3x3x3

Tessellation Puzzle
Tessellation Puzzle at London Hackspace Mia Julia Eley CC BY-SA

 

At the London Hackspace they have a cube which posses an interesting tessellation problem. The aim of the puzzle is to make a perfect cube from the individual static shapes. There is apparently only one solution to the problem of making a perfect cube from the component parts.

In trying to solve the problem I chanced upon a new conundrum I began to try to make the complete cube with only 1 block difference outside of the perfect cube. I managed 3 variations in one session, two were repetitions of each other before my hands started to hurt and I began to think through the alternative puzzle

I will add a picture of one of the one block solutions to give you an idea of the puzzle. The first two were differences on the same plane and the second on an alternate side.

After considering the puzzle and some reminders to think through the simpler alternative one block difference solutions I came to the conclusion that there are around 9 one block differences to that particular puzzle excluding variations.

Online profiling and artificial intelligence

With search engines and advertisers actively building client profiles it’s important to ask, why do you search? If websites like Google can profile your search terms and build a picture of who you are, you have to wonder about the generic but endlessly complex user profiles that they model their systems with.

Understanding a customer is important to any business and I for one am itching to look inside Google’s profiling tools. With so many unique users often not even requiring a log in to isolate them Google have some of the most detailed snapshots of user interaction available.

Collecting user interactions with the Internet is a process that can be simply and effectively automated. Making sense of them can also be automated into detailed artificial intelligence and spending profiles.

Having a resource like Google, Twitter and Facebook to data mine offers the chance to divide up the Internet’s population into distinct personality and behavior types. Knowing your friends is one thing but being able to define a user as a distinct type and to automate and update these profiles and their user groups would theoretically allow these Internet giants to play matchmaker with some very divisive communities.

Everyone assumes that the Internet is a world of cyber states, crypto anarchy and pirate utopias and it is. It relies on users to police the communities that operate in it. But for the most part we don’t see these worlds because we are being protected as best we can in corporate walled gardens.

We often talk about people finding and building their communities on-line but the real joy and fear is in joining up disparate groups that don’t have the chance to air their views in public. I know there are places on the Internet I fear to tread because of the kinds of services and users that could be found there.

The security of a consensus reality can define all kinds of positivity and negativity and it can overwhelm our digital communities. Has anyone ever considered the real power of social networks is not in keeping us together but in keeping us apart.

While we all want to find people that share our skills, interests and hobbies what would a real networked economy look like? If criminals were given a chance to pick their target audience with the kinds of efficiency achievable by the big three I can only expect anarchy.

Technologies like twitter give the illusion of freedom but are swamped by the noise of the crowd. We still cling to friends and established celebrities and brands. I would be very suspicious of a social network offering targeted advertising without some checks and balances of intent.

Facilitating crime is not in the corporate interests of the big three but I do begin to wonder what sort of horrors would be unleashed if those wanting to avoid the corporate steel and walled garden could build the kind of networks they really desire.

The freedom to communicate comes with a responsibility for our intentions. Some people are merely waiting for the chance to know their peers with some level of security. Protecting the datasets at the big three is vitally important to prevent something far worse than spam.

I guess I’m in a rather pessimistic frame of mind. And I need my faith in the Internet restored. How seriously do local and national police take to policing it. What would government surveillance really mean. If we are not willing to accept government control of the Internet then are we willing to police it ourselves?

Are you willing to explore the darker side of the net to help rid it of its ills? Choosing to look away means that you are willing to ignore what happens not only on the network but in our communities. Are we ready as a society to begin investigating and reporting crime when we see it. Or are we living in fear of implicating ourselves and those that would perpetuate it?

The terms cyber states, crypto anarchy and pirate utopias sum up my worst fears about the Internet as it stands today. Our only hope is in the inability of malicious people to build effective and rapid networks that tie these three concepts together.

Link Bait Con

After searching online for the free vegetarian food truck in London apparently called Hare Krishna Food for All. I found that a suspicious looking link from an innocent looking blog redirected from it’s URL to a untrusted SSL certificate at an unrelated scam site.

Apart from the very real probability that blogs are systematically hacked and links altered to direct to scam sites I began to wonder how much money someone could make from writing a basic blog and directing links to carefully considered scams.

