Category Archives: technology

Little robots restore my faith in humanity

intrepid

Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter. Rolling at a constant speed, in a straight line, Tweenbots have a destination displayed on a flag, and rely on people they meet to read this flag and to aim them in the right direction to reach their goal.

Kacie Kinzer makes little robots, and sets them off on little adventures, crossing the street by themselves, and relying on the kindness of strangers. Interestingly, this works out: strangers help the little robots, and try to protect them from danger. This warms my usually cold, cynical heart.

Via Bruce Schneier (who notes that the little bots might have fared less well in Boston…)

Wired: “The Untold Story of the World’s Biggest Diamond Heist”

Wow.

In February 2003, Notarbartolo was arrested for heading a ring of Italian thieves. They were accused of breaking into a vault two floors beneath the Antwerp Diamond Center and making off with at least $100 million worth of loose diamonds, gold, jewelry, and other spoils. The vault was thought to be impenetrable. It was protected by 10 layers of security, including infrared heat detectors, Doppler radar, a magnetic field, a seismic sensor, and a lock with 100 million possible combinations. The robbery was called the heist of the century, and even now the police can’t explain exactly how it was done.

“PKI-me-harder”

The saag list has a thread discussing “SHA-1 to SHA-n transition”, with all the expected bumps, wrinkles, and sad realities. But entertaining and thoughtful. My favorite comment at the moment is one of Peter Gutmann’s:

It looks like we’re nowhere near admitting that we have a
problem yet if the response to the failure of PKI is PKI-me-harder.

It’s a little like the problem of building a boat in your basement, and then seeing you can’t get it out. Is this a design issue, a deployment issue, or have we fundamentally misunderstood the project? (Once you add local zoning and construction regulations, it’s not long before you wish you’d never started this damn boat.)

Big Brother gets Big Shoulders


Mayor Daley has argued that security and terrorism won’t be an issue if his Olympic dreams come true because, by 2016, there will be a surveillance camera on every street corner in Chicago.

Wow.

During a December test, live video was used to catch a petty thief in the act of sticking his hand in a Salvation Army kettle outside Macy’s on State Street.

I would respectfully suggest that Chicago would do better to install monitoring cameras in the offices of politicians.

Mayor Daley needs to think beyond his next law-and-order bumper sticker. The experience in London is nothing we should seek to imitate. As Timothy Garton Ash writes in The Guardian, Liberty in Britain is facing death by a thousand cuts.

The East Germans are now more free than we are, at least in terms of law and administrative practice in such areas as surveillance and data collection. Thirty years ago, they had the Stasi. Today, Britain has such broadly drawn and elastic surveillance laws that Poole borough council could exploit them to spend two weeks spying on a family wrongly accused of lying on a school application form.

New Jott for iPhone

Pretty sweet update to the initial client. The web services integration is a win.

YANAL

Paul Ohm in Freedom to Tinker:

With this post, I’m launching a new, (very) occasional series I’m calling YANAL, for “You Are Not A Lawyer.” In this series, I will try to disabuse computer scientists and other technically minded people of some commonly held misconceptions about the law (and the legal system).

I’ve worked with law enforcement folks on a number of occasions, and have generally been surprised/impressed at the level of concern for civil rights, and appreciation of wider societal issues. Government abuse of civil rights absolutely happens, without any question. But as an ornery civil rights advocate, I have to say I’ve met mostly good people, who are trying to do a difficult and complex job as well as possible.

That said, you should expect the cops to understand the rules of engagement very well (i.e., almost certainly better than you), and to aggressively use the tools available to them in building cases that prosecutors can turn into convictions.

See also “Eight reasons even the innocent shouldn’t talk to the police“, which should be mandatory viewing in high school social studies classes.

Headline of the Day

Drug Made In Milk of Altered Goats Is Approved
(Bonus weird humor points, if you’ve seen Altered States)

Rabbits would breed faster and cows would produce more milk, but Newberry said goats offered the largest supply at the quickest pace.

(We milk Rabbits?)

Stephen Fry recently noted how language merely as a communication tool would make life dull and one-dimensional. We’d miss interesting ideas.

We would never notice if the fat and protein rich food with which cows, ewes and nanny goats suckled their young could not be converted to another, firmer foodstuff that went well with crackers and grapes.

(His idea has several features, now including being rather less spooky than milking drugs from goats)