Monday, May 31, 2004

Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots Offer Unusual Opportunities

Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots Offer Unusual Opportunities

RKD recently forwarded a link to MagicBike, "a mobile WiFi (wireless Internet) hotspot that gives free Internet connectivity wherever its ridden or parked." This idea is reminiscent of a 2002 project by the Media Lab at MIT to provide Internet access to remote locations in rural India via roaming buses that offered Internet services using store-and-forward architecture.

Initially dubbed PostNet, and later renamed DarkNet:

The network spontaneously reorganizes itself as more devices are added or removed from it. Each device has an antenna for radio frequency communication, allowing it to be detected by the network. When a node or a device goes off line, the network is able to detect and reroute a request. If, for example, one is accessing a stock service hosted on one’s intranet through an intermediate device located elsewhere and that device loses its connection or logs off, the network will be able to reroute any request through a different device.

As far as I know, the PostNet/DarkNet project is still active, though probably under a new name.

The potential of mobile Wi-Fi hotspots to offer Internet connectivity to remote places is impressive. Consider the Wi-Fi access point that, according to a BBC News article, yak farmers in the mountains of Nepal use to keep in touch with their families. Mobile hotspots could significantly expand the reach of this antenna, whether they were implemented as buses, bicycles, or even yaks.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Security and the Immune System Metaphor

Security and the Immune System Metaphor

On several occasions I have seen the use of the immune system metaphor used to describe the workings of an information security system, with unclear real-world applicability and success. You may recall the beginnings of IBM's Digital Immune System for Cyberspace that strives to "automatically detect viral activity during early spread, automatically develop a cure and distribute it across the Internet faster than the virus spreads." This initiative has been in existence for many years, and I have yet to hear about any discrete results besides a 1999 announcement that Symantec incorporated IBM's technology to create its own product suite. I am still unclear whether the system was actually modeled after a real immune system, or whether that was just a marketing gimmick.

The latest use of the immune system metaphor is in the context of Sana Security's intrusion protection system, described in a recent InfoWorld article. The article quotes Steven Hofmeyr, Sana Security's chief scientist:

Biological models help us produce better security systems... Our system is accurate because it learns in the local environment. One machine may be differently configured and have different usage patterns from another. That effects how you should protect it... I can't always take an organ out of my body and just transplant it into yours, because your body may reject it.

I tried downloading Sana Security's technical whitepaper that describes their product, but encountered a bug in their registration script that prevented me from accessing the materials. Sana Security seems to have implemented behavioral mechanisms that monitor the system to establish a baseline for normal behavior to alert and block behavior that deviates from the expected profile. This concept, with various objectives and implementations, was implemented by the likes of Tiny Software, Alladin, Finjan, and Pelican Software, which Microsoft purchased in 2003. I am glad that looking at the immune system has inspired Sana Security to develop a behavior-based intrusion prevention system, though I wonder how different their product is from those that did not use the immune system analogy.

The immune system metaphor may be a great marketing device for providing non-techie executives a high-level overview of a security product, but sticking too closely to the analogy is likely to be misleading. As Marcus Ranum wrote in 2003, computers are not biological entities. He further pointed out that computer functions differ from this anology in several ways:

  • Computers don't heal themselves. Once they're down they stop getting better on their own. Once you unplug them they stop getting worse.
  • Computers can temporarily "opt out" of their biosphere by being turned off or unconnected from the network. During their disconnected state they can heal, with help from their friends the system administrators.
  • Computers, unlike biological organisms, can rapidly share immunity without having to actually be exposed to the pathogen in question.
  • The Global Battlefield (from Belmont Club)

    The Global Battlefield (from Belmont Club)

    a very very good article. Wretchard in general has been a very astute and fair observer of the proceedings of the "war on terror" as persecuted by the United States and its allies. With one or two excellent posts a day he has become one of the few weblogs I read every day without fail.

