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Unix Guru Evi Nemeth Missing, Feared Lost At Sea

Fzz Re:Tragedy (156 comments)

Evi: desperately hoping you're in a life raft somewhere and will get to laugh your laugh at some of the kids posting here today. A great big IETF hug to you, wherever you are.

about a year ago
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Ask Bas Lansdorp About Going to Mars, One Way

Fzz I'd go. (540 comments)

I'm in my mid 40s, already got kids, am reasonably fit, have a scientific background, and I've probably got the right sort of technical skills for such a trip. I'm half-way through a pretty successful academic career at this point in my life. In 15 years time (when such a trip might be feasible), I'll be 60. My kids will have left home, and I'll be looking forward to retirement.

Trouble is I'm not the sort of person to settle down and play golf. If, instead of retiring, I could do something really amazing with the last few years of my (productive) life, I'd jump at the opportunity. Assuming I'm still fit enough, I'd jump at the chance to go to Mars on a one-way trip. Likely it would shorten my life significantly. But I'll have already lived most of it anyway - what a way to go out!

The tough part wouldn't be missing Earth, or spending 6 months in a large can, but missing my family. Video conferencing isn't the same, especially with the time lag. But even so, I reckon I'd still go, if they gave their blessing. I think they'd probably understand, even if they weren't happy about it. Some things are just worth devoting the rest of your life to, even if it turns out to be short.

more than 2 years ago
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Yahoo CEO Wrongly Claimed To Have Degree In Computer Science

Fzz Re:So? (363 comments)

Or maybe it's an indication that 28 years of experience post-degree is more relevant than the degree itself.

The same may not be true if you've recently graduated.

more than 2 years ago
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UCLA Professor Says Conventional Wisdom on Study Habits Is All Washed Up

Fzz Re:His brain is better than mine (329 comments)

I've always found that I can take notes, or understand, but I can't do both. Back when I was a student, i generally taken almost no notes - just perhaps half a page to a page in an hours lecture - just the key points and nothing else to act as reminders later. It always worked well for me - I seemed to be the only person who actually understood stuff.

Of course, revision for exams was interesting, but it really was revision, because I didn't have enough notes to attempt to learn anything during revision. Probably fits with the article - remembering during revision was hard, but once I had remembered, I really knew it well.

more than 2 years ago
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Superannuated Scientists Still Productive

Fzz Re:Well duh. (117 comments)

One of the most difficult parts of science is knowing what questions are worth answering. Coming up with a good question - one that is worth answering and can be answered - is often the hardest part of a PhD. Younger scientists generally have more difficulty with this than older scientists - it is something that you get better at with experience and with making a good network of people you interchange ideas with. But often younger scientists are (or rapidly become) better at the fine details when pointed in the right direction, but getting that direction in the first place is crucial. All this points to collaboration between people of different generations as being a very pretty effective way to have impact.

more than 2 years ago
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Greenpeace Breaks Into French Nuclear Plant

Fzz Re:To say nothing of their own reputation (561 comments)

Interestingly, what Fukushima did show was that several pretty large explosions inside the reactor buildings didn't really cause damage to the reactor containment. So you're almost certainly right that a terrorist with a backpack bomb probably isn't actually going to cause a disaster.

Even so, I wouldn't be surprised if they shot protestors next time.

more than 2 years ago
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Greenpeace Breaks Into French Nuclear Plant

Fzz Re:To say nothing of their own reputation (561 comments)

Sounds like the came very close to proving that no such hole existed - when you call ahead to tell the police not to shoot your guys, you're not proving much.

So now when the real terrorists break in, they just have to phone to warn the police that Greenpeace is breaking in?

more than 2 years ago
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Diaspora Co-founder Dies At 22

Fzz Re:Suicide Apparently Was the Cause (312 comments)

By the time you're 20 you kinda get the plot, and it usually doesn't get any better after that.

I disagree strongly with that. I'm in my mid-40s, and so far I have to say that life has got better with each passing decade. Not necessily easier, mind you, but certainly better. My job has never been more interesting, and my kids are getting old enough to be not just fun but interesting to have deep discussions with. Perhaps most importantly, I know myself, my strengths and weaknesses better than I ever used to, I've got far more confidence than when I was younger, I'm happy with who I am, and I know how to apply myself and to work with the people around me to get stuff done.

