Saturday, July 14, 2018

Friday the 13th

Maxi Taxi

I've been working a lot lately, which is good, because I needed money to repair my car.  Some will think I'm crazy to sink way more money into a car than I'll be able to recoup in selling it, but I'm not looking to sell, I'm looking to drive.

Presumably I'll get some more years from this 1997 sedan.  I'm not in the mood to switch horses right now.  I use the car for my business so some percentage of this repair should count as a business expense.  Chassis stuff, not engine stuff.

So today, Friday the 13th, was the big revelation that the FBI has some serious spying powers vis-a-vis Russians after all, perhaps thanks to 3rd party contractors, but what does it matter.  Either that, or we're continuing to read a lot of interesting science fiction (the stuff of spy novels).

Either way, people are much more aware of how the Internet is still a Wild West.  Some degree of paranoia is warranted.  Geeks know that.

The indictment seeks property damages, not extradition.  I'm not sure what amounts would be acceptable, or whom to pay, and whether bitcoin would be accepted, however these are minor details that will come out in the wash.  Perhaps GRU employees are covered by insurance?

The story goes back to the Guccifer 2.0 and APT28 threads (Fancybear etc.), and provides a lot more details. The indictment talks about a server in Arizona for example ("AMS"), a way station between keylogging and screen capturing malware, and those seeking to provide Americans with a much deeper look into their own political underbelly.

Showing "sausage being made" to the lay public is definitely an undermining tactic which left people older but wiser about their dysfunctional so-called democracy (reputable academics have suggested more of an oligarchy by now, more like the Roman Empire).

No one is alleging that the leaked and/or hacked communications were forged, only that they were never meant for the American public.  The DNC's secrets sparked a lot of outrage.  The special counsel is not saying whether the election went the other way because of that.  How could they know?  Maybe voters were just sick of family dynasties?

An earlier special counsel indictment goes back to the "troll factory" story, which alleges it was illegal for Facebook to allow Russians to use its platform for political purposes.

Only Americans are allowed to play politics with Facebook and Twitter, and perhaps the British, owing to a special relationship.  True, Cambridge Analytica had to face the consequences of its own hype regarding its alleged election-swaying powers, however no indictments were forthcoming. 

Mark Zuckerberg had to promise the politicians in DC that social media would stop rocking their boat. However promises extracted under duress may not be all that binding.  Software engineers, Russian or otherwise, cannot stop social media from affecting political careers.

How exactly the Russian troll factory affected the national election remains unclear, as the published memes don't seem to stand out as especially mood-altering.  If there's a secret to election-swaying with psychometrics, its apparently subtle.

What I remember from November 2016 was a lot of Pizzagate hysteria, which I blogged about here.  Many bloggers and tweeters were up in arms about the Clinton Foundation.  Was that the Russians again?

President Obama kicked a bunch of Russians out of their villa (dacha), after Homeland Security and the DNI fingered RT as a foreign agent (much like the BBC in that capacity, on PBS every night).  This was after his party lost in the electoral college.

However the Russian troll farm was not accused of working the Pizzagate vein in particular.  The example posts I saw had more to do with whether war veterans were being sufficiently cared for.

The GU (aka GRU) is accused of spear phishing and then sharing DNC chairman John Podesta's emails, perhaps with Wikileaks, perhaps with others.  Certainly those emails got out, by hook or by crook.  Whether the Russians played a role (as alleged) or not, the content was upsetting to many.

Earlier versions of this election story suggested that Guccifer 2.0 was not actually responsible for these leaks (although he tried to take credit) but the current story makes the case that the DNC was:

(A) certainly vulnerable to cyber-attack (that's clear, from the leaks themselves) and

(B) that Guccifer 2.0 was actually a fictitious persona designed to deflect attention from specific Russian military personnel, the ones who planted the keylogging malware.

The actual indictment tends to bleep over how omniscience was finally achieved vs-a-vs the Russian operation regarding the inner workings of its spy machine.  Skeptics point out that the 3rd parties are partisan.