    In this article, Wretchart quotes Lt. Col. Robert R. Leonhard, U.S.A. (ret) writing in the href="" target="_blank">Army Magazine

    We do not live in Sun Tzu’s world, nor even in that of Clausewitz, Fuller or Liddell Hart. The modern world has urbanized to an unprecedented degree, and it is inconceivable that future military contingencies will not involve urban operations. Sun Tzu lived and wrote (if indeed he was a real person) in the agrarian age, when most of the land was either wilderness or cultivated. Large segments of the population lived outside cities, and warfare typically occurred in flat, open terrain. Such battlefields--the stomping grounds of warriors from Sun Tzu to Napoleon--are becoming scarcer each day. Furthermore, the very success of American joint operations--and joint fires in particular--guarantee that a clever opponent will move into cities for protection. The modern battlefield is urban.

    The argument farther develops into what constitutes front lines, and, IMO, a redefinition of what a force unit will become.

    The interagency task force, rather than the joint force, must become the basis for future operations. With the elements of national power coalescing at the tactical level of war, a loose confederation of governmental agencies at the combatant commander level is simply insufficient. An honest look at our recent operations in Afghanistan would reveal a superb performance by our military and a half-hearted, poorly integrated participation by the rest of the U.S. government agencies. As a result, American foreign policy appears to be 90 percent military with a few economic and diplomatic add-ons. This is a recipe for disaster in future urban warfare. We need to graduate to the formation of the interagency task force.

    The interagency task force would be built around a Marine expeditionary unit or an Army brigade, reinforced with joint fires. In addition, it would have active participation from the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Justice, the CIA, the FBI and (as needed) Agriculture, Health and Human Services, the Office of Economic Advisors and Labor. It would also have congressional liaison teams. At present, most of these agencies of the U.S. government lack a mission to assist in foreign policy, but this must change. The elements of national power--the integration of which is crucial to effective grand strategy--reside in these agencies. They must become players in war and peace.

    read the whole thing.

    Thursday, May 27, 2004

    The Value of MBA Education

    The Value of MBA Education

    The Economist has an extensive article that examines the value of formal business education. The articles quotes Henry Mintzberg, a professor at Canada's McGill University, criticizing conventional MBA programs because they "ignore the extent to which management is a craft, requiring zest and intuition rather than merely an ability to analyze data and invent strategies."

    This may, very well, be the case. However, most people will become much more effective at applying their "zest and intuition" after learning the fundamental principles of business, and by experimenting in low-risk environments that an MBA programs provide. We cannot count on MBA schools to create awesome general managers, but we can appreciate such programs for allowing professionals of all walks of life to become more skilled at making business-related decisions.

    It is possible to make business decisions without attending a business school, just like it is possible to write software without having a computer science degree. Those who value formal education will treat an MBA program as a way of learning about the mechanics of the world--the program will prepare them for a career grounded in solid understanding of business fundamentals. Those indisposed to the academic environment will probably find the enormous price tag of an MBA experience not worth the value that a master's degree brings.

    Unfold Chair design competition

    Unfold Chair design competition

    from Gizmodo

    Oh, this is fantastic. Apparently British designer Phil Nutley sent a letter to 9 designers in 9 cities with a challenge: within 90 days, build a chair that can be made for $200 or less that can support the weight of a person up to 200lbs. The catch? The chair had to be able to fit inside a FedEx box. What unfolds (oh ho ho) 90 days later at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair is captured in this video by City Magazine. I wish there were a page with just pictures of the projects, but watching the video as the producers try to figure out how to assemble some of the more obtuse designs is half the fun.

    go to the original Gizmodo article for video, text, and photo links of the project.

    Get rid of the noise, bring in some funk

    Get rid of the noise, bring in some funk

    NYT [free subscription required] has a good article about putting noise cancellation equipment into the computer case itself.

    "We make anti-noise," said Scott D. Sommerfeldt, a physicist who created a noise suppression system with his students. It is the latest example of a technology called active noise reduction, or noise cancellation, well known from its use in headphones designed to block out the low rumble of jet engines.

