Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Pew Research On Link Rot

When Online Content Disappears by Athena Chapekis, Samuel Bestvater, Emma Remy and Gonzalo Rivero reports results from this research:
we collected a random sample of just under 1 million webpages from the archives of Common Crawl, an internet archive service that periodically collects snapshots of the internet as it exists at different points in time. We sampled pages collected by Common Crawl each year from 2013 through 2023 (approximately 90,000 pages per year) and checked to see if those pages still exist today.

We found that 25% of all the pages we collected from 2013 through 2023 were no longer accessible as of October 2023. This figure is the sum of two different types of broken pages: 16% of pages are individually inaccessible but come from an otherwise functional root-level domain; the other 9% are inaccessible because their entire root domain is no longer functional.
Their results are not surprising, but there are a number of surprising things about their report. Below the fold, I explain.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Fee-Only Bitcoin

Mining a Bitcoin block needs to be costly to ensure that the gains from an attack on the blockchain are less than the cost of mounting it. Miners have two sources of income to defray their costs, the block rewards and the fees for the transactions in the block.

On April 19th the block reward was halved from 6.25BTC to 3.125BTC. This process is repeated every 210,000 blocks (about every 4 years). It limits the issuance of BTC to 21M because around 2140 the reward will be zero; a halving will make it less than a satoshi.

Long before 2140 the block rewards will have shrunk to become insignificant compared to the fees. Below the fold I look at the significance of the change to a fee-only Bitcoin

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Elon Musk: Threat Or Menace? Part 5

Much of this series has been based on the outstanding reporting of the Washington Post, and the team's Trisha Thadani is back with Lawsuits test Tesla claim that drivers are solely responsible for crashes. My main concern all along has been that Musk's irresponsible hyping of his flawed technology is not just killing his credulous customers, but much more seriously innocent bystanders who had no say in the matter. The article includes video of:
  • A driver who believed Autopilot could drive him home despite his being drunk. The car drove the wrong way on the highway and killed another innocent victim of Musk's hype.
  • Autopilot rear-ending a merging vehicle and killing another innocent victim, a 15-year-old.
  • Autopilot slamming into a broken down vehicle on the highway. When the Tesla driver left the wreck she was hit and killed by another car.
  • Autopilot speeding through a T-junction and crashing into a parked truck.
Below the fold I look into Tesla's results, Musk's response, the details revealed by the various lawsuits. and this excellent advice from Elon Musk:
"If somebody doesn’t believe Tesla is going to solve autonomy, I think they should not be an investor in the company."
Elon Musk, 24th April 2024

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The 50th Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop

Last week I attended the 50th Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop. For a crew of volunteers to keep a small, invitation-only, off-the-record workshop going for half a century is an amazing achievement. A lot of the credit goes to the late John H. Wharton, who chaired it from 1985 to 2017 with one missing year. He was responsible for the current format, and the eclecticism of the program's topics.

Brian Berg has written a short history of the workshop for the IEEE entitled The Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop: Its Origin Story, and Beyond. It was started by "Three Freds and a Ted" and one of the Freds, Fred Coury has also written about it in here.Six years ago David Laws wrote The Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop and the Billion Dollar Toilet Seat for the Computer History Museum.

I have attended almost all of them since 1987. I have been part of the volunteer crew for many, including this one, and have served on the board of the 501C3 behind the workshop for some years.

This year's program featured a keynote from Yale Patt, and a session from four of his ex-students, Michael Shebanow, Wen-mei Hwu, Onur Mutlu and Wen-Ti Liu. Other talks came from Alvy Ray Smith based on his book A Biography of the Pixel, Mary Lou Jepsen on OpenWater, her attempt to cost-reduce diagnosis and treatment, and Brandon Holland and Jaden Cohen, two high-school students on applying AI to the Prisoner's Dilemma. I interviewed Chris Malachowsky about the history of NVIDIA. And, as always, the RATS (Rich Asilomar Tradition Session) in which almost everyone gives a 10-minute talk lasted past midnight.

The workshop is strictly off-the-record unless the speaker publishes it elsewhere, so I can't discuss the content of the talks.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Roach Motel Of Banking

You may have seen a Bitcoin Teller Machine (BTM) and wondered who would use one and and why. I have, there is one in our local Safeway. Elijah Nicholson-Messmer and Ella Ceron look into BTMs in Bitcoin ATMs Flood Black, Latino Areas, Charging Fees up to 22%. The headline sums up the story well, but there is a rather interesting sting in the tail of their article.

Follow me below the fold as I discuss the article and finally get to why the sting in the tail is interesting..

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Elon Musk: Threat or Menace Part 4

The previous post in this series, Elon Musk: Threat or Menace Part 3, was based on the impressively detailed reporting from a team at the Washington Post on the crash that killed Jeremy Banner in The final 11 seconds of a fatal Tesla Autopilot crash. The team's subsequent equally detailed Tesla worker killed in fiery crash may be first ‘Full Self-Driving’ fatality triggered this comment which concluded:
It seems the driver thought that it was OK to drive home with a blood alcohol level of 0.26 because he believed Musk's hype that Fake Self Driving would handle it despite having to repeatedly override it on the way out.
Now, the team's Faiz Siddiqui and Trisha Thadani are out with In 2018 crash, Tesla’s Autopilot just followed the lane lines. Below the fold I look into what it reveals about Autopilot.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Decentralized Systems Aren't

Below the fold is the text of a talk I gave to Berkeley's Information Systems Seminar exploring the history of attempts to build decentralized systems and why so many of them end up centralized.