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Little Brother challenged in Florida high school

Cory Doctorow - 2014, June 6 - 07:21


For the first time, one of my books has been challenged. The students at Booker T Washington High in Pensacola, Florida were to be assigned Little Brother for their summer One School/One Book read. At the last instant -- and over the objections of the head of the English department and the chief librarian -- the principal reversed the previous approval and seems to have cancelled the One School/One Book program outright. My amazing publishers, Tor Books, have volunteered to send 200 copies to the school for the students to read, and I'll participate in a videoconference with the students in the coming school year. Read all about it on Boing Boing.

Categories: Blogs

News June 5, 2014

Green City Acres - 2014, June 5 - 22:49

I am excited to announce that Dan is back with GCA for the season. Dan can harvest radishes like nobody’s business and has always made the work day full of joy and laughter. The way that it should be. Welcome back Dan!

Categories: Blogs

Humble Ebook Bundle adds Lawful Interception audio, From Hell Companion, Too Cool To Be Forgotten

Cory Doctorow - 2014, June 4 - 11:16


The latest Humble Ebook Bundle has added four new titles: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell, the From Hell Companion (review), Too Cool to Be Forgotten (review); and my audiobook for Lawful Interception, the sequel to Little Brother and Homeland. They join a stellar lineup of other comics, novels and ebooks with work by Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, Ed Piskor, Nate Powell, Paolo Bacigalupi, Tobias Buckell and Terry Goodkind.

Name your price for them -- all DRM free, and you can contribute to charity when you buy!

Humble Ebook Bundle

Categories: Blogs

MATLAB code in an unexpected place

Matlab Image processing blog - 2014, June 3 - 10:12

The TV show "The Americans" is a show about Soviet Union secret agents pretending to be a normal American couple in 1981-82 or so. In the 2nd season's final episode, which I watched last night, a military officer shows an FBI agent a computer screen that's supposed to be showing some code from a top-secret computer program called Echo. (Don't worry; this is not a significant spoiler.) When the code flashed by I thought it looked odd, more modern than I would have expected for an early 80s program. So I paused the show and took a closer look. I was very amused to see that the top half of the screen contains MATLAB code of a type that did not exist until about 20 years after the show's time period.

The MATLAB code was clearly generated using GUIDE, the MATLAB GUI Design Environment. (Click on the thumbnail above for an enlarged view in which the code is readable.)

When I showed this to my MathWorker friend Jason, he did a little investigating and discovered the code's origin. It's from an 11-year-old File Exchange contribution called MATLAB Simulations for Radar Systems Design by Bassem Mahafza.

So congratulations, Bassem! Your old MATLAB code is now famous (sort of).

Categories: Blogs

Podcast: How to Talk to Your Children About Mass Surveillance

Cory Doctorow - 2014, June 2 - 09:18


Here's a reading (MP3) of a my latest Locus column, How to Talk to Your Children About Mass Surveillance, in which I describe the way that I've explained the Snowden affair to my six-year-old:

So I explained to my daughter that there was a man who was a spy, who discovered that the spies he worked for were breaking the law and spying on everyone, capturing all their e-mails and texts and video-chats and web-clicks. My daughter has figured out how to use a laptop, phone, or tablet to peck out a message to her grandparents (autocomplete and spell-check actually make typing into an educational experience for kids, who can choose their words from drop-down lists that get better as they key in letters); she’s also used to videoconferencing with relatives around the world. So when I told her that the spies were spying on everything, she had some context for it.

Right away, we were off to the races. ‘‘How can they listen to everyone at once?’’ ‘‘How can they read all those messages?’’ ‘‘How many spies are there?’’ I told her about submarine fiber-optic taps, prismatic beam-splitters, and mass databases. Again, she had a surprising amount of context for this, having encountered digital devices whose capacity was full – as when we couldn’t load more videos onto a tablet – and whose capacities could be expanded with additional storage.

Then I talked about not reading everything in realtime, and using text-search to pick potentially significant messages out of the stream. When I explained the spies were looking for ‘‘bad words’’ in the flow, she wanted to know if I meant swear words (she’s very interested in this subject). No, I said, I mean words like ‘‘bank robbery’’ (we haven’t really talked about terrorism yet – maybe next time

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: [email protected]

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3

Categories: Blogs

A New Home

Fighting the Dragons - 2014, June 1 - 08:12

All dressed up and ready to go
Climbing the front steps...
Penny got left behind
Come on sister!




