Thursday, September 11, 2014

No more security breaches? Not likely, but this is one path to the future.
How Apple Pushes Entire Industries Forward
Yesterday, hardware stole the show at the Apple unveiling. But Apple’s most impressive achievement on display at yesterday’s announcement was not a technological feat — although the technology on display was certainly impressive.
Apple’s great feat was the use of their scale to swiftly get the world lined up behind a new model for payments. Apple Pay will be more secure, it will be easier, and it will probably be more profitable for the payments industry as a whole by shifting people away from cash (at least for the time being). But putting it into practice required an entire ecosystem to move in unison — merchants, consumers, credit card companies, and banks. Something that only a company with the massive reach of Apple could do.
… What Apple demonstrated yesterday was its power as an “impatient convener.”
The term was coined by the first CTO of the US Government, Aneesh Chopra. Chopra, and his successor Todd Park, have thoughtfully used the unique position of the White House to bring together disparate leaders to drive innovation through mutually beneficial agreements. Their thesis, which Chopra describes elegantly in his book Innovative State, is that the White House has the pull to sit people down at the table. When the President calls, you answer. When the President says, you need to come to Washington to discuss something like rolling out a smart-grid technologies nationally, you come. And if you are there and the proposal makes sense, you may actually opt in as well – even if there are no demands or formal requests from on high.

Why Johnny can't manage. As an auditor and a manager, some things leap out in articles like this one.
'Legal pension spiking' will cost California $800 million, audit says
… The audit of the California Public Employees' Retirement System, covering July 2010 through June 2012, found that dozens of government agencies were authorized to engage in what it termed "legal pension spiking," a method of boosting a worker's pay for the final year on the job to fatten future pension checks.
… Auditors found no evidence of illegal spiking but the report said the nation's largest pension system does little to detect it.
For example, the report said a local government that contracts with the pension system, known as CalPERS, would face an audit once every 66 years under current schedules, meaning there would be little opportunity to expose any problems.

There ought to be a law?
Marc Jaycox writes:
EFF, along with more than 70 civil liberties organizations, public interest groups, and companies sent two letters to the House and Senate leadership today. One supported HR 1852, the bipartisan Email Privacy Act, and the other supported Senate companion bill S. 607, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2013 (.pdf). The bills aim to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), an archaic law that’s been used by the government to obtain emails without getting a probable cause warrant. The bills are sponsored by a wide range of lawmakers like Senators Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee, and Representatives Kevin Yoder, Tom Graves, and Jared Polis.
Read more on EFF.

As a non-lawyer, I don't see why the judge would allow this legal strategy. Defending an “intimidation by surveillance” lawsuit by significantly increasing the surveillance? “We don't need no stinking justification?”
Shirin Sinnar writes:
The discovery stage of national security litigation rarely attracts much interest, at least where it does not involve an invocation of “state secrets” by the federal government. But in the case of Raza v. City of New York, it should. The ACLU lawsuit, filed a year ago in the Eastern District of New York, challenges the NYPD’s pervasive mapping, surveillance, and investigation of Muslim communities, which the plaintiffs argue have significantly harmed their ability to practice their faith and express their views. For over six months now, the NYPD has pursued discovery tactics that seem expressly designed to deter plaintiffs – indeed, anyone who objects to surveillance of political or religious activities – from maintaining suit. If settlement talks apparently underway do not pan out, the court’s resolution of these issues could significantly affect the practical availability of judicial review.
Read more on Just Security.
[From the article:
In response, the NYPD served plaintiffs with sweeping discovery requests into their associations and speech (see here and here for the relevant briefs). Through either interrogatories or document requests, the NYPD seeks the names of all members, donors, or attendees of a charity’s events; the name of every congregant intimidated by NYPD surveillance at a mosque; and all of plaintiffs’ communications concerning “terrorism,” “jihad,” “the war in Afghanistan,” or “current events.” Forcing plaintiffs to identify individuals fearful of government surveillance or disclose years of core religious and political speech would plainly subject them, and their members, to the very chilling effects that the lawsuit seeks to alleviate. The discovery requests here call to mind employers’ attempts to discover the immigration status of workers challenging unfair employment practices, which courts have rejected as crippling immigrants’ ability to bring civil rights claims.

