Monday, December 30, 2013

Laboratories cause cancer in mice

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Not quite, but Corante reports that standard lab conditions tend to induce thermal stress on lab mice, resulting in corrupt data when performing cancer studies:

Lab Mice Are Being Kept Too Cold, Apparently

Posted by Derek
Now we have this, from PNAS. The authors, from the Roswell Park Institute and the EPA, say that standard rodent facility conditions are actually causing unintended chronic physiological stress:

We show here that fundamental aspects of antitumor immunity in mice are significantly influenced by ambient housing temperature. Standard housing temperature for laboratory mice in research facilities is mandated to be between 20–26°C; however, these subthermoneutral temperatures cause mild chronic cold stress, activating thermogenesis to maintain normal body temperature. When stress is alleviated by housing at thermoneutral ambient temperature (30–31°C), we observe a striking reduction in tumor formation, growth rate and metastasis. . .Overall, our data raise the hypothesis that suppression of antitumor immunity is an outcome of cold stress-induced thermo- genesis. Therefore, the common approach of studying immunity against tumors in mice housed only at standard room temperature may be limiting our understanding of the full potential of the antitumor immune response.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Repairing a Rock Band guitar's tilt sensor

1 comment:
Last week, I decided to play Rock Band. If you don't know anything about this game, you might just want to stop reading now. If you have played the game, you are probably aware that in order for a guitar/bass player to activate the "overdrive" feature, he must either tilt the guitar into a vertical orientation or press its start button. Although some players disagree, I find that it is far easier to tilt the guitar than to press the button.

Well, since the last time I played, the tilt sensor in the guitar broke. No matter how much I tilted the guitar, the overdrive mode would not activate.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Apple Mac Pro now taking pre-orders

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Apple is now taking orders for their long-awaited upgrade to the Mac Pro. Units ordered today will ship in February.

Pricing ranges from $3000 for the smallest configuration (3.7GHz quad-core CPU, 12GB DDR3 ECC RAM, 256GB SSD, dual AMD FirePro D300 GPUs with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM) up to a whopping $9600 for the maxed-out configuration (2.7GHz 12-core CPU, 64GB DDR3 ECC RAM, 1TB SSD, dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB GDDR5 VRAM). An AppleCare 3-year extended warranty adds $250.

Expensive? You bet. Do I want one? Oh yeah! I don't do anything today that requires this kind of power, but if a unit like this is well constructed, it is likely that it will have an operational lifespan of 7-10 years (not counting the need to replace the SSD, which probably won't last that long.)

Interestingly, the price for the basic configuration is about the same as what I paid for my first Mac (a 2002 PowerMac G4 with dual 1GBz PowerPC CPUs). Add on an external 4TB hard drive (e.g. an enterprise-class hard drive combined with a USB3 enclosure for under $250) and you've got a great system, for about the usual price you'd pay for a high-end desktop from any vendor at any time.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

The Internet is not (and has never been) secure

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Wired: Someone’s Been Siphoning Data Through a Huge Security Hole in the Internet

Read the above article for a fascinating description of how hackers can (and sometimes do) redirect internet traffic, making it easy for them to snoop. The article cites recent incidents where domestic US internet traffic was redirected through several countries on its path from source to destination, presumably so the people who installed the corrupt routing table entries could take a look as it goes by.

Just in case you were under some illusion that the internet is secure, this should demonstrate clearly that it is not. Forget the NSA, this can be done by just about anybody who can write software and understands how the global internet operates. If your data isn't encrypted, then it isn't private. Period. This include your web sessions, your e-mail messages, passwords, etc. If you're doing something that you wouldn't want criminals in other countries to see, make sure it is over an encrypted channel.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Origin of the Christmas stocking

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I was curious and ran across this article on Wikipedia:

While there are no written records of the origin of the Christmas Stocking, there are popular legends that attempt to tell the history of this Christmas tradition. One such legend has several variations, but the following is a good example:

Very long ago, there lived a poor man and his three very beautiful daughters. He had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried what would happen to them after his death. He thought they would become prostitiutes. Saint Nicholas was passing through when he heard the villagers talking about the girls. St. Nicholas wanted to help, but knew that the old man wouldn't accept charity. He decided to help in secret. After dark he threw three bags of gold through an open window, one landed in a stocking. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning they found the bags of gold and were, of course, overjoyed. The girls were able to get married and live happily ever after. Other versions of the story say that Saint Nicholas threw the 3 bags of gold directly into the stockings which were hung by the fireplace to dry.

This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so, St. Nicholas is a gift-giver. This is also the origin of 3 gold balls being used as a symbol for pawnbrokers.

An interesting story. And I would never have guessed that the pawnbroker symbol is related to Christmas in any way.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Raskin Desktop

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The Raskin Desktop is a desktop/Finder replacement for Mac OS based on Jef Raskin's "Zoomworld" user interface concept.

All documents are displayed as previews. You can zoom and scroll around the world to find what you want. You can set the size of each document's preview individually, allowing you to make important objects larger (to more easily find them) and less important objects smaller (to get them out of the way.) You don't explicitly deal with file and folder names, but work directly with the content itself. All of the zoom/scroll operations involve trackpad gestures similar to those used on iPhone devices.

Apple has used some of these concepts in their apps (like iPhoto and Aperture), but this is the first example I've seen of it being applied system-wide.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Plugin Allows Developers to Turn iOS Devices Into Bitcoin Mining Bots

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New Plugin Allows Developers to Turn iOS Devices Into Bitcoin Mining Bots

Interesting concept, but a bad idea for any device running on batteries. I really don't want to use an app that deliberately maxes out the CPU load as a revenue-generation scheme. I'd much rather see ads than have my battery prematurely drained.

Now, for an app running on a computer plugged in to a power source (like a desktop system), it sounds like a great idea.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Classic Mac OS - running in JavaScript

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Click through this link to play with a classic Mac (running System 7.0.1, with three apps) running on an emulator written in JavaScript.

I'm really impressed with how well it works. It's also interesting to note that today's computers are so much faster than those Macs that this emulator (running in Firefox 25.0.1 on Mac OS X 10.8, on a 2011-model Mac Book Air) runs faster than the physical hardware it is emulating.

Friday, November 22, 2013

In Soviet Russia (and on LG televisions), TV watches you!

You THINK you're watching your LG smart TV - but IT's WATCHING YOU, baby • The Register

According to Yorkshire, UK–based hacker "DoctorBeet," the internet-enabled sets try to phone home to LG every time a viewer changes the channel, giving the chaebol the ability to track exactly which channels are being watched, minute by minute.

