How to Go Out

Cricket is a mystery to a lot of people but as the world’s second most popular sport, behind only football (the one where you actually use your feet), it’s not a mystery to a lot more.

In his final test match Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand Cricket captain, broke a thirty year old record for the fastest century.

It was a fitting ending to a career that fundamentally changed the way New Zealand relates to cricket and how the nation as a whole conducts itself in sports. For a sporting nation, that’s a huge deal.

The Black Caps may not be the All Blacks, but, thanks to McCullum, they don’t have to be any more. Today we got to see the purest distillation of a man who will go down as one of the greatest and most influential captains of all time.

 

Forever Alone

“Magnificent Desolation” was Buzz Aldrin’s first impression of the moon. Now, 45 years later, he could equally have been describing the entirety of space.

Long before the Apollo 11 mission landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon, people like Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Enrico Fermi were wondering, given the infinite universe, why haven’t we already been visited by intelligent life…multiple times.

This paradox is most popularly called the Fermi Paradox. The central ideas (from Wikipedia) are:

  • The Sun is a normal star and is in many respects typical, and there are billions of stars in the galaxy, including many billions of years older than Earth.
  • With high probability, some of these stars will have Earth-like planets, and if the Earth is typical, some might develop intelligent life.
  • Some of these civilizations might develop interstellar travel, a step the Earth is investigating now.
  • Even at the slow pace of currently envisioned interstellar travel, the Milky Way galaxy could be completely traversed in about a million years.

While it’s enticing and captivating to imagine what other life might be like there’s also the unfathomable, nihilistic possibility that in the vastness of space, it is, and will always be, just us.

 

Arthur C. Clarke said it best:

“Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

What Ben Franklin Didn’t Say About Encryption

 

“Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.”

-Benjamin Frankin on phone encryption

At least that’s the popular misquote used when discussing how much “The State” should be allowed to know about what we citizens are up to.

The actual quote (which is a version of a different piece of his own writing) is:

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

The presence of the qualifiers little and temporary are pretty important omissions. Crucially, these words  leave room for sacrificing liberty for lasting security and/or for big change while at the same time requiring us to identify essential liberties.

The current lightning rod for this issue is the court ordering of Apple to “unlock” the San Bernadino jihadists’ phones.  Apple, although it could equally have been Google or any other company, is reluctant to comply even going so far as to draft an open letter about the situation.

A common refrain for supporting the rights of law enforcement to look at phone details is that it shouldn’t be a problem, unless you have something to hide. I’m inclined to agree with the position, in principle. The problem is deciding whether something is empirically bad or just an opinion of those doing the looking. Where I live it’s not a big problem, but under other regimes it certainly would be.

A second concern is that a backdoor to encryption could also be used by hackers. I know these nefarious characters are one of the favourite bogeymen for those who want to promote encryption, but, no matter what way you dress it up, a security backdoor does make something less secure.

So, back to the quote. Does the ability to get into jihadists’ phones and maybe save lives from other terror attacks qualify as a lot of permanent safety and is having safe information on your phone an essential liberty?

The decision’s about to be made one way or another. Worryingly, it won’t be made by people as free to make purely reasoned proclamations as Ben Franklin.

UPDATE: Google is supporting Apple’s stance according to CEO Sundar Pichai’s twitter.

1/1/1970; not a good day for iPhones

applelogoThose loveable scamps at 4chan are at it again.

Anyone tempted by the allure of a sweet, sweet, retro Apple logo on their iPhone might have been tempted to change its date to 1/1/70.

That would have been bad but ars technica has the cure…

” The faulty date does get reset when the battery goes completely flat, however, so discharging the phone (or disconnecting the battery, if you’re brave) fixes it. “

Why? Well iOS runs on UNIX and 1/1/70 is the “0” date for the operating system. Basically it’s like the “Y2K bug” but something bad happens.

Prepare for the sequel in 2038…

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Straight dope from Tom Scott

See things go bad…