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Posted by Xeno on February 28, 2011
Posted by Xeno on December 6, 2013
… The Richland County Sheriff’s Department used Tower Dumps during the investigation into a string of car breakins, where weapons and computers were stolen. They combined the Tower Dump information with DNA evidence and in 2011 arrested Phillip Tate on three counts of “breaking and entering a motor vehicle” and one count of “larceny.”
“He did break and enter into both of those vehicles, one of them being the vehicle of Sheriff Lott. It was parked at his house,” said Fifth Circuit Solicitor Joanna McDuffy in court. “It was his sheriff department issued vehicle. Weapons were taken from that vehicle your honor.”
Search warrants we found say Richland Sheriff’s investigators requested dumps on two cell phone towers during their investigation.
Cops seeking to use these tower dumps just can’t call up the provider and ask for them. But neither do they have to jump through the probable cause hoops a warrant entails. All they need is a court order, which is considerably easier to obtain than a warrant, thanks to the (somewhat ironically-named) Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.
The Richland PD is just one of several law enforcement entities making frequent use of these untargeted, unminimized data dumps. And the numbers keep increasing every year.
In 2011, AT&T and Verizon received 1.3 million requests for cell phone data (many of which were tower dumps) and filled more than 500,000 of them. Verizon estimates that over the last 5 years, law enforcement’s tower dump requests have increased by 15% annually. T-Mobile reported increases of approximately 12%-16%.
Thanks to the ease of obtaining tower dumps, it’s becoming a go-to tool for law enforcement. Not only can they collect these without needing to show probable cause, they’re also under no obligation to inform any of the millions of unrelated cellphone customers whose information they’ve obtained that they’ve swept up their data.
Oddly enough, someone from the counterterrorism community is being the voice of reason in all this.
“In recognizing that it’s not just the CIA or FBI tracking a terrorist that may have flown over here, this is local law enforcement. As citizens, we sort of have a question: how often is this happening?” said Keith Pounds, president of counterrorism consulting firm Countercon…
He supports Tower Dumps, but only if a search warrant is signed, the data is purged after an investigation is complete and law enforcement notify subscribers included in the database.
“Inform us,” Pounds said. “Or at least those couple of hundred or couple of thousand people, innocent people, inform them that hey we acquired your information for this particular crime. We’re going to purge the data and get rid of it.”
This obviously isn’t being implementedanywhere at the moment, or we would have heard of it. Law enforcement agencies are understandably in no hurry to tell innocent citizens that they’re sweeping up their data in order to sift through it for potential signs of wrongdoing. They seem to be taking their cues from our nation’s intelligence agencies, which only begrudgingly inform the public about their data hauls, and then only after former employees splash them all over the front pages of newspapers. …
Posted by Xeno on December 6, 2013
We’ve talked a lot about ECPA reform — which is the incredibly outdated “electronic communications privacy act” which actually makes sure that you have less privacy than other forms of communication. This isn’t necessarily on purpose, but because the law was written in the mid-1980s when email itself was a relatively new concept. It includes some bizarre distinctions between opened and unopened emails and if a message has been “left on a server” for more than 180 days (at which point it’s considered “abandoned” and not subject to a warrant). Obviously it never anticipated the kind of internet we have today. It also goes against basic 4th Amendment principles and treats electronic messages differently from physical messages.
There actually is a fair bit of support in both Congress and the White House to fix this… if we can get enough public support behind it, which includes getting more people to sign this petition. As with SOPA, there’s a strong suggestion that if this petition tips the scales at 100,000, we can get the White House to come out in favor of ECPA reform.
What’s standing in the way? Well, a bunch of government agencies, honestly. There are the obvious ones like the DOJ and DHS. That’s to be expected. They always want to make it easier to snoop through emails and written communications. But apparently some of the strongest voices trying to block ECPA reform within the government are coming from the SEC and the IRS, because they too see plenty of advantages in trying to snoop through emails without having to take the trouble of getting a warrant.
