SIPB Cluedump Series 2016

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SIPB Cluedumps are informal technical talks open to the entire MIT community. They cover topics that are of general interest, such as web browsers, and topics specifically for the MIT computing community, such as Zephyr and Scripts. Cluedumps are usually one to two hours long, and we provide snacks.

More information

If you would like to receive weekly announcements about Cluedumps, add yourself to cluedump-announce@mit.edu or email cluedumps@mit.edu.

For more information or if you'd like to give a Cluedump, please contact the organizers at cluedumps@mit.edu.

2016 Cluedumps

[edit] Software-Defined Radio

Date: March 26, 2016, at 3:00 PM
Presenters: Will Vahle and Thomas Delgado
Location: 4-237
Abstract: Using software-defined radio (SDR), a single piece of hardware can be rapidly repurposed into a wide variety of very different sorts of radio receivers without having to build and configure new hardware for each new band, modulation strategy, or error-correction scheme.

Join us as Will Vahle and Thomas Delgado show off some inexpensive, commercially-available hardware (the RTL-SDR) and talk about the toolchain required to use it. They'll demonstrate using SDR to listen to aircraft, maritime, and police radio, as well as FM broadcast stations. Also included: Van Eck and TEMPEST side-channel attacks, as well as receiving (but not decoding) cellular signals.

[edit] Large-Scale Systems

Date: March 30, 2016, at 7:00 PM
Presenters: Alex Chernyakhovsky
Location: 4-231
Abstract: Alex works in Google's Content Delivery Network, and can discuss architecting clusters; load-balancing traffic; job scheduling; building distributed, replicated, highly available systems; operational considerations; how to achieve reliability; high-performance computing; and many related topics.

This will be an interactive, question-driven talk. Audience interaction is highly encouraged, and snacks will be served!

Bio: https://achernya.com/

[edit] A Paranoiac's Guide to Email Encryption

Date: April 14, 2016, at 7:00 PM
Presenters: Samuel Dukhovni
Location: 4-153
Notes: https://ssd.eff.org/en/module/how-use-pgp-linux
Abstract: Sick and tired of the NSA reading all of your emails? Samuel will walk through setting up PGP in Thunderbird, so you can have your top-secret communications encrypted end-to-end. Let's all pretend that not everything they need is in the metadata anyway! :D

Snacks will be served. Your taxes can wait.

[edit] A Case Study of Uber's Drivers: How employment structures and hierarchies emerge through software---talk and brainstorming

Date: April 27, 2016, at 7:00 PM
Presenters: Alex Rosenblat
Location: 3-333
Abstract: Uber manages a large, disaggregated workforce that delivers a relatively standardized experience to passengers while simultaneously promoting drivers as entrepreneurs whose work is characterized by freedom, flexibility, and independence. Uber, like other companies in the on-demand economy, uses its identity as a platform and a technology company to restructure its employment relationship to drivers, who are classified as independent contractors. It claims to provide a "lead generation application" for drivers to connect with passengers, but this neutral branding of its role as an intermediary belies the important employment structures and hierarchies that emerge through its software application. Through a 9-month empirical research study of Uber driver experiences, myself and my colleague, Luke Stark (NYU), found that Uber leverages significant control over how drivers do their jobs, but this control is structured to be indirect. The opacity and efficacy of control is achieved through a range of semi-automated managerial functions, but foremost amongst these are: algorithmic labor logistics management; driver surveillance and the rating system; and performance targets and policies that limit the choices drivers can make to optimize their individual earnings on the system. For a quick synopsis, see media coverage from The Awl, WSJ, MIT Technology Review, or an article I wrote for HBR.

How can you help?

I'd like the hive mind to help think through the privacy considerations in protecting the identities of drivers in future research, and to examine the ways that platforms can leverage user data (drivers and passengers) to create targeted prices and tiered wages. I'm also interested in issues of user design and deception (see this article I wrote for Motherboard about Uber's phantom cars), and the potential for automating inequities or automating power and knowledge symmetries between workers and platforms. There are broader questions I'd like to dig into as well, such as: When technology creates new efficiencies and reduces friction in transactions between demand (customers) and supply (workers), where do latent points of friction emerge? How do the rhetorics of marketplace efficiency clash with the goals of individual earners? (Example: tipping is "inefficient.")

Bio: Alex Rosenblat is a researcher and technical writer for the Intelligence & Autonomy Initiative at Data & Society, a project supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She tweets @mawnikr.

[edit] An Introduction to Bitcoin's Design, Properties, and Future Challenges

Date: May 4, 2016, at 8:00 PM
Presenters: Jonathan Harvey-Buschel
Location: 4-231
Abstract: Since the early 80's, the concept of anonymous electronic cash has been an unsolved problem amongst the cryptography community. While Bitcoin is far from a perfect or proven implementation of this concept, it has been running in the wild for over 7 years and has grown from a 9-page whitepaper into a multi-billion dollar network supported by thousands of full nodes and the consumption of hundreds of megawatts.

To understand some key properties of the network, we will first cover the primitives used in Bitcoin and how they relate to various aspects of participating in the network. Given this background, patterns observed in the real world can be related to parts of the protocol. With an understanding of the current state of the network, we will explore the challenges facing Bitcoin today, and some proposed solutions.

Snacks will be served.

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