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The Isoblog. Posts

Slender Man

First Monday has an interesting essay on the Myth of Slender Man and what it may mean.

The Slender Man, or the operator, appears as a tall man in a black suit with no face. This symbolism is saturated with references to faceless intelligence agents. Combined with the references to surveillance and social control and we have a relevant cultural metaphor of intelligence and security officials trusted to safeguard national security.

The Slender Man narratives began in a time when whistleblowers were leaking information about mass surveillance of North Americans, information sharing between the U.S. National Security Agency and telecommunication companies, and superfluous government secrecy. This notably hit a peak in June 2013 when Edward Snowden coordinated his massive, controversial leak that exposed many of the logics and practices of the NSA to the public (Lyon, 2015).

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How Google took over the classroom

Using electronic devices in the classroom seems to be a topic older than time, and the implementation often involved a lot of tedium. The problems and possible solutions are well understood in Germany (report about LTSP among other things), but the (purposefully) fragmented market for education in Germany is getting in the way here.

Biggest problem usually is keeping the machines clean and orderly, and keeping the data available across device loss. Children and teachers seem to be installing a lot of questionable software and extensions, and getting rid of these by setting up the machine seems to be the only way to be sure. So any school installation usually focuses on automatic fast imaging of the machines, and on server-side data storage for everything to make sure nothing is lost when a machine is lost or re-imaged.

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Peaker plant combining Gas and Battery

Ars Technica has an older article from April, which I came across only now on combining battery storage and gas turbines in innovative ways with rather spectacular results.

Peaker plants are power generator facilities used for network stabilization when demand, well, peaks or intermittent renewable power sources can’t help. They waste a lot of fuel and energy during warmup and network synchronisation.

[…] The GE hybrid peaker plant produces energy from burning natural gas and uses the battery system to complement the gas turbine. That’s possible through a new control system that GE says “seamlessly blends output between the battery and the gas turbine.”

The natural gas plant was also fitted with new emissions controls so that, when combined with the reduced fuel consumption needed while the turbine is in standby mode, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution are reduced by 60 percent. The amount of water needed to operate the plant is also reduced by 45 percent, which reflects 2 million gallons of water annually.

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“Usage Patterns and the Economics of the Public Cloud”

The paper (PDF) is, to say it in the words of Sascha Konietzko, eine ausgesprochene Verbindung von Schlau und Dumm (“a very special combination of smart and stupid”)

The site is not related to the corporation of the same name, but the site of one of the authors, R. Preston McAfee.

The paper looks at the utilization data from a number of public clouds, and tries to apply some dynamic price finding logic to it. The authors are surprised by the level of stability in the cloud purchase and actual usage, and try to hypothesize why is is the case. They claim that a more dynamic price finding model might help to improve yield and utilization at the same time (but in the conclusion discover why in reality that has not happened).

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Shit found on Github: “gordon”, a Flash emulator in Javascript

Gordon is an open source Flash™ runtime written in pure JavaScript.

Gordon lets you run your SWF movie files in a JavaScript based environment, without the need of any plugins or additional software. It takes advantage of the latest web technologies like SVG to render vector based graphics or Web Workers for enhanced performance and to parse even large SWF’s in the background, without blocking the user interface. Furthermore, it gives you full access and control of the resources, characters and timeline behaviours in your movie via JavaScript or DOM scripting.

Because Flash alone is not toxic enough. You need to put JS on top. Also, my battery drains faster than yours.

via Lutz Donnerhacke.


Google: “Federated learning”, Apple: “Differential privacy”

Google is using a strategy called “Federated Learning” to keep privacy sensitive data being used for AI purposes private. They basically download a preliminary model to the phone, modify the data with the observed behavior on the phone and upload the diffs back to Google Cloud, where they merge it to the existing data.

Apple uses “Differential Privacy“, where they add noise to the data so that observed privacy sensitive data observed in the cloud for one user may or may not be actually true, but individual noise contributions even out statistically over the whole data set.

Meanwhile, #neuland talks about Datenkraken and does… nothing?


Shit found on github: crashos

Infinite Fun in Infinite Combinations:

CrashOS is a tool dedicated to the research of vulnerabilities in hypervisors by creating unusual system configurations. CrashOS is a minimalist Operating System which aims to lead to hypervisor crashs, hence its name. You can launch existing tests or implement your owns and observe hypervisor behaviour towards this unusual kernel.

I think you might want to talk to your hoster first.

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