1. I'm going to step out on a limb here.

    12 October 2007

    Right now, it's de rigeur for people on the Net to make fun of the ingominous death of the Reverend Gary Aldridge, who was found dead in his home this past Sunday. Because the details in the news report may not be safe for work, I'm going to put the rest of this article behind a cut... It seems that the good Reverend, a buddy of Jerry Fallwell's, had a thing for rubber (he was found wearing not one but two wetsuits), self-bondage, and autoerotic asphyxia, and when he was found dead it seems that the ligature around his neck …

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  2. HIPAA doesn't imply that you can trust those in control, now does it?

    12 October 2007

    Joseph Nathaniel Harris, a former branch manager at the San Jose Medical Group in California was sentenced to 21 months in prison and fines in excess of $145kus for stealing medical data. When Harris left his position after allegations that he'd been stealing money and medication from the facility, he is said to have stolen two computers and a DVD-ROM disk containing sensitive information about 187,000 patients, including Social Security numbers, medical histories, and diagnoses. The computers were found to have been sold for cash, but kept the disk containing the patient data. Thankfully none of that data got …

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  3. If anyone else did this, they'd have been fired faster than you can blink.

    12 October 2007

    One Jerry Miller, head of the payroll team for the Administrative Knowledge System project of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services screwed up in a pretty major way - he let one of his interns take a backup tape containing, among other things, data on better than 130,000 employees of the state of Ohio, former employees and contractors of same, and sundry Ohio residents. Seeing as how it was payroll information, I'll leave it to you to guess what kinds of information were encoded on that tape. The tape was stolen from the back of said intern's car in June …

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  4. New releases from Steampunk Magazine.

    11 October 2007

    The staff over at Steampunk Magazine have a pair of new releases for the edification and amusement of everyone out there. First off, issue number three of their 'zine has been released under the terms of the Creative Commons v2.5 license for download or purchase at the cost of $3us. Secondly, a short book entitled A Steampunk's Guide to the Apocalypse has hit both the Net and printing press (cost, $5us), and features the paintings of Mr. Colin Foran (XKCD-flavored technical drawings by Anonymous). Tongue in cheek in nature, it briefly describes how one would stay on one's …

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  5. A word to would-be presenters out there.

    09 October 2007

    Unless it involves 0-day security vulnerabilities that amount to a global panic in the style of bad Hollywood action movies never, ever install updates of any kind on the laptop you're going to carry into the field with you the week before, or you'll spend every waking moment up until the time you go before the crowd trying to fix your laptop. Don't be That Presenter At the Con.

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  6. Working around patent licensing problems with evolutionary algorithms.

    08 October 2007

    Evolutionary computer algorithms are good at solving a relatively common set of problems through trial and error - the set of problems that we know of with a large number of equally valid possible solutions, of which some subset of those are faster or more efficient. The only way to see which of these solutions will do what you want is to try one and mess around with it for a while, and then try a slightly different approach. In other words, by tinkering, tweaking, and hacking around, which is great on a small scale but when you're looking at a …

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  7. Another step closer to artificial life - an artificial chromosome.

    08 October 2007

    Geneticist Craig Venter of San Diego, California has made a significant breakthrough in genetics and bioengineering after it's been verified by the scientific community (I have to throw that disclaimer for reasons that'll be made clear in a moment)... he's built a chromosome out of raw materials in vitro.

    Yeah. Not only did Venter's team, lead by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Hamilton O. Smith hooked synthetic nucleotides together one by one into a strand of DNA 580,000 base pairs in length, coding for 381 distinct genes, and then got the DNA to coil up into a chromosome. The synthetic …

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  8. Why blogging engines don't sit quite right with me in subtle ways.

    08 October 2007

    On my way to the office this morning I was sitting in the car thinking about nothing in particular, and in my pre-caffeinated state my thoughts wandered in the direction of why blogging engines like Pivot and Wordpress make me uneasy in weird, peripheral ways, and why I find them so difficult to use, insofar as writing text is concerned. The reason is that they imply a sense of immediacy upon the user writing where sometimes there shouldn't be one.

    Let me start off by saying that I'm not trying to bash blogging in general or any one blogging engine …

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  9. Working with software RAID in Linux.

    05 October 2007

    This post assumes that you've worked enough with Linux to know about the existence of software RAID in the Linux v2.6 kernel series, though not necessarily much about it.

    If you're not familiar with it, RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is a set of techniques that replicate data across multiple hard drives on the assumption that, at some point, a drive is going to fail. If the data can be found in some form on another drive, the data is still available. Otherwise you're out of luck unless you made backups, and if you're really unfortunate, your machine …

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  10. Not quite mind reading, not mind control the way people usually think of it, but significant nonetheless.

    05 October 2007

    At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology biotech researchers have made progress on an area of prosthetics that most people don't think about because it's so obvious but is still very important nonetheless: The neural interface. Specifically, they've worked out an algorithm that converts patterns of chemoelectrical activity in the brain that signify intent of motion into commands for an external device. Current prosthetics aren't directly hooked into the central nervous system but the "network edge" of the peripheral nervous system via interface jacks connected to nerve endings. Let's be clear, interface jacks that accept only broad sorts of input, such …

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