Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Well, I finally found an apartment, and we have an agreement with the landlord. We're going to pickup furniture and move stuff on saturday. Crystal gets in here on Monday(if all goes according to plan), so it's just in time.

I'm very interested in how this will work out. For the time being, I'm not going to set up a computer (my work computer will stay here at the office) at the new apartment. This will be the first time in a long time I haven't had a computer on all the time where I live.

I may end up setting up my old computer(which I brought with me two years ago when I originally moved to california), for surfing, email, writing, personal coding and such. But on the other hand, I'm on the computer all day for work... I haven't decided. We'll try without, for a while.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Official Google Blog: Avoiding RSI

I personally have only had minor problems with RSI, but it has come to dominate the lives of many people I know in the computer classes. Here is a decent postcard overview, with some links to helpful resources.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Today is a Kifune discussion group, for those in LA, Kifune is a nice Japanese restaurant that we meet infrequently at with friends and acquaintances to talk about wild things.

I finished Rainbows End yesterday, and it was very good, excepting Vinge's characteristic avoidance of AI. Vinge is very clear in his understanding of the power of AI, but he always refuses to attempt to directly depict it. It's central to his stories, but it always occurs off-camera. Here, we're extremely near future, where things are getting quite exciting, but entirely through 'normal' ultratechnology like automated manufacturing, pervasive computing, social networking, bio sciences.

It's definitely worth the read, and it will probably inspire quite a few real life inventions, unless I miss my guess. Much of what he depicts is intriguingly possible.

I bought it from Amazon, you can get it from any major retailer. It's not online yet, that I can tell, but it will be soon. I don't know what Vinge's personal opinions are on personal property, but I'll probably want a digital copy to go along with my hardcover, so I'll let you know.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Office of Senator John Cornyn :: Cornyn Bill Would Improve Taxpayer Access To Federally Funded Research

This could be very big. It requires goverment sponsored research that meets certain qualifications to publish their findings in a publicly available digital medium.

Open Science is a hobby of mine, the various indie attempts at math literature, searchable chemical indices, are all very important, but in sheer volume, this could dwarf them all.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

In the Fight Against Spam E-Mail, Goliath Wins Again

Interesting. I would call this an endorsement of success for the tactic.

For those who are not following the various anti-spam attempts, Blue Security was an interesting idea. They subscribed people to a spamwatching service, and when someone reported spam, they sent unsubscribe requests (as CAN-SPAM requires you to allow) to the best known source of spam, from all their subscribers, at the same time.

The crippling burst of traffic, while legal, managed to discourage several spammers. Of course, the counter-attack was not long in coming, along with cyber-threats of victimizing their customers with targeted attacks and virii.

Blue Security seems to have caved, with a quit message going up on their website tomorrow, reports the Washington Post in above link.

I personally expected this outcome, and am somewhat surprised they did not discuss it with their customers, and/or take measures against DDOS attacks.

The scale of the counter-attack was pretty surprising, taking down Tucows as well(which is no slouch of a webservice), but that reinforces my opinion that the method would work, if someone had the ability to go the distance. The next attempt(and there probably will be one) should involve either obfuscating the central server via Tor routing or similar, or a truly decentralized p2p network (which would have the problem of not having experts to validate the targets for mass unsubscribes).

The last possibility is for black hats to setup persistent bot nets that do the unsubcribing by proxy, but that amounts to just opening up gunslinging between the "good" bad guys, and the "bad" bad guys. Collateral damage could be worse than the original spam traffic.

A possible solution would be getting someone really really big involved, like Akamai, or Google, but that probably costs more than any single anti-spam effort could raise.

Monday, May 15, 2006


For the past two days I've been pretty uninvolved with the rest of the world. Some disorder or other has had me sleeping.

Now I'm back at the desk, perhaps not 100%.

I just wanted to comment on two things. This weekend, my boss, Peter went to the Singularity Summit, and was pleased at the time-investment, despite the spotty speaker selection. It was supposed to be a gathering and presentation of cutting edge stuff on Vinge's technological singularity, but Kurzweil's recent book understandably took a lot of the credit.

