Showing posts from April, 2005

[Privacy] No Spyware or Adware from

Interesting, I wonder if can make this work in practice. I also wonder what their testing procedures are. But, if they can do it and do it right, it's definitely a good step forward.

Dear Downloaders,

When it comes to fighting unwanted adware and spyware, CNET has always been in your corner. During the past few years, we've brought you the best tools and tips in our Spyware Center, and we've maintained a strict policy toward adware by allowing only software that discloses advertising partnerships during installation.

This week, we've upped the ante: we're launching a new zero-tolerance policy toward all bundled adware. That means every time you download software from, you can trust we've tested it and found it to be adware-free--period. (See how we test.)

Why are we taking this extra step? In your letters, user reviews, and polls, you told us bundled adware was unacceptable--no matter how harmless it might be. We want you to k…

[Research] New ACM Keywords

Just discovered that there are some new ACM Computing Classification keywords.

Here is a web form that lets you see if a keyword is part of the classification.

It looks like HCI has also been somewhat expanded as well:

Time: How to Get Out Alive,9171,1053663,00.html

Makes me wonder if there are things in HCI we can do to assist this.

Whether they're in shipwrecks, hurricanes, plane crashes or burning buildings, people in peril experience remarkably similar stages. And the first one--even in the face of clear and urgent danger--is almost always a period of intense disbelief.


The people who made it out of the World Trade Center, for example, waited an average of 6 min. before heading downstairs, according to a new National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study drawn from interviews with nearly 900 survivors. But the range was enormous. Why did certain people leave immediately while others lingered for as long as half an hour? Some were helping co-workers. Others were disabled. And in Tower 2, many were following fatally flawed directions to stay put. But eventually everyone saw smoke, smelled jet fuel or heard someone giving the order to leave. Many called relatives. …

[Cool] Fake or Foto?

Got 9 / 10, but it's getting tougher to distinguish between real and computer-generated images.

Take a look at the ten images below. Some of them are photographs of real objects or scenes, others are created by computer graphics (CG) artists. Test your ability to tell which among the array of images are real, and which are CG.

[Research] [Tech] Yannis' Law and Proebsting's law

Now here's some food for thought for all developers out there:

Yannis' Law: Programmer Productivity Doubles Every 6 Years

I keep hearing aphorisms about the "software crisis" and the lack of progress in software development. I have been programming for over 15 years, and I find such claims to be completely false: I am convinced that I could reproduce with today's tools the work of a competent programmer of 15 years ago in a small fraction of the time.

By analogy to Moore's law and (more appropriately, because of its intention to provoke, rather than predict) Proebsting's law, I propose that programmer productivity doubles every 6 years.


The year is 2003 and I would not consider a programmer to be good (this includes familiarity with tools) if they cannot produce the KWIC system within an hour or two, instead of a week or two in 1972. This constitutes an increase in productivity by a factor of 40 over the course of 31 years, or over 12.5% per year, which re…

[Research] [Tech] Coral Content Distribution Network

Very clever, just add to any URL, and that web page will be distributed to Coral's open content distribution network. The upshot is that server load will be distributed onto PlanetLab's computers.

[Research] Writing Thesis Statements

I'm going to have to resurrect the Graduate School Advice page I had on Berkeley and move it here to CMU. And when I do, I'll be sure to add this page on writing thesis statements, it's very good.

[Tech] NewScientist: The clock that wakes you when you are ready

Ack, I got scooped. I've been talking about creating an alarm clock just like this for years...

The clock, called SleepSmart, measures your sleep cycle, and waits for you to be in your lightest phase of sleep before rousing you. Its makers say that should ensure you wake up feeling refreshed every morning.

[Tech] Web Scraping Proxy

Interesting idea...

Programmers often need to use information on Web pages as input to other programs. This is done by Web Scraping, writing a program to simulate a person viewing a Web site with a browser. It is often hard to write these programs because it is difficult to determine the Web requests necessary to do the simulation.

