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Clickety-clack of keyboard can give you away

Freedom to Tinker summarizes a paper on snooping typed information by analyzing a recording of the typing sounds.

The recovered text gets about 90% of the words right and is said to be "quite readable". While passwords don’t have the same statistical properties as ordinary text, as long as the password-typing is accompanied by enough English-typing the algorithm can come up with a short list of possible passwords, which almost always includes the correct one.

"Sounds let eavesdroppers determine what you're typing" plus "cellphone companies can remotely install software to activate the microphone when the user is not making a call" equals "a creepy feeling up and down my spine".

The Six Dumbest Ideas in Computer Security

Security guru Marcus Ranum writes about The Six Dumbest Ideas in Computer Security. (Marcus worked at TIS the same time I did; he is an intensely clueful person whose advice on matters of information security should probably be heeded.)

Google: web says Bush == failure

Nothing quite like Google for reading the thoughts of the world as expressed on the web. Try a Google search on the word "failure" and what's the first entry? The official White House web site's biography of the George W. Bush.

That would be a lot funnier if it wasn't for the thousands of people left dead, maimed, or destitute because of Bush's criminal and incompetent behavior. But hey - a Google search for "impeachment" brings up, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark's organization devoted to giving W the treatment he has so richly earned.

You know, it occurs to me that in a few months, after all the Katrina refugees have at least been fed, families reunited, and have roofs over their heads again, the impeachment of George W. Bush would make a great Christmas gift to them.

FEMA adds insult to injury by requiring use of Internet Explorer

So let's say you're a Katrina refugee - sorry, that's not PC, evacuee, but that's another story - and you've found refuge at a friends' house. And let's say said friend has a computer. Can you go to register for aid from FEMA on-line? Only if your friend does business with a corporate criminal, Microsoft. MSNBC (ironically, a Microsoft - NBC joint venture) reports:

The good news: If you've survived Hurricane Katrina, the government will let you register for help online. The bad news: But only if the computer you're using is running Windows.

I am not a robot

Pity Jason Striegel. He got his AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) account added to a list of sex chat bots...and can't convince IM'ers that he's really human. Read "How I Failed the Turing Test".

The Turing Test, for those not familiar with it, is a test of artificial intelligence proposed by Alan Turing, in which a computer program tries to act like a human in conversation. Turing envisioned using teletypes to hide the machine, but the 'net does the job even better.

"Intellectual Property" madness, Part XVII

For those who came in late: for years now, tech and media companies have been trying to use copyright and patent law to restrict your freedom to share information, or modify or explore the devices you buy, or generally do anything that might decrease their profit margin. The two latest examples:

Big Brother is listening...through your cellphone

This Guardian story mentions in passing:

Not only can operators pinpoint users to within yards of their location by "triangulating" the signals from three base stations, but - according to a report in the Financial Times - the operators (under instructions from the authorities) can remotely install software onto a handset to activate the microphone even when the user is not making a call. Who needs an ID card when they can do that already?

hardware lust: "Damn Small Machine"

Yummy. The Damn Small Machine is a Nano-ITX system that is 100% silent because it has no moving parts - no fan, no disk drive. Very low power consumption. Runs Damn Small Linux.

If and when the house gets sold and I put part of my share to a audio recording setup, this might end up part of it, if I could plug something like the Tascam US122 in to it. (Need to do more research about the Linux compatibility of that unit.)

Denver Airport's automated baggage system (finally!) shutting down

Ah, Denver Airport. For many years - a decade, really - those of us in the computer field have read of delays and problems with their massive automated baggage handling system. Truly one of the great boondoggles of computer systems. They're finally pulling the plug - and replacing this failed hi-tech system with human baggage handlers.


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