Posts tagged with ‘tech’

Attack on Tor Has Likely Stripped Users of Anonymity →

Via Gizmodo:

Tor, the network used specifically for privacy and anonymity, just warned users of an attack meant to deanonymize people on the service. Anyone who used Tor from February 2014 through this July 4 can assume they were impacted.

Who’s behind the attacks? It appears researchers from Carnegie Mellon. Via The Verge:

The Tor team suspects the CERT division of Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute (SEI). Earlier this month, CERT abruptly canceled a Black Hat conference talk called “You Don’t Have to be the NSA to Break Tor: Deanonymizing Users on a Budget.” The NSA has famously attempted to break Tor, to limited success.

So what’s the big deal?: If it was the team from CERT, consider the attack a proof of concept. If they can get in, so to can more malicious actors. According to The Guardian, the CERT talk at the Black Hat conference would explain “how anyone with $3,000 could de-anonymise users of Tor.”

Somewhat related: US Government increases funding for Tor, via The Guardian.

Tor, the internet anonymiser, received more than $1.8m in funding from the US government in 2013, even while the NSA was reportedly trying to destroy the network.

According to the Tor Project’s latest annual financial statements, the organisation received $1,822,907 from the US government in 2013. The bulk of that came in the form of “pass-through” grants, money which ultimately comes from the US government distributed through some independent third-party.

Sorta Somewhat Related, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Back in January, Reuters reported that the NSA funneled $10 million to RSA, a computer security firm whose encryption tools are an industry standard. The Reuters report indicates that the funding helped ensure that a less secure encryption system was used as the default setting in an RSA “software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products.”

World War I Technology
Via The Atlantic:

When Europe’s armies first marched to war in 1914, some were still carrying lances on horseback. By the end of the war, rapid-fire guns, aerial bombardment, armored vehicle attacks, and chemical weapon deployments were commonplace. Any romantic notion of warfare was bluntly shoved aside by the advent of chlorine gas, massive explosive shells that could have been fired from more than 20 miles away, and machine guns that spat out bullets like firehoses. Each side did its best to build on existing technology, or invent new methods, hoping to gain any advantage over the enemy. Massive listening devices gave them ears in the sky, armored vehicles made them impervious to small arms fire, tanks could (most of the time) cruise right over barbed wire and trenches, telephones and heliographs let them speak across vast distances, and airplanes gave them new platforms to rain death on each other from above. New scientific work resulted in more lethal explosives, new tactics made old offensive methods obsolete, and mass-produced killing machines made soldiers both more powerful and more vulnerable.

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I. Earlier this year, The Atlantic ran a 10-part series of photo essays on different aspects of the war.
Image: “American troops using a newly-developed acoustic locator, mounted on a wheeled platform. The large horns amplified distant sounds, monitored through headphones worn by a crew member, who could direct the platform to move and pinpoint distant enemy aircraft.” Via The Atlantic. Select to embiggen.

World War I Technology

Via The Atlantic:

When Europe’s armies first marched to war in 1914, some were still carrying lances on horseback. By the end of the war, rapid-fire guns, aerial bombardment, armored vehicle attacks, and chemical weapon deployments were commonplace. Any romantic notion of warfare was bluntly shoved aside by the advent of chlorine gas, massive explosive shells that could have been fired from more than 20 miles away, and machine guns that spat out bullets like firehoses. Each side did its best to build on existing technology, or invent new methods, hoping to gain any advantage over the enemy. Massive listening devices gave them ears in the sky, armored vehicles made them impervious to small arms fire, tanks could (most of the time) cruise right over barbed wire and trenches, telephones and heliographs let them speak across vast distances, and airplanes gave them new platforms to rain death on each other from above. New scientific work resulted in more lethal explosives, new tactics made old offensive methods obsolete, and mass-produced killing machines made soldiers both more powerful and more vulnerable.

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I. Earlier this year, The Atlantic ran a 10-part series of photo essays on different aspects of the war.

Image: “American troops using a newly-developed acoustic locator, mounted on a wheeled platform. The large horns amplified distant sounds, monitored through headphones worn by a crew member, who could direct the platform to move and pinpoint distant enemy aircraft.” Via The Atlantic. Select to embiggen.

