1. Is the TSA playing Calvinball with travellers?

    01 February 2008

    I feel ever so much safer now that the TSA is requiring travelers at some airports to dump each and every electronic device they're carrying into those damned grey bins for examination. So far commenters on this article over at Boing Boing have reported undergoing this at San Francisco, O'Hare, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Richmond. As one would expect, this makes me not a bit apprehensive about my flight on Monday morning for another field assignment. The amount of hardware I carry in my field kit is considerable, which makes me feel not a bit like a sitting duck …

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  2. Four nucleotides just aren't enough these days.

    31 January 2008

    DNA, the molecule underlying every form of life on this planet, is in essence a very long chain of sugar and phosphate molecules connected end to end ('long' being a relative term, of course - a molecule 5 centimeters long is gargantuan when you take into account the fact that it's only about 2.4 billionths of a meter in diameter). Each link in the chain is called a nucleotide, and is comprised of one of four possible compounds, adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. Adenine bonds with thymine and cytosine to guanine; each pairing has two possible orientations, for example A-T …

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  3. Do engineers make good terrorists?

    31 January 2008

    According to two sociologists at Oxford University, Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog, the mindset of a professional terrorist and the mindset of a professional engineer are so similar in makeup that there is a strong correlation between being an engineer and being a member of a terrorist group (paper downloadable from here). Their research states that members of the Islamist movement of Muslim culture show a disproportionately high number of doctors, engineers, and practitioners of other scientific fields. Their paper also makes the claim that engineers in particular tend to gravitate toward violent groups, but it isn't so much being …

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  4. The Storm Worm turns one year old.

    30 January 2008

    The Washington Post ran an interesting article about the one-year anniversary of the release of the Storm Worm botnet agent about two weeks ago, possibly the most successful and virulent malware agent yet released on the Net. The Storm Worm beastie is unusual in that the botnet is a decentralized collective, i.e, all of the infections don't report into a single C&C channel but instead use a peer-to-peer networking protocol (a variant of the eDonkey protocol, specifically), so it can't be killed by taking down a single server. It is also interesting because updates are periodically released for …

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  5. Even bigger bada boom!

    29 January 2008

    Remember around this time last year when the US Navy started testing railguns as ship-mounted weapons? BAE Systems has developed an even more powerful magnetic linear accelerator weapon for testing called the 32-MJ LRG (which stands for "32-megajoule Laboratory Rail Gun" - I guess the person in charge of naming experimental weapons was hired by the federal government to name the PATRIOT Act). The experimental weapon is about the size of an airport x-ray machine, and probably masses about as much. It doesn't fire explosive rounds but then again it doesn't have to. If you can throw a projectile at eight …

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  6. Bruce Schneier on the false dichotomy between privacy and security.

    29 January 2008

    If I ever get around to having children, I might name my first boy after Bruce Schneier because he's got a lot more on the ball than I ever will. This time around, Schneier has weighed in on the privacy versus security debate in US policy and why it's not really debatable in the manner it's being presented in because personal privacy and national security are not, in fact, opposed to one another. His commentary was provoked by Michael McConnell (Director of National Intelligence) stating in the 21 January 2008 edition of the New Yorker that he wanted to monitor …

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  7. Microsoft admits that Vista is bloatware.

    29 January 2008

    If you've ever installed Microsoft Vista yourself (or looked around in the hard drive of your brand new box), chances are you'd be surprised to find that it's a hog for disk space. An install of Vista can take up anywhere from seven to fifteen (!) gigabytes of disk space, which most people can eat because hard drives these days are typically in the hundreds of gigabytes. Still, that's a hell of a lot of binary; maybe if you've installed a load of applications and patches over a year or so, I can see that, but when you factor in everything …

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  8. Cisco ups the ante on data networking once again.

    29 January 2008

    Yesterday Cisco announced its new product, the Nexus 7000 network switch, which will be their highest-end data switch to date. Attempting to push the state of the art in buzzwords (Web 3.0 already?), the Nexus 7k switch is designed to shuffle packets to the tune of... you know, the article isn't really clear. Marketwatch's news article doesn't give the reader any hard values because it's geared more for management types rather than techies in the trenches. Instead, there are passages like "would be able to copy all the searchable data on the Internet in 7.5 seconds" and "download …

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  9. Is No Such Agency now the Network Security Agency?

    28 January 2008

    Earlier this month, George W. Bush authorized a classified government directive that authorizes the National Security Agency to monitor the data networks of other US government agencies as well as monitoring the communications traffic of American citizens and foreign countries. The specifics can't be released due to the security classification but it is known that the US government is very concerned about its information security posture (no jokes, please) and their first remediation step involves understanding what's going on inside their networks. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is charged with coordinating efforts to track down the sources …

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  10. Sacrificing spam when you can't sacrifice spammers.

    28 January 2008

    Due to the fact that Rending the Veil hasn't finished restoring older articles from backup since the last server migration, I'm reposting my last article they published on harvesting the energy spent by spammers in trying to get us to buy their crap.

    Spam. Junk e-mail. Things you can't say in mixed company.

    No matter what you may call it, we're talking about the same thing: E-mail that you didn't ask for and don't want filling up your inbox, sometimes making it impossible to find real e-mail. It's a nuisance that netizens have been fighting for years. In terms of …

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