Atia was a bit stressed, but she liked the porch




Don't worry - she fits in most cupboards. 
Penny did not fit in the freezer. She sure did try though


We are so happy to be taking this very concrete step in our lives. 


Categories: Blogs

Yes… TrueCrypt is still safe to use.

Steve Gibson - 2014, May 30 - 15:05

So opens the short editorial I wrote this morning and placed at the top of GRC’s new TrueCrypt Final Version Repository page.

The impetus for the editorial was the continual influx of questions from people asking whether TrueCrypt was still safe to use, and if not, what they should switch to, and so on. By this time, one of the TrueCrypt developers, identified as David, had been heard from, and his interchange confirmed the essential points of my conjectured theory of the events surrounding the self-takedown of TrueCrypt.org, etc.

Rather than repeating that entire editorial here, I’m posting this as a pointer to it since folks here have thanked me for maintaining a blog and not relying solely upon Twitter.  And also, this venue supports feedback and interaction which GRC’s current read-only format can not.

Peace.

/Steve.


Categories: Blogs

ISEE-3

XKCDblog - 2014, May 30 - 11:17

Back in early March, I posted comic #1337, Hack, about a wayward spacecraft. ISEE-3/ICE was returning to fly past Earth after many decades of wandering through space. It was still operational, and could potentially be sent on a new mission, but NASA no longer had the equipment to talk to it—and announced that reconstructing the equipment would be too difficult and expensive.

ISEE-3 is just a machine, but it’s a machine we sent on an incredible journey; to have it return home to find our door closed seemed sad to me. In my comic, I imagined a group of internet space enthusiasts banding together to find a way to take control of the probe—although I figured this was just a hopeful fantasy.

I wasn’t the only one who liked the idea of “rescuing” ISEE-3. In April, Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing put up a crowdfunding project on RocketHub to try to learn how the lost communications systems worked, reconstruct working versions of them, obtain use of a powerful enough antenna, and commandeer the spacecraft. It seemed like an awfully long shot, but I contributed anyway.

Well, yesterday, Cowing and his team announced, from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, that they are now in command of the ISEE-3 spacecraft.

Congratulations to the team, and good luck with your new spaceship! Watch out for hackers.

Categories: Blogs

Clarion SF/F writeathon: write, sponsor writers, help a new generation

Cory Doctorow - 2014, May 30 - 08:45


Once again, it's time for the Clarion Writers Workshop writeathon - we need writers and sponsors to help fund the Clarion Workshop, the respected, long-running science fiction writers' bootcamp. A writeathon is just what is sounds like: a fundraiser where writers ask their friends to sponsor their writing. I'm writing 1,000 words a day, five days a week, on UTOPIA (working tile), a novel for adults: you can sponsor me here. (Disclosure: I'm proud to volunteer as a board member for the 501(c)3 nonprofit Clarion Foundation)

Categories: Blogs

An Imagined Letter from the TrueCrypt Developer(s)

Steve Gibson - 2014, May 29 - 07:51

As I wrote yesterday, we know virtually nothing about the developer(s) behind TrueCrypt. So any speculation we entertain about their feelings, motives, or thought processes can only be a reflection of our own. With that acknowledgement, I’ll share the letter I think they might have written:

TrueCrypt is software. Frankly, it’s incredibly great software. It’s large, complex and multi-platform. It has been painstakingly designed and implemented to provide the best security available anywhere. And it does. It is the best and most secure software modern computer science has been able to create. It is a miracle, and a gift, and it has been a labor of love we have toiled away, thanklessly for a decade, to provide to the world… for free.

TrueCrypt is open source. Anyone could verify it, trust it, give back, contribute time, talent or money and help it to flourish. But no one has helped. Most just use it, question it and criticize it, while requiring it to be free, and complaining when it doesn’t work with this or that new system.

After ten years of this mostly thankless and anonymous work, we’re tired. We’ve done our part. We have what we want. And we feel good about what we have created and freely given. Do we use it?  Hell yes.  As far as we know, TrueCrypt is utterly uncrackable, and plenty of real world experience, and ruthlessly still-protected drives, back up that belief.

