Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

The sorry state of the autonomous car discussion

Monday, May 25th, 2015

English: Google driverless car operating on a ...As can be evident across the web (for example in this article), the current discussion fueled by Google’s self driving car news and a the possible development plans of other small and large companies is often concerning itself with the morals of a software driven car(1). Which is, frankly, unfortunate.

I think that the only people that should be really bothered by all this talk of “who should the autonomous car kill (in case of an accident)” discussion are the programmers hard at Google and other companies, who are suddenly held to a much higher moral standard than expected of programmers who are responsible, today, to hundreds of lives in each instances – such as programmers for railway systems and passenger jets flight control software.

When you look at the problem from the perspective of autonomous transport control software, that is right now being used to safely transport millions of humans daily, its obvious that the main concern of the designers is to have quantitatively better response (more consistent and faster, in that order) than a human, for adverse situations, but qualitatively better – that is, the systems will not pretend to make decisions morally better than a human would do at any given situation, just perform better on the exact same actions that the human it replaces will have taken anyway.

So when a Google self-driving car programmer comes answer to the “trolley problem” or the “fat man problem” discussed in the linked article, they should not be held to a higher moral standard than the average driver, because that is who they are replacing.

 


  1. that is, immediately after the “ooh, technology is so awesome” debate []

How to circumvent the free Wi-Fi content filter, for fame & profit

Monday, May 18th, 2015

I’m very grateful for the free Wi-Fi on the train, the coffee shop or the municipal free Wi-Fi, but the content filter they have on their proxies is sometimes really weird – for example it may blocks one of my favorite podcasts website (the Jupiter Broadcasting network) under the category “streaming media” even though they don’t actually host their video files, but they do let through YouTube and Facebook (where most cat videos are posted these days). So apparently Israeli Rail has an aversion to streaming media so they won’t let me send an email to a small podcast, but I can watch all the cat videos I want. Weird. Also, most VPN services are blocked by default, so no help will be coming from that way(1).

So, to fix that, here’s a small workaround using an external proxy – this is rather simple, but it does assume you have all kinds of tools that most users won’t have just lying around – but if you’re a Linux geek you should do just fine.

(more…)


  1. I’ve checked the OpenVPN ports are blocked, as well as all web-based proxies I could find, such as FoxyProxy and Hola. I’ve encountered in the past a weird VPN software that does not use standard UDP or TCP sockets, but instead using GRE packets and I have no idea if that would work, but I’m assuming it won’t as well. []

Why Microsoft Will Not Extend Windows 7 End-Of-Life

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

[This is mostly a summary of a discussion on Google Plus, that you can find here]

Recap: The world (or at least clueless tech journalists) was surprised to learn (once they bothered to look it up) that Microsoft will not extends Windows 7 end of “mainstream support” – which is scheduled for January 2015 (about 6 months from now). This was all planned way in advance – Microsoft basically committed to end “mainstream support” in 2015 by not releasing any service pack for Windows 7 since the beginning of 2010, instead they want people to move to the next version of their software. In most normal software markets, this is a no-brainer – who have heard of a Macintosh user still clinging to Mac OS X 10.7? or an Adobe Photoshop user who refuses to upgrade past CS3? But instead you now hear calls for Microsoft to extends Windows 7 an artificial life line, like it did with XP.

And here’s why XP will never happen again:

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Microsoft vs. No-IP and the failure of the US legal system

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

There is one thing that really troubled me about the Microsoft dynamic DNS fiasco that no one seems to talk about, which I really wanted to raise, but first here’s a short recap for those not in the know: Microsoft “cyber-security” department convinced a US federal court to issue an order to transfer 22 internet domains owned by the popular No-IP dynamic DNS service into their custody, in an attempt to remove specific hosts under those domains that are supposedly used as malware control centers.

The issue I have is very simple – under what conditions can it be possible for a private company, to ask a court to transfer ownership of a property from another private company? This sounds seriously like private policing and somehow it is endorsed by the judicial system ?!? Under what authority can something like this be allowed?

