Intellectual Ventures, which is based in a Seattle suburb and claims 30,000 patents and patent applications, is believed to have the largest portfolio among firms that don’t make or sell products. It claims to have earned nearly $2 billion from licensing its patents.
The threat posed by Intellectual Ventures helped prompt the rise of firms like RPX Corp. It is paid by companies to buy up potentially threatening patents; the companies receive licenses to those patents, and RPX pledges never to sue over them.
I’ve had to handle a number of computer security breaches. Causes vary. It’s rarely because of any hardware. Often software is at fault, containing security holes that have gone unpatched – it’s amazing how often people forget that you’re only as secure as your last update. But a lot of the time, it’s the wetware at fault: human beings. Passwords simple enough to fall to a dictionary attack, which every public server gets subjected to daily, or stuck on a post-it note somewhere; shortcuts that deliberately circumvent security provisions to speed up certain processes; security by obscurity being less obscure than hoped.
The release of a zip file from a server at the University of East Anglia was a security breach. What was the cause? There have been attempts to examine this, analyse email headers and so forth. I’ve never known how that was supposed to help – the mails had all been rolled up into a zip file before they were downloaded. So did someone gain unauthorised access to grab this file? I doubt it.
No explanation of how anyone gained access of some kind (telnet, ssh, ftp etc) has been released. If there had been a hole of this nature, I’d have expected it to have become known by now. But there’s a good reason to think there was no such access and that, from the point of view of the CRU, the problem lay with the wetware.
The proposition that there was a hack boils down to this: someone managed to gain access to a CRU server and lo! There was a fat zip file containing all these files. It’s wholly implausible.
Microbial fuel cells have a number of potential uses. The first and most obvious is harvesting the electricity produced for a power source. Virtually any organic material could be used to ‘feed’ the fuel cell. MFCs could be installed to wastewater treatment plants. The bacteria would consume waste material from the water and produce supplementary power for the plant. The gains to be made from doing this are that MFCs are a very clean and efficient method of energy production. Chemical processing wastewater (Venkata Mohan, et al., 2008a,b) and designed synthetic wastewater (Venkata Mohan, et al., 2007,2008c) have been used to produce bioelectricity in dual and single chambered mediatorless MFCs (non-coated graphite electrodes)(Venkata Mohan, et al., 2008d,e) apart from wastewater treatment. Higher power production was observed with biofilm covered anode (graphite) (Venkata Mohan, et al., 2008e). A fuel cell’s emissions are well below regulations (Choi, et al., 2000). MFCs also use energy much more efficiently than standard combustion engines which are limited by the Carnot Cycle. In theory an MFC is capable of energy efficiency far beyond 50% (Yue & Lowther, 1986). According to new research conducted by René Rozendal, using the new microbial fuel cells, conversion of the energy to hydrogen is 8x as high as conventional hydrogen production technologies.
The Sinclair C5 has received a facelift and been re-launched. Well, that’s not quite true; Sinclair has launched a new small electric vehicle, the X-1. The problem it will face, though, is association with the unsuccessful C5. Maybe a computing product would have been better – his early kit calculators and computers are remembered with huge affection by those who used them. The C5 was a disaster, but Sinclair is an example of one of the best traditions in this country: an independently-minded engineer. Good luck to him.
John Graham-Cumming is from the same tradition, a computer scientist who led the campaign to have an official apology issued to Alan Turing. He has now started a project to build a working Analytical Engine to the original design by CharlesBabbage. Babbage designed this, and redesigned it, from 1837 until his death in 1871 but it was never built.
The project is called Plan 28. It would be fantastic to see this steampunk programmable computer actually working, with its punched card inputs, 20kB mechanical memory clicking and spinning, and the processing mill churning. In 1843 Ada Lovelace, a genuinely remarkable woman, became perhaps the world’s first computer programmer when she worked out how to use it to calculate Bernoulli numbers.
Microsoft has signed a deal to open its Windows 7 source code up to the Russian intelligence services.
Russian publication Vedomosti reported on Wednesday that Microsoft had also given the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) access to Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft SQL Server source code, with hopes of improving Microsoft sales to the Russian state.