Friday, October 2, 2015

Early October reading

Q4 really snuck up on me; these years are passing much faster than I remember from the past.

  • Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies
    After this course, you’ll know everything you need to be able to separate fact from fiction when reading claims about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. You’ll have the conceptual foundations you need to engineer secure software that interacts with the Bitcoin network. And you’ll be able to integrate ideas from Bitcoin in your own projects.
  • Classic Bug Reports
    A bug report is sometimes entertaining either because of the personalities involved or because of the bug itself. Here are a collection of links into public bug trackers
  • Code Words Issue Four
    Issue Four of Code Words, our quarterly publication about programming, is now online!
  • In-Memory Performance for Big Data
    we enable buffer pool designs to match in-memory performance while supporting the "big data" workloads that continue to require secondary storage, thus providing the best of both worlds. We introduce here a novel buffer pool design that adapts pointer swizzling for references between system objects (as opposed to application objects), and uses it to practically eliminate buffer pool overheads for memory-resident data. Our implementation and experimental evaluation demonstrate that we achieve graceful performance degradation when the working set grows to exceed the buffer pool size, and graceful improvement when the working set shrinks towards and below the memory and buffer pool sizes.
  • Understanding Distributed Analytics Databases, Part 1: Query Strategies
    New analytics databases are designed to run across a cluster of machines. Instead of one supercomputer, your analytics database can run on dozens of commodity machines at the same time. This lets you achieve greater performance at a lower cost.

    However, distribution comes with a new performance bottleneck. When all the data is on the same machine, the rate at which you can read and process data is limited by the speed of your hard drive.

    In a cluster, the network is the limiting factor. The nodes in your analytics cluster need to share information because no single node has all the data. And a hard drive is over 3x faster than gigabit ethernet

  • When Limping Hardware Is Worse Than Dead Hardware
    So why should we care about designing systems that are robust against limping hardware? One part of the answer is defense in depth. Of course we should have monitoring, but we should also have systems that are robust when our monitoring fails, as it inevitably will. Another part of the answer is that by making systems more tolerant to limping hardware, we’ll also make them more tolerant to interference from other workloads in a multi-tenant environment.
  • Limplock: Understanding the Impact of Limpware on Scale-Out Cloud Systems
    In this paper, we highlight one often-overlooked cause of performance failures: limpware – “limping” hardware whose performance degrades significantly compared to its specification. The growing complexity of technology scaling, manufacturing, design logic, usage, and operating environment increases the occurrence of limpware. We believe this trend will continue, and the concept of performance perfect hardware no longer holds.
  • 25th ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles
    The biennial ACM Symposium on Operating Systems Principles is the world's premier forum for researchers, developers, programmers, and teachers of computer systems technology. Academic and industrial participants present research and experience papers that cover the full range of theory and practice of computer systems software.
  • Holistic Configuration Management at Facebook
    configuration changes help manage the rollouts of new product features, perform A/B testing experiments on mobile devices to identify the best echo-canceling parameters for VoIP, rebalance the load across global regions, and deploy the latest machine learning models to improve News Feed ranking. This paper gives a comprehensive description of the use cases, design, implementation, and usage statistics of a suite of tools that manage Facebook’s configuration end-to-end, including the frontend products, backend systems, and mobile apps.
  • Building Consistent Transactions with Inconsistent Replication
    In this paper, we use a new approach to reduce the cost of replicated, read-write transactions and make transactional storage more affordable for programmers. Our key insight is that existing transactional storage systems waste work and performance by incorporating a distributed transaction protocol and a replication protocol that both enforce strong consistency. Instead, we show that it is possible to provide distributed transactions with better performance and the same transaction and consistency model using replication with no consistency.
  • Existential Consistency: Measuring and Understanding Consistency at Facebook
    We use measurement and analysis of requests to Face- book’s TAO system to quantify how often anomalies happen in practice, i.e., when results returned by eventually consis- tent TAO differ from what is allowed by stronger consistency models.
  • How to Get More Value From Your File System Directory Cache
    This paper identifies several design principles that can substantially improve hit rate and reduce hit cost transparently to applications and file systems. Specifically, our directory cache design can look up a directory in a constant number of hash table operations, separates finding paths from permission checking, memoizes the results of access control checks, uses signatures to accelerate lookup, and reduces miss rates through caching directory completeness.
  • Cross-checking Semantic Correctness: The Case of Finding File System Bugs
    We applied JUXTA to 54 file systems in the stock Linux kernel (680K LoC), found 118 previously unknown semantic bugs (one bug per 5.8K LoC), and provided corresponding patches to 39 different file systems, including mature, popular ones like ext4, btrfs, XFS, and NFS. These semantic bugs are not easy to locate, as all the ones found by JUXTA have existed for over 6.2 years on average.
  • Read-Log-Update: A Lightweight Synchronization Mechanism for Concurrent Programming
    This paper introduces read-log-update (RLU), a novel exten- sion of the popular read-copy-update (RCU) synchronization mechanism that supports scalability of concurrent code by allowing unsynchronized sequences of reads to execute concurrently with updates. RLU overcomes the major limitations of RCU by allowing, for the first time, concurrency of reads with multiple writers, and providing automation that eliminates most of the programming difficulty associated with RCU programming.
  • The Beginner's Guide is a game that doesn't want to be written about
    It's difficult to tell at first exactly what The Beginner's Guide is supposed to be: a tribute, a eulogy, a motivational speech. Wreden says several times that Coda stopped making games in 2011 and that he hopes one day his old friend will create again. It's an impulse we see a lot on the internet these days, particularly in fan culture: the desire to write a paean so beautiful that it can bring the things we've lost back from the dead. And make no mistake, Wreden is Coda's number one fan. There are parts of this game that feel uncomfortably grasping, that want very badly to be a resurrection spell of sorts, though it takes a while to figure out exactly what has died—or why.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A warm day at the library

