Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Sunday, February 29, 2004


The End of Spectrum Scarcity:  Excellent summary of current wireless developments and basic industry impacts.  "New radio transmission and networking technologies can squeeze more and more capacity out of the same spectrum. Some of the improvement comes from the shift from analog to digital transmission. ..

Even greater improvements in spectrum usage will come from a family of technologies that use the computational intelligence of today's wireless devices to allow multiple systems to "share" the same spectrum. The first of these, spread spectrum, replaces ancient high-power, undifferentiated narrowband transmissions with modern low-power, coded wideband signals  ..  A newly permitted method of using spectrum, ultrawideband, takes spread spectrum to its logical conclusion, operating at such low power that, subject to appropriate safeguards, it can underlie existing licensed services. That is, preexisting users of the same spectrum bands won't even know the ultrawideband transmissions are there. ..

Smart antennas can focus adaptively to "lock into" a directional signal. Instead of radiating a signal in all directions equally, they figure out where a user is located and direct the radiation accordingly, reducing effective interference with other transmitters. Now, too, novel coding algorithms can take factors that traditionally hampered transmission, such as physical obstacles and motion, and use them to generate information that increases capacity.

Perhaps the greatest technological gain in wireless capacity, however, will come from systems that work cooperatively. In a network architecture called a mesh, each RF receiver also acts as a transponder, retransmitting data sent by other devices in the network. In other words, every new device uses some of the network's capacity but also adds capacity back. ..

Software radios are a key enabler for all these advances. A software radio can receive and transmit across a broad range of frequencies.. In principle, a software radio originally used for cellular telephony could, for example, download new software and begin to receive broadcast television signals, or, more likely, access a network that uses a new cellular transmission protocol. Even more sophisticated "cognitive radios" would work cooperatively, analyzing other nearby radios and adapting on the fly to avoid other transmissions. "

Combined with these technical advances are regulatory changes that will open up more raw spectrum to new uses.

  8:06:12 PM  permalink  

Spam Producing Nations and Drones: " Security firm Sophos on Thursday named a "Dirty Dozen" list of countries that produce the most spam. .. The U.S. took the dubious honor of top place, with 56.7 percent of the spam that Sophos trapped originating here. In comparison, the next worst nation, Canada, was the originator of a paltry 6.8 percent of the spam. Other countries on the list were China, South Korea, the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, France, the U.K., Australia, Mexico, and Spain, in that order.

The rankings may be misleading, however, said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos in a statement.  "Our intelligence suggests that a large amount of spam originates in Russia, even though it appears at only number 28 in the chart," Cluley said. "Hackers there appear to be breaking into computers in other countries and sending out spam via infected PCs," he added.  According to Cluley, more than 30 percent of the world's spam is sent from computers compromised by worms and Trojan horses which turn unsuspecting users' systems into spam proxies.

Several of the most virulent worms of late have been accused of just that tactic by security analysts. MyDoom, for instance, which holds the title as the world's fastest spreading worm, created backdoors on infected machines that some theorized would lead to a huge army of spam-ready systems. "

  1:01:45 PM  permalink  

The Disruptive Nature of Skype: "No it is not free telephone calls that are Skype's disruptive punch but free conference calls that obsolete current networks. "  Interesting speculation on the impact of free conference calling with presence and buddy lists.  Rather than substituting for telephony, some new function may be what brings voip to mass use.  12:00:05 AM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, February 28, 2004


Will IM be the next security culprit? "IM-based attacks present particular danger because they would not cause the changes to machines or networks that make an attack visible. In fact, compared to past attacks, they would need very few connections for full infection.  Today's worms take time to spread because they must find hosts to infect through scanning, e-mail distribution and file sharing--in the process creating a lot of unproductive traffic. .. In contrast, an IM-based attack eliminates nuisance traffic almost completely. Once it has infected a machine, the code gains direct access to your buddy list and learns who is currently online. Once it has infected a machine, the code gains direct access to your buddy list and learns who is currently online.   The code needs only to send a few small requests to the online users.. This would not raise alarms because the Internet would not be clogged with useless attempts at infection or propagation. Also, the infected computers would not suffer poor performance or change their behavior in any way." 

One early example is reported, "Trojan horse advertising program, called BuddyLinks, masquerades as a news Web site with a story on [Osama bin Laden's] capture in an attempt to fool users of America Online's instant-messaging program into downloading software and receiving advertising."  These invitations to websites could leverage browser vulnerabilities in disturbing ways.

  11:48:46 PM  permalink  

Michael Helfrich's Weblog: Groove and the Tactical Edge: Part 1: First installment of the story of how Groove came to be used for humanitarian operations in Iraq.  Starting in late 2002: "The day after Eric's talk, a very eclectic group of Groove employees formed for the first time to offer their evenings and weekends to develop Groove applications that could be used in disasters, both natural and man-made. We built 11 over the next six months. These ranged from applications to reunite families dispersed across refugee camps, to casualty evacuations to be used by coalition forces and NGO's. The final application was a set of capabilities in Groove that was used during the Super Bowl in January of 2003 to link first responders, California law enforcement, hospitals in San Diego, and Secret Service personnel in Washington...

[For Iraq, Eric's] challenge was a need to link 134 people from 43 different civil-military organizations, representing multiple nations, each on their own private, albeit it internet-connected networks. UNDP had managed to have all 43 organizations agree on a common data collection set that became what was known as the Rapid Assessment form [on] when and where relief supplies would be distributed..

On Sunday March 16th, Eric took delivery of a Groove-based Rapid Assessment form. .. By Thursday morning, 120 users in Washington, Qatar, New York, Washington DC, London, and Kuwait City were up and running in Groove, many of them were forward deployed near the Iraq border in the south.

Early in the morning on March 25th, a Groove notification fired in my Windows system tray. The first Rapid Assessment form had come in after coalition forces overran Talil airfield near Al-Nasiriyah in southern Iraq. Within minutes, almost 50 people had streamed into the Groove Rapid Assessment shared space and the chat pane exploded with message traffic. The UN, the Red Cross, 1st MEF members, and others had received the same notification and swarmed into the space to begin the task of getting humanitarian assistance into the area. As a technologist, it was an incredibly surreal moment to see our technology being used at such a historic moment..."

  11:14:35 PM  permalink  

Shirky: The RIAA Succeeds Where the Cypherpunks Failed: "For years, the US Government has been terrified of losing surveillance powers over digital communications generally, and one of their biggest fears has been broad public adoption of encryption. If the average user were to routinely encrypt their email, files, and instant messages, whole swaths of public communication currently available to law enforcement with a simple subpoena (at most) would become either unreadable, or readable only at huge expense. ..

The RIAA is succeeding where the Cypherpunks failed, convincing users to trade a broad but penetrable privacy for unbreakable anonymity under their personal control... encryption is now becoming a background feature of collaborative workspaces. Because encryption is becoming something that must run in the background, there is now an incentive to make its adoption as easy and transparent to the user as possible. It's too early to say how widely casual encryption use will spread, but it isn't too early to see that the shift is both profound and irreversible.

People will differ on the value of this change, depending on their feelings about privacy and their trust of the Government, but the effects of the increased use of encryption, and the subsequent difficulties for law enforcement in decrypting messages and files, will last far longer than the current transition to digital music delivery, and may in fact be the most important legacy of the current legal crackdown. "

  10:49:51 PM  permalink  

Legal Services and Networking: How a law firm benefited from social networking software.  "One of your employees might be the golfing partner of a key contact at a prospect's company, and a point of leverage for closing a deal. Software from vendors like Interface and Spoke is meant to expose such connections by, inter alia, combing through Outlook folders to see who knows whom and render it searchable by others.

