(QUICK ONES are bigger than a tweet, but not much!)
A colleague, Willy Farrell., pointed me to a free (as in freedom and free beer) XML editor called Notepad++ It's designed for Windows but ran OK for me under Wine. I thought I'd point out a few other options for XML editing since developerWorks articles need to be in XML.
Notepad++ - Windows-only. Seems good to me. Not WYSIWYG, but my friend is a deep developer type. Looks like it's very good for that.
Serna - This is a product that also has a free and open version. It's Java-based and works fine in Linux.
Amaya - This is the editor put out by the W3C folks, who should know something about the standards. It seems to work well.
Right now, I struggle with setting up any of these to give me a good WYSIWYG view with the developerWorks article kit, probably because I'm just not pointing them to the style sheets in the right way. I will admit that for my regular editing I'm using a rather expensive professional editor called Oxygen, which came with my editor's chair. It works well in Linux and I like it. However, if I was not so endowed you'd be sure I'd have my answer in one of the free options... because I'm stubborn that way. Perhaps I'll spend some time figuring it out. If I do I'll share my findings like I always do.
Today I was reading an interesting Wired article today called "How Joe Biden Accidentally Helped Us All E-Mail in Private". I remember tinkering with PGP during that time and some of the controversy surrounding encryption, especially good encryption. The encryption battle of that time was largely won and we are generally free to make use of it in our lives. Of course, very few people do.
I was demonstrating a network sniffer called WireShark for a buddy a while back. It basically captures whatever packets are passing through the network and allows you to copy them, view them, etc. He was surprised to see that in some cases email was being sent by people in the total clear, with no sort of encryption or anything. In some cases the username and password for thre user's account were easily visible. That's a sobering thing to see, yet people still don't seem concerned about encrypting their information.
There is a lot of talk about The Cloud (cue Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice) and the concern about keeping our information out there because someone might find it and see it. Again... these are clear, unencrypted files and information.
There is already some good, free, open stuff out there to help people increase the security of their information. A lot of it is very easy to use with easy methods for establishing trust and exchanging keys with people you want to see your information while protecting it from the casual mail server admin with nothing better to do than read your stuff as it comes through. (Would they do that? You bet! Those late nights can get lonely and boring.)
Can you make things secure enough so that no one can possibly read it? Probably not. If you are dealing with James Bond sorts of secrets and the high tech espionage centers of the world are focused on you, then they will probably hack you. For the rest of us, we can cut out the casual observer and demand that someone who wants to get into your stuff needs to devote some resources and most likely get a warrant.
For a number of years I've had a casual fascination with an application called Blender. When I first found it, it was a free tool for creating 3D animation that was abut 10M in size. I didn't really have any particular talent for animation, but I was immensely curious. I tinkered with it a little, mostly hampered by my lack of time and the fact that I didn't really have a pressing demand for creating 3D animation. I did use it to create a few flying logos for videos. Here's one I did for some TGMC demos in 2010:
Blender has grown to include sophisticated video editing and compositing, physics engines and more. It can be used for rendering stills and animation like before, but it also has a game engine which can be incorporated into your own applications. Here's another video I found that highlights some of what people have been doing with that:
If the music is too loud for you, just mute it. You know how these YouTube compilations are. I'm sure those are not the most sophisticated work that's out there, just what this guy found.
I would really like to dig into Blender. I'm looking at it as a video editing and compositing tool. I like Cinellera a lot, but I've heard that Blender is more in tune with some of the CGI approaches of modern video. As we move forward I'm having to get into other methods of communicating. It's fun, because I get to exercize other areas of my brain and creativity. The problem, of course, is that I don't have the background or my own studio to play in and IBM is not likely to buy it for me any time soon. However, perhaps tools like Blender will let me sneak into doing some more expressive things and it will all just blossom from there.
I'll keep you posted on what I do. Right now I've been geeking out on getting things recompiled to have all the features that I want. (A lot is often turned off on distribution due to licensing issues. Hooray for open source and good howtos!)
Cool blog feature in developerWorks Community
I know that many systems have this, but the developerWorks community does too. I actually wrote this on Friday, but scheduled it to publish today, so you don't get flooded with things when I'm having a particularly chatty day. If you want to "future publish" your own entry, it's under the Advanced settings when you have a blog view. You can also customize the URL and control how long people may comment. There's a URL slot to link to external media, but I haven't played with that yet.
