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Things are often more complex than they seem from a distance: Ashley Madison

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Glenn Greenwald has an interesting column in The Intecept on the effects on the lives of real people from the vandalizing hackers of Ashley Madison:

Ever since I wrote on Thursday about the Ashley Madison hack and resulting reactions and consequences, I’ve heard from dozens of people who used the site. They offer a remarkably wide range of reasons for having done so. I’m posting below one email I received that I find particularly illuminating, which I very lightly edited to correct a few obvious typographical errors:

Dear Glenn,

Thank you for the kindness and humanity you have manifested to those of us whose data is now a source of public mockery and shame on AM.

I am female, hold a job with a lot of responsibility, have three kids, one with special needs, and a husband with whom I have not been intimate for several years due to his cancer treatments.

I also used to write about marriage law policy, encouraging traditional marriage for the good of children. My institution has a morality clause in all contracts.

Mine is a loveless, sexless, parenting marriage. I will care for my husband if his cancer spreads, we manage good will for the sake of the children, but we cannot talk about my emotional or sexual needs without him fixating on his death and crying.

I went on AM out of loneliness and despair, and found friendship, both male and female, with others trapped in terrible marriages trying to do right by their children.

My experiences have led me to soften my views of marriage as my own marriage is a deeply humbling, painful longterm commitment.

I expect to be ridiculed by colleagues, to lose my job, and to be publicly shamed, especially as a hypocrite. Yes, I used a credit card. In my case, I will get no sympathy from the right or the left as I do not fit into either of their simplistic paradigms.

I have received email from Trustify that I have been searched, and it is soliciting me to purchase its services. And I am receiving lots of spam with racy headings.

That is my story. When my outing happens, I suppose I might as well take a stand for those who are trapped in bad marriages. Many of us are doing the best we can, trying in our own imperfect way to cope with alienation, lovelessness, and physical deprivation.

I do not want to hurt my children or husband. I truly wish I had a good one and I want happy marriages for others. I did what I did trying to cope. Maybe it was a bad idea but again, I have met some very decent people on AM, some of whom are now dear friends.

Thank you again.


As I argued last week, even for the most simplistic, worst-case-scenario, cartoon-villain depictions of the Ashley Madison user — a spouse who selfishly seeks hedonistic pleasure with indifference toward his or her own marital vows and by deceiving the spouse — that’s nobody’s business other than those who are parties to that marriage or, perhaps, their family members and close friends. But as the fallout begins from this leak, as people’s careers and reputations begin to be ruined, as unconfirmed reports emerge that some users have committed suicide, it’s worth remembering that the reality is often far more complex than the smug moralizers suggest.

The private lives and sexual choices of fully formed adults are usually very complicated and thus impossible to understand — and certainly impossible to judge — without wallowing around in the most intimate details, none of which are any of your business. That’s a very good reason not to try to sit in judgment and condemn from afar.

As I acknowledged, there is an arguably valid case for such outing: namely, where someone with public influence is hypocritically crusading for legally enforced morality, holding themselves out as beacons of virtues they in fact violate, and harming others through that advocacy. It’s possible this emailer falls within that category: She says her past work involved “encouraging traditional marriage for the good of children.”

It’s worth remembering that even in these “easy” cases, human beings are usually far more complex than the good/evil caricatures we’re all tempted to propagate in order to undermine political adversaries and inflate our own self-worth. Even if you interpret what she’s done in the most ungenerous light possible — even if you conclude that she’s the most extreme case where it’s clear she’s guilty of hypocrisy — are her actions evil and really deserving of full-scale reputational ruin and worse? Is anyone really capable of sitting in stern, doubt-free judgment of the choices she’s made in her most private realm?

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2015 at 6:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

3D-Printed Stethoscope Costs $5, Outperforms $200 Competitors

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Technology helps us all—well, all except those selling overpriced medical equipment. J.M. Porup reports in Motherboard:

Tarek Loubani, an emergency room doctor in Gaza, wants to apply the principles of open source software development to out-of-patent medical devices. His first success: A 3D-printed stethoscope head that costs 30 cents to make and, according to his tests, has better sound quality than the industry standard.

Loubani is the head of the Glia project, whose team of hackers and surgeons designed and field-tested the stethoscope. Audio-frequency response curve tests showed the device not only exceeds international standards, but offers superior sound quality compared to the industry-leading Littmann Cardiology 3.

The Littmann retails for $150-200. The Glia stethoscope, including the 3D printed head, tubing and ear piece, will cost around $5 to produce.

