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Material for Christmas Break

Quest 25 Dec, 2009:  Merry Christmas

1.) The dominant topic this week has been our interest in extracting spatio-temporal-thematic clusters of ideas being bantered around on the ‘real-time’ web (social sites like Twitter, etc.) – if you will ‘citizen sensor’ mining.  Our interest lies in the need in a layered sensing solution (where the multilayered sensing solution includes human and machine sensors) to find what a given consumer (somewhere in the blue force hierarchy a decision maker) may need from across the layered sensing enterprise to make a more intelligent decision.  To advance our ideas we met with colleagues Prof Amit Sheth (Knoesis Center) and Prof Flach (Head of Psychology Dept at WSU) to develop a multi-disciplinary view of the space.  Adam will post some articles on a semantic web application, Twitris (socially influenced browsing – to influence the ability to browse for relevant news and information) – for the layered sensing application we want to facilitate a user’s search for relevant (to that user) sensory data, information or knowledge that is available.  HOMEWORK:  read through the articles and provide via email ideas to ‘questify’ Twitris.

2.) Twitter for the populations where we are fighting asymmetric wars?  Seems to me to complement our guys in the streets talking to the population and establishing rapport we could provide local wireless networking to allow the population to immediately communicate to other members of their ‘tribes’ and us – this re-enforces the bonds between all the parties involved in the continuous communication.

3.) News:

a.     5 Google lab projects – ‘News Timeline. This Web application organizes information on a topic chronologically, allowing you to view it in a timeline. For example, a search on Twitter will organize clickable news blurbs based on the time and date that the story was published to the Web. You can also customize your search based on the news sources from which Google aggregates information… Email Addict. If you find yourself mesmerized by the status of your inbox, try Email Addict. To enable this feature, visit “Google Labs” and choose “Gmail Labs” from the “Other experiments at Google” navigation. Email Addict blocks access to your Gmail screen for 15 minutes and makes you invisible in Chat, allowing you a few precious moments to forget about incoming messages and get some quality work done…Goggles. A few weeks ago, Google announced its newest member of Google Labs—a photo-based search tool called Google Goggles, which is accessible from any Android device. After installing the tool, snap a photo (Google heeds that right now it works best with pictures of books, DVDs, landmarks, logos, business cards, artwork and bar codes) and wait as Goggles scans the image, analyzes it and identifies it. You’ll receive information based on the image, such as details about a landmark or price comparisons for a certain book. Bar code matches will provide a link to Google Product Search to allow you to compare prices…Undo Send. When your fingers are quicker than your mind, Undo Send helps you out. By enabling this feature (also located in Gmail Labs) you’re given an extra few moments to stop the delivery of your e-mail…Social Search. Every time you perform a search, Google Social Search will pull in relevant websites, blogs, tweets and public profiles written by people in your social circle, and display the information below your search results under “Results from people in your social circle.” Your “social circle” is comprised of your Gmail contacts and people you’re publicly connected to on social sites such as Twitter and FriendFeed. Google Social Search also aggregates related content from people connected to your contacts, such as your Twitter followers’ followers, since “there’s a likelihood that you know them as well…

b.    Probe of Hacking at Citibank – ‘probing a computer-security breach targeting Citigroup Inc. that resulted in a theft of tens of millions of dollars by computer hackers…attack underscores the blurring of lines between criminal and national-security threats in cyber spac…was detected over the summer, but investigators are looking into the possibility the attack may have occurred months or even a year earlier. The FBI and the National Security Agency, along with the Department of Homeland Security and Citigroup, swapped information to counter the attack… beyond stealing money, hackers could try to manipulate or destroy data, wreaking havoc on the banking system…

c.     Hackers steal U.S. and S. Korea secrets – ‘unprotected USB device contained a summary of plans for military operations by South Korean and U.S. troops in case of war on the Korean peninsula… investigating a hacking attack that netted secret defense plans with the United States and may have been carried out by North Korea… occurred late last month when a South Korean officer failed to remove a USB device when he switched a military computer from a restricted-access intranet to the Internet,… USB device contained a summary of plans for military operations by South Korean and U.S. troops in case of war on the Korean peninsula. Won said the stolen document was not a full text of the operational plans, but an 11-page file used to brief military officials… hackers used a Chinese IP address and that North Korea is suspected of involvement… case came months after hackers launched high-profile cyberattacks that caused Web outages on prominent government-run sites in the U.S. and South Korea’

