Monday, August 31, 2009

Homeland Security Changes Laptop Search Policy

"The US Government has updated its policy on the search and seizure of laptops at border crossing. 'The long-criticized practice of searching travelers' electronic devices will continue, but a supervisor now would need to approve holding a device for more than five days. Any copies of information taken from travelers' machines would be destroyed within days if there were no legal reason to hold the information.'"

Technically True

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Science Reporting

Remember this whenever you hear science news.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thomas Jefferson On The Federal Government vs States

"It has long been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression (although I do not choose to put it into a newspaper, nor like a Priam in armor to offer myself as its champion), that the germ of dissolution of our Federal Government is in the constitution of the Federal Judiciary; an irresponsible body (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow), working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little to-day and a little to-morrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed; because, when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated. It will be, as in Europe, where every man must be either pike or gudgeon, hammer or anvil. Our functionaries and theirs are wares from the same workshop; made of the same materials and by the same hand. If the States look with apathy on this silent descent of their government into the gulf which is to swallow all, we have only to weep over the human character formed uncontrollable but by a rod of iron, and the blasphemers of man, as incapable of self-government, become his true historians." - Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Charles Hammond, August 18, 1821

ACLU Sues For Records On Border Laptop Searches

"The ACLU has sued the US Customs and Border Protection agency under the Freedom of Information Act, aiming to obtain records on the agency's policy of searching laptops at the border. Under the policy, the CBP can search through financial records, photos, and Web site histories, and retain that information for unspecified periods of time. The ACLU is arguing that the information is necessary to understand whether the CBP may be violating the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable and unwarranted searches. The agency has so far not responded to requests for comment."

WPA Encryption Cracked In 60 Seconds

"Computer scientists in Japan say they've developed a way to break the WPA encryption system used in wireless routers in about one minute. Last November, security researchers first showed how WPA could be broken, but the Japanese researchers have taken the attack to a new level. The earlier attack worked on a smaller range of WPA devices and took between 12 and 15 minutes to work. Both attacks work only on WPA systems that use the Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) algorithm. They do not work on newer WPA 2 devices or on WPA systems that use the stronger Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm."

To review WEP has been cracked for years now. WPA recently was cracked, which was then further optimized. WPA 2 or WPA with AES are still secure.

Banning Beer Glasses in Pubs

The UK is trying to ban glasses from pubs, because people use them in fights. The UK is known for trying to protect everyone from any sort of possible harm, and ignoring any rights that get in the way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The 5 Most Embarrassing Failures in the History of Terrorism

"Ahmed finally gets the timer working, somehow not igniting the thing with his Zippo, and settles back with pride. He's got 5:00 minutes to get out of there.

Wait, now it's... h:00 minutes? H isn't a measure of time, is it? Now it's E:00 minutes. Did he... did he somehow set the timer to the alphabet? How is that even possible? Suddenly, it starts to dawn on him. Ahmed, whose last name is presumably "E. Coyote," has set the timer... upside down."

Non-Randomness in Coin Flipping

  1. If the coin is tossed and caught, it has about a 51% chance of landing on the same face it was launched. (If it starts out as heads, there's a 51% chance it will end as heads).
  2. If the coin is spun, rather than tossed, it can have a much-larger-than-50% chance of ending with the heavier side down. Spun coins can exhibit "huge bias" (some spun coins will fall tails-up 80% of the time).
  3. If the coin is tossed and allowed to clatter to the floor, this probably adds randomness.
  4. If the coin is tossed and allowed to clatter to the floor where it spins, as will sometimes happen, the above spinning bias probably comes into play.
  5. An American nickel will land on its edge around 1 in 6000 throws, creating a flipistic singularity.
  6. The same initial coin-flipping conditions produce the same coin flip result. That is, there's a certain amount of determinism to the coin flip.
  7. A more robust coin toss (more revolutions) decreases the bias.