[Remember that even though I work for IBM I am an individual with my own thoughts and ideas. Anything I write here may not necessarily represent the views of the IBM Corporation or its partners... though I'm hoping that's only a matter of time before they catch up.]
As I participate in the W3C Social Business Jam, I'm going to put out little flurries of thought about topics as they strike me. Maybe they'll get you thinking too.
There is some interesting discussion about tooling and how it can and should play a part in our social interactions. One interesting thought is the combination of traditional email, calendar and tasking with social interaction to keep an eye on the things that you find important. Some of these parameters could be defined by you, and some could be discovered by the software. For example, I identify my manager to the software and tell it that I want to treat communication from him as urgent and to warn me about items that are aging. At the same time, the software observes my activity and creates suggestions for which items I may want to deal with first.
Extending this into work resources, a combined system could keep an eye on communication and tags placed on interaction. If it knows that I'm working on a project with a particular skill set, and knows of other people in the organization who are normally associated with that skill set it could give me recommendations to include them in the conversation.
Of course, we want to be cautious about removing the humanity from what we do and prevent our work days from simply following the machine's instructions... but the ability to do better networking in my organization, particularly in a big mega-corporation, is extremely useful. I think it becomes more critical as the workplace becomes more virtual and we no longer chance across interesting people in the lunch room.
Some people have said that for people who have grown up with social tools that email is dead and all but useless. I have a hard time picturing that... which probably puts me in the dinosaur category. *sigh* I think there will continue to be a need for thoughtful, crafted communication, just as there continues to be a need for a hand-written note. But I can see a case for having various methods of communicating all easily accessible with my communication tools reminding me of which technique works best with which individual.
Strangely, I don't prefer a big monolithic suite for this. I find that inevitably a super-multi-tool ends up with weaknesses in one area or another. However, if we have standards that define how this interaction works, then I can have a tool that helps with monitoring and scoring which can call upon my favorite IM, video or composition tools. There could be a monolithic program which let's me re-route certain functions to my preferences.
It will be interesting to see how this landscape evolves and how it will affect the people I communicate with and how that interaction takes place.
This is just a quick one. I've started a week of System Z training, to better understand this technology. I think System Z is a bigger deal than people imagine and there is a lot of our future that could benefit greatly by more people being aware of and taking advantage of this powerful computing technology.
On the one hand, I was aware that this is not for the squeamish. It's true that System Z can create a powerful computing environment that allows many people to simply do what they do without having to worry about everything that runs under the hood. However, to manage such a universe takes some willingness to get your hands dirty. It reminded me of some of my earliest days of computing, where one had to be so close to the moving parts to connect to networks and do anything besides simply run one application at a time.
Yes, there is a lot to successfully harnessing the power of a System Z environment, but it's not really beyond anyone who has a basic grounding in technology. Like anything worthwhile, it takes some focus, and some work... and practice... but the rewards can be so great. Personally, I think open, highly mobile devices on the front end with plenty of Big Iron type of power on the back end is the shortest distance between here and Star Trek. There is still plenty of room for openness in such an environment... though I'm wrestling a little with my classmates on that one.
Today was pretty brain-filling though. Off to enjoy some amazing chili at Tolbert's with my parents. Then more brain stuffing tomorrow.
Fear not... more on blogging coming soon... just not enough brain for it right now.
Yesterday I got a little frustrated at being tool bound. Today I'm
getting my article set up in an external editor so I shouldn't have any
I wanted to comment a little on the article I mentioned yesterday, "Government and library open data using Creative Commons tools".
To me openness in data is very important when it comes to organizations
and government. If you are running a business and you want to use
proprietary data formats with proprietary software to hold your data,
that's fine. That's entirely up to you. It's yourmy
data. I should not be required to purchase any special software or
worry about what happens if a company goes out of business, or simply
changes their mind as to what they want to be doing. (Have you seen
anyone with their information trapped in an old Foxpro application,
written by "some guy" who is no longer available? It's tragic!) I
think it is excellent that governments are starting to explore tooling
and making data more easily available. After all, we pay for all of
these things with our taxes. We should be able to leverage this
information for our own purposes. Can you imagine the amazing data
mashups that will happen over time? I can't wait to see where it all
I try to take the same attitude about data when I'm in some sort of
organization or club. I've seen too many situations where some
talented person with fantastic software connections swoops in and does
all kinds of great work for a club, then moves on. No one else has the
skills (or the licenses) for these great products and the whole thing
deteriorates and eventually has to be started from scratch by the next
volunteer. I try to get people into collaborative software so that
information is available to everyone who needs it and can be kept
up-to-date rather than trying to figure out which combination of people
has the most current data. I usually use Google Docs because anyone
can access it and most people already know it. However, it's not the
only way. I feel the same way about web sites and databases. Keep the
technologies simple and open and when your superstar steps away someone
can come in and pick up where he left off. All it takes is some
commitment and willingness to learn. Cost is not a barrier.
