Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Reading List 8/20/2014 - Kevin Mitnick Can Steal Your Identity In 3 Minutes

Forbes - Renowned Security Expert Kevin Mitnick Can Steal Your Identity In Three Minutes -
At DEF CON 2014, Mitnick prompted the audience for a volunteer. A few hands shot up, but quickly went down when he explained the rules of the game: He would spend three minutes searching for all of the volunteer’s private information, while projecting the process onto a screen for everyone to see. A brave conference attendee got up and stated his name.
In three minutes Mitnick had Name, SSN, Address, and Credit History of the volunteer.  Pretty scary.
Volokh - Another way of thinking about the problems with the Rick Perry indictment -
 the office of Governor comes with no such clearly established rules about when to veto and when not to veto laws, and what constitutes the faithful execution of gubernatorial duties is famously controversial. When an interpretation of a law raises serious constitutional objections (including overbreadth and vagueness objections), courts rightly view that as a reason to construe it narrowly to avoid such constitutional problems, not to stretch it to rush headlong into such problems. There is no need to apply § 39.02 in situations where the only alleged “misuse” of property is an ill-defined violation of the duty to faithfully execute the laws, or to preserve, protect, and defend them — and no constitutional justification for so applying it.
Let's be honest, this indictment is retarded, but it shows Texas politicians that if you anger the Austin DA you will be charged with a felony.  I guess if you are trying to establish political dominance.  (Honestly this indictment is as retarded as all the idiots calling for the impeachment of Obama for whatever the outrageous outrage of the day is.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Reading List 8/19/2014 - Facebook is EVUL- So is Amazon

Valleywag - Driving the Tech Elite to Work Is a Miserable, Thankless Job -

Facebook's drivers, who are contracted through the SFO Shuttle Bus Company, earn just $18 an hour—substantially less than $6,000 a month Facebook pays its high school interns.
And the drivers' situation is made worse by all the unpaid time they must spend at work. According to two of the drivers interviewed by USA Today, employees are "held hostage" for six hours in the middle of the day when the shuttles aren't running, with contractual obligations forcing shuttle operators to remain close to the bus's parking lot.

It's Valleywag, take it for what it's worth.  It should be noted that 18.00 /Hr is over $37,000 per year, which while not a lot in SF is well above the "livable wage" activists keep campaigning for.  Additionally the company that Facebook contracts with offers, benefits including Sick Day, Holidays, PTO, and a 401K with matching (or at least they did in 2009).

Wired - The Next Big Thing You Missed: Thanks to Amazon, Tiny Sellers Can Now Reach Across the Globe -

In 2006, Amazon launched a service that allowed US sellers to use its network of warehouses to ship their goods. More recently, Jeff Bezos and company have rolled out the Fulfillment by Amazon program globally, enabling entrepreneurs like Thompson to move goods through fulfillment centers in other parts of the world. “It really changes the paradigm when you’re able to ship the goods in bulk to a warehouse in Europe or Japan and have those goods be fulfilled in one day or two days,” Thompson says.

I'm sure this represents evil incarnate somehow. just not sure how yet.

Salon - Rick Perry’s indictment is bad for Democrats: A Texas perspective -
It gets worse, from the perspective of Machiavellian Democrats (assuming such creatures exist). Stymied by Republican obstruction in Congress, President Obama is trying to use executive action to push through reforms in areas from immigration to the environment. For the most part, progressives have mounted a strong defense of broad executive prerogatives. It may be harder for progressives to argue that inherent executive authority is broad when exerted by a Democratic president to defer action against undocumented immigrants but narrow when used by a Republican governor in a line item veto to cut state funding for the Travis County DA’s office.
Amazingly the NY Times seems to agree -

Mr. Perry should have left the matter to the courts, where both a criminal and a civil attempt to have her removed failed, or to the voters.
But his ill-advised veto still doesn’t seem to rise to the level of a criminal act. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Hugo Awards

Been away for a couple days and so this evening I am going through my twitter feed (welcome to my two new followers who I won't embarrass by naming) and my RSS feeds and I see that the Hugo Awards have bubbled up to the top again.

