Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Diffie, Hellman, and Merkle get the Hamming Medal

Whitfield Diffie, Martin Hellman, and Ralph Merkle are the 2010 IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medalists. The men won the medal for their work in public key cryptography—in particular for the Diffie-Hellman key exchange algorithm. Although less well known (as an artifact of publication scheduling) Merkle is considered a co-inventor of the algorithm.

I've always considered the Diffie-Hellman algorithm one of the great hacks in cryptography. It's very easy to understand, yet accomplishes the seemingly impossible by allowing two parties to agree on a secret key even though the negotiation is carried out in public. Interestingly, Merkle was trying to prove that it was impossible to do so when he developed the method as an undergraduate at Berkeley. Diffie and Hellman developed the method independently at Stanford.

Congratulations to all three.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Apple Hatred

The other day I was reading a friend's post about the Apple iPad and was struck by the comments. Many of them rehashed complaints about Apple products going back to MacOS 6 and cited unhappiness with the way these ancient systems worked as reason enough not to want an iPad. Others noted that they haven't liked any Apple product yet so of course they won't like the iPad either.

Today, trawling through Hacker News I see a bunch of articles about how horrible the iPhone is and how the authors positively, absolutely, wouldn't own one and, anyway, Apple sucks. One author writes disparagingly and at length about The iPhone obsession. Even the The Guardian got in on that one.

What interests me about these articles is that people who neither own nor use Apple products feel nonetheless compelled to obsess over them; indeed to obsess over them in public and in print. Yes, there are Apple fan-boys who can also be annoying, but at least they actually use the devices they are commenting on.

Don't like Apple products? Fine, I hope you find happiness elsewhere. Just don't expect me to care about your obsessions.