A couple days in Zürich

I spent Wednesday evening and most of Thursday in Zürich.

On Wednesday I had dinner with some business partners; “business as usual”.

But on Thursday, after my business presentation to potential customers, I had the very rare and exclusive opportunity to visit one of the main data centers in Switzerland. Here are some impressive facts about them:

  • they host 1/3 of Swiss banks data
  • internet traffic = 40% of Switzerland’s internet traffic
  • energy bill = 2 million Swiss Franks per annum
  • 2 different energy suppliers from 2 different access points, with preferential oil supply in case of a failure (full reserves for 5 days for the generators)
  • almost 50 telecoms suppliers, from many different countries, providing direct access for their customers worldwide
  • RFIDs paired with 3D fingerprint scanners which measure the fingerprint but also the morphology, pulse and temperature
  • separate isolated room to open packages, to minimize the risk of fire
  • single person magnetic doors
  • temperature, movement, and sound sensors
  • double-gated entrance even to the parking lot!
  • building-within-building construction to avoid physical damage from a truck, explosives, missiles…
  • near the airport for easy access, but out of any flight path to minimize the risk of airline accident

Even most Hollywood movies don’t portray these high-security technology facilities accurately!

My talk at the Circumvention Tech Festival, March 4th

This past winter I met Sandy and James from Open ITP in New York, and Pepe from Valencia. They were organizing the Circumvention Tech Festival to be held in Las Naves, Valencia (Spain) March 1-6.

They invited me to give a talk, which was eventually scheduled for March 4th at 3pm. I titled the talk “When privacy does not mean the same to you and me”. It was meant to generate debate, to expose other people’s points of view, rather than to be a unidirectional speech.

Nonetheless, my talk was but one of many meetings, talks, workshops, and debates that James, Sandy and the whole team put together. iRex, Tor, Pirate Party, Censorship.no, Ooni, Xnet, Alkasir, ASL19… It ended up being one of the most awesome events of this kind I have ever attended, with circumvention activist and journalists from all over the world sharing their experiences and projects with the community.

The last night I threw a party for all those who wanted to attend at Kanteron’s offices in Valencia. We had fun 🙂

I can’t wait for next year’s edition!

Bitcoin – block chain event in New York

On Monday, February 9, I attended a Bitcoin – Blockchain event with my wife at law firm Latham & Watkins in New York, organized by Hedgeable.

IMG_20150209_194420

Over 100 bitcoin enthusiasts, investors, journalists, lawyers, and entrepreneurs networking over food and beverages, with demos from:

and a round table of Bitcoin innovation experts:

Since I have already started researching the application of the block chain technology for healthcare, it was quite a useful event. But walking around Manhattan at -4ºF is not fun 😉

The Circumvention Tech Festival

November 4th I had a very interesting non-business meeting in New America NYC, 199 Lafayette (New York). I met Sandra Ordonez of OpenITP, one of the organizers of The Circumvention Tech Festival.

OpenITP is an American project that supports the software developers and communities that design and develop anti-surveillance and anti-censorship in the internet (“circumvention tools”), allowing citizens to communicate directly and freely in their own terms. Their objective is to identify opportunities to improve and increase the distribution of these tools.

Right now they are organizing the Circumvention Tech Festival, event that will bring the international anti-surveillance and anti-censorship community to Valencia (Spain) March 1-6, 2015. Developers, activists, journalists, citizens, NGOs and more joining forces.

The festival will consist of a week of conferences, workshops, hackathons, and social gatherings featuring many of the Internet Freedom community’s flagship events. It will also feature two community-run series – one in English and one in Spanish, as well as public events designed to familiarize the local Valencian community with FLOSS privacy and security tools and their communities.

Website in English: www.circumventionfestival.org

Website in Spanish: www.circumventionfestival.es

Would you like to contribute? They need:

  • Small donations to help pay for Internet infrastructure, coffee, evening events, and marketing materials
  • Companies that want to setup a table in our security & privacy expo
  • Bilingual volunteers that can help man the festival for a few hours a day
  • Spanish and English speakers, that want to give a talk, or organize a hackathon/workshop relating to the FLOSS security/privacy space

Don’t miss this amazing festival, and try to help in any way you can!

My new OnePlus One phone is amazing

I have just bought a OnePlus One phone, and have been using it for a couple of days. Let me tell you: it’s AMAZING.

If you have never heard of the company, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But you should definitely check it out, because their phones are incredibly high quality, high specs, and low price (mine was $349). No catch:

  • Qualcomm© Snapdragon™ 801 processor with 2.5GHz Quad-core CPUs
  • Adreno 330 GPU, 578MHz
  • 64 GB eMMC 5.0
  • 3 GB LP-DDR3 RAM, 1866MHz
  • global 4G LTE
  • NFC5.5″ 1080p display
  • 13 megapixel 6 lens camera
  • Tri-microphone with noise cancellation

I decided to get one of these because my Samsung Galaxy S II was getting old, and I wanted to go from the limited stock Android, full of my cell carrier’s bloatware, to a more open and free Cyanogen Mod (11S), which will also allow me to experiment with advanced cell cryptography.