Using network packet-sniffing tools, DoctorBeet discovered that his set was also transmitting the names of media files he played off USB storage, which he observes could potentially be embarrassing for those in the habit of watching less savory downloaded fare.
Disturbingly, however, there doesn't seem to be any way to opt out of the data collection. DoctorBeet observed that while his TV did have an option called "Collection of watching info" in its settings menu, the data was still transmitted whether the option was set to on or off.

This coupled with the fact that when DoctorBeet complained to LG, he got a brush off (you clicked "I accept" so we can do anything we want) tells me that LG is not a company that should be trusted at all. Time to scratch them off of the list of companies I'm willing to do business with.

I'm more than a little bit worried now about how many other smart TVs are doing the same thing. LG was merely the first to get caught. It may be time to buy a firewall device to insert on my LAN between the router and the modem so I can start blackholing the servers that appliances phone-home to.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

BioLite Camp Stove

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Every now and then, I run across a really nifty product. The BioLite Camp Stove is a small camping stove that you can carry in a backpack. It burns twigs and other small pieces of wood - what you are likely to find lying around a camp site, and does not use propane or other expensive fuels.

What makes this different from other kinds of camp stoves is that it has a "power module" that uses heat from the fire to generate electricity to power a fan. This fan blows air into the fire, making it burn hotter and more efficiently than it would otherwise. And as an added bonus, since it generates more power than it needs, it also has a USB port that you can use to charge small electronic devices when the fire is burning.

Interestingly, they also make a large model. Their Home Stove is targeted at people who routinely cook over open fires (like in many third-world countries.) Using a similar design to the Camp Stove, the Home Stove consumes less wood, emits less smoke and gives off less carbon monoxide than an open fire. And it also has a USB port to power small devices.

I realize that I'm not the target audience for these products, as a person who lives in a house with a modern kitchen and never goes camping, but I can appreciate great tech when I see it, and this is pretty awesome.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Teapacks - Push The Button

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For some inexplicable reason, this song, Israel's entry into the 2007 Eurovision contest, has been stuck in my head today:

Since you probably don't understand all of the lyrics (they're in English, French and Hebrew), here's another video. This one is a live performance, with English subtitles:

And if you want to own your very own copy, it's on iTunes


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thursday, November 07, 2013

South Koreans required by law to use Internet Explorer.

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The Washington Post writes about how a 14-year-old law, intended to make internet commerce more secure has produced some really annoying unintended consequences.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Smell Ya Later

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It's only available from the Japanese Amazon store right now, but Scentee is a hardware dongle for your iPhone that will allow scent-based communication. You load it up with a cartridge containing your favorite scent and then configure various app triggers to let the smell loose at appropriate times. Bundled apps include olfactory notifications when someone likes one of your Facebook posts, timers and alarm clocks.

There also a 10-minute video on the site that seems to be more like a b-grade soap opera than an ad for the product. Go figure.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cheap international roaming, by hacking your SIM card

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The Register writes about a (UK) long-distance carrier called BiBiTel with a novel product

The BiBiTel product is a decal with some embedded electronics. You remove your phone's SIM card, affix the decal, and put it back in your phone. The electronics in the decal passes through all communication used to place domestic calls. When you try to place an international call, or if you are out of the country, however, it intercepts the call and places it over the BiBiTel network instead of your normal carrier. The call is handled and billed by them at their discounted rates. (At least I assume they're discounted - I don't know what the rates are normally in the UK.)

Conceptually, it's not much different like land-line services in the past, where you would dial an access code or a toll-free number to place your call through an alternate carrier. Those methods (especially the toll-free number approach) would still work with a cell phone, but something like this is far more convenient. If it works as advertised, you no longer have to think about it - it will just redirect your calls automatically.

I never place international calls for myself (and work calls are on the company phone, which they pay for), but for someone who does, this is a great idea. I wonder when something similar will become available for customers of US carriers.

Monday, October 07, 2013

SQRL login system

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Gibson Research has released a secure login system called SQRL (Secure (QR) Login - pronounced "squirrel") with a lot of very interesting and attractive properties.

The superbrief summary of SQRL is:

  • You install the SQRL software on your smartphone
  • When you visit a web site that supports SQRL, you will see a QR code next to the login form.
  • Instead of typing in your user ID and password, you scan the QR code with your phone
  • The SQRL app works some cryptographic magic (go read the web page for the details) and sends the results to the URL that's part of that QR code
  • You click the login button without typing in any name/password
  • You are securely and anonymously logged in:
    • The server doesn't know who you are (unless you provide that information separately)
    • The server will recognize you when you come back in the future
    • Other servers using SQRL will see different anonymous IDs, so you can't be tracked across multiple sites (unless, of course, you provide additional information as a part of using that site.)
    • The authentication process is out-of-bound (separate network connection, separate device, etc.) so a compromised web browser (like in a public terminal) won't see any of your login credentials

More convenient and more secure than a normal password-based login. What more could you want?

I need to read more about this (I've only read the first page of the site), but based on what I've read so far, and the fact that Gibson Research is a company that has earned a lot of trust over the years, I am very interested in this technology and would love to see it (or some similar concept) widely adopted all over the internet.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Atari 2600 Adventure

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Today, I stumbled across the home page of Warren Robinett. For those who may be unfamiliar with the name, Warren was the Atari engineer who wrote the Adventure game for the Atari 2600.

This was a ground-breaking game for its time, and was the first adventure game ever made for a gaming console. Although incredibly primitive by today's standards, it becomes incredibly impressive when you realize that the Atari 2600 only had 4K of ROM and 128 bytes of RAM. Warren's home page has a page devoted to Adventure. In it is a PowerPoint presentation about the making of Adventure, including a quick summary of the Atari 2600's architecture. It is a great read if you're into legacy hardware/software platforms and the programming techniques needed to develop code for those platforms.

Interestingly, back in the 70's, when Adventure came out, my father and I found the Easter egg, learning all about Warren Robinett. We phoned Atari, hoping to be able to talk with him for a few minutes, but the receptionist claimed that no such person ever worked there. At the time, we assumed that he had been fired for wasting memory with the Easter-egg room which could have held another game room. In hindsight, I think it is more likely that we weren't the first to phone up, and Atari was trying to make the callers go away so their engineers could get back to work.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Dolphin intelligence has been seriously exaggerated

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Der Spiegel reports (along with many others) about the recent findings and book by Justin Gregg that debunks many of the myths surrounding dolphin intelligence.