The Office of Information Awareness, as envisioned by Admiral Poindexter, or some semblance thereof, may have been involved.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Blockchain Memes

I'm suggesting those tasked with evangelizing for Blockchain, take some time tuning in the memes around Rust, the computer language.

The financial industry works to correct mistakes and remove ambiguity from transactions, while those hoping to game the system kick up a lot of ink, to obfuscate their wheelings and dealings.

In writing C++, geeks may corrupt memory, leading to crashes, because the compiler is insufficiently strict.  Rust enforces the disciplines a strong C++ coder would bring to the table, through its compiler.  That's closer to what a blockchain does, when it comes to preventing ambiguities that cover for impossibilities.

Bankers may be reluctant to talk about all the double-spending schemes by which people try to auto-boot their fortunes.  Going into nit-picky detail about scams is counterproductive, as to describe exploits is to encourage them.

The cyber-security industry is already hip to this problem, of announcing a weakness in time for the white hats to apply the patch, before the black hats get wind of a new Achilles heel.

Thanks to the miracle of metaphor, akin to transposing to a different key in music, we can talk about "corruption" in the C++ context until the cows come home, thinking how writing systems that don't crash is a similar challenge to that confronting the banking industry.  The original bank is a memory bank or bank of memory cells.

What a blockchain does is impose strict auditing such that multiple observers agree, but also may contend for the right to record.  The global network learns of transactions in different orders, thanks to non-simultaneity of information transfer.  So which chronology should become canonical?

The Bitcoin answer is to hold a contest, and may the best bitcoin miner win.  This contention for control over write access is what some in-house blockchains may surrender.  The metaphor here might be unsafe mode.  Insider Rustaceans are allowed to break the rules when creating the means to enforce safety.

In sum, a C++ code base may be crash prone if open to ambiguity, which malware may then exploit.  Browsers live on the front lines in many use cases, in accepting content through their ports.  IE had to be abandoned for Edge for such problems.

Banks, which lend out and take ownership, as in Rust, may find their bookkeeping turning to garbage if the pointers turn out to not point to anything.  You've promised savings to borrowers, and interest on borrowings to savers, what could go wrong?

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Platonic Five


The curriculum we're working on restores polyhedrons to their rightful place, which does not mean we're confined to only Euclidean approaches.

Debate teams understand that mathematics evolves as a dialectic.  It's not all there already, to be chiseled out from stone.  We need those communications.

An issue facing some curriculum writers is where and what to censor.  Do we need the Real Numbers as currently defined?  A computational thinking course spends less time on those, given numbers have discrete digital representations, with symbols like the Greek letter pi suggesting algorithms we might set running indefinitely.

We do want the Platonic Five, that much is obvious, starting early.  V + F == E + 2.  The concept of Duality.  The Platonics are closed under this operation of taking the dual.  However we may also combine duals by criss-crossing edges, begetting new polyhedrons by this process.

Cube + Dual(Cube) == Cube + Octahedron = Rhombic Dodecahedron (RD).

Dual(RD) = Cuboctahedron (1, 12, 42, 92...)

Icosahedron + Dual(Icosahedron) = Icosa + Pentagonal Dodeca = Rhombic Triacontahedron (RT).

These transformations, along with the Jitterbug, are familiar to all our young pretty early.  We'll be sharing these animations in kindergarten in the form of wallpaper and screen savers.

What says Shiraz?

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Schools That Pay

Booth Magnet

Some code schools will offer free training and job search coaching in exchange for a percent of a student's income if and when they get employed.  That's a step in the right direction.

In Education Automation, published in the 1960s, Bucky Fuller suggested scholarships go to create a learning environment, out of which would emerge the geniuses such as himself who more than paid for the whole setup, in terms of making contributions as faculty.

The school gets the scholarship endowment and helps you learn in exchange for access to room and board, or however the campus is designed.  Is this a refugee camp?  Do students live in tents?

You're getting what acts like a cross between a gift card, such as we buy in the supermarket, and a debit card, such as we get from a bank.

