The Physical Travelling Salesman Challenge
Can someone wake me up from this Chris Nolan dreamworld in Inception, "Physical" traveling salesman problem ? Did someone forget to add weights to edges in math class?
Journalist Arrested By Interpol For Tweet
In other news, Saudi Authorities have now asked the website "Slashdot" to reveal the identity of all those commenting on a matter of religious sacrilege. Slashdot.org will be taken down and all those who commented, including Anonymous (the dangerous hacker group) Cowards will be put to death. If this doesn't help, a Fatwah will be issue against all those using computer terminals. May Allah's will be done! Amen.
Doctors 'Cheating' On Board Certifications
I live in India, and such Notes are very common here for almost every branch of Higher Education. In some cases of post-graduate and doctoral courses, the question papers are legitimately distributed by the University to students after an examination. For tests where the board does not distribute question papers, several companies which claim to be vestigial 'education' and 'training' companies pay examinees for reproducing or recollecting the questions. It is also common practice in India for corporates to hold screening examinations prior to fresh candidate intake. These question papers are also reproduced, solved by a team of experts and a key is published before the next examination. A good example is FreshersWorld.
This also happens for NCERT, Medical Entrance Examinations, Engineering Entrance Examinations among several others. No Legal action has been taken in the recent past to stop such recollection, despite the fact that it merely promotes rote learning, textual recall or fundamental pattern matching. Interestingly, in India, no one has referred to this practice as cheating, although it is. It is only in the past two years that Computer Aided Tests which shuffle questions and stagger timelines are being introduced to avoid this practice. Enforcement of legal sanctions in India especially across Educational boards, Varsities and Corporate Testing groups have not been easy.
Question papers, by themselves for any test are never copyrighted officially. Most Board question papers in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal do not come with any Copyright notices. Boards and Academic members have until recently been in the dark about 'Copyright Law' and have little idea as to how it is enforced. A vast number of books published are not registered for copyright, nor do they have ISBN assigned to them.
Part of the issue is the inability to enforce exclusivity on 'recalled' or 'reproduced' testing material. Another part is ignorance of the full extent of 'Copyright Law' itself, though this is significant in nations like India and China where their implementation has only now begun.
Official MS Kinect SDK Coming to Windows
The headline gives the impression that this is being done right now. The timeline also gives a hint of the level of commitment. Before the "promised" SDK, we've heard stories like http://www.next-gen.biz/features/hacking-kinect -- So this response, whatever the spirit, is delayed. It is definitely not one of the "right" things Microsoft has done recently. (There may be others.)
Official MS Kinect SDK Coming to Windows
And this is a good thing? We still have to wait until spring for the 'early release' SDK and the 'commercial version' will follow soon. (unmentioned date reference.)
Do Tools Ever 'Die?'
I am in complete agreement. "Inventions" are defined too loosely themselves. Their utility has not been defined in terms of a specific purpose and context. The time-scale (and therefore chronological context) of the invention has not been defined. If all premises are ill defined or undefined, there is no point to debate. Each reply to the post is a new argument in a new context. So, absolutely, nothing to see here.
Order of importance if disaster strikes?
Yeah, theoretically we can have Cdr.Data from StarTrek_TNG and have possessions.
BIG missing option: Me, food, water, etc., data, ?posession(s)
Unspoofable Device Identity Using Flash Memory
Bad blocks are inherent in NAND flash. SLC NAND Flash devices are more reliable (have fewer errors) and costly. MLC NAND Flash devices are less reliable (have more inherent errors) but are affordable and easily available. NAND Flash devices are known to progressively degrade until the number of bad blocks is too high to reliably store data. Inherent errors during manufacturing increase on usage (both read and write.) Most Flash Storage Devices will ultimately become too error-prone to store data. The industry might want to justify inherent errors (and gradually increasing errors) by calling it a fingerprint. They are still searching for techniques to make NAND Flash more reliable.
The article fails to provide mathematical basis to prove that two NAND flashes cannot have the same bad blocks on manufacturing or at some point of usage thereby obscuring identity. NAND flash controllers are designed to check and resolve errors using known algorithms. Most controllers allow hardware to hide errors while allowing OS device drivers to read the NAND flash medium. The Operating System and the NAND Flash Controller are at least two points were any such fingerprint can be compromised. The Filesystem adds another layer of abstraction. The number of "Real" bad blocks and remaps is usually stored on the NAND Flash. Altering the Bad Block Table is not difficult.
