Exploring CS — Both courses are designed to teach the fundamental concepts and big ideas of computing along with coding, and to inspire kids about computer science’s creative potential to transform society.
Why Computer Literacy Is Key To Winning the 21st Century (Mother Jones) — [teaching CS to] middle and high schoolers at the UCLA Community School, an experimental new public K-12 school. “I saw this as a new frontier in the social-justice fight,” she says. “I tell my students, ‘I don’t necessarily want to teach you how to get rich. I want to teach you to be a good citizen.’”
Apple’s Secure Database for Users (Ian Waring) — excellent breakdown of how Apple have gone out of their way to make their cloud database product safe and robust. They may be slow to “the cloud” but they have decades of experience having users as customers instead of products.
End-to-End PGP in Gmail — Google releases an open source Chrome extension to enable end-to-end OpenPGP on top of gmail. This is a good thing. As noted FSF developer Ben Franklin wrote: Those who would give up awkward key signing parties to purchase temporary convenience deserve neither.
Keybase.io Writeup (Tim Bray) — Tim’s right, that removing the centralised attack point creates a usability problem. Systems that are hardest to attack are also the ones that are hardest for Normal People to use. (Can I coin this as the Torkington Conjecture, with the corollary that sufficiently stupid users are indistinguishable from intelligent attackers?)
Ford Invites Open-Source Community to Tinker Away — One example: Nelson has re-tasked the motor from a Microsoft Xbox 360 game controller to create an OpenXC shift knob that vibrates to signal gear shifts in a standard-transmission Mustang. The 3D-printed prototype shift knob uses Ford’s OpenXC research platform to link devices to the car via Bluetooth, and shares vehicle data from the on-board diagnostics port. Nelson has tested his prototype in a Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 that vibrates at the optimal time to shift.
Cost-Efficient Continuous Integration at Mozilla — CI on a big project can imply hundreds if not thousands of VMs on Amazon spinning up to handle compiles and tests. This blog post talks about Mozilla’s efforts to reduce its CI-induced spend without reducing the effectiveness of its CI practices.
RSA Key Extraction via Low-Bandwidth Acoustic Cryptanalysis (PDF) — research uses audio from CPU to break GnuPG’s implementation of RSA. The attack can extract full 4096-bit RSA decryption keys from laptop computers (of various models), within an hour, using the sound generated by the computer during the decryption of some chosen ciphertexts. We experimentally demonstrate that such attacks can be carried out, using either a plain mobile phone placed next to the computer, or a more sensitive microphone placed 4 meters away.
Bitcoin, Magic Thinking, and Political Ideology (Alex Payne) — In other words: Bitcoin represents more of the same short-sighted hypercapitalism that got us into this mess, minus the accountability. No wonder that many of the same culprits are diving eagerly into the mining pool.
Why I Want Bitcoin to Die in a Fire (Charlie Stross) — Like all currency systems, Bitcoin comes with an implicit political agenda attached. Decisions we take about how to manage money, taxation, and the economy have consequences: by its consequences you may judge a finance system. Our current global system is pretty crap, but I submit that Bitcoin is worst. With a list of reasons why Bitcoin is bad, like Stolen electricity will drive out honest mining. (So the greatest benefits accrue to the most ruthless criminals.)
iSeeYou: Disabling the MacBook Webcam Indicator LED — your computer is made up of many computers, each of which can be a threat. This enables video to be captured without any visual indication to the user and can be accomplished entirely in user space by an unprivileged (non-root) application. The same technique that allows us to disable the LED, namely reprogramming the firmware that runs on the iSight, enables a virtual machine escape whereby malware running inside a virtual machine reprograms the camera to act as a USB Human Interface Device (HID) keyboard which executes code in the host operating system. We build two proofs-of-concept: (1) an OS X application, iSeeYou, which demonstrates capturing video with the LED disabled; and (2) a virtual machine escape that launches Terminal.app and runs shell commands. (via Washington Post)
Introduction to Behaviour Trees — DAGs with codey nodes. Behavior trees replace the often intangible growing mess of state transitions of finite state machines (FSMs) with a more restrictive but also more structured traversal defining approach.
P vs NP Cheat Sheet — the space and time Big-O complexities of common algorithms used in Computer Science.
How Google’s Defragging Android (Ars Technica) — Android’s becoming a pudgy microkernel for the Google Play Services layer that’s in userland, closed source, and a way to bypass carriers’ lag for upgrades.
Booting a Self-Signed Linux Kernel (Greg Kroah-Hartman) — procedures for how to boot a self-signed Linux kernel on a platform so that you do not have to rely on any external signing authority.
Paperscape — A map of scientific papers from the arXiv.
Trinket — Adafruit’s latest microcontroller board. Small but perfectly formed.
The STEM Crisis is a Myth (IEEE Spectrum) — Every year U.S. schools grant more STEM degrees than there are available jobs. When you factor in H-1B visa holders, existing STEM degree holders, and the like, it’s hard to make a case that there’s a STEM labor shortage.