Loubani founded the Glia project after the 2012 Israeli invasion of Gaza. “I had to hold my ear to the chests of victims because there were no good stethoscopes, and that was a tragedy, a travesty, and unacceptable,” Loubani told attendees during a presentation at the Chaos Communications Camp in Zehdenick, Germany.

The device was tested in a process the group dubbed the “Hello Kitty” protocol. During the test, which measures how much sound is transmitted at each frequency, the stethoscope is pressed against a balloon filled with water before sound is transmitted through the balloon. The abundance of cat-branded balloons available in Gaza at the time led to that nickname. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

. . . Loubani foresees a future in which lifesaving medical devices, like dialysis machines and electrocardiograms, can be 3D printed around the world for a fraction of their former cost. Inspired by the open source software movement, he keeps all his code on GitHub and encourages doctors and hardware hackers to contribute to the project in a collaborative way. . .

The Glia team is focused on developing the three most ubiquitous and expensive medical devices—the stethoscope, a pulse oximeter that monitors blood oxygen levels, and an electrocardiogram for cardiac patients. The latter two, Loubani explains, will use “PCBs [printed circuit boards] designed to be easy for people to make in low-resource settings with simple methods like toner transfer. The housing is 3D printed.” . . .

Loubani was inspired to launch the project after testing his nephew’s toy stethoscope, and was startled to find such good sound quality.

Stethoscope prices remain high despite the expiration of fifty-year-old patents, and so he brought together a group of hardware hackers to work on the Glia model.

“I can understand why these companies charge so much,” he wrote. “[They] have no reason to undermine their profits. Why would 3M develop a stethoscope that’s as good as their $200 model but a fraction of the cost? That’s where doctors, hackers and tinkerers from all over the world take over to create these devices in a way that’s affordable and accessible.” . . .

Motherboard has another article, by Seung Lee, about how medical companies are developed stethoscope replacements with enhanced capabilities (recording the sounds, for example) and sell at much higher prices. Well worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 August 2015 at 3:16 pm

Inspiring story: How First Nations Kids Built Their Own Internet Infrastructure

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It’s very good to read about projects undertaken by a community to meet its own needs. Jordan Pearson reports in Motherboard:

Three years ago, the people living in the Ochiichagwe’Babigo’Ining Ojibway Nation in Ontario would crowd in each other’s homes and outside the band office to access what little internet the community had. There was dial-up, there was expensive cellular data, and there was some service from an internet provider in a neighboring town; when the network went down, it would sometimes take weeks for a technician to come and fix the issue.

The community’s kids—itching to get their gaming systems online and scroll through Facebook on their phones—weren’t having it. So Chad Henry, now 26, gathered a group of five other young people, some just teenagers, and formed a youth council with the mission of bringing high speed internet to their town. And they were going to do it themselves.

Within three months, Henry told me in an interview, the youth council had drafted a business plan, secured funding from the local band, and hired a contractor to build a telecommunications tower. They purchased bandwidth from a small provider, and beamed it from their tower and into the homes of anybody who wanted it—high speed, unlimited bandwidth, and relatively cheap; just $40 a month. That was in 2013.

Two years later, the First Nations community ISP run by teenagers and 20 somethings services 30 homes, and the project is far from finished.

“We want to expand it,” Henry told me. “Right now it’s limited within our community—we only have 60 houses—but there’s a lot of cottages along the Winnipeg River. We want to set up a tower on the south side of our community, to reach Myrtle Rapids and the rest of the cottages along the river.”

The original tower will be upgraded, too, Henry said. Next week, the service will double its speed from 10Mbps to 20Mbps. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 August 2015 at 8:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Making surfaces that will remain dry when submerged

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Quite interesting. Includes a video.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2015 at 10:11 am

Posted in Science, Technology

Techno-adventuring: A Tanzania project

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In an email exchange with a guy who’s going to buy one of my razors (the original Tradere open-comb, Serial No. OC-00011), he described a project he had done, and I got his permission to blog it because I thought it was interesting:

A friend from high school (hard to believe it’s been that long) had set up a Wi-Fi and cell phone network in Mississippi following Katrina. He used donated equipment, and set up a network for emergency responders. After Katrina, he packed it up, believing people with more expertise would take over the task of deploying networks in emergencies. They didn’t. Then he had a friend who was a journalist who got killed in Tahrir square in Egypt, because he was using a network monitored by the state. We came up with a way to make an anything-to-anything router – satellite modem to cell service, Wi-Fi mesh, you name it. The idea was to place it with journalists in conflict areas, or put it in disaster areas.

