"hacking" entries

Four short links: 3 November 2009

Four short links: 3 November 2009

Electoral Cryptography, Dataless Airport Security, Visualising Transport Data, Mathematically Insecure Social Asymmetry

  1. First Test for Election Cryptography (MIT Technology Review) — The first government election to use a new cryptographic scheme that lets both voters and auditors check that votes were cast and recorded accurately will be held tomorrow in Takoma Park, MD. Founder of the company behind the technology is David Chaum, who ran the first electronic currency company in the 90s. That was ahead of its time (Internet faced a credibility problem, not a convenience problem), but his timing for this seems spot-on. (via timoreilly on Twitter)
  2. Do I Have The Right To Refuse This Search? — a former police officer questions the efficacy of TSA screenings and is doubly worried by by the lack of data collected. For years in policing, we relied on random patrols to curb crime. We relied upon this “strategy” until someone went out and captured some data, and did a study that demonstrated conclusively that random patrols do not work (Kansas City Study). As police have employed other types of “random” interventions, as in DWI checkpoints, they have had to develop policies, procedures and training to ensure that the “random” nature of these intrusions is truly random. Whether every car gets checked, or every tenth car, police must demonstrate that they have attempted to eliminate the effects of active and passive discrimination when using “random” strategies. No such accountability currently exists at TSA. Trend I see lately is a return to quantitative decision making, reality-based data-directed system interventions. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Visualising Transport DataIt can be hard to make meaningful information from huge amounts of data, a graph and a table doesn’t always communicate all it should do. We have been working hard on technology to visualise big datasets into compelling stories that humans can understand. We were really pleased with what we came up with in just one and a half days. Like many places, the UK data.gov ran a dev camp to jumpstart people using their data. These appear to be successful, but I’m not aware of studies into the longterm effects nor the “value” of different types of developers.
  4. Why Your Friends Have More Friends Than You Do — there’s a numerical optical illusion at work here: count your friends, then ask them to count their friends. If you average the friend counts of your peers, it’ll probably be higher than your friend count. The reason for this is also why (on average!) your sexual partners seem to have had more sexual partners than you, and why previous generations seem more fecund than current generations. It’s because connectors (with large numbers of friends) distort the average, so unless you’re the connector (and if you’re reading this, you might well be!) the average will be bigger than a normal person’s friend count. Left unmentioned is what kind of person would count the number of friends they have, then ask their friends for their counts …. (via Hacker News)

The Hacker Ethic – Harming Developers?

Is the hacker ethic harming developers? We don’t think so, but maybe the idea resonates a little bit? On Monday Neil McAllister posed the question “is the hacker ethic harming American developers?” Slashdot picked it up and Tim forwarded it to the Radar list. As you might expect, it resulted in some spirited discussion.

Four short links: 4 May 2009

Four short links: 4 May 2009

Maps, Africa, Protein, and Rockets

  1. Old Japanese Maps on Google Earth Unveil Secrets — Google criticised for putting up map layers showing the towns where a discriminated-against class came from, because that class is still discriminated against and Google didn’t put any “cultural context” around it. Google and their maps didn’t make the underclass, Japanese society did. Because they’re sensitive about having the problem, they redirect their embarrassment into anger at Google. You could make a long and profitable career in IT consulting simply by charging to say “it’s not a technical problem” and you’d be right more times than wrong.
  2. See Africa Differently — using the Internet to reframe a continent. Videos, essays, and more, all designed to get you seeing the majority of Africa, which isn’t defined by conflict and famine. (via NY Times book review)
  3. Fold.it – Solve Puzzles for Science — science harnesses our “cognitive surplus” by inviting us to help solve the problem of protein folding, one of the hardest in biology. (via auckland_museum on Twitter)
  4. Arduino Telemetry Payload in Class C Rocket (Jon Oxer) — Because class-C rockets are so small and light they can’t lift much of a payload and I had to keep the mass of the electronics as small as possible. You can get a sense of scale from this photo which shows a small white bundle in the bottom of the nosecone. Inside that bundle is an Arduino Pro Mini 5V/16Mhz, a 433Mhz transmitter module, and a Lilypad 3-axis accelerometer. PCBs … in … Spaaaaace!

Arduino rocket picture showing circuitry inside a foot-long rocket

Four short links: 31 Mar 2009

Four short links: 31 Mar 2009

Web traffic, web design, hacker spaces, and feature spaces:

  1. iPhone and Android Make Up 50% of Google’s SmartPhone Traffic Worldwide — Matt Gross found this interesting tidbit in a TechCrunchIT story.
  2. Refining Data Tables — Luke Wroblewski gives some seriously good tips for designing usable tables in web pages. After forms, data tables are likely the next most ubiquitous interface element designers create when constructing Web applications. Users often need to add, edit, delete, search for, and browse through lists of people, places, or things within Web applications. As a result, the design of tables plays a crucial role in such an application’s overall usefulness and usability. But just like the design of forms, there’s more than one way to design tabular data. (via migurski’s delicious stream)
  3. Hacker Spaces (Wired) — “It’s almost a Fight Club for nerds,” says Nick Bilton of his hacker space, NYC Resistor in Brooklyn, New York. is the must-have quote, but the guts of the article is “In our society there’s a real dearth of community,” Altman says. “The internet is a way for people to key in to that need, but it’s so inadequate. [At hacker spaces], people get a little taste of that community and they just want more.”
  4. Related Document Discovery Without Algebra — latent semantic analysis has some scary math, but If the feature space (e.g. the terms/concepts associated to your documents) is small enough, and you make sure synonymy is not a problem, you can do without algebra. One such case is that of your blog postings and their tags. Includes Ruby code. (via joshua’s delicious stream)

CNET Pops the Kindle's Hood and Takes Pictures

CNET/Tech Republic cracks open the Kindle and takes an in-depth look at its hardware. Check out the photo gallery. Related Stories: Reversing Everything: "Hacking the Kindle" How to Read any Type of Document on the Kindle (Almost) Digging Around Amazon's Topaz File Format…

How Hackers Show it's Not All Bad News at the New York Times

The hacking-friendly culture within the New York Times just may save the organization.

The Last HOPE

The Last HOPE conference in NYC was a great mix of hardware hacking, open source, phone phreaking, lock picking, sleeping on the floor, and good old fashioned paranoia mongering.

Exploring DIY E-Reader Platforms

Don't like any of the e-readers currently available? Here are some ideas on building your own.