… a bunch of companies and organizations trying to get more people to speak out on the importance of ECPA reform.
Posted by Xeno on December 5, 2013
The intelligence agency was tasked with analysing the song to see if it contained hidden obscene language as part of their work tackling obscenity, The Smithsonian reported.
Composer: Singer-songwriter Richard Berry wrote controversial hit Louie, Louie
The song, sung by the Kingsmen, has notoriously mumbled lyrics that are difficult to make out.
But according to FBI files, a teacher from Sarasota High School, in Florida, wrote to them in February 1964 to insist something was done to ‘stamp out this menace’.
The teacher, whose name has been redacted from the files, said: ‘Who do you turn to when your teenage daughter buys and bring home pornographic or obscene materials being sold along with objects directed and aimed at the teenage market in every City, Village and Record shop in this Nation?
‘My daughter brought home a record of ‘Louie Louie ‘ and I, after reading that the record had been banned from being played on the air because it was obscene, proceeded to try to decipher the jumble of words. The lyrics are so filthy that I can-not enclose them in this letter…’
LOUIE LOUIE: THE ACTUAL LYRICS
Louie, Louie, me gotta go. Louie, Louie, me gotta go. A fine little girl, she wait for me; me catch a ship across the sea. I sailed the ship all alone; I never think I’ll make it home Three nights and days we sailed the sea; me think of girl constantly. On the ship, I dream she there; I smell the rose, in her hair. Me see Jamaica moon above; It won’t be long me see me love. Me take her in my arms and then I tell her I never leave again.
He added: ‘We all know there is obscene materials available for those who seek it but when they start sneaking in this material in the guise of the latest teen age rock & roll hit record these morons have gone too far.’
The suggested lyrics, which are too explicit to publish, are featured in the FBI report.
A cover letter addressed to the FBI laboratory which analysed the song described it as ‘a calypso-type song’ that was ‘very popular with the high school students’.
It added: ‘The words are hard to recognise.’
Analysts spent two years playing the record at different speeds but were unable to come to a decision on what the words were.
They never contacted the original singer Jack Ely for confirmation, The Smithsonian reported.
Instead, they concluded: ‘The lyrics of the song on this record was not definitely determined by this Laboratory examination, it was not possible to determine whether this recording is obscene.’
‘Dirty’ versions of the tune have appeared in popular culture including the film Animal House.
Things that make you go… stop wasting taxpayer dollars? Of course, that was in 1964. These days they’d need to spend two years looking for a hit song without have any obscene lyrics.
Posted by Xeno on December 4, 2013
They floated down from the sky Sunday — 2,000 mice, wafting on tiny cardboard parachutes over Andersen Air Force Base in the U.S. territory of Guam.
But the rodent commandos didn’t know they were on a mission: to help eradicate the brown tree snake, an invasive species that has caused millions of dollars in wildlife and commercial losses since it arrived a few decades ago.
That’s because they were dead. And pumped full of painkillers.
The unlikely invasion was the fourth and biggest rodent air assault so far, part of an $8 million U.S. program approved in February to eradicate the snakes and save the exotic native birds that are their snack food.
“Every time there is a technique that is tested and shows promise, we jump on that bandwagon and promote it and help out and facilitate its implementation,” Tino Aguon, acting chief of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s wildlife resources office for Guam, told NBC station KUAM of Hagatna.
It’s not just birds the government is trying to protect. It’s also money.
Andersen, like other large industrial complexes on the Western Pacific island, is regularly bedeviled by power failures caused when the snakes wriggle their way into electric substations — an average of 80 a year, costing as much as $4 million in annual repair costs and lost productivity, the Interior Department estimated in 2005.
The U.S. has tried lots of ways to eliminate the snakes, which it says likely arrived in an inadequately inspected cargo shipment sometime in the 1950s.
Snake traps, snake-sniffing dogs and snake-hunting inspectors have all helped control the population, but the snakes have proved especially hardy and now infest the entire island. Guam is home to an estimated 2 million of the reptiles, which in some areas reach a density of 13,000 per square mile — more concentrated than even in the Amazonian rainforests, the government says.
