Saturday, January 31, 2009

This site may harm your computer.

today, google has starting saying this about every site a search result reports.
of course, it is true that any site may - it always was true so maybe this is just an educational move, or maybe google finally got got....

somebody turned on the "E" bit:)

careless typing costs lives - google explains, but doesn't exactly say sorry

liek any critical resource (the DNS) one should do sanity checks on the scale of impact of any configuration change before committing it (ditto BGP as well as DNS) - why do we learn the same mistakes again and again:)

Monday, January 26, 2009

freud versus dali

I'm just finishing this excellent book about the Death of Freud
in which is the delicious description of an encounter between an aging Freud and Salvador Dali
in london - at the time, Freud was dying of cancer and was very deaf
and Dali was almost certainly mad

Dali kept asking Freud about Paranoia
eventually Freud heard him and said
that the thought classical art was interesting for what it revealed about the
subconscious while surrealism only revealed things about the conscious (meaning that it was intellectually contrived)
at which Dali wailed "so surrealism is now definitely dead"

freud remarked in his diary about the meeting that "Dali was the perfect Spaniard"

now put that in your Turing pipe and smoke it!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

quantum computing, pervasive systems and privacy

clearly the qPhone (quantum iPhone) will offer the user unprecedented privacy, because all qPhones will be identical, and so you wont know where the user is - they will have a probability distribution with many nodalities - only if a specific qPhone is moving very fast will you know where it is (so long as you don't measure its speed) - qPhone controlled cars will therefore be immune from speed traps, since, once you know they are breaking the limit, you will no longer know where they are, or what the limit was there, then, anyhow.

I would expect Apple to be shipping the first qPhones in or around q9 2023.

Friday, January 16, 2009

externl examiners and setting and marking standards idea

why not ask the external to take the exams, anonymously, mark her papers
and return the marks to the external

what a great way for an external to cheque the quaility of procedures in the examination process and the department to tell if the external has a clue too.

Monday, January 12, 2009

carbon cost of google dispute

bbc report on google carbon footprint is under debate - i calculated this on the basis that
1. google has to trawl and index the web
2. the web has to be up for google to do this
3. so I count all the machines up in the contribution to the costs

how many thousand searchs are the same
energy consumption as 1 lightbulb for an hour?

This site lists 200 million a day in the USA

so divide by 24 to get searches per hour:
that is about 10million an hour

these guys list US power consumption at
40 billion KWhours per year
(admittedly a couple of years ago)...

so we need to divide that by 360
gives around so 100 million kilowatts (in an hour)
serves 10 million web searches

which means that 10 watts for an hour is needed for 1 web search

i.e. 1 100 watt lightbulb for about 10 minutes for a single search!!!

Google of course (fairly) say that the actual search itself is highly efficient and runs on well engineered eco-friendly data centers....but the pubic understanding
is pribably gonna favour my type of argument over theirs....


race memory for OSs

looking at a bunch of OS resource management papers recently, (as I try to play catch up and be able to do my job on the Eurosys and SOSP PCs properly) it seems to me that if you look across the broad vista of papers over a few years on any resource management aspect of OSs, a lot of what people try to do is what you might call "myopic" schemes for scheduling - there's very litle that carries information over one set of processes running to a later similar mix explicitly.

Implicitly, however, the information is there in the set of benchmark specifications and the results in the sequences of papers - so if we codified the papers, then an OS could boot (and network downloadupdate) a configuration for long-sighted allocation of resources - this ought to be easy-peasy - we just specifiy an XML format for results, and then publish online -

its a bit like traffic engineering for the internet (rather than flow or session based resource allocation) but it also has micro- benefits as well as macro- benefits, snce proceses can be started with the right model of input rather than having to infer it from the usual pile of heuristics run online...

p2p-driven scheduling :-)??

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

grand challeges in Ubiquitous Computing part #17

Yesterday and today I've been attending the latest workshop on grand challenges in Ubicomp at Imperial College - very cool stuff - lots of neat talks

some ideas and pointers while listening

for early computer mediated art in a ubicomp environment, see the Cybernetic Serendipity show at the ICA which I was lucky enough to attend in 1968- I have a copy of the awesome book produced for the exhibition (which featured a very young Nicholas Negroponte amongst others).

On ubicomp sensors for healthcare (great talk by Guang-Zhong Yang - the E-AR sensor is extremely cool way to measure gait etc) - while I am impressed by the creativity of the sensor devices, we are still a LONG way from something that carers or patients will be able to deploy affordably - we cannot scavenge power yet realistically (probably not for 5-10 years) and wires or replacing or recharging batteries every few weeks for a 100 devices is already annoying enough for all the remote controls around a house, let alone life-critical stuff - I suppose if we made the devices provide a useful summary healthcare report for a health visitor (including a reminder of when to replace batteries) that might work - this could work like "Alertme"s home monitoring stuff via GPRS and SMS - reminds me of an idea I had for putting a zigbee beacon inside a battery that would give you a ubicomp location service for all the devices with batteries by default AND would remind you when the battery need recharging (and would let you find missing remote controls under the sofa:)

another cool application of the EAR device would be for monitoring children in "at risk" homes...

