The Two-FA Edition Monday, August 1, 2016

There Are Limits To 2FA And It Can Be Near-crippling To Your Digital Life, by Kapil Haresh, Ars Technica

I can see why Apple decided against using the same 2FA authentication for Find My iPhone . Ideally, you’d only use Find My iPhone when you lose your device, hence you’d not be able to access your text and on-device authentication. But for there to be no 2FA for Find My iPhone doesn’t quite add up.

I can imagine how this could be fixed. Instead of having a one time code for Find My iPhone, it might be better to have a second layer of authentication in the form of a secret question/answer when accessing Find My iPhone if 2FA was on. The legitimate user would know the answer for the question just like in the case of a forgotten password. By nominating a number of question /answer pairs, it can be randomized, too.

If such a thing existed, the adversary in this case would have not been able to go further than looking up the location, and ideally he/she wouldn’t be able to play the alert sound or even conduct the remote erase.

Simple Math

Politicians Need To Understand This Computer Science Concept Better, by Jesse Dunietz, Nautilus

I have an idea that would keep 100 percent of foreign-born terrorists out of the United States. Not only that, it’s far simpler than any presidential candidate’s proposals. All we have to do is this: Never let anybody in. Most of us find this idea ludicrous, of course, and rightly so. Keeping out terrorists is not the only goal of border policy; it’s essential that the vast majority of people can come and go freely, whether for pleasure, business, or survival. Yet many of our decisions are based on similarly shoddy reasoning: We often fail to consider that there are two sides to the accuracy seesaw.

Make Algorithms Accountable, by Julia Angwin, New York Times

A better goal would be to try to at least meet, if not exceed, the accountability standard set by a president not otherwise known for his commitment to transparency, Richard Nixon: the right to examine and challenge the data used to make algorithmic decisions about us.


TextWrangler 5.5, by Agen G. N. Schmitz, TidBITS

Bare Bones Software has released TextWrangler 5.5with more than 250 new features, changes to existing features, and fixes for the free text editor — including a bump in requirements to OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks or later.

uDesktop NEXT For OS X Is A Solid Desktop Wallpaper App With Access To Gorgeous Images, by Dennis Sellers, Apple World Today

uDesktop NEXT not only lets you manage your desktop images, but also offers access to lots of high-resolution pics.


How AI Based Programming Could Work, by Benedikt Jenik

I expect programming to become more declarative and a lot less exact. To elaborate on that, we first need to have a look at how programming works today: you usually have some input or a system state and want to get to a result or another system state. You do this by defining a series of exact steps that gets from the input to the result. Of course, this isn't done directly in system instructions anymore - there are multiple levels of abstraction in between, but all of these abstractions are exactly specified relative to the layer below without any ambiguity. This means we still exactly specify a series of small steps the computer then follows. To summarize: there is the underlying assumption that the only thing a computer should do, is exactly follow a series of steps and if there are none it should do nothing.

There have been attempts to create a way of programming that works without giving exact steps by using a more declarative method involving logic statements and constraints and running deduction or a solver over it. The problem here is that if the program is underspecified deduction may not go anywhere and the solver will give us a lot more in addition to the "correct" / wanted result. If we take a pick it most likely is the wrong one, which brings us to the next underlying assumption: if the program leaves a choice / a degree of freedom it is expected that the computer will not do the right thing.


The Swiss Hotel That’s Just A Bed On A Mountain, by Simon Usborne, The Guardian

The room, which was booked up all summer, within days of its July opening, is part of the brothers’ slightly mad Null Stern, or “zero star” concept (“the only star is you”).

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The view -- all the stars -- must be spectacular.


Thanks for reading.