Archive: 20070109

31 January 2007

Here's an article just in from the "In other news, fire is hot and water is wet" department: A study shows that studies funded by companies tend to frame the products of those companies in a better light. A three step study of 111 dietetic studies of soda milk, and water was performed in such a way that the groups of researchers were ignorant of the conclusions of the others (the protocol is outlined in the article, it's pretty neat) to determine if the findings of the studies would be helpful or harmful to the bottom line of the organisation that actually funded the study. As it turns out, studies that were funded by the industry in question were an average of six times more likely to come out in favour of the funding body.

It's not a scientific study, it's an investment in the future of the company. It came out in court that a Microsoft tech evangelist called independent programmers little more than pawns that had to be carefully courted and that "you can't win without them, and you have to take good care of them. You can't let them feel like they're pawns in the struggle."

How absolutely condescending.

People aren't resources, they are thinking, independent entities that rely upon mutual respect and job satisfaction if they're going to continue working for you, and without that you'll be lucky to get anything at all out of them, let alone something that actually works.

A heads-up to everyone planning on going to the Farpoint science fiction and fantasy convention in Baltimore, Maryland in February: Summer Glau is working on a new television series, and hence will not be able to attend, but she's traded off with Ron Glass ("Shepherd Book"), also from the cast of Firefly and Serenity.

If you use the application called Steganography v1.7.* or v1.8 from Securekit, be advised: Files which have data hidden in them by this application have a recognisable fingerprint at the end of the file that gives away the fact that there is something hidden there. The fingerprint can be found with any hex editor, and looks like this: 30 00 0? FF FF. Moreover, once you know that something is hidden there, you can hack the file with steganographically concealed data to extract the hidden stuff without knowing the original password.

The Department of Homeland Security has not only demanded that the UK give it access to the e-mail accounts of British travellers but it wants to scan their fingerprints into the FBI's criminal information database for unlimited use. First of all, those fingerprints don't belong in a database of convicted felons; this is very much a tactic of "Guilty until proven innocent". Second, what's with this "unlimited use" bit? Who are they giving access to their databases to, anyway, and why? What are they going to use it for? What are their need-to-know criteria and situation? Third, biometric scanning systems are notoriously unreliable - often the false positive rate is better than 50-50, and techniques for manufacturing near-perfect fake fingerprints are no farther away than your local grocery store. As for the whole "this will stop future suicide bombers" schtick.. do you honestly think that a suicide bomber is going to care if their fingerprints are recorded for all time? The whole point of a suicide bombing is that the perp will be dead!

Security theatre: Act three, scene two. What a crock.