Friday, April 27, 2012

Just out of college? Want to make a difference? Want a job? Apply Here

One-Year Green Position for Young People Rock Creek Conservancy has the opportunity to serve as a host organization for a Chesapeake Conservation Corps participant. The Chesapeake Bay Trust Conservation Corps program provides service learning opportunities and green job training for young adults (age 18-25) through environmental and energy conservation projects. The initiative pairs participants with organizations for hands-on environmental, leadership, and technical training opportunities for a one-year term of service to begin in late August 2012. There are a variety of options for on-the-ground environmental restoration and conservation projects in communities throughout Maryland. But we think one of the best opportunities is right here. Rock Creek Conservancy currently has a terrific Corps volunteer whose term ends in August, and we would love to have another one begin a one-year term of service in August 2012. The volunteer would receive a stipend from the Chesapeake Bay Trust to spend the year with us helping to build our neighborhood-based stewardship program to protect Rock Creek. Click here for more information. Interested applicants should apply directly through the Chesapeake Bay Trust by following instructions at The application deadline is May 14, 2012. Applicants interested in a position with Rock Creek Conservancy should send also send a resume and cover letter to Thank you for help getting the word out about this wonderful program! Warmest regards, Beth Mullin Executive Director

Monday, April 23, 2012

The US federal government Cloud Computing Initiative

The Federal Cloud Computing Initiative (FCCI) will deliver improvements in federal IT, but before it does so agencies must first overcome a number of key challenges. Chief among them is security. To address this issue, the FedRAMP program is providing a framework for agencies to test and certify cloud computing vendors – but what will remain the responsibility of the agency? With shrinking budgets and growing IT needs, the federal government has identified data center consolidation as a top priority. Launched in February 2010, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) seeks to deliver on the promise of a more integrated IT infrastructure. With inventory complete and initial consolidation plans submitted, agencies are now preparing for the next steps. Some critical concerns facing agency compliance include the challenges of governance, culture, and funding.

- TT/Bd

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Discovery flies over Washington DC on decommissioning

Another milestone in air-space history -- the Discovery comes to the museum annex at Dulles (IAD). Get outside and watch the overflight.

"Space Shuttle Discovery to Fly Over Goddard En Route to Virginia 
On Tuesday, April 17, bring your lawn chairs and picnic blankets to the Goddard Mall (grass area in front of Building 8) at 10:00 a.m. for a celebration of human spaceflight as we watch Space Shuttle Discovery fly over Goddard’s Greenbelt campus. The flight is contingent upon weather, so check the Center-wide e-mail that will be disseminated the morning of Tuesday, April 17 for confirmation of the event and additional event details. The flyover is expected to occur by 11:00 a.m. " 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

E-book Pricing Subject of US Dept of Justice investigation

The US DoJ is pursuing Apple and book publishers regarding collusion in setting eBook prices. Details at BBC.

Using A.I. To confirm an evolutionary trait, and bring us closer to Robot Overlords

Students from Trinity College (Dublin) have crafted a neural network model to demonstrate one intelligence theory — that human intelligence evolved based on the need for social teamwork and indexing a variety of social relationships and states. The experiment involved programming a base group of 50 simulated 'brains' which were required to participate one of two classical game theory dilemmas — the Prisoner's Dilemma or the Snowdrift game.

Upon completion of either game, each 'brain' produced 'offspring' asexually, with 'brains' that made more advantageous choices during the games programmed to have a better chance to reproduce. After 50,000 generations, the model showed that as cooperation increased, so did the intelligence of the programmed brainstorm.

Read about it here...

Best way to test your apps? Let the tech writers do it!

From more than twenty years involvement with software companies, I can attest that the best person(s) to test (at least UAT) your software is the person writing the end user documentation. Heck this is the primary person to understand new software as it is being developed. Being able to know and experience what you are describing for new people helps uncover many issues that may otherwise only come to light after wide release.

