Tag Archives | Computers

Playing for Keeps: AI Enters the World of Online Poker

poker-botsA poker bot able surpass human competitors still has other bots to contend with. Is online gambling poised to become cyperpunk? From Gabriel Dance at The New York Times:

Bryan Taylor, 36, could not shake the feeling that something funny was going on. Three of his most frequent opponents on an online poker site were acting oddly, playing in ways that were so similar it was suspicious.

Mr. Taylor, who started playing poker professionally in 2008, suspected that he was competing against computers — specifically bots, short for robots — that had been programmed to play poker and beat the odds.

And he was right. After an investigation, the site Mr. Taylor frequented, PokerStars, determined that his opponents had been computers masquerading as people and shut them down.

Poker bots are not new, but until recently they were not very good. Humans were better at the nuances of the game — at bluffing, for instance — and could routinely beat the machines.… Read the rest

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German Bank Worker Accidentally Transfers Nearly $300 Million By Falling Asleep On Keyboard

falling asleep on keyboardSomething tells me that the falling-asleep-on-keyboard mistake will eventually be how the world ends. Via FRANCE 24:

An obviously tired German bank employee fell asleep on his keyboard and accidentally transformed a minor transfer into a 222 million euro ($293 million) order, a court heard Monday.

The Hessen labour court heard that the man was supposed to transfer just 62.40 euro from a bank account belonging to a retiree, but instead “fell asleep for an instant, while pushing onto the number 2 key on the keyboard” — making it a huge 222,222,222.22 euro order.

The bank discovered the mistake shortly afterwards and corrected the error. The case was taken to court by the man’s 48-year-old colleague who was fired for letting the mistake slip through when verifying the order.

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Alaskan Children Use Phishing To Take Control Of School Computer Network

alaskan schoolchildren use phishingBeware the children. Via the BBC:

A group of pupils at a middle school in Alaska took control of their school computers after phishing for administrator privileges.

They asked teachers at Schoenbar Middle School, for 12 to 13-year-olds, to enter admin names and passwords to accept a false software update, according to reports. The pupils used those details to access and control classmates’ PCs. Classmates then complained that their computers were not responding normally.

At least 18 pupils were involved in the phishing, which gave them control over 300 computers allocated for student use at the school in the Alaskan town of Ketchikan. Those computers have now been seized.

Casey Robinson, the principal, told community radio station Ketchikan FM: “I don’t think there was any personal information compromised. Now that we have all the machines back in our control, nothing new can happen.”

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Did The Internet Destroy The Middle Class?

destroy the middle classVia Salon, virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier puts forth his argument that it is so:

The photography company Kodak employed more than 14,000 people. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. The number of people who are contributing to the system to make it viable is probably the same. Instagram wouldn’t work if there weren’t many millions of people using it.

So there’s still a lot of human effort, but the difference is that whereas before when people made contributions to the system that they used, they received formal benefits, which means not only salary but pensions and certain kinds of social safety nets. Now, instead, they receive benefits on an informal basis. And what an informal economy is like is the economy in a developing country slum. It’s reputation, it’s barter, it’s that kind of stuff.

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A Guide To Protecting Your Privacy Online With Browser Extensions

browser extensionsLifehacker has a rundown of recommendations for simple browser add-ons (such as Disconnect, Do Not Track Me, and the adorably-mascotted Ghostery) for keeping your online browsing and communications safe from tracking:

Anti-tracking and anti-cookie extensions have exploded recently. Disconnect (Firefox/Chrome/IE/Safari) is our pick because it continues to add useful features and improve its database, and its secure Wi-Fi and bandwidth optimization features aren’t available in other tools. It blocks third party tracking cookies and gives you control over all site scripts and elements from a simple-to-use toolbar menu. It also protects you from tracking by social networks like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, which use your browsing even off-site to collect data about you.

HTTPS Everywhere (Firefox/Chrome) is a must-have regardless of what other security tools you opt to use. Once installed, the extension will shunt your connection to SSL whenever possible, and will try to find secure versions of the sites you visit.