Yes There is a Chrome Extension That Makes Reading the News More Fun 
The extension’s here. The code is here.
The original xkcd comic is here.

Yes There is a Chrome Extension That Makes Reading the News More Fun 

The extension’s here. The code is here.

The original xkcd comic is here.

What Writer's Block? Swedish Man and His Bot Have Authored 2.7 Million Wikipedia Articles →

Via The Wall Street Journal:

Sverker Johansson could be the most prolific author you’ve never heard of.

Volunteering his time over the past seven years publishing to Wikipedia, the 53-year-old Swede can take credit for 2.7 million articles, or 8.5% of the entire collection, according to Wikimedia analytics, which measures the site’s traffic. His stats far outpace any other user, the group says.

He has been particularly prolific cataloging obscure animal species, including butterflies and beetles, and is proud of his work highlighting towns in the Philippines. About one-third of his entries are uploaded to the Swedish language version of Wikipedia, and the rest are composed in two versions of Filipino, one of which is his wife’s native tongue.

An administrator holding degrees in linguistics, civil engineering, economics and particle physics, he says he has long been interested in “the origin of things, oh, everything.”

It isn’t uncommon, however, for Wikipedia purists to complain about his method. That is because the bulk of his entries have been created by a computer software program—known as a bot. Critics say bots crowd out the creativity only humans can generate.

Mr. Johansson’s program scrubs databases and other digital sources for information, and then packages it into an article. On a good day, he says his “Lsjbot” creates up to 10,000 new entries.

That’s one way to go about it. Some Wikipedia editors aren’t happy it though.

Hacking Politics with Browser Extensions & Twitter Bots
Sixteen-year-old Nick Rubin created a browser extension that shows who’s funding US politicians. Called Greenhouse, the extension pulls data from OpenSecrets.org so that when reading a story you can mouse over politicians’ names to get a quick overview of what industries have donated to them. Additional data pulled from Reform.to shows if the politician supports campaign finance reform.
Over in the political satire corner of the Web, this Chrome Extension will play Entry of the Gladiators when an article about Toronto mayor Rob Ford loads in your browser. Entry of the Gladiators? You might know it better as the clown song that’s played at the circus. Sounds like this.
Meantime, two bots on Twitter are fighting the transparency fight.
One, @PhrmaEdits, tweets whenever anonymous edits to Wikipedia are made that can be traced back to a pharmaceutical’s IP address. The bot is based on @CongressEdits by Ed Summers, that does the same.
As Summers explains on his personal site, the idea behind @CongressEdits has gone international:

The simplicity of combining Wikipedia and Twitter in this way immediately struck me as a potentially useful transparency tool. So using my experience on a previous side project I quickly put together a short program that listens to all major language Wikipedias for anonymous edits from Congressional IP address ranges… and tweets them.
In less than 48 hours the @congressedits Twitter account had more than 3,000 followers. My friend Nick set up gccaedits for Canada using the same software … and @wikiAssemblee (France) and @RiksdagWikiEdit (Sweden) were quick to follow.

Image: Best Web Browser Extension by I Can Barely Draw. Select to embiggen.

Hacking Politics with Browser Extensions & Twitter Bots

Sixteen-year-old Nick Rubin created a browser extension that shows who’s funding US politicians. Called Greenhouse, the extension pulls data from OpenSecrets.org so that when reading a story you can mouse over politicians’ names to get a quick overview of what industries have donated to them. Additional data pulled from Reform.to shows if the politician supports campaign finance reform.

Over in the political satire corner of the Web, this Chrome Extension will play Entry of the Gladiators when an article about Toronto mayor Rob Ford loads in your browser. Entry of the Gladiators? You might know it better as the clown song that’s played at the circus. Sounds like this.

Meantime, two bots on Twitter are fighting the transparency fight.

One, @PhrmaEdits, tweets whenever anonymous edits to Wikipedia are made that can be traced back to a pharmaceutical’s IP address. The bot is based on @CongressEdits by Ed Summers, that does the same.

As Summers explains on his personal site, the idea behind @CongressEdits has gone international:

The simplicity of combining Wikipedia and Twitter in this way immediately struck me as a potentially useful transparency tool. So using my experience on a previous side project I quickly put together a short program that listens to all major language Wikipedias for anonymous edits from Congressional IP address ranges… and tweets them.