"In the past year, we've had a couple of instances where the software identified an existing relationship we'd never have been aware of otherwise," says Sobin. "One of those engagements generated more than a million dollars in new business.""  The software also distills a common view of the relationship with a customer from everyone's email files, so all staff are "reading from the same page."

  10:24:46 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, February 27, 2004


HP-led group sets up transaction system in Africa: "A public-private consortium that includes Hewlett-Packard has started a pilot program in Uganda to test a technology that promises to improve delivery of small loans to remote locations. The program will involve installation of an electronic transaction system designed to collect loan payment and savings information, to replace the existing manual system. The experience gained in Uganda could be useful in other similar settings, HP said.  The group, the Microdevelopment Finance Team, has committed to invest over $2.3 million in the pilot. The team includes microfinance and technology experts as well as business thinkers. "  12:16:35 PM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, February 26, 2004


Marine sponges provide model for nanoscale materials production: "[Dan] Morse directs the new Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies, a UCSB-led initiative funded by a grant of $50 million from the Army Research Office, which operates in partnership with MIT and Caltech. .. his research group discovered that the center of the sponge's fine glass needles contains a filament of protein that controls the synthesis of the needles. By cloning and sequencing the DNA of the gene that codes for this protein, they discovered that the protein is an enzyme that acts as a catalyst, a surprising discovery. Never before had a protein been found to serve as a catalyst to promote chemical reactions to form the glass or a rock-like material of a biomineral. From that discovery, the research group learned that this enzyme actively promotes the formation of the glass while simultaneously serving as a template to guide the shape of the growing mineral (glass) that it produces ..

"we've discovered that these activities can be applied to the synthesis of valuable semiconductors, metal oxides such as titanium and gallium that have photovoltaic and semiconductor properties," says Morse. The group is using a synthetic mimic of the enzymes found in marine sponges.   These discoveries are significant because they represent a low temperature, biotechnological, catalytic route to the nanostructural fabrication of valuable materials

  12:56:31 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, February 23, 2004


Spam zombies on home broadband: "Spammers increasingly are exploiting home computers with high-speed Internet connections into which they've cleverly burrowed... 

Steve Atkins, chief technology officer at the anti-spam consultancy Word to the Wise LLC, said some ISPs continue to be plagued by open-relay techniques, but spammers generally don't bother with them anymore because it's so much easier to have success with home machines. Where much of the spam previously flowed through China, South Korea, Brazil and other countries whose ISPs left many relays open, it's now being hastened by a North American trend: more high-speed cable and DSL connections at home. "

The Register reports on a ring of zombies:  "German magazine c't says it has evidence that virus writers are selling the IP addresses of PCs infected with Trojans to spammers. Spammers use these infected systems to unlawfully distribute commercial email messages, without the knowledge of their owners. 

The Trojan involved was spread by a virus called Randex. This small program contacted its 'master' through the chat protocol IRC. It was programmed to look for CD keys of games, or secretly load additional software. The Trojan was also able to install a proxy server which can be used to relay spam through the infected PCs.  

A college student managed to track down the distributor of a computer virus in the UK, and the editorial staff of c't was then able to buy access to the infected machines.  c’t passed on all the information to New Scotland Yard and several individuals in different countries have been arrested, the magazine claims."

It is also worth remembering that MyDoom installs a trojan that could be applied for this.

  6:15:09 PM  permalink  

In health, Canada tops U.S.: "An impressive array of data shows that Canadians live longer, healthier lives than we do. What's more, they pay roughly half as much per capita as we do ($2,163 versus $4,887 in 2001) for the privilege. ..

According to a World Health Organization report published in 2003, life expectancy at birth in Canada is 79.8 years, versus 77.3 in the U.S. (Japan's is 81.9.) "There isn't a single measure in which the U.S. excels in the health arena," says Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, a senior lecturer in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington in Seattle. "We spend half of the world's healthcare bill and we are less healthy than all the other rich countries."  ..

During the last quarter-century, he says, all income groups in Canada also showed gains in life expectancy. During much the same period in the U.S., death rates widened between America's rich and poor, "

  8:15:01 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, February 22, 2004


US Online Shopping Set to Hit Another Record Year: "It's safe to say that 2004 will be the year that consumer e-commerce breaks through the $100 billion threshold," including travel but excluding auctions, said Daniel Hess, senior vice president at comScore Networks Inc. Last year online retailers booked $93 billion in sales, an increase of 27 percent from 2002.  "The growth we've seen in online sales in the year to date is in line with the strong levels at which 2003 ended -- around 35 to 40 percent," Hess said. "  1:19:42 AM  permalink  

Demographics and Development: ""The demographic evolution is there to remind us of this: of the extra 2 billion people that will live on the planet 25 years from now, only 50 million will be born in developed countries." James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank .. Governments must be aware that there cannot be peace unless they fight poverty, he said. "Today, five billion people live in developing countries. Thirty years from now, it will be seven out of eight billion, and yet one billion people control 80 percent of global resources," he said. Wolfensohn meanwhile underlined that he was worried that domestic matters, Iraq, and military expenditures lie at the heart of the U.S. election campaign. "Not one word will be said about the fight against poverty though it is a key component to achieve stability in the world," he predicted."  12:19:49 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, February 20, 2004


ABO - an improved compressor: A Singapore company, MatrixView, claims to have developed a technique of compressing files far smaller than conventional methods.  It's called Adaptive Binary Optimization (ABO).   "The year-old firm is working on a pilot project with the KK Women's and Children's Hospital in Singapore to digitise and store its videotape library of ultrasound images. These are images of fetuses inside the womb, taken with an ultrasound scanner. ..

"Arvind Thiagarajan, the firm's founder and chief technology officer, said that ABO can achieve compression rates far higher than commonly used methods, such as JPEG.  "With JPEG and JPEG2000 the compression ratio is six to seven times, with a lot of errors. With lossless JPEG the ratio is four to five times," he said.  But with ABO, he said a compression ratio as high as 32 times can be gained for image files. ..

Users can select compression ratios that range from mathematically lossless, for files that are byte-identical to the original, to higher ratios, for files that are visually identical with the original, but with visually unimportant data discarded.  .. The company plans to license the technology as plug-ins for other document, image and audio-video editing programs"

Another interview reports "we have developed actual "technology demonstration" products for the medical industry called EchoViewTM (for ultrasound archival) and DocuMatTM (for document imaging and digitization where ABO is able to optimise a raw TIFF file to beyond 154 times compression versus existing technologies of 20 - 25 times."

  10:34:36 AM  permalink  

Votewatch 2004 - Your Eye On Elections: A volunteer group of US election monitors; could be very useful in preventing (or documenting) another 2000 Florida debacle.  "Votewatch is working with large membership organizations in order to build a coalition of election monitors in 2004 that will help oversee our election process. Volunteers in selected states will be stationed at precincts and inside county registrars in order to closely monitor our elections. "   8:20:01 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, February 19, 2004


DNS tools, WHOIS, tracert, ping, others: Nice collection, testing email delivery routes, etc.  11:17:41 AM  permalink  

Wi-Fi HotSpot International Directory: Certainly not the only directory, but a useful one.  Currently lists 44 countries with public hotspots, including many developing ones.  11:06:37 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, February 18, 2004


Phishing attacks up 50% in January: "Attempted email fraud and phishing attacks went up 50% in January compared to the month before. There were an average of 5.7 new and unique phishing attacks each day in January, according to research by the Anti-Phishing Working Group. There were 176 unique attacks in January, of which only 13.6% were 'repeats'. eBay was the most targeted company with 51 different emails purporting to come from the online auction house. Citibank and AOL were next with 35 and 34 attacks each. Financial services account for 40% of attacks; 34% appear to come from retailers; and 24% from ISPs"  9:30:58 PM  permalink  

Ecard-hijack spam: Anatomy of an e-scam.  A spam sent widely invites users to visit a supposed greeting card site. Once there, security holes in IE are exploited to cause many strange things to happen as a smokescreen.  Then, "this program attempts to hijack the user's personal login information as they log in to various popular Internet banking services."  Great detective work -- by a high school student.  9:27:18 PM  permalink  

Konarka gets DARPA contract: "DARPA contract in excess of $6 million for basic research in developing new materials for hybrid photovoltaic cells. Konarka will lead a consortium of academic and national laboratories to develop new materials for hybrid photovoltaics. Konarka will manage the contract and will share the award over five years with research and development partners including: Arizona State University; National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); University of Delaware; University of Massachusetts, Lowell; and U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA.

