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Monkeys!
cananian
Dilinger pointed me at an amusing anecdote about monkeys leading off an essay about Python 3.0 (you can skip the Python parts if you're not interested in that stuff). I wonder to what degree some of OLPC's long-running software gun battles are over monkey-and-the-fire-hose sort of stuff. Since I imagine myself on the "good guys" side most of the time (part of having healthy self respect, etc) I like to think of some of the objections I hear to proposed refactorings as being "attacked by the old monkeys" -- but, to be honest, I'm sure there are large parts of Sugar which I like which are just "how it's always been done", and I'm probably as guilty of being an "old monkey" as others.

Sugarcamp Thursday
cananian

Part two! The video from Thursday's Sugarcamp sessions (2008-11-20) is now up, you-tube-ized, etc. As before, ogg-format video in both full and small sizes is available for download at download.laptop.org. In addition to the existing "all of Sugarcamp" playlist, I've now created separate Wednesday, Thursday, and (empty, but not for long) Friday playlists on YouTube if you want to skip to a specific day of talks.

Here's Thursday's video.Collapse )

Thursday includes talks on Sugar on a (USB) Stick, Sugar, Resara, and the LTSP, and a grab bag of miscellaneous proposals. (These links are to the "small" Ogg-format files, reasonable for downloading.)

One more day of talks to come...


Sugarcamp Wednesday
cananian

I just finished uploading, encoding, and you-tube-izing all the video from Sugarcamp sessions on Wednesday 2008-11-19. Ogg-format video in both full and small sizes is available for download at download.laptop.org, but the YouTube playlist might be the easiest way to watch:

Video is inside the cut.Collapse )

Included so far are talks on Desktop compatibility, "What was missed", "Activities as building blocks", Discoverable gestures, the School Server, Internationalization, and Community. (These links are to the "small" Ogg-format files, reasonable for downloading.)

And this was all just one day at Sugarcamp! More to come...


More shut-the-box
cananian
In previous entries I've been discussing the mathematics of the game "Shut the Box". I first asked about good strategies which were simple enough for a human to use.

One obvious intuitive strategy is to chose tiles to flip down such that your score is as low as possible after each turn. It turns out this is an extraordinarily bad choice: against an optimal 2nd player, the 1st player can expect to lose 75.3% of their stake in each game, and against an optimal 1st player, a second player following this strategy will lose 70.8% of their stake (first player shuts the box 9.5% of the time and wins 71.5% of the rest of the games).

A better strategy is the opposite: flip tiles so that your score is as high as possible after each turn! Against optimal play, this strategy shuts the box in 9.6% of games and loses 5.8% of the stake as the first player (compared to shutting the box in 9.5% of games but losing only 2.5% of the stake when playing optimally), and loses 5.3% of the stake as the second player (compared to winning 2.5% when playing optimally). Obviously, this strategy is a little better as a 1st player strategy: the 2nd player can improve by immediately flipping tiles to secure a win or tie if the opportunity is available, and following the "largest result" strategy otherwise. This loses only 1.2% of the stake to an optimal 1st player (again, compared to losing 5.3% using the unmodified strategy or winning 2.5% using an optimal 2nd player strategy).

A table of the positions where optimal 1st player strategy differs from "largest result" is small enough to memorize (!) or squeeze on a single page as a cheat sheet allowing actual optimal 1st player play by a human (390 differences from optimal). Optimal 2nd player strategy is more complicated: tabulating the differences from even the modified "largest result" strategy described above still runs to 15 pages. As far as I know this is still an open problem: is there a better "short and comprehensible" strategy? Is there a better way to represent optimal 2nd player play to allow real practice by a human?

In my previous post, I promised to describe how strategy changes when you increase the number of players in the game, and to talk about an "alternating turns" variant of the game. That will have to wait until the next post -- this one is long enough already!

Rest of Peru video up
cananian
I've uploaded the rest of the video from Peru's One Laptop per Child project; you can browse the YouTube playlist or download the oggs from download.laptop.org. Peru video inside the cut.Collapse ) [Update 2008-12-06: I just added English subtitles to the full-size version of Children's song. Enjoy!]
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Shut the box, continued
cananian
In my earlier post, I asked you to consider whether "shut the box" was fair. luckylefty got the correct answer quickly: it's not fair -- and (surprisingly) it's the first player who is at a disadvantage. The nice thing about this game is that the state space is not large, so you can actually evaluate all possible games played and formulate optimal strategy. Given optimal play by both players, on average the first player will lose 2.5% of their stake each game. This is despite the fact that the first player can expect to shut the box 9.5% of the time, while the second player can only shut the box 8.2% of the time. The second player wins 43.1% of the times the box is not shut, compared to the 1st player's 38.2%. The second player knows what score they need to beat to win, and that confers a substantial advantage. In fact, the first player can't expect to profit unless they score a 27 or lower on their turn.