For those of you who aren't familiar there has been a bit of a controversy - Larry Correia (@monsterhunter45) and some of his associates, mostly Baen authors I believe, felt that the Hugo awards were being used to advance a political viewpoint rather than rewarding the best or most popular science-fiction novel.  To prove their point they organize a slate and campaigned for it.  This led to accusations of Racism, Sexism, Homphobia etc. etc. and a charge that rules were being broken because campaigning for a nomination was equivalent to stuffing the ballot box.  As predicted these charges were mainly laid from the political left (most of the accusers also happened to be members of the science fiction writers guild or whatever they call their professional organization). Correia and his associates, mostly right wing types, as am I, counterattacked.   This has been going on for months now and while some of the insults were fun to read I kind of lost interest after the first day and stopped following.

So there's a bit of background, anyway over the weekend, they announced the winners and Larry Correia posted about the announcement; congratulating the winners and actually defending the vote counting.  At the same time John Scalzi (@scalzi) took to twitter and mocked Larry Correia..  OK, I kind of understand, emotions have been running high for awhile and I suspect there might have been a little mocking coming from the Correia camp if he had won so I knond of wrote it off, but It got me thinking If I go back and look at the winners of the Hugos what would I think of the selection.

With that in mind I went back and looked at the last 14 years nominees as listed here and you know what - most of the novels do tend towards the political left, and the same authors tend to get nominated over and over - Melville, Willis, Scalzi, Stephenson, Sawyer (among others) all had multiple nominations.  I have read something by all of them, and honestly can only say I really like Stephensons work. I also noted that in that time only two Baen authors have had nominations.  This despite the fact that Baen has some of the best selling authors out there.  To me this kind of lends credence to Correia's theory.  Then I saw that Cory Doctrow's book "Little Brother" was nominated.  That seals the deal for me.

 Correia is right - If he wasn't there is no way that book could have been nominated.  Poor writing, poor story, huge plot holes.  The only reason that book exists is as a political screed aimed at teenagers and it is a bad one at that.  Bleh, but somehow it was worthy of consideration for a Hugo.  Right.

So after all this rambling let me close with congrats Larry Correia on doing as well as you did.  Better luck next year.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Reading List 8/14/2014 - ANOTHER Comcast Horror Story and The Great American Dystopian Blues

Ars Technica - Here’s another Comcast cancellation horror story, with video evidence -
Chicago resident Aaron Spain explained in the video Monday that he was on hold for more than three hours, showing the time of the call on his phone as proof. He was calling to cancel Comcast "after a month of trying to get them to fix my service," he said. Spain was transferred to the retention department, but didn't actually get to talk to anyone. After using a different phone to call back the same number, Comcast's automated assistant told Spain, "I'm sorry, but our offices are now closed."
Customer service at it's finest.

The Verge - Is this how a dystopia starts? Ferguson, Missouri, is a stark reminder of the risks of the increasing militarization of American police
Is Ferguson the moment we as a people look at this situation of escalating force and say "enough is enough?" And even if we do, what's the right way to solve the problem? No American police department seems ready to voluntarily disarm to a more restrained level, including the one active in Ferguson. Few American citizens who have spent money and time collecting their own weapons would join them. And fewer still are the violent criminals who would willing cede their tools of destruction. Politicians concerned about electability also seem disinclined to challenge American's gun lobby, or to be the ones who cut police resources only to see crime rise. Can the President alone do anything? Would he, distracted as he is by global conflicts that few Americans support, committing more American firepower overseas? The larger question, where do we go from here as a people?, is even more worrisome. Because from the events in Ferguson alone — filled as they are with racial mistrust and a stark power imbalance, the police at least temporarily with the upper hand— it appears that things are going to get worse before they get better.
I am just going to throw this out there without comment or context.

Quartz - The euro zone is stuck in neutral as its German engine sputters -
in the latest quarter the German economy actually shrank slightly, by 0.2%, a sign of trouble in the euro’s engine room. We already knew that Italy has slipped into a triple-dip recession, and the news that French GDP was flat in the second quarter didn’t come as a big surprise.
Oh goody, another recession is just what we need.

Medium - The Grease Gun Was For Killing Nazis -

it spewed .45-caliber ACP bullets at 450 rounds per minute, was simple to operate, compact because the butt-stock collapsed and it was disposable.
Yes, disposable. Until 1944, soldiers and Marines whose M-3s got damaged in battle simply threw them away and drew a new weapon from the armory because no one who made supply decisions thought it was worthwhile to manufacture spare parts for the gun.

I don't know why a liberal rag like Medium wrote this article, but it's a fun read.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Reading List 8/13/2014 - The Most Wanted Man In The World (Edward Snowden dummies)

He doesn't always drink beer but when he does...