Speaking of organizations and coding, we have a great article this
week by Uche Ogbuji on developerWorks this week! He's talking about
how to use GitHub to help your group collaborate on projects. Of
course, these kinds of things work with things besides code. I've
often thought about applying this sort of document management to some
of my editorial work. Maybe this article will help me kick it off.
I've mentioned before how much I love repurposing equipment. It's
one of the things that got me interested in open-source in the first
place. I could take older equipment and breathe new life into it, or
discover new capability. It's fun if you like to tinker and it can
make you incredibly resourceful.
Some time back I reflashed my Internet router with DD-WRT. You can relive that in my entry, "My freak router".
I've continued to run this with great success. This week, Carla
Schroder gives you step-by-step information on taking your own modest
Internet router and unleashing its capabilities to give you more
control and security. Check out "Add Linux power to wireless routers with advanced tips and tricks for DD-WRT".
Let me know what you do with it. Also let me know if you know of other
projects like this that deserve some light. I try to keep up with
them, but I don't get to explore them all.
Coming soon, I'll be doing some more video work. Interesting stuff
a-comin'. Chroma-key, compositing, CGI, sound sync and cleanup... all
with free, open-source software on Linux.
OK... The title of this is not something I thought of. My friend Tim said it, and I thought it was funny.
By now everyone, and I do mean everyone, knows that not only did Watson win against former Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, it thrashed them soundly. In the two day exhibition, Watson's cumulative total was more than the totals of both of its opponents combined. It completely exceeded my own expectations and is a remarkable achievement.
In the aftermath, it's interesting what different people take away from this contest. The first is that many believe Watson had an unfair advantage because it could press the button so well. I think this was shown up in the second game when a highly motivated Ken Jennings started out-buzzing Watson even when it had a 97% assurance of its answer. It is strange, though, about where people place their focus. The idea that a computer could parse language and make sense of millions of different points of information to compete with the human brain is not surprising to them at all. They are fixed on the mechanical switching mechanism. So, maybe we should have a rematch at some point with a different mechanism for buzzing in. I'd watch it!
I overheard some of the researchers talking about the future implications of this project. Essentially this technology could be applied to anything that required searching a large library of information and distilling the relevant results down into a manageable, prioritized set. Medical research is one of the most obvious places where such technology could make a big difference. Imagine being able to compare millions of medical cases to find the hidden patterns. As we move into information in the cloud, technology like this is going to be required to gather and make sense of all the information that is available.
Another point that I overheard was that this does not diminish the amazing power of the human brain at all. One of them quipped that while Watson required enough power to run man computers (even though they were efficient POWER7 machines) the brain of the two champions could run just fine on a bowl of oatmeal. Indeed.
I am currently in the process of making contact with members of the Watson team to bring you some deeper coverage on this project as it relates to the world of open source. It's no secret that Watson runs on Linux, as does Blue Gene, a system which is being used for genetic research, among other things. In my brief conversation with Dr. Kevin Nowka, director of IBM Research in Austin he indicated that there were likely a number of other open-source projects which were tapped as part of the Watson project.
My goal is over the next several months to highlight the projects that made a difference to the Watson endeavor. I'm guessing that anything that was good enough to contribute to an achievement like this is something that you should be looking at for your own applications. The easiest way to keep up with what I'm doing is to follow me here, on Facebook, or Twitter. As anything comes about I'll be posting it there and here.
I also want to share some thoughts about the idea that this means computers are taking us over. It's a fact that we have made ourselves increasingly dependent on computers. If we lost them we would have a lot of remedial work to do to get back to some of our more manual ways of working. We could do it, though. Yet computers have given us tremendous benefit, allowing us to do more with more information than ever before. I look at the sorts of things that I casually do with media, or even information research, which used to require vast resources and a good amount of human effort, which I can do almost automatically.