While dolphins no doubt are intelligent, the belief that it is second only to humans (including language, complex social structures, etc.) is simply not true.

Note that some media outlets reporting this are taking away the wrong conclusion. Gregg points out that some aspects of dolphin behavior (attributed to superior intelligence) are shared by many lesser life forms that nobody would consider intelligent (like goldfish and mealworms), leading some to conclude that he's placing dolphins among them on the intelligence ladder. I don't get that impression from the article, and Gregg himself has said that he does not hold this belief.

See also:

Security is a drawer full of warm socks

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I have been quoting this strip for a long time, ever since I read it in a Peanuts anthology as a kid. Sadly, dryers now have cool-down cycles, so you have to stop it prematurely if you want a drawer-full of warm socks.

Maybe that's what's wrong with society. No warm socks, therefore no security...

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

NYT: Poll Shows Major Shift in Identity of U.S. Jews

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The New York Times reports the results of a recent poll indicating that the non-Orthodox Jewish population is becoming increasingly non-observant. Conservative Jews are becoming Reform, Reform becoming totally non-observant, etc.

Personally, this comes as no surprise. When you fail to teach religion, or teach it in the context of multiculturalis, or fail to teach the fact that religion imposes real obligations, then you end up also teaching that it doesn't matter. And if being Jewish doesn't matter, then there is no impetus to bother remaining Jewish.

It's only in the Orthodox community where parents make a point of giving their children a thorough Jewish education (Jewish day schools typically teach 4 or more hours of religious instruction in addition to secular studies) and where religious obligations are taught and enforced. This doesn't guarantee that the kids will want to be that observant, but it does guarantee that they know all about their heritage and culture and what they will be discarding if they choose to leave.

But that having been said, I think some of the problem is also the fact that the orthodox community sets up massive barriers that prevent less-observant Jews from joining the community. The attitude there (not universal, but common) is that if you don't do everything 100% perfect, then you shouldn't belong to the community at all. And the definition of "100% perfect" gets stricter every year, for reasons that (to me, a non-orthodox Jew) don't seem to make any sense.

And woe unto someone who converts to Judaism. Not only do the orthodox not recognize non-orthodox conversions (which I understand), they also don't recognize many orthodox conversions. For a variety of reasons (including pressure from groups in Israel), the standards for orthodox conversion are much stricter now than they were even 20 years ago. In some places, fully-observant orthodox Jews who converted in the past are not considered Jewish for no reason other than the fact that the conversion happened before the new rules were set up.

With an atmosphere like this, it is quite understandable that those who are not orthodox are just throwing up their hands in disgust and saying "F!@(#& it all". If a non-Jew approached me today asking about conversion, I would tell him not to bother, and it would have nothing to do with Judaism itself, but everything to do with the associated politics. Why would anyone study for years and completely uproot his life, only to find that the community he is allegedly joining thinks it was all worthless and will forever treat him as an outsider? Or that at some point in the future, they will change the standards and make him start all over again?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Superman's clothes

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So here's a question that's bothered me for some time: Why are Superman's clothes just as indestructible as he is?

It seems to me that they should get burnt up when he flies at ludicrous speed. At the very least, when he is shot, the fabric should get damaged as the bullets bounce off of his body. I suppose the question of whether or not it requires dry cleaning would just be silly, though.

Did his little spacecraft from Krypton come with a lifetime supply of super-clothing? And in his size? Or did it perhaps come with bolts of super-fabric and super equipment that can cut and sew it? Was it the same outfit he got as a baby, stretching to size like some kind of super Lycra? Maybe that explains why he wears tights?

I can't be the first person to ask this question. In all seriousness, is this something comic fans have asked before? Is it something that ever had an official answer?

Ziggy for September 30, 2013

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I've had this conversation with myself on several occasions. But paper financial records are a real pain in the neck compared to Excel spreadsheets. And solitaire really is more fun on a computer.

It is, however, a bit sobering to realize that the only things I need a computer for could be satisfied with what was state of the art in 1995. If I can run Excel, some simple puzzle games, and a web browser, the rest really doesn't matter. And the web browser is primarily just to pay bills, read comics and go shopping on Amazon. I could probably replace it all with an iPod Touch, if not for the fact that I really love my 24" monitor.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bubby's Restaurant

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While conducting an unrelated web search, I ran across this restaurant and decided that I need to go visit this place next time I happen to be in New York (or Tokyo, I suppose...)

I think a hearty midnight brunch would be the perfect way to finish an evening after seeing a Broadway show.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

iPhone map app directs Fairbanks drivers onto airport taxiway

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iPhone map app directs Fairbanks drivers onto airport taxiway

How embarrassing.

Even more embarrassing that Fairbanks airport apparently does not (or at least did not) have a gate or guard at the service entrance. I guess it wasn't an issue until now.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The old "we're from windows" scam

1 comment:
Three times this past week, I've gotten phone calls with the "Windows tech support" scam.

For those unfamiliar, you get a phone call from someone (often with a Russian accent) claiming to be an employee of "Windows". No, not Microsoft, they are very clear to point that out. They claim your computer is full of viruses and that you need to install their software to let them clean it up.

If you're dumb enough to do this, their software locks your computer. You then have to pay these people several hundred dollars every months in order to use your computer. When you stop paying, their software bricks your computer.

So far, I've been threatening to report these people to the FBI, but unfortunately, they are using spoofed caller ID numbers (the most recent one is from 474-475-1328 - which is a non-existent area code. As a result, the national do-not-call list is useless, as is Verizon's service for tracking down criminal abuse of the phone system.

Does anyone have a clue what else I can do to find the bastards and nail their balls to the floor? If you know someone in the FBI or other appropriate government agency and can forward this to them, please do so. I'll testify in court. Heck, I'll flip the switch if they can be given the death penalty.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dilbert for September 16, 2013

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If only it was that easy...

EZ-Pass is watching you all over New York

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Forbes writes, in E-ZPasses Get Read All Over New York (Not Just At Toll Booths) that New York City has EZ-Pass readers all over the city. They track the devices, allegedly for the purpose of detecting congestion and directing traffic:

It's part of Midtown in Motion, an initiative to feed information from lots of sensors into New York's traffic management center. A spokesperson for the New York Department of Transportation, Scott Gastel, says the E-Z Pass readers are on highways across the city, and on streets in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, and have been in use for years. The city uses the data from the readers to provide real-time traffic information, as for this tool.

Maybe so, but, as the article cites, the EZ-Pass terms and conditions do not state that this is a permitted use of the device. And if one agency is using it for one purpose, you can be sure that in the future, more agencies in more jurisdictions will use it for more purposes, and some may be a lot more intrusive than dynamically adjusting on-line traffic maps.

