Thursday, May 29, 2014

Microsoft announces release of "universal translator"

The Guardian reports that Microsoft is to release a near real time voice translator as Skype Translator by the end of this year. The service will first appear on Windows 8 but is expected to be rolled out to other platforms quickly. In a demo at the Code conference Skype Translator translated English to German and vice versa nearly perfectly. The video below explains how this works.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The life of a software engineer

As programmers we'll all recognise this feeling. How many times have you felt like this? This cartoon was posted in the blog on

Monday, May 19, 2014

Free Lecture: The Psychology of Computer Insecurity

This Thursday Dr Peter Gutmann, an honorary research associate of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Auckland, will give a free public lecture titled: The Psychology of Computer Insecurity. His research is on the design and analysis of cryptographic security architectures and security usability. He helped write the popular PGP encryption package and has authored a number of papers and RFCs on security and encryption. He is the author of the open source cryptlib security toolkit "Cryptographic Security Architecture: Design and Verification" (Springer, 2003), and also has an upcoming book "Engineering Security". In his spare time he pokes holes in whatever security systems and mechanisms catch his attention and grumbles about the lack of consideration of human factors in designing security systems.

Synopsis: A fairly standard response with computer security failures is to blame the user. The real culprit, though, is the way in which the human mind works. Millennia of evolutionary conditioning and the environment in which users operate cause them to act, and react, in predictable ways to given stimuli and situations. This talk looks at the (often surprising) ways in which the human mind deals with computer security issues, and why apparent “bugs in the wetware” are something that not only cannot be patched but are often critical to our functioning as humans.

When: 6pm for free refreshments for a 6.30pm start, Thursday 22nd May, 2014
Where: Owen G Glenn Building, Room OGGB3/260-092 University of Auckland
Note that there is public parking in the basement of the Owen G Glenn Building at 12 Grafton Road.

Friday, May 16, 2014

British Pathé newsreals online

British Pathé was a producer of newsreels, cinemagazines, and documentaries from 1910 until 1970 in the United Kingdom. Over 90,000 clips are now available online from the Pathé website. So this isn't a strictly off-topic post. If you enter "computer" as a search term you'll see a collection of clips dating back as far as 1949 (an electronic machine that plays noughts and crosses). If you have an interest in history I'm sure you'll find this site fascinating - try using your home town as a search term, you may be surprised by the breadth of Pathé's coverage.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Public Key Cryptography: Computation, Cash and John Nash

This Thursday Associate Professor Steven Galbraith, a leading researcher in computational number theory and the mathematics of public key cryptography, will give a free public lecture at the University of Auckland. Steven has published over 50 papers in this area, written one book, and edited three conference proceedings. He has a Bachelors degree from the University of Waikato, a Masters from Georgia Tech in Atlanta, and he completed his PhD at Oxford University in 1996. He has had post-doc or visiting researcher positions at Royal Holloway University of London (UK), British Telecom Research (Ipswich, UK), University of Waterloo (Canada), Institute for Experimental Mathematics (Essen, Germany), University of Bristol (UK) and Hewlett-Packard Research Labs (Bristol, UK). He has been at the University of Auckland since 2009.
The lecture titled "Public Key Cryptography: Computation, Cash and John Nash" will explain how security can be enhanced by the use of hard computational problems from Mathematics. This was the basis for the creation of public key cryptography in the 1970s. Public key cryptography has many applications in information security, such as secure internet shopping, digital signatures and secure automatic software updates. We will see how digital signatures have now become a crucial component of the electronic currency bitcoin. Cryptography is, of course, of great interest to national security. Recently (only declassified in 2012) it has been revealed that John Nash (subject of the film A Beautiful Mind) sent a letter to the United States National Security Agency in 1955. His letter outlined new concepts that anticipated by decades fundamental notions in computational complexity and modern cryptography.
When: 6pm (free refreshments) for 6.30pm start, Thursday 15th May, 2014
Where: Owen G Glenn Building, Room OGGB3/260-092

Note that there is public parking in the basement of the Owen G Glenn Building at 12 Grafton Road.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Classic album covers in Google Street View