Wikipedia To Require Editing Approval

The NY Times reports on an epochal move by Wikipedia — within weeks, the formerly freewheeling encyclopedia will begin requiring editor approval for all edits to articles about living people. "The new feature, called 'flagged revisions,' will require that an experienced volunteer editor for Wikipedia sign off on any change made by the public before it can go live. Until the change is approved — or in Wikispeak, flagged — it will sit invisibly on Wikipedia's servers, and visitors will be directed to the earlier version. ... The new editing procedures... have been applied to the entire German-language version of Wikipedia during the last year... Although Wikipedia has prevented anonymous users from creating new articles for several years now, the new flagging system crosses a psychological Rubicon. It will divide Wikipedia's contributors into two classes — experienced, trusted editors, and everyone else — altering Wikipedia's implicit notion that everyone has an equal right to edit entries."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Swedish Authorities Attempt Pirate Bay Shutdown

Several sources are discussing the recent attempted shutdown of The Pirate Bay by Swedish authorities. It seems that following the recent court defeats and the pending civil actions, Swedish authorities threatened TPB's main bandwidth supplier with a hefty fine in order to get them shut down. Not surprisingly TPB has relocated and is back online although the tracker still seems to be down. As a gesture of their "appreciation" TPB plans on sending a mocking t-shirt to the people believed responsible for the takedown attempt.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Clever Hans Effect

Clever Hans (in German, der Kluge Hans) was a horse that was claimed to have been able to perform arithmetic and other intellectual tasks.

After formal investigation in 1907, psychologist Oskar Pfungst demonstrated that the horse was not actually performing these mental tasks, but was watching the reaction of his human observers. Pfungst discovered this artifact in the research methodology, wherein the horse was responding directly to involuntary cues in the body language of the human trainer, who had the faculties to solve each problem. The trainer was entirely unaware that he was providing such cues.

In honour of Pfungst's study, the anomalous artifact has since been referred to as the Clever Hans effect and has continued to be important knowledge in the observer-expectancy effect and later studies in animal cognition.

Rico (born December 1994) is a border collie dog who made the news after being studied by animal psychologist Juliane Kaminski from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig after his owners reported that he understood more than 200 simple words. Kaminski wrote in Science that these claims were justified: Rico retrieved an average of 37 (out of 40) items correctly. Rico could also remember items' names for four weeks after his last exposure.

Rico also responded correctly to a new word with a single exposure, apparently using a canine equivalent of the fast mapping mechanism used by humans. Subject to the anti-Clever Hansing protocols above, a new object was placed alongside seven familiar objects. Rico was told to retrieve the new object, using a word that he had never heard before. Not only could Rico correctly retrieve the object, he also responded correctly to the name of the new object, presumably using a process of elimination.

According to Julia Fischer, "[Rico's ability] tells us he can do simple logic . . . It's like he's saying to himself, 'I know the others have names, so this new word cannot refer to my familiar toys. It must refer to this new thing.' Or it goes the other way around, and he's thinking, 'I've never seen this one before, so this must be it.' He's actually thinking."

Pertinent Information

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Judge Rules To Reveal Anonymous Blogger's Identity Over Insults

Several readers have written to tell us of a ruling in the New York Supreme Court which will allow model Liskula Cohen to find out the identity of an anonymous blogger who posted some of her photos with captions including the words "psychotic," "skank," and "ho." The site was part of, and Google has already complied with a request for the author's IP address and email. "[Cohen's attorney] said that once his legal team tracks the e-mail address to a name, the next step will be to sue Cohen's detractor for defamation. He said he suspected the creator of the blog is an acquaintance of Cohen. The blog has not been operational for months. The unidentified creator of the blog was represented in court by an attorney, Anne Salisbury, who said her client voluntarily took the blog down when Cohen initiated legal action against it. ... the judge quoted a Virginia court that ruled in a similar case that nameless online taunters should be held accountable when their derision crosses a line. 'The protection of the right to communicate anonymously must be balanced against the need to assure that those persons who choose to abuse the opportunities presented by this medium can be made to answer for such transgressions.'"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woman With Police-Monitoring Blog Arrested

