Wrong Superhero – Why Apple doesn’t Deserve the Praise it’s Receiving

The “FBI–Apple encryption dispute” has come to an – preliminary, at least – end with the FBI announcing yesterday that they have no interest any more in Apple assisting them to recover user data from a seized iPhone that once was used by a terrorist. The FBI says that they have been able to recover the data without Apple’s help. Apple has received much public support for their opposition to provide software to recover the data from the phone. I believe that Apple doesn’t deserve this sympathy and is the wrong superhero to adore. Contrary to what they say in their press releases, Apple is not protecting their user’s freedom. Even though they might have put security measures into place that are distinguishing compared to those of other competitors, Apple’s products are mistreating their users just as any other product based on proprietary software. Sadly, there is no smart phone available today that runs exclusively on free software and gives control to the user instead of the vendor, which is why I don’t use or even have a smart phone.

The whole talk about the “FBI–Apple encryption dispute” is highly disturbing. Continue reading

int modulus(int n, int m) { return n < m ? n : n % m; }

Real Programmers will love this! (Except that they always knew…)

At CppCon’15, Chandler Carruth, lead of the Clang team at Google, gave a great talk titled Tuning C++: Benchmarks, and CPUs, and Compilers! Oh My!. The talk that is mostly live-coding and micro-benchmarking is both, informative and entertaining. Among other things, Chandler presents an optimized version of the good old modulus. Let n be a non-negative and m a positive integer. Then he proposes replacing n % m by n < m ? n : n % m because – after all – if n is less than m, there is nothing to compute.

What supposedly was meant to be a joke, proposing a dumb micro-optimization that actually makes the code run slower, turned out to be in fact an improvement. This is astonishing because it violates just about every principle we’ve learned about writing fast code. Continue reading

A Simple Script for Generating Printed Sheets With Your OpenPGP Fingerprint

For some time, I have used printed sheets with my OpenPGP key and a short summary of the most important commands needed to fetch it from a key server, check its fingerprint and sign it. These I handed to people who wish to use and potentially sign my key as a secure means of exchanging my key’s fingerprint. It turned out that people liked these sheets and I have been asked how to generate them. The versions I have used in the past were just hand-crafted TeX documents but for your convenience, I have now written a simple shell script that will generate such sheets. Here is an example.

In the most simple case, you can simply run

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Die Hacker sind an gar nichts schuld

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren beim Deutschlandfunk,

seit Tagen berichten Sie immer wieder von dem Angriff auf die IT-Systeme des Deutschen Bundestags. Während ich der Berichterstattung bislang nur äußerst wenige technische Details zu Art und Umfang des Angriffs entnehmen konnte, ist mir aufgefallen, dass Sie regelmäßig von „Hackern“ sprechen, die den Angriff ausgeführt haben sollen. Während es nach meinem aktuellen Kenntnisstand nicht gänzlich auszuschließen ist, dass dem tatsächlich so gewesen sein könnte, halte ich es doch für äußerst unrealistisch, und bitte Sie, von dieser unbegründeten Anschuldigung in Zukunft Abstand zu halten.

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A General Prohibition for Teachers in Public Schools to Wear a Headscarf is Incompatible with the German Constitution

One of Germany’s worst and most freedom-denying pieces of law has become a thing of the past. Because of a mature insight on behalf of the responsible politicians to revoke unjust legislation? No way! This is not how politics work in Germany, sadly. Instead, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (BVerfG), one more time, had to settle the mess politics has left behind.

In a court decision from January 27 (1 BvR 471/10, 1 BvR 1181/10) that was published today, the BVerfG has ruled that legislation by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) that prohibited non-Christian teachers to dress according to their religious believes is partially incompatible with the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (GG) and partially has to be applied in a restricted manner to be compliant with the GG. Continue reading