We found ourselves in Pasadena, CA, with a few hours to spend, and so I suggested that we make a trip over to the Huntington Library, which is just a few miles away.

Many years ago (too many to admit), I visited the Huntington as a child, and I was interested to see what I remembered, and what I didn't.

I remembered the gardens, and in particular I remembered the Bonsai Courts at the Japanese Gardens, as well as the amazing selection of palms in the Palm Gardens.

And I remembered the old house, and in particular I remembered the portrait gallery with Blue Boy and Pinkie at opposite ends, watching over us as we looked at all the Gainsboroughs, Romneys, Reynolds, and the like.

I bought a nice hat at the Admissions Booth, for I had forgotten mine; it has a nice embroidered squirrel next to the Huntington logo.

The Huntington seems to be doing quite well at keeping up with the times; far from being the musty old relic that I remembered, it has been steadily improving itself while still trying to retain the best parts of its past.

The entire building housing the new American Art section was not even present when I visited in the early 1970's, and it is still under construction, so I slipped through quickly to see a bit of this and that (Remington's Bronco Buster, a Georgia O'Keeffe, a John Singer Sargent, etc.).

It was good that we got to the gardens as early as we could, for it was a hot day in San Marino: at 10:30 AM when we began, it was already over 90 degrees, and by noontime it was well over 100.

So we sought relief from the heat and treated ourselves to High Tea at the Rose Garden Tea House. We were lucky, for I had not made reservations ahead of time, but I think we were just a little bit early and so they were able to seat us. It was a very nice tea, with absolutely wonderful tiny scones and a nice buffet of tea sandwiches, fresh fruit, and sweets.

Of course, the Huntington is not primarily about the botanical gardens, nor even about the art, though those are both world-class; the Huntington's true claim to fame is actually the library.

So as we made our way out, I found 15 minutes to wander through the library's exhibit hall.

In addition to the amazing treasures that I remembered from my youth (The Canterbury Tales! The Gutenberg Bible! The First Folio! The Declaration of Independence! Paradise Lost! Birds of America!), the library was just nearing the end of a fascinating special exhibit, celebrating the 800th anniversary of the creation of Magna Carta.

All in all, I felt like a king, and so we commemorated that by snapping a shot of me in my throne in the Shakespearean Garden.

A day later, we were back at home in the Bay Area, marveling at the fact that just 24 hours (and 400 miles) had gone by, but the temperature was now a full 25 degrees lower. 78 degrees at 2:00 PM, we decided, is pretty nice.

But so was our nice warm day at the library.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Unclean Diesels

I'm surely not the only one who is suddenly obsessing over minute details of emission control machinery.