But hard drives have finally exceeded the traditional MBR partition table’s 32-bit sector count. 2.2 terabytes is not enough. So the world is moving to the GPT. But we’re not. We’re done. You’re on your own now. No more free lunch.

We’re not bitter. Mostly we’re just tired and done with TrueCrypt. Like we wrote above, as far as we know today, it is a flawless expression of cryptographic software art. And we’re very proud of it. But TrueCrypt, which we love, has been an obligation hanging over our heads for so long that we’ve decided to not only shut it down, but to shoot it in the head. If you believe we’re not shooting blanks you may want to switch to something else. Our point is, now, finally, it’s on you, not us.

Good luck with your NSA, CIA, and FBI.

Please also see Brad Kovach’s blog posting about this topic. Very useful.

/Steve.


Categories: Blogs

Whither TrueCrypt?

Steve Gibson - 2014, May 28 - 16:15

My guess is that the TrueCrypt self-takedown
is going to turn out to be legitimate.

We know NOTHING about the developers behind TrueCrypt.

Research Professor Matthew Green, Johns Hopkins Cryptographer who recently helped to launch the TrueCrypt Audit, is currently as clueless as anyone. But his recent tweets indicate that he has come to the same conclusion that I have:

  • I have no idea what’s up with the Truecrypt site, or what ‘security issues’ they’re talking about.
  • I sent an email to our contact at Truecrypt. I’m not holding my breath though.
  • The sad thing is that after all this time I was just starting to like Truecrypt. I hope someone forks it if this is for real.
  • The audit did not find anything — or rather, nothing that we haven’t already published.
  • The anonymous Truecrypt dev team, from their submarine hideout. I emailed. No response. Takes a while for email to reach the sub.
  • I think it unlikely that an unknown hacker (a) identified the Truecrypt devs, (b) stole their signing key, (c) hacked their site.
  • Unlikely is not the same as impossible. So it’s *possible* that this whole thing is a hoax. I just doubt it.
  • But more to the point, if the Truecrypt signing key was stolen & and the TC devs can’t let us know — that’s reason enough to be cautious.
  • Last I heard from Truecrypt: “We are looking forward to results of phase 2 of your audit. Thank you very much for all your efforts again!”

I checked out the cryptographic (Authenticode) certificate used to sign the last known authentic version (v7.1a) of TrueCrypt, signed on Feb. 7th, 2012:

You’ll notice that nine months after being used to sign the v7.1a Windows executable the signing certificate expired (on November 9th of 2012.)

The just-created Windows executable version of TrueCrypt, v7.2, was signed on May 27th, 2014 with THIS certificate:

You’ll notice that the certificate which signed it was minted on August 24th of 2012, a few months before the previous certificate was due to expire, just like we’d expect, and also by the same CA (GlobalSign), though having a longer public key (4096 bits). This all exactly passes the smell test.

In a comment below, Taylor Hornby of Defuse Security noted that “The GPG signatures of the files also check out. The key used to sign them is the same as the one that was used to sign the 7.1a files I downloaded months ago.” So, again, this speaks of either a willful and deliberate act by the developers, or a rather stunning compromise of their own security. While, yes, the latter is possible, it seems much more likely, if also much less welcome, that TrueCrypt has been completely abandoned by its creators.

So, given the scant evidence, I think it’s much more likely that the TrueCrypt team – whomever they are – legitimately created this updated Windows executable and other files which would imply that they also took down their long-running TrueCrypt site.

Which, of course, leaves us asking why?  We don’t know because we don’t know anything about them or their motives. They might be in Russia or China where Windows XP is still a big deal (with a more than 50% share) and personally annoyed with Microsoft for cutting off support for Windows XP.  Or anything else.

What’s creepy is that we may never know.

/Steve.


Categories: Blogs

Talking with APM’s Marketplace about the Disneyland prospectus

Cory Doctorow - 2014, May 27 - 23:53

I was on American Public Media’s Marketplace yesterday talking (MP3) about our posting of a rarer-than-rare Disney treasure, the never-before-seen original prospectus for Disneyland, scanned before it was sold to noted jerkface Glenn Beck, who has squirreled it away in his private Scrooge McDuck vault.

