This is the only time in my entire programming life that I’ve debugged a problem caused by quantum mechanics.
The guys at Sophos know they’re breaking standard web-functionality and have a fix ready but will not release it to its free customers.
Oh, and you know what else they said? They said I should just tell our customers to disable Sophos Antivirus to fix the issue. Being the compliant guy I always am that’s exactly what I’ll do:
Stop using Sophos Antivirus, now.
VICE News reporter Medyan Dairieh spent three weeks embedded with the Islamic State, gaining unprecedented access to the group in Iraq and Syria as the first and only journalist to document its inner workings. In part one, Dairieh heads to the frontline in Raqqa, where Islamic State fighters are laying siege to the Syrian Army’s division 17 base.
he 2014 Fields medallists have just been announced as (in alphabetical order of surname) Artur Avila, Manjul Bhargava, Martin Hairer, and Maryam Mirzakhani (see also these nice video profiles for the winners, which is a new initiative of the IMU and the Simons foundation). This time last year, I wrote a blog post discussing one result from each of the 2010 medallists; I thought I would try to repeat the exercise here, although the work of the medallists this time around is a little bit further away from my own direct area of expertise than last time, and so my discussion will unfortunately be a bit superficial (and possibly not completely accurate) in places. As before, I am picking these results based on my own idiosyncratic tastes, and are not necessarily the “best” work of these medallists.
Artur Avila works in dynamical systems and in the study of Schrödinger operators. The work of Avila that I am most familiar with is his solution with Svetlana Jitormiskaya on the ten martini problem of Kac, the solution to which (according to Barry Simon) he offered ten martinis for, hence the name. The problem involves perhaps the simplest example of a Schrödinger operator with non-trivial spectral properties, namely the almost Mathieu operator defined for parameters and
This is a bounded self-adjoint operator and thus has a spectrum that is a compact subset of the real line; it arises in a number of physical contexts, most notably in the theory of the integer quantum Hall effect, though I will not discuss these applications here. Remarkably, the structure of this spectrum depends crucially on the Diophantine properties of the frequency . For instance, if is a rational number, then the operator is periodic with period , and then basic (discrete) Floquet theory tells us that the spectrum is simply the union of (possibly touching) intervals. But for irrational (in which case the spectrum is independent of the phase ), the situation is much more fractal in nature, for instance in the critical case the spectrum (as a function of ) gives rise to the Hofstadter butterfly. The “ten martini problem” asserts that for every irrational and every choice of coupling constant being very small or very large, or being either very close to rational (i.e. a Liouville number) or very far from rational (a Diophantine number). The argument uses a wide variety of existing techniques, both perturbative and non-perturbative, to attack this problem, as well as an amusing argument by contradiction: they assume (in certain regimes) that the spectrum fails to be a Cantor set, and use this hypothesis to obtain additional Lipschitz control on the spectrum (as a function of the frequency ), which they can then use (after much effort) to improve existing perturbative arguments and conclude that the spectrum was in fact Cantor after all!
Mirzakhani, a professor at Stanford, is the first woman to win math’s highest prize, and Avila is the first South American.
TO PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES
Of course. It would be bad to have news helicopters report on what’s happening there.
Oh, for reference, in case you missed this story.
This is a tale of love, pain, loss, and redemption – and of a baboon, Amelia.
The engineers at CarShield, a connected-car startup, were working on their trip-route optimization features when a patent troll interrupted their day. This troll didn’t bother sending a demand letter, it just filed a lawsuit. No prior notification. This was odd, as the plaintiff — 911 Notify, LLC — claimed to own a patent on notifications. The notification CarShield did eventually receive was an offer to settle the lawsuit for $250,000. They were shocked.
Startups in this situation are trapped between a rock and a hard-place. They can either pay off the troll (unsavory) or defend the lawsuit (expensive). Many startups decide to hold their nose and pay the trolls. Everyone would prefer to defend the lawsuit, but not everyone can afford the cost of defense. This is why we started using law school clinics to do free legal defense. It’s a win-win arrangement: students cut their teeth on real litigation, startups get free legal defense, and patent trolls get nothing.
Brooklyn Law School’s BLIP clinic tried it last semester, and was fairly successful in getting a patent troll lawsuit dismissed. I’ll tell you a little about the clinic, the case, and how other law schools can do similar work.
