Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Blockchain briefing for DoD

I was asked to deliver Blockchain: What's Not To Like? version 3.0 to a Department of Defense conference-call. I took the opportunity to update the talk, and expand it to include some of the "Additional Material" from the original, and from the podcast. Below the fold, the text of the talk with links to the sources. The yellow boxes contain material that was on the slides but was not spoken.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Boeing's Corporate Suicide

Boeing believed that development of the 787 Dreamliner was a "bet the company decision". As things turned out, after a rocky start, it was a bet that will probably pay off. But the company took another "bet the company" decision that looks like it may not pay off, and it may well take the company with it. Below the fold, the details.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Carl Malamud's Text Mining Project

For many years now it has been obvious that humans can no longer effectively process the enormous volume of academic publishing. The entire system is overloaded, and its signal-to-noise ratio is degrading. Journals are no longer effective gatekeepers, indeed many are simply fraudulent. Peer review is incapable of preventing fraud, gross errors, false authorship, and duplicative papers; reviewers cannot be expected to have read all the relevant literature.

On the other hand, there is now much research showing that computers can be effective at processing this flood of information. Below the fold I look at a couple of recent developments.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Not To Pick On Toyota

Just under five years ago Prof. Phil Koopman gave a talk entitled A Case Study of Toyota Unintended Acceleration and Software Safety (slides, video). I only just discovered it, and its an extraordinarily valuable resource for understanding the risks of embedded software. Especially the risks of embedded software in life-critical products, and the processes needed to avoid failures such as those that caused deaths from sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) of Toyota cars, and from unintended pitch-down of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. I doubt Toyota is an outlier in this respect, and I would expect that the multi-billion dollar costs of the problems Koopman describes have motivated much improvement in their processes. Follow me below the fold for the details.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The EFF vs. DMCA Section 1201

As the EFF's Parker Higgins wrote:
Simply put, Section 1201 means that you can be sued or even jailed if you bypass digital locks on copyrighted works—from DVDs to software in your car—even if you are doing so for an otherwise lawful reason, like security testing.;
Section 1201 is obviously a big problem for software preservation, especially when it comes to games.

Last December in Software Preservation Network I discussed both the SPN's important documents relating to the DMCA:
Below the fold, some important news about Section 1201.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Finn Brunton's "Digital Cash"

I attended the book launch event for Finn Brunton's Digital Cash at the Internet Archive, and purchased a copy. It is a historian's review of the backstory leading up to Satoshi Nakamoto's Bitcoin. To motivate you to read it, below the fold I summarize its impressive breadth.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Web Is A Low-Trust Society

Back in 1992 Robert Putnam et al published Making democracy work: civic traditions in modern Italy, contrasting the social structures of Northern and Southern Italy. For historical reasons, the North has a high-trust structure whereas the South has a low-trust structure. The low-trust environment in the South had led to the rise of the Mafia and persistent poor economic performance. Subsequent effects include the rise of Silvio Berlusconi.

Now, in The Internet Has Made Dupes-And Cynics-Of Us All, Zynep Tufecki applies the same analysis to the Web:
ONLINE FAKERY RUNS wide and deep, but you don’t need me to tell you that. New species of digital fraud and deception come to light almost every week, if not every day: Russian bots that pretend to be American humans. American bots that pretend to be human trolls. Even humans that pretend to be bots. Yep, some “intelligent assistants,” promoted as advanced conversational AIs, have turned out to be little more than digital puppets operated by poorly paid people.

The internet was supposed to not only democratize information but also rationalize it—to create markets where impartial metrics would automatically surface the truest ideas and best products, at a vast and incorruptible scale. But deception and corruption, as we’ve all seen by now, scale pretty fantastically too.
Below the fold, some commentary.