Categories: Blogs

#YesAllWomen

Flog - 2014, May 25 - 20:33

I was supposed to be taking the weekend off of social media, but I logged in tonight (of course) and saw the #YesAllWomen hashtag going crazy on Twitter. I added my own:

When a woman makes a video, most comments are about tearing apart her looks. Or if they’d “do” her. With a man, almost none. #YesAllWomen

— Felicia Day (@feliciaday) May 26, 2014

To which a lot of people responded supportively (including awesome YouTube creators like Freddie Wong and the Fine Brothers) and then I got a ton of “Unfollow”, and sarcastic “#menhateday” and “Oh yeah, all men are terrible”. Which makes me a) Who cares if they’re gonna unfollow me because of that, they are clearly people I don’t need to be appealing to anyway, and  b) and c) Oh gosh, do I even have to call out the ridiculous exaggeration? Or how sad it is that they missed the point, and the possibility to maybe see things from someone else’s point of view for a change?

So anyway, there are amazing comments around that hashtag, and you should check it out. At the very least, have some make you think differently, I certain had a few that did. But the one that got me the most was a recurring comment by a lot of women about how “it’s easier to tell a guy that you have a boyfriend so they’ll leave you alone. Because they respect a guy they’ve never met more than you.”

(Which is so sad and true, and every girl knows it in her bones as the way to deal with some horribly obnoxious person at a bar.)

But for me, the flip side is also true: How sad it is if you’re talking to a guy in a social situation, having a really fun conversation, and then somehow it comes up you have a boyfriend, and they drop you like a hot potato. Like, I’ve literally had a person say, “Boyfriend”? And WALK AWAY MID-SENTENCE.

Oh, and then I’ve had it happen that the guy acts like you were LYING to them by HAVING A FUN CONVERSATION AND BEING INTERESTING. HOW DARE I BE FUN IF IM NOT WILLING TO FALL IN LOVE/AND OR HAVE SEX WITH THEM?!?!  I mean…sigh.

I am a person who has always had a ton of guy friends, and the fact that there are many social situations where I’m not worth talking to as a person because I am not sexually available makes me so sad. For myself, and for the friendships that could be, but will never happen because to them, I’m only there for a possible hook up.

Once I came home from a party crying after such an incident, telling my boyfriend, “Men and women can’t be friends, I guess.” Which is totally not true, but when an incident happens like that a few times…it makes you less willing to even reach out and try to connect. Or worse, you strangely spurt out the word “BOYFRIEND!” in a reflexive way within the first two sentences of meeting someone, because you don’t want to be rejected later for “not being honest”. Which feels so wrong and is so messed up when you think about it, that it’s a girl’s “responsibility”. Might as well wear a stamp on your forehead, huh?

And that’s my long #YesAllWomen comment. I hope a few people can relate, because sometimes I think I’m just crazy haha.

And for the record, I am very happy to have many guy friends in my life who have NEVER done that. I love them dearly. Platonically, of course.

Categories: Blogs

Podcast (FIXED): Firefox’s adoption of closed-source DRM breaks my heart

Cory Doctorow - 2014, May 19 - 22:09

Note: This is a fixed version of this week's podcast; I accidentally uploaded an older podcast under this headline.

Here's a reading (MP3) of a my latest Guardian column, Firefox's adoption of closed-source DRM breaks my heart, a close analysis of the terrible news that Mozilla has opted to add closed source DRM to its flagship Firefox browser:

The decision to produce systems that treat internet users as untrusted adversaries to be controlled by their computers was clearly taken out of a sense of desperation and inevitability.

It’s clear that Mozilla plans to do everything it can to mitigate the harms from its DRM strategy and to attempt to reverse the trend that brought it to this pass.

Like many of Mozilla’s longtime supporters, I hold it to a high standard. It is not a for-profit. It’s a social enterprise with a mission to empower and free its users.

I understand that Apple, Microsoft and Google are for-profit entities that have demonstrated repeatedly that their profitability trumps their customers’ rights, and I fault them for this. But it’s not unreasonable to hold mission-driven nonprofits to a higher standard than their commercial counterparts.