    The sound waves engineered by Dr. Sommerfeldt are out of phase with sound waves from the fan and thus they cancel each other out, substantially reducing fan noise.

    One interesting result of cancelling noise imperfectly could be that

    While it may be possible to reduce the sound substantially at the microphone, he said, the noise level could increase farther away, where someone might be sitting.

    pretty neat. While a lot of newer smaller computers are pretty quiet, bigger cases that come with some custom-built machines are rather loud. I have two of those in my house, and it gets loud. Glad to see that someone is working on an interesting approach to the problem.

    Stirlitz Joke #2

    Stirlitz Joke #2

    Stirlitz went into Muller's office and said, "Herr Muller, how would you like to work as an agent for Soviet Intelligence? The pay is good."

    Muller, shocked, gives an angry rebuff, then eyes Stirlitz suspiciously. Stirlitz starts to leave, but then stops and asks, "Gruppenfuhrer, do you have any aspirin?"

    Stirlitz knew that people always remember only the end of a conversation.

    lifted from here. There are hundreds, if not thousands of Stirlitz jokes. Obviously they do not make complete sense unless you know who the main character is and where he comes from.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2004

    Review: Mozilla FireFox

    Review: Mozilla FireFox

    After much prodding I finally installed firefox last night. What a pleasure. It is fast, supports tabs, and is free. I have stopped using Netscape Navigator years ago, and was not entirely happy with mozilla either. Both seemed somewhat bloated and sluggish. FireFox is a lean download that installs just the browser. And the browser is both fast to start up and to actually load pages. Opera, obviously, is also a popular choice, but it is not free.

    In my opinion, Firefox combines the the speed and sleekness of Opera with the price of zero. Good choice any day.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2004

    RSS Usage Statistics

    RSS Usage Statistics

    How many people read this weblog using RSS? And how is it possible for us to find out about those users? Obviously, websites that rely on advertising have a significant problem is their content is available through an avenue that bypasses that of the ad-displaying medium. While I can figure out how ads can be inserted into an RSS file, and am not necessarily opposed to it, I am not really sure how statistics about RSS use can be generated. Let's consider the two most obvious problems. For those who rely on 3rd party http-based counters, such as Sitemeter, a text-only RSS medium is not generating any hits. Those who host their own weblogs, or at least have access to raw HTTP logs could, concievably, see how many hosts download the RSS feed. However, there is no way to find if any item, or which items, in the feed have actually been read.

    What are people doing to address this measurement problem?

    SPF &

    SPF &

    SPF is a proposed spec sponsored by, a Philadelphia-based company. I have been following it for a while, mostly out of personal curiosity. It has been in the news lately, and is in the news again. What is my personal interest, other than getting rid of spam in my inbox? I have known Meng for 10 years, and I am glad his work is again in the news. Whatever else be said about him, he is certainly extraordinarily bright and if something interests him, he won't stop digging until he figures it out. Good going Meng!

    ps. original link to infoworld from Tomalak

    Thursday, May 20, 2004

    Was our universe created by design?

    Was our universe created by design?

    Interesting article from Slate - The Big Lab Experiment

    Was our universe created? That is, was it brought into being by an entity with a mind? This is a question I began pondering after my recent inquiry into the end of the universe. (For some reason, cosmic mysteries are best contemplated in pairs.) It is the fundamental issue that separates religious believers, ranging from Deists to Gnostics to Southern Baptists, from nonbelievers. To many atheists, the very idea that our world could have been created by a conscious being seems downright nutty. How could anyone, even a god, "make" a universe?

    The author's inquiry into the end of the universe (mentioned above) is also worth reading.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2004

    Ebay Economy

    Ebay Economy

    Future Now (thanks for the link) links to a USA Today article on companies that are built around helping people and other companies make money off selling and buying on eBay.

