Category Archives: Technology

450px-Judy_Garland_John_Hodiak_The_Harvey_Girls

Old hands

I am older than most folks. I got into computers relatively early, and was making my living from computers full-time by the mid-1970s. While I am not big on social media per se, I did get involved with LiveJournal early on, and was one of its first lifetime paid users as it was rocketing into popularity (before MySpace and FaceBook and Twitter). So this recent XKCD strip was a bit poignant: Continue reading

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

Bad Outlook on Privacy

To avoid government snooping into the contents of emails, many people use encryption. But if you use Microsoft Outlook, there’s a problem with this: Microsoft helpfully saves the unencrypted version of the email for the NSA before doing the encryption for you, according to this UK article:

The documents show that:

  • Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;
  • The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
  • The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
  • Microsoft also worked with the FBI’s Data Intercept Unit to “understand” potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
  • In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism;
  • Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a “team sport”.

[Defeating] Your Privacy is Our Priority — Microsoft’s privacy statement, corrected. They claim that they are resisting the NSA/Obama administration intrusions — but they also claimed that none of the above was happening.

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

Greenspace

Greenspace

 GREENSPACE

BY

Keith DeHavelle

 

IN SPACE, no one can hear you’re green. It’s a pity.

Caesar turned slowly, arms outstretched to catch the sun. In the middle distance, I could see Hamlet doing the same thing. A moment later, Fortinbras began to turn. Yes, they’re all named for dead people — they’re all shades.

Lots of shades up here. We’re helping to cool the planet. The temperature has stayed stable since the turn of the 21st century, and we’re all frightened out of our wits since we know that the really serious problems are due at any time. Continue reading

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 Cats Trying to Kill Curiosity

I was delighted, as were millions, by the successful touchdown of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars.  It was a monumental achievement, of equipment working right (thanks to tremendous engineering and science) despite nearly a year’s exposure to extraordinary conditions and extremes in rapid succession. But as Sam Rayburn (48th, 50th, and 52nd Speaker of the House) notes, “Any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a good carpenter to build one.” We’ve seen NASA in the role of “good carpenters” here. Who’s the “jackass”? Continue reading

Mars the Record of Nuclear Power

Tonight — 10:31 Pacific Time Sunday, or 1:31 AM Eastern on Monday — the Curiosity rover will hopefully touch down safely on the surface of Mars.  The events actually take place about 14 minutes in advance, but we cannot know the results until the radio communications get from Mars to Earth. The vehicle is big. While the two famous rovers Opportunity and Spirit were roughly grocery-cart sized, this one is more like an automobile. It has tremendously greater science capability — and it is too big, and needs too much power, to operate from solar panels.  So it does not: Curiosity is nuclear-powered. Continue reading

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