Buzz One might call these

Potential Holy Shits

There are currently three ideas which whenever someone brings them up, I’m always interested in hearing about:

1) Technologies or products that attack a problem from a divide and conquer perspective. The best recent example is anything involving peer to peer technology. The original example was the Web. Any time someone points me at a product that takes this sort of approach, I sit up and listen because many problems are easier to solve when you throw bazillions of people at it. Anyone seen anything new here recently?

2) White lists. Less sexy, but certainly useful. White lists are a simple solution to the problem with spam. The idea being that you create a list of mail addresses from which you’re willing to receive mail and everything else is blocked or thrown into a junk folder. This makes it difficult for long lost college friends to find you, but it does mean less spam. It is a trivial idea, but in a web world of increasing useless noise, I often find myself wanting to OPT IN rather than OPT OUT.

3) Universal Identity. Microsoft continues to get it’s teeth kicked in with the Passport solution, but, honestly, they are trying to solve a tough problem here – a single sign-on for the Internet. Too bad they’re Microsoft. This may be one of those problems that everyone agrees must be solved, but doing so involves such a massive level coordination amongst entities with vastly different agendas that it may never be solved and I’ll continued to be forced to keep sixteen passwords in my head. Weak.

One might call these, potential holy shits.

10 Responses

  1. Konrad 22 years ago

    The old-college-friends-emailing-you problem can be pretty easily solved. Any email with a valid reply-to address can get a response along the lines of: Your email has been filtered out as spam but you can get around that filter by writing my first name in the subject line.

    Whitelists with a trivial IQ test: the way of the future, I hope.

  2. rands 22 years ago

    Problem with trivial white lists: spammers have already tackled the case where you simply keep a list of valid email addresses that you wish to receive mail from… I started receiving spam which used email addresses of familiar people recently. That blows.

  3. I guess if you don’t mind filtering through your “spamfiltered” mail folder every other day to find false positives, the whitelist-only thing is an okay idea.

    I’ve been running SpamAssassin ( for a few months now. Great piece of software. I get about 40-50 spams a day (plus countless ones in non-English character sets, that go straight to /dev/null) and on average 2 of them make it into my inbox. I still have to sift through the spamfiltered stuff every couple days but it’s very quick since there are so few false positives after a little tweaking.

  4. yojauta 22 years ago

    Of course you could have been protective from the start and never given out an e-mail address you don’t want spammed — i.e. your work or school account. For those things like PUT YOUR E-MAIL HERE FOR FREE GAY PORN!!1 you give your hotmail/yahoo/otherdisposablemail account.

    Incidentally, my main hotmail account (out of 3 or 4) gets ~150 spam a day, but boy that gay porn was worth it.

  5. A single sign on for the whole internet is scary, no matter who runs it. I really, really don’t want the same password for, say, Rands in Repose and my bank account.

    By the way, I second the SpamAssassin recommendation, but not everyone has such control over their email account.

  6. Floid 22 years ago

    Divide and conquer: Can be damn cool; depends whether it creates more issues than it solves. I find it’s healthier to look at “P2P” as “the way crap would’ve been built when we could remember how to design” than with some sort of hip management-book perspective. Things like mesh routing for wireless networks have a ‘divide and conquer’ aspect to the problem-solving, sure, but ignore the newspeak and you get the simple “What use is it if you can’t just turn it on like a television?” feeling that drove the old guard of innovators at places like Apple, Commodore, and even IBM/MS.

    Today, we’re willing to accept way too much bullshit to accomplish any task.

    Spam: I’m lucky, it’s never been a real problem. I still prefer email to IM services for a few good reasons…

    Single Sign On: No need for a centralized repository; we’ve had the technology to run it from the desktop for years. Unfortunately, smartcards (of the truly ‘smart’ variety) and reliable, removable, securable (in-a-safe) storage haven’t been big sellers.

    The good thing about a physical token is that, if it disappears, you at least *know* to revoke it, while a password can be stolen and go unnoticed for years. Managing the revocation system is a bitch, of course, and probably shifts the central authority problem over to there… Okay, tough problem.

    Other holy-shits in the making: Honda and Toyota selling hybrid cars, “alternative” fuels really being considered, even if it comes down to coal-fired electricity in the end.

    Holographic storage finally works. (Too bad for Constellation 3D, I guess; FMD-ROM was pretty cool, too.)

    CRTs will be truly obsolete in 5 years. Hallelujah.

    Ethernet is replacing *everything;* power-over-ethernet may soon replace wall warts for small wired devices. What ethernet doesn’t replace, USB, Firewire, and other serial attachments will.

    Now, consider for a moment how many upcoming holy shits come off the “Holy Duh” list. The “Holy Duh” list is the complete list of all good ideas that have been ignored and neglected. The biggest one on my mind, as I watch ethernet creep in everywhere, is the total ignorance that’s been given to broadcast and multicast modes, both on-the-wire and in IP. Anyone who’s fooled with analog video distribution might have a clue what I’m aiming at, there; Peer to Peer was also on the list until it became en-vogue, as are way too many other concepts.

    Getting off-topic, but the most annoying thing on that list at the moment is “Anything with a microprocessor is a computer.” It’s 2002, the average $20 organizer has more processing power than a C64, but try finding one that can do something as simple as read Gutenberg-size ASCII text from your pocket. “Oh, that’s a ‘computer’ task, not an ‘organizer’ task- you need a $300 Zaurus!” I want the crack product-designers are smoking.

