Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Case of the Two Doctors

A few weeks ago the Google listing changed for some PhDs. Now when googling searching for Brent Waters or Kevin Fu via Google, odd text appears as the first hit. The text consists of the title "dr" followed by the name, all in lowercase. The text itself does not appear on the target Web page.

An inside joke at Google? A cute bug? Google snuck into each thesis defense of yore? Or maybe abhi shelat is taking over the world, letter by letter all in lowercase.

Monday, October 16, 2006

RFID pumpkin nose

At Ron's annual Pumpkin Party, I did my best to emulate Moses' carving skills (photo credit to Gildas). I settled for this attempt.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

Buffer overfly

It's one thing to see a hot air balloon fly in the distance. It's a bit more impressive when you wake up with one landing in your front yard.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Worm attack

Parts of New England got upwards of 15 inches of rain this week. My garage is now subject to a worm hole attack. This worm managed to eventually crawl about 3 feet up the side of my garage.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Creative building access control

I took some snapshots while in Puerto Rico. Perhaps this access control system was designed by committee.

Electronic voting online

A few weeks ago the ACM held its online elections for its officers. After receving an email with a "unique PIN", I was curious how random the distribution of voting PINs actually was. About a dozen of ACM members emailed me their PINs and the timestamp on the email from the election server. The graph plots the PIN number vs. the estimated time of day for receiving the email. The points look linear to me.

From: "Election Services Corporation for ACM"
To: "Kevin Fu"
Subject: ACM 2006 Election
Date: Fri, 7 Apr 2006 14:32:16 -0400

Dear Kevin Fu:

This e-mail is being sent on behalf of the Association for Computing
Machinery (ACM). To confirm authenticity of this message, go to

ACM is pleased to offer its members the opportunity to vote online in the
2006 Election.

You are encouraged to participate in this election. Please note that 12:00
noon Eastern Time, May 23, 2006 is the deadline for submitting your vote.
It is important that the voice of ALL members be heard.

To vote online, please go to:

You will need your 7-digit ACM Member Number to log in to the secure
voting site. If you do not know your membership number, please go to

For additional help, please visit the help screen on the log-in page by
clicking on the "Help" button.

Enter the 10-digit unique PIN seen below.

Enter your 7-digit ACM Member Number.

Follow the online voting instructions.

ACM Council Election

Your Unique PIN is: 0502XXXXXX

If you have any questions, please e-mail
or call toll-free 1-866-720-4357.

Thank you for taking the time to submit your vote online.

Association for Computing Machinery

The company conducting the election says:
Thank you for your interest and comments regarding the ACM election.

The pins we generate are not in precise sequential order. They are however in ascending order when transmitted to the queue on the email server. There is no direct correlation between the member id and the pin.

However we thank you for your findings as we are always trying to improve our security and will review these finding in attempt to further improve the process.
The "unique PIN" turns out to simply be a user identifier, and the security of the election rests on the secrecy of the voter's ACM member number. This is probably reasonable for something minor like the ACM election, but it does create unnecessary dependencies.

The ACM election was mentioned once before in the Risks Digest