Ben Laurie blathering

30 Oct 2006

My Brain is Outboard

Filed under: Brain Function,General — Ben @ 12:12

I recently read Charles Stross’ Accelerando, which is a fantastic book I’d recommend to anyone: kinky sex and outrageous technology. What’s not to love about that?

In common with other current sci-fi, something we’re supposed to understand in Stross’ books is “The Singularity” which, now I’ve read a few, appears to be the point at which we outsource so much of our intelligence to computers that we become something completely different and generally not very friendly to ordinary humans. Anyway, as I read this kind of book I always have this vague jealousy of the characters with all their outboard enhancements and can’t wait for real life to catch up with sci-fi.

So, I was musing about this last night and realised that real life is catching up. What prompted this initial thought was the fact I can no longer remember what music I like is called, or who recorded it. This is because I use LongPlayer to listen to my music and so I no longer need to be able to find it, it just happens (though it is kinda scary that currently I only hear any particular song about once every 9 months, at least on my main player). So, I started to catalogue other functionality I’ve outsourced to computers. Here’s my initial list:

  • Sense of direction: outsourced to GPSes.
  • Organisation: outsourced to email, mostly.
  • Memory (at least for stuff of an academic nature): outsourced to the ‘net.
  • Phone numbers: outsourced to phone/palm (though I’m getting out of the habit of carrying a palm due to sync issues)
  • Addresses: outsourced to computer and GPSes.
  • Maths: outsourced to Mathematica.
  • Arithmetic: outsourced to calculators, Perl and the like.
  • Darkroom skills: outsourced to Photoshop and Epson.

So, at what point does the singularity occur? And will I care?

26 Oct 2006

Verisign’s New Cash Cow

Filed under: Security — Ben @ 6:19

The Register has an article about IE7’s support for an “extended validation certificate”

Verisign is at the RSA Europe Conference in Nice talking up a new breed of online security certificate. The padlock encryption symbol used by browsers has been effectively meaningless for some time, and consumer paranoia surrounding fraud remains a barrier to using online commerce for many.

In response, the verification industry in the form of the CA browser forum has come up with extended validation SSL, where the certificate really is a guarantee of kosher status. Honest.

I can’t find much information about this certificate, but I have two predictions:

  • It will be expensive
  • At least one will get issued to a Bad Guy in ’07

I have to congratulate Verisign and Microsoft for the cunning tactic of advertising this feature by attacking open source. No points to El Reg for lucid reporting, though:

Callan puts Mozilla’s apparent heel-dragging on the new security technology down to the character of its development community. Several community members have been involved in the development process however and are “acutely aware of the most minor details” of the project.

Err, right – so where did the “character of its development community” come into this?

19 Oct 2006

Ontario’s Private Love Affair with Microsoft

Filed under: Anonymity/Privacy,Identity Management,Rants — Ben @ 5:04

I just read a paper by Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, called “7 Laws of Identity”. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that this is likely to be quickly followed by a recommendation to use Windows Vista and Cardspace (like, ahem, this, perhaps?).

So that’s fine, if Ontario wants to waste money by buying from Microsoft, rather than using, say, open source solutions, such as Higgins or OSIS, then that’s their taxpayers’ lookout, not mine.

What does annoy me, though, is the complete bullshit in the paper, apparently endorsed by Kim Cameron – who should know better.

This paper recognizes and is inspired by the “7 Laws of Identity” formulated on an open blog by a global community of experts through the leadership of Kim Cameron, Chief Identity Architect at Microsoft.


Because these Laws were developed through an open consensus process among experts and stakeholders, they reflect a remarkable convergence of interests, and are non-proprietary in nature. As a result, they have been endorsed and adopted by a long and growing list of industry organizations, associations, and technology developers.

This just isn’t true. Kim’s 7 laws were sprung fully-formed on experts and stakeholders – at least, the experts and stakeholders I know. So, Kim, who are these experts and stakeholders? And where was the open process?

Then there’s this…

By allowing different identity systems to work together in concert, with a single user experience, and a unified programming paradigm, the metasystem shields users and developers from concerns about the evolution and market dominance of specific underlying systems, thereby reducing everyone’s risk and increasing the speed with which the technology can evolve.

What? Cardspace maybe allows you to use different kinds of certificates, but I don’t see it doing any other protocol than Cardspace’s own. And yeah, at this point Kim will say, “no, no, the metasystem is something different, Cardspace isn’t the metasystem”, but, as usual, he only says that when he’s challenged. The rest of the time he’s happy to see “the identity metasystem” (whatever that is) conflated with Cardspace.

None of which is to say Kim’s 7 laws are wrong or bad. They’re really quite good, apart from being way too verbose and hard to read – unlike my 3 laws.

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