Invited to and setup keybase.io a few days ago. OK, now what? Guess I don’t do much file sharing.
I share Cory Doctorow’s ambivalence towards to increasingly popular digital currency, Bitcoin. I like the abstract idea since I first encountered rough forms of it in fiction. Reading up on Bitcoin, I have failed to find anything that convinces me that it either will ultimately replace a large chunk of traditional currency or it will implode, perhaps dangerously so, due to some fatal design or implementation flaw. I am a bit mystified at why it has succeeded where so many other schemes, ones arguably better designed, haven’t managed to go anywhere.
I appreciate that Cory is drawing attention to some of the better considered and researched discussions of Bitcoin, like this post by Edward Z. Yang. In it he works through how the hardwiring of SHA-256 will at some point force a transition to a successor currency and how a decentralized scheme for doing so will falter compared to a centrally managed one.
At this point, we’ll take a short detour into the mooncake black market, a fascinating “currency” in China that has many similar properties to an obsolescing Bitcoin. The premise behind this market is that, while giving cash bribes are illegal, giving moon cake vouchers are not. Thus, someone looking to bribe someone can simply “gift” them a moon cake voucher, which is then sold on the black market to be converted back into cash.
The problem with mooncake vouchers, which must be converted into actual cakes at the Autumn Festival, is the same as the method for a decentralized transition from Bitcoin to a notional successor. At some point, the bottom falls out of the market as fewer and fewer buyers remain willing to purchase the quickly obsolescing cash.
Yang admits this all assumes Bitcoin has the staying power to make it to the point where SHA-256 is broken and needs replacing. Given how quickly MD5 was thoroughly defeated and practical attacks were demonstrated against SHA-1, it isn’t an unreasonable question to ponder even if the currency has a short lifespan.
Despite its flaws, namely that it isn’t exactly as anonymous as actual cash, the online only, cryptographically rooted currency, BitCoin, seems to be garnering more attention than any of its predecessors in the space. As Slashdot notes, it arguably has achieved greater actual success too attracting a considerable number merchants, markets and open exchanges (for converting BitCoins into other kinds of spendable currency). Last year EFF announced they would accept donations via the P2P system. (I followed their example soon after, see my support page for the details on BitCoin donations.)
The point of the Slashdot post, however, is to note that BitCoins have grown in value to the point where the most common exchanges now hover right around the one-to-one rate with US Dollars.
- New technology allows drawing, and erasing, wires on circuits
Tim Barribeau at io9 points to some research that initial seems similar to a story I discussed a while back, about using a heated atomic force microscope to etch conductive traces in graphene. The materials involved are a bit more complex but unlike the graphene research, erasure is definitely doable where it was a vague possibility using the oxidized carbon substrate.
- Eight epic failures of regulating cryptography
In the wake of the feds’ campaign to make surveilling the internet easier, EFF has some timely reminders of how legally mandating functions and aspects of cryptography is a problem. I am a fan of the constitutional argument and the final point in the last, the absence of proof of harm or risk.
- AP wants to become the ASCAP of news, Techdirt
- European court rules against indiscriminate copyright levies blank media, Ars Technica
- Bicycle thief burdened with unusual computer-related restrictions as part of probation, Slashdot
- Stuxnet analysis backs Iran-Israel connection, Slashdot
- Clues point to Israel as author of Stuxnet, or not, Wired
- Iran claims it’s tamed Stuxnet, arrested Israeli spies, ReadWriteWeb
- Could wiretapping law curtail quantum crypto development?, Scientific American
- Latest ACTA round ends with near agreement, Michael Geist
- More on largely finalized ACTA draft, Ars Technica
- EU parliament members not at all happy about ACTA, Techdirt
- Mexican senator proposes Mexico withdraw from ACTA, BoingBoing
- Latest draft of ACTA released, KEI
- US cave on ACTA internet chapter complete, Michael Geist
- OLPC gets $5.6M grant to develop tablet with Marvell, Slashdot
- Open Stack will be an option for Ubuntu’s server offering, The Register
- Oracle declines to join Document Foundation and its Libre Office fork, Computer World, via Groklaw’s news picks
- Google denies infringing Oracle’s patents, Wired
- Google cites history of Java in response to Oracles patent claims, ReadWriteWeb
- AT&T isn’t going to let FCC rules deter its use of paid prioritization, Ars Technica
- French ISP refuses to send out infringement notices, Slashdot
- British teen jailed over encryption password
Slashdot has the details and link to the full story. I cannot say that this would have end better here in the US as there is a fairly straightforward dodge to 5th Amendment protections. In and of itself, an encryption key is not incriminating. I don’t know that all judges hold with that interpretation but I am sure some prosecutors have pushed the argument or will do so.
- More details on hacking the DC internet voting pilot, Freedom to Tinker
- DC suspends online voting test, Slashdot
- OLPC’s new tablet not for the developing world
I didn’t catch this aspect of the new grant to the OLPC project to work with Marvell in producing a new tablet. The device in question, as The Register explains, won’t be produced for distribution in developing nations like the XO. Negroponte is explaining the tablet, a departure in many ways for efforts past, will be an interim step to the XO 4, the next devices meant to serve the project’s main mission of affordable educational technology.
