Quick Security Alerts for Week Ending 10/31/2010

feeds | grep links > Hotels Held to ISP Regulations, Another Interactive HTTP Tool, and More

feeds | grep links > IBM-Oracle Java Pact, Interactive HTTP Tool, Future of the Cell Processor, and More

A New, Java Based Parallel Language

The EE Times links to the announcement from the Universal Parallel Computing Research Center (UPCRC) at the University of Illinois of the Deterministic Parallel Java project.

The broad goal of our project is to provide deterministic-by-default semantics for an object-oriented, imperative parallel language, using primarily compile-time checking. “Deterministic” means that the program produces the same visible output for a given input, in all executions. “By default” means that deterministic behavior is guaranteed unless the programmer explicitly requests nondeterminism. This is in contrast to today’s shared-memory programming models (e.g., threads and locks), which are inherently nondeterministic and can even have undetected data races.

UPCRC is a cross disciplinary project across several departments at the university and with Microsoft and Intel. The DPJ project is being led by Professor Vikram Adve and Ph.D. student, Robert Bocchino. The emphasis is on ease of use rather than exploring beyond the current conceptual horizon of parallel programming research.

My first thought on reading that this was based on Java was to dismiss it as a minor step forward. Looking through the tutorial, though, I think this is worthy of more attention. The choice of Java was driven more by the ease of implementation than the current approach to parallelism in that language. The fork-join model described reminds me, at least conceptually of Go, Google’s C-like concurrent programming language. The UPCRC is also working on a set of extensions for C++, with the help of Intel, that would make their implementation even more available to more programmers.

The real value of efforts like these is getting concepts like the fork-join approach to task parallelism out and into the hands of working programmers. The work at UPCRC was presented at last year’s OOPSLA but this announcement is the first I’ve heard of it. The open source license (GPL2), available code, tutorials and other documentation is very encouraging for those who simply want to grab the fruits of this team’s research and see what it makes possible.

University releases parallel programming language, EE Times

feeds | grep links > Plans for Firefox Home, Review of “Get Lamp”, Open HDCP Software Implementation, and More

  • Contest to produce JavaScript demos no more than 1Kb
    Slashdot links to this now concluded contest that sort of reminds me of the demo scene in terms of the constraint to bum down code as much as possible. The results are a bit more diverse, including many interactive games as well as passive animations. More so than a lot of recent and fairly contrived “HTML5” demos, the finalists in JS1K really showcase what modern browsers can do.
  • Firefox Home adding more devices, social capabilities
    Chris Cameron at ReadWriteWeb shares news of Mozilla’s plans for their Sync client for iPhone. Personally, I cannot wait to get an Android powered replacement for my iPod Touch and start running Fennec, their full mobile browser, but in the interim I’m happy that Home is getting such attention from the lizard wranglers. I especially cannot wait for the password sync support planned for a future release.
  • Congress passes internet, smart phone accessibility bill, Washington Post
  • Update to private cloud-based file system, Tahoe-LAFS, BoingBoing
  • Android software piracy rampant, Slashdot
  • A Review of Jason Scott’s “Get Lamp”
    Text adventure games figured largely in my earliest experiences of computers. It was a no brainer for me to pick up a copy of Scott’s documentary on the subject. I enjoyed it immensely and am far from finished exploring all the material he has included in the two disc set. Jeremy Reimer at Ars Technica has a glowing review that resonates very strongly with my own experience of the work.
  • EFF, others, support Microsoft in case trying to make patent invalidation easier, EFF
  • Open HDCP software implementation released
    Ars Technica, among others, has news of researchers using the recently leaked HDCP keys to build an open source program capable of decrypting encoded digital video streams. Peter Bright questions the utility of the effort as it would still require some sort of hardware to connect into your home media ecosystem. I think the overlooks the very strong tradition of these sorts of proofs of concept developed by security researchers interested in the system more so than its applications.

Mozilla Releases JavaScript Engine Aimed at Research

As The Register explains, this JavaScript engine isn’t aimed at use but rather to make the process of researching the future of the language more inclusive. From Mozilla Labs Tom Austin:

“In programming language (PL) research, we like to write up fancy evaluation rules containing lots of Greek letters. Unfortunately, these rules tend to be inscrutable to anyone who isn’t a PL researcher. Even for PL researchers, there is something unsatisfying about seeing a bunch of rules on a piece of paper.”

Practical concerns rank on his list along side syntax and semantics. JavaScript, especially as implemented in browsers, is the target of a lot of programmers’ ire. Perhaps this effort will lead to more of those who complain the loudest contributing ideas and code. I believe self interest is a powerful motivator so it’s more than likely going to be a benefit of the Narcissus engine and its companion script look-up tool, Zaphod.

Mozilla Labs pops out JavaScript language tool for coders, The Register

feeds | grep links > D in Gnu’s Debugger, Police Raids Hit Wikileaks and Pirate Bay, Hope and Hype in Quantum Computing, and More

I am back from Dragon*Con but thoroughly wiped out. It looks like I will return to my usual blogging routine tomorrow. For now, here are some more links.

feeds | grep links > Mozilla Cloud Editor Renamed, Google to Simplify Privacy Policies, Brazil May Legalize File Sharing, and More

I am still on the road, returning from Dragon*Con in Atlanta. There four more hours between me and DC, which will be tackled tomorrow, bright and early. My blogging should return to normal either tomorrow or Wednesday.

feeds | grep links > Digital Census in Brazil, Ads that Stalk Surfers, Cyanogen Supports FroYo, and More

CodeSounding, Sonification of Source Code Structure

So much for only posting some links tonight.

I saw this project via Hacker News, which reminded me of two other recent stories. One I shared a while back was video of sonification of various sorting algorithms. The first sample at the CodeSounding project page sounds similar which is surprising to me. A sort algorithm only has a few dimensions of interest, mostly time and relative magnitude of elements being sorted.

The reason I am surprised by the similarity between some of the samples and the very simple sonic space produced from sorting is due to the other recent story, Jonathan Berger’s lecture (mp3 link) on TVO’s Big Ideas about the social ethics of music. In that lecture, he specifically presents sonification of data sets that have a deep social dimension, for instance the spread of the oil plume in the gulf. Berger is a composer so perhaps his work, which uses similar techniques, shows more of his hand as a maker. His finished work definitely is meant to be as evocative in the result as the original input.

However one of the things he said that stuck with me is how music, and sound more generally, is better than visualization for representing multidimensional data. I would expect code to open up much more fully using sonification than the CodeSounding samples represent. Maybe it just wants for a hacker/musician to do a better job mapping the interesting dimensional elements of source code into the sound scape.

Word of warning, I could not find any license information so I suspect it is all rights reserved. That and the fact it takes in Java class and jar files, being written itself in Java, may be a turn off. Or an inspiration for an open source project to do one better.

CodeSounding: computer generated music sounds from a source code structure