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Original author: 
Jon Brodkin


Can Google's QUIC be faster than Mega Man's nemesis, Quick Man?

Josh Miller

Google, as is its wont, is always trying to make the World Wide Web go faster. To that end, Google in 2009 unveiled SPDY, a networking protocol that reduces latency and is now being built into HTTP 2.0. SPDY is now supported by Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and the upcoming Internet Explorer 11.

But SPDY isn't enough. Yesterday, Google released a boatload of information about its next protocol, one that could reshape how the Web routes traffic. QUIC—standing for Quick UDP Internet Connections—was created to reduce the number of round trips data makes as it traverses the Internet in order to load stuff into your browser.

Although it is still in its early stages, Google is going to start testing the protocol on a "small percentage" of Chrome users who use the development or canary versions of the browser—the experimental versions that often contain features not stable enough for everyone. QUIC has been built into these test versions of Chrome and into Google's servers. The client and server implementations are open source, just as Chromium is.

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Original author: 
Casey Johnston

Few Internet frustrations are so familiar as the password restriction. After creating a few (dozen) logins for all our Web presences, the use of symbols, mixed cases, and numbers seems less like a security measure and more like a torture device when it comes to remembering a complex password on a little-used site. But at least that variety of characters keeps you safe, right? As it turns out, there is some contrary research that supports both how frustrating these restrictions are and suggests it’s possible that the positive effect of complexity rules on security may not be as great as long length requirements.

Let's preface this with a reminder: the conventional wisdom is that complexity trumps length every time, and this notion is overwhelmingly true. Every security expert will tell you that “Supercalifragilistic” is less secure than “gj7B!!!bhrdc.” Few password creation schemes will render any password uncrackable, but in general, length does less to guard against crackability than complexity.

A password is not immune from cracking simply by virtue of being long—44,991 passwords recovered from a dump of LinkedIn hashes last year were 16 characters or more. The research we describe below refers specifically to the effects of restrictions placed by administrators on password construction on their crackability. By no means does it suggest that a long password is, by default, more secure than a complex one.

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar

Aurich Lawson

This is the first in a two-part series exploring Butterfly Labs and its lineup of dedicated Bitcoin-mining hardware. In part one, we look at the company and the experiences customers have had with it. In part two, to be published on June 29, we share our experiences running a Bitcoin miner for a couple weeks. Spoiler alert: we made money.

The more I dig into Bitcoin, the stranger it gets. There’s gray-market online gambling and Russian-operated futures markets—to say nothing of the virtual currency’s wild ride over the last several months. It’s full of characters with names like “artforz” and “Tycho,” supposedly two of the largest Bitcoin holders out there. Of course, like most things Bitcoin, it’s nearly impossible to know for sure.

While reporting on a Bitcoin-based gambling story earlier this year, I interviewed Bryan Micon, who works with a Bitcoin-based poker site called Seals With Clubs. (To continue the lack of information, Micon won’t say who owns the site.) Micon has taken it upon himself to investigate what he believes are Bitcoin-related scams—such as the ill-fated Bitcoin Savings and Trust online bank—and he makes public pronouncements about them.

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar

Aurich Lawson / Jonathan Naumann / Joi Ito / Stanford CIS

Fifteen years ago, I was living outside Geneva, Switzerland, spending my lunch hours screwing around on the nascent Web a few dozen kilometers from where it was created. I popped into chat rooms, forums, and news sites, and I e-mailed family back home. I was learning French and getting my dose of tech news by reading the French-language edition of Macworld magazine. (Génial!)

I returned Stateside mere months after Ars began, reading more and more about the people behind many of the technologies that I was becoming increasingly fascinated with. I consumed just about every book I could find describing the history and personalities behind graphical user interfaces, networking, the Internet itself, and more.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all that, it’s that most people involved in technology continue the Newtonian tradition of humility. The most iconic innovators all seem to readily acknowledge that they stand on the shoulders of giants. In fact, when I met Vint Cerf and thanked him for making the work I do possible, he was a predictable gentleman, saying, “There were many others involved in the creation of TCP/IP, not just me.”

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Original author: 
Cesar Torres


Tumblr Creative Director Peter Vidani

Cesar Torres

New York City noise blares right outside Tumblr’s office in the Flat Iron District in Manhattan. Once inside, the headquarters hum with a quiet intensity. I am surrounded by four dogs that employees have brought to the workspace today. Apparently, there are even more dogs lurking somewhere behind the perpendicular rows of desks. What makes the whole thing even spookier is that these dogs don’t bark or growl. It’s like someone’s told them that there are developers and designers at work, and somehow they’ve taken the cue.

I’m here to see Tumblr’s Creative Director Peter Vidani who is going to pull the curtain back on the design process and user experience at Tumblr. And when I say design process, I don’t just mean color schemes or typefaces. I am here to see the process of interaction design: how the team at Tumblr comes up with ideas for the user interface on its website and its mobile apps. I want to find out how those ideas are shaped into a final product by their engineering team.

Back in May, Yahoo announced it was acquiring Tumblr for $1.1 billion. Yahoo indicated that Tumblr would continue to operate independently, though we will probably see a lot of content crossover between the millions of blog posts hosted by Tumblr and Yahoo’s search engine technology. It’s a little known fact that Yahoo has provided some useful tools for UX professionals and developers over the years through their Design Pattern Library, which shares some of Yahoo’s most successful and time-tested UI touches and interactions with Web developers. It’s probably too early to tell if Tumblr’s UI elements will filter back into these libraries. In the meantime, I talked to Vidani about how Tumblr UI features come to life.