The Web Scraping Proxy (WSP) solves this problem by monitoring the flow of information between the browser and the Web site and emitting Perl LWP code fragments that can be used to write the Web Scraping program. A developer would use the WSP by browsing the site once with a browser that accesses the WSP as a proxy server. He then uses the emitted code as a template to build a Perl program that accesses the site.

[Cool] Camera Mail

On the 22nd of December 2004, Kyle Van Horn taped a disposable camera to a piece of black foamcore and inscribed upon it the following message: "ATTENTION POSTAL WORKERS! Please help us with our project. As this camera travels across the country we want photos of all whom it encounters. Please take a photo before you pass it along. Thank you!"

[Research] NYTimes: A Philanthropist of Science Seeks to Be Its Next Nobel

In a ringing Norwegian accent, Mr. Kavli, a recently retired engineer and businessman, invoked his boyhood adventures skiing across the mountains.

"At times," he said, "the whole sky was aflame with the northern lights shifting and dancing across the sky down to the white-clad mountaintops. In the stillness and loneliness of the white mountains, I pondered the universe, the planet, nature and the wonders of man.

"I'm still pondering."

The world found out what a sophisticated shopper Mr. Kavli was when scientists affiliated with his institutes won three of the eight Nobel Prizes given for science in 2004: Dr. David Gross, director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara; Dr. Frank Wilczek of the new Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Dr. Richard Axel of the equally new Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia.

Now Mr. …

[Tech] [Ubicomp] Business 2.0: Finding Profits in the GPS Economy,17863,1039514,00.html

Tractors that steer themselves. Property that "knows" it's been stolen. Airplanes that land without a pilot. The opportunities surrounding the global positioning system are already mind-boggling, but now the industry is set to skyrocket. This spring the U.S. government will launch its first next-generation GPS satellite -- to complement the 30 older models already in service -- creating stronger signals, increased bandwidth, and lots of potential for smart entrepreneurs.


The most visible GPS applications tend to radiate from huge companies. UPS, for one, plans to outfit 75,000 drivers with GPS-enabled handhelds this year to help them reach destinations more efficiently. But startups offering similar navigation and tracking services could also make out nicely. Consider AtRoad, a Fremont, Calif., firm that went public in 2000. It offers "geo-fencing" software that triggers e-mail alerts if a compan…

[Tech] NYTimes: It's a Flat World, After All

Thomas Friedman had an article last week on globalization. Maybe Neal Stephenson wasn't quite right when he wrote in Snow Crash that Americans would only be good at Hollywood, software, and pizza delivery. If trends continue, in the future it might be just Hollywood and pizza delivery.

Only 30 years ago, if you had a choice of being born a B student in Boston or a genius in Bangalore or Beijing, you probably would have chosen Boston, because a genius in Beijing or Bangalore could not really take advantage of his or her talent. They could not plug and play globally. Not anymore. Not when the world is flat, and anyone with smarts, access to Google and a cheap wireless laptop can join the innovation fray.


No country accidentally benefited more from the Netscape moment than India. ''India had no resources and no infrastructure,'' said Dinakar Singh, one of the most respected hedge-fund ma…

[HCI-Sec] Mossberg: A Digital Crime Wave

THE WINDOWS COMPUTING PLATFORM is in a genuine crisis. Windows computers are being attacked, every day, by an international army of digital criminals who seek to spy on users, turn their own computers against them and deface, corrupt or destroy their data.

There have long been computer viruses, but until the past couple of years, they were mainly a nuisance. Now they have grown into a serious problem-by one account there were 5,000 new Windows viruses discovered in the first six months of 2004. And the virus plague has been trumped by a new type of malicious software, spyware, which can track your activities, bombard you with unwanted ads, even steal your identity.

Spam has also grown exponentially, clogging e-mail boxes and carrying with it malicious software. For some people, e-mail has become a curse.


What users need is a simple, all-encompassing security service that would deal with all these threats with minimal user involvement. Fo…

[HCI] Families and Work: An Ethnography of Dual Career Families

Reading Darrah et al's work on Dual Career families in Silicon Valley is the most fun I've had in a while. Their observations and insights are amazing and are also things that all of us can relate to.

