Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Mother of all movie spoilers

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If you're hyper-sensitive about movie spoilers (in general, not for any specific film), stop reading now.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Another example of why you shouldn't believe the news

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Anyone who regularly listens to Dan Bongino's podcast (or the corresponding YouTube channel) probably already knows about "the Bongino Rule". Whenever you run across "breaking" news that is damaging to President Trump, wait 24-48 hours before repeating it because it is almost always debunked within a day.

This week provided us with yet another example of this. (h/t to RedState.com via the Bongino Report)

Shocker: That ‘Bombshell’ About Trump Offering Julian Assange a Pardon to Cover-Up for Russia Was Total Garbage
Posted at 1:30 pm on February 21, 2020 by Bonchie

Apparently, that “bombshell” report that Donald Trump had nefariously offered Julian Assange a pardon to cover up for Russian hacking of the DNC was absolute garbage. I know, I know, it’s shocking and totally unexpected that our news media could make such a “mistake.”

Washington Free Beacon: Left-Wing Young Turks Refuses to Recognize Employees’ Union

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Left-Wing Young Turks Refuses to Recognize Employees’ Union
Alex Griswold -

The Young Turks, a left-wing and pro-Bernie Sanders YouTube network, is refusing to recognize its employees' new labor union.

A week after TYT Union was formed to represent production and post-production workers at the popular liberal channel, the group announced that company leadership had refused voluntary recognition of the union. The refusal, which comes after Sanders proposed penalizing companies that refuse to recognize unions, is the latest instance of a left-leaning news outlet resisting unionization among its employees.

The irony is delicious.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Appleinsider: Philips Hue smart bulb allows hackers to attack your network

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Philips Hue smart bulb allows hackers to attack your network
By Malcolm Owen, Wednesday, February 05, 2020, 04:50 am PT (07:50 am ET)

Owners of Philips Hue smart bulbs are being urged to check its firmware, after the publication of a vulnerability in how the accessories communicate with each other over Zigbee could allow an attacker to gain control over the whole home network.

I'm glad to see that Philips is going to be releasing a patch to close this attack vector, but this also underscores something I've been saying for a long time: IoT is not mature enough to be considered safe and reliable. Far too many smart appliances have been designed with little or no thought to security, and customers are the ones paying the price.

I love the concept of smart appliances, and I would love to have a home full of them, but there's no way I'm going to install them when there's a very real risk that doing so will allow criminals and hackers access to everything else on my LAN. I hope this tech will be secured in the future, but it certainly is not today.

Dry Bones: Pelosi Rips it Up

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Pelosi Rips it Up
Thursday, February 06, 2020

Pelosi Destroys Government Document, Violating Federal Law Click here to read the law

Absolutely true, but of course, nobody would be petty enough to prosecute over this.

And I would assume that there are plenty more copies, including one officially archived by the US government in order to guard against the destruction of individual copies.

But it's still an amusing observation.

Monday, February 03, 2020

IEEE Spectrum: To Make Solid Electrolytes, Start With a Liquid

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To Make Solid Electrolytes, Start With a Liquid
03 Feb 2020 | 20:05 GMT. By Sandy Ong

A solutions-based synthesis can make thin yet strong electrolytes for solid-state batteries

New batteries are often described with comparatives: they’re safer, lighter, or longer-lived than today’s versions. Solid-state batteries—those which contain no liquid—can make two such claims. With inorganic electrolytes, they’re much less likely to catch fire than traditional lithium-ion batteries, which have organic electrolytes. And by swapping out graphite for lithium as the anode, you can get a massive increase (up to 10-fold) in energy density, making solid-state batteries look especially promising for electric vehicles.
...
While Liu’s project officially ended on 31 January, the team is now in talks with a different federal funding agency and an industry player to continue their work. The goal is to create a working prototype for a solid-state battery with a two ampere hour (Ah) capacity—similar to the capacity of most smartphone batteries today—at a target cost of below US $100 per kilowatt hour (kWh) within the next two to three years.

Cool new tech. Maybe we'll see these in our phones, tablets and laptop computers in a few years.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Something must have just frozen over

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Schumer launches major push to prevent bridge strikes that have plagued Westchester County for decades. Senator calls on leading GPS developers to integrate data warning commercial vehicle drivers of road restrictions, promote driver safety & decrease traffic
2.23.20

Currently, GPS applications — Google Maps, Apple Maps & Waze — do not contain data warning commercial drivers of roadway restrictions such as maximum vehicle height. In the last decade, the King Street bridge in Westchester County has been struck ~150 times.

With no end in sight to major uptick in bridge strikes, Schumer urges smartphone-nased GPS application developers to implement a warning system for commercial vehicle drivers to alert them of restrictions & hazards.

