Technical Solutions to Amok Runs

3. August, 2016

Every now and then, an idiot realizes that his life isn’t exciting enough and decides to do something about it. Note: I apply humor to horror.

Some people (I think of them as idiots as well, just a different flavor) think that arming everyone is the best solution to this problem. Maybe these people probably never get angry.

Anyway. Here is my attempt at a solution: Data contracts.

A data contract is a contract which is attached to data.

Example: I could attach a contract to data which my cell phone produces, for example, “code looking for the signature of gunshots can access data which the microphone produces.” Similarly, I could attach “code looking symptoms of mass panic can access data from my mobile’s acceleration sensors.” And lastly, “code which detected mass panic or gunshots is allowed to access location data on my mobile.”

To build such a system, all data needs to be signed (so it can be attributed to someone) and it needs to contain the hash code of the contract. Big data services can then look up people by their signature (which would also allow to create a public / shared signature for an anonymous entity) and from there, get the data contracts.

Now that in itself doesn’t protect against abuse of data by greedy / evil corporations. The solution here is the same as in the “real” world: Auditing. People applying for access to this system need to undergo an audit where test data is fed into the system and auditors (which can be humans or bots or both) validate the operation. This results in a digital document signed by the auditors which will then allow them to access the data feeds.

This approach would then protect my privacy from people wanting my movement profiles to annoy me with adverts while safety services could still use the data to automatically detect disasters and dispatch help without me having to fumble for my phone while running for my life.

On the downside, attackers will start to shoot mobile phones.

If we look into the future, unstable people could be sentenced to share some of their data with automated systems which monitor their mental state – I’m positive that several companies are working on systems to determine the mental state of a person by looking at sensor data from their phones or fitness sensors as you read this. Of course, we’d need an improved justice system (our current one is too busy with things like patent lawsuits or copyright violations) with careful balance and checks to prevent another kind of idiot (the one which doesn’t believe in “everything has a cost”) to run amok with this (i.e. putting “unwanted” people into virtual jails).

There is a certain amount of “bad things happening” that we have to accept as inevitable. Everyone who disagrees is invited to move to North Korea where they have … ah … “solved” this already.

For everyone else, this idea has a few holes. It needs computer readable contracts, a way to negotiate contracts between computers (with and without human interaction), it needs technology for auditors where they can feed test data into complex systems and see where it goes.

I think the computer readable contracts will happen in the next few years; negotiating contracts and knowing what contracts you have is a big issue with companies. Their needs will drive this technology. Eventually, you’ll be able to set up a meeting with a lawyer who will configure a “contract matching app” your mobile. When some service wants your data, the app will automatically approve the parts of the contract which you already agree, and reject those which you’ll never accept. If the service still wants to do business with you, then you’ll get a short list of points which are undecided, yet. A few swipes later, you’ll be in business or you’ll know why not.

The test data problem can be implemented by adding new features to the big data processing frameworks. Many of these already have ways to describe data processing graphs which the framework will then turn into actual data processing. For documentation purposes, you can already examine those graphs. Adding signature tracking (when you already have to process the signatures anyway to read the data) isn’t a big deal. Auditing then means to check those signature tracks.

It’s not perfect but perfect doesn’t exist.

RPM build errors: No file attributes configured

25. July, 2016

The error comes from this lines in the RPM source code:

if (initAttrs(fc) < 1) {
rpmlog(RPMLOG_ERR, _("No file attributes configured\n"));
goto exit;

initAttrs() looks for “%{_fileattrsdir}/*.attr”

To solve this, install the package rpm-devel.

Another solution is to create a file “script.attr” in _fileattrsdir (default: /usr/lib/rpm/fileattrs/) with this content:

%__script_requires %{_rpmconfigdir}/script.req
%__script_magic ^.* script[, ].*$
%__script_flags exeonly

Good and Bad People

23. July, 2016

Good and bad people say “something needs to be done.” The difference is that bad people think “no matter the cost” while good people always keep in mind that change alone isn’t “good” as such. It can always be to the worse.

Related posts:

Real Life Adblocker

17. June, 2016

I’m one of those people who can’t tear their eyes from blinking, moving stuff. Web advertising is pure hell for me. Thank god for ad blockers.

But what about real life ads? Did you notice all those billboards popping up lately? They are everywhere. Recently, the learned to move.

Time to do something about it:

Thanks, guys!

Random Conway’s Game of Life

27. December, 2015

Recently, I followed a discussion about free will. The starting point was the question whether a million exact clones which are placed in the same situations would shows the same behavior and whether they would diverge over time.

My stance is that they would behave identical in the beginning but, subject to quantum physics, small differences would creep in. Big things like hair color or beliefs would be very stable. A complex decision, which could go either way, might be influenced by the fact that a molecule binds a few nanoseconds later than in another clone. The neuron would fire slightly later than the other ones and a different option would be chosen.

Which made me remember Conway’s Game of Life. Life has been shown to be Turing complete – you can construct machines which can compute anything that can be computed.

Now which change to Life would bring it to the next level? Make it able to compute more than Turing?

If there is no metaphysical soul, no God-induced immortal energy in us, then our ability to comprehend must come from the physical body that we have. If neurons are small switches that trigger other switches when enough inputs agree, then where does comprehension – which simple computers certainly lack – come from?

Maybe the solution is that our neurons have a random component – quantum physics. Maybe the solution is a version of Life where survival with more than three neighbors isn’t impossible – just unlikely? Where cells can come to life from nothing by pure (small) chance?


16. November, 2015

The foundation of civilization is the ability of the community to withstand their own death wishes and murderous instincts — André Glucksmann (source; my own translation)

There are people who will tell you that it’s a dog-eat-dog world. That’s a white lie. The building in which you sit while you read this, is the result of cooperation of hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people. They dug the earth for ore and cement. They build trucks to transport them. They built factories to refine them and turn them into steel and tools. The process of smelting and forging steel has been developed by thousands of people over ten thousand years. Thousands of people all over the globe worked to build the device(s) which you use to read this.

Civilization is a result of cooperation by millions of people who have never met. Cooperation is the foundation on which we all stand. No bomb can change that – unless we allow ourselves to be manipulated by people that we despise.


11. November, 2015

It takes years and hundreds, sometimes thousands of people to build but only one person and a moment to destroy me. What am I?

Answer (link goes to Wikipedia)