Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Yet another reason to never use PayPal

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I have always hated eBay/PayPal corporation because of their brain-dead approach to security. I drop-kicked them to the curb over 2 years ago because they wanted me to prove my identity (simply because they didn't like the company hosting my e-mail address) using more documentation than the bank required when I got my mortgage.

Well, just in case you didn't think that mattered, security researcher Brian Krebs just reported that his account was hacked - twice in one day - by a hacker with likely ties to terrorism using nothing more than a phone call to customer support and publicly available information (like a social security number and an old credit card number.)

PayPal's official response to this was that they couldn't do anything to prevent it. But they could require Mr. Krebs to send over copies of lots of sensitive ID documents in order to try and get his account back.

It's slim comfort to know that I'm still right about how PayPal is run by a gang of mindless jerks. They make it trivially easy for a hacker to steal your account, but they make it insanely difficult for the legitimate account owner to get his access back.

Am I the only one who thinks it couldn't be worse if it was run by the criminal syndicates themselves? And based on everything I read, I'm not so sure they're not.

Read the rest of the story: 2016 Reality: Lazy Authentication Still the Norm

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Mount an iPad Pro in a Ford F150

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OK, this is cool.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Not something I'll ever do, but I think it's a real awesome project.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Krebs on Security: Chipotle Serves Up Chips, Guac & HR Email

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Chipotle Serves Up Chips, Guac & HR Email
Brian Krebs, November 15, 2015

The restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill seems pretty good at churning out huge numbers of huge burritos, but the company may need to revisit some basic corporate cybersecurity concepts. For starters, Chipotle’s human resources department has been replying to new job applicants using the domain "chipotlehr.com" — a Web site name that the company has never owned or controlled.

Translation: Until last week, anyone could have read email destined for the company’s HR department just by registering the domain "chipotlehr.com". Worse, Chipotle itself has inadvertently been pointing this out for months in emails to everyone who’s applied for a job via the company’s Web site.

Wow. Read on to learn the extent of their incredible ineptitude. They apparently have no problem with:

  • Sending mail with a return address that nobody owns
  • Sending out official HR mail with a bogus return address
  • When informed that this is a security problem (and that some third party has registered the domain and is actively receiving mail intended for Chipotle HR) they still don't care because it's supposed to be a bogus return address.
  • When the person who registered the domain offered to give it to them for free, they declined

You would think that somebody somewhere in their IT problem would see this as a problem, but apparently not.

Krebs links to another article from 2008 about someone who registered donotreply.com in order to capture all the mail sent to what corporations assume to be a bogus domain. Some of the mail captured has been highly sensitive business and financial information. All because a company can't be bothered to use a real mailbox (or at least their own domain) as a return address in their outbound e-mail.

If it wasn't real, it would be really funny.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

HubPages: 86 Mac Plus Vs. 07 AMD DualCore. You Won't Believe Who Wins

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86 Mac Plus Vs. 07 AMD DualCore. You Won't Believe Who Wins
Hal Licino, last updated on March 20, 2011

The Most Outlandish Computer Comparison Ever!

Bloat. If you think that Americans are getting fatter, take one good look at the operating system (OS) your computer is running right now. It gets larger and more weighed down with every update. We are in the third decade of global personal computing, and have we really progressed that far?
...
For the functions that people use most often, the 1986 vintage Mac Plus beats the 2007 AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+: 9 tests to 8! Out of the 17 tests, the antique Mac won 53% of the time! Including a jaw-dropping 52 second whipping of the AMD from the time the Power button is pushed to the time the Desktop is up and useable.
...
Is this to say that the Mac Plus is a better computer than the AMD? Of course not. The technological advancements of 21 years have placed modern PCs in a completely different league of varied capacities. But the "User Experience" has not changed much in two decades. Due to bloated code that has to incorporate hundreds of functions that average users don't even know exist, let alone ever utilize, the software companies have weighed down our PCs to effectively neutralize their vast speed advantages. When we compare strictly common, everyday, basic user tasks between the Mac Plus and the AMD we find remarkable similarities in overall speed, thus it can be stated that for the majority of simple office uses, the massive advances in technology in the past two decades have brought zero advance in productivity.

h/t What The Daily WTF?

I have no problem believing these results either. Not counting the need for modern HTML rendering and web security standards, there is really nothing I do with computers today that I couldn't do with the hardware and software I was using back in the mid-90's. I would be a bit cramped with a Mac Plus, but I would have no problem with a Mac Quadra 840AV, which I used for a long time until one day the hardware simply refused to power-on anymore.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sultan Knish: Crymobs, Crybullying and the Left’s Whiny War on Speech

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Crymobs, Crybullying and the Left’s Whiny War on Speech
By Daniel Greenfield
Friday, November 13, 2015

The left is a victimhood cult. It feeds off pain and fetishizes suffering as a moral commodity to be sold and resold in exchange for political power.
...
The victimocracy’s foot soldier is the crybully. The crybully is the abuser who pretends to be a victim. His arguments are his feelings. He comes armored in identity politics entitlement and is always yelling about social justice or crying social justice tears.
...
Crybullies are everything they claim to abhor. They are narcissists who complain about selfishness. Completely incapable of human empathy, they whine that no one cares about their feelings. They are prone to cowardly acts of violence, but demand safe spaces. They are bullies who say they’re bullied.

The crybully embodies the left. He is an oppressed oppressor. An abusive victim. A self-righteous hypocrite. A loudmouth censor. A civil rights activist who wants to take everyone’s rights away.

Once again, Sultan Knish cuts through all of the whining and media nonsense and gets straight to the truth. Go read the full article now.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Auto-rooting malware for Android

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Three new malware strains infect 20k apps, impossible to wipe, only affect Android
By Daniel Eran Dilger
Thursday, November 05, 2015, 02:40 pm PT (05:40 pm ET)

A new adware scourge injecting itself into popular apps such as Facebook and Twitter is also "virtually impossible to uninstall," requiring infected users to replace their phones. Because it only affects users of Google's open-store Android app model, the device replacement requirement may accelerate the trend of users switching to iOS.

"A new trend for adware and an alarming one at that"

Three new families of "auto-rooting adware," detailed by security researchers at Lookout, are "a worrying development in the Android ecosystem" because each can root the device and install itself as a system application, making the contamination virtually impossible to remove as the infection is designed to survive even a "factory data reset" device wipe.

The group found infections among more than 20,000 popular apps, with many contaminated apps appearing to be legitimate, working titles ranging from Candy Crush to Facebook to Snapchat, WhatsApp, The New York Times and even Google Now.