There’s a horrible story of a South Carolina mother arrested for letting her 9-year-old daughter play alone at a park while she was at work. The article linked to another article about a woman convicted of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” for leaving her 4-year-old son in the car for a few minutes. That article contains some excellent commentary by the very sensible Free Range Kids blogger Lenore Skenazy:
“Listen,” she said at one point. “Let’s put aside for the moment that by far, the most dangerous thing you did to your child that day was put him in a car and drive someplace with him. About 300 children are injured in traffic accidents every day — and about two die. That’s a real risk. So if you truly wanted to protect your kid, you’d never drive anywhere with him. But let’s put that aside. So you take him, and you get to the store where you need to run in for a minute and you’re faced with a decision. Now, people will say you committed a crime because you put your kid ‘at risk.’ But the truth is, there’s some risk to either decision you make.” She stopped at this point to emphasize, as she does in much of her analysis, how shockingly rare the abduction or injury of children in non-moving, non-overheated vehicles really is. For example, she insists that statistically speaking, it would likely take 750,000 years for a child left alone in a public space to be snatched by a stranger. “So there is some risk to leaving your kid in a car,” she argues. It might not be statistically meaningful but it’s not nonexistent. The problem is,”she goes on, “there’s some risk to every choice you make. So, say you take the kid inside with you. There’s some risk you’ll both be hit by a crazy driver in the parking lot. There’s some risk someone in the store will go on a shooting spree and shoot your kid. There’s some risk he’ll slip on the ice on the sidewalk outside the store and fracture his skull. There’s some risk no matter what you do. So why is one choice illegal and one is OK? Could it be because the one choice inconveniences you, makes your life a little harder, makes parenting a little harder, gives you a little less time or energy than you would have otherwise had?”
Later on in the conversation, Skenazy boils it down to this. “There’s been this huge cultural shift. We now live in a society where most people believe a child can not be out of your sight for one second, where people think children need constant, total adult supervision. This shift is not rooted in fact. It’s not rooted in any true change. It’s imaginary. It’s rooted in irrational fear.”
Skenazy has some choice words about the South Carolina story as well:
But, “What if a man would’ve come and snatched her?” said a woman interviewed by the TV station.
To which I must ask: In broad daylight? In a crowded park? Just because something happened on Law & Order doesn’t mean it’s happening all the time in real life. Make “what if?” thinking the basis for an arrest and the cops can collar anyone. “You let your son play in the front yard? What if a man drove up and kidnapped him?” “You let your daughter sleep in her own room? What if a man climbed through the window?” etc.
These fears pop into our brains so easily, they seem almost real. But they’re not. Our crime rate today is back to what it was when gas was 29 cents a gallon, according to The Christian Science Monitor. It may feel like kids are in constant danger, but they are as safe (if not safer) than we were when our parents let us enjoy the summer outside, on our own, without fear of being arrested.
“If I sound a little bit upset, it’s because I am,” Levison told a packed ballroom Friday at Defcon, a top hacker conference held annually in Las Vegas.
“I’m not upset that I got railroaded and I had to shut down my business,” said Levison. “I’m upset because we need a Mil-Spec [military grade] cryptographic mail system for the entire planet just to be able to talk to our friends and family without any kind of fear of government surveillance.”
The secrets of one of the world’s most prominent surveillance companies, Gamma Group, spilled onto the Internet last week, courtesy of an anonymous leaker who appears to have gained access to sensitive corporate documents. And while they provide illuminating details about the capabilities of Gamma’s many spy tools, perhaps the most surprising revelation is about something the company is unable to do: It can’t hack into your typical iPhone.
Android phones, some Blackberries and phones running older Microsoft operating systems all are vulnerable to Gamma’s spyware, called FinSpy, which can turn your smart phone into a potent surveillance device. Users of the spyware are capable of listening to calls on targeted devices, stealing contacts, activating the microphone, tracking your location and more. But for FinSpy to hack into an iPhone, its owner must have already stripped away much of its built-in security through a process called “jailbreaking.” No jailbreak, no FinSpy on your iPhone, at least according to a leaked Gamma document dated April 2014.
When Davis asks why she couldn’t simply do that during the earlier call, her explanation is enough to make you pound your head through a wall in frustration.
“We try to negotiate, and again, that is a valid charge,” she answers. “But since I advised my manager that there is a recording and you were misinformed, then she’s the one who can approve that $82.”
Seemingly flabbergasted, Davis asks to confirm, “You’re telling me that if I didn’t have a recording of that call, you wouldn’t have been able to do it?”
“Yes, that is correct,” answers the rep, confirming that the only way to get Comcast to erase a bogus charge from your account is to have recorded evidence that you were promised in advance that the call would be free.
Die Bundesregierung erhöht den Druck auf ausländische Nachrichtendienste, ihre Aktivitäten in Deutschland offenzulegen. Nach Informationen von SPIEGEL ONLINE drängt das Auswärtige Amt (AA) alle ausländischen Botschaften auf offiziellem diplomatischen Weg, ihr gesamtes Geheimdienstpersonal zu benennen.
