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Archive for September, 2014

Week number … 5 @ Berkeley… !!!!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

The week started with a meeting with Jeroen Dewulf (http://german.berkeley.edu/people/professors/jeroen-dewulf/) , the brand new Director of the Institute of European Studies (http://ies.berkeley.edu/). Jeroen is from Ostende (Belgium) , he did Germanic Philosophy and Portuguese in Ghent ,worked in Portugal for several years , did his PhD in German Literature in Bern (Switzerland) and joined UC Berkeley in 2005. Jeroen is very enthusiastic with very good ideas about the future of the Institute. We have agreed that I will deliver for his students and researchers a presentation on “Multilingualism in the EU Institutions” in late January or early February…. I will need help from my friends in DGT, DIGIT and other DGs dealing with this matter at the EC to prepare it !!

By the way , Jeroen and I, had coffee at the famous Free Speech Movement (FSM) Café, centrally located at the entrance to Moffitt Library at UC Berkeley, a casual place to gather, study, or take a break with friends and colleagues. It is also a venue for periodic FSM Café educational events. The Café honours Mario Savio, who played a key role in the struggle for free speech at UC, and commemorates the events of the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley at UC Berkeley during the Fall 1964 semester which was the first of the 1960s campus student movements to make headlines all over the world.

Lasting a little over two months, it ended with the arrest of 773 persons for occupying the administration building, the removal of the campus administration, and a vast enlargement of student rights to use the University campus for political activity and debate.

This year the University celebrates the 50th anniversary of the start of the movement and I think that people here are actually very proud of the movement and its consequences for freedom of expression.

Close to my cubical at CITRIS works Jorge, a PhD student from Paraguay, but coming from the University of Trento in Italy. He is Visiting PhD student at UC Berkeley for five months and he is preparing his PhD project in relation with the use of on an  IT platforms and social networks for citizen participation in Paraguay. While here, he has been working with the California Report Card (CRC, see my previous post) development team to release version 2.0 particularly on the Spanish version, what is very interesting given the amount of Spanish speaking population in California. He has also developped the interface of CRC with social networks like Twitter. Al the post to the hashtag of the CRC are automatically tranferred to the CRC platform. Version 2.0 went into production last week.

Last week, I also visited Facebook. A friend of mine is working there as head of the investigation team and I wanted him to tell me about the security challenges as they preceive them from the Facebook global network and what they do about it. I also wanted to tell him about my work and my research at UC Berkeley so that he help me to find contacts to discuss the topics of my research  in FacebooK.

They are now located in Menlo Park since the company bought the former campus of Sun Microsystems.On Fridays, they allow employees to bring friends and families for lunchand visit of the premises and I had the opportunity to go around with him and have lunch in one of the many restaurants around. Food is for free in most of them and the court was full of youngsters (the current average age in Facebook is well below 30… with many Asians and Indians , like everywhere around here !!!!).

My friend told me about the last security threatwhich are very dangerous. The so called Shellshock vulnerability affects the Bash command shell and is able to take remote control of the system by executing specific scripts. The targetted Operating Systems (OS) are exclusively Linux and, what is worst here in the Valley, OS/X the Operating System of Macs….. (compared with other places there is a tradition in the Valley to use more Macs that PCs, I would say it represent about 70% of the laptops I see every day). The vulnerability also affect mobile devices whose OS Unix based and represents a threat for the future Internet of Things (IoT) .. the specialized press say…. well it looks that not only Microsoft has security problems.. as competitors claim ;-)). I said long time ago that was only matter of time….

It looks that Facebook develops its own versions of every Open Source product they use and therefore they include a lot of customization and security and performance monitoring layers. This protects them better from attacks. My friend said to me that there were already hackers trying to exploit the above mentioned vulnerability on their infrastructure…

I also saw Marc Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, in his office. The office is on one side of the Restaurant’s Court and has transparent glass, what allows to see him from outside; it looks that it is like that to send the message of “openness” in the company. He was there with his usual grey T-shirt, jeans and sport shoes. My friend said to me that he shake hands a couple of times and he is kind but shy.