I could use this article as the basis for a gratuitous swipe at Android and laugh at people who protest Apple's rules that force all installations to go through their App Store, but that would just be rude.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Sultan Knish: Our Insecure Culture Warrors

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Our Insecure Culture Warrors
by Daniel Greenfield
Monday, November 02, 2015

Culture War 2.0 is as inescapable as it is obnoxious. Its loudest proponents, the Social Justice Warriors, live off a drama that they create, playing enlightened victim-activists fighting micro-struggles against micro-aggressions in areas most people have never even thought about.
...
Culture War 2.0 is culturally crazy. Its personal dysfunction so entangled with politics that there is no way to tell where one begins and the other ends. It politicizes insecurity and narcissism for campaigns that are indistinguishable from trolling. It reduces every issue to personal unhappiness and demands the abolition of traditional freedoms and rights as the answer to that unhappiness.

What more can I add? Go read the full article.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Metro's lying signage

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I take mass transit to work every day. Part of my trip involves taking Washington MetroRail. It's more expensive than it should be for the short distance I travel, and there are often random delays. This is aggravating, but those are the breaks.

What I don't like is the fact that the computer signage is frequently wrong. Not just off by a minute or so, but so far off that some trains don't seem to even exist! You may think that this is just an unfortunate system glitch, but this has now happened three times in the past 6 commuter-days I've traveled.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Scientific American: It's Time to End the War on Salt

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It's Time to End the War on Salt
The zealous drive by politicians to limit our salt intake has little basis in science
By Melinda Wenner Moyer - July 8, 2011

For decades, policy makers have tried and failed to get Americans to eat less salt. In April 2010 the Institute of Medicine urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the amount of salt that food manufacturers put into products; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already convinced 16 companies to do so voluntarily. But if the U.S. does conquer salt, what will we gain? Bland french fries, for sure. But a healthy nation? Not necessarily.

This week a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure. In May European researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the less sodium that study subjects excreted in their urine—an excellent measure of prior consumption—the greater their risk was of dying from heart disease. These findings call into question the common wisdom that excess salt is bad for you, but the evidence linking salt to heart disease has always been tenuous.

I'm going to show this article to everybody who gets in my face about salt consumption.

Junk science combined with megalomaniacal politicians is not justification for controlling what people are allowed to eat, especially when the scientific evidence shows that it actually endangers health.

ArsTechnica: Surface Book review

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Surface Book review: The hybrid that really does replace your laptop
It ain't cheap, but it is pretty.
by Peter Bright - Oct 21, 2015 9:00am EDT

This is the machine that I've wanted Microsoft to build ever since it embarked on its Surface adventure in 2012.

The build quality, materials, and design of the Surface line have always impressed, but the tablet form factor continually limited its appeal. Changes to the Surface Pro 3 enabled Microsoft to carve out a niche for its "productivity tablet," and the Surface Pro 4 is a solid upgrade and refinement, but there's one thing those devices are not — a laptop.

The laptop form factor, with a stiff hinge that can hold the screen up, is tried, trusted, and tremendously popular. It is equally at home on a desk in the office, on your lap on a train or a plane, or even at home in bed or on the sofa. It can be used in all these places while still offering high quality keyboards and pointers, large screens, abundant ports, big batteries, and high performance. The Surface offered some of these things, but the laptop form factor always offered more. ...

A good review of this product.

Although I can't see myself needing to buy a new Windows PC, I have been very impressed by what I've seen in the Surface devices and this one seems better than them all. My only concern is that the high-end model is very expensive - too much to me worthwhile if all I do with it is replace my old Windows XP box (which works great, but no longer gets any security updates from Microsoft.)

I'll be very interested to see final pricing and if they fix the dock/undock bug that Ars reported.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Now THAT's a durable screen!

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Knock nail into wood! OUKITEL K4000 had a screen test that it won’t beak if hit by an iron hammer, but will the screen break if it is used as a hammer to knock other things?
Details in Official website: http://www.oukitel.cc/products/universe/201509/92.html
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/oukitelmobile

That's got to be the most cringe-worthy cell phone torture test I've ever seen. I wonder what they are doing to provide the promised 9H hardness and 800MPa stress value. Is it a sapphire crystal display? That's the only thing I can think of that might work.

I hope Apple sees this and manages to license the tech. I want my iPhone screen to be this strong.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hacker Who Sent Brian Krebs Heroin Faces Charges in U.S.

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Hacker Who Sent Me Heroin Faces Charges in U.S.

A Ukrainian hacker who once hatched a plot to have heroin sent to my Virginia home and then alert police when the drugs arrived had his first appearance in a U.S. court today, after being extradited to the United States to face multiple cybercrime charges.

It's a very interesting read and a warning about what you may have to deal with if you make a career out of exposing cybercriminals. Fortunately, this story has a good ending.

Friday, October 09, 2015

FastCompany: Why The Steve Jobs In Aaron Sorkin's Movie Could Never Have Saved Apple

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Why The Steve Jobs In Aaron Sorkin's Movie Could Never Have Saved Apple

The movie is full of fictions. Many are minor details. One character accuses Jobs of having "multiple billions of dollars" — but the movie ends in 1998, and Jobs didn’t actually get that kind of money until 2006, when Disney bought Pixar (a company that isn’t even mentioned in the movie). Other fictions are major, including several invented confrontations between Jobs and Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, Mac genius Andy Hertzfeld, and ex-CEO John Sculley. And then there’s the grand fiction of omission in the final act, which hinges on an imagined reconciliation between Jobs and Lisa—the daughter whose paternity he once denied—before his 1998 introduction of the iMac. Moviegoers have no way of knowing that by 1998 the real Steve Jobs had been married for seven years, was raising three children with his wife, had brought Lisa under their roof, and had been profoundly changed by his family life in the slow-yet-sudden way that is so common to so many people.