Hybrid cells are at the intersection of dye-sensitized cells developed by Dr. Michael Graetzel, and polymer cells developed by Dr. Alan Heeger. .. The hybrid cells will incorporate unique forms of polymers and semiconductors in the cells’ active layers."

  9:13:39 AM  permalink  

More details on the ethanol-hydrogen converter:  Ethanol feedstocks like corn "would yield three times as much power if its energy were channeled into hydrogen fuel cells rather than burned along with gasoline.. [This] is due in large part to the need to remove all the water from ethanol before it can be put in an automobile gas tank-and the last drops of water are the hardest to remove. But the new process doesn't require pure ethanol; in fact, it strips hydrogen from both ethanol and water, yielding a hydrogen bonus.

The invention rests on two innovations: a catalyst based on the metals rhodium and ceria, and an automotive fuel injector that vaporizes and mixes the ethanol-water fuel. The vaporized fuel mixture is injected into a tube that contains a porous plug made from rhodium and ceria. The fuel mixture passes through the plug and emerges as a mixture of hydrogen, carbon dioxide and minor products. The reaction takes only 50 milliseconds and eliminates the flames and soot that commonly accompany ethanol combustion.

In a typical ethanol-water fuel mixture, one could ideally get five molecules of hydrogen for each molecule of ethanol. Reacting ethanol alone would yield three hydrogen molecules. So far, the Schmidt team has harvested four hydrogen molecules per ethanol molecule. "

  9:09:03 AM  permalink  

Seeing how plants split water: "Reporting online in the journal Science today Imperial researchers reveal the fine detail of the protein complex that drives photosynthesis..

Photosynthesis occurs in plants, some bacteria and algae and involves two protein complexes, photosystem I, and photosystem II - which contains the water-splitting center. While previous models of PSII function have sketched out a picture of how the water splitting center might be organized, the Imperial team were able to reveal the structure of the centre at a resolution of 3.5 angstroms (or one hundred millionth of a centimetre) in the cyanobacterium, Thermosynechococcus elongatus by combining the expertise of Professor So Iwata in solving protein structures and Professor Jim Barber in the photosynthetic process.

"Results by other groups, including those obtained using lower resolution X-ray crystallography at 3.7 angstroms have shown that the splitting of water occurs at a catalytic center that consists of four manganese atoms (Mn)," explains Professor So Iwata of Imperial's Department of Biological Sciences. "We've taken this further by showing that three of the manganese atoms, a calcium atom and four oxygen atoms form a cube like structure, which brings stability to the catalytic center. The forth and most reactive manganese atom is attached to one of the oxygen atoms of the cube. Together this arrangement gives strong hints about the water-splitting chemistry.

"Our structure also reveals the position of key amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, which provide a details of how cofactors are recruited into the reaction centre," Barber said. "PSII is truly the 'engine of life' and it has been a major challenge of modern science to understand how it works. Manufacturing hydrogen from water using the photosynthetic method would be far more efficient than using electrolysis"

  9:01:44 AM  permalink  

Russian missiles in bad shape: "A Russian ballistic missile has failed to fire for the second time in as many days during military exercises attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.  In the latest incident the missile, fired from submarine Karelia, was blown up by its automatic safety system, after veering from its flight path. Two test launches were scrapped [before launch] on Tuesday because of "malfunctions".  [There had been an] announcement at the start of exercises last week that the high point would be the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles to hit targets on the Kamchatka peninsula, 5,000 kms away. "  8:44:14 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, February 17, 2004


Gapminder world statistics: Interesting source of software, data, and documents on international development, including income distribution and historical trends.  3:41:58 PM  permalink  

Apache Lenya: "Apache Lenya is a Java-based Open-Source Content Management System. It is based on open standards such as XML and XSLT. One of its core components is Cocoon", an Apache web development framework.  2:04:32 PM  permalink  

The battle for the web server: History of Apache and IIS and their relative market shares.  2:03:06 PM  permalink  

wire.less.dk "is a highly specialized independent team of experts in wireless and internet technology, working with business customers as well as non-profit projects, e.g. community networks and ICT initiatives for the developing world. " They offer the autonokit: "the idea of the autonokit is, to bring together affordable, available wireless and solar standard technology, (hardware and software) test and optimize it for usage under adverse mobile conditions in order to produce a kit for inexpensive and autonomous internet access. "  1:45:47 PM  permalink  

Low power, low datarate: chip aims for medical implants: "The AMIS-52100 transceiver is the latest member of the low-datarate ASTRIC (application specific transmit and receive IC) product family from AMI Semiconductor. The new chip appeals to sub-500MHz-band wireless applications that require clock and data recovery, and is particularly suited to medical implantable devices. Targeting the FDA's Medical Implantable Communications Systems (MICS) standard and European standards for ultra-low-power active medical implants (ULP-AMIs), the device is optimised for operation in the 402-405MHz frequency band. The band outlines a specific radio frequency range for two-way communication between medical devices to retrieve important information about a patient's status with improved data transfer rates... The AMIS-52100 will be priced at $1.95 in quantities of 50 thousand units, assuming a 20-lead SSOP. Samples and evaluation kits will be available in March 2004. The product is immediately available for ASIC integration. " 

Markets "for things like heart pacemarkers and defibrillators is $5.1 billion, growing 10% per year, while that for hearing aids is $2.6 billion. Some of the best solutions now available for grabbing a share of that market involve "low-power, low-data-rate wireless technology" based on "a stand-alone transceiver IC."

  1:22:23 PM  permalink  

Powerful machines are coming in small packages: "A new class of micro-gadgets – some no larger than a pencil eraser – are poised to make military and other equipment easier to power and carry. "

Example: a portable cooling suit that weighs just several pounds. "The final product would consist of an absorption heat pump, which would fit in a small backpack, connected to a vest threaded with water-filled microchannels. The water would be cooled in the pump then recirculated through the channels to keep the person wearing the vest from overheating. ..

These devices send large amounts of liquid or gas through thousands of microchannels that stand roughly as tall as a human hair. In each channel, heat transfer or chemical reactions happen more efficiently than they do in larger spaces, permitting better process control, shorter channel lengths and overall system miniaturization. .. [Applications] include micromachined gas-liquid contactor membranes for portable heat pumps, high-temperature microchannel arrays for increasing the efficiency of fuel reforming, and microfluidic integration for improving the shelf-life of tissue-based sensors.

"We're trying to take large amounts of fluids down through microchannels and then back out to affect the macroscale environment," [Oregon State's Brian] Paul said. "These technologies are expected to revolutionize the way we process mass and energy." [PNL's Ward] TeGrotenhuis, Paul, and their colleagues call their field "MECS," for "Microtechnology-based Energy and Chemical Systems." ..