Hard Disks interestingly have similar failure rates and complex issues like Data remanence which have been studied. I wonder why no one proposed a signature scheme for using errors on Hard Drive Platters to identify them. Computer Forensics for Hard Drives has a longer track record of being studied. Marketing fud can be ignored.
Investigators Suspect Computers Doomed Air France Jet
Pitot tubes were invented in the 1700s by the French Engineer Henry Pitot and later modified for airspeed measurements. They are also used to measure aerodynamic speed in Formula racing cars too among other uses. Here is a comprehensive article following the crash investigation that is informative with photographs and the timeline of theories.
I read both the articles posted. They do not qualify as the best investigation reports. They seem to be building "What if" scenarios from all data that is available. Other A330 failures (no recent crashes reported) and Other places where ice in Pitot tubes led to failure (The Wikipedia article has a lot of information on this and planes which had problems notably, the X31.) The investigators are clearly under pressure to say what they have found and they are unable to report "nothing" to the press. With no luck in recovering the Black Box, the investigators (like they talk about Pilots not good at flying aircraft without the aid of in-flight safety systems) have to do it the old forensic way (reminds me of Crichton's Airframe). That is going to take time and the press, the Aircraft companies using A330s are impatient to know why.
Clearly no recent theory has come close to deducing the true reason for the crash. As I remember the first news item that appeared on the AF447 was that the plane "vanished" from Radar and was sought for by the Brazilian Air Force before the crash site was positively identified. The last exchanges between the Pilot and the Aircraft tower followed by an automated message from the aircraft remain the main clues apart from the debris in this horrific accident.
Montana City Requires Workers' Internet Accounts
There is no debate on the fact that this is an invasion of privacy. It seems to be a sort of test to keep tech savvy people (would that be everyone?) out of the hiring process. I am shocked at this. Here is an interesting note, the US constitution aside from the 9th amendment does not guarantee the right to privacy. The right to privacy is enforced by the interpretation of the First, Third and Fifth amendments and of the Ninth amendment itself. The Fourth Amendment contains an explicit interpretation of the right to privacy specific to computers. They are still open to interpretation. So the issue is just not about private passwords here, there's a lot more being brought up. In India, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution expressly guarantees the Right to Privacy. There is some confusion and no explicit mention in the constitution of Britain either. From the little reading I have done, the right to privacy (and therefore keeping my own passwords from the state) has been created through addendum and interpretation of prior articles of constitution rather than a specific article or amendment mentioned in the constitution. ---- IANAL
MS Money Poll
I personally have used GNUCash but have restricted it to Savings Accounts and for Bill pay. I am quite happy doing a balance sheet as a spreadsheet. I've found OpenOffice Calc to fall short of some features, GNUmeric fits in where Calc fails.
Looking back at MS Money, I think GNUCash has the features to take it head on. KMyMoney is so full of features [serious] that learning to get used to it just keeps you away. The UI though is quite sleek if you are a KDE fan. I've tried it sometime, but import/export options across open source formats has been in many cases lousy.KMyMoney2 changes the file format from KMyMoney, the earlier versions which also makes it less of an option.
Microsoft's Money (not among the options really) requires .Net and some web/aspx stuff to run that might make all the Windows Antivirus/Netprotect/whatever rules really difficult to maintain. It does have a sleek and less scary UI compared to its earlier versions.
Swine Flu Vaccine In Production
Using the new In-Cell growing technique many companies seem to be coming up with vaccines in a shorter period than earlier. Medicinenet has an informative article on Flu Vaccines and immunization candidates, and goes on to say why they are required. This is a good read to understand why vaccination is being given importance here. The 1918 "Spanish" Flu epidemic Virus which is very similar to the recent outbreak was re-created in a laboratory in 2005 by Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger and colleagues at AFIP. Comparison with Avian flu strains led to the conclusion that Human Flu Virus strains are derived from Avian flu virii.
Among young people and children Flu vaccines claim to be 70%-90% effective, while this drops down to 30%-40% in people aged over 65 who may have other secondary complications. Hence the scale of vaccination required for the present outbreak (which has been repeatedly noted for not being as lethal as the 1918 Flu strain) may be entirely different covering only those in a risk category. More stress is on drugs that help in combating the Virus in an infected individual. These are usually amino-acid chain suppressors like Tamiflu. There has already been mobilization and distribution of the drugs to combat such an outbreak. The WHO has done a recent donation of drugs to Nigeria. This is however related to continued support of a H5N1 outbreak since 2006.
