Two weeks ago Donna spotted a mole on my back that had grown since she last noticed it, so off to the doctors we went that Monday for a punch biopsy, and the following Friday evening I get a call saying that they want me to come in to discuss the results and to get the rest of the “lesion” removed.


So back again on Monday for its removal and to learn that the biopsy results were inconclusive; they had seen “abnormal” cells but neither of the two pathologists who’d looked at it were able to see enough to tell for certain what was going on. The doctor did a great job taking it off with just a local anaesthetic – the most peculiar thing was to be able to hear this cutting sound and feel a vague tugging but nothing more! A hole in my back and ten stitches later the whole thing was sent off to the pathology lab again for examination and another appointment made for today (Friday) to get the results.

So today Donna and I went back – this time for good news..

Sections show a dysplastic naevus of compound pattern. Junctional activity is considerable, but pagetoid epidermal infiltration is not present and there is no evidence of malignancy. Excision is complete.

Summary – it’s not cancer. Apparently dysplastic naevus can develop into malignant melanoma so I’m very happy it’s gone, phew!

If you’re worried about a large or growing mole go and get it checked out. Before it’s too late..

A Tale of Two Transport Hacks

In the USA a court has ordered that three MIT students not talk at DEFCON about their security assessment of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) fare cards. Apparently the court believes that “discussing the flaws at a public conference constituted a ‘transmission’ of a computer program that could harm the fare collection system“, which is pretty sad. There are more documents at Cryptome on the case. Their presentation was to include a cryptanalysis of the Mifare “Classic” card, which takes us to our second case..

Bruce Schneier reports that a group of Dutch researchers have won in court to be able to publish their own cryptanalysis of that very same Mifare Classic card, with the court stating:

Damage to NXP is not the result of the publication of the article but of the production and sale of a chip that appears to have shortcomings.

An outbreak of common sense that the MIT students could only dream of. I wonder if they could appeal and cite this case as grounds to have the judgement overturned ?

Linux is childs play

A lovely little quote from Russell Coker in an article about whether he has sympathy for Windows users:

Some time ago the 11yo daughter of a friend who was visiting asked if she could play some computer games. I gave her a Fedora CD and one of the PCs from my test lab and told her that she had to install the OS first. Within a small amount of time she had Fedora installed and was playing games.

Pretty cool..

Dr Brian May, guitarist

Congrats to Brian May on getting his PhD published!

Indeed, when I looked at the Springer Astronomy homepage, I was greeted by the incongruous sight of Brian May next to a snippet about the thesis – directly above the blurbs for the newly-published Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers and Dictionary of Minor Planet Names & Addendum.

Oh, and no, it’s not this Brian May, he got his PhD some time ago.. 🙂

CERN Large Hadron Collider – Big Science

Thanks to Jeremy for pointing out to me a photo feature on the LHC at CERN. Some really brilliant pictures of truly Big Science getting built.

View of the CMS detector at the end of 2007 (Maximillien Brice, (c) CERN)

View of the CMS detector at the end of 2007 (Maximillien Brice, (c) CERN)

Of course, if you’re worried about this causing the world to end it’s probably worth reading the info they put out in 2003, which simply points out that the Earth will have seen this (and much more) before:

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) can achieve an energy that no other particle accelerators have reached before, but Nature routinely produces higher energies in cosmic-ray collisions. […] Whatever the LHC will do, Nature has already done many times over during the lifetime of the Earth and other astronomical bodies.

To put things into proportion:

Speculations about microscopic black holes at the LHC refer to particles produced in the collisions of pairs of protons, each of which has an energy comparable to that of a mosquito in flight.

So you can put your brown paper bags away now.. 🙂

Are you sure you want to take a laptop to the USA ? (Updated)

From the Washington Post:

Federal agents may take a traveler’s laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed. Also, officials may share copies of the laptop’s contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption, or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, US Customs and Border Protection and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The full policy is available and it says that they have to destroy the information retained unless there is “probable cause“, except..

Copies may be retained by an assisting Federal agency or entity only if and to the extent that it has the independent legal authority to do so – for example, when the information is of national security or intelligence value.

So if you’re working for a company that competes with a US one you should probably be careful..


Update: Steve Bellovin points out that this applies when you leave America, too..