    EBay has become an immovable e-force in world business and culture. The value of items sold on eBay grew 60% last year and hit $24 billion — making it larger than the gross domestic products of Bulgaria or Jamaica. With that kind of commerce, it's no surprise that eBay is spawning schools of new companies that want to plug into it.

    An interesting point buried in the middle of the article but pointed out by Future Now:

    Perhaps more than any company, eBay knows what stuff is worth. It has data on what G.I. Joe action figures were going for in 1998 and what they were going for an hour ago.

    Very interesting. I knew that there were some companies providing all sorts of eBay statistics. We even profiled one of them on this weblog a long time ago. However, it is nice to see small companies attaching themselves to eBay like remora to a shark.

    I am sure these companies will soon diversify to deal not just with eBay but any auction place large enough or profitable enough to deal with. If brokerages can do it - why should not others?

    New Author

    New Author

    We have added a new author to this weblog - Mrlen. Bringing along an audience of one, Mrlen is committed to enhancing the already high presige of this weblog by writing insighful commentary on today's social and technological issues.

    Birds do it, bees do it

    Birds Do It, Bees Do It

    From the people at FOX News, comes this breaking story:

    A childless German couple finally found out why they weren't able to conceive. [...] After eight years of marriage, the 36-year-old man and his 30-year-old wife went to the campus' fertility clinic to figure out what was wrong. [...] "When we asked them how often they had had sex," said a clinic spokesman, "they looked blank, and said: 'What do you mean?'" He went on to explain that each of the pair had been brought up extremely religiously and had never heard of the birds and the bees.

    This reminds me of the following fine song (please sing along):

    Birds do it, bees do it

    Even educated fleas do it

    Let's do it, let's fall in love

    In Spain the best upper sets do it

    Lithuanians and Letts do it

    Let's do it, let's fall in love

    Indeed. Let's fall in love.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2004

    Geeky Habits of Highly Successful People

    Geeky Habits of Highly Successful People

    Well, I am not sure about highly successful people, but I do know I got my share. One of the habits I just recently realized was geeky is wearing a pen in the front-pocket of my shirt. Obviously, enough fun has been had at the expense of geeks with 3 or 4 pens and pencils and a protector. Suffice it to say that Revenge of the Nerds explored the topic and declared it solved. But what about just one, high-quality pen. No protector. No multiple writing implements. Just one nice pen, received as a gift, mind you. Does wearing one put an indelible mark of a "geek" on my forehead?

    I guess I do not really care - the benefit of having something to write with is a huge bonus. One never knows when a receipt is going to need to be signed.

    Photographing Chicago

    Photographing Chicago

    I was trying to get a piece provisionally titled "Chicago fragment". I was pretty sure what it would look like, if unsure what would actually be on it. Some closeup that would either be easily connected to Chicago or at least easily tied after a brief explanation. What I needed was a preferably old building with a large number of ornamental details within a few feet of my lense barrel. Did not happen. I am sure the opportunities were there and I just did not know how to take advantage of them, but as is stands eight now - it did not happen.

    Monday, May 17, 2004

    from Oxblog: Faces and Ships

    from Oxblog FACES, SHIPS, &C.

    "Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?" doesn't come from Homer. In fact, it doesn't come from antiquity at all. It come from Christopher Marlowe's exquisite "Doctor Faustus," (1616), Act V, scene 1. Mephistopheles has just conjured Helen for Faustus, who asks to have her for his paramour. Looking upon her, he exclaims,
    Was this the face that Launcht a thousand ships,

    And burnt the toplesse Towers of Ilium?

    Sweet Hellen make me immortall with a kisse:

    good point there.

    Cisco Confirms Stolen IOS Source Code

    Cisco Confirms Stolen IOS Source Code

    Cisco Confirms Stolen IOS Source Code: "Cisco's (Quote, Chart) big push into the corporate security space took a big hit over the weekend when hackers broke into its corporate network and stole chunks of the source code for the popular IOS operating system.

