Wednesday, August 21, 2013

TechDirt: Feds Threaten To Arrest Lavabit Founder For Shutting Down His Service

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Here's the link to the TechDirt article, and the link to the NBC News article it references.

In case you haven't been following this case, Lavabit is (or was) a secure e-mail service. All mail is encrypted so no unwanted third parties (not even Lavabit) can snoop the content. The US government didn't like the idea of an e-mail service they couldn't spy on so they sent him threatening letters demanding access. According to the above linked articles, they wanted a full tap into the content of all messages from all users. Rather than comply with this blatantly unconstitutional abuse of power, the owner shut down the service.

And now the Feds are threatening to prosecute him for doing that!

I'm sure my left-wing friends will see no problem with this, but for the rest of us, this is just another example of the abusive totalitarian nature of the US government today.

Monday, August 12, 2013

CNBC: Xerox machines swap numbers during scans

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If someone told me about this in passing, I would assume it to be a big joke, but apparently not:

D. Kriesel, a German Ph.D. student studying computational geometry, encountered a strange problem when scanning a blueprint on a common Xerox office scanner. The numbers denoting the square footage of rooms were totally wrong, and what's more, they changed when he scanned the blueprint again.

Intrigued, Kriesel tried scanning a table of costs and figures. Numbers changed again—but not wildly, just by a little bit: 54.60 became 54.80, for instance. And it wasn't just a blurry scan or a misplaced pixel—these were fully formed, unmistakable characters.


it quickly became clear what the culprit was: an image compression algorithm called JBIG2, built into the scanner as the "normal" quality option for those who wanted to save a bit of space on their hard drive (versus "high" and "higher," which made for much bigger files).

Unlike an analog photocopier, or a digital one that simply records the black-and-white values of pixels, JBIG2 examines the whole image and finds pieces that are highly similar, replacing them with a sort of clone-stamped version that saves space. Examples of such pieces of an image might be the pattern on some wallpaper or the top of a fence—or, as it turns out, small letters and numbers that look similar, like 6s and 8s.

All I can say is "d'Oh!"