Steve Jobs screenwriter Sorkin has claimed his right to tinker with history for the sake of art. In the past few weeks, he has asserted that his goal was never to create a biopic. "Walter [Isaacson]’s biography had to be about what happened," Sorkin told Wired. "It had to be a piece of journalism. When I write something, there is actually a requirement to be subjective; it’s really the difference between a photograph and a painting." He also told the Wall Street Journal, when asked about some of the movie’s most memorable lines of dialogue, "If any of them are real, it’s a remarkable coincidence." And Sorkin has repeatedly cited something the late Mike Nichols told him during the creation of Charlie Wilson’s War: "Art isn’t about what happened."

h/t Daring Fireball

I wasn't planning on seeing this movie, and after reading this review (please read the whole thing) I really don't want to.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Introducing the DJI Osmo

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h/t AppleInsider

I'm not very familiar with products already available to those making movies with phones, but this device looks really awesome. I'm sure this kind of steadicam tech has been around for a long time, but this is the first I've seen of it in a (relatively) inexpensive device integrated with a smartphone, and I'm very impressed.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before the U.N. on October 1, 2015

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A great speech by the Churchill of our day. Anyone not on the side of the terrorists should agree with what he said. Quite notably, however, the US delegation did not applaud, even when the rest of the world did.

h/t Pamella Geller's Atlas Shrugs

Monday, September 28, 2015

Powerline Blog: The Mystery of Pope Francis: Was There a Vatican Coup?

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The Mystery of Pope Francis: Was There a Vatican Coup?

One thing that that has puzzled a lot of people since the selection of Pope Francis two years ago is how a left-leaning Pope could succeed two very serious conservative Popes—John Paul II and Benedict XVI—who you would have thought had stacked the ranks of the Cardinals with clergy that would perpetuate their theological and philosophical outlook. Was Benedict hounded out of office by some kind of internal Vatican scandal perhaps? Was there some ecclesiastical version of a coup?

There’s no evidence that I’m aware of—until now. Three days ago the National Catholic Register ran a very curious article about the contents of a newly published authorized biography of retired Belgian cardinal Godfried Danneels. ...

Read on and follow the links for the rest of the story.

Not being Catholic, I find the entire matter mostly amusing. If, however I was a devout Catholic, I would be really angry to learn about this information. A movement within the Vatican to promote left-wing social agenda items as official Church dogma is an offense to every single Catholic that believes the Bible (and until now, the Pope's words) is God's word and is not subject to being changed by the day-to-day whims of the secular political world.

It will be interesting to see what kind of fallout will occur now that this information is known. Will Catholics abandon the Church? Will they put enough pressure to expose this conspiracy and replace the Pope again? Or will they just sit back and accept that the Church is ordering them to do a complete 180 on critical (to Catholics) matters of faith? Given the fact that the more liberal churches tend to lose congregants as a result of liberal policies, I expect the response to be closer to the former than the the latter.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Heraclitean River: Why two spaces after a period isn't wrong (or, the lies typographers tell about history)

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Why two spaces after a period isn't wrong (or, the lies typographers tell about history)

The topic of spacing after a period (or “full stop” in some parts of the world) has received a lot of attention in recent years.  The vitriol that the single-space camp has toward the double-spacers these days is quite amazing, and typographers have made up an entire fake history to justify their position.

The story usually goes something like this:

Once upon a time, typographical practice was anarchy.  Printers put in all sizes of spaces in haphazard ways, including after periods.  Then, a standard emerged: the single space after a period.  Unfortunately, the evil typewriter came along, and for some unknown reason (usually blamed on monospace fonts), people began to put wider double spaces after periods.  Typographers railed against the practice, but they could do nothing.  Actual printed work used the single space, but the morons with their typewriters could not be stopped.  Early computers and printers used similar monospace typefaces, and the evil persisted.  Then, in the past couple decades, it became possible to use proportional fonts easily, and finally typographers could step in and save the day again with their single sentence spaces!  The only people today who continue to use double spaces are stodgy old typing teachers and ignorant fools, who dare to think that their practice is okay in the face of the verdict of the experts in typography.
...
Unfortunately, this whole story is a fairy tale, made up by typographers to make themselves feel like they are correct in some absolute way.  The account is riddled with historical fabrication.  Here are some facts:

  • There were earlier standards before the single-space standard, and they involved much wider spaces after sentences.
  • Typewriter practice actually imitated the larger spaces of the time when typewriters first came to be used.  They adopted the practice of proportional fonts into monospace fonts, rather than the other way around.
  • Literally centuries of typesetters and printers believed that a wider space was necessary after a period, particularly in the English-speaking world.  It was the standard since at least the time that William Caslon created the first English typeface in the early 1700s (and part of a tradition that went back further), and it was not seriously questioned among English or American typesetters until the 1920s or so.
  • The “standard” of one space is maybe 60 years old at the most, with some publishers retaining wider spaces as a house style well into the 1950s and even a few in the 1960s.
  • As for the “ugly” white space, the holes after the sentence were said to make it easier to parse sentences.  Earlier printers had advice to deal with the situations where the holes became too numerous or looked bad.
  • The primary reasons for the move to a single uniform space had little to do with a consensus among expert typographers concerning aesthetics.  Instead, the move was driven by publishers who wanted cheaper publications, decreasing expertise in the typesetting profession, and new technology that made it difficult (and sometimes impossible) to conform to the earlier wide-spaced standards.

I can't begin to tell your how much this article is a breath of fresh air.

Do you think discussing religion or politics is a good way to make total strangers hate your guts and threaten violence against you and your family and everybody you brushed up against on the subway for the last six months?   That's nothing compared to what will happen if you dare to discuss sentence spacing with typography nerds.

Or even worse, ask one what font should be used.   Or even worse, dare to suggest that web pages should respect a user's personal font/size preferences (as configured in his web browser) and not force a style that may not be readable on the user's device.   Does anyone really think that a single font will look equally good on a 1200dpi printout, a 300dpi Retina screen, a 72dpi CRT monitor, a Kindle, a mobile phone and a wristwatch?   Typography nerds will insist that they know best and that you are an evil human being if you dare suggest that they can't possibly know what's best for every single device that might someday be used to display the text.   I've actually been personally attacked and banned from an on-line forum (one having nothing to do with typography) for making this suggestion.

Read the rest of the article for a great history on the subject.   And I love the fact that the author has deliberately formatted it using an extra-wide space between all the sentences!   As a show of solidarity, I've done the same for this article.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Krebs On Security: Inside Target Corp., Days After 2013 Breach

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Inside Target Corp., Days After 2013 Breach

In December 2013, just days after a data breach exposed 40 million customer debit and credit card accounts, Target Corp. hired security experts at Verizon to probe its networks for weaknesses. The results of that confidential investigation — until now never publicly revealed — confirm what pundits have long suspected: Once inside Target’s network, there was nothing to stop attackers from gaining direct and complete access to every single cash register in every Target store.