Mozilla says it’s doing everything it can to reduce the harm from what it sees as an inevitable decision. As a Mozilla supporter, contributor and user, I want it to do more.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: [email protected]

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3

Categories: Blogs

Podcast: Firefox’s adoption of closed-source DRM breaks my heart

Cory Doctorow - 2014, May 19 - 08:06

Here's a reading (MP3) of a my latest Guardian column, Firefox's adoption of closed-source DRM breaks my heart, a close analysis of the terrible news that Mozilla has opted to add closed source DRM to its flagship Firefox browser:

The decision to produce systems that treat internet users as untrusted adversaries to be controlled by their computers was clearly taken out of a sense of desperation and inevitability.

It’s clear that Mozilla plans to do everything it can to mitigate the harms from its DRM strategy and to attempt to reverse the trend that brought it to this pass.

Like many of Mozilla’s longtime supporters, I hold it to a high standard. It is not a for-profit. It’s a social enterprise with a mission to empower and free its users.

I understand that Apple, Microsoft and Google are for-profit entities that have demonstrated repeatedly that their profitability trumps their customers’ rights, and I fault them for this. But it’s not unreasonable to hold mission-driven nonprofits to a higher standard than their commercial counterparts.

Mozilla says it’s doing everything it can to reduce the harm from what it sees as an inevitable decision. As a Mozilla supporter, contributor and user, I want it to do more.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: [email protected]

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3

Categories: Blogs

Coming to SLC

Cory Doctorow - 2014, May 19 - 03:48

I'm delighted to announced that I'll be the guest of honor at Salt Lake City's Westercon 67 this July -- Westercon being the annual convention for science fiction fandom west of the Mississippi. There's quite a fantastic roster of other guests as well! See you 44 days in SLC!

Categories: Blogs

Makers: the Japanese fan-trans

Cory Doctorow - 2014, May 17 - 23:01

Haruka Tsubota has undertaken a Japanese fan-translation of my novel Makers. It's available as Epub and Mobi, and licensed CC-BY-NC-SA. Here's the original book.

Categories: Blogs

Quantization issues when testing image processing code

Matlab Image processing blog - 2014, May 15 - 08:42

Today I have for you an insider's view of a subtle aspect of testing image processing software (such as the Image Processing Toolbox!).

I've written several times in this blog about testing software. Years ago I wrote about the testing framework I put on the File Exchange, and more recently (12-Mar-2013) I've promoted the new testing framework added to MATLAB a few releases ago.

In an article I wrote for the IEEE/AIP magazine Computing in Science and Engineering a few years ago, I described the difficulties of comparing floating-point values when writing tests. Because floating-point arithmetic operations are subject to round-off error and other numerical issues, you generally have to use a tolerance when checking an output value for correctness. Sometimes it might be appropriate to use an absolute tolerance:

$$|a - b| \leq T$$

And sometimes it might be more appropriate to use a relative tolerance:

$$ \frac{|a - b|}{\max(|a|,|b|)} \leq T $$

But for testing image processing code, this isn't the whole story, as I was reminded a year ago by a question from Greg Wilson. Greg, the force behind Software Carpentry, was asked by a scientist in a class about how to test image processing code, such as a "simple" edge detector. Greg and I had an email conversation about this, which Greg then summarized on the Software Carpentry blog.

This was my initial response:

Whenever there is a floating-point computation that is then quantized to produce an output image, comparing actual versus expected can be tricky. I had to learn to deal with this early in my MathWorks software developer days. Two common scenarios in which this occurs:

  • Rounding a floating-point computation to produce an integer-valued output image
  • Thresholding a floating-point computation to produce a binary image (such as many edge detection methods)

The problem is that floating-point round-off differences can turn a floating-point value that should be a 0.5 or exactly equal to the threshold into a value that's a tiny bit below. For testing, this means that the actual and expected images are exactly the same...except for a small number of pixels that are off by one. In a situation like this, the actual image can change because you changed the compiler's optimization flags, used a different compiler, used a different processor, used a multithreaded algorithm with dynamic allocation of work to the different threads, etc. So to compare actual against expected, I wrote a test assertion function that passes if the actual is the same as the expected except for a small percentage of pixels that are allowed to be different by 1.