The computer can calculate an optimal strategy: but can it be described in terms simple enough for a human to learn and use? I'll describe a reasonable "human playable" strategy in my next post on this theme.

You might also want to ponder these questions: how might the strategy change if the number of players in the game increased, from 2 to, say, 10? Or 100?

And would making the players strictly alternate their turns make the game more fair?

The Joys of Captioning
cananian

It may be old news to you, dear reader, but I discovered OverStream last night and was very impressed. It lets you take web video (say, from YouTube) and create caption streams for it, emitting a standard SRT file which you can then re-import into YouTube, all using web-based tools.

I used this to translate a brief video on OLPC's Arahuay pilot in Peru (ogg version w/o captions):

Video inside the cut.Collapse )

Help wanted: there's lots of video from Peru in my YouTube channel. You can create an account over at OverStream to caption it -- and if you send me the resulting SRT file, we can make this media more accessible to non-Spanish speakers.


Help me, internets: thumbnailing
cananian
Quick geek question to troll the internets: there's a nice freedesktop.org spec for thumbnailing files -- that is, it specifies where thumbnailed files should be cached, and how. There doesn't seem to be much agreement on how thumbnails ought to be generated, and how one might install plugins to extend the types of things you can thumbnail on your desktop. (The spec suggests simply that applications should generate the thumbnails themselves when files are saved.)

The GNOME thumbnailing stuff seems to be wedged inside libgnomeui -- which is deprecated. But where did this move to? GIO might be a reasonable place, but it's not there (yet?). Perhaps the Hildon thumbnailer might be a better choice, as it seems to have fewer dependencies. (hildon-thumbnail in Debian, sources in SVN) -- or even the Thunar thumbnailer? The benefit is that (because of the fd.o spec) these are all interoperable, so it's easy to change later.

It would be nice if there were nice python bindings, but it seems I'd have to roll my own in any case. (Maybe PyBank would help?) Does anyone have any thumbnailers I've missed, know where thumbnailing is expected to live in the GNOME/GTK stack, or have any other helpful advice?

Peru video update!
cananian

On my last trip to Peru, I brought back a DVD of video material which Peru's Ministry of Education has created to document and promote their One Laptop per Child project. I've uploaded it now to http://download.laptop.org/content/media/Peru-MoE/, converted it to the free Ogg Theora video format, and put some of the videos up on YouTube for easy viewing.

My favorite is the Children's Song (ogg), which sings about the joy of learning with an XO. The first Peru program (ogg) contains the song subtitled in English, which some of you may enjoy more:

Peru video inside the cut.Collapse )

The second Peru program (ogg) is a mashup of various press features on OLPC in Peru, starting with a very nice BusinessWeek piece (in English), followed by a piece for infordata.tv (subtitled in English), and ending with a piece for a Japanese program (at least that's what I think it is, I can't read the subtitles!).

More to come!

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A game to think about.
cananian
My family has a nice shut the box set at home. They play with the rules variation where the final score is the digits left uncovered, read in order -- ie, if 1, 5, and 9 are left uncovered, the score is 159 (some variants instead use the sum of the digits as the score), and you must roll two dice unless the sum of the uncovered digits is 6 or less, in which case you must roll only one die (some variants make this a free choice). In a two player game, both players put a dollar in the pot and then the first player attempts to shut the box; if he fails the second player starts from scratch and tries to shut the box; if they both fail, the winner is the player with the lower score. If the game ends by shutting the box, the winner gets the $2 in the pot and an extra dollar from the other player (double the stake); otherwise the winner just gets the pot.

An easy question: is this a fair game? If not, who is the sucker?

A hard question: what's the best "short" strategy for playing the game? (I'll define a "short" strategy as "capable of being described on a single side of a sheet of paper.)

Answers in a future post...

What's the best thing you could be working on, and why aren't you?
cananian
Some get-motivated reading from Paul Graham on good vs bad procrastination and working in small groups.