"The Washington Post reports that a Virginia woman is being held in custody by police who allege that information she posted on her blog puts members of the Jefferson area drug enforcement task force at risk. 'In a nearly year-long barrage of blog posts, she published snapshots she took in public of many or most of the task force's officers; detailed their comings and goings by following them in her car; mused about their habits and looks; hinted that she may have had a personal relationship with one of them; and, in one instance, reported that she had tipped off a local newspaper about their movements. Predictably, this annoyed law enforcement officials, who, it's fair to guess, comprised much of her readership before her arrest. But what seems to have sent them over the edge — and skewed their judgment — is Ms. Strom's decision to post the name and address of one of the officers with a street-view photo of his house. All this information was publicly available, including the photograph, which Ms. Strom gleaned from municipal records.'"

DoJ Defends $1.92 Million RIAA Verdict

"The Justice Department has come out in favor of the $1.92 million verdict awarded to the RIAA in the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case. Their support came in the form of a legal brief filed on Friday, which notes, "Congress took into account the need to deter the millions of users of new media from infringing copyrights in an environment where many violators believe that they will go unnoticed." It also says, "The Copyright Act's statutory damages provision serves both to compensate and deter. Congress established a scheme to allow copyright holders to elect to receive statutory damages for copyright infringement instead of actual damages and profits because of the difficulty of calculating and proving actual damages."

The case referenced is one where someone downloaded 24 MP3s and has to pay $1.92 million or $80,000 per song. That seems perfectly fair.

In unrelated news, former RIAA lawyers were chosen for the top positions in the DOJ.

$18M Contract For Federal Transparency Website Released — But Blacked Out

"The US government recently approved an $18 million contract for Smartronix to build a website where taxpayers could easily track billions in federal stimulus money, as part of President Obama's promise to make government more transparent through the Internet. However, the contract, which was released only through repeated Freedom of Information Act requests, is itself heavily blacked out. ProPublica reports: 'After weeks of prodding by ProPublica and other organizations, the Government Services Agency released copies of the contract and related documents that are so heavily blacked out they are virtually worthless. In all, 25 pages of a 59-page technical proposal — the main document in the package — were redacted completely. Of the remaining pages, 14 had half or more of their content blacked out.' Sections that were heavily or entirely redacted dealt with subjects such as site navigation, user experience, and everything in the pricing table. The entire contract, in all its blacked-out glory, is here."

To be fair, if you let people know what you are doing with their money there is a chance they won't like it, and will try to stop you from spending it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Will Michigan Nullify Federal Gun Laws?

To bring everyone up to speed, the 9th and 10th amendments to the Constitution say:

"Amendment 9 - Construction of Constitution. Ratified 12/15/1791.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10 - Powers of the States and People. Ratified 12/15/1791.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Amendment 9 is saying that just because the Constitution lists certain rights, that shouldn't be misconstrued to be the only rights the People have.

Amendment 10 says anything not expressly granted to the Federal government is reserved for the States or the People.

That is something which the Federal government has pretty much ignored as it doesn't suit it. Article I Section 8 lists the powers of the Federal government. It's not a very long list, go ahead and read it and see if you can think of anything the Federal government does that isn't covered by those powers listed.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fuel Efficiency Per Passenger

Number of vehicles (thousands)Vehicle- miles (millions)Passenger- miles (millions)Load factor (persons/ vehicle)(Btu per vehicle- mile)Btu per passenger-mileEnergy use (trillion Btu)Gallons Per 10,000 MilesMPGe
Rail, Intercity (Amtrak)0.32675,78421.754,585251614.5218.7845.71
Rail, Transit (light & heavy)1374118,07024.462,833257746.6224.0944.63
Rail, All19.71,33335,00726.367,900258690.5224.8744.47
Rail, Commuter6.432611,15334.290,328263829.4229.3943.59
Air, Certificated routeNo Data
Personal trucks89,286.4928,7551,597,4591.76,78839466304343.1329.14
Bus, Transit65.82,31421,1329.139,408431591.2375.2226.65
Demand response (taxi)64.91,4711,502116,7711642924.71428.617

