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Researchers install PAC-MAN on Sequoia voting machine w/o breaking seals

August 23rd, 2010, by Tim Finin, posted in Games, Security, Social media, Technology Impact

Here’s a new one for the DIY movement.

Security researchers J. Alex Haldeman and Ariel Feldman demonstrated PAC-MAC running on a Sequoia voting machine last week at the EVT/WOTE Workshop held at the USENIX Security conference in DC.

Amazingly, they were able to install the game on a Sequoia AVC Edge touch-screen DRE (direct-recording electronic) voting machine without breaking the original tamper-evident seals.

Here’s how they describe what they did on Haldeman’s web site:

What is the Sequoia AVC Edge?

It’s a touch-screen DRE (direct-recording electronic) voting machine. Like all DREs, it stores votes in a computer memory. In 2008, the AVC Edge was used in 161 jurisdictions with almost 9 million registered voters, including large parts of Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, and Virginia, according to Verified Voting.

What’s inside the AVC Edge?

It has a 486 SLE processor and 32 MB of RAM—similar specs to a 20-year-old PC. The election software is stored on an internal CompactFlash memory card. Modifying it is as simple as removing the card and inserting it into a PC.

Wouldn’t seals expose any tampering?

We received the machine with the original tamper-evident seals intact. The software can be replaced without breaking any of these seals, simply by removing screws and opening the case.

How did you reprogram the machine?

The original election software used the psOS+ embedded operating system. We reformatted the memory card to boot DOS instead. (Update: Yes, it can also run Linux.) Challenges included remembering how to write a config.sys file and getting software to run without logical block addressing or a math coprocessor. The entire process took three afternoons.”

You can find out more from the presentation slides from the EVT workshop, Practical AVC-Edge CompactFlash Modifications can Amuse Nerds. They sum up their study with the following conclusion.

“In conclusion, we feel our work represents the future of DREs. Now that we know how bad their security is, thousands of DREs will be decommissioned and sold by states over the next several years. Filling our landfills with these machines would be a terrible waste. Fortunately, they can be recycled as arcade machines, providing countless hours of amusement in the basements of the nations’ nerds.”

RAEng report on Social, legal and ethical issues of autonomous systems

August 21st, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in Agents, AI, Semantic Web, Social media, Technology Impact

RAEng report on Social, legal and ethical issues of autonomous systems

The Royal Academy of Engineering has released a report on the social, legal and ethical issues involving autonomous systems — systems that are adaptive, learn and can make decisions without the intervention or supervision of a human.

The report, Autonomous Systems: Social, Legal and Ethical Issues (pdf), was based on a roundtable discussion “from a wide range of experts, looking at the areas where autonomous systems are most likely to emerge first, and discussing the broad ethical issues surrounding their uptake.”

While autonomous systems have broad applicability, the report focuses on two areas: transportation (e.g. autonomous road vehicles) and personal care (e.g., smart homes).

“Autonomous systems, such as fully robotic vehicles that are “driverless” or artificial companions that can provide practical and emotional support to isolated people, have a level of self-determination and decision making ability with the capacity to learn from past performance. Autonomous systems do not experience emotional reactions and can therefore perform better than humans in tasks that are dull, risky or stressful. However they bring with them a new set of ethical problems. What if unpredicted behaviour causes harm? If an unmanned vehicle is involved in an accident, who is responsible – the driver or the systems engineer? Autonomous vehicles could provide benefits for road transport with reduced congestion and safety improvements but there is a lack of a suitable legal framework to address issues such as insurance and driver responsibility.

The technologies for smart homes and patient monitoring are already in existence and provide many benefits to older people, such as allowing them to remain in their own home when recovering from an illness, but they could also lead to isolation from family and friends. Some users may be unfamiliar with the technologies and be unable to give consent to their use.”

The RAEng report recommends “engaging early in public consultation” and working to establish “appropriate regulation and governance so that controls are put in place to guide the development of these systems”.

rdf:SeeAlso Autonomous tech ‘requires debate’; Scientists ponder rules and ethics of robo helpers; Robot cats could care for older Britons.