A great read and a great description of how not to organize the IT infrastructure of a giant retail-sales corporation.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Intercept: TSA Doesn't Care That Its Luggage Locks Have Been Hacked

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TSA Doesn't Care That Its Luggage Locks Have Been Hacked

In a spectacular failure of a "back door" designed to give law enforcement exclusive access to private places, hackers have made the "master keys" for Transportation Security Administration-recognized luggage locks available to anyone with a 3D printer.

The TSA-recognized luggage locks were a much-vaunted solution to a post-9/11 conundrum: how to let people lock their luggage, on the one hand, but let the TSA inspect it without resorting to bolt cutters, on the other.

When the locks were first introduced in 2003, TSA official Ken Lauterstein described them as part of the agency’s efforts to develop "practical solutions that contribute toward our goal of providing world-class security and world-class customer service."

Now that they’ve been hacked, however, TSA says it doesn’t really care one way or another.

This doesn't surprise me very much. I'm actually kind of surprised that it took this long for the TSA master keys to be leaked out to the Internet. It does, however, bother me that TSA's response is that since it "does not create a threat to aviation security" they don't care.

xkcd: Tech Loops

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I know the feeling. Every now and then, I think about what I actually use computers for (outside of my job, of course,) and it's not a whole lot:

  • Spreadsheets - household budgets and a few related things
  • Database - simple databases to track all the books, music and videos I own
  • E-mail
  • Web browser - mostly for reading web-comics, buying stuff off of Amazon and logging in to my bank account
  • iTunes - mostly for ripping CDs and loading my iPods. And for making backups of what's on my phone
  • Family photos - seems like this is a write-only repository. I rarely look at any of them, but I want to keep them organized here. I would probably be better off printing the pictures and making albums, like I did before I started using digital cameras.

It's very sobering to realize that for most of what I do, my old Apple II with 128K RAM and two floppy drives would be sufficient. And that old system might even be faster, since it won't have the massively bloated overhead of every modern operating system. Maybe I should consider switching back. I just need to figure out how to print to my laser printer and where to buy a box of blank floppy disks.

More seriously, any computer from the 90's would be more than adequate for everything here, except for iTunes. And that's only because I need it to support my iPhone. 20 years of massive improvements in hardware just to do what we've always done at the same speed we've always done it. So much for progress.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Krebs on Security: Tracking a Bluetooth Skimmer Gang in Mexico

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Tracking a Bluetooth Skimmer Gang in Mexico

-Sept. 9, 12:30 p.m. CT, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico: Halfway down the southbound four-lane highway from Cancun to the ancient ruins in Tulum, traffic inexplicably slowed to a halt. There was some sort of checkpoint ahead by the Mexican Federal Police. I began to wonder whether it was a good idea to have brought along the ATM skimmer instead of leaving it in the hotel safe. If the cops searched my stuff, how could I explain having ultra-sophisticated Bluetooth ATM skimmer components in my backpack?

The above paragraph is an excerpt that I pulled from the body of Part II in this series of articles and video essays stemming from a recent four-day trip to Mexico. During that trip, I found at least 19 different ATMs that all apparently had been hacked from the inside and retrofitted with tiny, sophisticated devices that store and transmit stolen card data and PINs wirelessly.

Security researcher, Brian Krebs, has been writing extensively about ATM and credit card skimming devices. Typically, these are devices attached to the outside of a terminal - they record card data for later retrieval by criminals. This scam, however, is different. It is installed inside the ATM, and the data is retrieved wirelessly. And it would appear that the crime ring responsible has compromised nearly every ATM in the tourist regions of Mexico.

If you're planning a trip to Mexico, bring all the cash you need in advance. After reading these articles, I wouldn't use my ATM/debit card anywhere in that country. Pay cash where possible. Use credit (preferably with a chip-and-PIN card or something encrypted like Apple Pay) everywhere else. It's clear to me that (at least until this crime ring is brought to justice - which might be a long time) no ATM in the country should be consider trustworthy. (To be fair, part 3 points out that all the compromised machines were standalone machines. ATMs owned and operated by banks appeared to be clean.)

There are currently three parts to this article:

Monday, September 14, 2015

VG24/7: Debut footage of Katamari Damacy creator’s PS4 title Wattam surfaces

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Debut footage of Katamari Damacy creator’s PS4 title Wattam surfaces

Footage of Wattam has surfaced, and it provides the viewer with the first in-game look at the PS4 game from Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi.

The game was announced during Sony’s PlayStation Experience event last year, and is in development at Funomena, which was formed by former thatgamecompany vets Robin Hunicke and Martin Middleton.

At the time, the only footage of the game shown was of game world’s Mayor. Other characters reveals were promised for 2015, and Funomena has delivered on said promise, as you can see various inhabitants dancing around in the video.

Another wacky and inexplicable Japanese video game! Just the kind I love. (You can keep your MMORPGs and first-person shooters and race games. I want to play the weird stuff.) This might end up being the killer app that convinces me that I need to get a PS4. (The other possibility would be Rock Band 4...)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary

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Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary
Android is open—except for all the good parts.

Google has always given itself some protection against alternative versions of Android. What many people think of as "Android" actually falls into two categories: the open parts from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), which are the foundation of Android, and the closed source parts, which are all the Google-branded apps. While Google will never go the entire way and completely close Android, the company seems to be doing everything it can to give itself leverage over the existing open source project. And the company's main method here is to bring more and more apps under the closed source "Google" umbrella.

Every so often, I read articles or blog comments about how Android is superior to iOS because Google is "open" and Apple is "closed" and how Apple's "walled garden" is evil, but Google is good because Android is open source.

Not really. As this Ars Technica article from 2013 points out, it's not really true. While the core OS is open source, all of the stuff customers care about are not part of the OS - they're part of closed-source apps that can only be downloaded via the Google Play store. And any manufacturer that uses a custom fork of Android, for any reason, is summarily declared "incompatible" and is banned from the Play Store - meaning their customers will have no access to the apps and features that Android customers worldwide are demanding.

Is this pseudo-openness really any better than Apple's ecosystem, where Apple controls everything and there is no attempt to hide this fact?

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Be sure to read the fine print

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Today, while reading my morning comics, I saw an ad for a prepaid debit card with art from the comic strip on the face. I thought, "oh how cute" and that maybe it might be good in a few years when my daughter goes to college, in lieu of traveler's cheques or cash for spending.