At the viewing party for the Jeopardy Finale, one of the University of Texas researchers, who's name I did not catch (I apologize), said that he thought that the phrase "Artificial Intelligence" was problematic because it created visions of a sort of alien life evolving -- which is pretty much the way that we like to portray that in books and films. He said that he preferred the term "Intelligence Augmented" (IA), because it is a tool to enhance our own intelligence and abilities.
A lot of people seem to have a fear of the machines taking us over. Even Ken Jennings had a go when he wrote on his Final Jeopardy answer "(I for one welcome our new computer overlords.)" This showed great sportsmanship and humor under what must have been a humbling experience. But there are a lot of people that seem fear being ruled by the computers of the future. I think that fear is misplaced. The computers are and I think always will be tools. They might be misused by people in power, and that's why openness is so important in technology.
If you happened to miss this historic event, I found a replay of game number 1 of 2 from YouTube which I am attaching.
I recently bought a Kindle. I had a Sony book reader that I was pleased with for quite some time. I still like it, actually, but it was starting to feel slow to me. I also wanted to be able to take advantage of some of the Kindle features that I get with my Amazon Prime subscription (like book borrowing!). So, I went for it.
My favorite tool for working with book readers is Calibre. Some time back developerWorks featured an article on this incredibly useful program. It seems to consume just about any ebook format I care to throw at it. It allows me to organize my library, convert from one format to another and update the metadata of everything (even pulling covers and publication data off of the Internet through sources like Amazon). It talks to the book reader, and lets me load and remove items easily.
Recently, I've been working more with the news feature. It has about 1200 preloaded feeds covering every type of interest. You can also add your own, using what they call a recipe and an RSS feed. Essentially, the reader will pull down the feed and format into an indexed magazine, then upload it to your device. It's wonderfully consumable and a great way to catch up on bits of specialty news.
There was not an existing news source for developerWorks, so I created one. Here's what the raw code looks like:
title = u'developerWorks'
oldest_article = 7
max_articles_per_feed = 100
auto_cleanup = True
feeds = [
(u'Agile Transformation', u'https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/mydevel...
(u'AIX and UNIX', u'http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/views/aix/rss/li...
(u'Business Process Management', u'http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/v...
(u'Information Management', u'http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/views/...
(u'Open Source', u'http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/views/opensource/...
(u'SOA and Web Services', u'http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/views/we...
(u'Web Development', u'http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/views/web/rss...
(u'WebSphere', u'http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/views/websphere/rss... (u'XML', u'http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/views/xml/rss/libraryview...
I had to truncate the long lines here, but you can download a copy of the full thing. I add this recipe to my subscription list. I've set it up to download on Wednesday morning, since most items will publish on Tuesday. Now, I will get an automatic weekly download of these items to my Kindle. I still have to connect it to the computer to get them, but it's pretty handy!
I looked at some of the other recipes, like the BBC, and they get pretty fancy. There is a lot of tweaking that one can do. The manual page explains it all in detail, but I don't have time to comb through it right now. Maybe I'll enhance this one later. If so, I'll share it here, or may try to share it through Calibre.
Please note that while I'm using a Kindle, this should work with any book reader. Calibre really is the Rosetta Stone for ebooks. I love it. I may go make a donation right now.
Does open source software really provide a benefit to the community,
or is it just a drain on commercial resources, like people stealing
office supplies? Look at this and judge for yourself:
colleague forwarded me an article called "Can Open Source Defeat the
Scourge of Tuberculosis?" by Alan Shimel. It talks about how a
project, the Opens Source Drug Discovery (OSDD)
is being used by scientists to find better drugs for combatting
tuberculosis, a disease which affects about one third of the world
population. While people debate vigorously about the state of
health-care and what are the best solutions, one fact seems to be
agreed upon: the development of new drugs and new treatments is
expensive. Much of this has to do with the expense of collecting and
analyzing the massive amounts of data required to understand a
condition. If an open repository allows this sort of work to be spread
out further, so that more people can contribute to the work, doesn't it
make sense that the results will come out quicker and cheaper?
The OSDD is by no means the only open-data project. In fact, I found the Open Knowledge Foundation which lists a number of projects
that make data of various kinds publicly available. There's even an
open project to help you find open projects called the Comprehensive
Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN).