Looking ahead to our very ambitious goals for the next Sugar/OLPC release, I think it's important to keep Richard Hamming's question in front of us:

What's the best thing you could be working on, and why aren't you?
We need to take individual responsibility for the things which will make our release excellent, and find ways to shut out distractions to let us get that great work done.

Scott needs help; drinking vino
cananian
Sugarcamp just finished, and gosh there's a lot of stuff to do for our next release!

One unfortunate thing I noticed (alas!) only in retrospect was that frequently projects that I volunteered to work on (or had suggested) seemed to attract few other contributors. I guess "Oh, Scott's got that covered" is a nice reaction, but somehow something got lost: when I make a working prototype and/or write a complete spec, like with the Journal, networking, or "click-to-translate" (screencast coming soon!), it's because I need help. I don't want to be the only person working on these things -- I don't even need to be one of the people working on these. Please, if you think the ideas are good, pick them up and make them your own. Or just grab a piece. Where I've made prototypes, source code is available (click2trans, journal2, olpcfs1). Send me patches! Steal my projects!

One concrete request: Vino is a very nice integrated VNC server, one piece of a synchronous collaboration mechanism for Sugar. I'd love to see someone take server/vino-input.c and tweak it to map the VNC input events to a secondary mouse pointer, using MPX. Since Vino uses XDamage already (see server/vino-fb.c), another nice extension would be to have vino restrict itself to a single window (or group of windows) so we can share a specific activity/application (even if the session owner switches to a different activity or desktop).

G1G1, reloaded
cananian
Today is the (re)launch day for OLPC's "Give One, Get One" program: you can buy a laptop for yourself (and another for a needy kid) at Amazon.com starting today.

This is a great way to help OLPC get laptops to kids around the world, as well as net yourself a cool piece of hardware at the same time. If you just want to help the kids, you can just "Give One" without "Getting One" as well.

I was in Peru a few weeks ago, and my friends Chris and Michael just got back from Uruguay, and let me tell you, the laptops are a huge hit with the kids. There are lots of pictures on the newly (re)launched laptop.org site (yes, I got roped into site maintenance and web devel, sigh).

If your talents run more to the coding side, SugarCamp starts today.
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Joy
cananian
Incidentally, I feel compelled to note that, based on Massachusetts ballot question and general election results, the majority of Massachusetts residents agree with me completely.

And the country as a whole agrees with my preference for the American presidency. Go, us!
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Two questions and a link
cananian
Question #1: why doesn't OLPC have any sound theme support in its GUI? Are sounds considered distracting in a classroom environment? Methinks we should look at libcanberra.

Question #2: I wonder if we could merge our funny OLPC activity-and-base-system upgrade mechanism with PackageKit? It seems it was explicitly designed to be tolerant of weird back ends like ours. We could make installing user-local fonts, etc, much more robust and "standard", as well as provide a standard backdoor into RPM for tasks which simply must modify the root filesystem.

Link: a few weeks ago, I put together some screencasts of next-generation Journal prototypes for OLPC. If you're curious what I'm working on, here's part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 at about 5 minutes each (created with recordMyDesktop).

But that's not what I'm working on right now, which is another proof-of-concept prototype of "click to translate" functionality for GTK apps. I'll screencast that as soon as I've got something to show.

Binding python to v8
cananian
Google's v8 virtual machine (part of Chrome) is really great, from a virtual-machine-implementer's perspective. It would be a fantastic backend for Python, because of the way that object mutation and method dispatch is handled. I thought of hacking together a proof-of-concept, but decided that my work at OLPC wasn't really benefited by my going off to spend a year writing a fast Python runtime.

Luckily, I don't have to: pyv8 is a proof-of-concept implementation of just such a thing! And it's ten times faster than standard interpreted Python -- although it should be noted that this is for a strictly toy benchmark.

What's missing is bypassing pyjamas and working directly from python bytecode, and a better attempt at providing python standard library support. Hopefully other bright minds are hard at work on this!
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Jobs jobs jobs!
cananian
Want to work with me? One Laptop Per Child is hiring for a large number of positions right now. It's a great place to work. Check out the posted job descriptions -- but there are a number of open positions that haven't quite made it to that page yet. Drop me a line if you're interested but don't see exactly what you're looking for on the list.
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Working man's tale
cananian

Today I finish my first week of my new job at One Laptop Per Child. It's true, you can get paid for writing free software (and saving the world) -- who'd have thunk?