[Another microsystem,] carbon-based arrays of MEMS microbatteries made by Marc Madou of UC Irvine, and his colleagues have thousands of anodes and cathodes very close together. Thus, the ions don't have to travel as far as they do in standard batteries. "It's like a traditional battery concept but multiplexed," said Madou, who calls each battery element a "baxel" (a riff on "pixels," also arranged in a matrix). "

  1:09:52 PM  permalink  

California Dreaming No More: "32% of the nearly 1.8 million Latinos who settled in California in the '80s were living in poverty in 1990, compared with 23% by 2000. Likewise, Latino immigrants from the '70s had a poverty rate of just 17% by 2000.  Contrary to stereotypes, about 70% of Latino immigrant children in California graduate from high school, Myers said. And 55% of middle-aged California Latinos who immigrated at least 20 years ago own homes. That number increases to 68% after 30 years of residence." 

Increasing numbers are selling California homes and moving to other, lower cost states. And more immigrants are arriving into other states.  "census figures confirm the trend: Just 25% of newly arrived U.S. immigrants — about half of whom were Latino — settled in California in the 1990s, compared with nearly 38% the previous decade."

  9:39:09 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, February 16, 2004


SpamProbe - A Fast Bayesian Spam Filter: "SpamProbe relies on a Bayesian analysis of the frequency of words used in spam and non-spam emails received by an individual person. The process is completely automatic and tailors itself to the kinds of emails that each person receives.. SpamProbe is open source software and anyone is free to use it on their computers without any fees."  11:57:51 PM  permalink  

Why Nerds are Unpopular: Long essay about high schools: excellent, twisted, very perceptive.  11:53:45 PM  permalink  

Jeroen Bekkers' Groove Weblog: I discovered many sources of Groove tools and extensions today, thanks to this weblog from Suite75, a developer of Groove and Flash tools.

  • SUITELAB, Suite75's collection (some of which are highlighted below), including shared Visio viewer, 3D molecule viewer, and shared blogger tool
  • CodeWeavers - Run Groove under Linux with other Windows apps
  • do-hyki: "dohyki is a simple experimental collaborative note-taking application. It's kinda like a small private wiki, and shares some of wiki's free-form ethos. .. Notes (pages) are stored in a Groove "files" tool which you choose. If there are other members of the Groove shared space, you can all work together at the same time."
  • Tim Knip's FlashHyki version of hyki in Flash
  • PowerTools for Groove, with improvements in Files and Chat, many in the free version
  • FileSyncWiz: Sync disk files with Groove spaces.  "Very useful in situations where all members do not use Groove, but must share files with other Groove users. This tool will pick up local changes and update into Groove or take new files that have been changed in Groove and update the local folders, so other members instantly get changed documents."  Could be used for web site production, esp with a CMS like Radio.  Rumored to be in v3 of Groove.
  • Groove Interop Tool for Radio, recently upgraded
  • GForce.Time time billing tool, costs between $50 and $75
  11:32:17 PM  permalink  

Smartmoney.com Map of the Market: Great way to visualize the market.  Have seen references to this sort of thing for looking at the contents of a disk drive, which would be very useful.  Wish it was as easy to load and run as this map!  Related:

  11:19:44 PM  permalink  

You Can Take It With You: "With a few gigabytes of stage, a mobile phone becomes a multipurpose information appliance. For businesspeople, it becomes the tool for carrying Powerpoint presentations and word-processing files, rather than lugging around a laptop. For the consumer, it becomes the repository for photos, movies and music. You'll send copies of that content to a network server for backup or to share it with your friends, but you'll still carry copies with you everywhere. .. We'll also see much more powerful location-based services. A two-gigabyte microdrive can hold an entire continent worth of mapping data. The phone's wireless connection would only have to come into play for telemetry and occasional updates.

Projects in the lab today could make today's mobile storage look puny. For example, an IBM research project called Millipede uses micromechanical systems to burn massive numbers of tiny depressions onto a medium, supporting storage densities in the hundreds of gigabytes per square inch. "

  10:38:07 PM  permalink  

Study: Wind power lowers Colorado electricity costs: "Requiring wind power in Colorado’s energy supply would probably lower electricity costs over the next 20 years, according to a report released Thursday by a utility expert.

Ron Binz, former Consumer Counsel for the State of Colorado for 11 years, studied the effects of proposed renewable-energy-standard legislation on the price of electricity. His study, which he calls a “straight from the shoulder analysis,” examined standards imposed by House Bill 1273, which would require the state’s investor-owned utilities to acquire or generate renewable energy by certain deadlines, and it compared the renewable energy costs to fossil-fuels costs.

He found consumers would likely save money, a total of 20 cents per monthly bill on average by 2023. His worst-case assumptions, which Binz said are not likely, would raise consumer electric rates by 8 cents per month over a 20-year period.  “A slightly more favorable scenario for rates, which is still in my view a likely scenario ... would have a benefit of about 31 cents per month over the 20-year period,” Binz said.

Binz said introducing renewable energy would guard against spikes in natural-gas prices in the future. He predicted wind energy could result in consumer savings of 52 to 75 cents per monthly bill in years when prices for fossil fuels spike like they did in 2000 and 2003. "

  10:20:59 PM  permalink  

Lights Go Out for South Africa Off-Grid Energy Projects: "[The SA] government is reviewing its off-grid renewable energy programme after finding that it does not meet targets; the technology is too costly and it lacks acceptance among intended users.   This means that the provision of electricity to remote areas, especially using solar energy technology, will be halted while government seeks other sources of power.

Long distances from existing power grids and the inaccessibility of some areas make connections to electricity supply an expensive exercise. This is why renewable energy was explored as an alternative. In 1999 about 300000 rural households were identified for a pilot solar system. The aim was to connect them over a 10-year period. The minerals and energy department says the failure of contractors to meet their targets and the failure of the technology to meet the needs of rural people "gives doubts about its sustainability".

Nelisiwe Magubane, the deputy director-general responsible for electricity and nuclear energy at the department, says the six companies contracted to install the solar systems managed to deliver only 8000 units in 18 months. The target was 60 000 units 10000 for each company. The companies were EDF/Total, Eskom/Shell, Nuon/Raps, Solar Vision, Renewable Energies Africa, and BP.

Magubane says that of the R105m allocated to the project, the contractors spent only R20m by August last year. The remaining R85m has been taken back by the treasury, which demands that all unspent funds be returned so that they can be allocated to better-performing projects.  [State power utility] Eskom is also considering withdrawing from the project because it believes it is not viable.

The power utility and other companies complained about nonpayment from users and vandalism of solar systems. High maintenance costs and the replacement of batteries every other three to years, at the company's cost, compounds the problem. ..

Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told Parliament last year that 1740 nongrid systems were installed in rural households in 2002. About 77000 grid connections were also made in these areas.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said her department, with the assistance of the World Bank and the Prototype Carbon Fund, would this year begin to promote [grid-connected] renewable energy electrification generation. "The target is an additional 1000gW- hours of energy consumed by 2013, which will be achieved through renewable energy generation and other sources such as biodiesel, solar water heating, solar photovoltaic, and solar design in housing."

The increasing demand for electricity and environmental imperatives also prompted Eskom to explore an energy mix of hydro power, natural gas, and other renewable energy sources.  Eskom says that by 2012 at least 5% of the power it generates will be from renewable sources. To this end, the company has budgeted about R60m on wind farming, R9m on solar power, R1m on biopower and R500000 in wave power."

  10:14:27 PM  permalink  

Solar energy's 50-year anniversary: ""Basically every three years, the overall industry volume doubles, and for every doubling of volume you reduce costs 18 percent, '' said Tim Woodward, a venture capitalist at Nth Power, a San Francisco firm that invests in energy technologies.  "Right now, this is a real industry that's growing 30 percent a year,'' said Woodward, whose firm has a stake in Evergreen Solar Inc., a Massachusetts company that is developing a new solar cell manufacturing technology..

