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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Spoiler (short film) on Vimeo. Do yourself a favor and watch it.

Wow! So good. Rarely (ever?) do you see a short film that has it all. Production, acting, photography, effects and great writing.

These guys (and gals) will go far.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Need to Define Data Mining? Try this: Modeling People and Places with Internet Photo Collections - ACM Queue

Monday, May 14, 2012

Schneier on Security: The Trouble with Airport Profiling

Schneier on Security

A blog covering security and security technology.

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May 14, 2012

The Trouble with Airport Profiling

Why do otherwise rational people think it's a good idea to profile people at airports? Recently, neuroscientist and best-selling author Sam Harris related a story of an elderly couple being given the twice-over by the TSA, pointed out how these two were obviously not a threat, and recommended that the TSA focus on the actual threat: "Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim."

This is a bad idea. It doesn’t make us any safer -- and it actually puts us all at risk.

The right way to look at security is in terms of cost-benefit trade-offs. If adding profiling to airport checkpoints allowed us to detect more threats at a lower cost, than we should implement it. If it didn't, we'd be foolish to do so. Sometimes profiling works. Consider a sheep in a meadow, happily munching on grass. When he spies a wolf, he's going to judge that individual wolf based on a bunch of assumptions related to the past behavior of its species. In short, that sheep is going to profile...and then run away. This makes perfect sense, and is why evolution produced sheep -- and other animals -- that react this way. But this sort of profiling doesn't work with humans at airports, for several reasons.

First, in the sheep's case the profile is accurate, in that all wolves are out to eat sheep. Maybe a particular wolf isn't hungry at the moment, but enough wolves are hungry enough of the time to justify the occasional false alarm. However, it isn't true that almost all Muslims are out to blow up airplanes. In fact, almost none of them are. Post 9/11, we’ve had 2 Muslim terrorists on U.S airplanes: the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber. If you assume 0.8% (that’s one estimate of the percentage of Muslim Americans) of the 630 million annual airplane fliers are Muslim and triple it to account for others who look Semitic, then the chances any profiled flier will be a Muslim terrorist is 1 in 80 million. Add the 19 9/11 terrorists -- arguably a singular event -- that number drops to 1 in 8 million. Either way, because the number of actual terrorists is so low, almost everyone selected by the profile will be innocent. This is called the "base rate fallacy," and dooms any type of broad terrorist profiling, including the TSA’s behavioral profiling.

Second, sheep can safely ignore animals that don't look like the few predators they know. On the other hand, to assume that only Arab-appearing people are terrorists is dangerously naive. Muslims are black, white, Asian, and everything else -- most Muslims are not Arab. Recent terrorists have been European, Asian, African, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern; male and female; young and old. Underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab was Nigerian. Shoe bomber Richard Reid was British with a Jamaican father. One of the London subway bombers, Germaine Lindsay, was Afro-Caribbean. Dirty bomb suspect Jose Padilla was Hispanic-American. The 2002 Bali terrorists were Indonesian. Both Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber were white Americans. The Chechen terrorists who blew up two Russian planes in 2004 were female. Focusing on a profile increases the risk that TSA agents will miss those who don't match it.

Third, wolves can't deliberately try to evade the profile. A wolf in sheep’s clothing is just a story, but humans are smart and adaptable enough to put the concept into practice. Once the TSA establishes a profile, terrorists will take steps to avoid it. The Chechens deliberately chose female suicide bombers because Russian security was less thorough with women. Al Qaeda has tried to recruit non-Muslims. And terrorists have given bombs to innocent -- and innocent-looking -- travelers. Randomized secondary screening is more effective, especially since the goal isn't to catch every plot but to create enough uncertainty that terrorists don’t even try.

And fourth, sheep don't care if they offend innocent wolves; the two species are never going to be friends. At airports, though, there is an enormous social and political cost to the millions of false alarms. Beyond the societal harms of deliberately harassing a minority group, singling out Muslims alienates the very people who are in the best position to discover and alert authorities about Muslim plots before the terrorists even get to the airport. This alone is reason enough not to profile.

I too am incensed -- but not surprised -- when the TSA manhandles four-year old girls, children with cerebral palsy, pretty women, the elderly, and wheelchair users for humiliation, abuse, and sometimes theft. Any bureaucracy that processes 630 million people per year will generate stories like this. When people propose profiling, they are really asking for a security system that can apply judgment. Unfortunately, that's really hard. Rules are easier to explain and train. Zero tolerance is easier to justify and defend. Judgment requires better-educated, more expert, and much-higher-paid screeners. And the personal career risks to a TSA agent of being wrong when exercising judgment far outweigh any benefits from being sensible.

The proper reaction to screening horror stories isn't to subject only "those people" to it; it's to subject no one to it. (Can anyone even explain what hypothetical terrorist plot could successfully evade normal security, but would be discovered during secondary screening?) Invasive TSA screening is nothing more than security theater. It doesn't make us safer, and it's not worth the cost. Even more strongly, security isn't our society's only value. Do we really want the full power of government to act out our stereotypes and prejudices? Have we Americans ever done something like this and not been ashamed later? This is what we have a Constitution for: to help us live up to our values and not down to our fears.