But brown tree snakes have an Achilles’ heel: Tylenol.
For some reason, the snakes are almost uniquely sensitive to acetaminophen, the active ingredient in the ubiquitous over-the-counter painkiller. If you can get a tree snake to eat just 80 milligrams, you can kill it. That’s only about one-sixth of a standard pill — pigs, dogs and other similarly sized animals would have to eat about 500 of the baited mice to get a lethal dose.
Brown tree snakes also love mice. It’s easy to bait mice with acetaminophen, but how do you then deliver the mice to the snakes?
“The process is quite simple,” Dan Vice, the Agriculture Department’s assistant supervisory wildlife biologist for Guam, told KUAM.
Helicopters make low-altitude flights over the base’s forested areas, dropping their furry bundles on a timed sequence. Each mouse is laced with the deadly microdose of acetaminophen and strung up to two pieces of cardboard and green tissue paper.
“The cardboard is heavier than the tissue paper and opens up in an inverted horseshoe,” Vice said. “It then floats down and ultimately hangs up in the forest canopy. Once it’s hung in the forest canopy, snakes have an opportunity to consume the bait.”
Wildlife workers do have a way to chart how well the mice work. In addition to the acetaminophen and the parachutes, some of the poison pests also come equipped with tiny data-transmitting radios.
How long until the snakes wise up, remove the radio transmitters, collect them all in a big cave and then ambush and eat all humans who arrive? Ssssss.
Posted by Xeno on December 4, 2013
Posted by Xeno on December 3, 2013
A type of brain cell once thought to be little more than the neuron’s supportive sidekick may have a lead role in pruning the electrochemical connections that are crucial to brain development, learning, memory and cognition, a new study suggests.
Astrocytes, a type of glial cell, turn out to be veritable Pac-men, steadily gobbling up weak, extraneous and redundant synapses that are the vital link between neurons, according to a study published online Sunday in the journal Nature.
“Excess synapses are generated during development, and then they’re pruned back,” said Dr. Ben A. Barres, a neuroscientist at Stanford University School of Medicine. “Some synapses are selected, and survive, but a lot of synapses are just removed. But it wasn’t clear how that synapse elimination happened.”
That brain trimming has been made more clear, at least in a mouse visual circuit commonly used to study the human brain.
Barres has been focusing on glial cells – the name comes from the Latin word for glue – for three decades. “They’re very disrespected cells,” he said.
Over those years, Barres’ lab found found that without the star-shaped glial cells known as
astrocytes, synapses fail to send strong signals. That only qualified glial cells for best-supporting-cell nominee, at most. But then Barr reported, in 2001, that neurons weren’t as good at creating new synapses without the astrocytes.
A growing number of neuroscientists have added to these findings and are suggesting that glial cells perform lead-actor role in shaping the brain’s signal-relaying architecture.
While figuring out how astrocytes affect synapse formation, Barres found that the cells had some intriguing genes – ones that turn it into a synapse destroyer.
“One of the most surprising things that we found was the astrocytes were very highly expressing several complete phagocytic pathways – they’re the cells that eat,” Barres said.
Postdoctoral researcher Won-Suk Chung, lead author of the current study, created experiments to test how that genetic pathway worked to trim a rodent’s lower-level visual circuitry in early stages of brain development. Synapses in that circuit must be eliminated so that each neuron from the retina connects with just one in the thalamus, which relays those signals to higher visual processing centers.
Chung showed that astrocytes surrounded and ingested functioning synapses via a chemical pathway centered on a pair of proteins coded by its Pac-man genes. Something about these proteins appeared to help the cell find a weak target.
The pair then showed how this activity varied at different stages of development and continued into adulthood.
If the same pruning of synapses can be demonstrated in human astrocytes, it could carry important implications for the battle against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for psychiatric disorders, and for the nagging loss of memory that comes with aging.
