Category Archives: 6 ICT

The Cloud Problem

When people started referring to the internet as the cloud, it was more confusing than helpful.  Well, it helped some tech companies market themselves by creating a kind of insiders’ cachet of people who knew what the cloud was, but it created the delusion that the cloud was something different than the world wide web, the internet.

The term “the cloud” is a gimmicky and confusing way of describing the idea of having access to resources elsewhere on the internet via your device (PC, phone, tablet etc).  A decade ago it was already common for people to download files from websites – that was using the cloud.  People working in companies with internal networks could login to their office server from home in order to access their files – that was using the cloud.

As the “cloud” terminology started to be hyped by tech companies services like file sharing and storage began to be marketed with clever names and fancy adverts.  There was no new special cloudish technology but new packaging and marketing of certain capabilities of the web.  Well that’s OK if it helps people use the internet more easily.

But the dynamic has changed.  Continue reading The Cloud Problem

System change, social media and your choices.

drowningworldcarCOP21 comes to a close as the wind howls and Jaspar’s rugby game is cancelled because so much water fell on the pitch last night.  Climate change is great, but it’s not good.  I love the warmer weather so here in Ireland it’s almost as warm as Hong Kong in the winter; you can go jogging and enjoy the breeze.  But the volatility of weather is a symptom of broken systems.  Both civilisation and nature.

The consequences for the breakdown of nature and civilisation will be different.  Nature will change – once nature was a burning ball in space, now it’s a paradise become decadent and failing.  Civilisation will simply disappear – and might never come back.

For some the idea that the human systems are dysfunctional and the weight of humanity is crushing nature is familiar.  For many of them, it is a new realisation and the response reflects where they come from: community driven people tend to activism, strategic operators tend to business solutions, organisers tend to regulation, and so on. For a few the notion of integral solutions is a dawning awareness.

Hand holding a Social Media 3d Sphere sign on white background.All of these people are connected by social organisation and media.  We all communicate with each other and ideas circulate quickly as nuggets of information on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, websites, journals, TV shows,  … We tend to communicate with like minded people.  It is not easy to cross over.  But the filtering of from one group to another happens because in each of our circle of family and friends there are always a few “strange ones” who bring unfamiliar concepts to the conversation.  (I might fit that description for many of my family and peers!)

Social media allows this cross-fertilisation of ideas and it reveals the homogeneity of your group of friends.  Who shares ideas about politics, art, religion, business, .. and so on?

COP21marchWhile there has been a great deal of activity related to COP21, it has been predominantly among the same people:  People who want to see system change, or people who have a vested interest in things staying as they are.

The outcome of COP21 is not going to be remarkable.  Sadly, the depth and breadth of understanding among leaders, and followers, is shallow and narrow.  For example, even I was a little stunned, on the way back from picking Richard up from the airport, to calculate that we had released a quarter of  his body weight of 60 odd kilos in CO2.

gas_balloon_scaleA litre of fuel releases between 0.6 and 0.7 kg of carbon, which grabs another two molecules of oxygen to make carbon di-oxide, bringing the weight to around 1.8 kg.  So for a 150 km round trip at 45 mpg (15.8 km/litre) we needed 150/15.8 or 9.5 litres which create 17 kilos of CO2.  Just that one event produced nearly the same weight of CO2 as you find in a bag of cement.  It’s heavy!  And it’s just one event on one day.

So even people like me can be stunned by the challenges we face.

The problem nature faces has much to do with energy and our gratuitous use of fossil fuels.  The reality is that humanity must live within the laws of nature, including not consuming more energy in a year than that captured by photosynthesis in a year.

unethicalCivilisation is breaking down because the systems we have in place are unethical.  Every crisis comes about because of moral failure.  Corruption insinuates business, politics and religion.  There are cries for change and some who show the way, but the establishment finds it hard to give up power.  If evolution is not chosen, revolution erupts.

So while you are part of the establishment, spare a moment for the alternative view that is shared by the fringes of your social circle.  It’s not about equality it’s about equity.  Be open to finding a way for systems to evolve.  The system is a result of everybody’s choices.  We must all choose better.  We must aim to do the right thing the right way.

Computers in school do not improve results. Doh! It’s about culture.

OECD research shows that  frequent use of computers in schools is more likely to be associated with lower results.   Among 70 countries, heavy  investment in information and communications technology have seen “no noticeable improvement” in Pisa test results for reading, mathematics or science.monkeyoncomputer

This is not surprising.  As with any technology, it can be “good” or “bad” depending on how it is used and all too often ICT is used as a substitute for thinking.  That might be ok if you are a thinker, but if using a computer is just a crutch, used to copy/paste ideas or fill time will 2D pictures and sound, then its use is retarding your development.

Continue reading Computers in school do not improve results. Doh! It’s about culture.

Cyborgs are coming to take your job, especially if you’re young.

The prospect of your job being automated is increasing.  The convergence of neuroscience, computing, biology and engineering has already made robotic prosthetics a reality and everyone carries a small thinking machine so that they can remember phone numbers, birthdays etc (media device/phone).monkeytorobot

We are certainly choosing a future in which we don’t work.  We haven’t addressed the consequences in a thoughtful way evidenced by the unchanged platitudes by politicians, ongoing agglomeration of industry and commerce (get big to survive) with its attendant pyramid of wages (little at the bottom, inconceivable wealth at the top) and public education systems still modelled on the factory.

