Archive for February, 2011

What Threat?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

An article on reason.com asks the question, ten years after 9/11: Have we completely overestimated the threat posed by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups? Is expecting a ragtag bunch of illiterate peasants to come up with a Cobra Commander-level diabolical plot realistic?

UNLV

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

The University of Nevada system is apparently on the brink of bankruptcy – after absorbing $50 million in funding cuts over the last four years, they’re looking at another $50 million this year. Entire programs are on the chopping block.

Wow.

Rivest Lecture

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Ron Rivest, perhaps best known as the “R” in “RSA”, delivered a lecture yesterday at MIT on the past and future of cryptography. It touches on his invention of public-key crypto in the 1970s, as well as some possible applications — such as micropayments and electronic voting systems — in the future. Not a lot of new material for people who work in the field, but still interesting stuff.

Currency

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

SC State Senator Lee Bright wants South Carolina to develop its own currency.

“If folks lose faith in the dollar, we need to have some kind of backup,” he said.

Interestingly, its not just the Gold Bugs and Ron Paul supporters trying to get into the minting game. Local communities are developing their own currency (such as the Baltimore BNote) as a way to encourage local commerce and as a hedge against devaluation of the US Dollar.

Once again, the far righters and the far lefters are finding common ground.

IT Turf Wars

Monday, February 14th, 2011

An interesting taxonomy of some of the common turf wars in corporate IT departments. Clearly, we are not a socially deft people.

No Deposit

Monday, February 14th, 2011

For as far back as I can recall, when I lived in NY there was a nickel deposit on aluminum cans. Of course, down here in South Kackalacki, we don’t cotton to such communistic things. Still, the price of aluminum makes each can worth about a penny or two in scrap. And yet the shoulders of the roads around here are littered with the droppings of careless and idiotic motorists.

We like to walk around the “block” that we live on, with the dog, so, as an experiment, yesterday I donned a pair of work gloves and brought some plastic grocery bags and decided to pick up cans. The “block” is about 2 miles around, and is all rural-type roads- 3 of the four sides, in fact, don’t even have lines on the pavement. Despite being such lightly traveled roads, over the course of those 2 miles I managed to pick up over 50 cans- and those were just the ones I could easily see and get. I’m sure there were more burried in the leaves, or further off the road. Even more disturbing, the majority of the cans I found were beer or malt beverage cans. And, oddly, you’d never find just one can in a spot- there were always two or three or four within a few feet. It’s as though all the people in a car were drinking, all finished their beer at the same time, and all pitched them out the window. Either that, or some ass hat is driving along, finishes his brew, and, seeing a can on the side of the road, decides to chuck his there, too.

I didn’t even get into all the bottles and other waste. Cans were easy, they crush and don’t take up much room.

Maybe we need a deposit.

Sports

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

I’m not really sure how I ended up at this page.  I guess you can chalk it up to the mysteries of surfing the world wide web.  I’m not a raging conspiracy theorist, but the author makes some interesting points.

A little slice:

What the entire Sports conspiracy boils down to is diversion. What bread and circuses were to the Romans, the World Series is to Americans.”

Discuss.

I Need This

Friday, February 11th, 2011

The Google Two-Step

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Google has announced that two-factor authentication will be available for users to log into their Google Apps / GMail accounts. Essentially, the account holder’s mobile phone is used as an authentication token; once the number is registered, the user can opt to receive a numeric authentication code via SMS or voice call, or generate it with a local application. Both the traditional password and the authentication code from the phone must be used to access the account.

This is a tremendous step forward in security, especially for a free online service. Passwords have historically been the weak link in most network security schemes; they are often easily guessed or acquired through social engineering techniques. By requiring users to not only have a password but also have a physical token like a designated mobile phone, Google can render phishing and brute-force attacks completely impotent.

Excellent.

Environmentally Conscious Inebrity

Friday, February 11th, 2011

France, often the trail blazer in matters relating to wine, is coming out with wine refilling stations. The concept is pretty simple: large vats of wine are delivered to the store, and people bring their own bottles to fill up. Its cheap, it reduces the amount of wine bottle waste, and probably improves the quality of the wine, since it remains stored in the larger vats until right before purchase.

As the article notes, this idea is nothing new; in the old days, people brought their own bottles to market and had them filled. This is simply a modern interpretation of an idea that’s been around since it was a necessity.