Internet Networking

Undersea Cable Map

Undersea Cable Map

Cable Map is an awesome website that shows known under sea cables on an interactive map (powered by Bing). It shows that there are actually many under sea cables. I mentioned a few months ago that most intercontinental data travels through undersea cables.

I should note that the locations on the map are approximate for security reasons. Because their damage could cost millions and disrupt worldwide communications only their operators and select contractors know where they actually come ashore.

The image above links to a big static version of the map just in case the site someday goes dark.

Apple Hardware Software

MacBook Pro Sleeps When Lid Closes

The MacBook Pro still has a quirk that has always bothered me. It’s not a hardware issue, it’s a software issue. Power users with laptops know about “closed clamshell” or “closed display” mode. That’s when you use a laptop with a desktop keyboard and mouse and the laptop remains closed. I don’t think any OS I’ve used totally gets this totally right, they all have their quirks. The MacBook Pro just has this one quirk that gets to me.

The problem with the MacBook Pro is when you have the computer open and on and you connect another display you’re given the option to mirror or use the display as a second display. If you mirror and close the laptop it goes to sleep. That’s completely illogical. There seems to be no way to disable going to sleep in this situation that I can find. I can’t imagine why anyone would want another behavior when closing a laptop while having a display and input device connected. When no display is connected and the laptop is closed, it should obviously sleep.

Searching on Google returns numerous forum threads with people who also have this gripe. Even a check box in the Energy Saver pref panel to facilitate this would do nicely.

For the record Windows is no saint either. It’s handling of monitor resolutions, especially if your desktop display is a different resolution is abhorrent. It can result in anything from reshuffling icons to putting windows out of the display area. I’ve never even bothered with such functionality in Linux, at least not yet so I can’t speak to its competency in this area.

Internet Mozilla Security

Protecting Photo Privacy Via Browsers

Browsers can do more to protect users from inadvertently violating their own privacy. The NY Times today had an article about a topic that has been discussed in various circles several times now. The existence of geotagging data in photos. Many cameras, in particular smart phones like the iPhone can tag photos with GPS data. This is pretty handy for various purposes including organizing photos at a later date, iPhoto for example does a pretty nice job of it. Most photo applications however don’t make this information very visible, as a result many users don’t even know it exists, others simply forget.

What the problem looks like

The data, embedded in a photo looks something like this:

GPSLatitude                    : 57.64911
GPSLongitude                   : 10.40744
GPSPosition                    : 57.64911 10.40744

Which I could map.


I propose that browsers need to have a content policy for when users upload images that can better protect them from uploading information they may not even realize. Here’s what I’m imagining:

The first time a user attempts to upload a photo that has EXIF or XMP data containing location they are prompted if they want it stripped from the image they are uploading. The original file remains unharmed, just the uploaded version won’t have the data. They can also choose to have the browser remember their preference to prevent being prompted in the future. They can revise their choice in the preferences window later if they want. This isn’t to different from how popups are handled. I thnk that per-site policy might be too confusing and not warranted, but perhaps I’m wrong.

Warning users about hidden information they may be revealing is a worthwhile effort. It’s only a matter of time before someone uses a “contest” or some other form of social engineering to solicit pictures that may reveal location data for users. Evildoers always find creative ways to exploit people.


There are a notable caveat to this approach. The most notable is that flash uploaders would bypass this security measure though individual uploaders could do it themselves, or Adobe could do it, but I don’t think that’s enough of a turnoff to this approach. The same caveat applied to “private browsing” in browsers.

Prior Work

As far as I know no browser actually implements a security feature like this yet. There are a few Firefox Add-ons like Exif Viewer and FxIF (both written in pure JavaScript) that look at EXIF data but nothing that intercepts uploads.

Who Can Do It First?

I’m curious who can do it first. By add-on (seems like it should be possible at least in Firefox), and dare I say include in a browser itself? If this were earlier in the year I would have added this to the Summer of Code ideas list. Instead I’m just throwing it into the wind until 2011 rolls around.

Apple Around The Web Funny

Taking Good Photos

The OkCupid blog has a pretty cool series of posts analyzing all sorts of data that they collect in anonymous ways. This time around they analyzed photos taken and tried to figure out trends behind what makes people attractive. Some of the more interesting things:

  • Panasonic cameras are better than Nikon,
  • Interchangable lens cameras (like digital SLRs) are better than basic point & shoot, which are better than camera phones.
  • iPhone users have more sex,
  • Flash makes you look older (obvious, harsh lighting is nobody’s friend).
  • Shallow depth of field is a good thing,
  • Late night, late afternoon photos are better.

In conclusion they say:

It’s actually not that hard. Use a decent camera. Go easy on the flash. Own the foreground. Take your picture in the afternoon. Then visit the nearest Apple store. Done.

Very interesting stuff. It’s a great example of what can be done with a large set of data. I’m guessing somewhere deep within Google and Facebook are a group of people doing even deeper analysis with a much larger set of data.

