Tag: encryption

Booze Makes You Think You’re Starving – Episode 59

AT&T changing the rules for unlimited data plan holders.



  • In March 2017, the old AT&T data plan is going up another $5 to $40 a month.
  • In February 2016, it had gone up from $30 to $35.
  • It’s unlimited data, but not in the sense you think of it. It’s unlimited and unthrottled until you use 22GB. Then it’s throttled if you’re connected to a congested tower.
  • I suspect most towers are somewhat congested, at least at certain times of the day, particularly in metro areas with a high density of users.
  • Then again, 22GB is sort of a lot if you’re on wifi most of the time.
  • Oh, and by the way…rumor is that net neutrality is going away as FCC staffing changes under the Trump administration.

Filling tooth cavities without fillings.


  • Research team at King’s College in London have found that they can initiate teeth self-healing small cavities
  • They did this using biodegradable sponges soaked in a drug called Tideglusib, which is beginning to be used in Alzheimer’s patients and Autism spectrum patients.
  • The sponges were placed inside the cavity and then covered with a dental sealant.
  • “They discovered… heightened the activity of stem cells in the dental pulp so they could repair 0.13mm holes in the teeth of mice.”
  • As the sponge broke down it was replaced by dentine, healing the tooth.
  • They’re moving on to research on repairing larger cavities.
  • How soon to market?
    • Says project lead Prof Paul Sharpe, “I don’t think it’s massively long term, it’s quite low-hanging fruit in regenerative medicine and hopeful in a three-to-five year period this would be commercially available.”

This is your brain on booze.




  • Mice were given the equivalent of a bottle and a half of wine.
  • That level of alcohol caused AGRP neurons to fire. They do this when the body is experiencing starvation. (I think my AGRP neurons might be broken. Apparently, I’m starving all the time.)
  • This is presumed to explain why some people get hungry after having a drink.
  • Alcohol does other things to your brain as well. (Risky Drinking documentary statistics.)
    • 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. is a binge drinker.

    • Binge drinking accounts for more than half of the alcohol consumed by adults in the U.S.


    • Less than 20% of people with an alcohol use disorder receive treatment.


    • About 80% of people with an alcohol use disorder will relapse within the first year of sobriety.


    • Although more men than women have alcohol use disorder, the gap is quickly narrowing.


    • Blackouts are episodes of amnesia that disrupt the ability to form new memories while intoxicated.

    • One in six women will develop an alcohol related health problem including cancer, heart disease and liver damage.

    • Chronic alcohol use can cause an overall reduction in brain function and size.


    • Nearly one third of adults in the U.S. engage in problem drinking at some point in their lives. 

    • The majority of people who receive treatment for an alcohol use disorder will recover.

Signal others. Secretly.


  • Signal is an Android and iOS app for secure communications
  • Voice, Video, SMS & MMS
  • Free (apart from data network charges)
  • All communications are end to end encrypted. (Stored on the devices, not Signal’s servers)
  • Built in mechanisms to ensure no man-in-the-middle attacks are happening
    • For calls, Signal displays two words on the screen. If the words match on both ends of the call, the call is secure.
    • For messages, users can compare key fingerprints (or scan QR codes) out-of-band.]
    • The app employs a trust on first use mechanism in order to notify the user if a correspondent’s key changes.
    • For messages, Signal users can compare key fingerprints (or scan QR codes) out-of-band.
    • The app employs a trust on first use mechanism in order to notify the user if a correspondent’s key changes.
    • Scheduled message removal – deletes messages from both sending and receiving devices at a scheduled time
    • Encrypted local message store
    • Android users can choose to make it their default SMS application, which I’ve done. It’s lightweight, fast, and has some great UX tweaks over the stock messaging app on my Samsung S7
  • Servers – this has to be facilitated by servers at some point, right?
    • In addition to routing Signal’s messages and calls, the servers also facilitate the discovery of contacts who are also registered Signal users and the automatic exchange of users’ public keys.
    • Signal’s privacy policy states that these identifiers are only kept on the servers as long as necessary in order to place each call or transmit each message.
    • Because it’s end to end encrypted though, they can report that communication was initiated between end points, but nothing about the content of said communications.
  • Code Auditing and you

Forcing Mac gaming to not suck.


