August 2008

Task Times and The Planning Fallacy

by Limbic on August 18, 2008

Even when I take into account the Planning Fallacy, I still underestimate how long it takes other people to do things 🙂

A good look at Planning and Task Timing problems from 43 Folders.


Spam inevitable in your Augmented Reality

by Limbic on August 18, 2008

From Making the Visible Invisible:

Augmented reality (AR) can be thought of as a combination of widely-accessible sensors (including cameras), lightweight computing technologies, and near-ubiquitous high-speed wireless networks — a combination that’s well-underway — along with a sophisticated form of visualization that layers information over the physical world. The common vision of AR technology includes some kind of wearable display, although that technology isn’t as far along as the other components. For that reason, at the outset, the most common interface for AR will likely be a handheld device, probably something evolved from a mobile phone. Imagine holding up an iPhone-like device, scanning what’s around you, seeing various pop-up items and data links on your screen.

…It seems likely to me that an augmented reality world that really takes off will out of necessity be one that offers freedom of use closer to that of the Internet than of the iPhone. Top-down control technologies will certainly make a play for the space, but simply won’t be the kind of global catalyst for innovation that an open augmented reality web would be. An AR world dominated by closed, controlled systems will be safe, but have a limited impact.

This means, therefore, that we should expect to see spam and malware finding its way into the AR world soon after it emerges. Of the two, malware is more of a danger, but also more likely to be controllable by good system design (just as modern operating systems are more resistant to malware than the OSes of a decade ago). Spam, conversely, is unlikely to be stopped at its source; instead, we’ll probably use the same reasonably-functional solution we use now: Filtering. Recipient-side filtering has become quite good, and users with well-trained spam filters see just a tiny fraction of their incoming junk email. Spam is by no means a solved problem, but it’s become something akin to a chronic, controllable disease…. [From Open the Future: Making the Visible Invisible]

Via Bruce Sterling


Who’s Behind the Georgia Cyber Attacks?

by Limbic on August 18, 2008

One of the more interesting aspects of the recent Georgia-Russia war was the massive cyberwar attacks launched by “self-mobilizing cyber militia”.

Dancho Danchev reluctantly does some scenario building, and along the way implicates the trans-Balkan mega-mafia and their cyber division, the notorious Russian Business Network.

From his blog:

So who’s behind the Georgia cyber attacks, encompassing of plain simple ping floods, web site defacements, to sustained DDoS attacks, which no matter the fact that Geogia has switched hosting location to the U.S remain ongoing? It’s Russia’s self-mobilizing cyber militia, the product of a collectivist society having the capacity to wage cyber wars and literally dictating the rhythm in this space.

Next to the “blame the Russian Business Network for the lack of large scale implementation of DNSSEC” mentality, certain news articles also try to wrongly imply that there’s no Russian connection in these attacks, and that the attacks are not “state-sponsored”, making it look like that there should be a considerable amount of investment made into these attacks, and that the Russian government has the final word on whether or not its DDoS capabilities empowered citizens should launch any attacks or not. In reality, the only thing the Russian government was asking itself during these attacks was “why didn’t they start the attacks earlier?!”.

Thankfully, there are some visionary folks out there understanding the situation. Last year, I asked the following question – What is the most realistic scenario on what exactly happened in the recent DDoS attacks aimed at Estonia, from your point of view? and some of the possible answers still fully apply in this situation :

– It was a Russian government-sponsored hacktivism, or shall we say a government-tolerated one

– Too much media hype over a sustained ICMP flood, given the publicly obtained statistics of the network traffic

– Certain individuals of the collectivist Russian society, botnet masters for instance, were automatically recruited based on a nationalism sentiments so that they basically forwarded some of their bandwidth to key web servers

– In order to generate more noise, DIY DoS tools were distributed to the masses so that no one would ever know who’s really behind the attacks

– Don’t know who did it, but I can assure you my kid was playing !synflood at that time

– Offended by the not so well coordinated removal of the Soviet statue, Russian oligarchs felt the need to send back a signal but naturally lacking any DDoS capabilities, basically outsourced the DDoS attacks

– A foreign intelligence agency twisting the reality and engineering cyber warfare tensions did it, while taking advantage of the momentum and the overall public perception that noone else but the affected Russia could be behind the attacks

– I hate scenario building, reminds me of my academic years, however, yours are pretty good which doesn’t necessarily mean I actually care who did it, and pssst – it’s not cyberwar, as in cyberwar you have two parties with virtual engagement points, in this case it was bandwidth domination by whoever did it over the other. A virtual shock and awe

– I stopped following the news story by the time every reporter dubbed it the first cyber war, and started following it again when the word hacktivism started gaining popularity. So, hacktivists did it to virtually state their political preferences

[From Dancho Danchev’s Blog – Mind Streams of Information Security Knowledge: Who’s Behind the Georgia Cyber Attacks?]

This guy is one to watch.


Aurora concept video

by Limbic on August 18, 2008

These guys are working with Mozilla to bring you the next generation of browsers. This is a sneak preview…

Aurora (Part 1) from Adaptive Path on Vimeo.

[From adaptive path » aurora concept video]


Cliodynamics, A Science Of History?

by Limbic on August 16, 2008

From Scientific comes a fascinating question: can there be a science of history?

My colleague Peter Turchin over at the University of Connecticut (my Alma Mater) has recently published an intriguing short article in Nature (3 July 2008) on what he termed “cliodynamics,” the possibility of turning history into a science.

The word comes from Clio, the muse of history for the Greek and Romans, with the “dynamics” part referring to the central concept proposed by Turchin, that history — contrary to what most historians might think — is not just one damn thing after another, that there are regular and predictable patterns, from which we can learn and that we can predict.