Then I clicked on the link to see what the fees are. And OMG, was I blown away by the incredible rip-off this cute card turns out to be:

FeeAmount
Monthly Maintenance Fee $5.95 (Waived if you direct deposit $800 every month)
Domestic ATM Cash Withdrawal Fee $3.00 (per transaction)
International ATM Cash Withdrawal Fee $3.00 (per transaction)
Over-the-Counter Withdrawal Fee Domestic and International $3.00 (per transaction)
Balance Inquiry PIN & ATM transactions, Domestic and International ATM $1.00 (per transaction)
Card Account Closure Fee $7.00 (Charged if a check is issued for funds on your Card Account and Card Account is closed)
Paper Copy of Statement Fee $2.00 (per monthly paper statement requested)
CSR Express Delivery Fee $20.00 (per card; when Card is expedited and reissued or replaced for any reason.)
Foreign Transaction Fee 2.95% (per transaction)
Replacement Card
We do our best to protect you. If your card is lost or stolen, contact Customer Support and we'll immediately replace your card and ensure your funds are secure.
$7.50

So, in exchange for holding your money (without paying any interest, of course, you are expected to pay them $6 every month, plus $3 per transaction if you want to get any of your cash back and $1 every time you try to find out how much money is actually in the account. And should your card be lost or stolen, then they're going to charge you $7.50 to replace the card, plus $20 if you don't want to wait a few weeks to receive it.

In contrast, the debit card I have from my bank (an ordinary no-fee checking account) has none of these fees. They will propagate the Cirrus network's ATM fee if you use some other bank's ATM, but that's it.

So can someone tell my why anybody other than a complete sucker would ever want this card?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Kalzumeus: Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names

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Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names

John Graham-Cumming wrote an article today complaining about how a computer system he was working with described his last name as having invalid characters. It of course does not, because anything someone tells you is their name is — by definition — an appropriate identifier for them. John was understandably vexed about this situation, and he has every right to be, because names are central to our identities, virtually by definition.

I have lived in Japan for several years, programming in a professional capacity, and I have broken many systems by the simple expedient of being introduced into them. (Most people call me Patrick McKenzie, but I’ll acknowledge as correct any of six different "full" names, any many systems I deal with will accept precisely none of them.) Similarly, I’ve worked with Big Freaking Enterprises which, by dint of doing business globally, have theoretically designed their systems to allow all names to work in them. I have never seen a computer system which handles names properly and doubt one exists, anywhere.

So, as a public service, I’m going to list assumptions your systems probably make about names. All of these assumptions are wrong. Try to make less of them next time you write a system which touches names.

More really good information for programmers and for anyone who finds the subject of names to be of interest.

If you haven't already done so, be sure to read the message I just posted which gives the same treatment to timekeeping.

Infinite Undo: Falsehoolds Programmers Believe About Time

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Falsehoolds People Believe About Time

Over the past couple of years I have spent a lot of time debugging other engineers’ test code. This was interesting work, occasionally frustrating but always informative. One might not immediately think that test code would have bugs, but of course all code has bugs and tests are no exception.

I have repeatedly been confounded to discover just how many mistakes in both test and application code stem from misunderstandings or misconceptions about time. By this I mean both the interesting way in which computers handle time, and the fundamental gotchas inherent in how we humans have constructed our calendar – daylight savings being just the tip of the iceberg.

In fact I have seen so many of these misconceptions crop up in other people’s (and my own) programs that I thought it would be worthwhile to collect a list of the more common problems here.

A really fascinating read, both if you're a programmer and if you're a normal human being who just happens to find timekeeping interesting.

Be sure to also read the sequel with even more falsehoods programmers believe about time.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rolling Stone: Meet the Man Who Flies Around the World for Free

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Up in the Air: Meet the Man Who Flies Around the World for Free
Last year, a young man walked into the Seattle airport and took the next flight to anywhere — and he hasn't come down since
By Ben Wofford July 20, 2015

Schlappig, 25, is one of the biggest stars among an elite group of obsessive flyers whose mission is to outwit the airlines. They're self-styled competitors with a singular objective: fly for free, as much as they can, without getting caught. In the past 20 years, the Internet has drawn together this strange band of savants with an odd mix of skills: the digital talent of a code writer, a lawyer's love affair with fine print, and a passion for airline bureaucracy. It's a whirring hive mind of IT whizzes, stats majors, aviation nerds and everyone else you knew who skipped the prom.

Wow. It's a lonely life, but I'm very amused at this guy's ability to game the airlines' own rigged system.

The real irony is that none of this would be possible if the airlines would just play fair with their customers. But they don't. Schlappig is proof that if make the rules too complex for anyone (including yourself) to understand, there will always be a few people who figure it out and take you to the cleaners using those very same rules.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

ABC: The Muppets - First Look Presentation

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I can't wait for the show to air. It's going to be heaps-o-fun.

New York Times Bits blog: Security Researchers Find a Way to Hack Cars

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Security Researchers Find a Way to Hack Cars
By Nicole Perlroth July 21, 2015 2:32 pm

Some cars can now be hacked.

Over the last two years, two well-respected security researchers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, have been hacking away at various cars, trying to find a way to control them remotely.

At the annual Black Hat and Def Con hacking conferences in Las Vegas in August, Mr. Miller and Mr. Valasek plan to demonstrate how, after two years of research, they have discovered a way to control hundreds of thousands of vehicles remotely. From the Internet, they were able to track cars down by their location, see how fast they were going, turn their blinkers and lights on and off, mess with their windshield wipers, radios, navigation and, in some cases, control their brakes and steering.

This is a pretty disturbing article. They used a security hole in the radio's firmware (which is used for cellular communication, navigation and probably other things) to hack into the radio. From there, they were able to access the other computers in the car.

I know that my car (a Honda Civic) is similarly connected. There are several computers in there, and they all seem to be coordinated by an iMID - Intelligent Multi-Information Display. This computer controls a screen that shows radio settings, fuel economy data, the odometer, and pops up alerts for scheduled maintenance and "check engine" warnings. For some model cars, it also has internet connectivity for music (e.g. Pandora), phone calls and text messages, along with BlueTooth and USB connectivity to your phone. Based on what I've been able to learn from various web sources, this computer connects to just about everything in the car. If someone can hack it, they can pretty much take over, maybe even do things to kill the driver (imagine what would happen if the airbag suddenly deployed while driving at highway speed around a turn.)

I'm very glad my car has no network connectivity of any kind. If someone wants to hack it, they're going to have to get physical access first. But will I even have that choice when it's time to buy my next car?