d.    Hacking into drone feeds –‘Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations…Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes’ systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber — available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet — to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter…drone intercepts mark the emergence of a shadow cyber war within the U.S.-led conflicts overseas. They also point to a potentially serious vulnerability in Washington’s growing network of unmanned drones… stolen video feeds also indicate that U.S. adversaries continue to find simple ways of counteracting sophisticated American military technologies….S. military personnel in Iraq discovered the problem late last year when they apprehended a Shiite militant whose laptop contained files of intercepted drone video feeds. In July, the U.S. military found pirated drone video feeds on other militant laptops, leading some officials to conclude that militant groups trained and funded by Iran were regularly intercepting feeds… military found “days and days and hours and hours of proof” that the feeds were being intercepted and shared with multiple extremist groups, the person said. “It is part of their kit now…Senior military and intelligence officials said the U.S. was working to encrypt all of its drone video feeds from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but said it wasn’t yet clear if the problem had been completely resolved…difficulty, officials said, is that adding encryption to a network that is more than a decade old involves more than placing a new piece of equipment on individual drones. Instead, many components of the network linking the drones to their operators in the U.S., Afghanistan or Pakistan have to be upgraded to handle the changes’

e.     Computing with a wave of the hand – ‘new Media Lab system turns LCD displays into giant cameras that provide gestural control of objects on-screen… competing approach, which uses embedded optical sensors to track the movement of the user’s fingers, is just now coming to market… Some experimental systems — such as Microsoft’s Natal — instead use small cameras embedded in a display to capture gestural information. But because the cameras are offset from the center of the screen, they don’t work well at short distances, and they can’t provide a seamless transition from gestural to touch screen interactions. Cameras set far enough behind the screen can provide that transition, as they do in Microsoft’s SecondLight, but they add to the display’s thickness and require costly hardware to render the screen alternately transparent and opaque. “The goal with this is to be able to incorporate the gestural display into a thin LCD device” — like a cell phone — “and to be able to do it without wearing gloves or anything like that,… Media Lab system requires an array of liquid crystals, as in an ordinary LCD display, with an array of optical sensors right behind it. The liquid crystals serve, in a sense, as a lens, displaying a black-and-white pattern that lets light through to the sensors. But that pattern alternates so rapidly with whatever the LCD is otherwise displaying…

f.       Cloud security – ‘2006, when Amazon introduced the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), it was a watershed event in the quest to transform computing into a ubiquitous utility, like electricity…scroll through an online menu, whip out a credit card, and hire as much computational horsepower as necessary, paying for it at a fixed rate: initially, 10 cents per hour to use Linux (and, starting in 2008, 12.5 cents per hour to use Windows… The virtual machines would, of course, run inside real ones: the thousands of humming, blinking servers clustered in Amazon’s data centers around the world…engineering in which Oz-like programs called hypervisors create and control virtual processors, networks, and disk drives, many of which may operate on the same physical servers. Computer security researchers had previously shown that when two programs are running simultaneously on the same operating system, an attacker can steal data by using an eavesdropping program to analyze the way those programs share memory space. They posited that the same kinds of attacks might also work in clouds when different virtual machines run on the same server… immensity of a cloud setting, the possibility that a hacker could even find the intended prey on a specific server seemed remote…

