Archive for the ‘ Internet ’ Category

The Sermon on the Internet

Schneier on Security

We no longer have things with computers embedded in them. We have computers with things attached to them.

The Internet is no longer a web that we connect to. Instead, it’s a computerized, networked, and interconnected world that we live in. This is the future, and what we’re calling the Internet of Things.

You can think of the sensors as the eyes and ears of the Internet. You can think of the actuators as the hands and feet of the Internet. And you can think of the stuff in the middle as the brain. We are building an Internet that senses, thinks, and acts.

This is the classic definition of a robot. We’re building a world-size robot, and we don’t even realize it


This guy lays it on the line. He only misses one thing – no one is listening to him – or only a few are. What he is saying is complicated – compared to the Sermon on the Mount, that was so simple, anyone could understand it.

I want to understand the Computer – and spend time everyday on this task. I have only learned one thing for sure – Computers are complicated.

Asking our stone-age minds to understand them is asking for a lot – but I have such a mind, as do Software Developers. All of us have to shift into another world – yet another one! And I know we can do it.

I have put this on the top of my reading list – and I am going to read it if it kills me!

The Internet of Things (IOT)

I learned about this when I installed my Amazon Echo Dot. I never use it, and don’t recommend it. But it showed me one way the IOT can work.

The Internet of Things is the hottest new thing in the Computer World – and some people practically pee in their pants they are so excited about it. Now you can adjust the temperature of your house, remotely – if you have a smart thermostat.

The Echo Dot installs itself on a local network that is connected to the Internet by your computer. It can then send messages anywhere it wants and can receive messages from anywhere it wants. This could make it smarter – but it only makes it able to buy more stuff – from Amazon, of course.

The IOT is creating a huge security problem – with rogue devices able to do anything they please. And nobody is doing anything about this.

I am buying a new digital camera that is WiFi enabled. What on earth does this mean? It might mean that Cannon, who makes it, can see how well it works, as I use it – and even install updates to its software automatically. I would have no objection to this.

But I would like to know it is doing this, and be kept informed as it goes along. Microsoft does this with my Windows computer – every so often it does an update of its software.

People should shut down their computers every night and then restart them in the morning. But they do not do this – and wonder why their computers don’t work very well.

You gotta take care of your Computer, so it can take care of you.

Learning Linux as Part of a Loosely-Linked System

Linux is a computer operating system like Windows, an operating system from Microsoft. These operating systems tie everything together – all the hardware on your computer (the keyboard, the mouse, the display, the hard disk) and everything on Internet and Wireless networks – in short,  everything.

That they can do this is amazing – so amazing most people cannot believe they are working away quietly in the background – linking everything in the world together. They still live in the world before the Computer – and cannot grasp what effect the Computer (and its networks) has had on them.

But I am different – I want to understand what is going on – and that means what is going on in the Computer world. So I am studying Linux, an operating system superior to Windows – that is used by many more computers in the world – because it is better, and it is free.

But to study it, I really need to get my hands on it, and play with it. I need another computer that uses Linux. I have an Android, a smartphone operating system built on Linux – but that’s not the same thing.

No problem! There are tiny computers, such as the Raspberry Pi – that run on Linux. And they can easily be connected to my Windows computer – and from there to the Internet – in short, to everywhere!

This is the advantage of loosely-linked devices – something else new on the scene. An analogy would be people, and their ability to communicate using language. Every individual has its own life – but is loosely-linked to other people.

So the overall result – a culture – operates as a system of its own. The loose linkage allows for independent action – but not too much independence.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

I listen to the Computer Industry gossip. And one thing I have been hearing about, over and over – is IoT. But I didn’t pay much attention to it – what’s so unusual about some new Internet users, even if they are things? Big Deal.

But gradually I have been getting used to the idea – and now that I have played around with some of these things – I can see its advantages.

My first thing was a Raspberry Pi – which, like all of them, uses a chip developed by smartphone manufacturers to do its general-purpose processing – a computer on a chip. But instead of surrounding that chip with some useful hardware – an audio jack for playing music, a microphone, cameras and a touch-sensitive display – all it has are ports where you can add these yourself. The Raspberry only costs 40 dollars, but the extra stuff can cost hundreds. And you can end up with wires running all over the place, connecting everything together.

Only to discover that my Pi doesn’t produce any video. Next month, when my Social Security paycheck comes, I will buy a new one, and reassemble the whole mess. I have been spoiled by semiconductors. Back in the Fifties we had vacuum tubes that were not very reliable, and lot of wires you had to solder together. Now we have chips with thousands of parts in them, all built at the same time, by some magical process they call a Silicon Foundry.

My next thing will be a Tessel 2 – which functions as an IoT device. It doesn’t do much itself – but it can tell other devices, anywhere on the Web, to do whatever needs to be done. It does have special ports where you can plug in little circuit boards that can detect all kinds of things  – sounds, lights and temperature, for example. It functions as an input device, not an output device. The rest is done elsewhere, heavens knows where, by other things it can talk to.

The Deceitful Web

The Internet was not designed to facilitate honesty.

Now, after it has grown to be much larger than its designers anticipated, and used for more things than its designers ever anticipated – some of its faults are becoming clear. And a redesign is necessary.

It must be redesigned to enforce honesty. This would solve a huge number of problems – and make illegal behavior much more difficult. Why isn’t this being done? Because people (important people) don’t want it done.

They want to hide there and function unnoticed. And make the economy advantageous to them, and not others. The want to spy on everyone, without anyone spying on them. They want dishonesty on a global scale. Which is easy the way the Internet is set up now.

The solution – make sure everyone who uses the Web is clearly identified. This will not be easy, organizations of all kinds have become skilled at hiding who they are. But rule should be – anyone (or anything) on the Web is legally responsible for what they do there.

Can this be done? Not very well, because of national boundaries. China, for example, is busy getting American secrets (quite easily) – and America is trying to get theirs (not very successfully).

Everyone is stealing information from everyone else. And everyone wants this to continue.

A redesign of the Web will not stop this – it will only solve the smaller problem of honesty of the Web.

But it’s a step in the right direction.

Unisys on AWS

I clicked on this promotion video yesterday, and it encouraged me to look the company up on Wikipedia. The company history is complicated, as you can see, and it had to scramble to stay in business.

It now employs fewer people than it once did – and this is typical of the industry. To succeed there, you have to run fast, and learn new skills constantly. Lots of people (such as me) drop out, and are forgotten.

Unisys is moving to the Cloud, and has chosen AWS as its Cloud provider – a smart move.

Social Media: Destroyer or Creator?

NY Times

Over the last few years we’ve been treated to a number of “Facebook revolutions,” from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street to the squares of Istanbul, Kiev and Hong Kong, all fueled by social media. But once the smoke cleared, most of these revolutions failed to build any sustainable new political order, in part because as so many voices got amplified, consensus-building became impossible.

Question: Does it turn out that social media is better at breaking things than at making things?

Recently, an important voice answered this question with a big “ yes.” That voice was Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google employee whose anonymous Facebook page helped to launch the Tahrir Square revolution in early 2011 that toppled President Hosni Mubarak — but then failed to give birth to a true democratic alternative.
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I am also reading Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up. An excellent discussion of the subject.

The Times article is shorter, more succinct, and more personal.