I have sent him a presentation on the EU Cybersecurity Strategy since he would like that I come and explain this internally in Facebook. To be followed…..

I continue with my readings and discussing with my contacts on my research project; soon and I will have the scope clear and will start the field work accordingly.

More to come… stay tuned !!!

Best

Paco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Already one month @ Berkeley… !!!!

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Time has flown again…. Last week was a very interesting one with some important activities.

First of all, on Wednesday 17/9 , I delivered a speech about the European Digital Agenda (EDA) that I could prepare thanks to the help of our colleagues from DIGIT and DG CNECT. It was in the framework of the lunch time conferences that CITRIS organizes weekly and is broadcasted to all the CITRIS campuses of UC Californian via Videoconference.

It was quite successful, some 95 people (students, scholars, researchers, etc) registered and the organizers had to overflow part of the people to the room next since the main room on was fully booked.

Obviously is very difficult to describe, with some level of detail, the EDA in 40 minutes; therefore I agreement with the organizers (Thanks Yvette for your help!!) I focused on four topics: Interoperability and Standards, eGovernment, Trust and Security and Open Data.

I asked Yvette whether the audience had any knowledge about the EU and she suggested that I included two or three slides about it,  what I did …. Still describing what the EU is in three slides is even more difficult than describing the EDA in the 50 slides I managed to display and speak about in  42 minutes… quite a miracle but went well !!! 😉

I combined interoperability with the principles of the directive on standardization in quite smooth manner and I think, because of the questions I received at the end , that I successfully passed the message. I also spoke about semantic interoperability and gave some examples and also CAMSS as a mean to assess standards pointing the audience to the JoinUp platform.

On eGovernment, I focused on the action plan and presented some figures coming from the last Benchmarking of EDA and I also spoke about the future of Digital Public Services based on the Open Government paradigm , which is related to my research project here.

On Open Data, I presented the PSI Directive of 2013 and the way the EC looks at Open Data internally, pointing the audience to open-data.europa.eu and the pilot of pan-european portal.

In trust and security I focused on the EU Cybersecurity Strategy and of course questions about privacy came up……. to be expected !!!!

At the end of the meeting a young postgrad came to see me telling that he very much liked my presentation and whether it would be possible to meet to speak about my input for his PhD subject that he was about to define.

His name is Aditya he comes from India and his background is mechanical engineering but he is very interested in digital policies applied to his country. He also did a postgrad in Switzerland and visited Spain…. Of course he went to see a soccer game of Real Madrid and Barcelona !!!.

We met for coffee and had a one hour discussion about possible collaboration and I am now sending him some background information so that he can prepare one page whit his ideas about his future PhD work as a basis for our discussion. Nice and clever guy !!!

I had a meeting at CITRIS with Brandie Nonnecke and Sanjay Krishnan of CITRIS who are working on the California Report Card (CRC) (http://californiareportcard.org/) to have a presentation of the system and discuss about its background, usage and sponsoring.

The CRC is an online platform developed by the CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative at UC Berkeley and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom that explores how smartphones and networks can enhance communication between the public and government leaders. The CRC allows visitors to grade issues facing California and to suggest issues for future report cards. The project aims to increase public engagement and to help leaders at all levels stay informed about the changing opinions and priorities of their constituents. Anyone can participate by taking a few minutes to assign grades to the State of California on issues such as: Healthcare, Education, Marriage Equality, Immigrant Rights, and Marijuana Decriminalization.

By the way, Gavin Newson is the former mayor of San Francisco and has written a book I am reading now called “Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government”. I very much recommend those interested in public services to read it. I like it very much even though it focuses very much on the USA case.

I will tell more about the CRC once I know it in depth.

On the leisure side, we did the traditional Saturday shopping visit to the Tokyo Fish Market to buy fish for the week and to the Monterrey Fruit and Vegetables market for the “vitamins part of the diet” ;-).

Sunday we went (and we are already 6 in the gang !!) to Point Bonita and Point Reyes and ,despite the cloudy day, the views were great ….. and we had a lot of fun together.

More to come this week…Stay tuned !!!

Best

Paco

The post of week 3 @ Berkeley…..

