Showing posts from April, 2008


John Seely Brown presents a nice framework for thinking about innovation:

Incremental innovation, that is "cheaper, thinner, faster and, of course, more features."
Architectural innovations, which involve "a restructuring of the very building blocks of a product family, industry, or infrastructure." Think Skype or Cloud Computing, which offers a new way of doing something we're already doing.
Disruptive innovations, which are innovations that "cause us to see and interact with the world differently." Examples include Memex, automobiles, and Sketchpad.

Attorney General Mukasey Outlines Criminal Threats to Infrastructure

Article in CNN describes Mukasey's description of the problems. Most relevant for our work in computer science:

The use of cyberspace to target U.S. victims and infrastructure, jeopardizing the security of personal information, the stability of business and government infrastructures and the security and solvency of financial investment markets.

Business Week on E-Spionage

Business Week has a really interesting article on the growing threat of e-spionage.

The U.S. government, and its sprawl of defense contractors, have been the victims of an unprecedented rash of similar cyber attacks over the last two years, say current and former U.S. government officials. "It's espionage on a massive scale," says Paul B. Kurtz, a former high-ranking national security official. Government agencies reported 12,986 cyber security incidents to the U.S. Homeland Security Dept. last fiscal year, triple the number from two years earlier. Incursions on the military's networks were up 55% last year, says Lieutenant General Charles E. Croom, head of the Pentagon's Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations. Private targets like Booz Allen are just as vulnerable and pose just as much potential security risk.


On Apr. 8, Homeland Security Dept. Secretary Michael Chertoff called the President's order a cyber security "Manhattan Project."


Utility of Multicore Chips?

I have to admit that I'm a skeptic of multicore chips. Even though they're part of many CPUs shipping today, it's just not clear to me what problem they solve. We've already had marginal returns on CPU performance, in terms of human productivity. The bottleneck just isn't the microprocessor anymore.

Don Knuth also sees some challenges for multicore:

Let me put it this way: During the past 50 years, I’ve written well over a thousand programs, many of which have substantial size. I can’t think of even five of those programs that would have been enhanced noticeably by parallelism or multithreading. Surely, for example, multiple processors are no help to TeX.

On the other hand, multicore might represent an opportunity. One of the trends in research this past decade has been novel ways of "wasting" CPU to enable other desirable properties, such as security and usability. All we need now is a clearer path for making this happen.

Google Lookup Feature

This is a really neat feature in Google Spreadsheets:

To insert the number of Internet users in Paraguay:
=GoogleLookup("Paraguay"; "internet users")
To insert the Earned Run Average of Roger Clemens:
=GoogleLookup("Roger Clemens"; "earned run average")

NYTimes: It Takes a Cyber Village to Catch an Auto Thief

I like this idea of "open-source crime solving", as it reminds me a lot of PhishTank and CastleCops. It is, however, an idea that is fraught with issues of trust, reliability, and vigilantism.

Online auto forums have helped unravel crimes before. Two years ago, a detective in Los Angeles used the forum on, a Nissan enthusiast site, to track down victims of an elaborate fraud scheme. (That case, too, involved Nissan Skylines.)

The site had also played a role in earlier cases of what might be called open-source crime solving. A year ago one of its members saw a hit-and-run accident a block in front of him, said Shelton Kwan, who co-founded the site with his cousin Ken Chan in 2002. “He took pictures. And the guy who got hit was another member of ours.”

NYTimes Link