In less than 48 hours the @congressedits Twitter account had more than 3,000 followers. My friend Nick set up gccaedits for Canada using the same software … and @wikiAssemblee (France) and @RiksdagWikiEdit (Sweden) were quick to follow.

Image: Best Web Browser Extension by I Can Barely Draw. Select to embiggen.

The Robots are Coming, Part 132
First, some background, via Kevin Roose at New York Magazine:

Earlier this week, one of my business-beat colleagues got assigned to recap the quarterly earnings of Alcoa, the giant metals company, for the Associated Press. The reporter’s story began: “Alcoa Inc. (AA) on Tuesday reported a second-quarter profit of $138 million, reversing a year-ago loss, and the results beat analysts’ expectation. The company reported strong results in its engineered-products business, which makes parts for industrial customers, while looking to cut costs in its aluminum-smelting segment.”
It may not have been the most artful start to a story, but it got the point across, with just enough background information for a casual reader to make sense of it. Not bad. The most impressive part, though, was how long the story took to produce: less than a second.

If you’re into robots and algorithms writing the news, the article’s worth the read. It’s optimistic, asserting that in contexts like earnings reports, sports roundups and the like, the automation frees journalists for more mindful work such as analyzing what those earning reports actually mean
With 300 million robot-driven stories produced last year – more than all media outlets in the world combined, according to Roose – and an estimated billion stories in store for 2014, that’s a lot of freed up time to cast our minds elsewhere.
Besides, as Roose explains, “The stories that today’s robots can write are, frankly, the kinds of stories that humans hate writing anyway.”
More interesting, and more troubling, are the ethics behind algorithmically driven articles. Slate’s Nicholas Diakopoulos tried to tackle this question in April when he asked how we can incorporate robots into our news gathering with a level of expected transparency needed in today’s media environment. Part of his solution is understanding what he calls the “tuning criteria,” or the inherent biases, that are used to make editorial decisions when algorithms direct the news.
Here’s something else to chew on. Back to Roose:

Robot-generated stories aren’t all fill-in-the-blank jobs; the more advanced algorithms use things like perspective, tone, and humor to tailor a story to its audience. A robot recapping a basketball game, for example, might be able to produce two versions of a story using the same data: one upbeat story that reads as if a fan of the winning team had written it; and another glum version written from the loser’s perspective.

Apply this concept to a holy grail of startups and legacy organizations alike: customizing and personalizing the news just for you. Will future robots feed us a feel-good, meat and potatoes partisan diet of news based on the same sort behavioral tracking the ad industry uses to deliver advertising. With the time and cost of producing multiple stories from the same data sets approaching zero, it’s not difficult to imagine a news site deciding that they’ll serve different versions of the same story based on perceived political affiliations.
That’s a conundrum. One more worth exploring than whether an algorithm can give us a few paragraphs on who’s nominated for the next awards show.
Want more robots? Visit our Robots Tag.
Image: Twitter post, via @hanelly.

The Robots are Coming, Part 132

First, some background, via Kevin Roose at New York Magazine:

Earlier this week, one of my business-beat colleagues got assigned to recap the quarterly earnings of Alcoa, the giant metals company, for the Associated Press. The reporter’s story began: “Alcoa Inc. (AA) on Tuesday reported a second-quarter profit of $138 million, reversing a year-ago loss, and the results beat analysts’ expectation. The company reported strong results in its engineered-products business, which makes parts for industrial customers, while looking to cut costs in its aluminum-smelting segment.”

It may not have been the most artful start to a story, but it got the point across, with just enough background information for a casual reader to make sense of it. Not bad. The most impressive part, though, was how long the story took to produce: less than a second.

If you’re into robots and algorithms writing the news, the article’s worth the read. It’s optimistic, asserting that in contexts like earnings reports, sports roundups and the like, the automation frees journalists for more mindful work such as analyzing what those earning reports actually mean

With 300 million robot-driven stories produced last year – more than all media outlets in the world combined, according to Roose – and an estimated billion stories in store for 2014, that’s a lot of freed up time to cast our minds elsewhere.

