How to check if a website was vulnerable to “Heartbleed” security defect

Go here: LastPass – LastPass Heartbleed checker and enter the URL to check if the web site was vulnerable to the Open SSL security defect.

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The choice of programming language really does matter

And the use of the right programming language can help to avoid real world error conditions that lead to failures:

Those Who Say Code Does Not Matter | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

Our goal should be to use tools that help prevent errors from occurring in the first place. This is an old concept, now, in manufacturing. Toyota introduced this a long time ago by creating methods and systems where mistakes are prevented: its called poke yoke (Pok-ee-Yok-ee). Our programming languages can help prevent common mistakes by making it impossible to do many common tasks incorrectly.

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“The Danger of Requiring Computer Science in K-12 Schools”

This is nuts:

Some are now calling for computer science to be a required subject for U.S. school children.

via The Danger of Requiring Computer Science in K-12 Schools | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

We do not know what these K-12 goals would be, we do not know what the curriculum would be nor why we would want to do this; plus we lack certified computer science teachers.

There seem to be 3 arguments for “all students should learn to code”:

1. Everything runs software today, therefore, everyone should understand how to write software. Huh? Everyone will likely have medical problems, therefore everyone should be trained in health care diagnosis and treatment? Everyone will likely drive a car, therefore, everyone should be trained to repair their own car?

2. Teaching software development teaches problem solving skills. So does teaching problem solving skills. We could pick any number of proxy topics to teach problem solving skills. Teaching mathematics or statistics and statistical thinking skills would be more valuable across multiple disciplines than 5-9 months of introductory programming skills.

3. What would we teach? One local high school has students studying DrRacket, which is essentially teaching them the 1960s programming language, interpretive LISP.  Do we need more people trained in “programming” – or do we need more people trained in algorithmic theory, data structures, formal languages, compiler design and implementation, operating system design, cryptography and security, network architecture, network protocols and implementation, architecture of large systems using n-tier approaches, enterprise information systems, systems analysis, robotics, database architecture and implementation, web site architecture and implementation, embedded systems, real-time systems, mobile systems and applications and so on.

Somewhere along the line, the politicians have decided that “programming” equals computer science but the two are barely related. Some academics are pushing this because they see a self serving gravy train. But until we step back and figure out what we are trying to accomplish, these policy initiatives are not going to turn out well. Time spent “learning to program” means time not spent on many other valuable topics and skills.

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Management failures doomed several health insurance online market places

In Oregon, where there is still no working online health insurance exchange, the Governor hired an outside consulting firm to review the problems. The report barely mentions technology and firmly blamed faulty management, faulty organization design and failed leadership.  It was all about bad management. The Governor, predictably, immediately referred to this as a “technology failure’, which it mostly certainly was not: it was a management failure.

Similarly, HealthCare.gov suffered a horrendous management failure and its head seemed oblivious to the non-working system. In the end, she resigned – but should have been fired for incompetence. There were never “glitches” – only serious defects and incompetent management.

Douglas Carr of Information Week has an excellent write up about the management failures of the nation’s various health exchanges – and why the high level leaders did indeed fail in basic management functions.

What could Kathleen Sebelius have done differently? She could have asked for the real story, the worst-case scenario, and pressed her subordinates to check with their subordinates on whether the project really was on track. She could have insisted on more checks on the process, or taken the audits that were done and raised red flags more seriously. For that matter, the same criticism applies to President Obama, as well as governors in states like Oregon and Maryland that implemented their own exchanges with websites that failed to rise to even HealthCare.gov’s eventual level of success.

via Kathleen Sebelius: Failed IT Project Manager? – InformationWeek.

And as I have pointed out on this blog, management also failed to establish bona fide objective measures by which progress could be measured and success determined. Today we hear that “8 million have signed up” but we still do not know what this means as HHS admits they have no way of knowing how many people were replacing existing policies because of cancellations or because they could get subsidies on the exchanges. The lack of useful metrics is another example of poor management of one of the nation’s largest software projects.

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Blink – continuous photos for Windows Phone

I wonder what its battery impact is: Blink – Microsoft Research.

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Tesla cars run Ethernet inside – and Ubuntu

We should also note that apparently Tesla engineers detected this hacking or exploring and sent a nastygram to the cars owner, “Tesla USA engineers have seen a tentative of hacking on my car.”, “can be related to industrial espionage and advised me to stop investigation, to not void the warranty”.Does Tesla have an network intrusion detection system installed on the cars?  Do they have the right to not allow you to tinker with your own car?

via » Tesla Model S Ethernet Network Explored, Possible Jailbreak in the Future? – DragTimes.com Drag Racing, Fast Cars, Muscle Cars Blog.

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Consumers lose trust in Google, Microsoft, Yahoo due to NSA cooperation

Consumers lose trust in Google, Microsoft and Yahoo over NSA spying:

two out of three [Harris Interactive] survey respondents also felt betrayed because ISPs and other online companies are working secretly with the government to collect and monitor the communications of private citizens. About 60% are less trusting of ISPs and other technology companies than before the revelations.

….

One result is that people appear to be scaling back their Internet use. Nearly half of the respondents have become more cautious about what they say, where they go and what they do on the Internet. About 25% are less inclined to use email these days because of the same reason.

via Snowden leaks erode trust in Internet companies, government – Computerworld.

The economic consequences of a loss of trust in US businesses – and a fear of using the Internet – are substantial.

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Robotics working to lower costs of hand-like gripping systems

Rethinking the components used in advanced prototypes such as Atlas to reduce cost and power consumption has become a major focus in robotics research as engineers seek to finally have these machines escape the lab, says Rich Mahoney, SRI’s director of robotics. “We got things that are overdesigned because there’s not been impetus for low cost and good design,” he says.

via Making Affordable Robotic Humanoids and Hands | MIT Technology Review.

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Mozilla CEO resignation raises free-speech issues

Mozilla CEO resignation raises free-speech issues. The CEO made a donation in 2008 to a state initiative opposed to same-sex marriage.  An online rampage ensued in 2014 threatening to destroy the Mozilla organization unless he quit.

These actions distort the marketplace of ideas and that is not good.

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