Link bait could be a lucrative market for digital workers if those sites featured high enough on search engine listings. The blog in question had approximately 70 entries all documenting things to do and see around London.

A high enough proportion of links leading to unoriginal ideas like visiting the London Dungeon could be an easy way to write lucrative link bait. For transparency I should say I know someone that created some of the models at London Dungeon and his talents are highly original.

It seems like a lot of effort to go to just hide a few suspicious links so this kind of link baiting must be quite lucrative.

Clients of mine have raised concerns about their page views and often enquired about search engine optimisation and the services offered by companies offering to boost page views.

What does this really mean? Modern day search engines require a hierarchy of links denoting popularity of a website and it’s authority.

The only real way to do this is to write popular articles with links to other pages requiring attention. The dilemma is that if you are paying for people to write about your website you are promoting biased and misleading advertising.

You also run the risk of being associated with these sorts of scams. Your incoming links might be fine for a while until the blog owner decides to resell links to online scams.

When you pay for publicity at least know what you are paying for and learn to commission writers at websites you respect and trust.

I suspect most SEO is clouded in mystery simply because it’s more palatable to pay for some sort IT black magic that you don’t understand than to pay for pump pieces in popular blogs.

Gaming the search engine can be done quite simply by connecting with your peers and exchanging recommendations comments and advice.

I won’t link to those sites here but I believe I have found the real food for life web site and have emailed them to inform them about the problem. Hopefully I will actually be able to get a meal on Monday and Tuesday before my next pay cheque comes in. In the mean time I’m finding food where I can and have a few leads for restaurants that will donate their excess at the end of the day.

For those interested this seems to be the real food for life I will probably be forced to check it out on Monday and Tuesday before my next pay check comes in on Wednesday in the mean time if you want to leave any tips for free food in London please do so I would really appreciate it.

DRM Idiotic and Abhorrent

My fear that the free and equal infrastructure that holds together the web will be slowly replaced almost entirely by proprietary platforms and Digital Restrictions Management. Media, especially that produced by publicly funded institutions like the BBC should never be locked down.

To impose restrictions and demand “dark” code for general purpose computing is an affront to peoples freedom. We are being herded into increasingly more abusive platforms that exploit our desire to connect, be informed and play while they are mediating our communications and profiling our behaviour to find ways to exploit us at our weakest.

Our web is becoming like a casino where we are being placated and kept in ignorance about our power. People’s right to media and effective networks is crucial. While many may not understand how our computers work apart from rote learning we should be free and not controlled by our technology.

Media producers should stop trying to control what we do with our purchases and offer us effective modes of distribution instead. I don’t want to break the free and open nature of the web for the controlling interference of special interests. There is a good debate on Reddit about the issues.

Stop the Hollyweb! No DRM in HTML5.

GNU MediaGoblin

Now, I’m rather new to contributing to free software projects but MediaGoblin got my attention. Learning about GNU/Linux and free software has been a slow process, apart from my various stints at running GNU/Linux on my MacBook I have stopped fighting the technology and will be more informed and selective about my future hardware purchases.

Unless someone donates some generic hardware I’m resigned to hack away on my MacBook in OS X. Throwing myself in the deep end I set about exploring MediaGoblin’s Hacking How to and tried to figure out how to get started.

After some hit and miss I managed to get the packages I needed via MacPorts, previous tinkering meant I already had it on my machine. With Git already installed I managed to narrow down the install of packages down to one simple MacPorts command.

sudo port install python27 py27-lxml py27-sqlalchemy py27-pil py27-virtualenv py27-gst-python py27-pastescript

There were compatibility problems with running the older 2.6 version of Python and also the newest 3.3 version. I found the sweet spot with python 2.7 and after following the rest of the instructions have a MediaGoblin instance running on my laptop.

My expectations for being able to run the code out of the box were well managed and after only a few hours tinkering have my very own version of “Flickr” to play with. I feel confident I could install it on a web server and might eventually create my own instance online.

Now I begin my journey to get to grips with python and with a few introductory programming courses under my belt I feel I might be able to get involved and contribute something small to the project.

Programming Oportunities for Women

I realise what a minority women in technology and engineering are and it’s a feedback loop that stifles future participation. We don’t want to see a skills segregation in the future. Young people are particularly susceptible to social pressures and I know women are being put off engagement in free software and engineering because of their minority status in those communities.