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Computers That Can’t Fail

legofthesixtiesVia PCWorld:

When you see reports about the small, remote-controlled drones that the military uses to gather intelligence and target enemies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, it’s easy to assume that all our weaponry is equally modern. Some significant weapons systems that our military depends on today, though, run on technology that dates back, in some instances, to the Vietnam War era.

The U.S. Navy’s ship-based radar systems and Britain’s Atomic Weapons Establishment, which maintains that country’s nuclear warheads, use PDP minicomputers manufactured in the 1970s by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Another user of the PDP is Airbus, the French jetliner manufacturer.

The PDP was among the second wave of mainframes called minicomputers because they were only the size of a couple of refrigerators instead of big enough to fill a room.

The F-15 and F-18 fighters, the Hawk missile systems, parts of the U.S. Navy submarine fleet, and Navy fighter test systems on aircraft carriers use DEC’s VAX minicomputers from the 1980s for various purposes, according to Lynda Jones of The Logical Company in Cottage Grove, Oregon, which helps keep these antiquated systems functioning.

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Researchers Create Basis For Computers Made From Living Biological Cells

Technology and nature to become indistinguishable, New Scientist writes:

Computers made from living cells, anyone? Two groups of researchers have independently built the first biological analogue of the transistor. It should make it easier to create gadgets out of living cells, such as biosensors that detect polluted water.

Drew Endy at Stanford University and colleagues have designed a transistor-like device that controls the movement of an enzyme called RNA polymerase along a strand of DNA, just as electrical transistors control the flow of current through a circuit. Because combinations of transistors can carry out computations, this should make it possible to build living gadgets with integrated control circuitry.

A similar device has been built by Timothy Lu and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Such devices will be key building blocks in cellular machines, says Paul Freemont at Imperial College London, who was not involved in either study.

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The Adventure Of Randomized Shopping

Craving the excitement that consumerism arouses, Darius Kazemi designed the Amazon Random Shopper, which buys random object each month, and documents the results. Could this randomized consumption prove more rewarding than shopping according to our supposed needs, desires, and tastes?

Recently I’ve been making a bunch of weird stuff that randomly generates things. The first iteration of this was going to be a program that bought me stuff that I probably would like. But then I decided that was too boring.

How about I build something that buys me things completely at random? Something that just… fills my life with crap? How would these purchases make me feel? Would they actually be any less meaningful than the crap I buy myself on a regular basis anyway?

So I built Amazon Random Shopper. It grabs a random word from the Wordnik API, then runs an Amazon search based on that word and buys the first thing that’s under budget.

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Scientists Invent Self-Healing Computer Chips That Repair Themselves

Great, the evil supercomputers in our future now will be able to immediately heal themselves if you attempt to damage their circuits, Phys.org reports:

Imagine that the chips in your smart phone or computer could repair and defend themselves on the fly, recovering in microseconds from problems ranging from low battery power to total transistor failure. It might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but a team of engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), for the first time ever, has developed just such self-healing integrated chips.

In perhaps the most dramatic of their experiments, the team destroyed various parts of their chips by zapping them multiple times with a high-power laser, and then observed as the chips automatically developed a work-around in less than a second.

By showing that the self-healing capability works well in such an advanced system, the researchers hope to show that the self-healing approach can be extended to virtually any other electronic system.

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The Original Cypherpunk Manifesto

Via Activism.net, in 1993, UC Berkeley mathematician Eric Hughes penned this manifesto for the so-called cypherpunk movement which he had helped invent:

Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn’t want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn’t want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world.

If two parties have some sort of dealings, then each has a memory of their interaction. Each party can speak about their own memory of this; how could anyone prevent it?

Since we desire privacy, we must ensure that each party to a transaction have knowledge only of that which is directly necessary for that transaction. When I purchase a magazine at a store and hand cash to the clerk, there is no need to know who I am.

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