Apple Software

Mac Finally Gets H.264 Decoding In Flash

Adobe today pushed an update that enabled H.264 hardware decoding in Flash 10.1. It only works on certain newer Mac’s and there are an assortment of caveats in which Flash will revert to software decoding according to a Flash Engineer.

I’ve only played with it for a few minutes on my Core i7 MacBook Pro, and things seem very speedy and my CPU didn’t see much of a spike. Hopefully enough videos will take advantage of hardware decoding that this will be a nice improvement.

I still believe WebM is the better future, but H.264 hardware decoding does make Flash less painful for the moment.

Apple Hardware

Apple’s Liquidmetal

Apple has gained an exclusive license to Liquidmetal for consumer electronics. Liquidmetal Technologies will still be able to sell to other sectors, just not consumer electronics according to The Baltimore Sun.

The technology itself is pretty interesting. I have a SanDisk Cruzer Titanium I purchased back in 2006. Despite being used pretty much every day and being thrown around constantly, it’s 100% intact with a few very superficial blemishes on its finish. It’s extremely durable, small and light. I’m sure they’ve had advancements since then that are even better.

I suspect this is not the end of the Aluminum era for Apple products. I think the Liquidmetal licensing will be used mainly for the iPod, iPhone, iPad lineup. Perhaps it will extend as far as the MacBook Air. That’s where Apple is really in need of stronger lighter materials. I suspect the cost of Liquid Metal for a 15-17″ MacBook Pro just wouldn’t make sense. Same goes for the Mac Pro.

In The News Internet

The Myth Of The “Internet Generation”

I’m glad to see more evidence dispelling the myth that there is a generation that is so tuned into the Internet they put others to shame. There’s no such thing as “digital natives” or an “Internet generation”. There were no “automotive natives”, “electric natives”, “movable type natives”, or any other “[insert technical revolution] natives” in human history.

I do suspect the results will be slightly different in the US where social and cultural differences tend to result in more online usage and less social interaction than in Europe, but that is still immaterial.

The idea that any skills can become almost innate is silly at best. Growing up with something doesn’t make you more functional with it. Human language is a very specialized skill. Equating language to using a search engine, managing files on your computer is hardly sensible. Language is so specialized science suggests there are parts of our brain that have evolved specifically for language. By contrast we don’t have a part of our brain for computer or internet skills.

From the article:

More surprising yet, these supposedly gifted netizens are not even particularly adept at getting the most out of the Internet. “They can play around,” says Rolf Schulmeister, an educational researcher from Hamburg who specializes in the use of digital media in the classroom. “They know how to start up programs, and they know where to get music and films. But only a minority is really good at using it.”

It’s not really surprising. People learn to do what the need and want to do. They also know how to shop in stores, and watch movies in theaters. That doesn’t mean they know how to produce products and movies. They don’t even become experts in products they buy or movies they watch. They became consumers over a new medium and nothing more. They couldn’t tell you what format the YouTube video they watched is in, and they likely don’t know what format it’s in at the theater either. They don’t know the technology behind their favorite websites, and they don’t know what goes into running a store. They just consume. That’s what consumers do.

A special segment with an interest in it will specialize in it and learn. Those people generally become Computer Science majors. Others will choose things like medicine, geology, marketing, economics and basket weaving to gain a thorough understanding of and eventually use for gainful employment. None of these fields had “natives” either despite having their own renaissance periods.

So lets stop with this “Internet Generation” stuff.

Around The Web

Taking Advantage Of Bias In Rock Paper Scissors

Here’s an infographic on how to improve you’re odds in Rock Paper Scissors. A year ago I linked to some research on bias in a coin toss (it’s not 50-50 it’s 51-49). At this rate I’ll eventually have an advantage in every game of chance.

Essentially this time around it’s more about psychology than bias in the implementation.

What’s the best way to prevent being gamed? Play rock, paper, scissor, lizard, spock, which has more possibilities and is just overall more enjoyable.

Very interesting stuff.

Apple Hardware

Apple Device Charging

After my recent adventures in the world of USB power I found this article on Apple USB device charging especially interesting. It’s a shame Apple is always playing a cat-and-mouse game with hardware design.

Funny In The News Politics

Monkey Cocaine Research

Buried in an article on stimulus spending:

Then there is the project listed at No. 28 by the senators — $71,623 to researchers at Wake Forest University to see how monkeys react to cocaine.

Titled “Effect of Cocaine Self-Administration on Metabotropic Glutamate Systems,” the project calls for monkeys to self-administer drugs while researchers monitor and study their glutamate levels, the report said.

Emphasis mine.

Maybe I’m alone here, but the government funding monkeys that can snort cocaine on their own is pretty impressive. I’ll be really impressed if they can get one to cook meth. Even more interesting is if they can get them to understand enough about commerce to buy and sell. This is the first step towards making Planet of the Apes a reality.