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CSI for the FBI
Friday, January 14, 2005

Last night the CSI team lifted a fingerprint from a candle touched by a bad guy and fed the print into the fingerprint database. The hits popped up onscreen in real time. Match! In a few more seconds, the computer brought up the culprit's name. A few seconds after that, the bad guy's photograph and priors appeared. Hold that thought.

If only CSI weren't fiction. Grissom should be running Homeland Security instead of a former judge. His CIO could do a lot of good for the FBI.

fbiThe FBI's attempt to create a unified casefile system has run so far off the rails that it made the front page of today's New York Times. Seems that the FBI has paid SAIC $170 million to assemble a system to automate manual procedures and enable agents to share case information electronically. Things are so bad that the Bureau is paying another consultant $2 million to see what is salvageable. What a blunder! Would that the FBI had followed stardards rather than going for ego-satisfying custom software.

In the fifties and sixties, the FBI had seemed like they had its act together. The FBI: In Color was a popular TV show. The FBI "always got its man." The Most Wanted list was hailed as a great crime-fighting device. Earlier on, an FBI counterspy ratted out undercover Communist cells right in our own neighborhoods on I Led Three Lives. The National Crime Information Center was supposedly the ultimate crime database. FBI agents were the supercops of the era.

Only later did it turn out that J. Edgar Hoover and his boyfriend were on the take from the mob, Hoover illegally wiretapped and slandered Martin Luther King, Jr., and rumors circulated about J. Edgar at the Palace Hotel in a pink dress. A subsequent director of the FBI tossed important Watergate evidence into the Potomac. Hot-shot agents let known spies escape through their fingers, blew up a nutcase cult in Waco, and shot the wife of a tax protester with babe in arms in the course of assaulting a residence.

Now a Princeton classmate is running the show at the FBI. He does not wear pink dresses. I hope that he's able to start running the Bureau like a business.

Other interesting stuff:

Blog Torrent
Blog Torrent is software that makes it much easier to share and download files using the bittorrent protocol. Blog Torrent is easy to install on your website: we don't use MySQL so installation is as easy as uploading a folder to your web host, and all administration happens in the web interface. Blog Torrent is easy for users: even if they don't know what bittorrent is, they get an installer that downloads the file they want. But most of all, Blog Torrent makes publishing with bittorrent painless. Just click "upload", pick a file, and you're done. This is our preview release and it has a lot of bugs and rough edges... but we're smoothing them out for the next version, so stay tuned.

Virtual Terrain Project

The goal of VTP is to foster the creation of tools for easily constructing any part of the real world in interactive, 3D digital form.

This goal will require a synergetic convergence of the fields of CAD, GIS, visual simulation, surveying and remote sensing. VTP gathers information and tracks progress in areas such as procedural scene construction, feature extraction, and rendering algorithms. VTP writes and supports a set of software tools, including an interactive runtime environment (VTP Enviro).


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