Cypress Semiconductor bought 57 percent of SunPower in 2002 and is buying the rest and making it a wholly owned subsidiary. With Cypress' backing, SunPower is building a solar cell assembly plant in Manila. The ribbon- cutting will be held in March, and the factory is supposed to start shipping arrays by the end of the year.  "By the time we get everything done, we will have bet $100 million,'' said [Cypress CEO] Rodgers.."

  10:02:12 PM  permalink  

China link to Libya nuke design: "Investigators have identified China as the origin of some nuclear weapons designs found in Libya last year, the Washington Post newspaper reported. It said the international inquiry found that Chinese designs probably supplied to Pakistan in the 1980s were sold on to Libya by Pakistani-led smugglers.

It quoted officials as saying that some of Libya's documents were in Chinese. The findings raise questions as to whether similar Chinese designs were supplied to Iran and North Korea. ..

Government officials and arms experts said Libya's documents yielded "dramatic evidence" of China's long-suspected role in the transfers of nuclear know-how to Pakistan, according to the newspaper. It said the packet of documents contained detailed, step-by-step instructions for assembling an implosion-type 450-kilogram (1,000 pounds) nuclear bomb that could fit atop a large ballistic missiles. ..

"It was just what you'd have on the factory floor. It tells you what torque to use on the bolts and what glue to use on the parts," one arms expert who had reviewed the designs told the newspaper. He described the blueprints as "very, very old" but "very well engineered".

China's actions "were irresponsible and short-sighted, and raise questions about what else China provided to Pakistan's nuclear programme," Mr Albright told the Washington Post. "  If they were sold on to North Korea by Pakistan, it would be a classic case of 'blowback' on the Chinese.

  6:16:48 AM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, February 15, 2004


US software labor market info: "After two years of slight declines, the number of professional software developers rose in the United States last year to 2.35 million, according to IDC, a research company. Today, America has more than four times as many software developers as India, and nearly seven times as many as China. " 

From a review in NYT, "such jobs are not about to disappear from the United States. Statistics on the current job flight are estimates. Forrester Research in a frequently cited study, predicted in late 2002 that 3.3 million services jobs in America would move offshore by 2015, about 500,000 of them in computer software and services.  For all the alarm that report generated, a shift of that size over the next 11 years would be small, given that the American labor force has more than 130 million workers and normally creates and destroys millions of jobs every few months. "

  11:12:15 PM  permalink  

Instant message spam package: "Some users of the popular AOL Instant Messenger program were bombarded Wednesday with messages seemingly from friends that linked to a humorous Osama bin Laden game.  Downloading the game, however, installed a piggybacking program that broadcast the advertisement from the infected computer to all correspondents on its AIM buddy lists.

The software, called Buddylinks, is not technically a virus because users must accept its terms of service before it's installed. The small-print legal disclaimer states what's being installed, though users tend to click through such legalese without reading it. And that's one of the keys to its success.

The program is also clever in its use of social engineering to spread, extending a personal invitation that appears to come from what is typically a trusted friend. ..

Anti-virus expert Ken Dunham at iDefense called Buddylinks a worm, for its self-propagating properties, and said it was "gaining ground in the wild and may prove to be a serious pest over the next few weeks."

On Wednesday, Buddylinks' Web site contained a message denying the program is a virus. The home page also makes no mention that the program would in the future send out additional advertisements using the same method.  "Our games interact with instant messengers by promoting the game among the user's network of buddies," it reads. "Please understand, our flash games are in no way a virus. We simply combine peer-to-peer, social networking, and instant messaging into one spectacular technology."  10:55:24 PM  permalink  

Solar wireless road devices: "There are "wireless applications that are also emerging that aren’t personal, but may eventually constitute as important a market—self-powered, embedded, networked, wireless devices. Like the ones that SPOT Devices Inc is bringing to market. ..Road Spot, their product, integrates high-efficiency solar cells with ultra-bright light emitting diodes (LEDs) to create a completely self-contained inroad light that flashes brightly upon activation. Unlike existing inroad lighting solutions, Road Spots install easily without trenching or saw-cutting road surfaces. Furthermore, since Road Spots do not need wiring or external power, they can be used in a multitude of locations. All of which makes them dramatically less costly than existing solutions. .. provide pedestrians about to enter a crosswalk with warning of [They can] approaching vehicles, and can give motorists advanced warning for road crossings, stop lights..

Road Spots communicate with a controller, and with each other, over 2.4GHz, which makes them easy to control, customize, and upgrade—without ever having to dig up the roadway. Even more importantly, wireless communication provides alerts about battery changes or replacement, as well as providing a copious database of operational statistics, such as how often each unit flashes, and how traffic varies by day and by time of time—data that’s otherwise extremely expensive to obtain."

Once on the net, why not these apps: "as part of automated farming solutions, for municipal airports who are currently limited to daylight hours of operation because they can’t afford to install runway lighting, concert venue traffic control, automated parking meter payment, and many more. Not to mention many potential military and homeland security and surveillance applications.""

  10:49:59 PM  permalink  

The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime: "We offer evidence that legalized abortion has contributed significantly to recent crime reductions. Crime began to fall roughly 18 years after abortion legalization. The 5 states that allowed abortion in 1970 experienced declines earlier than the rest of the nation, which legalized in 1973 with Roe v. Wade. States with high abortion rates in the 1970s and 1980s experienced greater crime reductions in the 1990s. In high abortion states, only arrests of those born after abortion legalization fall relative to low abortion states. Legalized abortion appears to account for as much as 50 percent of the recent drop in crime."  10:10:10 PM  permalink  

Commercial Software Aided Reboot on Mars: Cool article on the hardware and operating system in use on the Mars rover.  Turns out they have more flash memory than ever used on these computers before, and had accumulated too many files at boot time to allow a proper boot.  A bit of file cleanup restored the rover to normal operation.  The operating system, vxworks, has an interesting history starting with Francis Ford Coppola in 1987, and many commercial applications at present.  10:07:34 PM  permalink  

Researchers create ethanol-to-hydrogen reactor: "Lanny Schmidt, University of Minnesota professor of chemical engineering and colleagues make hydrogen from ethanol .. An automotive fuel injector clicks away as ethanol is pushed through and mixed with air.

"So now we have a gas," Schmidt says, "And the catalyst is right there which I don't want to touch because it's glowing." The catalyst is glowing because it's very hot from the chemical reaction. The catalyst is a gizmo the U researches have created using the metals rhodium and ceria. It's a white, porous plug about the thickness of a thumb. When the ethanol oxygen vapor is forced through the catalyst it strips off the hydrogen atoms."  The unit is compact, about 2 feet long and a few inches thin.  It could be used soon in stationary off-grid or automotive applications. 

  9:54:36 PM  permalink  

Grid computing project hones smallpox research: "the Smallpox Research Grid Project harnessed the idle cycles of 2.5 million PCs in 190 countries. The grid effort, after 39,000 years’ worth of donated CPU time studying 35 million molecules, resulted in the identification of the most-promising 44 drug candidates that could be studied further in traditional laboratory experiments. Each of the 35 million molecules had at least 750 different shapes, resulting in more than 26 billion combinations that had to be studied, said Scott D. Kahn, chief science officer of Accelrys Inc. of San Diego."  On an average day "176 years worth of CPU processing was utilized. It took roughly 13 hours to generate the results for each of the 35 million molecules evaluated."

