Thursday, June 19, 2008

nature and human studies

a recent publication in nature about human mobility caused a bit of a stir in the news

what surprised me was that apparently said paper passed the ethics committee in the authors' institution. the data was taken from a european cellular provider

1. the customers were'nt asked -t his makes it unethical
2. i asked uk and german and spanish legal folks they said this is also illegal in european law.
3. the data isnt avaialble to other people to validate, compare
4. not knowing which country it is make it petty hard to geenralise the mobility model (e.g. think greek islands versus spanish plains, versus alps:)
5. the paper appeared already in a slightly different form in the IOP Journal of Phys...
6 they dont seem to have done anythiong to control for factors that social scienctists would do like age group (think Virgin Mobile versus Vodafone - networks that cater mostly for kids or mostly for business users) people that turn off phones when traveling, or have 2 phones for home and work...

in general, I am a bit surprised at Nature for publishing the work - the math/analysis is cool, but the rest of it is doubtful, imho

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

gravitational and inertial mass explained

so a puzzle slightly harder to explain than P=nP
to the no nscientist, and probably more important
is why gravitational and inertial mass are the same

so my theory is that mass is basically a concrete instantiation of information
(information, as it were, realized, or referent in the form of substance)

so the more information, the more mass (the more mass, the more information)

information breeds interpretation, and interpretation needs to "run"
and needs intelligence which runs on matter and is attracted to information
hence information (masses) attracts (and doesn't repel, whereas ignorance, or lack of information, does repel..)

so inertia is now easy to udnerstand - it is hard to change people's minds - the fact is that facts are things it is foolish to argue about. Hence facts have more inertia than opinions.
I.e. information not only has, but is, inertial and graviational mass.

Monday, June 09, 2008

tell me, how can a poor ISP stand such times, and live?

bbc says it will cost 16 billion quid to upgrade UK to 100Mbps (i assume FTTH) -
broadband snakeholders group comments

people are suing comcast for rate limiting stuff in a
class action

you can't win :-)

[ with apologies to Ry Cooder et al for misusing their fine toon title:)

new noos: slashdot lists an article which pretty much says what I said about
differentiation here,
but fails to distinguish as clearly as I would like
that this is not the same as arbitrary discrimination. Viz what I wrote in
CCR, but it does uphold the principle of transparency, which is fine, so I'm happy:)

Friday, June 06, 2008

transformational government : where's the no leak model

so here's the thing - governments want to join-up-the-dots
for a variety of ostensibly ok reasons
1/ reduce costs (single database entry per citizen, keyed on biometric id)
2/ increase consistency (e.g. tax and rebate)
3/ tracking trends
4/ catching bad guys
5/ you name it...
6/ if they were really honest, one could make the system transparent
and probably remove most government (reduce the government to "codes"

this is all transformational government

the problem is that the more unified the databases, the higher the gain to bust it
and the higher the loss to people (in value and number of people) if the system is bust (whether deliberately by bad guys or accidentally by HMRC^H^H idiots).

so once you unify this thing how long does it last? how about forever, stupid?

so the probabilty of leaks might be some decreasing small number - e.g. the chance of leaking 1 record in a year might be 1 in a million. so what are the chances your record is leaked in your lifetime (say 75 years)? well, fairly close to 1 actually.
do the math

the only way to do things is to require that noone keeps data for very long at all. and noone has access across all databases - keep the databases seperate (as per the current data protection laws) and delete data permanently and properly as early as possible.

this needs to be done much more carefully than in the past

by the way, recent reports ont he bbc about the tracking of cell phone users
cite a paper in nature, which reveals that the 100k users were in a european country

firstly, while they claim that they've anonymized the data (and the country) It is fairly easy to deduce from the cell tower locations and population mobility (e.g. 3km mean levy walk, with a 1000km limit) which country, which provider, and therefore for authors (and one assumes, the Nature editors and reviewers , since they are supposed to require access to data to check an experiment is valid and reproduceable or falsifiable, even when the data is proprietarty -as in drug clinical trials))

so this paper is unethical and possibly illegal in european law.

oh well.

and follow links to supplemntary data)

its a shame that Nature has lowered the bar for work like this as it should be possible to do this sort of thing in a way that is with consent (lets say you offer the users some useful service based on location !) and is done scientifically
in a verifiable way too...

nevertheless the results are useful (mind you, so were the nazis' medical work on hypothermia in concentration camps......careful...careful...dont lose your cool).

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Control v. Data Plane Complexity & HCI

I was reading a bunch of HCI research recently and it struck me that the
really successful systems that people build (I realize HCI isn't about systems, but
often the really good HCI work builds systems to do experiments, so you get to see cool design artifacts as a side effect of their work - hey- the iPhone as a side effect is
no bad thing:) so anyhow te good systems have low complexity control planes and all the clever stuff is implicit in the work in the data plane (to use networking terminology)

this is a bit like IP v. ATM- IP has a rediculusly simple control plane (originally)
and so is easy to write many many applications to.

in HCI terms,. this is similar - we want systems with low cognitive overhead - i.e.
you want star trek communicators not things you have to click to unlock then 10 digits to dial/press to call. you want tivo boxes that just go ahead and record your favorite types of programs by default and use the actual broadcast events to trigger recording start/end, rather than VCRs with arcane yarrow-stick-casting interfaces where you type in immutable start and end times in odd formats and program/channel numbers that relate to local geo- and techno- specific assignment of program and station to some random number....

you want a net where you can just send a packet, rather than calling 11M lines of code to set up a virtual path and channel.