Continue reading Cyborgs are coming to take your job, especially if you’re young.

Facebook, like Google, reduces our ability to think. Now scientifically proven!

"Emphasize our unique differences, pass it down."
“Emphasize our unique differences, pass it down.”

It’s not as though it wasn’t expected.  The behaviour and algorithms users and social media networks are intended to filter ideas to suit our individual perspective.  That’s a major reason people use the big engines like Google and Facebook.

But that behaviour encourages groupthink.  The user only clicks on stories and links that match their own desires and perspective and the engine tends to serve stories and links that the user prefers to click.  It’s a self-reinforcing process.

The result is that you get a narrower view of the world.  You don’t hear stories or connect with people that you have differences with.  This reduces your information as well as your perspective.  That means you don’t develop ideas; your thinking is less critical.

groupthinkThe solution?  Every now and then, click links that you would normally avoid.  Even if you don’t read them it will diversify the feed you get from the big engines.  Use a different search engine which does not track your behaviour so that the search results are generic and diverse (try duckduckgo or ixquick for exmaple).

BBC: Facebook tips news feed balance ‘less than we do’

Someone’s watching you. And it’s not just Big Brother.

A  Russian website is offering thousands of feeds from private webcams around the world.

If you have a webcam with remote access enabled (did you check?) it could be on their list of feeds.  The site has accessed feeds by using default passwords which are often left unchanged by their owners when they enable remote access.  This is made easier because most people are using the same software (Windows) to operate their system.

Most of the feeds are rather dull, such as security monitors on infants cradles.  And maybe this is insignificant compared to the level of snooping of private emails, web browsing history and internet chat that is done by governments in the name of “security”.  But if you have a revealing webcam with remote access enabled, you might want to change the password!

Webcam website

BBC:  Breached webcam and baby monitor site flagged by watchdogs

 

The power of thought can flip a switch.

The study upon which this report was made is unusual, but the message is clear: thoughts have power.

In the study, brainwaves from human participants activated a tiny LED light which had been implanted in mice which then activated light-sensitive genes.

This study is the first to combine the thought control technology and the light sensitive genes technology.  The light-sensitive engineered genes sound a bit unnatural to me, but the idea of thoughts influencing external objects seems intuitive.  Maybe if we can understand the science better, telepathic skills could be developed.

This kind of emerging technology has potential applications for patients who can no longer communicate with the outside world other than with their mental activities and brainwaves.

It also proves that our thoughts do make the world.

BBC: Scientists develop thought-controlled gene switch

Millions of classic images, free online.

Kalev Leetaru has uploaded a searchable database of 12 million historical copyright-free images to Flickr.  Most of the images that are in the books are not in any of the art galleries of the world – the original copies have long ago been lost.  The pictures range from 1500 to 1922, when copyright restrictions kick in.

BBC: Millions of historical images posted to Flickr

Image from page 502 of "The boy travellers in Australasia : adventures of two youths in a journey to the Sandwich, Marquesas, Society, Samoan and Feejee islands, and through the colonies of New Zealand, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, and

Even big brother thinks big brother can be dangerous.

The UN has warned against the dangers of too much data and too much surveillance.    In a report, the UN body said more needed to be done to ensure that surveillance was balanced against its harm to personal privacy, noting that:

  • mass retention of data to aid surveillance was “neither necessary nor proportionate”.
  • “disturbingly little” is known about the growing number of mass surveillance programmes because they are “rubber stamped”
  • a lack of transparency about the reasons governments approve or start large-scale monitoring of what people do online.

It’s what we’ve thought for a long time and refreshing to see someone, even if one of our “big brothers”, owning up.  It looks spookily like the kind of oversight envisioned in futuristic tales like Nineteen Eight-four  or Brazil.

The report said measures to force net companies, mobile operators and others to retain data on what people did online and whom they talked to had little justification.  Gathering data curbs privacy because there are too few limits on who could look at the data and what it could be used for.  Big brother, and every hacker, is watch YOU!

BBC: Mass surveillance ‘dangerous habit’, says UN rights body

 

 

“You might want to stay off the internet for a while”

Mmmmmmmm.

That doesn’t sound good.  Especially since its from a credible source whose enterprise is entirely concerned with privacy and anonymity on the internet.  From the Tor website:

OpenSSL bug CVE-2014-0160  Posted April 7th, 2014

A new OpenSSL vulnerability on 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f is out today, which can be used to reveal memory to a connected client or server.

If you’re using an older OpenSSL version, you’re safe.

Read on…

 The BBC put out the word:

A bug in software used by millions of web servers could have exposed anyone visiting sites they hosted to spying and eavesdropping, say researchers.

The bug is in a software library used in servers, operating systems and email and instant messaging systems.

Called OpenSSL the software is supposed to protect sensitive data as it travels back and forth.

It is not clear how widespread exploitation of the bug has been because attacks leave no trace.

Read more …

Because we’ve an addict in the house (he keeps it under control), I happened to notice the report that Minecraft went offline while servers were patched.

Update; BBC: Heartbleed Bug: Tech firms urge password reset

BloombergBusinessWeek: Why Heartbleed, the Latest Cybersecurity Scare, Matters