Now About That Bunny...

Another academic who doesn't know beans about the real world.

March 15, 2006

1 Min Read
Now About That Bunny...

6:00 PM -- Here's what I learned today about Prof. Andrew S. Tanenbaum, dean of the Advanced School for Computing and Imaging at Vrije University, in Amsterdam:

  • He thought Berkeley students were pikers compared to the geniuses at MIT ("It was so strange to be in an environment with people having I.Q.'s below 150 and where it wasn't necessary to study 12, 13, 14 hours a day, seven days a week just to keep up.")

  • He wrote Minix, which helped inspire Linus Torvalds to create Linux;

  • He's not a Bill Gates fan ("The only person who is perhaps not so happy [about the spread of open-source] is Bill Gates. I think this is a good thing.")

  • He has a bunny named Bram, with its own homepage. (Last name Stoker, I'm hoping.)

  • He knows a lot about computing and viruses, but not so much about RFID.

The paper Tanenbaum co-authored about virus threats to RFID tags seems to me a prime example of a theoretician delving into a very real-world scenario. Tanenbaum has demonstrated that it's possible, under certain conditions (i.e., a poorly designed data collection system), for a virus to inhabit an RFID tag and make its way into the back-end database via a scanner. The likelihood of that actually happening is very, very low. (See Malware in the Air?.)

But the doomsday scenario this conjures up -- U.S. aviation system thrown into chaos by one tiny RF tag -- is powerful. So journalists like me write about it. And maybe, somewhere, an IT manager is re-considering his company's RFID deployment plans.

Or maybe just petting his own bunny.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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