    Cisco spokesman Jim Brady confirmed the network breach but declined details on what was stolen. 'Based on preliminary data, we don't believe any confidential customer information or financial systems were affected,' he told

    The confirmation came after a Russian security Web site reported that hackers broke into the switching and routing giant's network and stole 800MB of source code for IOS 12.3 and 12.3t. Samples of the code were reportedly posted on an underground IRC channel as proof of the breach."

    pretty impressive.

    Excellent article on movies and politics. And global warming

    The Day After Tomorrow: Apocalypse Soon?

    Here's the plot. In the middle of a Northern Hemisphere summer, the temperature of the high-latitude Atlantic and Pacific suddenly drops 15 degrees. This is caused by the shutdown of the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe from being the icebox it should be at its northerly latitude.

    Since the Gulf Stream is no longer transporting warm water to Europe, the tropics get hotter and hotter, and the poles colder and colder. In a series of massive thunderstorms, the atmosphere flips over, and increasingly cold stratospheric air is drawn down to the earth's surface, creating a low-pressure system that produces hundreds of feet of snow. Temperatures in Canada drop 100 degrees in an hour. Just about everyone north of Washington, D.C., dies. The following summer, the ice melts and a continental flood ensues.

    Hurricanes hit Belfast. San Francisco Bay freezes. Hailstones the size of canned hams bomb Tokyo. According to the movie's Web page, Madras, India, becomes the "New Venice of the South."

    The movie makers maintain that much of this has already started. Disaster is heading our way pronto. The picture's Web site reminds us, for instance, that just last May, we had a record number of tornados for one month, and that more than half of the deaths that occur in hurricanes now are due to inland floods rather than coastal damage.

    Read the whole article, and do not miss the conclusion

    ...environmental fear creates political pressure, and plenty will be exerted on a handful of senators to switch their votes on S 139. After Bush vetoes a bill that passes a panicked House, Kerry exploits climate hysteria and knocks down one more state (maybe increasingly Democratic Arizona, burning?) than Gore did. Make that President-elect Kerry.

    Can't happen? Well, in 1979, Jane Fonda starred in "The China Syndrome," another scientific impossibility, about a contained nuclear reactor meltdown, that coincided with a national panic over the accident at Three Mile Island (which killed no one and released only tiny amounts of radiation). Since then, we haven't approved building another nuclear plant -- the only major power source that doesn't emit gases capable of warming the planet.


    But is this article a pre-emptive republican attack? After all, the author is pretty sceptical of the global warming hypothesis, at least in the more dramatic implications of it. Presumably other scientists might consider the situation more dire, and more prone to dramatic change. Most of the more amusing points the movie makes that are ripped by the article are fairly minor. Does it really matter which country will get flooded and in which way. One can plausibly argue that locations chosen for the more spectacular devastation are selected for their political and geographic appeal, not necessarily their position in the path of future F5 hurricanes. Still, an interesting article to read. Let's not forget, "The Day After Tomorrow" is brought to us by "producers of Independence Day" - which was hardly based on reality...

    Word of the day: Maffick

    The Word of the Day for May 17 is : maffick \MAFF-ik\ verb

    : to celebrate with boisterous rejoicing and hilarious behavior

    Example sentence:
    In 1904, author H.H. Munro penned, "Mother, may I go and maffick, / Tear about and hinder traffic" in his sardonic satire about the South
    African War, "Reginald's Peace Poem."

    Did you know?

    "Maffick" is an alteration of Mafeking Night, the British celebration of the lifting of the siege of a British military outpost during the South African War at the town of Mafikeng (also spelled Mafeking) on May 17, 1900. The South African War was fought between the British and the Afrikaners, who were Dutch and Huguenot settlers originally called Boers, over the right to govern frontier territories. Though the war did not end until 1902, the lifting of the siege of Mafikeng was a significant victory for the British because they held out against a larger Afrikaner force for 217 days until reinforcements could arrive. The rejoicing in British cities on news of the rescue produced "maffick," a word that was popular for a while, especially in journalistic writing, but is now less common.

    from VentureBlog

    from VentureBlog -- Calendar Calisthenics Redux

    a take on VC Calendar . Excerpt below.

