Week in Review for 5/17/2009

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  • Levy on Wolfram’s search engine, Alpha
    This Wired piece is a good snapshot of Alpha and Wolfram’s thoughts on it. Levy makes the early stage of the effort very clear, more so than some others who’ve tried Alpha or made observations about it.
  • Pattern found in digits of large prime numbers
    The pattern has to do with the distribution of primes in a particular sequence, more specifically, the leading digit if I understand the phys.org article correctly. This doesn’t directly bear on the use of large primes for computer cryptography but it does potentially have applications in comparing expected, natural distributions of statistical sequence. The article mentions fraud detection, I wonder if it could help with identifying bots from real humans to help with spam and other online irritants.
  • Microsoft to irritate Windows 7 testers into paid upgrade
    Instead of just nagging users of the final beta, as the ITPro article suggests would be the sane thing to do, apparently the release candidate will shut down every two hours for the three months leading up to its expiration date. Again, when will Microsoft get that these sorts of tactics just don’t help. Pirates will pirate no matter what and they are only destroying what little customer good will they have left.
  • Cornell lifts restrictions on public domain materials
    Cory has the announcement on BB and a link to Cornell’s press release. I am sure there were reasons for requiring permission but I am glad the university is moving to a more simple policies and, as the release says, one more consistent with their position on open access.
  • WSJ to try micro-payments and why it will fail
    Techdirt’s Masnick reminds us how micro-payments have not worked yet though tried multiple times. According to the WSJ, the price on some articles won’t even be so micro. Isn’t this the definition of insanity? I know they are flailing but even random ideas would be better than known ideas that have never worked.
  • News site ads getting even larger
    According to the NYT’s this is a response to slowing add sales. Ad size has trended upwards, before, but they need to be careful as they may incite a user backlash if they tip the balance too far away from actual content.
  • NYT on jailbreaking iPhones
    I am so glad to see mainstream coverage on this. There really isn’t anything new in this article but the fact that it is being discussed on a forum so far removed from activists and hackers says something about the size of lost opportunities, frustrations and even more battles no doubt to come.
  • New language claims the best of Lisp, Python and C
    via Hacker News, despite the silly name and the nice humorous quote from Knuth, this sounds like an interesting effort. As with my discussion of D, it does beg the question of why we can’t be developing hybrid languages with the best features of what has gone before. I like that transactional memory is on the roadmap, another interesting research effort I’d like to see tested in practice.
  • Gigabit WiFi, without the penetrating power
    According to the Ars article, this sounds like a cable replacement. Given its inability to propagate through interior walls very well, I doubt it will work well for home media streaming from desktop or server systems. That seems like a pretty big limit as otherwise it would only be useful for those with a media server local to their other media components.
  • Is thinking of the network in terms of sockets too limiting?
    Slashdot links to a nice ACM Queue article. There’s a good history as well as a thoughtful consideration of the question. I would have liked to see at least pointers to an alternative but at least what is addressed is done so well.
  • Performance rights act schedule for debate
    This bill would amend the copyright code to grant a right for performance of recordings, traditionally exempt for terrestrial broadcast. It is through committee but no date on when it will reach the floor of the House or Senate as of yet.
  • TTS now being disabled on Kindle, are DRM-free works exempt?
    Cory has some good detail at BB about how the flag disabling text to speech works but it really does beg more questions, primarily what other flags are in the software. Cory’s interest, not surprisingly, stems from his critical inquiries over the DRM-free version of the Kindle format.
  • Breathalyzer sources analyzed, considerable problems revealed
    According to Cory’s post on BB, it looks like the defendants weren’t just being obstructionist, at least in NJ. There is real cause for concern, here, about the potentially high rate of false positives. Its is clear this needs the same oversight and attention as e-voting, as Cory suggests.
  • Massive Google outage
    I don’t buy into some arguments against cloud computing in general stemming from this severe downtime. According to Google this is a simple mistake. Just the kind of thing any server operator could have run afoul of, running an application yourself is no guarantee you’ll avoid these kinds of problems.
  • Google rolls out improvements to its OpenID API
    RWW has the details, most visibly more improvements of simplifying the authentication work flow. There is also some less noticeable enrichment of the data possibly shared between negotiating services.
  • MySQL creates open database alliance, plans consolidation, re-factoring
    This is pretty consistent with Monty’s statements about tending the development of MySQL at his new company, Monty Program AB, and its project, MariaDB. Listen to this week’s follow ups to hear the man’s own words, though the video I link to there pre-dates this announcement.
  • Is FB censoring private message violating wire tapping laws?
    The TLF is skeptical of the application of this law. I don’t agree so strongly with their identification of agency, though I agree generally with their analysis. The point about the service’s terms and conditions is more relevant, I think, though the lack of agency does muddy the waters. Odd that there is no mention of free speech concerns, more emphasis on operators using filtering to serve the market.
  • China claims to have invented hack proof processor, OS
    Masnick’s skepticism is the appropriate response here. The scope of Kylin, the OS in question, seems limited to counter-intelligence. This may increase the cost of US foreign intelligence efforts but if our efforts are adequately diversified, then it shouldn’t be any different than any other defensive measures to which an attacker must continually adapt.
  • Copyright dispute leads mashup artist to release album as bank disc
    Masnick does a good job covering the relevant details in this Techdirt piece. I like seeing the hacker spirit channeled by non-hackers. Here, the artist is simply routing around the damage in the distribution system.
  • Frightening legislative ideas to save ailing press
    Kevin Crosby sent this one to my attention. The suggestion by these two industry lawyers would institutionalize some of the specious legal theories and arguments being advanced in the conversation of how to bailout the news industry. Jarvis’ analysis is spot on, the whole thing would be laughable if they weren’t serious.
  • Hadoop breaks world sorting record
    Mad props for Doug Cuttings open source project, an implementation of a massively distributed map-reduce. Both Hadoop and his previous effort, Lucene, keep popping up driving some very impressive efforts so this latest is hardly a surprise.

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