If you're like me, start your quest for knowledge with Vox's superb explainer: Volkswagen's appalling clean diesel scandal, explained

Suffice to say, regulators were livid once they caught on. Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that Volkswagen had very flagrantly violated the Clean Air Act. Not only did the EPA order the German firm to fix the affected vehicles — which include diesel TDI versions of the Golf, Jetta, Beetle, and Passat — but the agency could end up levying fines as high as $18 billion. The Department of Justice is also contemplating criminal charges.

Then start following the links that Vox so wonderfully provides.

Here are a couple I found particularly interesting:

  • The tech behind how Volkswagen tricked emissions tests
    When carmakers test their vehicles against EPA standards, they place a car on rollers and then perform a series of specific maneuvers prescribed by federal regulations. Among the most common tests for passenger cars is the Urban Dynamometer Driving Schedule (UDDS), which simulates 7.5 miles of urban driving.


    Using a special engine setting for vehicle tests isn’t all that unusual, according to Consumer Reports. Most new vehicles do something similar because otherwise vehicles might interpret some of the testing procedures, like traction issues from being on rollers, as dangerous.

  • How Volkswagen Got Busted for Skirting EPA Diesel Emissions Standards
    “Developing an engine software to optimize certain aspects of an operation cycle that you know the parameters of is a challenge, but it is very possible,” says Thiruvengadam. “Knowing when to switch to the EPA-favorable cycle is the trick; it could be set up to detect the absence of steering-wheel movement, or, and this is known, we often turn off the traction control for testing purposes.” Either way, the result is the same: it turns the emissions controls on for EPA testing and off for real-world driving. Somewhat ironically, the presumed benefits of turning off the controls for normal driving include improved fuel economy and engine power.
  • VW's Emissions Cheating Found by Curious Clean-Air Group
    German and his group were actually trying to prove exactly what Volkswagen has been claiming for years: that diesel is clean. They asked West Virginia University for help. The school’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions had the right equipment -- a portable emission measurement system to stick in the car trunk, attached to a probe to shove up the exhaust pipe. German’s group, funded mostly by foundations, didn’t.

    Testers drove the monitor-equipped diesels from San Diego to Seattle because if Volkswagen had gamed the emission test, they couldn’t be sure how, German said. In another cheating case years ago, he said, long-haul trucks were equipped with devices that allowed the engines to gradually discharge more and more harmful nitrogen oxides the longer the vehicle cruised at the same speed. The more emissions, generally speaking, the greater the engine power. The 1,300-mile trip under varying conditions would expose any such scheme in the VWs, German said.

    Meanwhile, the California Air Resources Board tested the vehicles in their laboratories and they passed.

    Open Road

    Then German received the results of the real-world tests.

    “We were astounded when we saw the numbers,” he said.

Vox brings it all back into focus:

This episode also raises questions about the future of clean diesel vehicles. Clean diesel appears to be a genuinely promising technology — in theory, such vehicles could get both excellent mileage and lower emissions. But this whole scandal raises serious questions about how well automakers can actually achieve both goals in practice.

What do we know, what do the computers know, and what do the computers allow us to know?

While we try to figure that out, let's not forget how manipulated we may have been, by those (few) media outlets we thought we could trust: Wired's native ad for VW diesel tech goes missing

As recently as last week, Wired magazine on social media was touting content sponsored by Volkswagen about "how diesel was re-engineered."

But this week -- just as VW faces growing scrutiny over software installed on its diesel vehicles that evades emissions tests -- previously published links to the branded content are no longer working.

A reference to the program was still visible until earlier today on the "Clean Diesel" section of VW's web site. Under a sub-section called "Diesel Gets WIRED" the site had said "Volkswagen and Wired Brand Lab have created an experience that will inform, educate, surprise, and change the way you think about diesel," while teasing content that describes "how a once unloved engine has cleaned up its act."

But the link urging viewers to "visit the Wired experience" was yielding only an error message as of Tuesday.

There are plenty of sad stories to go around, here.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

It's not just a game...

... it truly is an open world, just begging to be explored.

I was wandering around the Skellige Isles, basically picking up a number of lesser quests that I had skipped during my main path through the game this summer.

I was east of Kaer Trolde, far, far up in the snowy mountains, where I had descended into a monster's den in a cave under the mountains and worked through it carefully, leaving no nook unexplored.

When I emerged, I thought I'd head north and east, towards a small unmarked town on my map that I hadn't yet visited.