Konkret fordert eine bereits am Mittwoch versandte Verbalnote, dass alle Staaten, einschließlich der internationalen Partner, Listen mit den Namen aller aktiven Agenten vorlegen sollen. Ausdrücklich sind Konsulate, Kulturinstitute und auch Geheimdienstler miteingeschlossen. Die Bundesregierung erwarte nun, dass die Note “von allen angeschriebenen Vertretungen beantwortet” werde, hieß es im AA.
Berlin drängt mit dem ungewöhnlichen Schritt auf mehr Transparenz für die in Deutschland tätigen ausländischen Geheimdienste. Im Ministerium von Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) heißt es diplomatisch, Ziel des Vorstoßes sei es, zwischen der Bundesregierung und den Botschaften “einen gemeinsamen Sachstand” herzustellen. Tatsächlich aber belegt die provokante Bitte die deutsche Frustration über das Treiben der ausländischen Nachrichtendienste. Vor allem die konstante Weigerung des Partners USA, Berlin zumindest das offizielle Personal der CIA, NSA oder des Militärgeheimdienstes offenzulegen, sorgt in der Regierung für Ärger.
It does sound like they plan to perform a comprehensive cross checking between what embassies are willing to report, what they already know for certain, and what they have evidence to suggest may be incorrect. And draw conclusions over which countries are friendly or hostile..
Today is a good day. I just had a call from a telemarketer. Did I yell and scream at them, you ask? Certainly not. Like a good IT administrator I put my skills to use for their benefit. Here’s how the conversation went:
Computer: “Press 9 to not be contacted in the future. Press 4 to speak to someone about your mortgage issues”
TM: “Hello, are you having problems paying your mortgage?”
Me: “Hi, this is the IT department. We intercepted your call as we detected a problem with you phone and need to fix it.”
TM: “Oh… ok, well what do we need to do?”
Me: “We’re going to need to fix the settings by pressing 4-6-8 and * at the same time”
TM: “Ok, nothing happened.”
Me: “Are you using the new Polycom phones that we deployed?”
TM: “No, it’s a Yealink”
Me: “Ok, I see. You haven’t had the new Polycom phone deployed to your desk yet. Let me check our technical documentations for the Yealink.”
Me: “Alright, do you see an “OK” button on your phone?”
TM: “Yes I do”
Me: “Alright, you’re going to press and hold that button for 10 seconds.”
TM: “OK, pressing it now”
Me: “Perfect, let me know if you get a password request”
TM: “OK, nothing has popped up ye—-”
That’s right. I made a telemarketer unwittingly factory reset his phone which means he will be unable to make anymore calls until someone is able to reconfigure his phone and that will take at least an hour or longer if they can’t do it right away!
In sum and once again: Amazon is not your friend. Neither is any other corporation. It and they do what they do for their own interest and are more than willing to try to make you try believe that what they do for their own benefit is in fact for yours. It’s not. In this particular case, this is not about readers or authors or anyone else but Amazon wanting eBooks capped at $9.99 for its own purposes. It should stop pretending that this is about anything other than that. Readers, authors, and everyone else should stop pretending it’s about anything other than that, too.
Apple may well be the only tech company on the planet that would dare compare itself to Picasso.
In a class at the company’s internal training program, the so-called Apple University, the instructor likened the 11 lithographs that make up Picasso’s “The Bull” to the way Apple builds its smartphones and other devices. The idea: Apple designers strive for simplicity just as Picasso eliminated details to create a great work of art.
Steven P. Jobs established Apple University as a way to inculcate employees into Apple’s business culture and educate them about its history, particularly as the company grew and the tech business changed. Courses are not required, only recommended, but getting new employees to enroll is rarely a problem.
Although many companies have such internal programs, sometimes referred to as indoctrination, Apple’s version is a topic of speculation and fascination in the tech world.
It is highly secretive and rarely written about, referred to briefly in the biography of Mr. Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Apple employees are discouraged from talking about the company in general, and the classes are no exception. No pictures of the classrooms have surfaced publicly. And a spokeswoman for Apple declined to make instructors available for interviews for this article.
Late last month, a Siamese cat named Coco went wandering in his suburban Washington, DC neighborhood. He spent three hours exploring nearby backyards. He killed a mouse, whose carcass he thoughtfully brought home to his octogenarian owner, Nancy. And while he was out, Coco mapped dozens of his neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks, identifying four routers that used an old, easily-broken form of encryption and another four that were left entirely unprotected.
Unbeknownst to Coco, he’d been fitted with a collar created by Nancy’s granddaughter’s husband, security researcher Gene Bransfield. And Bransfield had built into that collar a Spark Core chip loaded with his custom-coded firmware, a Wi-Fi card, a tiny GPS module and a battery—everything necessary to map all the networks in the neighborhood that would be vulnerable to any intruder or Wi-Fi mooch with, at most, some simple crypto-cracking tools.