Purchasing one of these phones is not that easy. I guess they want to control the huge demand they are experiencing. But I got an invitation, so I decided to use it 😉

Upon receiving the package I felt something I had not feel since the first iPhone: like a fan-boy. Sorry Apple, you lost your touch long time ago, and many of us just despise how you do not care about user’s rights and freedoms.

OnePlus has put a lot of care in every detail. And after a couple of days of spending too much time using the phone (who wouldn’t?) I must say even the batter life is amazing!

AWESOME JOB, OnePlus guys!

I was forced to hack into Schiphol Airport wifi

A couple weeks ago I was at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Of course, when I arrive in an airport with enough time ahead of my boarding, I look for a plug and wifi. Luckily Schiphol is an excellent airport, offering both. The only problem is that every time I clicked on the “Enjoy unlimited free wifi – Connect” button, I got an “Unknown error 0” message back.

Don’t tell me “Enjoy unlimited free wifi” and then try to prevent me from accessing it. That is cruel and just wrong. I was told to “Enjoy unlimited free wifi”, so I had to. To celebrate Free Software Day, you know.

I looked into the code, and saw an error. But luckily I also saw the way to by-pass it. All you have to do is to manually enter the correct URL, select the “Internet Voucher” option, and enter “schipholfreaccess” in both the ID and password fields (and accept the conditions). It will not give you an access screen, but you will be able to “Enjoy unlimited free wifi”.

Who said hackers are not obedient?

;-p

Learning quantum computer programming

Yesterday I started learning and experimenting with quantum computing programming. It’s not easy to express the fun and excitement that experience brought me, but I’ll try:

quantum computing simulator

Programming a quantum computer is different than programming a binary (0 and 1) “digital” computer. To program a quantum system, you have to map a problem into a search for the “lowest point” in a very large pool of options, which corresponds to the best possible outcome. The processor considers all the possibilities simultaneously to determine the lowest energy required to form those relationships. A quantum computer is probabilistic rather than deterministic, so the computer returns the best answers in a short amount of time. This results not only in the optimal solution or a single answer, but also other alternatives to choose from.

Of course, I don’t have access to a quantum computer (yet), so I used a GPU-accelerated quantum computer simulator with a simple IDE interface, its own scripting language with debugging, and 3D quantum state visualization which can efficiently simulate quantum registers up to 22 qubits, run Grover’s and Shor’s algorithms, and has a variety of quantum gates built in.

To use the quantum computer you map the problem to an equation whose objective is to return the minimal values (optimal solutions). There are two values that must be provided – the “weights” of the qubits (which can exist in any superposition of states 0 and 1, and are represented by a complex number) and the “strengths” of the interaction between them. When N qubits are in superposition, a combination of 2^N states is created.

Quantum gates are similar to the logical gates used in binary digital computers. With quantum gates (which define the most basic operations performed on qubits)  you can build complex algorithms, that usually end in a measurement operation obtaining a classical value of qubits (either 0 or 1, but not a superposition).

A set of qubits called quantum register, can be visualized in a number of ways, typically as a 2D or 3D graph, on which points or bars represent the “weight” superpositions of qubits, while their color or bar height represent the “strength” (amplitude and phase) of a given superposition.

An interesting property of quantum gates is their reversibility, allowing for program execution both forward and in reverse without any side-effects.

The problem is no longer getting an answer, but asking the right question.

Natural Language Processing, Cognitive Computing, Quantum Computing… if you don’t want to fear your rapidly approaching new overlords, better start learning and programming them NOW.

AI is coming

 

Chromecast + Hola = Multimedia freedom

How many times have you tried to access online media that was not available in your country? How many times have you gotten frustrated with proxy services?

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How many times have you wished there was an easy way to wirelessly display online content on your TV without paying for expensive privative boxes?

Enter Hola.org + Chromecast

Hola is a free browser extension used by 14 million people to access geographically restricted online media.

Google’s Chromecast is a $35 TV HDMI USB powered dongle that is extremely easy to set up and use. Coupled with apps (from Netflix to Hulu, Pandora to AllCast, Plex to Songza), you can play, not “stream”, all kinds of online multimedia on your TV.

Now, when I travel internationally and I want to see a Netflix movie, which I paid for with my subscription, I don’t have to take Netflix’s ridiculous geographical restriction (or TVE outside Spain, BBC outside UK, or just about anything inside China…), I just use Hola and access it, then connect to the Chromecast that I have plugged into my hotel’s TV and voilà!

UPDATE: Here are some other alternatives.

Testing a simple hack

I use qtranslate as a multi-language plugin for my blog. It’s an excellent solution, but the problem is that everytime Word Press is updated, it takes days, and sometimes weeeks, for the plugin author to update it.

So, tired of waiting, I have found a quick and simple hack to make it work with the latests WP 3.8 update: edit qtranslate.php to

define(‘QT_SUPPORTED_WP_VERSION’, ‘3.8’);

You’re welcome 😉