Syria: Suicide bombing kills defense minister.American Thinker: 'This one hits close to home for Assad. Syrian defense minister, Daoud Rajha, and Asef Shawkat, the president's brother-in-law who was the deputy chief of staff of the Syrian military, were killed by a suicide bomber yesterday. ...' But AT is skeptical that the bombing represents more than an "inconvenience" to Assad. Long War Journal has more:
A suicide bomber killed the top two defense officials and seriously wounded the interior minister and the chief of the national security office in an attack at a high-level meeting of security officials in Damascus today. The attack was claimed by both the "Brigade of Islam" and the Free Syrian Army.
The suicide bomber, who is said to have been a bodyguard of a senior official in the Assad regime, detonated his explosive vest during a high-level meeting at the National Security building in the Syrian capital. Defense Minister Daoud Rajha and Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat, who is also President Bashir al Assad's brother-in-law, were killed in the blast, according to the state-run Syrian television. ...
Technology / Business: Yahoo names Google's Marissa Mayer as CEO.CNN: 'Marissa Mayer, who was Google's first female engineer and its 20th employee when she joined that company in 1999, has been named CEO of Yahoo....' Go to the story for 11 facts about her, including what she could do 40 of in her first career. Also, she's pregnant.
... There is an extremely fine line to be walked in these situations involving identity and too many companies are on the wrong side of it, which makes me think that it must be very fine indeed if very smart people can’t see it. They can’t see the difference between a person finding a site that collects their most favorited tweets harmless and that same person being irritated that a profile was created for them on a site that seems to do something very similar.
The line is this: when you begin speaking for another person without their permission you are doing something wrong. When you create another identity for them without their permission you are doing something wrong. When you make people feel victimized who previously did not feel that way you are doing something wrong.
"Things that sounded extremely unlikely a few years ago are now coming along," said Scott Borg, director of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a nonprofit group that helps the U.S. government prepare for future attacks.
Hope somebody is listening to the guy; anyway, you gotta love that name.
Officials at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada knew for two weeks about a virus infecting the drone “cockpits” there. But they kept the information about the infection to themselves — leaving the unit that’s supposed to serve as the Air Force’s cybersecurity specialists in the dark. The network defenders at the 24th Air Force learned of the virus by reading about it in Danger Room.
The virus, which records the keystrokes of remote pilots as their drones fly over places like Afghanistan, is now receiving attention at the highest levels; the four-star general who oversees the Air Force’s networks was briefed on the infection this morning. But for weeks, it stayed (you will pardon the expression) below the radar: a local problem that local network administrators were determined to fix on their own. ...
[R]obotics company Boston Dynamics recently announced that America's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded it a contract to design and build such a ... critter. The contract also includes the creation of an agile, bipedal humanoid robot. It's hard to say which one might ultimately be creepier.
The CHEETAH robot will reportedly have four legs, a flexible spine, an articulated head/neck, and perhaps a tail. It will be able to run faster than any existing legged robot or human runner, make tight, zig-zagging turns in order to chase or evade, be able to accelerate very rapidly from a standstill, and stop just as quickly.
The other robot, ATLAS, "will walk like a man, using a heel-to-toe walking motion, long strides and dynamic transfer of weight on each step," according to Boston Dynamics VP of Engineering Rob Playter. It will have a torso, two legs and two arms, although spookily enough, there's no mention of a head. It will be able to turn sideways to squeeze through narrow passages, and use its hands for balance and support on rough terrain.
DARPA + Boston Dynamics = Oh, shit.
But wait, there's more!
See that sandy-haired guy making faces at the camera? Well, he's a robot. Fox:
Japanese researchers have blurred the lines between man and machine with their latest robot, the incredibly realistic Geminoid DK.
It is the third of the Geminoid series, a line of androids designed by Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University and his team at Japan's Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) in Nara.
The robot has been constructed to look exactly like Henrik Scharfe, an associate professor of Aalborg University in Denmark and is the first of the series based on a non-Japanese person.
Read the rest - and watch the videos, if you dare - at the link.
Thoughts on several recent technology-related items.
Neo reports on an arrest owing, at least in part, to video technology:
An arrest has been made in the Kelsey Smith case, another almost unspeakably tragic murder in which an attractive young woman was abducted in a mall parking area and the incident was recorded by surveillance cameras.