At the moment, I'm working on IPv6 networking and Linux kernel support for autoconfiguration.

Helpful Wikipedia articles to explain some of the above: OLPC, IPv6.

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Result of the last ten years
cananian
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Fun things to do with your domain
cananian

Well, the "Google NDA" post has been at the top of this page for a while, and it looks like it's not exactly going to be tomorrow that I get to post about (a) the fact that I've gotten my thesis receipt and am totally done with this PhD (that will be next week), or (b) what exciting thing I'm going to do next (that's waiting on the results of the previously mentioned Google interview, among other things). When media talk about "balance" it usually just means that they've punted on the idea of discovering "truth" and are about to give falsehoods equal time. But that's not what we mean here, dear Reader! Notwithstanding my real gripes with their aggressive (and not obviously-enough optional) pre-employment NDA, here are some more Googly bits for "balance":

  • Google Apps for your Domain is really great. If you've got a domain name sitting around underutilized, you can make the bits point to google, and google will then host page creation tools, email, and even calendaring for you. In my case I've let Google loose on ananian.com, to manage email for the domain behind the scenes. Addresses at ananian.com can get forwarded elsewhere or else my family members can use gmail on the ananian.com domain. I haven't really played around with the web page creation tools, yet, but it's gotta be better than what I'm putting up on that site at the moment (ie, nothing much!). It handles domain aliases (ananian.org, ananian.net), catch-all addresses, and SPF anti-spam measures, too. Groovy.
  • The mobile version of Google maps is really nice, at least on my Treo. The other mobile Google services are more of a mixed bag: I'm still waiting for a nice mobile version of Google Calendar (the SMS gateway is better than nothing, but I get charged for SMS), and mobile Gmail 1.1.0 worked great on my Treo, before the latest 1.1.1 release crashed and burned, making it obvious that Google isn't actually reading their support forum. (Or is there some other place I'm supposed to report that "your 1.1.1 JAR file is corrupt"? A newsgroup is not a bug tracker!)
  • OK, this isn't Google, but I just stumbled across Project Honeypot, which has some simple steps you can take to help nab email harvesters for spam.
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Google's Evil NDA
cananian

Tomorrow I am going to interview over at Google. Before I do so, I need to sign an NDA which states, among other things, that I'm not allowed to tell anyone I'm interviewing over there, or indeed, to mention the name of Google at all. So I'm going to do all that now and get it out of my system, so I'm not tempted to violate the agreement after I've signed it. Since linking the entire NDA would likely violate Google's copyright on the document, I'll just quote sections of it below:

  • The biggest flaw, to my mind, is the lack of any expiration date. Clause 8, "This Agreement shall remain in effect until such time as all Confidential Information of Google disclosed hereunder becomes publicly known and made generally available through no action or inaction of Participant." Since some of the information "disclosed hereunder" will only ever be known to me and Google (see next bullet), this means that the NDA lasts forever. Technology moves fast — certainly it must be possible to put some time limit on the information I might (inadvertently) receive. 3 years? 5 years? 10? 20?
  • The definition of "Confidential Information" in section 2 includes, "the terms of any agreement and the discussions, negotiations, or proposals related to any agreement." So, according to the NDA, I can't even tell my mother (not an "employee, director, agent, or third party contractor", even if she signs a Google NDA herself) what salary or options are in any Google offer. I'd like to ask my friends at Google, say, what ballpark compensation I might expect, but under the terms of their NDAs they couldn't tell me either. Further, since it's highly unlikely that the terms of my offer become "publicly known ... through no action or inaction of Participant" this bullet combined with the previous makes the agreement eternal.
  • I can never mention Google again in any public statement after I sign this NDA:
    4. Participant agrees not to do the following, except with the advanced review and written approval of Google: (a) issue or release any articles, advertising, publicity, or other matter relating to this Agreement (including the fact that a meeting or discussion has taken place between the parties) or mentioning or implying the name of Google."
    So, after I sign this NDA, I can't tell you that I've done so. (Luckily, I haven't signed it yet.) I have crossed out "mentioning or implying the name of Google" in my copy, as I simply cannot in good conscience promise never to "mention or imply the name of Google" in public (say, on this blog) ever again. What lawyer wrote this crap?
  • The third clause of item 4, whose first clause is above, is:
    [4] (c) reverse engineer, disassemble, decompile, translate, or attempt to discover any prototypes, software, algorithms, or underlying ideas which embody Google's Confidential Information.
    As the NDA is very loosey-goosey about what, exactly, Google considers Confidential Information — nowhere in the NDA does is say that Confidential Information will be marked or identified in any way — this may effectively forbid me ever to take apart any of Google's software. US law allows me to (for example) reverse engineer for compatibility (what Ed Felten calls the Freedom to Tinker), and as a practicing computer scientist I'd rather not forfeit those rights for all time for all Google code. Time-limiting the NDA or clearly marking Confidential Information may have made this term less objectionable. One may also attempt to argue that "Confidential Information" is limited to stuff I directly observe or is presented to me — for example, if I'm told that there's some secret at the heart of Google Mail, I can't ever "view source" in my browser to try to discover what it is, but that I'm still free to view the source of (say) Google Calendar. I'd prefer that to be the case, but the language used in the NDA is:
    2. Google may disclose certain information under this Agreement it considers confidential and/or proprietary concerning Google's business and/or technology ("Confidential Information") including, but not limited to...
    Is the Confidential Information only that information which Google discloses, or is there a broad swath of Confidential Information owned by Google, some of which it may disclose, but all of which I'm forbidden to "attempt to discover"?
  • Finally, item 5 provides that "If Confidential Information is required to be produced by law, court order, or other governmental demand... Participant must immediately notify Google of that obligation," regardless of the fact that disclosure of a National Security Letter is illegal. Not that this possibility is likely, but it is just one more term with which it could be impossible to comply.