Listen to this person's experiences in a recent podcast.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Built-in Privacy? Why do we need the government to tell us to design apps that way?

What is the FTC proposal, "Privacy By Design"? This U.S. government agency charged with protecting the public when it comes to commerce says companies should build privacy protections into their businesses and services from the get-go. This includes “data security, reasonable collection limits, sound retention and disposal practices, and data accuracy.” In addition, the FTC recommends that companies maintain these standards for data management for the life of a product or service.

We all agree with the FTC that most privacy policies are “generally ineffective” at explaining to users what types of information they are handing over to companies because most are “too long, are difficult to comprehend, and lack uniformity.” For this reason, the FTC proposes that all privacy policies “should be clearer, shorter, and more standardized.”

The agency's privacy guidelines could raise issues for e-commerce and online advertising. The policy outlined by the agency applies to nearly all companies “that collect or use consumer data that can be reasonably linked to a specific consumer, computer, or other device.” Due to the financial burden of the initial proposal, the FTC updated the final version to exclude business that collect data from fewer than 5,000 customers per year, and do not “share data with third parties.” However, this is a common sense approach, one that web services, mobile apps and any internet-based software developer should be already doing.

Read the full report here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Using the Cloud... To start your car?!

With the software-intensive automobile, updates to your car's operating system (you knew your ride had an OS, right?) is typically a "sneaker net" operation. Your dealer plugs a USB drive into the iPod port, and updates the code that controls the gasoline-air mixture of the fuel injection system, or some other mission-critical onboard process.

Mercedes now utilizes a wireless system (that normally carries entertainment and an OnStar-like safety network) to update its products remotely -- much like Software Update on your Mac or IPhone.

So let's keep our eyes open for the first Merc hacking incident!

- Posted by Tom/Bluedog

Friday, April 6, 2012

Guest blogger says, "Try searching the web for a better deal on Content!"

Guest written by our friend Solomon Thompson
When you are looking for a television cable company it is really important to scour the internet for all the good deals you can find. You will see that there are a million sites out there talking about how they have the best deal or the cheapest connection fee or the most channels etc. I decided to go with about a year ago and I have been really happy with the service and the extras that come along with it. I thought I would share that even though all these other companies may claim to be the best and the cheapest there is no way that they can compare to the whole package that I found with Direct TV. I have all the channels I could possibly watch as well as multiple DVR boxes for the different televisions in my home to record multiple shows at once. I also love the mobile feature where you can schedule or edit any recordings right from your mobile smart phone. Go to their site and check it out for yourself.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Encryption followup

Not sure I completely agree that the author's perspective, that this particular approach to enciphering data will be the "big breakthrough" in cloud security, but the article is worth reading for two reasons, IMHO,

- A novel approach to a way to ensure security of data; this method seems to offer a compelling means.

- It illustrates why the use of patents to secure investment in a new technology is a double-edged sword.

By making the monopolistic use of a technology possible for inventors, the theory goes that inventors are motivated by the potential profits. On the other hand, useful inventions are denies by artificially maintaining high prices.

This particular approach utilizes homomorphic concatenation (concatenating two fragments of ciphertext, and can be found in RSA's approach as well as others. When considering cloud computing, "encrypting in the cloud" (on the server side) might not make the most sense. But because one buys computing resources on as-needed basis, it is very easy to increase the number of available servers when peak usage occurs, and reduce the number when not needed. While you can secure the channel to the cloud resource (via SSL), what do you do with the data on the persistent storage side?

As Craig Stuntz explains, what if it were possible for a user to upload their information encrypted under a public key? Then their data would be secure. This is possible today, but the server-side resource would be unable to act on the data. If, however, the encryption method used was also fully homomorphic, then the cloud-based web service could do all of the work without first decrypting the user’s information. The output of would still be encrypted under original public key. In fact, you'd be providing a valuable service without ever decrypting the end user's data.