FEATURED STORY

Intoxicating machines

The revolutionary thing about desktop machines is that they'll make experimentation easier.

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Cropped screenshot of Carvey. Source: the Carvey Kickstarter campaign.

“Mr. Frankel, who started this program, began to suffer from the computer disease that anybody who works with computers now knows about,” [Richard] Feynman later explained. “The trouble with computers is you play with them.”
— George Dyson, describing the beginning of the Manhattan Project’s computing effort in Turing’s Cathedral.

I’ve been reading George Dyson’s terrific history of the early development of the digital computer, and the quote above struck me. Even when they were little more than room-sized adding machines that had to be painstakingly programmed with punchcards, computers offered an intoxicating way to experiment. Most programmers can probably remember their first few scripts and the thrilling feeling of performing millions of operations in seconds. Computers let us take some abstracted human process and repeat it quickly, at almost no cost, with easy modification along the way. Read more…

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Inside Solid: what won’t drones do?

How Moore's Law applies to drones — a backchannel meditation on drone limitations.

prime-air_high-resolution02Extrapolation is great fun — especially over technology, where Moore’s Law has conditioned us to expect exponentially falling costs and fast adoption. Applied to drones, extrapolation might lead us to conclude that they’ll fill the skies soon, delivering anything we want on demand. They are, after all, rapidly getting cheaper and smarter, and drone-related announcements get tons of press.

So, where will the drones stop? A few of us meditated on the limitations of drones last week on news that Facebook plans to use them to provide Internet connections to those who don’t have them, and on DHL’s announcement that it would begin making deliveries by drone to the island of Juist, in the North Sea. An edited excerpt of our exchange follows. Read more…

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Stop hacking random stuff. It’s getting trivial.

Once we acknowledge nearly everything is insecure, we can engage in a more nuanced discussion about security.

Keep_Gate_Closed_mt2ri_FlickrI was gratified to read Dave Aitel’s rant about junk hacking last week [via Peter Lewis and abridged below]:

“Yes, we get it. Cars, boats, buses, and those singing fish plaques are all hackable and have no security. Most conferences these days have a whole track called ‘Junk I found around my house and how I am going to scare you by hacking it.’ That stuff is always going to be hackable whetherornotyouarethecalvalry.org.

“Yes, there is Junk in your garage, and you can hack it, and if
you find someone else who happens to have that exact same Junk, you can probably hack that, too, but maybe not, because testing is hard.

“Cars are the pinnacle of junk hacking, because they are meant to be in your garage. Obviously there is no security on car computers. Nor (and I hate to break the suspense) *will there ever be*. Yes, you can connect a device to my midlife crisis car and update the CPU of the battery itself with malware, which can in theory explode my whole car on the way to BJJ. I personally hope you don’t. But I know it’s possible the same way I know it’s possible to secretly rewire my toaster oven to overcook my toast every time even when I put it on the lowest setting, driving me slowly but surely insane.

“So in any case, enough with the Junk Hacking, and enough with being amazed when people hack their junk.”

Read more…

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In pursuit of universal IoT standards

Universal standards could super-charge IoT growth, but can we get there?

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The first remotely operated domestic machine — a toaster — was connected to the Internet less than a quarter-century ago, in 1990. The Internet of Things (IoT) doubled in size a year later with the addition of a coffee pot. Eventually, the Internet Engineering Task Force Network Working Group assigned the coffee pot its own specific standard, HTCPCP 1.0, the Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol, RFC 2324.

The Internet of Things has grown a bit since then, to somewhere between two billion and 10 billion devices, depending on who’s counting. But it could grow even faster, according to many of the biggest names in the global technology industry, if everyone would just agree on a universal set of technical standards.

The trillion-dollar question is, whose standards? Read more…

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Prepare for change now, and you’ll be ready for it later

Max Firtman on the future of mobile and the importance of embracing change.

Companies and developers have plenty of mobile development challenges — OS platforms, the growing number of devices and screen sizes, and the myriad requirements of browsers, to name a few. Soon — or already — the Internet of Things is going to muddy the waters further. In a recent interview, Max Firtman, founder of ITMaster, stressed the importance of the growing ubiquitousness of IoT and the necessity that companies embrace the future:

”Maybe in 10 years, we’re going to see devices everywhere sending input information to apps that might be in the server, in the cloud — and those apps will carry some kind of intelligence, and will bring us back information on other devices that could be a smart watch, smart glass, a phone; we don’t know, yet, exactly what will be here. But there are a lot of challenges there for content owners or companies because you need to understand that you’re going to be everywhere.

Read more…

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One man willingly gave Google his data. See what happened next.

Google requires quid for its quo, but it offers something many don’t: user data access.

Despite some misgivings about the company’s product course and service permanence (I was an early and fanatical user of Google Wave), my relationship with Google is one of mutual symbiosis. Its “better mousetrap” approach to products and services, the width and breadth of online, mobile, and behind-the-scenes offerings saves me countless hours every week in exchange for a slice of my private life, laid bare before its algorithms and analyzed for marketing purposes.

I am writing this on a Chromebook by a lake, using Google Docs and images in Google Drive. I found my way here, through the thick underbrush along a long since forgotten former fishmonger’s trail, on Google Maps after Google Now offered me a glimpse of the place as one of the recommended local attractions.

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The lake I found via Google Maps and a recommendation from Google Now.

Admittedly, having my documents, my photos, my to-do lists, contacts, and much more on Google, depending on it as a research tool and mail client, map provider and domain host, is scary. And as much as I understand my dependence on Google to carry the potential for problems, the fact remains that none of those dependencies, not one shred of data, and certainly not one iota of my private life, is known to the company without my explicit, active, consent. Read more…

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