Schumer to GPS industry: One more bridge strike is one too many.

This is probably the first time I've ever agreed with anything coming out of Chuck Schumer's office.

It would seem to me that roadway restrictions (height, weight, width, noise, etc.) should be something that app makers can add to the map database. The information should already be available, because it's printed in commercial road atlases.

Once added to the database, it shouldn't be that hard to update the app (or release a commercial version) where you tell it about your vehicle (size, weight, trailer count/size, etc.), allowing the app to remove routes where it is impossible, dangerous or illegal to drive that vehicle.

Hopefully, the app makers won't have to to a lot of redesign in order to add this feature. It seems that makers of standalone GPS devices already have this capability in their truck-oriented devices.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Corornavirus and media scare tactics

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Before I begin, let me make it clear that I believe the coronavirus outbreak in China is extremely serious. This is not something to take lightly and reasonable precautions are important to prevent it from becoming an outbreak in other countries.

That having been said, the media is using very misleading reporting in an attempt to exaggerate the facts. I guess they believe panicking the population is a good way to sell newspapers. Or demand unnecessarily aggressive action by the government.

Case in point, take a look at this article from the Palm Beach Post: Coronavirus scare: 30 students, 3 teachers at Benjamin School await word on exposure.

After reading that click-bait headline, you are led to believe that 33 people have been exposed and that an outbreak is imminent. But if you actually read the text of the article, the person who allegedly infected these 33 people had the flu, not the coronavirus. Lots of people are being tested, but none have tested positive. And "breaking news" that the students have been allowed back to school. In other words, lots of people were scared but there was no coronavirus infection.

The article goes on with the fear-mongering when it misrepresents the CDC's statistics. The article quotes a very short excerpt from a CDC press statement, saying "So far, the CDC has confirmed only five cases of coronavirus in the United States. It is also following 110 potential cases, or 'persons under investigation' in 26 states and that 'this is a cumulative number and will only increase.'".

Despite being a direct quote, it is very misleading. It implies that we need to be scared because an ever increasing number of people are being tested. But if you go look at the CDC's summary of cases in the US you will see that the count of "patients under investigation" includes all the people who have tested negative. The number of people who have tested positive in the US remains at 5, where it has been all week.

Maybe I'm not understanding this correctly, but if you test hundreds of people and only five are positive, with the rest of the completed results being negative, why is that a sign of an imminent problem?

If you actually click the link to the press briefing cited by the Palm Beach Post, you see the rest of the quote, omitted by the newspaper because that part is reassuring, not scary:

... To date we have 110 of what we’re calling persons under investigation or PUIs from 26 states. This is a cumulative number and will only increase. We still only have five confirmed positives and 32 that have tested negative. There have been no new confirmed cases overnight. ...

In other words, follow the same common sense that you should follow all the time. Wash frequently. Avoid spending time around sick people. If you feel sick, see a doctor. And don't trust the media to give you accurate information.

Update: The CDC has updated their status page. As of February 19th, there have been 15 people (3% of patients under investigation) in the US who have tested positive, 412 people (86%) tested negative and 52 people (11%) whose tests are still pending.

It is worth noting that a TV news report from February 17th was claiming that were 29 confirmed cases in the United states, even though the CDC report from two days later reports half that number. Either the media is lying or they are getting their numbers from some source other than the CDC, but have chosen to not name that source. Just another example of media scare-tactics.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Worlds first keylogger?

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How the KGB Bugged American Typewriters During the Cold War
By Kyle Mizokami,

  • In the 1970s, U.S. intelligence believed the embassy in Moscow was leaking information.
  • Repeated searches for a secret transmitter in the embassy turned up nothing.
  • Finally, engineers discovered a typewriter with a transmitter hacked into it.

Fascinating story about how the Soviets modified an IBM Selectric typewriter to covertly transmit every keystroke to a KGB monitoring station. Electronically, this hack is a work of art.

h/t the Michael Tsai Blog

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Michael Tsai Blog: Beware Spinlocks in User Space

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This week, the Michael Tsai Blog (a great source of interesting system software discussions) summarized a discussion thread between Malte Skarupke (a game developer) and Linus Torvalds about different kinds of locking primitives.

See Beware Spinlocks in User Space for Tsai's summary.

If you find that interesting, I strongly recommend also reading the original article (Measuring Mutexes, Spinlocks and how Bad the Linux Scheduler Really is) and the discussion thread (on Real World Technologies forum). Although there is a bit of trolling, the discussion has a very high signal-to-noise ratio, including some very good points by Linus Torvalds about why it is incredibly difficult to roll your own locking primitives and not screw it up.