I have signed NDAs with other companies which seemed entirely reasonable. The Google NDA, however, seems to fly directly in the face of Google's reported "Do No Evil" motto. What's more, after tomorrow I may be entirely unable to complain about it — and I expect that current Google employees are similarly contractually bound not to comment. But while I can, let me say: this stinks!

UPDATE: A quick google for "Google NDA" turned up several more complaints about the Google NDA, such as this one from Colin Percival. Valleywag reproduces the entire Google NDA, so you can read it in its entirety yourself. Further, I've written an amendment to the NDA which remedies its faults as I see them. If I can get Google to agree to at least term 2 of this amendment, then you'll hear about my experiences here tomorrow.

UPDATE x2: I crossed out some terms before I signed the NDA this morning. At the end of the interview (4 or so hours later) my recruiter returned to tell me that he'd talked to his supervisor and it turns out that I could have not signed it at all. (Thanks for checking, Jeff!) They'll still talk to you if you decline. In fact, when you arrive at Google they ask you to sign a different NDA (a much less evil one) in order to get a visitor's badge, and it turns out that you can decline that as well: your badge will have a big red "No NDA" label or some such on it, but no harm done. So, my advice to future interviewees: be brave! Just decline the NDAs, and ask your recruiter to check with their boss if that makes them nervous. It would probably be a good idea to warn your recruiter first if you plan to do this, so that the boss-checking won't throw off the schedule. It will be all right.

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Jobs & reunions
cananian

Although I've defended my thesis, I've still got a couple of weeks of work left on the paper document. That said, I'm officially looking for work now. I've had some very promising interviews already, but if you've got an exciting job (preferably in the Boston area), let me know. I'd like to keep working on compilers & hardware, but movies, space, and saving the world are also passions of mine...

Also, I thought I'd let me Princeton classmates know that I'll be at my 10th reunion this summer: hope to see you all there!

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Defended my thesis
cananian
Wednesday morning I successfully defended my thesis. All that's left is some signatures on my dissertation. Yay!
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Aceville Elections
cananian
Another anomalous automated election. When will they learn?
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Diebold Whines Again
cananian

It's fair to say I'm not a big fan of Diebold -- even before they sent me a cease-and-desist letter over my small part in exposing some of their illegal practices (for example, using uncertified voting machines for an election). Anyway here's their latest lunacy: Massachusetts (ie, Sec. State William Galvin) wisely decided to avoid Diebold when purchasing new machines to comply with the accessibility requirements in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)... and in response Diebold sued the state. Here's some coverage:

The best bit of the articles, to my mind, is this:

Galvin called the lawsuit "frivolous" and "sour grapes on the part of Diebold."

"We've gone through an exhaustive process consulting with the disabled community to find out what's best for them," Galvin told The Associated Press. "We certainly don't feel like we have an obligation to help (Diebold) market their equipment."