Browsing these projects is fascinating and I know that with a little
digging I'll find a resource or two that I find personally or
It's honestly not difficult to contribute to open projects. I just
found a simple way that I can contribute to a project that I use
regularly. Project Gutenberg is
a project to provide electronic versions of every possible book, free
for digital rights management, publicly available. Most of the works
are ones that have fallen into the public domain, but others are works that the author has made available through the Creative Commons or some other open license. Books are scanned and then transformed into text and other formats.
Recently, I discovered that they have a practice, called "distributed proofreading,"
whereby volunteers can spend a little time here and there helping to
keep a project moving. To volunteer, you simply sign up through the website.
You act as an editor, proofing documents that have come in and helping
them to meet the project standards. Beginners simply help identify
scanning (OCR) mistakes, by comparing the output to the original
picture in the document. More advanced and experienced editors move
the document forward through other issues ending in a newly published
text. It only takes a few minutes to do several pages. You receive
advice and recommendations along the way.
Most projects do not have so elegant a system of getting involved.
But most of them would gladly accept help. All you have to do is
offer... and then follow up by actually doing the work.
Will this affect commercial work?
Undoubtedly commercial work in these areas will be affected as some
of them become obsolete. The village blacksmith and the office
stenographer are both rare today. As technology grows to allow people
to record, analyze and share data it will become less necessary to have
that done by an expert. Yet expertise will always be needed (and paid
for) to get things to the next step. I rather like to think that open
methodologies step in to do the things that the commercial people say
are a hardship by applying a cloud-like entity of human resources.
Often the work is slower and more precise for each individual step, but
since there are more people potentially available tocheck and recheck things, something accomplished in three steps rather than one is still done more efficiently.
Next week the Open Source zone will have an article on the harmonious blend
of open source and commercial software. Keep an eye out for it. As
you read it, consider how it applies not only to software, but to data
and other projects. There is a lot of value and potential in
technological volunteer-work. We'll get the most benefit as people cease to fear or distrust it and everyone participates to improve it.
I read an interesting article by Art Seavey called "Planning ahead for a new breed of 'public' spaces." It discusses the concept of government computing in contrast to public spaces, such as park land, city hall and other physical places that are manged by government.
This is an excellent way to think about government computing. What sort of limitations would you tolerate on being able to access public spaces? We do tolerate a fee when going into a State or federal park. I don't think that I would tolerate one for a local municipal park. I expect government services to be available to me, in my language, during predictable times. I expect to be able to transact my business without having to go through a middle-man of any kind. I expect my interaction with government to be dictated more by my vote than the services of a vendor. In fact, if there was a vendor standing in between me and my government I would find that intolerable.
Right now governments are struggling to find ways to take advantage of technology. I think for the most part there is a desire to maintain the good elements of public resources while using technology to overcome the inconveniences of driving to a physical location and standing in line or having to sort through the bureaucracy to find the individual who can answer a question. However, many of these institutions are relying on the advice and products of vendors, many of whom are still locked into a model that demands data be locked up in their own proprietary solution. This really should not be acceptable for government data. We should demand open standards on data for government, so that the technology can feasibly last as long as the need for the data. I think that we should also demand a good level of open source in the code so that it is easy for people to integrate with these solutions and for agencies to interact.
This openness should extend to the handling of people's identities. Identities should be under the control of the owner, not assigned by the government. I've stated before that there are good technologies allowing an individual to establish their own key for interacting with various entities. I still like this solution. It may be appropriate for me to use a single key to interact with government, but they should not demand that I also use that key to interact with other businesses. The goal should be to clearly and accurately establish my identity for the safety of everyone I'm doing business with... not establish an unstoppable tracking mechanism whereby everyone can follow my daily activities.
Of course, you may have different views and requirements. That's the thing about the public. It's full of individuals and their own needs and perspectives. Your needs must be considered as well. Take some time to think about what is being done to create a virtual public space for you. Are you paying attention to what is being done? Are you giving the same attention that you would with the physical equivalent. Are you looking out for your rights and demanding that they be considered or are you just going with the flow because it's technology?
One of the benefits of rooting an android phone is that you can install custom ROMs. On my Motorola Droid I ran CyanogenMod and enjoyed it very much. It added a number of features that I liked, such as allowing me to blacklist SPAM calls I would get through my phone.