“Everyone is always assuming if there’s something wrong, the problem is in the neuron,” Barres said. “If the astrocytes are in the driver’s seat in terms of controlling synapse formation and synapse function, maybe those processes go awry in human disease.” …
Posted by Xeno on December 3, 2013
A rare and mysterious ice circle was discovered by retired engineer George Loegering, who spotted the ‘cool’ phenomena floating in the Sheyenne River in North Dakota this past weekend while vacationing with family. He estimates that the ice ring – rotating in the river “like a record turntable” – measured about 10 feet in diameter.
“I’m not sure how long it was there (spinning),” he told the Associated Press. “It had to be quite a long time. If you look at the picture, you can see growth rings on the disk,’ Loegering said. “That thing is rotating, as you can see.” He even described how concentric rings of ice near the ice circles’ edge made him think the ice circle was growing.
While a few similar disks have been reported – including in Canada, England and Sweden – scientists remain puzzled by the phenomena. As reported by the Associated Press, theories include:
Cold, dense air slowly froze the surface in bits and pieces, then got trapped in a river eddy.
“Frazil” ice — loose, needle-shaped particles of ice that can cluster together – forms as water cools and accumulates.
Ice circles form at bends in the river where the rushing water creates a force called “rotational shear.” This force can break off a piece of ice that rotates. As it spins, its edges become smooth as they grind against surrounding ice.
Posted by Xeno on December 3, 2013
As technology rapidly advances, we’re living longer, doing more, creating more memories and recording more data. Every scrapbooker, business owner, photographer, every person fears losing the legacy they have spent their lifetime creating. M-DISC™ eliminates that fear. Once written, your documents, medical records, photos, videos and data will last up to 1,000 years. “Just M-Disc™ and Forget It!”M-DISC™ is the only data storage solution to withstand rigorous testing by the U.S. Department of Defense. Even today’s leading archival optical discs weren’t up to the challenge. M-DISC™ is resistant to extreme conditions of light, temperature, humidity and more. M-DISC™ cannot be overwritten, erased or corrupted by natural processes. Best of all, it’s compatible with any DVD drive, so you can access your data anywhere, anytime.
You do need a special drive to write the data (~$50-$150). A duplicator is about $150 to solidify your old disks for the next 1,000 years. Or just get an external drive with M-disk support for $53 from Staples. A pack of 10 M-disks seems to be about $32. So, for under $100 you could save 43.45 GB for 1,000 years.
If you are recording your tax records you might want to save your data on M-disks encrypted. To do that, create an encrypted container on your computer, get everything in it EXACTLY as you want it for the next 1,000 years then burn it to disk. A safe container size to use with “4.7 GB” single layer DVD-R media is 4450MB.
Or … you could wait until the double layer disks come out and have more data. They are due out … any minute now! 25GB per disk is much better.
SALT LAKE CITY, Jun 03, 2013 (BUSINESS WIRE) — U.S.-based Millenniata (www.mdisc.com) today announced the completion of its new 25GB M-DISC Blu-ray, with mass production to begin in early August 2013. RITEK Corporation, the leading manufacturer of optical storage media in the world, will begin production of the new M-DISC Blu-ray as part of its manufacturing agreement with Millenniata. Imation and RITEK will distribute and market the M-DISC Blu-ray through their established distribution and reseller channels. Imation will distribute under the TDK, Memorex and Imation brands, and RITEK will distribute under the RITEK, Ridata and Traxdata brands. With the addition of the new 25GB M-DISC Blu-ray to its products, Millenniata has significantly expanded the breadth of the market addressed by its permanent data storage solution, greatly increasing the storage capacity, ease-of-access and usability of the M-DISC. The M-DISC Blu-ray offers five times the storage capacity of the standard 4.7GB M-DISC DVD, and is writable and readable on any Blu-ray drive – an enormous step for Millenniata and the convenience of this permanent storage technology. …
Now we need a DVD player that will last 1,000 years. It would need to be more than tiger-proof. (Panasonic CF-30 “Toughbook” pictured).
