I hope those are modern remake fairy tales…..

I browse the various Amazon.com sale pages occassionally, and I was looking at their DVD sales when I found their Girl Power DVD Sale (which hopefully will stay up for a little while so that link will work). I admit up front I have not seen the majority of these films but it seems that their criteria for “Girl Power” is fairly shakey and has little more to it than “has a female lead who is not 100% pathetic”. Yes, some of these are good – I haven’t seen Bend it Like Beckham but I have heard it is a … Continue reading I hope those are modern remake fairy tales…..

More E-Voting Problems

In a new wrinkle on security concerns about e-voting, a Diebold voting machine key is copied from a photo on the Diebold website [via Boing Boing]. According to this article, the keys for all of the voting machines are the same, are very simple, and a detailed photo was available online until this story came out. Once one has a key, the machine is open to sabatoge, including code insertion to transparently modify election results. The availability of the photo is almost an example of seemingly trivial information being potentially compromising in the wrong hands, except it doesn’t seem that … Continue reading More E-Voting Problems

That evil textile monopoly….

Via Boing Boing, this article draws a pretty awesome analogy between the RIAA and 17th century French button-makers who worked to block individual innovation to protect their business interests. The quote that is getting passed around the most on this topic as the demand by button-makers to be able to search people’s homes to make sure that they were not using buttons made from outside the guild. Note that the analogy does not (from what I see at least) argue that individuals should be able to rampantly appropriate others’ ideas without due credit and compensation, or argue for the theft … Continue reading That evil textile monopoly….

DCMA Exemptions

I was talking with a colleague on Friday about the legality of backing up a video found online to an internal server as a safeguard for still being able to view the film in a class setting even if the network, or the film’s server, goes down when one is planning to use it. While it is not entirely the same situation, the first item on the Copyright Office’s list of exemptions from DCMA copying restrictions certainly suggests that doing so is not inconsistent with the Copyright Office’s interpretation of fair use: Audiovisual works included in the educational library of … Continue reading DCMA Exemptions

Math is still hard

From last week over at badscience, this is one of the most succinct and compelling examples I’ve seen of why everyone needs to know math, particularly prob/stats math. The example centers on a legal case and everyone involved’s inability to compare two conditional probabilities. Or, more properly, that the relevant thing to compare is conditional probabilities. It’s one of those situations where knowing how to do the calculations isn’t as important as knowing what the calculation you should be doing is.

On the internet,, everybody knows you’re a dog.

The latest Craigslist kerfluffle described here at Slashdot reminds me of the case from about a year and a half ago of someone posting their chat sessions with a plagiarist soliciting them for an essay. In both cases, you have people assuming that their one-on-one conversations will be kept private and sharing information with a complete stranger that they would not want made public. Clearly, this is not a nice thing to do. I think it is also unethical – unlike the plagiarism case where the recipient of the advances was able to check that such behavior was prohibited at … Continue reading On the internet,, everybody knows you’re a dog.

Obscured by trivia

I’ll admit up front that I’ve never been a fan of books of trivia so this discussion of the growing popularity of trivia books was both surprising (there’s really interest in those things?) and interesting [via A&L Daily]. The supposition made is that increased interest in trivia is a symptom of an increased desire for information mixing with an increased desire for instant gratification. There is also the suggestion that a focus on trivia reflects a loss of “the patience required to mine the deeper satisfactions of old”. There is no rigorous support for these claims, but they sound plausible … Continue reading Obscured by trivia

Science and Tech Feedback

The ACM”s public policy weblog has a nice discussion of Congress’s need for scientific and technical advice, prompted by a hearing on Tuesday on the topic. As in most other domains, the need for advice comes not from a lack of information, but rather from information overload, and specifically highly technical information overload: Congress does not face an information shortage. Each day hundreds of documents are dumped on Congress, many of them dealing with technical issues. One witness said that staffers now receive about 200 e-mails daily from advocacy groups. Numerous groups provide scientific advice to Congress including think tanks, … Continue reading Science and Tech Feedback

Robot Safety and Ethics

Perhaps most surprising to me is that the latest discussion I’ve come across about ethical concerns with introducing robots into non-industrial settings is from someplace as mainstream as the Economist, but it’s actually a nice summary of upcoming concerns [via Slashdot]. The article indicates that there have been many (in the 100s?) industrial robot accidents in the past 25 years, but the concern discussed at a recent European Robotics Symposium is what happens when robots move out of the industrial setting and interact with the general population. Major questions the aticle pulls out include: Should robots that are strong enough … Continue reading Robot Safety and Ethics

Bank Hacking

This is a great story of social engineering, wherein USB drives are “dropped” around a bank and employees pick them up and plug them into bank computers [via Slashdot]. This was done as part of a security audit, and what is particuarly interesting is that the employees knew a security audit was being done and knew that social engineering attacks were going to be attempted. The results: Of the 20 USB drives we planted, 15 were found by employees, and all had been plugged into company computers. The data we obtained helped us to compromise additional systems, and the best … Continue reading Bank Hacking