There’s going to be a lot of this

A hacker set off all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas which wailed for 90 minutes overnight.

The hacker tricked the system into sending repeated signals 60 times from 11.42 pm until 1.17am on Saturday morning.

Rocky Vaz, director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management said the hacker was from Dallas, USA Today reported.

However, the culprit has yet to be found.

The hacker created havoc in the city. The sirens are normally used to warn of severe weather, such as tornadoes.

I am so not looking forward to the internet of things. Because absolutely no fucker is ever going to secure these things, are they?

So, you’ll be able to wi fi the toaster to start up when the alarm goes off. And instead it will have been making coffee for some spotty teenager in Minsk all night.

Quite so

Cameron’s legislation has not happened, and there’s a simple reason; encryption is a binary. Either something is encrypted, and thus secure from everyone, or it’s not. As the security expert Bruce Schneier has written: “I can’t build an access technology that only works with proper legal authorisation, or only for people with a particular citizenship or the proper morality. The technology just doesn’t work that way. If a backdoor exists, then anyone can exploit it.”

That’s the crux of the problem. While you can legislate to only give state agencies access to terrorists’ communications, and with proper oversight and authorisation, you cannot actually build encryption that works like that. If you put a backdoor in, it’s there not just for security services to exploit, but for cyber-criminals, oppressive regimes and anyone else.

There is no way around this. Either we can say that end to end encryption is legal or that it is illegal. There is no way to have it being legal but not really encryption…..

The solution to the fake news problem

Gaah, why didn’t I think of this?

The only solution to the problem of fake news that neither misdiagnoses the problem nor overpowers the elites is to completely rethink the fundamentals of digital capitalism. We need to make online advertising – and its destructive click-and-share drive – less central to how we live, work and communicate. At the same time, we need to delegate more decision-making power to citizens – rather than the easily corruptible experts and venal corporations.

This means building a world where Facebook and Google neither wield much clout nor monopolise problem-solving. A formidable task worthy of mature democracies. Alas, the existing democracies, stuck in their denials of various kinds, prefer to blame everyone but themselves while offloading more and more problems to Silicon Valley.

Nationalise Facebook and Google. Or at least wield the power of the Curajus State over them.

That’s Evgeny Morozov’s idea at least. What is it about Belorussians that leads to this sort of thing?

Well, he’s right too

President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly questioned whether critical computer networks can ever be protected from intruders, alarming cybersecurity experts who say his comments could upend more than a decade of national cybersecurity policy and put both government and private data at risk.

Asked late Saturday about Russian hacking allegations and his cybersecurity plans, Trump told reporters that “no computer is safe” and that, for intelligence officials, “hacking is a very hard thing to prove.”

“You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier,” he said as he entered a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort.

Step one in making your computer more secure is to disconnect it from the internet.

Step two is to disconnect it from any network at all, especially any that might have even the most vague and multi-step connection to the internet.

Then remove all floppy drives, USB ports, pen drives and etc.

Then watch as your sys admin loots it a la Ed Snowden.

So why is Trump’s simple statement of the obvious truth alarming experts?

So here’s a question about Facebook

Apparently there’s something on Facebook called the news feed. With trending topics.

I can find the news feed, of course. That gives me things “friends” are saying. But what I can’t find is some more generalised news feed with trending topics. That is, stuff which is popular over the network. Where is that?

An interesting little point about Yahoo

From the Facebook results:

Facebook, which was founded in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 and joined the stock market in 2012, reported a 59pc rise in quarterly revenues to $6.44bn, while net income increased 186pc to $2.05bn. Both were ahead of forecasts.

Meanwhile, costs were up a third to $3.7bn. Spending on research and development rose 25pc to $1.46bn.

Yes, obviously, this doesn’t translate directly to Yahoo. But the general point stands. A large chunk of the costs of running these internet thingies is in trying to develop what to do next. If you accept that the basic idea is done, that you’ll not pivot to something else, then there’s good money to be made by simply running what already exists. Sweat the extant business that is, invest nothing in it. Pull that R&D spending out and profits do rather rise, don’t they?

The poster child for this is of course AOL. Their dial up business (no, seriously) still throws off rivers of cash.

To Yahoo, there’s an argument, which obviously I’ve not gone and checked but I think it could well be valid, that if Mayer had just said “Yahoo will die in a decade” therefore we’ll invest nothing and just send the rivers of cash to shareholders then those shareholders would be better off. That billion spent on Tumblr for example, but also just the general underlying spending on trying to advance things rather than just maintain and extract.

Or, as many have found before, sweating a dying business can be much more profitable than trying to reinvent it.