g.     Cyber challenge to test young hackers – ‘like national talent search for cybersecurity expert Fifteen “All Star” hackers compete in a Washington hotel conference room  Contest hopes to inspire tech wizzes to help defend U.S. computer systems… task: hacking into as many target computers as he can and then defending those computers from attacks by other skilled hackers… competition is aimed at identifying young people with exceptional computer skills and inspiring them to join the country’s woefully understaffed ranks…whose only real option is to do illegal things with it because there’s no place to do it in school; there’s no place to do it legally,” Paller said. “This creates an environment where they can show their skills and advance their skills and do it in the nation’s interest rather than for other purposes… simplest form, NetWars is an online version of Capture the Flag, with competitors vying to penetrate and take control of target computer systems and then protect them from other intruders… game begins when a player downloads an image and must find a hidden key within the image. They use that key to enter an online environment and use their knowledge of security vulnerabilities to exploit its system, leaving their name or “handle” in various areas…. Our job is to catch them and give them a chance to work for the nation and for the good companies. That’s the job of NetWars, to find the very best of them and get them great jobs so that they don’t have to use their skills in ways that are unpleasant to the rest of us.

h.    U.S. struggles to recruit computer security experts- ‘struggling to fill a growing demand for skilled computer-security workers … Some young people with three years’ experience and clearance are commanding salaries above $100,000. “Companies are paying … people to jump from one company to another

a.     Cyber coordinator picked – ‘tapped Howard A. Schmidt, longtime computer security executive who worked in the Bush administration and has extensive ties to the corporate world… national cyber security coordinator to take on the formidable task of organizing and managing the nation’s increasingly vulnerable digital networks… cyber experts and potential job candidates have complained that the position lacks the budgetary and policy making authority needed to be successful… nonprofit international consortium that conducts research in information security, has served as chief security officer for Microsoft and as cyber security chief for online auction giant eBay… Schmidt understands the technology, has broad management experience and also has worked well within the political arena, a key requirement for the White House…Considered an expert in computer forensics, Schmidt’s roughly 40-year career includes 31 years in local and federal government service, including a stint as vice chairman of President George W. Bush’s Critical Infrastructure Protection Board…

b.    Eureqa – robot scientist – ‘A new program, Eureqa, takes raw data and formulates scientific laws to suit, and it is available by free download to all scientists… fed information on a double pendulum and in just a few hours it inferred Newton’s second law of motion and the law of conservation of momentum from the data….examining the data for numbers that appear to be connected, and then suggests equations that fit the connections. Of the proposed equations most fail, but some are less wrong than others, and these are selected and modified and then repeatedly re-tested against the data and tweaked until a workable equation is identified…

c.     New ISR assets to Afghan by Christmas –24 new Hawker Beechcraft Corp. planes modified by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. to support ground troops with video, still images and eavesdropping…April 2008 to dramatically increase the number of manned and unmanned aircraft providing intelligence to ground troops. The planes will help support the 30,000 additional troops President Barack Obama ordered to Afghanistan. Six of the new spy planes already are flying missions in Iraq… can beam images and video directly to ground troops, who will be equipped with L-3 Communications ‘‘Rovers” — laptop devices that allow soldiers to see the same images as airborne operators… will give the Army about 50 of the latest-generation Rovers — hand-held versions that allow soldiers via satellite link both to receive images and to tell pilots where to direct the plane’s cameras… provide “full-motion video and specialized signals intelligence… equipped with both high-resolution and heat-sensing cameras produced by New York City-based L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc’

