Friday, October 07, 2016

Backblaze: What SMART Stats Tell Us About Hard Drives

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What SMART Stats Tell Us About Hard Drives
October 6th, 2016

What if a hard drive could tell you it was going to fail before it actually did? Is that possible? Each day Backblaze records the SMART stats that are reported by the 67,814 hard drives we have spinning in our Sacramento data center. SMART stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology and is a monitoring system included in hard drives that reports on various attributes of the state of a given drive.

While we’ve looked at SMART stats before, this time we’ll dig into the SMART stats we use in determining drive failure and we’ll also look at a few other stats we find interesting.

This is a really interesting article about some parts of SMART and how the statistics may be used to heuristically predict drive failure.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

MacRumors: Facebook Now Testing Autoplay Videos With Sound in iOS App

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Facebook Now Testing Autoplay Videos With Sound in iOS App
Tuesday August 23, 2016 6:18 AM PDT by Joe Rossignol

Starting today, Facebook will begin testing autoplay videos -- including ads -- with sound in its iOS and Android apps. Facebook told Mashable the test will be limited to Australian users and rolled out in two different ways to gauge how users react. In both versions of the test, sound will only play if the iPhone's volume is turned up, and sound can also be turned to "always off" in Facebook settings.

I've been ticked off at Facebook for quite some time now. I suspended my account briefly in 2010 and then for real in 2013. Mostly because of policies that make the site less and less interesting to users and more and more ruled by advertisers.

At this point, I really wonder why it exists or should be used by anyone. You are forced to work in a straightjacket. There's almost no opportunity for personalization anymore (aside from a banner image), they censor what you're allowed to read and write, and now they're going to be forcing auto-play videos with sound on you, despite the fact that users have overwhelmingly said they don't want this.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Time: Read Donald Trump’s Ohio Speech on Immigration and Terrorism

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Read Donald Trump’s Ohio Speech on Immigration and Terrorism
Daniel White @danielatlarge

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave a new policy speech on immigration and terrorism Monday in Youngstown, Ohio.

In the fiery speech, Trump said that he would institute “extreme vetting” of visa applicants, citing domestic terrorism incidents like the shootings in San Bernardino and Orlando as examples of a failed immigration policy.

I'm no particular fan of Trump (although I think he's far better than the other choices we will have to choose from in November) but this speech is spot-on.

I've been hearing these opinions for many years from conservative national security sources (like the Secure Freedom Radio podcast) but most of the public is probably hearing about this for the first time, thanks to media outlets and politicians that prefer to pretend that (depending on the day of the week) there is no war, the enemy has no relationship to Islam, we can't possibly win, and it is morally wrong to take even the slightest steps to do something about it.

Now, if only we could get people to actually read the full text of Trump's speech instead of just repeating the media mantra of "he's a racist bigot homophobe evil rich white man so you should ignore everything he says no matter what it is."

But that's never going to happen, will it?

h/t to the Dry Bones blog for giving me the link to the full text of Trump's speech. Until now, all I heard was a few clips on the Mark Levin Show.

(Given the fact that half of Republicans and almost all Democrats hate Trump with a passion, I'm expecting more comments than usual (meaning more than zero) here. Please remember to keep your points civil and factual. Anything insulting or abusive or off-topic will not be posted.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Krebs On Security: Data Breach At Oracle’s MICROS Point-of-Sale Division

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Data Breach At Oracle’s MICROS Point-of-Sale Division
Brian Krebs, August 8, 2016

A Russian organized cybercrime group known for hacking into banks and retailers appears to have breached hundreds of computer systems at software giant Oracle Corp., KrebsOnSecurity has learned. More alarmingly, the attackers have compromised a customer support portal for companies using Oracle’s MICROS point-of-sale credit card payment systems.
MICROS is among the top three point-of-sale vendors globally. Oracle’s MICROS division sells point-of-sale systems used at more than 330,000 cash registers worldwide.
Oracle’s own statement seems to suggest the company is concerned that compromised credentials for customer accounts at the MICROS support portal could be used to remotely administer — and, more importantly, to upload card-stealing malware to — some customer point-of-sale systems. The term “on-premise” refers to POS devices that are physically connected to cash registers at MICROS customer stores.

Avivah Litan, a fraud analyst at Gartner Inc., says ... "I’d say there’s a big chance that the hackers in this case found a way to get remote access" to MICROS customers' on-premises point-of-sale devices.