For students in the Gaming Club.
Buying the next generation of coders: Microsoft’s Minecraft gamble
When the news broke last night that Microsoft was in negotiations to buy Minecraft creators Mojang for $2 billion, people quickly started asking "why would Microsoft buy another gaming company?"
… The software industry agrees that we don't know where the next generation of programmers is coming from. School courses focus more on using apps and building web pages than on the fundamentals of writing code, and where they do, they skirt the deep understanding good programmers need.
Microsoft has often been accused of losing an entire generation of developers to the web and to open source (though it's been quick to adopt those technologies in its development tools and platforms, either directly or through its Visual Studio integration program). Its response to criticism has been interesting, with the release of free versions of Visual Studio and an intriguing focus on the gamification of programming.

Free is good! Knowing a bit about the history of an industry makes the contrast with today's world all the more interesting. A few years ago, Baen Publishing made one of their older books available for free download from their website. Sales of the printed books went up. Since then they have made dozens of books available and even include CDs with the collected works of the author in some of their books. They seem to be prospering.
Publishers Gave Away over 120 Million Books During World War II
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on Sep 10, 2014
And, in the process, they created a nation of readers, Yoni Applebaum, The Atlantic: “In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, America’s book publishers took an audacious gamble. They decided to sell the armed forces cheap paperbacks, shipped to units scattered around the globe. Instead of printing only the books soldiers and sailors actually wanted to read, though, publishers decided to send them the best they had to offer. Over the next four years, publishers gave away 122,951,031 copies of their most valuable titles. “Some of the publishers think that their business is going to be ruined,” the prominent broadcaster H. V. Kaltenborn told his audience in 1944. “But I make this prediction. America’s publishers have cooperated in an experiment that will for the first time make us a nation of book readers.” He was absolutely right. From small Pacific islands to sprawling European depots, soldiers discovered the addictive delights of good books. By giving away the best it had to offer, the publishing industry created a vastly larger market for its wares. More importantly, it also democratized the pleasures of reading, making literature, poetry, and history available to all. Serious books were hard to find before the war. An industry study in 1931highlighted the book trade’s limited audience. Nineteen out of every 20 books sold by the major publishing houses cost more than two dollars, a luxury even before the Depression. Those who could afford them often struggled to find them. Two out of three counties in America lacked any bookstore, or even so much as a department store, drugstore, or other retailer selling enough books to have an account with a publishing house. In rural areas, small towns, and even mid-sized cities, dedicated customers bought their books the way they bought other household goods, picking the titles out of mail-order catalogs. Most did not bother. There was another, less-reputable class of books, though, that enjoyed broader distribution. Cheap mysteries, westerns, and comics could be snapped up at newsstands in paperbound editions that cost far less to produce than hardcover books. Throughout the 1920s and ’30s, publishers tried to take advantage of this format to publish a wider range of books. Most efforts failed. Then, in 1939, two new entrants changed the equation. Pocket Books and Penguin Books each offered a mix of new titles and reprints of hardcover books, including some of a literary bent. More importantly, they sold these paperback books on magazine racks. Americans could put down a quarter and pick up a book all over town, from train stations and drugstores. Within a year, Americans bought 6 million paperback books. By 1943, Pocket Books alone printed 38 million copies.”

(Related) So, how did this happen?
Millennials Are Out-Reading Older Generations
… Millennials, like each generation that was young before them, tend to attract all kinds of ire from their elders for being superficial, self-obsessed, anti-intellectuals. But a study out today from the Pew Research Center offers some vindication for the younger set. Millennials are reading more books than the over-30 crowd, Pew found in a survey of more than 6,000 Americans.
… Overall, Americans are buying more books than they borrow, the study found. Among those who read at least one book in the past year, more than half said they tend to purchase books rather than borrow them. Fewer Americans are visiting libraries than in recent years, but more Americans are using library websites.

Interesting. Probably better for images that long quotes.
Save SlideShare Presentations as Animated GIFs
A new web called GIFDeck helps you convert any presentation hosted on SlideShare into an animated GIF file. All you have to do is specify the deck URL and the app will fetch the individual slides as images and stitches them all together in a single GIF that will auto-play and auto-loop.

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