Evidence of the Impending Singularity?

While reading this article in The Economist, the section on rising inequality leapt out at me. The newspaper suggested that technology may be to blame. This is certainly a situation that I’ve been expecting for a while.

In contrast to the Singularity proposed by Vernor Vinge, I believe that as people become more educated, have better tools, and live longer, it will be harder and harder for young, less well educated, and poorer people to compete. This will stratify society.

More Financial Blogs

Here are some more financial blogs that seem good:

Financial Turmoil

This past week has been facinating in the financial markets. After a long slide downwards, the markets tumbled at the beginning of the week, and now they are bouncing back upwards.
Initially the market dive looked like it was triggered by worries over the problems with the Monoline Insurers.
The Fed responded by cutting interest rates by 75 basis points on Wednesday. This seemed to have little effect with various indices falling even further. It did however seem to have a dramatic effect on the probability that the US will go into recession.
On Thursday we found out that Societe Generale lost $7 Bln from trader fraud (leading the market wags to dub it “Shock Gen”. This seemed to have little negative impact on the markets with the indices all shooting upwards. They are all up today, albeit not as much as yesterday. It looks like the momentum is leaving the bounce.

So could the massive falls be attributed to Soc Gen selling out of their positions and realizing their losses? Can some of the market euphoria be attributed to proposed monoline bail-out?

I guess we’ll see how next week develops!

My iRex iLiad

So I ended up getting iRex Technologies iLiad e-book reader. I have been using it for about a month now, and I absolutely love it! I usually switch it on so I can read it on the way to Canary Wharf (currently doing a contract out there), and leave it on the whole day. It’s like having an iPod – but for books. I’ve installed an 8GB SD card, and I’ve got lots of books and maths and computing papers loaded.

Using gpg to encrypt files on a web server

I was working on my website ValidateModel.com, and I wanted a way to protect files that are uploaded by the users. My solution is to encrypt the files with gpg when they are uploaded. Only the public key is stored on the server and the files are encrypted with this. The only way for the files to be decrypted is for them to be downloaded and then decrypted with my private key.

The steps needed in order to achieve this are:

  1. Obtain gpg and generate a public/private key if you don’t already have one (gpg –gen-key)
  2. Export your public key to a file (gpg -a –export > pubkey.txt)
  3. Upload the pubkey.txt file to your server
  4. Create a directory accessible to the webserver (apache) process
  5. Create a public keyring in this directory (gpg –no-default-keyring –keyring /path/to/pubring.gpg –import pubkey.txt)
  6. Make sure that this file is readable by your webserver process
  7. You may now encrypt files using the command line “gpg -q –batch –no-options –no-default-keyring –keyring /path/to/pubring.gpg -r brett –always-trust –output encrypted.enc –encrypt unencrypted.txt”.

Make sure you back up your private keyring – if you lose it, your files will NEVER be decrypted!

Mobile Reading

I’ve been interested in electronic book readers with e-Ink technology ever since I read about the Sony Reader. I waited and waited for them to bring the reader out in the UK, but it’s been over a year and still no release.

A friend sent me a link the other day about the Iliad. This seems like a fantastic device, but it’s quite expensive!

I then discovered a review on e-book readers on Wired magazine. This led me to discover Bookeen’s CyBook Gen3. The CyBook is lighter and cheaper than the Iliad and the battery lasts a lot longer. According to two reviews I read; the screen quality isn’t quite as good on the CyBook as compared to the Iliad, and both reviews mentioned that the button for turning the pages was awkwardly placed. There seems to be a very active developer community for the Iliad which is a big plus.

The price, weight and power consumption difference between the Iliad and the CyBook are probably because the Iliad has a Wacom digitizer in it, so you can draw and take notes on the screen. Also the Iliad screen is bigger and supports 16 shades of gray as opposed to 4.

Fire on Oxford Street!

I heard the sound of sirens, so went to our balcony to see what was happening. There were fire trucks and police and a bank of red buses queued up. It all seemed to be centered a couple of blocks from our apartment. Helen and I walked down the street and I snapped a couple of pictures.

Fire on Oxford Street Fire from our balcony