Dry Bones: Not the Donald

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The media is so shocked by Trump's pronouncements that folks can't believe that the quote in the cartoon is not by Donald S. Trump but rather by a liberal Democrat.

Click through to read the entire quote by Al Franken.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Light Reading: I Ate Soylent for a Day: 'Food' Special

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I Ate Soylent for a Day: 'Food' Special

... I started looking into several food products that have been engineered to deliver complete nutritional needs. The granddaddy of these, announced more than two years ago, is Soylent. Marketed as "a full day of balanced nutrition made in 3 minutes for $3/meal," Soylent is a bag of mixed nutrient powders that you blend with water and drink. The manufacturers and enthusiasts say you can survive on nothing but Soylent all day -- and some do for months -- though most Soylent users live on a mixed diet of Soylent for some meals and snacks, and regular food for others.

I decided to try Soylent to see how I liked it, and whether I could use it for a few meals or snacks on the road to channel my unhealthy eating into healthy patterns....

Interesting, but I can't imagine wanting to drink this goop in place of going to lunch. Lunch breaks aren't just to keep from starving, but to get out of the office for an hour each day and unwind from the morning's stress.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Imgur: These will be useful in certain comment threads

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These will be useful in certain comment threads

A great list of logical fallacies commonly used in discussions (in real life as well as on-line), illustrated with football refs.

I may have to link to some of these when confronted with critics who can't think. The one I put in the tag image above seems to be the one I get hit with most often. Along with these gems:

See the full collection.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fortune: Meet Ericsson’s first 5G device

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Meet Ericsson’s first 5G device

This 5G test device may be too big to fit into a car, but it’s already outperforming every 4G phone on the market today.

Telecom firm Ericsson is testing out a new 5G device on the streets of Stockholm, Sweden and Plano, Texas, that will revolutionize mobile technology.
...
Ericsson routinely clocks 2 Gbps in its outdoor tests. That’s already ten times faster than the 200 Mbps theoretical speeds available on today’s most powerful 4G networks, and it’s really only the beginning.
...
"This is not only yet another system for mobile broadband," says Sara Mazur, Ericsson’s head of research. "The 5G system is the system that will help create a networked society."

A fascinating look into one company's "5G" wireless research and a possible glimpse at what we can expect to see in a few years. Read the whole article for more interesting information about this new tech.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Rationalist Judaism: Photos from South Africa

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Rabbi Nathan Slifkin, author of the Rationalist Judaism blog, has been on a trip to South Africa, to personally see the incredible variety of wildlife.

He just posted two articles full of photos from this trip. I loved looking at them, and you might too:

What A Beautiful World
In The Jungle

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Apple History: More on the GUI

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More on the GUI

Several years ago, Bruce Horn, one of the original team of engineers that worked on the Macintosh, had this article published in Guy Kawasaki's Evangelist. Jef Raskin, who started development of the Macintosh before Steve Jobs took the project over, had this to say in response. Horn's rebuttal can be read here, and Raskin's second response can be read here.

For those interested in the history of the Macintosh and GUI design in general, the linked articles are incredibly interesting.

Friday, May 22, 2015

nexpaq: the first truly modular smartphone case

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nexpaq: the first truly modular smartphone case

nexpaq allows you to easily customize, enhance, and add features to your smartphone through the case. To put it simply: You can add and remove physical "modules" (think Lego bricks with special powers) directly from the back of your case without powering down!

If Project Ara doesn't start shipping product soon, they may find themselves playing catch-up to this group, that is providing many of the same capabilities via a USB-attached case for already-shipping smart phones

The Verge: Building blocks: how Project Ara is reinventing the smartphone

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Building blocks: how Project Ara is reinventing the smartphone

Project Ara is not, technically, a phone. It's not even that accurate to call it a project. It's more like a mission. The end goal for ATAP is to hand off a viable product and stewardship of a hardware ecosystem to Google — Eremenko and his small team aren't just building a series of proof-of-concept prototypes; they're attempting to build an industry within an industry.

For those who haven't heard of this before, Project Ara is an R&D project for a modular cell phone.

What this means is that instead of getting one large "brick" with all the features, you get an "endoskeleton" frame into which you can attach various modules. For example, a screen (clearly necessary to have one of these), battery, camera, speaker, microphone, processor, memory, NFC transceiver, cellular transceiver, Wi-Fi, etc.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sugru: Anybody here actually used this?

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Sugru is mouldable glue

Sugru is mouldable glue. Stick it, shape it and it will turn into rubber. We invented it to make fixing and making easy and fun. And now it comes in 10 handy colours!

I saw a link to this stuff today, but I've never heard of it before. Looks pretty interesting. Looks like it has the potential to be the next great repair goop, along with duct tape and superglue.

If you've had personal experience with this, let me know. I'd be really curious to read something more than the manufacturer's own ads.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

MacRumors: Apple Watch Stands Up to 1,200m Swim Workout and 10m High Dive Test

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Apple Watch Stands Up to 1,200m Swim Workout and 10m High Dive Test

The Apple Watch has been put through a variety of waterproofing tests since its public launch in April, but over the weekend endurance sports and tech blogger Ray Maker posted a few Apple Watch-related waterproof videos, including the first lap swimming test with Apple's new wearable.

As Maker notes in his blog post, many people have uploaded videos detailing simple waterproof tests in smaller backyard pools, but there has until now been little information on the Watch's ability to withstand higher-intensity swimming activities. As he notes, "It’s the wrist hitting the water that’s so difficult for watch waterproofing due to the impact forces," so that's what he decides to focus on in the test. After about 25 minutes in the water and a 1200 meter swim, Maker found results similar to most other waterproofing tests over the past few weeks - the Apple Watch remains seemingly unharmed by even the most daunting submerged water tests.

This is pretty impressive. I don't think I'm going to want to put my own to the test (if and when I decide to buy one), but this does show that there should be absolutely no problem wearing it in the rain, or at a water park.

The beach may be problematic, but due to possibility of salt and sand getting under the crown, not due to water.