We deployed in Tanzania, along Lake Tanganyika, a 500km long lake that borders TZ with Congo. It’s pretty remote, and there’s no infrastructure at all. They have health clinics 20-50km up and down the lake, and if one’s closed and you need treatment, you drag yourself 20-50km up the lake in hopes that they’re open. They closed 1.5 weeks out of the month so that the practitioner could take paper records back to the ministry of health. They didn’t get paid unless they brought the paper in by motorcycle, 4×4, seaplane, or walking.

We put in our servers, running off car batteries charged by solar power, and used radio with low data speeds to network between the sites, with Wi-Fi for laptops donated by HP. I designed a medical records system working with some medical doctors in the US, suitable for people who had never used a computer before. Result: The clinics stay open all month, the records are wired back to a hospital in a city, and printed there. Everyone gets paid, no clinics close, and if I’m optimistic, I imagine lives are saved as a result. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done for next to no pay. No foundations want to donate for equipment – it’s not as sexy as donating to buy hypodermic needles. I still think having actual histories for people as opposed to treating each symptom in a vacuum has to be beneficial. Before we did this, there were no patient histories.

I really feel like I was along for the ride for that adventure, it was my friend from high school who drove it, and I supported and helped him make it happen every way I could. For a time he was also part of the SafeCast project to make cheap Geiger counters and map radiation after Fukushima. We worked on making sensor networks for the Al Dhakira mangroves in Qatar, which he turned into an open source student project there. The point was to monitor the oxygen potential and temperature of the mangrove seawater and be able to quantify the ideal conditions for their health. The mesh network in the mangroves was the precursor to the one we deployed in Tanzania.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 August 2015 at 7:25 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

An interesting way to make better use of our electricity grid

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Samantha Page reports at ThinkProgress:

In the basement garage of a high-end apartment building in the middle of New York City, a few electricians are quietly installing a century-old product that is now poised to revolutionize an industry — and maybe lead the United States into a carbon-neutral future.

Taking up about two parking spaces is a wall of boxes. They are simple lead-acid batteries, similar to what keeps the lights on in your car. But these batteries are linked together, connected to the building’s electricity system, and monitored in real time by a Washington-state based company, Demand Energy. Demand’s installation at the Paramount Building in midtown Manhattan is going to lower the building electricity bills and reduce its carbon footprint, even while it doesn’t reduce a single watt of use.

Every night, the batteries charge up. Every day, they run down, providing a small portion of the building’s energy and reducing the amount of power it takes off the grid. This cycle of charging during low-use times and discharging during high use times helps level out the Paramount’s electricity use.

It’s important to note that not all electricity is created equally. Renewable sources, such as wind and solar, don’t emit any greenhouse gases during power generation. Coal-burning and other fossil-fuel plants do, but even those plants emit different amounts of carbon dioxide depending on how they are used. Just like going 55 mph in a car is more efficient than going 100 mph, the more consistently we all use electricity, the less emissions we produce.

“The electricity grid as it’s designed today is a perfect just-in-time energy system,” Doug Staker, president of Demand Energy, told ThinkProgress. This means that for every computer turned on in the morning, the grid has to supply that amount of power. But it also creates opportunities. “At night, when all the demand goes away, there is a potential to have oversupply,” Staker said. That oversupply goes into batteries. It all comes back to flattening the demand curve — driving demand down during the day and up at night.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2015 at 11:07 am

A big breakthrough on the way to a quantum computer

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Very interesting report in Motherboard by Daniel Oberhaus:

Today marked the unveiling of a reprogrammable optical chip that is capable of processing photons in an infinite variety of ways. This development marks a massive step toward the realization of a quantum computer capable of wildly outperforming its most powerful classical counterparts, a technological feat that has been dreamt of for decades.

The new chip was heralded by the team of researchers from the University of Bristol and the Japanese telecom company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone as a “quantum optics lab-on-a-chip” because it brings together a number of pre-existing quantum experiments on a single device, drastically cutting down the amount of time and resources needed to design and run experiments to test theories about quantum computing. The work is detailed in a report in Science.

“A whole field of research has essentially been put onto a single optical chip that is easily controlled. The implications of the work go beyond the huge resource savings,”said Dr. Anthony Laing, a research fellow at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Quantum Photonics. “Now anybody can run their own experiments with photons, much like they operate any other piece of software on a computer.”

Quantum computing was first postulated by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in 1981 in response to the problem of simulating quantum mechanics on a computer. Quantum mechanics, which deals with interactions between individual atoms and particles, involves so many variables that the amount of memory required by a classical supercomputer to model quantum interactions is basically impossible. While Feynman was not the first to recognize this problem, he was one of the first to propose a solution: rather than model quantum mechanics on a classical computer, why not just make a quantum computer? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 August 2015 at 9:28 am


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