I crested a high snowy ridge above a narrow valley and looked down into the valley, where I could see the town buildings, a path through the center of the valley, and a small pond along the valley floor.

But, on the far side of the valley, against the opposing hillside, were two figures described by rocks, perhaps knights or monsters locked in battle.

It looked rather like the "Nazca figures", stick figures seen from far, far above.

Curious, I descended to the valley floor, swam across the pond, and hiked over to the area where the figures lay.

There were rocks, and valley floor, but you couldn't see anything recognizable from the valley floor, certainly not any shapes or figures.

The figures were only visible from the remote and nearly inaccessible peak that I had mostly blundered my way onto while wandering around.

What an amazing game, little details like that just waiting to be found.

How many more?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stuff I'm reading, mid-September edition

It's such a beautiful day, why am I doing all this reading?

  • Microsoft showcases the Azure Cloud Switch (ACS)
    The Azure Cloud Switch (ACS) is our foray into building our own software for running network devices like switches. It is a cross-platform modular operating system for data center networking built on Linux. ACS allows us to debug, fix, and test software bugs much faster. It also allows us the flexibility to scale down the software and develop features that are required for our datacenter and our networking needs.
  • Improved Digital Certificate Security
    On September 14, around 19:20 GMT, Symantec’s Thawte-branded CA issued an Extended Validation (EV) pre-certificate for the domains and This pre-certificate was neither requested nor authorized by Google.
  • A Tough Day as Leaders
    In light of these events, we must reassert our commitment to stand behind our values and our position as a trusted industry leader. While our processes and approach are based on the industry best practices that we helped create, we have immediately put in place additional processes and technical controls to eliminate the possibility of human error. We will continue to relentlessly evolve these best practices to ensure something like this does not happen again.

    In addition, we discovered that a few outstanding employees, who had successfully undergone our stringent on-boarding and security trainings, failed to follow our policies. Despite their best intentions, this failure to follow policies has led to their termination after a thoughtful review process. Because you rely on us to protect the digital world, we hold ourselves to a “no compromise” bar for such breaches. As a result, it was the only call we could make.

  • Amazon Web Services in Plain English
    Hey, have you heard of the new AWS services: ContainerCache, ElastiCast and QR72? Of course not, I just made those up.

    But with 50 plus opaquely named services, we decided that enough was enough and that some plain english descriptions were needed.

  • The guide to implementing 2D platformers
    Having previously been disappointed by the information available on the topic, this is my attempt at categorizing different ways to implement 2D platform games, list their strengths and weaknesses, and discuss some implementation details.

    The long-term goal is to make this an exhaustive and comprehensible guide to the implementation of 2D platform games. If you have any sort of feedback, correction, request, or addition – please leave it in the comments!

  • The Fundamental Challenge of Computer System Performance
    Performance is not just about capacity. Though many people overlook them, there are solutions on the workload side of the ledger, too. What if you could make workload smaller without compromising the value of your system?

    It is usually possible to make a computer produce all of the useful results that you need without having to do as much work.

    You might be able to make a system run faster by making its capacity box bigger. But you might also make it run faster by trimming down that big red workload inside your existing box. If you only trim off the wasteful stuff, then nobody gets hurt, and you’ll have winning all around.

  • Building a PC, Part VIII: Iterating
    What I've always loved about SSDs is that they attack the PC's worst-case performance scenario, when information has to come off the slowest device inside your computer – the hard drive. SSDs massively reduced the variability of requests for data. Let's compare L1 cache access time to minimum disk access time
  • “Private blockchain” is just a confusing name for a shared database
    Banks and financial institutions seem to be all over the blockchain. It seems they agree with the Bitcoin community that the technology behind Bitcoin can provide an efficient platform for settlement and for issuing digital assets. Curiously, though, they seem to shy away from Bitcoin itself. Instead, they want something they have more control over and doesn’t require exposing transactions publicly. Besides, Bitcoin has too much of an association in the media with theft, crime, and smut — no place for serious, upstanding bankers. As a result, the buzz in the financial industry is about “private blockchains.”

    But here’s the thing — “private blockchain” is just a confusing name for a shared database.

    The key to Bitcoin’s security (and success) is its decentralization which comes from its innovative use of proof-of-work mining. However, if you have a blockchain where only a few companies are allowed to participate, proof-of-work doesn’t make sense any more. You’re left with a system where a set of identified (rather than pseudonymous) parties maintain a shared ledger, keeping tabs on each other so that no single party controls the database.