The same could even be true of Microsoft……forget mobiles, search and all that, Windows and Office, sweat them for two decades and let the thing die.

God I hate Microsoft

So, Skype, very useful program. And yet this computer, every time I try to open it, insists that I must set up a account.

I don’t want one, thank you. I don’t want to have whatever benefits that might bring.

So, everytime my computer decides it needs to be restarted I have to download Skype again. Because then it works without having to log into the account that I don’t have.

Most annoying. Grr.

So, Pokemon Go question

I sota understand roughly… wander around, the phone’s geolocation tells the phone where you are, so a map unrolls in the game and then you find the critters.

OK, so, are the critters in the same locations for everyone’s map?

And if so, when does someone post a map external to Pokemon showing all the locations?

Then reason for this question. We’ve a toolkit that makes it easy to place location data on a map. For example, take a picture, the app reads the geolocation, that image automatically posted to map. Woo hoo, right? We’re looking around for something to showcase it, an application for it. Fix My Street sort of thing perhaps (have vaguely talked to them). Pokemon, if it’s possible to work out where the critters are seems like a reasonable idea.


Ooooh, I didn’t know this about Nick Denton

The founder of Gawker Media, Nick Denton, faces personal bankruptcy after a US judge refused to extend protections shielding him from liabilities in the Hulk Hogan privacy case.

I knew that Gawker had gone into Chapter 11 but wasn’t aware that Denton was threatened personally.

Denton said in court that he has two assets, his equity in his apartment and his stock in Gawker. Denton owns about 30% of Gawker. The value of the equity of his apartment was not referenced in court.

What happened to all the money he made from First Tuesday?

Quite so, quite so

And so, at a time when the status of the EU is under unprecedented scrutiny, one of its most bureaucratic wings is making the best possible case for its continued existence. United, we can stand against the Googleplex.

Got to stop the bastards, of course. Because if everyone just gave us free search and free computer operating systems then where would we be?

The glory of Nick Hanauer’s technological prowess

So, in the NYT today, an OpEd:

Nick Hanauer is an entrepreneur, a venture capitalist and the founder of Civic Ventures, a public policy incubator.

I go to:

Resource Limit Is Reached

The website is temporarily unable to service your request as it exceeded resource limit. Please try again later.

The first non-family investor into Amazon, the man who sold an ad company to Microsoft for billions. Does not buy bandwidth or server space.

Ho hum.

Isn’t this just lovely about the Uber ripoff?

An Uber driver charged a drunk passenger £102.17 for a journey, after taking him on a 20-mile detour around London while he slept.
Daniel Kaizen ordered a minicab from Old Street to Wood Green, north London this weekend, a five-mile trip which he said he was told would cost around £15.
But the late-night detour around the capital meant that his journey took five times longer than he expected and the bill came to over £100.

Such things have been happening since the first ox cart took cash for a ride.

But of course now it’s all recorded, the proof is in the servers, the miscreant gets fired and all is safer or late night drunks……

Microsoft’s Tay and the problem with artifical intelligence

We have rather learnt that intelligence, the capacity for it at least, is at least somewhat innate. But how that is expressed is a matter of the environment that intelligence is trained in. People brought up in a Catholic society tend to be Catholics, people brought up in a fascist one fascists, communist communist and so on. Sure, there are always exceptions and rejections of then received wisdom and so on but it is pretty obvious that the environment matters for how the intelligence is trained.

Which brings us to the, err, idiots, at Microsoft:

Tay, Microsoft Corp’s so-called chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to engage with millennials on Twitter, lasted less than a day before it was hobbled by a barrage of racist and sexist comments by Twitter users that it parroted back to them.

TayTweets (@TayandYou), which began tweeting on Wednesday, was designed to become “smarter” as more users interacted with it, according to its Twitter biography. But it was shut down by Microsoft early on Thursday after it made a series of inappropriate tweets.

A Microsoft representative said on Thursday that the company was “making adjustments” to the chatbot while the account is quiet.

“Unfortunately, within the first 24 hours of coming online, we became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay’s commenting skills to have Tay respond in inappropriate ways,” the representative said in a written statement supplied to Reuters, without elaborating.

The Trollerati looked at this, saw that the AI could be trained, saw that this was good and thus trained it to be a racist buffoon.

Who thought it would be any different?

There’s always the drunk Uncle* who teaches the two year old nephew to say “Fuck!” in order to shock the mothers’ friends. The training needs to be done by those who actually care about the outcome, not those looking for a larff.

*Perhaps not Uncle but someone, somewhere,