Unfortunately, CyanogenMod is not yet available for the Droid Bionic. So, I tried Liberty. However, before I installed a ROM I took some sage advice and installed the Safestrap program on the phone first. Safestrap creates a recoverable state on the phone so that when I do very bad things (and I have) that I can go back to a known state on the phone. So far I have put my phone in a mode that made my blood chill a couple of times and was still able to recover by simply rebooting into Safestrap and toggling the safe mode. Very nice. If you like to do dangerous things with your phone and risk hundreds of dollars worth of investment, I highly recommend Safestrap.
(Why are some of us made so curious?)
I don't know what started me on this process, but somehow I got curious about doing custom URL shorteners. After a little searching, I found out that bit.ly offers custom domains as a part of their free service. How sweet is that?!
Get a domain that works for you. There are a number of interesting options there, some of which are pricier than others. Through Godaddy, the .de (Germany) domain costs me about $17.99 per year. Ah, well. It's less than a vanity license plate. I was going to use osdud.de, but it seems to belong to a German dart association. OK, I'll make them a little longer for the branding.
Once you have your domain, go to your bit.ly account and look at the account settings (Figure 1).
Figure 1. bit.ly account settings
There's a section that lets you add a Custom Short Domain. (Figure 2)
Figure 2. Custom domain settings
If you modify those settings it will let you enter your own domain name. Upon entry, you'll be told what IP address to put into your domain record to direct it to the bit.ly servers.
That's it. Once you've done that and domain servers have updated then you will be able to talk to bit.ly through your own domain name, e.g. cmwosdu.de. From there, any link you create with that account will have your custom domain.
Want to see it in action? Read the next bit.
Microsoft is the King of Linux
This is probably old news to some of you by now but I ran across this article: cmwosdu.de/HCfD6F (See the URL!?)
According to the article, in the recent round of statistics: "Microsoft contributed 688 changes, or about 1% of the accepted changes to the kernel since 2.6.36." That doesn't sound like much, but it's not too shabby, especially compared to the number some might expect, which is 0. The changes appear to largely deal with virtualization. Quoting again from the article:
"Much of the work Microsoft did centers around providing drivers for its own Hyper-V virtualization technology. Microsoft's Hyper-V, part of Windows Server, can run Linux as a guest OS. Linux kernel developer and LWN.net editor Jon Corbet, a co-author of the study, estimates that Microsoft's involvement peaked around last year's 3.0 release of Linux and will diminish over time."
So, the additions are largely in support of running Linux in a virtual environment with Windows as the host. Ah, well. I suppose that's not shocking. However, it does show that Microsoft has decided that Linux is not going away and that they need to accommodate it in some way if they are going to meet customer demand.
Personally, I don't miss Windows. I've been happy in a Linux environment for about ten years or more now.
It looks like I'm going to be spending some time with Blender here pretty soon. It's an open-source 3D modeling and animation application that has grown to include some pretty sophisticated video compositing. For an example of what that means, look at this demo real by Pablo Vasquez.
I probably won't be doing anything that cool. I need a number of years worth of artistic development (and maybe a genetic infusion of artistic talent) to do anything like that. However, I can probably cobble together some flying logos and such and maybe a few interesting video effects. If anything comes of it, I'll share.
There's nothing like a good government document. I think that from
now on, rather than counting sheep I'll count those blocky,
black-and-white documents that all look like IRS instructions telling
you want the US government is up to. Why can't they just all blog like
everyone else? Bruce Shneier turned me on to some interesting documents
about the government's look at cybersecurity. The first is GAO-10-466, or as
the kids like to call it "Cybersecurity: Key Challenges Need to Be
Addressed to Improve Research and Development." It talks about a lot of
the different government entities that are involved in Cybersecurity.
The list reads a little like the Department of Redundancy Department,
but I suppose that there are a lot of disciplines and appropriate
overlap. Within that document I was pointed to GAO-09-432T, or
"National Cybersecurity Strategy: Key Improvements Are Needed to
Strengthen the Nation's Posture." At first glance, it might seem that
government reports use a pretty dull and repetitive style guide for
titling things... and that impression is largely unchanged after a few
more glances, and even a long hard stare. Yet it is interesting to see
how ideas such as computer security is treated.
Both documents are interesting, but here is the list of the key points
that the work with in the second one:
Develop a national strategy that clearly articulates strategic
objectives, goals, and priorities.