The gift card restricts what inventory you're drawing from, perhaps a bookstore or clothing store.  The debit card restricts it to the authenticated cardholder to make the payment.  Your rewards card might give you access to more classes.  Prove you can do X and get a chance to do Y.

Programmable money (cryptocurrencies) could make the bookkeeping easy and verifiable.  Everyone talks about blockchains these days.

I'm in a refugee camp and I study biology several hours a day.  I'm passing various tests, plus learning a new language, and my account gets me access to more time in the microscope lab, which some refugee camps feature.  There's a short cut to becoming a lab technician and studying water specimens.

My hard work as a student is what entitles me to access this or that inventory.  Not every reward is transferable.  I may given the clothes I get to my younger brother, but it's still my account that gets debited.

Some of this circuitry was spelled and under the heading of NetDispenser and showcased at Pycon 2017.  I was an assistant to the main guy, C. Cossé . However, the FSF has not seen fit to give its endorsement.  They may have a problem with Github.
So I've exchanged more than 50 emails with the FSF over the past year, imploring them to help make this project better, or publicly endorse it, or something.  Anything.  After all, a solid 50% of my goal with the project has been to make FS4E development appealing and viable by creating incentive.  (FS4E = Free Software For Education).  Last month Richard Stallman told me that FSF could support the project IF we found an alternative to the Raspberry Pi and didn't use Debian.  Uhh.  Of course that side of the project is not the part that encourages FS4E, exactly, so that feels like overstepping their position just a little.  However, why not keep trying? I asked myself, and so I offered to oblige them on those points as best I could.  Yesterday I got a new transmission from FSF and it turns out that the promotional video I put up last month cannot be on YouTube in order for FSF to support the project.  But that's not all!  They also object to having the project on GitHub!  They advised me to fix all these things and then get back to them and "convince them to support the project".  
I believe this puts the project back on "hold" until further notice.  
NetDispenser is not exactly the same model as described above. It's about students earning more discretionary time on the internet in exchange for passing various tests, running various obstacle courses, designed to be fun and educational by game developers.

The router actually restricts access to only a few websites once the student's account has been depleted. Visit a dispenser site for more credits.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Iran Forum


Portlanders met in Elliot Chapel at the same time as OS Bridge was going on, in the came Elliot Center complex, part of the Unitarian Universalist campus downtown.  We had a panel of speakers and celebrated the lives of commitment of the Huntworks to bettering Cascadia's relationships with Persians.  Here's what I posted to Facebook:
Portlanders gather in a church with Peace Corps vets to strategize regarding Citizen Diplomacy twixt Cascadians and Iranians. The Huntworks, a local couple now deceased, spent a career building connections. Their memory is being honored at this event. Shiraz and Portland have ties. The relationships are strengthening as political leadership is increasingly seen as subservient to tiny psychopath minorities with wars in mind.

OS Bridge (a geek fest) is happening in the same building. Geeks and Peace Corps vets have some commonalities. We know how to collaborate outside of political channels. Engineering is about longer term plans than those concocted by next-term-seeking vote getters who must pander to peoples' basest fears and most negative emotions.

Truckers for Peace has no brochures here. That's like Peace Corps for truckers who wanna get into the Citizen Diplomacy game. Chinese Peace Corps might provide more details regarding opportunities in the Iranian context. OBOR is about infrastructure improvements, including in human relationships (necessary for collaboration).
Swamp City (WDC) is these days quite hostile to the idea of improved relations between itself and just about anyone who doesn't want its weapons.

Swamp City's Banana Republic, a holdover relic, is pretty good at alienating Cascadians these days.

Those of us more interested in people skills have to learned to count on continued clod-like opposition from the Swamp.

Fortunately, the clod-like are pretty awkward.  The more adept find ways to counter the warlord mentality.  Should Portland and Shiraz become sister cities?  We'd need something from our Mayor's Office to make that official, and from Shiraz naturally.

OS Bridge, some might recall, was organized in the wake of OSCON's leaving Portland for San Jose. OSCON later returned, then went to Austin.  This year:  back in PDX.  OS = Open Source (or Operating System in some lexicons).