Tag Archives: computers

YesWeScan

Now Scoping Americans

(Reposted, as it disappeared from the site.)

We are relaxing to the idea of every communication between us being monitored by a government that considers the other political party to be “enemies.”  (Isn’t it odd that President Obama will talk about compromises with Iranian jihadists, but not with Republicans?)

As has been revealed recently, NSA has off-shore sites making their gathering of email lists from Americans technically legal. So, despite recent court activity and supposed “executive actions,” this would not be affected: Continue reading

dna-double-helix-marc-phares

Soft storage

This article caught my attention, and combines my interests in bioscience, computer science,  and Shakespeare:

London, January 24 (ANI): Researchers have downloaded all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets on to synthetic DNA in a breakthrough that could lead to major advances in computer storage.

Scientists were then able to decode the information and reproduce the words of the Bard with complete accuracy.

The same technique made it possible to store a 26 second excerpt from Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech and a photo of the Cambridgeshire laboratory where the work took place.

Researchers were also able to turn a copy of Watson and Crick’s paper describing the nature of DNA into genetic code.

This opens up possibilities for non-powered storage of extremely high density — “Library of Congress in a teaspoon”-type density.

Now, how small can the reading/writing apparatus be?  This sounds like a job for nanoengineering, and of course it has already been that.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

livejournal

Livejournal commenting

Most of the commenting action — nearly 60,000 comments so far — take place on my LiveJournal site, as that’s where most of the readers are.  You’re always welcome to comment there or here, but a larger number of readers will see (and respond to) comments there.  I have always allowed anonymous comments there; the only reason I don’t do that on DeHavelle.com is the infestation of blog-focused spambots.

So far, in more than a decade at LiveJournal, I’ve never had to ban anyone nor delete any posts or comments, other than the rare cleanup of a spambot (especially in the earlier days of LJ).

So, feel free to join in, on the posts here on on their identical appearances in the LiveJournal blog where I have been writing for years as “Level Head” (an anagram of DeHavelle).

To get there, click the link to “Level_Head’s LiveJournal” on the right of this page.  And, if you’re seeing this on  the LiveJournal site, you can click on the right side of the page to get to www.DeHavelle.com.  Thank you for reading — I value your time and your participation.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

The Death of Music

Or at least, the death of the music industry is fort0ld in this article.  While the author perhaps overstates the case in some respects, the concerns certainly seem valid to me. And it doesn’t take the usual angle of “the kids’ music is terrible” — he comes at this from a different direction.

A good friend is in this now-suffering industry, and described the article as spot on.

There’s another effect not quite described here. In previous times — say, pre-radio — music was something you heard at home if you were lucky enough to live in a home with a piano (or guitar or fiddle, which seemed more culture-specific). When you were able to hear music professionally performed, it was a Big Deal, and memorable.

Now it is trivial; music seems to be relegated to simply the background noise of most people’s lives.  People who decades ago might have spent significant money making their high-end audio equipment as distortion-free as humanly (and technically) possible now listed to low-quality music on YouTube recordings through cheap speakers.  And even though iTunes and similar systems can deliver high-fidelity music data, the audio environment of the car, the street, or the office does not lend itself to absorbed contemplation of excellent music.

We are missing something, here, and I think it is symptomatic of larger effects.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

The July 9 DNS Changer attack

Many news outlets have been talking about a virus and July 9. This connection is a bit peculiar: The virus doesn’t take effect then, but a government “patch” that has been supplying service will be removed that day (tomorrow). This is a bit complicated, but you can check quickly to see if you have a problem by clicking here:

http://dns-ok.us/

As it says on the page, if it shows a green background, you’re good.

The original malware rerouted domain lookups so that you thought you were looking up Google.com but the request was intercepted and replaced with information under the control of bad guys.  (In many cases, some popular sites are “faked” so that it wasn’t obvious at first that you’d been hijacked.)

The malware does more than that, though, so if you DO have a problem, I’d suggest starting with MalwareBytes.com and using their free tool.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

LJ Archive Fixed!

This is good news, and solves a problem that’s been annoying me for almost a year. The LJArchive utility, that did an excellent job downloading LiveJournal entries and comments into a searchable form, broke last year. LiveJournal had made some changes internally to deal with DOS attacks, and the downloader for LJArchive would no longer work.

After a bit, I realized that it was the comments downloader that was broken — the entries could still be downloaded. But then I moved to a new computer, and no longer had even the old comments to work from.

The fix has been made — not by the oriiginal coder (who has apparently abandoned the project) but by someone else. See this site for the details.

And here’s the new LJArchive installer. It is indeed working on my system, and downloaded my comments (more than 30,000!) in just a few minutes. This makes it possible to find any text in any of the entries or comments quickly, as well as having them safe just in case.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

The End of General-Purpose Computing

Some years ago I wrote a near-future story in which computers had fallen into disfavor. Not in the manner of Dune, but somewhat related to that.

In our own lives, the last few years have seen computers becoming increasingly present. On Christmas day, I watched as several young people present sat with their devices, absorbed in that interaction and with little attention for the people around them. This is the common scene, and it accompanies the same horsepower that adds so much access to knowledge to our lives. I often wonder how even-increasing computing in our lives will turn out.

But it might not work out that way. In this transcript of a talk by Cory Doctorow (a hat tip to my good friend MB), he talks about a different sort of threat to computing devices. There is certainly some merit to his warning, and I found it interesting:

And it doesn’t take a science fiction writer to understand why regulators might be nervous about the user-modifiable firmware on self-driving cars, or limiting interoperability for aviation controllers, or the kind of thing you could do with bio-scale assemblers and sequencers. Imagine what will happen the day that Monsanto determines that it’s really… *really*… important to make sure that computers can’t execute programs that cause specialized peripherals to output organisms that eat their lunch… literally. Regardless of whether you think these are real problems or merely hysterical fears, they are nevertheless the province of lobbies and interest groups that are far more influential than Hollywood and big content are on their best days, and every one of them will arrive at the same place – “can’t you just make us a general purpose computer that runs all the programs, except the ones that scare and anger us? Can’t you just make us an Internet that transmits any message over any protocol between any two points, unless it upsets us?”

The concept is the collision of SOPA and the Fairness Doctrine, and it is coming our way.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

 

Facebook Scam: Islamic Friends

Because of my long-time use of email — same email address for more than fifteen years — I get a lot of spam.  One type that has surged in recent days is a peculiar Facebook/LinkedIn scam.  The email purports to be from Facebook, informing you that “<Islamic/Arabic name> wants to be friends.”  While it’s identified as “Facebook” the return email address involves em.LinkedIn.com.

But it goes somewhere else, of course, and installs a password-sniffing virus enabling the bad guys to drain your bank account or any other credit account you use.

In the last week, I’ve received several hundred of these.  Every single name fit a familiar pattern — except for one.  I actually do have Islamic/Arabic-named friends, including folks in Egypt affected by the Arab Spring there — but I don’t use a Facebook account associated with the email addresses these came in on.  (I’m not using Facebook at all, really.)  Here’s a sample: Continue reading

Gmail_Man

Internet Privacy

Two things came to my attention together on the topic of Internet privacy:

This rather amusing Microsoft video talking about Google’s Gmail: “G-mail Man!

And a bill, put forward by Representatives Debbie (“They want to make illegal immigration a crime!”) Wasserman-Schultz and Lamar Smith (a Republican) that would require all Internet service providers to track every website that you go to and report it to the federal government, in case you might be suspected of a crime in the future. Bob Barr’s column talks about that here.

Of course, it’s for the children!

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle