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[GEEKY] What every programmer should know about …

It's just the title of this post that caught my eye: "What Every Programmer Should Know About Memory, Part 1″:

"[snip…]The original document prints out at over 100 pages. We will be splitting it into about seven segments, each run 1-2 weeks after its predecessor. Once the entire series is out, Ulrich will be releasing the full text.[…snip…]" (from LWN.NET)

I don't know about you, but it may be just a little bit more than I want to know about memory 🙂

Rumorville: Microsoft – Amazon

Yes there's been lots of rumors of Microsoft acquiring Yahoo, or Logitech. They come and go constantly.

I am starting one (a rumor that is) that has not been mentioned Microsoft will buy Amazon. I will state my case, very briefly:

Amazon has been building an amazing platform of services for their online store which they make available to the world at large. I am sure you've heard of many of them available via Amazon Web Services, such as S3 and EC2. Newer ones like DevPay and SimpleDB.

Microsoft is feeling pressure from Google, that continues to create the worlds best known services platform and is attracting all kinds attention. So much so that Microsoft talks about the need to create analogous services in response to Google.

I know what a massive strategic undertaking this would be; I know that Microsoft must be scared and pissed at Google; I know that Amazon already has this, and that Microsoft has said they want it.

But what do I know, it's just a rumor.

It was inevitable: Sex comes to iLike

iLike iTunes
iLike is this really cool, really popular service which compares the music you like with others' tastes as they play music in iTunes.

It's a handy way to discover new music. As you can see in the screenshot to the left, it displays all this in a very nice little window to the right of the iTunes window. All very cool.

Not only do you see other related music that I may be interested in, it also offers me downloads of free, up and coming artists who might interest me.

And then, it shows me nice litte pictures of other iLike users who listen to Beethoven or whoever.

Electronic Voting: interesting new wrinkle

A lot has been written about electronic voting machines and their vulnerabilities.

There is indeed something very primitive about the way we vote today, with markers on sheets of cardboards. You've got to believe that we will not always be using physical means, and that sooner or later it will be computerized.

When we vote in 2050, we won't be manipulating pieces of paper. Or will we? (Will be still be voting?)

At any rate, computer security experts continue to demonstrate all the different flaws in the ATM-like machines that have been proposed (and sold, and used) to automate and modernize voting. There are lots of schemes which would allow major, undetected, vote tampering with those machines.

In today's New York Times, a very interesting article about a new scheme, quite low-tech, to achieve a very high degree of confidence in our voting technology:

"Their basic idea is to allow each voter to take home a photocopy of a randomly selected ballot cast by someone else.

The scheme is low-tech. Paper ballots would be tallied by optical scanners or even by hand. The results would be then posted on a Web site. Using a serial number assigned to each ballot, voters could check the site to make sure that their random ballots were posted and had not been altered or misread." (from The New York Times)

Read the article for a good primer and re-introduction to the problems of electronic voting plus a description of this new concept.

[Interesting sidenote: the invention comes from two men, one of them is Ronald L. Rivest, who among us geeks is very well known as the "R" in RSA, but for the New York Times is simply an "M.I.T. Computer Scientist".]

Phone spam, charities and trust

In the New York Times, an editorial talks about a study that reveals rampant abuses in certain charitable causes (or organizations passing themselves as such)

"The public has rightly shown its empathy with wounded and troubled war veterans, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to private charities that claim to have the veterans’ best interests at heart. A new study details rampant abuses of the money flow." (from New York Times)

The study referenced is from a very reputable outfit, Charity Watch.

I haven't done a careful comparison, as the names of charities that call my house have many very similar sounding names. But my experience in dealing with them on the phone has been almost uniformly unpleasant: strange hard-sell tactics, rudeness, accusations and so on. I had my suspicions and this new study kind of corroborates them.

Temporal Gifts: travel through space and time is a cool idea, perhaps showing that Web 2.0 entrepreneurs may be running out of ideas:

"The idea behind gift ecology is to introduce objects - they can be store- bought, found, or handmade - into an ownership matrix that moves them along from recipient to recipient, accruing history and social networks along the way. The more decorative and distinctive the object, the better." (from Boston Globe)

Actually, I do think it's a pretty interesting social experiment. Read the article.