Source: Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 28

Average Material Consumption for a Domestic Light Vehicle, Model Year 2007

Regular steel 164440.30%
High and medium strength steel 51812.70%
Plastics and plastic composites 3318.10%
Iron castings 3227.90%
Aluminum 3137.70%
Fluids and lubricants 2155.30%
Rubber 1894.60%
Glass 1062.60%
Other materials 922.30%
Stainless steel 751.80%
Copper and brass 531.30%
Powder metal parts 431.10%
Textiles 461.10%
Lead 421.00%
Other steels 340.80%
Coatings 290.70%
Magnesium castings 100.20%
Zinc castings 90.20%
Other metals 50.10%

Source: Transportation Energy Data Book: Edition 28

US Subsidies for Mohair Production

During World War II, U.S. soldiers wore uniforms made of wool. Worried that domestic producers could not supply enough for future wars, Congress enacted loan and price support programs for wool and mohair in the National Wool Act of 1954 as part of the 1954 Farm Bill. Despite these subsidies, wool and mohair production declined. The strategic importance declined as well: the US Military adopted uniforms made of synthetic fibers such as dacron and officially removed wool from the list of strategic materials in 1960. Nevertheless, the U.S. government continued to provide subsidies to mohair producers until 1995 when the subsidies were "eliminated effective with the marketing year ending December 31, 1995." In The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad Fareed Zakaria points out that the subsidies were reinstated a few years later due in large part to the lobbying on behalf of the special interests of the subsidy recipients. By 2000, Congress had appropriated $20 million for goat and sheep herders. As of 2002, mohair producers were still able to receive special assistance loans from the U.S. Government after an amendment to eliminate the subsidy was defeated. This program is widely cited as "pork barrel" legislation.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hail Gods Of War!

Here to the blaze,
I wander...
Through this black night,
I pounder...
The edge of our mighty swords
Did clash...
Fallen by our axes
Helmets smash!

Glory and fame,
Blood is our name!
Souls full of thunder
Hearts of steel!
Killers of men,
Of warriors friend!
Sworn to avenge our fallen brothers
To the end!

One day too,
I may fall...
I will enter Odin's Hall...
I will die sword in hand...
My name and my deeds will
Scorch the land!

Glory and fame,
Blood is our name!
Soul full of thunder
Hearts of steel!
Killers of men,
Of warriors friend!
Sworn to avenge our fallen brothers!

Sons of the gods today we shall die!
Open Valhalla's door!
Let the battle begin with swords in the wind!
Hail Gods of War!

Sons of Odin we four,
By the hammer of Thor!
Ride down from the sky.
Another is born.
Another shall fall.
This day men will die.

Glory and fame,
Blood is our name!
Souls full of thunder
Hearts of steel!
Killers of men,
Of warriors friend!
Sworn to avenge our fallen brothers!

Sons of the Gods today we shall die!
Open Valhalla's door!
Let the battle begin with swords in the wind!
Hail Gods of War!

Sons of the gods today we shall die!
Open Valhalla's door!
Let the battle begin with swords in the wind!
Hail Gods of War!

Let the battle begin with swords in the wind!
Hail Gods of War!!!

Onward into the heart of the battle,
Fought the sons of Odin.
Outnumbered many times,
Still - they fought on...
Blood poured forth from their wounds
Deep into the earth.
Vultures waited for the broken shells
That once were bodies.
But Odin alone would choose the day
They would enter Valhalla.
And in their hour of need;
He sent forth onto them The Berserker Rage!
Now Gods embed!
They rose up from the ground,
Screaming like wild animals!
Such is the gift of absolute power!
No blade or weapon could hurt them,
They killed men and horses alike!
And all who stood before them died that day!
Hail Gods Of War!

