Stuff Yaron Finds Interesting

Technology, Politics, Food, Finance, etc.

Palladium and What You Use Security

A good article explaining Microsoft's Palladium initiative. What interesting about Palladium is that it provides a mechanism to not just authenticate who you are but also what software you are using. For the purposes of this article I will refer to this as What You Use (WYU) security. In reading this article please keep in mind that I know nothing about Palladium so the following comments only apply to WYU style security systems in general and in no way reflects Palladium's past, present or future plans.

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On-Line Blackmail

A good article on a very simple form of on-line blackmail. Users visit an apparently innocent looking website which in the background downloads porn files to their machine. They then get an email a few days later telling them where the files are on their machine and demanding money to not tell anyone. Just deleting the files won't necessarily work as many companies keep records of all HTTP traffic so they may have a copy of the files in the company's caches. Of course this attack depends on the company's management. If they are educated and aware then this attack will fail.

Patents, Open Source and GPL

Lots of commercial companies are getting very worried about Open Source. They view Open Source as a direct threat to their success. After all, how do you compete with free? I think these companies are missing the point, Open Source is just another commoditizer and anyone who has succeeded in the technology business long ago learned how to deal with being commoditized. In fact, as commoditizers go Open Source is not a bad way to go. In the old days when a technology became commoditized it would disappear into some dominant platform that no one could access. With Open Source when a technology is commoditized it instantly becomes available to everyone which is to everyone's benefit, except of course to the dominant platform owners.

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Racism is Bad

I realize the title of this blog entry seems trite but apparently it's required. A few decades ago MIT introduced summer classes in math and science to prepare freshman who were going to enter MIT but may not have a strong enough background in those subjects. Entry to the classes required the right racial characteristics – Black, Hispanic or Native-American. MIT was recently challenged on the legality of their behavior and as a consequence decided to open the programs to everyone. What makes this case interesting is the reason why MIT changed the rules, to understand that I provide this quote from Robert Redwine the dean of undergraduate studies at MIT:

"It really was important for us to come to the realization that they [Ed Note: the summer programs] almost certainly could not be defended legally in their form," Mr. Redwine said. "I wish that were not the case, but it is."

Does anyone think it bizarre that the dean of undergraduate studies at MIT would openly advocate racism and bemoan the fact that the laws of the United States of America prevent him from enforcing a blatantly racist policy?

Were the program to vet entry based on impartial data such as low test scores that indicate that the student is likely to have trouble upon entering MIT and were MIT to even charge money for the class but set the fee on a sliding scale that went to zero based on the student's ability to pay then then I would be all for the program. But last I checked, being Black, Hispanic or Native-American doesn't automatically mean you are unprepared for MIT level courses or poor.