Still, it is worth noting that when Consumer Reports tested the Apple Watch, that one out of 4 samples failed a 24-hour submersion test:

We set our depth-test chamber to match the water-resistance specification claimed by each smartwatch manufacturer. We submerge the watches, then check them for proper functionality immediately upon removal from the chamber, then again 24 hours later. The stainless-steel Apple Watch passed the test on the first try. The first aluminum Apple Watch Sport we put through our immersion test seemed fine when we took it out of the tank, but we experienced problems with it 24 hours later. We then tried two more samples, which showed no problems, so the Apple Watch Sport passed our water-resistance test.
The failure may have been a manufacturing defect, but defect or not, you probably won't get a Warranty replacement if it fails after being submerged in water, because the water-resistance rating Apple is publishing only promises 30 minutes at 1m depth. I'll be interested to read the reports when, in the future, some people try for warranty replacement after submersion in water for longer than 30 minutes or at a depth greater than 1m.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hanzi Smatter: Bing Mi! restaurant

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Bing Mi! restaurant

劍兵 (sword soldier) on the sign is not associated with the delicious wrap in terms of context, rather it is the homophone of 煎餅 (Chinese pancake wrap).

Click through to the full article.

I don't personally have a problem with a Chinese restaurant that is not owned and operated by a Chinese person, but their (or their marketing consultant's) decision to generate a Chinese logo using the wrong text is just unforgivable. Google Translate is not a suitable source for things like this, and nobody who actually reads/writes Chinese would make a mistake like this.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Yet another reason I don't like consumer networking gear

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As those who know me in real life (and those who have been reading between the lines on this blog) know, I am a network professional. I develop software for commercial networking equipment. The really good stuff that phone companies use to make their networks work. So, in addition to having a healthy respect for how complicated a networking problem can get, I've also come to expect a certain level of quality in the equipment I use. Unfortunately, I can't afford to install commercial routing gear in my home. It costs too much, uses too much electricity, generates too much heat, etc.

So, for my home LAN, I use consumer gear like everybody else. Right now, this consists of a Zoom cable-modem/router, two Linksys routers in bridge mode (acting as Wi-Fi access points), and three powerline network adapters to connect them all.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Simcha Jacobovici: Proof for the Biblical Exodus!

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Proof for the Biblical Exodus!

There’s now a new translation of an ancient Egyptian monument known as a “Stela” that has just been published in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies by Professors Robert Ritner and Nadine Moeller, of the Oriental Institue of the University of Chicago. The translation basically links Pharaoh Ahmose (18th Dynasty/New Kingdom) with the eruption of the Thera/Santorini volcano. In the past, scholars argued that Ahmose and Thera were divided by more than a century. The new translation proves that they were contemporaneous i.e., Ahmose witnessed the effects of one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in human history. This goes a long way towards linking Thera, Ahmose and the Biblical Exodus.

Still more evidence that the Exodus really happened.

Simcha Jacobovichi: Decoding the El Arish Stone

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Decoding the El Arish Stone – blog entry 1

Almost forgotten, in the tiny museum of Isma’ilya, some 125 km northeast of Cairo, is an artifact that corroborates the Biblical Exodus and provides us with the inside story from an Egyptian point of view.
...
In the past, I’ve always summarized the findings. Now, what I want to do is treat the hieroglyphics on the stone as a series of posts. I want to decode the 2,300 year old inscriptions and see what secrets they may reveal.

This is a fascinating article describing the first evidence (that I know of, anyway) that describes the Exodus from the Egyptian point of view. Click through to read all three parts:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Dry Bones: Looney Tunes

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Please click through for a summary of the new item that this strip is referring to. And if you have time, click again to see the full article it cites.

So can someone tell me what purpose the UN serves? It's just a collection of terrorists and terrorist-sponsoring states using it as a platform to spread their propaganda, all against the US, against Israel and against Jews.

It's about time that they go away. We should stop funding them, stop giving them all that office space in New York, and stop caring (or even reporting) what they say. Let's drop the pretense and recognize them for what they are - the loudest voice in the effort to legitimize evil in the world today. All the rest is commentary.

Rationalist Judaism: Angry Rabbits and Ticked-Off Tigers

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Angry Rabbits and Ticked-Off Tigers

On the advice of a reader, I just purchased a book in Hebrew for toddlers. On the cover is the title, Shafan, with a stripe of black paint over it. Beneath it is the animal who painted it over: an angry rabbit!

The book is about how this rabbit is very angry that everyone calls him by the wrong name. Instead of calling him arnav, which is the proper name for "rabbit," he is called shafan. Eventually, he leaves town in disgust, and goes to find the real shafan in the wilderness - a hyrax. They switch places, but it doesn't work out too well - the rabbit does not like living in the wild, and the hyrax doesn't like being pulled out of a magician's hat. And so the story ends with the rabbit going back to his old life, and hoping that writing this book will help people call him by the right name.

I love it. I may have to get a copy. I'll have to brush up on my Hebrew in order to read it, but this book is (or should be) a classic.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Intercept: iSpy: The CIA Campaign to Steal Apple’s Secrets

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iSpy: The CIA Campaign to Steal Apple’s Secrets

Researchers working with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept.

The security researchers presented their latest tactics and achievements at a secret annual gathering, called the "Jamboree," where attendees discussed strategies for exploiting security flaws in household and commercial electronics. The conferences have spanned nearly a decade, with the first CIA-sponsored meeting taking place a year before the first iPhone was released.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone, but it is interesting to read what our government is doing in their attempt to spy on everybody all the time. I'm also happy to see that Apple is (at least for now) on the side of their customers.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Stupid spam/scam

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I noticed this amusing bit of spam in my spam folder today (some headers stripped away. I'm only including those I'm using to make my point):
To: (my e-mail address)
Subject: (first 4 letters of my e-mail address), Notice to Appear in Court
From: "State Court" <support@electricgroovecrusade.com>
Reply-To: "State Court" <support@electricgroovecrusade.com>

Dear (first 4 letters of my e-mail address),

You have to appear in the Court on the February 19.
Please, do not forget to bring all the documents related to the case.
Note: The case may be heard by the judge in your absence if you do not come.

The Court Notice is attached to this email.

Yours faithfully,
Angel Denton,
Court Secretary.

Attached to this mail is a zip file named "Court_notificaton_#####.zip" (where #### is a bunch of digits I can't be bothered to re-type.) I didn't download it, but I think we can be 99% certain that this attachment, when opened, will install malware on your computer.

So let's see how stupid you would have to be to fall for this spam. In order to trust the source and believe it is important to open this zip file, you would have to believe:

  • That a legitimate court will issue a summons via e-mail
  • That such a summons will not identify which court it is that is issuing the summons
  • That a court will issue a summons without your name on it, preferring instead to make up a fake name based on your e-mail address.
  • That despite not knowing my name or address, they somehow know my e-mail address.
  • That a court is going to send official correspondence from domain belonging to Electric Groove Crusade (a rock band whose web page has had nothing more than a "coming soon" message since 2010) and not from a domain that actually belongs to the court.