I never got EZ-Pass, because I don't travel through toll booths that often, and I don't like the idea of paying a monthly service fee to have the device. With this piece of news, now I think I've got a much stronger reason than "I don't want to pay for it."

Monday, September 09, 2013

Slate: The Lewis Model Explains Every Culture In The World

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A recent article in Slate briefly discusses British linguist Richard Lewis's theory of how to categorize the behavior of every culture in the world.

I don't think I agree with every aspect of the theory, but it is interesting. I think it will be especially useful in helping to manage business relationships with individuals from around the world. I think it will be far less useful in understanding global politics, since governments often behave in ways contrary to the local culture.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Slate: Tales of an Ex–Microsoft Manager

This Slate article describes a Microsoft practice called "stack ranking" where the actual competence of employees is irrelevant to their compensation, instead dishing out awards and punishments based solely on how they compare against their coworkers.

The result is that instead of A-players wanting to be teamed with other A-players (as Steve Jobs described the natural state of a development organization), you end up with A-players wanting to be teamed with B-players, in order to ensure that their achievements will result in rewards and not punishments. The result is lousy products, engineers that don't care, and managers that are required to make the problem worse.

Why do I get the sinking feeling that most corporations do this, or something equally brain-dead?

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Washington Post: Archives readies a schoolgirl’s records and a trove of Jewish treasures for return to Iraq

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Washington Post: Archives readies a schoolgirl’s records and a trove of Jewish treasures for return to Iraq

Wow! This find is incredible. I am just very saddened by the fact that all this Jewish material is going to be sent back to Iraq. No Muslim government is going to treat this with the respect it deserves. It should be sent to Israel, where the majority of the formerly-Iraqi Jews now live.

The US Holocaust museum would be another appropriate place.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

TechDirt: Feds Threaten To Arrest Lavabit Founder For Shutting Down His Service

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Here's the link to the TechDirt article, and the link to the NBC News article it references.

In case you haven't been following this case, Lavabit is (or was) a secure e-mail service. All mail is encrypted so no unwanted third parties (not even Lavabit) can snoop the content. The US government didn't like the idea of an e-mail service they couldn't spy on so they sent him threatening letters demanding access. According to the above linked articles, they wanted a full tap into the content of all messages from all users. Rather than comply with this blatantly unconstitutional abuse of power, the owner shut down the service.

And now the Feds are threatening to prosecute him for doing that!

I'm sure my left-wing friends will see no problem with this, but for the rest of us, this is just another example of the abusive totalitarian nature of the US government today.

Monday, August 12, 2013

CNBC: Xerox machines swap numbers during scans

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If someone told me about this in passing, I would assume it to be a big joke, but apparently not:

D. Kriesel, a German Ph.D. student studying computational geometry, encountered a strange problem when scanning a blueprint on a common Xerox office scanner. The numbers denoting the square footage of rooms were totally wrong, and what's more, they changed when he scanned the blueprint again.

Intrigued, Kriesel tried scanning a table of costs and figures. Numbers changed again—but not wildly, just by a little bit: 54.60 became 54.80, for instance. And it wasn't just a blurry scan or a misplaced pixel—these were fully formed, unmistakable characters.


it quickly became clear what the culprit was: an image compression algorithm called JBIG2, built into the scanner as the "normal" quality option for those who wanted to save a bit of space on their hard drive (versus "high" and "higher," which made for much bigger files).

Unlike an analog photocopier, or a digital one that simply records the black-and-white values of pixels, JBIG2 examines the whole image and finds pieces that are highly similar, replacing them with a sort of clone-stamped version that saves space. Examples of such pieces of an image might be the pattern on some wallpaper or the top of a fence—or, as it turns out, small letters and numbers that look similar, like 6s and 8s.

All I can say is "d'Oh!"

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Slate: Android vs. iPhone: Why Apple still has the edge over Google';s operating system

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Farhad Manjoo, writing for Slate, points out that although Google has developed a great operating system in Android, it usually gets mangled into a steaming pile of trash by cell phone manufacturers and phone companies before you ever get to see it.

... Over the last few months, though, I’ve been testing two of the most expensive, most advanced Android phones on the market, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. Actually, I’ve been doing more than that. I’ve been using two versions of each of these phones—the standard phone that you get for $199 when you sign a two-year cellular contract, and a second “Google Play edition,” which is a special, full-priced version that features only the essential software you need on a smartphone. (The Play edition HTC one is $599, and the S4 is $649.) I’ve been switching between these four devices, using one or the other as my primary phone at all times.


This is one of the most important advantages Apple has over Android devices. When you buy an iPhone, it works exactly as Apple intended; it’s never adulterated by “features” that the company didn’t approve. But when you buy an Android phone, even a really great one, you’re not getting the device that Google’s designers had in mind when they created the OS. You’re not even getting the device that the phone manufacturer—Samsung and HTC, in this case—had in mind. Instead you’re getting a bastardized version, a phone replete with software that has been altered by many players along the way, usually in a clumsy, money-grubbing fashion.


There are lots of annoying nuisances like this one, in which Samsung or HTC took Google’s easy-to-use design and monkeyed with it for no good reason. Together, all these little bugs add up to a frustrating experience. In most cases, you can fix the problem; you can replace Samsung or HTC’s apps with Google’s version, you can remove the unnecessary stuff from your home screen, you can opt-out of flashy but terrible gimmicky features (like the totally useless “eye tracking” system in the Galaxy S4). But doing so is too much of a hassle for people who just want a phone that works right out of the box. If that’s what you want, you’ve got two choices. You can pay full price for a Play edition Android device (I’d choose the HTC One over the Galaxy S4, because it’s much more attractive, physically). Or you can buy an iPhone.

Read the complete article here.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Four vacation security tips

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My employer's weekly newsletter posted a set of five tips for people planning to vacation abroad. Four of these are are good advice for everybody, not just employees, so here they are. I've made some minor modifications the text to reflect the fact that some referenced resources are not available to the entire world, but the spirit of the content is unchanged.

Dork Tower for 6/28/2013: It's Like Free

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Yeah, this is about right...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

FixYa: Smartphone reliability

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Back in February, FixYa (a product-support web site) published a summary of smartphone reliability issues, summarized by manufacturer. The results should come as no surprise to anyone who has used several different brands:

  1. Apple - 3.47
  2. Samsung - 1.21
  3. Nokia - 0.68
  4. Motorola - 0.13

A higher score is better. Score calculated by taking manufacturer problem impressions divided by sample problem impressions (impression ratio), normalizing market share amongst competitors for comparison (sample market share, combined total is 100%), and dividing sample market share by impression ratio. Market share data courtesy of

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

And that about wraps it up for Paypal

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Over 10 years ago, I gave up in frustration over eBay's capricious bureaucratic decisions. And now Paypal has decided to screw me over in the exact same way. So now I'm rid of them too. And any other web site that is associated with them.

