Trust in Info-Infrastructure

James Fallows has an interesting piece in the Atlantic called Why NSA Surveillance Will Be More Damaging Than You Think discussing trust in the US for the info-infrastructure of the Internet is part of why we have Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. As that trust gets eroded by the behavior of the US government, users may elect not to continue leaving their data with US companies.

The real threat from terrorism has never been the damage it does directly, even though attacks as horrific as those on 9/11. The more serious threat comes from the over-reaction, the collective insanity or the simple loss of perspective, that an attack evokes. Our government’s ambition to do everything possible to keep us “safe” has put us at jeopardy in other ways.

It will be interesting to see whether the fall of the US information giants could be due to a balkanization from a Asia, Europe, and South America backlash. Some regions already have giant amounts of participation in non-US alternatives. This was from long before the NSA scandal.

 

Bad Guesses

Usually the best way to guess which technology product will be successful is to bet against the one I like. Betamax, Apple, Linux, Picasa.

So it surprises me Barnes & Noble are giving up on the Nook since I went Kindle. I’m not usually in this position.

Then again, I was on the brink of going webOS but went Android. Maybe though iOS will win out over Android and keep me on track.

Of course, this is post is confirmation bias. I’m sure if I really thought about it, then I could come up with lots of technology I like that predominate their markets over rivals.

Just Get Rid of Java

Apparently there are security flaws in the current version of Java allowing the installation of malicious software through web browsers unknown to the user. The known attacks using this flaw work on Windows, OSX, and Linux. According to Reuters:

Java was responsible for 50 percent of all cyber attacks last year in which hackers broke into computers by exploiting software bugs, according to Kaspersky. That was followed by Adobe Reader, which was involved in 28 percent of all incidents. Microsoft Windows and Internet Explorer were involved in about 3 percent of incidents, according to the survey.

The Department of Homeland Security recently said computer users should disable Java. At first this seems odd. The vulnerability in question is only in Java 7. So why not go back to Java 6? Well, Java 6 has vulnerabilities too, which is why DHS and others have recommended getting to 7. Also, starting in 7, the automatic upgrades are more aggressive. So going backwards is probably not a great idea. (If just happens I had to go backwards to get a tool I needed to work and forgot to go back forward.)

Also, for a similar situation back in August the recommendation was to make the browser prompt before allowing Java to run. The strategy is just stop Java entirely. Apple has removed Java browser plugins. That could work too. Except for bad, bad software like ours (sorry, sarcasm if you could not tell) which makes use of a few applets. In the last week I have gotten a request to add another applet.

A fix to Java 7’s vulnerabilties should be available in a couple days.

Weekly Roundup for Jan 20, 2012

This is my first attempt at something like a weekly roundup like I said I should try in To Blog Or To Share?. Hopefully I can maintain it.

  • Martin Luther King Jr on education:
    1. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the ligitimate goals of his life. Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking… We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”
  • More quotes:
    • Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
    • I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
    • Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
  • Apple to announce tools, platform to “digitally destroy” textbook publishing

Broken

At 30:00 Steve Jobs talks about how innovation came about because people wanted something for themselves to use that was actually good. Maybe this is the takeaway message for dealing with any technology, especially in education. If <name your institution’s LMS> sucks, then look around and cobble together something actually good. Or failing that make your own. Don’t rely on a corporation making profits to suddenly improve.

Email is the most important app I use. I’ve used everything out there… I know we could improve the productivity at Apple 30% just by getting them good email… If something so obvious as email is so broken… there is no answer to these questions [1] except, “Let’s go do it.”

[1] Actually, I think the answer is licensing. A manager wants to pay one bill for software everyone uses. People who hate the software either spend the time to find a free alternative and/or pay the money for a license to an alternative.

RIP Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. So naturally the fanatical fans were devastated, the normal fans were sad, and the rest of us understood. Comparisons made to Martin Luther King, Jr, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison, and yes even Tony Stark seemed maybe somewhat exaggerated. Though not by much.

He possessed intense curiosity, powerful intuition, great vision and the willfulness to see them happen. Much of the technological world is a knockoff of Apple’s or Pixar’s designs. Some people made liking his designs their identify. Pretty powerful for expensive toys and a great target for those of us who like to be outsiders.

At a time when the country needs young people interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, Jobs was a household name and role model. America needs more celebrities who inspire us to achieve based on their STEM accomplishments and less of those who get us to mindlessly vegetate on our couches. We need more true innovation. Hopefully he was just a big tree obscuring saplings who will become big on their own.

Sad to see him go. When he stepped down from Apple a few weeks ago, my hope was he would do like Bill Gates and get into philanthropy aimed at education. I hoped to hear more inspiring speeches.

Some of his quotes

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

His how to live before your die speech to Standford is a great speech. (Transcript)

Read moreRIP Steve Jobs

iPads for Georgia Middle Schoolers

The new buzz is a possible deal between legislators and Apple where Georgia middle school students may get iPads instead of textbooks. It is an interesting move. This sounded like it was about state money.  So I was curious about the math.

  • Assuming the $40 million a year for text books applies for all 1.3 million Georgia public school students, that works out to $31 a student per year.
  • Assuming the $40 million a year for text books applies to just the 311 thousand 6th-8th grade students (1.346 million / 13 * 3), that works out to $129 a student per year.
  • This plan would spend $500 per student per year for a total of $75.3 million a year + whatever the cost of textbooks for other grades.

Obviously this is not about saving the state money. So hopefully it is about improving education. Of course, Apple’s salespeople saying students improve learning is like trusting a tobacco company to say cigarettes improve one’s health. The Use of iPad as a Learning Tool: Final Report by Anders Evenstuen, Jon Torstein Dalen and Øyvind Hoff Midtbø seemed like a decent study though it involved university students not middle school students. They found students experienced difficulty using it to take notes though marking up a text worked better. Not having wireless access at home (like many Georgia students) destroyed the workflow. The time it took to change pages was distracting to them.

I’m curious what studies Apple has done to claim school provided iPads would improve education. This smells like the initiatives to give students laptops to improve education. Those went nowhere because technology for technology’s sake does not improve education. Teacher’s adopting the tools which fit well with what ought to be taught improve education.

Before one can get to improving education, one ought to consider the requirements needed to achieve it. Naturally people who have been through this with iPads in education have composed a list. Some interesting items include whether the school’s network and uplink are capable of handling the students use.