We're seeing some increasingly creative ideas for using Google Street View and The Guardian has recently shown us another one - Classic album covers in Street View. This features the album cover superimposed over it's location; from the obvious Beatles' Abbey Road to more modern covers, this is another creative use of Street View.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Gibbons Lecture Series: Security in Mobile Devices

This Thursday evening Dr Giovanni Russello of Department of Computer Science of The University of Auckland will give a free public lecture on Security in Mobile Devices Giovanni Russello is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at The University of Auckland. He joined the department in 2012 from CREATE-NET in Trento, Italy, where he was the leader of the Security Group after completing a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Imperial College London. Dr. Russello holds a PhD from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands and an MSc from the University of Catania in Italy. His research expertise is in the fast-evolving field of system security for both mobile and cloud platforms. He has authored or co-authored well over 50 research papers and books, and holds four provisional patents. His recent research has concentrated on developing novel security solutions to address vulnerabilities of mobile devices. The fruits of this research have now reached the commercialisation stage. Giovanni is the founder and CEO of Active Mobile Security, a start-up company funded by Uniservices, the university’s commercial arm.

When: 6pm for 6.30pm start, Thursday 8th May, 2014
Where: Owen G Glenn Building, Room OGGB3/260-092
Note that there is public parking in the basement of the Owen G Glenn Building at 12 Grafton Road.

Synopsis: Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets have become exceedingly successful computing devices, exceeding personal computers in numbers of sales. Smartphones equipped with the Android operating system represent 82% of this very competitive world wide market. However, Android has become the top target for malicious code because the Android standard security mechanism has unique vulnerabilities. This lecture will discuss the special nature of security with mobile devices. In particular it will discuss problems with the Android security model and local research intended to help solve these issues.

Monday, May 5, 2014

This is how Game of Thrones will end

This is an "off topic" post, but like many I've become addicted to Game of Thrones and have spent some time trying to figure out how it may end and I think I've cracked it. I'm going to share my theory with you. Although it seems that Daenerys Targaryen wants to claim the 7 Kingdoms for herself she has shown that every time she comes across slaves she frees them and she abhors suffering and oppression. Her growing army fights for her as free men because they want to, not because they are her subjects. In the North the Wildlings are free, they bend the knee to no Lord. So Here's what I think will happen (note: I can't be precise on the detail but I'm sure of the general theme). The surviving Starks, led by Bran, with magical Warg powers, will defeat the White Walkers. But to do this they'll need to team up with the Wildlings. I suspect Jon Snow will be instrumental in forming that allegiance. Meanwhile Daenerys and her army will attack the south. Eventually a combination of the two "free" armies will defeat the Lanister, Tyrel, Frey, Baratheon, et al Lords. The point you need to understand here is that this is a revolution. Free people are overturning the corrupt, decadent, self-serving, self-appointed nobility. Instrumental in this will be various characters of common birth who have no allegiance to a Lord, or who have come to believe their Lord's are corrupt: Davos the Onion Knight (a smuggler made good), The Hound (Sandor Clegane), Gendry (the bastard of Robert Baratheon). I also think that Tyrion Lanister and Arya Stark have shown commitment to the oppressed. I don't know if any of these characters will survive but they will all fight for the revolution. The final ending will be at the Iron Throne, just as we think Daenerys Targaryen is about to claim the thrown of the 7 kingdoms she will command that one of her dragons (maybe all three if they still survive) melt it down with dragonfire. She'll then give an uplifting speech on how now all people are free. The End. The Game of Thrones will end with no throne. In support of my theory is the fact that the author George R.R. Martin was a conscientious-objector during the Vietnam War. He doesn't believe people should be forced to fight wars for the rich and powerful.

Friday, May 2, 2014

BASIC is 50 years old

Dartmouth University has announced that: "At 4 a.m. on May 1, 1964, in the basement of College Hall, Professor John Kemeny and a student programmer simultaneously typed RUN on neighboring terminals. When they both got back correct answers to their simple programs, time-sharing and BASIC were born." They created a whole website, BASIC at 50, to support this anniversary and events to support it. If you're a computing purist you probably despise BASIC, but you can't deny its influence - I first programmed using BASIC on a BBC Micro computer. However, one of my older colleagues believes the history of BASIC is not as simple as Dartmouth makes out saying "Dartmouth always had a good press office."