And so now the US has to use American weaponry to destroy the American weaponry it gave Iraqis to make Iraqis safer, in order to make Iraqis safer.
There’s a nice little feuilleton in the New York Times looking at why everyone whines about their iPhone slowing down when Apple releases a new variant.
Starting from a personal complaint by a professor, one of his students looks at the incidence for “iPhone slow” in Google Trends and notes that there’s a leap every time a new model is released.
That is released – not announced – so it must come from actual use, rather than just thinking that it isn’t quite up to date.
It’s also noted that releases of new Samsung models do not coincide so strongly with leaps in similar search terms. Obviously there’s something specific to Apple here, and that’s that major upgrades to the iPhone coincide with upgrades to iOS, something which 90 per cent of iPhone users will implement.
Famously, Android users do not tend to upgrade their OS over time. So, we might think that this observed slow-down is a result of trying to run the new OS on old hardware which isn’t quite up to supporting it. And we’d probably be right there.
However, we can now go off on our own and go a little further than this. For what’s really remarkable about these OS upgrades is how good Apple has been at keeping new versions of iOS compatible with old versions of hardware. No one at all would suggest running today’s Samsung bloatware (that bit that floats around on top of Android) on hardware three years old. But it seems perfectly acceptable to be running this year’s iOS on old kit. It’s also at this point that we can wander off into a couple of bits of economics for illumination.
Oracle’s much-ballyhooed data redaction feature in Database 12c is easy to subvert without needing to use exploit code, attendees at Defcon 22 in Las Vegas have heard.
The redaction features in 12c are designed to automatically protect sensitive database material by either totally obscuring column data or partially masking it – for example, recalling just the last four digits of a US social security number when a search query is run.
But according to David Litchfield, security specialist at Datacomm TSS and the author of The Oracle Hacker’s Handbook, the mechanism is so riddled with basic flaws that you don’t even need to execute native exploit code to defeat the redaction – some clever SQL is all that’s needed, we’re told.
“If Oracle has a decent security development lifecycle in place anyone would have found these flaws and stopped them in tracks,” Litchfield said.
“Anyone with a modicum of SQL would have found these bugs.”
Litchfield said that within five minutes of investigating the redactions system, he found serious flaws in the coding. He’s previously documented his findings here [PDF].
It’s official, Windows 8 is a write-off . Sales for the operating system have been poor and now it is even starting to lose market share to Windows 7. To Microsoft MSFT credit it has bravely persisted addressing issue after issue. Most notable was the major Windows 8.1 Update 1 patch released in April which makes the OS a genuinely credible platform. Still it remains far from perfect and now Microsoft is prematurely pulling the plug.
In a blog post by Microsoft Senior Marketing Communications Manager Brandon LeBlanc, he explains that there will be no more major update releases for Windows 8: “despite rumours and speculation, we are not planning to deliver a Windows 8.1 ‘Update 2’.”
Google has come up with a way to overcome the ad-targeting gap between mobile web visitors and mobile app users, according to people familiar with the matter.
The online ad giant is set to begin testing a new method of targeting tablet and smartphone users that connects the separate tracking mechanisms that follow what people do on the mobile web and in mobile apps respectively, the people said. Until now, advertisers have usually been forced to treat individual mobile users as two unconnected people, depending on whether they are using a mobile browser or apps.
A Google spokesman confirmed the effort. “As an alternative to less transparent methods, we’re doing some tests to help businesses run consistent ad campaigns across a device’s mobile browser and mobile apps, using existing anonymous identifiers, while enabling people to use the established privacy controls on Android and iOS,” the spokesman said in an email.
The targeting method relies on Google’s two-million-plus network of third-party sites and its mobile app ad network AdMob, which is able to track and serve ads to users of hundreds of thousands of mobile apps across Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating systems.
Obama said the department and administration have started reaching out to veterans who are on the wait lists to match them with care, have fired people and are investigating numerous allegations of misconduct.
Obama and members of Congress said one of the most important provisions of the bill is free: It allows McDonald free reign to fire people who are not doing their jobs or have engaged in unethical behavior.
If an employee does not meet standards of conduct, “You should be fired, period,” Obama said. Whistleblowers, Obama said, should be protected.
“If you blow the whistle,” Obama said, “you should be thanked. You should be protected for doing the right thing. You shouldn’t be ignored and you certainly shouldn’t be punished.”
“…Unless you blow the whistle on my or any of my pals. In that case, you’d better flee the country quick or my people will kill you or lock you in a cage for the rest of your life.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the spread of Ebola in West Africa an international health emergency.
WHO officials said the possible consequences were “particularly serious” because of the virulence of the virus.
The announcement came after experts convened a two-day emergency meeting in Switzerland.
I wonder… if they announced a vaccine tomorrow, would all the anti-vaccine people line up to get a shot?