Tuesday, August 20, 2013

This is beyond Oops. $5,000,000 / 40 = $125,000 per minute.
Amazon website goes down for 40 minutes, costing the company $5 million
… At 40 minutes, the outage could have cost the company as much as $4.72 million in lost sales, the Puget Sound Business Journal estimated, based on the company’s average sales of $117,882 per minute. Of course, that’s an average rate, and sales at the online retailer might be expected to be much brisker on a Monday afternoon in the summer, when people are shirking work by ordering barbecue tools, Hawaiian shirts, boxes of cheap outdoor drink tumblers, or trashy novels to read on their Kindles.

Well this is a damn shame.
Surveillance concerns bring an end to crusading site Groklaw
Citing concerns about privacy and government surveillance, Pamela Jones is shutting down her site Groklaw that for years took on what she and vocal fans saw as wrongheaded legal action in the tech domain.
"There is now no shield from forced exposure," Jones said in final blog post Tuesday. Groklaw depended on collaboration over e-mail, "and there is now no private way, evidently, to collaborate."
Jones, a paralegal, started her site a decade ago taking on the SCO Group's legal attack on IBM and others involving Linux and Unix intellectual property. She rebutted the company's position, detailed the arcana of the lawsuit proceedings, and shared legal filings on which the case rested. Volunteers attended some hearings in person, and collaborative efforts found just any hole that could be poked in the SCO Group's case. The site archives show hundreds of posts since its start in May 2003.
As the SCO Group's case fizzled, Groklaw directed its righteous indignation toward other legal cases, including the storm of patent infringement cases in the tech world, digital rights management, open-source licensing, and Psystar's Mac clones.
Jones herself is withdrawing from the electronic world, too.
"My personal decision is to get off of the Internet to the degree it's possible. I'm just an ordinary person. But I really know, after all my research and some serious thinking things through, that I can't stay online personally without losing my humanness, now that I know that ensuring privacy online is impossible. I find myself unable to write," she said. "Oddly, if everyone did that, leap off the Internet, the world's economy would collapse, I suppose. I can't really hope for that. But for me, the Internet is over."

(Related) Should we join Pam, even if we have nothing to hide? At minimum, the Privacy Foundation should consider a “Hiding from the NSA” seminar.
Are the NSA Revelations Changing How We Use the Internet?
… A new report from the analytics firm Annalect finds what it calls "substantial" changes in Americans' behavior and attitudes since June. Its survey of 2,100 adults, which was conducted from May to July, found that the percent of people who described themselves as either "concerned" or "very concerned" about online privacy jumped by 20 percent, from 48 percent to 57 percent.
Beyond that, the report found that increasing numbers of Americans are changing their behavior online. When compared with Annalect's earlier first-quarter report, the firm found that the percent of people who manually adjusted their browser's settings had almost doubled (from 22 percent over the entire first quarter, compared with 38 percent in July); 19 percent, compared with 13 percent for the earlier period, had adjust the "location-aware" settings on their phones or other mobile devices; and 21 percent, up from 14 percent, had "deleted and/or opted out of mobile tracking," presumably for individual applications. It's clear that the general picture is one of people being more deliberate, more circumspect, with regard to their behavior online.

(Related) They even provide a handout (if you trust the NSA that far).
Among the NSA's Own Tips for Securing Computers: Remove the Webcam
Seems like everything gets hacked these days. Baby monitors. White House employees' personal email. Toilets.
If it's connected to the Internet, it seems at least a little vulnerable.
… Yesterday, security researchers Steve Glass and Christopher Soghoian were passing around a National Security Administration factsheet with a little bit of advice for Mac users on how to "harden" their computers to attacks.
Among the tips, we find the following suggestion: "Disable Integrated iSight and Sound Input."
"The best way to disable an integrated iSight camera is to have an Apple-certified technician remove it," the NSA writes (emphasis added)
… The built-in microphone comes under scrutiny, too. The NSA suggests setting the mic input level to zero and removing a file that cripples the sound system.
The rest of the tips are available in this handy, seemingly laminateable PDF. They include firewalling instructions, file deletion suggestions, and several other procedures. In fact, the NSA maintains an archive of factsheets on protecting its employees, contractors, and associates, but you can use it to protect yourself from hackers -- inside or outside the government.

Something to dangle in front of my students. (Isn't this obvious?)
The Broad-Based Rise in the Return to Top Talent
The Broad-Based Rise in the Return to Top Talent. Kaplan, Steven N., and Joshua Rauh. 2013. “It’s the Market: The Broad-Based Rise in the Return to Top Talent.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 27(3): 35-56. DOI: 10.1257/jep.27.3.35
“One explanation that has been proposed for rising inequality is that technical change allows highly talented individuals, or “superstars” to manage or perform on a larger scale, applying their talent to greater pools of resources and reaching larger numbers of people, thus becoming more productive and higher paid. Others argue that managerial power has increased in a way that allows those at the top to receive higher pay, that social norms against higher pay levels have broken down, or that tax policy affects the distribution of surpluses between employers and employees. We offer evidence bearing on the different theories explaining the rise in inequality in the United States over recent decades. First we look the increase in pay at the highest income levels across occupations. We consider the income share of the top 1 percent over time. And we turn to evidence on inequality of wealth at the top. In looking at the wealthiest Americans, we find that those in the Forbes 400 are less likely to have inherited their wealth or to have grown up wealthy. The Forbes 400 of today also are those who were able to access education while young and apply their skills to the most scalable industries: technology, finance, and mass retail. We believe that the US evidence on income and wealth shares for the top 1 percent is most consistent with a “superstar”-style explanation rooted in the importance of scale and skill-biased technological change. It is less consistent with an argument that the gains to the top 1 percent are rooted in greater managerial power or changes in social norms about what managers should earn.”

