Apple Tv Update

appletvApple just revved the software version of AppleTV up to version 3.0. There are a fair number of UI changes with this release and the layout seems to make a lot more sense now. The thing I like the most though is the inclusion of streaming radio from the internet. I can now get streaming DigitallyImported during the day, WOOHOO. You used to be able to do this by using the AppleTV as a remote set of speakers instead of playing directly off of the AppleTV. This made it a complete pain to control with the remote though.

It’s going to take a little more testing to see how well the update went. It just so happened that at the same time that the update came out I was upgrading the home wifi network (big changes coming there that I’ll talk about shortly). With the network upgrade I had to disconnect and reconnect the AppleTV to iTunes. This required a re-sync of all of the files. As this was taking place video on the AppleTV was getting a bit of video stutter, but it could be that it was just overwhelmed from the file transfers. Once things calm down a bit I’ll take another look at the video.

DNA databases will destroy the usefulness of DNA as a forensic tool

scienceI was listening to a very interesting KQED Forum program the other day on the new law in California that requires that anyone arrested has a DNA sample taken and stored in DNA database. As you would expect, the ACLU had quite a few issues with this new law and immediately filed suit to have it dismissed as unconstitutional. The ACLU lawyer made several points on how people can very easily be wrongly arrested and that there is no court involvement in deciding whether there is probable cause to take the sample. Also, they were quite concerned about the issue that once someone is in the database it’s incredibly difficult to get the sample expunged, even if the person is never charged with a crime.

As a counterpoint to the ACLU, Forum had a top California law enforcement official on to discuss how he felt about it as a policy. He took the position that innocent people had nothing to fear from being included in the database and that he would encourage his entire staff to submit samples. He also felt that the larger the database the better the chance the police had of being able to prosecute criminals in cold cases and who could possibly argue against catching criminals.

I believe that there is a major aspect that the guest representing law enforcement doesn’t see. In most cases currently, DNA is used to prove that a suspect was in a location.  Blood, semen, or hair samples are taken from a crime scene and then compared to a sample taken from the suspect. Scientists don’t actually look at the genome of the person, but compare a set of markers that if matched show a very high statistical likelihood that the samples came from the same person.  With the current setup there are a couple of issues that could arise, the scientists have to be very careful in following procedures so as to not contaminate the samples. Also with a batch of samples taken from a crime scene, samples that aren’t a match to suspects can be ignored as extraneous.

It’s with this last issue where having a massive database can cause havoc. Up until now, since extraneous samples were ignored there isn’t any incentive in planting false DNA. However, as a statistically relevant portion of the population enters the database this incentive changes. Now a criminal committing a murder can after wards pull out a DNA bomb and fire it at the crime scene. This could be a small device similar to a party popper, but instead of being loaded with confetti is loaded with random hair, blood, and semen samples. These could easily be obtained by offering criminals money to provide samples, since there’s little risk to them in this scenario. Now when the forensic scientists take samples at the crime scene and then run them through their PCR test equipment and compare them to the database, dozens if not hundreds of criminals will pop up as matches. The defense lawyers now have probable doubt, since how can law enforcement prove a negative in that non of these other criminals were the one to actually commit the crime.

DNA can work well and be trusted as a tool when the scope of the search is limited to the individual crime and when there aren’t large scale databases. If these databases are allowed to grow and more and more of the population is included we will start to see people being framed with DNA evidence. Unlike fingerprints, it’s much easier to plant DNA evidence and not that hard to obtain.

Google Voice Update

Just noticed that there’s a great feature with Google Voice. If for some reason you’re not happy with the phone number that you’ve been assigned you can select another one. Just go to the account settings on Google Voice and then select to change your phone number. There’s a one time $10 charge to do so, but it’s really simple to do and takes effect immediately.

When I first signed up, I went through things really quickly as I was just testing it out. But since this is something that I’d like to use as a primary number I wanted to make sure that I could get one that was easy to remember. So I’ve updated my number to (650) 450-9057.

Family Tree

Wow, following a very round about path I just spent way too much time building a family tree over at Ancestry.com. I started out looking for used book stores and libraries in the bay area. This then led me to Google Book Search where I was testing out searching for some terms from older books (Google’s Book Search is pretty amazing by itself). This then led me to searching for “McCormick Family” which brought up a lot of old family history books. I was curious if any of these people were related, which led me to try out Ancestry.com to see if it had a way of filling in some of my family tree that I didn’t know.

The site is pretty amazing with the amount of source material that you can search through. I was quickly able to build up a tree going back to my grandparents and was able to find documents for almost everyone. The problem was that I had trouble taking it to the next level beyond that. I needed a few clues to fill in the next level of branches, which I didn’t have, and hit a brick wall with the search. I know that there are privacy concerns with private family information, but I wish there was a way for their systems to notice if some other user has a missing branch of my tree and offer to fill it in.

Overall a fun use of an evening.