Establish White House responsibility and accountability for
leading and overseeing national cybersecurity policy.
Establish a governance structure for strategy implementation.
Publicize and raise awareness about the seriousness of the
Create an accountable, operational cybersecurity organization.
Focus more actions on prioritizing assets, assessing
vulnerabilities, and reducing vulnerabilities than on developing
Bolster public/private partnerships through an improved value
proposition and use of incentives.
Focus greater attention on addressing the global aspects of
Improve law enforcement efforts to address malicious activities
Place greater emphasis on cybersecurity research and development,
including consideration of how to better coordinate government and
private sector efforts.
Increase the cadre of cybersecurity professionals.
Make the federal government a model for cybersecurity, including
using its acquisition function to enhance cybersecurity aspects of
products and services.
It's good that the government is getting involved, I guess.
Government can help mandate standards and provide a context for
research and development... but I've never seen government accomplish
what a curious group of technology enthusiast can do when they put
their mind to it.
Here's a gentle reminder of technologies that you can be using to
improve your security right now:
Your operating system: I admit that I always lean toward Linux,
but any operating system that you use today has basic security such as
name and password restrictions. If you're bypassing that login screen
for convenience then you have likely created a number of other holes in
your environment that leave your system more open to attack or snooping.
Learn a little about encryption. I know that encryption sounds
hard, but there are some fairly straight-forward ways of dealing with
it. Tools like Gnu Privacy Guard
(GPG) provide a pretty straight-forward way of encrypting and signing
just about anything digital. You don't have to buy a key. You can make
your own and register it with a public
key server so that others can find it and interact with you. (There
are also free locations to get certificates for your web sites, such as
SimpleAuthority.com and CACert.org.) There are also free
tools to encrypt your files and even create encrypted sections of your
hard drive. It's all very cool stuff. Some of it can be a little tricky
to set up, but once you develop habits of locking up your information,
they become second nature, like locking your car, or putting on your
Share your security-mindedness with your friends and family. If
only one person has a key to encrypt things, it doesn't work. Spread
your new discoveries. Help others to see the value in securing their
information and participate by sending your information back and forth
through an encrypted key.
Like I said, I think this is all pretty interesting stuff. If others
are interested we can share more together here. It's actually a good
section for the Real
World Open Source Wiki (which really needs more brains in it than
just mine). If you take a personal interest in cybersecurity you can
help usher in the world of more accessible, more personal technology
with more control for you and less danger to your information. Ask
questions if you want to get started and I'll do what I can to help get
you started right now.
OK. I have some mixed feelings about this one. Let's see what you think.
Verizon has filed for a patent for technology that will allow their set-top boxes to monitor a room and use that information to select appropriate advertising. The device will monitor audio, some level of visual and mobile device access. Here are some quotes from the application. I've tried to keep the blocks of text in context, but highlight what I felt was relevant in that section.
" To illustrate, an exemplary ambient action may include the user eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, talking, singing, humming, cleaning, playing a musical instrument, performing any other suitable action, and/or engaging in any other physical activity during the presentation of the media content. In certain examples, the ambient action may include an interaction by the user with another user (e.g., another user physically located in the same room as the user). To illustrate, the ambient action may include the user talking to, cuddling with, fighting with, wrestling with, playing a game with, competing with, and/or otherwise interacting with the other user. In further examples, the ambient action may include the user interacting with a separate media content access device (e.g., a media content access device separate from the media content access device presenting the media content). For example, the ambient action may include the user interacting with a mobile device (e.g., a mobile phone device, a tablet computer, a laptop computer, etc.) during the presentation of a media content program by a set-top box ("STB") device.
 In some examples, detection facility 104 may determine, based on data received by way of a detection device, that a user is holding and/or interacting with a mobile device. For example, detection facility 104 may determine that the user is sitting on a couch and interacting with a tablet computer during the presentation of a television program being presented by a STB device. In some examples, detection facility 104 may be configured to communicate with the mobile device in order to receive data indicating what the user is doing with the mobile device (e.g., data indicating that the user is utilizing the mobile device to browse the web, draft an email, review a document, read an e-book, etc.) and/or representative of content that the user is interacting with (e.g., representative of one or more web pages browsed by the user, an email drafted by the user, a document reviewed by the user, an e-book read by the user, etc.).