- Libyan, .ly, domain shut down for violating that countries standards, ReadWriteWeb
- Data portability finally comes to Facebook
Jacqui Cheung at Ars Technica was one of many to cover the announcements today from the dominant social network. She doesn’t speculate about the ability to export all of your data or the new dashboard, similar to Google’s privacy dashboard, that gives a more comprehensive view of your apps and what data they access. I am skeptical they’ve turned a new leaf. The other announcement, about ways to group your friends, also seems like it is reactionary to me. Rumors have been floating around for a bit now about a Google social network and the most compelling evidence would have the service strongly differentiating based on a user’s ability to segment their friends into different contexts and audiences.
- JaegerMonkey now in Firefox nightly builds, ReadWriteWeb
- Google moves beyond map/reduce for new index system
The Register has some surprisingly good crunchy technical detail on how and why Caffeine works they way it does. If BigTable is similar to the other, large scale post-relational databases I’ve been exploring, then the transition makes sense to accomplish the goal of faster, more accessible updates to the index. I am eager to see the promised research paper when that is available.
- Original Navajo Code Talker and code developer dies at 91, BoingBoing
- Pirate Party leaks EU surveillance plan, Slashdot
- More research on alternate topologies for the internet, Ars Technica
- Darpa project aiming at child equivalent intelligence in AI
As Katie Drummond at Wired explains, their plan from there is to instruct such a software agent consistent with how we do our own children. It makes a certain amount of sense, in terms of a more tractable goal and leveraging learning capabilities that might be augmentable once running.
- Online censorship as a trade barrier, Google
This is news cast 223, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.
In the intro, an obligatory reminder there will be no new shows on the 29th, the 1st and the 5th because of Dragon*Con. Also, if you are in the north west of the UK, check out U^3 an UnWorkShop being held the 28th of August.
This week’s security alerts are a Firefox bug bypasses URL protection for embedded frames and an old Linux Kernel flaw allows exploits to acquire root privileges.
In this week’s news the end of privacy, a new probabilistic processor design, a thirty year old crypto system is resistant to quantum cryptanalysis, and privacy concerns (among others) over Facebook’s new Places feature. The EFF already has a guide to protecting your privacy against it.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
- Deconstructing the Internet kill switch
Bruce Schneier takes a detailed look at a legislative instituted internet kill switch, despite his skepticism over the law making, past and present, required to create one. The reasoning here is not very surprising if you pause to thinking about it for a moment, mostly that the very distributed and robust nature of the Internet by design makes it hard to even partially shut down or seal off. Worth reading the whole post if for nothing else than to help in communicating to the congress critters contemplating some variation of this idea.
- Brazilian implementation of WCT puts fair use, public domain before DRM
As Michael Geist and other critics of the Canadian DMCA, C-32, have noted, all of its concessions to public interest are foiled by the fact that the use of DRM takes precedence over any fair dealing. Geist points explains how Brazil has taken the opposite approach with its local implementation of the WIPO Copyright Treaty, doing what the DMCA and C-32 both fail to, preserving critical limitations and exceptions into the application of copyright to digital technology. In other words, in Brazil, it will be legal to crack digital locks to access public domain works and to exercise fair use.
- New version of bitcoin is released
- Improved, optical ion trap may have applications in quantum computing
- UK law firm gets into the business of mass pursuit of infringement purely for profit
- The problem with the copyright permission culture
- Army’s self driving trucks let humans watch for bombs
- Self replicating MakerBot
Via Nat’s Four Short Links on O’Reilly Radar. As he notes, highly appropriate as MakerBot started as a modified RepRap which was all about being self reproducible.
- AI used to predict manhole explosions in NYC
I had no idea the scale of this problem was worth harnessing machine learning to tackle but according to Slashdot, apparently it is. It sounds to me like a pretty big multivariate analysis depending on pretty laboriously collected data and observations from the field. Regardless of the risk of a heavy, iron manhole cover being ejected in a gout of flame and gas, the idea to use an AI to help stay on top of the mammoth maintenance challenge for a city as old as New York greatly appeals to me.
- NetApp threatens sellers of appliances running ZFS
What the Slashdot summary glosses over but the linked articles make a bit more clear is that there is a history to these complaints to goes back a ways. The same company apparently repeatedly threatened Sun for much the same reason that they are now threatening NAS maker Coraid. I find it hard to credit that there isn’t a less fraught file system offering similar capabilities originating more directly from the FLOSS world.
- Mousing without a mouse
Priya Ganapati describes an MIT project from the creator of Sixth Sense, Pranav Mistry. It definitely seems to be strongly related, using commodity hardware to track your mousing hand as you pantomime the gestures you’ve become used to in order to drive your computer without actually needing a mouse. Given the rate at which scroll wheels get gummed up, I would gladly invest many times more than the $20 figure quoted to never have to clean any part of a mouse ever again.
- Incremental update to OLPC XO to include multitouch screen
Via Hacker News.
- Skype’s encryption is partially reverse engineered
- Fan remake of Ultima VI released
- Blizzard backs down on requiring real names in its forums