Bad and Good News on the “just give me your password” front

I’ve written about how it’s a really bad idea to have web sites asking for your gmail password, “just to load your contacts!” I like the name Jeremy Keith gave it: the Password Anti-Pattern. Sure, Facebook likely isn’t going to do naughty things with your data, but once you’re used to giving sites your gmail password, then you might fall for this: I was looking for a way to back up my gmail account to a local drive. I’ve accumulated a mass of important information that I would rather not lose. During my search I came across G-Archiver, I figured … Continue reading Bad and Good News on the “just give me your password” front

DRM is about control more than anti-piracy

I’m a big fan of Apple. However, they just announced a new offering that, although small in scope, seems to be a big departure from their usual approach, and it worries me. They announced that, for an extra 99 cents, you can take a song and turn it into a ringtone for the Apple iPhone. Some people are already asking “wait, why 99 cents more when I’ve already paid for the song?” Here’s an explanation by Phil Schiller, VP at Apple: Well, we’ve worked with content owners to make sure that the content that you purchase a ringtone for has … Continue reading DRM is about control more than anti-piracy

Paths of Causality

It turns out, there is a gene that predisposes to left-handedness. Fascinating stuff. But this is the kind of article where you wish you could ask more questions: Australian research published last year found left-handed people can think quicker when carrying out tasks such as playing computer games or playing sport. interesting! And French researchers concluded that being left-handed could be an advantage in hand-to-hand combat. First of all, that sounds like a cool study. But wait a minute, the implication here is that being left-handed somehow means your brain is different, and this modified brain makes you better at … Continue reading Paths of Causality

Advertising Controlled Substances

Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, has just started a blog. I’m impressed and, given my interest in health technology, I didn’t hesitate long to add this blog to my newsreader. This should be fascinating. That said, my first comment is a bit tangential to Paul’s post regarding a Medtronic ad and its effectiveness. Paul says, in passing: First, I am a capitalist, and I believe that firms and hospitals and others have a right to advertise, subject to normal societal rules about content and accuracy. So, you won’t find me saying that ads of … Continue reading Advertising Controlled Substances

The End of Bananas

For some reason, I’m fascinated by a story I’ve been following for a few months: bananas as we know them may disappear in 10 years: Two fungal diseases, Panama disease and black Sigatoka, are cutting a swath through banana plantations, just as blight once devastated potato crops. But unlike the potato, and other crops where disease-resistant strains can be bred by conventional means, making a fungus-free variety of the banana is extraordinarily difficult. As it turns out, all bananas are the same genetically: they’re all cuttings from one original plant, and they’re almost all infertile (where are the seeds? Eh?). … Continue reading The End of Bananas


For the past few days, and today more so than before, I’ve been in complete disbelief over the detainees bill pushed by President Bush. I can’t believe McCain caved. I can’t believe Democrats are thinking of not standing up to this. This bill would allow the President to detain someone without proof, torture them, and convict them using evidence obtained during this torture. If you’re a Republican, now is when you need to snap out of it. This is insane. This is un-American. This is the kind of thing you expect to see happen in movies. This is a complete … Continue reading Disbelief

Yeeeehah, the Thesis, she is done.

My PhD thesis is complete (250 pages of crypto voting goodness). It’s been one crazy month of August! In the process, I’ve updated my publications and presentations pages to reflect new work: thesis defense slides, Scratch & Vote final version, presentation slides on Privacy at the Media Lab’s Simplicity conference, How to Shuffle in Public, the latest draft of Public Mixing. And now, I’m a postdoc fellow at Harvard’s Center for Research on Computation and Society. And so it continues….. Continue reading Yeeeehah, the Thesis, she is done.


Zidane Originally uploaded by Kaptain Kobold. I am truly stunned by Zidane’s headbutt in today’s World Cup final, just a few minutes ago. One of the most shocking moments of bad sportsmanship I’ve ever seen. As a frenchman, I was enjoying the game until then, hoping for a France win. From that moment on, I wanted the Italians to win. I’m glad they did. Update: My choice of photo might give one the impression that I’m trying to minimize what happened. I’m not, it just seemed so unreal that this was, in my mind, the best photo. Continue reading Stunned

Freakonomics could use some CC

The Freakonomics guys find it interesting that some guy downloaded their book from a P2P network and now wants to send them money. They lecture him about the publisher/distributor costs, etc… How about, instead, realizing that there’s an interesting development here: lots of people will pay after they’ve sampled the content if they find it useful. That’s what folks publishing books under CC licenses have found, like Cory Doctorow. A message to Steven and Stephen, if they ever stumble upon this lowly little blog: studying the emergence of the Creative Commons economy seems like a much more forward-thinking response than … Continue reading Freakonomics could use some CC