And good riddance. Read on to hear the entire (rambling, but hopefully coherent) story why.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dork Tower: May 22, 2013: Gaming Clubs


But more seriously, Matt (in the strip) is right. I find that the most fun I have with video games are the classic arcade games that I play today using the MAME emulator. Thanks to limited hardware and lack of prior art, the game developers were forced to come up with all kinds of original ideas and make them look good using relatively simple graphics.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Babylon 5: 20th Anniversary Visual Celebration Premium Bo

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Ooh! Shiny!

Expensive at $134 + shipping, but it's $88 for pre-orders and for the first 7 days after the release (which is June 24th).

I think I may have to have this....

Review: Dream Gear PS3 Move Quad Dock Pro

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At home, we just got a set of PS3 Move controllers (motion and navigation.) Combined with our three existing Dual Shock controllers, that's too many devices to comfortably charge with USB cables from the PS3 console. And Reepi (the cat) can't resist chewing on wires.

To solve this problem, we got two of these Quad Dock Pro chargers. Using them, I can move all of the charging devices out of the living room and out of the cat's reach.

Read my full review on E-Pinions

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Windows 7's time machine

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Amazing! I somehow managed to modify this file several years before I created it. Viva la Windows!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Safe Havens: May 4, 2013

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Professor: Next semester we're switching to a new edition of this textbook.
Samantha: What? They put out a new edition just last year!
Now the students won't get a decent price for a resale! What did the publisher change???
Professor: Comma on page 54.

Sadly, this is how it often goes. It's a racket. Publishers make meaningless changes simply in order to force students to buy new books instead of used ones.

The good teachers are aware of this and will allow students to use the previous edition. Most teachers, however, aren't that good.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Ericsson Technology: An attempt to motivate and clarify Software-Defined Networking (SDN)

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From the YouTube description:

This tech talk is a guest keynote given at Ericsson Research by Scott Shenker, Professor at the University of California in Berkeley, Vice President of the International Computer Science Institute, and co- founder of Nicira Networks. Scott discusses the intellectual and practical weakness of today's foundations of networking, and argues that they can be strengthened by introducing cleaner abstractions, rather than managing the ever-growing complexity of protocols. Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is an instantiation of such abstractions that promises to create a more evolvable architecture for the Internet.

If you're into networking or computer-science theory, you will find this fascinating.

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock

Belkin is finally shipping the long-awaited Thunderbolt Express Dock

This is a good-looking breakout box providing the following interfaces:

  • 1 Gigabit Ethernet port
  • 1 Firewire 800 port
  • Headphone audio output
  • Line audio input
  • 3 USB 3.0 ports
  • A Thunderbolt pass-thru (for daisy-chaining up to 5 additional TB devices

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The System #113

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I just started reading this webcomic, after having picked up the author's business card at a con several years ago. Yeah, I need to read more webcomics - I've got dozens in my backlog.

Happy 20th birthday, World Wide Web

The Register reports:

Is this the first ever web page? If not, CERN would like to know

Eggheads recreate what could be the original website
By Brid-Aine ParnellGet more from this author
Posted in Applications, 30th April 2013 11:24 GMT

Boffinry nerve-centre CERN has attempted to recreate the very first website to mark 20 years since the official launch of the World Wide Web.

It is feared the first ever web page is lost to the sands of time as it was changed daily and any backups are few and far between. However the team has pulled up a snapshot of the very first website dating from November 1992, which the eggheads say "may be the earliest copy we can find". The CERN bods are still hunting around for earlier versions.

The team also wants to use the original web server machine names and IP addresses to dish out the archived site to the planet. The effort coincides with the anniversary of CERN's statement on 30 April 1993 that made the technology behind the web available to all on a royalty-free basis, clearing the way for the online addictions we all have today.

Read the rest here...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dioxygen Difluoride

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h/t xkcd What-If

Here's a substance to suggest for use during Chemistry class.

On second thought, better not:

... The great majority of Streng's reactions have surely never been run again. The paper goes on to react FOOF with everything else you wouldn't react it with: ammonia ("vigorous", this at 100K), water ice (explosion, natch), chlorine ("violent explosion", so he added it more slowly the second time), red phosphorus (not good), bromine fluoride, chlorine trifluoride (say what?), perchloryl fluoride (!), tetrafluorohydrazine (how on Earth. . .), and on, and on. If the paper weren't laid out in complete grammatical sentences and published in JACS, you'd swear it was the work of a violent lunatic. ...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ultra Small Form Factor (USFF) PCs's

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I just saw one of these for sale. PC's have just gotten a whole lot smaller.

This puppy is a mere 4x4x2". Packed within is an Intel Core i3-3217U processor (1.8GHz, 2 cores, hyperthreaded), 2 SO-DIMM sockets supporting up to 16GB of RAM, 2 HDMI ports for video, 3 USB 2.0 ports (plus 2 internal ones), Gigabit Ethernet, Mobile SATA port for an SSD, optional Wi-Fi and Blue Tooth.

Amazon's price (stripped) is about $300. Add 16GB of RAM (for $120) and a 256GB mSATA SSD (for $206), and you've got a really nice pocket-size computing platform for about $625 - which is cheaper than many systems of similar power that are physically much larger.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ars Technica: Inexpensive large SSDs from Crucial

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Ars Technica: Waiting for a 1TB SSD below $1 per GB? Crucial says wait no more.

Crucial has just announced the new M500 series of SSD drives, at great new price points:

  • 120GB for $130 ($1.08/GB)
  • 240GB for $220 ($0.92/GB)
  • 480GB for $400 ($0.83/GB)
  • 960GB for $600 ($0.62/GB)

Still much more expensive than a hard drive, but this does bring large capacity SSDs into the price range where ordinary people will be interested in buying some.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Controlling Apple TV with a third-party remote control

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An Apple TV box can be controlled with any IR remote control, not just the one Apple sells. No need for a universal remote - the Apple TV box learns what your existing remote transmits.

So, if you've got an old remote control from a device you no longer use, you can repurpose it for the Apple TV. Or if you have a universal remote, you can configure it for any unused code and have the Apple TV work with that.

