Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Keeping Secrets: Privacy and Security in the Information Age

As our wonderful Indian Summer draws to an end it's time to welcome winter, and for me one of its highlights are the annual series of free public Gibbons Lectures. With the Heartbleed Bug recently in the news alongside the US government mass surveillance of us all, as revealed by Edward Snowden, computer security and privacy has never been more topical. As a consequence this years Gibbons Lectures have the theme Keeping Secrets: Privacy and Security in the Information Age. All of the talks are on Thursdays at 6.30pm, with the public invited from 6pm for free refreshments. The venue is room 260-092 on level-0 of the Owen Glenn building at the University of Auckland on Grafton Road (parking is available under the building.) The schedule is:

1st May: What does Privacy Mean to New Zealanders in the Internet Age?
Professor Miriam Lips
School of Government
Victoria University of Wellington

8th May: Security in Mobile Devices
Dr Giovanni Russello
Department of Computer Science
The University of Auckland

15th May: Public Key Cryptography: Computation, Cash and John Nash
Associate Professor Steven Galbraith
Department of Mathematics
The University of Auckland

22nd May: The Psychology of Computer Insecurity
Dr Peter Gutmann
Department of Computer Science

The University of Auckland

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Farewell to Microsoft XP

You probably heard that this week Microsoft ceased supporting their venerable old operating system XP - if you haven't, and you run XP, you need to be aware that your old workhorse may be increasingly vulnerable to hackers. The general advice is to now consider upgrading your PC to a new OS (Win 7 or 8) but this expensive option may not be feasible for some. So if you want to continue using XP here are 10 tips to keep yourself and XP safe.
   Finally, this might amuse you - a review from September 2001, of the then brand new, Microsoft XP by CNet. What's truly shocking now is the price, $118.95 (USD) to upgrade from Win 95 or 98. Not hard to see why Microsoft was so profitable.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Croudfunding for a computer history display - IBM 5080

The Computer Science Department at The University of Auckland maintains displays on the history of computing that are open for public viewing. This is not an activity that a University would normally fund out of its budget, which is for teaching and research. Right now we have the opportunity to mount a display of engineering Computer Aided Design terminals from the 1980s - these were expensive machines that were required before Computer Graphics became commonplace. The new display will show an IBM 5080 work station set up as it was in use - there will also be other terminals in the display. We need to have a cabinet built to display and protect these items but have no funds to spare at present, hence this first attempt at crowdfunding. If you might be interested in supporting this new display please visit our site on

Friday, April 4, 2014

Facebook Introduces ‘Hack,’ the programming language of the future

Facebook engineers Bryan O’Sullivan, Julien Verlaguet, and Alok Menghrajani have spent the last few years building a programming language unlike any other that Facebook uses to create its web-based system. The language is called Hack and the language's website says "Hack is a programming language for HHVM that interoperates seamlessly with PHP. Hack reconciles the fast development cycle of PHP with the discipline provided by static typing, while adding many features commonly found in other modern programming languages. Hack provides instantaneous type checking via a local server that watches the filesystem. It typically runs in less than 200 milliseconds, making it easy to integrate into your development workflow without introducing a noticeable delay." Hack is open source and available for you to use now. You can find out more on the website or in this post by Hacker News.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Compare: How London Looks on Google vs. Paintings From the 1700s

Nothing serious here, but just a delightful series of pictures that superimpose some 18th-century paintings of London streets over their corresponding Google Street View images. In many cases the streets have barely changed although the details have. View the full set of images on Wired.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Apps to Get Your Kids Coding on the iPad

I've blogged before about the importance of teaching children to code rather than just using computers. The iPad Insight blog has recently published an article that showcases iPad apps that will help your kids learn to code in enjoyable and fun ways. Since iPads are so popular with children this could be a very good to way to introduce them to coding. I'd expect that some of these apps are also available for Android tablets.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Huffington Post reported last week that: "It's All Over: Robots Are Now Writing News Stories, And Doing A Good JobWhen an earthquake hit the Los Angeles area Monday morning at 6:25 AM, the Los Angeles Times had their story published in about three minutes. It was the first media outlet to report on the breaking news. How, you ask? It used a robot." However, there's nothing new about the automatic generation of narratives from data. Kris Hammond, in his blog, predicted that 90% of news will be computer generated in 15 years, and that was 4 years ago. Kris has even created a business out of this called Narrative Science. You can watch a short video about one of their products below.

Quill Engage by Narrative Science from Katy DeLeon on Vimeo.