 Access device 402 may be configured to present a media content program by way of display device 404. For example, access device 402 may be configured to present a television program including one or more advertisement breaks by way of display device 404 for experiencing by one or more users within detection zone 408. During the presentation of the television program, access device 402 may be configured to utilize detection device 406 to detect an ambient action of a user watching the television program. To illustrate, access device 402 may detect, by way of detection device 406, that two users are cuddling on a couch during the presentation of the television program and prior to an advertisement break. Based on the detected ambient action, access device 402 and/or a corresponding server device (e.g., implemented by provider subsystem 202) may select an advertisement associated with the ambient action. In some examples, access device 402 and/or the corresponding server device may utilize one or more terms associated with the detected ambient action (e.g., in accordance with a corresponding reference table) to search for and/or select an advertisement associated with the detected ambient action. To illustrate, access device 402 and/or the corresponding server device may utilize one or more terms associated with cuddling (e.g., the terms "romance," "love," "cuddle," "snuggle," etc.) to search for and/or select a commercial associated with cuddling (e.g., a commercial for a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers, a commercial including a trailer for an upcoming romantic comedy movie, etc.). Thereafter, access device 402 may present the selected advertisement by way of display device 404 during the advertisement break for experiencing by the users.
So, there you go. Several articles on the Internet have referred to this technology as "spying", and I can certainly see where they have a point. I think some paranoia in this area are probably justified. However, one of the things that we seem to desire is technology that will interact with us more directly, help us to find what we want and deliver what we need. Star Trek computers and Azimov robots all had senses and made decisions based on what they saw and heard. They were always at the ready and seemed to have instant access to the necessary information. In order to do that we will need devices that can be silent observers.
Of course, the alarming part of this is that the device must report its information to some sort of server in order to make sense of it. There is no avoiding that with our current technology. It's a "big data" question and right now that means big, remote computing power. Ideally this sort of technology would all be completely anonymous. Your set-top box would regard you passively and disinterestedly, like a family iron. Without much effort on your part you would be introduced to the news and entertainment that was just right for you at the moment. You would see ads for things that you actually wanted to learn about. Your media device would be a helpful information companion for the whole family. I suppose that's possible.
However, my experience with this sort of help in the past is that it tends to be a little overeager. My inbox is flooded with things that seemed like a good idea at the time. My personality causes me to have levels of duality at times where I may want to deal with contrasting ideas at the same time... for example have something exciting running on the television while I also tinker with something that might seem more cerebral. Contraceptive ads popping up while you're cuddling on the couch could be a great disturbance in what is typically a deligate process of silent negotiation.
Also, would the people who had that information so tantalizingly near have the discipline to not try to grab some of it and try to dig a little deeper, a little faster. Would there be a temptation to get a salesman to call? Would law enforcement start demanding to tap into these things? (I know. If you're not doing anything wrong you have nothing to hide... but there is a reason why we don't all live together naked in a big giant room.)
Oh, and before you rail against Verizon, this is apparently not the first exploration of such technology. According to this fudzilla article previous evolutions of this concept have been patented by Comcast and Google. So, what do you think?
I'm intrigued at the possibility of having technology that is more responsive to what I want, when I want it. There could be some benefit to that, if it is geared toward my needs and not the needs of someone who has to make a sales quota. Is this a treasure chest or is it Pandora's box? Is this something to be fought, or will this adapt into our lives like all of the other technology we have adopted over time?
Also, on developerWorks
Here are a few fresh things worth looking at on developerWorks:
Ian Shields gives us a 2-fer with a pair of updates in the Linux Professional Institute test prep articles. First is "Boot managers: Introducing GRUB, GRUB 2, and LILO" – a look at the mysterious world of getting your operating system to load. There are actually a lot of interesting things that you can do with boot managers if you understand them. This is a grest start. Second is "Create partitions and filesystems:Divide and conquer your disk space" an overview of partitioning and why it matters. On your laptop you probably don't need to care too much about different partitions. On a server, however, good partition management can spell the difference between a reliable system and one that dies because some file got out out of hand and ate the disk space.
In Real World Linux there is an interesting entry about Aakash2, a super-cheap tablet developed in India. This won't be your "power gadget", but such a commodity-level device could make a big difference in getting technology into the hands of everyone who could use it. I admit that I'd like to get my hands on one. At that price, maybe I will.