The project ran from Feb to Oct 2003.  "When United Devices announced the smallpox project in February, the company already had 1.75 million computers using its screensaver to search for cancer and anthrax remedies. Another 100,000 computers downloaded the screensaver in the first 48 hours after the smallpox announcement"

  9:38:40 PM  permalink  

The Zarqawi Rules: "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi .. apparently wrote a 17-page planning memo from Iraq to his Al Qaeda colleagues that was obtained by U.S. forces and revealed this week in The Times. If you read the memo properly, you can extract what might be called "Zarqawi's Rules" — maxims for winning the war on terror.

Massive retaliation works. We now know that Saddam Hussein felt free to defy the international community because he thought that casualty-averse Americans would never actually invade his country. At worst, we'd drop a few bombs, which he could survive. Now our enemies know us better, and respect us more. "America, however, has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes," Zarqawi warns his colleagues. This shift in perceptions should deter some attacks all by itself.

Hard power isn't enough. The extensive coalition effort to hunt down terrorists is clearly making progress. "Our enemy is growing stronger day after day, and its intelligence information increases. By God, this is suffocation!" Zarqawi laments.

But he also says only an indigenous Iraqi security force, backed by a legitimate democratic government, can truly put him out of business. Americans are easy targets. But when Iraqis take control, "you end up having an army and police connected by lineage, blood and appearance to people of the region. How can we kill their cousins and sons and under what pretext? This is the democracy; we will have no pretext."

Going into the war, many American planners assumed that first we would establish stability in Iraq, then introduce democracy. But it's now clear that democracy is the stability. You can't establish order unless locals are invested in their own self-rule and thus are eager to chase bad guys. The lesson is that the so-called soft-power programs — the democracy-building seminars, the civil society efforts, the town hall meetings — are not the gooey icing on the cake of law and order. They are the substance of law and order itself.

Soft power isn't enough. Though Zarqawi senses that his time in Iraq is running out, he is already preparing for the next battle: "If, God forbid, the government is successful and takes control of the country, we just have to pack up and go somewhere else again, where we can raise the flag or die, if God chooses us.""

  9:26:08 PM  permalink  

Grids in a computing hierarchy: "Researchers at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., have a hierarchy of distributed computing resources, with supercomputing at the top, six 48-node Intel/Linux clusters in the middle and a 2,300-PC grid running on United Devices software at the bottom. The goal, says David Moffett, associate vice president for research computing, is to move jobs down the hierarchy, where computing is cheaper.

"I have very high hopes that we can move the whole stream of jobs out of the cluster space down into the United Devices space," Moffett says. Although the PC grid requires a United Devices software license and two dedicated grid servers, "those are close to free cycles," he says.  Moffett plans to expand the grid to include PCs in faculty and administrative offices. And he says he'll make the compute cycles on research computers that have been freed up by the existing PC grid available to business applications. "We've cleared off enough resources high in that stack that they will run up there".

  11:17:33 AM  permalink  

Europe Exceeds U.S. in Refining Grid Computing: Concerns are cited about European research establishments being able to deploy large scale grid computing faster than the US, because it is more centralized.  Also mentions, "Novartis used software by United Devices of Austin, Tex., to link 2,700 desktop personal computers to help create drugs. This summer the company said that it had discovered several promising new chemical molecules with its grid and it planned to expand the system to its entire corporate network of 70,000 personal computers."  Elsewhere, it is reported that "the Novartis drug research software is loaded onto the desktops by way of a server running Grid MetaProcessor software from United Devices Inc. in Austin. By investing $400,000 in grid technology, Novartis avoided spending $2 million on a new Linux cluster. .. [Novartis found] 5 trillion floating-point operations per second of unused capacity in 2,700 desktop PCs at its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland .. to run number-crunching supercomputer applications that model the interactions between proteins and other chemicals that might be used in drugs. "  That works out to about $160 per PC.  11:15:04 AM  permalink  

Grid.org "is a single destination site for large-scale research projects powered by the United Devices grid computing solution, Grid MP Global. With the participation of over 2 million devices worldwide, grid.org projects like Cancer Research, Anthrax Research, and the new Smallpox Research Project have achieved record levels of processing speed and success."  They have a download page to join by loading the United Devices software. One sponsor:  Accelrys -- Software for Pharmaceutical, Chemical, and Materials Research. Much Accelrys software is PC-based, rather than being oriented to grids.  11:02:42 AM  permalink  

Regional Terrorist Groups Pose Growing Threat: "The shifting picture of the terrorist threat flashed before the authorities in Australia last fall when Willie Brigitte, a 35-year-old French citizen, was arrested on terrorism charges. Mr. Brigitte hardly fit the terrorist profile. He was recruited after Sept. 11 and had never trained in the Afghanistan camps, officials said. His name was not on any country's watch list. He entered Australia without being detected, lived for five months in a Sydney suburb and was believed to be selecting targets for attacks, officials said.

But the most unusual part of the case is that the authorities believe that Mr. Brigitte was a low-ranking member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant Pakistani group that was formed a decade ago with help from Pakistan's intelligence service to fight against India in Kashmir. The group was not known to have operations outside that region.  Before the Taliban were driven from power, Lashkar-e-Taiba trained its men at camps in Afghanistan alongside Qaeda camps. Banned by Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, it continues to exist with training camps in Kashmir, officials said. Mr. Brigitte had contacts with Lashkar-e-Taiba members in the United States, Canada and Europe, a senior law enforcement official with knowledge of his interrogation said..

The blurring of boundaries is also the case in Algeria, where the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, better known by its initials as the G.S.P.C., is growing more powerful and expanding its geographical operations, officials said.  A year ago, G.S.P.C. kidnapped a group of European tourists, including nine Germans. The hostages were released after the German government paid a ransom of more than $1 million, a European official said. The money, the official said, has allowed the group to buy weapons, including antiaircraft missiles. The group has increased its activities in Mali and Niger in recent months, officials from several countries said. They say the group's leaders are suspected of setting up training camps in West Africa and of plotting attacks there.  But a senior Western official said finding the camps would be nearly impossible. "That's no man's land," he said."  Ansar al-Islam's expansion into Europe is another regional expansion cited by experts.

  11:01:35 AM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, February 14, 2004


Googling for XML:  Neat collection of google search tricks to locate xml files of various types on the web.   Could be used to develop specialized search engines.  7:18:03 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, February 13, 2004


Activist Ads Dumped from Google: Google "has banned the ads of an environmental group protesting major cruise line Royal Caribbean’s sewage treatment methods, drawing interest to the editorial policies that control the popular Google AdWords program.

Last week, Oceana placed two advertisements with Google, the first describing Oceana’s mission and linking to the organization’s website, http://www.oceana.org, the second focusing on Oceana’s well-known campaign to stop cruise pollution. Google removed the ads after two days, citing the cruise pollution ad for “language that advocates against Royal Caribbean,” and the general ad for using “language advocating against the cruise line industry and cruisers.”  ..

If anything, Oceana has drawn more interest to their cause via today’s news than they normally would buying a limited amount of Google AdWords. When I search for “cruise line” on Google now, the top result shown is a Google News result for this same story in an online newspaper. Perhaps Oceana planned this…. if so GENIUS! If not, well… excellent way to capitalize on the story! "

  11:25:36 PM  permalink  

MPR: Future Tense: 5-minute NPR technology show has a good site with transcripts and recordings of the interviews.  4:29:21 PM  permalink  

Why 802.11 is underhyped: "One clear lesson in the history of technology and business is that once an open standard gains critical mass, it is extremely hard to derail. The x86 computing architecture and the Ethernet networking standard are two salient examples of this truism. Once a single interoperable standard gains the acceptance of multiple vendors in a marketplace, a consumer bias toward compatibility and scale economics create an increasing-returns phenomenon that is nearly unassailable. Open standards obtain a high "stickiness" factor with customers as a result of compatibility. Once customers invest in a standard, they are likely to purchase more and more supporting infrastructure. ..

