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Quantum Digital Assistants and Silly Predictions

June is perhaps a little early to start declaring winners for the whole of 2019. Nevertheless, I’m willing to go out on a limb for a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. The article “When Quantum Computing Meets AI: Smarter Digital Assistants and More” may not end up being the silliest technology article of…

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The Shutdown Problem for Blockchain Systems

I recently found myself intrigued by the question of how to deal with a failed or obsolete blockchain system. My starting point was the phrase “blockchain bankruptcy,” but I broadened my thinking from there. I ended up being concerned about the general problem of gracefully ending a blockchain system. First, we might ask: why do…

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Air gaps, revisited: change and obsolescence

I previously wrote about the importance of air gaps for security of networked systems. It’s worth noting another reason why an air gap can be useful: to avoid obsolescence. This aspect came to mind when I ran across a piece of hardware that I used for music recording. I quickly figured out that it wasn’t…

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Your Computer is Trapped in the 18th Century

In the modern world, there are many kinds of speedy interpersonal communication. They make quite an impressive list: “ordinary” phone calls, video calls, voice chats, texting (with or without pictures and location information), plus a separate list of specialized applications like Snapchat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and more. With all of these options, it would seem…

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Hidden Drawers in Software

Huawei has been in the news again recently, with its CFO detained over concerns about a possible sanctions violation. The larger context is what makes that situation interesting: beyond simple concerns about trafficking with Iran, the US government has been warning US telecommunication companies and allied governments that Huawei equipment is not trustworthy. There are…

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Do We Think Too Highly of Programming?

Everyone seems to agree that our likely future includes more technology. Accordingly, everyone seems to agree that we need more programmers. You can teach yourself programming via online courses, and there are various earnest organizations keen to help members of underrepresented groups become programmers. Everyone, it seems, should be learning to program. It’s hard to…

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Air gaps and backups

WIRED recently published an article about the NotPetya cyberattack. In addition to being an interesting story in its own right, the article is a handy reminder of the importance of “air gaps” in designing a backup system to survive disaster. An air gap is a deliberate break in the network connectivity of a complex system…

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Quantum Blockchain

At a recent book event, I was asked an interesting question: how would blockchain systems be affected if quantum computing becomes a practical reality? I think it’s fun to speculate about this, but I want to do so without getting bogged down in two very hard issues: (1) Is quantum computing likely to become a…

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Mr. Kafka, Your Ad Will Be Reviewed Shortly

or My Book Can’t Be Advertised on Facebook: An Anecdote of Why We Can’t Trust Facebook to Police Content I have recently joined a select group of people whose ads are too dangerous for Facebook to publish. This development came as a surprise to me, since I’m an author with a newly-published book about computer…

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