On Chunking Activities...

[A] father explained that he had been unable to locate his daughter at a friend's house since he was not the "relevant parent" for that relationship. Parental obligations for those relationships had been decomposed and sassigned to each parent, which worked until he found himself thrust into an unfamiliar situation.

On Planning and Improvisation...

Planning often began in the families with face-to-face discussions, accompanied by formal record keeping via Palm Pilots, daily planners, charts, lists and Post-Its.


Roy Scott, for example, stated that his family had consciously rejected planning and instead took life one day at a time. However, this was possible only because he and his wif…

[HCI-Sec] [Privacy] UC Berkeley to lead $19 million NSF center on cybersecurity research

BERKELEY – The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced today (Monday, April 11) that the University of California, Berkeley, will lead an ambitious multi-institution center to protect the nation's computer infrastructure from cyberattacks while improving its reliability.

Collaborators from eight universities around the country will form the new Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technology (TRUST), one of two NSF Science and Technology Centers to be funded this year. The TRUST center is expected to receive nearly $19 million over five years, with the possibility of a 5-year, $20 million extension at the end of the initial term.


The academic partners joining UC Berkeley in this effort are Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, Mills College, San Jose State University, Smith College, Stanford University and Vanderbilt University. The initiative also brings together industrial and other affiliates, i…

[HCI] Human Decision Making

Scientific American has an interesting article on how we should shape our policies. Rather than aiming for optimal solutions, we should find robust ones that will give us the most flexibility and most likely good outcomes.

I wonder how this simple idea applies to software design, user interfaces, and so on. In research, we tend to go for fully optimal solutions (but for narrow cases), rather than robust ones that get us 80% of the way there.

Making Policies Robust
Traditional tools such as cost-benefit analysis rely on a "predict then act" paradigm. They require a prediction of the future before they can determine the policy that will work best under the expected circumstances. Because these analyses demand that everyone agree on the models and assumptions, they cannot resolve many of the most crucial debates that our society faces. They force people to select one among many plausible, competing vi…

[Tech] Making your own Google Map

Engadget's HOW-TO: Make your own annotated multimedia Google map

One of the great things about Google maps is it has its roots in XML. To translate for the non-web developers out there, it basically means Google maps are user hackable. This how-to will show you how to make your own annotated Google map from your own GPS data. Plus, you’ll be able to tie in images and video to create an interactive multimedia map. We’ll walk you through the steps we took to generate an annotated map of a walk we took recently through our hometown, now that it’s actually starting to get warm enough to want to walk about!


[Cool] Engineering with Pennies

Lots of amazing structures made out of pennies, without any glue.

[Tech] Cool Craigslist Hack

This hack on Craigslist and GoogleMaps is amazing: the service places all the houses/apartments for rent/sale on Craigslist as waypoints on a Google Map, color-coded by price, with links to the Craigslist ads. Wow.

Here's the Craigslist site itself:

[Research] NYTimes: Pentagon Redirects Its Research Dollars

I've always wondered why we humans are so short-sighted.

I also have the bad feeling that we're slowly sabotaging ourselves, and this is just yet another symptom of the same "death from a thousand blows" that we've been inflicting on ourselves since 9/11. Short term (and rather meager) gains at the cost of long-term sustainable benefits.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Pentagon - which has long underwritten open-ended "blue sky" research by the nation's best computer scientists - is sharply cutting such spending at universities, researchers say, in favor of financing more classified work and narrowly defined projects that promise a more immediate payoff.


University researchers, usually reluctant to speak out, have started quietly challenging the agency's new approach. They assert that Darpa has shifted a lot more work in recent years to military contractors, adopted…

[Tech] Networks and Productivity

An understated but profound statement about networks and productivity. Makes we wonder how well we can intentionally design such things.

The Erie Canal was an engineering triumph, to be sure. But Bernstein notes that it was also an economic triumph. This was one of the first great American examples of network effects—later seen with the telegraph, telephone, and ultimately the Internet. Connecting more and more people through a system makes the individuals more productive and capable and makes the network itself a powerful economic force.