I'll post when audio/video/transcripts come to my attention, as some of the presentations were apparently pretty good(via Peter-report), if not entirely applicable to the topic. (looking forward to good presentations from specifically: Cory Doctorow(irrelevant, perhaps interesting), Bill McKibbin(charismatic neo-luddism), Eliezer (good general basic presentation), Max More(naive psychological treatment of AI problems), Hofstadler (another apparent Hugo de Garis, believes AI is a long way off for personal reasons, somewhat dissapointing))

More important that the specific presentations, none of which represented new information, is the new focus that singularity topics find themselves in. By all reports, the Summit was extremely professional, slick, and well attended. I hope more attention follows to the more specific issues and efforts.

I'm somewhat surprised that the tone of the conference was so speculative and blue-sky, considering all the current development and interesting stuff. I suppose concrete subjects require too much grounding and are subject to embarassing retractions. I would have expected at the least for Eliezer to counterpoint the predictions some gave (100+ years, in at least one case), but perhaps he's clamming up for respectability reasons.

In other news, the long awaited (for me at least) new Vinge novel "Rainbow's End" is available now. Near-future sci-fi set in a high school with the protagonist a recovering alzheimer's patient re-entering society. YES.

Also, China's giant deal with finally producing their own microprocessors that operate on par with Intel, TI, et al? Not so much. Apparently the progress was falsified, and some of the work that was done may have been stolen. That's bad. China is getting a very bad reputation for not playing nicely with Western companies intellectual property, which is a big deal, if they want to join the same game.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Catalog Of Correctable Omnipresent Human Flaws

I saw this some time ago, and thought it amusing.

This fellow lists all the biological problems that human anatomy presents, and what he would do about them, given genetic control.

Many of the suggestions are moderately sensible, although some are very medically naive. The spirit of the thing is certainly very positive, and I would like to see some percentage of the proposed changes at least modeled in detail.

He then goes on to suggest implementing them as retroviral in vitro modifications of human zygotes, which I think is a silly, and also terrible idea. Testing wild new biological structures on unborn children is a nonstarter for many reasons. The first is that you could doom them to a life of horrid misery, or quick death. But the second, and more difficult to dispel through care and testing, is that it's simply too indirect a proposition.

Aside from the fact that getting an unborn child's permission is tricky at best, even if you subscribe to medieval notions of children belonging to their parents, it's simply not as direct a motivation for research and development. Here you're offering potential benefits to the children of rich people, initially at least.

An alternate, and possibly more difficult attempt, would be surgical implementation on adults. Here you can sell directly to the rich people and those ill (but covered by insurance, or sponsored). That's a much more motivating, and much clearer proposition. The adult can consent, understand the risks, and perhaps more importantly, directly evaluate the benefits.

Eventually, of course, medical technologies will be possible to attempt on anyone, and both the adult and prenatal varieties will become social/legal issues. But this is another case where you should not live out your dreams through your children, but rather try to accomplish them yourself.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Minnesota Power Falcon Cam

Peregrine falcons are my favorite birds. They always have been, since I learned that they are the fastest ( which to my young mind, meant best ).

Here is a webcam on a nest that a falcon named Bandit has been using since '92. He has raised 37 chicks there, with two mates.

This is all part of a private effort by Minnesota Power to provide safe nesting for falcons and other endangered birds.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Extropy Institute is closing its doors and opening a window for a proactive future.


The Extropy Institute is closing. Many people may not know who they are, but they played an important part in my life, six years ago or so, when I first encountered them, my plans were very uncertain. I can honestly say that it was a major fork in the road of my planning, and that my view of the world has never really been the same since.

Transhumanism started out as a philosophy/attitude, and quickly turned into a culture. People had been taking that and adding to it for years when I encountered it, and I found it a rich vein of imagination, ideas, and scientific futurism.

I am a very different person because of it. And I think I will always identify strongly with the ideas it once espoused. the extropy institute is now gone, but I think that there are more extropians than ever.