d.    Tiny fit devices – ‘Two new tiny wearable motion sensors are on the loose, backed by Web sites that graph the collected data on daily activity for your motivational pleasure. There’s the Fitbit ($100) and its rival from Philips, the DirectLife ($80). In both cases, the idea is to make you aware of your daily activity and to challenge you to step it up. But despite that similarity of goal, the two gadgets are wildly different in approach… Fitbit is one wicked-cool piece of hardware. It’s a sleek, rounded-edge spring clip, two inches long and half an inch wide. You can clip it to a pocket edge, a bra strap, whatever. Inside, the Fitbit contains an accelerometer — a three-way motion sensor like the one in the Wii or the iPhone. This instrument tallies how much it’s jostled during the day. (Note: Accelerometers don’t register much when you’re doing other exercise that doesn’t make your torso bob, like biking or weight lifting…Fitbit is also supposed to track your sleep. It’s a bit of a nuisance: you have to put on a black Velcro wristband, put the Fitbit inside and then hold down the button for two seconds to tell it that you’re asleep…other aspects of the Fitbit suggest that it aims at much more hard-core fitness buffs. For instance, once the data is on the Web site, it’s just a mass of data. There’s no analysis, not much guidance; if anyone’s going to figure out how to turn it into a fitness program, that’ll be you. And that business about manually entering everything you eat and drink is well-meaning, but come on — how many non-obsessive compulsives are really going to make that effort day in, day out, for months…DirectLife, from Philips ($80 until January, then $100), doesn’t try to track your sleep. It doesn’t have the wireless transfer, either; instead, every so often, you snap it magnetically into its U.S.B. docking cradle/charger connected to your Mac or PC…set the DirectLife down on a flat surface, a row of little green indicators lights up to show you how close you are to your activity goal so far today — one dot, you’re a couch potato; nine dots, you’re a superjock. But that’s it…DirectLife’s real killer feature is the personal coach that comes with it. The company employs a team of fitness and nutrition experts (20 so far) whose sole job is to look over your activity data, answer your questions and egg you on…12 weeks of coaching with the purchase price (thereafter, it’s $12.50 a month). Now, I didn’t have that much time to work with the DirectLife, so I asked my Twitter followers if any were DirectLife buyers who’d be willing to share their coach’s e-mail exchanges with me

e.     Glasgow’s joking computer – ‘The Glasgow Science Centre in Scotland is exhibiting a computer that makes up jokes using its database of simple language rules and a large vocabulary… software was originally written for children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, to help them develop language skills and have original jokes to tell their family and friends…. Joking Computer can generate millions of cracker-style jokes, all based on puns…

f.       Did the Iranian Government Just Attack Twitter – ‘suspect the authorities of seeking revenge for Twitter’s role in helping protesters… redirected to a page boasting that the microblogging service had been hacked by “the Iranian Cyber Army… it facilitated communication among anti-government protestors and helped draw attention from the outside world…known about how the group operates, but previous attempts to shut off Iranian citizens from Twitter and other web services demonstrate that Iran has the capability and will to use almost any means to control the flow of information on the web both within and outside of its own borders… one of the “benefits” of cyber warfare is that there’s no need for a government to incriminate itself so directly. In a story earlier this year on politically motivated cyber attacks, I wrote…it’s particularly hard to pinpoint who is really responsible. While it’s easy to determine which botnet is the source of an attack, it’s far harder to determine who might be paying for the attack. This is a big worry for governments looking for redress or retaliation…denial of service attack works in a different way from the attack that Twitter experienced, I think a similar principle holds true. While there are certainly many groups or government entities who might want to punish Twitter for how it was used this summer, or to stifle continued protester activity on the site

g.     Mobile phone apps for holiday shopping – ‘making it easy for bargain-hunting consumers to see if another retailer is offering a better deal…Online retailers are revamping the mobile versions of their sites so consumers can make purchases without tedious typing. And offline retailers, battling for every last dollar, are sending cellphone users electronic coupons to lure them away from competitors…One in five shoppers said they intended to use their cellphones to shop this holiday season, according to an annual survey by Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm. Of those, 45 percent said they would use their phone to research prices, 32 percent said they would use it to find coupons or read reviews and 25 percent said they would make purchases from their phones…It is both an opportunity and a challenge for a retailer, because you can have a consumer who can cross-shop your store with other bricks-and-mortar stores or online, all from the convenience of your aisle…With a quick scan of the bar code, an application called ShopSavvy found it at Target, just across the freeway, for $19.99. Another app from MyCoupons.com provided a Target coupon that sliced off $10 more… It went from $29.99 to $9.99, all in five minutes, no searching the Internet or spending hours trying to find a deal or a coupon… mobile shopping technology is still somewhat clunky, between erratic Internet connections, outdated pricing data and balky product scanners…ShopSavvy, mobile apps from RedLaser, TheFind, ShopStyle and PriceGrabber.com allow customers to compare prices across a range of retailers. Retrevo, an electronics review site, has a service called RetrevoQ that lets users send a text or Twitter message with the name of the product they are considering and get an immediate response with a recommendation of whether to buy it and a range of online prices…To fix that, some retailers are building sites and applications specifically for cellphones. The iPhone app for the Tommy Hilfiger online store, for instance, shows select products based on what shoppers are looking for so they do not have to scroll through pages of clothes… EBay’s iPhone app sends people notifications if they are outbid in an auction and lets people check out with just a few clicks if they have a PayPal account… most stores refuse to match prices, especially from Web retailers, it is difficult to simply allow a customer brandishing a lower price…officially says it will not match prices of online electronics retailers and will match offline prices only if the customer brings in an ad or receipt. But several ShopSavvy users report having luck getting individual stores to match prices they find using the app…said it would match lower prices found in stores or online. According to Chad Petrillo, a clerk at the chain’s San Francisco store, more people have been showing him competing prices on their phones, most often for shoes