  7. Ryvar 22 years ago

    Floid: storage and memory technology have traditionally lagged behind advancements in processing technology. Lately this has not been the case, with harddisks & sundry increasing (measured by Mbytes/$, roughly) about 2,000 times in capacity in the 11 years I’ve been using computers (which is, hey, 2^11th – nearly Moore’s there). The problem is advances in *both* solid state memory size and advancement in battery/power-consumption technology (whose equivalent to Moore’s law is, IIRC, around 1.2x per year).

    As for single sign on, I can imagine nothing worse for the Internet, and I can say I would dedicate a fair portion of my time developing tools for circumventing such technologies and/or making them useless and ineffective should they ever arrive. *shrugs* We’re forced to live in societies of unremitting greed and increasing fascism – I don’t mind deferring my anarchist/socialist utopist views to the Internet where nobody really gets hurt by them (as would probably not be the case with such views finding actualization with the current crop of humans), but I *will* be permitted to have and experience them in some form as long as I’m alive. Many people on the ‘net feel the same, and I really don’t hold out much hope for a technological solution.

    Secondly, there is no entity, not IBM, not the government, and certainly not Microsoft, who deserves to be trusted with that kind of information. Nobody is above abusing that degree of power, and fortunately humanity seemed to have the common sense to recognize this with Passport.

    Thirdly, no blackhat is below trying to get that degree of power. Whatever OS it runs on would instantly become the most studied and found to be completely full of holes – I love OpenBSD more than my (or your) mother but even I wouldn’t put it up to the task.

    On the subject of alternative fuels: GM’s R&D budget for hydrogen fuel cells is, again IIRC, around $1 billion/year. This is a huge investment even for them. Count on it happening in the next decade. There’s still the small problem of obtaining hydrogen with less energy than is released by using it, but it’s a matter of ‘we don’t have any current implementation’, not ‘we don’t know of any method’.

    On the subject of Holy Shit lists: to my old one add the following – Doom III’s dynamic shadow and specular-bumpmapping technologies. Having read up on them sufficiently (and learned a good bit more through a friend at id), regardless of whether Doom III is a good game or not said technology will become the de facto standard for all mainstream games in two to three years at most. I’m barely an intermediate-level OpenGL programmer, but even I can immediately appreciate the brilliance of Carmack’s Reverse, and say, “whoa, this changes everything.”

  8. Floid 22 years ago

    I had a long response going, but I canned it. Or maybe Mozilla ran out of memory and ate it. I can’t remember. So anyway, short version for Ryvar:

    Storage- Holographic is really just a ‘holy shit’ because they finally got there; storage in general is huge, and while the power consumption (of everything) is a problem, there are a lot of ignored solutions for those things that are pretty nice.

    Not everything has to be 1/10th the size of… say a Newton MP2100 for an oldschool example, and with the right CPUs/systems-on-chip (*cough* SuperH), you can certainly squeeze out golden-era performance, where ‘golden-era’ refers to that brief period when laptops could actually survive a day without seeing a charger. That only applies in spaces were power use is a problem, too, so…

    Anyhow, I think I’m agreeing with you, but you’re saying we have to wait for things to scale (or for laws of scaling to be broken), while I’m saying we could build cool shit if we recognized what we had. 😉 Of course, this means I bank on software becoming more efficient to meet such cases, which we all know doesn’t happen, so I’m a dreaming moron.

    Single Sign-Ons are two problems. One’s for the user- “How the hell do I keep my dealings secure without having to put 500 passwords on post-it notes on my monitor?;” the other’s for the service providers- “How do we track/trust this user to use our e-Digital-Super-Mega-Ultra-Commerce systems?” Two different problems; the former is solved by building a better keychain*, rather than renting a locker for them… the latter can’t be solved easily, and shouldn’t be bothered with by anyone other than banks and governments, neither of which have perfect success.

    I don’t know how much I trust GM, given the killing of the EV-1, but hydrogen does have the advantage of being something that can support the greed-drive *and* has the chance to be a bit healthier for us overall.

    What does bug me is the sheer amount of energy that will still be expended shipping the crap around.

    So, that’s my opinion, whee. Let me chalk up inkjet-based manufacturing techniques here as something for all three lists- printable (and I’m just talking factory-printable, not bothering with the usual Wired/Media-Lab/PopSci hype) displays really seem like a much bigger deal to me than webserving lightbulbs.

    Once the manufacturing kinks get worked out, anyway…

  9. GM killed the EV-1 because people were lining up none deep to drive them home. (Or halfway home with a stop at a nonexistent charging station along the way). However, they’ve been doing hybrids for the past 70 or so years… their trains, anyway. (Ferdinand Porsche was playing with hybrid cars over 100 years ago)

    Call me dated but one of my biggest HOLY SHITS beyond Wolfenstein (it’s 3-D! Sorta) Doom (It’s 3-D! Kinda) and Quake (It’s 3-D!) was the first time I used a WYSIWYG word processor. HOLY SHIT, I’m not working in a WordPerfect text-based screen full of guessed formatting codes, I am ACTUALLY TYPING WITH MY FONTS SIZED AND SPACED JUST LIKE IT WILL PRINT OUT. Pictures too!

  10. bubba 22 years ago

    forget all the spamassighn stuff go right to the source with Rdns! sendmail does a great job with the access data base(your own blacklist with a custom reject message).