Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Recent history: The MIT Tech Model Railroad Club

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That railroad club was the origin of the acronym “mung,” as in “this train car is now munged.” “Mung” = “mashed until no good.”

Here’s the history, and it’s a fun read.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 November 2014 at 10:27 am

Gecko gloves to climb glass-sided buildings (for example)

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The Wife passes along an interesting nugget from Stanford.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 November 2014 at 11:03 am

Posted in Technology

How soon before a UDAR orchestra

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Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2014 at 6:27 pm

How Curiosity, Luck, and the Flip of a Switch Saved the Moon Program

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Interesting recent history, by Alex Pasternack at Motherboard. Very suspenseful. And this one switch was the key:

SCE to Aux

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2014 at 11:22 am

Posted in Technology

The FBI’s Dangerous Misrepresentation of Encryption Law

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FBI Director James Comey seems to have a shaky grasp of the Constitutional protections that US citizens supposedly enjoy. Kyle Chayka reports at Pacific Standard:

FBI Director James Comey certainly wants you to think that he’s not going to be able to get inside of your iPhone 6. Lately, Comey has been the source of a slew of off-the-cuff comments about how the FBI is “going dark”: “Those charged with protecting our people aren’t always able to access the evidence we need,” he said in a recent speech at the Brookings Institution. “We have the legal authority to intercept and access communications and information pursuant to court order, but we often lack the technical ability to do so.”

Comey’s consternation stems from Apple and Google’s decisions to manufacture their smartphones and operating systems with encryption baked in by default. “In the past, conducting electronic surveillance was more straightforward,” Comey said during the speech. Such encryption would damage the organization’s access to the real-time data of its suspects, or such is the line that Comey is pushing. “Some believe that the FBI has these phenomenal capabilities to access any information at any time…. It is simply not the case in real life,” he said.

Privacy experts agree that Comey’s comments are not only misleading, but outright false. Installing encryption on individual devices is a fundamental political right that the FBI seems to be ignoring, despite the fact that laws banning this encryption have already failed to pass. Comey’s comments are a repetition of an old narrative. His recommendation of mandating the installation of a backdoor into encryption for government access would be damaging to users, businesses, and national security alike, critics argue.

“The fundamental misunderstanding is that the Fourth Amendment gives the government an affirmative right to information, which is it doesn’t,” says Liza Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program. The amendment “provides an affirmative right to people, not the government.” In other words, Comey seems to think that the FBI has a legal right to blank-check access to unencrypted information from our personal devices. But there is “absolutely nothing wrong or illegal about a person encrypting their information or Apple offering encryption as a default,” Goitein adds.

Comey is also misrepresenting the extent to which encryption from Google and Apple changes how information is protected. Privacy, after all, has always been a third-party option for devices. “Strong encryption services and products are already out there,” says Harley Geiger of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “You can buy a black phone, a Silent Circle phone, or use PGP to encrypt your data.” What the FBI is speaking out against is the spread of encryption technology to a wider audience that may have not been aware of it before. “What Apple and Google have done is make strong encryption available to the average user, not just those who are security conscious—that’s hugely valuable,” Geiger adds.

Not only would mandating an encryption backdoor damage personal privacy, it could have much wider consequences. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2014 at 8:40 am

First fringes of the Singularity

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From a must-read article by Jordan Pearson at Motherboard:

“Neural networks can be plugged into one another in a very natural way,” Karpathy told me. “So we simply take a convolutional neural network, which understands the content of images, and then we take a recurrent neural network, which is very good at processing language, and we plug one into the other. They speak to each other—they can take an image and describe it in a sentence.”

And, it works:

Neural net

And you know how the security apparatus will use it: putting names to faces in those ultrafinegrain crowd photos. And given that news media like to take photos of crowds of protesters, some of the work is done for them.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2014 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Technology

What texting does to the spine

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By all means, read (and heed) the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2014 at 1:43 pm


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