The role and importance of the Vaccines that would be available is not yet certain. It seems that the stress is more on treatment. Insofar stress on prevention without the involvement of Primary Medical care personnel. Only those who suspect infection have been requested to visit quarantine or medical facilities for treatment. The W.H.O's present stand with the Flu Virus has been a direct result of criticism during the second widespread Avian flu H5N1 attack incidents in 2006. Attention is being given to Avian Influenza as a pandemic because it leads to complications and secondaries making it difficult to fight other diseases with stronger morbidity.
No Greater Friend, No Greater Enemy! (Lucius Cornelius Sulla)
WHO Declares H1N1's Spread Officially a Pandemic
Using the new In-Cell growing technique many companies seem to be coming up with vaccines in a shorter period than earlier. Medicinenet has an informative article on Flu Vaccines and immunization candidates, and goes on to say why they are required. This is a good read to understand why vaccination is being given importance here. The 1918 "Spanish" Flu epidemic Virus which is very similar to the recent outbreak was re-engineered in a laboratory in 2005 by Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger and colleagues at AFIP. Comparison with Avian flu strains led to the conclusion that Human Flu Virus strains are derived from Avian flu virii.
Among young people and children Flu vaccines claim to be 70%-90% effective, while this drops down to 30%-40% in people aged over 65 who may have other secondary complications. Hence the scale of vaccination required for the present outbreak (which has been repeatedly noted for not being as lethal as the 1918 Flu strain) may be entirely different covering only those in a risk category. More stress is on drugs that help in combating the Virus in an infected individual. These are usually amino-acid chain suppressors like Tamiflu. There has already been mobilization and distribution of the drugs to combat such an outbreak. The WHO has done a recent donation of drugs to Nigeria.
The role and importance of the Vaccines that would be available is not yet certain. It seems that the stress is more on treatment. Insofar stress on prevention without the involvement of Primary Medical care personnel. Only those who suspect infection have been requested to visit quarantine or medical facilities for treatment. The WHO's present stand with the Flu Virus has been a direct result of criticism during the second widespread Avian flu H5N1 attack incidents in 2006.
Should Wikipedians Edit Stories For Pay?
Here's a note about a man who claimed that he was being "paid" by Microsoft to edit Wikipedia articles. He also claimed to be a contributor for OOXML on Wikipedia. His contributions following this article were being dismissed as biased.
There are two parts to this issue. They are (1) "Should Wikipedia offer to pay those who edit articles?" and (2) "Should any Wikipedia contributor get paid for contributing articles?" On (1), Wikipedia's stance is clear, they are not willing to pay anyone to edit articles. They would like to continue with their open model with little or no moderation. On (2) they are merely talking about the quality of the resultant article. They seriously do not have a mechanism to stop a 3rd party Wikimedia contributor from contributing for money or for the sake of love of the subject or for personal bias.
IMHO, Wikipedia must avoid policing any and all editors unless they are on their own Payroll. Their open model has served as a simple mechanism to collect relevant information on a topic which may or may not necessarily be accurate. There have been enough debates that have concluded that Wikipedia cannot be quoted as a citation for serious scientific study due to lack of moderation and verification of sources.
Student Who Released Code From Assignments Accused of Cheating
The specific case (covered heavily - check Techdirt for one) in question has actually brought in a much larger problem to light. How should students treat code written as part of assignments or as part of their course-work in terms of licensing? Is there a precedent for licensing? Most research activities conducted by universities have already adopted licensing framework. Here's an example. There has been debate whether such licensing should be free. Just check Medical Research and you can open Pandora's box. One more example is Singapore's A-Star which is more of a group focused on preparing research for industry adoption including licensing and legal usage terms.
How about code released in books on Data Structures, Algorithms, Fundamental C programming? To my knowledge (do correct me if I am wrong), the code is usually licensed under the same copyright notice as the book itself. In some cases, the author changes this licensing and makes it available. One example is "Numerical Recipes in C" where the licensing terms of the code from the author(s) of the book is explicit and can be found on a google search.
When it comes to university assignments, it is no news that the same template (if not the same course material itself) tends to get recirculated over a periodic basis. In some cases this period is annual and in others, the frequency is different. The debate raised is ages old. For most data structure or standard assignments of programming, you could find most of the code online. You could use this as a starting point or choose to write your own and learn your fundamentals. That's up to the student and the professor who is teaching and grading.