(via Mike Wooldridge)

I want the iPhone NG, but …

June 12th, 2008, by Anupam Joshi, posted in Apple, Gadgets, Mobile Computing, Technology Impact

I admit — I was following along on engadget’s liveblog of Jobs’ WWDC keynote, looking for iPhone news. Most of what he said, though, was fairly old news to those who had been reading the tech blogs for the last month or so — 3G and aGPS, besides of course the already announced software upgrades. The big thing was the $199 price, which was out of the blue it seemed. I figured I would go out and get one pretty much as soon as they were available without having to stand in a line. The teeny voice in my head however was expressing skepticism, which eventually was proven correct. The $199 cost factors in a subsidy from AT&T, and the phone now apparently needs to be activated when bought.  No more buying it without AT&T service and then getting it unlocked.

I wonder why that is, though. The big claim is that the revenue model has changed, and so Apple no longer gets an ongoing cut of the revenue from AT&T. If so, why not also sell unlocked versions of the phone sans subsidy, like every other manufacturer ? How will this work in other countries where handset subsidies are not common ? Apparently AirTel in India is the preferred partner and will launch this phone “soon”.  So will AirTel sell it for more than $199, but unlocked ?  Maybe I can get one from them ? Or wait for Xperia X1 ? Or for TouchPro ?

BusinessWeek ranks 50 most innovative companies

April 19th, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in Computing Research, Technology Impact

Businessweek Magazine has a special set of articles on innovation in business in its April 28 issue. As in the past, they identified and tanked the 50 most innovative companies worldwide. The list of companies ranked in order are as follows

01. Apple
02. Google
03. Toyota Motor
04. General Electric
05. Microsoft
06.Tata Group
07. Nintendo
08. Procter & Gamble
09. Sony
10. Nokia
11. Amazon.Com
12. IBM
13. Research In Motion
14. BMW
15. Hewlett-Packard
16. Honda Motor
17. Walt Disney
18. General Motors
19. Reliance Industries
20. Boeing
21. Goldman Sachs Group
22. 3M
23. Wal-Mart Stores
24. Target
25. Facebook
26. Samsung Electronics
27. AT&T
28. Virgin Group
29. Audi
30. Mcdonald’S
31. Daimler
32. Starbucks
33. Ebay
34. Verizon Communications
35. Cisco Systems
36. ING Groep
37. Singapore Airlines
38. Siemens
39. Costco Wholesale
40. HSBC
41. Bank Of America
42. Exxon Mobil
43. News Corp.
44. BP
45. Nike
46. Dell
47. Vodafone Group
48. Intel
49. Southwest Airlines
50. American Express

It’s gratifying to see how many of these are companies based on computing and/or communications or have a business that is largely based on exploiting the latest computing and communications technologies. I think that it is appropriate to look at IT and communications as a group, even though they are traditionally viewed as different business sectors, because the innovations in each tends to be in areas where they overlap.

The distribution of the country in which these 50 companies are based is interesting. Of course, many of these are truly multi-national corporations .

COuntires where the 50 innovative companies are based

Software–Defined Radio Could Unify Wireless World

February 5th, 2006, by Amit, posted in Mobile Computing, Technology Impact

Technicians in Ireland are testing a device capable of skipping between incompatible wireless standards by tweaking its underlying code. A report from NewScientist states:

The device can impersonate a multitude of different wireless devices since it uses reconfigurable software to carry out the tasks normally performed by static hardware… The technology promises to let future gadgets jump between frequencies and standards that currently conflict. A cellphone could, for example, automatically detect and jump to a much faster Wi-Fi network when in a local hotspot.

Korea’s Preschoolers Use Internet Daily

February 3rd, 2006, by Tim Finin, posted in GENERAL, Technology, Technology Impact, Web

I don’t know if this report is good new or bad news and, if either, who it is good or bad for.