To me it is very strange (and cool) that most of us can now afford to create data disks with lifespans 10 times our own! I’d like to outlive the 1,000 year disks I make. All we have to do is solve a few (seven, I think) problems to eliminate death by aging.
Posted by Xeno on December 3, 2013
… Tape is the oldest computer storage medium still in use. It was first put to work on a UNIVAC computer in 1951. But although tape sales have been falling since 2008 and dropped by 14% in 2012, according to the Santa Clara Consulting Group, tape’s decline has now gone into reverse: sales grew by 1% in the last quarter of 2012 and a 3% rise is expected this year.
Alberto Pace, head of data and storage at CERN, says that tape has four advantages over hard disks for the long-term preservation of data. The first is speed. Although it takes about 40 seconds for an archive robot to select the right tape and put it in a reader, once it has loaded, extracting data from that tape is about four times as fast as reading from a hard disk.
The second advantage is reliability. When a tape snaps, it can be spliced back together. The loss is rarely more than a few hundred megabytes—a bagatelle in information-technology circles. When a terabyte hard disk fails, by contrast, all the data on it may be lost. The consequence at CERN, specifically, is that a few hundred megabytes of its 100-petabyte tape repository are, on average, lost every year. Of the 50 petabytes of data held on hard disk, however, it loses a few hundred terabytes in the same period.
The third benefit of tapes is that they do not need power to preserve data held on them. Stopping a disk rotating by temporarily turning off the juice—a process called power cycling—increases the likelihood that it will fail. The fourth benefit is security. If a hacker with a grudge managed to break into CERN’s data centre, he could delete all 50 petabytes of the disk-based data in minutes. To delete the same amount from the organisation’s tapes would take years.
Tape has two other benefits, as Evangelos Eleftheriou, manager of storage technologies at IBM’s research laboratory in Zurich, points out. It is cheaper than disks (a gigabyte of disk storage costs 10 cents, versus 4 cents for tape), and it lasts longer. Tapes can still be read reliably after three decades, against five years for disks. …
But even today’s tape cartridges, which can hold up to six terabytes of compressed data, are not up to the job of dealing with the data deluge that is around the corner. Much higher densities than that are needed. In 2010 Dr Eleftheriou and his team, in collaboration with Fujifilm, set a new record. They demonstrated a tape that can store 29.5 gigabits per square inch—which, for a standard 1km tape, translates as 35 terabytes of data on a single cartridge. But even that is not enough for Dr Eleftheriou. He has now set himself the challenge of developing a tape with a density of 100 gigabits per square inch, and creating the equipment necessary to read it. If he is successful, a single cartridge will be able to store more than 100 terabytes. … Dr Eleftheriou hopes to have a prototype ready in 2014.
This may answer my question about how the NSA stores all of that data on everyone. Tape. No wonder they need so much space.
… Some reports have suggested the data center could hold as much as 5 zetabytes, an astronomical sum equivalent to 62 billion stacked iPhone 5s. King called that number “difficult, if not impossible to conceive.”
“That would mean deploying about 5 million storage systems running roughly 1.25 billion, 4-terabyte hard drives,” he said.
The agency will neither confirm nor deny specific details about the 100,000 square foot center, which comprises four separate data halls.
Not hard drives, think tape:
Oracle’s StorageTek T10000C tape drive lets you boost storage capacity and performance without increasing your footprint. It delivers up to 5.5 TB native, making it ideal for 24×7 datacenter operations with growing volumes of data. The StorageTek T10000C Tape Drive also delivers exceptional performance with up to 252MB/s of native performance.
For 5 zetabytes (wild guess by FauxNews?) you’d only need 909,000,000 (909 million) tape drives. Much better than hard drives if you want the data to last for decades. If they got a super deal, say $2,500 per drive plus a free 5.5 TB tape with each unit, that would cost about $2.3 trillion dollars. Wait, how many trillions did Donald Rumsfeld tell the world the day before 9/11 was missing from the Pentagon budget? Oh, I remember now, it was $2.3 trillion dollars.