There is some truth in the statement (IMHO) that the Academia is shielded from the real commercial world. It works positive in some cases and is counterproductive in fields like Engineering (not Theoretical Computer Science.) In this specific case, if the University were to read all the fine print they have on students sharing course material (for which they pay for) and lecture notes and assignments, they would find the right solution. Bringing this (issue between a student and the professor) out to Open forums seems more of a publicity stunt that is going to get someone infamous for some and noticeable for a few others.
Focusing on the larger issue, a Varsity must be clear on how course-work and assignments from the students will be licensed and treated. They already have set legal precedents for most research work (which in some cases is funded by commercial bodies.) Hopefully this issue raises a flag and lets varsities understand and embrace Open Source, encourage students to use it particularly in programming assignments. At the very least they should at least reserve procedures to let a student obtain due permission for displaying his/her works online under appropriate licensing. In the absence of a precedent and clear guidelines, such confusion and unnecessary nerve wracking experiences between a Professor and a Student are more likely to surface. I hope not.
Open Source Car — 20 Year Lease, Free Fuel For Life
I read through the article and a lot of blogs covering Riversimple. Here's what it looks like under the hood. It seems too early and preliminary for adoption. "Open Source" seems to have been employed purely as a buzzword to generate interest. Most of the detail is actually at the 40 Fires foundation website which will probably release design schematics. Their FAQ answers questions I had in mind and is a good place for a starting read. The codename for this car is Hybran. The EU welcomes Hydrogen cars as a strong "Green" alternative.
If you do compare it to other initiatives like OSCar, you would find this option from Riversimple probably at a better stage of adoption. But until they unveil their prototypes (16-Jun-2009 is not far) and manufacturing goals (however they intend to go about it,) consumers will be skeptical about adoption. They first have to hit a note on consumers _wanting_ it or _needing_ it before proposing an attractive business model. Most of the prior comments reflect that we are not yet ready. Design momentum on OSCar seems to have stalled in the year 2006.
In contrast another vehicle release earlier this year happened in India with a lot of buzz about a $2,500 car, the Nano from India. This car _can_ do more than 56 mpg on Gasoline. It isn't green, but you can grab one, drive one and feel much safer than the electric counterparts that roam about the cities. This car went through at least 2 yrs of testing because the average consumer was scared about safety. The adoption was further slowed down by slow manufacturing response from Tata Motors.
India has allowed an Electric car (REVA) to be used within City limits (for road safety and range concerns) manufactured by Reva. The vehicle (a modest 4 wheeler) which comes in multiple flavors has low adoption rates in cities which allow it. This car through evolution has been heavier than India's top selling gasoline small-car the Maruti Suzuki 800cc 4 seater, and offers lesser range within a city. It has a very short range of 80-100km and requires battery packs to be replaced every two years (or depending on usage.) From June, 2001 the adoption has been very slow. During July, 2008 at least 260 Reva's (multiple models) were sold which is a record high. The Reva is priced at a one time price tag of close to $6,500 with an installed set of batteries. These have to be replaced at about $1000 every year. There's some comprehensive information and links on the Wikipedia Article (Reva). The cost has been a factor in slowing down adoption added to the fact that electric charges are required almost on a nightly basis. India has welcomed the car with reduced parking charges and several cuts. The G-Whiz model sold outside India is far too pricey ($12000 in Chile) and does not enjoy these environment friendly regulatory benefits.
For crowded cities in India where pollution is a heavy problem, Electrical cars with limited range for office commuters who'd prefer some shade (where public transport is a little inconvenient with timings) has received early adoption. i would presume that countries facing rapid development and growth rates will have to take this more seriously. Scaling public transport infrastructure has always been a challenge in many developing countries owing to a myriad of reasons. The basis for creating indices to track air pollution is outlined quite well in this paper (PDF) from IOP.
As many earlier comments point out accurately, adoption of such alternatives will require regulatory laws from the government (Road taxation, Commercial tax holidays, Green Credits and a lot more.) The working business model for Leasing automobiles is already here. The period being talked about (20yrs) might need to be tweaked which is presumably because of high manufacturing and deployment costs on low initial volume.
