October 19, 2000

I intended to post a lot of this yesterday, but instead I stayed up late watching a PBS show about the evolution of the even-tempered twelve-note scale which has dominated music in the last century. The advantage of this scheme is that it plays equally well in any key. Fascinating stuff. Like color, sound is full of unexpected complexity. #

Newfangled Authentication Schemes

Swaine's World points to a bunch of interesting reading, such as Penn State's work on antimatter-based space propulsion and a paper about passwords based on visual recall. The idea here is that people are much better at recognizing arbitrary images than remembering arbitrary text strings. Their proposed system, Déjà Vu, allows a user to select a portfolio of images from a larger, predetermined set. While logging in, the user is presented with a set of images, some from the portfolio and some not. The user must identify which images are in the portfolio. Their studies show that 90% of the participants could use t heir system successfully, while only 70% were successful with passwords and PINs.

This reminds me of Jef Raskin's suggestion that the username/password pair be dropped in favor of just a password. If all passwords are required to be unique, then the password itself is sufficient to identify and authenticate any user. This wouldn't work well with the Déjà Vu system, as the latter is a challenge/response system ("So you claim to be John Doe? Then you must know which of these images he has chosen!") which needs to know who you claim to be before it can know what questions to ask in order to prove it, but both suggestions stem from the desire to reduce the amount of things a user needs to remember in order to use a secure system (a goal also shared by the XNS system). I figure, anything which makes my life easier (as a user) is worth looking into. #

Voice of the Individuals

If you haven't been following the microradio flap, here's a quick summary. The FCC has proposed allowing communities to run low-power radio stations, which the National Association of Broadcasters opposes. They claim the FCC has not fully considered interference; the FCC insists that it has. Since the FCC will be able to license low-power stations in the near future--potentially demonstrating that interference is not a problem--the NAB is doing its best to kill low-power radio before it can get started.

It's real hard not to see this as the NAB attempting to destroy potential competition. I'm reminded of an old MCI commercial in which a young woman representing the company asked why then-gigantic AT&T would be so scared of little MCI. (Perhaps they foresaw those obnoxious 1-800-COLLECT commercials.) I understand the desire by the radio conglomerates to keep competition to a minimum, but it doesn't speak well for their self-confidence that they're pursuing this so fiercely.

On a somewhat related note, Joe Clark, writing for A List Apart, discusses why TV/web convergence makes no sense to people familar with the web. He notes, for instance, that "the Internet encourages specificity, not generality." The web doesn't need anything to make it more TV-like. The only thing TV can do which the web cannot is deliver high-quality video in real-time, and we'll probably see that on the web eventually. TV is a subset of the web, and that means that the current splintering of the network TV audience is only the beginning. I suspect mass media will never go away, but I don't think it will ever regain the power it once had. #

More Hot SDMI Action

In response to claims that SDMI's system has been defeated, SDMI has officially declared it too soon to tell. Others express skepticism, noting that the RIAA has already started work on its own digital ID system. (via Tomalak's Realm) #


Rick Miller's MacHomer and the truth behind that lesbian finger-length thing (via Salon Letters). #