Just one wild (read practical, reasonable) guess about where the money might have gone. Of course, with that amount of money, you need to think differently. They might very well have some totally new super storage technology that stores data in three dimensions in crystal cubes which last millions of years.
Damn. Don’t you wish that before you started using telephones and the Internet someone had told you everything you ever do and say will be recorded and stored for millions of years?
No one told me that. I’m telling you. Use your time wisely! Research and solve some problems for the planet instead of just being a vegetable and watching cartoons or having drama with people who don’t have their heads on straight.
How are we to preserve information about our civilisation on a timescale that outlasts it? In other words, what technology can reliably store information for 1 million years or more? Today, we get an answer thanks to the work of Jeroen de Vries at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and a few pals. These guys have designed and built a disk capable of storing data over this timescale. And they’ve performed accelerated ageing tests which show it should be able to store data for 1 million years and possibly longer. – (Silicon-Nitride/Tungsten Based Medium) link, link, link
Posted by Xeno on December 3, 2013
This will change your whole concept of dead sexy: The chemical attractant wafting from a female fruit fly shortened the lifespan of male flies when the femme fatale didn’t deliver on the signal’s promise, according to a new study.
Male fruit flies who pick up on the female pheromone will decrease their fat stores and lose resistance to starvation, according to the study published online Thursday in the journal Science.
The results shed light on the complex and largely hidden ways that perceptions of peers and environment can affect the chemical pathways involved in aging, said Scott D. Pletcher, a molecular physiologist at the University of Michigan, and one of the authors of the study.
The lowly Drosophila melanogaster has proved a worthy model for many neurological functions among humans, including learning, memory, epilepsy, circadian rhythm, even addictive behavior.
Last year, a UC San Francisco team showed that sexually jilted flies will resort to drinking alcohol (fruit flies like alcohol and will become addicted). That behavior was mediated through a brain chemical called neuropeptide F, which helps drive the brain’s reward circuitry and has an equivalent in human brains.
The same brain chemical appears to play a prominent role in the current findings, according to the researchers.
“The brain is receiving information from its surroundings,” Pletcher said. “That information can be powerful, because it can drive these physiological changes from just a small number of neurons.”
The activity of at least 188 genes, in fact, appeared to be affected by exposure to the pheromones, the study found. Several were linked to odor detection, lipid processing, and immune and stress responses.
The researchers were driven to look at sexual stimuli after finding that exposing flies to the odor of food — without them eating it — could reverse anti-aging effects of calorie restriction, which has been shown to promote longevity in humans.
“That argued that it’s not the energetic component of the food, but the fly’s interpretation of its food environment that’s important for at least some significant component of the longevity effect,” Pletcher said.
The researchers cast about for another stimulus to test, and opted for sex pheromones. They exposed male fruit flies to the female pheromones via other males whose chemistry was altered to mimic females. That put pheromones on the table, but took copulation off, and it clearly left the guys frustrated.
By letting the male consort with a female, researchers observed a reversal of the age signaling in the fly brain — a recovery made more prominent when male flies hung out with five females (five times in a row is the magic number before male flies need a bowl of Wheaties).
“So, sex is good for the flies if they’re expecting it, and it’s particularly bad if they’re expecting it and they don’t get it,” Pletcher said.
The results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that signaling fitness for reproduction can come at a cost, a trade-off apparent across many species. That can cause a feedback loop affecting not just individuals, but a population, a phenomenon that could help clarify how sexual selection drives evolution.
Pletcher and his colleagues showed last year that increased insulin signaling heightened sexual attractiveness in female fruit flies, via mechanisms that involve pheromone production. But it also lowered longevity.
Now, Pletcher’s data suggest that males picking up on the strong pheromone production typical of these attractive females will risk long-term survival for a shot at reproduction. …