Privacy keeps popping its head above the parapet - we design devices and then blame users for misusing them (I think how many people hold strictly private conversatiosn at the top of their voice in public places (the train) on a cell phone - how often you hear stories of people revealing lots of embarassing facts on facebook) - my solution (Tim Kindberg tells me this is called a "privacy mirror") is to show people the "anti-social" network of peopel that can witnes this event _before_ they make this mistake - e.g. as you make a cell phone call, a voice (of someone you don't know) is played back on the phone repeating something you said earlier to remind you who might hear - and as you add a photo to facebook, a list of people more than (say) three hops away in your friends-of-friends-of-friends graph, pops up who could see this photo (preferably people with no common affiliatin, but with common interests, say).

trust is slippery stuff - If a computer A trusts a computer B and B trusts C, then we have GNY/BAN logic to reason about trust (or we can build other trust logics, e.g. interval arithmetic based or bayes based). If a person "trusts" a person, what can we infer about transitivity, associativity etc? not a lot - but social anthropology has things to say on this and we should listen! If my friend Richard thinks Ruth is his friend is Ruth stranger than Richard, to me, as Robert Wyatt once asked?

Jon Bird reminded us that the ludic mode of research (e.g. driven by art) is very valuble in exploring areas of the ubicomp (and other) design space that a purely tech/biz driven approach might not reach (he also had some really cool videos from art from 25 years ago - viz David Rokeby aweome video) and the bit from Monty Python's Life of Brian abut "what did the roman's do for us" which (given situation in Gaza right now) ends with the list of "roads, law, aquaducts, hot baths .... oh, and peace..."

which reminds me of one of my fave XKCD's - see
Alice and Bob etc

maginc new interfaces - see also, dasher:-

and also spoof on
apple spinwheel

On programme properties, what is the relationship between Prism and Microsoft research's (byron cooke et al)'s Terminator programme?

Meanwhile, in Steve Hodge's neat talk, I was reminded that teenagers have telepathy (only 1 bit) that tells them when a friend is about to call or when its a parent so they can turn on (off) their cell phone:)

Steve's key point is that if we do a mindmap of WSN, we find that although a lot of peopel list ad hoc and mobile and multihop/decentralised/self* as key components, the most common applications AND sensor systems are
a) centralised/infrastructure oriented
b) not mobile (particularly)
think remote controls, games and cell phones

i.e the academic obsession with the technically challenging and interesting problems that are roughly grouped under MANET (and maybe DTN) are not relevant to many realworld deployments. (I made this point a while back about most of the projects in the EPSRC WINES programme of research - not only are almost all of them completely diferent (i.e. they are good because they are use-case driven) almost none has a multi-hop radio net or a self-orgnaising system or even any mobility:) Yet they are all good examples of UbiComp.

Day 2 kicked off well with a total power failure at Euston Station. Meanwhile, Wendy Mackay made it from Paris in time to talk about InterLiving - situated UbiComp experiment in everyday life - a lot of the 2nd day talks are more either living or about trust. Tim Kindberg discussed many of th failures of trust in "invisible computing".

Why not put a webcam on the wifi hotspot router and then it could put up a picture of you when it is authorizing your access, and you get to see that it is "physically" actually the router you can see (line of sight:)

Also present in talks was art and politics!

A nice taxonomy of "mobiel art" by Martin Reiser - lots of good gadget ideas here (similar to Jon Bird's and some of the outer scope ideas by Steve Hodges). One work is called the Third WOman and is a mobile installation in Vienna (after the Third Man - graham green/orson welles movie) _ would be neat to add a sound track by Joan as Policewoman and make it the Third Policewoman:)

Next session was two more trust talks:- Palamidessi on Bayesian trust infernecing, and Ian Brown on law.

Last talk I stayed for was Robin Milner, looking at the bigraph work on space/motion in large systems (see his new book! relevant work

Friday, January 02, 2009

smart bricks...

forget about smart dust. what about smart bricks?

these would be devices that can be dropped in any place like a brick, that cost less than a tenner, and can store a few 10s gigabytes of media data and can run computations for a few hours on a battery charge - they have sensor surfaecs (simply light/sound/heat) and they are cheap enough to leave a LOT of them lying around in a city (a bit like velib/free city bikes) and they basically act to hold the city's history. they log what goes on. they can recharge off of intertia or light or ambient heat. they can be your backup server, your neighbourhood watch, your calculator, your e-cache etc etc

much more useful than dust.