This situation is massively more grievous because the court order was given “ex-parte” – legalese for “without the other party appearing to defend itself”, but even if everything was over the table and in the clear, and the defending lawyer incredibly incompetent, what kind of argument a private entity can offer to get a court to simply transfer control of another private entity?(1).


  1. except obviously arguing that the property was stolen, which is clearly not the case []

Code Spaces break-in lessons: using your infrastructure provider for backup is a single point of failure

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Summary of the events of the Code Space break-in: Code Spaces was hosting their services on Amazon Web Services VPS infrastructure. An attacker managed to gain access to their AWS administration console account and after his demands for ransom were not answered, proceeded to delete all the data in the account.

The disaster recovery plan for Code Spaces was based on having machine images and data backups stored in AWS, everything was gone, and Code Spaces basically had to shutdown.

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Canonical announced a new display server – Mir, and it is good for the consumer

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Canonical have last week announced that they are developing their own display server to replace the ubiquitous X display server, a project called Mir, and the shit storm has begun anew(as what happened after Unity, Ubuntu Touch and other Canonical announcements). Contrary to popular belief, I think that this happening is a good thing for the Linux community in whole.

There are many reasons why I think this is good, most are not really concrete technical things, but I can list a few:

  • X11 is showing its age. There were some internal efforts to modernize it (e.g. kdrive which have mostly merged into the existing code) and some external efforts to replace it (Fresco and Wayland to name a few), but none have made much of an impact on the current state of Linux display.
  • From first look, Mir is a modern code base written in C++11 and Boost, which I like.
  • Diversity is generally a good thing.

If we go over the last point in a bit more depth, I think we can see why Mir would generally be a good thing for Linux developers and users and why people should stop being negative.

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What is Windows XP for you?

Friday, January 25th, 2013

I just “love” this quote from this PC-Magazine article:

… the amazingly enduring Windows XP—easily Microsoft’s most successful enterprise product ever…

Which is a really cock-eyed way to look at the operating system market, which completely ignores purchasing decisions by millions of users world-wide. A better description of Windows XP might be:

The last reasonably well-made operating system that Microsoft made

Users aren’t migrating from Windows XP because its so good(1) – they keep using Windows XP because every later OS is really bad.


  1. hint: it isn’t []

TurkTrust CA certificate breach and what does it mean for you

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

A pseudo analysis of the issue that was brought to my attention by Eric Klien’s post here. The following text is slightly edited version of my comment on the post, reproduced here because I think its important for my readers to be aware of the issue.

A new CA kerfuffle has broken out yesterday, and here are some of the headlines:

The information for the discussion below was sourced from these, more technical, articles(1):

To summarize, the problem was a botched test process in TurkTrust CA (as part of an external security audit) that caused a CA profile to be set up to generate “sub CA” certificates, and following that the profile was copied to the production system and subsequently used to generate two certificates before the problem was discovered and fixed (I assume the test profile was removed from the production system), but only 1 of those certificate was revoked. (more…)


  1. I applaud BBC for trying to present a complex security issue in “layman terms”, but as someone who is familiar with the technology in question, it gave me quite a headache, trying to “reverse translate” the text []

Another form of recycling

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

This was on the bus stop bench outside my work today:

image

The note under the memory modules (3 sticks, 512MB each, either PC100 or PC123) says “please take”.

I never thought about trying that. Do you think I can do the same with my old CRT?

Apple’s next iPhone 5 will have everything we’ve already seen on Android

Monday, July 9th, 2012

International Business Times has published an article with some features made available by iOS 6 that is likely iPhone 5 will offer:

Answering/Declining Calls – Users will now have the option to answer or decline calls. Users may send a text message from a choice of pre-programmed options if you wish not to be disturbed at the moment. Users will also be able to remind themselves to return the missed calls later.

Really? That’s a new feature? Having used these features constantly since, like, forever on Android, I’m actually very surprised that iOS didn’t have those up till now.

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