STE WILLIAMS

Eben Moglen promotes Freedom in a box

Feb
18

In a recent interview with The H, Eben Moglen professor of law and legal history at Columbia University, and the founder, Director-Counsel and Chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center, spoke about his ideas for using simple hardware to free individuals from the tyranny of the client/server model imposed by current web services. It seems his ideas may be on the way to becoming reality in the form of the FreedomBox.

The FreedomBox is described by Moglen as a cheap, low-power, plug-top server running a Debian-Linux-based platform. Small plug-top servers such as the Pogoplug ($99 / £99) or the TonidoPlug ($99) are already on the market and as Moglen told the New York Times “They will get very cheap, very quick, … Once everyone is getting them, they will cost $29.” (more…)

GCHQ goes Google

Jan
21

Britain’s digital spies have turned to Google for help making sense of the floods of data now inundating their powerful computing resources.

GCHQ, the Cheltenham-based signals intelligence agency, is recruiting an expert on MapReduce, the patented number-crunching technique previously behind the dominant web search engine.

The agency’s new lead researcher on data mining will be responsible for “developing MapReduce analytics on parallel computing clusters”, a job advertisment reveals.

MapReduce was developed by Google to index billions of web pages across its cluster of hundreds of thousands of commodity servers. It breaks up complicated tasks into smaller, easier computing problems that cheap hardware is capable of solving quickly.

Google patented the technique earlier this year, but it remains free for other organisations to adopt via Hadoop, an open source project. Originally described in a 2004 research paper, MapReduce has allowed Google’s algorithms to index a rapidly expanding web while keeping costs down.

GCHQ faces similar a challenge as it gathers more and more raw data from internet communications, including email, social networks and VoIP.

“Successful data-driven organisations must be able to process, interpret and rapidly respond to indicators derived from unprecedented volumes of data from disparate information sources,” its recruitment advertisement says.

The Register understands that GCHQ now has a cluster of more than 250,000 commodity servers under its Cheltenham “doughnut” building. In recent years it has developed this Google-style infrastructure instead of the very expensive, bespoke supercomputers it used to analyse microwave intercepts during the Cold War.

While spies are planning research on MapReduce, Google has already moved on to BigTable, its new distributed database

Chinese crack down on ‘money-sucker’ Androids

Jan
14

The Chinese government is to crack down on “money sucking” mobiles: Android-based handsets that subsidise themselves by stealing from the customer’s account.

The crackdown aims to involve network operators, target retailers and ensure that selling handsets featuring pre-installed Trojans is explicitly illegal, according to the Google translation.

The idea is to set up a central unit to manage complaints, though it seems the scam has been going on long enough to build up considerable momentum.

The handsets concerned are sold cheaply, and generally unbranded, though some bear forged logos. Once they go into use the Android-based handsets start quietly sending text messages, or making a silent call or two. The transactions only incur a fee of about around 20 pence a time, in the hope the user will never notice, while the miscreant collects the termination fee or other premium charge. (more…)