Greg immediately asked the obvious follow-up question: What is a "small percentage"?

There isn't a general rule. With filtering, for example, some choices of filter coefficients could lead to a lot of "int + 0.5" values; other coefficients might result in few or none. I start with either an exact equality test or a floating-point tolerance test, depending on the computation. If there are some off-by-one values, I spot-check them to verify whether they are caused by a floating-point round-off plus quantization issue. If it all looks good, then I set the tolerance based on what's happening in that particular test case and move on. If you tied me down and forced me to pick a typical number, I'd say 1%.

PS. Greg gets some credit for indirectly influencing the testing tools in MATLAB. He's the one who prodded me to turn my toy testing project into something slightly more than a toy and make it available to MATLAB users. The existence and popularity of that File Exchange contribution then had a positive influence on the decision of the MathWorks Test Tools Team to create full-blown testing framework for MATLAB. Thanks, Greg!

\n'); d.write(code_string); // Add copyright line at the bottom if specified. if (copyright.length > 0) { d.writeln(''); d.writeln('%%'); if (copyright.length > 0) { d.writeln('% _' + copyright + '_'); } } d.write('\n'); d.title = title + ' (MATLAB code)'; d.close(); } -->


Get the MATLAB code (requires JavaScript)

Published with MATLAB® R2014a

) I've promoted the new testing framework added to MATLAB a % few releases ago. % % In an I wrote for the IEEE/AIP magazine _Computing in Science % and Engineering_ a few years ago, I described the difficulties of % comparing floating-point values when writing tests. Because % floating-point arithmetic operations are subject to round-off error and % other numerical issues, you generally have to use a tolerance when % checking an output value for correctness. Sometimes it might be % appropriate to use an _absolute tolerance_: % % $$|a - b| \leq T$$ % % And sometimes it might be more appropriate to use a _relative tolerance_: % % $$ \frac{|a - b|}{\max(|a|,|b|)} \leq T $$ % % But for testing image processing code, this isn't the whole story, as I % was reminded a year ago by a question from . Greg, the force behind , was asked by a scientist in a class about how to test image % processing code, such as a "simple" edge detector. Greg and I had an % email conversation about this, which Greg then % . % % This was my initial response: % % _Whenever there is a floating-point computation that is then quantized to % produce an output image, comparing actual versus expected can be tricky. % I had to learn to deal with this early in my MathWorks software developer % days. Two common scenarios in which this occurs:_ % % * _Rounding a floating-point computation to produce an integer-valued % output image_ % * _Thresholding a floating-point computation to produce a binary image % (such as many edge detection methods)_ % % _The problem is that floating-point round-off differences can turn a % floating-point value that should be a 0.5 or exactly equal to the % threshold into a value that's a tiny bit below. For testing, this means % that the actual and expected images are exactly the same...except for a % small number of pixels that are off by one. In a situation like this, the % actual image can change because you changed the compiler's optimization % flags, used a different compiler, used a different processor, used a % multithreaded algorithm with dynamic allocation of work to the different % threads, etc. So to compare actual against expected, I wrote a test % assertion function that passes if the actual is the same as the expected % except for a small percentage of pixels that are allowed to be different % by 1._ % % Greg immediately asked the obvious follow-up question: What is a "small % percentage"? % % _There isn't a general rule. With filtering, for example, some choices of % filter coefficients could lead to a lot of "int + 0.5" values; other % coefficients might result in few or none. I start with either an exact % equality test or a floating-point tolerance test, depending on the % computation. If there are some off-by-one values, I spot-check them to % verify whether they are caused by a floating-point round-off plus % quantization issue. If it all looks good, then I set the tolerance based % on what's happening in that particular test case and move on. If you tied % me down and forced me to pick a typical number, I'd say 1%._ % % PS. Greg gets some credit for indirectly influencing the testing tools in % MATLAB. He's the one who prodded me to turn my toy testing project into % something slightly more than a toy and make it available to MATLAB users. % The existence and popularity of that File Exchange contribution then had % a positive influence on the decision of the MathWorks Test Tools Team to % create full-blown testing framework for MATLAB. Thanks, Greg! ##### SOURCE END ##### be9d5a1046e84985a662865fb746c302 -->

Categories: Blogs

Mozilla breaks our hearts, adds DRM to Firefox

Cory Doctorow - 2014, May 14 - 10:28


For months, I've been following the story that the Mozilla project was set to add closed source Digital Rights Management technology to its free/open browser Firefox, and today they've made the announcement, which I've covered in depth for The Guardian. Mozilla made the decision out of fear that the organization would haemorrhage users and become irrelevant if it couldn't support Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Video, and other services that only work in browsers that treat their users as untrustable adversaries.