h.    Stem Cell for heart disease closer – ‘Approved stem cell therapies for cardiac patients could be available in five years… have a natural homing ability toward heart injury site  Further research is needed to determine how many cells are optimal in each infusion… intravenous method of injecting stem cells into patients who had experienced heart attacks within the previous 10 days suggested that this method works to repair…

i.       Science of the Afghan insurgency – ‘danger that if we do not increase the numbers by enough this strategic decision will actually increase the duration of the conflict,” says physicist and political theorist Sean Gourley of the University if Miami (Fla.), an author on a study in the current issue of the journal Nature. The study, led by Columbia’s Juan Camilo Bohorquez of the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, finds “that the sizes and timing of violent events within different insurgent conflicts exhibit remarkable similarities,” and proposes “a unified model of human insurgency…researchers looked at 54,679 attacks in nine insurgencies, rebellious wars typically fought with terrorism and subversion, from 1969 to 2008. The conflicts took place in Afghanistan, Iraq, Senegal, Columbia, Sierra Leone, Israel and Palestine, Peru and Northern Ireland. The researchers compared the timing and frequency of attacks for mathematical patterns, looking to see whether they took place differently in different wars…of daily attacks by insurgents followed the same pattern, an exponentially growing curve with its steepness determined by the size of the insurgent-sympathetic population. Rather than attacks occurring randomly, the study says insurgents worldwide developed a pattern: a feedback loop of committing bombings or attacks on quiet days, then waiting for news of the event, and then planning for the next attack, bearing in mind past attacks by other groups. Rather than directly collaborating with one another, each attack signals other groups, in a manner that Gourley compares to competing groups of financial traders reading purchases by others in the international marketplace as signs on whether to buy or sell. Taliban members, in the model, ambush convoys mostly to gather video of burning trucks to show off to competing groups over the Internet…study authors say a “soup of groups,” rather than any hierarchy dominates insurgencies. That dooms efforts to bump off minor leaders of insurgencies, Gourley says, as the next strongest group just bubbles to the top of the soup, as a result…the addition of media into a conflict does not change the total amount of violence, the media simply provides a global signal that changes the way violence is distributed within the ecosystem,” Gourley says. “What is interesting, though, and what we show in the paper is that even unbiased ‘just report what happened’ journalism has a significant impact on the way violence is distributed throughout the system… results suggests that NATO needs a 15:1 troop advantage over insurgents to break the curve of increasing attack probabilities. The result, Gourley acknowledges, falls close to some past rule-of-thumb estimates of forces needed for battling insurgents. The Army Times in October reported about 25,000 Taliban troops are thought to be in Afghanistan, facing a 12:1 imbalance against the 300,000 international and Afghanistan security forces. Another 30,000 U.S. troops pushes the imbalance to about 13:1The chief output is the finding that violent incidents in insurgencies tend to come in bunches rather than reflecting a random distribution,” he says, by e-mail. “I don’t see how that points to any one model of the internal shape of insurgencies, or how it constitutes a challenge to models that posit hierarchies or networks (guiding insurgencies.) Frankly, I don’t see how this approach would be of use to counterinsurgency planners or policymakers…

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