In five short years, a backwardly compatible 802.11g chip began to offer about 25 times the performance at about one-twentieth the price of the first-generation radios in this market. ..

802.11 will not sit still. Before you know it, the performance gap--especially on a value per dollar basis--will quickly narrow. The x86 processor has doubled its MIPS (million instructions per second) performance every 18 months. Ethernet performance has increased tenfold every three years. The same will happen with open-standard radio, and those that promote the weaknesses of the standard are merely writing the feature list for future innovation on top of the standard. ..

Make no mistake about it: 802.11, or one of its backwardly compatible descendants, will dominate the wireless communications sector over the next 10 years the same way the x86 architecture dominates computing and that Ethernet dominates networking. "

  8:26:01 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, February 12, 2004


Folding@Home Distributed Computing: Another public resource distributed computing grid, with 500,000 registered hosts.  This compares to 4m for SETI (see CACM paper) and aboug 40,000 for climateprediction.net.  Google's compute function profides many subscribers to the Folding network.  Nice maps of users available.  A paper paper measuring Folding@Home's performance impact on PCs shows negligible impact (for most apps under 1%).  Security was designed in, incluing "extensive measures to check all of the data entering your computer and the results we send back to Stanford with 2048 bit digital signatures. If the signatures don't match (on either the input out the output) the client will throw away the data and start again. This ensures, using the best software security measures developed to date (digital signatures and PKI in version 3.0), that we are keeping the tightest possible security."  Result is that the engine is more secure than a browser or other general purpose networked app.

  11:23:58 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Do It Yourself Venture Law: "Over a year ago a group of lawyers from throughout the venture community got together to create what they collectively believed were the model financing documents. After innumerable hours of drafting and arguing, they came to agreement on the documents and have now made them available to the public."  11:12:59 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, February 10, 2004


A suspect emerges as key link in terror chain: "Wherever European prosecutors turn these days, as they unravel suspected Islamic terrorist cells and track leads across the Continent, they keep coming across the fingerprints of one man: Abu Musab Zarqawi. Mr. Zarqawi, a one-legged Jordanian Bedouin currently thought to be hiding in Iran, has emerged as a central suspect in one Al Qaeda-related plot after another..

Turkish police investigating last November's twin synagogue bombings in Istanbul arrested members of two Islamic groups they said had contacts with Zarqawi. Moroccan investigators concluded that Zarqawi organized and financed last June's quintuple bombing of Jewish and Israeli targets in Casablanca that killed 35 people. Italian and German police recently arrested three men on warrants charging them with helping would-be martyrs to travel from Europe to Iraq, at Zarqawi's behest.

Though intelligence analysts differ over Zarqawi's exact relationship to Osama bin Laden, they agree it has become clear that he has used his leadership of Al Tawhid, a Jordanian extremist group, to develop links not only with Al Qaeda but also with Ansar al-Islam, a radical Kurdish group based in Northern Iraq, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and with North African cells in Europe...

In a lengthy tirade against Muslim clerics for not embracing holy war fervently enough, Zarqawi acknowledged the losses his allies have suffered in the US-led war on terror and which seem to have catapulted him to prominence. "I address you after the approvers and backers [of jihad] have become in short supply, after the wounds have multiplied and the misfortune has worsened, and after many pioneering knights and legendary heroes have passed away," he said on the tape..

He himself has avoided that fate .. [In] 1999 Jordanian authorities tied him to an aborted plot to attack a tourist hotel in Amman over the millennium, for which he was later sentenced in absentia to 15 years' hard labor.  In 2000 Zarqawi traveled to Afghanistan, where, according to US intelligence, he ran an Al Qaeda training camp that specialized in chemical and biological agents before being wounded in the leg by a US bombing raid during the Afghan war in 2001. He then fled to Iran, and thence to Iraq, where doctors reportedly amputated his leg and fitted him with a prosthetic limb.  It was that visit to Baghdad that prompted US Secretary of State Colin Powell to cite Zarqawi [in 2003] as evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein ..

It is Zarqawi's link to new Ansar cells in Europe that are of most concern to European investigators [especially] because of his alleged expertise in chemical and biological agents: Men whom authorities link to him were arrested a year ago in London and Paris in possession of small amounts of ricin.."  He is reported to be taking refuge in Iran.

  5:09:38 PM  permalink  

Evidence Ties Al Qaeda to Recent Iraq Attacks: "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian suspected of ties to Al Qaeda, is now thought likely to have played a role in at least three major car-bomb attacks in Iraq that have killed well over 100 people in the last six months, according to senior American officials. ..

One of Mr. Zarqawi's top lieutenants, Hassan Ghul, a Pakistani, was arrested by Americans near the Iranian border last month, and has been interrogated by American military and intelligence officials. .. In a raid on a safe house in Baghdad on Jan. 23, American officials found an electronic copy of a document believed to have been written by Mr. Zarqawi. That document was a detailed proposal asking senior leaders of Al Qaeda for help in waging a "sectarian war" against Shiites in Iraq in the next six months. Parts of it were made available to The New York Times.  The writer of that document indicated that he had directed about 25 suicide bombings inside Iraq, "some of them against Shiites and their leaders, the Americans and their military, and the police, the military and the coalition forces." A senior United States intelligence official in Washington said Sunday that he knew of "no reason to believe the letter is bogus in any way."

  5:09:30 PM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, February 08, 2004


Brazil takes lead role in move to all-digital cinema: "Using the latest technology, Brazil plans to open in May the largest network of digital movie theaters in the world..  The hinterlands of South America's largest country are virtually inaccessible by roads, and copying and transporting hundreds of reels of film is expensive. [A] low-cost distribution system, with built-in antipiracy measures, with 100 theaters - the largest digital network in the world - [is] scheduled to be projecting pixels by May. ..

Although it is considered a developing nation, Brazil's long-standing tradition of openness, coupled with its sheer size, means that there are tens of millions of well-educated techies eager for cutting-edge gadgets and devices.  Brazil has one of the highest rates of Internet use in the developing world, with 95 percent of taxpayers using the web to make their annual income-tax declaration. The country's voting system is fully electronic and its banking software is among the most advanced in the world. Even Brazil's computer hackers are so skilled that a leading expert recently warned, "Brazil is both a laboratory for cybercrime and also its largest exporter worldwide."..

The MPEG-4 software can squeeze a feature film onto a file of just five gigabytes, 15 times smaller than the MPEG-2 technology presently used.  The films are then beamed by satellite to picture houses across the country. Depending on bandwidth, it can take as little as 20 minutes to send a 90-minute film to a theater.  By eliminating celluloid and transport costs, distributors can quickly and cheaply beam blockbusters to distant towns the same day as they première in London, Los Angeles, or Sao Paulo. They can offer a wider range of films and even live broadcasts. [Thanks to high transport costs] Brazil has one of the lowest density of screens per person in the world, an average of one screen per 105,000 people, far fewer than in the United States (one per 9,000), or even Mexico (one per 35,000)."

  5:40:52 PM  permalink  

Big Brother in Britain: Does more surveillance work?: "More than 4 million cameras observe all aspects of life, from town centers to transport systems, office towers to banks, commercial zones to residential areas, restaurants, bars, and even churches. .. In 1990, just three towns had systems. Now some 500 do, after a decade in which more than £250 million ($460 million) of public money was funneled into CCTV systems..