The facts of the case make it clear that those cameras were vital in fingering the alleged perpetrator. Not only was Ms. Smith’s abduction apparently taped, but the suspect’s arrival at the store and his vehicle were likewise identified by the cameras. It is highly possible that, but for those cameras, this case would have forever gone unsolved. ...
But there’s no way that all cameras could be monitored in real time, just as anyone who really thought about the notorious telescreens in Orwell’s 1984 would have to conclude that, unless half the population were engaged in continually monitoring the other half (and then who would watch the watchers?) it just couldn’t be effectively done—except for its deterrent value, which might be enough.
To counter this problem, some surveillance cameras today are becoming “smarter,” detecting atypical movement patterns and calling attention to them by alerting a human operator (of course, for that to work, there must be at least one human operator around).
The machines are smart, but people—including perpetrators—are smart as well. Humans have found ways to thwart the cameras, but designers of the devices find ways to counter the humans, something like the race between bacteria and advances in antibiotics.
Government Computer News reports that improved computer face recognition algorithms have reduced the false recognition rate 200 fold [see comments for discussion of this figure - aa] between 2006 and 2002. "In the 2006 test [sponsored by the FBI and Homeland Security] ... the accuracy of face recognition software was documented to exceed that of humans."
The new algorithms exploit the geometric signature of the human face and the ability to read micro-patterns -- swatches of skin display a structure of pores and texture -- rather like a fingerprint. Now you can look forward to a future where cameras can scan your face to the entrance of every stadium, theater, venue and public building that a network can reach.
That face recognition technologies have improved significantly in recent years was evident in the results of the most recent Face Recognition Vendor Test sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The FRVT acted as a benchmark for the face recognition industry, allowing vendors to come forth and show what they could offer.
The results of the test, released in March, showed improvements in recognition accuracy of an order of magnitude, or 10 times better than in the previous test in 2002. ...
Another watershed in the 2006 test was that the accuracy of face recognition software was documented to exceed that of humans. According to the report, “In an experiment comparing human and algorithm performance, the best-performing face recognition algorithms were more accurate than humans.”
So what accounts for the dramatic improvement in face recognition? First, it’s important to understand the basic technologies involved in face recognition. In the initial step, an image must be captured, either by a still camera or a video camera. Next, the image may be “preprocessed” to adjust for lighting, angle or other elements of the recorded image. Finally, an algorithm is applied to extract features — known as landmarks or nodal points — from the image and compare them to data derived from other images. ...
A common problem with early face recognition technologies was that changes in lighting conditions and viewing angles could dramatically change the appearance of these features and result in different measurements for the same subject.
The better algorithms made some adjustments for such changes, but with limited data from the captured image, only limited adjustments could be made. Accordingly, face recognition systems could only deliver reasonably reliable results under very controlled conditions, where the viewing angles and lighting are controlled. ...
Another promising development has been the introduction of microfeature analysis, which essentially is a detection of patterns in skin texture. This method has only become possible with the introduction of higher-resolution cameras, and it offers an entirely new category of face landmarks.
There's another aspect I'd figure is playing into this, and that's the market. The proliferation of video technology in the hands of consumers is likely to accelerate the process still faster. That is, the fact that digital cameras are now standard equipment in cellphones and personal computers will not, in and of itself, make FVRT work better; but the fact that the market exists will provide the economic incentive for developers and investors to push ahead with improving this technology. That's what will make the difference between a technology that remains a curiosity in somebody's laboratory somewhere, and one that sees widespread development. For security and law-enforcement entities, that also means there's a motive to acquire FVRT tools - because you never know when that passed out college student who was immortalized on YouTube by his roommate might turn out to be a wanted terrorist.
And then there's the decentralization thing, which brings us back to another Belmont Club post: Where is your computer?
Although the Youtube video basically describes the Microsoft Surface product the issues it highlights have been simmering for a long time. Much of what we regard as our "computing" resources resides in no single physical place. As it becomes possible to network those resources together the sum of them eventually becoming our computing base. At some further point the computing resources associated with an individual will become so inseparably part of him that they will arguably comprise part of the personality. Where is your computer?