  • GeForce NOW – Their game streaming service, currently supports Shield set top boxes and tablets.
  • They’ve just announced PC & Mac streaming at CES, which should launch in March of this year (2017)
  • GeForce NOW streaming quality automatically adjusts to the speed of your broadband connection.
  • 10 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
  • 20 Megabits per second – Recommended for 720p 60 FPS quality
  • 50 Megabits per second – Recommended for 1080p 60 FPS quality
  • < 60ms ping time to one of six NVIDIA datacenters world-wide
  • Pricing: When gamers register for GeForce NOW, they can play for free for 8 hours on a GeForce GTX 1060 PC or 4 hours on a GeForce GTX 1080 PC. For an additional $25, gamers can play for 20 hours on a GTX 1060 PC or 10 hours on a GTX 1080 PC. Early access to the new GeForce NOW service is scheduled for March in the continental United States, with full commercial service slated for the spring.





  • Verizon is buying Yahoo for $4.8 billion, with a B.
  • It’s not the entire portfolio of company assets. Alibaba is not part of the sale, for example.
  • What is bought is going to be turned into an investment company called Altaba.
  • Marissa Mayer’s future is in doubt. It doesn’t look like she’ll be involved in Altaba financial portfolio management. And it doesn’t look like she’s going to Verizon, either. Worst case, they fire her, and she ends up with $55 million. With an M.

Content I Like

Songfacts Music Blog


  • Songwriter Interviews – Go behind the music with some of the world’s best songwriters
  • Song Writing – Musical musings from journalists, authors and members of the Songfacts community
  • Fact or Fiction – Sorting Myth from Reality in the Musical Realm
  • They’re Playing My Song – Bruce Pollock asks artists about the one song they wrote or sang that most influenced their career.
  • Music Quiz – Lyric Quizzes and Next Generation Music Trivia
  • Songfacts Pages – Songfacts pages explaining who we are, what we do, and our policies.

Today I Learned

Africa is bifurcating.



  • There is a rift down the east side of the African continent that is, over the next few million years, going to fill in with ocean.
  • The eastern rift is termed the Somali plate.
  • “In north-eastern Africa’s Afar Triangle, which cuts across Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, hundreds of crevices are reported as splitting the desert floor and the ground has slumped by as much as 100m.”
Tube Amp

Tube Amp DNA – Episode 031

Show 031 – Tube Amp DNA

Hi. You’ve stumbled into Citizens of Tech, a podcast for total nerds about technology of all sorts. It is not too late to turn this podcast off. Even now, you can save this part of your brain for something else.

But, if you insist on staying, you’re going to hear about your dream teacher’s assistant, a wonderfully pointless tube amp, encryption, using DNA for data storage, phase change memory, Star Trek, and a Babelfish in real life.

Ethan Banks here, along with Eric Sutphen.

Surprise! Students’ favorite TA was an AI all along!


  • Georgia Tech Computer Science Professor Ashok Goel
  • “Jill Watson” was brought on as a teaching assistant
  • All semester she answered student questions online
  • Apparently she did a great job, with one student commenting: “Just when I wanted to nominate Jill Watson as an outstanding TA in the CIOS survey!”
  • Goel “fed” the AI data from the class forums, essentially making it a subject matter expert.
  • He and his human TAs also tested and tweaked it for months
    • Similar questions initially caused problems:
    • “Where can I find assignment two?” vs. “When is assignment two due?”
    • He added in additional logic to deal with this until it was acceptable
    • “I cannot create chaos in my classroom. Jill had to be almost as perfect as a human TA or I am,”
  • 97% certainty is the threshold for answering
  • He is starting a company to bring this technology to other educational institutions and endeavors
  • He reckons this could help facilitate online education efforts. “Education is such a huge priority for the entire human race.”
  • The idea of “open” education is wonderful, but engagement is often very low, as hundreds or thousands of students can enroll, and often receive no actual interaction from a human; often leading to high dropout rates.
  • “A really fun thing in this class has been once students knew about Jill they were so motivated, so engaged. I’ve never seen this kind of motivation and engagement,” Goel said. “What a beautiful way of teaching artificial intelligence.” he noted.
  • He will likely use “Jill” again, but under another pseudonym so that the students are forced to try to guess which TA is the AI this time around.


Kickstarter: Raspberry Pi 2 Tube Amp


  • Audio nerd project
  • A tube amp for your headphones. Alternately, drive an amp with it and listen through your stereo.
  • Brings an analog sound some claim is more pleasant in a world of digital purity
  • Wondering how it deals with the harshness compression introduces to treble, such as cymbal crashes or hi-hat.
  • Stackable board driven off of the 40-pin connector
  • It does make the Pi 2 sorta tall.
  • The tube is your choice, if you want to mix ‘n’ match.
  • You can set the impedance to exactly match your headphones.
  • “This project will be funded on Mon, Jun 6 2016 5:45 PM EDT.”
  • Currently at 658 backers for $90,922. Initial goal was only $20K, so they’ve moved into stretch goals which allows for inclusion of audio adapters.