  • This 4×6 index card has all the financial advice you’ll ever need
    Think managing your finances has to be complicated? Wonkblog contributor (and UC Chicago social scientist) Harold Pollack doesn't. After a talk with personal finance expert Helaine Olen, Pollack managed to write down pretty much everything you need to know on a 4x6 index card. And it would probably fit on a 3x5 index card if you really crammed (that last point, for instance, is probably not strictly necessary for managing your money).
  • The Witness: the creator of Braid talks about his fiendishly difficult new game
    Blow says that The Witness is "very deliberately an homage to Myst," and for anyone who's played both, this is clear from The Witness' earliest moments. You exit a strange cave and enter an island devoid of all other life. The only thing to do is wander around the island solving puzzles.

    However, with The Witness Blow seeks to fix "one of the things that's most broken about Myst and that whole genre of games." Namely: pixel hunting.

    "Point-and-click games generally have some version of pixel hunting," he says. "You look at everything you come across and wonder, is this thing interactive or what? In Myst, you come up to some elaborate, beautiful machine, and you start clicking on different parts of it, and eventually you find the knob that you're allowed to turn, and then you don't know what it does. Back at the time when that game came out, that was a totally acceptable thing to do. It was decades ago in game design. But these days, I don't think that's a very good idea."

  • The Most Misread Poem in America
    But this isn’t just any poem. It’s “The Road Not Taken,” and it plays a unique role not simply in American literature, but in American culture —and in world culture as well. Its signature phrases have become so ubiquitous, so much a part of everything from coffee mugs to refrigerator magnets to graduation speeches, that it’s almost possible to forget the poem is actually a poem.


    The poem isn’t a salute to can-do individualism; it’s a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives. “The Road Not Taken” may be, as the critic Frank Lentricchia memorably put it, “the best example in all of American poetry of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” But we could go further: It may be the best example in all of American culture of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book of Numbers: a very short review

One of my summer projects was to read the book that (it seemed) everyone couldn't stop talking about back in June: Joshua Cohen's Book of Numbers.

Maybe "read" isn't the right word to use with Book of Numbers, though.

Perhaps it would be better to say that I marched through it, like an army might march through foreign territory.

Or to say that I explored it, like an adventurer might explore unmapped lands.

Or to say that I rolled around in it, like a dog in grass.

Or to say that I crawled back and forth on it, like a baby on the living room rug.

If these are strange things to say, well, it's because Book of Numbers is a very strange book, and it isn't really a book that you "read" in a normal sense.

Joshua Cohen's Book of Numbers is a book about a man named Joshua Cohen, who is writing a book.

Joshua Cohen, in Book of Numbers, is writing a book about a man named Joshua Cohen, who is not a writer, but rather is an Internet luminary.

To make things (maybe) somewhat easier to follow, the Joshua Cohen who is an Internet Luminary is not referred to in the book as Joshua Cohen, but rather as "the Principal," when he is referred to at all. Mostly, the Joshua Cohen who isn't referred to as Joshua Cohen speaks about himself in the form of long recorded interviews, in which he speaks of himself in the third person.

OK, maybe that didn't make things easier to follow.

It probably doesn't matter anyway, because by the end of the book it's been wrapped in several more layers of indirection, and has become a book about the leaking of the materials used in the making of a book about Joshua Cohen by Joshua Cohen about Joshua Cohen by Anonymous by Joshua Cohen.

Feh. Anyway...

The Internet luminary's company is clearly supposed to be Google, but in Book of Numbers it is referred to by a different name, Tetration.

The luminary himself, however, is I think supposed to be Steve Jobs, perhaps just because he's a more interesting character to parody; er, uh, that is, to write thinly-disguised historical fiction about.

But it probably could have been any Silicon Valley monomaniacal leader: Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, it probably doesn't really matter, for the purposes of Book of Numbers.

Indeed, I suspect Cohen doesn't really care about those sorts of details; he's after the flow, the feel, the whole zeitgeist of it all.

And so Cohen spends much of his time embracing the now, and being hip.

For example, the high tech industry is famous for making up words and coining jargon, both for good reasons and for lazy ones, and so Book of Numbers at times seems to be nothing but coined words in an imaginary language, such that you find yourself having to wade through pages and pages of gibberish like

Point is, what was important was not the organism itself but the connections among the organisms. The algy had to make the connections. We figgered if we could index all the tech links, and apply to each a rec link, whatever terminology we mortally employ, we could engineer the ultimate. The connection of connections.

