Friday, December 24, 2004

snow encrusted holiday season

The holiday season is in full swing and I'm spending Christmas with RAM's family, dog, and sn*w. It's very festive here, but it's frigid outside and I'm glad I have nowhere to go.

Sheez, that kind of sounds like that song... "Let it Sn*w."

Anyhow, I will be going somewhere very warm soon, and I'll be blogging while I'm there ... but I'll be blogging on paper until I get back, so prepare for a big day of posts when I return.

Friday, December 17, 2004

finally done

I hate finals.

Not only do I hate finals, but I had an exceptionally stupid memorization-based final for a stupid class. We had this "book" of notes that had to be more than 200 pages long, and it was chock full of formulas. Anyhow, we were expected to recite some of the formulas on the exam. This is grad school! I have the book, can't I just use it to reference the rarely-used formulas?

Anyhow. It's over.

Now I'm finally getting some time to relax (read: do last minute xmas shopping). It's nice to have a little free time...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

poor grad students

My thoughts go out to the poor CS grad students who won't have a job next semester.

Currently there are more than 60 people in our department who need teaching assistantship funding for next semester... and there are 45 or so slots. Because of the low enrollment, some people may get the shaft.

Of course it's not entirely the fault of the school (and their budget calculation "mistakes"): 80 of the grad students in our department haven't registered for next semester's classes yet. The deadline was two weeks ago. If the classes don't fill, the TA jobs don't get allocated. Makes sense, huh?


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Stone the Crows

Seriously, stone them.

Apparently the sudden cold has shocked the crows into a fighting frenzy to keep warm. Tonight they're gathering in the trees around my apartment and cawing ... and flying around at each other to keep warm.

It's snowing a very light flurry of crow feathers.

It's kind of eerie to hear the sound of wind and then realize it's just crows ... that many of them ... flying around outside my apartment.

I'd take a picture, but it's dark, and they're dark, and it's cold.

Not much sounds creepier at night than a huge flock of crying crows.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Spaf's grand challenges

Sitting in on a talk given today by Gene Spafford, I got a chance to hear a very good talk for a second time. Here are some of the things that stuck out at me:

80% of email is spam

Only about 50 PhDs in infosec are graduated each year, but more than 4000 lawyers are.

Spaf sez, "Security is not about circling the wagons, it's about getting over the mountain safely" Like brakes in a car (the analogy he uses frequently) computer security features shouldn't be considered a circle-up defense mechanism, rather it should be a feature that lets you "drive faster."

What about epidemics? Most of the security threats are epidemic in nature. Getting rid of them may be impossible, but minimizing the outbreaks would be a huge accomplishment.

At many times during the talk, there were network interference problems, and in fact the video system crashed and burned halfway through. Here's Sid's Grand challenge: interference free video conferencing.

Spaf sez about our armed services using Microsoft Windows, "We've gone from the world's greatest blue-water navy to the worlds greatest blue-screen navy"

Did you know there are over 110,000 different viruses for MS products? There are at most dozens for other platforms. This is so bad that on an unprotected connection, automated scans will usurp and zombify a computer running XP in an average of 4 minutes (shortest in a recent test was four seconds).

We need trustworthy record systems. Hospital workers often don't trust their systems, so they don't use them to their full potential.

We don't measure computers in terms of dependability, reliability. We need to in order to do risk management in IT! But how do you measure the security or privacy risk on computers? This is a severe business problem.

(Link to relevant slides) (Link to similar stream) (Link to related paper)

Friday, December 03, 2004

Selling My Number

Yesterday I got a number of phone calls from numbers I didn't recognize. The annoying part was that the first one came at 8:30 in the morning. Like the good graduate student I am, I was still snoozing away--it was kind of a rude awakening.

Nonetheless, the calls kept coming throughout the morning until I finally got a chance to answer one.

Me: Hello?
Voice: Wow... I'm surprised to get you!
Me: Really?
Voice: yeah. (long pause) I'm with Verizon -- we're trying to set this number up for a new customer.
Me: (amazed) Really.
Voice: Yeah, this number hasn't been assigned!
Me: Well, I've been using it with AT&T. I took it with me when I switched from you guys.
Voice: (amazed) Really.
Anyhow, they got it all worked out, but three of the strange calls that originated from an industrial plant in TH.

I'm glad to see that Verizon has the number switching system working perfectly. </sarcasm>