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Last weekend was for shopping and sightseeing.

On Sunday I went with three other Spanish Visiting Scholar to visit Muir Woods one of the big parks around the bay. Muir Woods is full of big, very high and very old Redwoods. Redwoods are from the same families as the Sequoias but they are a (little bit) thinner and taller.

It was beautiful nature and one of the voluntaries that collaborates with the park and takes groups of visitors around, explained the vegetation, the origin of the park and its evolution and a little bit of the history of California linked to it… very interesting.

Then we went for lunch to Tiburon, one of the “chic” places in the Bay… very nice … and very expensive, there are wonderful houses on the waterfront and a lot of nature as well. With a very sunny and warm day, having lunch with bay view and the landscape of San Francisco in front of us was delicious; to complete the day barbecue at home and a lot of fun with the Spaniards !!!

This week, my “networking work” has started. I had a meeting with Heddy Riss, Programme Director at the Institute of International Studies (http://iis.berkeley.edu/about/heddy-riss ). She is the person in charge of the EU Fellows arriving at UC Berkeley. She knows the University very well and is helping me to identify contacts in the University who could be useful for my research.

She gave me a few hints on how to restructure the presentation of my research project according to the “Berkeley standards”. It was useful since my paper was, I think, a little bit “Commission oriented”. I have already a few mail addresses for contacts and I am setting up meetings.

As you see from the website, Heddy is Belgium and her husband, Belgium as well , is Professor at the Faculty of Economy. They came 10 years ago and found the place excellent for work and life and decided to stay here.

During the VSPA (http://vspa.berkeley.edu/)   general meeting, we were asked to introduce ourselves to our neighbour. I met then John Ihm, a Visiting Scholar from South Korea and we agreed to go for a cup of coffee. John is at the Law School and comes from Chicago where he is doing a PhD in law. John’s father is a Physics professor and came to Berkeley from Korea long time ago on a sabbatical. At that time, John was at secondary school and the family spent a year in Berkeley and enjoyed it very much. John told me that it is one of the reasons why he came back to Berkeley again. John asked me to tell him about my work, the EU and IT; I gave him an overview of the subjects and promised him that I will explain more when we meet for coffee again since I had to rush for a conference.

Here in Berkeley the daily event agenda is very rich, with plenty of interesting activities during the day. I selected two conferences for this week.

The first one was “Using Computer Science to Help Save Lives”. The speaker was Professor D. Patterson (http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/Faculty/Homepages/patterson.html). He is on sabbatical for the time being but comes to the campus from time to time and his conference was very interesting.

It was about applying good Software Engineering technics to identify diseases like Encephalitis or some types of cancer through the DNA. A multidisciplinary team and doctor and computer scientists he is leading, has developed a series of “pattern matching software” for genomic data that help the doctors to identify the possible origin of the disease so that the appropriate treatment can be applied and the disease cured .

He maintains that the pharmaceutical industry sell medicines to maintain the sick people alive but not to cure them. If only , with good Software Engineering technics one could save 100 lives all the efforts would be worthwhile !!!!. He also spoke about the difference of publishing in Computer Science and Medicine or Biology and the risk of just concentrating on publishing and not on curing people !!.

The speaker for the second conference was Güneç Acar, a PhD student from COSIC- Leuven University in Belgium and Visiting Scholar for two months at UC Berkeley. His conference was about IT Trust and Security and the title was ” The Web Never Forgets: Persistent Tracking Mechanisms in the Wild”. His talk covered a study, that will be soon published in the ACM, of three advanced web tracking mechanisms: canvas fingerprinting, evercookies and cookie syncing.

Canvas fingerprinting, a recently developed form of browser fingerprinting, exploits the differences in image rendering by browsers to obtain a unique tracking identifier. The study found that over 5% of the top 100,000 websites, ranging from whitehouse.gov to popular adult sites, included scripts that utilize canvas fingerprinting, along with other known forms of browser fingerprinting as demonstrated by EFF’s Panopticlick Project.

It is absolutely frightening how through “permanent or spawned cookies” and sometimes with very simple heuristic algorithms based on a few features of the browser like the fonts , the Flash version, etc , web sites are able to identify the users…. With the help of specialized service providers !!!