Perspective. On the other hand...

Tools & Techniques: Security. Check that link before you click.
– is a tool to find out the real link hiding behind a short URL. It could lead to a malware or trojan infected website which could cause damage to your system or fetch important information without you knowing. It checks and scans the website first and makes sure that the website is safe to visit or not. The website has been tested with more than 100 top URL shorteners and all of them work flawlessly.

For all my students. Simplify your research.
FTP, short for File Transfer Protocol, is one of the most common protocols for transferring files. You’ll use HTTP while browsing the web, but FTP while communicating with a file server. Normally, you’d use an FTP client for this. Especially when you work over FTP a lot (e.g. web developers), it pays off to use a specialised client that supports favourites, synchronisation and improved batch transfers. We’ve listed some of these at our top Mac and Linux software pages.
While there are a huge number of good FTP clients out there, sometimes you can get by without installing any third-party software at all. An FTP client like those mentioned above makes sense if you’re an avid user, but you can avoid cluttering your system with another piece of software if you only need FTP access every now and then.
Specialised FTP clients are stronger and more versatile, but the standard file browser on each of the three main operating systems can connect to FTP servers as well!

My students probably don't have enough spare time for these, but their kids might.
Here are four online courses that are giving traditional bricks and mortar institutions a run for their money.
Harvard University is an institution that oozes excellence.
Introduction to Computer Science is a course that looks very familiar to most Computer Science undergraduates. Besides teaching C and PHP – two massively popular and useful programming languages – there is also a massive emphasis on learning how to think algorithmically.
This course is delivered by EdX and takes some serious time commitment. It consists of eight programming assignments, each taking up to 20 hours to complete.
Thankfully, London based artist Rosa Nussbaum took it upon herself to create a complete, comprehensive guide to all things fine art. She aims to teach students about the history and theory behind some of the greatest pieces of artwork and in a manner which is accessible, captivating, and lacks any pretense.
This course is free and you can sign up on The University Of Reddit. Lectures are delivered by video on Vokle, with the slides available to download.
CodeSchool is a Florida based startup which has the lofty goal of teaching people to code. Touting lessons in Ruby, Objective C, and Javascript as well as some lesser known languages such as CoffeeScript, it aims to teach people how to code from the ground up.
… This doesn’t come cheap, however. The free videos offered by CodeSchool are limited. If you want to follow a course to completion, you’re going to have to fork out around $25 per month. It’s not all bad though. For each completed course, you get $5 off your next month, and you can download all videos in DRM free, iPhone friendly MOV format.
Philip John Curie There’s no greater teacher when it comes to dinosaurs, and you can learn from him on “Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology” on Coursera.
Dino 101 is free and upon completion you can earn credit at the University of Alberta.

I still want my students to write their own textbooks. This might be a useful tool.
Active Textbook - Turn PDFs Into Multimedia Documents
Active Textbook is an interesting service that you can use to turn your PDFs into multimedia documents. The basic idea behind the service is that you can upload PDFs and add pictures, links, and videos that are displayed when students read your PDF through the Active Textbook viewer. While reading your PDF through Active Textbook students can highlight, draw, and add comments to the document.
The downside to Active Textbook is that you have to create your PDF outside of Active Textbook. You have to have the layout of your PDF set before uploading it because you can't actually change the content of the PDF, you're simply adding links to it through the Active Textbook service.
Applications for Education
Active Textbook could provide a good way to create your own short multimedia texts for students. The most compelling feature is the option for students to highlight and take notes on the document while they're reading it through Active Textbook. Active Textbook also adds a dictionary tool to your document which could be handy for some students. Active Textbook is free to use for up to 500 pages of material.

I didn't know we were doing this. Are we?
LinkedIn recruiting students with career-minded University Pages
As high school and college kids head back to school this fall, they'll have a new tool, courtesy of LinkedIn, to help them get ahead. The professional site aims to assist young adults with determining the best educational path with "University Pages," a feature launching Monday as LinkedIn simultaneously announces that it will welcome future professionals into its fold.
With University Pages, 200 higher education facilities are setting up the equivalent of all-in-one virtual recruiting kiosks, student centers, and alumni hubs. The pages, operated by university staffers, are meant to serve prospect, current, and past students, as well as parents, but come with a wealth of data that could help point career or major-perplexed kids in the right direction.
… Come September 12, the professional site will make its network of more than 238 million people accessible to high school-aged kids around the world for the first time. In places like the U.S., Canada, and Germany, youngsters 14 and up can will be able to sign up to participate and get a leg up on the college selection process.
LinkedIn worked with the 200 universities launching pages Monday. Allen said that thousands of additional schools will get access to University Pages in the weeks ahead.

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