Life is what you make of it. Whatever age you are.

more than 2 years ago
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Faster-Than-Light Particle Results To Be Re-Tested

Fzz Re:What if light travels at slightly less than c? (412 comments)

The evidence from supernova 1987A seems to contradict this. Neutrinos from the supernova would have arrived years before the light if c were 0.03% faster than we measure on Earth. Instead they arrived a few hours earlier, which is to be expected, as light from the initial explosion took some time to emerge from the exploding star whereas the neutrinos did not.

more than 2 years ago
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Mr. President, There Is No (US) Engineer Shortage

Fzz Re:more software engineers (580 comments)

A friend of mine who is a professor at a Romanian university mentioned to me that in Romania if you've a Computer Science degree and work as a programmer, you're exempt from paying income tax. No surprise that they've no shortage of smart CS graduates.

more than 2 years ago
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Microsoft Wants $15 Per Android Smartphone

Fzz Re:Stop this american madness, fight patents! (361 comments)

Well, the light bulb was Joseph Swan, an Englishman.

The telephone was invented by Antonio Meucci, an Italian. Alexander Graham Bell, himself, was Scottish, though he'd been in the US for four years when he did his telephony work.

Velcro is Swiss.

The nuclear bomb, I'll give you, though of the key people on the Manhattan project, Fermi and Segre were Italian, Teller, Wigner and Szilard were Hungarian, Bohr was Danish, Frisch was Austrian, Block as Swiss, Fuchs, Peierls and Franck were German. But at least Oppenheimer, Bohm and the finance was American.

more than 3 years ago
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Microsoft Wants $15 Per Android Smartphone

Fzz Re:Stop this american madness, fight patents! (361 comments)

Packet Switching was independently invented by more than one person, including Donald Davies at NPL in the UK.

Many of the principles later used in TCP/IP including the basic datagram concept came from Louis Pouzin and the French CYCLADES network.

Of the original three TCP/IP implementations, one was done at University College London.

(Most of Europe then wasted a decade on the dead-end that was OSI, but history is written by the victors)

GSM was European.

The Web was European.

Skype was European.

Linux was European.

ARM is European.

I agree the successful big portal sites tend to be American - maybe related to having a large market that all speaks (almost) one language. But I just want to point out that the US does not have a monopoly on innovation.

more than 3 years ago
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Human Eye Protein Senses Earth's Magnetism

Fzz Re:Sense of direction (103 comments)

I can also do this, though I'm better outdoors than in. I can pretty much always get north to within 45 degrees. I can also pretty much look at a map once, memorize the key features, and then mentally navigate on that map, mentally keeping the map orientated to north even if I'm travelling in some other direction. Few people I've talked to seem to do this.

I'm not convinced any of this is magnetic though. I've travelled a fair bit, and I've noticed several failure modes in my navigation ability:

  • In countries near the equator, I get north and south switched round fairly often.
  • In the southern hemisphere, until I get used to it, I consistently swap north and south.
  • In cities where the grid is at 45 degrees to north, I sometimes get north out by 90 degrees.
  • I'm not as accurate at night and indoors, though I'm still pretty good.

Because my navigation is normally so good, when I do get it wrong, I really believe my error for quite a while, which is not so great.

The north/south swap in the southern hemisphere leads me to believe that the dominant factor is to do with the position of the sun in the sky. I don't do it consciously though, and I live in London, and it still works on frequent cloudy days, so however it works, it's subtle.

The 45 degree grid shift one is strange and very disconcerting. I think what happens is my accuracy is only to the nearest 45 degrees, and I mentally orientate the grid to north. The mismatch between mental model and reality combined with my limited accuracy can cause the whole mental model to jump 90 degrees. Too much thought - should just trust the instinct.

The fact that it all still works at night and indoors could just be that I'm pretty good at dead reckoning. But maybe there is a magnetic aspect - if so it's not the dominant factor.

more than 3 years ago
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Chinese Spying Devices Installed On Hong Kong Cars

Fzz Re:The article is kind of pathetic (171 comments)

If there are 20,000 of these devices, they wouldn't have the bandwidth for all of them to be transmitting simultaneously. But that would be a stupid design anyway - it's not how you'd build such a device.

What you'd do is include an RFID-style receiver. You'd interrogate this from some roadside equipment (such as you'd find at tollbooths or on the approach to customs, or anywhere interesting things happen). The receiver responds with its ID, and if they want to enable that particular transmitter, they'd send back the enabling code. It would only then switch on and transmit for some limited time period.

In this way they'd be able to manage spectrum effectively, have the batteries last for years, and capture all the interesting and incriminating snippets of information as a car approaches customs.

Technically, all this is quite feasible - in fact it's really very easy with off-the-shelf technology. Whether this is what they actually did I can only speculate, but it's what I'd have built if I was tasked to do this (I wasn't, I should add).

more than 3 years ago
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Is Attending a CS Conference Worth the Time?