I'd have said "a company guilty of breaking election laws" instead of "Diebold", and "insecure and buggy equipment which threatens the bedrock of our democracy" instead of plain "equipment", but I think Sec. Galvin and I are on the same page here.

Incidentally, the AP article massacres the reasons why the AutoMARK was chosen, but it's a very good choice from a technical standpoint: it's a disabled-voter-friendly touchscreen machine that emits a bog-standard optical-scan ballot, so the standard election procedures and auditability of optical scan technology are uncompromised. Further, it integrates well with existing systems, so it's cost-effective to boot. In the past I've felt that Sec. State Galvin was not doing all he could to safeguard Massachusetts elections, but good decisions like these are slowly winning me over.


SpaceX preliminary verdict: nozzle hit & tank slosh
cananian

For any of you who've been following the flight tests of SpaceX's Falcon rocket, you may be interested to hear that:

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has noted that the preliminary assessment of the Falcon I flight shows that the second stage shut down only a minute before schedule - and still managed to deploy its satellite mass simulator ring.

The shutdown appears to have been caused by the sloshing of propellant in the LOX tank, increasing observed oscillation, which would normally have been successfully dampened out by the second stage Thrust Vector Control (TVC) system. However, the impact on the second stage nozzle during separation caused a 'hard slew' correction, over-compensating previously simulated scenarios.

This analysis is preliminary, and SpaceX hasn't posted it in its official updates page yet. But, if confirmed, this buttresses the case that their recent test was largely successful.

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DMCA admitted not to "work out very well"
cananian

One of the architects of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act acknowledged that "our Clinton administration policies didn't work out very well" and "our attempts at copyright control have not been successful" in a conference in Montreal. Michael Geist attended the conference and reported the news. The conference's topic was on music and copyright reform in Canada; the US is pressuring our northern neighbors to enforce draconian restrictions on fair use similar to our DMCA. Hopefully the Canadians will heed the message and resist the pressure.

In other news, Slashdot brings some stories of ignored referendums. It's easy to claim that voters "don't know what they're voting for" when the politicans don't like what the voters have asked for, apparently... read the high-moderated comments on the article for more examples. Sigh.

But at least you can use genetic engineering to add additional color receptors to expand the number of "colors" we can see. I'd love to know what the world looks like with 4 color receptors, instead of my plebian 3.

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National Security Letters
cananian

Today's Washington Post contains a sobering article detailing the experiences of a recipient of a National Security Letter. According to the Justice Department's inspector general, 140,000 of these letters have been sent between between 2003 and 2005. They demand information, bypassing the judicial system, and forbid the recipient to discuss the receipt of the letter or its contents with anyone. As the article's author notes:

Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case -- including the mere fact that I received an NSL -- from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been. I hide any papers related to the case in a place where she will not look. When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie.

I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government and being made to mislead those who are close to me, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.

The inspector general's report makes clear that NSL gag orders have had even more pernicious effects. Without the gag orders issued on recipients of the letters, it is doubtful that the FBI would have been able to abuse the NSL power the way that it did. Some recipients would have spoken out about perceived abuses, and the FBI's actions would have been subject to some degree of public scrutiny. To be sure, not all recipients would have spoken out; the inspector general's report suggests that large telecom companies have been all too willing to share sensitive data with the agency -- in at least one case, a telecom company gave the FBI even more information than it asked for. But some recipients would have called attention to abuses, and some abuse would have been deterred.

The author concludes (and I concur):

I believe more strongly than ever that the secrecy surrounding the government's use of the national security letters power is unwarranted and dangerous. I hope that Congress will at last recognize the same thing.

Boston PD: putting the "Error" in "Terror".
cananian

Courtesy of Bruce Schneier:

Boston Police blow up Traffic Counter

It's not just the Mooninite blinkies. In 2004, the Boston police harrassed a protester by pretending he might be standing on a bomb.

I'm beginning to think that something is seriously wrong with the police chain of command in Boston.

In other news, New Mexico police blew up two CD players which were duct-taped to the bottom church pews and rigged to play rude messages during Mass, and the Dutch police mistook one of their own transmitters for a bomb. Back to Bruce:

Okay, everyone. We need some ideas, here. If we're going to think everything weird is a bomb, then the false alarms are going to kill any hope of security.

If you're having trouble identifying bombs, this quiz should help:
http://www.bombornot.com/
And here's a relevant cartoon.


Privatize the military!
cananian
Timothy Noah makes some compelling points.

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