Monday 6-20-2011 Reading List

Bitcoin prices plummet on hacked exchange – Bitcoins are the geek’s version of a pyramid/Ponzi scheme and we’re not seeing the instability first-hand.  Just one compromised account on MTGOX trying to cash in at the maximum allowable $1000/day triggered a massive drop in bitcoin speculated prices.  See a video of the live crash of bitcoins down to 1 penny in real-time.  The bitcoin bubble has risen from $0.003 in April 2010 to $30 two weeks ago and then to some unknown value with one of the few and major bitcoin exchanges.  The fact that the typical customer is limited to a $1000/day withdraw limit should set off some serious warning signs.  Someone could “invest” $100 in Bitcoins a few months ago and they might have gotten back $800 last week.  Thinking that this is a great investment strategy, they dump in $10,000 thinking they’re going to be rich only to find out that they can only withdraw $1000/day which triggers a burst in the bubble.  If this isn’t a scam — a system that lets you put a lot of money in but only (unless you are one of a handful of special people) lets you take a little bit out while triggering a massive decline in price — what is?

A laptop, its head in the cloud – Speaking of scams, this doesn’t strictly qualify but you might think it is after you read David Pogue’s review of the Samsung Google Chromebook.  Pogue summarized the Chromebook as “With very few exceptions, when the Chromebook isn’t online, it’s a 3.3-pound paperweight.”.  A $500 paperweight to be more precise.

The 3 most undervalued stocks in tech: Google, Apple, and IBM – Somewhat disappointing analysis from CNN’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt.  If we’re supposed to value stocks based on the ratio of P/E divided by EPS growth, Microsoft and Intel with depressed forward P/E ratios of less than 9 with equal or better EPS growth should be far more undervalued than Google.  The fact that all the media pundits keep saying that Microsoft, Intel, and the PC are dead while neglecting the reality probably has something to do with that.

Special report: Government in cyber fight but can’t keep up – This isn’t surprising, given the fact that any computer with all security patches installed regardless of whether it runs Windows, Mac, or Linux will fall within hours to hackers competing for a few thousand dollars price money every year.  It is possible to write very secure software, but the vast majority of software aren’t written to these standards.  With the sheer amount of applications running on a typical computer, it’s extremely likely one or many of those applications are vulnerable to a “zero day” attack that exploits an unpublished vulnerability.  In military circles, the “air gap” (where a critical device is not connected to a network) is the only thing that is deemed secure from network attacks but that excludes physical attacks.  In reality, most of our government and corporate systems and even our core infrastructure systems that run the nation’s electric grid are not air gapped.

Japanese ‘K’ Computer Is Ranked Most Powerful – While undoubtedly impressive, the FLOPS (Floating Point Operations Per second) metric is highly theoretical and should be taken with a grain of salt.  The test assumes best case parallel performance without any regard to memory performance constraints or the clustering overhead of “672 cabinets filled with system boards”.  These benchmarks essentially measure who can string the most number of computers together in a cluster.  These super computers are good for some tasks but not necessarily for others.

Kinect: Microsoft’s accidental success story – Microsoft’s initial fear of  device hackers modifying its 3D video gaming accessory turned into exuberant support when the Kinect unleashed a revolution scientific experimentation and innovative applications.

Skype Fires Executives, Avoiding Payouts After Microsoft Buyout – Skype, a company that effectively sold itself twice to Ebay and then a third time to Microsoft, has apparently found a way to split the loot between fewer people.