There are already companies , such as Bluecava (http://bluecava.com/ ) specialized in fingerprinting. There have already been court cases in the USA on this subject.

I will point to the presentation as soon as they upload it.

Stay tuned… more to follow !!!!

Paco

Hi everybody….. again ;-) !

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Today in the morning, we, the Visiting Scholars, Post-doc’s and Visiting Students Researchers, had a presentation by VSPA.

They presented the UC Berkeley (aka Cal) to us and gave us a few interesting figures about the University. According to the information received UC Berkeley is THE NUMBER ONE University in the USA (and this despite the claim of Stanford… they say !!). The ranking seems to be an official one and “the competition” is run every year…. they have been number one for the last 14 years !!!.

It is a huge University with some 36000 students, 25000 undergrads and 10000 grads; faculty staff more than 2000… there are 1600 Post-doc’s , 1400 Visiting  Scholars and 500 Students Researchers every year. The research budget is 714 M$ per year and the “productivity” is impressive: 7000 Bachelors, 2480 Masters, 905 PhDs…… 2200 inventions, 569 USA patents and 465 foreign patents….  PER YEAR, …what to say ……  :-0000 ! And it is the University with highest number of Nobel laureates ,  certainly in the States…. but perhaps also in the world. To illustrate the importance there are parking places close to my office that are “Reserved for Nobel laureates” !!!! And a parking place at the University is a sign of status. Normal, not reserved parking places in the few parking garages in the campus (no way to find a free place after 9 in the morning… sounds familiar, dear Drosbach friends , doesn’t it..:-(() , cost 150$ per month !!! I am very happy that I chose a house close to the University and I can bike or walk !!!!

It is part of the whole University of California, that has many sites scattered around the State, like: Davis, San Francisco (Innovation Hub) ,Santa Cruz, Merced (which specializes in Artificial intelligence and interdisciplinary groups) Santa Barbara (biomedicals and nanotechnologies) , Los Angeles (the famous UCLA , the biggest university and most applied university in USA…  Will it be because of Hollywood? the beaches? the weather?…Uhmmmm, ;-)) , Riverside, Irvine (which offers a degree in Computer Games Science (yes SCIENCE !!!) and Virtual Environments !!!) and San Diego (has the only Earthquake Simulation Labs in the States, with probes on directly on the geological fault… “très à la mode” after the earthquake we had here a few days ago… by the way the scientists were on the news telling that hey need 10 M$ to complete the project for surveillance and early warning and they do not have them for the time being… perhaps now the wind will change … ;-).

In my previous post , I spoke about bikes theft…. well…. they are only number two in the ranking ….; the winners are …  LAPTOPS …..so … BEAR (Bear is the logo of UC Berkeley) TIP number one: NEVER LEAVE YOUR LAPTOP UNATTENDED !!!!. In fact ,Harry Kreiner , my neighbor in the office , who has retired now and was the former Executive Director of the Institute of International Studies where I currently have my desk, told me  a couple of days ago: “Even if you go to the bathroom ..lock your door, laptops “fly” here… and they do not have wings ” ;-). Now I understand better what he meant…..

That’s is is it as far as the University is concerned for today…

On my research work, my reading subjects for today are: “Social media in Government: Its impact on policies and in achieving Public Goals ” and “Risk Analysis to overcome barriers to Open Data”  (the latter will be an input for the preparation of my presentation to all CITRIS departments at the University of California via VC , on the Digital Agenda for Europa that will take place on September 17th). I will post the presentation after the meeting.

Still work in the office for one hour and half and then back home to dress for the spinning class at the Recreation Facilities.

To be continued…

Stay tuned !!!!

Paco

Paco

 

 

 

 

Hello from UC Berkeley !!!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Hi everybody

 

First of all I want to clarify that “I WAS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR 6.1 EARTHQUAKE that happened a few days ago !”. I actually felt the house shaking at 3h20 in the morning but I having experienced it two or three times in the past and suffering still from Jet Lag, I continued sleeping. In the morning I saw on TV the consequences in the Napa Valley…. just 40 miles away from here…….