I wish more devices supported this. Especially for those occasions when you have two identical devices in the same room (like at work, where our video-conference system has two identical big-screen TVs). This way, you can configure them to use different sets of codes.

I'm now wondering if I can do the same thing on my Mac mini. It has an IR sensor. If I can use a spare remote to make it do things (like run the DVD player app), that would be awesome. ... It turns out that there's an app for that at least for a small subset of commercially available remote controls.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

National Review: Don't Intervene In Syria

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National Review's Andrew McCarthy writes about policy in the Middle East and why the US should only intervene when there are clear American interests at stake:

Friday, April 05, 2013

OS X: Password may not be accepted after changing user's full name

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OS X: Password may not be accepted after changing user's full name

All I can say is d'Oh!

Newer Technology's MiniStack Max

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Newer Technology has recently released the MiniStack Max. According to the spec sheet, this device includes a hard drive, an optical drive, a USB 3.0 hub and an SD-XC card reader. And the pricing is very attractive.

Other World Computing is selling this for a variety of prices ranging from $150 (case-only - provide your own hard drive and optical drive) up to $570 (with a 4TB hard drive and Blu-Ray burner.)

And just to make it extra nice, it is designed to stack with a Mac mini and coordinate beautifully.

I haven't used one of these, but if this works as advertised, it's one of the nicest external drive chassis around.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Center For Consumer Freedom: Federal Court to Animal-Rights Legal Circus: Pay Up

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The Center For Consumer Freedom reports that Feld Entertainment was awarded attorney's fees in a long-standing suit brought by several animal-rights groups. The case was dismissed in 2009, and the dismissal was upheld by the appellate court in 2011. Hopefully, by awarding courts, this will strongly dissuade these groups from filing more abusive lawsuits

And let's face it, I love it when animal-rights nutcases get smacked down.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Popehat: College Is No Place For The Sex Talk

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Last week, the award-winning student newspaper for Central New Mexico Community College ran an issue all about sex. This prompted a massive backlash from the administration, who confiscated all issues of the paper and actually shut down the newspaper altogether.

At least until the complaints from the rest of the world got loud enough so that a day later, they made hasty and embarrassed about-face, inventing a lame excuse for what they did.

PopeHat (a great blog about law) wrote an article about this, including a fictitious conversation describing what the dean must have been thinking at the time.

Gatestone Institue: Jihadis' Exploitation of Muslim Girls

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What are the Muslim jihadis in Syria doing when they are not fighting against Bashar Assad's army?

According to reports in a number of Arab media outlets, the jihadis are importing Muslim girls to satisfy their sexual needs.

The sexual exploitation of girls was revealed after several Tunisian families reported that their teenage daughters had gone missing in recent months.

It later transpired that the girls had been dispatched to serve to Syria on "jihad marriages." In other words, the girls had been sent to Syria to satisfy the sexual needs of the anti-Assad jihadis.

Notice how nobody in the mainstream media cares to report on the fact that our terrorist enemies aren't only interested in killing Jews and Americans, but that they also enjoy kidnapping and raping girls - even other Muslims.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. These are uncivilized barbarians. We should be destroying them, not arming and negotiating with them.

Sultan Knish: The Bad Good

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Sultan Knish peeks beneath the covers and points out what all this nonsense about brand new "civil rights" is really about.

The only governing legal mandate is preventing oppression and that means government arbitrators deciding who is screaming, "Help, help, I'm being repressed!" the loudest and with the most sincerity.

A system in which the authorities grant rights based on who can best make the case to them that their rights have been taken away is a bad idea. It's an especially bad idea in a system like ours which is rapidly sliding in a direction in which the authorities are the sole arbiters of who should have any rights at all. If your oppressed status depends on your oppressors determining whether you are truly oppressed, then the only people who will have rights are those people whose rights the oppressors have not taken away by certifying them as oppressed.

It would be a dreadful simplification to call this lunatic state of affairs Orwellian or even Machiavellian. It makes even Kafka's worlds seem positively stodgy by comparison. It is a trial where the only people to be found not guilty are those who already been convicted. It's a system that favors the people who claim to be dispossessed by the system. It is an absurd self-negation that exists as a mathematical impossibility and a living satire.

Read the rest here...

Friday, March 29, 2013

National Review: Why Not Separate Marriage and State?

It would appear that at least a few people in the public spotlight are now considering a position that I discussed back in 2006 and that my father was talking about for several years prior to that.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Heritage Foundation: Cyprus Bank Raid: The Decaying Eurozone Is Rotting the European Union

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In case you've been living under a rock this past week and haven't been paying attention to the criminal government actions the EU is taking against the people of Cypress, please note this article and this one.

Cypress's economy has collapsed to the point where they want the EU to bail them out. As a part of this bailout deal, the Cypriot President agreed to an EU bailout (without Parliamentary approval) which will confiscate ('scuze me, tax) all bank deposits over €100,000 at 30-40%! Furthermore, new laws are in place prohibiting any significant withdrawals, check cashing and transport of significant amounts of cash from the country. So you can't (legally) avoid having 40% of your property stolen by a government that has overnight turned into a Stallinist tyranny.

Atlas Shrugs: The Whole Picture

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h/t Atlas Shrugs:

This picture will NEVER appear in the press.

Please show me another country (even the US) where a protester can get that far in the face of a soldier without a violent response. And show me another location where, if the solder responds in any way at all, the press will accuse him of brutality and oppression. I don't think even London palace guards would stoically accept such provocation.

Hypercritical: The Case for a True Mac Pro Successor

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h/t Daring Fireball

John Siracusa very adeptly makes the case for why Apple needs the Mac Pro product and must come out with a new model, even if the numbers don't show it to be very profitable.

The quick summary is that any technology company needs a flagship product that shows off the best, fastest and most powerful their engineers are capable of building. Even if it ends up expensive and a low-seller, it produces technologies that ultimately trickle down to the mass-market products, and it pulls through sales for the less expensive models.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Daily WTF: Accounting for Development

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Ah, the joys of working for a company that cares more about managing internal budgets and moving imaginary money around than about actually serving its customers. Sadly, this is probably true for all companies with more than one employee, and I'm not even so sure about that one...

Karen glared across her desk at Tom. "Did you install Visual Studio on your computer?"

"Yes," Tom replied, unsure why she radiated waves of fury at him.

"And did you request access to an Oracle instance for an application?"

"Um… yes?"

"Why would you do that?"

