technology

Sometimes two buttons is one too many

Something I sent in to the RISKS Forum:

Yesterday I took a CPR class that featured training in the use of
Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs.

AEDs are truly remarkable devices. Early defibrillation raises the
probability of survival about an order of magnitude over CPR alone, and AEDs
are - supposedly - designed to be so easy to use that even child can
operate them. Watching the training video brought to mind memories of
science-fiction stories where the hero hooks his wounded buddy up to an
"autodoc" unit that monitors and medicates him, acting like a cybernetic
paramedic until their spaceship makes it back to base.

User interface confusion was never a problem in those stories.

Bruce Sterling: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Google"

Interesting little short short story from Bruce Sterling in New Scientist, considering the future of people and "controlled spaces":

Right. We teenagers have to live in "controlled spaces". Radio-frequency ID tags, real-time locative systems, global positioning systems, smart doorways, security videocams. They "protect" us kids, from imaginary satanic drug dealer terrorist mafia predators. We're "secured". We're juvenile delinquents with always-on cellphone nannies in our pockets. There's no way to turn them off. The internet was designed without an off-switch.

Happy Yuri's Night!

April 12th is the 45th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's space flight. In 1961 he made a single orbit in a flight lasting 108 minutes, becoming the first human being in space.

I'm celebrating with a beer at a bar in Fell's Point, but all over the world more organized celebrations are taking place. (Even on Antarctica!)

Looking up at the full moon in the clear spring sky, I think of how at liftoff, Yuri shouted, "Poyekhali!" - "Let's go!" Here's hoping we, as a species, do.

Group purchase of BrowserCam membership

BrowserCam is a very cool service that allows you to obtain screenshots of web sites in a number of different browsers, so you can see what your site looks like to people using IE, Safari, Firefox, or Opera on different platforms. It is, however, on the spendy side - one day's access is $19.95. But, a year's access for a group of 10 people is $399.95 - this is originally intended for a company, but if you get 10 people together you can get a year's access for the price of one day.

People have been using Fundable.org to co-ordinate such group purchases. Here's one that I've joined.

Z interviews RMS

Z Magazine (or at least it's on-line project "Z Net") interviews Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software movement. RMS discusses globalization, power, and freedom:

If you are against the globalization of business power, you should be for free software....

People who say they are against globalization are really against the globalization of business power. They are not actually against globalization as such, because there are other kinds of globalization, the globalization of cooperation and sharing knowledge, which they are not against. Free software replaces business power with cooperation and the sharing of knowledge.

Globalizing a bad thing makes it worse. Business power is bad, so globalizing it is worse. But globalizing a good thing is usually good. Cooperation and sharing of knowledge are good, and when they happen globally, they are even better.

Amusing password masking social hack

bash.org is a website that collects amusing snippets from IRC discussions. I found this little bit of social engineering quite amusing:

<Cthon98> hey, if you type in your pw, it will show as stars
<Cthon98> ********* see!
<AzureDiamond> hunter2
<AzureDiamond> doesnt look like stars to me
<Cthon98> <AzureDiamond> *******
<Cthon98> thats what I see
<AzureDiamond> oh, really?
<Cthon98> Absolutely
<AzureDiamond> you can go hunter2 my hunter2-ing hunter2
<AzureDiamond> haha, does that look funny to you?

Carl Ellison's padlock

My first job out of graduate school was working at Trusted Information Systems, where I met some of the top people in the information security field. I briefly shared an office with cryptography guru Carl Ellison; I came across a great little story on his web site today:

I had this great bicycle, once. I kept it in the walkway under my rowhouse in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, locked behind a solid wooden gate. To protect it, I went out and bought a hefty padlock. The lock cost a fair amount, but my peace of mind was worth it...

Honda designs canine-friendly car

Honda's W.O.W. concept car has built-in dog crates, washable roll-out flooring, and wide sliding doors. The article notes that in Japan, demand is growing for cars that cater to dogs and their people.

I noticed during my first visit (I'm going to get to go back in a few weeks) that Japan seemed a dog-friendly country, it seemed more common for people to have their dogs out with them in Kobe than in Baltimore. Also more older dogs, it seems they rarely put dogs down just because they get old.

Data preservation in a digital age

As Bruce Sterling and Richard Kadrey's Dead Media Project has shown, information may last a lot longer that our ability to read it. For example, try reading an old WordPerfect file stored on a 5 1/4 inch floppy from the days of MS-DOS.

What to do about preserving information amidst the constant flux of file formats, software applications, storage hardware, and operating systems? The National Archives and Records Administration has awarded Lockheed Martin a $308 million, six-year contract to build an system to preserve federal electronic records in a media, software, and hardware-independent fashion. We'll see.

A different approach to information preservation is being taken by the Rosetta Project of the Long Now Foundation. As fifty to ninety percent of the world's 7,000-odd languages are predicted to disappear in the next century, they are attempting to create a near permanent physical archive of 1,000 of them, in the form of a large number of micro-etched 3" nickel disks scattered about as heirlooms.

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