“The Information and Communication Ministry conducted the survey together with the National Internet Development Agency of Korea. It found that Internet use among five-year-olds surveyed was 64 percent, among four-year-olds 47 percent and among three-year-olds 34 percent. Young children on average started using the Internet at 3.2 years of age and spent on average 4.8 hours a week online. Some 93 percent of the diminutive respondents used the Internet to play games or access music, but 39 percent used the web for “study,” the survey finds.”

Maybe it’s bad for Korean preschoolers who should be playing with each other or with their Legos. Or maybe it’s bad for slothful preschoolers everywhere else who will end up working for the Koreans when they grow up. I guess it’s good for the Internet, unless the preschoolers all start blogs.

[spotted on Smart Mobs]

Ping-O-Matic temporarily down

January 13th, 2006, by Pranam Kolari, posted in Blogging, Technology, Technology Impact, Web

Ping-O-Matic, a great tool and arguably the most popular update ping service is currently down. Matt blogs about a complete revamp. Apparently their current system was accepting pings on just one box!. Technorati is helping them out.

Most of us don’t even bother to check which update ping services our blog software notifies automatically. Now, is this a good enough motivation to notify additional update ping services ? If yes, who is set to gain? Given the recent valuation of, a short downtime of Ping-O-Matic might well create another multi-million dollar asset.

Attention WordPress users!!! from Nick Starr, Ping-o-Matic is offline from Jeff Smith, Pingomatic is gone from Alan Fraser.

Smart doorknob: an exciting RFID application

November 27th, 2005, by Harry Chen, posted in Computing Research, GENERAL, Pervasive Computing, RFID, Technology, Technology Impact, Wearable Computing

Here is what a smart doorknob can do.

“When you approach the door and you’re carrying groceries, it opens and lets you in. This doorknob is so smart, it can let the dog out but it won’t let six dogs come back in.

It will take FedEx packages and automatically sign for you when you’re not there. If you’re standing by the door, and a phone call comes in, the doorknob can tell you that ‘you’ve got a phone call from your son that I think you should take.”

This smart doorknob is part of a MIT research project called “Internet of Things” (see IHT). An interesting thing about this system is that it relies on the extensive usage of RFID tags. When it comes to RFID technology, some people are very worried, and some others are very excited.

The next Big Thing, or is it Web 2.0?

November 3rd, 2005, by Anand, posted in GENERAL, Semantic Web, Technology Impact, Technology Policy, Web

Open Source software has increasingly grown in popularity and dominance, challenging the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM. Both Industry and Academia have adopted Open Source Software like Linux, OpenBSD, Apache, MySQL and OpenOffice to replace or supplant commercial versions of Windows XP, Websphere, Oracle, DB2, and MS Office. This dominance will be seen to continue to grow in the coming years.

Giants like Google, Amazon, eTrade, and eBay use Open Source Software to run their web businesses/services. The tradeoff to paying royalties or license fees, is the availability of source code, which is closely scrutinized or safety tested, by these companies and then deployed. Thus, these companies no longer depend on licensed proprietary solutions.

Google Ads and the roaring profits made by Google in its last quarter have led to Google stocks jumping by around 50 dollars in less than a month. Online targeted advertising has been seen to be more effective and more companies are now investing in online advertising like Google Ads.

Open source software projects and their “profitability” have often been questioned and even dismissed as a fools errand. However now bighshots like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle amongst others seem to have formulated strategies to cope with Open Source. Venture captitalists have been pouring money into Open Source Projects — a sign that this is seen as next big thing. Companies dismissing Open Source or failing to adapt to it, risk losing their user base and affecting their longterm survivability.

Microsoft: Shared Source, Windows Live, Office Live

IBM: Open Source Acquisitions, Adoption of Open Source (support model)

Oracle: Free version of the Oracle database

Everyone wants a piece of the online-advertising pie. With the increasing growth of high-speed internet, people are growing to expect free services on the Internet. The success of XBox-live is a sign of things to come.