This essay previously appeared on Forbes.com and Sam Harris's blog.

Posted on May 14, 2012 at 6:19 AM30 Comments

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Welcome to 1995...

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Microsoft is a known abuser of its monopolistic position which tries to kill competition by various means. Looking at the declining market share of Internet Explorer, Microsoft is planning to block competitors such as Firefox and Chrome from its RT edition of Windows 8. Microsoft calls the ARM version of Windows 8 as RT.

Mozilla claims that "Windows RT will have two environments, a Windows Classic environment and a Metro environment for apps. However, Windows on ARM prohibits any browser except for Internet Explorer from running in the privileged 'Windows Classic' environment."

Mozilla further says, "What it means that only Internet Explorer will be able to perform many of the advanced computing functions vital to modern browsers in terms of speed, stability, and security to which users have grown accustomed. Given that IE can run in Windows on ARM, there is no technical reason to conclude other browsers can’t do the same."

Microsoft's decision to block competitors will raise antitrust concerns. Mozilla warns, " If Windows on ARM is simply another version of Windows on new hardware, it also runs afoul of the EC browser choice commitments and seems to represent the very behavior the DOJ-Microsoft settlement sought to prohibit."

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

This should make HF propagation "interesting" for a few days...

Ubuntu To Ship on 5% of All PCs Sold Next Year

Ubuntu is on course to ship on 5% of the worlds PCs next year, Canonical’s Chris Kenyon has revealed.

Kenyon, who helps lead sales and business development at Canonical, announced the gains during a plenary discussion at the Ubuntu Developer Summit on the company’s work with OEMs and ODMs.

Between 8 and 10 million Ubuntu units shipped ‘last year’, equating to around 7.5 billion dollars worth of hardware sales. That figure, Kenyon expects, will double to 18 million ‘next year’ which, he says, relates to some 5% of the world-wide PC market.

’200 Million Users’

The last year or so has seen the Vodafone ‘Webbook’ go on sale in South Africa, Dell China taking Ubuntu to the masses, and ASUS equip a handful of new EeePC models with Ubuntu options.

“We sell millions of PCs with HPLenovoDellAsusAcer,” Mark Shuttleworth recently told Bussiness Insider website. ”We expect to ship close to 20 million PCs in the next year.’

Kenyon’s 5% quote is a healthy projection – but is it enough to help Ubuntu reach its goal of ’200 million users’ by 2014/15? Mathematically not, but note the wording; ‘Ubuntu users‘ applies to more than those using traditional PCs.

With Ubuntu TVs, phones and tablets in the works the potential reach to new users grows ever wider, making that 200 million aim not quite so ‘pie in the sky’ as many assumed it to be.

Wow! That's getting into Mac territory! I'm starting to think of Ubuntu not as a Linux distro but as a standalone OS by itself. The #3 OS at that. Way to go Canonical!

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Friday, May 04, 2012

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem. - The Washington Post

Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

Get past the headline and just read the article.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Hulu to Offer Less for Free, Require Authentication, Say Reports - Streaming Media Magazine

That sound might be the gate crashing down on Hulu's open access to new broadcast content. According to a report in the New York Post, the online streaming destination will soon require viewers to authenticate their accounts, offering premium content only to those who have pay TV accounts.

While a sad move for many viewers, it's not all that surprising. Hulu's owners include NBCUniversal, Fox, and Disney-ABC, which not only want to receive more revenue for streamed content, but also want to satisfy pay TV companies that Hulu isn't a tool for cord-cutters.

Hulu co-owner Providence Equity Partners cashed out of the venture last week, which the Post reports was prompted by the upcoming authentication requirement.

While it's easy to understand the cable and satellite company's motivation for requiring authentication, it's hard to see it being effective. Cord-cutters and -shavers who have gotten by with online access and fewer bills are unlikely to return to the fold. More likely, this will cause a rise in casual piracy. Pay TV services could do themselves more good if they finally embraced a la carte pricing and gave consumers more choice for limited channels.

It will be interesting to see what authentication, if adopted, does to Hulu's ad business. Hulu is the online video ad leader, a position that it has occupied for years. According to March 2012, comScore rankings, Hulu streamed 1.8 billion ads that month alone. Certainly that would take a large hit following authentication.

In related news, NBC Sports will require authentication for online viewing of most London Olympics coverage. That could be the incentive many consumers need to sign in to an authentication service. We'll have to wait for viewing numbers after the event to see whether or not it's a success.

Hulu media relations declined to comment.

The most important part of this article: " hard to see it being effective. Cord-cutters and -shavers who have gotten by with online access and fewer bills are unlikely to return to the fold. More likely, this will cause a rise in casual piracy. Pay TV services could do themselves more good if they finally embraced a la carte pricing and gave consumers more choice for limited channels." Couldn't have said it better myself!

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