I arrived, as planned, on August 20th evening and got the keys of the house. I could then shop a bit, prepare dinner and sleep , more or less, properly.

The weather is great; while in the early morning the sky appears cloudy, as the day goes by it is blue sky, sunny and the temperature is very mild. Short, polo, snickers… paradise …..;-).

I was delivered the items I moved from Luxembourg the next day at 8.15. As a result I had a bike which is the transportation mean ideal for the place. Mind you, statistics say that three bikes a day are stolen only in the campus, not to mention what happens in other parts of the city. I had the bad experience myself; the seat of my bike was stolen nearly  in front of my nose last Saturday !!!. Not a big deal ….but was very annoying…. luckily enough, there are a few bike shops that do fix the problems very quickly and are open even on Sundays… they are expensive though…. like the rest of the items one has to buy around here !!!.

Enrolment at the University went relatively quick , despite the important bureaucracy here but I was well prepared (you know me ;-)) and managed well. Some other spaniards I have met, told me that it took them a week to enrol and they did not believe that I did in less than one and a half days (the document workflow takes a day so that one can get the ID Card)!!! .

I even managed to quickly setup access  to the University Network and with the help of the IT Support here,  I have managed very quickly to have printing and scanning setup as well. The VPN has taken longer since the Cisco software to download was taking control of the WiFi drivers and modifying the whole configuration… as result I was loosing the connection to my WiFi at home and had to tweak a lot until I got it right :-(( !!!

I had a very nice lunch with Prof. John Zysman (http://polisci.berkeley.edu/people/person/john-zysman) was introduced to me by Costas Spanos (http://citris-uc.org/people/leadership/) Director of CITRIS. John is one of the most knowledgeable people on EU matters here in UC Berkeley and has participated in a number of projects and contracts with the EC. He happened to konw well Ken Ducatel , DIGIT’s CISO, Commissioner Rehn, and other in the EC…. we live in a very small world !!!

I had time over the weekend to put some order, do some shopping and prepare some food for the week to put it in the freezer to have more time for meetings and work. I had already on Monday 25th  a shared office at the Institute of International Studies (IIS) waiting to have some workplace at CITRIS, the Institute I am going to work with.

The rest of the week was used for information by British International Office with alot of practical administrative information about the States, a very interesting presentation on American-english pronunciation and getting introduced to CITRIS staff and other staff in IIS, getting familiar with the city, the streets, the shops and meeting some of the spaniards I got to know during the presentation and trying to buy a car what I actually did on Saturday.

Monday September 1st was a labour day here but all the shops (except the bike shop ;-)) were open so …. a lot of opportunities to spend money what is always very dangerous. Went to San Francisco with the BART with a couple of new friends from the University of Valencia. There are 10 here on stage for one to four months. It was a very warm day and Mission Street and Dolores Park were crowded with a lot of youngsters around.

The surroundings of Berkeley are full of nature and I biked one day until the Tilden Regional Park and Grizzly Peak with great views over the Bay; it is great but the slopes are impressive …. ;-))) One needs good legs to climb. Luckily enough I did 1600 km during the summer holiday in Spain !!!.

The Recreation Facilities of UCB (fitness, swimming , team sports, training sessions , etc) are paying, with discounts for students and visitor scholars. They are big and very well equipped ….impressive and what is best….opened from 6 until 23, what has given me the opportunity to do fitness every day and this despite the fact that biking around is, by itself, a good sport !!!

As far as my research project is concerned, I am searching for references and reading a lot. Today I had the presentation of my research project to the management of CITRIS. They say they like and they are inviting me to join the premises and start exchanging information with some of the researchers. Based on their feedback I am fine tuning my presentation that I will upload on this blog sooner than later. I am ,nearly, at cruise speed for work. A high workload ahead but very exciting.

Something very impressive was the arrival of the freshmen. They arrive in mass , very young and there are so many activities organised for them in the campus that is impressive. A lot of asian youngsters, my rough estimation is around 60 to 65 % of the students !!!

There are approximately 20 different Libraries but the Central one is absolutely impressive and I could have access to a lot of information.

To be continued……