How a single user regarded a thing would be comptrasted by what things existed. Not only that but the comptrasting of the two would be automated. Each time each user typed out a word and searched and clicked for what to find, the algy would be educated. We let the algy let its users educate themselves. So it would learn, so its users would be taught. All human language could be determined through this medium, which could not be expressed in any human language, and that was its perfection. The more a thing was clicked, the more perfect that thing would be. We would equate ourselves with that.

I think this passage is trying to say something about Google and about how the act of searching for information has become more important than the information itself ("not the organism itself but the connections among the organisms").

And I think this passage is trying to say something about how modern "big data" algorithms have capabilities that are beyond the comprehension, in the aggregate, of the programmers who build those systems ("So it would learn, so its users would be taught.").

And I think this passage is trying to make some sort of simile about how searching the Internet for the truth has become some sort of odd new religion, with the results of your search treated as holy writ ("this medium, which could not be expressed in any human language, and that was its perfection").

And I think this passage is trying to say something sly about Steve Jobs and his legendarily obsessive perfectionism ("we could engineer the ultimate").

And I think this passage is trying to say something sly about Larry Page, and Page Rank, and how it's hard to distinguish between Google the company, Google the employees, and Google the product ("We would equate ourselves with that.")

But really, I have no idea.

It's like trying to read a bowl of potato soup.

And this isn't just an isolated incident: I found myself having experiences and reactions like this every few pages (rather exhausting, with a 600 page book!).

On and on the book goes, and on and on I read, as Cohen spins story after story, winding them around and together in various dream-like recollections, all based on the premise that Our Great Internet Luminary is relating stories from the birth of the Internet.

So we hear stories about startups in garages, technology breakthroughs, new ideas arriving unexpectedly and not immediately being recognized, opportunities lost and found, empires rising and falling, populated by businessmen, engineers, politicians, bankers, lawyers, schemers, and dreamers.

And Cohen takes care to wind all sorts of real-world topics into the book: hackers, information warfare, commercial interests, terrorism, the impact of pornography on the growth of the Internet, the impact of 9/11 on the growth of the Internet, the enormous re-shaping of the world's industries by the Internet from entertainment to journalism to retail to transportation, etc.

It's all so relevant, and all so important, and yet all, in the end, so terribly unsatisfying.

Maybe it's because I lived through all this in person, and so I find it hard to be struck anew by it, having been struck by it plenty hard enough plenty of times already.

And maybe it's because I have the rather cynical view that the high tech industry in general is far too disturbingly a world of celebrities, and trendiness, and so a book like this which seems to be all about celebrity and trendiness, and very little about humans and real life, leaves me rather at sea.

For whatever reason, I'm afraid that I am not able to join the seemingly endless parade of reviewers who couldn't wait to heap praise on Book of Numbers, who couldn't wait to anoint it the book of the year, or the book of the Internet, or the book of the something.

It's skillfully constructed, it's timely and relevant, it certainly wanders in the midst of the issues of the day.

But in the end I rather doubt this is a book I will return to, or think much about six months from now.

So be it.

Thank you Google (I think)

The robocallers have gotten unbelievably out of control, it's just a complete farce.

At this point, I simply never take a call from a number that isn't in my contacts list. Never. Period.

And don't tell me about the Do Not Call registry. I've added my number to it dozens of times. No relief.

So it's wonderful to see that somebody who might actually be able to do something about the problem is taking real action: Protecting people from illegal robocalls.

It’s difficult for Google to take action against callers because they often use untraceable phone numbers, fake company names, and massive global networks of intermediaries. However, today we’re filing an action in California against one search engine optimization company for making these robocalls and confusing our users. It’s unfortunate when a problem must be addressed in a court of law, but we believe this course of action will protect our users and discourage this practice more broadly.

So, Yay! Google!

On the other hand, it really does freak me out that we've truly gotten to the point where we are now depending on corporations to protect us from attacks, because our government cannot.

That is Not Good.

I don't have the answer. I hope Google can help in this situation. But I also worry about the increasing role that mega-corporations are playing in our personal lives, and the increasing unwillingness of Americans to seeing a role for government to play in protecting citizens from harm.