Wired - Edward Snowden: The Untold Story -

A mostly well done article on Edward Snowden; maybe a little overwhelming on the praise, but not as over the top as some others I have seen.  Does a pretty good job of putting Snowden and his activities in context and addresses a lot of open questions I have had about his background since this all first started.  As you probably know I have been of two minds about Snowden since his leaks began - on the one hand I have felt that he potentially has done a service by revealing potentially illegal or unconstitutional activity.  On the other I have questioned not only his motives but those of his partners Greenwald and Poitras.  

After reading this article I am much more sympathetic to Snowden himself; the article however reinforces my concerns about Poitras and Greenwald.  I have maintained that the leaks being attributed to Snowden are too convenient and serve (specifically) Greenwald's agenda too well.  Two passages in this article reinforce that for me:

And there's another prospect that further complicates matters: Some of the revelations attributed to Snowden may not in fact have come from him but from another leaker spilling secrets under Snowden's name. Snowden himself adamantly refuses to address this possibility on the record. But independent of my visit to Snowden, I was given unrestricted access to his cache of documents in various locations. And going through this archive using a sophisticated digital search tool, I could not find some of the documents that have made their way into public view, leading me to conclude that there must be a second leaker somewhere. I'm not alone in reaching that conclusion. Both Greenwald and security expert Bruce Schneier—who have had extensive access to the cache—have publicly stated that they believe another whistle-blower is releasing secret documents to the media.


Copies are now in the hands of three groups: First Look Media, set up by journalist Glenn Greenwald and American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, the two original recipients of the documents; The Guardian newspaper, which also received copies before the British government pressured it into transferring physical custody (but not ownership) to The New York Times; and Barton Gellman, a writer for The Washington Post
This has been my problem from the beginning.  I DON"T TRUST GREENWALD.  He is a fabulist and he has an agenda.  Poitras also has an anti-American agenda (in my opinion).  The others may not but they are not making  full documents available in context, but these are the people who are controlling access to the information.  Nothing can be adequately verified therefore literally everything or nothing in these leaks could be true.  There is no way of knowing.  And on top of that they know that documents being attributed to Snowden are not in his cache, but no one is saying where they come from.  To me that screams the potential for fake documents to be mixed in.

Again this is my opinion, but it seems to me that if the people in possession of these documents are really interested in effecting change, they would provide copies to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees so they could begin investigations.   To my knowledge they haven't and (again in my opinion) there is a reason for that - they are not interested in effecting change.  They are interested in causing damage.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My reading list 8/12/2014 - Another Comcast Horror Story plus Up to 23 Million active twitter accounts are bots - Everyone of them has more followers than me

Ars Technica - Comcast conveniently forgets “no fees” promise until confronted by recording -
another call surfaced on Sunday that will likely be just as painful: a fellow named Tim Davis called Comcast to contest some bogus charges on his bill and only managed to get them refunded because he had recordings of previous Comcast calls.
It's pretty much what you think - obnoxious customer service and no realization at all of the damage it is doing to the company.  The tape is at the link.above.

Endgadget - Up to 23 million active Twitter accounts are bots -

I used my best joke in the post title, which explains why they all have more followers than me.

The Verge - Being Mark Stone: how to hijack an abandoned identity
Reassembling Stone’s identity was easier than you might think. Farid looked at environmental forums Stone had posted in and found his email, now long since abandoned. After guessing some security questions and chatting with a Yahoo service rep, it was easy to reset the password. He set up a DIY mailbox on a public fence, labeling it with an unused address and signing it up for mailing lists so he could receive mail as Stone. He used that mail to get a bank card, then used the bank card to get a photo ID from the British Library. He stopped short of buying a SIM card with Stone's old phone number, but only because he didn't want to spend the money.
I wish they hadn't spilled the beans on how easy this actually is since it was my fallback plan when things really went to shit.  Now all those little loopholes will get closed.

The Register - NIST wants better SCADA security -
“The goal of this system is to measure the performance of industrial control systems when instrumented with cyber-security protections in accordance with best practices prescribed by national and international standards and guidelines,” the RFI states.
Probably not the worst idea, but a better one is to hold operators responsible for improperly configured systems.  Once it costs money businesses / utilities will pay attention.