Fzz Re:Depends... (244 comments)

BTW, a conference publication isn't considered a "journal" publication, and doesn't confer the same status.

This is incorrect for most of Computer Science.

Citeseer has rankings of publication venues for CS. All the top venues are conferences. BTW, the same is not true for Electronic Engineering though - in EE, journals carry more weight. This is always a bone of contention in fields that span both CS and EE.

Of course there are also plenty of useless conferences in CS, where no-one will ever read your paper, and you won't meet anyone interesting if you attend. The impact rating serve as a rough guide to where is likely to be interesting, but they're no good for new venues.

My citation count is currently around 25,000 according to Google Scholar or 7000 according to Citeseer, which uses a different methodology. So I'm probably doing something right. But I'm not in the top 100 most cited authors, so this also shows that there must be an awful lot of publications appearing somewhere. Have to assume most of those are rarely read.

more than 3 years ago
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How To Crash the Internet

Fzz Re:Don't Panic! (166 comments)

Having implemented BGP, I do know how route damping works. For this particular attack, it does help, but only a bit. The paper looked into this in some detail. If you take out peerings that propagate enough routes, and do it in enough places, the per-peer per-route penalty is usually not exceeded, so relatively few routes end up being damped.

I think the paper got quite a few things wrong, but this isn't one of them.

more than 3 years ago
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How To Crash the Internet

Fzz Don't Panic! (166 comments)

I was quoted briefly in the New Scientist article. Here's the longer version of what I said to the reporter.

I've taken a quick look at this paper, and at the paper describing the actual attack on BGP sessions that this paper depends on (Zhang, Mao and Wang, 2007 (reference 74 in the paper).

For many years a number of us have speculated that it might be possible to bring down large parts of the Internet by inducing sufficient churn in BGP routing. In principle, it seems it might be possible, but doing it in practice is very different. The closest we've seen in the real world was Jan 25th 2003, when the SQL Slammer worm spread worldwide in a matter on minutes. It affected about 75,000 computers, and then each constantly tried to infect more victims. This causes widespread congestion, and the worldwide BGP routing table decreased in size from about 127,000 routes to 123,000. Some of this was probably due to congestion disrupting routing sessions, and some might have been due to people deliberately disconnecting to avoid further damage. In any event, the Internet backbone survived the event unscathed, but quite a few edge sites fell off the Internet.

The attack described in the paper supposes a larger number of compromised computers (250,000), but the Internet has got bigger and routers have got faster since 2003, so likely the relative traffic levels would be similar. The attack also proposes using the targetted attack described in Zhang, Mao and Wang, and targetting specific links to create maximum effect. So it's reasonable to suppose that if such an attack were successful, the impact would be greater than the Slammer event.

So, there are two questions:

  • 1. could you disrupt routing associations in the way described.
  • 2. if you could, would the effects be as described in the paper.

In answer to 1: Zhang, Mao and Wang describe in their paper how to defend against such attacks - by simply enabling prioritization of routing traffic - something that is possible on most commercial routers. If ISPs do this, then it seems that the attack in the paper would be thwarted. I don't know how many ISPs do enable this, but if such an attack were seen in the wild, I'm certain most of them would.

On 2: even if you could disrupt routing associations as described, I doubt the Internet would behave as described. The simulations in the paper make a lot of simplifying assumptions, which is necessary to simulate on this scale. But in hiding all the internal topology of ISP networks, they also hide bottlenecks that would make the attack less effective. And the way they model routers queuing routes internally is simply wrong - no router has a large enough queue size to delay processing by 100 minutes, as described in the paper. As a result I have no confidence in the predictions of how the global routing system responds to this attack.

To be clear: nobody knows if it's possible to bring down the global Internet routing system. The attack in the paper probably could cause significant disruption, at least until ISPs reconfigured their routers. But I doubt the attack would be successful in the way described in the paper.

more than 3 years ago
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LG Wants PlayStation 3 Banned From US Market

Fzz Re:Wait... (165 comments)

You're correct - I forgot about that. But isn't it 12 months from publication, not 12 months from invention? I don't know if filing a Korean patent counts as publication, or only when the Korean patent is granted. Perhaps they filed the patent in Korea in 2003, were granted it in 2006 establishing the publication date, and filed the US patent.

Another posibility is they did also file a US patent in 2003/4, and the 2007 US patent is a continuation patent based on the 2003 material but with amended claims. That happens all the time.

But I'm not a lawyer - just successfully contested a coulple of patents in court as an expert witness.

more than 3 years ago

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