Saturday, October 16, 2010

RIP Benoit Mandelbrot

Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractals, is dead at 85.

When I was in high school I was fascinated by the Mandelbrot set. I wrote a program which rendered it (quite slowly) on my 286. It let you draw a line anywhere across the set and play it as musical tones. (Well, as musical as a PC's speaker could be.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Data Mining 101: Amazon Wishlists

I was searching for someone's Amazon wishlist and found this link, instead: Data Mining 101: Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists. It's nearly 5 years old, so you probably discovered this long before I did, but it's pretty interesting how much data he could find just linking together a few public, free databases.

It reminded me of an ad I saw on a website yesterday. (I should have captured it.) It said something like "Searching for Gary Gnu?" and then provided links to a couple of sites ostensibly selling Gary Gnu (Buy Gary Gnu on!). I had done a Google search for Gary Gnu a few days before; the ad must have been sniffing my browser history to figure that out, possibly using the old link coloring trick.

Is privacy dead? Probably, but I think it has been for a long time now. The only real difference is that we know it, and I guess that's half the battle.