    5:45am – Alarm clock. Pick up Blackberry from night-stand, fire off an email to portfolio company CEO to demonstrate “round-the-clock” vigilance. Go back to sleep.

    8:30am – Wake up. Decide whether to have breakfast in the kitchen, dining room, sunroom, veranda, or gazebo. Have “breakfast meeting” with Rex and Fido.

    read the whole thing

    Friday, May 14, 2004

    Book Review: South of the Border, West of the Sun

    Book Review: South of the Border, West of the Sun

    My first introduction to Murakami came with the "Wild Sheep Chase", which established a pretty high bar to follow. This book, "South of the Border, West of the Sun" had its moments, but overall failed to impress too much upon me.

    In retrospect, the book was better than I originally gave it credit for. Perhaps that is the result of me reading pretty quickly and thus my first impressions are sometimes a bit rushed.

    Overall, the book the often-repeated Murakami pattern of a boring, or at least static, present triyng to come to terms with a haunted post-WWII childhood. There is the obligatory semi-suicidal femme fatale, and a character who begins feeling more and more out of place in his reality. As the book goes on we delve into the past of the characters and being to understand the events that have shaped them. [spoiler]There is the repeated (from book to book) pattern of becoming estranged from a wife only to come closer to her in the end.[/spoiler]

    Like the author's other books, we have two female characters, but in this case I felt The Wife was very well written, with more exposition and finesse than in other works. It is hard to go into details and not spoil the books twists and turns, but for anyone who is a fan of Murakami, or good contemporary literary fiction in general, this is a worthwhile read.

    First Privately-Built Rocket Reaches Space, L.A. Times Reports

    First Privately-Built Rocket Reaches Space, L.A. Times Reports

    : "May 14 (Bloomberg) -- The SpaceShipOne rocket became the first privately-funded rocket to reach the edge of space when it hit 211,400 feet yesterday, an altitude only astronauts and military pilots usually reach, the Los Angeles Times reported. "

    Awesome. Here is the rest of the article

    Thursday, May 13, 2004

    The New York Times > Science > Globe Grows Darker as Sunshine Diminishes 10% to 37%

    The New York Times > Science > Globe Grows Darker as Sunshine Diminishes 10% to 37%

    Defying expectation and easy explanation, hundreds of instruments around the world recorded a drop in sunshine reaching the surface of Earth, as much as 10 percent from the late 1950's to the early 90's, or 2 percent to 3 percent a decade. In some regions like Asia, the United States and Europe, the drop was even steeper. In Hong Kong, sunlight decreased 37 percent.

    bizarre, and troublesome if true. RDK raises another question related to this. Does the sunny 16 rule still hold true? My gut feeling is that there is not enough specific data in the article to necessarily invalidate the rule.

    Wednesday, May 12, 2004

    Book Review: Diamond Chariot

    Book Review: Diamond Chariot

    This is the tenth (some say 11th) Erast Fandorin novel by B.Akunin. The work is in 2 volumes, first, much smaller one, deals with events during the Russo-Japanese war of 1905 (same one T.Roosevelt won a Nobel Peace Prize for ending). The 2nd, much longer and better one deals with Fandorin's sojourn in Japan. While written at the end of the series, the book actually takes place, chronologically, between the 2nd Book - "Turkish Gambit" and 3rd - "Murder on the Leviathan ".

    For those who read the whole series the book feels in some important gaps in Fandorin's personal development. For those who have not - this is a pretty tight thriller with many, many, crosses and double-crosses. Akunin, in real life, is a scholar of Japanese culture and history, so while some of the thoughts echoing through the book struck me as overly stereotypical, I will defer to his expertise on those items.