Wired: An Ingenious Projector That Transforms Kitchen Tables Into TVs

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An Ingenious Projector That Transforms Kitchen Tables Into TVs

Small-scale projectors have been on the market for some time, but Beam is unique in that it is designed to screw into light sockets while pulling double duty as an ultrabright LED lightbulb. This is a simple change to the hardware, but fundamentally changes the way the product gets used. It’s not a matter or buying and installing a new gadget, but rather, upgrading an existing one.
...
Beam is more than just a lamp or projector. It connects to iPhone or Android phones via Bluetooth and an on-board computer allows it to deliver content over Wi-Fi. Obvious applications, like streaming Netflix or looking at pictures were a given, but a companion app that allows for the programming of “if this then that” scenarios allows it to be used in new ways.

This looks like a really nifty product. I'll be very interested to see how it works in real life once they start going into production.

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter page for a more detailed description of the product.

Wired: New Mod Lets You Use a Selfie Stick in Doom

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New Mod Lets You Use a Selfie Stick in Doom

Just when we thought the year of the selfie was coming to a close, the selfie stick brought it all back. Now a modder is sending them to Mars.

InstaDoom is a new mod from DoomWorld user Linguica that adds a selfie mode to the 22-year-old first-person shooter.

Just the thing to introduce a new generation of teenagers to that ancient VGA-based FPS.

Now I want to go back and play it again, but I think I'll skip the Selfie Mod. If I don't go spamming them in real life, I don't see any reason why I should do it in-game either.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Slate: History of the High Heel

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A Short History of the High Heel

As a fashion object and symbol, the high-heeled shoe is weighted with meaning. It’s also weighted with the wearer’s entire body weight. The stiletto might be one of the only designs that is physically painful but has somehow persisted for centuries.

High-heeled shoes were originally worn by men. As early as the 10th century, many horseback-riding cultures wore heels on their boots and on their shoes, because heels help you stay in the stirrups (which is why cowboy boots have heels).

A fascinating article. The only thing I'd add is that although high heels are no longer fashionable for men, men's dress shoes all have heels (typically about 1").

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Comic: St. Patrick

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h/t Kosher Kola

I know it's not St. Patrick's Day, nor is it even close, but I ran across this comic today and wanted to share it with the world.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Monty Python explained: Housey-Housey

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For years, I've been a fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus. There is one scene in The Cycling Tour where a bunch of mock-Chinese people are very keen on playing Bingo and keep on shouting "Bingo" and "Housey Housey":

This is probably one of the most annoying scenes ever, with lots of characters all shouting "Housey Housey" all over the place for no apparent reason.

Well, as it turns out, this is one of those places where I just don't get it because I'm an American. Doing a Google search this morning, I learned that "Housey-Housey" is what the British call the game of Bingo (and occasionally Lotto). And, like with Bingo, you shout the name of the game when you win.

And now you too know this piece of worthless trivia

Friday, January 23, 2015

Instant Ice - Waterbending In Real Life!

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Instant Ice - Waterbending In Real Life!

Want to make a glass of water freeze instantly on command? What is this supernatural power and who can use it? Discover the secrets to Ice-bending ... in real life.

Detailed Instant Ice Tips & Tricks: http://youtu.be/7o8moFSHrAQ

You can do it with soda too!: http://youtu.be/5T68TvdoSbI

http://www.thekingofrandom.com
...
Project Inspired by: A friend at work, named Lew, told me he left water bottles outside overnight in freezing temperatures, then got the water to freeze instantly by shaking them. Since then, I've seen multiple videos on YouTube demonstrating the effect of supercooled water, and had multiple requests to make a video.

Sounds like something fun to try at home. I'll have to try it out one of these days.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Peanuts Movie trailer

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Peanuts | Official Holiday Trailer [HD] | FOX Family

Published on Nov 18, 2014
Peanuts | Official Trailer: Watch the exclusive new trailer for The Peanuts Movie where Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang will make their big-screen debut.

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the beloved "Peanuts" gang make their big-screen debut, like they’ve never been seen before, in state of the art 3D animation. Snoopy, the world’s most lovable beagle – and flying ace – embarks upon his greatest mission as he takes to the skies to pursue his arch-nemesis The Red Baron, while his best pal, Charlie Brown, begins his own epic quest. From the imagination of Charles M. Schulz and the creators of the ICE AGE films, THE PEANUTS MOVIE will prove that every underdog has his day.

Visit the official site at: http://www.peanutsmovie.com/

According to IMDB, it is scheduled for release on November 6, 2015.

Dry Bones: Good News, Bad News

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So what, one wonders, are an Iranian general and Iranian troops doing on the Golan Heights, on Israel's borders? Hmmmmm?

What, indeed. And yet the US and Europe remain steadfastly dedicated to the idea that this whole conflict is over Palestinian refugees and Jews building homes on their own land. And when you tell them that this is, and always has been, a proxy-war with Iran, they laugh at you. But I'm sure they'll just dismiss this article as fantasy since it doesn't align with their prejudices.

Click through to the article to see a Yahoo News article about this.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Piece of junk bed frame

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In December, out bed broke. The bed is a fairly traditional design. A headboard, a footboard, two wooden rails connecting them, and three wooden planks running between the rails, with mattress and foundation on top. The frame was pretty old, and eventually, one of the wooden rails broke.

Not wanting to go through the same problem again, I thought it would be best to keep the headboard and footboard, but replace the frame with a steel frame. After some Googling, we located Bed Frame Parts and selected the frame seen above. We thought $160 is overpriced (since the steel frame we got with the mattress only cost $100), but it was the best price for something that appeared solid in the picture and its description.

We ordered it in mid-December and it arrived in a few days. Assembly was a little tricky, but nothing I couldn't handle. We put the mattresses on it and considered it done. Until last night.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

What were they thinking? - Princess Elsa Pinata

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Princess Elsa Pinata

Queen Elsa is more than ready to attend your upcoming Frozen themed birthday party and have a blast at the most enchanting event of the year! Pinata measures 30 inches high by 13 inches long by 13 inches deep and can be filled with up to 3lbs of candy and toys. This beautiful pinata can be used as centerpiece decoration for your food table or just fill with candy and toys and play the traditional party game!

And in the "what were they thinking" department, you can now take the star character from the most popular animated movie, fill it with candy, and then have children beat it with stick until it breaks apart. Just the thing for traumatizing pre-teens.

h/t The Devil's Panties.