Read on...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

When government gets desperate, it resorts to outright theft

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As you may be aware, yesterday, the government of Cypress agreed to a Eurozone bailout that would effectively steal money from everybody with money in a Cypress bank regardless of amount or citizenship. Oh sure, they are calling it a tax on holdings, but that's just the politically-correct equivalent of sticking a gun to your head and demanding you hand over your money. For the largest accounts (like those used by some wealthy Russians), this "tax" will steal 15% of the account's balance. Smaller accounts will lost 3%.

It doesn't take a financial genius to realize that a few taxes like this will leave everybody destitute. Not even the government will come out ahead, because they'll just spend all the money on the same garbage that put them in this unsustainable debt spiral to begin with.

Needless to say, this decision caused ATMs nationwide to quickly be drained of all cash. If they hadn't made the announcement on a bank holiday, I'm sure there would have been runs large enough to make them all go out of business and really tank the local economy.

Fortunately, the Cypress Parliament told the EU to get bent and refused to accept the terms of this bailout.

Don Melton: Regarding fake projects and loyalty tests

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Don Melton: Regarding fake projects and loyalty tests

Don Melton writes, from first hand experience about the stupid rumor about Apple assigning engineers to fake projects in order to test their loyalty. Needless to say, the idea is stupid for many reasons:

... That’s not even duplicated effort. That’s completely superfluous work. When you have a focus on efficiency like Apple, why would you waste time and resources doing that?

Apple is also known for having very high standards when it comes to hiring. And it’s clear that those candidates who make it through the interview process, are offered a job, and finally accept employment — well, those folks really want to be at Apple.

It’s also common knowledge that Apple keeps what they’re working on a secret until it’s unveiled to the public. There are very explicit rules for employees ...

... Now, if Apple is going to screen candidates so thoroughly and then explain the rules to them so carefully after they’re hired, what is the point of an additional loyalty test?

None. It’s a stupid idea. Not only stupid, it’s insulting to the person you just hired. And basically an excellent way to demotivate the person you invested so much time in finding.

Although it's probably a complete waste of time trying to determine the origin of crazy myths like this, I think I can see where this one might have gotten started.

Apple is well known for having a lot of secret R&D projects. These projects may stretch on for years before they become products, or they may be canceled without ever becoming a product. For example, R&D for the iPad began 8 years before it shipped. And work on an Intel version of Mac OS X began in 2000 even though it wasn't announced until 2005.

So what do you think happens when an engineer is assigned to some such early-phase R&D project, works on it for a few years, and then leaves the company and doesn't see any products related to his work several years after that? He assumes he must have been working on a fake project - after all, any other company would make a point of shipping something after years of development work. No company would sit on great technology for a decade without shipping a product, right? Well, maybe no other company would, but Apple has, and they have done so many times.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Heritage Foundation: Obamacare: Projected Premium Increases by State

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To my friends and relatives in Virginia, our health insurance premiums are expected to go up by 75-85% as a result of Obamacare. Folks in Maryland and NJ will see a large (but not quite as large) a spike (34-39% and 39%, respectively) because they are already paying huge premiums as a result of state-mandated insurance laws.

No, this is not some scare tactic from a random pundit. These figures come straight from an official government report from the House of Representatives.

And there's nothing you can do about it. The people of the United States voted for a socialist. Now we've all got to do what he says and pay what he tells you to pay.

Krebs on Security: The World Has No Room For Cowards

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And you thought you had problems. Write an article that pisses off the wrong criminal and they'll forge a 911 call that looks like it came from your phone. You'll have the unmatched pleasure of trying to explain yourself to a police SWAT team while handcuffed with guns pointed at your head.

Fortunately for Mr. Krebs, he got a threat about this several months ago and informed law enforcement that this might happen, so the situation was resolved with a few phone calls. The next person they do this to might not get a warning.

I thought it was bad that I was put on someone's list for complaining about spam in a public forum, but this takes the cake.

Now the real question is: will the FBI decide to investigate this or will it all get swept under the rug? In any sane world, a coordinated attack like this should produce a swift and strong response against the guilty party. But the world is anything but sane.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wikipedia: History of the Jews in Ireland

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In honor of St. Patrick's day, I thought it might be interesting to share the following bit of history:

History of the Jews in Ireland
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The history of the Jews in Ireland extends back nearly a thousand years. Although the Jewish community has always been small in numbers (always less than 4,000 by religion since at least 1891), it is well established and has generally been well-accepted into Irish life. Jews in Ireland have historically enjoyed a relative tolerance that was largely absent elsewhere in Europe.

Friday, March 15, 2013

AP: Worker who set fire to sub sentenced to 17 years

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A shipyard worker who set fire to rags aboard a nuclear submarine because he wanted to go home was sentenced to a little more than 17 years in federal prison Friday for the blaze that transformed the vessel into a fiery furnace, injured seven people and caused about $450 million in damage.

IMO, he got off easy. I'd give him more time, at hard labor, and I'd garnish his salary for the rest of his life to pay for the damage. (Yes, I know nobody can ever make enough to pay $450M, but he can at least compensate the crew for their destroyed personal property.)

And look at his face. He's got crazy eyes. I'll bet he's been trouble since he was old enough to walk.

Sultan Knish: Shadow of the Gun

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Sultan Knish: Shadow of the Gun

Once again, Sultan Knish tells the real story that nobody wants to talk about.

Every day another one of the stories comes in. A teacher panicked by a plastic gun, an army man on a cupcake, a t-shirt, a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun or a finger gun hits the panic button. Supensions and lectures quickly follow as the latest threat to the gun-free zone, usually in the form of a little boy, is tackled to the ground and lectured to within an inch of his life.

Tellingly these incidents rarely take place in the inner city schools where teenage gang members walk through metal detectors at the start of the day. The safety officers in those schools, big weary men with eyes that look everywhere at once, don’t waste their time on toys. Not unless those toys are full-size, painted black and filed down to look like real guns.

It’s usually the schools where a shooting is wholly unlikely; where gun violence is not a daily reality, but an unlikely convergence of horror, that institutional vigilance hits an irrational peak as every school imagines that it could be the next Columbine or the next Sandy Hook.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Google Blog: A second spring of cleaning

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Google Blog: A second spring of cleaning

... We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

Boston drivers to their cars: Shut up and drive

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Boston drivers to their cars: Shut up and drive - -

Yep. Interactive things like GPS is very nice when it works, but when it doesn't it's worse than nothing.

Various GPS apps for iOS and Android have all made me so angry that I no longer use any of them, and I'm looking forwarding to ditching my smartphone altogether, when I get up to the next renewal point in my contract.