    The double-crosses are done very well, IMO. As each side tries to lure Fandorin to itself we are reasonably well-swayed by their arguments, and the ending is sad without being overly melodramatic. Granted, I read the each volume in under 24 hours each, but I definitely felt this was one of the best Fandorin novels. The whole series is reasonably strong, by current standards, with Azazel ("Winter Queen" in English), "Death of Achilles", and "Coronation" being far stronger, IMO, than the rest.

    Volume 1 is clearly designed to bridge the gap between the time when we last "saw" Fandorin - fin de ciecle - and the past that ties him to Japan. As a stand-alone book it is too short to allow for any sort of character development or many twists and turns that would make it a good mystery. As an introduction to volume 2 it does pretty well.

    In contrast, the 2nd volume of the "Diamond Chariot" is very good in character development both as a single book and a part of the series. Akunin certainly engages in some hindsight for a lot of his dialog regarding Japanese development and role in the world. However, the novel does such a good job of transporting the reader into the 19th century that I kept remarking to myself about how prescient some of the characters are. Instantly, of course, I remembered that the book was written almost a 100 years after the Russo-Japanese war, and 60 years after WWII, and thus the author had some insight into how Japan is going to turn out. Nevertheless, the fact that I had to think about this bodes well for the well-crafted mystery that is the 2nd volume of the "Diamond Chariot".

    After treading somewhat low on the intensity scale with the "Mistress of Death" book, Akunin has created a strong thriller to carry and develop the image of the protagonist. For anyone who likes "Azazel", the "Diamond Chariot" is a must read.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2004

    Welcome to BB&PPINC !!!

    BBandPPInc (spoken BB and Pink)

    A couple of friends who are just awesome. Buy their books, Dasha's prints and drawings, or Robbie's work. Go BB and PP [o]inc.

    Book Review: Cryptonomicon

    Book Review: Cryptonomicon

    This is definitely a good geeky book. No earth-shattering ideas, and a slightly curtailed ending, but a solid understanding of most technical tools and there proper placing into the environment. Frankly, this is a task so rare by an author that it deserves a mentioning of its own. The "Ordo" thing was reasonably amusing, although I am not sure what kind of legal implications there would have been in using PGP as the encryption name. What I found most impressive was the ability of the author to pretty clearly explain cryptogrtaphic and mathematical material. Thus, the three strongest points of the book would have to be good use of technology as part of the plot, good explanations of crypto and math for a lay person, and well-done time/space shifts between "present" and WWII.

    I certainly liked the book better than Quicksilver. Cryptonomicon was better paced and had more natural time/space transitions. It merits an 8 (out of 10), because of a somewhat rushed ending and lack of particularly original ideas. The book does a good job of popularizing some Privacy/EFF-influenced ideas and integrating computer technology into the plot. I also give high marks for the book's description of WWII technology, both cryptographic and armaments.

    Monday, May 10, 2004

    Back from the conference

    Back from the conference

    So I am back from Chicago. I am not feeling very well. My allergies were soothed by Claritin but are something blooming in NY is not giving in to the powers of the drug industry. Thus I am feeling slightly nausiated and wooly-headed. My eyes hurt too. After a week of abscence the office keyboard seems harsh and unwelcoming to my ultra-sensitive fingers. On top of it all traffic to and from home has been not very kind.

    On the bright side I have been tearing through Cryptonomicon - which I rather suggest you read as well. A decent thriller/mystery with a crypto-based plot. Any book that uses SSH and tunnelling in a reasonable way is rare enough to be read. Beware -- it is around 900 pages.

    The Chicago conference has been somewhat disappointing. I got some stuff from it, as well as two IBM certifications (Portal Developer, Portal Admin), but did not get a good feelin gthat the IBM portal software is really up to snuff. I definitely feel like the momentum is beginning to shift from big monolithic software by IBM/MSFT to open-source stuff, where one can go crazy in a highly personal way rather than follow the IBM lead. :)

    Saturday, May 01, 2004

    Out of town

    Out of town

    I am going out to a conference in Chicago for most of the next week. So for my two faithful readers - this is warning of even lighter than usual posting. be back on Friday, May 7th.