Apple gives Brits same answer they gave Obama on opening encrypted data — NO!

Apple is opposed to a new British law it says would require it to provide authorities with access to encrypted data as it would create vulnerabilities hackers could exploit, Chief Executive Tim Cook said…

Britain last week unveiled a draft surveillance bill that would place explicit obligations on service providers to help intercept data and hack suspects’ devices, potentially undermining the end-to-end encryption on Apple’s iMessages.

Speaking to students in Dublin, Tim Cook said Apple would need to create a “back door” in the encryption to comply and that this would expose data to hackers…

“We believe that the safest approach for the world is to encrypt end to end with no back door. We think that protects the most people,” he said…

Experts say parts of the new bill goes beyond the powers available to security services in the United States and critics have denounced it as an assault on privacy. The British government says the law is vital to keep the country safe.

The Director of Britain’s eavesdropping agency GCHQ said on Tuesday, blah, blah, blah

Cook said if Apple’s encryption were undermined, then the “bad guys” the British government is seeking to intercept will simply use alternative encryption tools.

“If you close down the major companies from using encryption, the bad guys aren’t going to stop using encryption. They are just going to go to another source.”

I agree with Ed Snowden that the best defense available to ordinary geeks is strong encryption. Apple is the leading company taking a stand to defend that policy and therefore gets the most flak from the cops of the world. It doesn’t matter which country they’re representing from their view at the top of the heap – I trust the politics of the “security matters more than privacy” clowns about as far as I can throw them uphill into a heavy wind.

Here’s how Otto celebrated Guinness World Records Day

In Lima, Peru, Otto the Bulldog glided into the record books with a triumphant attempt at the
Longest human tunnel travelled through by a skateboarding dog, all in honour of Guinness World Records Day 2015.

The 3-year-old pooch valiantly skated through the legs of 30 humans, who all faced the same direction and stood with their feet apart to allow the talented English Bulldog to pass freely through the human tunnel without being led or touched.

Guinness World Records adjudicator Sarah Cusson witnessed Otto’s breath-taking and unique skill first-hand, and presented him with an official certificate once the record was verified and confirmed.

Keep on rocking, Otto.

Human waste is a wasted potential source of energy


Click to enlarge

A concept that needn’t be limited to the Third World

Gas produced by decaying human waste is a potentially major source of energy that could provide electricity for millions of homes while improving sanitary conditions in developing countries…

Biogas is produced when bacteria break down human feces. And it would be worth the equivalent of $9.5 billion in non-renewable natural gas, the United Nations Institute for Water, Environment and Health said on Tuesday.

Residues from treated waste could yield two million tons a year of “solid” fuel worldwide that could reduce charcoal use and the number of trees being felled, which would help in global warming reduction efforts…

In low-income countries, the use of biogas could finance development

Almost a billion people around the world do not have access to toilets, about 60 percent of them in India, and have to relieve themselves outdoors…

If their waste was collected and used to produce biogas, it could generate electricity for 10 million to 18 million households and be worth $200 million to $376 million per year…

Bringing toilets to so many areas also will improve hygiene and public health in these countries. Poor sanitation is to blame for 10 percent of illnesses in developing countries, the researchers said.

“Challenges are many, but clearly there is a compelling, multi-dimensional financial case to be made for deriving energy from waste,” said Chris Metcalfe, one of the authors of the study.

Many states have a few biogas facilities constructed over bulging landfills. I’ve blogged before about at least one gigantic dairy farm that powers all its trucks with biogas from cow manure. Also another source readily available in India, for example. More important, though nations like the United States are generations away from projects like these suggested making economic sense for us – with some of the cheapest natural gas in the world – the cost of transporting natgas to India and Africa makes the concept of human-origins of biogas more than sensible. It becomes affordable.

You may bump into this robot in your local grocery store

As long as consumers love low prices a trend will continue — the evaporating human employee.

Tuesday a Silicon Valley start-up unveiled Tally, a robot designed to help retailers track their shelves far better than a human employee could. Robots like Tally can’t do everything a person can, but they offer a reminder of how machines increasingly excel at roles long held by humans.

The idea behind Tally is to take inventory faster in a given store. Simbe Robotics chief executive Brad Bogolea says the robot could scan a CVS, Walgreens or small grocery store in 30 or 40 minutes. Tally can capture data on 15,000 to 20,000 products an hour, far more than a human employee…

The 38-inch tall Tally is programmed to navigate a store while stopping to take photos of shelves. These are uploaded to the cloud and compared against an idealized representation of the store to see if products are where they should be, and are properly priced. Computer-vision algorithms analyze what is out of stock, which products are facing the wrong direction and what is misplaced. A store manager then receives a report.

Before Tally is ready to work, a retail employee must first guide it through the store to help it build a map of where it can go. Or a store could send its floor plan to Simbe Robotics, which will then program a specific robot with a map of the space. Tally also includes a range of sensors so that it won’t crash into shelves or customers. It can see items on shelves up to 8 feet high…

Simbe Robotics believes the data it gathers from shelves would be of interest to more than just store managers. It’s interested in eventually selling the information — which it compares to a real-time Google Maps street view of an aisle — to brand managers. They could easily see how products are doing in a given shelf space, or how they are being presented in comparison to competitors.

Excepting skillful placement, display merchandising, poisonally I think you can achieve the same result with smart algorithms, sensible database management, point-of-sale software and oversight from experienced traffic managers. Exact fit to the kind of work I did in one of my careers, Guaranteed to drive you mad as a hatter. 🙂