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Stack Exchange

Stack Exchange

This Q&A is part of a weekly series of posts highlighting common questions encountered by technophiles and answered by users at Stack Exchange, a free, community-powered network of 100+ Q&A sites.

Stack Exchange user and C# developer George Powell tries hard to follow the DRY principle. But as any good dev knows, it's not always possible, or even optimal, to stay original. Powell writes:

Often I write small methods (maybe 10 to 15 lines of code) that need to be reused across two projects that can't reference each other. The method might be something to do with networking / strings / MVVM etc. and is a generally useful method not specific to the project it originally sits in.

So how should you track shared snippets across projects so you know where your canonical code resides and know where it's in production when a bug needs to be fixed?

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar


Smári McCarthy, in his Twitter bio, describes himself as a "Information freedom activist. Executive Director of IMMI. Pirate."

SHARE Conference

On Friday, two Icelandic activists with previous connections to WikiLeaks announced that they received newly unsealed court orders from Google. Google sent the orders earlier in the week, revealing that the company searched and seized data from their Gmail accounts—likely as a result of a grand jury investigation into the rogue whistleblower group.

Google was forbidden under American law from disclosing these orders to the men until the court lifted this restriction in early May 2013. (A Google spokesperson referred Ars to its Transparency Report for an explanation of its policies.)

On June 21, 2013, well-known Irish-Icelandic developer Smári McCarthy published his recently un-sealed court order dating back to July 14, 2011. Google sent him the order, which included McCarthy's Gmail account metadata, the night before. The government cited the Stored Communications Act (SCA)(specifically a 2703(d) order) as grounds to provide this order.

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Original author: 
John Timmer

elliottzone

One of the problems with cognitive and behavioral research is getting a good cross-section of the general population. Although they're convenient to work with, a couple hundred college students rarely represent the full diversity of human capability and behavior, yet that's exactly what many studies rely on. But a brain-training game may now provide access to data on scales that behavioral scientists probably never dreamed of. With a user base of over 35 million, the data obtained through the game could help us tease out very subtle effects. But as a start, a team of researchers have focused on some simpler questions: how aging and alcohol affect our ability to learn.

The software is less a game itself than a game and survey platform. Developed by a company called Lumosity, it's available on mobile platforms and through a Web interface. The platform can run a variety of games (a typical one asks users to answer math questions that appear in raindrops before they hit the ground), all with an emphasis on brain training. A few games are available for free and users can pay to get access to more advanced ones.

The scientific literature on brain training games is a bit mixed, and there's some controversy about whether the games improve mental function in general, or only those specific areas of cognition that the game focuses on. Lumosity clearly argues for the former and one of its employees pointed Ars to a number of studies that he felt validate the company's approach. What's not in doubt, however, is that it has a huge user base with over 35 million registered users. And because the Lumosity platform is flexible, it has been able to get basic demographic information from many of those users; they and others have also filled out personality profiles and other assessments.

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Original author: 
Florence Ion


What if you could privately use an application and manage its permissions to keep ill-intending apps from accessing your data? That’s exactly what Steve Kondik at CyanogenMod—the aftermarket, community-based firmware for Android devices—hopes to bring to the operating system. It’s called Incognito Mode, and it’s designed to help keep your personal data under control.

Kondik, a lead developer with the CyanogenMod team, published a post on his Google Plus profile last week about Incognito Mode. He offered more details on the feature:

I've added a per-application flag which is exposed via a simple API. This flag can be used by content providers to decide if they should return a full or limited dataset. In the implementation I'm working on, I am using the flag to provide these privacy features in the base system:

  • Return empty lists for contacts, calendar, browser history, and messages.
  • GPS will appear to always be disabled to the running application.
  • When an app is running incognito, a quick panel item is displayed in order to turn it off easily.
  • No fine-grained permissions controls as you saw in CM7. It's a single option available under application details.

The API provides a simple isIncognito() call which will tell you if incognito is enabled for the process (or the calling process). Third party applications can honor the feature using this API, or they can choose to display pictures of cats instead of running normally.

Every time you install a new application on Android, the operating system asks you to review the permissions the app requests before it can install. This approach to user data is certainly precarious because users can't deny individual permissions to pick and choose what an application has access to, even if they still want to use that app. Incognito Mode could potentially fix this conundrum, enabling users to restrict their data to certain applications.

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Original author: 
Allie Wilkinson

Lynn Tomlinson

Cooperation occurs when we act on behalf of a common benefit, often at personal cost. Everyone would be better off if an entire group cooperates, but some individual members can do better if they go it alone, so self-interest undermines cooperation. A new study indicates that your reputation—in terms of whether people are aware that you're cooperating—plays a pivotal role in your decision to cooperate.

Studies on the evolution of cooperation, or how cooperation can emerge and persist, use the Prisoner’s Dilemma as the standard example to demonstrate why people may choose not to cooperate. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, two men are arrested and held in separate cells. Due to a lack of evidence, the prosecution plans to sentence each man to year in prison on a lesser charge. If either suspect testifies against his partner, he will go free, while his partner will be sentenced to three years in prison; if both men testify against each other, then they will each serve two years. Each man is better off if he cooperates.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is an example of direct reciprocity, where two individuals affect one another's fate. But cooperation can also be based on indirect reciprocity, which is centered on repeated encounters between a group of individuals. In a sense, it’s the karmic approach—the belief that your good deeds toward others will come full-circle, and someone will eventually scratch your back.

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