Positive action is being taken and it’s great to see the outreach work being done by GNOME. If you are a woman interested in technology I suggest you apply for their Outreach Program for Women. Getting people to switch from a consumer mentality and to engage with positive projects can be empowering.

Personally I was a terminal lurker on the internet only ever really consuming content. I learned a great deal, about the world and about myself but I feel we should be encouraging people, especially disenfranchised groups to engage in society. It’s easy to feel like you don’t have the skills or the momentum to make a difference but you will never know unless you do something repeatedly, learning from your mistakes as you go.

All of us can fall into ruts and negative cycles but engaging with communities is important. We all need a voice and should never feel like we can’t make a difference. Plenty of women out there have skills that could benefit the free software movement and the barrier to entry should be clearly understood.

The empowerment of women needs to flourish in all sectors. The casual oppression of women through stereo typing should be fought, we are all capable of greatness in whatever field we choose and happen to excel at. I just hope women like myself can feel confident enough to speak their mind not only amongst friends but in new communities and social circles.

Women need to have the confidence to participate in any field and technology and science should be no different. Cultural brainwashing paints a very limiting picture of a woman’s role in society and we should begin to dismantle those tropes. Let’s bring in a new age of freedom, equality and solidarity by empowering everyone to connect with their core values and to build a future worth believing in.

Outreach Program For Women – GNOME Live!

Trust Networks

Someone on Stack Exchange seems to think the iMessage encryption is only for messages in transit and not true end to end encryption. Whereas comments on Hacker News seem to suggest Apple may be in a position to provide true end to end encryption. In the mean time I’m sure some people will be trying hard to punch holes in the protocol.

The real issue is that information has the power to change lives and disinformation can lead us all astray. Most people aren’t in a position to understand the technology they use from the ground up. Thus we are left with a hodgepodge of trust networks often formed and reinforced by social interaction. We are all vulnerable when we are kept in the dark.

Digital networks are now more than ever being mediated by technologies and corporations online. We are all operating in a world we can’t really understand except at the very surface layer. This begs the question that if we can’t know what’s happens beyond our reach how do we define trust? We can’t exist in a vacuum and are all defined by our interactions. Do we really want to delegate those interactions to intermediaries who aren’t open themselves? What networks do you trust and can any infrastructure really be secure, unbiased and neutral? Without access to the source code we can’t really ever be sure.

Mass Market On-line Encryption Works OK…

Although we have had strong cryptography like Pretty Good Privacy available to the public for years iMessage raises the interesting point that unless your device comes with integrated crypto the public won’t be aware of it or use it. Ubiquity of crypto for personal communication is still a long way off.

People have an assumption of privacy for the files on their own computer and phone and some seem to extend that logical privacy to the transmission of data. They have a false sense of security for the networks they use or rely on security through obscurity, hypothesising that no one will care for their drop in the ocean.

Security still implies unnecessary complication and questionable secrets for many. Embracing crypto requires education and for ordinary people the emotional barrier to entry is high. I try not to keep secrets as living in public and private denial of my gender identity caused havoc but yesterday I sent my first OpenPGP encrypted email.

I still have a lot to learn about the technology and it’s implications. In a culture saturated with social media, where people are encouraged to offer up not just their communications but social, cultural and political preferences. The very networks they build and move in become tools of law enforcement, governments and big business.

Peoples assumptions of privacy may be unfounded but can we motivate the public to begin embracing crypto?

Apple’s iMessage encryption trips up feds’ surveillance | Politics and Law – CNET News.

Hello world!

Hi, I’m Mia, an artist with an interest in computer science. I’m a previous FSF member although I’m not an American, I was just drawn to the source. I am engaged with various campaigning on-line and in person. I try to support as many causes as I resonate with while trying to avoid apathy and burn out.

I’m looking for a like minded community to bond over free software activism and engage in promoting free software, free culture and open data. Most of my art is creative commons licensed and I’m trying to transition my computing needs to entirely free software and open formats.

I like to support artists directly and to read fiction and non-fiction by Richard M Stallman, William Gibson, Steven Levy, Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow. I know I am far from realising my dream of sustaining myself from my art but am keen to find new opportunities for funding, inspiration, exhibition, legitimization and dissemination.

Mia