It’s a big claim, and one that is bound to generate little enthusiasm among scientists and positive distrust among historians. For the first group, history is the quintessential mine field, where contingency and human agency rule the day, unlike the tidy behavior of subatomic particles, always the same under easily imposed identical conditions. As for historians, this will be seen as yet another arrogant attempt by a scientist to colonize their field and push aside the humanities (despite Turchin’s claim of potential unification of science and the humanities).

Turchin complains that there are more than 200 explanations proposed for the collapse of the Roman empire, a situation he finds “as risible as if, in physics, phlogiston theory and thermodynamics coexisted on equal terms.” Hmm, but then again, there are hundreds of different types of string theory, and none of them is, at the moment, empirically testable… Nonetheless, Turchin goes on to explain that there are, in fact, regularities, in human history. For instance, with two of his colleagues, Turchin found a statistically significant trend (statistics applied to history!) across various societies, according to which “the number of instability events per decade is always several times higher when the population was declining then when it was increasing.” This result was obtained by studying societies and time periods as different as the Roman Empire and eight Chinese dynasties.

[From Cliodynamics, A Science Of History? | Scientific Blogging]


Fascinating set of videos and commentary from the Civil Liberties Examiner on why talking to the cops is always a bad idea.

So, the police are investigating a crime, and in the course of their investigation, they come to chat with you about what you know or may have seen. You’ve done nothing wrong, so you have no objections to sitting down with the investigating officers and telling what little you may know. But the questioning becomes more intense, you find yourself stumbling over facts that don’t seem important to you, but have the police pricking up their ears. And suddenly you realize that you’re not just a helpful witness; now you’re a suspect.

What did you do wrong?

The answer, unfortunately, is that you talked yourself into trouble — yes, even innocent people can do that. You’ve probably heard that before from your paranoid brother-in-law, or a lawyer friend, but you didn’t do anything. Who would have believed that your life could be turned upside down by a few words?

Prof. James Duane of the Regent University School of Law is one of the people who does believe that loose lips sink … well, not ships, but reputations and even lives. In an engaging and lively 27-minute lecture (I know, I know — but it’s worth watching), without assuming any malice on the part of the police, he explains just how you can talk yourself into trouble, and why you shouldn’t talk to the police at all when suspicion wanders in your direction.

Part 1

Part 2

Civil Liberties Examiner – Loose lips can get you arrested or, why you shouldn’t talk to the police –


1. The only way to win a fight is to avoid it.
2. Focus on getting your desired outcome, not on being right.
3. If a fight is inevitable, strike first.
4. To diffuse a fight, admit mistakes and validate others’ feelings.
5. If a group fight is unavoidable, take out the leader.
6. Remove anonymity.
7. There is strength in numbers. Never fight alone unless you have to.

[From The 7 Commandments of Blogosphere (and Life) Self-Defense – The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss]


Superb Linux tutorial for Linux newbies

by Limbic on August 7, 2008

Joe Roper’s Conversational Linux for Newbies (PDF)

A free download from the guys that brought you the superb PBX/VoIP solution PBX in a Flash.


The Global Credit Crunch – One Year On

by Limbic on August 7, 2008

It is almost exactly a year since the European Central Bank was forced to inject €95bn into the eurozone banking system, bringing home what many had suspected – that the fallout from the US subprime mortgage crisis in the US was causing serious pain to global financial markets.

The fallout has been dramatic. Across the world, banks have been forced to raise fresh capital to repair ravaged balance sheets. Several have gone bust or have had to be bailed out, and thousands of jobs have been cut.

The fallout from the crisis has not been confined to the financial sector. The effect on the wider economy, against a backdrop of collapsing house prices, slowing growth and rising inflation, has been profound.

In a series of stories throughout this week, the FT looks at how the world has changed in the past 12 months and the long-term impact on the global financial system and the world economy / In depth / credit squeeze anniversary

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[Update: Jill Dando murder: Police investigate Serbian hitman theory – Guardian. I am still not even remotely convinced, mostly because of the total lack of any evidence, but the MET taking it seriously (if they are not just paying lip service to the idea) gives it credence.]

Left wing lunatic George Galloway has announced that he thinks Yugoslav agents killed BBC presenter Jill Dando in 1999:

I’ll tell you who I think it was, now, as I did back then nearly a decade ago.

Just days before Miss Dando was murdered, British war-planes bombed the main television station in Belgrade, then capital of Yugoslavia, murdering 16 people.

It was a brazen and bloody war-crime, denounced by Britain’s journalists union as an assault on journalists everywhere.

The Yugoslavs didn’t have the wherewithal to bomb the BBC in revenge, but they were plenty capable of exacting a price from an individual BBC personality.

In the long and usually quiet cold war, Britain fought to break up Yugoslavia – for nearly 50 years the BBC World Service was a nest of emigres and anti-Yugoslav dissidents fanning the flames of separatism – there were occasional eruptions of Belgrade’s retaliation. One, I recall, in Fife, in which an exiled opponent was gunned down in the streets of the kingdom.

I believe that an agent of the former Yugoslavia gunned down Jill Dando in retaliation for the murder of their television workers.

Some say there would not have been enough time to plan such a crime between the two events (not a point which seems to have occurred to those who pointed the finger at Barry George, who had no time or brain cells to plan it).

But Dando may already have been targeted for her earlier high-profile hosting of a Kosovan fundraising appeal event which turned into an anti-Belgrade jamboree.

In any case, intelligence services, at least those as capable as that of Slobodan Milosovic, are aye ready to kill at the drop of a hat.

Ask the family of Dr David Kelly.

Coincidence = Evidence.  The staple of conspiracy nuts everywhere.

Did Dando pay the price for Belgrade bombing? – The Daily Record