This is really ugly. If criminals have managed to use the manufacturer's maintenance access to remotely install card-skimming software into point of sale terminals worldwide, then nothing is safe.

All the more reason to use a merchant's chip reader or Apple Pay wherever possible. These technologies work with device-specific account numbers, one-time pads and encryption to make it difficult (if not impossible) for a captured transaction to be used to create a fake card or initiate new transactions. (I am aware that there are many more virtual-card technologies in use but I don't know enough about them to have an opinion about their security.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

NASA: The Moon crossing the face of the Earth

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From a Million Miles Away, NASA Camera Shows Moon Crossing Face of Earth
August 5, 2015

A NASA camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured a unique view of the moon as it moved in front of the sunlit side of Earth last month. The series of test images shows the fully illuminated “dark side” of the moon that is never visible from Earth.

The images were captured by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), a four megapixel CCD camera and telescope on the DSCOVR satellite orbiting 1 million miles from Earth. From its position between the sun and Earth, DSCOVR conducts its primary mission of real-time solar wind monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Read the whole article for more details and an animated image of the Moon making transit across the Earth's face.

h/t to John Kovalic's Twitter Feed for a funny tweet that made me look up this awesome image.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Retro Tech: The Wire Recorder

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Before tape recorders were invented, there were wire recorders. This is a fascinating video that shows one in action.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Entropic Time, by A Capella Science

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This is a really cool science song and an even more cool video. I don't want to think about how much work it must've been to make it (but I will soon find out, because they have a "making of" companion video, which I've embedded below the music video.)

And, the making-of video:

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ars Technica: Digging into the dev documentation for APFS, Apple’s new file system

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Digging into the dev documentation for APFS, Apple’s new file system
Copy-on-write metadata, native encryption, instant cloning, snapshots, and more.
by Lee Hutchinson - Jun 13, 2016 4:35pm EDT

Though the feature wasn’t mentioned in Apple’s WWDC 2016 keynote, I’m most excited about the introduction of the Apple File System, or APFS. The preliminary version of the developer documentation is online now, and it looks like the new file system introduces a whole boat-load of solid features—including a few out of the ZFS playbook.

APFS looks to be a major update over Apple’s old and creaky HFS+ file system, which has been around in one form or another for decades. It has been the subject of expansions and additions over the years, but HFS+ never approached the extensibility and flexibility of current next-generation file systems. Rather than continuing to bolt stuff onto the old code, we now (finally!) get a new file system that has some truly compelling features.

It'll probably be a while before this becomes mainstream, but what I've read so far looks really attractive. Especially support for snapshots, which is something I've been wanting ever since I discovered them as a part of Network Appliance's file server software almost 20 years ago. I assume Apple took so long to develop the tech because they were waiting for NetApp's patents to expire, or some other non-technical reason.

Once this ships (and has gone through the usual rounds of bug-fixing to fix the inevitable problems in something this big), it will be a truly compelling reason to upgrade to the latest version of Mac OS X ('scuze me, macOS.) Which is great, considering that the last few OS updates seem to be mostly cosmetic and app changes - things that really shouldn't need a whole-OS update.

Friday, April 22, 2016

AP: Trump team tells GOP he has been 'projecting an image'

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Trump team tells GOP he has been 'projecting an image'

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — Donald Trump's chief lieutenants told skeptical Republican leaders Thursday that the GOP front-runner has been "projecting an image" so far in the 2016 primary season and "the part that he's been playing is now evolving" in a way that will improve his standing among general election voters.
Trump's newly hired senior aide, Paul Manafort, made the case to Republican National Committee members that Trump has two personalities: one in private and one onstage.

"When he's out on the stage, when he's talking about the kinds of things he's talking about on the stump, he's projecting an image that's for that purpose," Manafort said in a private briefing.

In other words, Mr. Trump stands for nothing and believes in nothing. Or if he does stand for something, he has not let anyone of us know what it is. He and the guy running his campaign have stated what the rest of us have suspected all along - he's putting on a show in order to trick people into voting for him. If you haven't figured it out from the fact that he tells each audience what they want to hear even when he contradicts himself to do so, then this should prove it.

Is he going to build a wall on the Mexican border like he loudly promised? Maybe not. Lower taxes? Raise taxes? Subsidies for corn farmers? Who knows. But when his top people are now on record as saying that everything he says is just role playing and doesn't mean a thing, I think this is something we should all believe.