Besides, as Roose explains, “The stories that today’s robots can write are, frankly, the kinds of stories that humans hate writing anyway.”

More interesting, and more troubling, are the ethics behind algorithmically driven articles. Slate’s Nicholas Diakopoulos tried to tackle this question in April when he asked how we can incorporate robots into our news gathering with a level of expected transparency needed in today’s media environment. Part of his solution is understanding what he calls the “tuning criteria,” or the inherent biases, that are used to make editorial decisions when algorithms direct the news.

Here’s something else to chew on. Back to Roose:

Robot-generated stories aren’t all fill-in-the-blank jobs; the more advanced algorithms use things like perspective, tone, and humor to tailor a story to its audience. A robot recapping a basketball game, for example, might be able to produce two versions of a story using the same data: one upbeat story that reads as if a fan of the winning team had written it; and another glum version written from the loser’s perspective.

Apply this concept to a holy grail of startups and legacy organizations alike: customizing and personalizing the news just for you. Will future robots feed us a feel-good, meat and potatoes partisan diet of news based on the same sort behavioral tracking the ad industry uses to deliver advertising. With the time and cost of producing multiple stories from the same data sets approaching zero, it’s not difficult to imagine a news site deciding that they’ll serve different versions of the same story based on perceived political affiliations.

That’s a conundrum. One more worth exploring than whether an algorithm can give us a few paragraphs on who’s nominated for the next awards show.

Want more robots? Visit our Robots Tag.

Image: Twitter post, via @hanelly.

Premium Domains
H/T: @charliejane

Premium Domains

H/T: @charliejane

GoPro + Drone + Fireworks = One Amazing Video

Via Jos Stiglingh.

The Better-Than-Starter Video Kit →

For all those who have Q’d us about where to start with gear, here’s an excellent set of tools recommended by the Director of Digital Media at Columbia J-School.

duylinhtu:

My video students at Columbia Journalism School are trained on the Canon C100.  It is a great camera, but the $5K+ price tag makes it impossible for most to purchase one for themselves.  Also, that figure does not include microphones, tripods, and other accessories necessary to produce professional-quality video.

With some compromises in ergonomics and picture quality, the list of gear below should be an affordable alternative for any video student or recent grad.  This gear will give you high-quality visuals, clean sound, and reliable stabilization.  I hesitate to call this a starter kit, as you can shoot a feature documentary with this set up.

Camera:  The conventional wisdom with video gear is to invest in lenses and peripherals.  These items will last you years, while cameras get updated and replaced constantly.  I still recommend DSLRs for video journalists starting out.  They are cheap.  Their sensors are big, the low-light performance is fantastic, and they double as great stills cameras (ironically, an often overlooked benefit).  I have years of experience with Canon gear, so I recommend their products.  But Sony, Panasonic, and others all offer up great solutions.  Shop around.  This is a great time to buy.

I recommend two entry-level DSLRs to my students.  The Canon T5i w/ EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens and the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 w/  EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens.  The T5i has a flip-out screen, but the SL1 is smaller.  In terms of image quality, they are the same.  My SL1 is so small that I can comfortably carry it with me everywhere I go.

If you can afford it, I recommend getting the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens.  This is my go-to lens for all my documentary work.  It is pricey, but it is a great investment.  You will grow with this lens.  If you do purchase the 24-105, be sure to get the Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR Camera (Body Only) or Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR Camera (Body Only) to save some money.

Do not forget to buy some extra batteries for your shoots.  You can go for the more expensive Canon option or save some money going with a third-party brand.  And be sure to get protective filters for your lenses:  the Tiffen 58mm UV Protector Filter for the kit lens or the Tiffen 77mm UV Protector Filter for the 24-105 lens.

Audio:  The most important part of producing great video is getting great audio.  Audio gear can be very expensive and there are many options on the market.  But the gear below was specifically designed to work with DSLRs.  This set up will transform your DSLR into a fully-functioning video camera:  

Your mics go into the DR-60D and then that signal is fed into the camera.  Or, when you really want to just go small and stealth, the Rode VideoMic Pro can plug directly into your DSLR (as pictured above).  Also, the Tascam DR-60D can be used alone as a great field audio recorder.