They've gone to great -- even unprecedented -- lengths to minimize the ways in which this DRM can attack Firefox users. But I think there's more that they can, and should, do. I also am skeptical of their claim that it was DRM or irrelevance, though I think they were sincere in making it. I think they hate that it's come to this and that no one there is happy about it.

I could not be more heartsick at this turn of events.

We need to turn the tide on DRM, because there is no place in post-Snowden, post-Heartbleed world for technology that tries to hide things from its owners. DRM has special protection under the law that makes it a crime to tell people if there are flaws in their DRM-locked systems -- so every DRM system is potentially a reservoir of long-lived vulnerabilities that can be exploited by identity thieves, spies, and voyeurs.

It’s clear that Mozilla isn’t happy about this turn of events, and in our conversations, people there characterised it as something they’d been driven to by the entertainment companies and the complicity of the commercial browser vendors, who have enthusiastically sold out their users’ integrity and security.

Mitchell Baker, the executive chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation, told me that “this is not a happy day for the web” and “it’s not in line with the values that we’re trying to build. This does not match our value set.”

But both she and Gal were adamant that they felt that they had no choice but to add DRM if they were going to continue Mozilla’s overall mission of keeping the web free and open.

I am sceptical about this claim. I don't doubt that it’s sincerely made, but I found the case for it weak. When I pressed Gal for evidence that without Netflix Firefox users would switch away, he cited the huge volume of internet traffic generated by Netflix streams.

There's no question that Netflix video and other video streams account for an appreciable slice of the internet’s overall traffic. But video streams are also the bulkiest files to transfer. That video streams use a lot of bytes isn't a surprise.

When a charitable nonprofit like Mozilla makes a shift as substantial as this one – installing closed-source software designed to treat computer users as untrusted adversaries – you’d expect there to be a data-driven research story behind it, meticulously documenting the proposition that without DRM irrelevance is inevitable. The large number of bytes being shifted by Netflix is a poor proxy for that detailed picture.

There are other ways in which Mozilla’s DRM is better for user freedom than its commercial competitors’. While the commercial browsers’ DRM assigns unique identifiers to users that can be used to spy on viewing habits across multiple video providers and sessions, the Mozilla DRM uses different identifiers for different services.

Firefox’s adoption of closed-source DRM breaks my heart

Categories: Blogs

Podcast: Why it is not possible to regulate robots

Cory Doctorow - 2014, May 12 - 08:44

Here's a reading (MP3) of a my recent Guardian column, Why it is not possible to regulate robots, which discusses where and how robots can be regulated, and whether there is any sensible ground for "robot law" as distinct from "computer law."

One thing that is glaringly absent from both the Heinleinian and Asimovian brain is the idea of software as an immaterial, infinitely reproducible nugget at the core of the system. Here, in the second decade of the 21st century, it seems to me that the most important fact about a robot – whether it is self-aware or merely autonomous – is the operating system, configuration, and code running on it.

If you accept that robots are just machines – no different in principle from sewing machines, cars, or shotguns – and that the thing that makes them "robot" is the software that runs on a general-purpose computer that controls them, then all the legislative and regulatory and normative problems of robots start to become a subset of the problems of networks and computers.

If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I believe two things about computers: first, that they are the most significant functional element of most modern artifacts, from cars to houses to hearing aids; and second, that we have dramatically failed to come to grips with this fact. We keep talking about whether 3D printers should be "allowed" to print guns, or whether computers should be "allowed" to make infringing copies, or whether your iPhone should be "allowed" to run software that Apple hasn't approved and put in its App Store.

Practically speaking, though, these all amount to the same question: how do we keep computers from executing certain instructions, even if the people who own those computers want to execute them? And the practical answer is, we can't.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: [email protected]

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3

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