Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Yet another post about stupid Operating Systems

Here's an interesting take on just how bad our reliance on stupid operating systems has made things... it could happen any day now.
The thing that continues to drive me crazy about this is that while all this stuff is possible, becoming probable over time, it doesn't have to be this way. No amount of "cybersecurity" in the world can fix the actual root cause... our Operating Systems are stupid... they require you to trust any program you run, and don't offer any tools to limit the scope of what a program can do.
Imagine the power grid with no circuit breakers what so ever... this is what Windows, MacOS, Linux etc all do, as well as all the embedded Internet of Things devices we're buying by the millions. They blindly trust every line of code you tell them to run, or that they auto-run when you insert a USB stick, etc.
Operating Systems exist (but are not mainstream), like Genode (which I still don't have running on my laptop... any year now....grrrr), which offer a way do securely run things, the key to this magic non-stupid OS?.... it simply asks which files you want to let a program use, and never blindly trusts anything. The thing doesn't have to be any less user friendly either... Word could just use the file you chose, instead of asking you and doing it itself.
I figure about 10 more years until this type of OS goes mainstream... I keep mentioning it every chance I get... a low level PR campaign to fix cybersecurity for once and for all.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Why we won't have a truly open web before we get good Operating Systems

I know my views aren't mainstream, but I think the big reason we're all deciding which walled gardens to visit has to do with security. Even if you assume your http connections to others don't get attacked, would you really trust a random video from a site like warot.com?

I wouldn't... why should you?   Your operating system trusts everything you tell it to run, completely. Your web browsers pretty much do the same thing, which means you have to trust the site, and small sites have no reputation, nor is it easy to build... which means even though everyone could connect to you, they won't... there is a significant barrier to entry, because of your Operating System.

If you had an OS that wasn't so trusting, it wouldn't matter if the browser got hacked, because it couldn't take out your system.  If you're old enough, think back to the days of MS-DOS on dual floppy computer systems.  Your OS disk was backed up, with an exact bootable copy, and write protected. You had nothing to lose when you tried out the latest shareware floppy disk that someone handed to you.  Only when we get reasonable Operating Systems, about 10 years from now, will we once again be able to freely explore the internet.

(Why 10 years from now?  Because 10 years ago I guessed it was 20 years, and now Genode exists, so progress is being made, though not in the mainstream, yet)

Friday, June 03, 2016

Doing interesting Astrophysics, with lathes, electron microscopes, and old water heaters.

I think that it's possible to do some novel, leading edge astrophysics with lathes, old water heaters, and electron microscopes... here's how.

There is some debate about the existence and nature of micro black holes, which if they exist, and don't immediately swallow up the nearest planet, might be able to pass through us, and earth, without doing much immediately noticeable harm. They would be small, microscopically small, and perhaps leave a whole just barely visible to an electron microscope through anything, including the earth.

So, if we were to take a large heavy steel object, such as the tank of an old water heater, there would be a non-zero chance that it had been the target of such an event. Strip the tank of its insulation and plumbing, and chuck it in a large lathe... turn the outside surface smooth, then grind it smooth enough to see the grain boundaries in the steel... and then scan the entire surface... you'd get a lot of noise because of said boundaries, etc.... then grind off a few more atoms, and scan it again... you could match and eliminate most things, while looking for holes in the same general place (but offset a bit of angle)... a few passes through and you should be able to find any evidence.

If not, chuck the scrap, and try again.

There you go, a leading edge astrophysics experiment you could do at home, if you have a lathe, surface grinder, electron microscope, some compute power, and a supply of old water heaters.  8-)