I'm so fed up with half-assed technology that I just want to be rid of all of it. Let me go back to the way I was living in the 80's, where equipment was dumb, but usually worked and was easy to fix the rest of the time. Today, manufacturers ship stuff without testing, and when you complain, they treat you as if you are the problem. And then they expect you to pay big bucks for the next version, which will be even more broken than before.

I like my electronic toys, but I no longer want to have to rely on any of them in my life. They're just too unreliable to be used as anything other than toys.

Beetle Bailey for 3/14/2013

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Sort of remind me of myself, but I've only has personal experience with cat and dogs. I don't want to try getting cuddly with a bear or a snake.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Google Glass feature no one is talking about — Creative Good

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The Google Glass feature no one is talking about — Creative Good

Google Glass might change your life, but not in the way you think.

... lifebits, the ability to record video of the people, places, and events around you, at all times. ...

The key experiential question of Google Glass isn’t what it’s like to wear them, it’s what it’s like to be around someone else who’s wearing them. ... you don’t know if they’re taking a video of you.

Now pretend you don’t know a single person who wears Google Glass… and take a walk outside. Anywhere you go in public – any store, any sidewalk, any bus or subway – you’re liable to be recorded: audio and video. Fifty people on the bus might be Glassless, but if a single person wearing Glass gets on, you – and all 49 other passengers – could be recorded. Not just for a temporary throwaway video buffer, like a security camera, but recorded, stored permanently, and shared to the world. ...

... the video all streams into Google’s own cloud of servers. Now add in facial recognition and the identity database that Google is building within Google Plus ... Finally, consider the speech-to-text software that Google already employs, both in its servers and on the Glass devices themselves. Any audio in a video could, technically speaking, be converted to text, tagged to the individual who spoke it, and made fully searchable within Google’s search index. ...

Let’s return to the bus ride. It’s not a stretch to imagine that you could immediately be identified by that Google Glass user who gets on the bus and turns the camera toward you. Anything you say within earshot could be recorded, associated with the text, and tagged to your online identity. And stored in Google’s search index. Permanently.

Read the whole article for all the rest. Suffice it to say that Glass has the potential to completely eliminate any concept of privacy. And all done without any government intervention, and as a result of individuals voluntarily paying lots of money for the privilege.

Maybe it won't happen, but I would never bet against people being catastrophically stupid simply because someone says it's "cool".

Mind you, I happen to like the idea of being able to record everything you see and hear, so you can later cut/paste excerpts to keep for posterity. It means you won't miss a moment simply because it took too long to get your camera. But for me, I want those videos to stay in my possession. I want to be the one who decides what gets shared with the world and I certainly don't want some faceless corporation storing and cross-referencing my entire life for everybody else in the world to go picking through.

Daring Fireball: Open and Shut

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Daring Fireball thoroughly demolishes a brain-dead essay from a recent issue of The New Yorker.

In the original article, Tim Wu (the author) tries to claim that "openness" (whatever that means) is essential to success. Unless you happen to be Steve Jobs - then you can violate all the rules and be more successful than anyone else. But the rest of the world had better not try to keep any secrets or impose any restrictions on their products.

The DF article shows, on a point-by-point basis, how Wu's article makes no sense, how his examples distort facts and do not present reality, and how his conclusions are not supported even by his own fabricated evidence. The real truth is that great products, released in a timely manner, are what determines success. Being open or closed is pretty much irrelevant. And having a genius in a position of power is beneficial regardless of your corporate culture.

Avoiding TV...

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I think I can agree with this sentiment. I don't draw a webcomic, but I definitely get less upset when I don't listen to the news.

Of course, our elected officials are still doing everything in their power to systematically dismantle the country as fast as possible, whether or not I pay attention....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Messages From the Future: The Fate of Google Glass

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Messages From the Future: The Fate of Google Glass

Ow. What a painful analysis. But it's probably going to be correct. Assuming anybody actually buys Google Glass in the first place, of course.

FOSS Patents: UK judge who issued extreme ruling for Samsung against Apple hired by... Samsung!

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FOSS Patents: UK judge who issued extreme ruling for Samsung against Apple hired by... Samsung!

I call shenanigans!

... For someone so concerned with "integrity" it is utterly unusual to issue a high-profile and extreme ruling in favor of a particular party (Samsung in this case) only to be hired as an expert by that same party in another dispute. But that's what has happened here, and I wonder how certain people in Cupertino feel about it. ...

AP: China may end long-hated labor re-education camps

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China may end long-hated labor re-education camps

BEIJING (AP) — All it took was a handwritten note from police to send Zhao Meifu to a labor camp for a year in China's arid northwest.

The farmer had been seeking redress for decades over a land grab by village officials. Tired of her complaints, police saw the labor camp as a quick way to get rid of her. "They did not like my mother, so they locked her up," Zhao's son, Guo Dajun, said in a recent interview.

It's great that such atrocities may finally come to an end in China, but it is disgusting that the world has turned a blind eye to these political prisons for the past 60 years.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Rationalist Judaism: The Locusts Are Coming! Yum!

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Rationalist Judaism: The Locusts Are Coming! Yum!

I love the irony of Egypt being hit by a plague of locusts just a few weeks before Pesach, in the year when their government was taken over by terrorists.

We've already seen the blood.  When will the frogs, vermin, boils, hail, etc. hit them?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

XKCD What-If?: Hair Dryer

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What would happen if you'd seal a hair dryer in a box and leave it turned on perpetually? And what if you increased the power by a few orders of magnitude?

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Mad at the internet (as usual) and looking for hosting

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I've decided that social media is not trustworthy. I've been forming this opinion for quite some time and have decided that I no longer want to be a part of it.

As such, I have suspended my accounts at Facebook, Twitter and LiveJournal. I assume they'll auto-delete after a while.

For now, I'll be keeping this blog, in case I see stuff I want to share with the world.

Unfortunately, Google is far too entrenched in my life for me to turn it off at this time. That's going to require a bit more planning.

When I get the time (yeah, I know, I know), I plan on purchasing my own hosting account somewhere where I can host my own web site (including blog and photo pages) and mailboxes. Once that's in place, I will be able to get out from under Google as well.

If you have experience with low-cost hosting companies and have some recommendations, I'd love to hear them. (But note that I'll ignore any message that doesn't come from someone I know - I'm not going to accidentally give money to a spammer!)

I am not interested in any kind of "free" or ad-sponsored hosting service. Those are no better than Google and all the rest. They can't be trusted with personal information. As many have said before, if you're not paying for the service, then you are not the customer, you are the product. Well I'm sick and tired of being everybody else's product.