The availalbility of cheap/free software replacements for most of the popular commercial products will see further decline in the revenue for commercial products.

Software Companies seem to be realizing that in the coming decade, online software services will be a major source of revenue — search, ads, trading, gaming, and so on. The “free” Internet Browsers will be the gateways to the online world, while the stored PC programs will see a declining role.

Want Microsoft Source code?

October 21st, 2005, by Anand, posted in GENERAL, Programming, Technology Impact, Technology Policy

Microsoft Shared Source Initiative

These new licenses represent a broad spectrum of approaches needed to facilitate an ever-growing, rich set of technologies for release.

The three licenses are:

• Microsoft Permissive License (Ms-PL) — The Ms-PL is the least restrictive of the Microsoft source code licenses. It allows you to view, modify, and redistribute the source code for either commercial or non-commercial purposes. Under the Ms-PL, you may change the source code and share it with others. You may also charge a licensing fee for your modified work if you wish. This license is most commonly used for developer tools, applications, and components.

• Microsoft Community License (Ms-CL) — The Ms-CL is a license that is best used for collaborative development projects. This type of license is commonly referred to as a reciprocal source code license and carries specific requirements if you choose to combine Ms-CL code with your own code. The Ms-CL allows for both non-commercial and commercial modification and redistribution of licensed software and carries a per-file reciprocal term.

• Microsoft Reference License (Ms-RL) — The Ms-RL is a reference-only license that allows licensees to view source code in order to gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of a Microsoft technology. It does not allow for modification or redistribution. This license is used primarily for technologies such as development libraries.

New RDF & OWL Editor from the Maker of XMLSpy

October 6th, 2005, by Harry Chen, posted in Ontologies, Semantic Web, Technology Impact

Altova SemanitcWorks 2006
Altova, the maker of popular XML editor XMLSpy, annouced the release of Altova SemanticWorks.

Altova SemanticWorksâ„¢ 2006 is the ground-breaking visual RDF/OWL editor from the creators of XMLSpy. Visually design Semantic Web instance documents, vocabularies, and ontologies then output them in either RDF/XML or N-triples formats. SemanticWorksâ„¢ 2006 makes the job easy with tabs for instances, properties, classes, etc., context-sensitive entry helpers, and automatic format checking. It is the sensible way to put the Semantic Web to work for you.

This is a good sign for the Semantic Web research and development community. It’s a sign that semantics is getting commericial attention. I remember seeing a similar pattern back in the old days when XML was a new term that not everyone knows. Altova released their XMLSpy in a time when many people are skeptical about the use of XML. Could this mean that one or two years from now, RDF & OWL will be the key languages for building smart applications? I surely hope so.

Key in Disaster Management — Communication

September 14th, 2005, by Anand, posted in Gadgets, GENERAL, Pervasive Computing, Technology Impact, Technology Policy

Local governments and agencies are waking up with a start — could it happen here? If first responders cannot communicate with each other in the first 72 hours — how do they do their job?

The New Orleans tragedy manifested the worst communication nightmares imaginable — underground communication lines were disabled due to flooding, cell towers were blown over, backup generators ran out of fuel — or filled up with water. Radios of police, firefighters, ER couldn’t talk to each other. In some cases first responders were simply walking over to each other to talk!

Ad hoc networks boast of working in especially such situations … after more than 10 years and millions of $$ in research … where is the first deployed/working ad hoc network?

Baltimore Sun:

No sooner had a 46-truck convoy of Baltimore first-responders and equipment left for Louisiana on Sunday than it received an education in emergency communications: Even state-of-the-art systems can fail.

Grand Rapids Press:

“The lessons we can learn from the Katrina disaster is what happens to those with mobility and transportation issues. If there is a need for a mass evacuation, how would we get those without transportation?” 1st Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak asked.

Eyewitness News:

The Nevada Homeland Security Department is taking up the issue of disaster response. From their own experience and what they’ve seen with Hurricane Katrina relief, they’ve determined the channels of communication are broken.

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