for us, but has some bad effects when combined with word based search engines such as Google. This limitation of what we can easily find has a result of limiting our imagination, and eventually what we can express or accomplish.

For example, if you want to search for things about the hypertext markup (adding corrections to mark up hypertext - like comments, notes, etc... on top of a page of hypertext), it's impossible to find it using those terms, because HTML has swamped out the prior meaning of markup, which was the editorial and proofreaders addition of information to an existing piece of text.


To counter this limitation, I've become adept at finding terms which describe the concept in less frequently used words, thus making it possible (but not easy) to find things related to the annotation of hypertext documents. (Note the new terms) All of this is necessary to counteract the use of HTML, which is not a Language for Marking Up of Hypertext, but about embedding formatting to text which has hyper-links.

Another way to do this is to coin a completely new term, a neologism. This can allow you, if you are insistent enough, and if it "goes viral" to push a new term into usage. Coining a new phrase is another way to do it, such as "web 2.0", etc. The single word has a much better chance though, as it is far less likely to hit any noise. In fact, it's quite useful to check for the prospective new term to see how much likelihood of collision there is, prior to embarking on a campaign to popularize it.

I'm currently in a push to popularize cabsec, which is a system of computer security which I believe has languished in obscurity for too long. The current reference material when searching for "capability based security" all appears to be far to academic, and spans decades of slow deliberate academic research. What's necessary to get things into the mainstream is to provide a new base of discussion, with context that is far more pragmatic and practical and relevant to the contemporary needs of Internet users. This neologism provides a method for doing that which is compatible with Google, and provides less cognitive friction.

An alternative to the neologism, is to simply use your name, provided it isn't Smith or Jones, to hang on a new concept, such as "The Warot Method" of synthetic aperture virtual focus photography. It's a bit egocentric, but it also works, if you balance it with some humility and are open about your sources.

Thank you for your time and attention.