Thursday, November 19, 2020

Storage Media Update

My last post on storage media was After A Decade, HAMR Is Still Nearly Here back in July. Below the fold, I look at some of the developments since then.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Even More On The Ad Bubble

I've been writing for some time about the hype around online advertising. There's a lot of evidence that it is ineffective. Recently, the UK's Information Commissioner's Office concluded an investigation into Cambridge Analytica's involvement in the 2016 US election and the Brexit referendum. At The Register, Shaun Nichols summarizes their conclusions in UK privacy watchdog wraps up probe into Cambridge Analytica and... it was all a little bit overblown, no?:
El Reg has heard on good authority from sources in British political circles that Cambridge Analytica's advertised powers of online suggestion were rather overblown and in fact mostly useless. In the end, it was skewered by its own hype, accused of tangibly influencing the Brexit and presidential votes on behalf of political parties and campaigners using its Facebook data. Yet, no evidence, according to the ICO, could be found supporting those specific claims.
Below the fold I look at this, a recent book on the topic, and other evidence that has emerged since I wrote Contextual vs. Behavioral Advertising.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Order Flow

The MacGuffin in the last two books of William Gibson's Blue Ant trilogy is Chombo, a reclusive hacker. In Spook Country he tracks a container full of US currency, and in Zero History:
"It's the order flow, isn't it?" Milgrim had had no intent to ask this at all. Hadn't been thinking off it. Yet it had emerged. His therapist had told him that ideas, in human relations, had lives of their own. Were in a sense autonomous.
"Of course"
"That's what Chombo was doing. Finding the order flow."
"He found it a week before they kidnapped him, but his work, to that point, would have been useless, Without him, I mean."
"And the market, the whole thing, it's no longer real? Because you know the future?"
"It's a very tiny slice of the future. The merest paring. Minutes."
"How many?"
Bigend had glanced around the empty lounge. "Seventeen, presently."
"Is that enough?"
"Seven would have been entirely adequate. Seven seconds, in most cases."
Entirely adequate to make Hubertus Bigend much, much richer, because knowing the order flow allows him to front-run the transactions.

Wikipedia defines front-running thus:
Front running, also known as tailgating, is the prohibited practice of entering into an equity (stock) trade, option, futures contract, derivative, or security-based swap to capitalize on advance, nonpublic knowledge of a large ("block") pending transaction that will influence the price of the underlying security. ... A front running firm either buys for its own account before filling customer buy orders that drive up the price, or sells for its own account before filling customer sell orders that drive down the price. Front running is prohibited since the front-runner profits from nonpublic information, at the expense of its own customers, the block trade, or the public market.
Follow me below the fold for a discussion of why the architecture of cryptocurrencies means that no-one needs Chombo's mysterious skills to front-run the order flow.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Long Now

A talk by Stewart Brand and Danny Hillis about 25 years ago explaining the concept of the "Long Now" and the idea of building a 10,000-year clock to illustrate it was what started me thinking about long-term digital preservation. The idea of Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe (LOCKSS), and the acronym came a couple of years later.

Hōryū-ji by Nekosuki, CC-BY-SA

Now, in The Data of Long-lived Institutions on the Long Now Foundation's blog, Alexander Rose refers to Hōryū-ji:
At about 1,400 years old, these are the two oldest continuously standing wooden structures in the world. And they’ve replaced a lot of parts of them. They keep the roofs on them, and even in a totally humid and raining environment, the central timbers of these buildings have stayed true. Interestingly, this temple was also the place where, over a thousand years ago, a Japanese princess had a vision that she needed to send a particular prayer out to the world to make sure that it survived into the future. And so she had, literally, a million wooden pagodas made with the prayer put inside them, and distributed these little pagodas as far and wide as she could. You can still buy these on eBay right now. It’s an early example of the philosophy of “Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe” (LOCKSS).
Below the fold, more on Rose's interesting post.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Unbanking The Banked

David Gerard has been writing a follow-up to his must-read and surprisingly successful Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain: Bitcoin, Blockchain, Ethereum & Smart Contracts, entitled Libra Shrugged: How Facebook Tried to Take Over The Money. The Kindle version goes live on Amazon next Monday.

As one of his Patreons, I've been reading the chapters as he finished them. It isn't a laugh-a-minute read like his first book, but like the first it is a copiously sourced account of incredible hubris. Facebook's hubris led them to believe that they could, in effect, become a sovereign currency issuer like a government, without any of the responsibilities that governments assume when they control a currency. Actual governments looked at this proposal and responded "you have to be kidding". Follow me below the fold for more.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A Note On Blockchains

Blockchains have three components, a data structure, a set of replicas, and a consensus mechanism:
  • The data structure is often said to provide immutability or to be tamper-proof, but this is wrong. It is made out of bits, and bits can be changed or destroyed. What it actually provides is tamper-evidence, revealing that the data structure has changed.
  • If an unauthorized change to the data structure is detected the damage must be repaired. So there must be multiple replicas of the data structure to allow an undamaged replica to be copied to the damaged replica.
  • The role of the consensus mechanism is to authorize changes to the data structure, and prevent unauthorized changes. A change is authorized if the consensus of the replicas agrees to it.
Below the fold, some details.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Liability In The Software Supply Chain

Atlantic Council Report On Software Supply Chains was already rather long when I got to the last of the report's recommendations that I wanted to discuss, the one entitled Bring Lawyers, Guns and Money. It proposes imposing liability on actors in the software supply chain, and I wrote:
The fact that software vendors use licensing to disclaim liability for the functioning of their products is at the root of the lack of security in systems. These proposals are plausible but I believe they would either be ineffective or, more likely, actively harmful. There is so much to write about them that they deserve an entire post to themselves.
Below the fold is the post they deserve.