My most expensive audio recommendation is the Sony ECM-77B - Lavalier Microphone.  This is the microphone I use for all my interviews.  It plugs directly into the DR-60D.  There are much cheaper lav mics available, but IMHO, the low audio quality is not worth the savings.

Support:  You need a good tripod and monopod to get steady shots.  Tripods go from super cheap to insanely expensive.  I recommend spending a little more now for gear that will last you years.  I always shoot with the Manfrotto Fluid Monopod with 500 Series Head and Manfrotto MVH500AH Fluid Head & 755XB Tripod.  They are not the cheapest options, but you will have them for years.

Accessories:  Be sure to get enough memory cards for your shoots.  And invest in the Pelican 0915 Memory Card Case to store your precious footage.

I hope this list helps.

Happy shooting,

Duy

Staring at Screens
katiecouric:

Glass: How much time the world spends staring at screens

FJP — And via Quartz, with some context.

As we’ve argued, media are best understood as a competition for attention on glass-panelled devices connected to the internet. Phones, tablets, PCs, television sets—it’s all just glass. But, of course, it does matter what kinds of glass are attracting more attention.

Having said that, let’s not forget that in the majority of the world it’s radio, not glass, that remains king.

Staring at Screens

katiecouric:

Glass: How much time the world spends staring at screens

FJP — And via Quartz, with some context.

As we’ve argued, media are best understood as a competition for attention on glass-panelled devices connected to the internet. Phones, tablets, PCs, television sets—it’s all just glass. But, of course, it does matter what kinds of glass are attracting more attention.

Having said that, let’s not forget that in the majority of the world it’s radio, not glass, that remains king.

Most programming doesn’t require a special brain, but it’s more frustrating and messier than anyone lets on. There are thousands of enthusiastic blog posts, classes and apps that aim to entice you with the promise of a slick, unequivocal procedure for learning to code. They rarely mention the tedium of getting your environment set up (which, trust me, even the nicest of your programmer friends don’t want to help you with, because that stuff is mad frustrating and nobody remembers how they did it).

They don’t tell you that a lot of programming skill is about developing a knack for asking the right questions on Google and knowing which code is best to copy-paste. And they don’t let you in on a big secret: that there is no mastery, there is no final level. The anxiety of feeling lost and stupid is not something you learn to conquer, but something you learn to live with.

— Kate Ray, Technical Cofounder, Scroll Kit. TechCrunch, Don’t Believe Anyone Who Tells You Learning To Code Is Easy.

When Beatles Fans Develop Software
Via TUAW.

When Beatles Fans Develop Software

Via TUAW.

How Far We’ve Come: Some Old-Timey Digital Cameras

1975 (top): Kodak creates the world’s first digital camera. Resolution is .01 megapixels. That’s 100x100 pixels for those keeping track at home.

1991 (left): Nikon body meets Kodak digital sensors in the Kodak Digital Camera System. Resolution’s now up to 1524x 1012 pixels. Price tag starts at $20,000 (approximately $33,700 when adjusted for inflation). 

1997 and 2000 (right): Sony releases two cameras. The one on the left shoots at .3 megapixels (640x480) and saves to a 3.5” floppy disc. The one on the right shoots at 1.92 megapixels (1600x1200) and saves to mini CD-R discs.

Images: Looking back at 35 years of the digital camera, via Macworld. Select to embiggen.

That Giant Vacuum Sound is the Internet Doing Internet Things

Via The Atlantic

But what does [the Internet] actually sound like? How do you hear the cloud? The sound artist Matt Parker has been, on behalf of the rest of us, finding out. Parker has been touring data centers—the physical grounds of the ephemeral cloud—and recording the results, painstakingly compiling a collection of the audible Internet. He has also been converting the raw recordings of those data centers into sound compositions that are equal parts haunting an ethereal—musical renderings of the great churn of an Internet whose workings are otherwise silent to us. 

The goal of the project, as Parker told the blog Cities and Memory, is to “remind people that whilst their phones might be sat silently in their pockets, somewhere out there, a huge hive of hard drives and fans is spinning around frantically; managing our digital identities.” 

You can listen to a remix of the above here.