Let’s Encrypt All The Things!

So how does this encryption thing work, anyway?

Public Keys, Private Keys, what does it all mean, Basil!?!

  • Everyone sort of understands the core concept of encryption… right?
    • I send stuff seemingly in gibberish
    • You (or your computer) knows how to decode the gibberish
    • Message received.
  • But how does it really work?
    • You want to send me a sensitive document
    • You put it in a box and lock it with the public key, then send it to me
    • The only way to unlock the box is with a key that only I have, the Private Key
  • Clear as mud? Yes? No? Maybe?
  • TLDR; It’s like a lock that needs two keys to open.

Store it like DNA


  • DNA is amazing stuff. It holds much of the genetic information that defines what a critter is.
  • It’s molecular – really small – and thus can cram a lot of information into a tiny area. Magnetic drives and flash drives are only going to take us so far. Or should I say small.
  • DNA survives a long time. DNA thousands of years old has been successfully sequenced, according to the Ars article.
  • So this makes it an interesting choice for data storage. I mean, at some point we’ll reach a State of Maximum Cat, and simply have to have more storage for the Internet to continue.
  • 1 gram of DNA can store a zettabyte of data, which is 1 billion terabytes. That’s a lot of cat videos.
  • In 2012 and 2013, experiments were done to store information using DNA’s encoding capability.
  • So now Microsoft is in on the action. They’ve bought 10 million strands of DNA from a company called Twist Bioscience.
  • Twist has a machine that can write the data.
  • Reading the data back means sequencing the DNA.
  • It’s costly, experimental, and we aren’t getting DNA drives anytime soon. But early experiments prove the viability. We can encode a sequence. We can read it back. Yup.
  • But at 10 cents a sequence…yeah. Twist sees a way to get to 2 cents. But even then…we have a ways to go.

Phase Change Memory: as fast as DRAM, as cheap as Flash


  • IBM – remember them? They seem to be cranking out computing advancements left and right lately
  • Normal memory is binary – 0 or 1, off or on
  • Phase-change memory is different in that it can have multiple states
  • IBM’s PCM has been refined to be reliable with 3 phases.
  • “Reaching 3 bits per cell is a significant milestone because at this density the cost of PCM will be significantly less than DRAM and closer to flash,” noted Dr. Haris Pozidis, one of the IBM researchers
  • Reliable is good, dense is good, but speed is crucial.
  • PCM “seek” time is less than 1 microsecond – Flash is ~ 70 microseconds
  • DRAM is still faster, much, much faster. A “normal” DRAM latency is around 7ns – over 100x faster
  • But for general use storage this is a dream come true – assuming it can be mass produced and miniaturized sufficiently to be commoditized.
  • There is marketplace competition from memristors and resistive RAM, which is a good thing
  • IBM sees this as promising tech for Watson-like AI storage – where low latency is so helpful

Star Trek series coming to CBS


  • January 2017.
  • Tied to the new movies.
  • But has new characters and storylines.
  • Supposedly not taking place on the Enterprise or other ship.
  • A vehicle for the new CBS video on demand service that’s coming.
  • Hopeful.

Auto-translation is “hear”


  • Called the “Pilot”
  • Wireless, in-ear headphone (earbud) with accompanying phone app
  • Offers translation in real time for various languages – including
    • English
    • Spanish
    • French
    • Italian
    • Hindi
    • Presumably more, but an exhaustive list wasn’t available at recording time
  • It works offline, so can be used abroad even if you don’t have an international data plan
  • Comes with a second earbud for streaming music and all that jazz
  • Waitlist only – but apparently it should be $129 when you can actually get your hands on it

Content I Like

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

Amazon – $17.00

  • What technology wants was a fascinating read.
  • Kelly approaches the subject of Technology as a force of evolutionary “will”, which was a unique and compelling thought experiment.
  • This book received a 4 star rating on Goodreads / Amazon and I agree with that rating, not flawless but quite interesting and stretched my thinking about technology in several ways.

Cal Newport’s Blog


  • Author of Deep Work, a book I recommend.
  • Cal writes about deep work and getting things done.
  • Thought provoking articles and anecdotes about this stuff.


Today I Learned

Domestication and taming are two very different things: you can tame an animal, but domestication requires changes at the genetic level.



“The average number of litters a fertile cat produces is one to two a year; the average number of kittens is four to six per litter.” Please spay or neuter your pets. There’s enough cat videos in the world.