Wired - I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me -
See, Facebook uses algorithms to decide what shows up in your feed. It isn’t just a parade of sequential updates from your friends and the things you’ve expressed an interest in. In 2014 the News Feed is a highly-curated presentation, delivered to you by a complicated formula based on the actions you take on the site, and across the web. I wanted to see how my Facebook experience would change if I constantly rewarded the robots making these decisions for me, if I continually said, “good job, robot, I like this.” I also decided I’d only do this on Facebook itself—trying to hit every Like button I came across on the open web would just be too daunting. But even when I kept the experiment to the site itself, the results were dramatic.
I'm thinking that if once a month everyone did this Facebook might turn the news feed back into an actual newfeed and give us a dislike button so that we canb actually provide some real input.

Hacker News - The US Digital Services Playbook -
The idea behind the USDS, as the White House has taken to calling it, is to institiutonalize the approach that saved the health care site and apply them to the work of the government before disaster strikes.
This will work right up to the point that procurement becomes involved.

Monday, August 11, 2014

My Reading List 8/11/2014 - Complex P@$$w0rd$ Suck

Wired - Turns Out Your Complex Passwords Aren’t That Much Safer -
pinning your security on an insanely complex password is a fool’s wager. Just ask the people running the airline, travel and social networking sites that got hacked by Alex Holden’s Russian hackers. “Why are we burdening users with demands to chose stronger and stronger things with the goal of withstanding increasingly sophisticated guessing attacks when 1.2 billion credentials are just spewed from servers that are improperly protected,” says Herley. “That seems like a big waste of effort.”
Any system can be broken.  I believe the proper question is how do you mitigate damage when it is.

The Next Web - Google is backing a new $300 million high-speed internet Trans-Pacific cable system between the US and Japan -
The new cable system will be landed at Chikura and Shima in Japan, but will also feature connectivity to many neighboring cable systems so as to extend the capacity beyond Japan to other Asian countries. Connections in the US will extend the system to major West Coast hubs including the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle areas.
How about just getting fiber to my door step?  Just saying.

Techcrunch - Gradberry Aims To Bridge The College Grad Skills Gap -
Gradberry works with graduates and employers. The site has jobs listings and courses, so students can take courses to fill in the gaps in order to land a position, or they can be hired and their employer will sponsor them to take a course to learn a required skill for the job. Masood says the majority of its revenue today comes from the latter. The way it works is that a company hires a recent graduate who looks promising, but lacks a requisite skill. For example, a marketing graduate could lack training in social media marketing. They take the online course, get a certificate and they should be better prepared for the job at hand.
Interesting concept.  Udacity is already doing something similar by working with employers to develop courses, and I had a similar idea, at least similar in getting employer input on required skills, a few years ago when I wrote up my plan for "The Open University".  

Gizmodo - 18 High-Tech Warships From the Future That Rule the Seas Today -

Mankind has fought naval battles for thousands of years. And in the 21st century, the navy is still the most important branch of any maritime nation's combat forces. But technology does change, and if you don't live near a navy harbor, there's a chance you've missed all the newest ships being built and launched in the past few years.

The following set of photos will introduce to you the latest, most advanced, sometimes surprisingly futuristic vessels from the largest navies of the world.
From 1800 to the 1920s, inequality increased more than a hundredfold. Then came the reversal: from the 1920s to 1980, it shrank back to levels not seen since the mid-19th century. Over that time, the top fortunes hardly grew (from one to two billion dollars; a decline in real terms). Yet the wealth of a typical family increased by a multiple of 40. From 1980 to the present, the wealth gap has been on another steep, if erratic, rise. Commentators have called the period from 1920s to 1970s the ‘great compression’. The past 30 years are known as the ‘great divergence’. Bring the 19th century into the picture, however, and one sees not isolated movements so much as a rhythm. In other words, when looked at over a long period, the development of wealth inequality in the US appears to be cyclical. And if it’s cyclical, we can predict what happens next.
 An obvious objection presents itself at this point. Does observing just one and a half cycles really show that there is a regular pattern in the dynamics of inequality? No, by itself it doesn’t. But this is where looking at other historical societies becomes interesting. In our book Secular Cycles (2009), Sergey Nefedov and I applied the Phillips approach to England, France and Russia throughout both the medieval and early modern periods, and also to ancient Rome. All of these societies (and others for which information was patchier) went through recurring ‘secular’ cycles, which is to say, very long ones. Over periods of two to three centuries, we found repeated back-and-forth swings in demographic, economic, social, and political structures. And the cycles of inequality were an integral part of the overall motion.
Obviously I don't agree with the articles conclusions, but the argument is fairly well reasoned.