Ion Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU/PSU Combo
ZOTAC IONITX-C-U Intel Atom N230 Mini ITX ION Platform Motherboard/CPU Combo with 90W PSU - Retail
Support DX10, 1080p, HDMI, CUDA, and Win7
$159.99 ($134.99 after $25.00 Mail-In Rebate) Free Shipping

At first I was wondering why this was in Stumble, but it's a pretty sweet deal. Pair with this:
(2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 $29.99
SAMSUNG HD502HI 500GB 5400 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive $49.99

Cases are a bit hard. While there are Mini-ITX cases, they are all expensive, and come with power supplies. I think your best bet would be to make something yourself. Also if you planned on streaming to it, you could go with either a laptop HDD or a SSD, for less power and noise (although that HDD is a low power/noise model). Or you could boot off a USB drive for a cheap and silent solution, although it would be slower and smaller storage.

This comes to $215 ($165 w/o HDD) shipped (plus sales tax NJ, CA, or TN), for a HTPC that can do 1080p, with 6 USB, eSATA, VGA, DVI, HDMI, 5.1.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A scanner to detect terrorists

If 3,000 people are tested, and the test is 90% accurate, it is also 10% wrong. So it will probably identify 301 terrorists - about 300 by mistake and 1 correctly. You won't know from the test which is the real terrorist. So the chance that our man in the mac is the real thing is 1 in 301.

Ranitomeya daleswansoni

English: Daleswanson's Poison Frog

Comcast the Latest ISP To Try DNS Hijacking

DNS hijacking means that if you go to an nonexistent domain like this instead of getting a proper error you'll be taken to a custom page, usually filled with ads.

You can opt out here:
You'll need an email you can check, as well as your modem's MAC address. You can find your MAC address on the modem.


Teen Killed At Chinese Internet Addiction Camp

Feds at DefCon Alarmed After RFIDs Scanned

“There are people walking around the entire conference, all over the place, with RFID readers [in backpacks],” he says. “For $30 to $50, the common, average person can put [a portable RFID-reading kit] together…. This is why we’re so adamant about making people aware this is very dangerous. If you don’t protect yourself, you’re potentially exposing your entire [company or agency] to all sorts of risk.”

In some organizations, RFID cards aren’t just for entering doors; they’re also used to access computers. And in the case of RFID-enabled credit cards, RFID researcher Chris Paget, who gave a talk at DefCon, says the chips contain all the information someone needs to clone the card and make fraudulent charges on it — the account number, expiration date, CVV2 security code and, in the case of some older cards, the card holder’s name.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

NJ Hiking Videos

Videos from trails around New Jersey. Get an idea of what the trail is like before you head out for a hike.

Another City Caught Lowering Yellow Light Times To Catch More Red Light Runners

California Student Arrested For Console Hacking

The DMCA makes it illegal to "circumvent an access control". That means it's illegal to modify hardware you bought and own (like an Xbox). It exists purely for large media companies to use to bully consumers, and maintain their outdated business models.

Remember that your tax dollars pay for the enforcement of these laws (police, courts, etc), and if he ends up in jail it'll cost about $50,000 a year to keep him there. I guess it's all worth it though, we mustn't have people modding Xboxes they own.

"Passed on October 12, 1998 by a unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998"

Introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R. 2281 by Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) on July 29, 1997

Rep Berman, Howard L. [CA-26] - 2/11/1998
Rep Bono Mack, Mary [CA-44] - 6/5/1998
Rep Bono, Sonny [CA-44] - 9/26/1997
Rep Conyers, John, Jr. [MI-14] - 7/29/1997
Rep Frank, Barney [MA-4] - 7/29/1997
Rep Hyde, Henry J. [IL-6] - 7/29/1997
Rep McCollum, Bill [FL-8] - 1/27/1998
Rep Paxon, Bill [NY-27] - 6/5/1998
Rep Pickering, Charles W. "Chip" [MS-3] - 6/22/1998

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 105th Congress - 2nd Session:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Project Thor

Project Thor is an idea for a weapons system that launches kinetic projectiles from Earth orbit to damage targets on the ground.