There are some pitfalls of lightweight cars at an early stage. Their ride heights are incredibly low that restricts markets in which they can be adopted. It might even keep them out of developing countries until the designs are tested. IMHO coming up with a disruptive solution to personal transport and tagging it with another 20yr lease agreement without the support of an auto major who's made it over a decade selling small cars or energy efficient cars is asking too much from the consumer. The "Open Source" tag means too little unless auto manufacturers see this as the best way to go forward.
Airport Security, Paranoia and Convenience
Here is the Scanning Device being tested at 19 U.S. airports.
I did check out Hyperspace quite some time back when they were looking for developers to extend it further. It seems to be a remix of the Xen hypervisor, though heavily modified and possibly derived from a Citrix license. The idea is to provide what Borland managed to do with Sidekick and it isn't a product that is meant to just sit in the BIOS. Phoenix's Download page clearly shows that Hyperspace is an individual software product that can be bought. I'd certainly love to have a Sidekick like option today and an in-built paravirtualization module to switch between different kernels or Operating Systems without a reboot. This seems promising, although consumer adoption will probably be kicked in through OEMs more than Software Box sales.
Dean Kamen Awarded Patent For Robot Competition Rules
What remains to be patented is a method for granting patents, such as it is now. We could then charge the USPTO for each patent granted or better still deny them the rights. Gawsh!!
2.0 Beta Chrome On Windows, Chromium On Linux
Why would Google put all the effort and keep their browser running on Windows with their own linux port being delayed? I have a pet theory to that. Google did in fact sponsor adoption of firefox and provided lots of plugins.
Many of us *know* firefox can be a resource hog and also slower at rendering than many, we have few HTML rendering engines that can render most content.
I believe that Google is abstaining from releasing a competitor to firefox on Linux platforms for some reason. The "Chrome" and "Chromium" stories are going to stay that way for a while until they have good reasoning to go native.
They would still something similar to what they have done with Picasa (integrated wineserver approach.) It has worked before. So Chrome/Linux will be very similar to Chromium.
Airport Security, Human Convenience and Reason
US Homeland security, in an effort to make "screening" faster came up with this millimeter ray scanning device. If you remember the movie "Total Recall" and the full body scan shown in that one, this looks like a prototype. Most people who are concerned about their privacy have objected to airport security body scans. There are claims that the scanner is "remotely reviewed" by a person who 'cannot' view the face of the person being scanned. That doesn't make people feel any safer. This is not entirely new, you could find a British prototype (I haven't flown there recently though) showing the use of a full body scanner. Here is news of installation of such a device at Heathrow. This body scanner looks identical to the American one shown above.
The same time, I see another Slashdot story which shows An anti-hijacking safety bracelet. The invention is from a Canadian company from what I read. This is akin to wearing a taser that you let someone else operate to ensure that everyone in an aircraft is safe. Here's a video that's got lots of hit demonstrating the usage. That video is straight out of a 1984 / Big Brother movie.
After the 1972 Munich Olympics, in 1976, a Singapore Inventor Sai Kheong Kwan and a former Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Singapore proposed a device, that is similar to the Anti-Hijacking Safety bracelet listed above. Not much information on this invention is available on the Internet. I've made a sketch from a 1982 edition of the Readers' Digest book - "Inventions that Changed the World" from "Inventions that haven't yet made it." You can check the sketch here.
Many of these devices give a false feeling of security while actually igniting totalitarian interests in state administration. Attempting to control and know every aspect of the life of people within its territory has been employed by many governments in the name of security. The results have always been grim and unsuccessful. Increasing airport screening and security beyond a level of reason does not entirely drop the threat of terrorism. In India, prior to the 9/11 event there have frisking and hand baggage checks mandatory. In addition, if luggage stowed contains something suspicious, the passenger's name is notified on another list. I believe that this information is sufficient for most purposes. It is usually "reporting" and "response" to an incident that has been lacking. These heavily restrictive and inconveniencing preventive measures take us nowhere.
Intellectual "Property" and the Intangible
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Tata and the Indian One Lakh Car
The Farce of Flat Teams
Skipping Stress at work
Performance and Appraisal
Making an Organization "work"
The Management Sandwich
The Truth about Nations - from a Civil Libertarian
The End of the BIG BANG
Gujarat and the Violence
The Press and Media Fuzz
Polity, Literati, TV and the Folly
Job Recruitment Firms and Future Recruitment Trends
The $100 Laptop
Moods and Movies
Tribes in the 21st Century
The "Intelligent" debate