A government review 18 months ago found that security cameras were effective in tackling vehicle crime but had limited effect on other crimes. Improved streetlighting recorded better results.  A new report being drawn up by Professor Gill for the government promises to be no more favorable in its assessment of CCTV as a crime-fighting tool.  "I have talked to offenders about this," says Gill. "They say they are not concerned by security cameras, unless they were actually caught by one." ..

France tends to limit coverage to high-risk locations and public buildings, while in Spain, surveillance is tightly controlled. In Austria, it is used primarily for traffic and transport systems. In Germany, it was severely restricted in public spaces until recently."

  5:30:36 PM  permalink  

The SWIPE Toolkit "allows you to determine what your data bits are worth on the open market... For instance, a typical cellular phone company will ask for your address, date of birth, phone number, Social Security number and driver's license to open a new account. Consult our data calculator and that will be $13.75 please! .. (A downloadable data calculator for Pocket PCs is on the way.)

We used the following sources to determine the worth of your individual data bits: Accurint, Aristotle, ChoicePoint, ChoiceTrust, DocuSearch, Experian, KnowX, Merlin Data, and Pallorium. "
  5:10:28 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, February 04, 2004


SMTP SPF: What SPF Is And Is Not: "Standard SMTP email is anonymous and forgeable. SPF closes this loophole. SFP is primarily an anti-forgery effort. Any benefits in the area of reduced spam, worms, viruses, etc are pleasant side-effects. That said, if SPF causes spammers to send mail from their own domains, we'll be better able to identify and block those domains."  10:03:30 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, February 03, 2004


Army Study of Iraq War Details a "Morass" of Supply Shortages: "the strategy of starting the war before all support troops were in place, in order to achieve an element of surprise, taxed the postwar resources of local commanders, who in many cases were shifting back and forth between combat operations and the task of restoring civil services.  "Local commanders were torn between their fights and providing resources — soldiers, time and logistics — to meet the civilian needs," the report concluded. "Partially due to the scarce resources as a result of the running start, there simply was not enough to do both missions."

The study's authors saved their most biting critique for the logistics operations. When the combat forces raced ahead, the supply lines — "force flow" in military jargon — could not keep pace. "As the campaign progressed, the force flow never caught up with the operational requirements," it found.  Put more bluntly elsewhere in the study, it said that "no one had anything good to say about parts delivery, from the privates at the front to the generals" at the command headquarters.

Other problems cropped up. While divisional commanders could communicate with one another, officers at lower levels often could not. Units separated by long distances in the fast-moving offensive found their radios suddenly out of range, leaving troops to improvise solutions using mobile phones or secure e-mail messaging.

The study also found that future adversaries could draw several lessons from the war: that American forces' reliance on high-tech surveillance satellites and aircraft could be countered by decoys and the imaginative disguise of weaponry; that more powerful warheads for rocket-propelled grenades, already effective against helicopters and light vehicles like Humvees, could offset American armor; that American forces could be drawn into a protracted, costly urban war, more effectively than they were by the Iraqis; and that American forces are vulnerable to classic insurgency tactics, like car bombs."

  5:32:38 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, February 02, 2004


Google Guide: Interactive Tutorial Making Search Even Easier: nice intro to how google works and how to use it well.  8:06:47 PM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, February 01, 2004


genetic-programming.org and genetic-programming.com:  John Koza's sites for academic work and commercialization of GP:  "Genetic programming (GP) is an automated method for creating a working computer program from a high-level problem statement of a problem. Genetic programming starts from a high-level statement of “what needs to be done” and automatically creates a computer program to solve the problem.  There are now 36 instances where genetic programming has automatically produced a result that is competitive with human performance, including  15 instances where genetic programming has created an entity that either infringes or duplicates the functionality of a previously patented 20th-century invention, 6 instances where genetic programming has done the same with respect to a 21st-centry invention, and 2 instances where genetic programming has created a patentable new invention."  10:25:40 AM  permalink  

Imagination Engines, Inc.: "IEI's bleeding edge neural network technology represents "AI's best bet" at creating human level intelligence in machines. "  The principle is to introduce noise in a rigid rule-based neural network. This noise disrupts the connections and helps generating new ideas.  Inventions include the Oral-B CrossAction toothbrush and some industrial materials.  There's an uncritical article from his local paper, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "The machine that invents."  The company website and FAQ lists several applications, many military or intelligence.

Stephen Thaler's words make him sounds like a bit of spacer.  But he does have a grid vision: "I am actively proposing and developing what can only be called a true world brain, wherein the TCP/IP nodes of the Internet are converted to neurons, forming a global neural network cascade that can then introspect on human-originated content. In this system, [the] numbers of interconnects exceeds that of the human brain.."

Also, it does self-improvement:  "Probably the most noteworthy accomplishment of the Creativity Machine Paradigm was the invention of a new neural network scheme called the “Self-Training Artificial Neural Network Object” (STANNO), a totally autonomous self-learning system that may clone itself ad infinitum to produce swarms of independent neural networks that may exhaust all potential discoveries within a targeted database. In this case, we have a prime example of a neural system inventing another neural system."  (Once again, thanks for the tip, Roland.)

  10:07:57 AM  permalink  

The GI's weapon of choice in Iraq: dollars: " In November, the deadliest month for US soldiers in the occupation of Iraq, angry and sometimes desperate calls began streaming back to the US from commanders, complaining that the government wasn't giving them what they needed to battle an intensifying insurgency. But the front-line soldiers weren't calling out for more ammunition .. what they wanted was a little money, enough to restart the Commander's Emergency Response Program, or CERP, a decentralized aid program started shortly after the US occupation began.

The grants, ranging from as little as $1,000 up to $30,000, were designed to get money flowing back into the economy fast. Potholes were filled, schools refurbished, and irrigation canals - choked off by weeds and silt for decades - restored in 12,000 projects across the country. ..

Between May and the end of October, about $80 million was spent. But then the money ran out in the middle of October, and the casualties began to mount. There were both funding problems, and also concerns within the centralized Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad that it didn't have enough oversight of the program.

In November, when little CERP money was available, the coalition casualty count soared to 81 dead from 42 in October and 31 September. In December, after the funding tap was turned back on by congress, which allocated up to $180 million for the program in its 2004 supplemental spending bill, about 40 US soldiers were killed.

"You talk about good will - we could go into a village and fix a well that hadn't worked in 15 years and all of the sudden you've got old women with tears in their eyes and people chanting "President Bush,'' looking like the most staged thing you ever saw in your life,'' says Maj. R.J. Lilli bridge, of the 101st Airborne Division near the northern city of Talafar. "The CERP funds have been a major tool for us." ..

In Samara, in central Iraq, Stryker brigade soldiers arrived Dec. 17 braced for a fight. But according to a report in the Seattle Times, they found many residents were friendly. The soldiers often paid cash - $20 to more than $40 - to residents whose homes were searched and found to be clean of weapons."

US and Coalition military fatalities in Iraq
Month US UK Other* Total Avg/Day
1-2004 39 4 0 43 1.54
12-2003 40 0 8 48 1.55
11-2003 81 1 27 109 3.63
10-2003 42 1 2 45 1.45
9-2003 31 1 1 33 1.10
8-2003 35 6 2 43 1.39
7-2003 46 1 0 47 1.52
6-2003 29 6 0 35 1.17
5-2003 37 4 0 41 1.32
4-2003 73 6 0 79 2.63
3-2003 65 27 0 92 7.67
Total 518 57 40 615 1.95

  12:41:23 AM  permalink  

EarthBrowser: "EarthBrowser is a three dimensional model of the earth with constantly updating live information. Exploring the earth is fun and easy with a point and click interface that lets you rotate and zoom to any desired location."  Customizable too.  Pretty nifty.  12:25:23 AM  permalink  

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